Parallel World is a suspense adventure drama directed by Su Zhaobin, led by Ni Ni and Bai Yu, with special appearances by Jin Han, Meng Ziyi, and Zhang Yishang, co-starring Zhao Da, Xia Meng, Li Yunrui, and Lu Yuxiao.
This drama is based on the novel of the same name by Wei Yu. It tells the story of Ye Liuxi, a “desert rose”, and Chang Dong, a “wise and brave desert guider”, who work together to unravel the mystery of their origins and the truth of their past.
English Title: Parallel World
Chinese Title: 西出玉门
Other Titles: West Out of the Yu Men
Genre: Adventure, Suspense, Romance, Drama, Thriller
Duration: 45 min.
Director: Su Zhaobin, Lin Ziping
Writer: Su Zhaobin
Product Company: Tencent Penguin Pictures
Released Date: 2023-09-07
Watch On: WeTV, TencentVideo
- Ni NiYe LiuxiMain Role
- Bai YuChang DongMain Role
- Jin HanJiang ZhanSupport Role
- Meng ZiyiLong ZhiSupport Role
- Zhang YishangKong YangSupport Role
- Zhao DaFei TangSupport Role
- Xia MengDing LiuSupport Role
- Li YunruiGao SenSupport Role
- Lu YuxiaoA HeSupport Role
“The desert rose”, Ye Liuxi, and the brave desert guide, Chang Dong, join forces and travel deep into the desert to unravel the mystery of their origins and uncover the truth about their past.
The desert is full of crises and an invisible hand seems to be pulling them into the weathered Yu Men.
As they navigate with many forces, they deduce the truth from the mystery and learn about true love from the test of death.
The truth seems to be close at hand, but they are also caught in a larger conspiracy.
Outside Qingrang Town, where the population was sparse, a car sped by and stopped next to a woman standing beneath the hanging dead poplar trees. The driver used a dagger to cut the ropes, and the body fell to the ground with a thud, only to immediately stand up again. It was a young woman with a beautiful face, who, despite losing her memory, swiftly subdued the driver and found the missing artifact guardian in his car.
That evening, with the help of the woman, the artifact guardian reported the incident to the police. She only knew her name was Ye Liuxi. At the same time, Shen Mukun told He Xiaoyu about the strange and extraordinary experiences he had encountered in his travels, some true and some false, but among these stories, there were always experiences that left a deep impression on him.
Licheng, a city with a long history of culture, had ancient city walls surrounding its central area. Behind the Bell and Drum Tower, a street stretched out, filled with numerous small vendors and food hawkers. Ye Liuxi stayed in Licheng for several days and watched a shadow puppet show every night, three days in a row.
After the performance, Ye Liuxi approached the owner of the shadow puppet theater and inquired about his nephew, Chang Dong, but the owner seemed unwilling to discuss it in detail. Chang Dong had once crossed the Dabao Desert alone on a bicycle, and he was very familiar with desert terrain, earning him the nickname “Sand Rogue,” which became well-known on the internet.
Later, an outdoor group called “Shan Cha” planned to traverse the four major uninhabited areas in the country, starting with the desert. They made quite a stir and specifically hired Chang Dong as their guide. However, shortly after entering the desert, the team encountered a rare sandstorm that led to their demise. Chang Dong was the sole survivor, while his girlfriend lost her life in the process.
The media quickly reported on the incident, questioning Chang Dong’s insistence on pushing the team forward, which they believed led to their deaths. Suspicions from outsiders and the families of the deceased engulfed Chang Dong, plunging him into a spiral of self-blame and agony. The torrent of accusations was more relentless than the sandstorm, and it pushed him to the brink of suicide.
The owner brought Ye Liuxi to Chang Dong’s memorial, but she showed little reaction and left an envelope behind before walking away. Once she was gone, the owner opened the envelope and found a photo of Chang Dong’s girlfriend lying in the snow, stunned for a moment. Then, he rushed out of the shadow puppet theater to find Ye Liuxi, but she was nowhere to be seen in the bustling crowd.
Back at the shadow puppet theater, Ye Liuxi called the owner and revealed that she knew he was Chang Dong himself and gave him three days to find her. Ye Liuxi needed Chang Dong to guide her to Yumenguan, and Chang Dong wanted to bring back the bodies of his girlfriend Kong Yang and the other eighteen people. They needed to cooperate for mutual benefit.
For two whole years, Chang Dong had not dared to reveal his true identity, living under the guise of his uncle. Now, he had made the decision to set out and find his friend Fei Tang, who would help him contact the rich second-generation Qi Liu Hai to check the surveillance cameras and finally locate Ye Liuxi’s whereabouts.
Chang Dong sat in a restaurant, observing the opposite side where a yellow car was parked next to piles of Hami melons. Ye Liuxi was wrapped in a military coat, wearing a cowboy hat, and casually selling melons.
In the hotel, Chang Dong received a service card and remembered what the restaurant staff had said about Ye Liuxi. He called for a call girl named Sunni to inquire about Ye Liuxi. Sunni mentioned that Ye Liuxi worked as a part-time driver and that recently, several call girls had been followed by a pervert, so they hired Ye Liuxi to pick them up after work.
That night, Chang Dong surprisingly didn’t have any nightmares. He woke up, put on his coat, and went to find Ye Liuxi. He immediately pointed out that the scene in the photo was located at Hailongdui, wondering why Kong Yang’s body ended up there, as it was far from E Tou Shapozi. Ye Liuxi clearly didn’t want to discuss it further and left her phone number for Chang Dong, reminding him to be ready to call her anytime.
Fei Tang, who usually dealt in antique business, had a deep interest in these invaluable antiques. He unexpectedly discovered a connection between Ye Liuxi and the beast-headed yellow sheep and recalled Chang Dong looking for Ye Liuxi a few days ago, declaring that Chang Dong was his destined benefactor.
