Xiao Lou walked in front of the six walls in turn, carefully memorizing the charms on each wall in his mind. He closed his eyes and seriously recalled the drawings on the six charms. Then he used the voice headset to confirm it with Gui Yuanzhang of the other team. “Senior, have you carefully looked at the charms in the room? Are there some pigs, cows, sheep and other livestock?”
Gui Yuanzhang replied, “That’s right.”
Xiao Lou continued, “There is one wall with doors painted on charms, one wall with young men and women dancing in sacrifice, one wall with ferocious ghosts, one wall with strange black patterns with no specific shapes and some charms painted in blood?”
Gui Yuanzhang nodded. “Yes, the charms of the two rooms should be the same and the mechanism opening method as well. Do you have the answer?”
The team members held their breaths while waiting for Xiao Lou’s deduction. These charms looked too scary, especially the one wall covered with bloody charms. It felt like a cult. They couldn’t understand it so they could only put their hope in Xiao Lou who had the strongest ability to solve puzzles.
Xiao Lou heard Gui Yuanzhang’s confirmation and took a deep breath. He only answered after thinking about it, “This should be the six paths of reincarnation.”
Gui Yuanzhang raised his eyebrow. “The six paths of reincarnation? Reincarnation in Buddhism?”
Xiao Lou nodded and explained to his teammates, “Buddhism teaches about reincarnation of cause and effect. After death, people will reincarnate according to their good and bad deeds in life. They might enter one of the six realms: the gods’ (devas) realm, the human realm, the demi-god (asura) realm, the animal realm, the hungry ghost realm and the hell realm. The charms on the six walls should represent the six ways of reincarnation.”
He walked up to the wall where the doors were painted. “The side with the doors drawn on them is the gods’ realm. Many people who do good deeds can reincarnate into the gods realm and receive blessings. This is the best result. The one with the drawing of the men and women dancing is the human realm. Merits and demerits are offset and everything is reset. The wall with the pigs, cows and sheep is the animal realm. The one with the ghosts is the hungry ghost realm and the black one with no substance is the asura realm, often known as the demi-god realm. The one with the blood charms is the most painful hell realm. The red likely symbolizes the blood pool hell in the 18 hells.”
They finally understood what the seemingly disorganized charms symbolized after Xiao Lou’s analysis and explanation.
Liu Qiao glanced over the six walls. “In other words, from the gods realm to the hell realm, the torture suffered after reincarnation will become more and more horrible. Those who have done more evil will be sent to the 18 hells?”
Xiao Lou said, “It seems so. I will take another look at the charms on the medicine hut.”
He stepped toward the medicine hut and examined the six colors of the charms carefully. “Gold should be the color that symbolizes the gods realm and black should be the hell realm. The order of the six walls should be the same as the order of the charms on the medicine hut. As long as the gold charm is turned to the gods realm and the black to the hell realm then the entire medicine hut should completely correspond to the six paths of reincarnation on the six walls.”
Yu Hanjiang asked, “Should we turn the medicine hut?”
Yu Hanjiang, Lu Jiuchuan and Old Mo came forward to each hold a corner of the medicine hut and turned it around with difficulty. In the other room, Gui Yuanzhang, Shao Qingge and Long Sen turned the medicine hut according to Xiao Lou’s reasoning.
The moment the medicine hut was aligned, there was a loud ‘rumble’ in everyone’s ears. A door appeared on each of the six walls in the room. They were stone doors that allowed only one person to pass through. Behind the stone door was the exact same narrow passage and it was impossible to see what was behind the passage.
Ye Qi’s voice entered his ear. “Which way are we going? We can’t have six people act separately, right?”
Xiao Lou frowned. 12 people dividing into two teams was the most scientific and reasonable configuration. If they split into even smaller teams then it was more likely for the team members to be in danger. For example, Ye Qi had a poor sense of direction and him going alone meant he would definitely get lost. Shao Qingge, Long Sen and the others didn’t have the ability to solve problems alone. In addition, if they encountered hunters then they might die.
They couldn’t split into any more teams.
There were six stone doors. Which way should they go? It was a multiple choice question with six choices. The door on the wall symbolizing the gods realm seemed the least dangerous while the wall of hell with the blood charms was terrible. However, was the gods’ realm really the exit and the hell realm necessarily the path of death?
Xiao Lou calmed down and thought about it. He suggested, “Senior Gui, you go to the gods realm path while we will take the hell realm path.”
The team members heard this and were shocked. There were so many paths to choose from such as the human realm path, the animal path and the hungry ghosts path. Why did they have to take the hell realm path?
Xiao Lou explained, “The yin yang mirror we got is the black yin one which symbolizes the gate of death. This corresponds to the door of the hell realm path. My guess is that there might be a way to live if we take the hell realm path?”
