Chapter 6 Copper Stick

My sleep had been very restless, so as I sat up still half-asleep, I immediately felt a spark of anger flare up in my heart. I was just about to start scolding him when he suddenly covered my mouth and whispered, “Don’t talk, come with me.”

I immediately felt puzzled. I had no idea what was going on, but when I saw that his expression didn’t look too good, I couldn’t help but ask, “What are you doing? What’s going on?”

“Come with me,” Lao Yang whispered. “I want to show you something.”

I stared at him for a long time, finding his behavior really odd. But based on his expression, it didn’t seem like he was messing with me, so I put on my jacket and snuck out of the shack with him.

The forest was right outside. Lao Yang took out his compass, determined the right direction, grabbed one of the folding shovels from our equipment, and motioned for me to follow him.

We turned on our flashlights and walked with the wind at our backs. After about ten minutes, he stopped, stuck the shovel in the ground at his feet, and said, “This is it.”

I was extremely confused now. Based on his appearance, did he come here to plant a tree in the middle of the night?

Seeing the angry look on my face, he rushed to explain himself, “When my cousin and I were leaving the mountain last time, we also spent the night here. I woke up and found him sneaking out in the middle of the night. I didn’t know what he was doing so I followed him, only to find that he was burying something here. But our situation was so bad at that time that I didn’t have the energy to stick my nose into his business. All I wanted to do was get out of the mountain quickly so I decided not to worry about it. But now that I think about it, the situation at that time was a bit abnormal.”

“Are you sure this is the right spot?” I asked.

He nodded. “My cousin was acting really strange when he came out of that crater. I don’t know what the hell happened to him, but I’m sure he hid something from me. Now that I happen to be back here, I’m going to dig this thing up and see what he buried. Help keep a lookout for me.”

As soon as I nodded, Lao Yang started to dig.

The soil here didn’t seem too hard, but the villagers were still sleeping nearby. We didn’t know whether the noises would wake them up or not, so every time Lao Yang dug up three shovels full of dirt, he had to stop so that we could listen to see if there was any movement nearby.

He had been digging for half an hour, and I was starting to wonder if he had made a mistake and picked the wrong spot. But then, we both heard the distinct sound of his shovel suddenly hitting something metallic.

He stopped digging, leaned over, and pulled something from the ground that looked like a stick.

The stick-shaped object was covered in so much mud that I couldn’t tell what it was, but my first thought was that it was a bone. As Lao Yang wiped some of the mud off, I noticed that his expression suddenly changed. “Fuck,” he said to me, “it’s this thing.”

I leaned over to get a better look and saw that it was a long piece of bronze casting that was covered in green patina. There were obvious fracture marks on one end, as if someone had sawed it off from another bronze item. I pointed my flashlight at it and saw that it had an abstract pattern on it that resembled a snake with one head and two bodies. It appeared to be something related to the She people that Grandpa Qi had mentioned before.

“This is the bronze branch I told you about,” Lao Yang said to me. “I didn’t expect my cousin to secretly saw it off.”

I frowned. These people were considered to be the least qualified among those in the whole grave-robbing community, but sadly, they were also the largest group. It was a common thing for them to destroy a rare treasure just for a few thousand yuan.

Lao Yang continued digging to see what else he could find, but after digging for a long time, nothing else came up and he started backfilling the soil.

We wrapped the branch in a piece of cloth and stealthily made our way back to the shack. The others were still asleep after working all day but we couldn’t sleep anymore. Lao Yang sat down across from me and began adding wood to the fire.

When I saw how grave his expression was, and noticed that he had that worried look in his eyes again, I couldn’t help but ask, “These days, you seem to switch from being happy to sad at the drop of a hat. Are you hiding something? Do you have hemorrhoids?”

Lao Yang lit a cigarette and said, “Ah, if only it were that simple. I feel like something’s wrong but I can’t figure out what it is.”

I didn’t say anything and just listened to him talk.

“It’s mainly about my cousin,” Lao Yang continued. “When I came to the mountains with him, he was still normal, but ever since he saw this bronze branch, I felt that he began to change. At first, he just suddenly became a little neurotic, but gradually, I found that he seemed more and more abnormal…”

“You mean, you think your cousin’s craziness has something to do with this thing?” I asked.

Lao Yang nodded. “Just think about it. He secretly sawed this thing off, brought it back from that place, and buried it again. But for what?”

I watched Lao Yang fiddle with the bronze branch and suddenly felt that I had seen this thing before. I quickly took out the information that Professor Wang(1) had given me and flipped through everything until I got to a certain picture. After comparing it to the branch in Lao Yang’s hands, I found that it was a match. In 1845, an English missionary named Thomas copied something very similar from a mural on a cave wall in Xiangxi. It was a totem in the form of a tree, and Thomas made a comment under his drawing stating that it was a “sacred tree” of the local natives. Later, this note fell into Professor Wang’s hands. Based on the description, Professor Wang believed that this sacred tree was one of the totems worshipped in the Serpent Kingdom. In their culture, it must have symbolized the divinity of the earth and fertility.

After comparing the bronze branch to the picture, I found that it was just the tip of one of the branches. Based on these proportions, I estimated that the whole bronze tree should be seventy or eighty meters tall. If the whole thing was excavated, there was no doubt that it would shock the whole world.

I patted Lao Yang and told him not to think too much about it. If there really was a problem with this branch, then he would have wound up the same as his cousin.

<Chapter 5><Table of Contents><Chapter 7>


TN Notes:

(1) Uh…yeah. Assuming this is Grandpa Qi. Not sure why he’s magically Professor Wang now but it was this way in the published Chinese version as well.


4 thoughts on “Chapter 6 Copper Stick

  1. Uhm, Professor Wang. Let’s say the author, like us, just misses Fatty (professor Fatty sound good.)
    These chapters, especially the previous ones were really long, and so was the translation note. Thank you so much.


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