Chapter 9: The Strange Insect Sculptures in the Wooden Box
Translator:EndlessFantasy TranslationEditor:EndlessFantasy Translation
There were a few pieces of frozen beef in the freezer. Zhang Lisheng tossed them into the rough porcelain pot without defrosting them. He then added cold water, condiments, and herbs, then cooked them on the stove over a big fire.
He turned down the intensity of the fire when the beef was 70 to 80% cooked. When the time was right, he added a brown herbal juice that he made himself to the mixture and continued boiling the concoction until the meat was all mushy. The ultimate nourishing herbal stew was ready.
The pot of herbal stew was different from regular ones. There was no pungent smell when one sniffed it. It did not taste like anything special on the first sip, but a couple of sips later, there would be a magical satisfying feeling. The body would become warm and comfortable.
Zhang Lisheng let out a long sigh of relief after finishing the entire pot of stew with big gulps together with the beef and soup. He wiped his mouth clean and washed his face with the well water. He then walked into the room on the side of the old house and laid on the rough, sturdy wooden bed before falling fast asleep.
After over ten hours of sleep, he woke up the next morning. There was already somebody shouting outside of the door before he even woke up, Mountain Worm, Mountain Worm, This is your Uncle Ah Lie. Open the door quick.
Zhang Lisheng immediately put on a pair of pants and a jacket as he shouted, Uncle Ah Lie, please wait. Ill open a door in a minute. He then walked to the heavy, old wooden door with large strides, removed the latches, and opened the door.
It was Tao Lielin who was standing outside of the door. Seeing Zhang Lisheng in his messy clothes, he said in surprise, What are you doing?
Today is the day to bring your father home, why arent you awake at such an hour?
In the Miaowei peoples customs, people who died in a foreign land would have to stay at the place where they died for 48 hours, which was two days and two nights before their family members could bring them back home for burial.
Zhang Lisheng just recalled that today was the day to head to county town to bring his father home. He then ran into the side room in the old house clumsily. Uncle Ah Lie, I was a bit disorganized these two days. I-Ill put on clothes properly now.
Its not your fault. Sigh, even adults would have their minds all messed up if something big like this happened at home.
Its not that I want to rush you, but apart from bringing your father back today, well have to meet the driver who caused the accident, the traffic officer, and the insurance company agent. We wont have enough time if we dont rush. Tao Lielin was about to step into the old houses courtyard as he spoke to him. However, just as he lifted his foot, he felt a chill come out of nowhere. His body shivered. He thought about it and put down his foot again as he gulped.
Since a couple of hundreds of years ago when Guawo Village was still Miao Village, hardly anyone dared to enter the Zhang familys door alone, which had existed for generations.
The ancient customs of Western Sichuan was barbaric with many myths of monsters and demons. When the aboriginal mountain people brought their dead family member home, according to the customs, they would have to wear cuffless pants, flowery shirts, and have their heads wrapped with red cloth, male or female alike. They would also have to fill their neck and wrists with gold and silver jewelry to chase bad luck away.
Since young, Zhang Lisheng had always been wearing cheap children clothes that his father bought from the shopping malls in the county town. When he entered junior high and started wearing school uniform, he had always been wearing it and never had to put on the traditional clothes of the Miaowei people any longer.
That was why he did not have any clothes that matched the customs when he was going to bring his fathers remains back at this time. He decided to try his luck by going to his fathers room to look for anything that was suitable.
Although the Zhang family only had the two of them, father and son, who depended on each other, Zhang Daowu had always been strict with Zhang Lisheng. Now that he thought about it, Zhang Lisheng had never been to his fathers bedroom for as long as he could remember.
Although he knew that his father had passed away, Zhang Lisheng could not help but feel a chill inside of him when he opened the bedroom door.
The light in the room was dimmed, and the most obvious thing in the room was the huge wooden bed. Its material was similar to the wooden bed in Zhang Lishengs bedroom but its size was twice bigger. Following the Miaowei peoples habits, there were big, red wooden boxes filled with all sorts of stuff on both sides of the bed.
Zhang Lisheng was stunned. He then climbed up to the wooden bed and forcefully opened the heavy wooden box that was on one side of the bed. He realized that what was inside the box were not clothes but dozens of lifelike animal sculptures that were the size of a palm.
Just when he was feeling disappointed, a black and barren land with plants and trees suddenly appeared in his mind.
The grass on the piece of land was three or four meters high. A group of naked giant warriors from the waist up with straw kilts on their bottom-half to cover their genitals were fighting in a bloody battle with stone axes as their weapon.
In the forest far away from the battle, there were countless gigantic venomous worms and beasts with ferocious fangs eyeing at the giant warriors flesh in the dark.
Among the worms and beasts were four gigantic human-formed corpses that were surrounded by a black fog carrying a huge stone bed. On the stone bed was a tanned, skinny man who looked silly sitting with his legs crossed. There seemed to be a faint smile on his face.
The images flashed by quickly. Zhang Lisheng was seeing black again in his eyes and everything turned back to normal before he could make out the faces of the giants, gigantic beasts, corpses, and especially the man on a stone bed.
He shook his head hard and picked up a sculpture from the wooden box while thinking.
The sculpture looked like a venomous snake with black, pointy head, and a spiraling body. It looked like it was playing in the water, and its tail was separated into three parts.
