Chapter 55 Porcelain Paintings

I had just managed to understand what Fatty was talking about with nourishing qi and corpse incubator coffins, but then Poker-Face came out of nowhere and said this sentence. I thought about it for a while but still didn’t understand so I asked him what he meant.

Poker-Face pointed to the coffin and said, “Look closely at their heads. Do you notice anything different about them?”

When I looked to where his finger was pointing, I only saw six heads of various sizes hanging from the torso like a bunch of grapes. There didn’t seem to be anything special about them except for how nauseating they looked. I shook my head to indicate that I didn’t notice anything, but he told me to look more carefully. This time, I squinted my eyes and was finally able to see what he was talking about.

As it turned out, all of the heads except for the one on top seemed to be lacking facial features. Moreover, none of them seemed to have a basic skull structure. They almost looked like giant sarcomas growing from the torso.

When I saw this, I finally understood what he was talking about. I immediately followed his train of thought and found that the joints of each hand really did seem to be connected to the torso. The reason why it looked like there were so many corpses twisted together was because the torso was so badly deformed that it looked like it had been wrung out in a washing machine. Plus, the muddy black liquid obstructed people’s view.

The more I looked at this corpse, the more disgusted I felt, but I still had some reservations about Poker-Face’s theory. If this person lying in the coffin had a rare deformity where they grew twelve limbs, then what was their origin and identity? Back in those days, how could such a monster reach adulthood?

Fatty also looked inside, spat in disgust, and then said to us, “Shit, is this thing even human? It looks just like a bug!”

He had described it rather aptly, but it was still a rude thing to say. “We can’t see clearly through all this liquid,” I said to them. “It’s too early to draw conclusions. Logically speaking, a person with such a serious deformity would have looked like some kind of monster and would’ve been killed by their parents as soon as they were born. There’s absolutely no way they would’ve been raised to adulthood.”

“Nothing is absolute,” Poker-Face said faintly.

I shook my head, still unable to believe it. “You know, there’s actually a very simple way to find out,” Fatty said. “Why don’t we do as I said and go next door and get some jars to scoop up this water? That way, we can see clearly. Plus, there’s a piece of slate under this corpse. We can take it out and get a good look at it while we’re at it. Maybe we’ll find something unexpected.”

I immediately became interested as soon as I heard this. I hadn’t seen a single word since entering this undersea tomb and essentially had no knowledge of the tomb owner. If I could understand the words on this piece of slate, I could at least make a guess or two, which may also help our future actions.

Fatty and I immediately came to an agreement, turned around without another word, headed to the room across the corridor, and picked out three porcelain bowls with handles. To the outside world, these things were considered treasures worth millions, but in my hands, they were returned to their original use—just dishes.

When I picked up the first bowl, I unconsciously began examining the blue glaze on top out of professional habit. But as I was studying it, I was surprised to find that the patterns on it actually told a narrative.

When we first came in, I was probably too preoccupied thinking about what happened to Uncle Three to study these funerary objects very carefully. But now that I was looking, I immediately thought of something that I didn’t pay much attention to before— when Uncle Three and the others entered this tomb, he, like me, just took a cursory look at these things before going to take a nap. But the others were different. It was their first time entering a tomb so they were very excited and must have carefully examined these porcelain wares. Could they have found a critical clue on the porcelain?

With this thought in mind, I quickly picked up a few bowls and looked at them carefully. I found that these paintings were all about a group of people taking part in a civil engineering project. Some were carving stone, some were transporting logs, and others were putting up wooden beams. The order in which the porcelain was placed showed the progress of the project in chronological order. The more I looked at it, the more shocked I became and I even broke out in a cold sweat.

Fatty looked at me scrutinizing each porcelain bowl one by one and asked in a baffled voice, “Is it so difficult to pick one? Don’t be so nitpicky. Just find one that feels good in your hand.”

Ignoring him completely, I got down on the ground and crawled past each piece of porcelain until I saw the last octagonal bottle. The pattern on it depicted a magnificent scene of a giant door. There was no more porcelain after that, but it seemed as if there should’ve been more things recorded on other porcelain items.

What I saw was so amazing that it took my breath away. Even though I couldn’t tell what they were building just from these simple paintings, based on the images, the scale of this project was almost as huge as that of the Forbidden City.(1) But its structure wasn’t done in the style of the Central Plains at all. Shit, I couldn’t remember where in China such a large-scale construction project might have taken place at that time.

