Chapter 49 – Kala Snow Mountain (2)

The hotel arranged by the tour group was halfway up a mountain, considered one of the best places around aside from guesthouses. The rooms were singles, and the hotel landlady was very hospitable, welcoming each guest with a hearty “Tashi Delek.”

The adult man became like an old vegetable on the plateau, sprawling in star shape on the bed upon arrival at the hotel.

The high schooler, ever willing, helped with carrying the luggage.

Most of today was spent on the road, leaving many feeling the effects of altitude sickness—dizziness and headaches. So, from the afternoon onwards, no sightseeing was scheduled, allowing the tourists to rest well and have a taste of the highland hotpot upon waking up in the evening.

Jiang Yujin spent the better part of the afternoon dozing off in the room, waking up briefly feeling refreshed before enjoying the meal heartily.

Though dinner wasn’t late, it was pitch black outside the windows. There were no streetlights, and everything was obscured by darkness.

Midway through the meal, in this small tour group, which was already quite small, camaraderie quickly ensued after dinner. Glasses were passed around; the high schooler couldn’t drink, so he watched others, occasionally preventing the adult man from drinking too much by subtly managing his glasses.

The man who had been staring at the snow mountain throughout the car journey was absent at this moment.

Steam rose from the pot, heating up the room as the people at the table chatted. Suddenly, a sound emanated from outside the window, a wailing sound, intermittent, akin to something attached to one’s heart. Someone got up to open the window, and the wind rushed in instantly, accompanied by tiny snowflakes and raindrops.

When they had arrived earlier in the day, it had been clear, the sun prominent. The guide remarked, “The weather changes quickly here. It’s windy and snowing now; it might clear up in the latter part of the night.”

Objectively, the change was indeed rapid. The person who opened the window got a face full of snowflakes before hastily shutting it, keeping the wailing wind outside, and the warmth returned to the dining hall.

Half-eating, half-drinking, Jiang Yujin felt quite energetic even after finishing the meal with a few other tourists. So, he made plans to play cards with a few other adults at the table.

Mahjong had completely permeated every nook and cranny. The hotel had a dedicated game room, and a few people left affectionately. Before leaving, Jiang Yujin glanced at the high schooler still sitting at the table and said, “Finish your meal and head back to rest.”

The high schooler looked at him, a slightly disagreeable expression on their face.

Jiang Yujin waved it off, saying, “We’ll just play for a while.”

“A while” meant most of the night. The guide’s words proved true—the latter part of the night was calm without any more wind or snow. Outside the window, silence settled back in, while inside, the room remained lively.

The next morning, when the tour guide attempted to gather everyone for breakfast before heading to the attractions, only a handful arrived on time.

Chen Jing glanced around and went back to manually wake up Jiang Yujin, who was still deep in slumber. Drifting into the restaurant with them were a few people who had played mahjong together the previous day. They all sported heavy dark circles under their eyes, resembling soulless shells.

Some were still attempting to analyze their previous night’s game, saying, “I shouldn’t have made that move so early…”

Last night’s biggest winner, Jiang Yujin, let out a yawn.

Breakfast consisted of simple fare—eggs, steamed bread, and a bottle of milk. After a unanimous decision, they opted to eat on the go. Just as they were about to depart, the man who had appeared sporadically the previous evening finally walked in from outside the hotel’s entrance and boarded the bus.

Nobody knew where he had been or for how long, only noticing the dampness in his hair and on his windbreaker. There was a couple in the group; the girl took out tissues from her bag and offered them, saying, “Maybe you should wipe yourself off first.”

The man didn’t accept, shaking his head in silence.

It was a minor incident on the journey and didn’t affect the atmosphere in the vehicle. The driver navigated while the guide would narrate about the sights along the way when needed, engaging in conversation when unnecessary.

Citizen Jiang, a professional at part-time jobs, engaged the guide in discussion about acquiring a tour guide license.

The man had hardly slept the previous night, appearing on the verge of collapsing at the hotel but now seemed rejuvenated, eyes drooping but spirits high as usual.

Their destination for the day was the closest point to the snow mountain, expecting to arrive in the afternoon with a midday stop at a rest area.

Spending too much time in the vehicle wasn’t pleasant. At the rest stop, everyone disembarked.

Jiang Yujin, the motion sickness expert, squatted by the roadside, clad in his windbreaker, self-reflecting on his night of guilt.

The high schooler went inside the rest area with a thermos to fetch hot water.

Perhaps the most energetic on the bus were the young couple. While others found places to sit, they roamed the rest area, taking pictures. They even bought numerous local snacks and souvenirs. When Chen Jing passed by with a water bottle, they were still asking passersby to take photos for them.

At the rest area entrance, with too many people around, Chen Jing took a detour, slipping out from the other side. As he walked out, he glanced sideways and spotted the man who had arrived late this morning. The man was still alone, tucking a floral-patterned folding knife into his pocket.

