Changbai Mountain was a dormant volcano. According to historical records, the last small-scale eruption should have been a thousand years ago. Although the volcano was dormant now, there was an abundance of geothermal heat due to the many geological fissures and lava vents from the volcanic period that maintained their extremely high temperatures. It was possible that a steam vent was behind this dragon sealing stone, and that was why we suddenly smelled sulfur.
This was definitely good news for us, because in such an environment, it was definitely more economical to have a stable heat source than to light a fire. But the huge black dragon sealing stone was covering the opening, and it looked to weigh at least twelve tons. We didn’t have any mining equipment, so moving this thing was going to be a bit difficult.
Fatty was a man of action and immediately pushed up his sleeves and motioned for us to help him move the stone. We all went up and tried to lift it a few times, but we just ended up covered in sweat and flushed from the exertion—the stone didn’t move at all.
Fatty was gasping for breath but still started cursing, “It’s impossible. Grandpa, I told you earlier that our equipment wasn’t good enough, and now look at this situation. It would be nice if we had some explosives.”
“If you don’t understand, then don’t say anything,” Monk Hua said. “Our boss has crossed more bridges in his life than you’ve seen roads. It’s a good thing we didn’t bring explosives. We’re now at the bottom of a ravine, and there’s snow overhead. If you try and blast a hole here, the snow above us will collapse and bury us all alive.”
Fatty didn’t have anything to say to refute him. At this time, I noticed a bunch of rocks of varying sizes lying around the base of the dragon sealing stone. Struck with a sudden idea, I said to them, “Maybe we don’t need explosives. Let me try something.”
As I spoke, I took out a masonry hammer from my backpack, walked up to the edge of the dragon sealing stone, carefully checked some of the larger rocks around the base, and then forcefully hit one of them with the hammer. The rock was already lying under twelve tons of pressure, so when I hit it with the hammer from the side, it immediately cracked and split open. This was quickly followed by the “kalala” sound of rocks shifting against each other, and then the dragon sealing stone began to slide down the slope.
We quickly retreated as the dragon sealing stone slid down a few inches and began to tilt again. But the stone was so heavy that it immediately stopped after sliding a little bit. Despite this small shift, we were still able to see that there was a fissure in the mountain rock behind the sealing stone.
The fissure was as wide as a person’s head and just large enough for someone to squeeze through. Looking at the edges of the entrance, it appeared to be a natural crack in the rock strata rather than something excavated by humans. As we leaned in closer, we found that the sulfur smell was coming from inside.
Fatty turned on his flashlight, stuck it in the opening, and looked around. After a few seconds passed, he turned his head and said, “It’s warm inside, but the angle makes it too difficult to get a better look. There also seems to be some writing on the rocks.”
“What does it say?” I asked him.
Fatty squinted and looked at it carefully before saying, “I can’t read it. I don’t know what it says.”
As he spoke, he tried to bend down and crawl inside, but he was too fat—the hole obviously wasn’t suitable for someone of his size. He tried to squeeze in several times without success before eventually deciding to take off his outer coat and try again. This time, he barely managed to squeeze himself inside.
Chen Pi Ah Si ordered Ye Cheng, Lang Feng, and Pan Zi to stay outside in case anything happened. Then, we followed Fatty into the fissure.
The fissure turned out to be a crack in the rock that likely occurred when the mountain was forming. After entering, I found that it was very dark inside and there appeared to be a steep downward slope. It looked like it ran very deep, which had me thinking that it might even lead to the heart of the mountain.
There was so little space at the opening that two people couldn’t stand side by side, and it was also very difficult to walk. The ground was full of large stones with sharp edges, the smell of sulfur was very strong, and the temperature was at least thirty degrees Celsius. Even the stones were hot to the touch.
After we took a few steps forward, Fatty pointed his flashlight to the side and said, “Look, do you know what this says?”
I turned my head and found that the words weren’t engraved on the wall, but on a random rock lying on the ground. They were carved in a very messy manner and appeared to be some kind of strange script I was unfamiliar with—it looked like a mixture between Chinese and Korean characters.
Monk Hua leaned over to get a look at it, and confirmed, “This is a Jurchen script.”(1)
“What does it say?” Fatty asked.
“Give me a minute,” Monk Hua replied, “I’m not that skilled. I’ll have to carefully examine it before I know. Let me copy them down first.”
We waited a while for Monk Hua to copy the characters into his notebook, and then Fatty took the lead and led us single file into the depths of the fissure.
