When I thought about it later, I realized that I mouthed these words in such a serious manner instead of saying them aloud because I was afraid that the ghosts would hear. This made it all too obvious that my nerves had been pushed to their limit. After all, if it had been an ordinary situation, or the pressure had been just a little less, I never would have even entertained the idea.
But given the situation, this state of mind was inevitable. We had spent so much time and gone through so many things to get to this point, only to end up falling into this hopeless situation without any apparent reason. And that wasn’t even mentioning the long road ahead, or the fact that we didn’t know how to get back. This situation was clearly keeping us from thinking properly, especially when it came to those problems that went beyond the scope of anything we could see or imagine.
Thinking about it later, I came up with many different ways we could have gotten out of there. For example, we could have held a compass in our hands and watched how the needle changed direction as we walked through the tomb passage. At the moment we reversed direction, the compass needle would definitely turn. There were other ways, but at that time, except for a few fixed ideas, my mind was completely blank. That was why I ended up turning to the possibility that this was the work of ghosts. I would have usually thought such an idea was funny or absurd, but this time, I actually felt a little creeped out.
Fatty and Shunzi were strongly influenced by the expression on my face and reacted worse than I did—their faces immediately turned pale and they both gulped. “Are you sure?” Fatty mouthed at me. “I tried to tell you guys earlier… What should we do now?”
At that time, I thought that the logical basis for the existence of this tomb passage was untenable, so there was no logical reason for this phenomenon to occur. But if it wasn’t a dream, then it couldn’t escape the shackles of logic. In other words, what we were seeing or hearing now was probably an illusion. It was hard to say what exactly was going on around us, but the only thing I could think of that could make four people experience the same illusion at the same time was an “evil ghost”. This was the only thing that could ignore the rules of logic and trap people in such a way without revealing any flaws.
In this case, “evil ghost” was just a more relatable term used to refer to any type of force that couldn’t be understood, but undoubtedly existed.
But if there really were “ghosts” here, then we were still helpless—we couldn’t see them at all, which meant that we couldn’t deal with them. Even if we cursed at them or used all sorts of methods, it wouldn’t do any good. This had become the kind of situation that I hated the most—we knew that the source of the problem was right next to us, but we didn’t have any way to deal with it.
My way of thinking at that time was still very childish, but there was also the issue of not knowing what kind of force we were dealing with. If it wasn’t sentient, then we had a big problem—the lack of conscious thought meant that any tricks we used would be useless and we’d have confront it head-on. But if it was a ghost, then things should be easy—if it could think, then we could force it out and pressure it to make some mistakes.
When I told the others my thoughts, Fatty insisted that the ghost was one of the corpses in front of us, although he didn’t know which one it was. He said that maybe the person’s soul was still lingering here because they couldn’t let go of their earthly desires, and when they saw that people had suddenly appeared here, they naturally wanted to play a trick on them.
Fatty ruled out Shunzi’s father first, because he hadn’t seen his son for ten years so he naturally wouldn’t want to mess with his son’s life. But that still left five others.
I already felt a little ridiculous at this point, but we had nowhere to go so I figured it was best to try everything. With that in mind, I walked over to the corpses, knelt down in front of them, folded several pieces of paper so that they looked like golden ingots,(1) and then burned them in front of each corpse. While they burned, I kowtowed to the corpses and said, “I am Wu Sanxing’s nephew. I’m in a hurry to find my Uncle Three. I ask that whichever one of you is casting this spell, please accept this paper money and let us go. We really are in a hurry. How about we leave Fatty here to play with you and you can let the others go?”
Fatty became furious as soon as he heard this, but Pan Zi and Shunzi immediately grabbed him and kept him from lunging at me. “Wu Xie, you despicable brat!” Fatty cursed. “I’ll bite you to death!”
After I finished, I looked around but didn’t see any changes to the surrounding environment or the corpses. Realizing that it was useless, I waved at them to let Fatty go. He looked around nervously at first, but once he saw that nothing had changed, he suddenly sneered at me, “You see? The ghost uncle is still fair. He doesn’t like your stinking money.”