On the other hand, when Chang Dong finished repairing his car and came to find Ye Liuxi, he saw her helping a fat, sleazy man up to his room. Hearing others discussing the man’s despicable behavior of drugging women, he hesitated for a moment but ultimately decided to stay near the room to warn Ye Liuxi for safety reasons. However, to his surprise, Ye Liuxi wasn’t in the room, almost making him think he had mistaken the person.
While Ye Liuxi was taking a shower in her hotel room, Chang Dong waited downstairs by the car. He looked up and noticed that the window on the second floor was wide open and had an uneasy feeling. He made a quick decision to climb through the window into the room and found a naked man tied up, unconscious. Chang Dong suddenly understood the situation, hesitated for a moment, and then picked up a bathrobe to cover the man.
Chang Dong confronted Ye Liuxi upstairs, accusing her of kidnapping a man, and things nearly escalated to violence. However, Fei Tang had already found Ye Liuxi’s old van and discovered a perverted mask used to stalk call girls inside the car. In contrast, Ye Liuxi showed complete indifference to the man’s fate, believing that he had brought it upon himself. Despite speaking softly, she slammed the door shut with obvious anger when she left.
Coincidentally, Ye Liuxi found Fei Tang behaving suspiciously near her van downstairs, and she directly pulled out a sharp watermelon knife from under the car seat. The blade gleamed brightly in the night, scaring Fei Tang, who cried out for help. When Chang Dong hurried downstairs, he saw Fei Tang kneeling obediently on the ground several meters away. He took responsibility for the situation, falsely claiming that he had instructed Fei Tang to investigate Ye Liuxi’s identity. Ye Liuxi, somewhat sparing Fei Tang due to Chang Dong’s face, gave them a mild warning.
Afterward, Fei Tang followed Chang Dong back to their room and honestly revealed his intentions. In recent years, his antique business had declined, and he was burdened with debts from running the shop. He had come to Ye Liuxi to earn money for his expenses. Since Fei Tang knew that Chang Dong intended to go to the desert with Ye Liuxi, he proposed to join them on the journey, promising not to cause trouble and offering mutual support.
Early the next morning, Chang Dong passed by a barbecue stall and saw Ye Liuxi, surprised to learn that she had multiple jobs. The barbecue grill was burning hot, with rows of skewers needing to be flipped, brushed with oil, and seasoned. Ye Liuxi handled the tasks effortlessly and efficiently, not missing a beat. The owner praised her highly.
Chang Dong discussed their travel plans with Ye Liuxi, considering that the entire Hailongdui area was larger than half of Fanlong City, with complex routes that could easily disorient someone inside. His suggestion was to plan the route carefully and ask Ye Liuxi to pinpoint Kong Yang’s exact location. Ye Liuxi casually pointed in a direction, but Chang Dong could tell she was deceiving him. He quietly folded up the map, reminding her to meet at the Forward Bridge at four o’clock the next morning.
Ye Liuxi set off from the town at four in the morning and parked at the bridge. Initially, she could watch DVDs and listen to music in her car, but she gradually lost patience. Waiting from night to morning, she watched the sunrise in the east. After a while, she returned to the hotel in anger, seeking answers from Chang Dong. At that moment, Chang Dong was leisurely brushing his teeth and washing his face, seemingly teasing Ye Liuxi. He exposed that she didn’t actually know the precise location, but Ye Liuxi quickly thought on her feet. With a sincere look in her eyes, she agreed to meet him at the Forward Bridge at four o’clock in the afternoon, promising to reveal more about herself.
Fei Tang rented a four-wheel-drive off-road vehicle for added supplies. With all preparations in place, the two of them set out to meet Ye Liuxi. She brought Chang Dong to the wilderness and casually pointed to a dead poplar tree. Chang Dong recognized it as a dead poplar tree due to its desolate appearance, standing alone in the barren sand. It reminded him of a saying he had heard: “Alive for a thousand years, dead but standing for a thousand years, and enduring even after falling for a thousand years.” This great spirit seemed more like refusing to rest in peace.
Ye Liuxi extended her head into the hanging rope loop and described waking up hanging beneath the poplar tree. Her memories were fragmented, filled with eerie scenes from her youth. The one crucial piece of information that was missing from Ye Liuxi’s memory and that Chang Dong desperately needed was whether she had been to Hailongdui and how she had encountered Kong Yang. Everything remained a mystery. However, she found a photo in the tattered bag and an invaluable beast-headed yellow sheep cup, estimated to be from the Tang Dynasty or earlier.
Chang Dong fully trusted Ye Liuxi’s words, even though she seemed to have no value for him on this journey. Nonetheless, he decided to proceed to Hailongdui together. One was seeking answers about their origins, and the other wanted to uncover the truth about their past. They eventually chose to cooperate in a deep investigation. In gratitude, Ye Liuxi gave Chang Dong all the money she had earned from her temporary jobs in loose change, totaling around three thousand yuan.
Back at the hotel, Chang Dong pondered over what Ye Liuxi had said. Since she possessed items related to him, it indicated a connection between them. Chang Dong had initially planned to propose to Kong Yang during the desert expedition, but the accident had separated them. Fei Tang had a rough understanding of Ye Liuxi’s ordeal and couldn’t help but admire this extraordinary woman.
The three of them set out, initially with two vehicles, driving one after the other on a desolate road. Ye Liuxi was used to traveling alone, so she had her own way of doing things. She ate and slept differently from Chang Dong and Fei Tang, sleeping in her car at night and having simple meals during the day. When Fei Tang offered her some beef, she ignored him, displaying an arrogant attitude that left Fei Tang speechless.
