Several days later, when the first morning light touched the ground, the vines that had become as thick as the length of a child’s wrist suddenly trembled. Their leaves began rapidly changing color, yellowing, and falling. For a brief moment, the farmland circling the village was full of fallen leaves.

As the leaves fell, the green vines began to change color. They began glittering as if they had been absorbing and condensing the sunlight for a long time. Just looking at these golden vines brought warmth to the heart of anyone who saw them.

The villagers cheered and began their harvest. They cut the vines into pieces as long as half an arm, leaving only a root the size of a palm. Golden white powder fell from the cut section of the vine, and many villagers bit into them when harvesting. It seemed this was their staple food.

However, Sui Xiong noticed that there were no children picking up and eating the cut vines. Because of this, he assumed the vines didn’t taste very good—since children were the most innocent, normally they would happily eat wild fruits even if they were 80% sour and only 20% sweet. Since the children had no interest in these vines, they must taste extremely boring.

Obviously reaping vines required a lot of labor: the lumberjacks doing the harvesting were exhausted and covered in sweat. The women and children were busy collecting the yellow leaves, grinding them with stones, turning them into a pale yellow starch, and moving them into the stone house with buckets. Sui Xiong didn’t know what this was for.

There were many vines around the village, and the reaping lasted for three days. When only the last row of vines near the village remained, the villagers no longer reaped but began to prepare for other things.

They brought together the elderly and children who lacked combat effectiveness, dressed them in clothes soaked in the grey-yellowish starch, and gathered them in a few relatively strong wooden houses. In front of them were statues resembling the unsettling statue on the roof of the stone house, and around them were a few barrels of pulp with an unknown purpose.

However, the young adults, men, and women were busy eating and drinking. This time they didn’t eat the batter made from the powder of ground vines, but the dried chicken that had been taken out of the stone house. It seemed that the chicken was not delicious, as all were scowling while eating, yet everyone was trying to eat more. Perhaps they did so in order to ensure their physical strength.

“It looks like the battle is close,” Sui Xiong told himself secretly. He thought it over long and hard: he would have to present himself as a huge friendly monster that wasn’t unbelievably powerful. In order to do that, he needed to deliberately suppress his might, a more practical approach compared to scaring the villagers by appearing excessively powerful.

Suppressing his might was simple as long as he subtly changed the structure of his muscles to decrease his maximum power. He wasn’t afraid to run into danger: so far in the black woods, he hadn’t encountered anything that could be considered dangerous. Not to mention that his most powerful resource wasn’t a strong body, but the ice magic. With the ice magic as his last resort, it didn’t matter if his body was a bit weaker.

After everything was properly prepared, it began to get dark. The villagers closed the gate of the wooden fence, and some particularly strong villagers held weapons, waiting near the gate. Some eager villagers climbed up to the house and took charge of keeping watch there as well. Inside the village, at every step, there were bonfires burning around the fences. Next to every one of the bonfires, there was a villager guarding it.

The blaze of the burning fires brightened the surroundings, giving the village ample warmth and, more importantly, a sense of security. At night the black woods were cold and dangerous, and for the villagers fire was indispensable.

When the moon slowly rose, Sui Xiong, who was lurking deep in the woods, felt a hint of strangeness. Beneath the vacant space near the village, the chaotic and turbid magic was gathering. Although a dark fog formed by the magic would gather in the black woods every night, tonight was the first time that he had seen such powerful magic. In the black woods, the magic of cohesion would transform the underground bones into skeletons that could move. So, with such powerful magic at hand, what might happen?

The answer soon revealed itself, as he sensed that countless skeletons were slowly forming underground. It wouldn’t take long before they broke through the ground and emerged.

“Strange… how could there be so many bones underground around the village? Where did these bones come from? I didn’t find them before,” Sui Xiong said to himself suspiciously. He wasn’t worried that the skeletons would pose a threat to him. He just didn’t understand.

Could it be that the bones of the dead could still move underground? This world really was weird!

After a while, the skeletons had taken shape and floated slowly toward the ground. This was also completely contrary to physics: the earth was not water, and skeletons were not fish, so then how on Earth could they pass right through the soil as if they were swimming?

