Regarding the previous captain of the star thieves, the information that Xiao Lou and the others knew was only what they heard from Uncle Qin’s mouth. There was little information about this person in the official databases.
Tang Ci called up the database. “20 years ago, this man called Rod Bell was the most wanted man in the Locke Empire. He was on the wanted list of all nations in the Stellan Federation. It is said that this person was like a ghost and he often intercepted passenger ships. No one knows his origin. They only know that he was the most powerful star thief.”
Xiao Lou looked at the photo on the screen. The man had long blond hair and dark and deep eyes. They were slightly squinted like a poisonous snake staring at its prey.
Tang Ci added, “I checked all the databases and the only thing he has left in the federation is his name Rod Bell and this photo.”
Yu Hanjiang looked at the photo and spoke softly, “This person has been wanted by the federation for so many years but he has never been caught. He obviously has some skills. If General Lin hadn’t led the army to destroy the bugs and happened to collide with the star thieves, perhaps this person would still be continuing to escape among the stars and the star thieves would be even more difficult to deal with.”
Xiao Lou nodded in agreement. “General Lin took him back and tortured him to extract a confession, only to find that no matter how serious the injuries, he could heal quickly. It is presumably this magical healing ability that attracted the attention of the scientists. They wanted to extract Rob Bell’s genes and add them to the cloning project.”
Ye Qi sighed emotionally, “This guy was wanted for so many years but he managed to survive after being captured by General Lin. Then he followed General Lin to escape from the empire and survived falling to the deep sea. He is truly lucky!”
Lu Jiuchuan joked, “His vitality is almost like an immortal cockroach.”
Tang Ci spoke seriously, “This man is not only lucky but also very clever. If he is really on the bug planet then we have to carefully consider how to deal with him.” Tang Ci looked at Xiao Lou and asked, “Professor Xiao, do you have any good ideas?”
“Let me think…” Xiao Lou touched his chin and fell into deep thought. After a while, he opened his mouth. “We must make good use of the 30 minutes of the invisibility cloak. After landing on the bug planet, Mr Tang will use his drones to make a map of the mineral veins as soon as possible. We will divide into three groups according to the map, put on protective armor and use the teleportation or light footwork cards to investigate all the veins that have been mined by the star thieves. If you find an entrance in a mine, immediately use the team’s Voice Headset to notify everyone to gather.”
“If there is still time remaining on the invisibility cloak, we will continue to sneak into the laboratory to rescue Huaying. If the cloak’s duration has run out then we have to be ready to fight the star thieves at any time.”
“The star thieves group consists of hundreds of people, including Rod Bell. There are also the bugs and the bug queen. There are only six of us and the odds of victory are very low. We must not persist in fighting. We should choose control cards and escape while controlling them. Immediately blow up the laboratory after saving Huaying.”
“In order to avoid us being trapped in the laboratory, I will leave Spirit Fox in the safest place and open the Peach Blossom Spring in its cockpit. After completing the task, everyone will collectively withdraw to the Peach Blossom Spring and leave the bug planet quickly.”
Xiao Lou spoke up to here and looked at his teammates helplessly. “Time is tight and I can’t think of a better way.”
Yu Hanjiang nodded. “Let’s do it like this. We only have 30 minutes. If the invisibility cloak fails before we find the location of the laboratory, it will be troublesome if we attract the attention of the surrounding bugs. Leave the Peach Blossom Spring as a method of retreat. Then even if the task fails, we can at least withdraw and avoid being wiped out.”
Lu Jiuchuan also agreed. “The teleportation card can move 50 meters at a time. 30 minutes is enough for us to examine all the mineral veins. The main problem is the situation after entering the cloning laboratory. If there is a head-on conflict with the star thieves, will pure control work?”
Xiao Lou looked at Ye Qi next to him. “Xiao Ye, take out all the cards with group control skills from your card pack and organize them.”
“Okay!” Ye Qi hurriedly pulled out his card pack. He had been drawing instrument cards since entering the Card World, from the flute and guitar at the beginning to the guzheng, guqin, piano… not long ago, he also drew the king of musical instruments, the suona.
