Book 2: 怒海潜沙
Sands Hidden In The Raging Sea
After Wu Xie showed Third Uncle the copper fish taken from Lu Shang Wang’s tomb, Third Uncle presented him with another copper fish. Third Uncle told Wu Xie the story of an archaeological trip that happened 20 years ago in an underwater tomb near Xi Sha. In total, there were ten people joining in the trip – an archaeologist team consisting of nine people and Third Uncle himself. In the middle of the trip, a member of the team was suddenly found dead. A sea storm was on the way so the remaining nine, having no other choice, went down to the tomb to seek shelter. While Third Uncle was fast asleep, all the other eight including Chen Wenjin, whom Third Uncle adored romantically, went missing. He later escaped from the tomb alone. Until today, no one had ever seen the other members again. Third Uncle then showed Wu Xie a group photo of all members. Looking at the photo, Wu Xie discovered that Men You Ping was also in the team, and he had not aged one bit since that day! At this point, Third Uncle immediately left for Xi Sha.
From the story of Third Uncle, Wu Xie learnt that inside this tomb, there were murals of ladies with big abdomens as if they were pregnant. On the wall was a large relief plaque that depicted human faces filled with tomb-guarding animals, and all of these animals appeared eyeless. What caught Wu Xie’s attention the most was that on the forehead of one such face, there were three copper fishes with snake-like eyelashes, very much similar to the one that Wu Xie found in the the jade box. In the plaque, the three fishes joined together to form a circle.
After Third Uncle left, because Wu Xie was short of money to pay the hospital fees for Pan Zi, he planned to sell the jade armour taken from Lu Shang Wang’s tomb. He met an intermediary dealer named Lao Hai and chanced upon an ancient incense burner in his antique shop. On this incense burner, there was a carving of a lady with a big abdomen. Wu Xie then learnt that the carving depicted Forbidden Lady, a zombie-like creature that resided underwater and could kill people by wrapping its hair around their heads, suffocating them to death.
Earning a good sum from the jade armour, Wu Xie went on to treat himself but got a call that Third Uncle had gone missing. He rushed to Xi Sha, where he met with A-Ning, Pangzi and an archaeological expert that he nicknamed Bald Zhang. Together they headed for the tomb under the sea. Wu Xie’s ship came across a ghost ship which turned out to be the ship that carried the archaeologist team 20 years ago. A-Ning was dragged into the ghost ship by an unknown monster, so Wu Xie jumped into that ship to save her. They encountered a fierce Sea Monkey but were rescued by Bald Zhang. Wu Xie also picked up a diary that seemed to belong to Chen Wenjin. The diary said that the time they started surveying the tomb was July 1984.
Entering the tomb, they first discovered an empty small-sized coffin. The child mummy originally buried in that coffin had gone to hide inside a porcelain vase. The vase then rolled to another room and they immediately followed. During the chasing, a trap was activated, firing Lotus Flower Arrows at the group. A-Ning, showing her true colour, used Wu Xie as a shield then ran away. At this juncture, Bald Zhang took out his mask and revealed himself to be Men You Ping.
The three worked together and discovered that the tomb structure would change according to the up-and-down principle similar to that of an elevator: when they exited a room then returned later, the room would have been replaced by another room as the original one had either gone up or down. They entered a room with a coffin that held a large female corpse having twelve arms and twelve legs. As the corpse was half submerged in water, in order to see the full body, they used the vases that scattered around the coffin to bail the water out. Wu Xie then wandered off to the next room and discovered some porcelain vases with carvings on their bodies. Arranged in a certain order, these carvings would form a coherent story. Because he was too absorbed in the story, when he tried to go back, the other room had shifted. Wu Xie thus was separated from Pangzi and Men You Ping.
Looking back at the story told by the porcelain vases, Wu Xie learnt that the owner of the tomb participated in the construction of a remarkably extravagant building. Wu Xie had a preliminary judgment that the owner of the tomb was likely to be Wang Zang Hai.
All of a sudden, a Sea Monkey appeared and attacked Wu Xie, so he escaped through another door. He ended up in a dome-shaped room with a large pond in the middle. Right in the center of the pond was a basin-shaped coffin that could definably be traced back to the Warring States period.
Wu Xie was looking around when Pangzi and Men You Ping unexpectedly rose from the water. Pangzi then explained that back in the first room with the large female corpse, they discovered that at the bottom of the coffin lay a stone used to suppress evil energy and underneath the stone was a man-made tunnel. A fetus lived inside the female corpse and tried to escape when Pangzi and Men You Ping sensed its presence. Men You Ping warned that this fetus was in fact a Drought Demon and killing it would release toxic gas, so the two of them hurriedly ran off into the man-made tunnel and were led to the pond. When they came out from the pond, Wu Xie was there.
