Book 35 Chapter 3 – Genuine or Fake Treasure-Trove?
Without even thinking, Xu Ziling pressed the button.
There was not much time, their internal breathing could not hold for too long, they did not have time to consider their alternatives.
This button was only about ten paces or so from the button that sent them down into the net trap a moment ago. If this button still led them into another trap, they would simply have to blame their own destiny for cutting their lives short.
Under the two boys’ scalp-went-numb expectant gaze, the mechanism started to make noise again, ahead, one side of the wall sank in, opening up a square hole.
From Xu Ziling’s side, Kou Zhong squeezed past him, chopping the nail and slicing the iron [i.e. decisively], he said, “Let me lead the way.”
Xu Ziling was helpless against him, he only said, “Just be careful.” And then he followed closely behind Kou Zhong into the hole.
The passageway widened; it now became a corridor where people could stand and walk. Straight ahead, at the end of the passageway, was a hazy green light.
Finding it hard to believe, Kou Zhong stared blankly at the light source. He slowly stood up and said, “Is it because I have been in the dark too long that unexpectedly I am seeing things?”
Xu Ziling also stood up; shaking his head, he said, “You are not seeing things; that is indeed a light, but it is definitely not a lantern light.”
Although the air in this passageway was not as fresh and clean as above ground, but obviously there was good ventilation somewhere, because it was not stuffy.
Kou Zhong greedily took a breath and said, “This time we will definitely find the right door.”
Finished speaking, he walked forward, upright and unafraid, toward the light source, but this time he was cautious and solemn, for fear of taking the wrong step and nursing a grievance of losing his footing.
“My Niang!” Kou Zhong exclaimed, “Could that be the legendary Night Pearl? Each side has six pearls. If we take it out and sell it, it would be enough for half of our lives to have ample food and clothing!”
The end of the passageway was a steel door with a steel ring on it. On each side of the door, six shiny pearls emitting dark green light were embedded outside the door. Although the light intensity was not strong, it was enough for the two boys to see everything as clearly as if it was daylight.
Xu Ziling’s tiger body suddenly shook severely, “Look!” he said.
Following his gaze, Kou Zhong looked at the wall to the left of the door – he saw, engraved using a sharp dagger or similar object on the smooth granite wall, was a row of nine characters, ‘Gaoli Luocha Nu Zeng Dao Cidi’ [Luocha (demon – Buddhism) woman of Gaoli (Korea) was here]!
Hot tears gushed forth from Kou Zhong’s eyes; he spoke with a trembling voice, “Niang wrote this!”
Xu Ziling’s pair of eyes emitted intense emotion. Reaching out, he gently stoked the characters, saying, “If Niang knew that we finally see the words that she left behind, she must be extremely gratified.”
Kou Zhong’s tears flowed, he was unable to speak, thinking about Fu Junchuo’s voice and features, her smiling face, her last words before she passed away, as well as what they went through these past few years; how could he not sigh with sorrow?
Xu Ziling lightly pushed his shoulder and said, “Go on.”
The two boys started to search again. After verifying that there was indeed no other button to push, Kou Zhong sighed and said, “In the Book on Mechanism that Lu Dashi left behind, there is a chapter specifically dedicated to door ring; there are ten different methods to open the door. If we use the wrong method, we might activate the wrong mechanism, the outcome will be difficult to foresee.”
Knitting his brows, Xu Ziling said, “Is there a way to test this door ring for the proper method to open the door?”
Smiling wryly, Kou Zhong said, “It’s not that by nature I don’t have interest to study the mechanisms, it’s just that although I read it many times, it’s still like water over the back of the duck, nothing made any sense. Let me think about it.”
Suddenly he reached out to grab the steel ring.
Xu Ziling jumped in fright, “What are you doing?” he asked.
Kou Zhong laughed aloud and said, “Don’t worry. I remember something; if we could pull the steel ring out, there are only two ways to test the method of opening the door. If we cannot pull it out, then we’ll try other methods.”
