Chapter 71 Dilemma

As soon as he said that, I immediately remembered what happened a few weeks ago.

At that time, we were on our way to the Seven Star Lu Palace. We were passing through a corpse cave and caught a big corpse-eater insect. It had a bell like this hanging from its tail and there was a big green centipede inside of the bell. When the corpse-eater would crawl around, the movement would cause the bell to ring, which sounded like a bunch of ghostly people whispering. The sound seemed to have some kind of mysterious power and we were almost bewitched by it at the time. But fortunately, we were saved by Poker-Face’s quick thinking—he kicked us all into the water, which brought us back to our senses.

Uncle Three examined the bell after that and said that it was from a dynasty before the Warring States Period, but he didn’t know which one. The situation at that time was serious so I didn’t think much about it, especially because what happened later inside the tomb was like a nightmare. It was good that we didn’t go crazy at that time.

I didn’t remember seeing those kinds of bells anywhere else, but now that I was looking at the ones here, I wasn’t so sure that they were the same. Just like the room we were in now, the corpse cave at that time was only dimly lit by a few miner’s lamps and it didn’t take long for Pan Zi to crush the bell to pieces. In short, it was impossible to compare the two, so I could only look at them from a more general perspective.

If this really was the same kind of bell that we saw in the corpse cave and Fatty had touched it just now, then things would have taken a terrible turn. At that time, one bell was enough to bewitch us all beyond control, and there were at least forty here. There was no telling what would happen with even the smallest shake.

Poker-Face saw that I remembered and said, “There was something else that was strange about that corpse cave. The cave was originally a huge tomb but I don’t know how it’s related to Wang Zanghai.”

Fatty had heard us discuss this matter before so he knew the bells’ origins. “Are you guys sure you haven’t made a mistake?” He asked. “It seems too coincidental that something from before the Warring States Period would appear here in a late Yuan or early Ming tomb.(1) Maybe this Wang Zanghai was also a grave robber?”

As soon as he said this, Poker-Face and I both froze.

“It’s possible,” Poker-Face said after thinking about it for a while. “No one knows what he did in his early years, and he was proficient in feng shui. It would have been easy for him to rob tombs. But I remember that his family had quite the prominent background, and had been feng shui masters for several generations. They didn’t have to worry about their livelihood so they would never do such disgraceful work.”

When Poker-Face said the words “disgraceful work”, his expression didn’t change at all. It seemed he didn’t even realize that he had insulted us.

“I don’t think it’s possible,” I argued. “If he was a grave robber, he would’ve definitely left a sign in his tomb so that future generations would avoid it. Did you see anything like that here?”

Poker-Face shook his head. “I’ve been looking but there really haven’t been any.”

His knowledge in this field was unfathomable so if he said that there weren’t any, then I knew that it had to be true. “Then how do you explain these bells’ presence here?” I asked. “Could he have been an antique collector himself and buried his beloved collection here with him?”

“We didn’t see any other antiques along the way so what you’ve said isn’t right either. I think it may be another situation.” Fatty seemed to have thought of something because he had a smug look on his face. “Actually, besides grave robbers, there’s another group of people who often encounter ancient tombs. Do you guys know who I’m talking about?”

When he said this, I immediately understood, “You mean, they were dug up at a construction site while he was working on a project?”

Fatty nodded, “This man was the biggest contractor at that time so it’s not surprising he would encounter this kind of situation. When we get out of here, you can go back and check to see if he had been to the Temple of Seeds in Shandong at that time.”

What Fatty said made sense, and I couldn’t help but admire him a little bit, but the one thing we knew for sure was that these bells mustn’t be touched. I figured A Ning might have touched the coral tree and caused many of the bells to ring, which brought about her mental breakdown. I just didn’t know what kind of hallucinations the bells produced in her brain to have such a powerful effect.

