The field station of the Kunnan Botanical Garden was located on the edge of the primaeval rainforest. Although it was said to be on the edge, it was also surrounded by towering ancient trees, covering the sky and the sun, with tangled vines and luxuriant flowers everywhere. The ground was slippery and soft from mud and rotting wood, so the car that Wang Chaoliang drove couldn’t get there. They had to park it in a nearby village and walk on foot.
Lu Lingxi, who had slept all the way to the village, was now completely awake and jumped out of the car with his bag on his back, looking with curiosity at this primaeval tropical rainforest, the largest in size, the best preserved and the most biodiverse in China.
Wang Chaoliang stood by his side, saying quite emotionally: “Xiao Xi, do you know? More than half of the plants and animals on the earth inhabit the rainforest, and it can be said that the rainforest is the home base of most of the earth’s creatures. It’s a pity that with indiscriminate deforestation everywhere, the area of rainforest on the earth is getting smaller and smaller. In the long run, it’s really going to…”
At the end of the sentence Wang Chaoliang sighed; not to mention other places, the area of this rainforest in front of them was getting smaller and smaller. Although China was shouting about environmental protection, compared to the economic benefits, the so-called protection was just an empty word.
“Let’s go.” Without saying anything else Wang Chaoliang called Yan Yue and Lu Lingxi to follow him into the rainforest.
Because the plants were too lush, sunlight was rarely seen in the rainforest. After the initial discomfort, Lu Lingxi quickly got used to the environment inside. As far as the eye could see, apart from the huge trees and intertwining vines, there were algae, mosses and ferns. These normally inconspicuous plants covered trunks and branches of the trees like a thick carpet of green. In addition to this, there were also brightly coloured flowers, and occasionally unknown animals rustled by, giving the whole rainforest an aura of mysterious and unpredictable beauty.
Yan Yue had no great interest in all this and simply surveyed the surroundings as a tourist. Wang Chaoliang and Lu Lingxi, on the other hand, were different. They walked and watched with great interest, stopping from time to time to take a few photos and chat with each other. Wang Chaoliang was a veteran plant researcher, and Lu Lingxi had a mysterious white panel, so whatever plants they encountered, they could always discuss them, and Yan Yue couldn’t help but feel a little sour.
When the two finally separated, Lu Lingxi went to take pictures of two giant trees growing together, while Wang Chaoliang crouched on the ground carefully observing some white fungi. Yan Yue took a bottle of water and handed it to Lu Lingxi, “Are you tired?”
Lu Lingxi took the water and subconsciously shook his head.
The corners of Yan Yue’s lips curved up; looking at Lu Lingxi with a smile in his eyes, he whispered, “Is there any discomfort in your body?”
Lu Lingxi was a little confused by his words, and when he reacted, the tips of his ears immediately turned red. However, apart from being a little sleepy in the morning, there was nothing unusual about Lu Lingxi’s body. It was Yan Yue who hadn’t slept much all night, but now he was still in high spirits as usual. Both of them knew that this was the effect of evolution, which brought about not only communication with animals, but also an increase of stamina and improvement in their physique.
Seeing that the two of them seemed to be talking about something, Wang Chaoliang simply suggested resting here for a while.
Yan Yue looked at the time and asked, “Is it still far from the workstation?”
“Not far, it’s just right ahead.”
There were too many dangers inside the rainforest, including an unknown number of various poisonous snakes, poisonous frogs and poisonous spiders alone, and many other dangerous animals lurking about. Although the staff had built the workstation inside the rainforest for convenience, they didn’t dare to go too deep.
Wang Chaoliang instructed Lu Lingxi and Yan Yue to pay attention to all kinds of poisonous animals and not to get bitten. Although this was the edge of the forest and there were no animals that were too poisonous, not to mention that there were medicines at the workstation, it was better to avoid accidents as much as possible. “Other than that, make sure you’re careful not to wander off alone and get lost.” Wang Chaoliang cautioned as someone who had been there before, “It’s a huge maze, the trees around are all about the same length and it’ll be troublesome if you get lost.”
The three of them rested for a few minutes, and Wang Chaoliang led them on. After a couple of steps, Xiaohei, who had been dutifully wrapped around Yan Yue’s wrist, suddenly burst out of his sleeve, raised his upper body and hissed at the bushes on the left. The next moment, Xiaohei shot out like lightning and plunged headlong into the bush. The only thing that could be heard was a rustling sound inside, as if something was struggling.
“What’s wrong?” Wang Chaoliang asked as he heard the commotion and hurriedly turned around.
Yan Yue pulled out a dagger and shielded Lu Lingxi, looking warily in the direction where Xiaohei had disappeared, frowning, “There might be a poisonous snake.”
“A poisonous snake?” Wang Chaoliang immediately stopped in his tracks and whispered, “Don’t move yet. As long as we don’t provoke, the snakes won’t normally provoke us.” But despite saying this, he still fished out the snake medicine he had prepared in advance from his bag. It was best not to be bitten by a poisonous snake, and it was good to be prepared in case you were.