Many of them were instruments he hadn’t learned yet.
Ye Qi told them, “The guitar and guzheng can cause sleepiness in a wide range. The control time of the piano is related to the length of the music I play and I can control the enemy for 10 minutes at most. It is important to note that once I start playing the piano, any teammates within 100 meters can move but you can’t release skills. The other targets can’t move or release skills.”
During the trampling incident at the City of the Sun concert, Ye Qi had relied on playing the piano on stage to control the scene. This card was actually the card with the longest control time at present but the range was only 100 meters. In addition, his teammates would also be affected and they wouldn’t be able to use cards. This must be clearly stated in advance to avoid causing damage to the team.
Xiao Lou took out a card. “My Bai Juyi card has two skills, The song of the Pipa Player and Song of Everlasting Regret to control the field over a wide range. If I let Bai Juyi cooperate with Xiao Ye’s instrument cards and use it continuously, we should be able to control them for… around 15 minutes.”
Lu Jiuchuan wondered, “Is 15 minutes enough for us to rescue Huaying?”
Tang Ci spoke in an expressionless manner, “Do you think based on the personality of A of Diamonds that it will simply be a laboratory underground? Even if we find the entrance to the laboratory, there is a good chance it will be a labyrinth.”
Lu Jiuchuan couldn’t help cursing. “I almost forgot. That Diamonds girl loves to make trouble. If we have to go through a labyrinth then 15 minutes is very tight. In addition, this labyrinth is likely to be more dangerous than the merpeople one… At least in the merpeople labyrinth, we had Old Mo who was familiar with the terrain to lead the way. This time, we have to feel our way forward.”
Xiao Lou also felt helpless. “There is no other way. We can’t clear the instance without solving the problem of the bug planet.”
There was a moment of silence.
Yu Hanjiang told them, “Don’t lose heart. Chu Huaying shouldn’t be in a coma. She is waiting for us to save her. Perhaps she can help us solve some of the troubles.”
Lu Jiuchuan touched his chin. “Yes, Huaying is very strong. I don’t believe she will be caught fully unguarded. Once she wakes up, it will be easier for us to save her.”
Just then, the clear voice of Spirit Fox was heard in their ears. “Master, there are three minutes left until we arrive. Please be ready to land.”
Xiao Lou looked at the dot on the navigation map and took a deep breath. “We’re almost there. I’ll leave Spirit Fox outside the bug planet and we’ll land using the movement cards.”
Yu Hanjiang opened the card pack that Gui Yuanzhang gave them and handed the brush, ink, paper and inkstone set cards to Lu Jiuchuan. “Brother, your vermilion bird is too big a target in the sky. Later, use Senior Gui’s brush and take Mr Tang with you. Can you handle his brush?”
Lu Jiuchuan took the cards. “Of course. Previously when we were on our original team, we often exchanged cards.”
Yu Hanjiang gave Liu Qiao’s Light as a Swallow card to Shao Qingge. “Chief Shao, your teleportation cards can only move horizontally. Take this light footwork card.”
Shao Qingge nodded and pulled out a card which he handed over to Yu Hanjiang. “Later after landing, I will explore the way with Xiao Ye. The teleportation card can take more than one person so one is enough for us. You take this card and go with Professor Xiao. It will be faster.”
The two of them exchanged cards with each other.
As they were talking, Spirit Fox had crossed through the dark clouds around the bug planet. On the monitoring screen, the familiar bug fungus blanket appeared. Xiao Lou stared at the screen and quickly adjusted the orientation of the mecha until a large number of veins appeared in his vision. Xiao Lou pressed the pause button and told Spirit Fox, “Wait for us here and be ready to evacuate at any time.”
Spirit Fox replied, “Yes, Master.”
Xiao Lou wore Spirit Fox’s ring on his hand again, summoned Tao Yuanming and placed the entrance of the Peach Blossom Spring in the cockpit.
