Chapter 27 Sky-High

When the flare passed by that area, the faces moved to avoid the scorching ball of light. From where we stood, each one looked like a beetle with a human face.

These must have been the true bodies of the Deadly Dragons Master Liang had mentioned just now. Although the ancients kept them in special masks, these creatures actually managed to multiply their numbers so much. I had to admit that I was skeptical about the whole thing at first, but I honestly didn’t expect to encounter such a large group so soon.

The faces were attached to the grooves in the bronze tree, and when the flare’s light illuminated them, we could see that they all had different expressions. Some looked like they were in pain, some looked depressed, some were sinister, and others had insidious smiles. I had never seen such a strange sight before, but it was enough to make my hair stand on end.

Master Liang had been talking excitedly before, but when he saw the real thing, he immediately became scared. “You…you guys,” he said in a trembling voice. “Those are all alive. All of those masks have Deadly Dragons attached to them. What should we do? How can we get past them?”

“Don’t panic,” Lao Yang said. “Look at how they’re reacting to the signal flare. These things must be afraid of light and heat, so let’s light the torch and slowly climb up. They won’t dare attack us.”

I shook my head, “Don’t be so sure. The flair is scorching hot and very bright so of course they’re afraid. But torches are different. Remember those monkeys we encountered before? When we fired the signal flare, they all ran away, but when you tried to scare them with the torch, they just retreated a little bit. I bet if we go up with the torch, not only will we fail, but we’ll also be surrounded. If that happens, it’ll be difficult to escape.”

“Then what do you suggest?” Lao Yang asked me. “Do you have any ideas?”

“I don’t have a ready-made plan,” I replied, “but I do have a preliminary idea. I just don’t know if it will work or not.”

“I know you have a lot of clever ideas,” Lao Yang said impatiently. “Hurry up and tell me what you’ve come up with.”

I pointed to the rock wall a few dozen meters away and said, “It’s too dangerous to go straight up like this. If it’s really as Master Liang said, then there must be some way for these living masks to climb onto our faces. There will definitely be sacrifices if we try to break through them, so we might as well go around. Is there any way we can swing to the opposite rock wall? There are so many crevices over there that it shouldn’t be difficult to climb. Plus, we can rest for a bit.”

Lao Yang looked to where I was pointing and yelled, “So…so far? You want to swing over there?”

I nodded and waved my hand, “That’s the only idea I can come up with right now. Don’t we still have the rope? Take it out and see if it’s long enough. If this trick doesn’t work, I think our only course of action is to go down and come back with a flamethrower next time.”

Lao Yang untied the rope around his waist, which was one of the pieces of equipment we’d taken from Uncle Tai’s corpse. It had a UIAA label(1) on it, which meant that it was the best climbing rope in the world. Even Special Forces would use it. It seemed that Uncle Tai and the others were willing to spend quite a bit of money on their equipment.

Long before I went to the Seven Star Lu Palace, I helped Uncle Three purchase equipment for his expeditions. I had to check through a lot of information, so I knew that this kind of rope—if its diameter was more than ten millimeters—could withstand almost three tons of impact force (that is, if the person tied to the rope fell unexpectedly). It should be more than enough to support three people’s weight…

While it was certainly strong enough, I didn’t know whether it was long enough. Lao Yang hung it down the tree and couldn’t help but curse after roughly estimating the distance it would cover—the total length of the rope was only a dozen meters. This definitely wasn’t long enough to help us reach the rock wall on the opposite side.

“What should we do?” He asked me. “Even if we connected all of our belts together, it still wouldn’t be enough.”

I squeezed the rope and found that it was a sixteen-millimeter double-stranded rope. With this discovery, I finally had an idea of what to do. “It’s ok,” I said to him. “Let’s split this rope into two strands and tie them together. That should be enough.”

“Young Wu, are you sure? Making the rope so thin won’t cause it to break, will it?” Master Liang asked. “Look, it’s already thinner than rice noodles! You shouldn’t mess around.”

