Chapter 58.2 An excellent backup food reserve
The group hurried toward the source of the voice.
“Help! Help!” The cries for help grew more urgent and closer. After climbing over a small hill, Lin Zhaohe spotted two children covered in blood. Behind them, a massive hunting dog pursued, its ferocious form ready to pounce and tear the children apart at any moment.
Standing some distance behind the dog was a person completely wrapped in garments, obscuring their gender and appearance. As soon as they saw Lin Zhaohe and the others, they let out a loud roar. Though Lin Zhaohe couldn’t understand a word they said, he guessed it was their discontent with the group’s interference.
Lin Yan rushed to the forefront, shielding the two children behind him and brandishing a weapon to fend off the dog that could charge at any second. He remained vigilant and asked, “What do you want?”
The two children, injured all over, clung to Lin Yan’s legs, crying and pleading, “Big Brother, save us! Save us!”
The person seemed to realize they were no match for Lin Yan. With a gesture, they called the dog back. The only visible eye emitted a merciless aura. Coldly, they said a phrase that Lin Zhaohe could understand clearly: “You all must die.”
With those words spoken, the person turned and walked away.
The sight of the person leaving made the children cry even harder. Lin Yan, with his amiable temperament, knelt down and asked them why they were crying. Amidst their sobs, they explained that their father had been eaten by the bad dog. Pointing ahead, they asked if Lin Yan could take them to see.
Naturally, Lin Yan agreed and lifted the two children, heading towards where the dog had come from.
Lin Zhaohe remained in Zhuang Lao’s embrace, and Zhuang Lao gently stroked his head, remarking that all dogs, including little Lin Zhaohe, were adorable.
Lin Zhaohe expressed that he was also a fierce dog and tried to leave a small mark of a fierce dog on Zhuang Lao’s finger.
Despite knowing they were children, the group remained extremely cautious when facing them. Mr. Li didn’t even want to get close. Only Lin Yan, who seemed to fully trust the words of the two children, approached them.
They took a few more steps forward and unexpectedly discovered the father’s corpse.
The body had been ravaged by the hunting dog, leaving only some relatively intact bones scattered around. The two children jumped down from Lin Yan’s arms and knelt beside the remains, crying out in sorrow. Their misery was palpable.
Seeing this, Lin Yan couldn’t bear it and whispered, “Why did he want to kill you?”
“We are monsters, we are monsters,” sobbed the older girl, rubbing her reddened eyes and struggling to catch her breath. “They said we are monsters…”
“Why?” Lin Yan asked in astonishment.
“Look at their wounds,” Zhuang Lao interjected.
Lin Yan lowered his gaze and saw strange growths sprouting from the exposed wounds of the two children. Upon closer inspection, he realized they were densely packed mushrooms.
These mushrooms were actually growing from the children’s wounds, a chilling sight that sent shivers down one’s spine.
Lin Yan cautiously touched one of the mushrooms with his hand, causing the little girl to cry out in pain, “Ouch… it hurts!”
“How could this happen?” Lin Yan asked, “Where is your home? Are there others in your family?”
The little girl sobbed, “Daddy, Mommy, they were both killed.”
Lin Yan furrowed his brow, his gaze filled with sympathy. “Are there no other relatives?”
The little girl replied, “There’s still Uncle…”
“Where is your uncle?” Lin Yan asked.
“He’s… at home,” the little girl answered.
“Do you know the location of your home?” Lin Yan gently coaxed, afraid that his approach might frighten the two children. He carefully reached into his pocket and took out some candies, unwrapping them and placing them in their mouths.
Finally, a faint smile appeared on the dirty faces of the two children. Despite their tattered clothes, apart from the unsettling mushrooms growing from their wounds, they seemed no different from ordinary children.
Clearly, there were no humans here. Perhaps these children were unfortunate characters from some fictional world, merged into this perilous realm of short days and long nights.
Lin Zhaohe, upon considering this, felt a surge of sympathy towards them.
Since the fusion occurred, the most common experience for people had been loss—losing loved ones, friends, and parents. Unexpected events had never been so frequent. With a single careless moment, precious things slipped easily through the cracks of one’s fingers.
Perhaps it was Lin Yan’s gentle attitude or the candies placed in their mouths, but the children finally ceased their crying. They stuttered their responses to Lin Yan’s questions, and from their words, Lin Zhaohe roughly understood their predicament.
It turned out that the group of mushrooms they had seen didn’t exist before. They appeared at an unknown time, as if overnight, occupying the once peaceful plains. The children’s village was located on those plains, and before the invasion, they led a difficult but relatively sweet life.
However, the strange arrival of the mushrooms shattered the tranquility of their lives.
These mushrooms were like a blend of animals and plants, possessing the appearance of plants but the structure of animals.
Initially, when they appeared, people could easily crush their bodies, just like Mr. Li had done moments ago. Once one was crushed, they would release a burst of dense spores, rapidly multiplying. One became two, two became four, and within a few days, they covered the entire plain.
“We were driven out,” the thin little girl, who appeared to be no more than five or six years old, said. Lin Yan was surprised to learn that she was already ten years old, but due to severe malnutrition, she appeared exceptionally small and frail.
“Our home is filled with mushrooms. Mom said that if our wounds touch the mushrooms, we will turn into mushrooms ourselves…” she trailed off, looking lost. “Before, my best friend, A’Xia, turned into a pile of mushrooms right in front of my eyes…” Her voice filled with sadness as she sniffled.
“Who is chasing after you?” Lin Yan asked.
