Zhang Qiling had never seen such a thing before nor did he expect to see it again in the future. Granted, he had seen zombies that could run and jump, but he had never seen one that could smile. He tensed up, hurriedly took a step back, and prepared himself to deal with the corpse’s next move. But what he didn’t expect was that the mummy’s hand, which was originally pointing towards the sky, suddenly moved and turned to point horizontally towards the east. At the same time, the whole room suddenly went dark as the luminous night pearls on the ceiling mysteriously went out.
The group had turned off their flashlights when they first came into the room in order to save the batteries, so when the room suddenly became dark, several of the students screamed in fright. But Zhang Qiling found that although the room was dark now, it wasn’t to the point where he couldn’t see anything in front of him. He looked up and found that the four night pearls closest to the four walls hadn’t gone out. Like dim street lights on a dark road, they only lit up a small area around them. At this time, Li Sidi’s trembling voice came from the side, “On the wall…there’s a…face!”
Zhang Qiling shuddered and quickly turned his head to look. On the eastern side, a huge pale face formed from light and shadow had appeared on the yellow brick wall that was illuminated by the night pearl.
Zhang Qiling knew for sure that this was another trick. Already feeling a little annoyed with it all, he jumped off the stone platform and walked to the brick wall on the eastern side, finding that it was actually a shadow painting on the wall. Such paintings were formed by carving deep grooves onto the wall and then directing a light source towards them at a fixed angle. If the angle was just right, the shadows from the grooves would form a pattern. If the angle was wrong, however, the painting wouldn’t appear at all. Since these shadowy lines looked very strange, it was easy to imagine that they looked like a terrifying face in high-stress situations.
He looked at the painting very carefully and couldn’t help but feel surprised. The picture in front of him seemed to be a narrative painting depicting the moment when the Heavenly Palace on the Clouds was just completed. He saw that the so-called heavenly palace was actually built on a very steep mountain range. The top of the mountain was covered in clouds and mist, which enveloped the whole palace and gave people a feeling that it was floating on the clouds. Zhang Qiling looked at the mountain peak and found that it seemed to be covered in snow. This meant that it was at a very high altitude, but he didn’t know which mountain it was.
He turned his head and found that there were more shadow paintings on the other three walls. He hurriedly turned to the brick wall to the south and started examining it, finding that this picture depicted a lot of caves on the cliff below the heavenly palace that were connected together by plank bridges. A group of workers were using a “well sweep”(1) (essentially a hoist) to pull a huge coffin up the cliff cave by cave. The funeral procession was lined up behind it, climbing up the plank road with difficulty.
Ah, is this heavenly palace actually a tomb, Zhang Qiling wondered. But who’s in the coffin?
He moved on and found that the picture on the west wall was even more strange—the plank road on the cliff was now covered in raging flames. The soldiers guarding the tomb must have burned down the only entrance to the heavenly palace after the funeral ceremony was completed in order to ensure the safety of the tomb. In this way, they could basically prevent all small-scale grave-robbing attempts. It didn’t matter whether you were from the southern or northern school of grave robbing, no one would have the ability to go to a place with such a high altitude. Climbing a hundred-meter-high cliff just to rob a tomb was not only impossible but unnecessary.
Zhang Qiling had never encountered such a tomb as far as he could remember so he couldn’t help feeling surprised. He hurriedly ran to the last painting and froze in shock when he saw it. This painting turned out to be surprisingly simple: the heavenly palace on top of the mountain had suddenly disappeared, leaving only a field of white snow in its place. Not only that, but even the cliff was covered in white. Although it wasn’t a very vivid picture, Zhang Qiling already knew that this must have been an avalanche.
He figured that the fire must have caused the temperature to rise, which in turn caused the snow above the heavenly palace to loosen and become unstable. This resulted in a massive avalanche that not only buried the entire heavenly palace under the snow but also covered the whole mountain top, turning the palace into a veritable grave.
When he saw this, he couldn’t help but sigh. Who would have thought that the Heavenly Palace on the Clouds would end up like this? It seemed that Wang Zanghai was also bitter about the fact that his outstanding work was directly crushed by an avalanche not long after it was completed. It was enough to leave him feeling depressed until the day he died. No wonder he recorded this incident so secretively. This was probably the tomb of a prominent figure, which meant that he certainly couldn’t make this work public. But with his flamboyant personality, he would definitely find a way to let future generations know that such a magnificent Heavenly Palace on the Clouds was one of his works.
The only thing Zhang Qiling didn’t know now was who was buried in this tomb. He took a deep breath and suddenly noticed that Chen Wen-Jin and two other people were trying to move the large mirror in the southeast corner. He thought it was very strange and asked her what she was doing. “I just saw Sanxing hiding behind this mirror,” Chen Wen-Jin said anxiously. “He was there one second and gone the next.”
