Chapter 72 Bomb

The three of us looked at each other, our expressions very ugly.

After iron had been poured into the brick seams, the whole thing became just like reinforced concrete. It didn’t matter if you had a sledgehammer and were on flat ground—it would all be useless. This was especially true considering our current situation.

Plus, there were at least seven more of these layers above, and they were all connected to each other. It was absolutely impossible to dig our way through them without modern equipment.

Feeling annoyed, I knew that I had only myself to blame for not thinking of such a possibility. After all, flat ceilings weren’t able to withstand pressure as well as vaulted ceilings so the bricks had to be reinforced with something. In Ming Dynasty tombs, there was only one method that was used to do this—pour molten iron in between the seams in order to tightly seal the tomb. I had been relying on an old notebook and my limited knowledge of construction to make our escape plan, but as it turned out, I knew nothing at all. I had just been spouting crap this whole time and now we were going to suffer because of it.

Fatty looked at me and asked, “What now, Comrade Architect? Got any more ideas?”

I still wanted to try my luck so I said, “What else can we do? Don’t give up and just keep trying to break through it with the mirror leg. It’s been more than two hundred years so I doubt it’s as strong as before.”

Fatty didn’t think the problem was too serious since he didn’t see me panicking so he continued trying to break through the layer of bricks. The hollow bricks were easy to break, but the solidified bands of iron in the seams were still there. Fatty hit them as hard as he could but only managed to leave a few marks on them. He knew as soon as he saw this that something was wrong and said to me, “It’s impossible. These iron bands are as thick as a palm. Even hitting them with a Liberation truck may not do anything.”

It was only after I tried hitting them a few times myself and ended up with numb palms that I realized that this was something that couldn’t be handled with brute force alone. Feeling discouraged, I said to them, “It seems that we underestimated the ancients’ technology. They used such pure iron to seal these brick seams that we won’t be able to break through the hardened bands at all.”

“What if we try to grind away at them?” Fatty asked. “Didn’t the ancients say that as long as you work hard, an iron pestle can be ground into a needle?”

“Just drop it. If you try to grind away at these thick iron bands, we’ll be here forever,” I said. “We have twenty minutes until the tide starts to ebb. By the time you finished grinding, we’d already be dead.”

Fatty immediately became angry, “Then what are we supposed to do?! Didn’t you hear what that woman said? This area’s typhoon season will be here soon, and it’ll last at least a week. If we can’t get out now, we’ll be stuck here for seven days.” He paused and then said with emphasis, “Seven days! If we don’t fucking suffocate, we’ll starve to death.”

Knowing the seriousness of the problem, I said to them, “You guys have much more experience in this field than I do. What would you guys do if you encountered this kind of tomb wall under normal circumstances?”

Fatty and Poker-Face didn’t even pause to think about it before saying in unison, “Explosives!”

Fatty saw me staring at them blankly and explained, “Don’t be surprised. This kind of wall is much stronger than you think. I’ve robbed tombs like this a bunch of times. If I ran into this kind of wall while digging my grave robbers’ tunnel, the only way to get past it is to use explosives.”

I felt sad when I heard this. I knew what he said was right, but where were we supposed to find explosives in this centuries-old tomb? I suddenly remembered that A Ning had asked me before I went into the water if I wanted to take some explosives down with me. At that time, I was still a little scarred from the explosion at the Seven Star Lu Palace so I was very resistant to the idea and threw the explosives back into the ship’s cabin. But now I was really regretting that decision. If Uncle Three had been present at that time, he would have definitely brought them along.

Now that I thought about it, I realized how naïve my thinking was. If there was a next time, I would definitely make sure that I didn’t act so childish.

Seeing that there was no hope of escaping from above, I had no other choice but to give up. “Then, it seems that this method won’t work,” I said to them. “We’ll have to take some time and think of another approach.”

“Are we not still in a fucking hurry?” Fatty asked. “We only have less than twenty minutes left, right? If it’s really hopeless, then I say we go back the way we came. Maybe that ear chamber with our diving equipment has come back.”

I nodded. Although I really didn’t want to go back into that grave robbers’ tunnel—just thinking of facing that monster again was enough to give me a headache—there was no other way out now.

But at this time, Poker-Face suddenly said, “Wait! Stay here and don’t move! I’ve thought of a place where there might be explosives!”

Before we even had time to react, he suddenly loosened the rope and slid down the pillar.

Fatty looked at me in confusion, but I shook my head to show that I didn’t understand either.

Poker-Face was the serious type so it was impossible for him to make a joke, but I really couldn’t think of a place in this ancient tomb where he might find explosives. Like us, he had already stripped down to his underwear so he had nowhere to hide them. I watched as he jumped down from the pillar and then rushed over to the stone platform in the middle of the room that had the model of the heavenly palace on it. Following the beam from his flashlight, I saw him jump onto the platform, crouch in front of the meditating mummy in the center, and start groping around. It was obvious that he was trying to find something.

This mummy must have been the golden body he had mentioned before but I didn’t know what he was looking for. After thinking about it, however, I suddenly had an epiphany. That’s it!

At this time, Poker-Face carefully lifted the mummified corpse from the platform. It basically weighed the same as a pile of bones so it didn’t take him much effort.

“What the hell is he doing?” Fatty asked me.

“I think there may be a mechanism inside that mummy,” I replied. “The damaru(1) probably acts as a trigger for it and there may be explosives inside. If you’re disrespectful towards the corpse and try to take the treasures in its body, it may detonate.”

Fatty was shocked. “How could he know such a thing?”