People were usually easily susceptible to suggestions, but it was much worse when you were in an ancient tomb with a mysterious atmosphere and your nerves were already a little fragile. Anyone would go crazy. I figured that even Poker-Face’s amnesia may have been caused by these bells because I found that they were tied to specific spots on the coral tree with copper wires. Coral was excellent for transmitting sounds since it was hollow so this thing was more like a musical instrument—it could produce thousands of sounds, one of which might be able to make people forget everything.

But my ideas were a bit far-fetched, and I was too embarrassed to say them aloud. The three of us stood there for a while before Fatty said, “It seems that the bells at the end of this passage are just another trick to lure people in. Why don’t we head back?”

Since I felt a lot more relaxed knowing that there weren’t any monsters or ghosts in this passage, I wasn’t in a rush to leave this place. But after looking at my watch, I realized that it was almost time for low tide and it was boring to stay here so the four of us started heading back.

As I walked along, there were still two things that were bothering me. The first was that Poker-Face entered this hole in the wall twenty years ago all because of Uncle Three. Where were the other people who fainted with him? Did Uncle Three move them out of this tomb?

The second was that when Poker-Face went into the hole back then, he had smelled a very strange fragrance but it was gone now. Did this mean that there may have been something else in the hole twenty years ago?

These questions could only be answered once we found Uncle Three.

And Uncle Three had disappeared again. I didn’t know if we would ever manage to find him, but if he really did disappear, then these questions would become an eternal mystery.

If, as Fatty had said, Uncle Three was possessed by a ghost in this tomb, then where would he go? When he saw the photo with Poker-Face in it, he had said “I understand” but what exactly did he understand?

Just thinking about it was making me feel like there was something missing from the whole puzzle, and I couldn’t shake the feeling that as long as I had a small clue, I would be able to connect everything. My instincts were telling me that this thing should be related to the Seven Star Lu Palace.

While I was lost in thought, the four of us had made it out of the short passage. Fatty put A Ning on the ground and said to us, “It’s almost time. Let’s get to work.”

I knew that escaping was our top priority so I set these thoughts aside for now and began to explain things again. Since I had never really broken through the ceiling of a Ming Dynasty tomb before and wasn’t feeling very confident, I could only take it one step at a time.

After that, the three of us acted according to the plan. Fatty, who had been restraining his enthusiasm for a long time now, picked up one of the mirrors’ legs and started trying to chisel footholds into one of the pillars. But he underestimated how hard golden nanmu wood was. After trying a few times, he was out of breath but only managed to make a small dent in the pillar.

Realizing that something was wrong, he said, “Young Wu, this pillar is too strong. If we try to do it like this, it’ll take us a week to make it to the top.”

“Don’t worry,” I said placatingly. “As long as you chop off the outermost layer, the inside will be easy to deal with.”

Fatty was dubious, but he gripped the mirror leg a little tighter and then used all of his strength to hit the pillar again. There was barely any improvement at first, but after a few more blows, he finally made it through the iron-like outer layer of wood and chiseled out a space big enough to accommodate one foot.

It was only at this time that I remembered that the hole we were in just now was a dead end. When the seawater came pouring in, it would only be able to leak down through the seams in the brick so there was no need to worry about a whirlpool. Now that I didn’t have to figure out how to plug the hole, I grabbed another mirror leg and went to help Fatty. But after two blows, I realized that this job was simply made for him—he was not only strong but he also had a lot of stamina as well. Even after enduring so many hardships along the way, he was still energetic and cheerful without any signs of fatigue at all. I had been working beside him for the same amount of time but I was so tired that I could barely lift my hands.

We worked extremely hard like this for about three hours before we finally managed to make the necessary footholds on the pillar. The ones at the bottom were the best while the ones closer to the top were only deep enough to put your toe in. This was because we had to climb up using the footholds we had already made and hang in the air, which meant that we couldn’t use our full strength. But it didn’t matter how shallow the ones at the top were as long as we could complete our task.

