Chapter 44 Release into the Wild

The first part of their trip was particularly boring. They started from Changbai Mountain, arrived in Shandong, and then sailed from Shandong to Shanghai.

Zhang Haike’s thinking was that Luoyang was a place where ancient tombs were located, and he estimated that there were many grave robbers. Although they may not be at a disadvantage when fighting with these experts, their opponents would be ruthless and murderous. Moreover, it was a time when firearms were rampant, so the Zhang children may not have any chance of winning in the face of these experts. In addition, entering such an area was too much of a risk: it was only the two of them, one was only thirteen years old, and there wasn’t much money or dry food. It was better to try their luck in Jiangsu and Zhejiang to see if there were any tombs that weren’t buried deep.

They lingered around Shanghai for a long time and robbed a few tombs, only to find that these tombs were too barren and they could hardly get anything. They moved from Shanghai to Hangzhou and then to Jiangsu. Near Xuzhou, they found several big tombs, but when they entered, they found that there was nothing left except for some broken tiles that couldn’t even be used as keepsakes.

At this time, they had traversed more than half of China and had spent almost all of their money. They usually survived by stealing small things from vegetable gardens. The two were in a sorry state, and Zhang Haike felt that if they continued like this, they definitely wouldn’t be able to complete their “release into the wild” test before the end of the year.

After some discussion, they decided to continue westward. Surely there were some tombs there that had old cultural relics that had been carelessly passed over.

But their plan didn’t come to fruition. On their way west, they happened to meet another group of fifteen-year-old Zhang children who were also undergoing the test. There were a total of three of them, and just like Zhang Haike and Poker-face, they had traveled more than half of China and found nothing. Although there were many ancient tombs in Shaanxi, looting was rampant, which resulted in many of the tombs not having any valuables. Some tombs had even been robbed hundreds of times, and there were so many grave robbers’ tunnels that they looked like a hornet’s nest. There basically weren’t any good things in such tombs, so everything was in vain.

Finding any untouched tombs from among the many ancient tombs wasn’t easy and took too much luck, so the five of them were mulling it over beside a jail cell. Most of the allotted time had already passed, and if they didn’t return before the end of the year, they would not only lose face but also fail the exam, which would bring shame to their parents.

The five boys decided to take a risk and do a very dangerous thing—they decided to rob a very special tomb. It was well-known, but nobody had robbed it.

This became the trigger for many things that came later.

At that time, they didn’t know which province they were in. All they knew was that there was a very large village called Ma’an Village whose ancestral graves were at the back of the mountain. Ma’an Village had a local armed force at that time consisting of a group of scattered soldiers and deserters who were paid by a rich man in Ma’an Village. Although they couldn’t fight in the war, these soldiers had good skills and guarded most of the village.

At that time, their idea was to find a way to sneak to the back of Ma’an Village. This was actually a very dangerous move because it was a guarded burial mound. Such burial mounds weren’t large in scale and were actually closer to dirt hills so it was very difficult to scout the area.

A few of them ran to the vicinity of Ma’an Village and pretended to play with the village children while carefully inquiring about the enemy’s situation. They found that the fastest way to reach the tomb was to dig a tunnel in the forest and go all the way down to the foot of the mountain and dig up several ancestral graves directly from the mountain. Their goal was very simple: the tombs in Ma’an Village were divided into three levels, with the newest tombs located on the outer edge. There was a total of seven of them.

They found out that Ma’an Village had been there for thirty-six generations. If the ancestral graves had always been buried at the back of the mountain, then there should be a very large tomb grouping in accordance with funeral customs. But the scale of the burial mound wasn’t large. In other words, there weren’t many places to accommodate the burials of thirty-six generations, so the earliest and most valuable ancient tomb must be located in a very strange place.

They looked down at the burial mound from a nearby hill, deduced all of the hills’ movements and landform changes, and tried to find out what the original landform was like here. They soon found that the burial mound was getting higher and higher because of the constant digging of graves, backfilling of land, and embedding of tombs. In other words, the whole burial mound should be a very dense group of ancient tombs, upon which were many graves. In the beginning, the tombs weren’t very high and were either just small mounds on the plain or they couldn’t be seen at all. In other words, the earliest tombs should be located within a few kilometers around the mound, although they should be very, very deep underground.

So, the main question became: where was the most important tomb under this burial mound? They needed to know this because once they made a mistake, there would be absolutely no second chances.

At that time, there was a very active thinker among the “release into the wild” children who wondered what caused all the graves to move to several burial mounds. From the perspective of feng shui, this location was very good, but why did it have to be on the mountain? It wasn’t necessary to do so.

After thinking about it, someone said, “Maybe there was a situation where this was originally a flat burial area, but a huge tomb was going to be built here one day. It needed a larger mound of earth, so this mound was the prototype of this mountain. The formation of this mound caused the mountain here to rise and fall. After that happened, many people were unwilling to put their ancestral graves in a lower place than this grave and hoped to build them in a higher place. As time went by, the owners of the oldest graves would naturally disappear, and many people would regard the mound as a burial mound. Generally speaking, it’s very unlucky for graves to be stacked on top of each other. Perhaps these owners didn’t know about it, so this is the result.”

Basically, the bottom of the burial mound should be a very large tomb, but the problem was how to bypass those guard soldiers. The Zhang children measured the distance and found that a tunnel from the woods would have to be at least two kilometers long, which would be extremely costly and labor-intensive. Even with the strength of all five of them, it would be tricky to dig such a long distance.

They would also have to dig the opening of the pit very close, so they would have to camouflage it. But based on the overall situation, this seemed impossible, because except for a few sentry stations around the back of the mountain, almost nothing grew there. It was all yellow mountains and open spaces, so anyone who came near it would be spotted in an instant.

But they discovered that these people were very lazy when patrolling, probably because there weren’t many people who dared to rob tombs here under such circumstances. As a result, these sentries didn’t feel any need to be too vigilant.

Although the Zhang children had their own special way of digging tunnels, one of the children thought it unlikely that no one had thought to rob such an ancient tomb. If they looked from afar, they would surely find traces of a grave robbers’ tunnel in the mound. They could think of a way to find these holes and measure whether they could still be used.

At that time, Zhang Haike said, “If there’s a grave robbers’ tunnel, then hasn’t this tomb already been robbed?”

“Not necessarily,” the other Zhang child said. “Why do you think Ma’an Village’s rich man hired the local armed forces to protect the burial mound? It means that there’s a chance they know that there are very precious things in the tomb. Such ancient tombs can’t be robbed by small-time thieves. Even if some experts have already come, they’ll leave some for later generations. In short, it’s worth a visit.”

<Chapter 43><Table of Contents><Chapter 45>


Updated 12/20/2021

3 thoughts on “Chapter 44 Release into the Wild

  1. I just wanted to let you know that you made my dream get true 😭💖 THANK YOU SO MUCH ❤️ sooooo much …. Can’t find the word to describe my happiness

    Liked by 1 person

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