Agarwood like Crumbs (沉香如屑) Novel Translations

Chapter 7: Cemetery Oh Cemetery, Corpse Oh Corpse

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Wang XiaoEr has been running around in QingShi town for the last 20 years, and this was the first time he saw such a handsome person walk into the inn. He could help sighing because the shopkeeper decided to open the door so early.

YanDan sat down at the table, holding a pair of chopsticks, “Just bring me whatever food you have.” 

Wang XiaoEr was a little dumbfounded, and smiled, “Miss, it’s really early right now, the chefs won’t come to work until noon, and I’m afraid it’s too early to eat hot dishes right now.”

He saw the girl tapping the chopsticks on the table, “Just bring me whatever you have!”

Seeing the girl’s anger rising, Wang XiaoEr immediately started working.

Tang Zhou slowly poured a glass of tea, “Are you really that hungry?”

“You try going twenty something days without any food, and see if you would be hungry after.”

“So what you said was true, demons don’t actually need to eat food?”

Wang XiaoEr put down a warm and toasty steamed bun on the table, asking, “There’s still half of a roasted chicken leftover from yesterday, would you like me to bring you that?”

YanDan put a small silver piece on the table, “Bring me whatever you have left.”

Wang XiaoEr picked up the silver, it should be worth about two to four pounds. This girl is way too generous, especially for a small town like QingShi town.

“I was just joking because I was bored, please don’t believe me.” While saying that, YanDan had already inhaled another steamed bun, poked a second steamed bun with a chopstick, took a bite, and stared at the third one.

Tang Zhou poured a cup of tea and pushed it towards her, “Slow down. A girl like you should eat more politely.”

YanDan glanced at him before gently tearing off a piece of the steam bun’s skin, chewing it slowly and swallowing, and replied, “Why does it matter if I look like a pig while eating? The most important thing is to eat fast and eat more, so that you could watch the others starve to death first, do you understand?” As soon as her voice died down, the wind started blowing fiercely. 

Tang Zhou lowered his head and chuckled for a while, before finally quieting down.

YanDan took a sip of tea, and sighed constantly, “This is wonderful.”

“Are you done? We still have things to do.”

“Ah, there’s still warm food for lunch though.”

Tang Zhou stood up to leave.

YanDan hurriedly grabbed him, “Wait a second, wait a second.” She rolled her eyes, and smiled, “Is this your first time you went out alone?”

Tang Zhou’s eyebrows furrowed, and his face revealed a pelicular juvenile innocence, “So what?”

“The chaotic grave is over there, and it can’t sprout legs and walk off, and I can’t leave either. So it’s the same either if we leave right now or later. But the people in QingShi town must know a lot more about the rumor. What place do you think is most suitable to listen to their story?”

Tang Zhou looked at her, “If only your cleverness could be used in the right way.”

YanDan lightly shook his finger, “No, no, I am the wisdom praised by the sages of the past, and you would see it sooner or later.”

Tang Zhou smiled, and ran his finger across the bracelet on her wrist, “I already know that you’re a prisoner. What’s wrong with that type of wisdom?”

The corners of YanDan’s mouths twitched a little, thinking back and forth, before choosing to say nothing.

As it approached noon, more and more customers started coming in, with a lot of noisy voices, including some northern accents and a whole lot of noise.

“Those two were born very well, so they’re probably not residents of this town, right?” Someone came over, with a local accent and sat down. 

Tang Zhou nodded slightly, “Yes, this is my first time here.”

YanDan looked at the menu behind the shopkeeper, and said quickly, “Stir-fried pork liver, braised chicken, fried fish, crystal balls, vinegar pork ribs…” she reported more than 12 dishes under one breath. Wang XiaoEr was sweating profusely, “Miss, there are only two of you, and four dishes is already a lot.” YanDan looked into Tang Zhou’s eyes, “This Childe will pay for everything, and he won’t be short of money at all. That’s right, I just remembered, add a braised pork belly to my order.”

Tang Zhou didn’t hear anything, and only said, “Waiter, add a bowl and a pair of chopsticks.”

A local man leaned over and sat down immediately, and flashed a smile, “This younger brother sure is generous.”

