Chapter 8 Valley

Uncle Three frowned, “Just the heads? No bodies?”

“That’s right,” the waitress said. “Don’t you think it’s horrible? Ever since that place collapsed, there’s been no way to get there. Even the mules can’t make it. If you want to go there, the only thing you can do is climb over the rubble one foot at a time. But even if you do make it, I figure you’ll only be able to take a look. Several groups of people have tried going there before, but the old men shook their heads when they saw how the mountain had collapsed.”

Uncle Three glanced at Poker-Face, who was sitting there lazily and didn’t react at all, before asking the waitress, “Before the mountain collapsed, people had gone in, right?”

“Yes, but I saw that they didn’t bring anything out even though they had been in there for a few days. They all seemed happy before they went in, but their clothes were like those of beggars and they stunk to high heaven when they came out. My grandfather said that they probably didn’t even find the tomb in there. What, do you guys want to try it too?”

“After hearing what you said, I really want to check it out now. Otherwise, we’ll have come here for nothing.” Uncle Three chuckled but didn’t say anything more.

When the waitress went to the kitchen to get our food, Pan Zi said, “It seems that the big tomb we’re looking for should be right here. But based on what that girl was saying, I’m afraid it’ll be hard to use the oxcart to transport all of our equipment into the mountains.”

“There are ways to do it with equipment and ways to do it without equipment. Warring States Period tombs are usually vertical pits that go straight up and down and don’t have burial chambers. I don’t know if this one will be the same, but we’ll find out when we get there. As to how big and how deep this tomb is, I’m afraid it’s really different from the ones we’ve robbed before. And those human heads appearing after the mountain collapsed… our ancestors would’ve called that a “demon head pit”. It must have been a burial pit where humans were sacrificed and then buried with the dead.”

Uncle Three took out the map and pointed to a circle on it. “Look, this is the place. It’s still far from the main tomb. Those people who came here before must have definitely stopped here if they were following the dragon veins and acupoints. This is the dragon’s head, so generally speaking, the tomb must be below this spot. But if you look here, the area is more like the mouth of a gourd the further you go in. You’d have no way of knowing this treasure exists unless you go inside. This is where the real dragon’s head lies. The person who designed this tomb must’ve had a good understanding of how to find dragons and acupoints and specially set up this spot for grave robbers to dig up. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was an empty tomb under this fake dragon head with a lot of traps in it!” Uncle Three saw that we were listening intently and looked pleased with himself as he continued, “I’m afraid that without this map, even our ancestors would be stuck in this place if they came here. Tomorrow, we’ll only take what we need, pack lightly, and see if we can make it into that place. If it really doesn’t work out, then we’ll come back and take more of the equipment with us.”

We nodded in agreement and then had one last round of drinks before going back to our rooms.

Now it was time to go through our equipment and pick out what we needed. We obviously didn’t need traditional Luoyang shovels this time, so Uncle Three pulled out an archaeological shovel instead. This shovel consisted of sections of steel pipe that were screwed together. You could put together as many of these steel pipes as you wanted, which was much easier to conceal than a Luoyang shovel’s wooden handle.

Warring States Period tombs were always buried more than ten meters below ground, so we couldn’t be stingy with how many steel pipes we brought with us. As a result, when they were all packed up, each person was carrying ten steel pipes and a shovel head.

Pan Zi also had a short-barreled rifle. It was usually tightly wrapped in a sturdy leather case, but now it had been taken out. This gun was much shorter than those double-barreled guns bought on the black market, so it could easily be hidden under your clothes without anyone being the wiser. He stuffed this into his backpack, along with a few rounds of ammo. Uncle Three said that Pan Zi’s gun was much more practical compared to double-barreled guns because there was no way to turn around with the longer ones when you were underground.

When I thought about it, I realized that I didn’t have much to bring with me. In fact, all I had prepared was a digital camera and a trowel, which made sense because I was a grave robbing intern anyway.

There was nothing to talk about that night and I was exhausted after all that traveling we did during the day, so I went to bed. I slept soundly, and when I woke up the next morning, I felt as if my joints were weak and limp. We had a quick breakfast, bought some dry food, and then set off. The waitress from last night was very enthusiastic and asked a kid in the village to take us to the place where the landslide had occurred.

We walked for more than two hours on the mountain road before the kid pointed in front of us, “It’s right there!”

