In that moment, Meng Fei’er realized that the red wormlike creature in the fiery red flower was aiming towards her, moving so fast that she could only see a flash of red. "Ah!" Meng Fei’er gasped in shock, and saw the red worm coming closer and closer to her. She wanted to step back and avoid the attack, but could not react in time. Her heart sank as she realized that she was done for!
Her eyes widened in horror. When a shiny glimmer swept past her, she did not react still.
What broke her out of her trance was a thumping sound. Meng Fei’er looked towards the source, and found on her left a dagger embedded to its hilt on a tree. The force of the attack was enough to make the tree shake violently. Leaves scattered in the wind, creating a beautiful sight.
The group finally noticed something was wrong. Just beside Meng Fei’er’s feet was a 15-centimeter long scarlet red vine, coated in a layer of sticky slime. The slime was corrosive, burning holes in the ground as they dripped from the vine. A thin green smoke curled upwards as the slime did its work,and the sharp corrosive smell made everyone else back off.
Lying silently in the scorched pit was a finger-thick scarlet object, with a thin smoke curling upwards from it. It was an eerie sight.
Meng Fei’er was already plunged into a daze, looking confused at everyone.
Ye Chong could not help but frowned - she was obviously in a state of shock. As the rest of them watched, Ye Chong moved towards Meng Fei’er. He moved so quickly that the rest of the team were startled, and looked towards Ye Chong with respect.
Seeing Meng Fei’er not even wearing a mask, Ye Chong believed that she might even thought of this expedition as a sightseeing trip! If she was not his comrade for the moment, Ye Chong would have just ignored her.
There were many ways to treat shock, and Ye Chong chose the simplest way.
Slap! Slap! Ye Chong slapped her twice in the face. To Ye Chong, someone as weak as her should not have joined an expedition like this. Ye Chong did not pity her just because she was a woman - the enemy would never do so anyway.
The rest of the team stared in shock at Ye Chong, their mouths gaping wide open. They never thought anyone capable of hurting Meng Fei’er like that.
Meng Fei’er was a beauty by all respects. She was sympathetic, tactful and understanding. To many, she was the perfect image of a modern woman. In every annual appraisal of the Unity Academy, no other woman was her match. Meng Fei’er was undisputedly the most popular member of her sex.
Meng Fei’er had a special quality to her. Standing before her, anyone would feel self conscious, and no one had ever spoken roughly to her. With her, one could not help but be mellow. Even Qin Zuo with his excellent self control was affected by Meng Fei’er. On the other hand, Meng Fei’er had never been conceited because of this, but continued to be modest, gentle and understanding.
Now, someone had dared to slap her! How could anyone do that expressionlessly? The four them had just seen something almost unimaginable. If word of this reached the Unity Academy’s teachers and students, they would probably overcome this cold young man by sheer numbers. The four of them exchanged horrified glances.
Meng Fei’er’s snow white cheeks were now imprinted with two red, symmetrical palm prints, almost like the fiery red flower with its back-to-back petals.
Ye Chong’s method was, if anything, effective. Meng Fei’er was startled, but quickly felt the full wave of terror overcoming her. Meng Fei’er finally burst into tears, and threw herself into Ye Chong. Even though Meng Fei’er was usually calm and composed, she was still a woman, and her first reaction to this unprecedented terror was to look for protection.
Ye Chong could not help but frown again.
Seeing Meng Fei’er embracing Ye Chong was enough to make Qin Zuo feel envious. No normal man would reject the embrace of a beautiful woman, especially a flawless beauty like this one.
Ye Chong was not used to being physically close with anyone, and keeping people at a distance was second nature to him. However, he did not avoid the embrace, since Meng Fei’er would then fall to the ground, and their expedition would be further delayed. Too much time was already wasted.
Ye Chong noticed Qin Zuo looking towards him from the corner of his eye, and knew what to do.
His left hand pressed gently on Meng Fei’er’s shoulder, while his right reached for her waist and pushed. Meng Fei’er was sent like a sandbag towards Qin Zuo.
Qin Zuo was watching everything, but did not anticipate what Ye Chong had just done. He reacted quickly enough, though, and opened up his arms to catch Men Fei’er. The moment he caught her, he took a few steps back to absorb the momentum, afraid to hurt Meng Fei’er.
Qin Zuo did not expect fortune to smile upon him. He only caught Meng Fei’er out of reflex, and when the fact that Meng Fei’er was in his embrace was fully registered, he was thoroughly overjoyed.
Ye Chong ignored them all as he quietly retrieved his dagger from the tree. Gu Shaoze’s gift had helped him many times in the past. Ye Chong wiped the blade with great care.
Then, he moved towards the fiery red and apparently dangerous plant to inspect it.
The two faces were actually its petals, and it was hollow inside. Ye Chong moved closer, the other end of the vine that he severed with his dagger was now lying quietly within. The severed end was oozing a bright red slime, looking a little like blood.
Even though the plant was obviously not threatening now, Ye Chong still acted carefully. The strong corrosive nature of the sticky slime filled him with apprehension. It looked like the chip was right. However, the corrosive slime seemed to be ineffective against the petals. It was truly an impressively adapted organism. This plant’s most terrifying part was the tip of its scarlet red vine. That was the core of its attack. Without it, the flower was harmless.
Ye Chong’s left hand carefully held the two face-like petals, while his right hand wielded the dagger and cut the stem that supported the flower. The petals were now the perfect container for the scarlet red slime within. Ye Chong moved his shoulders, and his backpack slithered down unnaturally to his right hand.
Studying Lan Yixing’s chip, Ye Cong could now control his muscles to an unusual extent. His way of retrieving his backpack just now was a good example, though it went by unnoticed. If Ye Chong was naked waist up, they would have noticed the way Ye Chong’s muscles rippled from the shoulder down like waves, passing the backpack to Ye Chong’s right arm.
