It was awkward because Gu Qishao and the married pair had experienced the same illusion. It seemed to be a test of “love,” where one chose between one’s lover or an ignoble existence. Long Feiye and Han Yunxi could heartlessly watch their beloved burn in the flames without being affected. By contrast, it was the joking, disreputable Gu Qishao that ended up casting everything aside to throw himself in the flames.
Could Long Feiye and Han Yunxi’s love stand up to the test? Did they love the other more, or themselves best?
Suddenly, Gu Qishao spoke up. “Poison lass, even if it happens again, Qi gege will still save you!”
Anyone could tell that he was mocking Long Feiye. Before Han Yunxi could speak, Long Feiye only snorted. “Idiot! You can’t even tell a fake from the real one. What right do you have to save anyone?”
“You’re still quibbling!” Gu Qishao grew angry.
“You’re just stupid!” Long Feiye said coldly. When he’d seen Gu Qishao cry just then, he had an urge to go over and slap him to his senses. Before the two of them could break out into a squabble, Gu Beiyue stepped in.
Although Gu Qishao had saved his life, Gu Beiyue was still impartial. He said, “Qishao, you didn’t pass the test, so you were wrong.”
“What’s wrong with saving people?!” Gu Qishao fumed. “Gu Beiyue, could you stay calm if Poison lass was burning to death before your eyes? Would you care if it was fake or real then? Would you turn your back on her while knowing that she’d die?!”
“Qishao, you didn’t pull yourself out of the illusion, but they did. Isn’t that right?” Gu Beiyue asked back.
There was the truth. Gu Qishao had no idea how long he’d stay in the illusion before Long Feiye snapped him out of it. Perhaps he might have stayed there for the rest of his life. He was rendered speechless and messily wiped away the tears and bloodstains by his lips before spitting out, “Damned test! What’re they playing at?”
“You never noticed that ‘Poison lass’ was a fake despite talking with her for so long?” Long Feiye asked, his words full of meaning. Gu Qishao had his chances to see the truth, but he didn’t manage to grasp it.
At the critical juncture, risking everything to save someone you loved was only instinct. But this was a test of familiarity and how well you knew someone else. Could you distinguish them from a fake illusion? Love might be blind, but this illusion relied on reason. What an interesting test.
If you didn’t understand the other well enough, how could you speak of love?
Han Yunxi was silently considering the issue herself. Naturally, Gu Qishao was clever enough to catch the hint as soon as Long Feiye mocked him. He looked at Han Yunxi and saw her looking back, so immediately averted his gaze.
Do I even have a chance to get to know her? He complained bitterly in his heart.
It wasn’t clear whether he wanted to avoid an argument with Long Feiye or stop causing trouble for Poison lass, but he didn’t voice his thoughts. As the awkward atmosphere eased, Xu Donglin hastily changed the subject. “Strange, why were you three the only ones to get trapped in the illusion?”
Han Yunxi and the rest had all met the subject of their affections in the illusion. Did that mean Gu Beiyue and the rest had no such person in their hearts?
“It really is strange!” Han Yunxi commented as she studied the group. “Just what kind of cursed place is this?”
As everyone tacitly agreed to move on from the illusion question, Long Feiye stated coldly, “We still haven’t found anything related to the Poison Sect yet, so let’s keep looking.”
Before, the south, east, and northern doors were all found to lead to dead ends, leaving only Gu Qishao’s western gates as the final option. Here too, Han Yunxi’s group found another door and opened it, only to be greeted with an unbelievable sight.
Before them was an ocean!
In a flash, their surroundings shifted. The stone walls, rooms, and palace all changed to mirror surfaces that reflected their figures. They seemed to be lost in a maze of them, making it hard to tell their real selves from reflections, much less the true pathway before them. Long Feiye was very surprised, but he didn’t panic or grow afraid. He tightened his grip on Han Yunxi’s hand and reached out for Gu Beiyue’s hand as well. Gu Beiyue grasped it, unsurprised. He then reached for Gu Qishao, who didn’t mind holding hands with him. The most he did was arch his brow at Long Feiye before taking the doctor’s icy fingers. Seeing this, Xu Donglin took Gu Qishao’s hand as well. He didn’t care, so he didn’t say anything.
Although none of them had experienced a mirror maze for themselves, they’d heard stories. It was easier to get lost here; moreover, it was possible the illusions they experienced before would show up again. Thus, you could lose yourself. That was why the best solution was to travel as a pack before they got lost. This way, they’d stay together even if they were confounded. At least that way, someone would be clearheaded amongst the group.
