It was an exceptionally big coffin. Coffins of the old days were often made into sizes of 1×2×3, 2×3×4, 3×4×5, or 4×5×6, but this was an "all six", which meant it had a 6-cun 1 thick lid, 6-cun thick sideboards, as well as a bottom board of the same thickness.
It was made from cedarwood and manchineel wood. The sturdiness of the two types of wood ensured the coffin's impeccable condition.
Bai Yunsheng and the other two could not see through the boards and had to ask Gu Yu, "Is this the real one?"
"There is indeed a body inside. We'll know after we open it."
Gu Yu put an open palm on the edge of the coffin and exerted a gentle force, which shook the boards of the coffin loose. He then gave it a little push. With a "clank", the boards fell apart.
You Yu was a little afraid and turned his eyes away from the coffin. A moment later, he realized that instead of the putrid smell he was anticipating, there was instead a faint fragrance of medicinal herbs.
Inside the coffin was a corpse looking not at all like someone who had been buried for nearly a hundred years. He looked rather like an extremely thin person that had just died from natural causes. His tendons and skin remained distinguishable and wrapped around his skeleton, all intact.
His sharp features were deeply set on his skull with a full growth of a long beard. Dressed in his Taoist robe, one could still recognize his magnificent appearance when he was still alive. His hands were put together at his chest, holding a back scratcher… scratch that, holding a jade Ruyi 2 .
Apart from the corpse and the Ruyi, there was nothing else in this big coffin.
You Yu was greatly intrigued. He sniffed at the smell of herbs and said with amazement, "This must be Priest Tuo, right? He was indeed an expert in medicine as we were told. I wonder what remarkable medicine he has concocted to keep his dead body fresh for a century."
"I would agree with you on his talent if he were an ordinary man, but he was a Taoist priest. The fact that he has invested so much in keeping his dead body intact simply means he was not advanced enough in his cultivation," said Gu Yu, shaking his head.
Ancient cultivators worked on their minds as well as their physical bodies, hoping for achieving immortality in their original physical forms. Failing to do so meant that once they died, they died for good, unless they could move on to the corpse-releasing process.
The emphasis on corpse staying fresh for hundreds of years was actually a Buddhist concept, which modern men often confused themselves with. The expression "dying in a sitting position", for instance, was a Buddhist jargon, but many were applying it to the death of a Taoist priest as well.
That was awkward!
That being said, Gu Yu still considered the man an honorable senior. He saluted wholeheartedly at the corpse and said, "I mean no disrespect in doing this. As soon as we figure out what is going on, we will bury you in a quiet place with the elaborate funeral you deserve. If one day I achieve a cultivation level advanced enough to meet your mind and soul in a different world, I hope we'll enjoy our meeting to the full."
Bai Yunsheng darted him a look. Buddhism talked about karma and Taoism also had a similar concept. Cultivators should not make promises lightly. Unfulfilled promises would hinder one's cultivation and create evil influence in one's mind.
What Gu Yu said might not count as a promise, but he meant what he said.
After that, he set a confinement around the corpse and opened his right palm, where the jade Ruyi appeared. It was over 30 cm in length and impeccably white. The texture felt mellow and the color was pure. All angles were curved into round edges.
A poem was inscribed on the front of the handle.
"The war seemed to go on forever for thousands of years and I would rather live my life idly roaming the world. When I finally caught a glimpse of the truth, my life is coming to its end. Above the fair sand and the cold water, the moon peeked down at the ravine; through the clear dew and morning mist, one could feel autumn was coming to the mountain. The wind is soughing, bidding farewell to the two cities; the lonely cloud still drifted among the scrambling peaks."
On the back of the handle was a symbol that resembled both a forbidden character and a Taoist pattern. It consisted of numerous strokes all arranged into strange angles. An energy of vastness seemed to be faintly emanating from it.
Bai Yunsheng felt his heart palpitating as soon as he caught sight of the symbol. However, as a man with perfect control of his internal Qi, he kept the astonishment well hidden inside. On the other side, Gu Yu was chewing his lips in vexation. 'Gosh, I hate riddles!' He tried to approach it from the literal meaning first.