Tang Zhou asked, “Are there any new and interesting things happening in this town recently?”

The local looked at the dishes Wang XiaoEr brought up. YanDan smiled slightly, took a pair of chopsticks and handed it to him. She then quietly pointed at the few people holding knives and swords, “Sir, we have seen many people like this along the way. They look fierce, and do you know what they’re doing here?”

The local man picked up some food, and delivered it into his mouth, saying vaguely, “You must be a naughty girl who sneaked out of their house, right?”

YanDan slightly nodded, surprised, “How did you know that, Sir?”

That person laughed, and was very proud, “I also know a small boy who’s your lover, and are you saying that you eloped without telling your family?”

Both Tang Zhou and YanDan cursed at him silently.

YanDan rolled her eyes and she smiled cleverly, “Sir, you are deliberately trying to steer the subject away? You just don’t know what these people are doing, right?” People like this are always at restaurants. They love to not embarrass themselves, so they just immediately pour out whatever they have in their hearts.

“How could I not know? I have lived here for most of my life, and there’s nothing I don’t know.” The man got angry, and put down his chopsticks, “They’re here to find the grave of the empress.”

Tang Zhou asked, “Does the current emperor bury his concubines here?”

“Not the current one, but the last one. At that time, you weren’t even born yet. At that time, the world was divided into three parts, Beiyan, Nanchu, and Qixiang. The one we’re talking about is a Qixiang concubine.”

Tang Zhou was even more suspicious, “Since she was in the royal family and has her own tomb, why would she be buried here?”

The local man laughed, “Back then, when the Nanchu emperor wasn’t emperor yet, he was a great general. After he destroyed Qixiang, Qixiang’s former emperor took his beloved concubine and they fled under the protection, but Nanchu was chasing them tightly. When they reached QingShi town, the expelled Qixiang emperor’s subordinates rebelled and killed him. The Qixiang empress held extreme affections to the emperor, and didn’t want to live alone, so she committed suicide. When they fled, they brought a lot of gold and silver jewelry from the palace. They first built a tomb for the empress, hiding all of the jewelry in that tomb. Also, since the empress died with so much hatred in her heart, she wanted the tomb to hold her, for fear she wouldn’t turn into a ghost, and in turn turned into an evil spirit. And that’s the origin of the tomb of the empress.”

YanDan said, “You must have been to the tomb as well, then.”

“Sure, I’ve looked for the tomb, but…” he looked from left to right, before whispering, “the empress’s ghost is fierce, and whoever takes her treasure dies. People in our town would much rather take a detour than to walk through her tomb.” He picked up his chopsticks and continued eating, unable to talk anymore.

Tang Zhou tapped on the table, “I’ve also heard a rumor like that before, but they always get more elaborate and unrealistic as they’re spread.”

That person shook his head, “It’s better to believe this rumor, than to not believe it.”

YanDan remembered the Jiangyang thief they’d encountered on the Lanxi River before. He’d also said something about the rumors in QingShi town. She raised her hand, and swayed the butterfly shaped jade in front of the local’s eyes, “I went to the grave yesterday night, and even took this jade from it.”

Tang Zhou glanced at this. Yesterday night, she was still inside the jade gourd.

That person immediately started shaking and his face turned white, “Throw that away! Hurry up and throw it away! Do you even want to live?!”

YanDan pouted, as if she was sad, “But this jade is so pretty.”

“I’m telling you, there was a boy in our town, he was healthy and strong, but his family was poor, and didn’t have any money. When his father died, there wasn’t any money to bury him, and he could only go to the chaotic grave to bury him. He was digging a grave, and dug out a couple pieces of jade, and after 10 days, he was found dead in his own home, and I’ve never seen such a horrendous situation… Anyway, that’s enough talking, let’s eat.”

Knowing that he couldn’t ask any more, Tang Zhou dipped his hand and started eating.

YanDan suddenly spoke, “Even if you don’t tell me about the death of the little boy, I can still figure it out myself.

The local continued eating.

“He has no other relatives, and by the time people found his corpse, it had already rotted, rats already gnawing on his flesh, and corpse bugs flying around.” YanDan picked up a piece of vinegar ribs, “His corpse was just like this rib, the bones soft and the meat being eaten up.”