I pulled myself out of my thoughts, wanting to tell Fatty about this amazing discovery I had made, but when I turned around, I saw nothing but darkness behind me. Fatty had long since disappeared.

I sat there frozen for a moment before I started cursing to myself. That damned fatty! How could he leave without telling me when he knows I don’t want to be left alone in this kind of place?! I grabbed a basin at random, stood up, and hurried to the opposite room. But as soon as I entered the corridor, I came to an abrupt stop.

The door across the corridor was gone and had actually turned back into that white jade wall!

I knew it was because of the mechanism, but I didn’t expect it to be so quick and silent. I couldn’t help but start to panic—I never wanted to experience staying alone in a dark tomb again.

I took a moment to calm down and tried to comfort myself by saying that the tomb chambers were frequently moving. As long as I could wait patiently, the door would definitely appear again in a few minutes.

But without Fatty around, this ancient tomb was eerily quiet. The sound of my heartbeat was like thunder in my ears and my surroundings were excessively dark. In a place like this, a minute felt like an hour. There was no way I would be able to wait patiently.

I took a deep breath and pointed my flashlight towards the three dark doorways in front of me, but I couldn’t see anything inside. The scariest thing in the world was one’s imagination. No matter how much I calmed down, I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was looking at me from within the dark doorways. It was absolutely terrifying.

I slapped myself to calm down, bowed my head, and walked into the ear chamber, thinking that I should check the porcelain again so as to ensure I didn’t miss anything. But at this time, I suddenly heard a hair-raising cry come out of the ear chamber. When I pointed my flashlight into the room, I saw a giant sea monkey climbing out of the pool of water. Half of its body was already out of the water so I could see its giant, ferocious, scale-covered face. It was a sight I’ll never forget for the rest of my life.

I shouted “Fuck!” and started running down the corridor. At that moment, I didn’t care whether there were other traps or not. I just closed my eyes and focused on getting as far away as possible. I was almost to the safety zone when I suddenly tripped and fell, face-planting right next to that jar. Fortunately, I was able to react quickly enough that I rolled over and sat up almost as soon as I fell. But when I looked back, I saw two flashing green eyes rushing out of the ear chamber and heading right towards me!

I clenched my teeth and picked up the jar, determined to throw it, but the sea monkey reacted very quickly. Seeing that I had a weapon, it stopped rushing towards me and instead turned and jumped to the top of the corridor. While it was distracted, I took this opportunity and ran straight through the jade door on the left and pushed it closed.

There was an automatic stone bolt under the jade door that rose up as soon as the door was closed, locking it in place. The sea monkey let out a piercing howl as it scratched and slammed its body into the door several times, seemingly unwilling to give up. But I was able to calm down because I knew that the door was made from very sturdy materials and a flesh-and-blood body would never be able to break through it. After the sea monkey spent a long time slamming into the door without success, it suddenly started trying to get in through the crack in the door. I watched its big head trying to squeeze its way inside and suddenly felt a wave of anger rise up. I raised my speargun and fired a shot through the crack in the door. I didn’t know where it managed to hit, but I suddenly heard the sea monkey let out a piercing scream and then it leaped away.

I didn’t know if that middle door was connected to this tomb chamber or not so I hurriedly loaded another spear into my gun and then turned on my flashlight and a miner’s lamp that I had with me. With the whole tomb chamber illuminated now, I looked around and got a terrible fright. I could see that I was standing in a huge circular tomb chamber with a huge pool of water in the middle of it. My feet were standing right on the edge of the pool. If I had taken one more step back, I would have definitely fallen into it.

Something resembling a huge basin was floating quietly in the middle of the pool. When I saw the paintings and carvings on it, I knew that it had to be a coffin. I couldn’t help but smile. This tomb owner was really creative and made his coffin look like a basin. It seemed that he must have really liked taking baths when he was alive.

I looked into the water again and saw that it was so deep, I couldn’t see the bottom. I didn’t know exactly how deep it was, but I figured it might lead all the way to the bottom of the tomb. Just as I was wondering what kind of design it was, I suddenly felt my neck start to itch.

<Chapter 54><Table of Contents><Chapter 56>


TN Notes:

(1) The Forbidden City was constructed from 1406 to 1420, and was the former Chinese imperial palace and winter residence of the Emperor of China from the Ming dynasty (since the Yongle Emperor) to the end of the Qing dynasty, between 1420 and 1924. The Forbidden City served as the home of Chinese emperors and their households and was the ceremonial and political center of the Chinese government for over 500 years. It was called the Forbidden City because access to the area was barred to most of the subjects of the realm. More info here.


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