Half a month before, Li Mazi’s uncle found a strange item, and he changed since then.
Huanghuai Village was poor because the soil was quite barren. No matter what they planted and how they tried to fertilize, nothing worked. The villagers were helpless. In the end, they could only exploit the area close to the graveyard.
The soil around the graveyard was fertile. Although it was a strange and somewhat scary place, it seemed to be safe enough as long as they went to take care of their plants during the day time.
One afternoon roughly two weeks back, Li Mazi’s uncle went to the graveyard and started using his hoe to prepare the soil. He hit something hard while working. At first, he didn’t pay attention as he thought it was just a rock. However, he found something strange as he dug further. That thing wasn’t a rock, but something metallic as his hoe created a clanging sound when he struck down. This time, it did catch his attention.
Li Mazi’s second uncle liked watching TV shows, and he often saw how people unearthed treasures, going from rags to riches overnight. He thought that his great fortune had finally arrived. Emboldened by this thought, he dug up that thing with redoubled effort.
However, the item later turned out to be a rusty copper pot.
He was so angry that he almost hacked the copper pot to pieces. He had wasted so much time on a useless item, and anyone would feel uncomfortable after such a discovery.
However, it would be a pity if he damaged it. He thought for a while and decided to take it home, with the plan of using it as his own chamber pot. In the countryside, villagers didn’t like to go out to pee when they woke up at night. This pot could be quite the handy addition to his house.
Li Mazi’s uncle took the copper pot home. However, he began acting oddly not long after, and he contracted this strange disease that compelled him to eat soil unconsciously.
I was bewildered after learning about the real situation. What’s wrong with these people? They didn’t even know the origin of the pot and dared to use it to pee?
By then, I could easily conclude that the copper pot had to be an otherworldly item. Li Mazi’s uncle had peed on it, so it was understandable that the item was angry. Now, I needed to know more about the pot’s origin before considering solutions.
I turned around and was ready to leave when Li Mazi stopped me. “Where are you going?”
Fuming, I replied, “I’m going back to get some sleep.”
Li Mazi didn’t understand the situation, and he wasn’t satisfied with my answer, so he dashed forward to grab my arm. “Didn’t you tell me to dig up this grave?”
“You can dig it if you have nothing to do and you’re bored.”
Li Mazi finally understood that I was playing tricks on him. He was angry, but he knew he had to rely on me. That was why he held it in and kept fawning over me.
I burst out laughing.
When we returned to his uncle’s place, Li Mazi asked his cousin to arrange a room for us so that we could rest. I thought that we would have separate beds, but then, I knew that would be asking too much. There was only one spare bed in this house. Li Mazi and I had to make the best of a cramped bed.
When we settled on the bed, Li Mazi began to throw his questions. “When will you help my second uncle?”
In the end, he even asked me, “How should we divide the loot?”
This thick-faced fellow now wanted a share of the money. I immediately shot him a disdainful glance.
After talking for a while, we drifted into sleep since we were quite tired.
It was almost night time when we woke up. Er Dan called us out for dinner.
While we ate, I noticed another issue. Why are there no women in this family?
I asked Er Dan about it. He gave me a simple answer. “My wife took my daughter to her parents’ place. Since strange things were happening, I was afraid it would affect the kid.”
I also noticed that he answered me while looking at Li Mazi’s face, as if asking him to play along. Li Mazi winked at him. I felt that something strange was taking place, which made me put up my guard.
I had a strange thought at this moment. Does Li Mazi want to harm me somehow?
It was a fleeting thought, which I immediately erased. Although Li Mazi was a greedy person, he wouldn’t do anything directly or indirectly harmful to people. He had a nasty personality, but he didn’t have enough courage. Even if he were given a knife, he wouldn’t kill anyone as he simply didn’t have the guts.
After dinner, Li Mazi couldn’t wait any longer. He hurriedly asked me about what to do next. Actually, I did already have a plan, as this case wasn’t difficult to solve. If nothing unexpected happened, I guessed we could easily finish it tonight.
“First, you need to take out that copper pot.”
However, Li Mazi made an awkward face. Later, I learned that since the family thought the copper pot would bring them bad luck, they had thrown it straight into the river. It happened on the third day after Li Mazi’s uncle had an incident.
I thought I had misheard them. They threw it into the river? Why did they invite me to solve this in the first place?
I shook my head and told Er Dan to prepare for his father’s funeral.
When they heard the word ‘funeral,’ Er Dan became anxious. He cried and hugged my legs as he knelt in front of me. “Please save my father!”
“Little Brother Zhang, you also saw that my second uncle is a poor man. You can’t just stand and do nothing while he dies. I remember we have a method called ‘place a substitute by subterfuge.’
“I think it’ll not be a big deal to you with your skills. Please, I’m begging you. For the sake of our friendship, save my second uncle,” Li Mazi also begged me.
One was firmly grabbing onto my right leg, while the other clung onto my left leg. Even if I wanted to run away, I couldn’t.
The ‘place a substitute by subterfuge’ Li Mazi had mentioned wasn’t a trick of otherworldly merchants but one belonging to tomb raiders.
When the tomb robbers raided some big tombs, there were things on the tomb owner’s body that they shouldn’t take. For example, the night pearl in the mouth, the mind-calming jade on the neck, or the anus sealing plug. The corpse would become a zombie if they took those things. That was why their ancestors had invented a technique called ‘place a substitute by subterfuge.’
The trick was to use ordinary items to replace the precious ones and deceive the dead. However, this technique was extremely complicated, and I only knew of it from the books my grandpa had left me. I didn’t know the detailed steps, so how could I use it to save someone?
But they were hugging my legs and begging me. My heart would not be at ease if I didn’t help them.
I was a soft-hearted man, so I could only grit my teeth.
“Let me tell you that this is my first time using this method. If something unexpected happens, don’t blame it on me.”
Li Mazi nodded repeatedly. “What should we do next?”
I was also unsure. The usual method, with the otherworldly item present, would be to wait for Li Mazi’s uncle’s sickness to flare up. Then, we would need to follow him to deal with the evil soul inside the otherworldly item.
But it would be more complicated at the moment. It was my first time trying to ‘place a substitute by subterfuge.’ I could only rely on my memory to remember the steps.
I asked Er Dan to get a clay pot. This type of item wasn’t rare in the countryside, and he could get one easily. Then, I made a list of herbs that Li Mazi would have to buy at a traditional Chinese herbal pharmacy. They were all the herbs that could subdue Yin energy.
Aside from that, I still needed a bottle of black dog blood. Black dogs were the nemeses of evil spirits. If we had some black dog blood with us, even if our plan failed, the evil soul would not harm us.
Li Mazi said it wasn’t a problem because his uncle had a big black dog in the house. However, Er Dan was hesitant. “We can’t kill the dog. It’s been with us for almost ten years. It’s a member of this family.”
I was somewhat at a loss for words. I could only ask him to look around the village and buy another black dog. It wasn’t easy to extract the blood, and Er Dan started to struggle with the animal in an attempt to bleed it out.
If I hadn’t discovered them in time, who knew how much time they would have wasted. I stopped them and asked Li Mazi to knock the dog out. After that, we extracted the blood easily.
We had finally gathered all the items. Now, we needed to wait until after midnight. It was going to be a long wait.
Li Mazi and I were all right since we had a nice nap in the afternoon, but Er Dan was exhausted. I asked him to go to bed.
As such, only Li Mazi and I were left to guard the door.Previous Chapter Next Chapter