Upon reaching a transit station, Fei Tang got the four-wheel-drive vehicle he had been eyeing. Chang Dong noticed that Ye Liuxi, wrapped in a military coat, was leaving the station. To his surprise, she was applying for a job as a meat chopper in the bustling market. She seemed to be working part-time everywhere they went. Ye Liuxi skillfully chopped meat with two cleavers, and Chang Dong couldn’t help but tease her, reminding her to take a shower afterward to get rid of the smell. Ye Liuxi, unintentionally or not, took a rare shower on the way back.
Fei Tang, using the excuse of buying medicine, secretly searched Ye Liuxi’s luggage but didn’t find the beast-headed yellow sheep cup, suspecting that she might be carrying it on her person. Chang Dong, familiar with the area, located an equipment store to make purchases. Since it was the peak season for entering Darbo, tourists were everywhere. Some recognized Chang Dong, leading to gossip and even discreetly taking photos with their phones.
When Ye Liuxi saw this, she stepped in to defend Chang Dong. She gave the impertinent individuals a harsh lesson and then left with Chang Dong. Afterward, she reminded Fei Tang to advise Chang Dong not to go to the restaurant to avoid drawing attention and making enemies. However, Chang Dong refused to listen. As expected, relatives of the deceased from the earlier incident arrived, all of them imposing and furious. The leader among them wore an expression filled with anger and was on the brink of violence.
Previously, Ye Liuxi had suggested that Chang Dong hire her as a bodyguard for a fee, but he had rejected the idea. Now, she sat calmly on the side, watching the commotion. When Chang Ping suddenly called her and clenched his fists, asking her to intervene, Ye Liuxi demanded eight hundred yuan and proceeded to knock down several arrogant individuals, intimidating them into submission. Chang Dong explained that he was searching for the bodies of the deceased, and after some hesitation, the relatives agreed to give him a chance.
After resolving the situation, Chang Dong gratefully gave Ye Liuxi a thousand yuan, but she returned two hundred, insisting that eight hundred was the agreed-upon amount. Because of this, Chang Dong’s opinion of Ye Liuxi improved further. They watched as she used a small pot to stew spare ribs outside, and Fei Tang spent two hundred to buy two bowls of soup to share. The three of them sat around a small stove, creating a warm atmosphere.
Chang Dong’s plan was to head west directly. They bought tickets to enter Yumen Pass, rumored to be an important pass opened by Emperor Wu of Han on the Silk Road. However, Ye Liuxi found it somewhat dilapidated, merely a square structure built from yellow earth. Chang Dong believed that there might be another Yumen Pass that had been buried or eroded over time. Ye Liuxi speculated that if the sand and wind were to reshape it in a storm, the scene would be spectacular.
During the journey, Fei Tang was captivated by the scenery and wanted to stop to take photos, but Chang Dong seemed uninterested and maintained the speed, passing through without pausing. Frustrated, Fei Tang complained through the walkie-talkie, and Ye Liuxi, who was driving in the desert for the first time, realized the potential danger of her old car. She suggested switching cars with the experienced Chang Dong. He asked Ye Liuxi and Fei Tang to stay with the camping group while he made a trip to the Goose Head Sand Dune alone.
As night fell in the desert, the group’s energy seemed endless. They played music, sang, danced, and later gathered around a campfire to chat. Ye Liuxi had originally planned to sleep early but was kept awake by the noise. She was about to go out and make a scene when she noticed Fei Tang among the group, surrounded by women of his age, and he was smiling with a certain affection.
With nothing else to do, they started discussing the Black Tea event, which had the highest death toll in recent desert expeditions. Many people were unhappy with Chang Dong’s actions, except for the team leader who believed Chang Dong was not at fault. They blamed the negative publicity on the Weibo account of Shan Cha (Black Tea), falsely claiming that everyone had refused to go to Goose Head Sand Dune, which had tarnished Chang Dong’s reputation.
As they spoke, the sound of a car engine revving suddenly filled the air. Fei Tang noticed that Ye Liuxi was driving towards the direction of Goose Head Sand Dune. The desert was eerily quiet, and Ye Liuxi began humming a folk song. It dawned on her that the lyrics of the song were strange, especially a line that went, “Yumen Pass, mysterious pass, one step out, blood runs dry,” sending shivers down her spine.
After Ye Liuxi had been driving for a while, as they neared Goose Head Sand Dune, her car’s tires became stuck in the sand. Despite her attempts to use the methods Chang Dong had taught her, the car remained unresponsive. She had no choice but to walk to find Chang Dong while wrapped in a red blanket. Luckily, she came across Chang Dong sitting alone on a sand dune. However, to her surprise, Chang Dong mistook her for Kong Yang, and she found it rather amusing. So, she leaned against the car and reminded him to open his eyes and recognize who she really was.
Chang Dong realized his mistake and didn’t say anything more. He approached Ye Liuxi, who asked him why he was proposing to Kong Yang here. In truth, Kong Yang didn’t like the desert and couldn’t adapt to its climate. However, Chang Dong loved the desert, and she had chosen to come here to accommodate his preference.
If they wanted to camp at Goose Head Sand Dune, it was impossible for Chang Dong to do it alone. He had previously discussed the plan with the team, and the online rumors were all untrue. In reality, the team was helping Chang Dong brainstorm ideas for the proposal. The leader of Shan Cha thought that crossing the Four Great Desolation Zones would attract a lot of attention. If they simply proceeded without any incidents, they would lose the topic and attention. So, they decided to create topics, conflicts, and misunderstandings, making everyone believe that the guide and the team members were arguing. Finally, they would use the marriage proposal as a twist. However, the proposal was interrupted by a sandstorm before they could broadcast the message.
