Chapter 34 Old Photo

I was so engrossed in his story that it felt as if I was also in that ancient tomb, surrounded by Chen Wen-Jin’s soft arms and warm fragrance. Uncle Three suddenly coughed and I found myself coming back to the present, a pillow clutched tightly in my arms. Embarrassed, I couldn’t help wondering how I could have fantasies about Uncle Three’s woman. My face turned red as I hurriedly asked him, “Why did you stop? What happened in the end?”

Uncle Three gave a wry smile, “There’s nothing more to say; the story ends here. I still can’t figure out what happened in that ancient tomb while I was asleep.” His lips trembled. “I don’t know how long I slept, but when I woke up, I found that I was the only one left in the ear chamber. Everyone else was gone. My first thought was that they might have gone to the main tomb chamber while I was sleeping and I became furious. Chen Wen-Jin had always listened to me before, but this time, she was actually causing trouble along with the others. I immediately got up to go chase after them.”

He grabbed the cigarette that was dangling between his lips and put it down, his expression a little ugly. “But when I got up, I found that the door in the wall had disappeared! I immediately turned around and discovered that this wasn’t the ear chamber I fell asleep in before but another strange place. And behind me, there was a golden nanmu coffin.”(1)

I laughed. “Uncle Three, with your courage, I bet you must have thrown the coffin lid off without an ounce of hesitation and taken all the goods inside.”

Uncle Three cursed, “Bullshit! Let me tell you, I was absolutely terrified at that time! I had seen many coffins before but there was water constantly coming out of that coffin in waves. It almost seemed like some fucking thing was taking a bath in there! I suddenly remembered Li Sidi saying that this was the tomb of a sea ghost. You know I’m not afraid of zombies but this was my first time dealing with something like a sea ghost. I was so scared that I almost peed my pants. I was also worried about Chen Wen-Jin so I shouted a few times but no one responded. Then, the coffin lid suddenly flipped open.”

As Uncle Three said this, he had a strange expression on his face. “I didn’t even stop to think at that time,” he continued. “When I saw that the helmet was still in my hand, I quickly put it on and jumped into the pool of water in the middle of the room. Then I made my escape.”

As soon as I heard this, I quickly interrupted him, “That’s not right. Didn’t the room change? Why is the pool of water still there?”

Uncle Three’s face turned green and he started stammering, “That—of course the pool was still there. Don’t fucking interrupt! I haven’t finished yet!” He took a moment to compose himself before continuing, “I didn’t care whether the tsunami had passed or not. When I found the grave robbers’ tunnel, I immediately swam out and saw the big, bright sun hanging in the sky. I didn’t know what time it was, but when I breached the water’s surface, I saw several big boats not far off in the distance. It seemed that they had come to rescue us. I swam towards the nearest boat and asked them what time it was. As it turned out, it was already fucking noon the next day! I only meant to take a short nap in the tomb so how could a whole day have passed?”

I stared at Uncle Three. This last part sounded way too fake to be real. He definitely must have come across something towards the end that explained that strange situation but I didn’t know why he refused to tell me. What the hell did this old guy do in that tomb? Shit, it wasn’t like I could force the answer out of him either. But seeing the way he skirted around the details left me itching for more.

When I saw that he had stopped talking, I remembered how worried I was about Chen Wen-Jin and asked him, “What about the others? Didn’t they come out as well?”

Uncle Three slapped his thigh in frustration. “For some reason, after I got on the boat, I barely said a few words before I passed out. I was later sent to a hospital in Hainan, where I was in a coma for a whole week. When I tried to go back to find the others, I couldn’t find the boatman who had taken us there. At sea, if you don’t know the exact coordinates of a place, you won’t be able to find it at all since the water looks the same in every direction.” He paused before continuing, “I later went to the Maritime Administration and the research institute to ask around and found that the whole group was reported missing, even Chen Wen-Jin who had gone with them. It’s been almost twenty years now and there still hasn’t been any news. I really don’t know what happened in that tomb at all. How could those people disappear without a trace?” His eyes were red-rimmed as he slapped the table hard. “I fucking regret it! Why did I have to show off at that time? If I didn’t try to rob that undersea tomb, this group of people might’ve had grandchildren by now! And Chen Wen-Jin…I really let her down.”