While the two of them were talking, there was less movement in the bushes, and not long afterwards Xiaohei poked his head out and excitedly showed his tongue to Yan Yue. His tail curled around a small red snake a few centimetres thick. The little red snake’s body was hanging limply, and it looked like it was already dead. Wang Chaoliang was astonished and looked at Xiaohei with dumbfounded eyes, unable to speak for a long time. He had seen Xiaohei before at Tiny Garden, and of course he knew that Xiaohei was Yan Yue’s pet. But this scene in front of him… he could no longer find the words to describe.
Xiaohei slithered ostentatiously in front of Yan Yue, raising his head and swaying left and right.
Yan Yue frowned, put away the dagger and picked up Xiaohei, holding a bottle of mineral water and washing him for a long time. Xiaohei resentfully opened his mouth and bit on Yan Yue’s finger. Yan Yue didn’t have any reaction. Xiaohei let go, aggrieved, wagging his tail and struggling to get into Lu Lingxi’s arms.
Wang Chaoliang’s expression became odd; he felt that this little black snake seemed to be pouting, as if it was wronged by Yan Yue and wanted to go to Lu Lingxi to complain. He shook his head as the thought flashed through his mind, thinking that he was really confused.
Yan Yue finished rinsing Xiaohei with water and poked Xiaohei’s head. He didn’t think there was anything wrong with Xiaohei strangling the poisonous snake but simply felt that Xiaohei had gotten dirty and needed to be washed. After all, Xiaohei’s favourite place to stay was either his wrist or Xiao Xi’s arms and he shouldn’t get there being dirty after rolling around.
“Ssss.” Xiaohei raised his head in protest.
In front of Wang Chaoliang, Yan Yue couldn’t say anything, so he could only comply with Xiaohei’s wishes and throw him to Lu Lingxi. Xiaohei wrapped himself around Lu Lingxi’s wrist flatteringly and waved his tail at Yan Yue resentfully.
Lu Lingxi couldn’t help but laugh.
Ten minutes later, they arrived at the Botanical Garden’s field workstation. The workstation was actually three simple houses built in the middle of a clearing in the jungle. Around the houses, there was some equipment that Lu Lingxi didn’t recognise. Stationed at the workstation were two staff members who were about the same age as Wang Chaoliang.
They had known beforehand that Wang Chaoliang was bringing people over and were very enthusiastic about Lu Lingxi and Yan Yue, especially Lu Lingxi. Both staff members had read several reports published by Wang Chaoliang before and knew that Lu Lingxi was somehow their colleague and was very good at discovering and developing new varieties of plants.
“Lao Wang, show Xiao Xi around, a rare monster flower was found over there a few days ago.” One of the staff pointed it out.
“Monster flower?” Wang Chaoliang first wondered how there could be a monster flower over here, but soon became excited and said to Lu Lingxi and Yan Yue, “Come on, let’s go and have a look.”
The monster flower, also known as the corpse flower, is a fleshy, parasitic plant and one of the largest flowers in the world. The largest monster flower found so far had a diameter of 1.4 metres and weighed 10 kilograms, giving it the reputation of being the king among the world’s flowers. However, most of the flowers were found in the tropical rainforests of Southeast Asia, and were relatively rare in Kunnan.
Following the guidance of the staff, Wang Chaoliang led Lingxi and Yan Yue all the way to the depths of the rainforest. “It’s okay, this is a place I often come to, and there are no dangerous animals.” Wang Chaoliang said as he walked, “Besides…” He jokingly glanced at Xiaohei wrapped around Lu Lingxi’s wrist, “With Xiaohei as a bodyguard, there is nothing to be afraid of.”
Xiaohei seemed to understand that Wang Chaoliang was talking about it and excitedly kept waving his tail and hissing. Yan Yue understood what Xiaohei was screaming and gently raised the corners of his mouth.
They had been walking for about half an hour when Wang Chaoliang said, “Don’t look that we seem to have gone far, this is still the edge of the rainforest, and there’s no end to going forward like this.”
Lu Lingxi looked in the direction Wang Chaoliang was pointing and said curiously, “Has anyone ever been to the middle of the rainforest?”
This time it was Yan Yue who answered, saying in a deep voice, “This rainforest borders other countries, so there should be smugglers who would risk passing through here.”
“Not bad.” Wang Chaoliang nodded, “Apart from smugglers, there are also drug traffickers, and this part of the border is not very safe. But we don’t have to worry, the workstation has been built for more than ten years and we haven’t encountered smugglers or drug traffickers… it’s here.”
Before Wang Chaoliang finished speaking, he was already excitedly walking forward. Yan Yue glanced around, reached out and held Lu Lingxi’s hand, leading him to follow behind. The monster flower that the staff had spoken of soon appeared in front of them.
The so-called monster flower in fact was still just a giant black bud in front of them, with a mark left by the staff next to it. Wang Chaoliang circled around the bud with some regret, “It’s not time for it to bloom yet, we probably won’t see it bloom.”
