As soon as I thought about it, I suddenly remembered who Xie Lianhuan was. The Xie and Wu families actually turned out to be related, probably a cousin’s cousin on the maternal side. As the saying went, everyone had a cousin three thousand miles away. Although I wasn’t very familiar with them, I knew that they were also a grave robbing family with a long history. And among those in my Uncle Three’s generation, he and Xie Lianhuan had a close relationship. I only remembered seeing him a few times at most, but Grandpa would often mention the Xie family whenever he scolded Uncle Three, saying that our Wu family would never be able to raise our heads in front of them again all because that child Xie Lianhuan died while following Uncle Three!
Now that I thought about it, if Xie Lianhuan really did die like this, then it wasn’t surprising that my old man wouldn’t let me hang out with Uncle Three. As it turned out, Uncle Three had a dark past.
Fatty was still pushing me from behind, which pulled me from my thoughts. Knowing that I couldn’t waste time thinking about it anymore, I gritted my teeth and moved a few steps forward. A dark opening appeared in the layer of bricks on the ceiling and Fatty gave a happy shout. In fact, I could tell by the red scratches on his front and back that he had almost reached his limit. The granite walls had rubbed his skin so raw that it looked like he had just taken a Turkish bath. I honestly wasn’t much better off and didn’t have any strength in my legs, but there was no need to rush now that we had made it here.
Poker-Face calmly climbed into the hole first, kicked the two walls to make sure the tunnel was stable enough, and then pulled me in. But Fatty was a bit more troublesome—I couldn’t pull him up by myself so all I could do was watch as he gave a fierce shout and then pushed himself up with all his strength. He ended up scraping a large chunk of skin off his back during the process, but he finally made it.
After we all regained our footing and looked down, we couldn’t help but feel alarmed—there was now only a narrow gap left between the two walls. I didn’t even dare to think about what it would’ve been like if we hadn’t managed to escape in time. Even if we had found the grave robbers’ tunnel just a few minutes later, we wouldn’t have been able to climb in.
Sure enough, as long as you didn’t give up hope, the heavens would find a way.
I raised my head and looked up to find that the grave robbers’ tunnel had been dug vertically upwards to a height of about one person before it turned and angled eastward. I figured it was connected to the grave robbers’ tunnel above. My legs were feeling weak and I knew that I couldn’t hold out for much longer so I urged Poker-Face to hurry up. The three of us managed to climb to the section of the tunnel that was sloped but I was so exhausted by this point that I had to stop and lean against the wall to try and catch my breath.
At this time, we heard the sound of the stone walls slamming together come from below. I let out a long breath, massaged my tight calf muscles, and tried my best to relax. I had been so tense and nervous just now, but after calming down a bit, I felt a little dazed and ended up yawning. Fatty leaned against the wall of the tunnel, his face ashen and his body covered in bloody scrape marks. “I’ll remember this for a long time,” he said in between gasps. “Mark my words, I should lose a few kilos when I get back.”
This tunnel that we found ourselves in had been dug very skillfully, which meant that this Xie Lianhuan wasn’t an ordinary person after all. I looked around with my flashlight and found that the whole tunnel zigzagged upward. From an architectural standpoint, this was done so that even if a small-scale collapse occurred, there wouldn’t be a great deal of danger. But if you tried to save energy and dug a vertical tunnel upward, then in the case of a collapse, all of the bricks above would fall down and slam into you with the force of a piledriver.
Fatty finally caught his breath and asked Poker-Face, “I say, Little Brother, what the hell is going on here? Why was everything fine when you took this passage twenty years ago but we almost got flattened just now? Did you pick the wrong door?!”
Poker-Face, who was resting with his eyes closed, thought for a moment before saying, “Not likely, unless someone changed the sign on the stele that indicated the Life Gate. Based on how dangerous the situation was just now, I think we entered the Death Gate.”
