7 Four Well Village (2/2 end)

Slowly, from the pure darkness of the ceiling, dark tendrils of vines broke through and entered the sight of everyone. As soon as they reached the areas touched by lights, they began to cover the surrounding walls crazily; it was like watching the roots of a plant grow at a thousand times the usual speed. However, instead of being impressed, Feng Yan could only tremble in fear, his fight or flight response completely broken at the sight.

Even though he was scared stiff, fortunately, his companion wasn't. Before the monster could reveal itself, Feng Yan was immediately dragged by the muscular man to run and hide. The cave walls were not smooth, and the villagers have not done much other than add places to place torches on the walls, meaning the cave was naturally formed with minimal human contamination. Because of this, there were uneven places in the wall and large stalagmites growing up from the cavern floor that could be used as hiding spots.

To be honest, Feng Yan had been so worn out from the entire journey and so unnerved by the eggs that he barely even paid attention to this fact. He shot the muscular man a grateful look for bringing him to hide. As expected of a veteran player, their sense of caution and environmental awareness was really good, and their reaction speed was even better. As he opens his mouth to thank the muscular man, the other shakes his head and presses a finger to his own lips, signalling to be quiet. Feng Yan nods in understanding and obediently covers his mouth.

"D-demon! Stay back!" Feng Yan could hear the elderly lady scream. "Get back!!"

The monster's voice was beguiling and full of bemusement, "Do you really think… if you just shout… that at me with your… baby rattle I'll obey?" It chuckles, the sound incredibly seductive, but Feng Yan couldn't feel charmed at all. Even the strange slow way the monster paused between words, as if thinking carefully which word to choose, only confirmed to Feng Yan how inhuman it was.

Like frightened chickens, once the elderly lady started shouting, the rest of the villagers seemed to follow suit, mindlessly screaming and yelling. Some ran away, while others began to try to fight the oncoming vines with fire and any weapons at hand. Feng Yan winces at the sharp increase in noise and can't help but scold the stupidity of this people. The monster was clearly so out of their league; how dare they even provoke it? Is it because of the game settings, or were they really this blindly confident in their own 'river god'?

"So noisy…"

The hoarse voice of the monster complains softly, but once again, it echoes through everyone's ears. While Feng Yan couldn't see anything, from the screams alone and the sickening sounds of crunching and things being hit against another surface, he already knew things had immediately taken a turn for the worse. He wanted to cover his ears and close his eyes, denying the frightening reality he was in, but the teenager didn't dare. He knew now was the most important time to pay attention to everything; if Feng Yan missed a chance to escape because of his own denial, he could only blame himself.

Covering his own mouth to stifle his increasingly panicked breathing, Feng Yan saw a young girl run past where he was hiding. However, before she could make it very far, a vine struck like a snake, curling around her ankle and forcing her to trip. As she did, another vine wrapped around her neck and slowly pulled her up to the ceiling, ignoring how she struggled and kicked, scratching desperately at her neck as she was strangled.

At the last moment, her eyes caught Feng Yan's own and gaspingly reached out to him in pleading. But Feng Yan didn't dare move. He couldn't. Shamefully he even hoped that the girl wouldn't reveal his hiding place and drag him down with her, feeling a sense of relief when she was finally covered by vines like a cocoon. But once again, the horror and sickness welled up inside the once sunny young man as her gasping, muffled screams could be heard, and the cocoon started to sway violently before it finally slowed down, blood slowly dripping out as it stills.

Feng Yan almost vomited. She was only a few years younger than himself, full of fear, confusion and panic, and even though Feng Yan knew this was just an NPC, she seemed so real. She was still so alive, and yet she died so violently only a few metres away from himself.

"Uncle.. I-I think we have to go; it's not safe here…" Feng Yan whispers shakily as he grips the muscular man's arm for support. However, he quickly felt there was something strange. Unlike his own sweaty, hot hands, the veteran player's body felt a little cold and stiff to touch. "U-uncle?"

Slowly he turns his head around. Next to him, the muscular veteran was looking back at him; well, he would be if his eye sockets still had his eyeballs. Instead, there was a multitude of red, lip-shaped flowers and bright green leaves coated in a darker, sticky liquid that was twisting and writhing out of the muscular man's orifices, mainly in his eyes and mouth. Hysterically, Feng Yan wondered what sort of strange flower was this.

With a shriek, Feng Yan's brain moves instinctively; grabbing a nearby rock, he throws it fiercely at the other's head before scrambling back and running away. The muscular man's face contorted, and soon his whole body was stretched out disgustingly as the plant inside him grew at an exponential rate. "Come… bahk..." It gurgles out mockingly, more and more branches, flowers and leaves ripping through his flesh like a reverse pin cushion. The stronger branches began to move toward Feng Yan, showing an intelligence that a plant really didn't deserve to have.

Feng Yan, who couldn't help but keep glancing back, was so frightened he almost fell down again. However, his survival instinct wouldn't allow him to fall at this critical moment. Unfortunately, in the face of monstrous strength, even the most driven people could only despair, and under the guidance of the vines and the muscular man, the teenager found himself having no choice but to run back to the circular stone pedestal.

Feng Yan: '…'

A thousand grass mud horses* ran through his mind at this moment, but Feng Yan could only helplessly run.

