Chapter 11 Human Head

Since we had entered the mountains, the only thing we had eaten was dry rations. Well, we did have a few of those meat dishes the guide had given us, but they had been stolen by the monkeys after just a few bites. I was obviously still craving real food, so although I said I wouldn’t eat the fish when Lao Yang mentioned it, I was secretly a little interested. In fact, I even started to remember that scene when we had eaten fish head hotpot out at sea.

But that damn knife shattered my dreams. The sight of that bloody head covered in stomach acid overlapped with my memory of fish head hotpot and a wave of nausea surged up in my throat and almost rushed out.

Lao Yang was usually quite daring and had seen a lot of dead people in his lifetime, but when he saw this scene, his face turned pale and he stood there frozen for a long time.

Trying hard to control my nausea, I turned the head over with my knife and found that the skin on this face was slightly melted, but the whole head was relatively intact. It must have been eaten fairly recently. When the fish swallowed the head, it probably chewed on it a few times, which caused the head’s lower jaw to become a little deformed. With the face in such a rough state, it was impossible to determine who it might have been.

This person wasn’t in this fish’s stomach for long, which meant that they must have died not too long ago.

I covered my nose with one hand and used the knife in my other hand to poke through the other stuff that had come out of the fish’s stomach, trying to see where the rest of this person’s body was. It wasn’t long before I found a hand and some chunks of flesh, all of which had already been partially digested. Unfortunately, there wasn’t anything we could use to try and identify this person.

I continued poking through the stomach contents and found the other half of our backpacks that the fish had swallowed. The items in the backpacks had already mixed together with the food residue in the fish’s stomach, so I set aside the things we really couldn’t give up and threw the other things away. Even though all of our dry rations were tightly sealed in plastic, I really couldn’t convince myself to eat them.

At this time, I suddenly saw a black thing lying amongst the mass of pulpy things. But before I could fully pull it out, Lao Yang had already shouted, “Fuck, it’s a shotti!”

I didn’t know what a “shotti”(1) was, but I figured it was some nonsensical term he had learned from prison. When I finally managed to pull the black thing out, I found that it was a homemade gun. It looked like a modified small-caliber double-barreled shotgun with a sawed-off barrel and a pistol butt. The two barrels meant that you could fire it twice, but the empty shells wouldn’t automatically eject so you had to take them out yourself. Such a weapon was fine to use against small beasts with no attack power, but if you met a large beast and didn’t kill it with the first two shots, your neck would be bitten off by the time you finished loading the bullets and fired off the second round. In addition, this gun was powerful at close range, but if your target was more than twenty meters away, even a dog wouldn’t be killed. That was why its practicality couldn’t be compared to a real pistol.

I pulled the gun out, wiped it off on the ground, raised it up, and opened the barrel. There were two shotgun cartridges inside, along with an iron box under the barrel that held about eight more cartridges. Four were blue and four were red, but I didn’t know what the different colors meant.

This person may have come to the mountains to poach and stumbled upon this hole by chance. After coming in to take a look, he probably ended up getting eaten by the fish. This gun may have been swallowed when the fish bit off those chunks of flesh from the man. Ah, he really was unlucky. Who would have thought that there would be such a huge carnivorous fish in this place?

On the bright side, finding a gun was a good thing since it could be used to save our lives in an emergency. But unfortunately, there were only a few bullets. After Lao Yang pulled out our equipment, we poked through the fish’s stomach a bit more but didn’t find anything else. I looked at the fish’s body and saw that in addition to the wounds we had caused, there were also some tiny bullet holes. The fish had been injured before attacking us, but the iron bullets were too small to be lethal.

Lao Yang cast another surprised look at the fish and asked me, “Old Wu, how do you think such a murderous fish got into this place? Do you think someone was raising it here?”

“No, I think there are other waterways under the water’s surface here,” I said to him. “They’re probably connected to a nearby underground river, which is connected to the Jialing River. This fish must have swam here from the river.”

“Impossible,” Lao Yang said. “Diving equipment didn’t exist thousands of years ago so how could they dig these underwater passages?”