Sure enough, as soon as I saw it, I could tell right away that the mountain valley in front of us had been washed out by a landslide. We were now standing between two mountain ranges, and the long valley stretching out before us looked as if it would turn into a river during the rainy season. But between the mud and stones that had been swept into the valley, along with the drought that had been going on over the past few months, only a shallow stream was left flowing in the middle.

The mountains on both sides were so steep that people couldn’t walk up them at all and the river channel in front had been blocked by the rocks that had fallen from the mountain.

I patted the kid on the head and said to him, “Go back and play. And thank your sister for us!”

Instead of leaving, the kid held his hand out and said, “Give me fifty!”

I stared blankly at him, but the kid didn’t say anything else and just continued to hold his hand out while staring at me. “Fifty what?” I asked.

Uncle Three burst out laughing and gave him a hundred yuan. The kid snatched it and then skipped away.

I suddenly understood and also started laughing, “Boys in the mountains are so unscrupulous these days.”

“Men die for birds—” Da Kui started to say, but Pan Zi suddenly kicked him, “Do you have any culture? Die for birds? You’re probably dying for cock.”(1)

We started climbing without saying a word. The rocks here weren’t too loose, so we were able to climb up in a few minutes. Not only wasn’t it as terrifying as the waitress had said, but we didn’t see the heads she had mentioned either. There was a canyon behind the collapsed slope, along with a few trees that were growing behind it and a dense forest in the distance. I didn’t know how this kind of ecology came into being.

At this time, we saw an old man fetching water in the canyon below the collapsed slope. I took a closer look and thought, shit, isn’t this that damned old man who led us into the cave?!

When the old man suddenly saw us, he was so scared that he fell into the stream. Then he got up and started running. Pan Zi called out to him in a mocking manner, “You trying to run?” He took out his rifle and shot it in the sand right in front of the old man’s foot. The old man leaped back in fright and started running in the opposite direction. Pan Zi fired three more shots, each one landing in front of the old man’s feet. The old man was a clever one. When he saw that the other party was merely playing with him, he knew that he couldn’t run away and fell to his knees with a thud.

As we ran downhill, the old man kowtowed to us, “Sirs, please have mercy! This old man really had no choice but to target you! I didn’t expect you guys to be so immortal-like!(2) This time, I really failed to recognize your greatness!”

He had snot and tears running down his face as he spoke, but Uncle Three ignored it all and said to him, “Why, I think you’re quite full of energy. Are you sure you really didn’t have any other choice?”

“To tell you the truth, I’m really sick. You can’t tell by looking at me, but it’s been very tough. In fact, I have to take several doses of medicine every day. See? I’m drawing water to decoct my medicine.” He pointed to a water canister that was lying off to the side.

“Let me ask you something, you old crook. Why did you disappear in that cave so suddenly?”

“If I tell you, will you gentlemen promise not to kill me?” The old man looked at us with pleading eyes.

“Don’t worry. We’re in a society ruled by law now,” Uncle Three said. “If you’re honest, we’ll be lenient. If you resist, we’ll be strict.”

“Yes, yes, I’ll confess,” the old man said. “Actually, it’s not a big deal. You might think that the cave runs straight through, but in fact, there are a lot of alcoves above it. Those alcoves are very hidden, so if you don’t deliberately look for them, you can’t find them at all. When you all weren’t paying attention, I stood up and crawled into one of those alcoves. I only came out again when the boats left. Then I whistled for Lu Dandan to pull a wooden tub over and I went out like this. After everything was done, the boatman, Lu Laoer, was supposed to give me my share, but I don’t actually get much.” He suddenly thought of something and asked, “By the way, where’s Lu Laoer? He must have fallen into your hands as well.”

Pan Zi slid his hand across his throat, “He’s already been sent to report to King Yama.”

The old man froze for a moment and then slapped his thigh, “It’s good that he’s dead. In fact, I didn’t want to do that either. But Lu Laoer said that if I didn’t do it, he would kill me. You see? There was nothing I could do. Please let me go.”

“Save it,” Uncle Three said. “Where do you live and why are you fetching water here?”

“I live over there,” the old man said as he pointed to a cave nearby. “Look at me. I’m just an old man. I have no land, my son died young, and I don’t even have a house to live in. Now I’m just waiting to die. Please take pity on me!”

