There was something entrancing about the sound of the chant that left Bai Xiaochun, Zhou Yixing, and Chen Jue all completely shaken. Even more spine-tingling was the fact that it wasn’t a single voice chanting the nursery rhyme, but a whole group of them!
They sounded like children, laughing and giggling as they sang. As the sound of their voices moved along, invisible sound waves filled the air, causing the walls to begin to ripple.
Then, faces appeared on the walls, one after another. There were men and women, old and young, and without exception, they appeared to be terrified. Then, they started to scream....
“The red hats are coming!”
“Run! The red hats are on their way....” The faces seemed to want to flee or hide, but couldn't. Even more bizarre, faces began to rise up out of the ground.
Most shocking of all was that the walls began to move dramatically, causing the path behind Bai Xiaochun, Zhou Yixing, and Chen Jue to be sealed up tight, placing them in a dead end!
All three of the cultivators were physically trembling, and the hair on the backs of their necks began to stand on end.
All of them were struck by a feeling that came, not from their cultivation bases, but from their souls. It was the cold, prickly dread that one would face when being tracked down by a predator.
It didn’t matter that Bai Xiaochun cultivated the Frigid School Will-Evolving Incantation, the coldness he felt right now left him shivering.
“What’s going on!?”
This dread left the entire group completely disinterested in fighting each other. All of a sudden, an agonized shriek rang out, and a hand shot out from the corner of the intersection just up ahead. The hand was dripping with blood, and as soon as it appeared, it tried to grab on to the wall, in clear view of Bai Xiaochun and the others.
However, there was clearly something around the corner tugging on the owner of the hand. The hand flexed, and the fingers clawed against the wall to grab at something, and yet, it was soon dragged back around the corner.
Then, horrifying crunching sounds could be heard, during which time the singing of the nursery rhyme ceased.
Trembling violently, the terrified Chen Jue inched over toward Bai Xiaochun, hoping that the proximity would bring him some measure of safety.
Bai Xiaochun’s face was ashen, and he was also shaking as he stared wide-eyed at the corner behind which the hand had just disappeared. What he wanted to do was flee in the opposite direction, but unfortunately, the three of them were now right in the middle of a dead end!
Zhou Yixing seemed just as shocked. Through the several days in which he had been in the labyrinth, he had picked up a sizeable group of followers, with whom he had survived several ambushes and cut down quite a few opponents. However, he had never encountered anything as bizarre as this.
The terror he felt now caused his pupils to constrict as he stared at the corner where the hand had just disappeared.
About then, the chewing sounds ceased, and the nursery rhyme resumed.
“Red hats, green hats, we’re a bunch of little hats....
“Red heads, green heads, our favorites are the white heads....” The joyful tone of the singing caused the scalps of all three cultivators to tingle on the verge of exploding.
It was at that point that a bright red hat suddenly flew out from around the corner.
The hat’s brim dripped with blood as it swayed back and forth a bit, then suddenly stopped in place, as if it had just noticed Bai Xiaochun and the others.
“White heads....” the hat said in the voice of a child. Then it began to fly forward, causing the group of three to back up. However, that was when it became clear the hat wasn’t heading toward them, but rather, to the dozen or so soul cultivators who had been locked down within layers of ice!
In the blink of an eye, the red hat landed on the head of one of the cultivators, causing the ice to instantly shatter and reveal the cultivator beneath.
The cultivator wasn’t dead; the flame of his life force was still burning. Instantly, his eyes opened, and his expression twisted with fear as he let out a miserable shriek. However, what was even more hair-raisingly shocking was what happened next.
As the hat settled down onto the head of the soul cultivator, the man’s body began to shake, and crunching sounds like chewing began to fill the air.
“Get off! Get off me!!” The cultivator screamed madly. He even reached up and grabbed the hat to try to take it off his head, but it did no good. After a few breaths of time passed, his struggling ceased, and he eventually just stood there motionless. Finally, the hat flew up into the air, dripping blood the entire time.
At that point, Bai Xiaochun and the others could see that the cultivator’s head was now completely white!! That was because his skull was now visible!!
His skull wasn’t intact though; there was a large chunk missing, allowing everyone to see that the inside of his head was now completely hollow.
“Red heads, green heads, our favorites are the white heads....” the red hat sang, chuckling as it flew around in a circle and then landed on top of another of the ice-sealed soul cultivators. At the same time, more laughing, giggling hats flew around the corner, some of them red, some of them green.
“Red hats, green hats, we’re a bunch of little hats....” There were dozens of them, all dripping with blood as they flew along singing. Within moments, the hats were fighting amongst themselves to land on the heads of the sealed cultivators.
However, there were only a dozen or so cultivators, and many more hats than that. Before long, there were no more cultivators available, and the hats began to turn their attention to Bai Xiaochun, Zhou Yixing, and Chen Jue.
In that very instant, the faces on the walls and floor began to scream.
“We’re finished. Finished! They’re here!”
The remaining hats began to laugh happily as they shot toward the group of three. Bai Xiaochun was already wound tight. Howling, he waved his hand to send over a thousand paper talismans slapping down onto his body. At the same time, he tossed a whole stack over to Chen Jue.
“Run for your life!” he shouted. Then he burst into motion, simultaneously donning numerous layers of armor, causing slapping sounds to echo out. Glittering light from more than ten layers of armor filled the tunnel, along with the glitter of paper talismans. In the blink of an eye, he was off in the distance, blazing along at full speed with seven or eight hats chasing after him.
Chen Jue gritted his teeth and slapped the paper talismans onto himself, simultaneously unleashing the power of his cultivation base as he prepared to go all out. Utilizing every magical technique he could think of, he began to flee, five or six hats pursuing him doggedly.
Zhou Yixing stood there in mute astonishment. He almost wanted to cry at the unfairness of it all. Only seven or eight hats had chased Bai Xiaochun, and only five or six went after Chen Jue, leaving him there with nearly a dozen hats to deal with.
“How could this be happening?!?!” he moaned, his face turning ashen. Then, just as the dozen or so hats began to fly in his direction, he gritted his teeth and sent starlight shining out of the star sigil to fill the area.
The hats suddenly flew out from the other side of the starlight, as if they hadn’t been able to find Zhou Yixing at all. Then, the starlight began to fade, and Zhou Yixing was nowhere to be seen.
The hats searched the area thoroughly, but when they couldn’t find anything, began to fly off again, singing the entire time....
Meanwhile, in another location in the labyrinth, more starlight appeared, from within which Zhou Yixing staggered out, coughing up a massive amount of blood as he did. His face was as pale as a sheet of paper, and the star sigil on his forehead was much dimmer than before.
“Dammit, I can’t believe I had to use the power of my clan’s star sigil!!” Thinking back to the bizarre hats, he couldn’t help but shiver. After looking around to confirm that none of them were in the area, he finally breathed a sigh of relief.
“He stole my nine-colored flame, and then tried to rob me of my precious bow. He has frigid qi and a powerful fleshly body. Why does he seem so much like Bai Xiaochun!?!?” After reviewing everything he remembered about Bai Xiaochun, he was more convinced than ever that he had just encountered him, and yet, couldn’t be sure.
“If that really was Bai Xiaochun, it means he has some sort of item that lets him change his aura! But... dammit! Teleporting out of that situation has me completely turned around. I'm going to have to start searching for clues to find the right path again!” Sighing, he began to move through the tunnels of the labyrinth once more.