Without waiting for Xu Ziling to voice his opinion, he pulled the door ring, exposing a steel cable attached to the ring. “Success!” Kou Zhong happily exclaimed.
Xu Ziling nodded and said, “Just consider you have a bit of skill [orig. skills acquired through religious practice]. Now only those two ways of opening the door remain.”
Kou Zhong dejectedly said, “It is either twisting it to the left or turning it to the right. Tonight my luck does not seem to be of help, why don’t you decide?”
Xu Ziling blurted out, “Is that what you called your mechanism knowledge? I might as well go gambling or bet on the points of the dice.”
Embarrassed, Kou Zhong said, “There should be a way to test it, it’s just that Lu Dashi, the Senior, had not taught me. Just try our luck then! We have at least 50% chance of success.”
In his subconscious mind, Xu Ziling looked up and down and all around, trying to anticipate any disaster that might happen. Shaking his head, he said, “If I had known this earlier, even if you threatened me with the Moon in the Well, I would not have come with you her to suffer calamity. Turn it left then. Ay! You really anger me to death.”
Kou Zhong cautiously swapped his left and right hand’s position and then turned the door ring. By the third turn, the steel door produced a crisp, loud and clear ‘Clack!’
The two boys watched with full attention, their alertness was elevated to its highest level.
Kou Zhong laughed aloud and said, “You are all right; success!”
Trying to push the steel door, indeed it yielded to his force and opened up; the steel ball running along a track on the ground opened the door wide. Another corridor appeared before their eyes, but the end disappeared into the darkness ahead, so that it was difficult to tell just how deep.
But the air coming right on their faces felt fresh and clean. Kou Zhong waved his hand and bowed, “Ling Shao, please come into the treasure-trove,” he said.
Xu Ziling was about to step in, suddenly the mechanism sprang into action. The two boys’ countenance changed with this sudden unexpected change.
Ten particularly long and thick refined-steel arrows, appearing to be in confusion and at random – were shooting from the darkness of the other end, carrying sharp whizzing noise as they flew, splitting the air. In this quiet underground corridor, the sound was even more ear piercing.
The narrow corridor had barely enough space for one person to stand. Unless they could make their bodies as thin as paper, there was simply no way to dodge the arrows.
This kind of arrows, which were launched by mechanism-activated super-strong crossbow – were a hundred times more formidable than any arrows or darts launched by ordinary crossbow. The only way to dodge it was to immediately close the door and hide behind the door.
Even for someone with less skill than they, as long as his reaction was fast enough, the timing would still allow him to do so. However, the two boys have already had long experience; they vaguely felt that such an easy method did not conform to Lu Miaozi’s style.
It was obvious that Lu Miaozi deliberately left a sliver of gap in time between when the mechanism started to make noise and the steel arrows splitting the air, to let one to have the time to ponder deeply and react. Anybody who was not too slow-witted, and at least had some training in basic martial art skill – would definitely be able to use the door to block the arrows.
But who would dare to guarantee that once the steel door was pulled, it would not automatically close again and could never be opened?
These thoughts flashed through the two boys’ mind at the speed of lightning, immediately they went into action.
To block ten of such powerful arrows at once, even if the two boys worked together in one mind, they simply did not have enough power. If it were other people, without the ability to see things under the faint illumination as if under the daylight like they had, to see the arrows clearly was already a problem, let alone trying to block the arrows!
Kou Zhong’s Moon in the Well left his back and swept down, while he cried out urgently, “I’m down you’re up!”
There was a fine tacit understanding between Xu Ziling and Kou Zhong, the two had reached the state of linked-mind. Without the slightest hesitation Xu Ziling threw himself toward Kou Zhong’s back. While Kou Zhong’s scabbard struck, both his palms sliced down, he swept two arrows, which were flying close to their body.
