Author: 梦溪石 / Meng Xi Shi
Translator: Kinky || https://kinkytranslations.com/
After getting down to business, everyone lost interest in idle chatter. Liu Qingbo got up to arrange sleeping bags, and everyone else was busy with their own things. Four teams of more than 20 people formed a row on the shore far from the sea, which looked like an adventure team outing.
Dong Zhi didn’t expect that the old-fashioned British brought only sleeping bags while the carefree Americans came with tents. Although they only had two, it was enough for their team of five to sleep in.
Watching the Americans set up their tents, the others didn’t say anything but were inevitably envious. Looking at the shabby sleeping bags in their hands, their enthusiasm immediately faded.
Although there were many people, everyone still maintained a certain degree of vigilance. There were people in each team who were responsible for the vigil. Those on night watch gathered together around the fire and chatted, making things livelier. The person in charge of the vigil for the southern European team was a Greek who wasn’t fluent in English. Most of the time, he just listened to what others said and remained silent.
Dong Zhi originally wanted to keep the vigil, but William quietly pulled on his clothes and took him into the tent.
“We suspect that the golden apple isn’t on this island.” William lowered his voice, making it clear he didn’t want the two parties outside to hear.
Dong Zhi learned from him and also lowered his voice, as if they were having an underground meeting. “Why do you think so? You got this news in advance?”
William smiled bitterly. “Why don’t you believe me? If we knew this in advance, do you think we would let our companion disappear here?”
Dong Zhi: “Okay, sorry. Please continue.”
William: “There are two main reasons for my suspicion. One is that this doesn’t match the riddle of the golden apple. The beauty shrouded in the clouds will eventually take off her mysterious veil. Don’t you think this riddle is like talking about a certain mountain hidden in the mist?”
Dong Zhi: “All the islands are shrouded in mist, including the maze here. I think the riddle itself is very unreliable. It seems that it could be applied to any of the islands, but it doesn’t seem to match.”
William: “But the maze is so ugly. It obviously has no resemblance to beauty like a woman’s. Even the name isn’t related. At least Diana Island and Princess Island have some relation.”
Dong Zhi: “…Maybe there’s a beautiful woman waiting for us in the maze?”
William shook his head like a tambourine and said, “No, no, no! That’s too scary! Don’t you think of anything when you see the maze?”
Dong Zhi was at a loss. “Think of what?”
William sighed. “Easterners! Forget it. Like I told you before, the people in charge of organizing the competition are obsessed with Western mythology, especially Greek and Norse mythology! I suspect that the maze here is an imitation of the Cretan maze in Greek mythology. Have you heard of the myth?”
Suddenly, Dong Zhi remembered something.
This was also a well-known Greek mythology, but it couldn’t be blamed that Dong Zhi didn’t think of it. After all, he was a native of the East. If William had said something before, he would have immediately realized it was the story of the Water God*.
*Clarity: Dong Zhi is referring to Poseidon (in Greek mythology), but he’s using the name Gongong, which is the name of the water god in Chinese mythology. Note that these two are not related, as they have their own mythic origins in their respective cultures. The term is used in a general sense in this context.
Legends had it that the wife of the king of Crete fornicated with the ox of Poseidon, the god of the sea, and gave birth to a son that was half-human, half-bull, which became the Minotaur*. The king built a labyrinth for him, imprisoned him in it, and regularly sent boys and girls to it.
*Half-man, half-bull that resides in the Labyrinth created by Daedalus and his son Icarus. This was Minos’, the king of Crete, punishment for keeping the snow-white bull he offered to Poseidon as a sacrifice. Poseidon then made his wife, Pasiphae, fall in love with a bull and mate with it, eventually giving birth to the monstrous Minotaur. It was eventually killed by the Athenian hero Theseus.
Dong Zhi: “So you mean, the monster in the maze is possibly the half-human, half-bull monster?”
William: “Not necessarily. Even if the organizing committee can find harpies, they might not be able to find this legendary ancient monster. Besides, it was killed long ago. Maybe it’s something else, but it must be dangerous. After all, our companion fell inside. What’s more, there are demons watching us. The possessed Japanese you mentioned won’t be the first, nor will he be the last.”
