Chapter 5 Altar

Fatty and I went out, told Xiuxiu about the general situation, and then hammered a piton into the rock outside to act as an anchor point for the rope. After returning to the joists, we lowered the rope down and then quickly descended.

The space below was a natural cave. Except for the entrance that had been smoothed by humans, the rest of the cave was very irregular. There were protruding rocks everywhere, which made me think that this cave was probably a small vertical collapsed hole that had formed after tens of thousands of years of geological processing.

We were holding onto the cold fireworks all the way down, so we could see that the hole became narrower and narrower until it was about the width of a well. Then, it gradually widened again. By the time we reached the bottom, the hole had become about half the size of a basketball court.

The bottom was full of rocks, but there was a flat stone in particular that caught my eye before we landed. I could see that there were many small stone piles similar to Mani piles sitting on top of it.

Once we finally landed, we turned on our brightest flashlight to take a closer look. We found that there were human heads in these small stone piles, and almost all of them were completely broken, leaving only some bone fragments behind. We could only assume that they were human skulls based on the shape of the orbital bones. Fatty turned around and found that there were countless primitive murals on the walls here.

They really were primitive murals, just like the ones found in African grassland caves that were usually shown in textbooks. This kind of mural was so abstract that it couldn’t be interpreted, so we could only roughly guess what the ancients’ way of life was like by looking at what was depicted.

“It really is something from the Stone Age,” Fatty murmured. “These things are worthless.”

Most of the paintings on the murals showed strange people’s postures and movements, which should be related to offering up sacrifices to the gods. I looked at the flat stone in the center of this cave and realized that it must have been a sacrificial platform at that time.

I looked around the bottom of the cave again and saw that there were cracks everywhere on the rock walls. When we walked over to get a closer look, we found that the cracks in the rocks under our feet were full of debris from the floor above.

“Take a guess. Have Little Brother and Xiao Hua been here?” As Fatty spoke, I had already found the mark Poker-Face left behind. Over the years, I had become very familiar with the details and habits pertaining to his marks.

—The mark was engraved close to the ground, on the side of the flat stone that served as a sacrificial platform.

It was a mark clearly meant for me. If he had left it for himself, he wouldn’t have drawn it in the middle, so this mark had been left for me to see whenever I caught up.

The mark meant: This place is a node. (1)

I squatted down to think while Fatty leaned in and said, “Oh? Once Little Brother accepts the title of guide, look how much trouble we can avoid.”

Yes, he had started looking after us.

But this wasn’t a particularly good sign. He wasn’t the type of person who wouldn’t look after others, it was just that in the past, he didn’t bother because he was absolutely certain of the situation. Now, however, he had left a mark, which wasn’t a good sign.

Maybe the questions he left us with were so difficult that he thought it would be impossible for us to figure them out if he didn’t give us a hint.

“What does the mark mean?”

“This place is a node.”

“Node, what node?”

I looked at the altar, “I think his meaning is very clear. If we want to move on, this is a key point. Something must be sacrificed here.”

“But according to the rules, isn’t Xiao Hua supposed to be the sacrifice?”

“Black Glasses may have replaced Xiao Hua as the sacrifice now, but he probably pulled out a grenade or something at the last minute. If the sacrifice blows up at the final stage of the ritual, there’s no way to tell whether the sacrifice was completed or not. We also don’t know what happened here at that time. If we want to know more, we’ll have to make another sacrifice.”

“Is that what node means?”

“I think so.”

“I think it means saving some ammo,”(2) Fatty said. “What about the two of them?”

I looked around at the crevices in the rock and figured that they must have gone in one. The so-called node…did they have to offer up another sacrifice? Probably not since Xiao Hua didn’t have any equipment on him. So, did that mean that they chose to force their way through? Or, did this so-called node mean that I should wait here since it would be too difficult for us to catch up to them with our current abilities.

“That monster is right under our feet.” Fatty looked at the ground. “Are you going to do the ritual again? Who’s going to be the sacrifice?”

“I have to think about it.” At this time, I suddenly saw something shining in the crack on the stone beneath Poker-Face’s mark. “I feel like something isn’t quite right here.” I reached my hand towards it and found that it was a watch. I took it out and looked at it, only to find that the electronic numbers on it were counting down: 24 minutes and 14 seconds, 24 minutes and 13 seconds…

<Chapter 4><Table of Contents><Chapter 6>


TN Notes:

(1) A node can be defined as a point at which lines or pathways intersect or branch; a central or connecting point. In telecommunications networks, a node is either a redistribution point or a communication endpoint.

(2) Per Seph: “Node” (节点) and “saving some” (节约点) are homonyms that use the same characters in Chinese. “Node” is the compound term and “saving some” is what the Chinese characters mean individually.

5 thoughts on “Chapter 5 Altar

  1. OMG It’s just me? I’m so nervous about this story, i can’t wait to see what’s up next
    If Poker Face isn’t certain about the situation that’s not a good sign for sure!
    Thank you for the chapter


  2. With author descriptions, the general form of this cave is like an hourglass. Is it going to be filled in the mentioned time? And how did they know the time of that incident?
    I hope Black Glassless and Xiao Ge and Xiao Hua are on the same side of conflict.


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