Chapter 3 - The Desolate Corpse
From then on, Hu Guo Hua acted as a soldier and was given a lot of responsibilities. At the time, the world was in chaos and the warlords constantly fought amongst each other. If someone created an army of a hundred men or so, they would become a faction. Today, one faction may destroy another. And the next day, that faction may be crushed by yet another. Without power, it was near impossible to survive. The warlord that Hu Guo Hua chose to follow didn’t have a lot of strength. Within a year, their faction was defeated. The soldiers in the army either died or ran away. The warlord that helped Hu Guo Hua ended up with a bullet in his chest.
After the army lost, Hu Guo Hua ran back to his hometown. The ramshackle house he used to live in was already dilapidated. He had run away from the battlefield in a hurry, and didn’t bring any money with him. He hadn’t even eaten for two days and he was going through another withdrawal. He had no choice but to sell his gun to a bunch of bandits in exchange for some drugs and food. That was the only way he could survive this desperate situation.
He knew in his heart that he couldn’t survive like this. The little food he could buy would at most last him for three to five days. What was he to do when he had eaten it all? It was then that he thought of the words the Paper Doll woman had left behind. When you are so poor that you can’t live on, go to the desolate cemetery at the Three Mile marker. There, she said he would find the jewels that were buried with her.
The Hu Guo Hua of that time had fought in the war, and was much more courageous than before. He had also heard the old soldiers talk about grave robbing. Among the village folk it was known as “Dao Dou”. It was easy money, but at the price of one’s head if caught. And so, he didn’t dare act in broad daylight and set aside his worries. The night of a furry moon, he lit a lantern and brought an iron shovel along as he traveled to the Thirteen Mile Marker.
(Reader, you are probably wondering, what is a Furry Moon? It occurs on a cloudless night, when the moonlight isn’t particularly bright, but rather hazy. Of course, modern people all know that this is a certain phenomenon called Moon Haze. It occurs when there’s an intense wind. However, during that time period, how many villagers would understand that kind of science? Some villagers would call this type of moon a furry moon. Others would say that it is during this kind of hazy moon that ghosts like to come out the most.)
When he reached his destination, he took a big gulp from the half a pint of wine in my pouch to strengthen my courage. On this night, the moon gave off a cold light, and a night breeze cut into his face. A ghostly light drifted above the cemetery’s grounds. Crows squawked as he stepped into the grounds and the breeze flickered the light on his candle, as though trying to blow it out.
Hu Guo Hua had just drank his wine, but he was still dripping in cold sweat from the eerie atmosphere. Great. Now all that wine he drank was for nothing.
Thankfully, this was an abandoned graveyard. Nobody even knew what time period it was from. Not a single sliver of smoke rose all around him. Even if he shouted, nobody would hear him. Hu Guo Hua took another few gulps and even sang a folk song to calm his nerves. But he didn’t know that many songs, nor did he know many verses. All he could do was sing and hum “Five Verses of Longing” and “Eighteen Touches”.
Hu Guo Hua trembled with fear, but continued forward until he was at the center of the cemetery. There stood a big lone grave that had no name engraved upon it. Among all the gravestones in the area, only this one stood out from the rest.
Besides the fact that there was no marker on the grave, what was even stranger was that there was no dirt piled on top of the coffin. Instead, it just lay standing on the hilltop. Almost half of it was above ground. The coffin was very new and polished. It shone under the light, reflecting the moon’s cold glow.
Hu Guo Hua started having a few doubts. Why would the coffin be like that? This was too f*cking weird. Was there something wrong? But, thinking about it, if he didn’t open it up then wouldn’t all of this have been for naught? If he didn’t have money, then he would die of hunger. If he didn’t smoke some opium, then he would die from the withdrawal. The way things were going, he might as well die in an instant at the hand of a ghost. He’d already suffered enough contempt and frustration throughout his life. Motherf*cker, today was the day he did all he could. There was no turning back.
Once he settled his determination, he raised his shovel and began digging out the half of the coffin that had been buried. Hu Guo Hua was a long time opium addict, so once he uncovered it all, he didn’t have very much strength left. He was already out of breath after shoveling some of the dirt. And so, he didn’t rush to open up the coffin. With a thud, he sat onto the ground and took a smoke.
The opium gave a rush to his head and he became more energized. He grit his teeth and stood up. Then, with the shovel, he pried open the coffin. Surprisingly, the body in the coffin was a life-like beauty. Only, the powder on her face was thick, and her cheeks were painted rouge. Under the powder, there appeared to be two dots of paste. She was clothed in fine crimson silk and intricate embroidery. She looked just like a girl on her wedding night.