Dong Zhi suddenly showed a gloomy smile. “That’s right. I may also be possessed by a demon.”
William was taken aback and quickly reached out to touch his gun. When he saw Dong Zhi smirking, he knew the other party was deliberately scaring him and couldn’t help but collapse his shoulders. “Dong, don’t scare me. My bullets don’t have eyes!”
Dong Zhi smiled and said, “It’s just a joke to lighten the atmosphere. I didn’t expect you to draw your gun so quickly!”
It was not just simply quick. In almost the blink of an eye, the gun was already in William’s hand. Previously, Dong Zhi had always thought he was too carefree when speaking, but now he realized that the American’s strength was quite impressive.
William blinked at him. “Then do you want to consider helping me persuade Miss Li to date me?”
Dong Zhi: “No problem. I can convey it for you, but it’s up to her whether she agrees or not.”
“Oh my god, you’re the cutest person I have ever seen! When I first saw you, I knew you must be a lovely friend and rival!” William said affectionately, wanting to give him a hug, but Dong Zhi pushed him away mercilessly.
“Hurry up and get down to business!”
William said, “Well, I suspect that someone outside has been possessed by a demon.”
This time, it was Dong Zhi’s turn to be taken aback. He subconsciously thought that William was also joking with him, but when he raised his head, the other party’s expression was serious.
He also became serious. “Are you sure?”
William nodded. “At that time, we decided to go to Rose Island to see the situation. We happened to meet the British and Southern Europeans fighting the harpies. This stuff has been said already, but what I didn’t mention was that after that, we searched for the whereabouts of the golden apple and passed the night. That night, I fell asleep soundly, but suddenly I felt a chill in the back of my neck, followed by a pain in my back. If it weren’t for being alert quickly, I might have died.”
As he spoke, he took off his coat and pulled down his clothes. Dong Zhi saw five purple bleeding marks on his back, which resembled a person’s five fingers. The strength was so great that it seemed as if it wanted to penetrate flesh and rip out his heart.
“Who was next to you?”
William said, “The deputy captain of the British team, the man who was sitting next to Liu just now, but it shouldn’t be him, because he was asleep when I woke up. However, that doesn’t rule out that he was just pretending. I thought it was a monster that was lurking in the dark and hurriedly told the others to be vigilant. Then nothing happened. They laughed at me for making a fuss, but when I heard you talking about the Japanese being possessed, I felt that there may be something weird that night. In short, be careful. I only told Lilith about this. We are still observing whether the people on our team are reliable or not.”
Dong Zhi: “Thank you. I’ll pay attention.”
William smiled and said, “Is this just a verbal expression of gratitude?”
Dong Zhi: “Do I owe you a favor?”
William: “Yes, get Miss Li to date me.”
Dong Zhi was expressionless. “Fuck off.”
Leaving William’s tent, there was nothing amiss on Dong Zhi’s face, but when he passed by the campfire, the bell on his body suddenly rang.
The sound was so subtle that only he could hear it.
Dong Zhi’s footsteps paused.
There were five people sitting next to the campfire.
An American, two Britons, and a pair of men and women from the southern European team. Dong Zhi remembered that they seemed to be Italians.
Liu Qingbo and the others weren’t introverted, but they didn’t like to interact too much with practitioners from other countries. While the other three teams also came from different countries, they had similar backgrounds and values, making it easy for them to get along. At this point, Liu Qingbo and his team were almost done resting, while the others were still chatting enthusiastically. They were only missing some barbecue to turn it into a party.
There was a range limit on the bell. Li Han’er said that it would only ring if it was very close. For example, the distance between Dong Zhi and William in the tent just now, but William was normal and the bell didn’t naturally ring.
And now, Dong Zhi was also very close to these five people, which triggered the bell.
Was there a problem with the British man closest to him, or was there a problem with the Italians?
Although the American was sitting on the opposite side and was the farthest away, he was also suspected.
Dong Zhi was considering whether to walk around them to test it, but that would be a bit obvious.