Before the man could look up, Chen Jing turned and walked away.

It was evident that the hot water was for the self-proclaimed incapacitated adult due to motion sickness. Taking a few sips, Jiang Yujin squatted by the roadside, looking up at the high schooler. Glancing at the thermos in the high schooler’s hand, he remarked, “Surprised to see you carrying a thermos in your backpack.”

His suitcase was filled with pajamas, changes of clothes, essentials, and more than half the necessary snacks, having considered even bringing a large thermos but eventually giving up due to space constraints. The thought of a cup hadn’t even crossed his mind. Despite being young, the high schooler was already practical-minded.

The practical high schooler looked towards the distant mountains, silent.

After the brief break, they got back on the bus.

The subsequent route was a winding mountain road. Initially, there was chatter, but eventually, silence enveloped the bus. Passing through a lengthy tunnel, the sounds inside were muffled, and after what seemed like minutes or longer, emerging from the tunnel, their sight was engulfed in a blanket of snow.

Thick snow clung to the fir trees lining the road, stark against the dark hues of the trees. The sky was lost in the white expanse, the jagged peaks covered entirely in the snow’s embrace.

Previously, the distant view had seemed majestic, but now, closer, they felt the overwhelming presence of the snow-capped mountains. The guide pointed, “The central peak is Kala Snow Mountain.”

She gestured toward the gently sloping yet towering mountainside ahead, saying, “That’s where we’ll be heading shortly.”

Kala Snow Mountain was considered a sacred mountain locally, accessible only to those with the purest souls. Entry by impure individuals would enrage the mountain deity, and only complete sacrifice could appease the deity’s anger. Of course, the more direct reason was the treacherous conditions and the ban on tourists entering.

As the guide spoke about the mountain, the man who had been silently gazing out the window finally withdrew his gaze, glancing at the guide. There was something inexplicably chilling about his gaze, unnoticed by the guide, yet it sent an eerie shiver down her spine.

Shivering might have been due to the physical drop in temperature. After passing through the tunnel, the Celestial Mountains had already begun to experience snowfall. Initially light, it allowed normal driving, but after a gust of wind, the snow gradually intensified, eventually obscuring the view.

The windshield wipers worked incessantly, the driver squinted, focusing intently ahead. There were no other vehicles, but the roadside consisted of steep slopes, requiring cautious driving.

Eventually, the light snow transformed into a heavy snowfall, completely blurring visibility. Amidst the sound of falling snow, a not-so-subtle noise emerged, and the road ahead, already fuzzy, turned instantly white.

A substantial accumulation of snow had gathered atop rocks scattered across a slope that flew horizontally. Suddenly, it all tumbled onto the road’s center. The driver’s eyes widened, swiftly steering, manipulating the clutch, and swiftly veering onto a nearby dirt path.

The vehicle jolted but managed to stabilize, becoming immobile.

Encountering this situation for the first time, the driver and guide braved the heavy snow to inspect. They discovered that the front wheels had sunk into a large pit. The pit had likely been there but had deepened due to last night’s rain. They couldn’t resolve this issue and had to wait for specialists once the snow subsided.


A sound came from behind. The guide turned and saw the rear door opening. The man who hadn’t spoken much emerged from the vehicle. He glanced their way and swiftly ran into the heavy snow.

“That passenger is in danger!” The guide reacted, shouting, “Come back quickly!”

The man didn’t return. Upon hearing the guide’s voice, everyone else from the vehicle disembarked to assess the situation. As they emerged, both the guide and driver looked in a particular direction. They seemed genuinely distressed, abandoning common language, speaking in words the others couldn’t understand, their expressions anxious. They were clueless, yet equally distressed.

Thankfully, the kind-hearted young man who had helped the guide push the man back to his seat on the bus before spoke their language. He said, “They mentioned that the man who went out just now ran toward the direction of the Kala Snow Mountain.”

Kala Snow Mountain was renowned for its harsh conditions, which became even more unpredictable and perilous during snowfall. Numerous tourists had recklessly gone to the snow mountain to take pictures in snowy weather, only to meet their demise due to avalanches, falling rocks, plummeting into crevasses, and various other reasons.

This road led to the base of the snow mountain, where local herdsmen grazed their cattle and sheep nearby. This path was opened for the convenience of the locals, generally restricted for tourists due to safety concerns.

As they stared ahead, obscured by heavy snow, there was a sound of something breaking behind them.

Someone uttered, “Be careful,” and then a tremendous noise exploded right next to their ears.

A dead pine tree, unable to withstand the weight of the snow, snapped in half, crashing brutally onto the car, denting its roof.

If anyone had been inside the car, they likely wouldn’t have survived. Those standing by the car felt a wave of aftershock, their legs turning weak involuntarily.

