Chapter 60.1 Alchemy Village
Mr. Li could never forget the first time he saw Zhuang Lao.
Back then, they were both dealing with the same situation. Mr. Li found himself stuck in a deadlock against the enemy, while Zhuang Lao arrived later, strolling casually as if he owned the place.
Their eyes met, and in the next moment, Zhuang Lao’s fingertips burst into green flames. He calmly told Mr. Li, “Take a step back.”
Mr. Li realized that the best thing he had ever done was to listen to Zhuang Lao and heed his advice to step back.
Zhuang Lao set everything around him on fire.
Suddenly, all Mr. Li could see was an endless sea of green flames.
It used to be a B-level Fusion Zone, not very large in size, but highly dangerous. Even Mr. Li almost met his match there. However, after that day, the B-level Fusion Zone disappeared, or more accurately, it was destroyed. Everything turned to ashes—buildings, plants, animals—all annihilated by the terrifying green flames.
Mr. Li couldn’t forget this memory. He still remembered the person in charge looking at the ashes, sighing with crossed arms, and saying that Zhuang Lao was losing his sense of measure. It was a disaster waiting to happen.
“Is he also from the two-dimensional world?” Mr. Li asked the person in charge.
“Him?” The person in charge glanced at him. “I have no idea where he comes from.”
If he came from the two-dimensional world, considering Zhuang Lao’s fighting abilities, he must be from an incredibly popular work. However, no matter how they compared, they couldn’t find any work or character that matched him.
Zhuang Lao seemed like an outsider who didn’t care about anything.
But now, the outsider seemed to have something he cared about. Ignoring Mr. Li’s horrified screams, Zhuang Lao directly set fire to the mushroom threads hanging from the cave’s ceiling. The green flames spread rapidly, following the threads upwards. The flames appeared weak at first, without any visible effect. However, within moments, the small cave began to shake violently.
Mr. Li quickly turned and ran, his gaping mouth swallowing all the mushroom creatures trying to stop him. In a blink, he dashed out of the cave.
Kreel, waiting at the entrance, was amazed to see Mr. Li emerge unscathed. He wore a bewildered expression, thinking that Mr. Li would attack him. Startled, Kreel turned to run away. Little did he know, Mr. Li didn’t even spare him a glance, sprinting away at top speed towards the distance.
Kreel stood there, shocked and confused, unable to understand what had happened. Suddenly, he felt intense pain. Lowering his head, he noticed a green flame had ignited beneath his feet, rapidly engulfing his body. In an instant, he was consumed by the flames.
“Aaaaah!” Kreel let out a piercing scream.
The screams echoed across the open plain, emerging from the dense clusters of mushrooms. Countless mushroom creatures, their bodies engulfed in green flames, rolled and writhed on the ground. Despite their efforts, they couldn’t extinguish the flames even a bit. The earth started shaking violently, as if some colossal creature was moving beneath it.
Mr. Li finally managed to escape far away from the cave. Standing on the plain, his face covered in cold sweat, he stepped on the trembling ground and gazed towards the depths of the mushroom-filled area. A gigantic entity emerged from the ground—a massive circular object, its burning green flames attracting immediate attention.
It began to struggle and writhe, emitting terrifying roars. The mushroom creatures parasitic on its body followed its movements, resulting in a chaotic and absurd spectacle reminiscent of the apocalypse.
Mr. Li also felt pain. He let out a cry as he fell to the ground. The mycelium within his body also ignited, and green flames erupted from his mouth, the intense heat almost taking half of his life away.
Fortunately, this burning didn’t last long. The massive circular entity quickly ceased its struggle, its body carbonizing and eventually turning into a pitch-black pile of ashes.
On the plain, not a single mushroom remained unscathed. These once terrifying creatures had now vanished without a trace, leaving behind only black ashes as a reminder of their existence.
Mr. Li lay on the ground, barely clinging to life, thinking that it would have been better to consume them from the start to avoid enduring such suffering.
Zhuang Lao approached him and said, “Let’s go. It’s time to go back.”