“I’ve seen this mentioned in foreign mountaineering magazines. I doubt they’d deceive us.”

I picked at the single-woven outer mesh layer on the outside of the rope, pulled out a very thin nylon cord, and gulped—it was too damn thin. My common sense was screaming at me that such a thin rope couldn’t possibly bear our weight, but the foreign publications did say that this kind of reinforced nylon fiber cord with an eight-millimeter diameter could be used as an auxiliary rope for mountaineering. As long as there wasn’t a heavy fall to jerk the rope hard, it wouldn’t break so easily. Of course, there was a certain danger in using this kind of rope, which was why two were generally used together. But we only had the one rope, so we’d have to ask for God’s blessing.

Or believe in high technology, I thought to myself. Surely we won’t be that unlucky.

I handed the modified rope to Lao Yang, who took out his canteen from his backpack and tied the rope around it with a sailor’s knot. Then, using the canteen as a heavy weight, he threw it to the rock wall on the opposite side. After several failed attempts, he finally got it to wrap around a stalagmite on the opposite side. He pulled the rope until it was taut and fixed firmly around the stalagmite.

“Alright,” Lao Yang said. “It’s finally fucking done. Old Wu, I won’t say anything about the rope, but are the rocks on the opposite side sturdy enough?”

“I don’t know.” As I spoke, I couldn’t help thinking about what would happen if the rocks weren’t sturdy. I’d probably swing back to the bronze tree—if I was lucky, I’d crash into the trunk and only wind up half dead; if I was unlucky, I’d impale myself on the branches and turn into a sieve.

Lao Yang used a special knot to tie the rope on our end to a bronze branch so that when we made it over, we could untie it from the other side. This knot was so complicated that I couldn’t help but feel amazed. When I asked him where he learned this skill, he said that he learned it in prison.

Now that everything was ready, I pulled on the rope one last time to confirm that both sides held firm and then told the other two that we could get started. Neither of them moved. I glanced back at them and found that they were both staring at me with looks that seemed to say, “I’d rather die than go first”. This wasn’t surprising—it obviously took a lot of courage to be the first to crawl along such a thin rope. I asked them twice more but both men shook their heads. With no other choice, I cursed silently to myself and got ready to go first.

Before going, however, I handed my gun to Lao Yang and my backpack to Master Liang in order to reduce my weight as much as possible. These things could be tied to the other end of the rope and pulled up when Lao Yang untied the knot from the other side. Lao Yang felt uneasy about the caves on the opposite side so he shoved his pistol at me. That way, if I ran into an unexpected situation over there, I could at least defend myself.

I sighed heavily, feeling like a martyr going to die, and then patted them both on the shoulder before turning to climb onto the rope.

The moment my feet left the branch, my nerves were almost as taut as the rope I clung to. I closed my eyes and clenched my teeth, waiting to hear the snapping sound of the rope breaking, but to my immense relief, the rope actually held up. It did make a very uncomfortable “creaking” sound, but that was just from the knots on both sides suddenly tightening.

I kept telling myself not to look down, but my eyes involuntarily did so anyways. Dear God! I groaned, immediately turned my head away, closed my eyes, and started chanting Amitabha.

“Hey, Old Wu,” Lao Yang called. “Why are you dawdling? Hurry up and crawl. It’s more dangerous for you to stay there.”

I cursed Lao Yang’s ancestors, took a deep breath, moved my hands and feet, and began to crawl to the opposite side. This kind of rope had a certain elasticity to it so it would shake violently every time I moved. Not only was the journey very nerve-wracking, but the rope really was too thin. It was hard to grip it in my hands, and after a while, I felt like I was losing strength. As I continued to crawl along, my mind went blank to the point that I didn’t even realize I had finally reached solid ground. I unwrapped my legs from around the rope and placed my feet down, but my legs suddenly went soft and buckled. I quickly hugged the stalagmite, clutching it for dear life as I gasped for breath.