Fatty pondered over it for a while before saying, “Maybe that woman discovered that we weren’t dead and came back to finish us off?”
I shook my head. I would be the first to admit that she was vicious, but I didn’t think she had the ability to change the centuries-old mechanisms in this ancient tomb. It was simply preposterous. But it wasn’t like there was a fifth person here, either. I thought for a moment and couldn’t help but wonder if it was Uncle Three’s doing.
Poker-Face saw how anxious I was and patted me on the shoulder, “Actually, I also have a theory regarding this matter. If you’re so worried about it, you might as well listen to what I have to say.”
Not only was he a participant in those events, but it could also be argued that he had personally experienced the most important parts. This meant that he could give me some advice, which I most certainly wouldn’t refuse. So, I nodded and asked him to continue. “Let’s assume,” Poker-Face said, “that your Uncle Three and Xie Lianhuan knew each other twenty years ago and even had a very good relationship but didn’t show it. During the initial search, Xie Lianhuan may have discovered the tomb on the seabed but didn’t tell anyone besides Wu Sanxing.
“They were both from grave-robbing families, so it was only natural that they wouldn’t want to miss this opportunity. They took advantage of the fact that the others weren’t paying attention and snuck into the ancient tomb. They were both skilled masters so it shouldn’t have been difficult at all. But after they entered the ancient tomb, something unexpected happened, which led to your Uncle Three plotting to kill Xie Lianhuan.
“It’s impossible to know what exactly happened, but we can be certain that when Xie Lianhuan found himself at a dead end, he left a bloody message on the bricks above this corridor. But as he was writing his message, he suddenly found that the bricks were hollow. He probably had some tools with him so he was able to dig the grave robbers’ tunnel very quickly, which ultimately saved his life.”
I nodded—the analysis so far was essentially flawless—and listened as Poker-Face continued.
“After Xie Lianhuan escaped the immediate danger, he wanted to use this tunnel to get out of the tomb. Although there were several failures at first, he was able to use his own skills and experience to finally escape from this ancient tomb. Of course, he immediately wanted to find Wu Sanxing and get revenge, but who would have expected Wu Sanxing to kill him instead and make it look like he had gotten caught on the coral reefs and died in an accident.”
I felt a little uncomfortable when I heard Poker-Face say it like this, but I couldn’t find a reason to refute him. Moreover, he had said that it was just a theory so I decided to continue listening.
“After that, Wu Sanxing took the whole team into the undersea tomb for some purpose—or maybe it really was just to avoid the storm—and then pretended to fall asleep. At this time, I discovered the secret painted on the porcelain and led everyone to the bottom of the pool. He probably didn’t expect this to happen so he had no other choice but to pretend to be possessed by a female ghost, lure us into the room where the palace model was, and then trick us into going into the passage behind the mirror.
“After he knocked us out, he must have done something to us. And then I somehow got out of the ancient tomb. I don’t know what happened to the others, but I’m sure they must have lost their memory, just like me. Even if we had happened to meet each other over the past twenty years, we would have only thought that the other party looked familiar.”
When I heard this, I immediately asked him, “Why didn’t Uncle Three just kill you guys at that time? Wouldn’t it have been easier?”
“I can’t figure it out either,” Poker-Face answered. “Maybe he didn’t think it was necessary to kill us because we didn’t actually know anything.”
His theory almost made it seem like Uncle Three was an evil monster who planned this all in advance, which I really couldn’t accept. In my mind, Uncle Three definitely wasn’t that kind of person.
Fatty seemed to have an epiphany when he heard this and said to me, “Young Wu, I’ve just remembered something that might explain this whole thing but don’t laugh when you hear it.”
