This hole was a key point in the whole incident. Poker-Face’s memory stopped here; what happened after that was a complete mystery. What was in the hole, how he got out, and whether the others also lost their memory like him were all speculations, but there weren’t any facts to come to a conclusion.
I examined the hole very carefully. From the outside, it could only be described as an opening that was poorly positioned (except for tunnel warfare, I had never seen anyone make an entrance at this kind of location). From what I could see of the inside of the hole, it was made of the same yellow mortar brick as the room outside. The overall structure seemed very common. In fact, I had seen many such holes in charcoal manufacturing factories in Shanxi. They were all used as exhaust openings for the brick kilns there, but placing this hole here was very strange considering the tomb’s layout. I didn’t know what purpose it served.
As far as I could remember, almost all tombs were structurally symmetrical. It was rare to open a passage or have an extra room for no reason unless the tomb owner had such a hobby. If that wasn’t the case here, then there were only two possibilities:
My first thought was that there might be some hidden burial objects inside of it, which wouldn’t be surprising at all. According to my grandpa’s notes, there were many people who designed hidden rooms in their own tombs, but they were generally very well disguised. This hole, on the other hand, had neither a trapdoor nor was it camouflaged. There was just a mirror placed in front of it, which seemed a bit ridiculous.
The second possibility was that it was related to feng shui. The reason I thought this was because mirrors were very important props in feng shui so the fact that it was placed here should have some kind of meaning. Generally speaking, creating an opening in a room was called “tong” in feng shui, which meant that it was a place through which energy would pass through. Putting a mirror in front of the opening would either attract the energy inward or release it back out so that it wouldn’t be trapped.
This was called “small feng shui”, and it was very different from the “big feng shui” of ancient times. Just like Mahayana and Hinayana in Buddhism(1), small feng shui was all about finding ways to change things. In other words, it was about using certain methods to change a bad situation in a small area into a good one. Since I found this aspect of feng shui interesting, I knew much more about it than I did about big feng shui.
I followed the direction the mirror was facing and moved to look around the room, hoping to find some helpful clues. The layout of the entire room was exactly the same as what Poker-Face had described to us earlier, but because it had remained the same for twenty years, light was only coming from the four luminous pearls on the four walls. This meant that the model of the heavenly palace in the middle was hidden in darkness so I could only look at small sections of it with my flashlight. After scanning the room several times, my eyes were involuntarily drawn to the shadow paintings on the wall.
I have already described the contents of these four paintings before based on Poker-Face’s description of them. They had seemed very vague and indistinct when I was listening to him describe them, but now that I could see them for myself, I found that they were actually very realistic. As long as you looked carefully enough, you could see a lot of very specific details.
First, I found that the snow-capped mountains in the painting were probably the northern slope of Changbai Mountain in Jilin. It wasn’t that my memory was amazing, it was just that Changbai Mountain’s main peaks were so distinctive that anyone who had ever been there would be able to recognize them.
The second thing I noticed was that in the second painting, the funeral procession members were all dressed in Yuan-style clothing. In other words, the person in the coffin was probably a prominent dignitary from the Yuan Dynasty.(2) This likely meant that the Heavenly Palace on the Clouds was built at the end of the Yuan Dynasty when there was a dynastic change occurring. The owner of that tomb definitely wasn’t an ordinary person if they still had the ability to build such a large tomb in such a chaotic world.
The third thing I noticed was that everyone in the funeral procession was a woman. It was not only surprising but also unbelievable. I didn’t know what the Mongolians’ burial ceremony entailed, but it was completely unheard of for a funeral procession to be made up entirely of women.
There were so many other small details like this, but I didn’t know whether they were intentional clues left by the artisans or if it was just their own style of doing things.
After looking at all the details, I knew that it would be possible to find the location of this heavenly palace—all we needed to do was find someone from a mountain village who was familiar with the terrain. But the palace had been buried under hundreds of years’ worth of snow, and the permafrost was very soft. One wrong move while digging could cause a small avalanche to occur, which was enough to keep you trapped in the snow forever.
But these hints definitely didn’t have anything to do with the hole in the corner of the room. I went to check the walls behind the other three mirrors but didn’t find anything special. It seemed that all of our questions could only be answered by entering that hole. I walked back over to it and saw that Poker-Face was still standing there staring at it. There was a rare uncertainty in his eyes, as if he was thinking about something. When he saw me coming, he suddenly said to me, “I think I need to go in there again.”
I was taken aback for a moment and said, “No way! Are you trying to throw your life away? If you lose your memory for another twenty years, then everything you’ve done so far will be meaningless.”
“I’m different from you,” he said indifferently. “For you, what happened here is just a bizarre experience, but for me, it’s a huge mystery. If I don’t figure out what happened, I won’t be able to live in peace even if I remember everything.”
I became anxious as soon as I heard this. Although I told him no, it wasn’t because I didn’t understand him but because our current environment didn’t allow for any complications. What we should’ve been focusing on was escaping this tomb as soon as possible. Otherwise, even if we learned all of the secrets in the world, they would immediately lose their value when the air ran out and we all suffocated to death.