“Why the hell… do you react so strongly whenever Lin Zhaohe is mentioned?”
He had seen Zhuang Lao unleash this type of flame before, and it had left a deep impression on him. He remembered that once ignited by Zhuang Lao’s flame, there was no escape from it. What made it even more terrifying was that this flame marked the soul. As long as the soul persisted, the flame would not extinguish. Even if one were to sever the ignited part of themselves, it would instantly ignite the rest of the body. For living beings, it was almost a guaranteed fatal technique.
Mr. Li couldn’t understand why Zhuang Lao had such a strong reaction when Lin Zhaohe was mentioned.
Zhuang Lao: “Perhaps I am a good boss.”
Mr. Li spat, “I suggest you come up with a better excuse to brush me off.”
Zhuang Lao raised an eyebrow.
Mr. Li forced a smile and said, “I’m sorry. It’s my bad attitude.”
“Perhaps,” Zhuang Lao said without missing a beat, “it’s because I like him.”
Mr. Li froze in place, pondered for a moment, and cautiously asked, “Do you also want to devour Lin Zhaohe?”
Zhuang Lao: “Devour him?”
Mr. Li laughed: “Haha, I was just joking.”
Zhuang Lao: “You better be.”
Mr. Li finally regained his composure as he sat on the ground, gasping for breath. His eyes glanced at Zhuang Lao, wondering what Zhuang Lao meant by saying he liked Lin Zhaohe.
Was it a liking similar to his fondness for food? Or perhaps a liking similar to his affection for a little dog? Or maybe it was some other human emotion.
He didn’t quite understand these things, but he knew deep down that he needed to keep his distance from Lin Zhaohe in the future… He certainly didn’t want to be burnt to a crisp by Zhuang Lao’s flames.
The two hurried back to the village and couldn’t find Lin Zhaohe and Lin Yan. They were perplexed when several heavily cloaked individuals appeared at the village entrance. The individuals spoke rapidly and incomprehensibly, and it took Mr. Li quite some time to understand that they were asking about a person and a dog.
“Yes, yes,” Mr. Li replied, “It’s that fluffy little dog with white paws, double eyelids, about this long.” He gestured with his hands to indicate the dog’s size.
“They are in our village,” one of the villagers explained with a strained voice. “We knew you were coming back, so we specially came to fetch you.” The villager hesitated for a moment and whispered, “Those mushrooms… Did you cause them to vanish?”
“Ah.” At the mention of mushrooms, Mr. Li became visibly uneasy. The flames ignited by Zhuang Lao had burned inside his belly for quite some time, causing him considerable pain. “Well, let’s just say… he incinerated them all.”
The villager offered to take them to find Lin Zhaohe and Lin Yan.
Mr. Li nodded in agreement.
After about fifteen minutes, Zhuang Lao spotted Lin Yan and Lin Zhaohe in another village. Lin Zhaohe was overjoyed to see Zhuang Lao unharmed. He leaped from Lin Yan’s embrace, circled around Zhuang Lao’s feet, wagging his tail vigorously, and exclaimed, “Boss, boss, you’re alright! You scared me! I even thought about going to find you!”
Zhuang Lao lifted Lin Xiao Puppy and caressed his head. “Nothing happened, right? You’re not injured?”
“We’re fine,” Lin Yan replied.
“The mushrooms outside are gone,” Lin Zhaohe wagged his little tail happily. “Boss, did you do it?”
Zhuang Lao gently scratched Lin Zhaohe’s chin and said, “Mr. Li ate them all.”
Lin Zhaohe asked Mr. Li, “You were able to stomach them. How did they taste?”
Mr. Li’s face turned dark, and he replied, “Not great. They tasted like charcoal.”
While they were conversing, the people around them were chattering excitedly. After a while, they pushed a person out from the crowd. It was a young teenager, neither big nor small, who spoke fluent Mandarin, allowing them to communicate without barriers.
“Everyone is very grateful to you,” the teenager said. “You’ve reclaimed our homeland.”
