The sun was sinking in the west and night was approaching, the three members of Ban family climbed up the mountain with a few loyal servants. This mountain was not too far from the hamlet, but because it’s been haunted these recent years noone dared to go there at night.
“Elder Sister, do you think here……” Ban Heng got very close to Ban Hua and whispered, “…. there is really something really unclean here……”
The mountain was lush with grass and trees, and the ground was covered by fallen leaves, there’s swishing sound when stepped on.
“Elder Sister, it’s getting cold here,” Ban Heng hugged his shoulders and pulled the corner of Ban Hua’s dress, “Why don’t we come back tomorrow at noon?”
“Almost nightfall, of course it’s cold.” Ban Hua looked around, because of the dense trees the forest looked a bit sinister, every now and then there were sounds of some unknown birds.
“Come this way,” Ban Hua looked at her brother who was cowering behind himself, and her father who was looking left and right every so often. She pulled his sleeve out of Ban Heng’s hand and said to him, “Walk properly.”
Ban Heng felt insecure when his hand was empty, so he moved next to Ban Huai and pulled the corner of his coat.
Father and son looked at each other, then tugged on each other’s sleeves.
“Father, Little Brother Heng, remember this place,” After they found the suitable place, Ban Hua ordered Ban Heng to dig a hole, “I will draw a map for you when we get back. If you can’t remember it later, just follow the map.”
“Don’t we still have you if we can’t remember?” After digging for long time, Ban Heng had only dug a shallow hole that’s not quite ten cun deep 11 cun 寸 = distance between palm and wrist, “When we have no money, we all live a hard life together, when we have money, we will spend it together. As someone can remember it, why should Father and I have to?”
“Then …… what if I can’t remember either?” Ban Hua saw him digging for so long without much result, she pulled him aside with a face full of disdain, “Go away, let me do it.”
He moved to the side, “Why don’t we bury it in a few more places, we surely can remember one of them. Besides, with your drawing skills, even if I were to look at the map, I wouldn’t be able to find the place.”
“What’s wrong with my drawing skills?” Ban Hua looked at him askance, “If you can, then you do it.”
“I can’t either.”
“If you can’t, then shut up. A grown man talks so much, how will you get a wife?” Ban Hua shook off the soil on her clothing, threw a box the size of an adult’s palm in the pit, sprinkled a layer of soil and then a few pieces of gravel on top, repeated soil and stones this way until finally the pit was full. She also put a piece of grassy soil on the top, then stepped on it.
“Sister, why not put it all inside?” Ban Heng followed behind Ban Hua and watched her dug another hole in a different place, “Too troublesome.”
“Have you heard of ‘a crafty rabbit and three caves’?” 2狡兔三窟 = a cunning person has more than one plans to fall back on. Ban Hua panted, “Either you shut up now, or you dig.”
Ban Heng silently took a small hoe and started digging on a place around ten paces away, before long his hoe had hit a huge rock, the hoe bounced back with such force that he fell on his butt.
“Ai,” Ban Huai, who was digging a hole in another small corner saw this, he shook his head with emotion, “Our Ban family is really inferior from one generation to the next.”
Ban Heng silently wiped his face. In this family only Grandmother was qualified to say such thing, Father …… well a little self-confidence for a man was fine.
It’s gradually getting darker and darker, Ban Heng and Ban Huai had finally dug a hole each, they put a box of jewels and a box of gold bars into their pits. When they turned their heads, Ban Hua had already finished burying the remaining two boxes.
“With a daughter like this, there is nothing more a father could ask for,” said Ban Huai with some pride, “Your sister is the one who resembles your grandfather the most.”
Ten years ago when Grandfather died, Ban Heng was only five years old. He remembered his grandfather as a very kind old man who would sometimes let him ride astride his neck, took him shopping, bought him a lot of interesting toys.
But what left him the deepest impression was that, on his spare time Grandfather liked to take his sister to practice Chinese boxing, and took her outside to ride a small horse.
“Alright.” Ban Hua moved the last stone, she patted the dirt on his palms, “It’s already dark, let’s go down.”
Ban father and son saw the dark mountain, the speed by with they gathered their things increased. If only they could grow a pair of wings so they could fly down the mountain right away.
“Sister, did you hear the footsteps?” Suddenly Ban Heng stopped what he’s doing, looking around in fear, “Listen carefully.”
“Let’s go quickly,” Ban Hua picked up the small hoe from the ground, “Stop listening!”
In the books, curious people who heard a noise and went to check it usually died young.
The three Ban family members hurriedly walked towards outside, Ban Hua had ran a few steps when she remembered the sandbags thrown on the ground and looked back, that time several people came out of the dense forest.
“Who’s there?!” The man’s voice was harsh, Ban Hua also heard the sound of sharp blades being pulled out of sheath.
“Who’s playing ghost to scare this Junzhu?” Ban Hua clenched the hoe in her hand, “Come out!”
The night wind rose, it’s blow made even their palms felt cold. Ban Heng and Ban Huai ran back to Ban Hua’s side, Ban Huai stood in front of his pair of children, and the few loyal guards of the Ban family also sheathed their swords in case the other side suddenly attacked.
For some reason there was no movement after Ban Hua named herself a Junzhu. As if hearing the swords out of sheath sounds on Ban Hua’s side, a man stepped out and spoke in a very polite tone, “May I ask …… is this Ban Junzhu? I am Du Jiu, the guard of the Count Cheng’an residence. Please Junzhu don’t be alarmed, we are just passing by.”
Probably to win Ban Hua’s trust, he removed the sword on his belt and walked a little closer, “We have made Junzhu alarmed, please Junzhu forgive us.”
“So it’s Count Rong’s guard,” Ban Hua patted her chest, “I thought it was really a ghost.”
Du Jiu cupped his fist and said, “Don’t be afraid Junzhu, we can escort you down the mountain.”
“It’s not right to accept it,” Ban Hua looked around, her face had some fear, but she still refused Du Jiu’s kind offer, “My Father and I have brought guards too, how can I give you trouble.”
“So Marquis Ban is also here,” Du Jiu was busy bowing towards Ban Huai, “We happen to be going down the mountain as well, there is no need for Marquis and Junzhu to be polite. More people can also liven things up.”
“Then, then it is fine,” Ban Hua said with a smile, “Will trouble you.”
Du Jiu gave a simple and honest smile, “Junzhu, that is a compliment to us brothers.”
With the departure of Ban Hua’s group, the mountain forest once again returned to stillness. Rong Xia walked out from the shadows, pulling the dark cloak he was wearing, his expression was somewhat complicated.
“How long have they been here?”
“Master, This Subordinate is incompetent, didn’t know when Ban Junzhu arrived.”
“Not blaming you,” Rong Xia walked around the place where Ban Hua was standing just now, “Other families do things that make sense, only Ban family …… does whatever they want and does things without logic.”
Half an hour later, Du Jiu returned with his guards.
“Uncle,” Du Jiu’s expression was somewhat complicated, “This Subordinates have inquired the reason Ban family appeared here.”
“Hmm?” Rong Xi walked next to a stone and raised his chin slightly, “Speak.”
“Ban Shizi heard that this place was haunted, so he dragged Junzhu here to bury treasures, said…… waiting for a destined person. Marquis Ban found it interesting and followed along.” Du Jiu felt that this reason was too absurd, so absurd that even if he was lying, he wouldn’t have told such a lie.
Rong Xia pointed to the stone beside him, “Dig this up and check.”
- 11 cun 寸 = distance between palm and wrist
- 2狡兔三窟 = a cunning person has more than one plans to fall back on.