My Life as a Tomb Robber - Chapter 3 - Master Meng
Chapter 3: Master Meng
Translator: Xie Ziwei
“I’m back, Uncle! Why such a long face? Look at your dumplings. They look so funny! They’re just as ugly as you are!” Returning to the lobby, he glanced furtively at the cold faces of everyone. So he walked over anxiously and took a jab at Zhao San, trying to find out if he was still angry.
“If you can make dumplings, you do it! The dumpling that I make is called the General Dumpling. Your oldest uncle is always slavering to my General Dumpling every year. How dare you laugh at my General Dumplings! You need to be taught a lesson!”
Zhang Meng took the bait. Immediately, he began to make one and said, “I will make a General Dumpling much better than yours!” But he put too much filling in it and the dumpling leaked. In the end, Zhang Meng had to use three or four pieces of dumpling wrappings to stop the leak. His “General Dumpling” was “better” in a sense that it looked much clumsier than Zhao San’s dumpling.
“Ha-ha! A’Meng, you are clueless! You call that a dumpling?! It’s a brick! Let you eldest uncle taste it and see if he dares to swallow ‘the brick’.”
Zhao San laughed loudly which irritated Zhang Meng. He sneaked a handful of flour into Zhao San’s pipe. After making several dumplings, Zhao San took his pipe and smoked out of habit. Of course, he was almost choked to death by the flour.
“I’ll kill you little bastard!”
The whole kitchen became a huge mess! The dumplings therefore had to wait for a couple more hours. Afterwards, Zhang Meng moved a stool to sit outside Shui Yue Xuan. He looked nervous. Every year, he would wait for his father in front of Shui Yue Xuan. Over the years, the only thing he ever got was disappointment.
It was getting dark. Looking at the lonely Zhang Meng, Zhao San also fell into a sulky mood.
“You have to blame Master Ye. After so many years, is it so hard to come home?” sighed Cripple Chan, shaking his head.
“Well… I’ll stop. Anyway, I’m used to it!” Zhang Meng said to himself. He moved the stool back to his room and cleaned up for a little bit. He was going to take the dumplings to his uncle’s home under an umbrella.
At that moment, a servant hurried in with a weird look and said to Zhang Meng, “Boss! Thank heavens, you haven’t left yet! Just now, someone was sneaking around Shui Yue Xuan, asking for you. I caught him red-handed. When I was about to ask him what he knew, he told me that he had news from your father.”
“What?! He has news from my father? Show him in quickly. And remember: be polite!” said Zhang Meng, anxiously. Cripple Chan, Sick Ghost, and Zhao San stopped working immediately with their eyes gleaming with excitement. After so many years, they’re finally getting news from Master Ye! Is he coming home soon?
The servant came back with a man from the Mainland. Travel-worn and weary, he looked like he had a long journey.
“Who is Zhang Meng?”
“I… I am”, said Zhang Meng nervously.
Wearing an odd expression, the mainlander looked at Zhang Meng with some uncertainty and took out a watch.
“That’s my father’s watch! Why is it here?”
Zhang Meng was shocked, his eyes opened wide. He raised his wrist, revealing his watch which was almost the same as the watch held by the mainlander. Seeing the watch, the mainlander looked relieved and said softly, “I have found you at last. Son, I’m so sorry to inform you that your father had passed away. He entrusted me to bring you this watch.”
“What! My father… died?”
Zhang Meng was stunned. The plate full of dumplings slipped from his hand and splattered all over the ground. The words of the mainlander echoed in his mind, “Your father died…”
He was just waiting for his father at the reunion dinner. Everything was alright a moment ago, and now the death news of his father came.
Zhao San and others were also dismayed, and their feet were rooted in the ground.
With a sad expression, the mainlander took out a box and handed it to Zhang Meng. He apologized again and turned to leave.
“Stop! Tell me everything you know!”
Zhao San turned his wrist and pulled out the knife on the wall. With a swish, he held the knife to the throat of the mainlander. His eyes are fixed on the mainlander like a policeman interrogating a criminal. If that mainlander was telling lies, Zhao San would cut off his head without any hesitation.
The mainlander had no choice but to confess the whole thing, “Five years ago, I met Mr. Zhang. At that time, I was beaten by a group of gangsters and Mr. Zhang rescued me. From then on, Mr. Zhang settled down in my house. Some time ago, Mr. Zhang gave me a letter and a small box, and told me in a vexed manner that if he didn’t come back a week before the Eve of Spring Festival, he might well be dead, and that I need to send these things to the address on the envelop in person. At first, I thought he was just kidding. But two days later, when the police came to me and asked me to claim Mr. Zhang’s body, I knew it was a big deal! Mr. Zhang told me that my responsibility was only to deliver the letter. I didn’t have to mention anything else. But I have to tell you everything as you just have to push me so hard!”
Finally, Zhang Meng came to himself. He realized that the death of his father wasn’t a nightmare. His head spun and all his thoughts were ashen. The man who always carried me on his shoulders and laughed even when I peed on his head –is gone? Last year, he had given them his word, that he would come home and see me again. How things have changed all of a sudden!
Zhang Meng, whose red eyes almost burst out of their sockets, snatched the mainlander by his collar and demanded him to reveal the murderer. He reached for a nearby fork and pointed it against the mainlander’s neck. The fiendish look on Zhang Meng terrified the mainlander.
Zhao San was startled, but he grabbed the fork and held Zhang Meng down immediately. All these years he had never seen Zhang Meng, ever so smooth, lost his temper.
“Meng, stop this right now! He is the best friend of your father. You’re bringing disgrace to your father!”
Zhang Meng struggled fiercely, growling like a beast. He was losing his mind.
“I’m so sorry! I am just a teacher, so I can’t ship the body to Hong Kong. I took some photos for you to help you remember him.”
That middle-aged teacher left some photos in which the body of Zhang Shaoye lay peacefully on a white bed. As soon as Zhang Meng saw these pictures, he broke down and cried and crumbled to the ground.
“My friend, you did us a great favor. I have to say thank you on behalf of Master Ye. Take him to the accounting room and gift him 50,000 yuan as travelling expenses.” Cripple Chan bowed deeply to the teacher before he turned to Zhang Meng.
With a bitter face the teacher looked at Zhang Meng who was crying heart-wrenchingly. He wiped the tears away from his eyes and sighed and went quietly out of Shui Yue Xuan.
Zhang Meng didn’t know how long he cried. He only knew that he lost his voice because of crying. Now he felt an empty spot in his heart where his father used to live. He was the most important person in Zhang Meng’s life. His life is fading, and he became a walking dead.
“Don’t be so sad, Meng. Master Ye is a master tomb robber. A common tomb can never trap your father. So I suspect that your father was stabbed in the back! Now, the most important thing is to investigate why and how your father died.” Zhao San said softly. He knew that only finding the murderer could bring Zhang Meng back to life.
Sure enough, after hearing the word “murderer”, Zhang Meng’s eyes lit up again. He struggled to open that small box left by his father. He found a tiger talisman made of white jade and a letter. [A tiger talisman is issued to generals as an imperial authorization for troop movement in ancient China].
“Meng, can you figure out the age of this talisman? Since it was left by your father before he died, it must have something to do with whatever he was involved in!”
The three of them cast their eyes to Zhang Meng, hoping that he can tell them something about the talisman. Zhang Meng loved reading and studying history and had natural eyes for antiques and burial objects. He was, without a doubt, the best person to evaluate these objects.