I still had the torch with me, so I lit it and stuck it into a crevice off to the side before turning to look at Lao Yang and Master Liang. The older man was trembling as he got ready to climb onto the rope, but Lao Yang grabbed him and told him not to go just yet. He then turned and shouted at me to check the situation on my end first—if the rocks weren’t suitable for climbing or if there were other dangers, then we could save ourselves the effort of crawling back and forth.

I looked at several caves around me, all of which were only half as tall as a person and appeared to have been man-made. After thousands of years of rainwater infiltration, however, many stalactites had formed in them and the insides were very damp. The fact that these caves had been excavated meant that they probably had something to do with the project to cast this huge bronze tree.

I glanced up and found that each of these caves was only about a meter apart from the others. Although it wouldn’t be very convenient to climb up, it certainly wouldn’t be too difficult. I didn’t see anything in the caves, nor did there appear to be any danger. Whatever I had seen in these caves when I was on the tree earlier must’ve been an illusion caused by the play of light and shadows. In such a dark place, it wasn’t surprising that my nerves would be a little oversensitive.

With these comforting thoughts, I reconfirmed that everything was safe and then raised my hand to give Lao Yang the all-clear.

Lao Yang patted Master Liang and told him to go first. The older man rubbed his face with his hands, climbed onto the rope, and started moving towards me.

Watching Master Liang crawl along the rope was a test of nerves. I won’t talk about the process, but ten minutes later, I finally pulled the weakened man off of the rope and lay him next to me.

Finally, it was Lao Yang’s turn. He took a deep breath, tied the flashlight to his wrist, checked the knot again, and then carefully climbed onto the rope. He crawled very fast and soon reached the middle of the rope, but at this time, a strange noise suddenly came from the stalagmite next to me, the one that the rope was tied to. All three of us froze at the same time, and Lao Yang gave me a terrified look. When I turned and glanced back, I felt my heart thump—a crack had appeared on the stalagmite!

What rotten luck! I immediately turned and shouted at him, “Crawl faster! It won’t last long!”

I yelled a few more times, but Lao Yang didn’t move. Instead, he just stared at me blankly and then actually started crawling back the way he came. As he retreated, he waved his hand at me as if to say that I should go back too.

What’s going on? I wondered. Then I suddenly had a bad feeling.

Lao Yang pointed desperately above our heads and whisper-shouted, “Run…!”

Perplexed, Master Liang and I looked up, only to be shocked by what we saw.

The rock wall that had previously been empty was now completely covered in those strange human face masks. There was a rustling noise as they all crowded around, slowly moving toward us like the tide. At first glance, it was like countless people were clinging to the wall and looking down at us.

At this time, I really wanted to slap myself. I was so fucking stupid. There were Deadly Dragons on the tree so why didn’t I think there would be any on the rock wall? We were screwed now. Was it my fate to turn into something resembling those monkeys and die here? I would be better off jumping down. At least that would be more pleasant.

Lao Yang saw us standing there in a daze and shouted, “Don’t just stand there! Hurry up and come back! We’ll cut the rope!”

As soon as I heard this, I finally reacted—I rushed the few feet back to the stalagmite and leaped onto the rope. The force of the impact pulled the rope down, and the stalagmite made a series of ominous cracking noises. But before I could get a firm grip on the rope, Master Liang also jumped onto it. The rope sagged another ten centimeters, clearly stretched to the limit. I immediately heard a very ominous sound, followed by a crisp snap as the strongest rope in the world finally broke into two pieces.

As it turned out, the eight-millimeter-diameter rope really couldn’t bear the weight of three people. In the wake of that snapping sound, the knot tied to the bronze tree also loosened, and we swung through the air like a big pendulum, eventually slamming into the side of the cliff. The impact was so intense that we almost vomited blood.