Because many of the deceased team members hadn’t purchased travel insurance due to its high cost, their families couldn’t receive compensation and had to share the search and rescue expenses. As a result, the families, motivated by self-interest or anger, blamed Chang Dong. Many “insiders” also revealed information that pushed Kong Yang into the spotlight and subjected her to online abuse even after her death.
Ye Liuxi listened thoughtfully and was curious about why Chang Dong had mistaken her for Kong Yang. However, Chang Dong refused to answer that question. Seeing Chang Dong’s uncooperative attitude, Ye Liuxi got angry and complained. She remembered that she had something important to do and decided to be stubborn, making Chang Dong help her tow the car. Chang Dong had no choice but to agree.
Soon, the three of them arrived at the Darbo boundary marker. As was their custom, they placed two bottles of water by the marker, signifying that if they continued further, they would enter a desolation zone filled with various unknown dangers. Ye Liuxi’s car had a flat tire, so they moved everything to Fei Tang’s off-road vehicle. Fei Tang finally saw the beast-headed yellow sheep cup he had been longing for. However, because they were currently in the desert, they couldn’t take any risks, so they had to rely on Chang Dong to safely get it out.
While walking, Ye Liuxi accidentally scratched her leg on a salt crust. Chang Dong quickly carried her out and personally applied medicine and bandaged the wound, warming her heart. The three of them found a place with less blowing sand to camp and rest. Ye Liuxi intentionally showed off the beast-headed yellow sheep cup in front of Fei Tang, whose secret plans she had already figured out.
As evening approached, a sandstorm started, and the air was filled with the taste of sand and dust. Ye Liuxi woke up from a dream and found Chang Dong helping her close the tent door. She brought up the same question again, willing to trade her own secret for an answer, hoping for mutual honesty. Afterward, she handed her notebook to him, which contained information about what she knew and didn’t know.
Chang Dong admitted that he had mistaken Ye Liuxi for Kong Yang because their body shapes were too similar, and he briefly thought he was witnessing a scene from the past. During the storm that year, an entire sand dune had been leveled, and the entire camp had been wiped out, with only Chang Dong surviving. However, before losing consciousness, he had seen a group of people, along with Kong Yang, crossing over a hill and slowly leaving. So, in his mind, these people should have been the spirits of his teammates.
Through this heartfelt conversation, Ye Liuxi’s attitude toward Chang Dong changed, and she expressed a desire for them to get along peacefully from now on. The next morning, Chang Dong felt a sharp pain in his chest and kept having flashes of a mysterious woman and fragments of memories. He managed to crawl into Ye Liuxi’s tent with his last bit of strength.
Ye Liuxi called for Fei Tang, and they quickly performed CPR on Chang Dong. Finally, his heartbeat slowly returned. Just as Ye Liuxi was asking Chang Dong if he had a history of heart problems, they heard eerie whistling sounds in the distance. Chang Dong’s face turned pale, and he urgently told Ye Liuxi and Fei Tang to pack up quickly because they had encountered a band of desert raiders.
The car hadn’t driven far when an unfamiliar convoy closely followed. Chang Dong had already considered several plans in his mind, and even though he had a good understanding of the desert terrain, driving into a dead end in this situation was unavoidable. At this point, Chang Dong had to get out of the car and talk to the other party. He instructed Ye Liuxi to stay in the car, not to show herself, and to ensure her safety.
Chang Dong raised a pack of cigarettes to show he had no ill intentions. The leader of the group was called Gray Eight, and upon hearing Chang Dong’s reasonable approach, he didn’t cause any trouble. Gray Eight ordered one of his men, Gap Tooth, to negotiate with him. Gap Tooth learned that Chang Dong was here to collect a body, thinking he was in this line of work, and in such cases, the deceased took precedence. Also, these cars didn’t carry any valuable items, so as long as they weren’t extremely wicked, they typically let them go.
Gap Tooth was ordered to search the car for some cigarettes and alcohol. Ye Liuxi didn’t want to wait passively and decided to take the initiative. She leaned out of the window, asking about the situation. Clearly, her question caught them off guard. Gap Tooth glanced at Ye Liuxi a few times and hurriedly went back to report to Gray Eight. Shortly after, Gray Eight got out of the car and walked straight toward Ye Liuxi, smiling and addressing her as “Miss West.” This puzzled Chang Dong and Fei Tang.
The convoy wound its way to a central tent in the Yadan landscape. Inside the tent, there was a light bulb, and the group of people surrounded Ye Liuxi, serving her food and drinks. Ye Liuxi clearly didn’t recognize Gray Eight, but Gray Eight was already familiar with her name. He brought out an old photo album that included a picture of Ye Liuxi.
As it turned out, Gray Eight and his group weren’t really highway robbers. They were a loose association of wanderers who relied on begging for a living. They had no intention of opposing the country and were particularly wary of powerful figures who frequented Darbo. They had an internal booklet that listed people of influence, so before they engaged in this line of work, they made sure to recognize faces to avoid unnecessary trouble.
After hearing Gray Eight’s explanation, Ye Liuxi seemed contemplative. Chang Dong and Fei Tang hadn’t expected her identity to be so mysterious and significant. Just as the conversation ended, the light bulb inside the tent flickered, and there was a strange hissing sound. These people depended on generators and electric lights, lacking practical emergency equipment. Chang Dong found it uninteresting and went to the car to get sleeping bags and mats.
The tent had a large communal sleeping area, with over ten people lying down. Though it wasn’t very organized, there was a clear separation between men and women. Chang Dong had Ye Liuxi sleep against the edge of the tent, himself a little further away from her. Next to him was Fei Tang. Nobody seemed particularly sleepy, and they started chatting about strange occurrences in the camp. Fei Tang listened with some fear.