“Hmm, maybe he just doesn’t like you,” I countered.
At this time, Shunzi suddenly spoke up from the side, “Wait, maybe we’re wrong about this? I mean, my father’s here. Even if one of them has something against us, my father would definitely help. But since everything we do is useless, maybe these people aren’t the ones messing with us?”
Normally, I would have laughed at such naivety, but now I seriously considered the possibility. After thinking about it, I said to him, “Maybe your father has already left, or there’s more than one evil spirit here, and he can’t beat them. But I also feel that these people aren’t the culprits. They were all adults when they died, and they had a good relationship with my Uncle Three. I don’t think they’re the type to pull pranks like this. That’s usually something a kid would do, but there aren’t any corpses like that here.”
Although I was the one who said it, if it really turned out to be the case, then things would certainly be difficult since we couldn’t see where the ghost was. For all we knew, it might be lying on one of our backs without any of us knowing it. But without being able to see it, there wasn’t anything we could do. I sighed and asked, “Do you guys have any ideas or folk remedies that would help us see ghosts?”
“I heard that you can see ghosts as long as you smear a cow’s tears on your eyes,” Pan Zi said.
Fatty chuckled, “Then we’ll entrust you with the task of finding a cow here.”
I suddenly thought of another method that might work and said to them, “Wait, maybe we don’t need a cow’s tears. But Fatty, you’re going to have to make a sacrifice.”
Fatty immediately became nervous again, “Are you going to kill me and make my soul negotiate with the ghosts? I won’t do it! If you guys kill me, I’ll definitely work with the ghosts to make you guys suffer even more!”
Yet again, this guy managed to come up with another way, but it was so ridiculous that I became furious, “How’d you come up with that idea? I want to use your mojin pendant.”
“What do you plan on doing with it?” Fatty covered his chest with both hands, “This is the real deal. If it breaks, can you afford to compensate me?”
“The mojin pendant is the most powerful thing in the world when it comes to warding off evil spirits. If it was genuine, then how could we have ended up in such a situation? I got a look at it just now and can tell you that it’s definitely a fake,” I said to him. “Hand it over quickly.”
“Fake?” Fatty took it off and looked at it carefully. “Are you sure?”
“Of course I am. This is made from a rhinoceros horn. I specialize in this line of business, so how can I not know? Real mojin pendants made of pangolin bone(2) get darker the longer you wear them. But if you look at yours, it’s already started to turn green. That’s how I know it’s made from a rhinoceros horn. I wouldn’t lie to you.”
“Shit! Talk about unlucky!” Fatty was furious. “That son of a bitch screwed me over again! No wonder it never seemed to work. If I manage to get out of here and don’t destroy his shop, my surname isn’t Wang!”
As I took his mojin pendant from him and said a few comforting words, he asked me how I planned to use it. Would I press it on the corpses’ foreheads?
“Since ancient times,” I started to explain, “there’s been a legend called ‘Spirit Channeling Through a Rhinoceros Horn Light’. Have you heard of it?”
“Isn’t that one of those Hong Kong movies that was released a few years ago?” Fatty asked.
“Something like that. The idea’s the same,” I nodded. “As long as you burn this thing, you can see ghosts in its light. Of course, I haven’t tried it myself, so I don’t know if it works or not.”
I felt ridiculous at that time, but since we had already mentioned using cow’s tears, I figured why not try the rhinoceros horn light? After all, this could be counted as an emergency, and compared to Fatty’s sacrifice idea, at least mine was more feasible. We’d never know if it worked unless we tried.
There was even mention of it in the “History of the Jin Dynasty”(3): “When Jiao was returning to Wuchang, he arrived on the rocky shores of Niuzhu and saw that the water was indescribably deep. It was said that many monsters lurked under the surface, so Jiao lit a rhinoceros horn and cast its light over the river. Almost immediately, he saw a large group of strangely shaped creatures appear in the water. Later that night, a person appeared in his dream and said to him, ‘My Lord, the living and the dead walk their own separate paths. You should not disturb them with your light!’”(4) The general meaning of this was: ancient Chinese burned rhinoceros horns in order to see spirits, demons, and other supernatural forces in the resulting light. Since the wisdom of the ancients was always useful, I figured it might come in handy now.
