Chapter 10 Poker-face’s Past

In the early twentieth century, the United States experienced a period of rapid development after World War I, and American explorers and expedition teams could be seen everywhere in the world. Nepal and Bhutan—small Himalayan countries in Southeast Asia—were buffer zones connecting India and China. As a result, a large number of trade activities involving various goods took place there, for which Americans accounted for a large part.

There was a mixed caravan of Indians, Bhutanese, and Chinese who were resting in a relay station. The station was full of various people all mixed together in the chaos, including French businessmen from North Africa. They were conveying some information that couldn’t be verified because of the war at the nearby border.

In the caravan, there were four people who seemed to be the core personnel, and the caravan’s composition could be seen from their identities. Two of the leaders were brothers from India, the Bhutanese leader was bald, and there was only one Chinese whose name was Dong Can (this was an alias).

Dong Can’s original surname was Zhang, and he was a businessman active on the Chinese border who was a member of a large family in China. He originally had his own caravan, but the route from Nepal to Tibet and Sichuan in China was cut off by various foreign forces and local powers. He was now following the Indian and Bhutanese team to conduct some small trade along the border.

Dong Can’s goods were very special, and although they were actually of little value during the war years, he still kept them hidden. The cost of shipping many of them was more than they were worth, so Dong Can’s trip was to earn a commission for his own goods.

Dong Can had a face very much like a typical Tibetan, which made it very convenient when conducting his local activities. All kinds of forces were mixed up in the Himalayas, and it was quite dangerous to be a lone trader, but Dong Can was a very shrewd person. He was very good at what he did and could often muddle through using Tibetan.

The caravan took a twelve-day rest at the relay station to gather all the necessary supplies. When the weather was good, they entered the Himalayan region and started heading for China.

This was the last time their friends heard from them.

After that, the seventeen-member caravan—including seven Indians, nine Bhutanese, and one Chinese—disappeared into the no-man’s-land of the Himalayas. This was actually quite normal, as it was unknown how many caravans had died in that area since ancient times. But this caused a high degree of tension among the Indian authorities.

There was no reason for such tension—of course, there was definitely a reason, but it was too early to say—and the only explanation given by the Indian authorities at that time was that the two Indians were actually Indian intelligence agents. They had become aware of a big plan, but both disappeared without a trace.

Dong Can and his entourage must have walked into the Himalayan region and taken the wrong road. They didn’t leave the region using any of the usual routes but went to the deepest part of the mountain and seemingly died there.

But this wasn’t what really happened. Ten years later in Bangladesh, it was discovered that two Bangladeshi businessmen who died in a brawl were actually the two missing Indians. The two poor devils were in the middle of gambling when they were killed by a loser with a hoe. Their status at that time was no longer that of poor businessmen on a tour, but that of a pair of very rich brothers in the local area. At the end of that same year, someone in Sikkim recognized a low-key rich man as the bald-headed Bhutanese leader.

Dong Can didn’t appear, but the appearance of the other three clearly made the authorities realize that the matter wasn’t so simple.

It seemed that the caravan members from that year didn’t die in the Himalayas but were alive and had changed their names to live under new identities. Moreover, they all had one thing in common: they had become quite rich.

It was said that when the authorities arrested the bald Bhutanese at that time, ten truckloads of his property were transported away but his property still wasn’t completely moved.

When the Bhutanese was interrogated, he told the whole story of what happened in the Himalayas.

After they went deep into the mountains at that time, they encountered a particularly horrible landslide at a junction so they had to choose another route to go forward. At that time, the snow was very heavy. They didn’t notice that they had gone back to the place where the landslide occurred and they ended up falling off the cliff by the road while climbing.

Anyone who has seen the documentaries knows that you can only walk that kind of road on foot. In addition, all the animals that carried the bags were connected with ropes that were specially tied in different knots. On the slippery sections of the road, these ropes had to be untied. Dong Can and the others’ judgment about the road’s condition was wrong, so when one person fell off the cliff, everyone else was pulled down by the ropes.

It was a tragic accident in which countless things happened that can’t be recorded one by one. Because of the rope connections, the way they fell off the cliff was very complicated. Many people were killed by the inertia of the rope directly swinging them into the cliff while some were strangled by the rope directly, which was also very terrible.

This accident caused them to lose half of their people and animals. After resting at the foot of the cliff, they found it impossible to climb back up and wanted to find another way back up the cliff. As a result, they walked directly into an area they had never entered before and found a strange place there.

It was a valley, and strangely enough, the snow there wasn’t thick. In the middle of the valley, there was a huge sphere that was three or four stories high. The upper part was covered in snow, but it was still clear to see from the bottom part that it was a big black metal ball.

In the thin snow beside this big metal ball, they found countless small egg-sized metal balls that numbered in the tens of thousands. These balls were of different sizes, but the snow cover made it impossible to count them all. If all of the snow was removed, the Bhutanese guessed that it would look similar to those children’s ball pits. (1)

He couldn’t remember who first discovered that some of these balls were made of gold, but everyone desperately collected them. They even went so far as to exchange all of their goods for them.

In the process of picking them up, they found that the balls there were made of many kinds of metals, including copper, iron, and lead. It seemed as if all the metals in the world were found there.

Everyone was crazy because there were so many balls, but it took patience to find the golden ones from among them. Later, there was a theft and someone was injured in the ensuing altercation.

After that, they suffered through a lot of hardships to leave the valley, and only six people managed to survive. In addition to the two Indians and one Bhutanese, there were also two assistants and Dong Can. Dong Can was the only one of them who took nothing away. At that time, it was like his soul had been captivated. His eyes were only focused on the big ball and showed no interest in the mountain full of gold.

The Bhutanese said that the way the huge black ball was placed in the middle of the valley could only be man-made. But he couldn’t understand what the black ball did or who put it there. All of the metal balls had been seriously worn and oxidized and had clearly been there for at least a thousand years.

After the Bhutanese regained his freedom, he recorded all of these incredible things in a book and made many unrealistic inferences in it. Among them, he claimed that he had earned most of his wealth and the gold was only his initial capital.

One after another, the gold balls sold by the two Indians had been found all over the world. Some had been melted into other shapes or gold coins, leaving only twelve of them in the original shape they were found in. At that time, the Indian government paid a high price to buy these things, and they became “gold more expensive than gold”.

<Chapter 9> <Table of Contents><Chapter 11>


TN Notes:

(1) It translated as Naughty Castle which was weird but when I googled it, it’s basically like those giant play areas with ball pits you see at I think McDonalds and Chuck E Cheese play areas?


Updated 12/6/2021

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