When we shined our flashlights over, we found that the murals were simple and crude, but outrageous. Despite this simplicity, they were painted very carefully and the contents were very complicated. At first glance, I knew that even though the craftsmanship wasn’t good, the people who did it were very religious. That, combined with the peeled-off mottled skin, made people feel that there was something valuable here.
As Professor Wang wiped his glasses, we both looked at him. I knew that he was an expert in this field, so there would be a wonderful explanation. He looked at one of the walls and said, “There’s a ritual recorded here.”
“Look here. There’s a Taoist priest here. He has cultivated to a certain extent. These people who are kneeling are his disciples.” Professor Wang pointed to the mural, which showed an old Taoist priest standing behind an altar. There were many younger Taoist priests—we could tell they were younger because they all had black beards painted on while the old Taoist had a white beard—giving him salutations.
After that, the Taoist priests escorted the old Taoist to the edge of a pool, where he was cut open and his entrails were thrown into the pool. A big fish—I recognized it at a glance; it was the same kind of strange fish that I had seen in the Stagnant Water Dragon King temple—swallowed the entrails in one bite.
After that, the big fish swam into the underground river. It swam and swam until it reached a strange palace that was full of immortals. The big fish spit out the entrails, which had become a young immortal. We could tell from the white beard and hair that it was the old Taoist from before, but now he had become very young. The old Taoist met with the immortals, and then was surrounded by them. The final mural depicted the black-bearded Taoists looking up at the immortals in the sky.
The murals in this circle, in which the big fish swam in the underground river, were painted in great detail. There were hell-like places full of ghosts, sections of the river piled high with gold and silver jewelry, and other sections inhabited by dragons. We could tell that they seemed to be depicting different types of obstacles and temptations. The big fish and the human soul appeared to have merged into one at that time. Based on the many fish bones painted at the bottom of the mural, if you swam in the river to get to the immortal lands and wavered even just a little bit, you would be deemed beyond redemption and lose your soul.
“Is the pool he mentioned the one we passed through just now? Then we’re really lucky, ” Fatty said.
“That pool has a name. It’s called Thunder Pool.” I pointed to the words on the mural, not sure if the Extreme Sea outside was also called Thunder Pool. If not, then there should be another pool here.
“It seems like they really were cultivating immortals here. This is a temple to cultivate immortals, but the way they become immortal is to be eaten by a fish and taken to the immortal lands,” Fatty said.
I was just about to ask Professor Wang a question, but at this time, I noticed that he had left us in a hurry and went to the front hall’s back door.
Anyone who had ever been to temples and Taoist temples knew that the front and back entrances to the front hall were usually open. And after passing through, you would reach the main hall and courtyard. When we looked behind the god statue in the temple’s front hall, we saw that there was a group of three jade Guanyin (1).
But I don’t want to waste time describing them. The artistic accomplishments, engravings, and the interspersed use of other precious stones, as well as the complexity of the folds in the clothes, made it a funerary object with amazing origins. The three statues embodied the three states of Guanyin. Even though it wasn’t a strict requirement for a statue of Guanyin to appear in Taoist temples, it was a habitual practice to have them in Taoist temples in China.
But Professor Wang didn’t even look at it and just focused on pushing open the back door of the front hall.
The courtyard between the main hall and front hall was bigger and had piles and piles of things stacked up in it. As our flashlights swept past and the light reflected off of them, I couldn’t tell what they were anymore. But there was a jade tree at the very center of the yard that appeared to be a huge peach blossom tree. The trunk and branches were made of jade, while the peach blossoms were made of pink tourmaline and spinel (2). The tree was so big that it stood three people tall, and there was a carved stone pipa figurine (3) under it. The pipa figurine was also very well carved, but it had been carved from ordinary stone, so it was gray and cracked.
This was done by a master, I thought to myself, immediately realizing that there was an artistic concept in everything’s placement here. The things before seemed to be piles of jewels, but the stone pipa figurine and peach blossom tree were clearly different.
I was just wondering why the aesthetics of this Taoist temple suddenly improved, when I saw Professor Wang start running. We quickly chased after him with our flashlights and saw the outline of the main hall appear.