Since he was standing still, he had attracted the attention of the five people.
“Hey, Dong. Why are you standing still? Do you want to come over and join us around the campfire?” One of the Italians greeted.
“He seems to have lost his soul since he came out of William’s tent. Isn’t it because he confessed to William and was rejected?” the British man joked.
Everyone else laughed.
Dong Zhi also laughed. “I just heard you talking about barbeque just now, so I got a little hungry.”
When he mentioned barbeque, everyone else couldn’t help but drool.
In fact, it wasn’t necessarily because they were hungry, but since they boarded the ship, they hadn’t eaten any delicious food, and after arriving on the islands, they had been eating dry rations for several days in a row. Now, even if they could only eat grilled sausages, they would still find it delicious.
Suddenly, everyone smelled something.
At first, they thought they were hallucinating due to gluttony, but when they turned their heads, they saw Dong Zhi take out a bunch of vacuum-packed sausages from his backpack at some point and hand them to his team members. As soon as Yang Shouyi got his sausage, he wanted to skewer it with his sword and roast it, but the sword had just been stained with zombie blood the day before. Li Han’er couldn’t bear to watch, so she took out a bamboo hairpin and asked him to roast it with the hairpin, then take the sausage off once it was cooked to roast the next one.
Everyone had become numb to the seemingly endless surprises coming from their captain’s backpack, but it was the first time the foreigners saw it, and they stared in amazement. The Americans had brought tents but didn’t bring sausages. William shamelessly came over to mooch some food, and Dong Zhi gave him one.
“You came just in time to get the last one.”
William looked at the small and exquisite sausage in his hand, opened the package, and quickly finished it in front of the envious eyes of others. Finally, he smacked his lips and said, “This is the most delicious sausage I have ever had. It even has the faint fragrance left by Miss Li’s bamboo hairpin in it!”
Yang Shouyi rolled his eyes. Why wasn’t he praised for his good roasting skills?!
The corner of Dong Zhi’s mouth twitched, and he patted William on the back. “Spit it out for me. That’s my sausage!”
William hurriedly said, “No, no, thank you for your gift. It’s because of your generosity that I can eat such delicious food!”
While the two were bickering, Dong Zhi took the opportunity to lower his voice and told him about the bell ringing just now.
William looked shocked. “Who do you think it is?”
Dong Zhi said, “I’m not sure. At that time, your companion was farthest from me, so I suspect the other four more. You can also observe and communicate at any time you have news.”
William made an OK gesture.
With this discovery, Dong Zhi had to stay behind to keep watch. He gathered Liu Qingbo and the others, privately told them about the situation, and asked everyone to be vigilant and observe secretly. However, nothing happened overnight, and the next morning, before dawn, everyone had packed up and was ready to enter the huge maze.
From a distance, the maze looked like a huge fortress standing on the yellow desert, blending in with the island. As they approached, they realized that the maze was even larger than they had imagined. Standing beneath the five- or six-meter-high walls, they felt a sense of insignificance. If it weren’t for them being practitioners, ordinary people who entered the maze would find it difficult to get out.
The four teams entered the maze together, but not one could foretell what would happen. There was no thread that the Princess of Crete used to help the hero escape the labyrinth*, so everyone coincidentally made marks on the ground or the walls to avoid getting lost.
*Clarity: In the myth, Princess Ariadne fell in love with Theseus and decided to help him. She gave him a thread and told him to unravel it as he penetrated deeper into the Labyrinth, so he would know his way out once he killed the monster. Because of this, he was able to escape the Labyrinth after slaying the Minotaur.
Inside the maze, besides the tall walls, there was nothing else. The walls were rough but sturdy. Zhang Song had to exert some effort to make marks on the wall with his sword to draw talisman symbols. The others also made their own distinct marks, with the British using a twig dipped in red ink to insert into the gaps between the bricks.
Sure enough, as the Americans said, not long after they had walked, everyone turned a corner, and three forks appeared in front of them, leading in three different directions.
There was a female astrologer among the southern Europeans. She took out tarot cards and divined that the middle passage was the most auspicious, so she decided to take the middle path. The British looked at Dong Zhi and Lilith, then followed the Southern Europeans.
