Chapter 18 Brain Teaser

I had experienced this kind of déjà vu before, and it always gave me goosebumps. I thought it was an illusion, but it was different this time because I saw Poker-face’s face had also changed, and he wore the same puzzled expression. I didn’t know whether he felt the same way or not.

Where was it? Where had I seen this scene before? Or did I merely see something similar to this?

I tried hard to recall, thinking it over and over in my mind, but I just couldn’t remember. I only felt that this scene was one which I had just witnessed. Moreover, there was a feeling of “something is wrong” that went along with this familiar feeling. Obviously, the impression in my memory was slightly different from the one here.

Fatty was completely carefree as he took off his clothes and jumped into the water to swim. Agui asked him to be careful, saying that the lakes in the mountains were unlucky, and it wasn’t good to swim about too much. Fatty had never heard such a thing before and splashed water on Agui to shut him up.

Back on the shore, we took off our wet shoes and pants, and then Fatty helped Agui build a canopy. Agui cut some firewood while Yun Cai helped cook rice for that night’s meal. I was drinking water when I suddenly remembered where I had seen this mountain view before.

The shape and feeling of this mountain were actually very similar to the mountain scenery we saw when we were swimming in the village stream. The line and trend of the mountain were exactly the same, it was just that we were in a stream at that time, and now we were in a lake. That was why the reflection in the water— along with the mountain’s appearance—surprised me. It was simply that the mountain here was thickly wooded, while all the trees beside the village had been cut down, creating a small difference.

Before I had closed my eyes to rest back then, I had carefully observed the scenery around the stream, and although Poker-Face was absent-minded, he certainly took everything in with his eyes. Fatty’s attention was on the little girls, so he obviously hadn’t noticed.

It was really interesting how nature could be so uncanny. I didn’t know if it was pure coincidence, or because of geological reasons, but it seemed that feng shui terrain like this really existed. This kind of terrain was called “fish scale ridge”, because all of the mountains were like fish scales, the similar-looking peaks overlapping layer after layer. This kind of feng shui wasn’t suitable for burials, because it was said that under the fish scales was a place to hide dirt. Geographically speaking, a fish scale ridge was especially prone to soil erosion and was plagued by stagnant water. The ancient grave we saw at the mountain pass was one such example. But if there was a lake in the “fish scale ridge,” then it was completely different and was instead called “fish comes from the water”. This was because the water that came out of the fish scales wouldn’t become stagnant. If this happened, then it wasn’t a fish, but a little dragon. If there were any young people who had died early, then they were probably buried here.

In this case, there was a high possibility that an ancient tomb was here. Unfortunately, I didn’t know the burial details of this mountain, and in my opinion, the surrounding mountains weren’t very suitable for it.

Yun Cai and her father built a shack and began to collect firewood on one side. Fatty, Poker-Face, and I started searching around the lake and observing the surrounding environment.

The lake was only the size of two football fields, and we finished it in one go. I walked along the bank and looked at the water, finding that the bottom was full of stones, and there appeared to be a large drop-off in the middle of the lake. I could see the bottom in the shallower places, but the rest of the lake was hidden in darkness and seemed to be extremely deep. Just as Pan Ma had said, the lakeshore was full of large and small stones that varied greatly in size. What concerned me, however, was that the lakeshore was very clean and free of any debris. Perhaps it had all been washed into the lake by days of heavy rain.

I had always had an inexplicable fear of deep lakes. As the saying goes, shallow water does not hide dragons, but deep water must be strange. Deep water meant that the lake’s holding area wasn’t as small as we could see from the lake surface, and there may be some strange things in it. There were many big lakes with water monsters in the world. The lake surface wasn’t big, but it was extremely deep, so even if there was nothing strange down there, there could still be some big fish. When the bottoms of some large reservoirs are cleared, they always tend to find some fish that have grown extremely large.

I didn’t see any obvious traces of bones after circling, but most of the stones on the lake beach were very fine. The water level here had been changing continuously for more than forty years, and the rocks had been rolling down. The bones may have been pressed underneath them.

At this time, we evaluated the situation. According to general practice, the archaeological team must have been stationed at the south end of the lake, just as we were. On the other side of the lake was a mountain, meaning there would be danger of falling rocks and mudslides. That told us that we should search the area south of the lake.

This was a big project. We brought a few dogs with us, but I didn’t know if we could use them. The bodies had been soaked in water for so many years that the bones must have ossified, which made them no different from stone.