*The Grass Mud Horse (Chinese: 草泥马; pinyin: cǎo ní mǎ) is a Chinese Internet meme and kuso parody based on a wordplay of the Mandarin profanity cào nǐ mā (肏你妈), which literally means "fuck your mother".

Jumping over corpses and vines, throwing any rocks he could collect on hand, Feng Yan was so tired he was almost numb when he reached the stone platform. So when the cave started to shake, he could only wonder how could things possibly get worse with a sense of apathy.

As the cavern rumbles, a strange throaty noise like a wet gurgling groan echoes throughout the space, making many of the surviving villagers almost lose their balance. The old shaman lady who had been hiding, smiles victoriously as she pops her head out of a small pile of corpses. Even though her face is pale, her skin covered in blood, and her body shaking so hard you would think she was doing an interpretative dance of the last leaf in winter, she still chose to boldly look up at the darkness above them. "H-Hah! Now you've done it, foul demon!" She crows, "The River God has awoken and will protect us!"

The surviving villagers also cheered at the noise; their previous exhausted and despairing selves seemed to have been injected with chicken blood*, and their movements in dodging and fighting the vines became much more fluid and full of strength. The handsome face of the monster also frowned slightly as he saw this.

*excitable, added energy boost

They had even managed to cut off a few vines, further boosting their confidence and morale. Feng Yan also felt some hope looking at the scene. However, he knew things were not so simple.

"The River God? I wouldn't mind… seeing it… myself ah."

Sure enough, a thin and tall figure slowly descends from the shadows of the cavern ceiling and enters the sight of everyone. Feng Yan had already seen the other before, but he couldn't help but be a little stunned when he laid eyes on the monster again. With a gentle, elegant smile and slanted eyes that were filled with a sense of lazy flirtation, the other's appearance and demeanour were so serene and cultured, contrasting to his insane brutality and cruelty.

Supported by the dark mass of vines around him, the beautiful but dangerous monster seemed almost hauntingly ethereal with his pale skin and long dark hair, his body was lithe, but the muscle definition faintly peeked out from his ruined clothing, and his legs were long and slender. Many villagers, both male and female, couldn't help their gazes from staring with a hint of disbelief and attraction, earning themselves more than a few injuries as a consequence of their distraction.

"Don't look at the demon!" The old woman screeches as she pulls out her rattle to wave around excitedly, "Our River God is coming to save us! Be strong! Be strong! Praise the River God!"

"Praise the River God!" The villagers yell, once again refuelled with enthusiasm and strength.

"Is this… some sort of status boost effect?" The monster tilts his head as he observes them with a nonchalant curiosity. "How... unscientific." Though its voice was soft-spoken and raspy, and no longer relied on the echo effect that came from staying near the top of the almost flask-shaped cavern ceiling, Feng Yan could strangely hear its slow, lilting words with almost perfect clarity. It was as if the monster was whispering them right into his ears, which felt deeply unsettling.

However, the words… the teenager's mouth twitches; this monster really dares accuse something as being unscientific despite being a creature with man-eating vines growing out from its body.

After a few minutes of waiting and watching, the monster quickly became impatient and bored; the vines around them that had been slowly moving around began to perk up and start to sway agitatedly. "Kek, no matter ah~ Even if an ant becomes a cockroach, they're still just insects after all." He chuckles. "Since your River God is taking so long, I will punish it for its tardiness~."

As the monster says that, an extremely large vine with even larger, flat, waxy heart-shaped leaves with various holes in them falls from the darkness above him, smashing many villagers below. Quickly it became a scene of blood spraying everywhere like viciously squishing blueberries with a slap of the hand. Feng Yan, who was right next to one of the leaves, couldn't even react as splatters of hot liquid hits his face and body.

He numbly touches his face, his heart so shocked it felt it had stopped. He had only felt a strong air hit his face before the blood sprayed onto him. If he had stood a few steps to the left… A strong chill ran through his heart.

"I… have to thank… you guys," The monster smiles as the screams of agony and fear subside a little, "My darling vari-variegated Monstera* has been so… stressed living in me. It could only produce sucker vines**… but… now… thanks to everyone's contribution… it's finally got some leaves… I'm so happy ah!"

The villagers: '…' We're so happy for you! Peh! Peh! Peh!

*Monstera is a type of plant, commonly quite trendy for indoor house plant enthusiasts. The one I have in mind is Monstera adansonii. Variegated means that it's not a plain green color kek cuz aesthetics

**Leafless shoots, essentially. Generally, plants that are or have been under a lot of stress are more likely to produce suckers.

The large Monstera leaves slowly lifted up, revealing a gooey mass of flesh and viscera sticking on it and falling bit by bit back to the floor, adding to the already messy carnage. As it's revealed, various surrounding vines swarmed to the smashed, bloody flesh, like sharks that have scented blood in the water.

Feng Yan didn't dare move, given the vines were more interested in the free food; he figured as long as he didn't do much to garner any attention, he was safer than he was running wildly like the others. On the downside, however, was that meant he was way too close for comfort in terms of.. just everything.

And then, because it seems this wasn't traumatic enough, the great River God finally chose at this moment to show up.