It was only at this time that Zhang Qiling remembered they had been chasing after Uncle Three so he went over to give them a hand. The two-meter-high bronze mirror had the words “Good Fortune” painted on it in gold-plating and was so heavy that they only managed to move it half a meter even with all of them using their full strength. When they looked behind the mirror, they found that there was a square opening in the wall that was about half as tall as a person. Zhang Qiling used his flashlight to take a look inside and found that it was so dark, he couldn’t tell where it led to.
When Wu Sanxing had been mapping the underground palace a few days ago, he didn’t notice that there was such a large room here. But Zhang Qiling had known for a long time that the underground palace’s layout wasn’t as simple as Wu Sanxing’s map made it out to be. This was because shipwreck burials were different from land burials. There was a certain process to sinking a ship that involved keeping the whole ship perfectly balanced. As a result, the tomb had to be very symmetrical. Although Wu Sanxing’s map of the underground palace wasn’t wrong on a fundamental level, it was obviously top-heavy. If such a structure were to sink, there was a high probability that the entire tomb would have flipped upside down underwater.
At that time, he was too lazy to put himself in the limelight so he didn’t bother telling Wu Sanxing, but now that he remembered, he didn’t find it all that surprising that there was a passage here used to balance the tomb’s structure.
He explained the situation to the others and then turned on his flashlight and walked in first. Their flashlights had been on for such a long time that they were starting to lose power so Chen Wen-Jin told the others to turn their lights off and only leave the ones in the front and the back on. This stone corridor turned out to be wide enough for four people to walk abreast. When Huo Ling saw that Zhang Qiling and Chen Wen-Jin were walking so close together, she couldn’t help but feel a little upset and pushed her way in between them. But at this time, Zhang Qiling suddenly felt that something was wrong. As he peered into the darkness up ahead, he could vaguely make out something crawling on the ground.
At the same time, he noticed that there was an increasingly strong fragrance in the air, as if they were approaching its source. He took a few steps forward but the smell was so strong that he couldn’t seem to concentrate. He turned to ask Chen Wen-Jin if she felt the same way but suddenly found that several people behind him had fallen to the ground. Chen Wen-Jin put a hand to her forehead and looked at him in confusion before suddenly collapsing into his arms.
Zhang Qiling knew that the situation wasn’t good and immediately held his breath but it was too late. An irresistible drowsiness hit him and he began to lean against the wall before gradually losing consciousness. In the dim light, he saw Uncle Three crouch down and look at him with a blank expression on his face.
Having reached this point in the story, Poker-Face took a deep breath, fell silent for a moment, and then said, “When I woke up, I was lying in a hospital bed. I didn’t remember anything or know anything. It wasn’t until a few months later that I began to remember bits and pieces. After a few years had passed, I began to realize that there was something wrong with my body.”
I wanted to interrupt and ask him if he realized that he wouldn’t grow old, but he didn’t give me the chance. “I can’t tell you what the problem is now,” he continued, “but when I ran into your Uncle Three months ago, I realized that he looked very familiar. In order to try and remember more, I followed you guys to the Seven Star Lu Palace.” At this point, he suddenly turned to me and said, “When we were there, I realized that there was something wrong with your Uncle Three!”
I stood there stunned, unable to comprehend what he meant. “The gold silk book you guys took out from the bronze coffin is actually a fake,” he continued. “Your Uncle Three had already switched it out with the real one.”
Completely taken aback, I shouted, “Bullshit! Aren’t you the one who fucking switched it?”
Poker-Face looked at me indifferently and said, “No, it was your Uncle Three. He and Da Kui made a hole in the back of the tree and dug right under the coffin. That’s probably why Da Kui had to die.”
My whole body felt cold all over and I was more nervous than ever before. Although I still wanted to side with Uncle Three, countless memories were flashing through my mind as fast as lightning. I remembered how Da Kui was poisoned, how Pan Zi was still conscious before climbing the tree but was already in a deep coma when we saw him aboveground again, and how Uncle Three had already been running over with the gasoline when Fatty and I hadn’t even climbed out of the crevice yet.
I couldn’t think about it any longer; it felt like everything in the world had flipped upside down. I didn’t know who to believe. Who was telling the truth and who was lying? My mind was in utter chaos as I muttered to myself, “No, no, it’s not that simple. There’s no motive. Why would Uncle Three do that?”
Poker-Face said indifferently, “If this person really is your Uncle Three, then there’s no motive. But—” he sighed but didn’t continue.
I didn’t understand what he meant, but in my heart, it seemed like I already believed him. I couldn’t help but smile bitterly—I used to wonder how many things Uncle Three had been lying to me about but now I had to wonder how many things he had actually been truthful about.
I really didn’t expect things to take such a turn but there was no use thinking about it now. The important thing was getting out of this ancient tomb, not trying to figure out who was telling the truth and who was lying. Knowing the truth would mean nothing if we ended up dying here.
When I thought of this, I quickly calmed myself down and forced myself to relax. But at this time, I saw Fatty walk in front of the stele, awkwardly squat down, make an orchid gesture with his fingers(2), and start combing his hair. I frowned and called out to him, “You damned fatty, what the fuck are you doing this time? Can’t you give us a break?”