He opened the cockpit and saw that the mine under his feet was full of precious red crystal stones. They were connected like a sea of fire. The hot air made Xiao Lou’s chest dull. The average temperature here was as high as 68 degrees Celsius and the ground temperature exceeded 90 degrees. They couldn’t step on the ground directly without being burned.
Tang Ci gave them the protective armor to wear and Xiao Lou had everyone check the team’s Voice Headset.
The heavy metal armor could resist high temperatures but it made people move awkwardly.
Fortunately, there was the help of the cards. Xiao Lou gestured to his teammates through the transparent helmet. Yu Hanjiang immediately hugged him tightly and jumped down with the Light as a Swallow card.
At the same time, Shao Qingge and Ye Qi and Lu Jiuchuan and Tang Ci also landed with their cards.
Xiao Lou’s voice was heard from their earpieces. “Everybody, turn invisible.”
The six people dressed as ‘astronauts’ used their invisibility cloaks the moment they landed. This way, the people or the bugs on the planet wouldn’t find them.
They jumped from a height of thousands of meters down onto the bug planet and Ye Qi couldn’t help shouting due to the weightlessness of the free fall, “This is more exciting than bungee jumping!”
From such a high position, they fell to the ground in less than half a minute. If there wasn’t the buffer of the cards, all six people would’ve been smashed.
Ye Qi’s heart was beating madly as he stabilized his body.
Tang Ci quickly said, “The drone’s surveillance has reported that six veins here have been mined. Chief Shao and Ye Qi, check the two on the left. Group Leader Yu and Professor Xiao will check the middle and I will go to the right with Brother Jiu.”
Xiao Lou answered, “Yes, let’s act.”
The six people divided into three routes. Under the dual protection of the invisibility cloak and protective armor, they didn’t have to worry about being found or the ground burning the soles of their feet. The six people used the teleportation cards to move like the wind and start a search of the six mines.
Soon, Ye Qi’s voice was heard from the earpiece. “I didn’t find anything here.”
Lu Jiuchuan added, “There is nothing here either.”
Xiao Lou instructed, “Keep looking.”
A moment later, Shao Qingge told them, “The two mines on the left have been searched. There is nothing.”
Lu Jiuchuan’s voice also came from the earpiece. “No anomalies were found on the right.”
Everyone was placing their hopes on Xiao Lou and Yu Hanjiang. At this time, Yu Hanjiang suddenly stopped. “Look 30 degrees in front to the right.”
Xiao Lou looked in this direction. There was a strange pit between the two mines that was constantly emitting hot flames. Even the surrounding ground was covered with red magma that converged into a river. This scorched the dry and cracked earth.
Xiao Lou was slightly stunned. “Is this… a volcano?”
Yu Hanjiang shook his head. “It looks like a volcano but it is just an illusion.”
Xiao Lou felt a sudden force from his waist. It was Yu Hanjiang who took him to the crater of the ‘volcano’ with the light footwork card. Xiao Lou looked closely—it really was an illusion!
This wasn’t a volcano at all but a huge pile of flaming red crystals. The river of magma was just a false image created by the red crystals being ground to powder and gathered together. From a distance, it looked like an ‘erupting’ volcano and the flames converged into a river…
Was it a coincidence or man-made?
Xiao Lou didn’t hesitate to speak. “This must be Rod Bell’s doing! The bugs are most afraid of fire. He created a fake volcano and built an underground laboratory nearby. Ordinary bugs will be too scared to approach. This way, they can keep it absolutely confidential.”
The informed senior bugs knew that this wasn’t fire but just a type of ore. Thus, there was no need for them to feel afraid.
Yu Hanjiang said, “Go and take a look.”
They were wearing high temperature protective armor and naturally didn’t need to be afraid.
The two of them walked to the middle of the ‘volcano’ crater. The crater formed by a large number of highly pure ores was actually the entrance to the cloning laboratory.
Xiao Lou immediately used the voice headset to inform everyone and the others hurried over.
