We had been running for so long that it felt like our heads were spinning, but we couldn’t see our destination at all. We had already been feeling a little suspicious for a while now, but then Master Liang suddenly came out and said such a thing. Lao Yang stopped and asked him, “Master Liang, what do you mean we fell into a trap? What makes you think that?”
Master Liang rubbed his chest and pointed to the ground before explaining to us, “You…two, look at this bone. Doesn’t it look familiar?”
As soon as I heard this, I raised the torch to get a better look. Sure enough, there was a skull on the ground with a hole in it that looked exactly the same as the one he had crushed when he climbed down from the cliff before. Not good, I thought to myself. I turned around to take a look and saw that the cliff really was close by.
Lao Yang looked around and complained, “Old Wu, how were you leading us? Isn’t this the same place where we came down just now?”
“I don’t know,” I said defensively. “This whole place looks the same wherever you go. I wasn’t fucking paying close attention as we walked. Maybe we somehow took a fork in the path and got turned around.”
Master Liang finally caught his breath and motioned for us to stop arguing before saying, “That’s not it. You guys weren’t paying attention, but I remember it clearly—the path was straight the whole way; there weren’t any turns or forks. Things aren’t as simple as they appear. If I’m not mistaken, we may have been fooled by something.”
Lao Yang, finally realizing that something was wrong, turned pale and said, “Damn, do you think the ghosts of these corpses are preventing us from approaching that open space in order to protect their sacred land?”
I smiled bitterly in my heart. Considering how there were thousands of bodies around us that had been accumulating qi for who knew how long, no one would believe that there weren’t any ghosts here. But Master Liang shook his head and said, “I don’t think that’s the case. I have a blessed object that I’ve been carrying around with me, so even if a ghost was messing with you guys, I would be absolutely fine.”
Knowing that this man was really knowledgeable, I asked him, “Master Liang, you seem to have more knowledge in this field than we do. What do you think is going on here? Our torch won’t last much longer, and when the flame goes out, we’ll really be screwed. We need to think of a way out of this predicament as quickly as possible.”
“In my opinion,” Master Liang said, “the reason why we walked around in a circle is because there’s a problem with the arrangement of the corpses here. These thousands of bones have been arranged in a crisscross pattern, which may be some strange Qimen technique to turn the whole cave into a kind of maze. You’re familiar with Zhuge Liang’s Eightfold Battle Formation, yes?(1) With just a few piles of stones, he was able to trap hundreds of thousands of troops. Following that line of thought, it would be a piece of cake to trap the three of us here with just a few piles of bones.”
Lao Yang and I both knew the story of how Zhuge Liang ordered his soldiers to take the rocks on the Yufu shore and set up a stone array on the riverbank to block Lu Xun,(2) but that was just an exaggerated description in a novel. There was no way I would believe that only a few piles of rocks could have such a huge effect. Otherwise, why bother building so many tanks and cannons?
Lao Yang didn’t believe it either, and said to him, “Master Liang, don’t try to fool us using the same trick you used to fool that Guangdong boss. You’re trapped here, too. I’ve heard of the Eightfold Battle Formation in stories, and it doesn’t fit our situation at all. Besides, we already saw when we were at the top of the cliff that the bones are arranged in a disorderly manner. We didn’t notice any kind of special arrangement, so how can we be trapped going around in circles after coming down here? What, are the bodies running around on their own?”
After he finished speaking, Lao Yang suddenly seemed to realize what he was saying and hurriedly covered his mouth while bowing to the surroundings and whispering, “Great luck and prosperity to you all. Please don’t take offense to this foolish child’s ignorance.”
“That’s different,” Master Liang said. “When we looked at it from the top of the cliff, all we saw was a rough outline. It’s not like any of us were able to memorize all the paths between the corpses in such a short amount of time. Plus, it was pitch black once we came down here. If any of the bodies were moved just a bit, it might have led us into taking one of the wrong paths that were designed in advance. As a result, we were circling back before we even knew it. You two gentlemen are also experienced so it’s not like I’m saying anything profound when I tell you that we can’t underestimate the wisdom of the ancients.”
I had to agree that what Master Liang said made sense, but I still couldn’t bring myself to believe it. In any case, there was definitely something strange going on here. I knew that it wasn’t going to be easy to reach that open space, so I asked him if he had any ideas.
Master Liang sighed, “I don’t want to brag, but it’s a cinch for me to get past such an insignificant array. We’d be able to deal with it easily if this were a normal situation, but everything takes a certain amount of time and I’m afraid our torch won’t last that long. Besides, I think we have a more important matter to decide right now.”
I knew what he was implying, and I could feel a headache coming on. Our main problem at the moment wasn’t how to destroy this array but how to face our current situation. Staying here wasn’t an option, but going forward didn’t seem to be working either. This time, we were lucky that we had returned to our original position. After all, there was no guarantee that we’d circle back to this spot if we set off again. And once the torch went out, there wouldn’t be any shops or villages around. It would be strange if we didn’t die.
Actually, the easiest way to break the array was to climb onto the nearby piles of corpses and walk that way, but no one voiced such a proposal.
After remaining at a stalemate for a few minutes, the flame on the torch flickered a few times and gradually dimmed. Lao Yang looked at it and suddenly cried out, “Hell, I have an idea. Why don’t we use the torch to burn all the bones here? The fire can break through the array and clear a path.”
I cursed. Sometimes this guy was almost as stupid as he was clever. How could he possibly come up with such an idea? “The bones here are practically petrified,” I explained. “They likely won’t catch on fire. And even if they do, it’s tantamount to setting yourself on fire. Even if you don’t burn to death, you’ll die from smoke inhalation. Forget it. How about I walk further ahead and you guys watch the direction of the torch? Once my movements start to deviate from the path, you guys stop me and we’ll know where the problem is.”
“No way,” Lao Yang said. “If the torch goes out while you’re walking, you’ll be in a worse situation all alone. Who’s going to rescue you then? At a time like this, we shouldn’t separate.”
I was feeling more anxious and was just about to refute, but then the torch in my hand suddenly flickered twice. Then, as if it couldn’t hold on any longer, it went out with a hiss.
<Chapter 16><Table of Contents><Chapter 18>
(1) Zhuge Liang (181–234), was a Chinese statesman and military strategist, who is recognized as the most accomplished strategist of his era. He was chancellor and later regent of the state of Shu Han during the Three Kingdoms period. The “Eightfold Battle Formation” is also called the “Stone Sentinel Maze”. Info on that here.
(2) Lu Xun (183 –March 19, 245) was a Chinese military general and politician of the state of Eastern Wu during the Three Kingdoms period of. More info here.
6 thoughts on “Chapter 17 Corpse Array”
Such a nightmare 😩
It’s interesting. The parts related to the history have been deleted in the license version, such as the part about Zhuge Liang who deceived the enemy by arranging the stones. Thank you for the chapters and TN notes.
What a coincidence, I read a news about a new discovery in the Sanxingdui area and its item reminded me of this volume. Here are the links.
https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/sanxingdui-china-archaeology-artifacts-sacrificial-pits-shu-kingdom-rcna33643 and https://redian.news/wxnews/31478
I happened to see a picture of burial jade armor as well. And its related links are here. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jade_burial_suit and https://www.comuseum.com/arts/han-jade-suit/
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thank you for those interesting links!
You’re welcome. Glad the links were helpful. ˶ᵔ ᵕ ᵔ˶
thank you for the chapter 🙏🏼
Thank you for the chapter! I wonder how they‘ll get out.