Chapter 13 - Encounter in the Cave (Part 2)
Lin Yi went through the stone doors and stepped into the cave. A massive stone tablet instantly caught his eye- Lin Yi found that it was inscribed upon closer inspection.
“Under a full moon the doors invite; A fated one may enter through.
Have in mind, leave as dawn arrive; The doors will die for five years more.”
Old Lin had been teaching him ancient writing. Lin Yi, as a result, had no problem reading the inscription. It had him curious.
The doors clearly referred to the crimson stone doors. The moon was full, and so the doors opened to invite people in. But what did it mean, a fated one? That fated one couldn’t be Lin Yi, could it?
He wasn’t anything special, just some eight year old orphan Old Lin took in, living out his unlucky days. Lin Yi never saw anything noteworthy in himself, at least when compared to the old man, who was better than him at everything.
Yet the inscription did say that a fated one was meant to enter through, and here he was. He didn’t see any reason to ignore the facts, so Lin Yi decided to take on the role granted to him, puzzled as he may be.
The tablet told Lin Yi to remember leaving before dawn, as well. A simple line- all he had to do was get out before the sun came up.
But what was that last part about, the doors dying for five years more?! Could it possibly be telling him that the doors would just lock him in here for five whole years?
Lin Yi took in a deep breath, a chill passing down his spine. Thank god he understood the text, else he’d be wandering around the place like an idiot until he realized the doors weren’t open anymore. Five years? He wouldn’t survive five days without eating or drinking- no one would!
Understanding what was at stake, Lin Yi kept in mind to leave before dawn came. In the meantime, he calmed himself down and continued exploring.
As he neared the palace, Lin Yi realized that the illumination came from the night pearls inlaid within the walls.
It didn’t take an expert to see that the pearls held a high value. Anyone with a little experience could see its worth, knowing that they’d fetch high prices at outside markets.
But Lin Yi wasn’t someone with a little experience… He was someone with none. He found them fascinating to look at, but that was it- his childhood on the mountain had given him an insensitivity toward pearls or gold.
There was also the problem of demand: Not many of his fellow mountain folk had money to spare for some random pearls. The richest one he knew of, at least in her own right, was Widow Wang, who had more than a thousand rmb to use at the end of each year!
To Lin Yi, however, it wasn’t about how much money one had. No one in their right mind should, or would, want to waste their money on something so impractical! He’d rather get himself two big slices of meat, how fine a meal that’d make! He didn’t want to be looking at pearls with an empty stomach.
Thus, Lin Yi moved on, not paying the decorations on the palace walls any more heed. What he was interested in, however, was something he’d picked up from the novels he read. A person who just happened to find him or herself in a mysterious cave, one way or the other, were usually greeted with an encounter, a long lost martial arts scroll, for example!
Excited at the thought of defeating the old man with newfound abilities, Lin Yi looked around with heightened enthusiasm. He wouldn’t have to be bullied every day if he managed to come across some powerful scroll!
Yet the palace was huge, and spacious. Disregarding all the lavish decorations on the palace walls, there were only two items of interest left, sitting in the center of the palace itself. One was the stone tablet Lin Yi noticed the moment he went through the doors, and the other was an elevation, right behind the tablet!
The elevation seemed like a sacrificial altar, from ancient times, but also a place where important objects were displayed. Whatever it was, it was ancient, and it couldn’t be found in a modern setting anymore.
Not giving it much thought, Lin Yi stepped up the elevation in a couple of steps, and an ancient chest came into sight upon reaching the highest platform. It was small, but Lin Yi’s eyes lit up- It seemed like something he was looking for.
Lin Yi then jumped off the elevation after carefully picking the chest up. He proceeded swiftly to hide and conceal himself, chest in hand. It was common for ancient places like these to have traps, after all, and the chest did seem like a treasure that would trigger them.
Nothing out of the ordinary took place, and Lin Yi let out a breath. He didn’t bother opening the chest just yet- there was plenty of time for that after getting back home.
He simply had no time to waste looking through the contents now; staying in the cave for five years was the last thing he wanted to do.
Lin Yi moved past the elevation, wanting to explore the cave further. Another set of stone doors greeted him with a smaller stone tablet on top of it, much to his surprise.
Excited, Lin Yi took a closer look at the stone tablet. It was inscribed as well.
“Five years for the first stage; One palm for the doors.
Should learnings prove incomplete; Revisit in five years more.”
Lin Yi was only confused. ‘Five years for the first stage?’ As things stood, there might actually be some scroll that detailed a martial arts technique in the chest he was holding. Would he really be able to open the door by just hitting it with a palm after learning it?
At that thought, Lin Yi went forward to give shoving the door a try. It didn’t budge when he pulled, either, and he understood easily. ‘Should learnings prove incomplete; Revisit in five years more’ meant that he might not be able to learn whatever technique the chest offered in time. If so, he’d have to wait another five years before he could try again.
Lin Yi’s heart started itching as he stared at the closed doors- if the first palace housed a scroll, then the second stone doors would most likely lead to something of higher value!
He understood perfectly well that he wasn’t ready for the second set of doors. Lin Yi felt that it was enough for now, having managed to fatefully stumble across the cave and all.
Satisfied, Lin Yi made his way out of the cave, the chest in his arms. The sky wasn’t dark anymore, and a faint white could be seen at the Eastern edge. The sun was rising.