As Pangzi wrapped up what happened to him and Men You Ping, the water in the pond abruptly receded, revealing the drainage holes and a stone staircase at the bottom of the pond. The three then decided to go down. At the end of the stairs, they found another room with four stone money statues and a stone plaque that read: “The owner of this tomb had a Heavenly Palace; the entrance is behind the plaque, but only those who are destined (to enter the Palace) will see it”. On the stone steps going down to this room, they found some mysterious symbols that resembled English characters. Looking at these characters, Men You Ping recalled what happened 20 years ago.
20 years ago, Men You Ping was the first in the team to discover the secrets carved on the porcelain vases. He rearranged the vases and found that they formed the order of the construction of the Heavenly Palace On The Clouds led by Wang Zang Hai.
When Men You Ping and the team reached the bottom of the pond, they saw Third Uncle, who was thought to be fast asleep during that time, sitting and combing his hair in front of the plaque. Right after that, a hidden door opened and Third Uncle ran into it. Chen Wenjin then imitated Third Uncle’s combing motion and, at the right angle, saw three copper fishes on the plaque. This solved the puzzle of the Qimen Dunjia¹, activating the Birth Door and thus allowing the team to enter.
¹ 奇门遁甲 [Qimen Dunjia], is an ancient form of divination from China with applications in many aspects of life including matchmaking, childbirth, personal fortune, business etc. In a Qimen Dunjia formation, there are 8 Magic Doors representing Man, namely Rest Door 休, Birth Door 生, Injury Door 傷, Delusion Door 杜, View Door 景, Death Door 死, Shocking Door 驚 and Opening Door 開.
After going all the way, they entered a room containing a model of the Heavenly Palace with four night-luminescent pearls on the roof. Forty astrological maps adorned the room ceiling. On the four walls were four paintings: the first painting depicted the Palace standing atop a snow-capped mountain; the second one described a scene below the Palace where people were pulling up a coffin with a pulley, proving that the Palace was in fact someone’s tomb; the third one showed that the only path to the Palace had been destroyed; and the fourth one outlined an avalanche which buried the entire Palace under snow, so people could no longer tell its exact location.
At this point, Chen Wenjin discovered Third Uncle hiding behind a large mirror in the room. She rushed to the mirror’s behind and found that there was a man-made tunnel. The whole group entered the tunnel and walked forward for a short while, then suddenly, they fainted one by one. Just before he completely lost his consciousness, Men You Ping saw Third Uncle approaching him slowly.
Back to the present day, Pangzi found his back itchy due to the poison on the Lotus Flower Arrows, to which Wu Xie used his saliva to relieve him. Wu Xie then learnt two things: his saliva had a special healing ability and he was somehow immune to the poison.
The three of them decided they would enter the Birth Door of the Qimen Dunjia to get to the room with the Heaven Palace model. They planned to break the ceiling of the tomb and escape from there. But the symbols on the stone plaque had been changed by someone, so they mistakenly ended up in the Death Door. Quickly after they entered the passageway behind the door, the walls on both sides kept moving closer to each other and closed the path, preventing them from turning back. Men You Ping decided that they should climb up to find a possible tunnel because the ceiling was likely made of softer materials.
While climbing up, the three found words written in blood on the ceiling. The person who wrote it was Xie Lianhuan, one of the members of the archaeologist team. The words in blood said that Third Uncle was the one that pushed him into this deadly situation. The three later found a tunnel dug up by Xie Lianhuan, so they quickly went into it. In the tunnel, Wu Xie met with a Forbidden Lady and was almost kissed by it.
Following the tunnel, they entered the room where the Heavenly Palace model was located. Wu Xie, hearing the enchanting sound of the hexagonal bronze bells, ran to the behind of the large mirror, and Men You Ping and Pangzi followed. They found a half-conscious A-Ning there and discovered a coral tree whose branches were attached to many hexagonal bells.
At the end, they decided to activate the explosives in the abdomen of a mummy found in the tomb to destroy the ceiling. Upon destruction, the inflown seawater destroyed the airtight structure of the tomb, lifting all of them up to the sea surface. On the way out,
Pangzi managed to quickly steal a night-luminescent pearl.
As they finally managed to escape unharmed, the group came across the ship that brought them to the tomb, however, no one was onboard as they had all run away to avoid the sea storm. Pangzi and Men You Ping took turns navigating the ship while Wu Xie rested. He went online to find more information about the archaeological trip 20 years ago and came across a piece of news that was looking for a missing person – his Third Uncle.
At the end of the news article, it read: “The fish is at my place”.
[End of Book 2]
Translator and reviewer at Strictly Bromance blog. In essence, she lives to indulge in plot-driven stories sprinkled with camaraderie and slow-burn drama-free romance, especially more so if they belong to adventure, mystery or supernatural genre. A trope that she always thirsts after: “Comrades who go through life and death together”.