As I explained all of this to the others, I pulled out my smokeless stove, turned it on, and put the mojin pendant on it. It wouldn’t burn at first, but then we suddenly smelled a strange odor in the air, and a green flame appeared around the pendant, emitting a strange light.
I raised the smokeless stove up to illuminate as many places as possible, and then we all turned our heads to see if there was anything around us that wasn’t there before. I even walked around the tomb chamber, but didn’t see anything.
“Maybe the ghost is hiding far away from us,” Shunzi said.
“No, according to the legends, if it’s a ghost-hitting-a-wall type situation, then the ghost is lying on the person’s back.”
We all checked each other’s backs again, but still didn’t see anything. “Damn it,” Fatty muttered. “I told you that legends aren’t reliable. What a waste of my mojin pendant. And even if it was a fake, it was still a rhinoceros horn. I can’t believe we didn’t see anything even after wasting it like that.”
Pan Zi also felt discouraged, “It seems that this method is also useless. I’m afraid there aren’t any ghosts here. It looks like we’re dealing with a fifth situation here, one that doesn’t fit within the realm of logic, or have any clues or references we can rely on. What should we do now? This time, I’m afraid we’re really screwed.”
I sighed to myself. But just as I was about to speak, Fatty and Pan Zi both suddenly motioned for everyone to remain silent. Feeling my eyelid twitch, I followed Fatty’s gaze up and saw the vague, black shape of a “child” on the ceiling above us.
<Chapter 34><Table of Contents><Chapter 36>
(1) Also called yuanbao or sycee, it was a type of gold and silver ingot currency used in imperial China from its founding under the Qin dynasty until the fall of the Qing in the 20th century. Info here.
(2) Pangolins, sometimes known as scaly anteaters, are scaly-skinned mammals. Pangolins scales are used for spiritual protection, financial rituals, and protection from witchcraft. The bones are used for spiritual protection and protection from witchcraft. The head of a pangolin is used for spiritual protection and financial rituals. More info here.
(3) “History of the Jin Dynasty” (aka “The Book of Jin”) is an official Chinese historical text covering the history of the Jin dynasty from 266 to 420. It was compiled in 648 by a number of officials commissioned by the imperial court of the Tang dynasty, with chancellor Fang Xuanling as the lead editor, drawing mostly from official documents left from earlier archives. It was compiled in 130 scrolls (or volumes), and the excerpt above is from scroll 67, Wen Jiao’s biography.
(4) Sorry, had to wing. Couldn’t figure it out no matter how hard I tried. Phrase is “与君幽明道别，同意相照也！” if anyone wants to take a stab at it.
Wu Xie, why are you so mean to Fatty? I can’t believe you tried to offer him up as a sacrifice to the ghosts (＞＜) Anyways, next update might be closer to Friday/Saturday, or even next Tuesday if I decide to go to the lake for the holiday weekend. We shall see~~
5 thoughts on “Chapter 35 Rhinoceros Horn Light”
They finally discovered the spirit fetus! I’m amazed it took them so many chapters! They’ve really come such a long way!
I know, it’s been so long 😭 I can’t remember but we might see Uncle Three or Poker-face next chapter (at least, I hope so)
Finally they are getting somewhere! (If you go to the lake, have fun!)
🤣🤣🤣🤣 poor Fatty! I can’t believe Wuxie is so mean to him!!
I hope you can go to the lake and enjoy your time, i guess I can wait for next chapter!
“Hmm, maybe he just doesn’t like you.” Exactly, that ghost doesn’t like Fatty but Wu Xie.
And I think maybe the one who sold the fake pendant to Fatty was Jin Wantang.
I think your translation about the story of water ghosts is accurate.
Isn’t their situation similar to when they were stuck in that long dark tunnel that was marked by measurement and Fatty was at rear of the group then they lit that candle? I think that candle was the same type.