He opened the entrance that looked like a volcano but was actually a well cover to reveal a long, narrow and straight underground passage. There was an elevator that went directly underground but they couldn’t start the elevator in case it attracted attention. Xiao Lou whispered in the earpiece, “Use the light footwork skill to go down. I’ll take the lead with Group Leader Yu. Chief Shao and Xiao Ye will be in the middle and Brother Jiu and Mr Tang will bring up the rear. Don’t bump into each other.”
The group jumped down to the passage in turn and gently landed on the ground.
The underground area was dark and no light could be seen. The dark environment, combined with the humid and cold air, was very similar to the underground passage in 8 of Spades where they encountered the bugs. This made Xiao Lou think of very bad memories.
The bugs had good night vision. They liked wet and cold places best. Therefore, it was normal for the laboratory built on the bug planet to have the preferred bug environment.
However, it was hard for the six of them to find their way. They were just ordinary human beings and couldn’t see anything in the dark.
To make matters worse, the loli’s distant voice was heard in everyone’s ears. “Welcome to the bug cave labyrinth. Good luck.”
Lu Jiuchuan almost swore out loud. This damn girl, did it make sense to make two labyrinths in one instance?
One was in the sea and the other was underground. It was also a dark maze. Did they have to blindly touch the wall to find their way?
Yu Hanjiang told them softly, “There are three minutes left on the cloak.”
Xiao Lou, “……”
Things were becoming worse.
With only 3 minutes of invisibility left and confronted with a dark maze, how were they supposed to find the location of the laboratory, let alone Chu Huaying?
It was dark and the pressure on Xiao Lou wasn’t low. He took a deep breath and said, “We can’t find the location of the laboratory in three minutes. Let’s simply take out the Night Pearl for light. Xiao Ye, be ready to control the scene. Take off the heavy armor so it is easier for us to move.”
Ye Qi immediately took off his armor and held several group control cards in his hand.
Xiao Lou took out the Night Pearl to illuminate the surrounding environment. The walls of the bug cave were pitted and the roads were winding. Fortunately, the ground was fairly flat.
He led everyone a few steps forward and they soon encountered the first fork in the road.
Xiao Lou made a mark on the wall and turned to the left. Before long, there was another fork in the road. Xiao Lou continued to make marks and took a few more steps before finding another fork…
One minute later, Xiao Lou stopped helplessly at a fork in the road.
Along the way, he had encountered eight forked paths in a row. There were more forks in the bug cave than Xiao Lou imagined. It was as complex as a cobweb.
That’s right… a cobweb!
Xiao Lou’s heart became cold. “Perhaps the bug maze has a cobweb-like structure?”
Lu Jiuchuan endured the idea of grabbing the little loli to beat her up and frowned. “A cobweb labyrinth? There are countless paths on a cobweb. Which path is the right one?”
Xiao Lou speculated, “Perhaps the laboratory is in the middle of the cobweb? Let’s try to go to the middle.”
The group followed Xiao Lou to a corner.
Just then, the sound of footsteps was heard in the cave… it seemed to be a woman’s high heels.
Everyone immediately held their breaths. Xiao Lou hurriedly put away the Night Pearl but as a result, he heard the other person whispering, “Brother Jiu, Professor Xiao, is it you?”
It was Chu Huaying’s voice.
Lu Jiuchuan raised an eyebrow. He took out the Night Pearl again and walked around the corner.
Chu Huaying was standing in the passage. She was pale and her mouth was bleeding. Her hair was somewhat disheveled and she was haggard. Lu Jiuchuan hurried over and reached out to help her. “Are you hurt?”
Chu Huaying bit her lip. “It’s fine. It is just skin trauma. I escaped while they were in the meeting…”
Lu Jiuchuan looked back at Yu Hanjiang and blinked at him. Yu Hanjiang stepped forward and asked, “Huaying, do you know the location of the laboratory?”
Chu Huaying nodded. “Yes. Are you going to the laboratory?”
Xiao Lou smiled. “Yes, please show us the way.”
Proofreader: Paranoid Kitten & Fictional Reality