“Water vases?” Bao Da Tong’s eyes widened in surprise. “Since when did water vases count as relics?”
“It’s possible. If they are ancient enough.” Wan Li said. “However, relics are normally things like funerary objects unearthed from large tombs. I’m no archeologist, but isn’t it weird to use water vases as funerary objects? I’ve heard that in places like the Xi’an province, it’s possible to dig up good stuff with just a small shovel. But water vases sound quite…quite…”
“I didn’t say they were very valuable or culturally significant.” Ruan Zhan said helplessly.
“Then why did you call them relics? That makes them sound precious!” Bao Da Tong blinked. “Stop mystifying things, alright?”
Ruan Zhan sighed, not knowing what to say. These people’s thoughts ran wild after hearing a single sentence. Did they even give him the chance to explain?
“I called those three lotus vases ‘excavated relics’ because they were truly dug up from the ground. They are also really a few centuries old, or perhaps even older. Furthermore, some unusual things happened as well. It’s just a sort of analogy, got it?”
“Basically, these three water vases aren’t worth much. The only things worth investigating are the unusual happenings they caused?” Bao Da Tong asked.
Ruan Zhan nodded. “That’s right. These three water vases are very big and their surfaces are covered in lotus flowers. Any materialistic value would be those painted red lotuses. How were they able to retain their color after being buried for so many years?”
“You said those three vases were very big. Then what were they used for?” Xiao Xia, who had been silent thus far, interrupted. “Were they called lotus vases because of the paintings? Or were they really used to raise lotus flowers? If they are related to the supernatural cases, I’ve heard of a place where they use water vases as vessels for the dead. Could it be…”
“Wait!” Wan Li interrupted Xiao Xia and turned towards Ruan Zhan. “You said there were three of them?”
“There were three!”
“We currently have only two fiends possessing children. Don’t tell me a third one’s going to appear?” Wan Li was shocked. Just two of them were deadly enough, but three? Wouldn’t they be done for?
“You would understand if you all stopped asking questions.” Ruan Zhan was filled with helplessness from their pestering.
This was one of the reasons he didn’t like getting close to others. More people meant more chaos. Problems weren’t necessarily resolved faster when tackled by more people. Sometimes, working alone was more efficient.
“Go ahead, go ahead. We won’t interrupt anymore.” Xiao Xia pulled Wan Li to sit by the bed and then glared at Bao Da Tong.
Seeing the three finally fall silent, Ruan Zhan slowly continued. “As I was saying, having the address allowed me to find the place things happened back then fairly easily. The locals didn’t dare speak about it initially due to the superstitious nature of rural folk, as well as the lingering effects of that strange matter. They thought I was looking for trouble, like the reporter from the big city who had come five years ago. This allowed me to confirm that Zhang Zi Xin had vanished from this place. Or at least he had previously come here and bothered these people.”
“That makes things easier!” Bao Da Tong had just spoken when he caught Xiao Xia glaring daggers at him and quickly shut up.
“Sufficient reward was bound to stimulate someone’s courage. Additionally, the mayor’s grandson had gotten lost in the mountains on a rainy night. After getting home, he seemed rather vacant. This had gone on for over half a month, so I gave them a hand. Therefore, they were willing to tell me about the matter back then.” Ruan Zhan continued. “Creek’s Head Inn was a relatively arid place. Therefore, five years ago, they wanted to build a water reservoir. Well, it was actually just a basin that could collect some water during the rainy seasons. The county only allocated a small amount of funds for this project, so the majority of the labor was performed by the villagers themselves. Yet because this was something that would benefit everyone, all the able-bodied people helped with the digging. Everything proceeded smoothly until one day, a villager struck something solid. Everyone was excited, thinking there might be treasure or something. You know, even the Terracotta Warriors were inadvertently discovered by a farmer ploughing his fields. While everyone was fantasizing about striking it rich, several strong workers had already dug up the objects. The moment they were unearthed, everyone was both disappointed and curious. There were three items that they ended up calling lotus vases. They weren’t especially valuable. It was just strange why someone would bury such things so deep underground.”
