Pan Zi and I sat in Uncle Three’s shop all afternoon, telling each other about our recent experiences. As it turned out, Pan Zi regained consciousness a little before I went to Hainan, but I left in such a hurry that I only left a cell phone number with the hospital. When I went out to sea, it was only natural that he couldn’t get in touch with me.
Pan Zi was in good shape, so he was able to recover quickly. But even so, he had been lying in a bed for nearly a month. When he was finally able to get back in the swing of things, he couldn’t get in touch with anyone. I should have been in Shaanxi at that time, and as for Uncle Three…the whole world was looking for him.
I noticed that Pan Zi was wearing a black mourning band around his arm. When I asked him who it was for, he said that it was for Da Kui. They had been like brothers, but Pan Zi had missed the seven-day mourning period(1) due to his injuries so he was wearing it now to make up for it. Hearing Da Kui’s name brought up memories of that day in Shandong, and I couldn’t help but sigh bitterly. In the end, I was the one who ultimately caused that incident. If I didn’t get involved in this matter at that time and showed the silk book to Uncle Three, everyone’s current situations would have naturally turned out quite different.
Pan Zi, seeing my expression change, guessed what I was thinking and patted me on the shoulder, “Little Master Three, in our line of work, this is something we can’t escape. No one is to blame for what happened.”
I sighed, that’s easy for you to say; you weren’t the one who killed Da Kui.
After sitting there and sighing for a while, I eventually told Pan Zi about everything I had gone through recently. He had a frown on his face as he listened, but when he heard the theory we came up with, his expression changed and he shook his head, saying that after so many years of working with Uncle Three, he was sure that Uncle Three definitely wasn’t that kind of person and that I shouldn’t listen to others’ nonsense.
Pan Zi had been following Uncle Three for many years and was deeply loyal to him, so he naturally wouldn’t listen to such words. I didn’t bother saying anything else and just changed the subject, asking him what his next plans were.
Pan Zi thought about it and said that he was originally planning to go back to Changsha to continue earning a living—Uncle Three still had a shop there, and he knew everyone, so he figured he’d be able to find something to do—but now, after hearing my story, he felt that this matter wasn’t that simple and he’d have to investigate it himself before he could feel at ease.
I nodded. Although I had basically investigated everything already, the relationship between Pan Zi and Uncle Three was not what you would call ordinary. Plus, there were a lot of connections they had that I wasn’t privy to, so it would be better for him to check them out himself.
Pan Zi made several phone calls, the people on the other end telling him that they would call back when there was news. I thought it would take several days, but to my surprise, they all called back within five minutes. After Pan Zi listened to them, he frowned and said to me, “Little Master Three, I’m afraid you’ll have to come with me.”
I stared blankly at him for a moment, what’s going on? Did something happen?
Pan Zi continued, “Master Three left you a message with someone in Changsha, but that person will only give it to you face-to-face. They asked me to take you there.”
I nearly jumped to my feet, “Uncle Three left me a message?” It wasn’t like I hadn’t contacted anyone in Changsha, so why did no one ever mention it to me before?
Pan Zi’s expression was very serious, but he didn’t explain anything to me. All he said was, “The situation is urgent. Do you think you can leave now?”
Pan Zi was very anxious. I had a vague sense that this matter wasn’t as simple as I originally thought, but I honestly didn’t expect him to be in such a rush—that night, without any explanation, we got on the green train(2) to Changsha.
After getting on the train, I asked Pan Zi why we weren’t flying if we were in such a rush. Was this a joke?
Preoccupied, Pan Zi just patted me and said that I’d find out later. When I saw that his forehead was covered in a cold sweat, I immediately felt that the situation was becoming more and more strange. What the hell was he so nervous about?
When the train departed from Hangzhou, it first stopped at another station in Hangzhou. Three hours after that, we were close to Jinhua Station. I was getting a little impatient at the lack of information, but just as I was about to ask for answers, the train suddenly made a temporary stop.
When we were buying our tickets for such a long distance, I thought that we should at least take an express train if we weren’t flying—it was common for green trains to make temporary stops and why subject ourselves to those hard seats—but Pan Zi’s mind was clearly elsewhere. Now that the train had stopped, I was secretly gloating to myself. You’re in a hurry, aren’t you? These temporary stops will drive your anxiety through the roof!
But to my surprise, as soon as the train stopped, Pan Zi patted me on the shoulder and motioned for me to follow him. I stood up, about to ask him where we were going, but he suddenly opened the window and jumped out.