However, Chang Dong and Ye Liuxi didn’t believe in these things. They laid down in their sleeping bags and closed their eyes to sleep. But in the latter half of the night, Ye Liuxi needed to use the restroom. For safety reasons, Chang Dong decided to accompany her out of the tent. As they got up, they saw the tent fabric gradually lighting up, like an old-fashioned movie screen displaying the silhouette of a camel caravan walking towards the top of the tent.
These images looked more like shadow puppets. Chang Dong quickly grabbed a lamp and shone it on the tent but found nothing unusual. The scene had already disappeared. If it hadn’t been for Chang Dong and Ye Liuxi both witnessing it, they might have thought they were seeing things. Due to this, Ye Liuxi didn’t dare to go to the restroom and had to wait until daylight to run out.
Early in the morning, the camp was filled with activity. There were pots, pans, and various utensils, and a large pot of porridge was cooking over the fire, along with freshly fried eggs. It was rare to see such a hearty breakfast in the desert. Chang Dong wanted to inquire about the strange events with Gray Eight, but he and his group didn’t believe it at all. So, Chang Dong advised Fei Tang to quickly drive back to town, considering the dangers ahead, and not to follow him and Ye Liuxi anymore.
Fei Tang felt his heart sink when he heard this. He couldn’t even eat, and he roughly calculated the loss he would incur when returning alone, having closed his shop and spent money. After bidding farewell to Gray Eight and his group, Chang Dong set off with Ye Liuxi, heading westward. They would pass through Hailongdui on the way from Darbo to Yingcheng, and the road to Hailongdui was even more treacherous and desolate. Ancient records described it as a place where ghosts and monsters roamed.
Although Chang Dong was searching for Kong Yang, he was prepared for the possibility that he might not find her. Once he entered the depths of Hailongdui, he placed a flag on a hill along the way. Ye Liuxi unwrapped the bandage on her injured leg. The wound was still bleeding, which made Chang Dong both angry and helpless. He pulled her down the hill, but as the blood dripped into the sand, it triggered a reaction.
Ye Liuxi and Chang Dong set up a makeshift tent and, with nothing else to do, started discussing their speculations. They believed that someone was trying to trap Ye Liuxi in a life-threatening situation. Over these days, Ye Liuxi had been working leisurely, wanting to see if those people would become impatient. So far, she hadn’t discovered any clues, and whether their future would reveal the truth or lead into someone else’s trap remained uncertain. The only thing clear was that the person behind it was the one getting anxious.
As they were speaking, a familiar convoy approached. Upon closer inspection, it turned out to be Fei Tang and Gray Eight’s group. Chang Dong initially thought that Fei Tang had joined forces with Gray Eight. Due to the strong winds in the Hailongdui area, Gray Eight had used cars to encircle their camp, reducing the circulation of sand and acting as a buffer.
With nightfall, everyone retired to their tents. Chang Dong seized the opportunity to reprimand Fei Tang, angrily scolding him for getting involved with Gray Eight. Chang Dong believed it would lead to serious trouble sooner or later. Fei Tang understood Chang Dong’s concerns but, driven by his emotions, responded sporadically, expressing that he had merely talked to Gray Eight and hadn’t considered joining them. As he spoke, he became increasingly agitated and ended up lying on the ground, refusing to get up.
However, in the next moment, something mysterious suddenly grabbed Fei Tang’s ankle and swiftly dragged him over ten meters away, stopping just in time. Fei Tang was left in a daze, nearly terrified out of his wits. Chang Dong carried Fei Tang back to the tent, trying to gather information from him, but Fei Tang, still not completely calm, provided disjointed responses, suggesting that something or someone had tried to drag him away.
Chang Dong thought back to the camel caravan images and Fei Tang’s experience, concluding that something strange was happening in this place. He suggested leaving for the town overnight. However, Gray Eight felt that Chang Dong was overreacting, so he didn’t heed Chang Dong’s advice. Chang Dong could only comfort Fei Tang and tell him to rest while he and Ye Liuxi went to investigate the area where Fei Tang had been dragged.
Indeed, they found a roughly ten-meter-long drag mark in the same spot, indicating an enormous force at play. Otherwise, given Fei Tang’s weight, the drag wouldn’t have been so straight. To get to the bottom of this, Ye Liuxi and Chang Dong decided to use themselves as bait. However, they waited for a long time without any unusual occurrences, so they had to return to the car to rest.
Because of the events from the previous night, Fei Tang urgently wanted to leave the area, but Chang Dong was not ready to leave yet. He drew a detailed map for Fei Tang, instructing him to follow his tire tracks and flags from yesterday to exit. After Fei Tang left, Ye Liuxi was in an unusually good mood and chatted with everyone. However, Chang Dong interrupted her, much to her annoyance. She was certain that sooner or later, she would beat him to death unless he treated her like a deity.
Not long after, Fei Tang’s car returned, and he stumbled out of it, pale and trembling. His lips had turned blue. He explained that the flags had disappeared, and the tire tracks had changed direction, suddenly stopping at a Yadan platform, as if it had been devoured by the platform itself.
Fei Tang had experienced two strange events in succession, leaving him extremely anxious. He kneeled beside Ye Liuxi, seeking her protection. Ye Liuxi reminded Fei Tang that if he wanted to survive, he needed to become stronger and couldn’t rely on others for long-term survival.
As Fei Tang had described, Chang Dong found that the tire tracks had inexplicably disappeared, and there were many other tire tracks that didn’t belong to the campsite. Ye Liuxi also shared her observations from earlier in the day. In the morning, Gray Eight’s group had been grumbling, but they had returned at noon, seemingly excited, as if they had discovered a treasure.
Despite Fei Tang’s timid and weak disposition, he was an expert in antique business, particularly skilled at determining the age and value of antiques. Many merchants were cunning and selfish, but he had fewer signs of a bandit. Gray Eight was surprised to learn of Fei Tang’s abilities and decided to bring him into the tent privately.