I say “walking”, but there were actually more opportunities to use our hands than our legs. The fissure ran at an almost thirty-degree downward angle, and there were no steps, so we spent most of the time crawling. The inside of this fissure had both wide and narrow sections, as well as high and low sections. There were even some places where we had to crawl on all fours just to get through.
The only thing that made this journey comfortable was that it was much warmer in here than it was outside. We started to sweat as we crawled, and were soon unbuttoning our clothes. At this time, Fatty suddenly asked, “Grandpa, you don’t think it’s a coincidence that the sealing stone was blocking this fissure, do you?”
Chen Pi Ah Si sounded a little uncertain as he replied, “When building a tomb, they always tried to use local materials. There are so many rocks outside, which makes me think that this was the quarry they used when building the tomb. Maybe this fissure was found when they were excavating the rocks. But I don’t know why they would cover it with a sealing stone.
After descending less than a hundred meters down, the smell of sulfur became stronger and stronger, and the rocks became darker in color. They even started to show a glass-like luster, which was the result of mica melting at high temperatures. I suddenly started to wonder if we were actually in a lava vent. Changbai Mountain was a dormant volcano, but if it suddenly became active again and magma erupted from the inside, we’d all die.
As my thoughts started to spiral, the two men in the lead suddenly stopped and pointed their flashlights up ahead—the fissure suddenly narrowed a lot, and the surrounding rocks were piled on top of each other, leaving only a tiny gap.
I squatted down and used my flashlight to take a look inside, finding that this gap was caused by a collapse. The inside was so narrow that we’d probably have to crawl just to get in.
Chen Pi Ah Si looked at the entrance, clearly aware that he didn’t have the physical strength to crawl in. After some discussion, I asked Monk Hua to stay with him and wait for us. Fatty, Poker-Face, and I would go in and see what was in there.
We took off our coats to reduce our sizes as much as possible, and then Poker-Face took the lead. All three of us had to wiggle back and forth as we squeezed into the gap bit by bit.
I thought the collapse of this section would be small, and we would find an exit after crawling a few steps forward—that way, we could turn around and quickly go back to tell the others—but as it turned out, this section was unexpectedly long. After crawling for a long time, the passage up front didn’t look like it was coming to an end. It seemed this gap was unexpectedly deep.
The surrounding rocks were very sharp and ended up tearing my clothes in several places, the walls felt like they were squeezing my lungs, and the temperature was also getting warmer and warmer. As I crawled further and further, I gradually found it harder to breathe.
Fatty, who was crawling behind me, obviously felt the same way because he grabbed my leg and said, “Let’s stop. There may be a problem with the air quality here. It was too reckless of us to come in here without checking first.”
I wanted to look back, but the space was too small to maneuver. I thought about the long distance we had crawled just now and suddenly felt reluctant to go back. Besides, in this situation, crawling backwards may be more painful than it was to get here. “Let’s keep going just a little bit further,” I said to him. “If the passage doesn’t end soon, then we can go back.”
Fatty grunted in agreement, but at this time, I suddenly heard Poker-Face up front make a questioning noise.
I turned to look forward, but found that the passage in front of me was empty. Seconds before, Poker-Face had been blocking my view, but now he had suddenly disappeared, leaving only a dark stone passage in front of me with no end in sight.
<Chapter 52><Table of Contents><Chapter 54>
(1) The Jurchens were a Tungus ethnic group, predecessor of the Manchu ethnic group who founded the Later Jin Dynasty and Qing Dynasty.
4 thoughts on “Chapter 53 Fissure (Part 1)”
Why I am surprised by Poker Face disappearing act? By now Wuxie should be used to it. Even expecting it 😅
I always feel claustrophobic while they’re crawling in never ending passages
Thank you so much for the chapter
“As I spoke, I took out a masonry hammer from my backpack, walked up to the edge of the dragon sealing stone, carefully checked some of the larger rocks around the base, and then forcefully hit one of them with the hammer. The rock was already lying under twelve tons of pressure, so when I hit it with the hammer from the side, it immediately cracked and split open. This was quickly followed by the “kalala” sound of rocks shifting against each other, and then the dragon sealing stone began to slide down the slope.”
Wait. Did Wu Xie just do an architecture thing? Well done!
(Oh wow, it feels so very cramped in this description.)
I mean…he does have a degree (I’ve been waiting like 12 chapters for him to mention it since he does so when it’s not even related to what’s going on 🤣)
Even though he failed his post-grad exam he is still an architect and that’s important for people to know!