Agarwood like Crumbs (沉香如屑) Novel Translations

Chapter 8: The Girl Who Understands Birds

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Ling XuZi frowned and took a step forward, “Miss, why would you say that?”

The girl in the snow white shirt turned around and looked at the birds sitting on the branch, who chirped a little, before turning her hand around and saying, “The birds told me, it’s going to rain tomorrow, and they also asked me if I believed them. Of course I believe them, what about you?”

Tang Zhou turned his head to look at YanDan, only to see her looking forward, frowning thoughtfully.

Ling XuZi turned around and stopped his companion, who was about to draw his sword, having a kind expression, “What else did the birds say?”

The young girl turned around, as if listening, and after a while, turned back, saying, “The birds are saying that birds die because of food, and people die because of money. Things haven’t changed since ancient times.”

After those words were spoken, the color of everyone’s faces changed.

There was somebody running forward, and it was an obese woman, huffing and panting, “Miss, why are you here? You never listen to the master’s words.” Once she got close enough, she hugged the young girl, and turned to face everyone else, “I’m so sorry, gentlemen, my Master’s daughter was born dumb, so please don’t mind a young girl like her!”

The young girl fought viciously, staring in shock as the birds flew away, “You, you scared them away! You owe me, now!”

The woman held her ground against the young lady, repeating, “I’m so sorry, I’m really sorry.”

Ling XuZi hurriedly stopped them before they left, bowing, “May I ask which family this young lady is from?”

The woman immediately replied, “My master’s surname is Shen, and he’s a shopkeeper in the town.”

Ling XuZi nodded, before clearing the path. Indeed, he kenw that there was a shopkeeper in QingShi town whose surname was Shen, and he brought rare items from all over, but sadly his daughter was dumb.”

The young lady stopped struggling, but when she passed by Tang Zhou, she directly asked him, “Do you believe that I can understand the bird’s language?”

Tang Zhou nodded.

The young girl smiled at him, her smile like flowers blooming in spring, “I’ll tell you a secret then. There’s a ghost here, an evil ghost, and he enjoys gnawing on peoples bones. The birds told me that, but they also said that the ghost wasn’t scary, and only humans are afraid of it.”

The woman hurriedly covered the girl’s mouth and laughed skittishly, “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry, please don’t believe her nonsense.”

But the young girl’s words have already given some people the chills.

Tang Zhou looked at her retreating silhouette, thinking furiously. The woman said that the young girl was dumb, but every word that she said had reason in it, and a dumb person would never be able to say something like that.

YanDan suddenly turned around, smiling, “I could understand the language of fishes, do you believe that?”

Tang Zhou faced her, saying softly, “From what I can tell, you’re better off staying in the artifact.”

YanDan sighed, and replied quietly, “All in all, as long as you don’t believe me, then it’s all good.”

Suddenly, Ling XuZi coughed, and walked forward, “Let’s find the nanny’s tomb first, and if there are actual ghosts, then we could just banish them easily.”

Five other people immediately muttered their agreement. YanDan looked at them, not one of them let go of their weapons. Tang Zhou said softly, “The one in front of you wielding a sword is the Soul-Breaking Sword, Zhai Shang, and the one on your left is the Shadow Sword, Qin MingYang. Besides Ling XuZi, those are the only two who have the highest martial art skills. Those three people over there are brothers, the surname being Wu.”

YanDan asked softly, “Can I ask you a question?”

Tang Zhou looked her in the eye, immediately replying, “Nope.”

“Why in the world did you choose to come to Qing Shi town?” YanDan sounded slightly distressed, “Just tell me, you’ve been unwilling to tell me, and I’m overthinking it a lot.”

He brushed his sleeves, replying lightly, “Then you can continue thinking that slowly, and maybe someday you’ll figure it out.”

