While working in the antique and rubbings business over the past few years, I had accumulated a lot of experience in reading people. After all, the most important aspect of this business was having a good eye for things. You had to be able to read both items and people in order to be successful, so when I looked at this fat guy, I knew right away that he wasn’t an honest man. If I wanted to get any information from him, it was better to provoke him instead of playing nice so I pretended not to believe him at all, “If it’s as you say and you really know, then why are you running around here like a headless fly?”
Sure enough, the fat guy really gave in. He shined his flashlight in my face and said, “You still don’t believe me, kid? Before I came here, I actually spent more than a month preparing for this. Do you know what this King Shang of Lu did? Do you know what borrowing those ghost soldiers from the underworld was really about? Do you know what the ghost seal is used for?” Seeing that I didn’t speak, he smiled smugly. “Let me tell you. This King Shang of Lu, to put it nicely, was a general. But in more blunt terms, he was a grave robber just like us.”
I suddenly remembered that Uncle Three had said something similar, but I didn’t quite understand how they came to this conclusion. The fat guy continued explaining, “But this guy was much better than us, as evidenced by the title he was bestowed for his grave-robbing achievements. It was recorded in silk books that most of King Shang’s troops rested during the day and marched at night. Oftentimes, the whole army would suddenly disappear and then reappear in another place. Moreover, the places they had been to were often filled with numerous decrepit graves. When asked about it, they would say that the ghost soldiers had come out to help with the battles. But how can we, the materialist revolutionary workers of the proletariat, believe that there are such things as ghost soldiers in the world? They must have been digging up graves and robbing tombs everywhere they went. If anyone noticed that the soil over the graves had been disturbed, they would say that King Shang of Lu borrowed the souls of these tomb owners. As a result, word of these ghost soldiers spread all around. But people at that time were very superstitious about these kinds of things so the story later became more like a tall tale.”
Still not very convinced, I said to him, “It doesn’t make sense for you guys to come to this conclusion based on this information alone.”
The fat guy glared at me like he was mad I had interrupted and then said, “Of course there’s more evidence. In fact, the most direct piece of evidence can be found in the historical records, which state that these Seven Star Deceptive Coffins were first used by grave robbers. They were well aware that they had dug up countless graves when they were alive and they feared that they would suffer the same fate after their own deaths so they designed these decoy coffins based on their experiences. They believed that no matter how sophisticated a mechanism was, it couldn’t stop grave robbers for long, so the only way was to make them hesitant to even attempt it! Of these seven coffins, only one was the real main coffin. The other six contained either hidden crossbows or some kind of sorcery. If any of the six decoy coffins was opened by mistake, death was almost certain. After the Song Dynasty, these Seven Star Deceptive Coffins were gradually developed and improved by some very talented people. But this kind of design came from a disgraceful profession so ordinary people thought that it was unlucky to use it. Plus, it cost too much to put seven coffins in a tomb.”
Even though this fat guy looked very rough and careless, he was unexpectedly very knowledgeable. I couldn’t help but feel that he was worthy of respect now. But I didn’t think that he was finished yet, so I asked, “Based on what you said, is there any way to tell which one is the main coffin?”
He patted me—probably seeing my change in attitude—and looked very pleased with himself as he continued, “I see that you’re quite studious, young comrade. In that case, I’ll follow Kong Lao Er’s teachings and enlighten you.(1) Listen closely. It’s not impossible to tell the Seven Star Deceptive Coffins apart! But those in our line of work have rules they have to follow. Most ordinary grave robbers would kowtow a few times and voluntarily give up when they encountered the seven star coffins so as not to anger our ancestors. But during those war-torn years, some grave robbers had no food, clothing, or shelter so they eventually had no choice but to break the rules. At that time, an expert came up with a way to bypass the trick surrounding the seven star coffins. Two crowbars would be used to tilt the corner of a coffin up and then a small hole would be cut into the bottom of the coffin. After that, an iron hook would be placed inside the small hole to probe around and see what would get caught on it. In this way, you could determine what was inside the coffin.”
I couldn’t help but sigh with feeling. The battle of wits between grave robbers and tomb designers was enough to write a book about. The fat guy suddenly leaned closer and said mysteriously, “But the seven coffins here are probably all fake. I’m afraid this King Shang’s tomb is also fake.”
He used his flashlight to look at the stone opening we had fallen through to make sure that nothing was crawling towards us and then continued, “I couldn’t figure it out at first, but when I fell into this stone maze, I suddenly realized that this was actually a tomb of the Western Zhou Dynasty.”
