As his dazed mind slowly woke up, Xie Chi felt cold. The cold invaded from the outside in, forming a thin layer of frost on his skin. His blood flow rate slowed down as a result. The coldness wasn’t satisfied with this. It continued to invade and the boundless chill spread through the blood vessels to his bones. It was so painful and it felt like his blood was slowly freezing. His limbs were stiff and numb from the cold.
Just as Xie Chi was about to open his eyes, he noticed someone turning over his body. He immediately pretended to sleep, consciously suppressing his eye movements and slowing down his breathing.
“So transparent, is he a newcomer? Or was he just bullied? What bad luck. A newcomer ended up in the eighth cold hell.” The man cursed in a low voice. His breath had a foul stench.
“It will be good to eat you.”
Alarm rang in Xie Chi’s heart but he didn’t despair. It was impossible for the app to let him die at the beginning. He didn’t even know the rules yet. Even if this person wanted to eat him, he wouldn’t do it immediately. Xie Chi kept calm and waited.
“Young man, wake up.” The voice above his head was gentle and full of concern. Xie Chi felt that someone was shaking him gently. He slowly opened his eyes and met a deeply wrinkled old man’s face.
“You’re awake.” The man sighed with relief. His eyes were full of an old man’s pity for a young man. The person who awakened Xie Chi was a small old man. He was thin with yellow skin, like an old yellow dog running out of fuel. Still, his eyes were extremely kind.
Xie Chi sat up and looked around. The sky was a deep blue and he was surrounded by ice and snow. He lay in a barren field of snow. The snow was boundless and everything in the distance was white. In this huge place, there was only one living person in front of him.
“Are you new here?” The old man patted the ice and snow off Xie Chi and asked with concern.
Xie Chi smelled the bad breath. The old man who seemed meticulous in front of him was the one who just wanted to eat him. Xie Chi smiled secretly. He raised his stiff legs and stood up, seemingly at a loss. “Yes, I-I committed a crime and just entered.”
Before coming in, Xie Chi remembered the appearance of all the actors. The old man obviously wasn’t an actor so he should be a living person originally trapped in hell.
The old man patted him on the shoulder. “Yes, I knew you were a newcomer. You are so young. It is a pity and just bad luck.”
“Where am I?”
He knew the old man would attack him and he was separated from Xie Xinglan. For safety, he should run away now while his legs weren’t frozen and stiff. However, the app hadn’t changed at all. The meaning was obvious. This hypocritical old man was his narrator. His life might be saved if he ran away but he would miss the initial plot exploration Those who sought wealth and honor would experience danger.
Thoughts flashed in Xie Chi’s mind but they didn’t show up on his face. He seemed to be trembling with fear. Add his gentle face and he could easily dispel doubts.
The old man sat on a huge boulder to the side and sighed. “This is the bottom of the eight cold hells. I am your fellow prisoner.”
Xie Chi hesitated before leaning over. “Eight cold hells?”
He deliberately spoke but he noticed that his entire body was almost transparent. Meanwhile, the old man was semi-solid with an obvious outline. Those who came in were all souls. It was understandable if his body was transparent but why was the old man more solid than him?
Xie Chi was silent.
The old man said, “We are all living people who sinned. You must’ve heard of the 18 hells right?’
Xie Chi nodded before asking, “Is this a certain layer of the 18 hells?”
The old man shook his head. “No, this is indeed hell but it isn’t the traditional 18 layer hell. There are eight cold hells, eight hot hells, the knife mountain hell, the blood pool hell and the endless hell. It is a total of 19 hells.”
Xie Chi was taken aback. “I remember that the endless hell is part of the eight hot hells?”
The old man was a bit surprised. “You seem to know a lot? Looking at your clothes, you are a scholar right? You have to put aside common sense. It is now the 21st century and hell can’t stay the same. The system needs to be improved to adapt to the times. You can understand it like this. The eight cold hells are extremely cold hells. They are numbered one, two, three, four, five, six, seven and eight. The higher the number, the colder it is. We are now in the eighth hell, the coldest of the eight cold hells.”