Lilith asked Dong Zhi, “Which way do you want to go?”
Dong Zhi said, “Whichever way is fine.”
Li Han’er said, “Life is death, and death is life. The doors of life and death here are interconnected, and every path contains both vitality and hides death. No matter which path you take, the result will not change.”
She didn’t speak English, so Lilith didn’t understand. Dong Zhi had to translate for her. “What my companion means is that everything is relative, and safety is also accompanied by danger. You can choose.”
Lilith: “Then we’ll go right.”
William waved his hand at Dong Zhi. “Remember your cell phone and contact me anytime you need anything.”
Dong Zhi couldn’t laugh or cry and thought that even if they got in touch, given the distance between them by then, they wouldn’t be able to catch up.
Watching the Americans go, Zhang Song made a mark and asked Liu Qingbo and Dong Zhi, “Why did you keep staring at the female astrologer just now?”
Liu Qingbo said, “She was one of the five people around the campfire last night.”
Dong Zhi said, “Do you doubt her?”
Liu Qingbo: “I don’t know, but after what you said last night, I went to test it out. So far, I have had close contact with three people, and my bell hasn’t sounded. The only ones I haven’t had close contact with are the female astrologer and the British guy named Luke.”
Li Han’er suddenly said, “I think it’s the female astrologer.”
Liu Qingbo raised his brows. “Why?”
Li Han’er: “When the captain took out the sausage last night, everyone else’s attention was more or less attracted. Only the woman glanced away and didn’t seem interested.”
Zhang Song said, “Maybe she’s trying to lose weight, or that women tend to be more reserved.”
Li Han’er raised her eyebrows slightly. “Do you have to argue? I watched her several times, and she doesn’t seem interested in eating or even trying to resist. She is completely different from the others. Unless she’s vegetarian, most people who have been eating dry rations for days and suddenly smell the aroma of grilled sausages would at least take a look.”
Seeing that the two were about to argue again, Dong Zhi quickly interjected. “Well, anyway, we didn’t go with them, so let’s just be cautious.”
The maze that accounted for most of the island was indeed vast. After Dong Zhi’s team separated from the others, they followed the path for a few hours. During this time, they encountered countless forks. Until noon, the big sun was hanging above their heads, and they didn’t know how far they had walked. They could only tell from the marks they made that they had probably reached the center of the maze.
Everyone leaned against the wall to rest for a while, and Liu Qingbo couldn’t help complaining, “How long do we have to walk? It was better fighting zombies!”
As if to respond to his words, a loud bang sounded not far away.
“It’s the sound of gunfire!” Li Han’er reacted quickly.
In fact, they received firearms training, and each of them was given a gun before departure, but they were all loaded with regular bullets. For them, using a sword or talisman was faster than using a gun, so everyone’s guns were buried at the bottom of their backpacks. If it weren’t for the fact that they had to turn them in when they returned, they would’ve just thrown them away to save trouble.
Needless to say, it had to be people from the other three teams who used guns.
After one sound, about four more sounded in succession, vaguely mixed with shouts. Everyone’s hearts were gripped with anxiety, but they couldn’t see what was happening, and they couldn’t help feeling agitated.
They couldn’t help but prick up their ears to listen, but after that sound, the surroundings were quiet again, but there was a feeling of tranquility before the storm.
They looked at each other, and they got up at the same time, clenching their weapons.
Dong Zhi was about to say “continue walking” when there were rapid footsteps approaching and a familiar figure appeared in front of them.
Dong Zhi had never seen William show such an anxious expression. The other party always had a carefree smile on his goofy face, but now that face was full of panic, as if he had encountered the most difficult obstacle of his life.
“There are monsters. My companions have been attacked. Come and help me!” he said hurriedly.
They didn’t have time to think. Dong Zhi and the others quickly followed.
“Did you fire the gunshots just now?”
“Yeah!” William didn’t look back. “There was a huge monster with many tentacles that suddenly appeared and attacked everyone. Only I managed to escape!”
