My Life as a Tomb Robber - Chapter 4 - The Last Letter
Chapter 4: The Last Letter
Translator: Xie Ziwei
Zhang Meng touched the tiger talisman in silence. Usually, the tiger talisman was made of bronze or gold in the shape of a crouching tiger. Used as Commander’s Seal, it was split in two from the center, one for the general and the other for the emperor. In ancient China, the troops of a country would obey the order only if the two separate parts fit together correctly.
Strangely enough, this tiger talisman was made of jade. The crouching white tiger was so vivid that the pattern on its forehead was carved clearly. If it was zoomed up a hundred times, the white tiger was just like the real one. Judging from exquisite sculpture skills, Zhang Meng guessed that this jade talisman must be made in the Chinese Western Han Dynasty.
It was not until the Western Han Dynasty that the first gold and jade burial suit came to exist, which, in the shape of the real body, was used to wrap up corpse, covering every part of the body, even the fingers and the toes. This jade talisman was probably made in the same period of the jade burial suit, because the skill and technique of making this kind of jade suit was quite demanding in the same way of the jade talisman. Apart from that, the tomb that his father had robbed before he died was probably from the same period of time. However, he had never seen this kind of jade before.
Listening to Zhang Meng’s analysis, all the other three nodded in agreement. Although Zhang Meng did not say much about that, their eyes flashed with shock. He had a good eye on antiques, which was in no way inferior to that of several masters in Zhang Family.
At that time, Zhang Meng couldn’t wait to read that letter. “Zhang Meng, probably I will have been dead when you read this letter. Don’t be sad. Do you remember my words? Sadness is only for the coward. What you should do is to follow my clue and reveal the secret. You are a good son. But I am not a good father. I failed to take care of our family and you. I hope you don’t blame me.”
“I’m so tired after years of travelling and working. Death means a long holiday for me. Finally, I can close my eyes peacefully. Son, listen, you have to leave our family and find the answer. For me, this is redemption. Your uncles and I committed too many sins. It’s not fair to ask Zhang’s offspring to pay our debts. No! Never! I will never let Zhang’s reputation die with me! You must remove the curse of Three Yin Ghost Pulse.
“I thought that the truth was rightly before my eyes. I almost get close to it…”
“Unfortunately, it’s only my wishful thinking! The Demonic Shrine of Marquis Wu… It is the Demonic Shrine of Marquis Wu…”
This was the end of the letter. On the back of the letter was full of strange symbols or some codes through which the secret was hidden.
Zhang Meng read his father’s last letter for several times, shedding tears quietly. But he still didn’t understand what on earth his father wanted to tell him by such an obscure letter.
Other people like Zhao San listened and watched Zhang Meng in silence with mixed feelings, who had traveled through China doing antique business with four brothers of Zhang family as their favored partners in their early years. At that time, Zhang family business merged almost all the small antique retailers in bazaars located in old Beijing, which pushed Zhang family business at its zenith. For the death of Zhang Shaoye, the fourth brother of Zhang Family, they felt sad in the same way as Zhang Meng, because they had long treated each other like family.
As soon as they heard the name of the Demonic Shrine of Marquis Wu, their face instantly wore the expression of terror.
Zhao San couldn’t help snapping his pipe in half when he heard the horrifying name of that demonic shrine. The splintering sound of the pipe brought Zhang Meng back to life. Seeing Zhao San’s pale face and the unnatural facial expression of Cripple Chen and Sick Ghost, Zhang Meng guessed that there was something wrong with that.
The thought that “They must know something!” came to his mind immediately.
Suddenly, Zhang Meng realized something and questioned loudly, “Uncle! Tell me the secret about the whole thing!”
“Zhang Meng, forget it. This is no trivial matter. Let’s hurry to tell your elder uncle about that! If he wants to tell you, he will.”
Holding an umbrella, Zhang Meng rushed out through the blowing snow. At that time, Zhang Meng was eager to know what all this was about. Then Zhao San and the other two looked at each other and exchanged wry smiles, following close at his heels with a few plates of dumplings.
