Agarwood like Crumbs (沉香如屑) Novel Translations

Chapter 14: A Dead End

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(stills from the cdrama)

In the afternoon, Master Shen came to the courtyard, asking cautiously, “Childe Tang, were there any findings?” Tang Zhou looked at him and pondered, “There is progress, but…”

Master Shen immediately asked seriously, “But what?”

Tang Zhou felt like he already found a small clue, but was being pulled away. He couldn’t always observe in the dark, and no matter how detailed a guess is, it’s still a guess. “I felt like there was the most resentment in the southeast area of the courtyard, so I followed it.  Buried under the haystack, there was a corpse. It was buried very shallowly and it seemed like it wasn’t buried for a while.” He saw Master Shen’s expression slowly turning a chalk gray color and his lips twitching. 

Tang Zhou smiled, “Of course, I’m only a celestial hunter, not a sheriff, so I don’t want to look for more clues anymore. You wouldn’t want to be surrounded by resentful energy, do you?”

Master Shen’s face turned white and moments passed before he finally spoke again, “This matter, it starts with my wife. My wife is one of the Yi people and according to customs, their people are traditionally buried here.”

Tang Zhou listened to his words, but they went into one ear and out through the other. Master Shen was talking about irrelevant things, but he kept his patience. YanDan had already walked back to the guest bedroom and back in boredom. But Master Shen kept on talking, “The Zhuojing people enjoyed a certain status in the Yi clan, and most of them knew the art of witchcraft. But when my wife first married into my family, she told me that she was the only one in her family that didn’t know any witchcraft. That was why her elders didn’t oppose me marrying her.”

“But after Zhuojing married me, I got homesick, so I came back to where the Yi clan resided. There, I witnessed their funeral ceremony. Their patriarch had just died and his descendants directly took the corpse, buried it in a very shallow newly-dug pit, and boiling water was poured over it every day. It was the first time I saw something like that, and I was shocked since the people in the Central Plains have always put them into sturdy wood coffins, before burying them.”

The more Tang Zhou listened, the weirder it got, and he could only say, “The Han and Yi customs are very different indeed.”

“They kept on pouring boiling water on it day after day, and after two to three months later, the corpse had already rotted. The bones and flesh were separated and then the Yi took out the bones and put them into a jar for burial. It is said that the bones left by the Yi people have Gu** worms and this method of burial prevents the worms from escaping.” Master Shen sighed, “These types of things, the moment you see them, they’re imprinted into your mind forever. After Zhuojing passed away, I brought my little daughter to Qingshi Town. Yijun had always been sensible and soon started tracking care of things in the household. When I felt that she was capable enough, I left for business abroad.”

YanDan suddenly asked, “How many years has it been since you moved here?”

“It has been maybe seven to eight years, and Yijun and Xiang Jun are already twenty-four years old, even though they still haven’t found anyone to marry yet.” He paused for a while but then continued, “Once, I went to Nandu for business, but when I came back, something was off. I found that Yijun was a little different. The two of you have seen her smile today, it looked kind of weird. I felt uneasy and didn’t sleep well at night, so I went to the accounting room, hoping that I could finish reading the account books left over. As I walked into the courtyard, I saw Yijun burying something there with a flower hoe. I thought about it a bit longer, but I felt more and more uneasy, so I went and took a look.” Master Shen suddenly covered his face with his hands, as if in great pain, “I saw a corpse. It was the most hideous thing I’ve ever seen. The flesh and blood on the body had dried up as if it was sucked from the body. The face was purple, the eyes were wide open, and the flesh was sticking to the bone…I understand now that Zhoujing lied to me when she said she couldn’t perform witchcraft. There’s no other reason Yijun would have ended up like this!”

YanDan muttered thoughtfully, “This means that the corpse we saw in the courtyard was buried shallowly just so that the flesh could rot until only the bones remain, and then the bones would be dug out and reburied?”

Master Shen nodded silently and it took a while before he spoke up again, “After this, citizens in Qingshi Town started dying left and right and everyone says that it’s Zhuojing’s spirit hurting everyone. I know it’s not like that, they…have all been poisoned with witchcraft meant to drain their blood. I know what I know, but Yijun is still my daughter, so I can’t say more or ask any more questions. Because there are so many people who have died for no reason, I still felt really uneasy, so I wanted to get someone to exorcise the evil spirits. I’ve invited a lot of celestial hunters, but in the end, most of them left without even saying anything. I guess most of them saw what was buried in the courtyard.”

Tang Zhou coughed gently and replied, “Master Shen, these are all your guesses. There is no evidence. Don’t worry, I won’t tell this to other people.”