“This is the tomb,” Ling XuZi knelt down, and brushed the dust off of a bluestone slab, before moving it away, revealing a small path. “We’re not the first ones to find this place. I won’t keep this from everyone here, but before, there was a disciple who came here once, and in his entire group, only he was the one who survived, but alas… he went crazy, and we couldn’t ask anything out of him.”

Zhai Shang opened his mouth, “I also heard that there was a person here whose heart was eaten by a female ghost.”

Ling XuZi waved his hand, “That rumor isn’t true.” He paused, and then continued, “If we go down now, there might be danger. For those who don’t want to go, please stay at the surface.”

Qin MingYang took his sword out and held it in his hands. The Wu Brothers looked at each other for a while, but then shook their heads.

After waiting outside for a while, a group of people walked slowly down the tunnel.

YanDan walked down a couple steps, whispering, “It’s so dark and you can’t see anything.” Suddenly, there was a flicker of light as Qin MingYang lit a candle, smiling, “There are about twenty candles here, and there should be enough candles to give us light until we reach the tomb.”

Ling XuZi couldn’t help but praise, “Master Qin is very thoughtful.”

Qin MingYang smiled reservedly, and a gust of wind suddenly blew and the candle went out.

Not far away, there was an arrogant voice yelling out, “Who kicked me?!”  There was another voice cursing, “Whoever did it come out now!” After that, there was a whistling sound and the sound of fists. YanDan kept on being pushed forward, but there was suddenly a slender hand that grabbed her left hand. The fingers were long, slender, and ice cold. 

She tentatively whisper-shouted, “Tang Zhou?” But when Tang Zhou replied from her right side, she was shocked. Who was the person standing on the left? That person laughed a little, before moving to walk in front of her, saying, “Those who send me will be punished by the Qiu”, the voice already dying away.

There was a small flame starting in front of her, and Ling XuZi held up the torch, the muscles on his face twitching slightly.

Qin MingYang fell to the ground, the candle falling next to him, his eyebrows a light shade of red. Ling XuZi picked up the candle, re-lit it, and tore off a piece of fabric from his robe, wrapped it around his fingers, and placed it under Qin MingYang’s nose. No sign of breathing. But his expression on his face was peaceful, not a sign of having a painful demise showing on his face.

Tang Zhou walked closer, “There was a fatal blow towards his eyebrows, but-” He knelt down, pressing Qin MingYang’s body, “the corpse is already cold, which means that he definitely didn’t just die.” 

Zhai Shang couldn’t help saying, “Then the person that we walked into the grave with isn’t…”

Tang Zhou replied, “It was the person who just spoke.”

“But that’s not possible, I came with him to QingShi town, and we haven’t left each others sides!”

YanDan sighed, looking at him sympathetically, “That means that the person you knew was killed along the way, and the person who killed Qin MingYang also pretended to be him and came here with you. Alas, if you think of it now, that person could be pretending to be any of us, and it wouldn’t be difficult to do that.”

Tang Zhou’s voice was ice cold, “Shi-mei*, you’re being naughty again.”

Zhai Shang made a small sound in his throat, but couldn’t say anything, suspicious of the ones around him.

Ling XuZi distributed a couple more candles to some other people, “We’re lucky that we have these candles, at least the path would be easier to walk.”

YanDan was about to say “those candles weren’t left by that person”, but heard Tang Zhou saying softly, “I think you’re talking too much, and you want to go back to the gourd.”

YanDan pouted, but couldn’t resist saying, “You threaten me here, and then threaten me there. You’re always threatening me, and you never think of anything new to do.”

Suddenly, one of the Wu brothers shouted, “Come over here and look!”

There was a half-opened stone door, with words carved into it.

Those who send me will be punished by the Qiu.

After a moment of silence, Tang Zhou walked forward and pushed open the door fully, walking in.

YanDan could only follow him, and after a while, saying, “Right when the candle was extinguished, I actually touched a person’s hand, and although it was colder than an average person’s hand, it wasn’t a ghost. I’m also certain it isn’t a demon.”