Lin Yan: “You don’t seem like someone from here. Did you come from above?”
The teenager: “My mother came from above. After arriving, she found my father. But then the mushrooms grew out of control, and she passed away when I was still young.”
Lin Yan: “Does the upper realm know about the mushrooms? Haven’t they sent anyone down?”
The teenager: “I don’t think they know. The mushroom people over there are cunning. They guard the entrance and lure people over. No one has ever come back alive, so the upper realm has no idea what’s happening down here.”
Mr. Li sighed. “How long has the mushroom infestation been going on?”
The teenager: “For over half a year.”
It hadn’t been a very long time, which explained why the people from the upper realm hadn’t noticed anything unusual. Normally, those who ventured to the lower realm wouldn’t return for at least a year or two. However, this unexpected situation occurred, and it seemed that almost all the previous adventurers had perished.
Mr. Li further inquired about the location of the Alchemy Village. The teenager informed him that they hadn’t been in contact with the outside world for a long time, and there was no news from Alchemy Village. They were unsure if it still existed.
Zhuang Lao was pressed for time and intended to leave immediately with Lin Zhaohe.
“Let’s wait until dawn before setting off,” the teenager suggested. “As a token of gratitude, we’ve prepared a meal for you. Going at this pace will be too slow. Wait for Uncle Ye to provide you with suitable mounts.”
The long night was finally coming to an end as the two moons hanging in the sky descended below the horizon, making way for the bright sun.
Mr. Li’s stomach was uneasy. He looked forward to the food prepared by the villagers.
Lin Yan sat on the rooftop, lost in thought. Mr. Li asked him what he was staring at.
“The sun,” Lin Yan said. “The sun here is so big.”
Mr. Li glanced over and sniffed, “Indeed, it’s like a… yolk.”
The sun here was indeed much larger than outside the Fusion Zone. Lin Zhaohe even suspected that it wasn’t a three-dimensional sun but a two-dimensional one that had fused over. It appeared massive from the outside and emitted a gentler light, hanging in the sky like a backdrop.
The aroma of the food wafted over. Lin Zhaohe looked down to see the villagers, who had previously been tightly wrapped up, shedding their disguises. They gathered around the bonfire below, singing and dancing. Next to the fire, an array of tantalizing dishes exuded mouthwatering fragrances that heightened their appetites just by sniffing.
“The food on this level has a uniquely delicious taste,” Mr. Li said. “Shall we have some?”
“Sure,” nodded Lin Yan.
The three of them leaped down from the rooftop and sat before the barbeque.
The teenager who had conversed with them earlier was grilling the hind leg of an unknown creature. It sizzled and dripped with oil over the flames. The teenager hummed a strange folk tune and sprinkled a layer of seasoning onto the meat. As soon as the seasoning touched it, the aroma of the meat was instantly intensified, wafting richly and enticingly. Lin Zhaohe grew ravenous and impatient, stomping his feet in Zhuang Lao’s embrace.
Zhuang Lao allowed Lin Zhaohe’s chubby little paws to stomp on his knees, requesting the teenager to leave a piece of meat without salt.
Mr. Li’s eyes gleamed as he inquired, “What kind of meat is this? And what seasoning did you sprinkle on it?”
The teenager replied, “This meat is from a local breed of cattle, and the seasoning is one you’ve also encountered—dried and ground mushrooms. It adds a great flavor when used for grilling meat. Unfortunately, there isn’t much meat left to enjoy now.” They licked their lips, succumbing to their own cravings.
The meat quickly finished cooking and was divided into several portions. Lin Zhaohe also received his own share. The meat was a bit tough to chew, and after gnawing on it for a while, his tiny milk teeth left a few small imprints on its surface.
Lin Zhaohe instantly felt aggrieved, tears nearly welling up in his eyes.
Zhuang Lao couldn’t bear to see his little dog looking so forlorn, so he took out a knife and cut it into small pieces. Only then did Lin Zhaohe happily start eating.
If you enjoy this novel, support the Translator ginevre on her ko-fi account :))