Chapter 4: Hoodlum
Mu Yi shivered. There was something hidden within the coffin. He grabbed his ax and chopped into the coffin. Mu Yi’s face fell.
Underneath the coffin, were nine holes the size of small wine cups. A blackish purple residue filling the inside with a rancid odor. There were seven holes at the top of the coffin and two in the middle and some kind of black mark appeared to connect them.
“That must have caused the transformation.” Mu Yi thought to himself.
Mu Yi had previously purchased the coffin in a small village at the foot of the mountain. There was only one shop there that sold coffins, and it had existed for a long time. The shop owner had seemed friendly and certainly didn’t look suspicious. He had recommended that Mu Yi should buy the red willow coffin, because it was one of the shop’s treasures. If Mu Yi hadn’t been a Taoist priest, the owner wouldn’t have sold it to him.
Now Mu Yi was wondering if the shop owner had intentionally meant him ill will.
The old man and Mu Yi’s travels had taught him not to trust merchants. Most were dishonest crooks. His grandfather’s death was overwhelming, so Mu Yi hadn’t been cautious at the coffin shop. Thinking about his naivety filled Mu Yi with self-loathing. How could he have been so careless? This mistake stole his grandfather’s chance to be at peace.
Mu Yi furiously picked up his ax and began his journey down the mountain. His furious glare could scare anyone who looked his way. They were the eyes of a murderer.
In no time, Mu Yi had reached the tiny village which was filled merchants and people. Mu Yi’s aggressive demeanor caused a stir amongst the villagers.
Although he didn’t live in the village, the locals recognized him. A few of the nosier people discreetly followed him.
When Mu Yi reached the coffin shop, the door was locked. This didn’t stop him. He took his ax and angrily cut into the lock.
Inside, the shop was lined with various coffins of different sizes and hues. One unfinished piece sat on the floor surrounded by tools. The shop was messy inside. Mu Yi searched the messy shop for its owner, but no one was there.
Mu Yi forced himself to calm down. If he remembered well, there were two people working the day he had previously visited. The owner who looked to be around fifty years old was fairly feeble. His partner was around twenty, was strong and had a local accent.
Now the shop was in disarray. All of the valuables that had been displayed on Mu Yi’s previous trip were missing. In the shop’s kitchen, spoiled food was left out on the table. Clearly, no one had been in this store for at least a few days.
After looking around a bit more, Mu Yi finally put his ax away and opened the window. The street was lively and filled with people. Mu Yi’s eyes were bloodshot, and he was filled with sorrow. Hoping someone might be able to help, he plead to the villagers.
“Please help me, the owner of this shop sold me a bad coffin. If anyone knows where he is, please tell me.” Mu Yi cried.
Mu Yi didn’t tell anyone any details of his situation because he didn’t want to cause more trouble than he already had. Besides telling strangers that a cursed coffin had turned your grandfather’s corpse into a ferocious zombie probably wouldn’t turn out well. If he looked sad enough, maybe someone would take pity on him and give him some helpful information.
“I was wondering why Li the Cripple had closed his shop. I figured he ripped someone off and then he was afraid the person would come back.” one man said.
“I thought that cripple was kind and honest, I would have never thought he would rip anyone off.” a second person replied.
“I saw Li the Cripple two days ago in the afternoon and yesterday morning the shop was closed.” said an elderly woman.
“Poor little Taoist priest.”
Although Mu Yi still had no clue of the owner’s whereabouts, at least he now had a better indication on the man’s character.
Li the Cripple. People thought he was kind and honest. He had bought the shop from the previous owners two years before. No one really knew where he had originally come from. His partner was his apprentice who journeyed with him.
“Little Taoist priest, how will you express your gratitude?” asked someone suddenly.
Everybody looked at that person and some jumped back in surprise. The speaker looked sinister.
Mu Yi knew that person. They owned a paper cutting shop opposite the coffin shop. Mu Yi had bought the fake money there, it was very expensive.
The paper cutter looked very strange. He had two rather large yellow front teeth which made him look like a rabbit. He seemed to be around forty years old and was a very crooked businessman. Considering everyone’s facial expressions, one could guess that he wasn’t very popular.
Mu Yi didn’t look at the paper cutter in a disdainful way though. His grandfather had always told him that one shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. Additionally, when Mu Yi had bought fake money from his shop, he had noticed his fine work. The man was very skilled at his craft.
Mu Yi had spoken quite a bit with him. His prices were high, but his pieces were of great quality. His name was Wu Kui Si, according to Mu Yi’s grandfather, Wu Kui Si was an unusual person.
Mu Yi remained silent for a few seconds. Then, he sadly, clutched his jade pendant. He took it off and stretched out his hand
“My grandmother gave me this before she died. She was working in a palace. A nobleman gave it to her, so it’s very precious.”
“You despicable hoodlum. How can you take advantage of someone’s else’s misfortune. Such a pitiful Taoist priest.”
“No wonder he’s always alone. He’s such a wicked person.”
“Old hoodlum, you’re stealing from a little boy.”
When the crowd heard Mu Yi, they burst into an uproar and berated the paper cutter. He wanted to take valuable item from a poor young priest.
“Little Taoist priest, are you sure you’re not lying? Since your items are so precious, how come Li the Cripple managed to rip you off?” asked the hoodlum ignoring people’s insults.
“You can have a look at the pendant yourself.” said Mu Yi self-confidently.
Mu Yi wasn’t exactly lying. It truly did come from a palace. In reality, he had traded something with a eunuch in exchange for the pendant.
The hoodlum took the jade pendant. He was wearing gloves, and as he stretched his hand, Mu Yi noticed his white wrist.
As the vendor checked the authenticity of the jade pendant, Mu Yi eyes were transfixed by the man’s wrist.