“Let me interrupt briefly.” Bao Da Tong said quietly, even using two fingers to indicate how briefly. “The digging should have occurred during the day, but I would also like to know what date and time those things were unearthed. Did you ask them? This point is very important!”
“How could I have forgotten that. The date and time those things came out would determine whether they brought misfortune.” Ruan Zhan said, and then told Bao Da Tong the details. He then said, “Because what happened was too frightening, the villagers even remembered the weather was extremely gloomy that day, but it never rained.”
“What happened next?” Wan Li prodded Ruan Zhan to continue.
“Of the three lotus vases, one was larger than the other two. The bigger one was in the middle and the smaller ones on either side, all arranged in a row. Although everyone was very disappointed, the mayor still ordered the three vases to be lifted out due to their mysterious appearances. Only after carefully cleaning off the dirt did the villagers notice the lotus vases were unique. This was without even mentioning the fact those painted flowers remained vividly blood red after such a long time. Just the lids of those vases were unusual. Normally, vase lids are made with wood or the same material as the vase itself. However, the three lids were made of a pale yellow stone. There were even black patterns that looked like glyphs upon them. Some people reckoned those lids were made of jade. That would mean they were worth a pretty penny. Once that notion was raised, others started saying since those vases were buried so deep and were probably quite old, they might very well be filled with treasure based on their lids. Seeing as it required four or five strong workers to raise them up, they must be pretty full. Since everyone was in agreement, the mayor decided to bring the vases to the village shrine. They would open the vases after dinner in front of everyone.”
“Extreme misfortune!” Bao Da Tong spoke, startling Xiao Xia.
Ever since Ruan Zhan told him the date and time, his brows had been furrowed. He hadn’t been making calculations like those Daoists in movies. It wasn’t clear what he was thinking, but when Ruan Zhan mentioned opening the vases in the shrine, he suddenly blurted out that line.
“That’s right, extreme misfortune.” Ruan Zhan nodded.
“The date you gave me was based on the solar calendar. It took me forever to figure out that the date was the seventh day of the seventh month based on the lunar calendar.” Bao Da Tong said. “The skies were overcast but without rain the day of the excavation. Therefore, the air did not dissipate. Then, they brought them over to the shrine, where they could use the Yin energy gathered there. Finally, they opened the vases in the evening. Essentially, the timing, conditions and people present were all ideal. Even if those things weren’t calamities to begin with, the situation would have caused them to accumulate evil aura. What ended up happening was misfortune piling upon misfortune, which is why we’re suffering so much now.”
“It’s fine, it’s fine. We are conquerors of bosses.” Wan Li laughed. “Ah Zhan, keep going. What was inside those vases?”
“That night, the villagers excitedly gathered at the shrine and the mayor oversaw the opening of the vases. Yet unexpectedly, they weren’t able to open them no matter what they tried. There seemed to be formless seals on them that stumped even the strongest villagers working together.
This made everyone feel there had to be treasure inside, so they did all they could to open the lids. After struggling for a while, an impetuous fellow finally lost it and ran home to fetch two large hammers. He was planning on breaking the lid, but the hot weather caused his hands to be sweaty. His grip slipped and the hammer struck the large vase in the middle, causing it to shatter!
The moment it shattered, the heavy stone lid also collapsed, causing dust to billow in the air. Everyone instinctively scattered. Once everything settled down, the people saw the vase and lid were completely shattered. There were no treasures inside, only a skeleton that was now in pieces due to the collapse.
Many were terrified. Who would have thought they had carried some “coffins” over to their shrine? They turned and ran. Yet there were some braver ones who remained. They carefully looked at the broken vase. The noticed the skeleton inside had scattered hair and broken teeth, but between a few teeth that were still whole, it held a golden bell tightly in its mouth. Within the broken pieces were also some jewels used as funerary objects. There was also a bronze-handled whisk covered in glyphs. The deceased had clearly been an old Daoist prior to death.
With the allure of valuables and with so many others present, people suddenly weren’t as afraid. Even those who had run out the doors started returning, both curious about the Daoist’s origins as well as confused why he would be buried in their village. Yet they lusted after the riches even more. They can’t really be blamed for this. Creek’s Head Inn was a desolate area and the people were extremely impoverished. They naturally thirsted after wealth. Now that they found some valuables, despite there not being that many, they started wondering if the two other vases were filled with the Daoist’s funerary objects. They definitely contained even more treasure!