When Zhang Meng and others got to the house of Zhang Family, there had been forty or fifty people in the hall. Actually, all the upper-class people were on the list of invitation – gentlemen, entrepreneurs, and even confidants of the governor of Hong Kong. The reunion dinner of the Spring Festival in Zhang Family was just like the party for the upper-class people in Hong Kong, which reflected a terribly amazing social relation. No wonder Zhang’s Family could still be the dominant merchant force in Hong Kong, even though they had parted from a great leader of the communist party in mainland China.
Seeing Zhang Meng, people in the hall stood up and held up their glasses to show their respect to him one after another. However anxious he might be at that time, Zhang Meng couldn’t afford to offend those guests, for all of them were important friends of Zhang Family; therefore, he drank a toast to those guests one by one. Crispy red-faced and light-headed, Zhang Meng had already been drunk after almost half bottle of wine when he went up to Zhang Shaohong.
“You are late! Zhang Meng, Zhao San, take your seat quickly!” Zhang Shaohong said softly with a stern face. Actually, according to Zhang Meng’s memory, his elder uncle, though very rigorous and serious, always pushed him to study and took care of him very carefully. He was also the clan chief of Zhang Family then. At the table, two gentlemen sitting on the left side and the right side of Zhang Shaohong bore some resemblance of him. They were Zhang Shaotu, the second uncle of Zhang Meng, and Zhang Shaoba, his third uncle.
Zhang Meng couldn’t stand any longer. With his eyes reddening out of weeping, he whispered to his elder uncle about his father’s death. Hearing the news, Zhang Shaohong was so shocked that he felt his body frozen at that moment. With a glimmer of sadness in his eyes, he held back his emotion. Meanwhile, Zhang Shaotu and Zhang Shaoba also heard about the news from Zhang Meng, and their eyes turned red immediately because of sadness. If there were not so many celebrities, they would have jumped up.
Although everyone was in silence, their slightly shaking shoulders revealed their great curiousness and enthusiasm towards things that happened in Zhang Family. Some sensitive people had already felt the change of the atmosphere. Even in such a short period of time, some guests had already gossiped about that.
“Something must have happened in Zhang Family. I guess Zhang Shaoye is in trouble in mainland China!”
“Those four brothers in Zhang Family are all tough guys! I’m afraid that the death of Zhang Shaoye will bring a catastrophe!”
Suddenly, Zhang Shaohong walked on the stage, silencing the gossip of those guests, and no one dared to interrupt his speech. He said, “Ladies and gentlemen, let’s enjoy our dinner together or the dumpling will turn cold. I feel happy today… because… because my brother has come back home…I feel happy indeed.”
Returning to his seat, Zhang Shaohong looked at Zhang Meng. “Sit down…” he said in a peaceful but firm tone which was more likely to make his order irresistible and brought Zhang Meng a feeling of awe. These words made Zhang Meng calm down a lot, like a basket of ice water pouring down on his head. He knew clearly that he would never get an answer from a man like Zhang Shaohong.
“Stop crying! Be happy…Shaoye has come back home! We can have a reunion dinner together this year… Zhang Meng, fill the bowl for your father!” Zhang Shaohong said with peace. His words revitalized the dinner, and everyone sitting at the table was no longer quiet. Picking up several dumplings, Zhao San intended to say something, but he didn’t know where to start. Till then, this dinner was the hardest to bear for Zhang Meng, where he remembered nothing but the figure of his father. The man, who had taken care of him since he was a little boy, died for no reason.
Within half an hour, those guests started to leave. They soon perceived that there must be some misfortune in Zhang Family. Besides, they were smart enough to know that it was disturbing to stay here any longer.
When every guest had left, Zhang Shaohong said with a low voice, “Zhang Meng, read the letter.”
Zhang Meng handed over the letter to Zhang Shaotu and he read it softly.
Hearing the name of the Demonic Shrine of Marquis Wu, Zhang Shaotu was so terrified that, with his hands shivering, he couldn’t read it anymore.
“How come Shaoye investigated the Demonic Shrine again? Didn’t we tell him not to do that anymore?! He must be mad!”
Zhang Shaohong thumped on the table furiously, which shocked Zhang Meng deeply. Taking care of Zhang Family for so many years, Zhang Shaohong always came over as unpredictable and enigmatic. It seemed that nothing could disturb him. Zhang Meng thought there must be something hidden behind that.