Chapter 54 Fissure (Part 2)

I was absolutely certain that from the time I heard Poker-Face make that noise to the time I noticed his disappearance, no more than five seconds had passed. Even a mouse couldn’t have disappeared so quickly in this environment, let alone a person.

Suddenly having a bad feeling, I instinctively shrank back, but just as I was about to take a closer look, I saw Poker-Face suddenly appear in front of me again.

Fatty, startled into backing up because of my movement, asked, “Did something happen?”

I was at a total loss for a while before I eventually managed to say, “No…it’s nothing.”

Poker-Face didn’t even seem to realize that he had disappeared just now. After a short pause, he called out to us and began crawling forward at a faster pace.

Although his disappearing-reappearing act seemed so real just now, when I saw him acting like nothing had happened, I suddenly lost my confidence and felt very confused—maybe the air here had made me hallucinate?

But the situation didn’t give me much time to think about it—Fatty tugged on my foot from behind, urging me to get moving. I tried to puzzle over what happened as I continued crawling forward. When I got to the section where Poker-Face had disappeared just now, I carefully looked around, but I didn’t see any depressions or places that could have hidden him from view. That was when I vaguely started to feel that something was wrong.

After passing through this section, we crawled on for about ten more minutes before Poker-Face suddenly seemed to relax and his whole body stretched forward. I saw that the passage was more spacious up ahead and knew that we had finally reached the exit.

There were a large number of rocks at the end of this gap. After climbing out, Poker-Face activated several glow sticks and threw them around. As the warm yellow light illuminated the area, I looked around and found that we appeared to be in a spacious mountain crevice. It was wide enough to fit four or five Jinbeis(1) and long enough to fit about one and a half basketball courts. There were also large and small rock fragments covering the ground, which must have fallen when this crevice was formed.

Fatty expanded the aperture of his flashlight and looked around before saying, “Strange, there’s a mural here. It appears we’re not the first people to come here.”

We walked up and found that there was indeed a large colorful mural on the mountain wall, but it was in poor condition—the colors were no longer vivid and the pattern on it was barely discernible. It looked like it was depicting a fairy flying up to heaven.(2)

The entrance to the fissure had been blocked by a huge sealing stone, and now there was a mural inside. I once again felt puzzled—what the hell was this place?

We walked back and forth between the rubble and found several small hot springs that were all very shallow, but steaming hot—the temptation to stop and enjoy them was almost too much to resist. We looked around some more, but didn’t find any other traces of human activity.

Further inside, the crevice gradually narrowed again until it became a small gap as wide as two people. Waves of hot air were flowing out from deep in the gap from time to time. I walked over to take a look inside and found that there was no end in sight—it was impossible to tell where it might lead to.

We discussed our next plan of action and decided that there was no need to go any further—this was already a good place to avoid the snowstorm. Fatty tested the air and said that there weren’t any problems with it, so we turned on a lantern for long-lasting light and had Poker-Face crawl back through the narrow gap to inform the others of our find.

After a while, Monk Hua and Ye Cheng crawled in, quickly followed by Pan Zi who was pulling Shunzi behind him. I immediately went to check on our guide’s condition and found that his face was already pink due to the warmer temperature here, but his hands and feet were still freezing. I honestly wasn’t sure whether he could make it or not.

He had been the one to bring us all the way up the mountain, and while it wouldn’t be impossible for us to climb back down on our own if he died, we would certainly face many more difficulties. Plus, I liked him. I really didn’t want an innocent person like him to die because of us.

Monk Hua checked his pulse and then asked me to step aside while he soaked a cloth in the hot spring’s water, placed it on a rock to cool down slightly, and then used it to wipe Shunzi’s body. After his whole body had been scrubbed to the point his skin was blood red, Monk Hua poured some hot water on him. We all breathed a sigh of relief when Shunzi began coughing violently and his eyelids fluttered.

“It’s alright, he won’t die,” Monk Hua said.

Now that the tense atmosphere had eased, Fatty and Ye Cheng both took out a cigarette and started smoking while Pan Zi went to bring Chen Pi Ah Si here.

After this series of ups and downs, we were all exhausted and didn’t have the strength to talk, so we each found a comfortable place to settle down and rest.

The snow on our bodies had melted due to the temperature change, which meant that our clothes and shoes were all wet now. We took them off and placed them on the hot rocks to steam dry. Ye Cheng took out some of the canned food and threw it into one of the hot spring pools to heat it up for everyone.