‘Ding! Ding!’ Kou Zhong’s saber and its scabbard struck down two arrows, which were flying close to the ground – in succession, while the two arrows that Xu Ziling struck were comparatively higher. The other six arrows whistled past above them, but dangerously close.
The technique they were using was deflecting-force technique to deflect the arrows’ direction; however, the arrows still had enough momentum that unexpectedly they embedded themselves into the wall about a cun deep!
Considering the hardness of the granite, the power of the arrows could be easily imagined. Immediately their four arms were aching and went numb to the point where they lost all sensation.
Watching the tail of the arrows still quivering, they were overwhelmed with after-the-calamity, renewed-life feeling.
Xu Ziling crawled down from Kou Zhong’s back and said with a wry smile, “Next time remember to turn it right.”
While rubbing his numbed arm, Kou Zhong returned the saber into its scabbard. His eyes scanning the floor, he shook his head and said, “We turned the door ring in the right direction, but we did make one wrong step. Do you see this? This section of the stone slab behind the door is different than the rest; being unaware of the inner workings we stepped on it, we triggered the mechanism.”
Xu Ziling felt there was terror on every step; sighing, he said, “Lu Xiansheng seemed to have turned this storehouse into life-and-death game, as well as the testing field for the students of mechanic and mechanism; someday, if you can return to the world of the living, it could be considered that you graduate already!”
Full of confidence, Kou Zhong said, “Don’t worry; not only we will find the treasure, we will also return safely!”
Xu Ziling laughed and said, “You, this kid, are really weird. If it were someone else hitting a wall like this, he would have lost all confidence, but you, on the contrary, increase your confidence. If it’s not weird, I don’t what it is.”
Kou Zhong cheerfully said, “I just thought that we came across a barrier, we overcome the barrier, our achievement is remarkable; the treasure-trove must be inside.”
‘Tschak!’ Kou Zhong fished out a fire stick and lighted it up. He saw that at the end of the corridor, the wall was covered in small holes from which the arrows were shot. There were perhaps thirty or more such holes. If each hole shot one arrow, more than thirty of such arrows were shot at the same time; other than using the door as a shield from the arrows, there was simply no other way.
Seeing this, the two boys could not help sucking in a mouthful of cold air.
Speechless, Kou Zhong said, “We are lucky! Some of these must be in disrepair due to its age and thus did not shoot arrows. Otherwise, just like you said, we would have to go back to the bottom of the well and bang on the wall to call on Feng Jie’er [elder sister Feng (phoenix, Dugu Feng)] to come and rescue us.”
Seeing this, Xu Ziling’s scalp went numb as well. He said, “Or perhaps the other arrows are for some other treasure hunters to enjoy. It seems to me that Niang should have known the mechanism layout in here; otherwise, there would be arrows that were already shot on the floor.”
Kou Zhong nodded in agreement. Raising the fire stick high, he stepped gingerly deep into the corridor. When he reached the end of the long corridor, he saw another corridor appearing on the left, connecting it into another room.
“We are here,” he happily said. Learning from experience, they no longer dare to be reckless, but this corridor clearly did not hold any surprises. After passing through the corridor, Kou Zhong lifted high the fire stick, the two boys looked intently, and immediately looked at each other in shock.
Not because the underground storehouse held too much treasure and weaponry, but because it was too few.
It was practically 108,000 li apart [light-years apart; I seem to remember someone said that 108,000 li was the distance the Monk Xuanzang travelled in Journey to the West] from the Duke Yang’s Treasure that they had in their mind.
It was a vast, sealed underground room. On the top of the four corners of the room there were ventilation holes. On both sides there were more than a dozen chests that supposedly contained rare treasure. Mounted on the walls were dozens of weapons rack, full of all kinds of weapons.
But these were all just ordinary stuffs, and all were rusty and moldy; even if you take it out and give it away, nobody would want it.
Grabbing his head, Kou Zhong said, “What in the world is this? The world famous Duke Yang’s Treasure is just like this? Even if this batch of weapons, bows and arrows were not rusty, at most it could only be used by several hundred men.”