The first two sentences were talking about a thousand-year long struggle, which he could not bother to get involved in and would rather live a carefree life. When he finally figured out this impending great opportunity, he was not going to live long enough to see it.
The last two sentences seemed to be talking about his parting grief.
'Wait a second?'
Gu Yu repeated the poem in his head and was suddenly struck by an idea. He recalled the two couplets hanging outside the library and instinct told him that there was a connection.
He put away the Ruyi and sent the coffin back to where it was right away before asking Bai Yunsheng, "Have you found anything?"
"Sorry, but I didn't!" Bai Yunsheng shook his head.
"I think it's got something to do with Black God Temple. How about we take another look?"
After that, Gu Yu turned to the You Brothers. "Thank you for taking us all the way here. I heard some heavy firing over there in the town just then, probably from the army cleaning out the birds. I think you'll be fine going back following the main road. Oh, let me give you something for…"
"I don't want any money!" Before he could finish the sentence, You Le interrupted hastily. "Master, please take us with you. Xiao Yu knows Fish Mountain very well. You might still need him."
"Well, it wouldn't hurt to have you two around, I guess. Don't speak or do anything unless necessary." Gu Yu didn't think much of it.
"Thank you, master!"
You Le was overjoyed. Dragging You Yu to his side, he tagged along happily at the rear.
Hence, the four returned to the front gate from the east side, where they found that the number of birds had noticeably decreased. Every now and then, they would come across a dead bird and the air was filled with a discernible smell of blood.
You Yu cried out in surprise as soon as they were back on the brick-paved ground. At the intersection of the road to the direction of the town center, six armored vehicles parked in perfect order. The two lines each consisting of three vehicles all had fully armored police officers on them and parked among them were a few cars, from which seven of eight people were looking their way.
The brothers flustered and turned rigid with fear at such a battle array.
"That was fast." Flipping his sleeves, Gu Yu walked casually towards them.
A man had run towards him before that, saying, "Mr. Gu, I am the deputy director of the BIMAUP Guizhou sub-bureau. Nice to meet you."
"What are you lot doing here?"
"We've just finished cleaning out the county town and since we were told you are here in Fish Mountain, we thought we should come by." The deputy paused a little before asking, "Mr. Gu, what is going on here?"
"I only have a little idea and I'm still working on it. Right now, I need to go up there and have a look."
"If it is all right with you, we'd like to come with you, too."
"Of course. This is not my territory, so do as you like."
He was generous like that. After those words, he entered the mountain gate. The deputy pondered for a while and named five of his men, who then went into Black Gate Temple with him.
If the disturbance level of the spiritual essence here this morning was a 1, it was a 4 now. As time passed, that thing seemed to be growing even more restless.
Gu Yu headed right for the library in the backyard and read the two couplets again. "Alongside the Mountains of Dayou and Xiaoyu and together with the Toad Cave, the knowledge stored in the three mountains are like the Three Pools Mirroring the Moon of West Lake", and "The sun shines brightly on Brocade City; the moon softly lights up the library".
Tuo Jichan had been engaged in literary pursuits and would often get together with the literati of Zhijin to compose poems and couplets. He was also a master in guqin. The fact that he had gone into his grave with a jade Ruyi in his hands could either mean that it was a piece of rare treasure, or that the old priest was trying to pass a message.
As for the two couplets, the Dayou and Xiaoyou were probably referring to the two mountains with those names in Yuanling County. Legend had it that a man of the Qin Dynasty used to live there as a recluse, who had collected over a thousand scrolls of books in a cave. Therefore, the names of the mountains were usually used as a metaphor for a large book collection.
That was a plausible explanation, but what about that Toad Cave? Could certain elder 3 be around since the Republic of China era already?
He stopped that train of thought and frowned, murmuring, "The sun shines brightly on Brocade City, on Brocade City… Brocade City is the provincial capital of Sichuan and is 700 km away from here. How does the sunshine work?"
Bai Yunsheng was looking at the couplet as well. A moment later, he said suddenly, "I know the name Brocade City, it could be referring to another place."
"Where?" asked Gu Yu right away.
