Chapter 13: The Mysterious Corpse
My damp fingers were covered in dirty yellow soil…
Within the messily excavated mud was a small wooden plaything…
It was a uncommon drum-shaped rattle with four drums layered atop each other. When one rotated the drum handle, their sounds would alternate between high and low notes, producing a resonant, pleasing tone for the ears.
I didn’t know why, but tears started streaming down my face. My head bowed, and I hurriedly dug the object out. In my memory, there was another object as well. As it turned out, there was a diabolo buried nearby. I picked it up between my fingers, only to find that it was already broken.
I remembered it was called a diabolo, but its other name was a dou weng. Originally, one would use a length of twine held between two bamboo rods to move along its wooden axle, where rotating it at high speeds would start create a humming noise.
These were all children’s toys.
When I was a beggar, I didn’t even have enough food to eat, much less chances to play with these things… I cradled them in my hands and gently touched the pieces. Why did they feel so familiar?
These tactile impressions, along with the patterns in the wood, all seemed to be carved deeply in my memory as if I’d forgotten something along the way. Something very important to me.
But what was it…?
I mused for a while before lifting my head. It was then I saw Han Zichuan looking off at one point, his face completely white. It seemed like something had scared him out of his wits.
I hurriedly reburied the little toys and stood up, walking to his side. My sleeves billowed out as I prepared to push him aside. “What’s up with you? Why did you yell earlier?”
He was seized with terror as he looked at me, before forcefully grabbing me with enough strength to dig into my skin. I was mystified, and my eyes involuntarily drifted to somewhere behind his shoulders…
In a panic, he used his other hand to block my eyes.
“Brother Shao, don’t look.”
Tch, what was it I couldn’t look at…not a dead person, right? I roughly pushed him aside, and as it turned out…I guessed right. Not just dead, but a skeleton. It leaned against the tomb of yellow earth, as if nestling up to its side. The material of its clothes were very high-quality, so much that a portion of it still looked undisturbed by natural decay. I was astonished.
The two of us stood blankly for a while.
“How long do you think it’s been here?” Han Zichuan asked softly.
“I don’t know,” I shook my head.
Maybe it’d existed since forever.
My younger self who had followed Fang Hua didn’t have the skills to descend into the valley, so I never got to see this…
“Looks like someone frequently comes around to tidy up this grave,” Han Zichuan spoke, glancing around with his ashen face. His eyes eventually returned to rest on the skeleton, and he was quiet for a long while before he spoke again. “It seems like this dead person really loved this grave, so why didn’t the tidy-up person up bury them together?”
This would have to be a question for Fang Hua. I really wanted to know the answer too…
I muttered to myself for a while, gradually circling half a circle around the corpse. The more I looked, the more suspicious I felt. With a deep breath, I knelt down and reached over with my hand–before someone clapped my shoulder.
“Hey…Brother Shao, what are you doing? It’s really disrespectful to disturb someone’s eternal rest.”
“What are you blabbing about? Come and help me!” I raised my voice, but the noise just made him roll his eyes.
What did he know?
For a questionable person to die in the wilderness, there was a chance it had some rare martial arts manuals or secret papers hidden on its person. No doubt, just by looking at its posture…
Although it was half embracing the grave mound, one of its hands was hidden beneath its body as if trying to extricate something out from its robes. Energized, I pulled up my sleeves and reached inside its clothing.
Han Zichuan trembled as he wobbled over, grabbing me beneath the armpits as he prepared to drag me away. “Please don’t be offended, Brother Ghost, please don’t be offended…Brother Shao is still young, he hasn’t learned how to act sensibly yet.”
As it turned out, retribution arrived.
In the middle of desperate struggling with each other, our combined forces sent me falling backwards. My hand groped uselessly at the air before pulling out a length of cloth from the corpse’s robes…
Han Zichuan and I were both shocked.
— [Most up to date translations for this series can be found on volaretranslations.]
A poor quality piece of cloth that looked like it was made from burlap and felt like sheepskin to the touch…
Although much time had passed, it still radiated a strong stench, and upon looking at it closely, I noticed it had a giant bloodstain. There were also rows and rows of written words that had an energetic personality, the strokes bold and strong. Even against the dark backdrop, it was possible to see their approximate outlines.
I was suddenly attacked by an indescribable feeling of sadness. My hand started trembling as if it’d lost the strength to hold on, and the words on the cloth started shaking even harder in response.
‘When those days ended, I felt disconsolate and empty over the fact that we couldn’t meet. The happy times of then are now as distant as the divide between Heaven and Man. Early on, a thousand li already existed to keep us separate. I was the one who didn’t treat you well enough back then. Now I’ll use my own life to make it up to you. I just hope that after you return from the grave, you can look after that child. This way, even if I die…I will be content.’
My eyes stared transfixed on a single point. The message had no sender or recipient, but was tagged with five characters: Final Words Gifted to Fang Hua.
I took a deep breath.
Stay calm… I told myself before looking again. The words were still there as before, puzzling me for a long while. Then I quickly hide them in my robes, my hands quivering the entire time. My heart was pounding furiously from the shock, as if it wanted to jump out of my throat.
“Brother Shao, what’s wrong?” Han Zichuan placed a hand on my shoulder, his face looking at me in deep concern.
But I was silent.
With extreme reluctance, I managed a smile.
