Chapter 40: Bone-hanger flies
“Zhou Yu, we still need some time to find the exit, but those sandworms are a bit of a problem. Let’s burn them all up! Or else they’ll attack us again when the tranquilizer wears off.” Wu Yun picked up his bottle of vodka and shook it.
Zhou Yu shook his head and said, “That won’t work. We don’t know how much oxygen there is in the cave; this is different from the tree-castle. If we burn them then we’ll suffocate too.
“Then let’s hurry up and find the exit.” As Wu Yun spoke, he continued to stomp on the string sandworms on the ground, thinking that the more he trampled to death, the less there would be to take care of when the tranquilizer wore off.
Zhou Yu lit up a second flare to see the area better when it was bright.
The large skeleton of the creature took up two-thirds of the cave. Zhou Yu took a quick look around but did not find any clues on the walls and roof of the cave.
Xiao Chen and Wu Yun also searched around too.
When the light finally dimmed, there was only disappointment left in their eyes. Xiao Chen shook his head at Zhou Yu; he had not found anything in the cave.
The cave wall was in one whole piece.
Zhou Yu narrowed his eyes and looked up at the colossal skeleton. He looked up at it from different angles, searching for something.
Its head and spine were connected, making it appear still alive.
“What is it, Zhou Yu, did you find something?” Wu Yun came over and peered up at the same angle.
Xiao Chen also came over curiously, “Hey… that’s right! Look, its spine isn’t actually straight; it has a slight curve to it. Doesn’t the skull look like it’s embedded into the roof of the cave? Its body hasn’t collapsed because it’s lodged in there, allowing the skeleton to stay upright.”
Zhou Yu looked at Wu Yun and gave him a firm nod.
They all suspected that cave entrance was blocked the skeleton, its skull stuck right where the hole was to form the confined space.
Zhou Yu took out some rope and threw it high into the cave. The other end happened to pass through the creature’s eye socket before it fell back down and Wu Yun went up to grab it. The two of them worked together and pulled the rope downwards, trying to tug out the skull.
But the creature’s skull had been lodged in there for who knows how many years and had possibly already grown into the cave roof. Bringing it out with the strength of two humans was easier said than done.
Xiao Chen rushed over to help when he understood what Zhou Yu and Wu Yun were doing, but unfortunately, he was pretty useless.
The veins on Zhou Yu’s arms were bursting and sweat soaked his back. The skull didn’t move a single inch, not even pieces of rubble came loose.
At this time, Mo Ye ran up and bit down on Zhou Yu’s pant leg with his mouth.
Zhou Yu stopped to look at him and Mo Ye stared back with his wide eyes.
“I can’t do this anymore, I’m so tired! I’m going to take a break. I’d say we blow up that skull!” Xiao Chen sat down on the ground helplessly, it was already very impressive of him to have put in so much effort, as a researcher.
“Only if you want to bury yourself here too.” Wu Yun also sat down, truly too tired to pull anymore.
All three of them sat down to rest, the two ends of the rope dangling onto the ground.
Mo Ye went up to bite onto one end of the rope, then took the other end in his mouth too. Then he ran forward with a burst of energy.
The moment the two ends of the rope stretched taut, Mo Ye’s front and back paws scrabbled desperately at the ground, making noise as pebbles were being crushed. He closed his eyes and seemed to draw forth all the strength in his body, his wings even opening up to flap a few times. A cracking sound suddenly came from the skull and both sand and stone started to fall.
Wu Yun grabbed Xiao Chen with one hand and pulled him back. Looking up, Zhou Yu was astonished to see just how strong Mo Ye was.
“My God, what did you feed Mo Ye? He’s so brave today!”
Although the skull was loosened, Mo Ye had exhausted his strength. He let go of the rope and panted with his mouth open, looking worn out.
Zhou Yu went up to him and kneeled down to stroke his head, then hugged him in his arms. “Not bad, Mo Ye! Have a good rest, Wu Yun and I will take care of the rest.”
It was the first time Zhou Yu had seen Mo Ye try so hard to protect him and wear himself out for him like this.
Mo Ye had been through a lot of hardships on their journey to Night Spirit Island and had even gotten hurt, which made Zhou Yu’s heart ache.
Mo Ye made a “hnn hnn” sound and rubbed his head into Zhou Yu’s embrace, acting cute.
Then he left Zhou Yu’s arms and bit down on the rope again, pulling it with all his might. He kept his unflinching gaze straight ahead, unwilling to rest without completing Zhou Yu’s task.
“Hrrn—”Mo Ye made a noise that sounded like it was made through the clenched teeth of a human who was enduring great pain.
Zhou Yu glared at Wu Yun, “Aren’t you going to lend a hand?”
