Chapter 5: The Snake Trail

“Bang! Bang!”

They started to fire. A dark shadow rushed out and took a big leap, jumping on Captain Chen and grabbing his neck. Captain Chen was shocked when he saw the wildcat. His entire body tensed until he could not move at all. Luo Yuan immediately sped up his steps and rushed towards Captain Chen. He used his own shoulder to hit the wildcat. The animal flew into the air thanks to Luo Yuan’s sudden momentum. It landed on the ground and rolled around for a few seconds before getting up. It shook its head. Apparently, it was still dizzy from the hit. Luo Yuan immediately slashed at its body before it had enough time to get over its dizziness.

Although it was not sharp enough, the machete was still good at chopping and killing.

“Crack!”

The wildcat’s backbone cracked and broke, its body splitting into two pieces. The animal moaned in pain. It kept on struggling, its limbs still moving like it was trying to crawl away. Its internal organs slipped out of its body, getting dragged all over the ground. The air smelled like blood.

“Bang! Bang!”

Zhao Qiang quickly fired two more shots to make sure that the wildcat was dead.

“Bloody cat!”

He shot the wildcat on the head until it stopped struggling.

Huang Jiahui could not stand the gory scene or the disgusting smell. She walked to the side and threw up in the bushes.

Luo Yuan was not feeling well either. He had not had enough time to think about it. He had just rushed straight ahead and killed the wildcat. His hand was still shaking because of the unexpected attack, and so was the rest of his body. Since when had he become so brave? He had no idea.

Wang Fei covered his face and crawled out of the bushes. “Captain, this is already too dangerous. We don’t have the manpower to handle a situation like this. If a wildcat can injure us this bad, then I can’t imagine what we’ll come across if we continue any farther. I think it’s enough. We can’t find the people who have gone missing!”

Everyone looked tired after hearing Wang Fei’s words. The worst had happened.

Luo Yuan, who was already feeling upset, said, “I won’t believe that my brother-in-law is dead until I find his dead body! The least we can do is go check!”

“You have no right to speak! You can keep going if you want to die, but you can’t drag us along!” Wang Fei exploded, yelling at Luo Yuan.

Luo Yuan looked at Wang Fei, wondering why he had thrown such a tantrum. He had not offended him before, but now he was pissed off. “You can go if you’re afraid. You have been completely useless anyway.”

His words triggered Wang Fei’s anger. He felt insulted and suddenly pulled out his gun and pointed it at Luo Yuan. “You son of the b*tch! Say that again!” he said, looking extremely mad.

“No!” Huang Jiahui screamed. She never imagined that Wang Fei would do something like this. He had always been an introvert, but now he seemed to have acted on impulse.

“Wang Fei! Put your gun down now!” Captain Chen ordered him, his expression very serious.

Wang Fei felt bad. He hesitated when Captain Chen yelled at him. His ego though made him go on. He raised his voice and said, “Captain, I don’t intend to disobey your orders, but I want him to apologize!”

At that moment, Luo Yuan was thinking about a lot of things. He would have been lying if he said that he had not been afraid. His heartbeat had gotten faster when he had looked up the barrel of that gun, his brain had stopped functioning, and he had felt the presence of Death himself near him. He had almost knelt to the ground and asked for forgiveness. He had not, however. He would not bow down to someone with a gun. That was an insult!

All these thoughts flashed across his mind as he slowly calmed down and realized that things were not as bad as he had thought. He did not believe that Wang Fei would have fired in front of everyone. Not if he had any common sense. Furthermore, the distance between Wang Fei and him had been only about two meters. He could have actually broken his arms or even killed Wang Fei if he acted faster and more decisively. Of course, it would not have been the best thing to do and it would only have made things worse.

"Put your gun down if you want me to apologize,” he said, “You would have already been dead if Captain Chen had not reacted fast enough to save you! It doesn’t matter if you’re afraid now. I’m following Captain Chen. If he wants us to return, then I won’t say a word."

These words were kind of tricky. He had shunned Wang Fei but had also hinted at his effort in rescuing the Captain so that the cops would not unite together against him. Captain Chen’s facial expression became serious. He was thinking about how Luo Yuan had rescued him from the wildcat. Had it not been for him, he would have been dead now. He knew that he should show some gratitude in return.