I was shocked. “Aren’t these just escape tunnels dug by the craftsmen who built this tomb?”
At this time, Pan Zi suddenly cursed from the corner, “I told you earlier, how could this be an escape route? Have you ever seen anyone dig an escape route like a maze? Who would be interested in doing such a thing?”
Even though I was feeling really confused, an idea seemed to be forming in my head but it slipped away before I could fully grasp it. “How could someone build their own tomb on top of someone else’s grave? Aren’t they just asking to be the last of their family line?”(2)
The fat guy touched his mouth and said, “You’re also a grave robber so it’s only natural that you know feng shui, but most grave robbers don’t really think it’s useful. Other than guiding us to the graves, I really don’t see any uses for it. Feng shui is a kind of knowledge, but it’s the knowledge of the ancients. The knowledge of the dead has nothing to do with us young socialists.” He especially patted his chest after saying this. “Moreover, there’s a special feng shui term for someone who buries himself in someone else’s tomb. It’s called…called…what was it called again? I think it’s Hidden Dragon Point or something like that. Anyway, we don’t need to worry about these superficial names. But burying yourself in someone else’s tomb is very possible as long as the numerology is harmonious and you arrange it properly. So, King Shang of Lu’s coffin is bound to be hidden somewhere in this Western Zhou Dynasty tomb. I can’t be wrong!”
When Pan Zi heard this, he burst out laughing and said, “What, you think an idiot like you actually understands feng shui?”
The fat guy immediately became furious, “What do you mean? If I didn’t understand it… how do you think I know so much?”
Pan Zi laughed again, but the movement ended up aggravating his wound. He placed a protective hand over his stomach and said, “I don’t know where you heard this nonsense, but if you really know feng shui, can you get us out of this maze? I tried seven or eight times but couldn’t find my way out.”
When I heard Pan Zi say this, I suddenly remembered something and asked, “By the way, why did you guys ditch me and run away? I was almost scared to death! And what about Uncle Three and Da Kui?”
Pan Zi straightened his body with difficulty and said, “I don’t really know. Even though your Uncle Three told me not to chase after Little Brother when he went to chase after this damned fatty, I figured it must be a big deal since that guy got so nervous. Also, there’s something I didn’t tell you. I can’t shake the feeling that this guy came with us for a different purpose, and one that’s not so simple. I don’t really trust him and I wanted to see what he was up to, so I followed him.” He frowned and seemed puzzled as he continued talking, “I ran for a few minutes when I suddenly saw something in the tomb passage in front of me. But as soon as I shined my light towards it, it suddenly disappeared with a swish. Feeling a little nervous, I continued walking forward, only to see a human hand lying in the small cracks between the stones. Each of the five fingers on this hand were all the same length.”
The fat guy was surprised and opened his mouth like he wanted to say something, but he didn’t make a sound in the end.
Pan Zi took a moment to recall the details before continuing, “So I leaned over to get a look at it. You know I just can’t control my curiosity. Hell, I would even eat shit if I wanted to know what it tasted like. Even just thinking about that hand-like thing right now has me feeling a little spooked. I honestly didn’t expect it to suddenly rush out and grab my neck! Its grip was so powerful that it almost choked me to death. I didn’t know what to do at that time, but fortunately, I still had my knife on me. I was flailing around like crazy while also trying to cut that hand off when I suddenly found that its wrist was frighteningly slender. It was barely thicker than a finger so I had no idea where all this strength was coming from. I quickly slashed my knife down and made a long cut on the hand. It immediately released me and retreated back into the crack in the wall.” Pan Zi rubbed his neck. “I thought, ‘damn, there must be something strange behind this wall’, so I went to check it out. I have no idea what I pressed, but after knocking on the left side of the wall and then kicking the right side, my whole fucking body suddenly fell!” He patted the wall. “You guys know what happened after that. I fell into a stone room like this one and then noticed the stone passage set high up on the wall. Fortunately, I’m very skilled. After jumping for a long time, I finally managed to reach the opening to the stone passage. Otherwise, I really don’t know when I would’ve been able to meet up with you, Little Master Three.”
I sighed, “So you don’t know where Uncle Three and Da Kui are?” Pan Zi had a very worried expression on his face, obviously just now realizing that Uncle Three and Da Kui were missing. I turned to the fat guy and asked him, “You damned fatty, how did you get down here? Tell me the truth. Did you provoke that damned thing?”
