Xiao Wu finally stepped on the last ‘safe’ tile and got out of the death trap. Looking over her shoulder and seeing her eight companions struggling made her smile unconsciously.
‘I… I have become stronger!’
Suddenly, someone grabbed her shoulder. She turned and saw a smiling Fu Yin “You sure did!”
Xiao Wu stared blankly for a moment before rolling her eyes: she still hadn’t gotten used to neither Fu Yin nor Cheng Hao, those two mind-reading freaks…
Thinking about that, the figure of her unconscious big brother also appeared in her mind ‘I wonder if he will be mad at me since I am attempting to pass the exam without him knowing…’
“Man, that was hard!” Yan Rui’s cheerful voice reached her and she knew that the whole group had safely passed the dangerous death trap. She turned and could see that a translucent barrier had already been put in place. The membrane was almost transparent and had a slight blue hue, it blocked the way back to the corridor.
‘Does it really stop you from going back?’ She approached the membrane and she tried to touch it…
Before she could, Fan Lai stepped forwards and grabbed her hand “Brother, don’t touch the barrier if you don’t want to lose your whole arm!”
Xiao Wu shuddered as Fu Yin threw a rock at the translucent membrane of light and it fizzled before turning into powder.
Xiao Wu stepped back: she would not touch the barrier.
“Okay, now that we are all here, let’s go through everything again!” Fan Lai clapped his hands and a scroll appeared in mid air “We have gotten past the first trial. We are about one to two days faster than those guys that took the main route. However, we must not forget that there is still that mysterious group waiting for us!”
The young man turned to the white haired youth “Fu Yin, what was the next trial?”
The blue skinned boy stepped forward and began to draw on the ground with a white rock.
“Alright! If we are here…” he drew a map of the place and put on it ten ‘x’s and the corridor they had just passed. He barred the corridor and instead pointed with a finger to another hall “We passed the ‘Corridor of Death’ trial. Including this one, there are a total of three trials. The next one should be the ‘Dark Room’ trial”
Fan Lai frowned: apparently, this trial wouldn’t be as easy as the previous one. He pondered for a bit and then nodded.
“Xiao Li, there is no need for a map from now on. If we follow the corridor on the right, we will join up with the people from the main route, while if we follow the one on the left we will take part in the next trial!”
“Ok!” Xiao Wu nodded and dashed towards the corridor on the left. The group soon followed leaving behind Solomon and Fu Yin.
The red haired man turned towards the younger white haired teen “You better not interfere. I won’t let all our efforts go to waste!” Having said that, the red haired man also kicked off the ground and ran towards the corridor.
Fu yin smiled and picked a white rock off the ground. He threw it against the wall on the left were it embedded.
“Fu Yin, hurry up or we will leave you behind!” Su Tan’s voice reached him. The white haired youth smiled and also dashed towards the corridor on the left.
“This trial of the dark room, what is it? Why was Fan Lai so worried about it?” Xiao Wu asked Fu Yin as soon as he approached her in the front.
The boy seemed to be pondering for a while before shaking his head “That’s the problem! We don’t know! It is the only trial that changes every time. The first time it was a treasure hunt with our lives at stake, the second a weird game he called ‘dodgeball’ with our lives at stake and the third was a one on one match against a guardian-”
“Let me guess…” Xiao Wu interrupted “A death match”
Fu Yin nodded “You get it. The only good news is that… We know that we will play a game with our lives at stake. The bad news is that we won’t have any prior information about it!”
Xiao Wu was confused “But if it was a death game, didn’t someone…”
Fu Yin seemed to have understood as he answered “Yes. A lot of people died to let us continue the trials. At first we weren’t only ten, we were at least a few dozens…” His expression turned cold “But they all lost their lives every time we went into this death hole…”
His penetrating blue eyes held grief and sorrow in them: it could be seen that Fu Yin truly seemed to care for his comrades, no, his brothers.
“What about last time? Did anybody die? After all, wasn’t it only a one on one match?” Xiao Wu asked again. Although she was smart, she was after all, still a child and was thus pretty curios.
Fu Yin smiled and patted her head once “It is better if we don’t talk about these things now… Look, that’s the place where the second trial is held!”