“So our luck isn’t good?”
“Yes, different hells consume differently. The colder or hotter the hell, the greater the consumption on us.”
“Is the initial level of hell random? Or is it related to the crime committed?” Xie Chi’s face was full of fear and he asked in a trembling manner.
The old man frowned slightly, apparently a bit impatient with this question and answer style of communication. He rolled his eyes and said, “Don’t ask. We are running out of time. You can ask questions after I have finished talking to you.”
“Okay.” Xie Chi responded obediently before his eyes widened. “What’s that?!”
The old man was startled by his surprise and looked down on him even more.
He followed the direction of Xie Chi’s finger and saw the leaping and changing images on the glacier. He pretended to explain patiently, “This is a mirage. It is a natural phenomenon in hell so don’t be surprised.”
Xie Chi seemed shocked and realized he had interrupted the old man’s words. “I’m sorry. You go on.”
The old man opened his mouth. “We committed a crime and our conscience was disturbed. Therefore, our souls were lost. That is how the word ‘lost souls’ came about. The black and white impermanence detained our souls, locking them up with chains and dragging us into hell. As for which level of hell we fall into, this is random. It depends on luck. The kappa painting…”
“Kappa?” Xie Chi seemed to have grabbed something.
“Nothing.” The old man continued to speak. His tone was familiar and mechanical, as if he had said exactly the same thing to many prisoners previously.
“You have really bad luck and fell directly to the eighth hell of the cold hells. In terms of comfort, the upper levels of the cold hells and the upper levels of the hot hells are the most comfortable. The more you go down, the more uncomfortable you become. For the knife mountain hell and the blood pool hell, one towers into the clouds and the other is as deep as a ravine. It is dangerous but the weather won’t trouble the prisoners. As for the endless hell, you know it so you must know how terrifying it is.”
“The endless hell is endless like the name implies. There, suffering is uninterrupted. It is 10,000 times more terrifying than the lowest level of the cold hells and hot hells. There is no one who has fallen in there and survived.”
Xie Chi shrank back and showed a small reaction.
The old man continued. “The entire hell is like a tall building. You can imagine it as a building with 19 floors. The more you go up, the more comfortable you are. The more you go down, the harder it will become. The cold hells and hot hells are interspersed together. The first floor of the cold hells and hot hells are at the top and it is very comfortable. The eighth floor of the cold hells and hot hells are at the bottom and it is difficult to survive. The positions of the knife mountain hell and blood pool hell change randomly. In other words, the layer above us might be the seventh cold hell or it might be the knife mountain hell or blood pool hell. No one can confirm the location of the endless hell because no one has come back alive from it.”
“Then if you initially fall into the endless hell, won’t you be dead…?” Xie Chi sighed slightly like he was thanking his good luck.”
“Yes, that’s why it is very important to have good luck here.”
Xie Chi nodded reluctantly, his face pale.
The old man added, “One layer of hell can hold up to three people. It is usually two people i.e. you and me. In other words, the hell under our jurisdiction is only 3 x 19, or 57 people.”
“Our jurisdiction?” Xie Chi was taken aback. “You mean there is another hell like ours?”
A mysterious smile flashed across the old man’s face. “Have you ever seen a jellyfish?”
“There is a cap on top and underneath are countless fine filaments, swaying like hair in the wind?”
“Yes.” The old man liked his analogy. “Every hell is a jellyfish’s filament.”
“Oh… so there are countless jellyfish filaments and countless hells. We are only in one of them.”
Xie Chi’s mouth responded but his eyes were fixed on the distant mirage. The mirage played movie clips like a big screen in a movie theater.
“How do you know this?” Xie Chi turned his eyes, eyes full of admiration. “You should’ve stayed here for a long time. I’m really lucky.”
The old man responded modestly. “I saw the azure sea and beautiful jellyfish on a mirage one day and figured out the structure of hell.”