When I shared my concerns with him, a flicker of doubt appeared on his face and he asked me, “How sure are you that we can get out?”
It was only after hearing this question that I realized I hadn’t even looked at the ceiling here. I quickly raised my head and examined the ceiling carefully.
In all the records I had read before, the tops of Ming Dynasty tombs were described as very sturdy because they placed the beams in a seven horizontal and eight vertical formation. In my opinion, this room’s ceiling should’ve had an arched structure with a high center and two low sides in order to withstand the water pressure, but it appeared to have followed traditional land-based tombs and was flat. In that case, it didn’t really matter where the hole was made.
The ceiling was more than ten meters away from us and there was nothing we could use to climb up to it. Our only other option was to make several dents in the pillars using the mirrors’ legs, climb up to the ceiling, break through the outer layer of white clay, and then figure out how to deal with the blue bricks. We didn’t need to be too careful. As long as we calculated the time right and destroyed the pressure-bearing structure above, a hole would appear naturally in the ceiling and seawater would start filling the tomb. Once the tomb was filled, we could easily make our escape.
The most important part of this plan was to time it just right. If the pressure-bearing structure wasn’t destroyed at low tide, then there was a chance the whole ceiling would collapse as the seawater rushed in, effectively crushing us inside.
I explained this to Poker-Face and stressed to him that we actually had a very good chance of getting out. The tomb would be completely compromised once we did, but it wouldn’t disappear and everything would still be inside of it. He could come back in a few days with the necessary equipment and take his time searching.
He nodded, finally convinced by my words. Fatty couldn’t stand it any longer and said, “In that case, what are we waiting for? Let’s get started now. We’ll focus on the pillar first. That way, we won’t be in such a rush later.”
I glanced at my watch. There were still six hours before low tide, which meant that we still had plenty of time. I shook my head and said, “We used up a lot of energy just now and haven’t eaten at all so our condition isn’t too good. We should take the time to get some rest since there’s no telling what will happen once we get out of here. The boat might have already left or we might drown if we don’t have enough energy to swim. Encountering such an ending after everything we’ve been through would really suck.”
Fatty was originally full of motivation but became depressed after hearing the logic in my words. He scratched his head and said, “Shit, we still have to wait? Fine then, I’ll just get some sleep first. Call me when it’s time to start working.”
I also found a place to sit where I could lean against the wall, but countless thoughts kept popping into my head. I roughly calculated how quickly the room would fill once the seawater started pouring in. The passage leading to the stele at the bottom of the pool was currently closed off, but it wasn’t sealed so the seawater would definitely flow into it, albeit at a much slower rate than the water pouring in through the ceiling. So, most of the seawater would definitely flood into that strange hole in the wall first. But the problem was, I didn’t know where that hole led to. If it was connected with other rooms, then that would definitely cause a problem because a whirlpool could form and suck us into the hole.
When I thought of this, I couldn’t help but glance at the dark depths of the hole, wondering if there was any way to plug it. Then I realized that we could use sections of the heavenly palace model to do so. I calculated the height and width of the hole, thinking about how best to plug it.
But the moment I focused my attention on the hole, a very strange feeling suddenly rose in my heart.
In the darkness of that hole, there was some kind of force that was drawing my gaze. This kind of force was not only strong but also had a certain compulsion that made it difficult to look away. I tried to turn my head but found that I couldn’t move my neck and even my eyes couldn’t look away.
At the same time, I immediately felt an indescribable restlessness come over me. It was the same kind of feeling a starving person would have after receiving a bag of food but being unable to tear it open. This restless feeling gave rise to a strong impulse to enter the hole and see what was in there.
It all happened in an instant and without any warning. As a result, by the time the other two felt that something was wrong with me, it was already too late. Poker-Face was in front of me, but I shoved him out of the way and rushed into the hole. Since I was already very close to the entrance, I was able to rush into the darkness before Poker-Face had the chance to pull me back. At that time, I wasn’t thinking about what I was doing at all, I just wanted to run to the deepest part of the hole to see what was there. I didn’t even turn on my flashlight and just continued running forward into the darkness, not paying attention to what was underfoot or whether I was being chased or not.
But after only a few steps, there was a sudden gust of wind behind me and then a searing pain shot up my left knee. My leg buckled and then I fell to the ground.
It was a bad fall—my forehead slammed into the ground, my mind felt like it was buzzing from the pain, and my nose was bleeding. But after suffering such a fall, the restlessness in my heart suddenly disappeared and everything returned to normal.
I lay there stunned for a while, feeling nothing but a strange, indescribable feeling. This hole was too powerful considering how just looking at that mass of darkness could make people lose their minds. It seemed I had almost succumbed to the trick myself just now.
Looking back, I saw that Poker-Face and Fatty had chased after me and a flashlight was lying off to one side. It seemed that was the thing that had hit my knee just now.
The two of them walked up to me and, without saying a word, grabbed me by the arms and started dragging me out of the passage. I tried to stand up but found that my injured knee couldn’t support my weight at all. They dragged me a little ways but couldn’t lift me up in the narrow passage. Moreover, the beams from their flashlights kept jumping around everywhere from the movements, which made the scene look very chaotic.