Han Yunxi was the luckiest one, because she had Long Feiye holding her hand and Gu Beiyue and Gu Qishao following. Only Baili Mingxiang was left standing alone in a corner. If not for Gu Beiyue’s words, Xu Donglin wouldn’t have dared to bring her in. Gu Beiyue’s intention was to protect her in case of Bai Yanqing’s sudden appearance while they were gone. Soon enough, Xu Donglin realized that Baili Mingxiang had been left out. He drew his sleeve over his hand and prepared to take hers when Han Yunxi said, “Mingxiang, come here.”
Baili Mingxiang’s eyes grew teary as she looked over.
“Thank you, princess!” she was a little timid, but carefully extended her hand.
Han Yunxi grabbed it firmly and said, “Hold on tight, don’t get lost.”
“Your Highness, could we still be in an illusion?” Gu Beiyue asked doubtfully.
They weren’t in a rush to find the exit before they figured out what was going on.
“It should be one,” Long Feiye was certain. Otherwise, why would there be so many strange and shifting landscapes? Could they have been poisoned to experience hallucinations? The thought flashed thought Han Yunxi’s mind, but she couldn’t ascertain it.
If this was a drug-induced hallucination, then none of these people might be real. Even she herself could merely be a figment of her own imagination, like a dream.
If this was really an illusion, then when did it start? When they approached the stele? Or after its door opened? Where were their real bodies now? How were they supposed to wake up?
“An illusion within an illusion? How many illusions are there?” Gu Qishao wondered. If they were still in one now, then wouldn’t the flaming god statue count as an illusion within an illusion?
“Then won’t we have to break through all of them?” Xu Donglin cried in alarm. It was already hard enough to get past one, so how many more were left? Heaven knows. Would they only get harder from here on?
Furthermore, where did they go once they were done? Back to the real world, or forward to another mysterious place? They had yet to see anything related to the Poison Sect here, so was this all in vain? Would they be trapped inside, unable to escape? Everyone felt a bit lost. What was going on here? That was a fatal blow. Without knowing their enemy, how were they supposed to win?
Only one path stretched before them. Long Feiye was the calmest member of the bunch as he intoned, “Let’s look at what’s ahead first.”
Holding hands, the group walked in a line. Since Baili Mingxiang held Han Yunxi’s hand, she was the front and ended up leading the pack. She was very careful in case there were any accidents, her gaze filled with doubts. After walking for a while, they soon came to a stop because three pathways had opened up before them. Each led in a different direction.
Naturally, one would face multiple routes in a maze.
“Let’s take a vote!” Gu Beiyue suggested. “Everyone can suggest a reason for each path, and the one with most votes wins!”
“There’s no reason to pick one over the other besides intuition,” Han Yunxi said helplessly.
They were surrounded by mirrors above, below, and to the sides. Each of the pathways led to some unseen location, and it was easy to miss the entrances in the mess of reflections. How were they supposed to pick between three exactly identical paths? It was impossible to rely on some sixth sense in a foreign environment when it was already hard enough to tell the real pathways from the reflected fakes.
“Let’s all try together. We’ll leave markers in the pathways we chose before,” Gu Beiyue suggested.
“How do we leave markers?” Xu Donglin couldn’t help asking. There was nothing here except for the smooth mirror surfaces.
Something occurred to Long Feiye then. He looked back at the crowd and declared, “No need for walking. We’ll just break these mirrors!”
Of course, they couldn’t break the ones around themselves, or else they’d get hurt. But as Long Feiye tapped on the ones below his feet, his meaning became clear. Everyone understood at a glance and tightened their hold on each other. When Long Feiye said “Go,” all of them stomped harshly on the mirrors beneath their feet. At the same time, they jumped into the air and braced themselves on the mirrors against the walls.
Soon enough, cracks appeared on the mirrors they’d crushed, which quickly shattered like ice and fell away. Very soon, they saw water beneath them instead.
Heavens, there was nothing but water down there! And it looked very, very deep. When they recalled the scene beyond the stone door, all of them grew alarmed. Could it be that the mirror maze stretched over the sea?
At the same time, the water below their feet suddenly surged towards them! The entire floor of the mirror maze was breaking apart while the waves swelled up. There was a ceiling to the maze as well, so if this kept on, they’d be swallowed by the liquid. Their only choice now was to find a way out of the maze before the water filled it up.
“Hurry and find the exit!” Han Yunxi cried.
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I welcome you to....PGC: Inception Edition!
No, seriously author, what the heck's going on?