This body definitely wasn’t the woman that he had met two years ago. Furthermore, that had already happened two years ago. Even if this woman had just been buried then, she should’ve rotted by now. Unless, did she turn into a zombie?
Finally, Hu Guo Hua decided to stop thinking more about it. All that was in his eyes was the jewelry on the female corpse. They dazzled under the moonlight and were incredibly alluring. Plus, all of the red pouches at her feet were filled with silver and gold. He couldn’t even keep track of the amount.
This time, he truly struck gold. He reached out and plucked the jade ring on the female’s corpse. Right as he reached out, the female corpse suddenly raised her arm and grabbed his wrist. The grip was incredibly strong. Her nails were like steel hooks that cut into Hu Guo Hua. No matter what he tried, he couldn’t escape from her grasp. His heart tightened from the pain and fear and he couldn’t decide what to do.
The female corpse opened up her cold eyes and Hu Guo Hua made eye contact. He began to shiver violently, as though he had fallen into the coldest place on earth.
The female corpse coldly smiled, “You youngsters really are mad about money. Scum like you only want money, but are you really willing to do anything? Looks like you have no use for your heart. Why don’t I take it for you.”
How could Hu Guo Hua let that happen? He stammered back, “No...no...you can’t” The female corpse didn’t let him say another word and pulled away his shirt. Then, she dragged her long nail across his chest and a deep red beating heart jumped out from his chest. The female corpse held it in her hand and gulped down the bloody organ. She didn’t even chew it and just swallowed it whole.
Hu Guo Hua was stunned. He looked down and saw a scar on his chest, but didn’t feel any pain. All that he felt was his vision starting to blur and an empty cavern expanded in his chest. He didn’t know what had happened just now but he immediately knelt to his knees and began bowing before the corpse.
The female corpse sat at the head of the coffin and coldly said to Hu Guo Hua, “You are now my puppet, but I will not treat you badly. I will give you all the riches of the world. All you have to do is bring sixty four women to this place and let me eat their hearts. If anything goes wrong, I will take your life.”
How could Hu Guo Hua even dare to disobey her command? The female corpse was actually a hundred year old demon. In order to avoid her fated doom, she chose to not leave this hiding place. She then set up a trap for Hu Guo Hua this greedy trash so that he would try and rob a grave. Afterwards, she would force him to kidnap some females so that she could eat their hearts. After she had finished eating sixty four hearts, then she would even be able to fight against a god on earth.
Hu Guo Hua was scared witless as he left the Thirteen Mile Marker. He had even peed himself in the process. When he went home, he stole the pants that his neighbor had put out to dry. The seriousness of the situation was starting to weigh on his mind now. I don’t even have a wife, where am I to kidnap women? He thought to himself. Then, a strange feeling overcame him. As though, something important had been taken away by that monster. But just what it was, he couldn’t remember. Either way, it was very very important. If he couldn’t find women to give to her, then he wouldn’t be able to keep his life. Just what was he supposed to do?
These thoughts ran through his brain. At that moment his hand felt something heavy in his pocket. There were two gold bars. It was the ones that the Female Corpse gave him. Hu Guo Hua furrowed his brow. He just thought of a rotten plan. Ay, for the sake of my life, I can only go against my conscience. When he thought of his conscience, he felt very strange. But he didn’t think much of it. It was more important to live a bad life than to have a good death. If I must destroy my morality, then I’ll just destroy my morality.
The next morning, he took the two gold bars to exchange for money. He then found a opium bar to smoke to his heart’s content. There, he spent another dozen dollars and bought a seventeen year old girl. This was in the early years of the People’s Republic. Even though it was illegal to buy and sell humans, the public was so poor that they couldn’t live. Selling their sons and daughters was nothing new. No matter what, the government couldn’t stop it all. The law had no power and existed only in name.
On the road back, Hu Guo Hua told her that he bought her to buy to take home as his wife. He told her to not worry and that they would live happily ever after. If she followed him, then from then on, she would get to eat the best food and drink with the best wines. Every day she would be clothed in gold and adorned with silver. The girl’s name was Xiao Cui. As a village girl, she was very shy, and blushed so much she didn’t even dare to look up at him. She only quietly followed him down the road. Hu Guo Hua led a donkey and let Xiao Cui sit on top. That night, the moon was dark and the wind was strong. He ran straight to the cemetery at the Thirteen Mile Marker.