In the middle of the night, Ye Liuxi noticed that Gray Eight’s group was once again armed and hurriedly leaving the camp. This raised her suspicions. While Chang Dong checked the tire tracks, Fei Tang suddenly came and secretly showed them a photo from Gray Eight’s phone. He explained that Gray Eight’s group had found a coffin in the Yadan and wanted to excavate it.
Since it was harder to track footprints at night than during the day, Chang Dong easily climbed onto the top of the earthen platform to check all directions. He identified a location and hurriedly led Ye Liuxi towards it. During the journey, the two followed behind him, and Ye Liuxi couldn’t resist teasing Chang Dong, but he just led her forward.
After about half an hour, the group finally reached their destination. They formed two teams of three, taking turns to dig into the earthen platform. They discovered a coffin embedded halfway into the platform. They immediately tied up the coffin tightly with ropes and used all their strength to pull it out. The coffin suddenly loosened at the end embedded in the earthen platform, and due to the force of their pulling, it nearly slipped out. Two people were knocked away and died instantly.
Even though there were casualties, their greed was not deterred. Gray Eight shouted to move the bodies aside and continued opening the coffin with his companions. At this moment, dust swirled around them, and faint sounds could be heard in the distance. Upon closer listening, it seemed like someone was softly singing. It felt very familiar to Ye Liuxi, and she suspected that the coffin might have some connection to her.
With this in mind, Ye Liuxi stepped past Chang Dong and boldly approached the coffin. Gray Eight, taken aback by the sudden appearance of someone, was initially frightened, but when he realized it was Ye Liuxi and Chang Dong, his heart sank, fearing they were there to claim a share.
Ye Liuxi made it clear that she had no interest in the coffin, easing Gray Eight’s concerns. Just as everyone was preparing to continue opening the coffin, they unexpectedly witnessed an iron shovel thrown from a distance, smashing into the earthen platform nearby. Gray Eight fell to the ground, and they saw blood oozing from his neck, as he had already lost his breath.
Chaos ensued. Cook fled in fear, and the others quickly distanced themselves from the coffin. In contrast, Ye Liuxi slowly approached the coffin, hummed a nursery rhyme, and examined the coffin’s structure. Although she couldn’t explain why she was humming this particular song, she was confident that she could open the coffin.
Chang Dong attempted to stop her to no avail. He watched as Ye Liuxi opened the coffin, revealing several shadow puppets stacked inside, nearly as tall as humans, each with different appearances. The sight of shadow puppets filling such a large coffin left them puzzled. Chang Dong took some photos and then returned with Ye Liuxi to the camp. To their surprise, the car was already filled with sand, as if the sand had a life of its own, creeping inside.
After careful observation and examination by Fei Tang, they were able to confirm that they had found a Han Dynasty coffin in the modern desolate area of Yadan. However, the suspicious part was that the Han Dynasty coffin contained clothing from the Tang Dynasty. Ye Liuxi recalled the eerie nursery rhyme she had hummed the night before, with strange lyrics suggesting that these people didn’t want to leave the Yumen Pass nor enter it, indicating they were most likely criminals turned into lost spirits.
Fei Tang couldn’t make sense of it and chose to rest in the car. Chang Dong hesitated for a moment but eventually expressed his concerns to Ye Liuxi. He felt that she didn’t seem like someone who had grown up in a normal society, as she was accustomed to solving problems through violence. In modern society, there were many ways to resolve issues, and violence should not be her first choice. Ye Liuxi listened attentively to Chang Dong’s words, uncommonly refraining from arguing and accepting his advice.
After a sleepless night, Chang Dong drew a map of the Yumen Pass ruins. He believed that they had been making some assumptions all along, thinking that they lived in the inland area, where leaving the Yumen Pass meant going outside and entering it meant coming inside. However, if there was a group of people stationed outside the pass, their perspectives would be entirely different.
Ye Liuxi took a moment to digest this and then hurriedly got up to take the map. Based on the content sung in the nursery rhyme, she analyzed that these people were forced to leave the Yumen Pass for some reason, couldn’t return for a long time, and had to make the desert their home. Fei Tang woke up and found that the tire tracks and flags that had disappeared earlier were all back, but Gray Eight and the others’ bodies were nowhere to be seen.
The camp, usually lively, was exceptionally quiet today. Ye Liuxi, Chang Dong, and Fei Tang drove along the road, finally leaving that eerie desert behind. While Fei Tang was busy picking up stones, Chang Dong remembered the legends about Dalipo and everything they had encountered recently. He deduced that they had most likely entered another Haolongdui, which he tentatively called “Haolongdui No. 2.” All the strangeness and horror had occurred in Haolongdui No. 2, and perhaps Kong Yang and her team’s bodies were also here.
Although Fei Tang couldn’t obtain the mythical beast’s Yellow Goat Cup as he wished, he still managed to find a bag of decent-quality Gobi jade. Chang Dong instructed Fei Tang to return directly to Yingcheng along the road, where he would supply the necessary resources and stay in touch. Chang Dong and Ye Liuxi needed to return to Hailongdui.
As evening approached, Hailongdui was quiet and still. Chang Dong carved leather, occasionally casting a sidelong glance, while Ye Liuxi, bored, flipped through old, yellowed books. She couldn’t help but strike up a conversation with Chang Dong. Suddenly, they heard a strange sound outside the tent. They looked out with the available light and saw the cook, who had run away in fear since the incident with the coffin. He was now completely scared.
Through the cook’s fragmented words, they learned that he had been back to the place where the coffin was kept. The cook repeatedly muttered the words “下沙子” (down the sand), which left Chang Dong and Ye Liuxi puzzled. In an attempt to prevent the cook from running around, Chang Dong wanted to tie him up with a rope. However, Ye Liuxi didn’t take it seriously and knocked him unconscious with a single chop.