Lao Yang, who was further below us since he had been closest to the tree, slammed into the cliff the hardest. He couldn’t keep his grip on the rope and slid down, but he was able to grab the ledge of a stone crevice and stop his descent. Master Liang and I weren’t much better off—blood was flowing down my face from a wound I received after scratching my head on a rock and Master Liang didn’t have the strength to hang there vertically. He slipped all the way to the end of the rope, but fortunately, Lao Yang was below so he didn’t fall off.

The stalagmite above us continued to make cracking sounds. Knowing that it might break at any time, I quickly reached out and grabbed onto a nearby stalactite. After climbing over it, I pulled Master Liang up as well. Despite being absolutely terrified, he raised his head to say thank you, but just as he was about to speak, a mask suddenly leaped down from above and latched onto his face.

At that moment, I saw what appeared to be several claws sticking out from under the mask, looking a lot like crab legs. Master Liang let out a mournful scream and tried to cover his face with his hands, but it was too late—the mask was already on his face. He tried desperately to tear it off, but it seemed to be stuck on his face. He pulled at it several times but it just latched back on. I moved over to try and help him, but he was running around like a madman. Before I even had the chance to get close, he knocked me off the cliff. I managed to grab onto the rope again with one hand, but I slid all the way down before barely coming to a stop by Lao Yang.

I looked at the abyss beneath my feet and cursed inwardly. But knowing that Master Liang still needed help, I got ready to climb back up again. When I raised my head, however, a black shadow that looked like a big hand suddenly fell from the sky and latched onto my face. My vision went dark and I couldn’t see anything, but I could feel a few hairy things trying to force their way into my mouth.

In a panic, I gripped the rock crevice with one hand and used my other hand to try and rip the mask off, all while clenching my teeth in order to keep that thing from entering my mouth. When I finally managed to pry part of the mask off, the whole thing suddenly unhooked itself from me. I quickly threw it away, only to realize that I had thrown it right onto Lao Yang’s butt. He cursed and quickly smashed it to pieces with the butt of his gun.

I breathed a sigh of relief and turned my head, only to see four or five of those Deadly Dragons jump right towards my face again. Trembling in fear, I raised my hand and fired four shots with the pistol. But this hardly did anything at all, because there were suddenly more than a dozen of those creatures rushing right towards us. As Lao Yang and I retreated further down the cliff, we suddenly heard a mournful scream. Looking up, I saw that Master Liang was in big trouble—his whole body was covered in Deadly Dragons. He screamed and struggled, trying to knock the Deadly Dragons off, but as soon as he removed one, more would jump up and take their place.

I continued shooting as I retreated until all the bullets had been spent, but the situation didn’t improve at all—a tidal wave of Deadly Dragons came rushing towards us from both sides. I turned and examined our surroundings, only to find that the nearby rock walls were absolutely covered in these things. There were so many of them that they were practically crawling over each other, and the air was filled with the strange sounds they made. It was enough to give me a splitting headache. While we were momentarily distracted, a few of them jumped up and tried to throw themselves at our faces. If we weren’t careful, I knew that we’d be done for.

We kept retreating down the cliff, but we couldn’t outrun these things and were soon surrounded. Just as I was on the brink of despair, Lao Yang fired the homemade gun, sending the Deadly Dragons above our head flying into the air with a loud bang. The masks closest to us were immediately smashed to pieces, the debris falling onto my head like snow.

But in less than a second, the place on the rock wall that had just been cleared by the gunfire was immediately covered by a new wave of Deadly Dragons. Lao Yang, seeing that it was useless, quickly wrapped his clothes around his head and shouted at me, “Old Wu! I’ll watch your back! Quick, cover your mouth and go get the torch!”

I looked up and saw that the torch was still sticking out of the crevice I had placed it in earlier. There were no Deadly Dragons anywhere near it, making it obvious that these things were deathly afraid of fire. But not only was the distance between me and the torch too great, it was also densely packed with Deadly Dragons. It was impossible to climb up. “You should go,” I shouted to Lao Yang. “I’ll cover you!”

