Chapter 10 – Congshan Village (3)
Just having lost a hundred million, Jiang Yujin now saw everything as if it were money, especially the statues that shimmered and seemed to be valuable items.
Xu Tonggui fell silent for a moment, ultimately choosing not to answer that question. He turned his head towards the winding flames not far away and said, “I’ll take…”
Light and heavy footsteps sounded again. While other villagers were still putting out fires on the mountain, Li Er’s figure appeared at the door.
Upon entering the door and seeing two people, he visibly paused. Then, he glanced at the altar placed in the middle of the hall and gestured in a direction with the cane he held in his hand.
Xu Tonggui lowered his head to look at Jiang Yujin, his movements natural and smooth.
The situation was eerie now, but strangely, Jiang Yujin seemed unfazed. He appeared quite interested and stepped forward.
The two followed Li Er, who was limping and using a cane, toward a room. As they moved, they could still hear the jingling of keys on the other person’s body.
When the statue disappeared from their sight, Li Er finally spoke, his voice coarse, “The village has gone mad believing in that monster. You shouldn’t have come here.”
Ever since the shrine suddenly appeared halfway up the mountain one day, the village craftsman stopped taking work and spent their days indoors crafting statues of “Lord Saka,” their eyes sunken from exhaustion. They made altars from the wood they took from the shrine and distributed them to every person in the village, who all took them gratefully, including himself. Nothing seemed different from before on ordinary days, but since “Lord Saka” required offerings, things had gradually taken a strange turn.
People who had hardly ever done anything wrong in their lives knocked out outsiders, placed them on the sacrificial platform, laughed upon hearing screams in the mist, and warmly welcomed every newcomer to the village, only to bind them at night and leave them on the second floor, waiting for the next sacrifice.
Li Er sneered, saying, “They still believe that as long as they offer something to Saka, their wishes will come true.”
Jiang Yujin asked, “Don’t you believe it?”
“Saka said it could make my leg agile,” Li Er replied. “My leg’s been useless for decades. Whether it can be cured or not, I know in my heart.”
Jiang Yujin nodded.
Saka could confuse believers, but for those with a strong sense of self, like Li Er, it had no power.
He didn’t believe in Saka but pretended to, because he had seen someone else, just as clear-headed, declare an intention to call the police and then be placed on the sacrificial altar.
“You should be thankful for the fire up the mountain,” Li Er said. “During the day, I intended to let you leave. Since you didn’t, they were going to come here tonight, but they rushed to put out the fire and didn’t make it in time.”
As he spoke, he shut the door to the room, then crouched down and lifted the carpet.
Beneath it was a movable wooden panel leading to a gently sloping path, pockmarked and dusty.
People in this area didn’t build basements, except for Li Er.
His ancestors had built it, long abandoned. He kept to himself, spoke to no one, and no one knew about this hiding place in his house.
“At night, the woods have packs of wolves. You can’t leave now. Stay here for the night,” he said.
He explained that before the sacrifice began, this area would be covered in thick fog. When the fog arose, the wild beasts in the woods wouldn’t dare to come close. The fog was so dense that even walking on the roads, people couldn’t see those around them. Tomorrow morning, they could take advantage of the fog to leave.
The cause and effect became clear.
Li Er’s initial change in expression upon seeing the two wasn’t due to their arrival, but because he knew the villagers had targeted innocent passersby. His crude manner and the basic room were meant to urge them to leave early. He came upstairs at night knowing the villagers were coming, intending to take them to the basement to hide. Unexpectedly, there was a fire, someone called for him to help, so he left. He guessed that after others put out the fire, they would return, so he extinguished it symbolically a couple of times and came back early to take them to the basement.
Turns out, he was a kind-heart uncle.
Jiang Yujin put his arms around Li Er. Jiang Yujin, moved, said, “Uncle Li, you’re really kind.”
Li Er seemed unsure how to respond to such warmth. His lips moved slightly, allowing the two into the basement, then closed the door with a soft click.
After a not-so-long time, voices of returning villagers outside could be heard, probably questioning where Li Er and the others had gone.