The teenager felt very close to fainting as a gigantic woman the size of a small building crawled out of the water and into his view. In order to drag her large, strangely deformed body through the shallow water and 'sand' by using her hands, she could even use the stalagmites and stalactites around the cavern. Her fingers were as long and wickedly sharp as the blades of five swords stuck lengthwise together. And from the look of the poor rocks she used as support, which revealed deep cuts or was even directly sliced to pieces, her strength was just as scary as her appearance.

The River God had no eyes, a strange metallic pearl surface covering the upper part of her face, and large fish fins where her ears should be. However, the lower half of her face and the front of her chest was unmistakably one of a very beautiful woman. Unfortunately, as she got closer, Feng Yan could see her arms were not the most ferocious part of her as the bottom half of her body was a grotesque-looking silverfish! Not only was it slimy looking and abhorrent to the eye, it was humongous and beastly, with its shark-like teeth as large as Feng Yan himself.

Immediately Feng Yan was reminded vaguely of the ugly deep-sea female anglerfish, holding a beautiful luminescent light to attract prey when the ferocious predator it was attached to waits to attack. However, the difference was both parts of the monster in front of him were terrifying! Maybe not equally so, but still!

Feng Yan: …I may really have a psychological shadow over women now.

The plant-wielding monster also seemed quite shocked by the size of this newcomer to the scene. After all, even though the other was quite tall, it was still barely in the realms of the height of humans. But this creature was probably among the size range of small whales. There was no comparison.

For a moment, Feng Yan was a bit excited. After all, with such a large size, sharp claws and that horrifying nightmare fish bottom half, he felt this new monster had a good chance of suppressing the other monster allowing him to escape easily! Even better is if they both died during their battle! His heart was pounding as he waited for these two crazy bosses to confront each other.

Unfortunately… dreams were fat, but the reality is skinny*.

*dreams are big and can be full of expectations etc, but the reality is not so kind essentially.

"H-how can this be?" The old village woman croaks not even a minute later before she coughs up a large amount of blood and faints. Feng Yan was almost jealous of her. Unfortunately, he was still awake and conscious and had to process the past few seconds. However, the course of events was quite simple. And it was because of this it was so hard to accept.

The mutated mermaid-like creature had lunged at the vine-wielding monster; however, before she could even touch a single hair from his head, two large Monstera vines had grabbed her arm and neck, respectively. As she tried to struggle against her sudden restraints, flailing her captured arm and her free one clawing at the vine choking her neck, the other monster, who had been fairly still the entire time, suddenly made a move. Feng Yan wasn't sure of the exact move, the other moved so fast, but by the time his eyes could refocus, the monster was standing on top of another vine, dusting his chest while the large River God had crashed painfully into the cavern wall, causing the entire place to shake dangerously.

She had fallen onto some sharp stalagmites, and thanks to the impact, various cones of stalactites had also fallen onto her, piercing and bruising her. Compared to her attacker, who was completely unaffected and was even still smiling, she was really in a much sorrier state now. With a pained scream, the River God trembling begins to push herself backwards, one of her arms clutching the arm that had been trapped by the vine, which was now suspiciously limp.

"Hahaha… don't you think it's a bit rude… to run? I haven't even.. got a good… look at you."

The female monster howls painfully and fearfully as vine after vine rushes up and wraps around her from all sides. Some smaller and thinner vines were far less kind and, seeing they couldn't circle around her large size, directly pierced into her body, turning into torturous hooks in her flesh.

"Fish is really good fertiliser for plants, you know. Even better than red meat." The vine-wielding monster smiles lovingly at the fallen River God, who looks like a victim of the cruel tactics of whaling*.

*whale fishing usually involves harpoons and binding the large creature. Due to its size, it's nearly impossible to make death instantaneous even with the most advanced tech… idk why there's advanced tech for it; people are still doing it ig. Don't do whaling, kids.

Even though it seems the River God couldn't speak, it definitely could understand words. Immediately after the monster spoke, she cowered, not daring to fight the constrictive Monstera plants on her body. While the monster's raspy voice sounded kind, its words were so far from it, it was almost laughable.

The monster hums, looking a little disappointed by the River God's clever obedience, before moving its gaze to Feng Yan. Blinking, the monster laughs in delight. "It turns out you're still alive? Hahaha, could I say you're very lucky or extremely unlucky, ah?"

Feng Yan doesn't dare speak. He doesn't dare move. Wildly he couldn't help but think of the rules of meeting a snake, where you stay still and hope it will just get bored and leave. Or was that a bear? Maybe it was a tiger?

However, unfortunately, the monster was neither part snake, bear or tiger. With a snap of its fingers, the vine the monster was sitting on moved downwards so it only floated about a meter above the stone platform. During the vine's downward transition, the monster had adjusted its position so it was no longer standing but comfortably sitting. With one leg bent and the other hanging over the vine, the monster looked as relaxed as can be. Up close, Feng Yan could see the other's slanted eyes were a hypnotising, almost golden yellow.

"To be honest… either way… I am quite impressed." The monster admits, "I've eaten enough, so given you're also a fellow, ah, uh, player, like myself. Why… don't I let you go?"

Feng Yan stares at the monster blankly. "Y-you, why sh-should I believe you?" He stutters out.

