Chapter 41.2 – Luosa Tree (3)
The underground parking lot at Goose Square was considered the largest in the vicinity. It had numerous levels, and some of the local residents also parked their vehicles there. Each level was packed full, and evacuating it was not a simple task.
Taking off his flowery shirt and tucking it into his waist pack, Hu Li said, “Anyway, let’s go take a look.”
“Take a look” meant conducting a systematic check on each level.
The terrain here had significant differences in elevation. Upon entering, they were on the highest level, and to reach the lower levels, they had to keep descending. The term “underground” was relative to the highest level; in reality, the natural light there was quite decent.
The branch seemed to stir in a manner unique to plants, with nearly invisible leaves rapidly sprouting, trembling in the air, conveying both joy and unease. The further they descended, the more pronounced this feeling became.
As the branch trembled more intensely, Xu Tonggui reached out and snapped the branch directly in half. What had just regained vitality now fell back into a half-dead state.
He acted without hesitation, and it was undeniably effective, making the air feel considerably quieter.
The mother tree of the Luosa tree should have been at the very bottom. Without circling layer by layer, they leaped down, one level at a time, which was convenient and swift. People were still coming and going in the parking lot, driving peacefully, only to be startled when they seemed to witness two individuals jumping down from above, causing their hearts to skip a beat.
The true underground was the bottommost level of the parking lot—damp, with walls and floors marked by moisture stains, covered in patches of dark green moss. There was a faint sound of water when they stepped on the ground.
The bottom level was damp, making it challenging for vehicles to navigate. Despite being planned as a parking area, there wasn’t a single proper vehicle parked on this level, only old, rusted cars that their owners had clearly abandoned. This section had already collapsed significantly, with a large hole directly in the middle, and overturned abandoned cars lying around its edges.
Because no one came here, any strange occurrences wouldn’t be noticed, or if noticed, wouldn’t be cared about or reported.
Shining a light down through the central hole, they could already see the complex network of roots entwined beneath the ground.
Unable to see the interior, Hu Li asked, “So, do we need to evacuate the people and vehicles from the parking lot?”
Xu Tonggui looked up, saying, “It’s not just the parking lot; it’s the entire square.”
Hu Li’s eyebrows slowly lifted.
In the afternoon, all the broadcasts at Goose Square were open, instructing citizens within the square, including shopkeepers and their staff, to leave as quickly as possible. The broadcast didn’t specify what had happened, but it was evident that something had occurred, prompting everyone to swiftly depart.
In less than an hour, all the masses were evacuated. The SIU’s vehicles arrived at the perimeter of the square but didn’t enter; they remained on standby.
After receiving the report confirming the complete evacuation of everyone, Xu Tonggui and Hu Li jumped down the hole.
Initially, Hu Li wasn’t supposed to follow, but considering the tedious clean-up work that would follow, he thought it better to sneak in and be merely a hired hand.
They didn’t need flashlights after jumping down the hole.
Beneath the parking lot was a vast space. Below were intertwined layers of plant roots, with fluorescent green spores floating on top, constantly undulating in the air, diminishing while generating new spores.
The branches of the Luosa tree were hidden in the darkness, their sparse fluorescence unable to illuminate the entirety. One could only judge its size by the space it occupied, far surpassing what could be achieved by the previous branches growing into mature trees.
Hu Li remarked as he observed, “This Zero is quite good at hiding things.”
Moreover, they seemed to have a penchant for living underground, stuffing everything below without fearing the collapse of the structures above.
Mostly because they could actually find these places.
His words did not receive a response from anyone, but they seemed to resonate with the spores, and they became aware of the presence of others. The aimlessly drifting green fluorescent spores overhead instantly gathered into a luminous chain, surging downwards.
Hu Li raised his hand, blowing away the incoming mass, which then harshly collided with the wall covered in crawling roots.
The further toward the trunk they walked, the more traces of human activity and things that didn’t belong here appeared on the ground. A metal walkway extended from one side to the edge of the trunk, reinforced with what seemed like sturdy thick glass, probably meant to ward off spore invasion. Near the base of the trunk, the walkway extended into a special platform, surrounded by branches identical to those previously seen—this was likely the place where Zero’s people gathered branches for collection.
However, unfortunately, there was a finger-sized hole in the glass, seemingly caused by a bullet or some accidental discharge. In a place like this, any hole allowing spores to pass through would be deadly. The walkway was stacked with a pile of black objects, likely overlapping bodies.
Apart from the walkway, there were numerous lush, clustered, verdant leaves that looked vibrant and full of life.
It would’ve seemed beautiful if one could overlook the fact that these verdant leaves were sprouting from human bodies.
Kicking aside the bodies starting to sprout shoots on the ground, Hu Li remarked, “Looks like they’ve just died.”