The mountain path was rugged and hard to walk. Hu Guo Hua was afraid he’d be late, and urged the donkey forward. On the way, he met a Feng Shui master called Sun. This Mr. Sun was known throughout the province. His eye could naturally discern Yin and Yang. Not only could he look at the Feng Shui, he could also foretell the future. Furthermore, he knew the Five Elemental Paths.
When Mister Sun saw Hu Guo Hua, he saw that a dark air radiated from his face. He held out his palm and analyzed his future and was stunned. He stopped him and said, “Mister, where are you heading in such a hurry?”
Hu Guo Hua glared at him and said that he was in a hurry and continued on his way. Mister Sun then roared, “I just want to ask you, walking corpse, a question. Where did your heart go?”
When those words left his mouth, Hu Guo Hua seemed to realize what his fate was. He fell to his knees, and begged Mr.Sun to save his life.
Mister Sun helped him up and said, “Even though you’ve lost your morals, you have yet to do anything bad. You can still turn back now. It would not be hard for me to teach you how, but you must first become my student. And, you must give up drugs.”
When Hu Guo Hua heard that he had to give up drugs, he thought, isn't’ that the same as asking for my life? But, after weighing his options, he decided that his life was still a little more important. Where there is life, there is a way. I’ll ask him to help save me from the female corpse first. I’ll be able to smoke when he’s not watching. After all, I’m not afraid of him. Once his plans were set, he kowtowed to Mr. Sun eight times, giving him the respects of a master.
Afterwards, everything was left to Mr. Sun. He gave orders to Hu Guo Hua while he stayed back for protection.
When the moon was high up in the sky, Hu Guo Hua took Xiao Cui and ran to the Thirteen Mile Marker Cemetery. The female corpse had been waiting for them. She scolded Hu Guo Hua a few times and impatiently grabbed Xiao Cui. She then reached out her sharp claws and stole her heart. After she gulped it down, the female corpse cried out. With one slash, she tore Xiao Cui’s body apart, but by then, Xiao Cui’s true form was revealed. Mr.Sun had used his arts and replaced Xiao Cui with a paper doll while the real Xiao Cui had been taken away by Mr. Sun.
The heart that the female body had eaten was the donkey’s hoof. That charm was actually good for warding off evil. Especially against demons that turned people into zombies. (Grave robbing is split into many different factions. In the Jian Nan province, all graverobbers will take at least two black donkey hooves with them. This charm was a secret art from Mt. Mao, a daoist sect. But that is for another time and will be described in more detail). When that demon ate the black donkey hoof, it knew immediately what faction the opponent was from. Furious, she wanted to rip Hu Guo Hua apart as well, but Hu Guo Hua had long since run away. The female corpse looked up to the sky and wailed. The clothes on her slowly turned to dust, while her body began to rot. Not long after, all that was left was a pile of white bones on the ground.
Mister Sun watched the situation from afar. He then quickly rushed over. He pulled a crimson pill from the pile of bones and ordered Hu Guo Hua to eat it. Hu Guo Hua’s heart had finally returned to where it belonged.
The two of them placed the bones back into the red coffin. Right as they were about to cover it up again, the skull suddenly jumped up and spat out a black fog at Mister Sun. Mister Sun had been arrogant and was completely defenseless. The fog stunned him. All he could feel was a cold dead air pass into his chest. However, Mister Sun was not new to this and was well experienced with life and death situations. With a strong push, he threw the coffin cover on and used a long nail to shut it tight. He then drew a net along the coffin, sealing it with magic.
Mister Sun had taken a hit from the zombie’s Ying power, and suffered heavy injuries. After these events, he sat onto the ground, exhausted. He then had Hu Guo Hua bring over some firewood and pile it on top of the coffin. Hu Guo Hua followed his orders and lit it all on fire. An odorous black smoke rose from the fire and after a while, it finally became a pile of ash.
It was then that Hu Guo Hua suddenly remembered all of the treasure in that coffin. He began to stomp on the ground to let out his frustration. Ruefully, he helped Mister Sun up. The two of them then went to pick up Xiao Cui. All of them returned to Mister Sun’s house to live. <Sixteen Secret Skills of Yin and Yang Feng Shui>
Afterwards, Mister Sun used a secret prescription to fix Hu Guo Hua’s withdrawal. He then taught him the skills of Feng Shui. Hu Guo Hua set up a small stall in the town and told the future of people, earning a little bit of money. He married Xiao Cui and thanked his master for saving his life. From then on, he lived happily and peacefully.
After Mister Sun took the hit from the corpse, the poisonous air seeped into his bones. Within a few years, he left for heaven.