“Then you’re very familiar with this area. Excellent! It just so happens that we need a guide. If you want us to let you go, you have to take us to a place.”

When Uncle Three pointed to the forest, the old man suddenly turned pale with fear. “Sir! Even if you came here to go grave robbing, you definitely can’t go into that tomb! There are monsters in there!”

As soon as I heard this, I knew that we were on the right track. It seemed that the old man knew something.

“What, have you seen them?” Uncle Three asked him.

“Ah, a few years ago, I also took a group of people there. They said that they were archaeologists, but as soon as I saw them, I knew right away that they were grave robbers. But these guys were different from the others I had seen before, and to be honest, they definitely weren’t ordinary at first glance. Those petty thieves all went down into the tombs as soon as they saw them, but this group said that they wanted to go into the valley without even looking at the tombs next to them. At that time, I was the only one in our village who had been to that place. Those people were so lavish that they gave me ten big bills at once. I couldn’t resist when I saw the money, so I took them into the woods and led them straight to the place where I had been before. They wanted to keep going forward, but I refused. I said that they couldn’t buy my life with ten big bills. They said that they’d give me ten more bills, but I told them that I wouldn’t do it even if they gave me a hundred more. Their leader suddenly became hostile and held his gun up against my head so I had no other choice but to take them further in.”

He scratched his head and continued, “Sometime later, they said that we had reached the spot. They looked very happy and immediately started digging at that spot, saying that something was right below. That night, after we found a place to pitch our tents, I drank too much and passed out. But guess what? When I woke up, all those people were gone! Everything was still there and the fire hadn’t gone out yet, but no one was around. I was scared and started yelling, but no one responded even after I yelled for a long time. Feeling that something was wrong, I figured I could just slip away since nobody seemed to be around anyways. So, I ran.”

The old man narrowed his eyes as if he were recalling some horrible memory and said, “I had only taken a few steps when I heard someone calling me. I turned around and saw a woman from their team waving at me. I was just about to ask, ‘Why did you all run away so early in the morning?’ when I suddenly saw a big tree behind her start moving its branches in a threatening manner. When I looked closer, I saw a horrifying sight—there was a dense cluster of dead bodies hanging from the tree! My eyes almost popped out of my head and I was so scared that I peed my pants. I ran all day and all night before I finally made it back to the village. I’m telling you, that thing is definitely a demon tree. If I hadn’t grown up eating human flesh, my soul would’ve definitely been taken by that monster.”

Uncle Three sighed, “You really are someone who’s eaten human flesh!” Then he waved his hand and Pan Zi skillfully tied up the old man. With him leading the way, we could save a lot of trouble.

The old man was unwilling to go and kept pleading with us, but couldn’t find a way out of it. According to him, it would take a day to get to the place he had mentioned in his story. Da Kui cleared a path in front of us and we quickened our pace while looking at the map as we walked. We were hoping that with the map and the old man’s memory, we could get there before dark. We walked for half a day, talking a little amongst ourselves at first, but then we felt tired as our eyes were filled with nothing but green foliage all around. Everyone kept yawning and wanted to fall asleep, but then the old man suddenly stopped walking.

Pan Zi cursed, “What trick are you trying to pull now?”

The old man looked at the bushes on one side and asked in a trembling voice, “That… that…what is that thing?”

We all turned around and saw that something was flashing in the bushes. Upon closer inspection, it turned out to be a cell phone. 

<Chapter 7><Table of Contents><Chapter 9>


TN Notes:

(1) Da Kui misquoted the popular saying “People die for money; birds die for food.”

(2) I probably should have mentioned this earlier but most “immortal” references in DMBJ are talking about more than just someone who has a long life or is immortal. The concept of “immortal” or “xian” (仙) has different implications depending on the context. The term “xian” semantically developed from meaning spiritual “immortality; enlightenment”, to physical “immortality; longevity” involving methods such as alchemy, breath meditation, and tai chi chuan, and eventually to legendary and figurative “immortality”. In English terms, they’re like humans who become gods. I really like Victor H. Mair’s description: “They are immune to heat and cold, untouched by the elements, and can fly, mounting upward with a fluttering motion. They dwell apart from the chaotic world of man, subsist on air and dew, are not anxious like ordinary people, and have the smooth skin and innocent faces of children….” More info here.


Merry Christmas everyone!!! (≧◡≦) ♡

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