In the quiet basement, Jiang Yujin found a place to sit after turning off his phone, which had no battery left to support turning it back on. He turned to Xu Tonggui, asking, “Is there any Xiaoxiaole on your phone?”
Xu Tonggui glanced up, the meaning clear.
Objectively speaking, a night without a game was quite hard to endure.
When daylight arrived the next morning, the village and the surrounding area were shrouded in thick white fog.
The fog was dense, allowing voices to be heard but making it hard to see people, only faintly discerning their silhouettes moving within the mist.
The thick fog completely hindered any attempt to locate individuals.
Chen Jing’s group had to abandon their plan to find people before the ritual and instead rushed to the vicinity of the altar to wait in ambush.
The altar stood on the cliffside near the shrine, which had been burned down the day before. The villagers had hastily constructed a platform made of wood. It looked a bit crude but seemed stable. In the center was a stone platform with traces of last night’s burning, likely the place for offerings.
Before the sacrifice began, the villagers started gathering. Li Er, who had been interrogated by others yesterday, was among them.
From their distance, they couldn’t see if Liu Cheng was on the stone platform or determine the exact time the ritual would start. Acting recklessly would only alert the target. Chen Jing’s group stayed nearby, ultimately choosing to remain still.
Chen Jing said, “I’ll hold off Saka when the time comes. You two take care of getting Liu Cheng out.”
Xiao Pang asked, “What about Xu Tonggui?”
Saka, classified as A+ class, was ambitious but primarily content with sufficient offerings, not inclined toward extensive destruction. However, its true strength surpassed ordinary A+ class entities by a considerable margin. They found it challenging to deal with, but involving Xu Tonggui would change the equation.
Chen Jing said, “Don’t pin your hopes on others.”
There was no wind, yet the fog in the mountains seemed to surge faster.
Amidst the clamor of conversation, the sound of trees being toppled echoed.
In an instant, Chen Jing moved, while the chubby guy and the girl swiftly leaped onto the altar, searching through the mist for Liu Cheng among the villagers.
A bizarre-shaped entity crawled through the thick fog, its elongated, hand-like scales grazing trees like blades, causing them to collapse.
A human appeared in front of it.
Chen Jing landed on a fallen tree, a small knife appearing in his hand. With the momentum of his leap, he skillfully maneuvered the blade past the scales, plunging it deep into Saka’s flesh. Using the leverage of the knife’s handle, he leaped halfway into the air, securing a chain laced with special iron spikes around Saka’s neck.
His position was precarious, Saka wildly thrashed its head, and its massive tail struggled to reach him, but it couldn’t quite make contact. It was momentarily stuck, unable to advance or retreat.
The chubby guy and the girl found Liu Cheng lying on the stone platform, drenched in sweat and trembling uncontrollably when they found him.
The villagers noticed the abnormality but dared not approach the altar, afraid they might be mistaken for sacrifices. They surrounded the area, horrified by the monstrous roars coming from nearby and vigilantly preventing the sacrifices from escaping. The scene was chaotic.
Xiao Pang leaped over the villagers with Liu Cheng on his back, agile despite his size. Upon landing, he maneuvered through the crowd, easily avoiding the bewildered villagers.
Finally reaching the edge of the cliff away from the shrine, the roars of Saka gradually faded into the background. Liu Cheng, who had been on edge the entire time, despite still being bound, finally relaxed, letting out a sigh and allowing his eyelids to droop.
Suddenly, a black, scaled tail emerged from the mist, sweeping across swiftly without warning.
Liu Cheng didn’t even have time to register any anomaly. By the time he reacted, his body was already airborne.
He was swept off the mountainside.
Xiao Pang, carrying him on his back, suffered the same fate.
—Then the other party stopped.
Liu Cheng watched as the distance between them widened until the figure was obscured by the dense fog, no longer visible.
He could distinctly feel his life rapidly fading away.
His mind grew faint, his body weak, the excruciating pain from his back radiated throughout his body, gradually diminishing as the piercing agony began to fade.