Looking at the sculpture, Zhang Lisheng thought of a passage in an ancient book The Commentary on the Water Classic (Flow) that went: There is a hooked snake since the beginning of time thats a hundred foot long. It has partings on its tail, can swim, and uses the hooks on its tail to capture human and beasts into the water to eat.
Ten feet was equivalent to three meters, which were three hundred centimeters. A hundred feet boa would be thirty meters long, which should be almost equivalent to the height of a twelve-floor building when it was upright.
According to the perspective of modern biology, even if the air was rich in oxygen, it was impossible that such a huge reptile would appear even during the Mesozoic era where enormous animals dominated the earth. The record about the hooked snake in The Commentary on the Water Classic (Flow) was no doubt an exaggerated legendary myth according to modern science.
However, everything was not so simple to Zhang Lisheng who had become a wizard.
But now was clearly not the right time to figure the myths authenticity. He then looked at the other sculptures and found out that these belonged to the records of ancient Chinese myths that were impossible to exist such as a mountain spider; Qinyuan, a bird the size of a bee; Xuanfeng, a bee with appendages that looks like a pot; Huawu, a mythical centipede, and other strange insects. He then closed the wooden box.
Zhang Lisheng crawled to the other side of the wooden bed and opened the other wooden box. There were many clothes arranged tidily in it.
He immediately looked around and was surprised to find a brand new traditional Miaowei costume deep in the wooden box as well as some ancient pure gold collars and bracelets that were suitable for him to put on.
He realized that he had delayed too long and did not have time to sort everything out. He then immediately took off his clothes and clumsily put on the Miaowei costume that he found from the wooden box.
Although the costume was too big, everything still seemed pretty neat after he folded the bottom of the pants and tighten the waistband. He instantly turned into a skinny, young Miaowei Tribesman after putting on the neck collar and bracelet.
Zhang Lisheng walked out of the old house in big steps after putting on everything neatly.
When Tao Lielin outside of the door saw Zhang Lisheng in full Miaowei attire, he nodded and said, Great, great. He then pulled him along as they ran toward the village entrance.
There were already hundreds of villagers gathered at the village entrance. Apart from a family member who had to stay home to watch, almost every adult villager from the families in Guawo Village gathered there. The mood was different from the last time they went into county town together with the young fellas who just wanted to mess around. The journey to bring back Zhang Daowus remains were much more serious.
A familys trouble, a hundred families lending a helpful hand was the old custom that circulated among the Miaowei people who had a difficult life in the mountain. However, it was nothing to be messed around with when it was executed for real.
Mountain Worm is here. Youll sit in the first row of the front of the truck. The rest will follow in the sequence of East, West, South, and North Village on the first, second, third, fourth, and fifth platform. Dont spread out on your own, an exuberant old Miowei elder with wrinkles all over his face seriously shouted after seeing Tao Lielin running on the stone roads toward him while pulling Zhang Lisheng along.
The old man who spoke was Tian Jiushi, the Guawo Village chief and secretary for 57 years. Legend had it that he used to join the protection war against the Wujin in Western Sichuan before the Chinese Red Revolution even began. He held an important position in the entire Damu Town.
Okay, okay Hearing Tian Jiushis loud instructions, the mountain people bustled with discussions but they still got up the trucks orderly. Even the young chaps who were usually the most disobedient were acting otherwise.
Meanwhile, Tian Jiushi presented himself differently when he was facing Zhang Lisheng. As he saw Tao Lielin bring the young man next to him, he shook his head and said gently as he sighed, Mountain Worm is here. Brother Daowu had such a tough body, but who knew that he would leave before an old man like me.
Youre our Guawo Village Zhang familys descendant, so you must bring your father back properly today.
Yes, Uncle Jiushi, Zhang Lisheng bowed and replied in a gloomy voice.
There had always been only one Zhang family in Guawo Village which did not have to be ranked according to seniority with the other mountain people. Since he was young until he had grown up, Zhang Lisheng would call those who were the same age as him by their name directly. The elder ones would be called uncles and aunties, like how he would address Tian Jiushi, who was over eighty, and Tao Lielin, who was over forty, as uncle.
Tian Jiushi did not think that Zhang Lisheng was rude at all. He let out a sigh again and turned around to look at the confident Tao Lielin. He then said loudly, Kiddo Ah Lie, your Grandpa Jiushi is old now. I cant go into county town anymore, so Ill assign todays task to you. Do it properly and do it well.
Tao Lielins face turned red like a piece of red cloth when he heard the old chief calling him Kiddo Ah Lie in front of all the villages and many tourists. However, he dared not say anything apart from nodding his head obediently. He said softly, Grandpa Jiushi, yes, I understand.
Grandpa Jiushi, yes, I understand! Tao Lielin raised his voice and shouted awkwardly.
Dont delay anymore, get up the truck. Tian Jiushi was finally satisfied and waved his hand as he spoke.
Just like that, under the instruction of Guawo Villages secretary, the over ten trucks carrying many villagers triumphantly drove into Qu County town.
Just as the troop passed Damu Town, they caught the attention of many people. Two public security enforcement vehicles with Police sprayed on them stopped the Guawo Villages truck troop.
There were six policemen of all sizesfat, skinny, tall, and shortthat came from the police cars. All of them had smiles on their faces and looked like they were from law enforcement.