He glanced at Yu Hanjiang, a less than certain look appearing in his eyes for the first time. “Of course, my speculation might not be accurate every time. If we encounter danger in the hell realm then we can use the Peach Blossom Spring to withdraw. Do you want to try it?”
Yu Hanjiang met his worried eyes and gently held Xiao Lou’s shoulder, a hint of softness in his voice. “It doesn’t matter. Even if you choose the wrong door, no one will blame you. There are many detours in the labyrinth and we have to try it slowly. It is impossible to find the right exit immediately.”
Lu Jiuchuan agreed. “Just go to the hell path. Will we be sent to hell by taking this hell path?”
Gui Yuanzhang heard their conversation and advised, “You be careful.”
“Senior, you be careful as well.” Xiao Lou was a bit uneasy as he looked at the six walls. “The gods’ realm sounds like a good place but it might not necessarily be safer.”
“Yes, I know. I will get in touch if there is a situation.” Gui Yuanzhang released the headset and the two sides ended the voice call for now.
They selected different doors. From now on, they would encounter different mechanisms and scenes. Old Mo took the cloth that Liu Qiao handed him and quickly drew a map by hand. After passing through the first entrance, they entered the labyrinth. In the east and west sides of the symmetrical ancient tomb, there were six exits that made a total of 12 paths.
These 12 paths might branch out into even more forked paths. It seemed that the area of this labyrinth was larger than the rotating labyrinth that Old Mo had encountered previously. Which way led to the final exit? No one knew. It was as Yu Hanjiang said. They naturally had to explore this labyrinth slowly. How could anyone be lucky enough to find the exit in one go?
Xiao Lou took out the Four-way Arrow and stuck a blue arrow on the doorway of the wall symbolizing the hell realm. Yu Hanjiang walked to the door and looked inside. The passage was pitch black. Using the light of the Night Pearl, he could see that it was long and narrow with a height of 1.7 meters, making it necessary to bend down to walk through. The width was around 40 centimeters and it could only accommodate one person at a time.
Moreover, it was impossible for Tang Ci’s wheelchair to pass through such a narrow passage. It was impossible to leave Tang Ci here alone. Lu Jiuchuan perceived this and sought Tang Ci’s opinion. “Xiao Tang, why don’t I carry you on my back?”
Tang Ci spoke in an expressionless manner, “You are still injured. My treatment robot might’ve relieved the pain but your wound isn’t fully healed. Do you want to crack open the wound again carrying me on your back?”
Old Mo was drawing the labyrinth map while walking so it wasn’t convenient for him. Lu Jiuchuan was about to get his brother Yu Hanjiang to help when he heard Liu Qiao suggest, “If Mr Tang doesn’t mind, I can use my Thumbelina card to make you smaller.”
Tang Ci remembered her card. It could turn people to the size of a thumb, making it convenient to be carried in a teammate’s pocket. The passage was too narrow and it was indeed inconvenient for his wheelchair to enter. Moreover, if the path had many bends or downhill slopes then it would be more difficult for his wheelchair to move. Tang Ci didn’t hesitate any longer and nodded. “Thank you.”
Liu Qiao’s fingertips flashed with a golden light and the card effect was triggered. Everyone saw Tang Ci disappear and then a thumb-sized Mr Tang appeared on the wheelchair.
Lu Jiuchuan curiously held the smaller Tang Ci in his palm, taking a closer look before smiling. “This card is interesting. You are much cuter after you’ve become smaller. I will put away your wheelchair while you sit in my pocket.”
Before Tang Ci could agree, Lu Jiuchuan put Tang Ci in his shirt chest pocket and put away the smart wheelchair card. Tang Ci was stuffed into the pocket and held on to the edge with both hands to expose his face. His expression was still indifferent. “Let’s go.”
Lu Jiuchuan looked down at the little person in his chest pocket and joked, “Have I become your mount?”
Tang Ci spoke calmly, “Or do you want to summon your lion and let it carry me?”
Lu Jiuchuan smiled. “I’ll take you. Lions have no IQ. If you happen to fall and get trampled to death then your death is too unjust.”
Tang Ci, “……”
Could he change pockets?
Lu Jiuchuan gently held Tang Ci with his finger so Tang Ci lay steady in his pocket. Then he strode toward the door.
Yu Hanjiang glanced at his brother. “Brother, I will take the lead while you are in charge of the rear?”
Lu Jiuchuan had no opinion. “Okay.”
The person who took the lead would be in more danger because if there was a mechanism ahead of them, they would be the first to be affected by it. Fortunately, Tang Ci’s mechanical ants could be used to explore the way. If there were any triggers for mechanisms on the ground then the ants would find it first. Tang Ci released the ants and the two mechanical ants disappeared down the dark passage in the blink of an eye.
Yu Hanjiang raised the Night Pearl and took the lead in going through the door to the hell realm. The height of the passage was only 1.7 meters. Yu Hanjiang and Lu Jiuchuan were more than 1.85 meters tall and had sturdy bodies. They could only explore slowly with their backs bent. Relatively speaking, Xiao Lou was thinner and it was much easier for him to walk through such a passage. Liu Qiao was the most comfortable. She was less than 1.7 meters tall and didn’t need to bend down.