Therefore, they first gathered the items around the Daoist including the golden bell in his mouth. Then, they started trying to open the other two vases. But because they were afraid of damaging the treasures, they didn’t smash them like the large vase. Thus they tried to open the stone lids once again. The strange thing was that despite being unable to budge them previously, they moved very easily this time. The villagers were startled yet pleased. Suddenly, a child’s voice came form the vase, calling for its mommy!
There were many villagers present and some had brought there children. So while people were startled, they quickly assumed one of the children present had called out. Due to their greed, they ignored the cry and lifted the lid. When the people closest saw what was inside, they all screamed in shock and leapt away. The stone lid once again crashed down!
This time, the lotus vase didn’t shatter. Instead, it split into several large pieces. There was some sort of lattice inside the vase’s body that prevented it from shattering. From the cracks, the people could see there weren’t any treasures inside the two vases. Instead, in each one was a five or six year old child sitting cross-legged. Since they had kept the vases in the same order after bringing them into the shrine, they clearly saw a boy on the left and a girl on the right.
The two children weren’t skeletons like the old Daoist. Their clothes were fresh and their faces like paintings, vivid and lifelike. They sat with their faces raised, clearly acting as funerary objects.
The villagers were terrified and fled back to their homes. No one dared bury the two children anew in the middle of the night. Yet the sound of two children calling out rang throughout the night. Mommy! Mommy! None of the dogs in the village dared make a sound that night. Some villagers heard children knocking on doors while calling for their mother, and didn’t even dare poke out from their blankets!
The next day, when the sun rose high, the mayor brought some people of faith along with some strong workers back to the shrine. They wanted to return the three back to the earth, and had even invited a local shaman who was said to possess divine power due to her connection to the immortal realm. But as they approached the shrine, they already sensed something was wrong. Not only was there a thick stench of blood, there were even dark bloody footprints leading into the shrine.
They were terrified, but had to investigate the situation. Therefore, they lit torches in the middle of the day as the shaman and mayor led the way inside. The moment they entered, they saw many dead dogs on the floor. Each one had been bitten around the throat and drained of blood. Not a single dog in the village survived, but it wasn’t clear why none of them made a sound before dying here. Inside the main hall, the lifelike children had also changed in appearance. Apart from the blood around their mouths, their bodies had started to decay. It seemed that after being exposed to light and air, they could no longer preserve their flesh.
The shaman said that due to the protection of the ancestors, those two young ghosts had already left. However, since they had risen, their bodies needed to be buried far from the village, preferably next to a river. This was difficult for the villagers. Creek’s Head Inn was a dry area, and the surrounding villages were the same way. Besides, there was no way anyone would let them bury fiends in their area. If a river was required, they would have to walk several hundred kilometers before finding such a place.
While they discussed what to do, they also found three more commonly seen local lotus vases and respectfully placed the corpses inside. They prayed that the fiends wouldn’t punish the villagers for their inadvertent offense. However, it was useless. The ancestral protection the shaman spoke about was also ineffective. The old Daoist never stirred, but that night the two children’s voices sounded once more. They knocked on each door calling for their mommy. Some families even found black child-sized handprints on their doors the next day. Yet that wasn’t all. From that day on, people in the village started dying mysteriously. Some tripped randomly while walking and struck their head against a stone, dying on the spot. Others hanged themselves for no reason. Lethal quarrels started between former good friends. The people who had been closest to the vases went insane or fell ill. Even the mayor, whose birthdate was extremely auspicious, had his wife go insane.
Now everyone became afraid, thinking they had to get rid of the three pestilences, no matter what. They were impoverished and had merely wanted to get a share of that Daoist’s treasures. Now they knew that they were not fated to receive the wealth falling from the sky. Therefore, they secretly sold the jewels to an antique dealer who had previously visited. Using the considerable amount, they tried to have the three vases buried by a lake five kilometers away.”
“Were they fine after they did so?” After Ruan Zhan finished, Xiao Xia asked.