Xie Chi smiled. Therefore, the mirage could reveal a lot of information. Then the clip playing before his eyes…
“Right.” Xie Chi’s eyes were curious. “If the jellyfish filaments are the hells then what is the cap on top?”
A trace of longing and fanaticism flashed on the old man’s face. “It is paradise. The top level of every hell leads to the world of paradise. It is the other side of all those who suffer in hell.”
Xie Chi’s lips opened slightly and his face was filled with astonishment. “You mean…”
“Yes, it is the world of paradise that can keep us out of the sea of bitterness forever. Every half a month, our floor will change. In other words, we are currently suffering in the eighth layer of the cold hells but in half a month, we might be enjoying the first layer of the hot hells. Even so, we are still in hell. It is only when we enter paradise that we can truly escape from the sea of suffering.” As the old man spoke, his entire hand was shaking with hope.
“Can’t you be released after serving your sentence? Don’t you want to return to the human world? It stands to reason that you can return to the human world if you survive. Don’t scare me…” Xie Chi looked terrified.
The old man’s eyes revealed some truth when he was talking about himself. “I have committed a sin in hell and it is no longer possible for me to return to the world. I am a prisoner here eternally. The only hope left is paradise.”
“Sin?” Xie Chi’s heart suddenly thumped.
“You don’t need to know what it is or you will soon know what it is.” The old man’s smile was somewhat mysterious.
Xie Chi inwardly sneered. He knew that the sin was murder. Was eating other prisoners the sin committed in hell?
“By the way, I haven’t finished talking yet. There are two ways to enter paradise. One of them is if you are lucky and you land directly on the first layer of the hot hells. This is the top layer of hell and the one closest to paradise. Of course, I don’t have such good luck.” The old man smiled. “The other method is more suitable for the general public.”
“What is it?” His life was at stake and Xie Chi showed appropriate concern.
The old man said, “Legend has it that a spider silk ladder hangs down from the world of paradise. A short section is exposed in every hell. If we can find that short section, we can follow the spider silk ladder and climb directly to paradise. Immortals will reach out and pull you up. From then on, you will live a rich and worry-free life.”
“This method relies on ability, not luck. Everyone has the possibility of finding the spider silk ladder.”
Xie Chi felt suspicious. “Why is it the ‘spider silk’ ladder?”
The old man shook his head. “I don’t know. I have never found the spider silk ladder. It should be related to the legend of the Sakyamuni Buddha but I’m not strong enough. My last powerful inmate knew the key story but he was unwilling to tell me because I didn’t have sufficient information to exchange with him.”
Xie Chi nodded. “You said that we will stay here for half a month. I looked around and there is nothing here. Maybe we can dig a bit of the green algae under the snow?”
Xie Chi seemed to finally remember the problem of surviving at the bottom of the eight cold hells. He seemed anxious as he stood up. Since his legs were stiff, he fell straight down. The old man helped him up, seeing he was weak.
“Don’t do useless work,” the old man informed him. “We aren’t humans now, we are souls. We can’t digest it even if there is green algae.”
A trace of despair appeared on Xie Chi’s face. “Then how do we survive?”
“Let’s take it slowly and see.” The old man spoke helplessly.
Xie Chi found that after the old man gave the explanation, his body became even more solid. Xie Chi was so cold that his teeth trembled. The old man was also shivering but he was obviously… pretending.
His curled up neck and body were all a pretense.
The old man wasn’t cold at all. He had previously turned Xie Chi over and his hands were warm. Later, he patted the snow off Xie Chi and his hands were still warm. The cold caused muscle tension but his muscles were relaxed. His lips were frosted but the color didn’t change. They were still ruddy.
Therefore, explaining the rules to new inmates and getting ‘food’ was the reason why the old man patiently shared information about the hell with Xie Chi. Otherwise, he would eat Xie Chi immediately.