As soon as I heard this, I felt that it was the perfect time for a brainstorming session. Fatty had a straightforward mind, after all. I figured that maybe he had thought of something I hadn’t so I urged him to say it quickly. He lowered his voice, pretending to be mysterious, and said “I think it’s actually very simple. After your Uncle Three arrived in this place, he might have encountered something…unclean and fallen into a trap. Didn’t Little Brother just say that your Uncle Three was combing his hair like a woman? Think about it. Wasn’t he the one who showed you guys how to find the heavenly door? Who else would have this kind of knowledge other than the old ghost in this tomb? I think your Uncle Three must have been under the control of the tomb owner’s ghost. If we manage to find him, we should pour a bucket of dog’s blood on him and force the ghost out.”
The more he talked, the more absurd his words sounded and I quickly said to him, “Your fucking explanation sounds like something from ‘Strange Tales’.(1) I’ve been around my Uncle Three for more than twenty years and have never seen him act like a woman. Your theory is ridiculous.”
“I didn’t say that this ghost was necessarily a woman,” Fatty argued. “Maybe it’s more like a mental disorder that can be divided into ‘episodes’ and ‘non-episodes’. For example, maybe your Uncle Three is normal when he’s around you, but when he’s alone, he’s doing embroidery and putting on makeup.” As Fatty said this, he made an orchid gesture with his fingers.
I looked at him and laughed, “What? Are you talking about Dongfang Bubai?(2) Embroidery? It doesn’t make any sense.”
Poker-Face listened to Fatty and said, “No, I think what he’s talking about is actually possible. That kind of thing has occurred in ancient tombs before.”
Fatty saw that someone was agreeing with him and immediately puffed up with pride before saying, “You see? I, Fatty, will never talk nonsense. I figure this has a lot to do with the fact that this tomb is at the bottom of the sea. It’s all about feng shui, specifically the so-called ‘sound of the wind and water rising’. The wind blows over the water and makes waves, but the waves stop when they encounter more water. Do you know why water ghosts look for substitutes? It’s because their souls can’t escape the water without a host. They kill a person, leave that person’s soul in the water to act as their replacement, and then move into the body and make their escape. Although the feng shui of this ancient underwater tomb is good, it places the tomb owner at a great disadvantage.”
I listened to his logic but still couldn’t believe it. “I’ll keep that in mind,” I eventually said to him. “If we can really find my Uncle Three, I’ll get a blessed Buddha amulet and place it on his forehead and see if it works.”
We each put forward some more ideas, by which time we had all recovered. Fatty looked at his watch and said, “Let’s not hold congress here any longer. We should hurry up and leave. If it’s as I said and we end up starving to death in this place, our souls won’t be able to get out and we won’t be able to reincarnate. That definitely won’t be good.”
After saying this, he scratched his back and asked me, “Young Wu, I don’t know when it started, but haven’t you felt itchy ever since we entered this ancient tomb?”
<Chapter 64><Table of Contents><Chapter 66>
(1) “Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio” is Chinese romance fantasy novel collection of Classical Chinese stories by Qing dynasty writer Pu Songling, comprising close to five hundred supernatural tales. More info here.
(2) Per Tiffany: Dongfang Bubai, literally “Invincible East”, is a fictional character in the wuxia novel “The Smiling, Proud Wanderer” by Jin Yong. He is a formidable martial artist, and embroidery needles are one of his weapons. Wiki link here.
Can’t believe I couldn’t get this out in time for Fatty’s birthday yesterday. Happy belated birthday Fatty, we love you! Here’s a link to the DMBJ fic exchange if anyone’s interested (kudos to the people who put it together). Looks like signups are open for Small-Med Ships Exchange
5 thoughts on “Chapter 65 Escape the Trap”
Cool! Fatty shares a birthday with my cousin!
I missed Fatty’s theories, his ideas are the best. Thank for the chapter.
I can’t help not to ship Xiao get and Wu xie sorry just bl fan here 😉…I doubt if they couldn’t get out of this tomb they have each vital…
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I’m really amazed on how Wu Xie believes anything that Xiao’ge says during the early period of dmbj. The trust he have for people is really amazing
Thank you for the chapter 🙏🏼