In the location where Bai Xiaochun, Chen Jue, and Zhou Yixing had just tangled with the hats, there now remained only a dozen or so soul cultivators, standing there motionless.
They were nothing more than corpses, with their empty, white skulls clearly visible. It was a very bizarre sight.
The faces on the wall and floor began to breathe sighs of relief and simultaneously chatter with each other about what had just occurred.
“They’re finally gone. The red hats have gone! Hahaha!”
“The hats were acting really strange today. They didn't bully us at all!”
“Yeah, you’re totally right! Very strange indeed. Something odd is going on....” Then, in the middle of their conversation, their expressions flickered, and their eyes went wide. Looking down the tunnel, they all snapped their mouths shut. Currently, the terror glimmering in their eyes vastly exceeded that which had come from the hats, and they all began to shiver visibly.
Further down the tunnel, a figure had become visible, blurry at first, but rapidly becoming clear. It was a beautiful young woman with long hair. For some unknown reason, there was something very bizarre about her, although it was impossible to say exactly what.
“So many people have come. Even my sweetie is here!” The young woman chuckled, her eyes turning into twin crescent moons in the process and making her look even more pretty. At the same time, she looked profoundly bizarre, because visible within her eyes were two pupils each! Shockingly, she had one large pupil and one small pupil, the two of which overlapped! Anyone who might have been able to peer into her eyes would have been shocked to the core.
As for Bai Xiaochun, if he had been present, he would immediately have recognized this young woman as being none other than Gongsun Wan’er!
Except, he was currently in the middle of fleeing madly for his life from eight hats. He had attempted to fight back, but his magical techniques were absolutely useless against them. He had even resorted to some of his special methods of increasing his speed, and yet the hats were always able to keep up.
“What are you chasing me for!? My... my head doesn’t taste that good!” As he raced along pell-mell, he ran into the occasional soul cultivator or giant savage, which was when he finally came to realize that the hats weren’t specifically after him. As the hats encountered others to eat, he was slowly able to lose them.
When he was finally free, he breathed a sigh of relief. However, the thought of what he had just gone through continued to cause his heart to pound in fear. At the same time, though, the fact that the hats had given up chasing him to go after other people left him feeling a bit down.
“Don’t tell me my head really doesn’t taste very good after all?” he grumbled. Finally, he cleared his mind of such thoughts and found an out-of-the-way corner where he could have some privacy. Waving his hand, he sent a mist spreading out to fill the area, as well as some frigid qi to lock the place down. Then, he licked his lips and pulled the nine-colored flame out from his bag of holding.
After carefully removing the ice seal which contained it, he looked excitedly at the fire, which despite having grown dim, was still filled with nine colors. Considering the intense heat he could sense from it, he was convinced that everything he had just gone through was worth it.
“This nine-colored flame is incredible! If it had been linked to a solid foundation, then my frigid qi would have been incapable of sealing it.
“With this flame, I can definitely perform a ninefold spirit enhancement on the Eternal Parasol....
“Then it will be even more powerful than it already is, and will definitely make it much easier to stay safe around here.” After looking around one more time to make sure he was alone, he produced his turtle-wok and the Eternal Parasol, and prepared to begin the spirit enhancement process.
However, after only a moment passed, he hesitated. “I wonder if the energy of heaven and earth in this labyrinth will be sufficient....”
Back when he had performed some spirit enhancements in Great Wall City, he had clearly sensed that, because of the weak levels of spiritual energy, the enhancement process wasn’t very stable.
Thankfully, his miraculous turtle-wok had ensured that the spirit enhancement worked no matter what. Therefore, despite having a dim nine-colored flame, and being in the middle of the labyrinth, he decided to grit his teeth and proceed with the plan.
“I need to increase my chances of getting out of here alive. That’s worth doing a bit of testing. If it fails, then so be it.” When it came to safeguarding his poor little life, Bai Xiaochun would never be stingy. Therefore, he immediately began the spirit enhancement process.
As soon as the nine-colored flame was absorbed by the turtle-wok, the designs on its surface began to shine with dazzling light. Bai Xiaochun looked on nervously, eyes wide, until the designs were fully lit. Then, he excitedly tossed the Eternal Parasol inside.