“We’re out of options! Just go!” Lao Yang shouted at me before using the butt of his gun to smash one of the masks. “What fucking bad luck!”

I looked at these Deadly Dragons and felt my heart tremble. While they didn’t have much attack power, there were too many of them and they were protected by the hard masks, so it was difficult to kill them off completely. And these were just the ones that survived after thousands of years of breeding. In order to protect this bronze tree at that time, there was no telling how many of these things the ancients had originally made.

Lao Yang threw off another Deadly Dragon and got ready to climb up to where I was, but when he looked up at me, he suddenly froze and shouted, “Old Wu, what’s going on with you?”

I watched him stand there frozen as several masks landed on his shoulders and crawled into the clothes covering his face. “What do you mean what’s going on with me?!” I shouted back at him. “Be careful!”

Only then did Lao Yang react—he hurriedly pushed the Deadly Dragons off of his shoulders and said to me, “Old Wu, haven’t you noticed? Something’s wrong!”

“What’s wrong?!” I shouted impatiently as I pulled him up to me. “If you have time to spout such nonsense, hurry up and say it!”

“Look at you! You don’t have a single mask on your body! Why aren’t they climbing on you?! It doesn’t make any sense!”

I glanced down at myself, looked at Master Liang and Lao Yang, and then let out an exclamation. They were both covered in Deadly Dragons and couldn’t get rid of them no matter what, but I didn’t have a single one on me.

I felt my heart thump as I immediately recalled that up to this point—with the exception of that first one that leaped onto my face—not a single Deadly Dragon had crawled onto my body. The situation had been so chaotic just now that I didn’t even notice. I just assumed that I was lucky, but now it seemed that something was wrong. I quickly looked around and found that although the Deadly Dragons were also crawling towards me, as soon as they approached me, they would suddenly change direction and crawl to other places, as if I were a torch they were afraid of.

What’s going on? I wondered as I tentatively raised my hand to try and grab the nearest mask. But before my hand could get near it, all the Deadly Dragons in that area quickly retreated.

I looked at Lao Yang and he looked at me, both of us completely puzzled. After a second, he started shouting excitedly, “Holy shit, that’s a cool trick! Did you accidentally get something on your hand? Hurry up and look!”

I immediately glanced down at my hands and found that there was nothing special about them except for the dirt and congealed blood that had dripped from the wound on my head.

That’s odd. Why are they afraid of me? Is their parasitism selective?

When I saw these Deadly Dragons retreating, I suddenly remembered the scene where the corpse-eaters had fled from Poker-Face’s blood, and an idea popped into my head.

Wait, could it be… blood?

But how was that possible? How could these vicious things be afraid of the blood of an ordinary person like me?

I looked at my hands in disbelief, my mind so muddled that I couldn’t even think clearly.

Lao Yang, on the other hand, could no longer withstand the Deadly Dragons’ onslaught. I tentatively stretched my hand out towards him and what happened next left me completely stunned—the Deadly Dragons attached to him immediately started retreating like a bunch of cockroaches facing insecticide. The situation was exactly the same as when the corpse-eaters saw Poker-Face’s blood.

“No way!” My jaw practically hit the floor as I thought to myself, these things respect me way too much.

Lao Yang still didn’t understand what was going on and shouted at me to hurry up and get the torch. I simply patted him on the shoulder and said, “Just wait. Look, it seems like something really is wrong.”

With that said, I raised my hand up and climbed the few steps to Master Liang, who was already convulsing. With just those few steps, the Deadly Dragons immediately retreated like the tide, the previously synchronized rustling sounds now suddenly turning into a chaotic symphony of terrified squeaks.