The monster frowns, a trace of impatience on his face, "I… don't want… to talk much..." It mutters, before, in a more clear yet still hoarse voice, explains, "Do you… have any other.. choice other than believing in me?"

Feng Yan: '…' Well, he guessed that was true.

"Don't worry.." The monster coaxes, "I'm interested in seeing how to leave as well… Call it curiosity…?"

The teenager really didn't believe him, but as the other said before, what choice did he have. With a sigh, he hugs his own body with his arms and guiltily looks down, heart a little indecisive. If he left, then wouldn't the monster know how to also escape? Would it go on a rampage and kill even more players because of him? Could he keep that sort of sin on his conscience?

Then again, what was conscience if he was dead?? At least if he could leave, he could warn people. Besides, this was a Grade E instance; while impressive to him, both the boss and the veteran players were probably nothing compared to those at A or S level. Therefore someone must be able to help solve this monster, right?

After convincing himself, Feng Yan looks up, trembling, and tells the monster the various conditions he learned on how to pass the instance.

The monster had a thoughtful expression. "A door appears? You mean like that one?"

"Eh?" Feng Yan felt like his brain has never reacted slower in his life, he turns his head. His eyes widen at a rickety red door and doorframe standing at the edge of the stone altar, sitting on the furthest side away from himself. Seeing the door really appear, Feng Yan's heart pounds, and his feet, which were once stuck in place, instinctively began to move.

Excitedly, Feng Yan ran for the door, uncaring of the blood and gore that came from both human and inhuman origins under his feet. Even if he slips from the blood, his pure determination to live allowed him to stop himself and recover from his misstep.

As he got closer, almost there, just an arm's reach away, Feng Yan smiles brightly. Finally. Finally, it was over.

"Ah… I change my mind."

A sharp, excruciating pain rips through his stomach, and the teenager suddenly finds the metallic taste of copper surging from his stomach and overflowing in his mouth. Unable to swallow it down without choking himself, he could only cough it out, mind dazed and confused at what happened.

Slowly he looks down and sees a large bloody vine coming out of his abdomen. It seems to slowly wave at him, a mocking hello.

Feng Yan's vision blurs. He's unsure if it's because he's dying or crying, but the pain and despair seem to overwhelm him completely. "No way.." He croaks in disbelief.

It hurts. It hurts so much… But he was so close..

Shakily, the teenager looks at the door again, deeply unwilling to lose after coming so far, after experiencing so much. Maybe the pain was numb, or his body had grown numb, or he himself had become numb, but other the feeling of agony was like white noise in this moment. Right now, Feng Yan only had one thought in mind.

I want to live.

I want to live!

A step forward, two steps forward, blood that had been drooling from the entrance of the wound began to vomit out as Feng Yan struggled toward the door. The vine slid out, leaving a gaping hole in his abdomen, but Feng Yan only whimpered in response; his vision was speckled, and he could only blindly and desperately grope the door before finding the handle.

Feeling it, he sobs in relief and hope.

Under the eyes of the monster, Feng Yan grits his teeth and opens the door, stumbling through…

And hitting the stone floor of the altar.

"Haha," A cruel voice laughs. Jia Hyson, who was casually ripping off the flesh of someone's arm that had been handed to him by his vines with his teeth as if it were a fried chicken drumstick, smiles brightly, eyes full of malicious joy as he watches the young man finally collapse on his knees. "You really… hahaha… it was worth manipulating the other player… to fool you… This was amazing!"

Feng Yan shudders, face full of unwillingness as he finally takes his last, ragged breath.

Jia Hyson jumps lightly off the vine he is sitting on, thin tendrils of the plant quickly moving underneath so his feet never directly touch the blood-covered and viscera-coated floor of the platform. With a chuckle, he walks to the dead teenager's body, the plants underneath moving with him so his feet never had to touch the ground.

Walking around the fallen young man, Jia Hyson chuckles softly, squatting over the other and lifts the teenager's chin up.

"Thank you.. for giving me …such a good show." He sincerely says as he condescendingly pats the teenager's cooling cheek. "The tension, the struggle… I was quite excited." Jia Hyson sighs, "You may not… believe it, but… I was really rooting for you to win ah, tsk, tsk, it's a… pity."

After softly laughing again, Jia Hyson quickly grew bored once more since there was no response. No matter how frustrating the words were, Feng Yan could no longer hear them.

Since he was no longer entertainment, he could only be food.

Jia Hyson touches his mouth, and soon faint pink lines appear, one starting on each corner of his mouth and moving upwards, following his jawline until it ends right below his earlobes. A third line also appeared from the middle of his bottom lip, moving downwards much further until it reached the dip of his collarbone where his sternum began. The three lines became darker, muddying from a pink colour to greenish-red appearance as they became more defined quickly over a short period of time.

Soon the bottom half of Jia Hyson's mouth opened up; where the lines were, the skin began to separate from his body, revealing a grotesque image of the insides of his cheeks, mouth and throat. However, if that wasn't unnerving enough, everything was clearly modified, the dark red blood replaced with dark green liquid of a similar consistency, and various small roots and veins squirmed both underneath the meat tissue and exposed flesh and on top of it, swaying in the air as if waving hello to it's very welcomed nourishment.

