438 The First Unexpected Casualty
The large two-story tall beetle towered over Lin Sanjiu and slowly lowered its body. As his target, Lin Sanjiu felt that this scene was enough to give her nightmares for the next few days. This time, Number 43 spoke to the beetle before she did. Even as her own speaking time trickled away, she knew very well that the beetle did not listen to a word she said.
Lin Sanjiu did not know whether the beetle could actually smell. It stuck out one of its furry legs and waved it near the side of one of her ears, stirring up a breeze. After that, she heard sniffing sounds coming from the insect's flat humanoid face.
"So, Number 46 was right," the beetle withdrew his leg. He rubbed his legs together and spoke with a disappointed tone. "Oh, I didn't expect you to come up with such a tactic to avoid meeting me."
"I am sad," the beetle uttered as he placed two of his legs in front of its 'chest'. "You are the first seedling I bit, after all. I thought there was a special connection between us."
Lin Sanjiu tossed a rare sidelong glance at the beetle. Her throat felt dry as she spoke, "If you want me dead, I would need to think of a way to survive. What is wrong with that?"
"Ah— Missy, you misunderstood." Unexpectedly, the beetle suddenly laughed out, "I'm not sad because you lied. I am sad because a beautiful lady like yourself will soon disappear from this farm."
The moment she heard this, Lin Sanjiu's body reacted instinctively before her mind even processed her current situation. She leaped backward immediately. But, the beetle's bite was inevitable. Rip. The beetle tore off one of her sleeves as it lunged at Lin Sanjiu. The torn fabric fell to the ground.
Next, everyone looking saw with their own eyes as the beetle bit into Lin Sanjiu's arm. Number 43 let out a loud cry. Witnessing the first possible casualty in this germination phase, Number 46 and his gang forgot to celebrate their victory. There were a few gasps. When Lin Sanjiu fell heavily to the ground, it also struck a chord in everyone's heart.
The beetle stood upright. Its eyes drifted toward the ground near the low wall. It eyed Lin Sanjiu for some time.
"What else is it trying to do?" Number 48 asked. He was stunned and his voice was so loud that even Number 43 could hear him clearly.
The beetle moved all its legs a few time. It opened its mouth as if it was about to say something—
Everyone, including Number 47 who had just regained consciousness, flexed their necks and perked their ears to listen to what it was about to say. The body of the beetle, which was the size of a small building, suddenly started rocking to and fro.
Boom! The beetle suddenly fell on its back without any warning. As its body landed, it stirred up a huge cloud of dirt. For a moment, the mixture of soil and dust in the air was so thick that Lin Sanjiu and Number 43 couldn't even open their mouths. The soil bridge shook violently for a few times as if it was about to break from the impact. Number 43, who escaped from the beetle, tried to maintain his balance but he tripped and fell in the end.
"Oh, the beetle is dead."
Before Number 46 and his gang could figure out what had happened, Harry disclosed the answer to them.
"Who would have thought... You guys did well," he praised them briskly. "Wait for me. I'll have to deal with this situation. I'll be back in a bit."
After that, Harry's voice disappeared again. His audience was left baffled.
"The beetle is dead?" Number 46 yelled out to the people on the other soil bridge. "What happened?"
From where he stood, he could see the beetle's abdomen showing from behind the low walls. The beetle's numerous legs jerked every so often. Its body was so big that it took up more than half the space on the soil bridge. It was a mystery why the earthen low walls did not even crack.
They did not hear any response from the other soil bridge. Number 43 did not answer even after quite a few minutes. Number 46 shouted a few more times. Suddenly, a hand reached for the low wall at the other end of the soil bridge that Number 43 was on.
When Lin Sanjiu's pale face, which was covered with sweat, gradually appeared before everyone, they were so shocked that they didn't know what to say.
"Was I wrong? You...you sprayed the pesticide on your own body?" Number 46 asked blankly after some time. "No. No! It can't be!"
"I'm not that stupid," Lin Sanjiu answered as she gasped for air. "Harry had already warned us. The consequences of spraying that pesticide on your own body would be worse than being bitten. I wouldn't take that sort of risk."
