Since we were exhausted, we fell asleep the moment we crawled into bed.
However, before dawn, I heard Er Dan cry from the room next to ours. “Dad! Dad, what happened to you?”
I wanted to ask Li Mazi to go there and check, but he was sleeping like a dead pig. I had to get up and check out the situation myself. I put on some clothes and went to the room next door.
What I saw made me shudder. Li Mazi’s second uncle was lying on his bed, and his face was as white as a sheet of paper. His eyes had rolled to the back of his head, and his mouth was stuffed with yellowish-brown mud and soil.
Er Dan was crying loudly, and his voice was almost gone from crying so much. I wanted to ask him what had happened, but before I could ask, he stormed toward me and tried to strangle me with his muscular arms.
I wanted to get rid of him, but Er Dan was a farmer with exceptional strength. How could a city boy like me compete with him? My face turned red. I couldn’t breathe and was afraid that I was going to die.
I wanted to scream for help, but I couldn’t even do that. Right when I thought I was finished, Li Mazi came in and kicked Er Dan away. I seized the chance and gasped for my breath.
“Cousin, have you gone mad? Don’t you know that you could have killed him? Little Brother Zhang, are you okay?” Li Mazi hurried to support me up.
When Er Dan saw Li Mazi, he returned to his senses. He still wanted to assault me, but Li Mazi stopped him.
“Li Mazi, move aside. I have to kill this guy. If it weren’t for him, my father wouldn’t have died! It’s him! It’s all because of him! I don’t care. He must pay for my father’s life!” thundered Er Dan. If looks could kill, he could have killed me a hundred times already.
“What did you say? Uncle is gone?” Li Mazi hadn’t predicted this outcome and was stunned.
From Li Mazi’s eyes, I knew that he was also angry, but he was saner than Er Dan. He knew it was the otherworldly item that had killed his second uncle, not me. However, the death of his second uncle was somehow related to me.
“Did our ‘place the substitute by subterfuge’ fail?” asked Li Mazi.
I shook my head because I didn’t know. It was the first time I had used this technique, but according to the description in my grandpa’s journal, it had worked. Thus, the problem didn’t come from me.
I carefully recalled the details, and I found that every time I mentioned the otherworldly item, both Li Mazi and Er Dan gave me unclear answers. That was suspicious.
I immediately asked, “Did you hide something from me? Or, to be exact, could it be that the otherworldly item wasn’t thrown away?”
When I said that, Li Mazi and Er Dan changed their expressions as if they were busted. They looked flustered for a moment, but they quickly got a hold of themselves.
Still, I had caught onto this tiny change.
This matter wasn't as simple as I had thought. One could even say that Li Mazi and Er Dan had indirectly killed the poor old man.
“Why aren’t you talking? Are you both mute? I’ve asked you a question! Someone has died, and if that otherworldly item chooses you as the next target, don’t ask me for help,” I fumed.
They asked for my help, but they didn’t even tell me the whole truth. And now that someone has died, they want to blame me for his death! Do they think that I’m stupid?!
Li Mazi knew he couldn’t hide it anymore. “Sigh! It was me. If I wasn’t so greedy, my second uncle wouldn’t have died. It was my fault.”
Then, he slapped himself three times really hard, breaking the silence in the room. Er Dan grabbed Li Mazi’s hands, making him stop.
A trickle of blood oozed from the corner of Li Mazi’s mouth. It seemed he had hit himself pretty hard.
“Li Mazi, it was me. It was my greed that harmed my father,” cried Er Dan.
I was dumbstruck. What’s going on?
I wasn’t in the mood to watch them cry, so I thundered, “Stop crying and tell me the truth. Li Mazi, you first!”
Li Mazi pondered for a while before telling me the story from start to finish. It turned out that they didn’t fabricate much of the story. His second uncle did unearth a bronze pot in the field, and he had used it as a chamber pot, starting to eat soil soon after. The only difference was that they didn’t throw the pot away.
At first, they thought of doing that as it was an unlucky item. But that day, Li Mazi came back from abroad and took his uncle to the hospital, catching Er Dan before he had a chance to throw the pot away.
Li Mazi had keen eyes, and he knew that the pot was an antique. He bragged about the possibility of curing his second uncle and selling the copper pot for a good price. If they did that, Er Dan could receive some benefits from the transaction.
Er Dan was a naïve man. He thought that he could save his father and earn some money, so he had quickly agreed with Li Mazi.
Now the problem was the otherworldly item itself. If it was at home, I would take it with me after saving his uncle, so Li Mazi decided to ask Er Dan’s wife to bring the copper pot to her parents’ house. Since women had stronger Yin energy, the otherworldly item wouldn’t attack her. She wouldn’t be the next target.
Because of these hidden details, the worst thing had happened.
I immediately understood why Li Mazi found it hard to answer my questions and why there was no woman in this house. They were deceiving me from the start.
Li Mazi, if I don’t rip you off for good, then I won’t bear the name Zhang!
I said, “If you want me to help, it’s possible. However, we need to talk about the fee. Not only will I take the otherworldly item, Li Mazi, I must also make you bleed!”
If I didn’t consider my years of friendship with Li Mazi, I would have left already and washed my hands of this case. Moreover, this otherworldly item was among the three types that should not be collected since it was an item that could kill people directly.
However, I was helpless in this situation. Looking at Li Mazi and Er Dan, my conscience didn’t allow me to leave. I could only rip them off and then help them.
“I don’t need the otherworldly item, and I will give you one hundred thousand renminbi from my savings. Little Brother Zhang, you must help us!” shouted Li Mazi.
“If you don’t think that’s enough, I’ll sell this house and pay you with cash. Please, please save my family!” Er Dan knelt in front of me and gave me three kowtows, banging his head loudly on the ground.
I didn’t want to see that, so I hurried to stop him.
“All right, I will help you. Also, I won’t take your home,” I said.
After all, it wasn’t worth much money.
Li Mazi knew my anger had subsided. He asked, “What should we do now?”
I shot him a fierce look. “You should buy a coffin for your second uncle. His corpse looks too scary, and we can’t leave him in the open. However, you will have to wait for a few days before burying him. If you bury him now, the other villagers will become suspicious. The weather is cold, so nothing will happen even if we wait a few days. However, Er Dan, you must be careful and should put the coffin in a well-locked room. We don’t want to let any cats or other animals come in. We don’t want any more trouble.”Previous Chapter Next Chapter