When I saw this, all I could think was, what the fuck is going on? The other people in the car were also startled when they saw it, and all stood up to look out the window. “Little Master Three,” Pan Zi shouted from outside, “what are you waiting for? Come down quickly!”
I looked around and saw that everyone in the car was now looking at me. This is definitely going to make headlines tomorrow, I thought to myself before clenching my teeth and also jumping out.
The green train was very tall, so I ended up falling head over heels before landing on my back on the railway ties. Pan Zi helped me up and then pulled me into a run.
We ran all the way into the nearby field, climbed up the embankment, and then turned onto a road, where there was a pickup truck already waiting for us. As soon as Pan Zi pulled me into the truck, the driver started it up and drove off.
I was so tired that I couldn’t catch my breath, and it was only when the truck started driving on the provincial road that I finally managed to recover. “What kind of fucking shit are you trying to pull?” I cursed at him.
Pan Zi was also exhausted, but he looked at me and smiled, “Don’t be angry. This is actually the first time I’ve been in such a mess. I don’t know what we did to catch their attention. I’m not even sure if we can throw them off our trail.”
As he spoke, he looked through the truck’s rearview window—the road was dark, and no one seemed to be chasing us.
I didn’t understand, but it definitely seemed like he had planned everything out so I asked him what was going on. He lit a cigarette and then said in the Changsha dialect, “There was a dispatch in the train car. Master Three is not there. Things are hot in Changsha. There’s a ghost among the old hands.”
This meant that there were policemen on the train, my Uncle Three wasn’t in Changsha, and the business there was a mess. There may even be undercover policemen among Uncle Three’s workers.
Pan Zi glanced at the driver as he spoke, and I realized that the driver might have been hired on a temporary basis. Since I couldn’t reveal too much in his presence, I decided to stop asking. At this time, my heart was feeling very conflicted, but I decided that whatever I was now, I definitely wasn’t a fugitive.
God, what was with this year? I was a small businessman just a few months ago, then I suddenly became a grave robber and zombie diplomat, and now I was a fugitive. My life had really taken an exciting turn.
The truck drove to a small county town near Jinhua, where we got out and paid the driver. Pan Zi took me to a shop to buy two old-style suits that were one size too small. We put them on and then looked in the mirror—they were rather shabby. Once that was done, we rushed to the train station and bought tickets for the same train we had jumped off of earlier. Since it had made a temporary stop earlier, it didn’t arrive at the station until now.
We got back on the train again, but this time, we had bought spots in the sleeper car. Pan Zi looked at the train car, obviously more relaxed than before, and said, “Those cops before must have gotten off at Jinhua Station just now. They probably set up roadblocks on both the freeway and provincial roads, never expecting that we would get back on the train.”
This was the first time in my life that I was a fugitive, so I didn’t know how to carry myself. I was so nervous that I was practically trembling as I asked softly, “What’s going on? Why are the police chasing us? I didn’t do anything—oh, wait, I shouldn’t say it that way. It’s better to say I was doing something normal people do.”
“I don’t know what’s going on either,” Pan Zi said. “This afternoon, I called our underground bank in Changsha, but when the boss heard my voice, he only said two things: first, that I needed to bring you to Changsha immediately because your Uncle Three left a message for you; second, there’s a situation in Changsha, and we need to be careful because the police are after us. Then he hung up. This boss has been your Uncle Three’s partner for thirty years, so he’s absolutely reliable. I thought it over for a while, but I’m not familiar with Hangzhou, so I knew that something would happen if I stayed for a long time. That’s why I decided to head back to Changsha first.”
Seeing how worried I was, he added, “I noticed a few plainclothes officers as soon as I got on the train, so I contacted my friend, asked him for a ride, and told him to follow the train as close as possible. When it made that temporary stop, I saw the driver signal us and knew that this was our chance so I immediately dragged you outside. Did you notice how the driver didn’t say a word the whole way? That’s because he also works outside of the law. You shouldn’t say too much in front of such people.
“Luckily, those cops didn’t catch us. It’s because we have little to do with Changsha. I’m sure they’re more focused on going after one of the big shots there since small-fry like us are basically the same as dirt on a radish to them. You don’t need to worry; this whole thing has nothing to do with the things you recently got involved in. And anyways, the most they’d charge you with is selling stolen goods.”