With only a bit of hesitation in adjusting the teenager's body, he then starts to shove the fresh corpse headfirst into his now enlarged mouth. What happened next was a series of quiet squelching and wet ripping noises. Unlike animals, the plants inside did not breath loudly or growl, but maybe because of this, the sounds were even more unsettling to hear.

Nothing was cast aside; even the blood-soaked clothes had been torn into smaller and smaller pieces by the larger plants in order to slowly digest later or to wrap any drying seedlings in. After so long, the plants Jia Hyson collected were not only mutated by had a sense of sentience, and even some had signs of relatively high IQ for a, well, a plant.

When most of the upper body of the teenager had been fed inside him, a stumbling large bushy figure wobbled up to Jia Hyson. It was the seedling that he had planted into the muscular player a while back, a Psychotria elata*.

*Psychotria elata- commonly known as Hot Lips plant or Girlfriend's Kiss, or Hooker Lips. The name for this is due to the shape of these specialised leaves it has before it blooms, which looks like a red, juicy pair of lips.

The Psychotria was one of the mutated plants Jia Hyson had grown that had quite a shockingly high IQ. Even though it wasn't parasitic, it was quite an adaptable plant that had developed parasitic functions after being grown inside Jia Hyson's flesh and had learned to control and take over bodies while it slowly ate them from the inside out. If the Monstera could be compared with the IQ of a dog, the Psychotria was akin to the IQ of a human youth between the ages of twelve to fourteen.

As it slowly moved its body with its various branches and stems forming six limbs to support it, one could see that the muscular man's neck and head was still attached to the plant. Jia Hyson could see the red lip-shaped leaves of the Psychotria mainly concentrated in the muscular man's mouth; the 'lips' were opening and closing slightly as faint whispering voices could be heard coming from it. It sounded quite aggrieved.

Jia Hyson understood immediately what it was sulky about. With a chuckle, he wriggles the corpse in his hands before pulling it out. The teenager's torso, arms and head had completely disappeared, and where there had once been body was goopy fleshy liquid and some broken spinal cord that hadn't been ripped off. If one dared to peer a bit more, they could see most of the intestines in the lower half were still more or less intact.

"Sorry, sorry… you worked so hard to play with him, but I forgot to reward you. forgive me?" The zombie apologises softly after his mouth closes up after a few moments. Once done, Jia Hyson touched his chin, where one could not even see even an indication that it had been cut open; the skin had once again regained a flawless, smooth, albeit slightly too pale, appearance.

The muscular man's face was nearly deformed as small roots had dug into his skin, forming what looked like incredibly large veins on his face. Slowly the roots began to wriggle, and the muscular man's jaw began to move. "..Forgive.. father…."

"Such a good child." Jia Hyson sighs as he passes the rest of the body to the Psychotria, who greedily wraps around it, completely surrounding it until you can barely see the corpse from the covering foliage and flowers. After a few moments, a few of the 'lips' opened up, and three or four small white flowers bloomed inside it happily.

"Now…" Jia Hyson turns to the large mermaid-like creature currently trying to play dead in the water. "It's your turn."

The River God, who has seen everything: …Please don't QAQ

Patting the Psychotria's headpiece, Jia Hyson snaps his fingers, and a large Monstera vine obediently rushes over to his side, waving its tendril happily at being called upon.

"Let me guess, you… were a woman from outside the village." Jia Hyson unhesitatingly sits down on the vine that then lifts him up so he is face to.. the more human face of the instance boss.

With his sharp nails, he slits the muscle tissue of his free arm and casually digs out three pieces of dirtied folded paper and a pendant necklace. The moment the necklace was pulled out, the woman half of the fish creature struggled violently for a moment before stilling as the Monstera vines tightened around her. Even though the lady was without eyes, the fish half of the boss did, and its gaze was glued onto the necklace in Jia Hyson's hand heatedly. However, it didn't dare move anymore, wary of the other.

Jia Hyson felt no pressure being stared at so intently by a creature so much larger than him. His brain was moving much faster thanks to all the nourishment he consumed, but it hadn't been exercised for a long time. Similar to a person who didn't exercise only to suddenly start again, he got more easily fatigued from thinking too much and using his high brain functions and processing.

Fortunately, he had the time above ground to explore while he ate, so he slowly parsed together various clues and determined various things at his own pace. It wasn't that difficult, though, the plot was fairly cliche, and a lot of villagers got very chatty when they thought the information could save their lives, so to say Jia Hyson did much deduction work would really be a lie.

Wrapping the necklace around his wrist, he opens the folded pieces of paper while he chats casually. The paper was in surprisingly good shape, while a bit stained with greenish-red blood; the plants that lived inside Jia Hyson did protect them from being too damaged. "Four Wells Village, like a lot of backwards patriarchal villages.. practices the rather… abhorrent tradition of buying wives. You, Miss.." Jia Hyson squints his eyes at the paper, "Miss Song Lingzhi was kidnapped and sold here… to be married into the village head's family… decades ago."

