Chapter 49 Linqia

After a long time spent probing the situation, the group felt that there didn’t seem to be much danger, so they entered the tomb again and went to the edge of the newly-opened passage.

The tunnel was very deep and strange, with the first part reinforced with blue-green bricks and the next part merely loess (1). It almost looked like a grave robbers’ tunnel.

“Look, all the places without bricks have shovel marks. It must have been dug by fellow grave robbers,” Zhang Haike said as he listened closely. “The air is dead here. We should assume this is the starting point.”

“Did they dig in from the outside?”

“I don’t think so, but it’s hard to say. I can’t see the end and don’t know where it leads to,” another person said. “With all due respect, this really isn’t like a tomb. If this is a grave robbers’ tunnel, how is there a mechanism over the hole that can be closed? It’s impossible for anyone to dig directly into the burial chamber’s tunnel opening so I definitely don’t think this is a burial chamber.”

“You don’t think so?”

“It’s not even a grave,” he answered.

“Then what kind of place do you think it is?”

“It wasn’t built by dead people but by grave robbers.”

 “This is a linqia,” the boy continued.

Linqia was a term used for temporary underground rest stations set up when grave robbers found a tomb that was especially difficult to enter. They would hoard food and equipment inside and work underground for a long time.

Most linqia were crude like adobe houses, but if it was some super inaccessible tomb or a very large fortress-type tomb, then the linqia would be very finely built. A linqia in this tomb meant that it may have taken five, six, or even a dozen years to rob.

If this was a linqia, then that would explain some things, but what about the things hanging above their heads?

“Lend me your shoulder.” Zhang Haike called out as he jumped up and stepped on his companion’s shoulder. He then lit a fire stick to see what was hanging on the ceiling.

This time, he looked at the junction between the ceiling and the coffin and then at something else hanging upside down nearby. His complexion changed and he turned around and said seriously, “Everyone, this is really a linqia.”

“How could a linqia look like this?” Another person asked.

“They had no choice but to make it like this,” Zhang Haike said as he patted the ground. “I’m afraid there’s a big guy under this room, which is very difficult to deal with.”

“All the designs here are because of the vibrations,” Zhang Haike continued. “This method of hanging things is very similar to a hammock hung on a ship. The sailors who sleep in hammocks won’t flip over no matter how the ship bobs in the water. That way, they can have a good rest.”

“Was it worth it to hang these things so high up in order to avoid the vibrations? It must not have been easy.”

“If the vibrations were strong enough,” Zhang Haike said. “If they were strong enough and frequent enough to cause this place to shake more than a dozen times a day, then the robbers needed a safe way to protect the goods they had just stolen.”

“What about this mechanism? How do you explain it? Would you normally set up a mechanism at your own rest station?”

“I’m not sure since we can’t go back to the past and ask what happened to the people who built this place. But I think this isn’t a mechanism but an alarm.”

“Go on.”

“This mechanism is very sensitive and extends all the way to the ground. If there were any severe vibrations here, then everyone would be in danger. There would be no point in protecting the goods if they couldn’t protect themselves so they made a vibration detector here. As long as there was a vibration, this mechanism would be triggered and the passage would open immediately. Maybe it was safer in this grave robbers’ tunnel.”

“Is it really safer in the tunnel?” Someone asked. “This also seems a bit far-fetched. I think it may be like this: maybe the robber entered alone and thought that the opening of the tunnel was dangerous and something might climb out if it wasn’t closed so he made the mechanism, entered by himself, and closed the door. When he wanted to come back out, he would kick the door, which caused the upper part to vibrate and the door to open.”

“You think zombies can’t kick?” Another person asked before looking at Zhang Haike, “How did you come to those conclusions?”

“The hooks on which those things are hanging are all live hooks. I looked at the bottom and saw that they all have steel springs, which act as shock absorbers. This setup makes it look like they grow from the ceiling and greatly reduces the shock. Also, the fact that the positions of the brick and slate here were reversed could be because all of the materials were excavated from the ground. The slate was too heavy, so they spread it on the bottom and used the blue-green bricks to build this place. That’s why I said that there must be a large-scale tomb below this linqia. They used local materials and built this kind of rest station here.”