The passage was a bit like a cave. There were many uneven stones on the wall and the path was wet and slippery. It wasn’t known where the water came from. Yu Hanjiang held the Night Pearl in his left hand to illuminate in front of him. His right hand naturally stretched out and gently held Xiao Lou’s hand. “Be careful, the road here is very slippery.”
The two of them were walking forward in the dim lighting so the other team members didn’t see Yu Hanjiang’s movements.
Xiao Lou perceived the familiar warmth from his hand and his heart warmed up. “It’s fine. Everyone, go slowly.”
The passage was nearly 100 meters long. It was narrow and slippery and it was easy to fall if one didn’t pay attention. It was also possible to bump their heads on the uneven stones of the wall. Therefore, everyone was careful and cautious. They moved slowly step by step.
They walked for five minutes before Yu Hanjiang’s eyes brightened. The ground he stepped on became flat stone slabs and the passage became more spacious. It could accommodate several people moving side by side.
The light here was brighter. It wasn’t because the number of Night Pearls in their hands had increased. The reason why the environment had become brighter was because some light appeared in the distance. A dark blue fire floated in the air, making the entire scene strange and gloomy.
Old Mo had just finished drawing the curved cave and was stunned to see the scene in front of him. “This is… ghost fire?”
It really was like a scene from a ghost movie.
Xiao Lou calmly said, “It might be a visual illusion or it could be phosphorus fire. It is said that phosphorus powder often appears in ancient tombs, it floats and burns extremely easily in the air. It can look like ghost fire.”
Liu Qiao agreed. “Phosphorus is a chemical that easily ignites itself. Ancient witches or wizards would often use it to put on a performance and scare people. You don’t have to worry. These floating ‘ghost fires’ should be the spontaneous combustion of phosphate powder and there is no offensive power.”
Everyone was relieved to hear the explanations of the two science students. After all, seeing blue flames floating in the dark environment really gave people the creeps. In addition, the road they were taking was to the hell realm. Who knew if the keeper would arrange for some ghosts to come out and scare them?
Just then, Yu Hanjiang’s low voice was heard. “There are patterns on the wall.”
He was responsible for taking the lead so he used the Night Pearl to observe his surroundings. Once the Night Pearl shone on the wall, Yu Hanjiang found some strange patterns. Unlike the cloud patterns on the wall bricks previously, these patterns were very rich, like vivid pictures.
Xiao Lou walked up to him and took a closer look. In the first pattern, a man was placed in an oil pan and tortured. His distorted face and frightened eyes made Xiao Lou feel numb.
Liu Qiao’s voice was heard in his ears. “There is also a pattern here.”
Xiao Lou glanced at the right side of the wall and saw a man being burned to death on a hot copper pillar.
Lu Jiuchuan couldn’t help frowning when he saw these pictures. “These are the punishments of hell, right? It looks very miserable.”
Yu Hanjiang continued to move forward.
The surrounding walls were full of cruel images of torture. A person was put into a pool of blood bubbles, their entire body being slowly corroded by the blood to a pile of white bones…
Another person had their tongue cut off, someone else had their ten fingers cut off, the next was hung upside down from an iron tree while sharp pieces of iron pierced his body, waiting for the blood to run out drop by drop…
While another one was struggling to climb a mountain while the mountain was covered with sharp knives. Every step would cut the person’s body…
The more they looked, the more numb they felt. Weren’t these tortures from the 18 levels of hell in mythology?
Xiao Lou’s expression was particularly solemn. Once they walked through the long passage and passed the last image, he whispered, “All the drawings are the punishments from hell such as the tongue pulling hell, the scissors hell, the iron tree hell, the mirror hell… there is also the steamer, the copper pillar, the knife mountain, the ice mountain, the oil cauldron, the blood pool, the mountain of fire, etc. It is no different from the 18 tortures of hell in myths.”
The terrible murals and floating ghost fire made the six people feel cold.
Was this hell path really the right way?
Tang Ci’s voice came from Lu Jiuchuan’s pocket. His body had shrunk so his voice was smaller, but it was very clear in this quiet space. “Are these murals warning us that if we continue to move forward, we will also experience these 18 types of hells’ torture?”
Everyone’s expressions changed. Tang Ci’s worry was very likely.
After all, they were walking in the hell path!
Xiao Lou and Yu Hanjiang looked at each other and nodded tacitly. Yu Hanjiang said in a low voice, “Since we’re here, we can’t give up halfway. I want to see what secrets are hidden in this hell path.”
TL: For those interested in learning more about the 18 hells, you can read about them here. Of course, different websites will have different names so they might not match the names that author and then I have selected.
Proofreader: Fictional Reality & Paranoid Kitten