The girl lifted her head and she did indeed see that the corridor opened into a tall hall: it was pretty dark and the only light was the one coming from the dark corridors. As soon as the last person in their group got in, the doors all closed automatically.
Xiao Wu was instantly surprised: thanks to her cultivation and her special skills she should have no problem to see in the dark but now, a special kind of force impeded her to see for more than a few meters in front of her.
She turned and calmed down when she could still see her companions but an uneasy feeling still slowly well up…
“Kishishishishi…” A strange sound came from above. Xiao Wu immediately backed away and lifted her head. There, she could barely see two eyes looking back at her. The eyes were completely yellow except from two vertical black lines, the pupils. His figure could barely be seen in the darkness but Xiao Wu could still tell one thing: that thing wasn’t human.
“Catacomb! Skim through the presentation and just tell us what this game is about!” Fan Lai stepped forward and yelled at the mysterious figure. Although he looked fearless, he was actually tightly squeezing his hand beneath his robe’s sleeves.
“Ku? You are that boy from the last three years… That’s right, Fai Lan, was it? Aren’t you tired of losing your comrades?” The eyes stared at Fu Yin “Especially with that guy beside you… It seems like you haven’t learned your lesson after all…”
A glint of anger and uneasiness appeared in Fu Yin’s eyes as he heard the Thing‘s words. The Thing was the guardian of the ‘dark room’, the trial’s supervisor. Its name was Catacomb, or at least that was the name he referred himself as.
“Catacomb, just shut up you fiend and give us the test!” Fan Lai shouted once again.
The being named Catacomb’s eyes turned into two slits as they observed closely the group below them. Suddenly, he noticed Xiao Wu!
“Kishishishi… This is interesting! Fine, I will play a game! And it will be quite the entertaining game!” Suddenly, even the few meters Xiao Wu could barely see before darkened for a few breaths before lighting up again.
When she looked around she couldn’t see her companions anymore. Before she could panic, a dot of light appeared in the distance: it was a candle.
She hurried to the light and when she saw the scene in front of her she couldn’t help but put one of her hands on her mouth “What are you doing! Leave them alone!”
In front of her, there where a total of eight people, a mannequin and something dressed with a robe that hid its features. They were all seating in strange chairs on top of a stage. It was also surrounded by the same weird membrane as the one from the corridor..
The formation was as such: there was a mannequin which gave its back to the robed figure which in turn gave its back to Fan Lai.
Both Fan Lai and the robed figure were so tightly bounded that they couldn’t even move. Fan Lai could see the robed person’s back while the robed person was also facing the mannequin (Note: Basically, Fan Lan looks at Mysterious person and it looks at the Mannequin while the Mannequin shows its back to everyone. FL–>MP–>M)
Behind them there were seven people: they were the remaining members from her group, all except from Fu Yin. They were also gagged and tied to chairs. The chairs were connected to weird mechanisms that would activate if they used the slightest amount of power from their cultivation base. Everyone looked scared and in pain. Well, everyone except Su Tan, but she wasn’t exactly the one people should be worrying about in such a situation.
Xiao Wu looked around and finally found who she was looking for a few steps away from the stage: Catacomb was tall, twice as tall as a man usually was, and thin, really thin. Its bones stood out, it had a pale sick yellowish skin and sharp claws instead of nails. Its head was grotesque, as if somebody had picked a skull and then stretched a small piece of skin to fit on it. It had long, black hair and a large mouth that had countless sharp white teeth.
It was currently sitting on a tall throne and sitting beside him was a robed figure but, just like the other one, his face and features could not be seen, not even a single piece of skin was showing.
“Kishishishi… We will now start the game!” A round of applause rang out as if they were in some kind of talk show “Now! I will tell you a riddle. If you guess right, you and your friends can go. However, if you get it wrong…” Catacomb licked its lips.
“Your comrades will turn into my dinner. I will let you go of course and bear the fact that your friends died because of you!”
Xiao Wu trembled and looked at the mysterious being opposite to her in fright: it was many times more powerful than her and, she was sure, this whole room was under its own control so she could not escape.
She inhaled deeply and exhaled slowly. She lifted his head as she regained her cool “Please Sir Catacomb, tell me your riddle!”
“Kishishishi! I have finally found someone that actually listens to me at the first try! Listen Fan Lan? You should learn from him… Or is it her?” Catacomb laughed and then pointed at the two guys wearing robes.