At this pronouncement, Jia Hyson showed the monster the painting of a beautiful young woman. The paper was cheap, and the paints had faded a lot, but the beauty of the lady in it couldn't be denied. "Your husband painted this; he was… quite talented, huh?" Jia Hyson muses, "Unlike the rest of the villagers, he had a lot of relatively more modern ideas and loved you pretty fondly. Unfortunately, he was the younger brother of the village head at the time, and when his older brother took interest in you… well… hehe, the plot for this is quite dogblooded, isn't it?"

Jia Hyson smiles gently and crumples the painting, throwing it behind him with a cruel indifference. The instance boss, Song Lingzhi, who had stilled, suddenly began to twitch in agitation, but she still forced herself to stay in place under the threat of the vines. However, seeing the discomfort and anger from the giant monster, Jia Hyson's smile only grew, eyes flashing with sadism. "It seems… you didn't hate the younger brother either… Stockholm syndrome? Well, from the old photos I saw, he was… quite a looker." Jia Hyson shrugs, "Doesn't matter though, does it?"

He unfolds another piece of paper; this one was a page he had torn out from a book. "The current village head was one of the few people here that was literate and owned books. From my understanding, the book where this page came from… was written by the head's great great grandfather- the younger brother back then who loved you." Gently smoothing out the creases of the page, it revealed a drawing of a cave, a beautiful spherical gem that looked like an enlarged version of the eggs that made up the cavern floor, and a lovely mermaid-like creature.

However, unlike the rather huge and horrifying monster in front of Jia Hyson, the creature in the photo was delicate and the size of a normal human woman, seen by a human man sitting next to her of similar proportions. Her eyes were still covered by a strange dome-like surface, and fins still sprouted from where her ears should be, but the majority of her upper half was of a gorgeous young lady's, and her bottom half was like a pure white koi fish that had strange crescent markings where the eyes and mouth of the current monster before him were present.

While it was still a bit strange to look at, it was still quite unusually beautiful, not like now when the monster had become as tall as a building full of long sword-like fingers, and the tail had directly become the main body, transforming into a bulging frogfish-esque deep sea creature with gigantic piranha teeth.

Not only were there drawings, there was also writing on the page, written similar to a myths and legends story. On the page, it mentioned a heartbroken and fearful maiden that dug her way to escape from getting married to the older brother of her beloved and fell into a cavern. The height of the fall was really too much for a normal person to escape unscathed from, and she had been unlucky and hit a sharp rock that nearly cut the lower half of her body. In agony, the maiden found a gem that called out to her and promised to give her a more beautiful second chance at life if she could reach out and take it.

Dragging her bloody body, the maiden torturously could only comply because she didn't want to die in such a place. She grabbed the gem and swallowed it under the invisible voice's coaxing and transformed into a mermaid. As a mermaid, she could bless the village with luck and prosperity as well as allow the villagers ample fresh water, which was something the villagers desperately needed.

Reading what was written on the page out loud, Jia Hyson didn't pay attention to the reaction of the creature, no, Song Lingzhi, instead using this as an opportunity to exercise his voice. After speaking, he touches his throat, a little parched.

As if sensing his slight discomfort, one of the many Monstera vines move close to Jia Hyson's face, wriggling attentively. The zombie was not polite and snaps off the tip of the plant and chews it in his mouth, the water content in such fat vines was, of course, very high, and while it was a bit sticky, it was still more refreshing than directly drinking the congealing cold blood of the surrounding corpses.

He took small and elegant bites, completely different to his ferocious and wild predatory nature from before.

Back when he was still human, Jia Hyson lived under the facade of elegance and gentleness and even had the occupation as a famous writer that was admired and loved across various genres. Therefore once his hunger was more or less satiated to a bearable level, it was almost second nature to try to pull over his gentlemanly demeanour and cultured appearance. However, after so long of bloodshed and cruelty, of letting the demon in his heart run wild, the mask he once held in place had become more like a tattered sheet full of rips and holes.

Once finished, he uses the ripped page to wipe his mouth before ripping it in half and once again tossing it aside, making the large instance boss unable to stop a soft cry coming from her mouth. Both the human mouth and the grotesque fish's mouth cried out, creating a strange dissonant echo of a young lady and a croaky beast in pain. It made one shudder, but at the same time, felt the owner of such a voice was inexplicably pitiful. Sadly, Jia Hyson had no such sympathetic feelings, casually opening the last piece of paper while looking at Song Lingzhi with faint interest in her reactions.

It could be said even though Jia Hyson's appearance was much better compared to the mermaid monster, his heart was far colder.

"From the story alone, I can guess more or less what happened. As expected of this level E instance, it's not very difficult… at least I don't have to use my brain too much." Jia Hyson hums, "In order to get away from marriage, you desperately tried to dig out. Most likely, the younger brother helped you too. However, either you dug too well, or the spot you picked was too unfortunate, and you fell into an unknown cavern. Near death, you listened to some sort of mysterious power, ate the mermaid egg, and directly became a mermaid. The villagers who originally didn't care for your life or death began to worship you greedily… and you became their god."

At his last sentence, his eyes curve up into crescents as he chuckles with disdainful mirth, "How foolish, it was obvious that no matter how much you liked the younger brother of the head of the village, you must still hate this village to death, right? To bless them, there's no way you would do so willingly. Therefore they used the only person you liked to control you."

