The corridor of the ancient tomb was wet and cold. Only their footsteps sounded in the eerie silence. This type of environment felt weird and it was even worse when no one spoke.
It was pitch black in front of them so everyone quickly took out their Night Pearls. They used the light from the Night Pearls to find that there was a paved dirt ground and the surrounding walls were also made of dirt. There weren’t any bricks.
Was this the entrance to the tomb?
Sure enough, they walked for a while and found a stone door in front of them. There were strange totems painted on the door and two lanterns next to the stone door which were always lit. The light might be dim but the oil in it seemed as though it would burn forever. Once everyone approached, the wick started to sway gently and cast strange ghostly images on the surrounding walls, like two ghost fires floating in the darkness.
Ye Qi wasn’t afraid of these illusions and curiously asked, “This place is a centuries old underground tomb, right? Can the lamp oil burn for so long?”
Lu Jiuchuan wanted to go forward to take a look but Yu Hanjiang was worried. His brother had just been hurt and might not be able to avoid any traps. Thus, he reached out to stop his brother and went forward himself to check the two lights.
Yu Hanjiang observed carefully before saying, “The lamp oil added in here should be made of a special substance. It isn’t the same as other oil lamps we’ve seen.” He glanced at Xiao Lou as he spoke, as if waiting for Xiao Lou’s explanation.
Xiao Lou walked up to him and also observed it for a few seconds. “This is the ‘Eternal Flame Lamp’. It can burn for hundreds of years without being extinguished. Putting it in a tomb has another precept apart from lighting the tomb. For those who believe in Buddha, if they want to see liberation after death then they will use their body as a lampstand and their heart as a lamp burner. An additional precept is to add oil and they will be as wise as the lamp.”
The team members listened carefully. Several times before, Professor Xiao had led everyone to pass the Diamonds secret room. His knowledge was extensive so they didn’t feel surprised to hear him explain the meaning of the lamp. On the contrary, they felt like it was normal for Professor Xiao to know this. After all, Xiao Lou was a top student who had ‘submitted the answers while others were still reading the questions’.
However, this was the first time that Lu Jiuchuan’s group of four were cooperating with Xiao Lou’s team.
Lu Jiuchuan heard him explain the meaning of the Eternal Flame Lamp and made an expression that said ‘the person my brother likes is really smart’. Chu Huaying was expressionless but she listened very carefully. Tang Ci looked indifferent while Teacher Gui smiled and didn’t interrupt. He just listened to the explanation.
“This is the first time I’ve seen an Eternal Flame Lamp. The lamp oil added to this should be the beeswax in the legends?” Xiao Lou stated.
“Beeswax?” Lu Jiuchuan raised an eyebrow. “The secretion of bees?”
“Yes, to be precise, it is the fatty substance secreted by worker bees and it is also the material for constructing honeycombs. The ancient people were very wise. They melted honeycombs with hot water and refined it into beeswax. Lamp oil made of beeswax burns very slowly. If placed in the tomb, it can burn for a long time as long as there is a constant supply of oxygen. This is the origin of the Eternal Flame Lamp.”
“Professor Xiao is right,” Teacher Gui suddenly spoke in a low voice. “Archaeologists found an Eternal Flame Lamp in the Dingling Tomb of the Wanli Emperor and confirmed that the material for making the lamp was beeswax. As for the so-called ‘man-fish lamp oil’ from the Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor, there is currently no final conclusion in the scientific community.” Gui Yuanzhang looked at Xiao Lou. “I didn’t expect you to be so interested in history and archaeology at your young age.”
(TL: A record of the construction of the mausoleum has this line ‘Candles were made from the fat of “man-fish”, which is calculated to burn and not extinguish for a long time.’ It is uncertain what the ‘man-fish’ is referring to, whether it is a mermaid like the modern form of the word or other aquatic animals)
“……” Xiao Lou suddenly met a real expert and his ears became hot. “Senior, I usually love to read some miscellaneous books. Compared to you, the knowledge that I’ve learnt is just superficial.”
Gui Yuanzhang was a famous calligrapher and professor in the history department with profound knowledge. Xiao Lou’s father was a fan of Teacher Gui and had collected one of Teacher Gui’s works at home. Xiao Lou was embarrassed to give a lesson in front of his elder.
Teacher Gui spoke gently, “Don’t be humble. The Diamonds secret room that we’ve encountered this time might not necessarily be an ancient tomb that exists in history. It is most likely that the keeper referred to some historical books and set it up casually. We shouldn’t dwell on dynasties and the history of the tomb. We should first look for the exit.”