That night, as Chang Dong connected recent events related to wind and sand, he realized that there might be a connection. Especially Ye Liuxi’s ability to attract sandstorms, which made him speculate that she might be from inland. Ye Liuxi listened thoughtfully to Chang Dong’s words, and that night she dreamt of being abducted by a mysterious group of people.
However, all the information about Yumen Pass came from legends. Chang Dong, with Ye Liuxi, searched every corner of Hailongdui, comparing it with Kong Yang’s photos. There was a nagging voice in his head, reminding him of two distinct worlds. The cook was there throughout, repeatedly uttering a few phrases: “下沙子” (down the sand), “一条线” (a straight line), “掌勺” (the cook), and “打伞” (holding an umbrella). It was challenging to make sense of these keywords.
During dinner, Chang Dong received a call from Fei Tang, who shared his luxurious life at a hotel in the city, taking baths and drinking wine. Fei Tang promised to deliver a batch of supplies to them. Currently, Chang Dong had a vague idea that Ye Liuxi’s blood could attract sandstorms. He decided to drop some of Ye Liuxi’s blood onto a sand dune, and it indeed caused a subtle change.
After the sand dune churned and the sandstorm gathered, resembling a miniature tornado, Chang Dong was surprised. He immediately thought of an old saying about Darpo: “风头水尾” (headwind and tailwind). They believed that both wind and water had lives, and wherever the wind raged most was called “风头” (headwind). It seemed that Ye Liuxi’s blood could summon “风头” (headwind).
As the sandstorm intensified, the cook, frightened, sought refuge in the car. Soon, the peculiar sand transformed into a “snake” and attacked Chang Dong and Ye Liuxi. Fortunately, they had closed the car’s windows and doors in time, watching as the strange sand dissipated into the sand dunes. Chang Dong realized that they had entered Hailongdui No. 2. He immediately drove to the location of the coffin, searching for the bodies of Gray Eight and the others.
However, the platform had undergone significant changes. The location of the coffin that night, the positions of the people, and the arrangement of Gray Eight and his three companions’ bodies had been completely restored. There was no trace of injuries or excavation. Even their satellite phones lost signal.
So now it seemed clear that Ye Liuxi was indeed from inland and could be the key to unlocking Hailongdui No. 2. Ye Liuxi closed her eyes, and an image of being abducted by a mysterious group of people flashed in her mind, along with a glimpse of her childhood, following an unknown young man. She quickly regained her composure.
The next morning, the wind and sand had subsided considerably. Chang Dong used a drone to survey the surroundings from a higher vantage point, about two to three hundred meters away. They could now see an aerial view of the area and spotted a Sema Road leading to a tomb. Chang Dong and Ye Liuxi reviewed their plan, believing that if they stayed where Gray Eight had died, they would eventually witness the disappearance of Yumen Pass.
Chang Dong decided to dig up the shadow puppet coffin first and took a break after a while. Ye Liuxi asked Chang Dong to shield her from the wind and couldn’t resist teasing him. However, when she got up, her legs were numb, and she couldn’t move. Chang Dong massaged her legs to help alleviate the symptoms. At this moment, something unusual happened with the shadow puppet coffin, and the surrounding sandstorm began to coalesce in mid-air.
In an instant, the sand and wind rapidly gathered, suspended in the gray-black chaotic sky, gradually forming a huge sandball. A strand of fine sand tilted down, making Ye Liuxi recall a few words that Jiang Zhan often repeated while holding the ladle. Combined with the situation, she deduced that the members of the Gray Eight were buried under these sands. Before Ye Liuxi could think it over carefully, she noticed a subtle change in the light and darkness in front of her. Chang Dong, alert, looked ahead and saw that the sandball seemed like an eye, turning towards them to launch an attack.
Soon, the sand wrapped around Chang Dong’s left leg, making it difficult for him to break free and causing him to fall to the ground. Seeing this, Ye Liuxi drew her knife and moved in for an attack. At a critical moment, Chang Dong pushed himself up, taking Ye Liuxi with him, hiding behind a dune, narrowly avoiding disaster. As the wind subsided, Chang Dong realized that Ye Liuxi had been about to strike his left leg. Unable to contain himself, he reminded her that in similar situations in the future, she should try to protect her physical integrity, as he didn’t want her to end up with a lifelong disability.
As the day gradually brightened, the Yumen Pass was completely closed, and the shadow puppet coffin platform disappeared. Chang Dong planned to go back to the city to find a hotel to rest, but to his surprise, Ye Liuxi had found a part-time job in this hotel, “Tiankangdehe,” and was tidying up the rooms. They both ended up in the laundry room and started chatting while the washing machine was running. Chang Dong was curious about why people from two different worlds were connected like this, and Ye Liuxi felt that if she had to have a connection with someone, she could reluctantly accept that it was Chang Dong.
Fei Tang was responsible for delivering the ladle to the address left by the Gray Eight, which turned out to be a chess club called “Tiankangdehe.” He thought it would be a simple delivery, but he was unexpectedly detained on the spot. Upon receiving the news, Chang Dong and Ye Liuxi rushed to the chess club and met the owner, Liu Qi, who was also known as “Qiye.”
Liu Qi’s personality was much more steady compared to the Gray Eight. Their relationship could be described at best as fellow townsmen, but he had a different purpose for seeking Chang Dong and Ye Liuxi, which was related to the shadow puppet coffins. At first, Ye Liuxi and Chang Dong were wary, thinking he was just after their money. However, Liu Qi suddenly mentioned that he had seen a shadow puppeteer who operated a cargo cart in his early years, which piqued their interest.