“It makes sense.” Everyone nodded, but Zhang Haike was no longer in the mood to be proud and continued, “This door is heavily guarded, which may be another reason why this linqia exists. This grave robbers’ tunnel, which leads straight down through the floor, is protected by the mechanism. It should be safe, so we have to go in and take a look.”

There was no need to keep discussing it. Confidence suddenly returned to the Zhang children and they all looked at each other before starting to walk forward. With Zhang Haike in the lead, the others quickly followed and jumped into the tunnel.

The tunnel was almost a straight drop, so they had to use their feet to slow their descent as they quickly slid all the way down to the bottom.

They slid down the tunnel for four or five minutes, and when they looked up again, the top was completely dark and the opening was no longer visible.

The bottom of the tunnel was a round cavity, where they saw another brick wall in the loess on the other side. It had been broken, but strangely enough, the hole was only the size of a fist.

“This hole isn’t big enough for peeping,” one of them said.

Zhang Haike kicked the ground and found that there were many blue-green bricks under the loess, “No, it seems that the last time people came here, they wanted to plug the hole again, but this kind of hole was left in the end. The raw materials are still scattered around here.”

Since the hole was too small and the fire stick couldn’t illuminate what was inside, Zhang Haike pushed the fire stick through it. There was a “pu” sound as if it had hit something, and then it fell down and instantly went out.

“We’ll have to reach in with one hand,” Zhang Haike said while looking around at the people behind him. “Whose turn is it?”

“It’s the kid’s turn but I’ll do it,” one of them said as he took off his coat and exposed his arms. Zhang Haike took out his big shears from his backpack, stuck them in the hole, gathered his strength, and asked, “How many inches do you need?”

“One palm at most.” As he spoke, he reached into the hole and began to grope around.

Everyone held their breath, not daring to speak. This was a very dangerous move because once there was any change in the hole, Zhang Haike would exert pressure on the shears and cut off the boy’s hand. This was called abandoning the pawn to protect the rook.

But nothing terrible happened as the boy felt around, so he withdrew his hand. Everyone saw that his arm was covered with green and black soil, which seemed very damp.

“What did you touch? What’s against the wall?”

“It’s a person,” the boy said. “A leatherized corpse is leaning against the other side of this wall. It’s covered in this sort of mud.”

“Are you sure?”

“I touched something and brought it out.” The boy wiped the mud off on his clothes and spread out his hands, revealing a lump of dirt. They rinsed it with water and found that it was a pocket watch.

It was completely broken, but when Zhang Haike turned it over, he saw a Qilin carved on the back of the steel cover. He opened it and saw that the needle inside hadn’t moved for a long time and there was a picture of a strange man tucked inside the cover. He looked at it and frowned.

“What’s the body’s position?” Someone asked from the side.

“Leaning against the wall, facing in.”

“That’s good, it means he wasn’t sealed in there alive,” the boy said with relief.

“Bullshit. Not only was he sealed in there alive, but he wasn’t the only one sealed in there. Something was chasing him from behind, so he leaned against the wall.” Zhang Haike put the pocket watch in his breast pocket and said, “Regardless, let’s open this wall. Whether it’s mules or horses, let’s start this marathon.”(2)

<Chapter 48><Table of Contents><Chapter 50>


TN Notes:

(1) Yellow sandy soil typical of north China

(2) Idiom basically meaning “If you’re really capable of the job, then start doing it and show people your ability”


Sorry dears, only had time to do one chapter today. I had to stay late at work for a meeting that totally didn’t even need to happen (ofc).

Updated 12/27/2021

2 thoughts on “Chapter 49 Linqia

  1. I’ve been so carried away by the beautiful story so far that I’m so ashamed I haven’t commented yet to you. I think your translations are very wonderful. Not only is the story easy to read and understand, but I can seem to hear the author’s voice ring out behind your words. In other words, you’ve done a great job and I appreciate your translations very much!


  2. Чжан Хайки – как старший брат опекает Цилиня… это мне нравится. Но чует моя печень, что не закончится этот поход без жертв? Раз уже одного Цилиня нашли…


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