Wu Yun and Xiao Chen had been gaping, but they quickly snapped out of it to help Zhou Yu pull the rope.
More and more loose rocks started to tumble down, and a small fissure finally appeared between the roof and the skull of the creature, allowing for a faint glimmer of light to peek in.
Feeling hopeful, Wu Yun and Xiao Chen pulled the rope with renewed strength.
Mo Ye let out a low hum, his spine drawn tight as he pulled with all his might. Following a loud crashing sound, the skull finally fell out along with more sand and stone.
“Watch out!” Wu Yun pushed over Xiao Chen, who had almost been smashed by the skull.
Zhou Yu and Mo Ye also quickly dodged away.
The skull of the creature fell to the ground with a clang, rattling the entire cave. Sunlight fell inside and formed a halo of light on the cave floor, the dust dancing madly in its glow.
“Great! We’re saved!” Xiao Chen was crying tears of joy.
“Don’t waste any time! We need to leave now! Once the tranq gas leaves the cave, the sandworms will start waking up!” Zhou Yu warned them, reminding Xiao Chen of their grim situation.
Just as Wu Yun was about to shoot the rope outside the cave, an egg that had been hanging from the skeleton of the massive creature suddenly fell off, hitting the ground with a splat. The outer shell of the egg split open and foul-smelling pus leaked out from inside. A certain creature that had not yet matured—looking like a giant house-fly—struggled for a while before quickly dying.
Xiao Chen was dumbstruck and Wu Yun couldn’t help but comment, “Did I… see that right? Those things in the egg sacs are still alive?”
“Don’t mind it. We need to leave!”
Just as Zhou Yu took a step forward, the enormous skeleton seemed to lose balance and it came tumbling down.
Loud booms resounded in the cave one after the other. The egg sacs also dropped to the ground, sounding like eggs that were repeatedly smashed on the floor. The cracking sound was indescribably hair-raising.
In the cavity formed by the creature’s chest, eggs were still suspended as they swayed. A flurry of flapping came from within it and countless flies as large as a fist came darting out.
“Shit! Those are bone-hanger flies!”
Zhou Yu took out the pistol at his hip and quickly fired a few rounds, knocking a few flies out of the air.
Wu Yun also did not hesitate to take out his gun and fire. Mo Ye spread open his wings and swatted at nearby bone-hanger flies.
The flies laid their eggs on the carcasses of dead animals. Part of the egg penetrated into the bone to suck out nutrients in the marrow, allowing for the embryo to grow.
However, it was clear that the massive skeleton had been trapped in the cave for tens of thousands of years, so when had the flies attached themselves to the bones? If it had happened recently, then the marrow would have long dried out, but if it had happened thousands of years ago, then had the bone-hanger flies been lying dormant in the darkness, waiting for the day they would awaken?
More and more of the flies hatched, the sound of their vibrating wings buzzing in their ears. Zhou Yu could feel gusts of wind sweeping across the cave that came from the wings of the bone-hanger flies.
A single bite from one of them could take off a huge chunk of flesh.
If this went on, then not only would they empty out their guns, but the unconscious string sandworms would awaken. They wouldn’t be able to handle being attacked from both the front and the rear.
In order to protect them, Mo Ye had already been bitten many times by the flies.
“Fuck, let’s blow up the skeleton along with the bugs that haven’t hatched yet!” Wu Yun was growing irate at the bone-hanger flies.
Zhou Yu fired with one hand while taking off his jacket with the other. He waved his jacket around the cave to swat away the flies.
A small swarm of bone-hanger flies was coming straight at Xiao Chen. The sound of their vibrations was a constant, tinny drone in their ears. There wasn’t enough time for Wu Yun to protect him and Xiao Chen hugged himself, letting out a terrified scream.
At Xiao Chen’s scream, the wings of the bone-hanger flies coming at him surprisingly broke apart and they fell to the ground.
Without caring for what was going on, Xiao Chen rushed up to trample them randomly.
Wu Yun was dumbfounded, “What the hell is going on?”
Zhou Yu recovered first, “Keep screaming, Xiao Chen! Don’t stop! The bone-hanger flies are scared of sound!”
“What?” When Xiao Chen had finally reacted, another swarm of flies was approaching from behind him.
Without needing another reminder from Zhou Yu, Xiao Chen frantically started shrieking at an even higher decibel than before. The bone-hanger flies vibrated their wings as they split open, their brains bursting. They fell into pieces.
“What? If screaming works, then I’ll try it too!”
Wu Yun let out a bellow that sounded like a roar. It was very threatening, but the flies kept flying as if they hadn’t heard it at all. They encircled them and got closer, just as Wu Yun was almost out of bullets.
