These smells were hidden in the fragrance of the Tibetan incense, indicating that the smell was actually quite strong. But because the blankets also had a unique scent, and there were so many charcoal ovens baking on the side, Poker-face didn’t immediately distinguish the smell.
These odors must have been brought in with the Tibetan incense and should be in the stoves carried by the Tibetans.
It was the smell of a corpse.
The Tibetans put everything around the girl and quickly left. They didn’t seem to want to stay at all.
There seemed to be nothing special about this move, but Poker-face still felt like something was wrong. He looked around at the blankets and the patterns on them. In response to the smell, he involuntarily touched his waist to grab his weapon, but there was nothing there. He forgot that he had brought nothing this time.
Why did he suddenly become alert? Because he saw the pattern on the blanket.
There were many traditional patterns in Tibet, and if these blankets were made in different periods, the patterns on them should have been diversified. Although all the blankets here had slightly different styles, they were all painted with the same pattern.
“King Yama Riding the Dead” first appeared on an iron tangka (3). It was a thin piece of iron inlaid with gold and silver foil showing the pattern of King Yama riding a female corpse in the mountains. The tangka was surrounded by a circle of trailing decorative iron lines with many skull patterns in the middle.
Yama was called “Yama Raja” in Sanskrit (4) so this tangka was also called “Iron Yama Raja Riding the Dead”. Such patterns were especially rare before the appearance of tangka. Many people often thought that these were only the exaggerated shapes of stepping on corpses and people, which were especially common with the statues of Tibetan gods. But it was later discovered that such thinking was wrong, because on the iron Yama Raja, the shape of the woman’s corpse was sometimes even more prominent than that of the King of Hell.
Female corpses generally had ferocious faces, blind eyes, and crawled on their elbows and knees. The whole person was like an evil ghost, but the breasts were full and obviously had female characteristics.
Poker-face looked at where the girl’s hands and feet were cut off and remembered her blind eyes. Maybe this girl was King Yama’s mount?
Poker-face was all too familiar with corpses, and knew the girl must be alive. He had a growing sense of foreboding. He had a certain understanding of King Yama riding a corpse, but he didn’t understand why the girl appeared here in this state.
Was she a sacrifice to Yama? Or was it a kind of ceremony?
While thinking, the fragrance on the other side became stronger. Poker-face heard the girl groaning in pain, but he couldn’t see the specific situation through the various blankets.
Poker-face wasn’t curious about these sorts of things. If he was somewhere else, he would certainly ignore them, but everything here had something to do with his purpose. He had to know where this was and who these Tibetans were.
So Poker-face went over and found a corner. Through the gap between the blankets, he saw the stove near the girl burning. The strange smell and the smell of the Tibetan incense were mixed together and billowed out violently.
He was unsure why, but the girl looked to be in a lot of pain, as if these scents strongly stimulated her.
Poker-face slowly walked over and found that the girl’s face had turned grey, just like the color of the woman’s corpse carved on the silver foil in the pictures on the blankets. The girl had lost her mind and was groaning in pain, with the strange incense burners beside her.
He carefully opened one and found a strange powder burning inside, giving off a strong smell. He looked around before thrusting his fingers into the cracks in the floor and pulling hard, abruptly tearing off a wooden splinter. He stirred the powder and found there were many fine bones in it. Although they had been ground very fine, he could still see that they were definitely old bones.
These powders were ground from Tibetan incense mixed with parts of dried corpses.
Poker-face had never encountered such a thing before and didn’t know what it was. When he looked up at the girl again, he suddenly found that she had gotten up, propped up on her elbows and knees, and knelt naked on the ground.
Poker-face steeled his nerves and grabbed the incense burner with one hand since it was the only weapon around that he could use. With his speed and arm strength, he could at least buy himself some time to escape. But he was still uncertain, because he found that the girl crawled very fast with her elbows and knees, unlike like the speed one would expect of a disabled person.
The girl didn’t attack him or even look in his direction, however, but crawled straight in the other direction.
Poker-face followed from behind and saw the girl climb up a wooden staircase, which seemed to lead to the upper floor of the lama temple.
Poker-face looked behind him in the direction where those Tibetans had come from before and saw it wasn’t the same direction the girl was going.
The wooden stairs were especially large, and the logs used were as round and thick as the mouth of a bowl, with each one placed about a meter apart. The stairs led to an upper doorway, which was wide enough to pass a Liberation truck. The door was covered with blankets and ancient yellow silks and satins painted in Tibetan red.
Judging from the old color of these silks and satins, they had to be at least a few centuries old.
Poker-face instinctively felt that these stairs were not for people to walk, because nobody could climb them at all. They were for the girl.
So where did this staircase lead to? Strange blankets and charms, several Tibetans leaving in a hurry… there must be something big there.
Poker-face pressed his hand to the stairs to see if it was strong, but he had just put his hand down when he jumped up in an instant. He didn’t walk on the log steps, but jumped on the long poles on either side of the stairs.
Before he could reach the yellow silks and satins on the edge of the door, there was a loud bang. It was unknown where the sniper shot had come from, but it hit the wood at Poker-face’s feet, causing it to burst apart. Little Brother responded very quickly and jumped out at once, grabbing a blanket hanging nearby with one hand and rolling.