However, it wasn’t the time to stand and recover from the shock. Following the tree’s impact on the car, the sound of falling snow around them intensified suddenly. Someone felt a sharp pain on their shoulder.

Hail was coming down.

With no time to worry about the man who had run toward the snow mountain earlier, the guide said, “Further down this road, there are the herders’ huts. We can take shelter there!”

In the midst of the snowstorm, even at such close proximity, she had to exert considerable effort to speak to the others.

Several individuals hastened towards the huts, with Jiang Yujin bringing up the rear. He grabbed a black hat from the now distorted car and placed it on the high schooler’s head, patting the youngster’s shoulder, saying earnestly, “Protect your head, don’t let all that knowledge in your brain get knocked out. After studying for so many years, we can’t let it go to waste.”

As they ran downhill, guided by the memory of the route, the guide navigated through the heavy snow and hail, finally stumbling upon a cluster of huts amidst the desolation.

The three-sided roofed huts, designed to withstand occasional hail, appeared sturdy enough to withstand the current onslaught. They were usually used for storage, not overly spacious, but capable of sheltering a few people. Blocking the side without a door with firewood helped shield them from the cold.

The individuals present barely had time to regret their decision to come on this trip when they attempted to use their phones, only to find no signal.

Jiang Yujin also noticed this dire situation, saying, “How can there be no signal?”

Chen Jing sensed something amiss instinctively, looked down, and indeed spotted the Xiaoxiaole interface on someone’s phone screen.


He fell silent for a moment, feeling strangely unsurprised.

Noticing his gaze, Jiang Yujin oddly understood his implication, glanced up slightly, and said, “Well, since we’re waiting anyway, might as well play a couple of rounds. It’ll pass the time.”

Unaware of the Xiaoxiaole game happening nearby, the guide stowed away her phone, also lacking a signal, and remarked, “The signal here has always been weak. Sometimes, trees can interfere with the signal towers, especially in these parts.”

This area wasn’t conducive to living. With few nearby residents, all they could do was wait here until the heavy snow and hail passed. Hopefully, someone would notice the road conditions once the weather cleared, and they could then seek assistance.

The weather atop the mountain was erratic, but with the hail and snow persisting, the hut’s pillars began to creak under the force of the wind.

A considerable amount of time passed, to the extent that Jiang Yujin began to doze off, his head nodding slowly forward, almost about to fall. Fortunately, the high schooler reacted quickly, supporting his forehead and gently lifting it back up.

Someone spoke up, “I wonder how that brother is doing.”

They all felt frightened listening to the sounds outside. It was hard to say what might have happened to the man who had run towards the mountain.


The sounds of the wind, snow, and hail battering the hut’s roof vanished abruptly, as if it had lasted just a moment.

The people inside the shelter exchanged glances, and then the guide removed the firewood blocking the entrance, looking outside.

The storm still raged, but around them, there was nothing—almost like an invisible barrier, blocking the storm outside. Snow fell relentlessly beyond this space, while inside, it was clean and bright, with a faint shimmer resembling a path extending.

It was like a miraculous sight.

Having stayed there for so long, even the driver behind them stood frozen.

At the end of the path, there came the faint, melodious sound of bells, echoing slowly in this otherworldly space.

A pure white sheep appeared at the end of the path, slender-limbed with pitch-black eyes, antlers atop its head adorned with sprouting green leaves.

The tinkling sound originated from the golden bell around the sheep’s neck. Everyone inside the shelter widened their eyes at the sight of this creature, their emotions too complex to articulate.

The white sheep with antlers and black eyes seemed to gaze at them before turning away, treading lightly on the grass-covered ground, making faint, delicate sounds.

The driver was the first to step out. He circumvented the others blocking the way and followed after the white sheep, murmuring as he walked, “It’s the messenger of the mountain god.”

The rest of the group also stood and, as if in pursuit of something, began to move. Each step coincided with the chiming of the bell.

Jiang Yujin also stood up—not particularly interested in seeing the white sheep, mainly because his legs had gone numb from sitting. When he saw others walking out, the curious Citizen Jiang decided to join the procession.

Chen Jing, almost instinctually, didn’t bother to pay much attention or follow along.

The others walked on, completely oblivious to external sounds. No amount of persuasion could stop them; they were beyond being called back. Jiang Yujin was the last to be held back.

As he was stopped, Jiang Yujin turned around, leaning in slightly, and said, “Looks quite interesting.”

His meaning was clear.

This was an adult man driven by a spirit of adventure, or more accurately, a spirit of joining in the fun. Clearly, he hadn’t noticed anything odd about the others. He was not trapped like the others, and he was even trying to join in for some excitement.

<<  _ >>


Tashi Delek, a Tibetan all-purpose greeting with the meaning of “blessings and good luck”.

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