My eyes were instantly transfixed and I couldn’t look away at all. But even though I couldn’t turn my head and it felt like I was in a trance, I didn’t start hallucinating. I wondered if my mind remained clear because I had swallowed that copper scale from the belt.
At this time, I suddenly heard the sound of Uncle Three and the others rushing over and thought to myself, this is bad! They haven’t experienced this fox corpse’s sorcery and don’t know how powerful it is. If they recklessly rush over, something will definitely happen. I wanted to shout a warning to them but it felt like something was stuck in my throat. I opened my mouth and tried to speak but no words came out at all. I became so anxious that it felt as if my veins were going to burst.
Then, I suddenly had a flash of inspiration as I realized that my hands could move a little bit. I immediately made a gun gesture with both hands and pointed them at the fox corpse’s head. I kept pointing while shouting in my heart, Pan Zi, you have to be smart this time! If you can’t even understand this gesture, then go eat shit and die!
After I made the gesture a few times, a gunshot rang out from behind me and the green-eyed fox corpse’s head exploded right before my eyes. But my mouth had still been open at that time so the corpse fluid splashed right on my face and in my mouth. I immediately began to vomit; this stuff tasted even more disgusting than shit. After nearly puking my guts out, I looked back and saw Pan Zi in the distance. He was covering his wound with one hand and making an OK gesture at me with the other hand. I silently cursed at him as I used my sleeve to wipe the corpse fluid off of my face.
Uncle Three was still quite far from the sacrificial altar and vines were covering the ground the whole way, which made the situation very dangerous. But he came up with a clever idea to get around those vines by using stones to lure them away. Once they were distracted, he and the others were able to safely make it over and were soon climbing up the sacrificial altar.
He was very worried something had happened to me and immediately came over to see if I was ok, but he frowned and started gagging as soon as he got a whiff of me. I was annoyed with him at first, but when I saw him acting like that, I immediately jumped on him and gave him a big hug. He was so disgusted that he nearly fell off the sacrificial altar.
Seeing that they were all safe and sound, I suddenly remembered what had happened before and asked, “Uncle Three, why did you guys ditch me in the main tomb chamber and run away? You scared the shit out of me! How could you expect me to stay alone in that damned place?”
Uncle Three listened to me complaining and then smacked Da Kui on the back of the head, “I told this fucking guy not to touch anything but he wouldn’t listen.” Then he told me what had happened to them in more detail.
As it turned out, they saw a recessed wall in that other ear chamber. Generally, when there was a recessed wall in an ancient tomb, it meant that there must be a hidden room behind it. They obviously didn’t expect all of the trapdoors in this ancient tomb to open downwards, but Uncle Three was a shrewd man. He was able to find the mechanism at a glance, but unfortunately, Da Kui moved before Uncle Three had time to figure out how it worked. As soon as Da Kui triggered the mechanism, they all fell down into the Western Zhou Dynasty tomb on the floor below, just like us. After that, the plot seemed to become very convoluted and bizarre. The more Uncle Three talked, the more outrageous it became and I wound up so confused that I begged him to stop.
“If you don’t believe me, just take a look at this,” Uncle Three said before taking a black box out of his bag. There was a snapping sound and then the box magically turned into a gun. I was shocked when I saw it because I had done a little research on guns before and knew that this gun was very famous.
It was a 9 mm Ares folding submachine gun, which used bullets the size of Chunghwa cigarettes.(1) It weighed less than three kilograms so it was easy to use, but of course, this gun’s small size also meant that it wasn’t very accurate.
Uncle Three said that they had also found several corpses in the tomb passage, which was where they had gotten the gun and some explosives from. Moreover, the place was absolutely covered in bullet holes, as if a fierce battle had taken place there.
I carefully inspected the gun, feeling very confused. It seemed like the grave robbers who had come in before us were very well equipped, or at least much more equipped than we were. So what was their background? These people didn’t go out after they came in so did that mean they had all died here? If not, where were they now?
I went to lean against the sacrificial altar as I thought about it, but I didn’t expect that this seemingly solid stone platform wouldn’t be able to support my weight. Before I could even put all of my weight down on it, the sacrificial altar suddenly sank halfway into the ground. We were all shocked and immediately ducked down, thinking that another trap had been triggered. Then we heard a series of sounds like a mechanism being activated. They started from below our feet and went all the way to the stone platform in the distance, ending with a loud crash. When we stuck our heads out to take a look, we saw that there was a gaping hole in the giant tree behind the stone platform. And in this hole was a huge bronze coffin affixed to the tree with iron chains. Those chains were embedded in the tree and were wrapped around the bronze coffin several times.