He turned his head and said in a high, feminine voice, “This esteemed one(3) is combing her fucking hair. It’s not like it’ll kill you so why are you being so naggy?”
Feeling helpless, I asked him, “Combing your hair? Do you also want to enter this heavenly door?”
“Of course,” Fatty said. “How could I miss such a spectacular sight? Besides, it’s not easy for us to come down here and that woman ran away, taking our commission with her. No matter what happens, we have to dig out a few of those night pearls. As the saying goes, the rich don’t go grave robbing, but if you’re already robbing a grave, don’t come back empty-handed.”
“You listened to that whole story and all you got out of it was that there are night pearls?” I scolded him.
He listened with a defiant look on his face and then said to me, “Hey, don’t badmouth me! There’s another very important reason why this fat master wants to enter the heavenly door. Do you guys know what it is?”
<Chapter 62><Table of Contents><Chapter 64>
(1) A well sweep is a device for raising and lowering a bucket in a well, using a pivoted pole (aka no gears or pulleys or anything). Looks like this:
(2) It’s a hand gesture unique to Chinese dance and opera where the thumb and middle finger are joined, and the remaining fingers are extended. Characters are 兰花指 and pinyin is “lanhuazhi”. It’s supposed to be a very feminine gesture.
(3) He uses “aijia” (哀家), which is a form of self-address a widowed empress would use. The term is normally used in historical novels and operas.
Next chapter is even longer than this so I’ll switch to Heihua for the next few days while I slowly chip away at it. At least we’re finally done with the flashback though.
10 thoughts on “Chapter 63 Chain”
Thanks so much for the detailed translations! This is where I’m still confused about the whole history behind the ill-fated expedition and Fo Ye’s involvement in the Golmud Sanatorium. So we know that everyone on this expedition got replaced by doubles after this point, and the original people were locked in the sanatorium after they fell unconscious in the underwater tomb, and that they all stopped aging but also started turning into monsters because of some experimental drug that they were fed while unconscious. In Poker Face’s case, we know that his immortality is actually because he’s from the Zhang family. I think it was also heavily implied that Fo Ye was the one who locked them in the sanatorium, ostensibly to keep an eye on the immortality experiments (per the demands of IT), but also secretly to keep Poker Face out of the hands of IT, since the sanatorium was hard to access and was in an autonomous district. Did that mean Fo Ye planned this whole incident in the underwater tomb, or did he just take advantage of them all losing consciousness at this point? I think it was also stated somewhere that the replacement of the team by doubles was orchestrated by Xie Jiuye, who was supposedly fighting against Fo Ye’s faction (i.e. IT). So maybe they conspired together? I’m so confused haha
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I agree with you, I guess it is Zhang Fo Ye who locked the team in the sanatorium ( I hate Fo Ye so much because he had locked Xiaoge for 20 years!!!!) But I heard it was Sanshu, or Wu Sanxing, and Xie Lianhuan, who orchestrated the Xisha accident?
Xie joined the team becuase he found something was wrong with his people (because the origianl agchaeological team was sent by IT, or Zhang Fo Ye or Wangs, then they were replaced by people controlled by Xie Jiu Ye, but when the replacement occurred, Wenjin and Huo Ling was working under the Banai Lake, so those two girls survived and the rest team were murdered. The Xisha team was actually made of fake memebers of Nine Gates, real Wenjin and Huoling, and Xiaoge.The fake Huoling and Wenjin are sent by the real ones to Yunding Palace instead and died there).
Sanshu joined the team becuase he need to find clues in the tomb. Then with Xie Lianhuan, Sanshu cooperated with IT and gave the team the medicine, sent them including Chen Wenjin to the sanatorium and result in her miserable fate of becoming Forbidden Woman. So I always thought Sanshu just take advantage of Wenjin 😭, he did not care her at all! But i still could not find a convincible reason why Sanshu and Xie Lianhuan suddently want to work with IT……People online said it was a bug of NPSS……
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No problem. I really missed Fatty and his inexhaustible practicality. 😄 thank you for all of it!
Thank you for the chapter and all the notes!
I’m trying to focus really hard so I could understand better what’s going on or what’s going to be discovered later! Not an easy task though 😅
Wu Xie, doesn’t knows who to believe, but in his heart he trusts Xiao Ge. He can’t fight this feeling, it is a matter of heart.
Thank you so much for working on these translations. I’ve been slowly working through them, and enjoying them hugely. (Gosh, but book!Wu Xie is a salty little guy.)
Just like some people, I am also (still) a bit confused with the main storyline, but we all know NPSS and his world-building complexity and his own spice of mystery. And his plot-twists. Anyway, looking forward for the next chapters👍🏻👍🏻👍🏻
Thank you so much for your translation, I loved this flashback from Xiaoge’s perspective. <333
Thank you for the chapter 🙏🏼
Read through all of the comments and thank you guys for all of the extra information that I had forgotten about to tie into the current storyline and future events.
So Zhang has already thinking the possibility of switching identity ever since