Dong Zhi: “Then how do you know that we were here?”
William: “I was running around and stumbled upon you!”
“Wait!” Dong Zhi said.
William stopped and turned his head impatiently. “Please, Dong. My companions are waiting for me to save them!”
Dong Zhi took out his cellphone. “Here’s your phone back. You left it with me just now!”
William reached out to take the phone, but suddenly the hand holding the phone turned into a sword, which startled him, and he quickly stepped back!
Liu Qingbo attacked him with a sword, causing William to dodge as he angrily said, “Are you crazy?!”
Dong Zhi said, “When you saw us just now, there was no surprise on your face. It seems that you expected it. Who are you?”
Zhang Song and Yang Shouyi blocked William’s retreat on either side and directly forced him to the corner of a wall.
But William suddenly smiled strangely, and his figure turned into a huge fuchsia pillar of flesh, which danced frantically and rushed towards everyone.
Liu Qingbo cursed. “What the fuck is this?!”
“It’s a squid’s tentacle!” Yang Shouyi shouted.
“Your head’s a tentacle!” Zhang Song angrily said.
The fleshy column was thick at the top and thin at the bottom. The tail was slightly curled, and there were dense suction cups attached to it, which seemed to have a special gravitational force that could suck swords onto it. They had to exert some strength to pull their swords back, and when the sword struck, they could feel a slight elasticity. Wasn’t this a huge tentacle?
The tentacle was familiar to them and could speak, which was unheard of, but at the moment, the group didn’t think much about it. They just wanted to keep the tentacle and study it carefully. Liu Qingbo jumped up and hugged the tentacle, climbing up to the top by sliding along it. Then, he found that the tentacle had crossed over the maze’s walls, and there was an even larger tentacle attached to the other end of the wall, stretching from one end of the wall to the other.
Liu Qingbo gasped.
Could this be some kind of octopus monster?
Without hesitation, Liu Qingbo transformed his Fumo Sword into sword light and slashed towards the tentacle at the top of the wall. For demons and monsters, the Fumo Sword was their natural enemy. Under the sword light, the tentacle as thick as an adult man’s body was cut in two, and the other end seemed to have felt the pain, quickly retracting and soon disappearing.
The large part that was cut off by him fell to the ground. Zhang Song was a little slower flashing away, and the tentacle hit his feet, causing him to scream in pain as he scolded Liu Qingbo, “Won’t you pay attention!”
Liu Qingbo’s answer was to directly roll his eyes.
When they looked at the tentacle again, it turned out that when it was coiled up during the attack, they didn’t realize its actual size, but now that it was stretched out, it was at least three meters long, with a thinner tail and a thickness comparable to an adult man’s thigh.
Liu Qingbo jumped down. “This should be just part of its body. I seem to have seen it run away just now!”
Li Han’er picked up the tail of the tentacle and smelled it. “It smells like the sea.”
Zhang Song: “That’s an octopus monster. How could this thing run from the sea to the maze? And looking at the size of this tentacle, how big is the body?!”
Proportionally, even if this octopus monster was about the same size as the maze, it wouldn’t be that surprising. The problem was, where was it hiding?
Yang Shouyi recalled how it had transformed into William’s appearance just now and that it could speak human language, so he asked in disbelief, “Can this octopus monster take on a human form?”
Liu Si said, “Ordinary octopuses have the ability to pretend to be other creatures in the ocean. If this one is so huge, it’s not surprising that it can turn into a human form and speak human words. But in the end, this was simply an illusion. As soon as Lao Liu’s sword slashed just now, the illusion was broken.”
Li Han’er said solemnly, “Then we must be careful. If it turns into our appearance and replaces one of us without anyone noticing, it can be quite dangerous.”
Zhang Song disagreed. “We didn’t separate. Even if it wants to plot, it’s not hard to discover. At most, it can only become us to deceive the other teams. Just like now, we saw through it at once… What are you doing?”
He looked at Dong Zhi, who was squatting on the ground and pulling out a knife to cut the tentacles into pieces.
“Cutting up our supper!” Dong Zhi replied without raising his head.
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