Chapter 9 Father Pan Ma

The old man was very thin– even thinner than the fat lynx on his shoulders– but if you looked closely, you could see that his atrophied muscles were still as strong as iron bars, and you could imagine how magnificent they were in their prime. The old man’s eyes sparkled in the moonlight, giving off an indescribable feeling.

He put the hunting knife back into the sheath at his waist, looked at me again, moved the lynx to his other shoulder, and then told me in the local dialect to follow him.

The grass was still moving, but the old man turned a blind eye and carried the lynx all the way forward. The movement around us gradually faded away, and we could hear their plaintive cries coming from the depths of the forest. It appeared that this group of lynxes was a temporary hunting group, and the one killed was probably the strongest. It must have been responsible for the final culling, but when it died, the hunting group disintegrated. Lynxes were very cautious by nature and would never take a second risk.

The old man shouted something and walked in the direction of the ancient tomb. The flashlights flickered, but they were still fixed on the mountain. Obviously Agui wasn’t very nice and didn’t come down to save me.

There was only a single flashlight shining in our direction, and when we called out a greeting, we saw Poker-Face looking a little anxious. He seemed relieved to see that I was alright, and then he saw the old man.

Poker-Face’s hands were full of blood and Agui’s hunting knife was stuck in his waistband. The two men looked at each other. Poker-Face was shocked when he saw the old man’s tattoo, but the old man didn’t seem to pay attention to him and went straight past him.

I said to myself, what a cool old man. Since he has Poker-Face’s demeanor, is this guy his dad?

Poker-Face wanted to go up and talk, but I stopped him and said that the old man wasn’t all there. It was useless to ask him since he obviously didn’t understand the language, so we had to head back first.

Passing by the place where I fell, I saw the body of a lynx on the ground, its neck apparently broken by Poker-Face. When the old man motioned for us to lift it up, Poker-Face carried the body on his shoulder, and we climbed up the hillside together. The men immediately ran up and looked surprised when they saw the old man.

The old man talked with them in the local dialect, and I couldn’t understand it at all, so I secretly asked Yun Cai, who is this old man?

She said: “Who else can it be? He’s Father Pan Ma, the man you’re looking for.”

“Isn’t he just a guide?” I was surprised, but I remembered what we had been told before about Father Pan Ma being the best hunter. Besides him, who else could kill such a big lynx with his bare hands at such an age? It was well known that a single lynx could kill a lone Tibetan wolf. Cats are mammalian predators that have evolved to their zenith, and it was impossible to kill them without being extremely familiar with their habits.

Just now, Pan Ma must have been attacked by the lynx and had been dealing with it all the way here, lying dormant in the grass and waiting for the perfect opportunity to strike. Shit, I didn’t think even Poker-Face could have done it so simply. Even if it was a second later, either one of us would have definitely been dead.

Agui looked at my injury as he introduced us to each other. Pan Ma didn’t seem to be interested in us and just said hello before he began to wipe away the filth on his body.

As he did this, I found that his tattoo covered in blood was very frightening and looked to be modeled almost the same as Poker-Face’s. Pan Ma’s back had a fresh wound that looked horrible and was probably caused by the lynx attack.

A few people murmured, telling him the story of us entering the mountain. By inferring what was said, coupled with Yun Cai’s translation, I understood that my previous assumption was correct. It was really because of his nephew that he had entered the mountain, and he didn’t expect to encounter something like lynxes.

Fortunately, Pan Ma had a habit of entering the mountain with a branch slung across his back, which could be used as a crutch, or to prevent his back from being ambushed when he was on the ground. These were the rules left behind when wild animals were rampant in ancient times, and they were of no use in today’s times. But this time, they had saved his life, and so the lynx only tore off his clothes instead of biting the back of his neck off. It was really a close call.

Lynxes hadn’t appeared in this area for many years, but the fact that they did so was probably because of the continuous heavy rain a few days ago, and the various changes in the remote mountains, which forced them to come out. There were many rats in crowded places, so they were attracted to the edge of the village by the thought of food.

Pan Ma’s facial expression was very excited, and he seemed to be back to peak condition, but I thought it was inappropriate to ask more questions at this time. Agui figured that the other villagers were probably anxious and shouted for the others to come back.  He also said that mine and Pan Ma’s wounds were a little deep and had to be dealt with as soon as possible.

Several people burned the bodies of the two lynxes, and by this time, the sky had turned light. We put out the fire and set off immediately.

Lynx fur was priceless, so it was really a pity to burn it like this. But Agui said that no one could know that lynxes had appeared here; otherwise, poachers would flock to the area in less than a week. These people were insatiable, and even if they couldn’t hit any of the lynxes, they would definitely have to take something else back. Eventually, there would be nothing left to be hunted here.

There was nothing to say all the way back to the village as the sky was getting brighter. Several village officials, who had stayed up all night making preparations to enter the mountain with several people, met us at the mountain pass.

We had breakfast in the village office that consisted of pancakes and egg porridge, and I was so hungry that I ate two large bowls. People kept asking us questions as if it were a holiday in the village.

I had been bitten on my shoulder, so after getting it disinfected, I got a tetanus shot and had to apply herbs to it. Father Pan Ma had a dozen stitches on his back, and the barefoot doctor was actually the one who did it. It was just like sewing quilts at home, and Father Pan Ma remained silent during all of it, listening to the village cadres’ incessant nagging.

But I won’t mention these trivial matters. Poker-face and I wanted to go back to rest and visit Father Pan Ma after a good night’s sleep, but when he left, he made a gesture for us to go home with him.

As Poker-Face and I looked at each other, I thought that the old man was really eccentric. The two of us stood up and hurried to follow him, but we hadn’t taken more than two steps before Father Pan Ma shook his head again and suddenly pointed to Poker-Face and said something.

We couldn’t understand what he said and looked to Agui who had followed us. Agui had a strange look on his face as he said a few words to Father Pan Ma, but Father Pan Ma answered with a firm tone and then left straight away.

I didn’t know what had happened, and looked at Agui blankly, noticing that he was a little embarrassed. I asked him what Father Pan Ma had said and he answered: “He said that if you want to know anything, you have to come alone. This one can’t go.”

I frowned as I wondered what he meant. When I looked at Poker-Face, Agui added: “He also said…”

“Said what?”

“If you two are together, sooner or later, one of you will cause the other’s death.”

<Chapter 8 The Old Man> <Table of Contents> <Chapter 10 Sit down and Talk>

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Updated 11/17/2021

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