Chapter 11

Banyan trees had a strong effect on soil consolidation. In banyan forests, there were so many mosquitoes and insects that the number was several times higher than those in the outside forests.

Zhang Qishan and his team saw that mosquitoes were filling almost all of the gaps here, but they couldn’t hear any sounds around them. Not even the mosquitoes were making a sound. It was as if the creatures here had all evolved and weren’t able to make any sounds.

One of the soldiers on the side caught a bug, but he couldn’t get a good look at it under the moonlight so he put it in his mouth and chewed it. “It tastes of blood,” he whispered. “It lives off of blood, but it doesn’t taste like a mosquito.”

Tasting water and insects was one of the Zhang family’s techniques, because in many cases, it was necessary to rely heavily on taste and smell to judge the surrounding situation when visibility wasn’t all that good.

Zhang Qishan and the others climbed the banyan trees and walked on the branches so as to avoid wading in the water. There were aerial roots everywhere here like curtains, which made for poor visibility. They continued moving forward until Zhang Qishan saw the big tree.

It really was a very huge banyan tree. It didn’t have an independent trunk, because its body was made up of countless aerial roots that had grown upwards. And because these aerial roots were already thicker than ordinary big trees, the space between them was very narrow, which made it look like a single tree.

How big was it? In Zhang Qishan’s opinion, it was like a wall in the forest. He waved his hand first, and everyone climbed down from their positions and began to crawl on the branches.

Almost all of the branches of these banyan trees were connected, and there were a lot of vines and moss on them that made it easier for the group to stay hidden. In the space inside this group of tree trunks, everything was pitch black.

Zhang Qishan lowered his head to look at the baby, who was staring at the innermost part of the group of tree trunks with an unwavering gaze. It almost seemed like the baby had some connection with this mountain god.

The mountain god is in the darkness somewhere, right? Zhang Qishan thought to himself. He couldn’t wait any longer and waved his hand. Everyone began to crawl carefully towards the group of tree trunks.

As soon as they had arrived in the area of the tree trunks, Zhang Qishan immediately heard a gurgling sound coming from the depths of the space. They continued to crawl towards the darkness, moving ever so slowly until everything gradually became dark around them. The moonlight above their heads was the only thing left, but it was extremely difficult for it to shine through the tree canopies and illuminate the area below.

There were more mosquitoes here, but they didn’t make a single sound as they flew around.

The gurgling sound was very strange and creepy, as if a monster was quickly swallowing a liquid.

Zhang Qishan moved his neck and thought to himself, I really hope the monster isn’t eating Zhang Xiaoyu.

As they crawled towards the gurgling sound, they discovered that there were holes all over the trunks of these banyan trees. The holes had been dug out with claws, and they were full of bones. Although Zhang Qishan couldn’t see clearly, he knew just by touch that they were both human and animal bones. The bones had all been strung together with hemp ropes woven from plant fibers. The larger bones were broken into pieces with stick-like objects going through them, almost like ornaments.

As he went further inside, he suddenly saw lights appear ahead of him. Zhang Qishan checked the people around him to ensure that they were all in the darkness. He wasn’t sure if the others had caught up with him, but he continued to crawl forward carefully. He found that the huge trunk—or the middle of the group of tree trunks—was actually hollowed out.

About four or five huge aerial roots had been cut off, leaving only the most primitive main trunk of the banyan tree. It was a really huge tree trunk that would take more than thirty people holding their hands out just to surround it. Countless branches were radiating out from it.

One branch of the main banyan trunk was covered in wind lanterns, which was where the light was coming from. He figured they had all been left behind by the people the monsters had killed. The wind lanterns were all gathered together, but only one of them was lit. The huge monster was lying on a thicker branch below the branch holding the wind lanterns.

Zhang Xiaoyu was lying on the monster’s body, motionless.

Under the wind lantern’s weak light, the monster looked like a giant baby salamander or maybe an immature fetus that had enlarged indefinitely. The monster’s skin was sickly pale. It was about six meters long, but its arms were even longer. Based on the distance between them, the monster only had to reach its hand out and it would be right in front of Zhang Qishan’s face.

A soldier came out from the darkness further away and motioned to Zhang Qishan, asking if they should kill the monster.

Zhang Qishan waved his hand before trying his best to see what state Zhang Xiaoyu was in. Then he realized that Zhang Xiaoyu was interacting strangely with this huge “baby salamander”.

If he had guessed correctly, based on their positions, it was as if the mountain god was breastfeeding Zhang Xiaoyu.

Zhang Qishan could see that Zhang Xiaoyu was lying on a protrusion on the monster’s chest, which had to be its breast. When he looked closely, he could even see that the monster had hair and body hair. He couldn’t see Zhang Xiaoyu’s expression clearly, but it almost seemed as if he had passed out. Of course, the other possibility was that he was completely engrossed in sucking the milk.