After lunch, Agui went on an excursion to see if there was anything to hunt. We began to search the area as Yun Cai washed our sweaty clothes. The area around the lake was very large, so Fatty, Poker-Face, and I each picked an area and started our operation.

What we had to do was move the stones one by one with our bare hands. The stones here must have been the closest to the shore, but the water level here was gradually falling, and the accumulated stones functioned to prevent the rain from scouring the area (rain water will sink into the lower layer of the stone beach and converge into groundwater instead of forming water flow on the stone beach. Part of Dujiangyan (1) was based on this principle). The slope at the bottom of the lake was very steep, and it was impossible for Pan Ma and the others to go too deep into the lake, so the place where the bodies were dumped must be very close to the shore. Not to mention the fact that the water level had dropped a lot, so the bones wouldn’t be in the lake, but on the shore.

Fatty said that if nothing had been tied to the bodies after they were dumped, they would first become floating corpses, and then be swallowed by fish and shrimps. In this way, the bones must have been scattered. The heads could be here, and the tailbones may be a hundred meters away, so they were definitely impossible to find. And if the bodies hadn’t been thrown into a deep place, then they may have also been dragged ashore by animals for food.

I said: “No matter what you say, it’s unlikely that there isn’t a single trace left. Chairman Mao said that the world is afraid of being serious. Let’s look first, and then analyze the situation.”

The three of us kept turning rocks over until the sun set, but there was still no result. Several hounds were playing by the lake, ignoring us completely and not wanting to help. The sun by the lake was very lethal, and after a full day, my skull was burning with pain. Agui’s gun went off twice in the woods, and he brought back a pheasant. Soon, the smell of roasted chicken made us unbearably hungry.

Fatty couldn’t help feeling a little depressed, and as we leaned against each other to smoke during the break, he said: “This is killing me. We’d be better off looking for a tomb instead. The dead archeological team may not even be here.” I knew that he was still thinking about looking for the tomb, so I comforted him by saying that we were staying for several days anyway. We had time, so if we really couldn’t find the dead team, then I would find the tomb for him.

It was rare for me to not be so impatient. I drank some rice wine, and we rested by the campfire near the lake. Since it was also by the mountain, the air was extremely cool. Yun Cai had changed clothes and washed her hair, her light T-shirt giving off the feeling of a city girl. After dinner, she also showed us a few dances. Yao dances had many movements that involved turning in circles and kicking the lower legs, which meant that Yao girls’ lower legs were especially good-looking. I thought Fatty’s jaw was going to fall off. He said he had to learn it, but he danced like a man possessed by spirits, and I ended up laughing my head off.

I hadn’t laughed so freely in so long that in the end, all I could do was smile. That was when I suddenly saw Poker-Face leaning against a stone, looking as tense as ever. I hadn’t even noticed him at first.

I told myself that it wasn’t a mistake to come here to look for his past, and judging from the clues collected so far, we were obviously on the right track. It was easy for us to come all this way, but for him, everything he encountered was like knocking on the door to his past, so it must have been really difficult for him to relax.

This man also had a typical self-exile personality. His heart was outside of the peach garden as he smiled at the spring breeze, but no one could enter his heart.

Thinking about it, I threw a small stone at him and said, “Don’t think about it. Let me tell you, I have experience. It’s useless to think about it. What we’re doing now is a puzzle. Before all the pieces are found, don’t worry about it.” I then handed him the rice wine.

Poker-Face took it silently, but put it aside. I was a little drunk and sighed, “Can’t you have a drink?”

He shook his head and looked out into the darkness.

I had to turn my attention back to Fatty, who was using a brain teaser to keep us entertained. He asked Yun Cai what kind of battle would kill a hundred enemies at the cost of three thousand of his own.

I was afraid he would tell her dirty joke as hints, and since she was very pure, this kind of thing felt like tainting the innocent, so I shouted at him as a warning. Fatty told me not to worry, this brain teaser was absolutely serious.

Agui, who kept giggling because he had also drank too much, kept guessing wrong. Finally, the answer was announced. It turned out to be a mahjong battle between “fart hu” and “thirteen orphans”. You win a hundred yuan, but lose three thousand. (2)

Yao people didn’t play mahjong, so Yun Cai didn’t understand. I scolded him, “Aren’t you bullying people? Do you have any local brain teasers?”

Fatty said yes, and asked us, “Guess again, what kind of battle kills one enemy and injures three thousand?”

“Hornets!” Yun Cai immediately raised her hand.

Fatty said angrily, “Silly girl, are you intentionally messing with me?”