But when we got closer, we found that the main hall didn’t exist. There was a ruin in front of us, which indicated that the main hall had been completely destroyed and turned to ash. I say destroyed rather than burned, because the slate floor outside the main hall was completely blackened in an explosive pattern. Moreover, there were many strange cracks in the stone.
“This was struck by lightning,” Fatty murmured.
He was right. A huge bolt of lightning struck here and completely destroyed the entire main hall.
When we approached, we found that Professor Wang hadn’t stayed in the main hall ruins, but I didn’t know where he had run off to.
The main hall should’ve had a bigger god statue, but the only things left were the base and charred rubble everywhere. We looked up and shined our flashlights overhead. The top of the cave here was too high, so we could only faintly see the countless bronze pieces hanging overhead.
“Was the lightning guided down here through these bronze pieces?” There was no way to tell, but I figured there was another possibility—a violent explosion had occurred here. This main hall had been blown up. “The Yang family has been in business for a long time. Do you really believe that three or four people could have done this?” I thought of Yang Daguang. Maybe there was only one person left, but they still didn’t give up. When I thought of this, an idea suddenly popped into my head and I looked back at the pipa figurine behind me.
“What’s the matter?” Fatty asked.
“The cultural level of the Yang family’s ancestors wasn’t very high. As you saw before, the murals weren’t painted very well, but this pipa figurine and tourmaline peach blossom tree have an artistic concept to them. There’s a huge gap between the simplicity and elegance here. This is impossible.”
“Could it be a coincidence?”
“The whole way over, we saw gems piled high with jade, but there was never any tourmaline with ordinary stone carvings.” I took Fatty back to the pipa figurine, squatted behind it, and took a look with my flashlight. The edge of a rusty coin was sticking out from underneath the figurine.
Fatty helped me tilt the figurine up so that I could grab the coin, but when I did, I saw that there was an iron ring below it.
I immediately asked Fatty to move the pipa figurine away. Once he was done, I saw that there was an iron ring on the stone slab below. I lifted it up and found that it was attached to an iron chain. I looked Fatty in the eye and pulled on the chain hard, but it didn’t move. He came over to help me, and the two of us managed to pull more than a meter of the chain up from the hole in the stone slab. At this time, I suddenly heard the clanking sound of metal parts moving under our feet. Then, the stone slab in front us dropped down, revealing a square hole.
This collapsed side of the stone slab formed a slope that could be walked down. We went over to take a look and found that there was a secret room below.
“How did you know?” Fatty asked me.
“The logic of this pipa figurine’s placement here is different from everything else, so there had to be something wrong here,” I said to him. “Now, I highly suspect that this pipa figurine was moved here by my Uncle Three. He’s been here before.”
“Your Uncle Three isn’t the only one with aesthetics in the world.”
I showed Fatty the coin, which was engraved with a 044 mark. Only Uncle Three would play this kind of trick.
<Chapter 9><Table of Contents><Chapter 11>
(1) Guanyin is the Bodhisattva of Compassion or Goddess of Mercy (Sanskrit Avalokiteśvara)
(2) Spinel is another gemstone. It’s more of a pointed crystal.
(3) It’s basically a statue of a musician playing a pipa, which is a Chinese lute with 4 strings, a large pear-shaped body, and a fretted fingerboard. The figurine could be something like this:
Sorry guys, I know the updates have been kinda lame the past few days. I just haven’t really been in the mood. But 1 chapter is better than no chapter, right? (￣▽￣*)ゞ
4 thoughts on “Chapter 10”
I’m really enjoying this story though. I can’t put my finger on it exactly, but it feels more like the author’s original works, sans Poker Face and Ah Ning though. Maybe because they’re trapped somewhere by water with uncertain teammates and dangers lurking among the treasures, looking for the way out as well as clues about Uncle Three. Hmm… Yep! Reminds me of Book 2. 😊
Just do what you feel like! Meanwhile, I’m like “WU XIE DO NOT MESS WITH THAT RANDOM TOMB TRAPDOOR WHEN XIAOGE ISN’T AROUND!” 😬
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044… did I miss something? I don’t recall what it means.
Qiu de kao company