Zhang Qishan couldn’t find the other soldiers anywhere, and there weren’t any corpses either.
He cut the mountain god’s belly open and found that it was full of minced meat. He could see the remains of military uniforms, as well as bullets and belt buckles.
This meant that his soldiers had all been eaten and chewed to shreds.
He stood in front of the mountain god’s body, not speaking for a long time.
Death was death, and there was no difference between suffering and not suffering. But these people had all been alive when they first arrived.
He saw a flare gun among the minced meat, so he took it out, climbed to the top of the tree canopy, and fired a flare into the sky.
As fate would have it, the people who had followed Zhang Qishan were all dead—with the exception of Zhang Xiaoyu, who was the first person to get seriously injured—while those who had followed Qi Tiezui were still alive.
This was always the case. The number of people he brought with him when he left the Northeast became fewer and fewer. Although they weren’t all from the Zhang family, it was starting to become rare for him to hear the accent of his hometown.
He couldn’t help but feel sad about it, but he didn’t dwell on it too much.
Soon after, he heard Qi Tiezui’s group whistle from the edge of the forest. Zhang Qishan replied back and had them come to him so that the two sides could reunite.
The group was silent upon seeing the miserable scene. Some people began to carefully tend Zhang Xiaoyu’s wounds while some took care of the baby.
Qi Tiezui looked at Zhang Qishan and patted him. Zhang Xiaoyu’s skull had been pierced, but they didn’t know whether his brain was injured. The fact that the mountain god could control people by putting its nails into human brains was very mysterious.
“Do we tell Zhang Xiaoyu the truth after he wakes up?” Qi Tiezui asked.
“We’ll tell him the truth. If we lie to him, he’ll only be able to come to terms with half of the matter. It’s only when we tell him the truth and he accepts it that he can get over it. And once that happens, it means he’s really recovered from it.”
“Fo Ye, it’s not easy to get over this kind of thing.”
“When it comes to truly painful things in the world, they’re all difficult to get over. But the pain will pass eventually.”
“Ordinary people will get old, but you—”
“This is a fact that already exists. We have nothing to complain about.” Zhang Qishan gave Qi Tiezui a look, and then the two of them climbed to where the coffin was.
Zhang Qishan asked what Qi Tiezui thought of it. “This is a copper coffin. Copper was like gold in ancient times, so they treated brass like it was gold. The coffin seems to be from the Han Dynasty. Why is it on a tree?”
“That’s what I’m asking you.”
Qi Tiezui took a closer look and said, “Look at this. This vine grew out of the coffin and coiled around the banyan tree. I’ve never seen anything like this before. In our family, we need to learn pharmacology and how to identify herbs. If we’re in other places, it’s reasonable for me to not recognize what herb it is since I didn’t learn pharmacology very well. But do you see how this vine is growing? Have you seen anything like this before?”
Zhang Qishan took a closer look. Indeed, there was a vine growing out of the coffin, and the leaves on it were a bit like curled nails. All the leaves were curled up, which made it seem very different from the plants they had seen before.
“This is an ancient coffin, but do you see how the vine comes out of this hole in the coffin?” Qi Tiezui pointed at a hole in the coffin. “This seems to be a deliberate design. When someone put the corpse in the coffin, they knew that something would grow out of the corpse.”
“What if some seed just fell into this hole?”
“Look here.” Qi Tiezui pointed at the embossed pattern on the coffin. Zhang Qishan saw that the pattern painted on it was that of a vine growing out of the coffin, as if a tongue was sticking out of the coffin.
This relief had been carved with an extremely small awl, and in order to make the grooves deeper, each line must’ve been struck thousands of times so that they wouldn’t oxidize.
So this is a potted plant. Zhang Qishan thought to himself. “What kind of vine is this?” Qi Tiezui illuminated the vine’s leaves with his flashlight. “Does it have anything to do with the mountain god?”
“Call someone up and open the coffin,” Zhang Qishan said. “This coffin being here must have something to do with the monster. The villages bring babies here and sacrifice them every year in exchange for longevity. These are all clues. Open the coffin and see if there’s any evidence inside of it.”
Tiffany’s Notes: That’s the end of the story… for now.