Uncle Three stood there stunned before saying, “Ah, so this is where the real coffin is.”
“My God, such a big coffin must be worth a lot of money, right?!” Da Kui shouted happily. “It looks like our trip wasn’t in vain!”
Uncle Three smacked him on the back of the head and said, “Money, money. Stop thinking about fucking money all the time! Even if this thing is valuable, it’s not like you can take it out of here. And how many times have I told you—this kind of thing is called an inner and outer coffin, it’s not just a regular coffin! Stop fucking embarrassing me all the time!”
Da Kui touched his head but didn’t dare speak anymore. I took a closer look at the coffin but couldn’t shake the feeling that something was wrong, so I said to Uncle Three, “This is odd. Most people’s coffins are usually nailed shut because they’re not meant to be opened again. But look at this situation. It almost seems as if this stone platform’s mechanism was originally designed to let others find these inner and outer coffins. Did this tomb owner originally plan for others to open his coffin one day? And you see how these iron chains are wrapped so tightly around the coffin? It’s almost like they weren’t meant to keep the coffin in place but to keep whatever was inside the coffin from coming out.”
After Uncle Three took a closer look and found that it was indeed the case, we couldn’t help but give each other a questioning look. We had already come across countless unbelievable things along the way so could there be some kind of monster in there? Was it better to open it or leave it alone?
Uncle Three clenched his teeth and said, “I figure that if there are any valuable treasures in this tomb, then they must be inside. But if we don’t open it, won’t this trip have all been for nothing? So what if there’s a fucking zombie inside? We have guns and explosives now. If there really is a zombie inside, we’ll just get our equipment and fight it!”
I nodded, and Uncle Three continued, “Besides, now it’s impossible for us to go back the same way we came. Almost every hole on this cliff leads to that maze of stone passages. I don’t know how long it’ll take us to get out from there so our best bet is to climb out from above.”
We looked up and saw the gap in the cave ceiling. The moonlight was streaming down from above, looking very bleak and desolate. Uncle Three then pointed to the giant tree, “You guys see that? The top of this giant tree is very close to the cave ceiling. Moreover, there are many vines extending out from the tree to the area outside of the cave, creating a natural ladder. Plus, this tree has so many branches that it’ll be easy to climb up. It’s just perfect for us to get out of this place.”
“Master Three, what kind of nonsense is that?” Pan Zi asked. “That’s a man-eating tree. Isn’t climbing it tantamount to suicide?”
Uncle Three laughed, “This tree is called a Nine-Headed Snake Cypress. I’ve already been thinking about it for a long time. Haven’t you noticed how those vines refuse to touch the stone here? This stone is called Tianxin rock and it’s special because it repels the Nine-Headed Snake Cypress. If we put some of that rock dust on our bodies, I guarantee that things will go smoothly.”
“Will it really work?” Da Kui asked worriedly.
Uncle Three glared at him. I knew that he was going to scold him again so I hurriedly said, “Come on, we’ll know once we try it out.”
We all sprang into action without another word. Da Kui picked up the fat guy and slung him on his back while Uncle Three helped support Pan Zi. I packed up my equipment and looked back at the cave, thinking about how we were all safe now but there was still no news on what had happened to Poker-Face. Uncle Three saw how worried I was and said, “He definitely has the skills to protect himself. You don’t need to worry.”
I nodded. In all honesty, I really didn’t have the qualifications to worry about Poker-Face. Not only were his skills leagues above mine, but it also seemed like he had strange abilities. If anything, he should be worried about me.
I slowly led the way towards that high stone platform, a gun in my hand and everyone else following behind me. I had been so focused on running before that I didn’t look carefully at my surroundings, but as it turned out, this stone platform had been built from large slabs of that Tianxin rock. They were so big that I didn’t know how they had been transported down here. I could see that some cranes with deer antlers had also been carved on the steps.(2) This kind of relief sculpture was very rare so I couldn’t help but wonder what kind of vassal this King Shang of Lu was and why this tomb was so bizarre.