Lu Jiuchuan was a man of action. He stepped forward when he heard this and tapped lightly on the stone door. There was a muffled sound in their ears. It could be seen that the stone gate was very thick and couldn’t be destroyed or pushed open with human strength. It must be opened by a mechanism.
Lu Jiuchuan wondered, “The mechanism to open the door are those two lamps?”
Xiao Lou scanned the surroundings and didn’t find any other traces of mechanisms so he suggested, “See if the two lamps can turn?”
Yu Hanjiang heard this and tried to turn the Eternal Flame Lamp in front of him in a circle. Lu Jiuchuan, who was standing on the right, also walked over and learned from his brother’s actions, spinning the other lamp in a circle.
The stone door didn’t react.
Yu Hanjiang and Lu Jiuchuan exchanged looks. They tried to turn it in the opposite direction… there was still no response from the stone door.
Xiao Lou stepped back and stared at the totems on the stone door carefully. The totem patterns were very messy. As he was feeling puzzled, Gui Yuanzhang abruptly said, “Half of the totems on the stone door are yin carvings and the other half are yang carvings. Once combined together, they form a pattern similar to the taiji. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taiji_(philosophy))
After all, he was an expert in calligraphy and knew a lot more about yin and yang characters than most people. If Xiao Lou remembered correctly, Gui Yuanzhang’s seal on the calligraphy collected by his father was a yin carving.
The yin engraving would be recessed while the yang engraving would protrude. This was obvious when touching it with the hand. However, if a person was just looking with their eyes then it would be easy to confuse the two.
There was a hint from his senior and Xiao Lou soon discovered the meaning of the pattern.
In the Taiji map, there were many animal patterns which were interfering factors. This made the entire picture look like a scene of ancient people offering sacrifices. Once he excluded the interfering factors, he could see the figures of a man and a woman. In the pattern on the left, the woman’s left hand was facing up and it was clockwise. In the pattern on the left, the man’s two hands were facing up but it was counterclockwise.
Xiao Lou quickly analyzed the solution. “For the lamp on the left, turn it clockwise while the one on the right is turned counterclockwise twice. The speed on the right is twice that of the left but try to ensure that both lamps are in the right position at the same time.”
Yu Hanjiang and Lu Jiuchuan heard this and took action. The lamp that was turned in one circle needed to be slow while the one that was turned twice needed to be fast so that the two lamps were synchronized.
Xiao Lou wasn’t certain if it was necessary for them to be synchronized. He just noticed that the dance movements of the man and woman in the pattern were synchronized. If the Eternal Flame Lamp was too fast or slow then the mechanism might not work.
It turned out that there was nothing wrong with his caution.
By the time Yu Hanjiang had turned the lamp on the left one round, Lu Jiuchuan had just finished turning the lamp on the right two rounds. They clearly heard a ‘click’ sound from the two mechanisms and immediately afterward, the surrounding ground started to shake. Everyone heard a loud sound as the stone door in front of them slowly rose up, revealing a dark corridor.
Yu Hanjiang glanced at his brother. “Go in?”
The door just now was the entrance of the maze. If it wasn’t for Teacher Gui and Xiao Lou analyzing the opening method of the mechanism together, they might have been stuck at this stone door for a long time.
Shao Qingge smiled. In the past, Professor Xiao used to solve the labyrinth questions while Old Mo led the way. Now there was Gui Yuanzhang who understood history. This week’s World Weekly happened to be an ancient tomb and the clearance should go smoothly. In any case, Shao Qingge had always lain down to win in the Diamonds secret room and he couldn’t help too much. He simply followed Xiao Lou silently.
As a result, he had just taken a few steps when Ye Qi exclaimed, “Look behind us!”
The group looked back and realized that the heavy stone door had released itself the moment they entered the maze. The loud ‘boom’ sound it made as it hit the ground was like a hammer hitting everyone’s hearts.
Yu Hanjiang frowned slightly. “Our road back is sealed the moment we enter the labyrinth. This is really a common trick from A of Diamonds.”
Lu Jiuchuan simply said, ”Regardless, we can’t go back. We have to keep moving forward.”
Xiao Lou looked at his feet using the light of the Night Pearl. Contrary to the earthen floor from before, after entering the ancient tomb, the ground was covered with bluestone bricks. The stone bricks looked old but were very clean. The cold environment of the underground made everyone feel a bit of a chill as they stepped on the stone bricks. Xiao Lou politely asked Gui Yuanzhang, “Senior, do you know about these types of bricks?”
The reason he asked this was because there were strange patterns on the bricks on the ground and the walls. What if a mechanism was hidden on the bricks? If they accidentally stepped on it, would poisonous arrows shoot from the walls?
Gui Yuanzhang crouched down after hearing this and Xiao Lou held the Night Pearl to lend him the light.