“Wang Fei, I want you to put your gun down now! Do you hear me?” he yelled at him.

“Captain… Captain…,” Wang Fei tried to argue, but he sounded afraid.

“Hey, just put your gun down!” Zhao Qiang told him. He did not like Wang Fei either.

Wang Fei stared at Luo Yuan, but decided to put his gun down.

Luo Yuan did not bother looking at him. He walked towards Captain Chen and said sincerely, “My apologies, Captain. I know I said some things in anger. Please accept my apology.”

Captain Chen calmed down and replied, “It’s alright. I understand how you feel. It is not easy for you and I believe anyone would feel the same way in your position. However, it is indeed dangerous here. If we haven’t found them by the time we get to the peak, then we’ll have to return. What do you think?”

They had to find the people who were missing. Otherwise, it would not be the same.

“Deal,” Luo Yuan replied before adding, “I know that the chances are low, but at least there is still some hope. If we give up, then they will be hopeless.” Nobody cared about him apologizing to Wang Fei anymore.

Huang Jiahui walked up to Luo Yuan and tried to comfort him. “Are you alright? Wang Fei is still new to the job. He has to train more. Don’t take it seriously.”

Luo Yuan replied, “I’m fine, don’t worry.”

“What’s it like to be threatened at gunpoint?” Zhao Qiang asked with a smile as he walked over.

“I still can’t feel my legs,” Luo Yuan said with an awkward smile.

Zhao Qiang gave him a thumbs up, expressing his respect that way. He had seen many different kinds of people having various reactions when they had a gun pointed at their head. Most of them knelt down immediately and asked for forgiveness. Others peed or pooped in their pants. That was the first time that he had ever seen someone react like Luo Yuan had. No one had bothered to check on Wang Fei, who was just standing somewhere nearby, feeling dissatisfied and jealous.

They hadn’t been there long, but they could hear so many strange sounds now. A big rat squeezed out of the bushes. It looked at them, then looked at the dead body. It seemed to hesitate for a moment.

Captain Chen immediately became alert and got up from the ground. "Let’s go, we can’t stay here anymore. The blood will attract other animals," he told the team.

"Captain Chen, What if we just shouted the victims’ names since we’re already half-way to the top? They would respond if they could hear us," Huang Jiahui suggested.

“Okay, but lets leave this area first. Shouting might disturb any animals that are nearby,” Captain Chen replied.

Although Luo Yuan was exhausted, he felt slightly better after taking a short rest. He continued to remove plants and branches as he kept moving forward. They met many animals along the way. They were all attracted by the smell of blood, but none of them attacked them.

When they were 10 meters away, they started shouting for the victims. Τhey got no response. Luo Yuan was getting more worried by the minute. He suspected that Chen Weiqiang was dead.

“Look! Is that a shirt over there?” Huang Jiahui shouted while pointing at an object somewhere ahead.

Luo Yuan suddenly felt energized and rushed over to the direction where Huang Jiahui had pointed.

“Seems like it. There is a walkway! Perhaps, they used it to get up here. Captain, can we go and check?” Luo Yuan suggested.

“Alright, let’s go!” Captain Chen replied.

About 10 minutes later, they were there.

The trail was narrow and all the plants around it were crooked and damaged. A blood-stained sleeve hung from a branch.

"The blood looks fresh. Probably less than two days old. Could be the Mayor’s or someone else’s from the group!" Captain Chen said.

He then squatted down to check on their surroundings.

"There is blood on the ground. They were probably attacked by a beast. They must have run downhill to escape. Let’s find them!”

Luo Yuan nodded and took off quickly. Everyone acted very fast but the blood stains stopped after about 10 meters. They came across a winding trail full of branches. The trail was about a foot in width and it looked very strange. Every single curve looked similar and all of them looked like they’d measured precisely.

Luo Yuan looked lost in thought as he studied the winding trail.

Suddenly he shouted, "What the f*ck! Is that a snake trail?”