“What kind of expression is that? It’s even more ghastly than a crying one. What was written on that cloth…let me see.” He reached out a hand, the other wrapping around my waist to support me.
I shook my head, but my feet lost their strength and I sank to the ground. Then I simply hugged my legs and closed my eyes. Still, it couldn’t stop the stream of memories from flowing like water, or my body from shuddering uncontrollably.
I remember that night when Fang Hua told me, “Someone I used to know very well once fell in love with a person unable to return his feelings.”
“The person he loved already had a wife, but he was still drawn to that person like a moth to a flame. The second half of his life was spent in grief so heavy that he wished he were dead. His eventual death was miserable, and he was buried far from humans, surrounded by nothing but flowers as he sank into an eternal sleep.”
Under the moonlight, he had smiled a smile cold enough to chill the liver.
“I just don’t understand… …the mortals all say that the Fang Hua Beast is an animal capable of feelings, but they can never obtain their heart’s desire.”
I thought I’d forgotten these words, but now they appeared in my mind clearer than ever. At that time I thought, that was only someone he used to know well, but why does he look so grieved?
As it turned out, I was wrong.
‘That’ person’s story might have been Fang Hua’s own.
The bones nestled next to the tomb must have been that ungrateful, heartless person.
Maybe not all of the Fang Hua Beasts in this world were named ‘Fang Hua’, but I knew…my yifu’s name was Fang Zi Hua. The corpse before me now was someone who died for him.
The cloth was something it’d left behind for him.
I just didn’t understand why this person wrote, ‘after you return from the grave, you can look after that child…’
Just who used to be buried in this tomb…?
And another thing.
I anxiously walked around again, squatting down before furiously starting to dig. I didn’t even bother dusting off the dirt staining my robes, or the tiny bits of sandy soil stuck between my fingernails, even though it was quite painful.
“Have you gone crazy?!” Someone grabbed my hands, then lifted my head. I saw Han Zichuan’s knitted eyebrows, and felt a little sad.
“What are you doing?!”
“Don’t get in my way…”
Something had been trying to emerge from the depths of my mind. But after he interrupted, it was shaken, and turned back into a blank space. I only stared dumbly at the toys in the dirt as if dazed.
Why was it that little piece of red wood was already long gone?
“Brother Shao, I know it’s not good for me to say such things now,” Han Zichuan carefully took a breath, holding his robes as he knelt by my side. “If we disturb someone’s rest like this, we’ll gain retribution.”
I looked at him as if he was an idiot. He squeezed my hand before letting it go, a warm smile in his eyes. After carefully observing me, he added on another line. “Fang Hua’s almost home. We should leave.”
His determined tone dragged me back to reality.
— [Most up to date translations for this series can be found on volaretranslations.]
If Fang Hua knew I came here…he’d definitely punish me. In a flash, I’d gotten to my feet, my body unsteady. Han Zichuan scooped me over with a smile, and patted me lightly on the back. “Brother Shao, your body’s really skinny, I can hold onto you with just one arm.”
I stood stunned, unable to react. His hand felt the side of my body again. With a surprised noise, he leaned over to sniff the space around my head before smilingly pointing with a finger. “Your scent has the same fragrant aroma as the grave mound.”
What a ‘nice guy’…
You rogue, it’s you who smells like a grave mound! I rolled my eyes and looked over, pointing behind his back. He cluelessly followed my gaze and I took the chance to kick him with all my strength, the action quick and clean. Then I shook out my sleeves and started walking away.
He followed behind me with a bitter expression on his face, tripping and stumbling along, his limp more pronounced than before.
When we got home, it was already dark.
Fang Hua sat in the courtyard, sipping from a cup of tea. Occasionally he’d raise his head to glance at us, but he didn’t say a word. I felt both awkward and uncomfortable.
I grabbed a pair of chopsticks and sat at the table, ducking my head as I filled my bowl without a peep. Han Zichuan hobbled halfway around the table, unsure of where to sit.
“Zichuan, what happened to your leg?” Fang Hua lowered his head, shifting the lid of his teacup as he sipped. “Where did you two go?”
The air suddenly turned cold.
-o- [Most up to date translations for this series can be found on volaretranslations.]drum-shaped rattle (???) ?bo lang gu, or “wave-shaking drum”, a small toy for kids. You place the handle between your palms and rub them against each other to rotate the drum, causing the ends of the ‘drumsticks’ to hit its surface. Can get pretty loud and annoying if you give it to toddlers. ; A ; Check out the den-den daiko in the link here too, it’s basically the same thing. diabolo (??) ?kong zhu, more commonly known as a Chinese yo-yo. dou weng (??) ?or “trembling drone/buzz/hum”, another name for the Chinese yo-yo based on the noise it makes when it’s in motion. that child (???) ?wu hai er, in which ?? is child, and ? is a really…tricky pronoun. It could mean both I/me or we/us. Without proper context, I can’t tell if the letter from the corpse is saying “take care of my child” or “take care of our child”. Neither can Shao’er I bet, so I made a compromise with the translation.😉 Final Words (??) ?jue bi, not just any ‘final words,’ but specifically “last words written before one’s death,” also known as the “last work of an author or painter.” Fang Zi Hua (???) ?looks like we got yifu’s full name, and Fang Hua was his preferred name/nickname/etc. Zi means “word, character”. Zi Hua together could mean “splendid words/characters.”