Song Lingzhi made another low sobbing noise in agreement. Jia Hyson tilts his head and leans back to admire the sight. After all, he's seen many mutated creatures in the apocalypse, but the thing before him was really fantastical; it was impossible not to be fascinated. He wondered if he could do something similar with his plants… Feeling himself entering a dazed state again, he uses his sharp nails to press against his palms, the injury enough to make his mind come back online again.

Trying to recall what he had just said, he finally remembered and continued without a change in his soft smiling expression. "From what I understand, the younger brother gained a lot from you, he became the village head instead of his elder brother, and there was minimal fuss with you as a backer. He fed you a lot of sweet lies, and you took it because he was all you had left. You couldn't leave the cavern, and even if you could, your appearance was no longer one that could be recognised by your family. You helped produce fresh water for the village, and the younger brother conceded to construct four wells in the village to let you move freely through them so you can see the sunlight. This was the reason behind the name Four Wells Village."

"The village head house, though, was strange. Since you two were so close, it would make sense that the younger brother would move closer to one of the wells to see you often. However, he built his house directly in the middle of the four wells where it would be difficult for you to contact him." Jia Hyson sneers, "However, it was not hard to figure out why. It was simply because even though the younger brother loved you, he only liked the human you and still wanted offspring. Therefore he built his house like this to hide his family and keep enjoying the benefits of your affection."

The human part of the creature jerked and shook violently while the bottom fish half was weeping bloody tears and making pained noises as it shook her head as if in denial. Seeing that the River God didn't have much willpower to fight, Jia Hyson waved his hands, and the Monstera reluctantly let go of the largest prey it had ever caught, releasing Song Lingzhi from its' grasp.

"Not going to lie, at this point, I got bored, so admittedly am not sure what happened but given you're still here and judging from your reaction as well as the fact the village is still doing fairly well, I can only assume you weren't aware?" Brushing some of his long dark hair back from his face, Jia Hyson clicked his tongue, "Really pitiful ah."

"To be honest, this last note is the love letter from your beloved." Jia Hyson waves the piece of paper at her, "I suppose despite everything, he really did have some feelings for you. It's quite interesting. His children were not his children because he still held you in his heart, but he had to pretend to keep his position. Uh, there was some other stuff, memories of the past and such… it's quite long-winded. That's why.." With a wide grin, the zombie tore the note to shreds under the expectant and waiting eyes of the monster before him. Laughing, he childishly throws the paper up into the air like confetti, "I can't be bothered to read it out. Hahaha, did you expect me to be your personal storyteller? Are you a fool?"

Song Lingzhi: '…' Why am I here… just to suffer..?

"Fortunately, I'm still quite kind," Jia Hyson takes off the necklace he wrapped around his arm and passes it to one of his vines which moves toward the towering creature. "I'll at least give you this necklace from him."

The mermaid monster hesitates as the vine that had massacred multiple villagers and viciously constrained her now moves toward her. But the allure of the necklace was too much. With her long pointed fingers, she lightly hooks the jewellery and lowers it down to the lower half of her body where the fish half's large eyes could stare closely at it. The more she looked, the more fish face cried. Even though the face was ugly and ferocious, the eyes couldn't hide the complex and very human emotions of bitter pain and grief.

Jia Hyson watches with interest. It should be said the original Song Lingzhi's brain is no longer located in the human part of the body but was actually in the fish part. That was the true Song Lingzhi. If players chose to attack her, it would be normal to try to attack the more human-looking top half, as they would assume this was where the main vitals must be given. She was once a human as well; however, if they did that, they would only fall into the instance's trap.

Of course, most likely, the game wouldn't be so perverted for only level E; most likely, it would probably be a case of running to escape or appeasing the rather emotional Song Lingzhi with the relevant plot items to get a pass. Those that could defeat such a large beast at this stage were very rare, or a higher ranked player who, like the veterans in this instance, got the chance to enter a lower level than they should.

After crying, the mermaid monster tried clumsily putting on the necklace, awkwardly looking for a place to put it on the fish's body before fumbling to find somewhere to place it on the human half. It was a bit pathetic. After all, the necklace for the slim neck of a beautiful woman couldn't be worn by a monster who could easily swallow grown men whole. Song Lingzhi no longer had hair to tie the necklace onto, and her fingers were like sharp razors that could easily break the delicate chain with only a little pressure. As for the other parts of her body… don't mention it; it was really impossible.

After a few minutes of struggle, Song Lingzhi roars in grievance and looks toward Jia Hyson reluctantly. No matter her rejection of him, he was undeniably the only one there who could do something to help. However, if she expected actual help, she was only doomed to be disappointed.

Jia Hyson had crossed his legs and was using his hands to support his chin in a 'thinker' pose, eyes bright and looking very entertained. "Do you want me to help? Hmm, ok." He chuckles, tapping his fingers on his overlapping hand, "What about… if you don't find a way to put on the necklace in a minute… I'll kill you?"

Song Lingzhi: '…'

Seeing the dumbfounded expressions of both faces on the same body, Jia Hyson's eyes curve up cheerfully as he starts to countdown. "Sixty… fifty-nine… fifty-eight…"

Song Lingzhi: '!!!' Fuck, this man was really counting!

Ah! It was true! All men were really scum!

