Our group moved out of the village, with some supplies and our belongings given back to us. The tribesmen had no need to inconvenience us after having proven our strength. Since I'm able to win against their former leader, and was not using my Cultivation, fighting or making trouble with me will not be of any use or help to them.
The road ahead was perilous, seeing from the map and the details on it, many dangers awaited us. We took a path that crossed behind the village's waterfall and went deeper into the Dark Garden.
As we are now, we haven't explored a fraction of this vast biome that seemed to extend to an incredible distance underneath the ground. The life that had lived here struggled and managed to find success wasn't a gentle caring life. Everything here was nothing but vicious and murderous, from the smallest critters and bugs to man-eating trees and gargantuan beasts and monsters of nightmares that roamed the place.
Here, everything is a hunter, and everything is prey. It was an awkward ecosystem where the pyramid of predation was not as it should be.
Once we arrived to the base of the waterfall, right next to its basin, was where the first highlighted area of the map given to us was to start.
"It says this is the hope of a steel jaw ant colony. They use this waterfall for water and drinking and have a burrow that they use as a base nearby. Make sure to steer away from anything strange, including that," I pointed.
There was a green sludge on a broken piece of tree bark on the ground.
"What is that?" asked the captain.
"It smells, and that's all you need to know, this is a marker, and if this is the territory of ants, and that thing is still here, then it means that they placed it. It's a lure of type if I were to take a guess, touch it, and you will be marked for every ant in the vicinity," I added.
The cultivators around me realized that we were just starting in the Dark Garden, and shit was going to get uglier and uglier the more we travel through this place. But we had no choice or option but to keep moving forward.
"I'm surprised," said old Fu.
"Of?" I asked.
"You never asked the tribe to show you how they managed to live here. As in how they obtained their strength, so far they are far stronger than us, excluding you of course. We lost most of our cultivation base. While these tribesmen were able to exert a profound level of strength without even using Qi," old Fu said.
"They were using Qi," I said.
"Now that's even more surprising," said old Fu.
This is what I liked most about this old man, he didn't disagree with me like would a person without any understanding. But he said that it was surprising instead of saying they have no Qi just like themselves.
All around us, and up above, more and more ants showed up. They were looking at the ant on the ground that was struggling.
And soon the struggling ant's head began splitting open, releasing a long thorn line vein from its skull.
The ants around us began rushing towards it. Completely ignoring us as they rushed at the ant. They then began clamping on the unfortunate ant's limbs and began tearing her apart, bit by bit piece by piece, and only left its skull that had the vine propping out of.
Every ant holding a piece of the ant limb was then seen moving away from the rest of the group, while the remaining group of ants began piling up pieces of wood and bark from all around the forest and placing them on top of the solitary ant head. Placing more and more as time goes by.
Our group had already moved back and away from this ritual but I was interested in seeing this through.
"Why are we waiting? Didn't you say it was dangerous?" old Fu said.
"Believe me if I tell you, no matter how far we go, the ants know where we are," I said "So I might as well use the time to see what they're doing. And the danger I was talking about wasn't the ants themselves, indeed they are strong and act like an army, but that is the most dangerous part," I said as I pointed at the ant with nothing but a head on it that had wood piled atop it.
From the shade and darkness of the compiled wooden debris, there was a small glistening glow that was coming out from underneath the wooden pieces.
"That's… the same color as the eyes of the people who turned to Walkers," said Old Fu.
"Yes, that's another piece of information we didn't have…"
"Also take note of that," I said as I pointed at a new ant that arrived at the scene. This one was far larger than the group here, it was almost the size of an elephant and had sharp mandibles that were holding a giant piece of… flint.
The massive ant soon arrived and began dragging the piece of flint across the ground, sparking hundreds of sparks all over the dry wood that was piled up over the zombified head. Not long after, flames and smoke caught up, and the wood burnt up soon roasting the ant's head and destroying it.
"Very interesting," I said. "The ants know that this type of disease is dangerous to their colony and they adapted a strategy to combat it. This means that they're smart enough to do other things," I said.
"Other things? Like what?" asked old Fu.
"Like laying traps, look behind us," I said.
And behind us were a couple of dozen ants that crept up on us without us seeing or hearing them.