The turtle-wok immediately began to tremble, and the designs on its surface shone even more brightly, almost as if they knew what was happening. Then, the designs shot toward the Eternal Parasol, transforming into the ninth spirit design on its surface! A tremor ran through the Eternal Parasol, and Bai Xiaochun was almost sure he could hear something like an excited cheer. Then, the turtle-wok went calm, and everything went back to normal.
“It worked? Just like that? I didn’t feel any energy of heaven and earth at all!” Surprised, he picked up the Eternal Parasol and examined it, confirming that the spirit enhancement truly had worked.
Then he looked at the turtle-wok again, and finally back at the Eternal Parasol. Every time he'd performed spirit enhancements in the past, it had always incited the energy of heaven and earth in the area, but this time, nothing of the sort had occurred.
After thinking everything over, Bai Xiaochun’s eyes suddenly glittered.
“The flame was different!
“For all of my other spirit enhancements, I always used multi-colored flame fuel to make my own fire. But this time, I had the fire to start out with. Plus, it was Wildlands fire....” Soon, Bai Xiaochun found himself thinking about soul cultivators and necromancers, and how they often had magical items with numerous spirit enhancements. As of this moment, he felt like he had another piece of the puzzle.
“Maybe the way they do spirit enhancement in the Wildlands doesn’t require the energy of heaven and earth. Considering how barren of spiritual energy this place is, that seems like the only plausible explanation.” After a bit of thought, Bai Xiaochun decided that a deadly labyrinth was not the place to sit around trying to analyze the situation. Shelving thoughts about spirit enhancement for the moment, he retracted the mist and the frigid qi, and then began to cautiously search for an exit.
Another two days passed, and Bai Xiaochun’s careful explorations did not lead to any more bizarre situations like the hats. However, he noticed that he seemed to be encountering fewer and fewer people, whether they were Great Wall cultivators or Wildlands soul cultivators and savages.
“Before, I was running into at least ten per day. But now, it’s more like four or five, or even fewer....” Looking around at the tunnel walls, he couldn’t help but feel like the labyrinth was a huge mouth intent on consuming everyone.
The thought made him shiver.
“I can’t let that happen to me! I have to find the exit!
“But everything looks the same. How do I get out...?” None of the ideas he came up with, such as leaving marks on the wall, were of any use whatsoever.
Finally, he just resorted to his old, somewhat mindless method of sticking to the right. As he proceeded along, another three days passed. Soon, he was feeling so lost he was dizzy, and was also scowling on the verge of tears. That was when he turned a corner, and saw something that caused his eyes to go wide.
A creepy sensation filled him, becoming an icy coldness that left him gasping.
There were no hats. Instead, he found himself looking at something like a large, open square, with tunnels leading into it from all four directions. Right in the middle of the square were two enormous candles with green flames that cast odd, flickering light out. As a result of the shadows cast by the flames, the square seemed completely terrifying.
Sitting between the two candles was an enormous platter, atop which was a mountain-like pile of steamed buns!
However, these buns appeared to be soaked in blood, so much so that they were dripping with it! It was a horrific sight that caused Bai Xiaochun’s scalp to tingle so hard it felt like it might explode.
Gathered in the square were several hundred Great Wall cultivators and Wildlands soul cultivators and savages. There were even a few necromancers too. All of them were standing there motionless, expressions those of madness as they stared at the blood-soaked buns. Although none of them were talking, it was possible to hear them panting as they stood there.
A fragrant, sweet aroma wafted up from the blood-soaked buns that, when it entered Bai Xiaochun's nose, made him so nauseated he wanted to vomit up his internal organs!Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Note: Blood-soaked buns, or “blood mantou”, have an important meaning in Chinese culture. The stories involving them are kind of complicated, but basically, the blood-soaked bun was something that some people believed could cure any type of illness, or perhaps have other mystical properties. The original story behind the blood mantou, and how it is currently viewed/interpreted, is not really relevant to what is happening in this scene, and is actually a profound social commentary. If you’re interested, you can do a bit of googling to find more information.