Over the years, Liu Qi had never been able to forget this incident. He vaguely remembered that there were a total of nine cargo carts, each with nine shadow puppet figures. Whether it was a coincidence or had some connection, he was eager to find out. Liu Qi straightforwardly proposed a deal – he would provide the money, and Chang Dong and Ye Liuxi would help him retrieve the body of Gray Eight and solve the mystery of the shadow puppet figures. If they found the cargo cart with the shadow puppets, the contents would be divided among them.
Liu Qi had an old-fashioned way of doing things and insisted on having dinner together. Since they had reached an agreement, all the details were ironed out at the dining table, making it easier to build rapport. Afterward, Liu Qi introduced them to two people, Ding Liu, his goddaughter, and Gao Shen, his capable bodyguard. Both were young people with completely contrasting personalities.
According to Liu Qi’s plan, Ding Liu and Gao Shen would accompany them into the pass and serve as assistants when necessary. Fei Tang didn’t want to stay behind and insisted on following Chang Dong and Ye Liuxi. Seeing Ye Liuxi’s face, Liu Qi agreed to let him come along.
However, Ding Liu looked down on these three individuals and planned to sow discord between Chang Dong and Ye Liuxi, starting with getting closer to Chang Dong and disrupting their relationship. On the way to Hailongdui, Chang Dong thought carefully about the events that had happened earlier. He believed that Sima Dao was likely the route to enter the pass and had a significant connection to Ye Liuxi, even if she was an insider, her identity was definitely not simple.
Three cars traveled together, and although they were close, there were clearly two separate groups. Fei Tang sat in the car reading a book, Chang Dong, as usual, opened the puppet box to set up the shadow puppets, and Ye Liuxi stood nearby, her gaze occasionally drifting towards Ding Liu, who was not far away. She pretended to be engrossed in her phone but frequently glanced at Chang Dong.
During the journey, Ye Liuxi noticed that Ding Liu was paying special attention to Chang Dong. So, she got up to find Fei Tang, looking out the window to observe the situation outside. As expected, Ding Liu feigned innocence and moved closer to Chang Dong, striking up a conversation under the pretext of drinking water. Unfortunately, Chang Dong showed no interest, and his straightforward nature made the atmosphere very awkward. Even Fei Tang could see that Ding Liu was interested in Chang Dong.
However, Chang Dong wanted Ye Liuxi to find an opportunity to incapacitate Ding Liu and Gao Shen, not wanting them to get into trouble or become a burden. Ye Liuxi felt it wasn’t necessary, and if things turned out that way, they wouldn’t be able to explain to Liu Qi. Moreover, Gao Shen appeared to be a skilled fighter, and Ding Liu had been guarding for Liu Qi for three years, indicating that they were more capable than they seemed and could be useful when needed.
To ensure everyone’s safety, Chang Dong decided to retrieve the bodies of the Gray Eight during the daytime. They quickly unearthed three corpses, and Ding Liu called Liu Qi to arrange for their retrieval. Afterwards, they set off for Sima Dao. Chang Dong explained the significance of Sima Dao to Ye Liuxi; it was the only path to reach the tomb and, at its end, was the burial site of the Emperor and Empress, a crucial point for entering Yumen Pass.
After a while, they spotted another earthen platform in the distance. Chang Dong instructed everyone to get out of the car, and then he rammed the car violently into the platform. As the dust settled, the platform partially collapsed, revealing a shadow puppet coffin. Although it was still a style from the Han Dynasty, the content this time was different; it depicted a general yearning for his deceased wife. An occultist claimed to be able to reunite the couple’s spirits but only allowed them to see each other through a curtain.
Legend had it that in ancient times, there was a period when evil spirits roamed the desert. A sorcerer traveling through the desert stumbled upon a strange entrance in the depths of the sands. It appeared to be a dead-end, but beyond it was another world, perhaps the source of the mysterious and malevolent creatures. Later, the sorcerer learned to control these mystical creatures and used them to manipulate people’s hearts and gain favor with the powerful. However, when the Great General failed to summon back his deceased wife, he blamed the sorcerer. He decided to banish the sorcerer and those who practiced dark arts into this peculiar space, sealing the entrance and preventing them from ever returning to the human realm.
After they lifted the coffin lid, they saw nine shadow puppet figures inside, but this time, they were dressed in Ming Dynasty attire instead of Tang Dynasty attire. Fei Tang noticed that there were a few characters on the coffin lid, and some of them were unrecognizable. Chang Dong closed the coffin lid, recalling what the fortune teller had said. The story of the Ghost Camel Brigade had been passed down for hundreds of years, perhaps since the Han Dynasty. There might have always been a passage between inside and outside Yumen Pass.
That evening, Chang Dong and Ye Liuxi saw numerous ghostly lights rising towards the Yadan land, gradually fading into thin smoke. This indicated that this was likely the entrance to the interior of the pass. Ye Liuxi asked Chang Dong if they would leave Yumen Pass if they found Kong Yang and the others’ bodies, and although Chang Dong gave a resolute answer, it filled her with an unusual sense of reluctance.
The next morning, Fei Tang finally deciphered the characters on the coffin lid: “Flow West Bones, Hope East Soul.” Combining this with Ye Liuxi and Chang Dong’s names, they suspected a connection between them. Soon, Ding Liu and Gao Shen returned in their car and, upon hearing their plan to enter the pass, agreed without hesitation.
Before sunset, everything was prepared. Chang Dong drove along the path towards the Yadan they had seen the previous night. Ye Liuxi suggested taking the wheel and reminded everyone to hold on tight, then she stepped on the accelerator and drove straight into it. The anticipated collision did not happen; their cars seemed to enter another dimension. The sound of the wind instantly disappeared, and everyone was left in a state of shock, their heavy breaths echoing in the strange space.