As we ate, Monk Hua and I went to look at the mural Fatty, Poker-Face, and I had discovered earlier. This place had obviously formed naturally, and the gap was very narrow, so why would anyone want to paint a mural here? There was also that incident where Poker-Face suddenly disappeared just now, as well as the huge sealing stone covering the fissure. I couldn’t shake the feeling that something abnormal was going on here.

People who dealt with antiquities were always very interested in things like murals and relief sculptures because they usually conveyed a lot of information. So, once the others saw us examining the mural, they gradually started to come over and examine it as well.

Unfortunately, there wasn’t much information on the mural. Most depictions of fairies flying up to heaven were found in decadent palaces or on ritual vessels. They were used to show a beautiful scene of singing and dancing, and had no practical significance. Most of the mural fragments here weren’t any different. But everyone gathered around had been to many ancient tombs before and seen a lot things, so they immediately lost interest after taking one look at it.

I was just about to go back and rub my toes—I had sweated a lot during the trip, and my toes were numb from the cold—but at this time, I heard Fatty click his tongue. When I turned to look at him, I saw him stretch out his hand and begin picking at the mural with his thumbnail.

I asked him what he was doing. Although this thing was worthless, it was still a relic of our ancestors. He shouldn’t destroy it.

“What nonsense are you spouting?” Fatty asked. “What do you mean my nails are worthless? I generally don’t peel ordinary things off, but come and see for yourself. This mural has two layers!”

I frowned and muttered to myself, “Two layers?”

Just as I was wondering what he meant by this, everyone gathered around again and walked over to see what he was talking about. He showed us his finger, which was covered in red cinnabar. I looked at the section of mural in front of him and found that there really was a part that was obviously different from the part around it—both the colors and things depicted were completely different. This section of mural was in an extremely inconspicuous spot, so if not for Fatty’s sharp eyes, we would have never noticed it.

It was obvious to see that someone had painted a mural over the original mural.

The top layer was gradually flaking off due to air exposure, thus exposing the mural behind it. This was something which was often seen in oil paintings.

As Fatty continued to scrape with his fingernail, some bright colors began to appear in the places he had scraped off.

I also scratched at the mural with my fingernail, finding that the artist who painted the surface layer didn’t seem to have adhered to the full process usually followed when creating murals. That was why Fatty could scrape off the paint so easily. After the Tang Dynasty,(3) there was a special layer of transparent material that was placed on top of murals, much like varnish. If the full process was followed, this layer would protect the mural so that the colors wouldn’t fade or peel off so easily.

Chen Pi Ah Si had a tight frown on his face as we worked. Soon, we managed to peel away a large section of mural about the size of a washbasin. Behind this top layer, we could see half of a colorful horse-drawn carriage. It was obviously floating on the clouds, and several women in Mongolian outfits were standing around the carriage, serving a fat man who was wearing an outfit I had never seen before.

This was a narrative mural, and it suddenly made me nervous.

Someone had obviously painted this narrative mural first, but for some reason, it had hurriedly been replaced by another mural. The amount of time allowed to create the replacement mural may have been very tight, so the artist couldn’t even complete the whole process to preserve it.

Chen Pi Ah Si looked at the whole mural, then at the surrounding environment, and said to us, “This…has something to do with the heavenly palace. Clear the whole wall so we can see what it says.”

I had wanted to do that since Fatty first brought it to my attention, so I—along with the others— immediately sacrificed my fingernails and started peeling the mural off of the rock wall.

After a while, large sections of the mural had been peeled off, and a colorful, majestic picture gradually unfolded before our eyes….

<Chapter 53><Table of Contents><Chapter 55>


TN Notes:

(1) Jinbeis kind of look like a kidnapper van rather than a minivan. They’re also called “Gold Cup” cars.

(2) In this context, fairy can also be called a nymph or apsara, which is a member of a class of celestial beings in Hindu and Buddhist culture. They are originally a type of female spirit of the clouds and waters, who are described to be beautiful, youthful and elegant, and are said to be able to change their shape at will.

(3) The Tang Dynasty was an imperial dynasty of China that ruled from 618 to 907 AD, with an interregnum between 690 and 705.

5 thoughts on “Chapter 54 Fissure (Part 2)

  1. Thank you so much for the chapter, it’s really admirable that Chen Pi could get there at his age!

    I wonder if Poker Face disappearance was latter explained, i can’t remember


  2. I seem to recall Poker-Face’s disappearance being mentioned off-hand in one of the later books. When they were going back, in Restart, I think, to meet Xiao-Ge. But I don’t remember feeling that the explanation was very satisfactory.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. There was one time when Zhang Haiyan and that magician priest brought up Xiao Ge disappearance to make fun of Wu Xie, but I don’t think we had an explanation about how and why that happened.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s