“It is simple. On that stage there are three figures. A puppet, your friend and then…” The Thing’s smile turned cruel “Who might it be? A puppet of a friend? Who knows, even I have forgotten!”
Catacomb lifted his and laughed loudly. It finally stopped laughing and turned towards Xiao Wu again “I will ask, in between those three, can we say for sure that one of your friends looking at a puppet?”
Xiao Wu was shocked for a bit.
No, I don’t have enough information.
Or at least, that’s what her intuition told her and she was about to say it out aloud when she realised.
Seeing her confident expression turning into pondering, Catacomb frowned and thought ‘It seems I was unlucky and picked the sharp person in this group…’ It sighed and watched as Xiao Wu finally got the answer.
“The answer is yes, I can say for sure that a friend of mine is looking at a puppet!” Xiao Wu shouted out loud. Hearing her words some of her friends immediately thought ‘What the hell are you saying! This is obviously impossible to know for real!’
“Well said!” The pleasant voice that Xiao Wu had heard plenty of times during this expedition reached her ears once again.
The figure wearing the robe on the stage removed his hood. Fu Yin propped himself up and winked “I knew you would get it right, Sis!”
“Your answer is indeed correct” Catacomb annoyingly waved its hand and one of the doors opened “that door will bring you to the final trial! You were lucky this time. I would like to say you won’t be so lucky next time, but you probably have no intentions on coming back here, right? A person has already passed this trial” the voice grew quieter “He’s waiting for you right now” as it hid its hands, no one could see the ugly grin on the thing’s face…
“Fu Yin, please tell us, why was Xiao Li’s answer correct? We were lucky this time because you were sitting there so you were looking at the puppet but we only had a fifty-fifty chance at getting this right, how could we possibly be sure?” Su Tan asked.
Fu Yin smiled “Xiao Li will gladly explain, right?”. Xiao Wu nodded “Brothers, think, what would have happened if Fu Yin was not the one sitting on the chair? Who would it have been?”
Su Tan and her group answered all at once “The puppet!”
Su Tan pondered for a while. “Oh? I see, it was indeed quite a tricky question…”
“Su Tan, don’t keep it from us, what is it that you understood?” Yan Rui asked aloud.
Xiao Wu smiled “If there had been a puppet, wouldn’t brother Fan Lai be looking at a puppet then?”
Hearing her words the group felt as if an electric current had passed through their body as they finally understood. Yan Rui then quietly spoke “It would have been the same result either way…”
Fu Yin smiled and then patted Xiao Wu’s head “This child wasn’t as easy to trick as Catacomb thought… I bet he is cursing his bad luck in choosing people, after all our Xiao Li is a genius!”
Everyone except for the quiet Baba and the silent Salomon laughed: this time they had indeed been quite lucky… Lucky that Xiao Wu had been there for them in times of need!
The group rested for a bit and then proceeded to the next hall, the final trial awaited them.
Catacomb was fiddling his thumbs as the door opened once more. It was elated until it felt the aura that person gave off: it wore a black robe hiding his features but the demon could still feel the sharp killing intent surrounding the man’s body.
“S-senior, if you are looking for that fellow Fu Yin, he is behind that door, taking the third trial. Senior really shouldn’t bother with a lowly being such as myself, please, make yourself comfortable!” that person was Fu Yin’s master.
The boy had left a note behind once again. This time however, it had been to the monster Catacomb. It said that if a if powerful person were to search for him, Catacomb would have to show him great respect and treat him well. It was Fu Yin’s way of showing his gratitude for the ‘easy’ trial.
The man in the hood nodded and lifted his head: he wore a mask that covered his whole face. Due to the hood and the mysterious darkness in the room, even Catacomb couldn’t discern what he or she looked like.
The person was tall, two meters tall, and long hair fell down to his waist, unfortunately, just like with the mask, it was impossible to say which color they were. The voice of a middle aged man rang out “Demon Catacomb, I thank you for your assistance. I will try not to bother you during my short stay here…”
Contrary to his words, the man actually sat on Catacomb’s throne and began pondering.
The monster Catacomb of course could do nothing but let him do what he wanted: it felt that it wouldn’t live much more if it didn’t…