Master Shen buried his face in his hands and nodded, “Thank you, Childe Tang.”

YanDan watched his silhouette move farther and farther away, “This sounds like quite an interesting story.”

Tang Zhou turned to face her, “You don’t believe it?”

YanDan turned around and smiled, “I know that the Yi clan has always buried their dead this way, but none of them knew any witchcraft. So only half of what he said was correct.”

Tang Zhou replied coldly, “I don’t believe anything he says.”

YanDan was surprised, “Really? I thought that he had some truth in his words. For example, when he said that his wife was from the Yi clan. I think he’d spent a really long time in the southwest, so he obviously wouldn’t recognize their burial ceremony. Yes, the people in Qingshi Town have been dying from rather strange things, but it’s not Zhuojing’s spirit, and I believe him. I also believed him when he said that Miss Yijun was part of the Yi Clan.”

“Other than these, none of the other things he said could be reliable.”

YanDan smiled endearingly, “You really want to help Miss Xiang Jun, don’t you? I’ve always wanted a sister-in-law.”

Tang Zhou stared at her for a while and replied without any expressions on his face, “You know what? I’ve always thought that it was a pity that I didn’t block all of your magic. It seems that you also think this.”

How many parts of Master Shen’s words were true? What was his purpose in saying those things? And in the Shen Mansion, are there any other untold secrets?

This probably won’t be resolved in a short while.

Tang Zhou felt like everything in front of him was covered with a thick layer of mist. Whenever he made any progress, things just took an even more confusing turn. And YanDan didn’t seem to care about this case at all. In her free time, she would go to the lotus pond and feed the fish. She would sometimes be there for half of the entire day. He would sometimes wonder if what she said about being able to understand the fish was actually true. As soon as he thought of that, he immediately pushed it aside. YanDan still had a restrictive talisman on her, so she couldn’t leave the Shen Mansion.

Demons are naturally very cunning, but simple creatures. In general, they usually aren’t familiar with the world around them. But YanDan seemed to be very familiar with this world and in the beginning, she was always trying to find his weakness. In the cemetery, she initially suspected that the Broken Dragon Stone Mechanism could be open, but she kept silent about it until they were trapped, just so that she could discuss conditions with him. She didn’t directly ask him to let her go but instead asked about her companion, which was also a smart choice. He couldn’t refuse this request and there wasn’t a reason for refusing this request either. After all, after making an exception once, he would become more and more soft-hearted so that he makes an exception in the future as well. What’s more, when she asked about that, she seemed very compassionate, which would make him less wary of her.

Tang Zhou couldn’t help but sigh. In any case, he didn’t feel any deep hostility toward her anymore. 

As he strolled around, he went to the east wing, where the guest bedroom was located. Ling XuZi was sitting on the steps in front of the guest bedroom, staring intently at a piece of paper on his lap. He didn’t look terrified at all, so Tang Zhou took a couple of steps forward, only to see that the hand holding the paper was shaking slightly, blue veins sticking out of his hand, but he didn’t look up, only staring blankly at the words on the rice paper. 

Seeing his tiny movements, he felt a little more certain. He hadn’t thought about it before, but now that he thought about it, something was wrong. After all, Ling XuZi was regarded as a highly cultivated grandmaster of his generation, and his knowledge and experiences surpass many other cultivators. Only then could he safely escape the tomb, but can’t Ling XuZi be pretending to be crazy and be waiting for a chance to escape? No one could be too wary of a lunatic. Tang Zhou continued to walk closer, and the top 4 words on the piece of rice paper caught his eye: Seven Luminate Divine Jade. He felt that there should be a connection between this and what he had been looking for for a long time. 

Ling XuZi suddenly jumped up, beating his chest, stomping his feet, crumpling the rice paper, and stuffing it into his mouth. Tang Zhou took a step forward, stopped, and the two of them looked at each other, “Senior, why do you need to keep pretending?” Everything he’d wanted to know might have been on that piece of rice paper, but now he will have to rely on his own skills and figure everything out. 

Ling XuZi laughed and looked at him, saying, “Why do you keep on pretending? I wonder how long you can fake it.” After that, he started laughing and crying again. 

“You’re already quite old, yet you still make a big deal of crying. Aren’t you ashamed?” A clear voice rang out. Shen Xiang Jun touched the parrot on her shoulder and smiled. She pulled on Tang Zhou’s sleeves, still smiling, “I know that you wouldn’t bully him, so he’s definitely the one bullying you.”

Tang Zhou looked into her clear eyes and there was a bit of pity in his heart. In the entire Shen Mansion, she’s probably the only innocent one. He smiled and replied quietly, “How did you know?”