I felt a little better when I heard him say this, but just as I was about to express my relief, he suddenly said, “If something happened in Changsha, then Master Three must definitely be involved. The bank boss didn’t explain it clearly over the phone, and even I don’t know what the fuck is going on. We’ve actually been very restrained over the past few years, and almost none of us have gone directly into the field. It doesn’t make sense that any of our previous jobs would garner so much attention now. I really don’t understand it.”
“So what are we going to do now?” I asked him. I really didn’t want to be a criminal on the run.
“We can’t go directly to Changsha,” Pan Zi replied. “We’ll get off the train when we leave Zhejiang, and then take a long-distance bus to the mountains near Changsha. Master Three has several antique collection points there, and it’s a good place to meet his contacts. The bank boss should also be there.”
I nodded. At this time, the train stopped at another station and began picking up passengers, which meant that we now had another addition to our sleeper car. Pan Zi gave me a meaningful look, so I quickly changed the subject.
While chatting, I unwittingly brought up the subject of Chen Pi Ah Si. This man was very famous in Changsha, so it was only natural that Pan Zi had heard of him. “This man also has his own business in the area,” Pan Zi said. “I heard that he stopped working by himself after he became blind. Once the Cultural Revolution ended, he took in several apprentices and started reselling antiques to foreigners. This man is very dangerous. Almost all of his first apprentices were executed by firing squad, yet he’s still at large. There are many rumors surrounding him, so it’s best to keep your distance from him.”
Recalling Chen Pi Ah Si’s appearance when I first saw him, it didn’t seem like he was blind, which was very strange the more I thought of it.
We followed Pan Zi’s plan, and after several twists and turns, we finally arrived at Fushou Mountain near Changsha. It was a really nice place with charming scenery the whole way, but Pan Zi had been active in this area for many years so he was already used to it. Once in town, we headed straight for the flea market, acting just like those attending a pre-Liberation underground Party gathering.(3) We wandered here and there before arriving at a shop that looked like it had never seen any business. From the outside, the shop looked like it sold old computers, but when we went inside, the back wall was pushed open to reveal a small room. When we walked inside, I immediately realized that there was a small gap between the back of this shop and the one behind it. It was large enough to accommodate two people standing side by side, had a waterproof tarp acting as the roof, and there was a row of shelves standing on either side, displaying newly unearthed grave goods.
Several people were perusing the goods there. The person in charge knew Pan Zi, and when he saw him coming, he put down what he was holding and said to Pan Zi, “You’re just now getting here? The basic equipment is ready. When are you guys planning to leave?”
“Equipment? What do you mean?” Pan Zi paused, looking puzzled.
The man also paused, “You don’t know?”
Pan Zi looked back at me, but I just stared back at him while thinking to myself, this is your territory, why are you looking at me? He then turned to look at the man again and said, “Ready for what?”
“Master Three told me to gather enough equipment for five people,” the man replied. “Aren’t you doing a job? Didn’t you know?”
<Chapter 46><Table of Contents><Chapter 48>
(1) In China, the funeral ceremony traditionally lasts over 49 days — the first seven being the most important. Prayers are said every seven days for 49 days if the family can afford it. It’s believed that seven days after the death of a family member the soul of the departed will return to his/her home. More info here.
(2) Green train (or green-skinned train) refers to a type of design which used to be the mainstay of the passenger railway fleets of China and other communist countries during the Cold War. Traditional ones had few amenities (most notably lacking air conditioning) but some newer trains have been painted green for nostalgic purposes.
(3) Pretty sure he means secret Communist Party meetings when they were driven underground (around 1927) by the Nationalists under Chiang Kai-shek (Jiang Jieshi). History of CCP here.
4 thoughts on “Chapter 47 Pan Zi”
Poor Pan Zi. He’s such a loyal guy, y’know?
And it’s like he can’t manage a full life unless Uncle 3 is giving him a focus. *Uncle 3* is his connection to the world; that’s who he’s stuck with…
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Thank you so much for the chapter and all the references!
Wuxie a Zombie Diplomat!🤣🤣🤣 I just love it
And Pan Zi can’t see no wrong when it’s about Uncle Three
This is getting exciting! I can’t wait for what’s to come: Pangzi and Poker Face, my Iron Triangle having adventures together again… Of course until Poker Face disappears 😅
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I laughed out loud when WX was like “god what is with this year?” – Wu Xie I feel your pain! He comes across as so young and naive in these recent chapters 🥺
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