Fatty saw that it was too inconvenient to pull me with one hand, so he put his flashlight under his armpit, wrapped both arms around me, and started dragging me back towards the entrance. His movements were so violent and jerky that I almost went into shock.
At this time, his flashlight swept across a part of the passage and something flashed from out of the darkness. I thought I saw a person squatting there in the dark.
The light had moved too fast so I didn’t see it clearly, but I was certain that it must have been a person. I immediately thought of Uncle Three and shouted, “Wait a minute, someone’s up ahead!”
When Fatty heard this, he swept his flashlight back over the area. We caught a glimpse of the person’s back, but they had already stood up and were quickly running down the passage.
Although we were stunned, we could all clearly tell that it was a person, but we couldn’t see who it was. Poker-Face reacted the fastest and immediately shouted, “Quick, follow them!” With that said, he took off like a bullet. Fatty swore loudly but also chased after him.
I stood up with difficulty and took a few steps, hobbling after them. At this time, Poker-Face had already grabbed the person and was grappling with them. Fatty immediately jumped into the fray and the two men pushed the person directly to the ground. Fatty took out his flashlight and pointed it at the person’s face. “Ah!” He shouted. “It’s A Ning!”
I shuffled closer to take a look and was surprised at the sight that greeted me—her hair was disheveled, her face was dirty, her diving suit was torn, and she stunk to high heaven. I could also see that there was blood by her nose and at the corners of her mouth. I didn’t know what had happened to her to put her in such a state, but when I thought about it, the three of us weren’t much better. Fatty especially was covered in so many wounds that it was difficult to look at him without cringing.
When Fatty saw this woman, he immediately became angry and pointed at her nose, cursing up a storm. But after a few words, Poker-Face suddenly stopped him and said, “Wait a minute, there’s something wrong with her!”
<Chapter 68><Table of Contents><Chapter 70>
(1) In Buddhism, Hinayana means “lesser or inferior vehicle” while Mahayana means “bigger or superior vehicle” (vehicle in this case refers to something that people use to cross from the so-called delusional shore where’s there’s suffering to the enlightenment shore which is the Land of Buddha). Hinayana teachings emphasize personal enlightenment while Mahayana teachings emphasize both personal and mass (others’) enlightenment. Info from here.
(2) The Yuan (or Mongol) dynasty was from 1279-1368. Descriptions of the clothing style here and here (the wiki one looks more in depth).
In today’s merebear news:
My mom talking about my sister getting a boyfriend: You know, I’m sure you’d find someone too if you actually went outside.
Me: Damn mom, I didn’t come here to be personally attacked like this. I could be doing drugs or something. Just let me live my hermit life in peace. An outsider will ruin my crazy cat lady aspirations.
Hahaha gotta love it. Anyways, according to the licensed version, there are about 20 pages left but my word document says about 50 and there’s not a huge difference in the font size so we’ve still got a ways to go (and a lot of info that was apparently left out of these upcoming chapters).
12 thoughts on “Chapter 69 Hole in the Wall”
Yaaaay more Feng Shui! Our favorite! 😘
Haha, I too have hermit cat lady aspirations. But I also suffer from Wanderlust. But not being able to travel, well, frustration abounds. Thank you for your service!
Hey, with that wanderlust you’re leagues ahead of me 😂 I am just fine in my little hermit cave 😂
“Mom you don’t understand, I am the core of an international community of readers who are completely dependent on me to get their DMBJ book fix! I have responsibilities, okay?!” 😆
This evil alluring black passage sounds like the same as in the Restart book?
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😂 my family just thinks it’s weird. They’re like “So let me get this straight, you’re doing all of this and you’re not getting paid for it?” And when I say yes, they just look at me and go “You should sell it.” Then I have to explain that this is all just MTL so it’s not at a quality to be sold and that it would also be very VERY illegal 😂😂😂
I was also thinking it was just like Wu Xie getting drawn into that long passage in “Ten Thousand Mountains”! Great minds think alike 😎
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Honestly if it wasn’t for that whole “very VERY illegal” bit I would encourage you to sell it.
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Aw, that’s very high praise. Thank you! 😘
In fairness your TLs are a million times better than the official ones!! The quality is not the obstacle!
Great minds indeed! I feel like we need a virtual DMBJ nerd high five 🖐😆
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Aww thank you 😘 (definitely couldn’t have done it without Tiffany 🥰)
Haha yes! DMBJ nerd high five 🖐😆
Exactly like the other comments, I have the same opinion about your excellent translation. Thank you very much for your efforts. 💞
Don’t take it to the heart. It all comes from motherly love. 😇 In these cases, one wants a spicy food. 😄
Poor mom, i can understand her though I totally relate to you!
I wonder what I would be doing now if not for you! Imagine not be able to read all NPSS stuff!! 😱😱😱
And 50 pages left on your word and only 20 on the licenced version! How did they butcher the original!!! I’m mad at the official translator but I’m excited about the new content. Thank you again and again for your hard work!
thank you for the chapter 🙏🏼