Ren Heming didn’t speak. He blocked the doorway, as if to guard against something. His gaze swept across the man-made huge stone chamber, a touch of despair sinking into his eyes.
A low resonance sounded in Dong Zheng’s ear and was clearly captured by his kernel.
The muscles in Dong Zheng’s forehead jumped and he tried to bypass Ren Heming and rush out through the stone door. But the door abruptly slammed shut in front of him, evoking a cloud of dust.
Ren Heming was knocked aside by Dong Zheng. Seeing that Dong Zheng was looking for a way to open the door or to find other exits, he sighed and told Dong Zheng, who was touching every inch of the stone door, “Don’t waste your time. Once the door is closed, you can’t get out of here. I’ve tried numerous times before.”
Dong Zheng slowly turned around and looked at Ren Heming. “Give me an explanation.”
“I’m Ren Heming.” The man in the Jinyiwei uniform with a scar across his face walked toward the center of the stone chamber and sat down on the stone bench next to the column. This man who’d been moving efficiently before now seemed like an uncle who played mahjong downstairs every day. “I’m just another hapless guy who’d just spend countless days with another hapless guy.”
“…What does that mean?”
“Didn’t you already guess it?” Ren Heming twisted his waist and threw the xiuchun sword onto the stone table. “I’m a pilgrim like you, or rather, a brain developer who was selected by the library, just like you. Before entering the Pure White Realm, I worked as a cryptographer for the country.”
Dong Zheng said, “You’re saying that this is also a test the library gave you?”
Ren Heming corrected, “It’s a test for many people. Before you came in, I was Lao Qi, and the shixiong was someone else. After you came in, I became the new shixiong, and the previous one automatically left here.”
Dong Zheng asked, “You couldn’t find a way to pass the test?”
Ren Heming let out a low chuckle. “If I could, I wouldn’t be stuck here talking nonsense with you. According to the shixiong before me, he was ‘Lao Qi’ when he first entered. There was another person who was the shixiong. This kind of unimaginable inheritance may have been carried out for many generations.”
“I and everyone else before me had tried our best to find a way out, but this is just like a box with no exit. It’s an unsolvable test.”
“Impossible,” Dong Zheng immediately rejected. “Since this is a selection, the library can’t set it up like this. There must be a clue that I missed, or I made a wrong choice at a certain node.”
“A wrong choice.” Ren Heming gave a short laugh. He looked at Dong Zheng with a solemn face and it was just like looking at himself when he first entered here.
At that time, he was also very resolute and was certain that he’d made a wrong choice.
“Oh, since you think so, I can provide you with some help.” Ren Heming stood up. He pointed to the altar at the end of the stone chamber and said, “You still have the statue with you. Put it in the gap and you can change decisions you’d made before.”
Dong Zheng looked in the direction he was pointing. The entire stone chamber was underground. It was hundreds of square meters wide, and the ceiling was made out of blue stone slab five to six meters high, supported by a few stone columns. It felt just like a palace.
As his gaze reached the altar, he took out the stone statue. When he saw this thing, he didn’t know how it might be used, but he thought that it might be a key prop and so he’d kept it with him.
The statue had indistinct features and hands pressed together, as if in silent prayers.
Dong Zheng walked towards the altar, and Ren Heming also stood up and followed him. When Dong Zheng stood in front of the protruding square platform, Ren Heming sighed and said, “I’ll come with you for a while. You have to experience it first before you believe it.”
Dong Zheng still didn’t understand the meaning behind his words. He raised his hand and stroked the long slit on the platform. Finally, he swept his gaze around the stone chamber and pressed the statue into the gap.
The stone statue fit perfectly into the square-shaped gap.
White light flew out, shining brightly in Dong Zheng’s eyes. He raised his hand to block the dazzling light, only to feel a mysterious energy hidden in the light, wrapping around him and Ren Heming.
Strange and incomprehensible syllables filled his ears.
When the sound gradually quieted, the light also disappeared. Dong Zheng struggled to open his eyes, but before he could open them completely, he felt cool water being poured on his face.
The man with the scar across his left eye smiled and moved the water flask away from his face, saying, “Awake?”
The forty-year-old-looking man was wearing a Jinyiwei uniform with a long red cloth on his head and a xiuchun sword at his waist.
It was Ren Heming.
Two horses were tied up by the river to graze and drink water. Dong Zheng stood up. Ren Heming didn’t talk nonsense and directly handed him a stack of talisman paper. He also got up and said, “Get ready, let’s go.”
Did everything start all over again? Dong Zheng remembered that this was the exact scene he’d experienced when he first entered.
He went back in time? No, this time, Ren Heming didn’t introduce himself so he should be the same Ren Heming who had been traveling with him.
The stone statue gave him the opportunity to change his decisions.
Dong Zheng was determined to fight hard. Last time, he ended up trapped in the stone chamber because he didn’t make a right choice. This time, he had to be more cautious.
He let out a sound of agreement, mounted his horse, and followed behind Ren Heming. As before, they walked through the forest for about an hour before the scene in front of them opened up slightly, revealing a stone entrance.
The steps slanted down into the tunnel, and the sunlight in the forest could only illuminate a section on the road. The tunnel was so dark that they couldn’t see into it at all. An inexplicable chill rose up Dong Zheng’s spine.
Dong Zheng decided:
Xixi: If you want to explore the other choices, feel free. If not, press the Next button to move on. Crimson had guessed correctly: All choices inevitably lead to one end. Phew! Finally, things are going back to normal. If I have to re-describe another stone statue, I honestly don’t know what I’ll do. In this way, I really pity Ren Heming.