The old man knocked on the brick on the ground with his hand. He listened to the sound and carefully touched the patterns on the ground before saying, “The bricks are simply carved with some cloud and dragon patterns. Moreover, it has clear edges and corners. Judging from the craftsmanship, it is likely to be the tomb bricks from the Eastern Han Dynasty. This type of brick is common in Han Dynasty tombs and the patterns are decorative. There is no reference for significance. It is unlikely for the bricks to be hiding a mechanism.”
Xiao Lou let go of his worry and stared at the dark passage ahead. “Everyone, pass through here as quickly as possible.”
There were no mechanisms on the ground so everyone sped up immediately. They walked for half a minute before the dark passage came to an end. There was a forked path ahead.
Everyone raised their Night Pearls for a closer look. The corridors on the left and right were the same and were so deep that the end couldn’t be seen. In this dark environment where gusts of wind blew, there was always a strange anxiety in their hearts. They were afraid that ghosts and other things would rush out of the darkness at any moment.
This might be a Diamonds secret room but who knew if the keeper would deliberately set up some ‘accidents’ to scare them? After all, the four keepers had always been less than reliable.
Xiao Lou took a deep breath. Should they head to the left or the right? If this labyrinth was really large and they went the wrong way, they would waste a lot of time coming back.
Lu Jiuchuan suggested, “We have 12 people. Why don’t we split into two teams?”
Xiao Lou was also in favor of this. First, going in teams meant they could explore both paths at the same time, saving half the time. Secondly, 12 people were very crowded in this narrow passage. In case there was something like poisonous arrows, they might collide with each other because they couldn’t move freely. It was easier to move in smaller teams. As for how to split it up…
Lu Jiuchuan looked at Xiao Lou with gentle eyes. “Xiao Lou, you can decide. You know more about everyone and the four of us will listen to your arrangement.”
Xiao Lou didn’t bother refusing and quickly said, “I, Hanjiang, Brother Jiu, Mr Tang, Old Mo and Liu Qiao will be on one team. Senior Gui, Senior Huaying, Chief Shao, Xiao Ye and the Long Qu couple will be on the other team. Chief Shao has the Li Qingzhao card and you can leave a mark to teleport back. In addition, take out the Four-way Arrow card. Mark every fork in the road with arrows so as to avoid getting lost.”
Xiao Lou actually considered a lot when making such an arrangement.
He and Shao Qingge each had one of the Li Qingzhao cards, so the two of them were naturally in different teams. Chief Shao’s Bug King card couldn’t be used in the Diamonds secret room and his combat ability was average. Thus, Chu Huaying who had very high combat effectiveness was assigned to him. She and Lu Jiuchuan had killed many hunters. Her presence meant there was no need to worry.
Old Gui had a great understanding of history and archaeology so their team could smoothly solve any mechanism puzzles that they encountered. The Long Qu couple were responsible for investigation when necessary and Ye Qi was responsible for control. This configuration was very comprehensive.
On Xiao Lou’s team, there was no need to talk about Yu Hanjiang’s combat power while Brother Jiu was injured. Liu Qiao’s Witch card could save lives while Mr Tang couldn’t walk, so it was more convenient to take care of them in this team.
He added Old Mo to draw the map of the maze as soon as possible. If their team went in the right direction, he could use Li Qingzhao’s mark to call over the other six people directly. If they headed in the wrong direction then they could use Old Mo’s guidance to return quickly and find the other team.
The team leader had to take care of every aspect. He was now the captain of the contract book and had to be responsible for every member. There was no objection to his arrangement. On closer consideration, they found that Xiao Lou’s arrangement was the most reasonable plan at present.
Once the teams were divided, Xiao Lou took out the reward card from the previous level, the Voice Headset. He gave one to each person and explained, “Put this in your ear, press it with your finger and talk. All teammates within range can hear you. The effective range of this headset is 10 kilometers and the tomb shouldn’t be bigger than that. We will stay in touch at all times.”
Everyone quickly put on the headset and tried speaking in it. Their headsets were all functional.
Splitting into teams was the best way to save time in a labyrinth. In any case, Lu Jiuchuan’s group of four not only cleared all of the A grade secret rooms, but even survived the (S grade) Nightmare Room. They were very calm about Xiao Lou’s decision.
Xiao Lou looked at Teacher Gui. “Senior, I will have to trouble you to lead your team.”
Gui Yuanzhang replied, “Yes, you should also be careful.”
Lu Jiuchuan simply waved his hand. “Split up and act. If you encounter any problems then contact us with the voice headset.”
Proofreader: Paranoid Kitten & Fictional Reality