Tang Zhou pondered, “Did the person’s hand have calluses on it?”

She thought back for a while, “Nope.”

“Then that’s weird.” Tang Zhou saw YanDan’s puzzled eyes, and opened his hand, “If you look at my hands, I practice swordsmanship, and there are a lot of calluses on my index fingers. No matter what type of weapon it is, there will always be calluses on one’s hands. But thinking of that, how is he able to kill people invisibly?”

They walked a dozen more steps, and heard footsteps behind them. Turning around, about five other people also walked in.

They walked into the tunnel for a long time, and there was a sound of water trickling. Ling XuZi reasoned, “According to Feng-Shui, the tomb here should be a woman’s tomb, because a woman’s tomb has water near it.”

In a blink of an eye, he reached another tomb, this time with a stone gate in front of him. One of the Wu brothers stepped forward, and pulled it hard. Even though his face turned red, the gate didn’t budge. The other two Wu brothers also went to help, and with all three of them pushing, the gate started opening slowly.

The three of them charged into the tomb, only to see that there was a short table, and in the middle of the table was a gleaming night pearl. The oldest of the Wu immediately reached out to grab the pearl, but it seemed to weigh a thousand pounds and he couldn’t lift it.

YanDan raised the candle, and illuminated the murals painted on the four stone walls. Looking at the colors, the mural is relatively new. The first mural depicted a slender woman sitting on a windowsill, putting on makeup in front of a mirror. The willow leaves outside were green, which meant that it was spring. The second mural depicted the same girl as the first one, but she was shown kneeling, and a man wearing a yellow dragon robe stood in front of her.

Tang Zhou stood next to her, saying quietly, “This is the tomb of the concubine.”

The third mural depicted thousands of soldiers and horses, and it was drawn fiercely, to show the war.

“This is probably showing back when the Qin was exterminated.” Tang Zhou looked at the fourth mural, saying heavily, “This concubine didn’t commit suicide, but instead was suffocated inside of her coffin.”

YanDan nodded, “Seems like they just wanted to find a place to hide all the gold and silver jewelry. It must be so cruel to suffocate somebody inside a coffin.”

As soon as her voice died down, there was a person laughing crazily, the sound echoing throughout the entire tomb. YanDan suddenly turned around, but saw a splatter of blood flying across her face and onto the murals. The oldest Wu brother had, in fact, taken out his knife, and stabbed the second-oldest Wu.

His eyes were red, his face twitched violently, and he suddenly charged towards Tang Zhou. Tang Zhou stepped aside, but felt something touch his back. There was a vibration and the sound of an arrow being released.

Wu slashed the arrow out of the air, using his sword to slash the mural. Tang Zhou unsheathed his sword, and in an instant, a green light flashed across his opponent’s throat. Wu clutched his throat and slid down, convulsing for a moment before stopping, and not moving at all. The youngest Wu ran forward towards his brother.

Zhai Shang stuck out his foot, and the youngest Wu fell to the ground.

Ling XuZi said sternly, “Your older brother has been poisoned, and isn’t conscious, so he started killing people. If Tang Zhou didn’t make a move, we would have all died!”

As he spoke, the ground started shaking even more violently, and the sound of crossbows being released became more and more loud. Tang Zhou suddenly felt nothing under his feet, and he fell into a tunnel. Thanks to his quick reactions, he immediately tried climbing the wall, trying to get up, but it was too slippery, and he fell back down.

YanDan didn’t have any reaction, so she just felt a strong force dragging her down into the tunnel. In the tunnel, there was a turn, and if not for her demonic magic protecting her, she probably would have hit her head and bled to death. With all the momentum, she shot out of the tunnel and bumped against something flexible. The room was fully dark, and nobody could see anything. She reached out and touched the flexible thing, and then touched it again, but then heard someone say coldly, “Are you touching me?”

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