Lan Yixing’s chip did not teach this technique; it was a trick that Ye Chong came up with himself. This was also a way to train his muscles. Ye Chong could only do this with his shoulders and arms for now, still quite aways from controlling his entire body in this way.
Fortunately, everyone was looking at Meng Fei’er at the moment, and did not notice this tiny detail.
Ye Chong opened the backpack with his right hand and took out a rectangular metallic container. He opened the container, and cold air slowly wafted out from within. One could see rows of spheres lined through the cold air. Ye Chong took one of those fist-sized spheres from inside the container. It had a peculiar texture - the surface shined with a metallic luster, but through the semi-transparent shell, one could see inside the sphere. This one was empty. Since it was stored at a constant cold temperature, the sphere was cold to the touch.
Ye Chong pressed on a protrusion beneath the sphere, and the sphere buzzed as its upper half opened up, leaving a hemispherical bowl in his hand. Ye Chong carefully placed the fiery red petals inside. He pressed the protrusion again, and the sphere closed up into its initial spherical semi-transparent form. From the outside, one could see the flower within. Ye Chong kept the sphere with its new content back inside the container.
The container was a special specimen container used by alchemists. It kept its contents fresh by maintaining a cold temperature within, and once the container was sealed, the spheres within would become suspended in a zero-gravity vacuum. Such a cutting edge specimen container was like a dream toolkit for every alchemist.
"What was that?" Meng Fei’er spoke. Her voice was still tinged with fear. It took only a moment for Meng Fei’er to compose herself again after she landed into Qin Zuo’s embrace. Qin Zuo could only regret that the moment passed by too soon. Meng Fei’er watched Ye Chong’s every move, and she finally understood what had happened. The young man who was currently looking very focused was the one who saved her.
Ye Chong relaxed at last. He had to be very careful handling such a dangerous sticky slime. The petals were worthless for him, but he wanted the vine with its sticky slime. In Lunatic Guan’s chip, there were quite a few concoctions that called for this ingredient. Since Twin Sisters was a rare plant, who knew when he would see one again?
Ye Chong put the specimen container back inside his backpack and turned to her. "This is Twin Sisters. Its known for its ability prey on other organisms. Inside the petals is a red vine, like a snake. This vine secretes an extremely corrosive slime. The slime also has paralytic properties. Please wear your mask, your carelessness will delay us. Also, please don’t approach unfamiliar plants without thought. The forest is more dangerous than you think." Ye Chong lectured coldly.
He ignored Meng Fei’er after that.
They were very much delayed, and Ye Chong did not intend to waste any more time. Meng Fei’er knew that she had acted too recklessly. As the young man turned his back to her, Meng Fei’er quietly put on the mask from her protective suit.
The group advanced.
Ye Chong grew more and more anxious. He could not understand how this team had managed to venture so deep into the forest and return unscathed.
Many of the plants here were recorded in Lunatic Guan’s chip. Looking at the easy expression on the four members of the team, aside from Meng Fei’er, Ye Chong marvelled on how the ignorant could afford to be fearless.
Less than half a meter from Phal was a dark brown vine, from the infamous Blood Sucking Vines. These vines were covered entirely with thorns. Any animal that was pricked would be injected with a very powerful anaesthetic. The poison from 25 thorns was enough to make an adult lion defenseless. Once a prey was anaesthetised, it would be drained of all its blood until only a dry corpse remained.
Three meters above Ye Chong was an egg-shaped fruit, from the honey juniper tree. Honey juniper fruits were sweet and fragrant, and rich in nutrients. One could smell its scent from a long distance away. However, the fragrance was equally terrifying.
Honey juniper fruits were natural nests for the black-winged hornets. One would almost never see one without the other. Ye Chong noticed with his sharp eyes that a few black-winged hornets had just burrowed into one of the fruits. Black-winged hornets were horrible beings, and if you accidentally touched their nests, you would have sealed your deadly fate.
These insects were very aggressive, and even vengeful. A healthy member of the black-winged hornets would penetrate a centimeter-thick alloy board with the stinger on its tail. Besides, the stinger was packed with enough poison to kill a person very quickly. Ye Chong had no confidence of their protective suits against these insects.
The were too many dangerous plants around here! Moreover, Ye Chong did not recognize many of them, and did not know if they were harmful. Of course, he would not care to experiment now.
Fortunately, the incident with Meng Fei’er had made everyone more vigilant. The corrosive slime had left a deep impression in them.
If the walk along the river was this hard, trekking through the forest would be even more so.
The river water was clear, and the sound of flowing water helped create a peaceful atmosphere unique to the forests.
Up until now, they had not encountered anything like vicious wild animals. Ye Chong was disturbed by the fact. If even the plants were so dangerous here, Ye Chong would not believe that the animals here would fare any better.
Coxcomb’s landing may have scared off plenty of the animals, but Ye Chong still understood the territorial nature of the more intelligent animals. On the trash planet, Ye Chong had fought against various mutants, and he had grown familiar with the ways of these animals, especially the fiercer ones.
Ye Chong would never underestimate the strength of wild animals. Take the iron lizard on the trash planet for example. Ye Chong believed that if all the mech pilots from the Five Galaxies tried to take on the iron lizard one-on-one, most of them would never survive. This dangerous forest, on the other hand, was home to hundreds and thousands of creatures undisturbed by mankind. Ye Chong could not begin to imagine what they would be like.
However, with a water source like this, it must be where animals nearby quench their thirst.
Why have they not encountered a single animal? This baffled Ye Chong. After all, they were quite a distance from the Coxcomb already.
Could it be …
Ye Chong had an ill premonition. Behind him, the river flowed, and many silver lines flickered into existence.