While the monster was crying bloody tears in her heart, she began to frantically find a place to put the necklace. As the numbers being chanted became smaller and smaller, she desperately tore her ear and slid the jewellery through the torn flesh. By the time Jia Hyson reached 'one', the ear had partially grown back, allowing the necklace to become stuck there like a little earring.

The moment the necklace was fused into her body, Jia Hyson saw a notification screen pop up above him.

[Congratulations on passing the E-Grade Instance, Four Well Village]

[For passing: 500 points

Comment: Full marks, finished early by completing the mystery to the end, no injuries.]

[Time bonus: 700 points

Comment: It's not even a day! Amazing!]

[Optional- Find out the mystery behind the four wells: 900 points

Comments: When Song Lingzhi was asked to comment, she could only say, "MMP". It seems she didn't like you very much.]

*[mā mài pī] <Expletive>This is a sexist expletive phrase from the Chongqing dialect. It means, "Your mom is a prostitute." Essentially means motherfucker

Upon seeing the last line Jia Hyson raises an eyebrow and gazes cooly at the mermaid monster. Feeling the gaze, Song Lingzhi shuddered, and suddenly, the previous line of words had changed.

[Optional- Find out the mystery behind the four wells: 900 points

Comments: When Song Lingzhi was asked to comment, she could only say, "The player was exceptional, kind, and handsome. 10/10 would let solve my mystery again". It seems she admires and respects you very much.]

Jia Hyson laughs. "You're pretty cute. Ah, I won't mind helping you again, I suppose."

Song Lingzhi: '…' Please don't.

[You have not reached the minimal requirements to consider the optional mission: Clean the Water, completed. Do you want to stay for 24hrs to try to reach a passable standard? If you accept, the points you earn for the Clean the Water mission would be halved from whatever you make.]

[Yes] [No]

"The system is quite kind." Jia Hyson muses, "So as long as you pass one optional mission, they give you the option to stay longer to try to finish another? Of course, if you passed by offending the boss, staying longer might just mean hell mode, which wouldn't be worth it given the number of points they can get is directly halved afterwards." Still, it's pretty humane to have this option at all. It also gave any players extra time to find anything important such as special prop items, if that was a thing.

Looking around the large cavern, Jia Hyson's eyes rested on the sand, and he couldn't help but lick his lips. To be honest, what he ate was just barely enough to satisfy him, and he could tell the eggs, while small, were full of energy and nutrition. Jia Hyson had long been interested in trying some.

Pressing the [Yes] button decisively, the holographic screen disappears, and the plant-wielding zombie cracks his neck and stretches his arms, readying for his next round of eating.

"You don't mind me eating your babies, right?" He asks the mermaid monster casually as if he was asking if he could borrow a bottle of water from her.

Song Lingzhi's faces was really ugly, but she reluctantly nods with both heads. Jia Hyson smiles, "You're so kind. I really like you a lot." He comments mildly before turning away and jumping off his vine. The unfortunate mutated creature heaves a sigh of relief before suddenly feeling a piercing pain all over her body.


Landing lightly on the altar flooring, Jia Hyson didn't look back as the Monstera, which was still surrounding the gigantic mermaid monster, immediately rushed up and pierced her entire body into a bloody sieve. Instead, he looks down at himself and gives himself a few large cuts all over his body, various strange plants falling out of him, already wriggling actively, energetic from their last few feedings, as they made contact with the outside world.

"Have fun ah~" He laughs, taking a few of the slower plant cuttings and throwing them behind him, at the direction of the dying Song Lingzhi. The moment they fell into the water, they began to squirm and grow at a terribly fast pace, all aiming for the meal so lovingly given to them. The Psychotria who saw this also rushed to the water, not willing to let go of this large new food source brimming with the most energy it had ever sensed.

Meanwhile, Jia Hyson's own limbs began to twist and deform, his hands lengthening and thinning, sprouting various root-like structures from his body. His feet were in a similar state but transforming much more slowly as he walked across the stone flooring toward the closest 'sand dune'.

The cuts on his body didn't heal but seemed to open slightly, revealing rows and rows of different sprouting seedlings inside. If anybody with trypophobia* saw this, it could be said they would be scared mentally for life. Then again, even if they didn't have such a fear, it was easy to say anyone would feel nauseated and repulsed by such an appearance. Jia Hyson has long been used to it, but even after this long, he can't help but look at his body and feel a shred of self-disgust at this thing he had become.

*fear/disgust of holes and stuff

Even though he accepted it and knew he did a lot of this to himself, he can't help but hate it as well. This was not who he was, but it is now who he is. Something not quite plant, not quite zombie and definitely no longer human.

With a heavy sigh, Jia Hyson lays back on the sand, absorbing the nutrients and concentrated delicious energy around him as he slowly falls into satiated bliss. Ah, well, it wasn't all bad.

[The system has determined the complete eradication of Boss Song Lingzhi and has filed an emergency bug report.]

[The system has determined the complete eradication of all the players in this instance and has filed a high-priority bug report.]

[The system has determined the complete eradication of all the villagers of the Four Wells Village and has filed a critical emergency bug report.]

[The system has determined the complete eradication currently happening of the Four Wells Village Instance and has requested an immediate emergency of the highest procedure.]

[The System is coming now to amend the problem. Please wait a minute.]

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