The monster flower blooms only once in a lifetime, and the flowering period is only four days. The buds are sweet-smelling in the early stages of blooming, and then they will emit an irritating rancid smell. On the fourth day of the flowering period, the petals of the monster flower will gradually turn black and wither, and then become a pool of sticky black matter within a few weeks. Although Wang Chaoliang couldn’t judge the specific flowering time of the monster flower, neither he nor Lu Lingxi could stay here every day to wait. If they wanted to see the flower bloom, they would definitely have no hope.
With regret in his heart, Wang Chaoliang simply squatted on the ground and looked at the flower bud. Although Lu Lingxi was interested in the big monster flower, he really didn’t know what was so beautiful about the bud, so he pulled Yan Yue to look around and take a few photos every now and then.
“Bang.” Something smashed from afar and landed at Lu Lingxi’s feet.
Before Lu Lingxi could react, Yan Yue was already pulling him back a step. The two looked up to see a small yellow monkey squatting on a tree not far away, cupping some unknown fruit in its hand and eager to throw it in Lu Lingxi’s direction.
“Zi-zi.” The little monkey squeaked loudly.
Unfortunately, neither Lu Lingxi nor Yan Yue could understand what it was saying. On the contrary, Xiaohei was angry with the little monkey for bullying Lu Lingxi and crawled out from Lu Lingxi’s wrist to hiss angrily at the little monkey. The little monkey stared at Xiaohei curiously, and then seemed to remember something and squeaked urgently, pointing and jumping ahead as it did so.
“What’s it saying?” Lu Lingxi pulled Yan Yue and said curiously.
Yan Yue stared at the little monkey’s movements in thought, “It seems to be warning of something.”
“Warning about what?” Lu Lingxi took out the binoculars from his bag and looked in the direction the little monkey was pointing. He didn’t see anything but tall trees covering the sky. He handed the binoculars to Yan Yue, who looked around and still didn’t see anything either.
“Let’s go back.” Yan Yue frowned slightly and said suddenly.
“Huh?” Lu Lingxi looked puzzled.
Yan Yue pulled Lu Lingxi and explained, “This little monkey is not malicious, you should be able to feel it, Xiao Xi. Since it has alerted us to what’s ahead, for safety reasons we’d better leave here.”
After he finished speaking, Lu Lingxi nodded obediently and followed Yan Yue along the original path to find Wang Chaoliang. After a few steps Lu Lingxi looked back at the little monkey in the tree, who was hanging from the trunk with one arm and waving its hand at them like a human.
Lu Lingxi curved his eyes and smiled, and waved at the little monkey too.
They were not far away from Wang Chaoliang and soon reunited. Yan Yue said to Wang Chaoliang that he suspected that there was danger ahead and that it was better for them to leave the area. Although Wang Chaoliang found it strange, Yan Yue’s tone didn’t sound like a joke. He cautiously glanced in the direction Yan Yue had come from and simply took the two of them back to the workstation the way they had come. The three figures soon disappeared into the dense forest.
Not long after they had gone, several men in tough, local minority attire turned out from behind a large tree several people thick and stared maliciously in the direction the three had disappeared.
The leader looked to be in his forties, with a thumb-length scar at the corner of his eye. His expression was gloomy, and he asked in a cold voice, “Have you seen what they look like?”
A tall and strong man in his thirties next to him quickly said, “The little one finally turned his head and I got a good look, but the other two I didn’t see clearly.”
The leader lowered his eyes, made a gesture of beheading and said in a cold voice, “Follow them, see where they are from, and find an opportunity to finish them off.”
A man on the right who looked somewhat younger hesitated, “Big Brother, they look like they are tourists who don’t know anything and probably didn’t see us, so why don’t we just not make any more trouble…”
The leader of the group interrupted with a snort, “Didn’t see anything? If they didn’t see anything, why were they in a hurry to go? Xiao Liu (Little Six), don’t forget that Lao Wu (Old Five) was caught and probably said everything he should or shouldn’t have said to save his life. We have been working hard here for many years to have the base we have now. Now other lines are not safe, and there is only one drug delivery line… Just in case, even if that kid didn’t see anything, it’s their bad luck.”
The leader had the most authority among them, and when he said so, the others had no objection. The tall, sturdy man followed Yan Yue and the others, and the rest of the group turned back into the depths of the rainforest. Before leaving, the leader looked up and gave the little monkey in the tree a fierce glare. The monkey squealed and grabbed the fruit in its hand and smashed it at the man’s head.
The man’s face was full of anger and his hand immediately reached for the gun at his waist, but considering that the shooting was too loud, he had to endure it.
Seeing that he didn’t move, the little monkey became even more pleased with itself and kept finding dried up fruit to smash at them, making faces like a human.
“Little beast.” The man was furious.
The young man beside him hurriedly stopped him, “Big Brother, why bother with an animal.”
The little monkey seemed to understand that they were scolding it and smashed the fruit with even more vigour.
Young man: “……”