“Twenty years ago, when he examined the body, he might have discovered it at that time. But notice how he said it ‘might’ be there. That means he wasn’t certain,” I explained. “The only problem is, we can’t be sure that these centuries-old explosives will still work.”

While I was speaking, Poker-Face had already moved the mummy to the base of the pillar and said to us, “Come down and help.”

I figured it would be too much trouble for Fatty to go down and come back up again so I told him to stay put and then climbed down by myself. Poker-Face put the mummy on my back, tied it with a rope, and said, “Don’t bump into anything. If the mechanism inside still works, it will be triggered right away.”

When I saw this golden body up close, my first thought was that Poker-Face’s description was very far from reality. The corpse’s whole body was blackened to the point that it seemed almost glossy, and it looked less like a body made of flesh and more like a sculpture carved from some glossy material. Its muscles were sunken in, especially those at the corners of its mouth, which was formed in a half-smile that gave me goose bumps as soon as I saw it. In short, this corpse didn’t look like any of those senior monks you would see in the temple. Instead, it gave off a very ominous feeling.

Afraid to touch it after seeing this, I quickly asked Poker-Face, “Are you sure this corpse is fine? I can’t shake the feeling that he seems to be up to something. Look at his face, why is it so…so…”

“Evil,” Poker-Face finished my sentence. “I don’t know. This corpse does make people feel uneasy, but it’s dried up so I definitely can’t transform into a zombie.”

I broke out in a cold sweat but nodded and said, “That’s good. Are you sure the explosives inside can still be used?”

“As long as the damaru still works, then the explosives can definitely be used. I’m just worried since the mechanism is so old.”

I felt uncomfortable carrying a mummified corpse on my back, especially when I saw his long fingernails lying in front of my face. The terrifying sight was enough to make my legs go soft. I suddenly thought of the corpse drivers in Xiangxi(2)—like me, they carried corpses on their backs, but they had six layers of clothes separating them from the corpses. I, on the other hand, was in a completely different situation. Not only was the mummy naked, but I was also naked so I could feel its dry flesh pressing up against my own. It felt really fucking cold on my bare back.

But there was nothing I could do about it now. Fortunately, there was enough light for me to still see clearly so my imagination wouldn’t run wild. I gritted my teeth and started to climb up step by step, telling myself that there was nothing but a sack on my back. Poker-Face climbed up behind me, prepared to catch me in case I slipped and fell.

But after climbing up five or six steps, I suddenly felt that something was wrong with the dried corpse. Since my back was pressed right up against its skin, I could feel very clearly that the corpse seemed to have suddenly gotten a little bigger. I paused to try and figure out what exactly I had felt, but I didn’t feel anything strange after that.

I looked down at Poker-Face. Since he was right under me, he should be able to tell right away if something strange was going on with the corpse, but he didn’t seem to notice anything at all. Was I being too paranoid?

It wasn’t surprising. After all, it was hard not to be paranoid when carrying such a terrifying corpse on your back.

As I was thinking this, I suddenly heard Fatty urging me on from above. Even though I knew I had to keep going, I was so nervous that my legs were trembling a little bit. But I wanted to end this situation as soon as possible so I forced myself up the last few steps and finally made it to the top.

Fatty had seen countless corpses before, but even he looked uncomfortable after taking a closer look at the corpse on my back. After all, hanging a corpse with a rope from a distance of two or three fists away was one thing, but now he would have to be up close and personal with it, just like two people pressed close together in a slow dance. I knew how uncomfortable it was going to be.

I summoned up my courage and said to him, “Tie this to the top of the ceiling and then come down immediately. We’ll detonate it from below. If the mechanism inside still works, there shouldn’t be any problems.”

Fatty looked at the ceiling and said, “Are you kidding me? What the hell am I supposed to tie it to? What, do you want me to follow Dong Cunrui’s example?”(3)

I looked up and saw that there really was nothing on the ceiling we could tie the mummy to. But if we wanted to utilize the full force of the explosion, then we had to tie the corpse tightly to the ceiling. This was indeed a problem.

I thought about it for a moment and said, “If it doesn’t work, just tie it upside down to this pillar. But hurry up. It’s almost time.”

Fatty carefully pulled the corpse off of my back, arranged it on the pillar, and then said to me, “Hey, this is strange. Why does this corpse have a tail?”

<Chapter 71><Table of Contents><Chapter 73>


TN Notes:

(1) The raw had “八宝转子” which can be directly translated as “eight treasure rotor”. I googled around and found that it’s a kind of small drum that Tibetan lamas hold in their hands and shake back and forth (aka, a damaru). Info and pics here.

(2) In Xiangxi, there is a special practice where certain people called “corpse drivers” are tasked with the job of transporting the remains of local people who died in other places back home. They would put the corpse on their back and, traveling at night, carry it home to the person’s relatives to be buried. If there was more than one corpse, they would supposedly use bamboo poles to pass under the corpses’ armpits and tie the corpses’ arms to the poles. Then, the two corpse drivers would put the ends of the poles on their shoulders and carry their haul. The toughness of the bamboo made it sway up and down when moving, which caused the corpses to also sway up and down. This made it look like the corpses had come alive and were moving, which gave rise to zombie legends. Chinese wiki info here.

(3) Dong Cunrui was a Chinese Communist soldier in the People’s Liberation Army during the Chinese Civil War who blew himself up in order to destroy a Kuomintang bunker guarding an approach to an important bridge in Longhua County (there was no place to effectively position the explosives so he sacrificed himself). Info here.

4 thoughts on “Chapter 72 Bomb

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s