Xiang Jun tilted her head and thought for a while, “Sister told me that these people are crazy, and I’m dumb, so we match perfectly. Only you say that I’m not dumb. You really are nice.”

Tang Zhou gently put his hands on her shoulder and said warmly, “Since when were you dumb?”

Xiang Jun tilted her head and rubbed her cheek against the back of his hand, “Can you take a stroll with me in the backyard? It’s a nice place and there aren’t a lot of people there.”

It was an abandoned well, with moss and vines climbing on the walls. It was narrow enough to fit two people and the water level was very low. 

Xiang Jun was lying down near the well, looking inside it, “Father told me that you could see your past and present lives in this well. Only my father and I know about it, my sister doesn’t even know.”

Tang Zhou stood to the side with his hands behind his back, disapproving of this. But Xiang Jun suddenly turned around and gently pulled his sleeves, “Come here and look.” Tang Zhou laughed and went to see the well. Except the water was very deep and he felt a slight chill in his bones. His figure and Xiang Jun standing side by side were reflected by the water, slightly distorting them.

“Look, my previous life was a bird with gray wings and a pointed beak, which is why I can understand the language of the birds in this life.” Xiang Jun smiled and continued, “Sometimes, if you look into the well, the person in the well will laugh even if you weren’t laughing.”

Tang Zhou looked at her reflection. Her eyes were crystal clear and rippling slightly. He lowered his head and looked into the well, only to see his reflection ripple into something completely different. He thought for a moment. Could this be an omen from the future?

In his view, it was all nonsense.

He looked down again but didn’t see anything change. Could it be that what he saw earlier was just an illusion?

Hearing light footsteps behind him, he turned his head to see YanDan standing a couple of steps away. She sighed in relief and smiled sweetly, “What a coincidence! I was just out for a stroll, but I met you two here.”

When she spoke, there was no hesitation and her expression was sincere. Tang Zhou knew at once that she was talking nonsense, not to mention why she would come to this remote corner of the backyard for no reason. 

She raised her hand to touch the blue silk on his shoulder, “Brother, are you worried that I met some evil spirit? Look, I brought the evil spirit token that you gave me, so there won’t be any problems.”

Tang Zhou nodded, “Good.” The first thing this token warded off was the evil spirit of a lotus demon. But she was still carrying the restrictive talisman and couldn’t even create a small wave with her magic, so he didn’t take it to heart at all. He tentatively asked, “Have you ever seen an illusion before?”

YanDan smiled proudly, “I’ve always relied on my natural talents to learn, how could I be delusional?”

By the time they returned to the guest room, it was already dark. He’d already eaten dinner and the more he thought about it, the more incredulous he felt. Shen Xiang Jun told him that only her and Master Shen knew about the well, even Shen Yijun doesn’t know about it. He thought for a while and decided that the blood covered figure he saw in the well wasn’t an illusion. There might be an alternate universe in there. He packed his things up, put a dagger and some fire starters in his sleeve, and went back to the abandoned well by himself. 

The night was dark, the half-moon was covered up by some dark clouds, and the stars seemed dim and their light weak. 

Tang Zhou lit the fire starter, pressed his hand against the well to support himself, and looked inside. With the light of the fire, everything looked clearer. He vaguely saw a white, dry face with wide eyes as if he just saw something terrifying. Tang Zhou was stunned. He suddenly heard a click and the edge of the well suddenly collapsed. There was nowhere to support himself, so he fell into the water with a loud thud

He wasn’t good with the water, so after falling into the well, he unwillingly swallowed water. Holding his breath, he dived against the wall of the well. The water was freezing to the bone and it wasn’t good for someone to soak in it for a long time. 

Tang Zhou stuck his head out of the water, just in time to see a pale and wrinkled face. No matter how calm he was earlier, he couldn’t help but become startled. He reached out and pulled the dagger from his sleeve but he felt something cold against his wrist as if it was clasped by a heavy iron ring. The shriveled and wrinkled cheek suddenly twitched and in a flash, it was right in front of him. Tang Zhou’s pale lips moved and he managed to spit out, “It’s a witch… run, RUN!”

**Wu Gu is a type of poison, so it’s basically saying that their bones have poisonous worms in them O-O

[Woah… what a cliffhanger! Is YanDan going to save you, like a hero saving the damsel in distress? Who know…]

1 thought on “Chapter 14: A Dead End”

  1. Lmao, Yan Dan always teasing Tang Zhou about her wanting a sister-in-law ? and I wasn’t informed that this novel is kinda horror lol, that part when TZ fell into the well was indeed scary ?
    Thank you for your hard work! Looking forward to the next chapters~

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