Almost at the same time, there was a series of gunshots that rang out from below, and all the bullets hit the stairs. When the shots were transferred to the blanket he had just used, Poker-face was already hidden among the other blankets.
He held his breath to see the direction of the gunfire. Only a blue light flickered, and it seemed that a man in a blue Tibetan robe was also moving rapidly between the blankets.
Poker-face laid his hand on the ground, listening for any sign of the man’s movements, while groping around to see if there was anything he could use to defend himself.
As soon as his hand touched the floor, a bullet came through several layers of blankets. Poker-face moved his head quickly and the bullet merely grazed his ear and flew past.
He immediately knew that the other party wasn’t an ordinary person and couldn’t be easily dealt with, but Poker-face was too experienced in dealing with such people. He suddenly stood up and ran almost flush to the ground, listening to the bullets whistling behind him. In the bat of an eye he had rushed to the front of a charcoal stove and stepped on it.
A mass of sparks appeared in the hot coals. With a leap, Poker-face had jumped higher than a person, grabbed a blanket, and quietly hung behind it like a bat.
Almost at the same time, several bullets hit the charcoal stove, knocking it all over the floor, and then the man in the blue Tibetan robe rushed over.
Although snipers have very powerful weapons in this kind of street-style covert shooting, they don’t have any informational advantages. If they met someone with quick skills, they would easily be ambushed. The best thing to do was to run in the direction of whoever was shooting at you, because the other party had to leave after firing, and so that place must be safe.
Shooters were most affected by the sound of gunfire, and if they failed to hit their target after multiple shots, the possibility of being ambushed became especially great. This was because they didn’t know how close others were when they fired.
This method was the most practical in a place that seemed to have many hiding spots, but blankets couldn’t be used as cover at all.
So Blue Robe ran to the edge of the charcoal stove in an instant, and Poker-face dropped almost simultaneously, his knees suddenly pressing against Blue Robe’s shoulder.
Weight plus gravity and speed caused Blue Robe to immediately drop to his knees. Poker-face turned his waist, but instead of holding Blue Robe’s head tightly, he grabbed his hand and pulled the gun clip free with a sharp turn.
When the gun landed, Poker-face kicked it away with his heel. After standing, he went to look at who the man was. Before he could see clearly, however, the other side responded very quickly. When the Tibetan knife shot out, a cold light immediately appeared before Poker-face’s face.
There was no way Poker-face would use a gun, but if anyone wanted to fight him, they were really asking for death. Poker-face gave a slight concession to avoid the blade, and his fist hit the blue-robed man’s nose in the extremely small gap. Even if someone stood by his side at that time, it was too late to see how he did it. All he would hear was the dull sound of a fist hitting flesh, and then the blue-robed man falling to the ground.
Poker-face crouched down and grabbed the blue-robed man’s hand that held the knife. The man had a tight grip, but it only took a little effort to take the knife away.
Poker-face looked down and saw that it was a very young Tibetan youth, only eighteen or nineteen years old at most. His face was scrunched up in agony and he kept saying something in Tibetan.
Poker-face knew that the gunfire must have alerted many people, so he couldn’t stay in this place for long. Just as he was about to knock the man out, he saw more blue-robed Tibetans coming out from behind the blankets. There were more than a dozen of them holding spears in their hands, all pointed at him.
Poker-face sighed softly, but saw all of them crouching down and showing him a sign of respect.
This so-called sign of respect was actually kneeling, and after doing so, one of the oldest blue-robed Tibetans presented a colorful hada. (5)
In fact, I think this must have been a very strange scene. The act of presenting hada appears in too many stories, but in Tibet, presenting a colorful hada was indeed the highest sign of respect.
But the situation just now was very strange and sudden, and I also thought it was quite incredible when I read the information.
Then, a middle-aged man appeared in front of Poker-face and said in very skilled Chinese: “We’ve been waiting for you for a long time, Master Zhang. Please accept our apology, along with this hada.”
Poker-face looked around quietly and saw the middle-aged man take out a yellowed black and white photo from his pocket and hand it over.
“All of this was arranged by Master Dong. What he said was right.”
The photo showed Dong Can wearing a Tibetan outfit. Poker-face took it and flipped it over to the back. He saw a line: “The secret is here. They can help you.”
(1) Remember, Yama is the King of Hell. Think of him like Hades or whatever.
(2) It’s apparently a real thing and not something the author made up so I found a picture on google. Check it out, it’s wild:
(3) Tibetan Buddhist scroll painting
(4) Characters are 阎魔罗 and the pinyin is Yanmo Luo. My dictionary translated Yanmo directly as “Yama King of Hell” and said the Sanskrit is Yama Raja so that’s what I used. Trusty ole Wikipedia says “Yanluo is a shortened Chinese transliteration of the Sanskrit term Yamarāja” so maybe the author was trying to use Yanluo instead? Idk
(5) Hada is also known as khata, a Tibetan ceremonial scarf
Random TN Notes:
I hate to do this since Saturdays are my day to knock some chapters out, but this might be it for today. They’re apparently putting a new roof on at my place and since I’m on the top floor it’s SO LOUD. I have a headache and the loud banging is making it hard to concentrate (and traumatizing my poor cats lol).