Xu Ziling lifted the lid of one of the chests. Inside were ancient jade, antique curios, and the like; it seemed that these things would worth quite a lot.
After looking at all these more than a dozen chests one by one, Kou Zhong dejectedly sat on a chest and said with a sigh, “If we carry these fifteen chests out, we could perhaps become richer than Sha Tiannan, but definitely cannot become the hegemon of the world because of it. My guess is that these are the precious articles that Yang Su raided from other people for his personal gain. Ay! In times like this, it is really not easy to sell this batch of things.”
Xu Ziling sat down on a chest opposite him. Watching Kou Zhong taking out a fresh fire stick, he suddenly said, “Where is the Xiedi Sheli?”
Slapping his forehead, Kou Zhong grumbled with a weird laughter, “Well said. This is actually another kind of even more formidable psychological warfare. If it were other people, by finding this place and seeing this batch of knickknacks, probably they are already delighted like crazy, thinking that they had found the Duke Yang’s Treasure, while the fact is that this is not the genuine treasure at all. Ay! Where exactly is it then?”
Xu Ziling smiled and said, “This time it is really going to test your skill.”
After checking every cun of the fake treasure-trove walls, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling came back to sit on their original position without finding anything. Kou Zhong sighed and said, “Xiaodi only have one fire stick left; after it is burnt, we will have to tear apart the night pearl. Frankly speaking, the most valuable item at present ought to be those twelve night pearls; only those pearls are worthy to be called the real rare treasure.”
Xu Ziling disagreed, “The real treasure-trove can’t possibly be inside the fake treasure-trove. If, after entering the arrow holes we can find another place with hidden mechanism, perhaps we could find the passageway to the real treasure-trove.”
Shaken, Kou Zhong said, “Such a simple thing, why didn’t I think about it before? In the scroll he left behind, Lu Dashi did mention that although the mechanism can be laid out in numerous different places, but there must be a main control room, using sliding shafts, chains, cables and so on to control the overall situation; this one open that one closed, more complicated that his granny’s. Ay! Where is this main control room? If Lei Laoxiong prepared some tools to chisel the rock, we could look for a wall and dig some to search for it.”
Xu Ziling replied with a sneer, “How could Lei Dage possibly know that your mechanism knowledge is so useless? Come, let us examine those arrow holes.”
‘Tschak!’ Another fire stick was burning bright.
Kou Zhong sat motionless, his pair of eyes gleaming as he stared in full attention, glowing with the brilliant rays of wisdom, as he was racking his brains.
He had no choice but to think deeply with all his heart, because when they activated the mechanism, the original entrance at the bottom of the water well was already closed. At the moment, even if they were willing to give up, they still did not have a way to escape. Only by finding the real treasure-trove would they have the opportunity to get out.
Kou Zhong suddenly sprang up. Coming to Xu Ziling’s side and sitting down, he said, “Let me borrow your palm.”
When they were little, Xu Ziling often played this kind of game with him. Spreading out his right palm, he said, “The fire stick could still burn at most for half a day; we’d better go outside to borrow the night pearl’s light.”
“What happen if the door suddenly closes?” Kou Zhong asked.
Reaching out, he drew a ‘ten’ character [十] on his palm. Xu Ziling did not understand, “What is this?” he asked.
Immensely proud of himself, Kou Zhong said, “Lu Shi did say, in constructing secret room underground, the positioning must be decided first. The position means the orientation as well. Using the ‘ten’ character to indicate east, west, south and north, others can be positioned base on this ‘ten’ character; thereupon the measurement can be exact. You see, if the passageway where we came in and the passageway leading to the fake treasure-trove could extend in the opposite direction, they would make a ‘ten’ character.”
Xu Ziling nodded his head and said, “You really have a bit of skill. Why didn’t you think about it just now?”
Having his scar exposed bluntly like that, Kou Zhong said in embarrassment, “When one is in desperate situation, naturally one must struggle for survival. Come!”