When I saw that Lao Yang seemed interested, I quickly explained, “They weren’t dug. I guess they were caused by some kind of accident.”

When studying architecture, there was a natural science course we had to take that dealt with geological structures. It was mentioned in one of the classes that when rocky mountains were forming during the Archaeozoic Age, hollow areas—called dikes—would often form in the rock. If a dike somehow connected to a mountain stream, then it was possible for a water system to form inside the mountains. If such a place was reached when mining for stones, a major accident could have occurred. A small stream might have washed away a few mine tunnels but a large stream would have flooded the whole operation.

There generally wouldn’t have been a need to dig drainage tunnels since this was a quarry cave, so the place ended up flooded. That was probably the most likely explanation for why this place looked like this.

But if that were true, we could also infer that the scale of this quarry cave may have been much larger than what we had seen so far. Since it was submerged in so much water, however, it was impossible to tell just how big it was. But if so many stones had been used, then it was obvious that the scale of the ancient tomb we were looking for wouldn’t be small.

We pushed the fish carcass and human head back into the water, but the unpleasant stench still lingered in the air. We took a short rest and then checked to see if our clothes were almost dry. They were, so we got dressed, put ourselves in order, shoved all the necessary things into our pockets, and then quickly set off.

Lao Yang turned on his flashlight and led the way down the stone path we had seen before.

The passage was also dark, but with the help of our flashlights, we could see that there were stone figurines of humans and animals lying on the stone path. There were also holes and cracks on both sides of the cave walls, along with the occasional semi-finished relief sculpture carved into the wall.

These things were so big that I couldn’t help but wonder how the quarried stones were transported to the ancient tomb.

According to the information Grandpa Qi had given me, the Serpent Kingdom didn’t have a large territory, and much of it was covered in mountains. The people subsisted mainly on hunting and their productivity was relatively underdeveloped so it should have been impossible for them to transport stones over a long distance. This meant that they must have built the tomb relatively close by.

The hole we had entered through just now had been blown up by grave robbers, so the cave’s real exit should be on the other side. Did that mean that this passage might possibly lead all the way to the underground palace’s entrance?

But there were also many people who deliberately prepared materials far away in order to hide the location of their tombs. If that were the case here, it was entirely beyond our control.

We walked for half an hour, the passage in front and behind us completely dark. Lao Yang’s flashlight began to flicker as the battery started to run out of power. I was starting to feel tired, so I told him to stop for a moment so that he could change the battery and I could smoke a cigarette to refresh myself.

We sat on the ground and put our flashlights down, the beams of light illuminating those realistic stone figures. “These stone statues were carved so realistically that they’re kind of scary,” Lao Yang said to me. “What dynasty do you think they’re from? I don’t have a clue.”

Like him, I was also at a total loss. Chinese ceramic and stone carvings had a long history and were greatly influenced by ancient Indian and Tibetan cultures over the years. But as far as I could remember, a sculpting technique that focused on portraying the realism of the subject had only appeared once—the terracotta army in Qin Shi Huang’s tomb. But the stone statues here were completely different from the terracotta army. In fact, they were completely different types.

But the stone figurines here did all have a distinctive feature carved on them—the pattern of a double-bodied snake. This meant that they must be part of the ancient She people’s culture. It no longer mattered whether this quarry mine was part of the ancient tomb we were looking for because one thing was for certain—we had already entered the realm of the ancient serpent kingdom.

Lao Yang talked a lot and asked a lot of questions while I smoked my cigarette. I got tired of answering so I told him not to ask me anything else. I wasn’t an archaeologist, after all. People like us just took the things from the tombs and left the studying to the old professors.

We continued walking after he finished changing the battery, but we had only gone a few steps when the flashlight’s beam reflected off of something up ahead. It seemed to be the end of the passage. We ran forward and saw that, sure enough, there was a stone wall in front of us. As it turned out, the end of this stone passage led to a small stone chamber with many broken headless stone figurines inside. Stone lamps had been placed all along the surrounding walls, and in the middle of the stone chamber was a sarcophagus.