Tang Zhou chewed his ribs slowly, and couldn’t help choking for a second.

The local was about to clamp his teeth around the largest vinegar rib, and once he heard what YanDan said, he immediately turned his chopsticks to pick up something else, the fried pork liver next to him. YanDan said, “His liver must also be rotten, just like this pig liver, and it’s also probably the same color.”

The man’s face turned a nasty yellow, and went for the white crystal meatballs.

“Hey, now that you think of it, the person’s eyes are probably still there. I heard that dead people’s eyeballs are also white colored.” YanDan picked up a crystal meatball and took a bite. “I wonder if they look like these meatballs or are chewy.” She then pointed her chopsticks to the place containing the sauced pork belly. “I heard that the sauce has to be marinated for a really long time, so many small rural shops marinate it along with internal organs and the pork. Those strange flavors are overwhelmed by the sauce, so you couldn’t taste the ingredients. I wonder if this is the case. If it was, then do you think a person’s body could be marinated and then sold on the black market as pork?”

Once she said that, the local’s face turned white, and he rushed to the door to vomit.

YanDan looked at Tang Zhou, asking, “I’m correct though, right?”

Tang Zhou looked at her with no expression, and took out a piece of talisman paper.

YanDan immediately replied, “I’m sorry, I’m wrong, I’ll never do it again…”

Tang Zhou stood up, asked for the receipt, and pulled YanDan up, dragging her out of the restaurant, “I think you really enjoy staying in that jade gourd.”

YanDan said sincerely, “I’m wrong, I’m wrong, I’m so sorry, I won’t ever do it again, please give me another chance.”

He looked her in the eye, “You sure?”

The expression on YanDan’s face was even more sincere, “Yes, I’m sure.” 

Tang Zhou let go of her hand, “Alright then.”

When they got to the chaotic grave, there were already five or six martial art heroes there, and once they saw the two of them, they drew out their weapons. An elderly Taoist in a yellow robe raised his hand to stop them, “This is Tang Zhouxian’s nephew, a disciple of LingXiao GuanZhu, and he’s on his own.”

Tang Zhou stepped forward to bow, “Tang Zhou greets Senior Ling Xuzi.”

The old Taoist rubbed his beard, “I heard that your master has accepted female disciples in the past couple of years, and are you interested in any of them?”

Tang Zhou paused, and nodded, “This is one of my master’s female disciples, and she’s new, so she doesn’t know any respect. Please don’t blame her.”

YanDan whimpered and put on a timid expression, “Tang Zhou…”

The Taoist smiled, waving his hand, “You’re being too respectful, we were afraid of scaring the poor girl.”

Tang Zhou greeted some others, before turning and saying in a low voice to YanDan, “Don’t get any bad ideas, or pretend to be crazy, okay?”

YanDan smiled a little, “Don’t worry.”

Tang Zhou thought for a little, and asked, “What’s your name?”

She was really obedient, and immediately replied, “YanDan, Yan as in…” before she finished speaking, Tang Zhou had already turned around and walked away. She was dragged forward by an invisible force and she couldn’t help sighing. The feeling of being a prisoner really sucks.

She suddenly heard Tang Zhou’s voice right next to her ear, extremely clearly, “In a bit, make sure you follow me tightly. These people don’t have pure magic, and it might impact your magic.”

YanDan looked around, but nobody else seemed to hear anything.

“I’m using the internal transmitting spell, so they can’t hear us.” Tang Zhou knew exactly what she was wondering.

Suddenly, there was the sound of a woman laughing in front of her, like a ringing bell. Immediately, someone nearby took out their weapon, holding it in their hands.

A girl in pure white clothes stood under the dead tree with a handful of millet in one hand. She was feeding the birds, and every now and then would listen to the bird’s chirping. She suddenly turned her head, raised her eyebrows, and smiled, before saying, “The bird says that there are many customers in town today, and it’s true!” She clapped her hands in excitement, “I haven’t seen so many people in such a long time! It’s so lively now! But the bird also says that, the more people, the more bad things will happen, since many people like doing evil.”

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