Xiao Chen screamed again and the flies backed away, either to rest on the cave walls or to hide back inside the carcass of the giant organism.
Xiao Chen continued to scream, almost hoarse.
Wu Yun quickly shot the rope out of the hole above them.
He pulled the rope tight and waved Zhou Yu and Xiao Chen over, “We need to get out, now!”
Xiao Chen coughed, but seeing that the flies were about to take flight, he hurriedly started screaming again.
Wu Yun quickly tied the end of the rope around Xiao Chen’s waist. He first climbed up himself then pulled Xiao Chen up.
Xiao Chen didn’t leave after he got out, but continued to scream into the cave.
Zhou Yu also climbed up, and said to Mo Ye as he was climbing, “Bite onto the other end of the rope, Mo Ye, I’ll pull you up!”
Contrary to expectations, Mo Ye ran up to him to leap onto his shoulder, then with a kick, he flapped his wings to leave the cave a few steps ahead of Zhou Yu.
He laid down at the entrance of the cave and looked down at Zhou Yu, looking quite proud of himself.
The three of them plus Mo Ye had finally made it out of the cave, feeling like they had made yet another close call.
Xiao Chen was scared that the flies would chase after them, so he continued to scream into the cave.
Wu Yun picked his ears then took out some explosives from his backpack. “Okay, okay, enough screaming! I’m gonna go deaf!”
Zhou Yu nodded, understanding what Wu Yun wanted to do.
Wu Yun threw the explosives into the hole, then picked up Xiao Chen and ran away from the entrance.
Zhou Yu and Mo Ye also picked up speed. There was a huge boom, then the cracking sound of rocks falling. It was as deafening as an earthquake.
When the ground under Zhou Yu’s feet began to drop, he jumped up and grabbed onto the edge of the rift with both hands. Mo Ye steadily landed on the ground, and he dragged Zhou Yu up by biting his shoulder.
When they turned back around, they realized that the explosion had blasted open a huge hole. The skeleton of the massive creature had been blown into bits.
“Actually, I was wondering how that giant creature got in the cave through that tiny entrance hole.” Xiao Chen was puzzled.
“Yeah, how did that giant thing get inside?” Wu Yun dusted off his hands. His whole body was covered in dust, but Xiao Chen’s question had aroused his curiosity.
“If it wasn’t a geological change that sealed the entrance, then I think there might be another explanation.” Zhou Yu stared at the giant skeleton for a long time before he said, “it could have fallen into the cave in its youth. It was raised in there by the night spirits until it grew bigger. Then, as the night spirits died out, it could no longer leave the cave and passed away like so.”
Wu Yun hugged himself and gave a shiver. “So you’re saying that that giant thing might be a pet the night spirits were keeping?”
“Maybe the night spirits raised it to guard the cave!” Zhou Yu said.
“You mean that there used to be something in the cave… that was extremely important to the night spirits?” asked Wu Yun.
“Most likely. The night spirits have been guarding an S rank organism for generations, so perhaps the unhatched embryo or young of an S rank organism was once here.” Zhou Yu turned to look at Mo Ye and found that he had been staring at the large creature’s skeleton for a long time, as if he was reminiscing over something. He looked quite reluctant to part with it.
“Mo Ye, do you know what that organism was?”
Mo Ye looked up at Zhou Yu, then tilted his head to the side.
“Okay! Okay! Stop thinking so much, Let’s find the helicopter and head back! This mission is seriously bad luck! Speaking of that, why did Xiao Chen’s screaming tear apart the flies? My roaring didn’t work at all!”
“That probably has to do with the pitch. Xiao Chen’s screaming was at the right pitch to kill the bone-hanger flies, but your roar—while impressive—wasn’t the right match,” answered Zhou Yu.
The helicopter was lying crookedly in the sand.
Wu Yun let out a sigh of relief, then covered his head with his hands. “Thank God… our helicopter’s still here!”
Suddenly, Mo Ye stopped in his tracks and looked up, showing a profound expression. He then turned and ran off in another direction.
“Mo Ye!” Zhou Yu called out his name, but he didn’t respond at all.
Zhou Yu had no choice but to chase after him. While running, he looked back as said, “Wu Yun, take Xiao Chen back to the helicopter, now! Take the helicopter to come find us!”
Wu Yun dumbly pointed at himself, then looked at Xiao Chen. “Do I look like I know how to pilot a chopper?”
Xiao Chen shook his head.
Mo Ye was a fast runner, and before long, he was gone without a trace.
It was dangerous there; other than the tree-shaped insects, there were also other threatening creatures.
Zhou Yu lost his way in the forest. He recalled the tracking device Carlos had put on Mo Ye and quickly checked its location.