The old man told him, “By the way, each of us has a mark on the back of our necks that is a clue to the spider silk ladder. Can you help me see the mark on the back of my neck? We can tell each other and we might be able to find the spider silk ladder.”
Xie Chi was stunned before replying, “Okay.”
The old man turned his back and Xie Chi stood behind him.
On the snowy field in the distance, the beautiful mirage was still playing the familiar movie clip. It was a clip that Xie Chi had seen in the real world.
There were two men, one mute and the other blind. They were tied together with an iron chain at the two ends. There was a circular chainsaw in the middle of the chain, running at high speed and making a shrill sound. The iron chain was wrapped around the chainsaw. As the chainsaw rotated, it tightened bit by bit and the two men got closer to the chainsaw.
The mute man saw the horrible chainsaw in front of him. His face was like dirt and his lips moved fast. He seemed to want to shout, “Don’t pull me over! I don’t want to hurt you! There is a chainsaw in front of me! I don’t want to die! Please don’t move! If you don’t move and I don’t move then we will be fine for a while! You can’t see but you can talk! Ask someone to save our lives!”
However, he couldn’t make a sound. He could only watch the scary chainsaw and shake his head desperately.
The blind person couldn’t see and the mute person couldn’t speak. The blind person only heard the sound of the chainsaw approaching and his face was full of horror. “Someone wants to kill me!”
The blind man could only run away with the chain madly. The mute man was getting closer and closer to the chainsaw. He was terrified but couldn’t speak. Thus, he could only drag the chain in the opposite direction.
The blind person and mute person started to occupy and destroy each other’s living space.
They could clearly survive a bit longer. The speed at which the circular chainsaw tightened the chains was very slow. They could cooperate and call people. However, they couldn’t communicate. Life and death were in front of them. The easiest and most effective way to survive was to let the other person’s body get stuck in the chainsaw so it would stop turning.
The blind man finally won. The mute man’s body was stuck in the chainsaw and it stopped turning. The blind man survived and his face was full of relief and the complacency of not knowing the truth. The person who wanted to kill him was dead.
This was the last scene of the mirage.
In the midst of the ice and snow, the old man gripped the knife hidden from beginning to end in his sleeve. As soon as the newcomer told him what the mark at the back of his neck was, he would immediately kill the newcomer and eat his soul.
By eating the newcomer’s soul, he could gain energy, resist the cold and survive in this hell for half a month. He didn’t want to kill but the newcomer was unlucky and appeared randomly on the eighth layer of the cold hells. It was too cold here. Once it became night, even he couldn’t resist the cold. This unfamiliar young man wasn’t worth his sacrifice.
If he had been on a higher level of hell where it was warm, comfortable and the energy consumption was the lowest, he might keep this poor newcomer alive. Unfortunately, he was randomized to the lowest level. He wanted to live so he could only eat this innocent newcomer’s soul.
This was the rule and the order here.
Talking nonsense with the newcomer earlier was just to earn the reward energy of explaining the rules. Then it was to trick the newcomer into telling him the mark on the back of his neck. Knowing one’s mark could help one gain a lot of energy. At the same time, it would cause great harm to the inmates.
The position of this mark was extremely tricky and there was no mirror in hell. Unless an inmate told it, no one knew what was written on the back of the neck. This stupid and ignorant young man was about to crush his only way to live.
In fact, if the newcomer didn’t say it then he might let the young man live a bit longer. After all, he still had energy and he had to find a way to learn the mark on the back of his neck. However, he was lucky enough to meet a newcomer who didn’t understand anything. This was also his luck.
“What is written?” The old man urged impatiently.
Xie Chi didn’t say a word. He stared at the fragile neck that was exposed without any defense in front of him and sneered. He raised the rock he had picked up when he pretended to fall and slammed it toward the back of the neck without hesitation.
“You…” The old man was full of disbelief as he fell face down.
On the eighth floor of the cold hells. Xie Chi saw the truth and won. He won against this old man who wanted to kill him. Yet by doing so, he committed the old man’s sin and could no longer return to the world.