Sui Xiong watched the situation develop and thought for awhile. As the skeletons approached the ground, the roots of the remaining vines in the farmland started to give off a faint golden light, forming a protective shield that stopped the skeletons in their tracks.

This shield didn’t last long, and strong magical forces quickly assembled from all directions and offset it. In no more than an hour, the golden shield had been completely eroded by the magic, and the roots of the vines had withered and turned into dark wood chips.

“No wonder they have to keep a circle of vines near the village, which seems to be for defensive purposes,” Sui Xiong muttered. “These villagers are indeed the type of people who are well-prepared to live in the black woods.”

With this thought, he couldn’t help but worry a bit. If the villagers could easily defeat this strong magical enemy, then he wouldn’t have the chance to present himself to them. If he couldn’t wait for the right opportunity, his first contact with the villagers would be far less simple.

However, Sui Xiong soon realized that his fears were unnecessary. The magic power gathered around the village was getting stronger and thicker, and more and more skeletons were rising from underground. Soon there were tens of thousands of them. Seeing this horrible number, it was clear that no matter how comprehensive a defense the village had prepared, it would inevitably face a bitter fight. His chance of presenting himself to the villagers would soon come.

Tens of thousands was a wonderful word. When it appeared in storybooks, children wouldn’t bat an eye. But when confronted with this number in person, even the mightiest soldier would be shocked. When followed by the word “enemies”, it made people desperate.

The thick magic power kept condensing and eroded the shield formed by the row of vines closest to the village. The unharvested vines formed a protective cover much better than the ones formed only by roots. Nonetheless, it was defeated soon after facing the endless magic backed by the black woods, and it too turned into black wooden chips. In fact, it lasted even less time than the shield formed by the roots.

Perhaps this was the reason why the villagers only left a small circle of vines: the dark magic would cohere together faster and faster and overpower them no matter what. Even if all the vines were left intact to form shields, they wouldn’t last long, so there was no point in preserving all the vines in the farmland (and wasting all of their food). For these villagers who were far from wealthy, this waste was obviously not allowed.

Although a failed battle would mostly mean death for them, lack of food in the weird black woods apparently also resulted in death. If the only result was death, then it was far more enjoyable to die fighting in battle than die of hunger. If one could only choose between the two, surely most people would want to fight until death after eating and drinking like a hero, rather than being exhausted from hunger and coldness and finally dying in despair.

As the ancient Chinese said, if the people do not fear death, then why scare them with death? When ordinary people could choose only between dying of starvation or of a fight, the threat of government suppression by military means was no longer an effective deterrent to them, and their next plan of action would be far more revolutionary.

This token of wisdom, no matter which world it came from, was universal.

Due to his blind and disorderly speculation, Sui Xiong found that he’d been distracted for some time. When he recovered his senses, he found that the battle had already started.

Countless skeletons, like a black tide, were flocking to and surrounding the entire village. They continuously attacked the wooden fences protecting the village. Although the strength of each hit was minor compared to the solid wooden fences, it would only be a matter of time before the fences collapsed with the accumulation of so many hits.

The villagers were constantly attacking the skeletons with lit firewood. The wood itself caused negligible damage; the flame was what really hurt them. Whenever the flame hit the skeletons, they would retreat as if they were badly burned. If they couldn’t escape, their body would tremble slightly, and the burnt part would fade a bit. It was like being burnt by the sun, albeit a lot worse.

Over time, a thick layer of bones piled up on the ground around the fences. The bones were a light grey color. This meant that the magic motivating them to stand and act as skeletons had dissipated, and at least for a short period of time, they wouldn’t turn into those frightening creatures.

Judging by the quantity of bones, the villagers’ fight was still very effective. However, when Sui Xiong looked at the entire battlefield, he couldn’t help but feel pessimistic about their situation. The number of skeletons didn’t seem to have decreased at all.

He used his psychic perception to observe the underground areas and found that the skeletons were in fact still generating continuously, constantly surfacing one after the other. With the inexhaustible power of the dark magic behind them, the only thing that could limit their quantity was the space that accommodated them.

What the villagers were fighting against was not “thousands of enemies”, but “thousands of enemies with countless reinforcements”.

Simply put, their opponents were endless enemies. There was no chance of victory in this battle.