I could only look on as snot and tears ran down Uncle Three’s face. I had never seen him like this before, and I didn’t know what to do. He picked up the snake-eyebrow copper fish and said, “I thought about it for a long time, wondering why I was the only one who was able to make it out while the others didn’t. The only difference between me and them was that I had this thing on me.”

I looked at the fish and thought to myself, if King Shang of Lu also robbed an undersea tomb and carried a snake-eyebrow copper fish around with him, is it possible that the Lu Palace has something to do with the shipwreck tomb buried under the sea? But when I thought about it, I realized that it wasn’t quite right. The two tombs were built during vastly different time periods—one was built during the Warring States period while the other was built during the early Ming Dynasty(2)—so it was impossible for them to be connected. I didn’t have any clues to explain what exactly was going on here.

Uncle Three’s thoughts were a little muddled after he finished telling his story so he lay down for a while. I thought maybe he was trying to calm himself down after reliving that painful memory again, but then he suddenly sat up, turned his head, and said to me, “Nephew, I suddenly remembered something just now.”

I saw how pale his face was and couldn’t help thinking to myself, you must have remembered something terrible again. But he simply scratched his head and said, “Among the group who entered the undersea tomb with me, there was a man who looked very similar to that silent Little Brother!”

As soon as I heard this, I felt my scalp go numb. “You must have remembered wrong,” I said to him. “He would’ve only been a tiny baby at that time!”

Uncle Three’s frown became more and more pronounced as he carefully tried to recall the memory. “It’s been so long that I’m not a hundred percent sure,” he finally said, “but I still have a group photo from that time. It was taken before we went out to sea. I’ll call home and have someone scan it for me and send it over.”

It was better to do it quickly instead of sitting around talking so Uncle Three made the call and issued his instructions. Five minutes later, an email was sent over to us. As soon as Uncle Three opened it, I felt cold all over. The photo was black and white and showed a group of ten people separated into two rows. The ones in the front row were squatting while the ones in the back were standing. I saw a younger Uncle Three squatting in the middle of the first row and standing behind him was Poker-Face!

I immediately broke out in a cold sweat and all of my hair stood on end. I thought that my eyes were playing tricks on me so I looked at the photo again, but sure enough, it was really him. That look in his eyes and the expression on his face were exactly the same as what I had seen not too long ago.

My hands suddenly started to tremble a little. Uncle Three glanced at me, also very confused. He looked like he wanted to say something but the words seemed to be stuck in his throat for a long time. Eventually, he finally managed to ask, “Wh…why…why hasn’t he aged at all in twenty years?” But as soon as he finished speaking, he suddenly seemed to realize something and shouted, “I see! I see!”

I looked at him as if he had gone crazy, unsure what to do at the moment. Then, I saw him pick up his luggage and head towards the door. I tried to pull him to a stop but he threw my hand off and said, “You stay here and watch over Pan Zi. I’m going to Xisha right away!” Then he ran out the door without looking back. 

<Chapter 33><Table of Contents><Chapter 35>    


TN Notes:

(1) Nanmu is basically a Chinese cedar or Chinese giant redwood. It’s a precious wood that’s unique to China and South Asia, and was historically used for boat building, architectural woodworking, furniture, and sculptural carving in China. The highest grade of nanmu wood has a bright golden color so it’s called golden nanmu. More info here.

(2) Warring States Period was from 475-221 BC. The early Ming Dynasty was from the second half of the 14th century so around the 1350s.


5 thoughts on “Chapter 34 Old Photo

  1. *sigh*!( ̄^ ̄) It seems even your pro translating skills can’t make Uncle Three reveal more information than before. Still as mysterious as ever!!!

    Liked by 2 people

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