By this point, we had finally reached the hole in the tree and it became clear that the hole hadn’t split by itself but was pulled apart from the inside by a dozen iron chains. The huge bronze coffin was just in front of us. It looked to be about two and a half meters long and was densely covered in inscriptions.
The characters used in Warring States Period texts were quite complicated while the characters used in texts from the Qi and Lu states were commonly used by scholars at that time. After the State of Chu conquered the State of Lu, it absorbed a lot of the State of Lu’s culture. Even the characters used in their writing system were similar to those of the State of Lu. Most of the rubbings from the Warring States Period that I had in my shop were from that period so I had a rough idea of what these inscriptions were saying.
For some reason, everyone remained silent at this time, almost as if they were afraid of waking the tomb owner. Uncle Three then took out a crowbar and tapped it against the coffin. There was a dull echo inside, indicating that it was definitely full of things. Uncle Three knew that I was interested in things like inscriptions and asked me softly, “Can you understand what’s written here?”
I shook my head and said, “I don’t understand the specifics, but I’m positive that the owner of this coffin is King Shang of Lu, the one we’ve been looking for. The text on this coffin probably details his life. It seems that he died before he reached the age of fifty and he didn’t have any children. According to this, the way he died is the same as what I had read before—he suddenly died in a seated position in front of the duke of the State of Lu. The rest of the text should be details about his life.”
I wasn’t interested in the State of Lu’s culture so I just skimmed over it without bothering to read it in detail.
“What do these words mean?” Da Kui asked me. I looked at where he was pointing and saw the character for “open” in the middle of the coffin. It was followed by a long list of characters starting with the first four Earthly Branches.(3) These characters were a little bigger and more conspicuous than the others and I knew that they indicated a date. But during the Spring and Autumn Period and the Warring States Period, the Zhou Dynasty declined and their vassals went their own separate ways. As a result, the calendar system became messed up so I couldn’t figure out what specific day it was talking about. “This should be the date the coffin was placed here but I don’t know what day it is,” I said to him.
As I was busy studying the inscriptions, Uncle Three was trying to figure out a way to open the coffin. He shook the chains, each of which was as thick as a thumb. At that time, China had just entered the Iron Age so this kind of thing should have been a luxury. But after so many years, most of them had aged beyond recognition and could only really be used for decoration. I told everyone to get out of the way, pulled the bolt back on my gun, and then fired a few shots. All of the chains broke in an instant, leaving only a few left to hold the coffin in place.
Uncle Three motioned for me to back off and said, “Stop studying those inscriptions. We’ll look at them after we open this coffin.”
No sooner had he spoken than the coffin suddenly began to shake and a muffled noise came from inside. I thought I had heard wrong at first, but just as I was about to ask the others if they had also heard it, the coffin suddenly started shaking and I clearly heard the noise again. My whole body felt cold all over as I thought to myself, oh no! There really is something wrong with this fucking coffin!
<Chapter 22><Table of Contents><Chapter 24>
(1) Premium brand of Chinese cigarettes. Info here. I don’t think they’re a different size from American cigarettes but I honestly don’t know.
(2) Not finding many English results. Here’s the Chinese wiki page with a pic (it’s basically a mythical animal having the body of a crane and the antlers of a deer).
(3) The Twelve Earthly Branches are a Chinese ordering system used throughout East Asia in various contexts, including its ancient dating system, astrological traditions, zodiac and ordinals. The Earthly Branches are today used with the Heavenly Stems in the current version of the “traditional Chinese calendar”. An Earthly Branch can refer to a lunar month or a whole two-hour period (or the exact time at the center of this two-hour period). Ex: 子 (zi) is the first earthly branch and can mean the 11th lunar month (December 7th to January 5th) and also the two-hour period from 11 pm to 1 am (or midnight).
This is legit blowing my mind how much background text they skipped. Who needs to know that info? Apparently not the English-speaking audience…
3 thoughts on “Chapter 23 Inner and Outer Coffins”
I wonder if we only lost the details in the translated version of the paper book or were it the same in the main language.
I have 1-6 from Amazon on kindle. I thought I was getting the full gist after reading them. Apparently NOT! I read this portion of the official against what you have posted and I am dumbfounded as to the differences.
I reiterate again, thank you so much for doing this for us.
Wow just wow 🤦♀️🤷♀️
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