Chapter 52 Hundred-Legged Dragon

As I brushed the snow from my eyes, there was a brief moment where I didn’t know where I was. All I knew was that there was a rock pressed against my back and Ye Cheng was shouting something below me.

I pulled myself together and automatically looked down to see what Ye Cheng was so afraid of—we were now lying on a steep rocky slope about five or six meters away from the bottom. The reason we hadn’t rolled to the bottom was because the rope tied around our waists got caught on the edge of a rock. The bottom of the slope was covered in heaps of snow and rocks that had fallen with us just now, and sticking out of the snow were several black, slender claws.

My throat seized up and I instinctively pressed my back against the rock behind me. I quickly looked to see what those claws were attached to and saw a black thing coiled in the snow. Part of it was hidden in the snow, but based on what I could see from the exposed part, its body was as thick as a barrel and covered in scales. I thought it was a hibernating snake at first, but upon closer inspection, it looked more like a centipede.

This thing was pressed against the rock at the bottom of the slope, completely motionless, so I couldn’t tell whether it was dead or alive. I also couldn’t see its head or tail, so I didn’t know how long it was.

This is above the snow line, and there are very few living creatures here. What kind of creature is this? I wondered. But as I looked at its size and those centipede-like claws, I instinctively felt uneasy.

Pan Zi insisted on going down, but Ye Cheng kept yelling at him not to. Fatty, also seeing what was below, grabbed some of the snow beside him, made a snowball, and threw it at the back of Ye Cheng’s head. “Why don’t you keep your fucking voice down?” He whispered. “Are you trying to wake it up?!”

I looked around. We appeared to be in a small enclosed ravine, which had been filled in by an avalanche. But because of how messily the rocks were piled up, a lot of air pockets had formed under the snow. Fatty tried to take a step, but the fragile layer of snow beneath his feet suddenly collapsed, causing a chain reaction—the surrounding layer of snow also collapsed, bringing us all down with it.

The snow above was still falling down continuously. Oftentimes, after such a landslide, the surrounding snow would flow like quicksand and re-bury the place that had just collapsed. This whole process was extremely fast. In fact, many mountain expedition teams had lost members in such situations, and a whole team could disappear in a matter of seconds.

Fortunately, this time, the surrounding snow was still solid. Or maybe it was because the rope tied around our waists had pulled us down one by one, so the surrounding snow was packed down and unaffected by a bunch of snow falling down.

We were on the leeward side of the slope, so the wind was noticeably weaker and it wasn’t as cold as before. I took a few deep breaths before carefully sitting up and letting myself slide down a few steps. Although it was steep here, the slope’s surface was covered with crushed rocks of varying sizes—some were as big as the cab of a liberation truck and some were only as big as a ping-pong ball—so climbing up and down was a lot easier.

Pan Zi and Poker-Face had already untied the rope around their waists. Since they weren’t far from the bottom, they jumped down with a clatter, causing more snow to fall after them. After landing, they followed the momentum and rolled to the bottom of the slope.

Our hearts were in our throats as we watched the two get up and creep towards that black thing in tandem.

But after taking a few steps, they both straightened up and visibly relaxed. Pan Zi looked at Poker-Face, shrugged his shoulders, and then motioned for us to come down.

We were all surprised, but Fatty quickly untied the rope from around his waist and rolled down the slope. Poker-Face had already swept away the snow from that black thing, revealing a stone carving on the ground—it was a black stone dragon coiled on the rock. It was so life-like that if it had been hidden by the snow, you wouldn’t be able to tell that it was just a carving.

We went down to the bottom of the slope one at a time. When Chen Pi Ah Si saw the stone carving, his expression immediately changed. Unable to stand steadily, he called Monk Hua over to help him and then went straight up to the stone carving and touched it.

This dragon was different from other dragons in that countless centipede-like legs had been carved under its body. It obviously wasn’t a carving from the Central Plains, which meant that it must be some kind of variation that the nearby nomads created.

“Why is this dragon so ugly?” Fatty asked me. “It looks like a worm, some kind of evil abomination. It’s much uglier than the dragons on the Nine-Dragon Wall in the Forbidden City.(1) The person who carved it must not have known what they were doing.”

“If you don’t understand, then don’t spout nonsense,” Monk Hua said. “This is a hundred-legged dragon, not a coiled dragon like the ones you’re used to seeing. The early dragon sculptures of the Eastern Xia Kingdom were all like this. In fact, in China’s early days, ancient Chinese dragons all had very different shapes; some even had pig snouts. It’s not surprising that this dragon looks like this.”

The evolution of Chinese dragons was very long. They were originally creatures that crawled and slithered on the ground—the ancients would just find a beast’s head and put it on a snake’s body and call it a dragon. At that time, each tribe had its own dragon totem, which evolved as each tribe evolved separately. Later, the dragons had even different forms. But with the spread of Han culture and the fusion of the Yi and Xia cultures,(2) the image of Han dragons began to mix with the dragons of various ethnic groups until it gradually morphed into a coiled dragon.

This hundred-legged dragon was just a cross between a dragon and a centipede, but for some reason, looking at an ordinary dragon with so many arthropod legs not only failed to give off a sense of power, but it also made people feel very uncomfortable.

After listening to Monk Hua’s explanation, Fatty smiled and said, “Brother Scar, I never imagined you to be the literary type. So you think that this stone belongs to the Eastern Xia Kingdom?”

Monk Hua looked at the stone carving and then looked up at the top of the slope before saying doubtfully, “That’s right, but where did this dragon carving come from?”