Another face peeked from the low wall. It was Number 43. He looked around and quickly went over to help Lin Sanjiu up.
"Hey, that's not important." Lin Sanjiu shook her head profusely to stop him. She was still leaning over the low wall. Her bitten arm was dangling from the wall. "Quick, help me take that off. It's too disgusting!"
"Take what off?" Number 46 and the others were still confused. They watched as Number 43 quickly acquiesced to her request. He reached for Lin Sanjiu's arm. Her arm was fair and white. Unlike before, there was no red bite mark on her arm.
"No, it isn't right. On closer inspection, the skin tone of her arm is completely different from her face or the back of her hand." Number 46 thought to himself.
Number 43 grabbed Lin Sanjiu's wrist and tugged at it. He tore open a flap of skin… The flap grew larger and larger as he tugged at it. Then, he tore a whole piece of thick, fatty white human skin off Lin Sanjiu's arm. Once he tore off that piece of human skin, Lin Sanjiu's arm was revealed. The skin on her arm was covered with dried blood and other dried body fluid.
"Throw it away! Quick!" Lin Sanjiu knitted her eyebrows tightly together. She had an uncomfortable look of disgust on her face. "I don't want to see another piece of human skin ever!"
"Human. Human skin?" Number 46 understood immediately. "You sprayed the pesticide on a piece of human skin?"
"Where can you find human skin just lying around?" Lin Sanjiu mocked. "I had to carve it off a corpse, of course!"
"A corpse?" Number 46 frowned. He heard the tall woman on the other bridge chuckling. "You don't know me well enough. I don't have many valuables, and I usually run out of various supplies but there's one thing I don't ever lack—corpses."
As she spoke, she shot a glance at Number 45, "Truth be told, I thought of this idea to skin a corpse because I was inspired by you."
Number 45 bit her lip glumly without saying a word.
"So...so you sprayed the pesticide on the corpse and skinned it. Then, you wrapped the skin around the spot that the beetle always bites?" Number 48 stammered as he questioned Lin Sanjiu. He seemed to have forgotten that they were on opposite teams just moments before.
"Don't describe these things in details," Lin Sanjiu sounded peeved as she wiped her arm with the piece of the torn sleeve, "You made me remember all those horrible memories. But, that was what happened. We wrapped the human skins around our arms ten minutes before the beetle came. I changed into a long-sleeve hoodie beforehand just to prepare for this plan."
"How did you know that the beetle would bite you instead of Number 43?"
"There is a piece of human skin around his arm too!" Lin Sanjiu looked at Number 48 like he was an idiot. "Fatty might be a duoluozhong, but he had two arms."
Feeling awkward, Number 48 stopped speaking. He stole a glance at Number 46. He couldn't describe the current expression on Number 46's face.
Number 46 thought about how he had schemed and came up of various strategies to deal with the other team, thinking that they were competing against each other. Yet, no one could have foreseen that their common enemy would be defeated by the other team so easily.
His face circled through a few complicated expressions. He opened his mouth several times but he didn't say a word. Lin Sanjiu was smiling at him as if she wasn't willing to just let it go. Thankfully, Number 43's question saved him from the awkwardness, "Now, that the beetle is dead, is the germination stage over? "
Naturally, no one but Harry could answer him.
For some reasons, Number 43 had to repeat his question a few times before Harry answered hurriedly. No one knew what the farmer went to do when he excused himself previously.
"I'm back. I'm back… Oh, you want to know what will happen next? Well, this is…" he heaved a sigh and smiled, "The amount of time you guys need for germination isn't affected by the presence or absence of pests! There are still three days to go for the germination stage. Please take the remaining time to absorb as many nutrients as you can!"
Everyone was stunned.
This wasn't an outcome anyone expected, even Lin Sanjiu. She assumed that the germination stage would logically end when the beetle died. On second thought, it was a good thing for all of them if they could recuperate for three days peacefully.
Number 45's hesitate voice suddenly drifted from the soil bridge that she was on. After she realized that everyone had discovered her true identity, she did not speak much. This was the first time she spoke today, "Say, did you notice some changes in the beetle's carcass?"