Lao Yang stared at me completely dumbfounded, as if he were looking at some kind of monster. Ignoring him, I climbed up and put my hand on Master Liang’s face. The mask covering it suddenly raised up, so I quickly grabbed it and pulled as hard as I could. When I yanked it off, something that looked a lot like a “tongue” covered in mucus emerged from Master Liang’s throat. The older man was already in a semi-conscious state, but as soon as the “tongue” was pulled out of his throat, he immediately vomited all over himself.

The Deadly Dragon in my hand struggled so violently that I almost lost my grip on it, but the tongue-like thing was so disgusting that I didn’t want to hold it any longer. I smashed it against a nearby rock as hard as I could until my hand was covered in its green bodily fluids.

The Deadly Dragons all around us immediately retreated but didn’t go far. Instead, they formed a huge circle around us, which kept shrinking bit by bit. Lao Yang quickly grabbed the torch and swept it back and forth, pushing them back a little further. At this time, Master Liang coughed twice and seemed to regain consciousness. Lao Yang went to retrieve his canteen and the remaining rope tied around it. Unfortunately, our other equipment and food were still on the tree, but I didn’t know if there was any way we’d be able to get them back.

I poured water into my hands and moistened Master Liang’s lips. When he finally came back to his senses and saw me, he suddenly burst into tears. I was so stunned by this reaction that I hurriedly threw him aside. Lao Yang’s nerves had been strained for so long that he was becoming a little neurotic. I told him that the Deadly Dragons wouldn’t come any closer as long as we had the torch, so he should take the time to relax. Otherwise, he’d definitely go crazy. When he saw that the Deadly Dragons really were keeping their distance from us, he breathed a sigh of relief, inserted the torch into a crevice right by us, and immediately asked me, “Old Wu, what was that? When did you learn such an awesome trick? If you had used it sooner, we probably wouldn’t have looked so pathetic.”

I looked at my hands and then shook my head, “I don’t fucking know. I thought I was dreaming.”

Lao Yang looked at the blood on my hands and touched and sniffed it, but still couldn’t believe that I had such an awesome skill. “When you came over here earlier, did you touch anything special?” He asked me. “Think about it carefully… maybe you stumbled across the nemesis of these cursed masks without even knowing it.”

I thought about it for a moment but knew that they had both touched everything that I had touched. The only thing they hadn’t touched was my blood, but that didn’t make any sense. If my blood was so strong, I wouldn’t have been so powerless at the Seven Star Lu Palace. There was no way I would waste such an ability. But… was it possible that the small bit of Poker-Face’s blood I had smeared on back then still worked? I shook my head, immediately denying it. No, that was impossible.

Master Liang heard what we were saying just now and asked us what was going on. His eyes had been covered by the mask at that time so he couldn’t see anything at all. Lao Yang, deliberately teasing me now, said to him, “You don’t know, but just now, our Old Wu pulled off an amazing feat. Here’s what happened…”

After listening to the whole story, Master Liang clicked his tongue and said, “Young Wu, have you ever eaten something that is black and about this big—”

<Chapter 26><Table of Contents><Chapter 28>


TN Notes:

(1) The UIAA is the international federation for climbing and mountaineering. UIAA Safety Label certified products are said to be the best of the best. The UIAA has been recognized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) since 1995. Here’s their website.


So uh….the licensed version went pretty rogue when they said Lao Yang never climbed on the rope and then somehow magically appeared on the cliff with them. Such an odd way to change the story… Hopefully this kind of cleared it up and made it flow a bit better.


6 thoughts on “Chapter 27 Sky-High

  1. Oh wow, they did the whole thing about gushing about the kind of rope that turned up in the drama!

    (I’m weirdly fond of the times the story gets so technical.)

    That was really exciting – thanks for all your work.


  2. Ugggggggh these mouth parasites are giving me flashbacks to the black hair snakes…NPSS I beg you, stop making up creatures that crawl into people’s mouths! 🤮🤮🤮

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Maybe in the licensed version, there is a tea house and Lao Yang went there when he disappeared briefly..😅


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