On the mountainside, the chubby guy was grabbed by the girl, only to be flung back down with a swing of her arm. As he turned around, he faced the approaching villagers who had noticed the commotion.
Amidst the chaos, someone in the crowd slowly raised a gun.
Saka’s struggles caused the thick fog nearby to dissipate, revealing the people on the platform.
Aiming at the person still restraining Saka, the moment before his finger pulled the trigger, the hand of the man holding the gun was gripped with brutal and absolute force.
Feeling the strength capable of crushing bones effortlessly, the person with the gun twitched their eyelids and turned around to face someone whose eyelids were drooping.
“Don’t aim at him,” Jiang Yujin gently said, “Kind-hearted Uncle Li.”
Li Er’s hand moved involuntarily, and his cane fell with a clatter. His throat bobbed up and down, questioning, “…How did you get out?”
When he left the basement yesterday, he had made sure the lock was secure.
Clink. A yellow key appeared before him.
Li Er was first puzzled, incredulous, then gradually recalled. His eyes widened.
The sudden warmth and physical contact from the person behind him last night weren’t because the person was naturally warm-hearted and generous.
The key had been taken at that moment.
Not far away, Chen Jing couldn’t contain Saka anymore and leaped away.
Jiang Yujin slowly retreated with Li Er, fading back into the thick fog.
“You knew all along,” Li Er was forced to step back with him, wide-eyed, almost incredulous, “How…”
“Wondering where you slipped up?” Jiang Yujin replied.
Without a game of Xiaoxiaole at hand, Jiang Yujin was still eager to chat. After some thought, he said, “There were quite a few red flags.”
Firstly, the altar: as someone who didn’t believe in Saka, the altar was oddly clean, without a speck of dust.
Secondly, the steps in the basement were much gentler in slope than usual, marked with uneven imprints left by the canes poking into the ground, which contradicted the statement of it being a place ‘left by ancestors and rarely used.’
And lastly, the logic doesn’t pick up; since he had to warn them to leave, he could have just explained the situation when he initially took them up to the second floor, and he could have just taken them to the basement at night when they turned back from the village, but he chose to do it in the middle of the night.
It was likely that when he arrived in the dead of night, he carried the gun with him.
From a different perspective, the entire situation was completely contrary to the story concocted by Li Er.
His stern demeanor upon meeting them was probably because he saw both of them were men and thought it would be difficult to handle. His complaints on the second floor were just venting. His arrival at midnight indicated an intention to catch them off guard. Later, an unforeseen fire occurred. When Li Er returned and saw them standing in the hall, he thought they were planning to leave amidst the chaos. This was probably when he concocted an excuse to lock them in the basement, likely intending to reserve them for future sacrifices.
After all, ever since rumors spread about incidents occurring, fewer and fewer people visited Congshan Village. Each sacrificial offering became particularly precious.
In short, it was a trick played by the villagers on outsiders.
They knew it was a trap, but Jiang Yujin and Xu Tonggui still entered. One did it for sheer amusement, while the other wanted to see if Liu Cheng was inside.
Chen Jing’s restraint on Saka lasted only a short period of time. And even though Saka was momentarily restrained, the damage was minimal. Before Saka could move, something seemed to flash in the peripheral vision, and the deformed skull instantly shattered. The body flew out and finally collided with another mountain. The resounding impact echoed through the mountains, causing the thick fog to dissipate, revealing the contours of the opposite mountain.
It was Xu Tonggui who arrived, quite timely.
The visual impact was too immense, causing Li Er to momentarily cease breathing. He was unaware of the gun slipping from his hand to the ground.
The situation had spiraled completely out of control. Perhaps his brain finally caught up with reality; he panicked and waved his hands frantically, “Lord Saka won’t die, as long as there’s a flower…”
At that moment, he resembled a devout believer, divulging everything about Lord Saka.
Thousand-Armed Saka possessed territorial consciousness due to the existence of a companion flower. As long as within the blessed range of the companion flower, one could endlessly regenerate health. Many people didn’t understand this in the game, and here, they met their end by making such mistakes.
“Is it a black flower?” Jiang Yujin replied, “That flower stinks, so I plucked it.”