Before he died, Mister Sun called Hu Guo Hua to his side and he said, “During the time of our master student relationship, I’ve never taught you any true skills. This here is an ancient book, <The Sixteen Secret Skills of Feng Shui>. The book was extremely tattered, and there was only half of it left. All it had written in it were some small skills regarding the Feng Shui of graves. Keep it, as a memoir.” Those were his final words.
Hu Guo Hua buried his master. When he was bored, he would flip through this old book that Master Sun had left him. After a long time, he learned a few secrets from it. He then began to help a few rich people pick gravesites and gradually accumulated his reputation. Even his own wealth began to turn abundant.
Xiao Cui gave birth to a son for Hu Guo Hua, who they named Hu Yun Xuan. When Hu Yun Xuan was seventeen years old, he went to a British school in the city. He was a lively young man. During this time, he was caught up in the waves of revolution. The blood in his veins boiled and he dreamed every night of a successful revolution. And so, he and his family and went to join the revolution.
Afterwards, Hu Yun Xuan joined the army and stayed in it all the way until the new government was in place. During the Battle of Huai He, he had become the captain of a team in the San Yei Army and lead his team across the river to the south. He moved his family to the South as well.
After that, was me. My birth was a big coincidence and just happened to be on Army Day* Thus, father named me Hu Jian Jun. On my first day in kindergarden, I ended seeing seven to eight others who were also named Jian Jun. There were just too many who had the same name. And so, I changed my name to “Hu Ba Yi”.
My grandfather said, “That’s a good name. Hu Ba Yi”
When I was eighteen years old, our family went through some turbulent waves. At first, It was San Ye who was executed. Afterwards, the crimes trickled down. To top it off, my father and mother didn’t have a very good background. He and his wife were both investigated and arrested for interrogation. My grandfather was then pulled through the streets like a cow. At the time, he was already getting old, and he didn’t have much strength in his arms and legs. He had spent most of his life dedicated to the Feng Shui and choosing grave sites for others. But in the end, he was cremated* instead. There truly isn’t anything predictable in this world.
*TL Note: Feng Shui is a Daoist Principle, whereas cremation is a Buddhist tradition. The irony is the fact that he was buried in a tradition that was against his own beliefs.
My home had been raided three times. Everything that was worth money was taken away. When my grandfather was still alive, he loved to collect antiques. The ones that weren’t taken were smashed. We didn’t even manage to keep a single one. All that was left was a tattered book from my grandfather. Luckily, he had used wax paper to wrap it up and hid it in our attic, keeping it safe.
The youngsters in the revolution had three options afterwards. One, to join the army, which was considered to be the best option. After all, not only was it good practice, it was also a good stepping block for a better career. Another option was to remain in the city to work. This was also a pretty good option, as there was a steady income. The worst option, however, was those who didn’t have either option. That was of no consequence however. For those who no longer had a home, they could only line up to go down to the villages and work in the fields.
I, chose the fourth route. And that was to go nowhere. What was wrong with staying at home? Of course, I couldn’t. At the time, there wasn’t anything like an idle or lazy person. Everyone was a screw in the mechanism known as society and community. Everyone had their value. If you stayed at home all day, then the neighborhood committee, the school, and the Educated Youth would come by your house every day to mobilize you. Some people managed to persevere and did not join in. After all, what could you do to me? In the end, even that kind of a man would be assigned a job. That was what China was like at the time. Nobody made sense of it. The more you lived, the more confusing it was. You could never quite guess what the rules were, and not everyone understood what they could or could not do.
At the time, I was still young. I didn’t even really know what it meant to go to the villages and work in the fields. Either way, for someone who came from a family like me, joining the army was impossible. If I stayed in the city, then nobody would help me get a job. If I didn’t line up for the villages, then there was nowhere for me to go. And so I thought, if I line up, then I’ll just line up. I’ll just think of it as expanding my horizons. Either way, I had to leave home. The further I was assigned, the better.
Most of us chose to be assigned to the Yun Nan province. I, on the other hand, chose Inner Mongolia. A friend of mine, Wang Kai Xuan, chose the same. He was a little paler and fatter than the average person, and so his nickname was fatty. I was assigned to a place called Gang Gang Camp. I had never even heard of this place. It wasn’t until I arrived at this “Gang Gang Camp” did I realize that there was a place like this in the world.
When I took the train to leave my home, nobody was there to send me away. Compared to the celebration that occurred when people were sent to the army, the departure of us educated youths was miserable. I brought the book that was hidden in our attic along. I wasn’t sure just what kind of a book it was, but it was the only thing left of my home. I brought it along, so I could look at it if I was ever homesick.