"It's also in Sichuan, but not very far from Zhijin. It is now called Youxian 4 County. It was known for its abundance of azalea, which resembles the splendor of brocade when in full blossom, hence the town's alternative name 'Brocade City'. After the modern country was established, this alternative name was easily mistaken for the provincial capital, so the authorities made it official to stop using it."
"Then why is it called Youxian County?" Gu Yu then asked.
Bai Yunsheng ignored that question and turned to look elsewhere.
Gu Yu would not stop there and teased, "Why, you know a great deal of Sichuan. Have you lived there before?"
"Are you from Sichuan yourself?"
"Or is anyone of your sect from Sichuan. Or, has your sect actually moved here from Sichuan in the first place?"
Bai Yunsheng's face turned stern as he stared at Gu Yu's face.
"Don't be so jumpy. I'm just asking."
Gu Yu waved with a chuckle. He was not stupid. Although Xiaozhai did not make it explicit, he had pretty much figured it out himself.
The Immortal Cave was not established by local Taoist members and Taoism in Guizhou was greatly influenced by Sichuan. Bai Yunsheng himself was a swordmaster… put everything together and one could only be reminded of an ancient and mysterious organization.
What was Sichuan famous for?
The concept of Sword Immortals had a long history. According to Xiaozhai's categorization, it was a school established during the Ancient Immortal Period. It was distinguished from the traditional cultivation method and was considered heretical at the time. Many fellow cultivators despised its teachings and there were few records on this school in the scriptures.
Gu Yu only had some general idea of this school. The Sword Immortal Sect was divided into southern and northern branches. Little was known of the northern branch, while the southern one considered Sichuan their headquarters. The principle of their teaching was rather unique, which was known as "all skills throughout history were passed down by students coming to teachers, but the sword technique works the other way around".
In other words, the masters had to go out and visit their students, but the students were not allowed to actively seek out to their masters. The two parties rarely met if the bonds between them were not close enough.
Tsk, tsk! Gu Yu was exhilarated, feeling that his looking forward to meeting a Sword Immortal as a little boy (more like his chance of showing it off to everyone else) was waking up again. Of course, right now was not the right time to digress, searching for the thing was the more pressing matter.
He looked at the couplet and the Ruyi in turn and walked in circles in the backyard.
"The sun shines… the moon…through the clear dew and morning mist, one could feel autumn was coming to the mountain…
"Bidding farewell to the two cities… the two cities… the scrambling peaks…"
Hm? He halted suddenly, as if a lightbulb had just popped out of his head. He then examined the terrain of this backyard. The layout of this yard was rather strange: grotesque rocky peaks embraced the yard on three sides and the main hall stood on the fourth, which together circled the yard in.
Looking up, he felt he was looking at the sky from a well as some white clouds drifted by.
"Brocade City, the library… haha!" he repeated the two sentences and let out a laughter. "Excuse me, that one, I can't remember your name, could you check with the observatory and see if there is any unusual phenomena these days?"
The deputy who was leading a team randomly poking around the courtyard winced at Gu Yu's question. "Could you be a little bit more specific? This is a very big country."
"Just the area around Zhijin."
The deputy had no idea what the request was about but made the phone call anyway. Before long, he came back with an answer. "Because of the way the earth rotates, we'll be able to see the sun and the moon both shining in the sky… and the ideal place to observe this is the area from Youxian County to Zhijin."
"When is it happening?"
"Tomorrow, before dawn."
"Mr., Mr. Gu…"
Although he had no idea what was happening, the deputy's voice was shaking. For some unknown reason, he was overtaken by an excitement, as if he was going to witness some major event.
"I see. In that case, I'll wait here. It will probably get very dangerous when the time comes, so you'd better leave the mountain for somewhere safer."
Cautious as he always was, You Yu was about to bid them farewell when You Le pushed him aside and said anxiously, "We don't want to leave! We don't!"
"Suit yourself. You'll be responsible for your own safety."
Gu Yu effortlessly jumped onto the roof of the library's second floor, where he lay down and ignored everyone else.TL/N: roughly 20 cm ED/N: a sort of scepter TL/N: again, the toad reference was about the Moha culture. There's a wiki page on the topic, which is quite entertaining. TL/N: meaning "wandering immortal"