It was already dark by this time, so we all turned on our flashlights and swept the snow away from the stone. We found that this stone was actually a huge slab, which was about five meters long and three meters wide. Although it was leaning against the side of the rocky slope, it was very smooth and black, which obviously set it apart from the other rocks here.

I noticed some cracks on the slab and said, “It may have fallen from above, which means that Grandpa Si is right—the place we’re trying to reach is higher up the mountain. Look here, the dragon’s body is asymmetrical. It’s probably half of the Two Dragons Playing With a Pearl.(3) There should be another part to this stone carving. It’s usually engraved on a stone door, with one dragon on each side.”

Chen Pi Ah Si coughed and said weakly, “What utter nonsense. Look at you, trying to talk big with your half-baked knowledge. What stone door? This is clearly the sealing stone to a tomb passage.”

As he spoke, he pointed to the dragon’s mouth. Monk Hua immediately went over, put his hand in the dragon’s mouth, and pulled out a black chain as thick as a wrist. Fatty looked at it and said, “Oh no, you’ve pulled out the dragon’s intestines.”

Chen Pi Ah Si ignored him, “This is the chain the horses used to pull the sealing stone over the tomb entrance. This side faced the interior of the tomb.”

After hearing his explanation, I blushed from embarrassment and looked around. “Ah, I see that I was wrong. But how did it end up here?”

Monk Hua tugged on the chain hard, but the stone didn’t budge. Chen Pi Ah Si shook his head and looked up, a trace of doubt flashing across his face. I groaned to myself, knowing exactly what he was worried about—if this sealing stone fell down from above, it meant that the tomb passage up there was badly damaged. Even if we found it, could we still get inside?

The wind and snow were still raging overhead, and it was already dark, which meant that night was fast approaching. I looked at my watch, wondering how long the snowstorm would last.

The discovery of this stone dragon had increased our confidence in finding the heavenly palace, but I didn’t know whether to feel happy or depressed about it. Monk Hua took a few photos of the stone carving while Chen Pi Ah Si, whose seemed more invigorated now, told us to check on the equipment and then rest. This place was sheltered from the wind, so we could wait for the storm to die down before discussing what to do next.

While we got the equipment sorted out, Monk Hua went to check on our guide. I was in the middle of rummaging through some things when he suddenly ran over and told me that there was a problem—Shunzi wasn’t responding.

We lay the semi-conscious Shunzi down, shaking and slapping his face a few times, but he only gave a sluggish “en” in response. It was obvious to see that he was suffering from hypothermia.

“We have to build a fire; otherwise, he won’t last long,” Pan Zi said after coming over to check on the situation. “If he falls asleep, he won’t wake up again.”

I looked around, but there wasn’t any firewood at all. If we wanted to start a fire, our only option was to burn the sleds. But it took a lot of equipment to climb a snowy mountain, and without the sleds, it may be impossible for us to continue moving forward.

Monk Hua looked at Chen Pi Ah Si, obviously not daring to make his own decisions. I didn’t know if it was because of the cold or something else, but the old man’s expression was gloomy as he frowned and said, “Don’t let him die for now. I have something to ask him.”

I let out the breath I didn’t even realize I was holding. Monk Hua quickly got to work unloading the sleds, but just as he was about to pull up the wooden boards for firewood, he found that the sleds were all damp from the snow—there was no telling if they would even catch fire. I started to worry about what we should do, but then I suddenly caught a whiff of sulfur.

I didn’t know where the smell came from, but it definitely spurred my sluggish brain into action. I told Monk Hua to stay still and then stood up and sniffed the air carefully. The others also smelled it at this time, and all stopped what they were doing. Fatty sucked in a deep breath and said, “Comrades, it smells like a hot spring!”

Chen Pi Ah Si gave Ye Cheng and Lang Feng a look, silently telling them to go search for it. Fatty picked up his backpack and said that he was going too, but Pan Zi suddenly stopped them. “Why are you stopping us?” Fatty asked.

Pan Zi jutted his chin in Poker-Face’s direction and said, “Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Don’t forget that we have a master here.”

At this time, Poker-Face was leaning down and touching the stones on the ground one by one with his two abnormally long fingers. Then, he suddenly frowned, made a questioning noise, and turned towards the stone slab with the hundred-legged dragon on it.

We all walked up to the stone slab and found that the air around it was filled with the obvious smell of sulfur, although it hadn’t been there before. Poker-Face touched the dragon’s head, looked at the stone slab behind it, and then pressed down. “It’s strange,” he said. “There’s a hollow space behind this head.”

<Chapter 51><Table of Contents><Chapter 53>


TN Notes:

(1) The Forbidden City is a palace complex in Beijing, China, at the center of the Imperial City of Beijing. The Nine-Dragon Wall is located in front of the Palace of Tranquil Longevity. Some pics here:  

(2) The Yi (夷) ethnic group are non-Han people mostly east of China (a lot of times they were just referred to as barbarians). The Xia (夏) ethnic group likely comes from the Xia dynasty c. 2000 BC.

(3) Two Dragons Playing With a Pearl is an image of two symmetrical dragons with a pearl in between them. The pearl is associated with wisdom, wealth, good luck, and prosperity.

4 thoughts on “Chapter 52 Hundred-Legged Dragon

  1. Thank you for the chapter!
    I don’t know why but I never can remember who is Ye Cheng, Lang Feng and Monk Hua. I mean what are their roles and this is my third time reading this story.

    I was also checking licensed version and chapters are so short.


    1. Not gonna lie, I totally went “who’s Lang Feng” when working on this 😂 (fyi, he drove the truck). I’m good about remembering Monk Hua for some reason, but it took me a second to remember that Ye Cheng was the younger talkative one. They’re all cannon fodder anyways though so it doesn’t matter in the long run 😂


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