We laughed, and I said it must have been a battle between cavalry and tanks. Fatty said that if that were the case, then ten thousand men in the cavalry would be injured, and still wouldn’t manage to kill the tank.

We went on to guess, some saying poker, some ants, some abalone. Fatty gloatingly said that we were all wrong, as if he were insulting our IQs.

I said angrily: “What the fuck are you talking about? If it’s too far-fetched, I’ll beat you.”

Fatty said: “This one’s too easy. Ah, I really am gifted. How can I be so different from you ordinary people? I’ll tell you, so listen carefully. Killing one enemy and injuring three thousand is a battle between bananas and elephants.”

When I heard this, I was furious and scolded: “What bullshit are you spouting? Bananas and elephants fighting? What is that? How can bananas and elephants fight to kill an enemy, and cost you three thousand?”

Fatty said, “The elephant ate too many bananas and died.”

We laughed so hard that Yun Cai couldn’t breathe, but after a few laughs, we slowly calmed down. I saw Poker-Face stand up silently, walk towards the lake, and then sit at a distance where the bonfire could barely reach.

There was a trace of fear in Yun Cai’s eyes as she looked at us: “Does he think we’re too noisy?”

Fatty sighed, took a puff of tobacco, and comforted her, “It’s okay, leave him alone. He’s going to take a shit.”

I looked at Poker-Face and was about to get up, but Yun Cai walked towards him first.

<Chapter 17 Déjà Vu> <Table of Contents> <Chapter 19 Siphon Effect>


TN Notes:

(1) Oldest and only surviving no-dam irrigation system in the world

(2) This was a clusterfuck, so ya’ll can thank Tiffany for her hard work on fixing this mess lol. I’m just going to copy her comment: When you play mahjong, there’s usually money involved. If you get a set of tiles that can be seen as “fart hu”, you get a small win. If you get “thirteen orphans, you win big. So if you’re the person who gets a small win, then your opponent wins big. You may get a little money at first, but you have to pay your opponent more money next.


Updated 7/26/2020


3 thoughts on “Chapter 18 Brain Teaser

  1. *I thought it was an illusion, but it was different this time……
    —> Some books said that deja vu is an illusion, but it was different this time….
    (I think your transition of this sentence works as well, so I figure I would just type out what the Chinese version has written and you can decide what stays and goes 😊)

    *He said he had to learn it, but he was the complete opposite of a dance god….
    ——> but he danced like a man possessed by spirits….


    Here comes the brain teaser part. Bear with me.

    *It turned out to be a battle between a fart and thirteen sisters….
    —> It turned out to be a mahjong battle between “fart hu” and “thirteen orphans”. You win a hundred dollars, but then you have to lose three thousand dollars.

    (When you play mahjong, there is money involved usually. If you get a set of tiles that can be seen as “fart hu”, you get a small win. If you get “thirteen orphans, you win big. Therefore, if you are the person who gets a small win, but then your opponent wins big. You may get a little money at first, but you have to pay your opponent more money next.”)

    *Yunyun didn’t understand, so I scolded him, “Aren’t you bullying people? Do you have any local brain teasers?”
    —-> Since Yao people don’t play mahjong, Yunyun didn’t understand the joke, so I scolded him, ….

    *We laughed, and I said it must have been a battle between cavalry and tanks. Fatty said that if that were the case, then no one would be killed, even at the cost of ten thousand yuan.
    —> Fatty said if that were the case, ten thousand men in the calvary could be injured, and you still couldn’t manage to kill one tank.

    *Fatty said, “The elephant was killed.”
    —> The elephant ate too many bananas and died.
    (🐘 One elephant versus three thousand bananas 🍌 🍌 🍌)


  2. -so I made him drink
    I feel there is something wrong so i went to check the original text, and I figured why.
    The character 喝 (he) has two different meanings, one is drinking and the other is shouting loudly at someone. So here the correct translation should be something like:
    “so I shouted at him as a warning.”

    -“Agui had also drank too much and giggled when he guessed incorrectly.”
    It’s not so correct because Agui wasn’t gigging because he guessed wrong. The translation is more like:
    “Agui had also drunk too much and thus kept giggling, all his guesses were wrong.”

    Chinese is super complicated and what you’ve done is great! Hope I am helping instead of being annoying QAQ.


    1. No worries at all, I appreciate the help! 😊 I went ahead and incorporated your fixes. If you think they still need some work, just let me know and I’ll try to fix them ASAP


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