Everyone turned their attention to the dead beetle's carcass when they heard what she said.
The beetle's abdomen was much higher than the low walls around the soil bridge just moments ago but its abdomen seemed to have sunk a little. Lin Sanjiu did not know if it was just a misperception. She wanted to look at the soil under the carcass but she could barely see it because of the beetle's large shiny carapace and its hairy legs. As there was a layer of soil almost everywhere due to the cloud of dirt the insect stirred up, Lin Sanjiu couldn't tell, momentarily, how the carcass had changed.
"Ah, yes! I haven't told all of you something," Harry seemed to have remembered something. "In nature, plants can be damaged by insects but insects also bring with them many benefits. Of course, on this farm, none of you need insects for pollination, but in a similar way, when insects die, their bodies will be broken down by microorganisms. The pesticide will remain in the soil while the beetle decomposes and become nutrients which enrich the topsoil. The nutrients will, in turn, replenish your vitality. Number 43 and Number 49, both of you should feel something now, right?"
Lin Sanjiu blinked. She still looked somewhat appalled. When she took a closer look at the beetle's carcass, she realized that it was indeed sinking into the ground like a melting cake. The soil under her feet grew warmer and warmer and it felt as if countless streams of warmth were flowing through her feet and into her bloodstream.
When she lowered her head, she could see that the skin on her legs, which was previously dried, scaly and yellowish due to her malnutrition, were slowly becoming moist. As the warm flow moved through her body, the bulging veins on her skin fade. Starting from the skin of her toes, she soon regained her usual honey-colored skin.
"I can feel that I'm gaining some of my vitality back," Number 43 watched his own hands in amazement. He clenched his fist, "I can feel my strength gradually returning!"
When he saw Lin Sanjiu's expression, he suddenly realized the same thing. He laughed wryly. "Yes, it is a little disgusting that we're getting nutrients from that dead beetle. Don't think too much about it, just take in the nutrients."
Number 46 and his gang stared blankly at the other group, for a moment no one spoke. After a few seconds, Number 45 was the first to react. "Why are they the only one who can get the additional nutrients?"
"The beetle died on that soil bridge, it would naturally enrich the soil over there," Harry said matter-of-factly.
If Lin Sanjiu didn't feel that faint sense of nausea thinking about the dead beetle's carcass, she would have laughed loudly at the other group. She simply enjoyed seeing the sight of Number 46's moody face as he sat down again.
It took two days before the beetle's carcass fully decomposed into the soil. When it finally disappeared from the soil bridge, Lin Sanjiu felt that she was almost back to her zenith state. Not only had she regained her strength but she could clearly sense that her higher consciousness and potential growth value had risen quite significantly. However, that also meant that her hallucinations were also gradually disappearing.
On the last day of the germination stage, Number 43 walked over and sat beside her.
"I know very well that things might not have turned out well without you," he had tied his bandana around his head again. He continued sincerely, "If it weren't for you, I probably wouldn't even last this long. No matter what happens after the germination stage, I will definitely stay by your—"
Before he could finish his sentence, his face disappeared from Lin Sanjiu's sight.
A caterpillar had swallowed Number 43's head whole. That caterpillar was many times larger than the size of a human head quickly replaced the spot where Number 43's head was.
Lin Sanjiu leaped up. She raised her arm and struck the caterpillar with her [Vibroblade]. However, her attacks slipped off the caterpillar's body as if there was a layer of oil all over it. The caterpillar ignored her attacks completely and continued gobbling Number 43 up.
It finally swallowed Number 43 whole.
"Thank you, milady," the long caterpillar looked at Lin Sanjiu with its soulless, toy-like eyes. Lin Sanjiu was still trying to attack it like a mad woman, "That talkative beetle is my predator. Now that he's dead, I can come out to eat some seedlings. I'm not like him. I like to eat my seedlings whole."
Lin Sanjiu suddenly felt an utter abhorrence for herself when an uncontrollable thought surface in her mind the very next second: "Thankfully, the germination stage has ended."