“People from other villages,” the girl replied. “They found a way to avoid turning into mushrooms themselves, but they fear us turning into mushrooms, so they want to kill us before that happens.” She spoke of cruel intentions with a numb expression on her face, as if she had grown accustomed to such treatment. She scratched her dirty hand and whispered, “The dog bit off my mother’s head, and my father is gone too…”
Lin Yan felt his eyes welling up with tears as he softly said, “It’s okay. Big Brother will take you back.”
Lin Zhaohe obediently stuck close to Zhuang Lao, feeling a wave of sadness wash over him. Zhuang Lao gently pressed his hand against Lin Zhaohe’s drooping ear, offering warmth and comfort.
The village where the little girl lived wasn’t too far from the incident site.
As they continued walking, Mr. Li began to feel a sense of familiarity in the surroundings. He looked at the buildings near the village entrance and exclaimed in surprise, “I’ve been here before!”
“You’ve been here?” Lin Zhaohe was taken aback.
“Yes, I have,” Mr. Li said. “At that time, coming to the lower realm for adventures was a popular activity, and many people came. Coincidentally, there was a small village that had merged here at the entrance, where they started receiving adventurers from above.” He looked around, his expression filled with nostalgia. “When I came, I stayed in this village. It was bustling with activity, selling all sorts of things… I never imagined that in just two short years…” everything would be in ruins.
The village no longer displayed any trace of the prosperity Mr. Li had mentioned. It was all in a state of decay.
The street was lined with dilapidated houses, and the entire village was eerily silent, devoid of any signs of life.
The three of them walked through it, standing out amidst the desolation.
“Is anyone here?” Lin Yan called out.
There was no response.
“Little girl, where is your uncle?” Mr. Li looked towards the young girl.
It was unclear whether it was his shark-like teeth that the little girl caught sight of, but she seemed afraid of him. She nestled her head in Lin Yan’s embrace and whispered, “He’s inside, in the house ahead.”
The group continued walking for a while until they reached the house the little girl had mentioned.
With Lin Yan unable to hold the child and knock on the door, Mr. Li bravely stepped forward and rapped on it. After a moment, a voice from inside asked, “Who is it?”
“Uncle, it’s me.” Upon hearing the familiar voice of a family member, the little girl couldn’t hold back her tears any longer. She sobbed, “Daddy, Daddy is gone.”
Creaking open, the door revealed a man’s weary and guarded face. Upon seeing Lin Yan holding the little girl, he grew suspicious and asked, “Who are you?”
Lin Yan briefly introduced himself, but the man still refused to open the door. “Put the child down and leave. This village can’t accommodate you.”
Faced with the man’s hostile attitude, Lin Yan felt at a loss. He wasn’t a bad person to begin with, but being yelled at like this left him helpless. He gently put the child down and whispered, “Little Sister, you go inside first.”
As the child entered the house, the man attempted to close the door. However, Mr. Li quickly pressed his hand against the wooden door and said, “Wait.”
The girl’s uncle asked, “What do you want?”
“I recognize you. You’re the doctor from the village, right?”
The man was taken aback.
“I remember your name is Kreel, right?” Mr. Li stared at the man, his gaze as if trying to dissect him. “You used to run a small clinic in the village.”
Kreel felt uneasy under Mr. Li’s intense gaze. “When did you see me?”
“We came from above,” Mr. Li said. “There are some matters we’d like to consult you about. Of course, we’ll compensate you. You must be lacking food here, and we can provide some.”
Upon hearing the mention of food, Kreel finally showed a flicker of interest. After hesitating for a moment, he opened the door. “Come in.”
Finally, the three of them successfully entered the house.
Inside the house, Lin Zhaohe saw several patients lying on Kreel’s bed. Their conditions looked extremely poor, with almost everyone suffering from fatal injuries. However, what caught the most attention wasn’t their wounds but the colorful mushroom patches growing out of them. The mushroom stems extended from the wounds, deeply rooted inside.
“Can’t you simply cut off the mushrooms?” Lin Yan couldn’t help but ask.
“They can’t be cut off,” Kreel responded indifferently. “The spores are already in their bloodstream. If you remove this batch, another will grow. Their flesh and blood serve as nourishment for the mushrooms, and the faster you cut, the faster they grow.”
“So, they can only wait for death?” Lin Yan said.
Kreel replied with self-derision, “That seems to be the case for now.”
Mr. Li, without Lin Yan’s saintly sentiments, was actually uninterested in anything other than food. Thus, he cut to the chase and asked, “We need to cross this sea of mushrooms to reach the Alchemy Town. How can we do it?”
“You can’t cross it,” Kreel said. “Unless you can fly in the air for three days and three nights.” He was clearly joking.
Lin Yan, on the other hand, thought seriously for a moment. “How far is it? If it’s feasible, I can give it a try.”
Kreel thought he was joking and sneered. “Do you think we haven’t tried? There are mushrooms on the ground, and there are other things in the sky. Once you’re attacked, there won’t even be a place to land… If it weren’t for the marked lines on the ground, you might not have set foot on the land.”
He then looked at the tiny Lin Zhaohe and said, “If I were you, I would turn back along the same path. Even with a backup food, you’ll only be waiting here in vain.”
Lin Zhaohe: “?” Why are you staring at me when you mention backup food?
As expected, Kreel continued, “Such adorable food… There wouldn’t be much meat on those little bodies.”
Lin Zhaohe, the fierce little dog became enraged. He stomped his short legs in frustration, wanting to rush over and give Kreel a taste of his ferocity. However, Zhuang Lao held him back with one hand, wearing a smile, and said, “Good little dogs don’t bother with bad people!”
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