The soldier far away from Zhang Qishan motioned and asked him what to do.

Zhang Qishan looked at the surrounding environment. It was too quiet here, so the monster was likely to spot them if they continued to get closer.

But based on the distance between them, if he leaped directly and took off at the fastest speed, he could pierce the mountain god’s forehead with a dagger. In such dim light, he firmly believed that no animal could react within the three or four seconds it would take him to complete the action.

He also looked at the mountain god carefully but didn’t see any traces of a “god”. He couldn’t understand what Zhang Xiaoyu had said before. Could it be that Zhang Xiaoyu felt a huge power difference when he fought against it?

But Zhang Xiaoyu’s skills weren’t weak. Among the several lieutenants under Zhang Qishan’s command, Zhang Xiaoyu should be counted as one of the top three. Zhang Qishan truly shouldn’t underestimate the monster since it could seriously injure Zhang Xiaoyu.

Moreover, what kind of monster was this and how did it come about? It had too many human characteristics to it.

As Zhang Qishan was thinking, Zhang Xiaoyu suddenly coughed. The monster held Zhang Xiaoyu up, and Zhang Qishan found that its breast milk was black. Furthermore, the monster’s nails were firmly stuck in Zhang Xiaoyu’s scalp, the nails piercing very deep into his head.

Zhang Qishan couldn’t afford to think too much about it anymore and made three gestures. The first gesture indicated that he was going to make a surprise attack. The second one instructed everyone to fire together after his surprise attack seriously injured the monster, thus preventing it from chasing him before it died. The third gesture indicated that if his surprise attack failed, everyone would come out to attract the mountain god’s attention. Then, they would wait and look for another opportunity to strike again.

After he gave his instructions, he slightly moved his joints, pulled out his bayonet, and held it in a reverse grip.

The monster’s head was very big, so its skull had to be very thick. The bayonet had to pierce through its head completely for it to be seriously injured.

As he was thinking, he crawled to the top of the canopy, climbed up, looked at the position of a few branches, and suddenly accelerated with his most explosive strength.

In the first jump, he made it almost half the distance and landed on a middle branch. Then, he stepped on the branches and ran more than a dozen steps.

The monster instantly turned its head and looked at him, but Zhang Qishan had already made the second jump. He reached the monster’s face and instantly thrust the bayonet at it, but Zhang Xiaoyu’s body suddenly blocked Zhang Qishan’s path of descent and he almost stabbed Zhang Xiaoyu.

Zhang Qishan immediately twisted his body and fell onto the monster’s body, which was very slippery since it was covered in milk. Zhang Qishan slid down instantly and stabbed his bayonet into the monster’s ribs to prevent himself from falling off the tree.

The monster opened its mouth wide but didn’t scream. Its expression, however, was full of extreme pain and it instantly threw Zhang Qishan away.

Zhang Qishan controlled his posture and fell directly into the swamp below. At the same time, he heard gunshots ring out everywhere, which meant that the soldiers had started shooting.

Zhang Qishan climbed out of the water, grabbed an aerial root, and quickly climbed back to the tree trunk. All of the soldiers’ gunshots instantly became inaudible, but he didn’t have time to think about what was going on as he quickly climbed back into the tree canopy. As soon as he regained his footing, he saw Zhang Xiaoyu’s face poking out of the darkness.

The mountain god was holding Zhang Xiaoyu’s head in one hand and pulling Zhang Xiaoyu’s body towards it.

Just as Zhang Qishan wanted to fire his gun, Zhang Xiaoyu opened his mouth and spoke, “Who are you?”

Zhang Qishan was stunned for a moment before he immediately realized that something was wrong. Zhang Xiaoyu’s eyes were rolled into the back his head and he wasn’t conscious at all.

Who was talking to him?

Who was talking to him through Zhang Xiaoyu’s mouth? Was it the mountain god?

“Are you the mountain god?”

“Why did you kill my child?” The mountain god showed its teeth to him as its face also peered out of the darkness. This thing had at least a dozen rows of teeth, all of which were messy and long. And now, its mouth was full of blood.

“Do you eat people?”

“People are delicious,” the mountain god said through Zhang Xiaoyu. The movement range of Zhang Xiaoyu’s mouth was exactly the same as that of the mountain god’s own mouth, which made the whole scene look creepy.

“If you eat people, you must die,” Zhang Qishan said.

“I don’t want to die.”

“It’s not your decision to make.”

Zhang Qishan drew his gun at close range and aimed it at the mountain god’s forehead. In an instant, the mountain god used Zhang Xiaoyu to block its face.

<Chapter 10><Table of Contents><Chapter 12>

****

Tiffany’s Notes: All I can think about now is whether this means Poker-face is an insect tasting expert….

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