A few minutes later, Zhou Yu finally found Mo Ye.
He was standing on a cliff that faced the sea, the salty breeze hitting him head-on. Mo Ye had his head half-lifted and his ears pricked, as if he was listening to something. His wings were open, looking like he would turn into a winged peng at any moment.1Peng or Dapeng is a giant bird that transforms from a Kun (a giant fish in Chinese mythology). In comparative mythology of giant creatures, Peng is likened to the Roc or Garuda and Kun to the Leviathan. [Wikipedia]
He looked focused, but also a little lonely.
“Mo Ye?” Zhou Yu slowly walked closer.
Mo Ye was nimble and had easily hopped onto a reef floating over the sea. But for Zhou Yu, the distance was too great and he would fall into the sea if he slipped.
Suddenly, far off in the distance, some kind of illusion seemed to materialize out of thin air. It swept towards them, imposing and majestic, both like a ferocious beast and a splintering mountain.
The gust of air got closer and closer. Zhou Yu’s eyes got wide and he waved his hands to shout, “Mo Ye! Mo Ye, come back!”
Mo Ye didn’t seem to hear anything, and he concentrated solely on the ripples in the air.
It was getting even closer, and the wind also blew harder.
Zhou Yu instinctively crouched down and raised up an arm to block his face.
The gust of air roared like a wild, galloping beast, about to crush everything on the island.
Mo Ye had his tilted his head up; his body did not move at all.
Finally, the rush of air came before Mo Ye. Then, instantly, all its energy deflated. It was like a dialogue from ancient times. Perhaps Mo Ye’s ancestors had passed on something to him in this way.
It was the first time Zhou Yu had seen such a strange sight.
Mo Ye turned around and jumped back.
He spread out his wings and glided in mid-air.
The gesture was so smooth and easy.
Zhou Yu felt as if Mo Ye’s black body was shining with a silver light under the sun. There was an extra bit of sharpness to the ordinarily lovable and clingy Mo Ye.
He landed and ran to Zhou Yu, jumping into his arms. When Zhou Yu caught him, he stumbled back.
The little thing really was getting stronger by the day.
But Mo Ye soon pulled him out of Zhou Yu’s arms and jumped to his feet. He bit Zhou Yu’s trouser leg and pulled him forward.
Its expression was serious and anxious.
“Do you want us to leave now?” Zhou Yu asked.
Mo Ye nodded.
The vigilance and worry in Mo Ye’s eyes roused Zhou Yu’s suspicions. “Is it very dangerous here?”
Mo Ye nodded again, then ran back the way they came.
Zhou Yu found that as long as he followed close to Mo Ye, then no other organisms got near them. They could have been cowed by Mo Ye’s status as an A rank organism, or as night spirit. The inhabitants of the island were naturally in awe of him.
Wu Yun had brought Xiao Chen into the helicopter with him. They were waiting for Zhou Yu.
Zhou Yu swung into the cockpit and started up the aircraft.
Mo Ye hopped in and laid down in the co-pilot’s seat.
“What’s wrong?” asked Wu Yun.
“We have to leave this place, now. Mo Ye thinks it’s dangerous here.”
“Mo Ye thinks it’s dangerous? Are you the only person on earth who can understand him?” Wu Yun joked.
Xiao Chen had long wanted to leave, and now hearing that they would depart immediately, a glimmer of hope appeared in his fear-stricken eyes.
They gained altitude, then looked down at the island. Illuminated by the sunlight, it was an image of peace.
But it was in the midst of a peaceful scene just like that that had buried an entire bodyguard team.
As they rose higher and higher, the horizon grew wider.
The billowing of remote waves seemed to be brewing a tsunami.
Wu Yun grew nervous; if it was really a tsunami, then their helicopter wouldn’t stand a chance against it.
“T-That can’t be a tsunami… That’s not what the warning signs of a tsunami look like… ” Xiao Chen said in a trembling voice.
There was neither the rapid ebbing of the tide nor beached fish lining the coast.
As the wave drew closer, they saw a giant golden creature in the water. The exposed part of it looked like a giant insect dressed in gold-plated armor that was straight out of ancient Egyptian mythology. As it moved, it made a buzzing sound.
Its mouth was round, with a full circle of teeth. Its eyes and nose were unable to be made out. There seemed to be another mouth inside of that mouth, and it puffed out a strong gust of air that was aimed straight at Night Spirit Island.
- 1Peng or Dapeng is a giant bird that transforms from a Kun (a giant fish in Chinese mythology). In comparative mythology of giant creatures, Peng is likened to the Roc or Garuda and Kun to the Leviathan. [Wikipedia]