The two went back to the wall covered densely in arrow holes. Their backs were facing the open wide iron door at the end of the long corridor. Kou Zhong put his eyes to peek into a hole. Shaken, he immediately jumped back and said, “My Niang, you were right; there are still arrows inside that could shoot out any moment!”
Astonished, Xu Ziling said, “In that case, not only the wall is thin, the arrowheads must be some distance away from the arrow holes; otherwise the firelight would shine in and let you see the arrows.”
Kou Zhong said, “The distance is at least one chi. Perhaps this wall is moveable. The legacy scroll mentioned there are only seven or eight methods in moveable wall [orig. living wall] construction, I hope we will not activate the mechanism, so that Xiaodi can try the methods one by one.”
And then he spoke excitedly, “The first method is called pushing inward. If there is an axle underneath, it will slide inside, revealing the Kang Zhuang [lit. peaceful/abundant village/manor] highway leading to paradise.”
As he spoke, he raised his hand to push the wall.
The sound of machinery arose.
Their soul flew away and scattered, together the two boys jumped to the left side, to the corridor leading toward the fake treasure-trove. The fire stick flew off Kou Zhong’s hand, it hit the wall on the right, and sparks flew about in all directions.
Ten powerful arrows shot out at the same time, whistling passed their ears!
The two crouched on the ground, you look at me I gaze at you; having just recovered from the shock, Kou Zhong craned his neck to look, the door with the ring on it unexpectedly closed up, they could no longer see the glow of the night pearl!
The smashed fire stick flickered and died, so that they sank into the pitch-black darkness.
For the first time, the two boys regretted for not taking the night pearl to be used in emergency like this.
Xu Ziling said, “Since we already did the first, we might as well do all fifteen. Let’s push the wall again, so that the arrows inside shoot clean, and then we’ll talk.”
“Good idea,” Kou Zhong said. Just like that, he lifted his leg and stretched out his foot, he gave the arrow wall a fierce kick.
With a series of ringing noise, all the arrows hit the steel door.
After the wall was kicked two more times, the arrows no longer reacted.
The two boys jumped up. Groping in the dark, they came over to the arrow wall. Xu Ziling said with a laugh, “This treasure hunt is certainly thrilling and excited. If your opening-the-door method no longer effective, I am afraid we will become the evidence of the will-never-be-forgotten old proverb, ‘people who die for wealth’.”
“Don’t worry,” Kou Zhong said, “Unless it is Shi Zhixuan, how could a Shifu be willing to kill his disciple. Pei! [spit in contempt]”
Exerting his strength, he pressed fiercely. Sure enough, the wall gave in and sank two cun back.
Greatly delighted, Kou Zhong said, “There is indeed an axle underneath. Now, if we could raise the wall, it could become a moveable wall. Whether we are dragon or snake, we will see it soon!”
Finished speaking, he inserted two fingers separately into two arrow holes on two sides; applying his power, he lifted up.
The wall rose up. Xu Ziling busily reached the bottom of the wall to help Kou Zhong lifting the wall up.
Amid the creaking sound of the sliding axle and wheel, the two boys’ only hope obediently rose up.
Kou Zhong suddenly pulled back his fingers and shouted, “Stop!”
The stone door only shrank halfway into the top of the wall.
“What’s the matter?” Xu Ziling asked.
As if he was still having a lingering fear, Kou Zhong said, “We only need enough for us to get in; we had better restore the wall properly.”
Xu Ziling was in total agreement. After the two boys crawled inside, the living wall fell back down, and then they pushed it back into its original position.
The two boys groped about all over the place in total darkness; they just did not dare to touch the mechanism to release the arrows.
This was a square room of about twenty paces wide, and the air was flowing unimpeded, so that the two boys felt like they had found the right place.
Kou Zhong suddenly cried out in low voice, “Success! There’s another movable wall in here; we are saved!”