Once that was done, we stripped off our diving suits and cut them into strips. Since they were very elastic, we decided to tie the strips together into a rope and then wrap the rope around the pillar so it acted as a sling, just like what Mexican tree climbers used.(2) With the three of us in three different directions, we stretched the rope taut and started climbing up.

I didn’t know how we were going to make it to the top since every move felt like we were a second away from death. Not long after we started climbing, Fatty cried out tiredly, “Why did we decide that you guys would follow me up here? I can just go up and make the hole myself. Once the water comes pouring in, you guys can float up anyways. This rope feels like it’s about to squeeze me into Dongpo pork.(3) Young Wu, you’d better fucking go down or I won’t be able to stand it anymore.”

“You think I want to go up there?” I retorted. “But I don’t know what the actual situation is like up there and I don’t want you to die. There might be a protective layer of quicksand above the ceiling, and if you dig into it, the sand will pour down and bury the whole room.”

I was telling the truth. Quicksand layers in tomb walls were one of the most common ways of preventing grave robbing. As I mentioned earlier, it was quite effective. If you wanted to smoothly enter a large tomb with a quicksand layer, you would have to dig a drainage hole separate from your grave robbers’ tunnel and let the quicksand flow out first. Sometimes, it would take several days and nights before the sand was fully drained from the wall. That kind of situation showed just how much sand must have been used. But we weren’t in a position to dig a drainage hole now. If we really encountered such a layer above the ceiling, then we would just have to find another way out. But if it wasn’t quicksand but a layer of strong acid or kerosene instead, then that was even worse.

Fatty had robbed a lot of tombs so he naturally knew that what I had said was right. He waved his hand and motioned for us to keep climbing.

We gritted our teeth and climbed for another half hour before we finally reached the top. When Fatty found a stable position, he was so exhausted that he simply clung to the pillar without moving and said to us, “Damn, if you continue to torture me like this, I’ll really die.”

We let him catch his breath first since we’d have to rely on him to chisel through the bricks. As I carefully tapped on the ceiling, Poker-Face motioned for me to keep going while he pressed his fingers against the ceiling and felt the vibrations. After a few seconds, he said, “It’s solid.”

After Fatty heard this, he didn’t dare rest any longer and began chiseling away at the white clay on the ceiling without saying a word. He was afraid to use too much strength because our makeshift rope really wasn’t that strong. If it happened to break, we’d all fall down and wind up seriously injured.

Poker-Face and I reached out and gripped Fatty’s shoulders, hoping that if the rope broke, we would be able to keep him from falling those ten meters. But he was so sweaty that I figured we wouldn’t be able to keep our grip on him if he really did end up falling.

The white clay was very brittle so it only took a few blows before he managed to peel off a large chunk, revealing the blue bricks behind. Fatty looked at it and swore before telling me to feel the bricks. I stretched my hand out and immediately froze in shock when I came into contact with them.

Iron had been poured in between the brick seams.

<Chapter 70><Table of Contents><Chapter 72>


TN Notes:

(1) Reminder: Warring States Period was from 475-221 BC while the Yuan Dynasty was from 1279-1368 and Ming Dynasty was from 1368-1644.

(2) It seems weird to say it like that but it’s definitely what the raw said. I assume he means like coconut pickers. In the left pick, it looks like the guy has a sling around his feet and his waist:

(3) It’s a Hangzhou dish which is made by pan-frying and then red cooking pork belly. The pork is cut thick, about 5 cm (2.0 in) square, and should consist equally of fat and lean meat. The skin is left on. Info/pic here.


Look at lil Lucy puttin’ out the vibes lol (it’s even more hilarious because she couldn’t get down and needed help even though it’s not high up at all hahahaha)


6 thoughts on “Chapter 71 Dilemma

  1. “But my ideas were a bit far-fetched, and I was too embarrassed to say them aloud.”

    Wow young Wu Xie is so different 😆

    I love your cat!!


  2. Thank you again for translating this, I am enjoying it a lot! I like how the novel really emphasized how strong he is, and how they need to work together as a team to get up the nanmu pillar (in contrast to the drama).


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