“Hey, if you keep talking like that, I’m going to feel more wronged than Su San,”(3) the fat guy said. “By the time I ran to that place, an old man who appeared out of nowhere had already released the monster. That guy chasing after me saw it, cried out ‘not good’, and then turned around and ran. I looked at the situation and figured that if the monster and I duked it out, there was still a possibility that I could defeat it. But the fire of revolution had to be preserved and I hadn’t yet finished the task given to me by the organization that hired me so I also turned and ran. After running for a while, I saw that that guy had stopped further up ahead. He told me to stand where I was, but before I could figure out what was going on, he kicked the wall and I suddenly fell down. I thought he was going to save me, but who would have thought there would be so many fucking bugs below?” After he said this, he started looking around like he was afraid those bugs would start crawling out to bite him.
Pan Zi glanced at me and said, “Do you see? That guy seems to know a lot about this ancient tomb, which means things might not be as simple as we thought. There’s definitely something suspicious about him.”
I always thought that Poker-Face was a good guy because as long as he was around, I felt very safe. But when Pan Zi said this, I also felt that this guy seemed to know too much about this place. It was almost like he could predict everything that was going to happen, and in the end, I couldn’t help but have some doubts.
At this time, I suddenly remembered that I hadn’t eaten for a long time now. I knew I still had some compressed biscuits in the fat guy’s bag I had found earlier so I took them out and handed some to the others. Pan Zi hardly ate anything at all. He said that if his intestines had been perforated and he ate too much, it would just leak out, so it was better to leave the rest for us to eat, especially because he didn’t know when we could leave this place. When he said this, the fat guy clearly felt embarrassed to eat too much even though I could tell that he wanted to.
As I told them everything that had happened to me again, we all gradually relaxed. When I was done with my story, we remained silent for a while and then switched to another topic. The fat guy said that sitting here and doing nothing wasn’t the way to go; we would be better off trying our luck in the stone passage. Pan Zi also agreed with him, so we decided to rest a bit before setting off.
I was sitting there in a daze, dozing in a half-awake and half-asleep state, when I suddenly saw the fat guy start wiggling his eyebrows and rolling his eyes at me. I originally thought that he was just an unreliable guy, but now it seemed that he was also a little schizophrenic too. How else could you explain his reasoning for putting a crock on his head to scare people in an ancient tomb? This kind of person was either really brave or just plain stupid. Right now, one of us was seriously injured and we had no idea where to go, yet in this environment, he was interested in making faces at me? If I still had the strength, I’d definitely go over there and beat him.
But at this time, I found that even Pan Zi was making faces at me. Shit, I thought to myself, are mental disorders contagious?
Then I saw the two of them repeatedly patting their left shoulders and mouthing what looked like, “Hand, hand!” as sweat dripped down their foreheads.
Finding it a little strange, I immediately looked down at my hands but there was nothing unusual about them. Were they talking about my shoulder? I slowly turned my head and suddenly found a small green hand resting on my shoulder.
<Chapter 15><Table of Contents><Chapter 17>
(1) Kong Lao Er is another name for Confucius (since he was the 2nd son of the family). He was a Chinese philosopher, poet, and politician of the Spring and Autumn Period who was traditionally considered the paragon of Chinese sages. Info here. After googling around, it seems that “Kong Lao Er” kind of became a derogatory way to refer to Confucius during the Cultural Revolution (Lao Er is also a Beijing slang term for dick according to this).
(2) According to feng shui, it’s bad juju to do that so your family line would essentially die out with you (you’d either have no kids or they’d all die).
(3) Su San is a character from the Peking Opera play, “The Woman Prisoner Su San”. In the story, Su San is framed by Lady Pi and imprisoned (Lady Pi had an affair with her neighbor and conspired with him to poison her husband and frame Su San for it). The corrupt county magistrate tries to torture Su San into giving a false confession and eventually sentences her to death. While being escorted to Taiyuan (I think for her trial), she vents her grievances to Chong Gongdao, the man escorting her. The injustices against her are later made clear, she’s freed, marries the love of her life, and lives happily ever after, yada yada. Info on baidu.
Dang, should’ve saved our fave meme for this chapter lol. Not to worry, I have a backup (✧≖ ͜ʖ≖)
4 thoughts on “Chapter 16 Small Hand”
Thanks for the chapter and also, excellent meme selection 🤣❤️
Haha love it!
I’m glad Wu Xie at least didn’t think it was kind of facial dancing or didn’t imitate their movement. I also like this meme. 😄
thank you for the chapter 🙏🏼