This probably happened while the crowd was still evacuating.
Xu Tonggui stabbed the pitch-black trunk with a knife.
A long crack swiftly appeared along the direction of the knife’s thrust on the trunk. Green liquid continuously flowed out, almost spraying. Everything in the path of the liquid, living or non-living, disintegrated, leaving only rapid growth of trees.
The crack showed no sign of stopping and continued to lengthen. The once stationary roots began slowly and irregularly twisting, moving upwards. The entire incomplete tree seemed to rise, causing the ground to gradually elevate as well.
Jiang Yujin was still searching for his helmet, scouring every nook and cranny.
Since someone stole his helmet, it was likely they were riding a small electric scooter or motorcycle. If he couldn’t find Helmet 2.0 in the square, he would head to the underground parking lot where the culprit might have parked their vehicle.
The last time he was at the square, there were still many people around. But now, as he walked by, the place was completely deserted, eerily quiet.
However, these details didn’t concern him; right now, all that occupied his mind was his Helmet 2.0.
There was no one in the underground parking lot; most of the cars were gone, making it look considerably empty. A quick glance revealed no electric scooters or helmets.
Navigating through each level was a time-consuming process, and it was primarily exhausting, considering the physical exertion. The parking lot spiraled downward, layer by layer. Jiang Yujin opted to skip this by directly flipping over the railing at the edge of the parking lot.
He flipped through several levels consecutively but hadn’t spotted his familiar helmet anywhere. By now, his heart had cooled considerably, as he hadn’t been able to catch sight of it.
There was no helmet, but there were voices of other people talking. Inside the car parked near the bottommost levels, two people were still seated. The car window was slightly cracked open, and music could be heard emanating from within.
Objectively, the sound should have been quite loud; he could hear bits of it from this distance, an intensity that would likely deafen someone inside the vehicle.
As he glanced over, the occupants inside the car happened to turn. It was Xiao Li and Curly Hair, sitting together inside the car. Upon seeing him, they quickly rolled down the window and said, “What are you doing—”
Before they could finish their sentence, the ground began to tremble continuously. Assuming it might be an unexpected earthquake or structural issue, both hurriedly ran out of the car, struggling to maintain their balance.
It wasn’t an earthquake or a structural problem. Gradually, the sunlight was obscured, casting darkness all around. A colossal noise emanated from not too far away. They looked up and saw the towering tree that overshadowed everything, surrounded by pathways that had been forcefully twisted and bent.
All of this appeared suddenly, completely beyond the scope of what they could comprehend.
The wind generated by the elevation of the colossal tree blew from the skies. Jiang Yujin stood in place, his clothes fluttering in the wind. The two behind him completely lost their footing and collapsed on the ground, their eyes widened in terror, unable to utter a word.
Atop the twisted and immense tree roots, someone was there. Hu Li stood above, looking down towards the underground parking lot, noticing the person standing nearby and the two collapsed behind him.
Ascending to a larger space, the originally coiled roots of the Luosa tree began stretching out in all directions, slowly and dramatically wrapping around the underground parking lot.
As the colossal roots extended, something rolled down and came to a stop right in front of Curly Hair and Xiao Li.
It was a person, but not quite; using the term “monster” might be more fitting. Clad in dark red clothing, the attire was tattered, with tender green sprouts emerging from within. The zipper on the person’s head was pulled open, revealing skin pierced by the emerging shoots. Their eyes, wide open, had dilated pupils, red blood vessels spreading across the entire eyeball. A tender, yellowish sprout even emerged from the center of the pupil.
All of this served as nourishment for the Luosa tree.
The partially split trunk, having emerged from the ground, astonishingly and eerily accelerated its growth, visibly thickening and strengthening, with an exponential increase in spore quantity.
Xu Tonggui could handle the situation alone on-site. Hu Li descended along the expanding tree roots, intending to evacuate the people from the parking lot first.
The spores had already spread to the parking lot, a haunting shade of ghostly green.
Survival instincts kicked in. Curly Hair, already weak-kneed, instantly pushed away Xiao Li, who was holding onto him, and scrambled into the car, slamming the door shut with a “click,” even managing to lock it.
Xiao Li was incredulous.
“Condolences,” Jiang Yujin crouched beside her. “By the way, he has another girlfriend.”
“I knew it! Why would he have a lipstick I don’t use in his car!”
Xiao Li, performing a medical miracle by overcoming her physical reactions, swiftly stood up from the ground, determined to confront the person inside the car head-on.
By the time Hu Li arrived, chaos reigned at the scene. The only one who seemed remarkably composed was Jiang Yujin, seemingly aloof with drooping eyelids, casually observing the situation. He had his shirt half-rolled, maintaining a relaxed and even interested posture.