Zhao Qiang immediately raised his handgun in alert before saying, “If its trail is so big, I can’t imagine how big the snake is.”

Luo Yuan saw Wang Fei retreat quietly and stand behind everyone. He was sure he would have run away if he did not worry about his safety.

“It’s your call, Luo Yuan. Shall we check it out or return home?” Captain Chen left the decision up to Luo Yuan.

Huang Jiahui quickly said, "Let’s just return. I don’t think your brother-in-law is still alive."

Luo Yuan remained silent for a moment. Then he said, "Captain Chen, I can return home right now and just assume that my brother-in-law is dead." He hesitated for a few seconds before he continued, "I can leave, but you cannot. That snake is already very big, and it will grow even bigger if the weather continues to be like this. When the time comes that its appetite cannot be satisfied by the forest animals anymore, it will come down to the village, and then to the city, to find food. You are all cops. Eventually, you are the ones who are going to have to fight it. You can’t just run from it!"

“Don’t you think it would easier to kill a snake that has just had a huge feast and is too heavy to move, rather than fight a giant hungry snake?” Luo Yuan asked.

“How do you know it can’t move?” Wang Fei grabbed the opportunity to challenge him.

Luo Yuan stare at him like he was stupid. He answered, “No matter how big a snake is, it needs at least a few days to digest after it has swallowed several people. It wouldn’t move much during that time because its movement would be constrained by its heavy body. Thus, it would be slightly less dangerous to attack.”

Luo Yuan looked at Captain Chen and waited for his decision. He could not do anything further. He could only accept his failure if Captain Chen gave up. He was not prepared to fight the snake alone. Besides, his fear of snakes might not allow him to fully utilize his talents.

After long consideration, Captain Chen looked at Luo Yuan and said, “Let’s hope that what you’ve just said is true. Let’s do this for the village!”

He still maintained some sense of justice. He knew that this was the best time for them to kill the snake and that things would only get worse if they didn’t do it. Even Wang Fei had kept his mouth shut.

It felt oppressive to walk on the snake trail. They could all estimate its strength and size by looking at the crooked trees and branches along the way. Just the snake’s tail would be enough to cripple them if it accidentally hit them.

Luo Yuan felt truly worried. His palms were sweaty and the sweat dripped on the handle of his knife and made it slippery. He did not know what she would think of him if she knew how scared he was. Everyone was on alert and walked very carefully. They were all sweating after a while.

About 30 minutes later, they arrived at the end of the trail. Before them was a barren deserted land with dry crooked branches. The place was beyond any imagination. They immediately got down on the ground to catch their breath. Apparently, this was what the habitat of a snake looked like.

“Wang Fei, you go and check it out. Don’t disturb it, though!" Captain Chen ordered him softly.

He wanted Luo Yuan to go, but he had been helping out a lot along the journey while his own subordinates had not contributed much in comparison. He felt ashamed to let Luo Yuan take the risk.

Wang Fei turned pale instantly. He looked at his colleagues, then at Luo Yuan. Luo Yuan looked back at him and smiled sarcastically. He seemed to be challenging him.

Wang Fei got angry and said, "Fine, I’ll go!"

He regretted it the moment he said it. However, he could not take his words back. He slowly took out his handgun and moved forward like he was walking to his own execution. He had only been walking for about 10 minutes when he felt his legs go numb and he slumped down against the ground. He was too afraid to go any farther.

Captain Chen’s facial expression changed instantly. “You’re embarrassing the entire police force!”

Zhao Qiang chuckled and said, “I’ll go then.”

Luo Yuan laughed silently. He could not believe that Wang Fei had dared point a gun at him just because he’d felt insulted, and yet could not face his own fears despite the fact that he was armed.

Captain Chen nodded, agreeing with Zhao Qiang’s suggestion.

Zhao Qiang used to be in the army before, so he got down on the ground and crawled forward fast. After a few minutes, he reached the spot where Wang Fei was lying. He took his gun and stuffed it into his own pocket. He continued moving forward, not even bothering to check on Wang Fei.

A moment later, Zhao Qiang returned. However, his cockiness had disappeared. He looked white as a sheet.

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