The sarcophagus was very large and had a double-bodied snake carved on the lid. The two snake bodies wrapped around both sides of the coffin and were carved in fine detail, but the tails obviously weren’t finished yet. Only the rough outline carved onto the coffin could be seen.

When the flashlights’ beams landed on the coffin, we could see that the stone was a translucent white like congealed fat. The coffin lid also appeared to be open, revealing a small gap as thick as an arm. The whole coffin itself had been placed on a coffin bed with nothing else around it.

It seemed to be a coffin for someone who would be buried with the tomb owner, or it might have been left over from the funeral. There was also a chance that it was simply a spare coffin that had been carved and then discarded here.

I wondered why such a long stone path led to this place. Surely it wasn’t a dead end? This place was obviously where defective products were piled up and didn’t have an exit, but if that were the case, then that meant that both ends of this stone path were closed off. Was it possible that the road for transporting the quarried stones was below the water level in the waterway we had passed through earlier? Or maybe there was a secret passage in this stone chamber?

If the exit is underwater, that’s going to be a problem, I secretly thought to myself.

After seeing that there was nothing strange in this stone room, Lao Yang and I looked around and then walked over to the sarcophagus.

This was the first time Lao Yang had ever seen a coffin, so he was very curious. He circled around it twice and then asked me, “Do you think there’s a zombie in it?”

I didn’t even have to think about it before I responded, “No, I’ve never heard of someone being placed in a half-carved coffin before. It should be empty.”

Lao Yang pointed his flashlight into the open gap in the coffin and leaned in for a closer look before saying, “But there seems to be something inside of it? If you don’t believe me, come and take a look.”

I walked over to him and looked at the gap from a distance. Sure enough, I could see a black shadow lying inside the coffin, but I really couldn’t tell what it was.

Lao Yang blew the dust off of the coffin lid, knocked on it, and then tried to put his flashlight into the gap to take a better look, but the flashlight we bought was too big and wouldn’t fit. After trying for a long time, he stopped and asked me, “Do you want to open it and take a look?”

I felt a little uncertain. After all, when I had opened coffins before, there had always been a few veterans around. But this time, I was all alone. Not feeling very confident, I shook my head and said, “Something’s not right. I don’t have a good feeling about this. Let’s not open it rashly.”

But before I had finished speaking, Lao Yang suddenly shrank back, tripped over his feet, and fell flat on his butt, his flashlight slipping from his fingers and rolling away.

I was startled by his reaction and wanted to ask him what he was doing, but at this time, I suddenly felt a cold sensation on my hand. When I looked down, I saw that a pale, dry hand was sticking out of the gap in the coffin lid and latched tightly around my wrist.

<Chapter 10><Table of Contents><Chapter 12>


TN Notes:

(1) I used a street (aka gang) term for shotguns instead of the pinyin for 拍子撩 (which is “paizi liao” btw). Thought it went better with the context.



I’d say this is the 2nd chapter this volume with the most changes from the licensed version.


6 thoughts on “Chapter 11 Human Head

  1. I think so too..
    I’m curious about the rest of the episodes, because things are going to get complicated from here on. And I wonder if the explanation at the ending will be similar or more detailed

    As always, thank you for the chapter


  2. Wu Xie is speaking too much but it’s funny to see someone beat him to it. I’ve missed this meme. 😄
    It would have been funny if we could arrange a game to see if anyone could correctly guess how many paragraphs have been deleted from the licensed versions.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. (A) As usual I made a terrible decision about catching up with this at lunchtime 🤮🤮🤮

    (B) You know WX is truly fed up when he tells someone to stop asking him questions and admits he doesn’t know everything 😂

    Thanks for the chapter!


  4. thank you for the chapter 🙏🏼

    I am horrified at the differences between the licensed and your translations.

    If we have not said it enough, thank you oh so much for all of your hard work. I read the official first, scratched my head till it hurt, came to read yours and felt like I had hit the jackpot. 🙏🏼💐

    Liked by 2 people

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 )

Facebook photo

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

Connecting to %s