Fifth Master Guan Shizhi felt that after he returned to China, everything had changed.
Before he went abroad, his father, the old master, was still alive.
With this strong pillar of support, although the Guan family was also declining, their past glory was still there. The old man had good relationships with local politicians and celebrities, and their sworn brothers had some military and political power, enough to keep the Guan family stable and prosperous in Fengtian City.
But after he went abroad, there were earth-shattering changes in the country, especially in the three provinces of the east. The northeast that Guan Shizhi knew was no longer the northeast of the past, and most of the familiar faces in Fengtian City had disappeared.
The rest, along with the old man's passing, had also gone cold. In these past few days, a series of unexpected events have completely shattered Guan Shizhi's world.
After burning the paper money in the brazier, the ashes were blown around by the wind, just like the scene of his father's passing.
However, this time, the person lying in the coffin was his second sister-in-law. She was a young and beautiful woman who spoke in a sweet voice but had a very aggressive personality.
The Guan family all said that Mrs. He was killed after being violated by Ling Shu.
But Ling Shu's whereabouts are still unknown, and he has yet to be found.
Immediately following this was Yue Dingtang's incident.
While on his way to the municipal government office, his car was attacked by a bomb.
The driver was killed on the spot, and Guan Shizhi's classmate, Kagesawa, was seriously injured and has been in a coma ever since.
It doesn't look good for him.
The day after Guan Shizhi visited the hospital to see Kagesawa and Yue Dingtang, the latter was doing better.
Although he was injured, it wasn't serious and he might be able to recover and leave the hospital soon.
However, the next day, the Guan family heard that there was an explosion at the hospital where Yue Dingtang was staying, and the explosion might have occurred in his room.
Hearing this news, Steward He was sent to investigate, but he returned empty-handed because the hospital had already been evacuated and sealed off.
There were conflicting reports from the people around, some saying that there were many casualties, while others claimed that bodies were flying everywhere.
Yue Dingtang was nowhere to be found, and no one knew where he had gone.
When Steward He returned and reported this, the Guan family became anxious.
After the old man passed away, it was the Second Master of the Guan family who took care of all the family affairs. Although the eldest and fourth sons may not necessarily listen to him, when it came to needing someone to step up, no one else could do it. The Fourth Master was usually aloof and indifferent to all the trivial household matters, while the Eldest Master was even more so.
When Mrs. He died suddenly under suspicious circumstances, the Second Master was overwhelmed and became mentally absent, only able to answer one out of every three questions. He was temporarily unable to handle Yue Dingtang's whereabouts.
On the other hand, Yue Dingtang had come to mourn, but he had disappeared in the vast city of Fengtian. No one would believe they had nothing to do with it, especially not the Yue family behind him. It would have been one thing if Yue Dingtang was alone, but unfortunately, the Yue family was not to be trifled with. The Guan family was worried about how to explain themselves to the Yue family. They thought and thought, but couldn't come up with a good reason, so they had to temporarily put the matter aside and drag it out day by day.
In this situation, Guan Shizhi, the fifth son, had no choice but to step forward. He went to the municipal office to inquire about Yue Dingtang's whereabouts, but he was almost kicked out.
His old classmate, Kagesawa, was now missing and couldn't help him with any connections.
Guan Shizhi came back with a heavy heart and stood at the door of the Guan family, feeling lost and helpless, as if he didn't know where to go in this vast and uncertain world.
He stood there dumbfounded for half a day, still with a tangled mess in his mind and no clue.
He couldn't help but let out a long sigh and walked inside.
Just as he stepped over the threshold, he heard Fourth Master say to Second Master, "Second brother, in my opinion, it's better to finish the funeral for Second Sister-in-law as soon as possible. Don't wait for seven days, just carry her up the mountain early."
Second Master was slow to react, but he woke up from his confusion when he heard Fourth Master's words and immediately became furious.
"Your second sister-in-law died so tragically, and the culprit hasn't even been caught yet. And you want to cover up the truth as soon as possible!"
Fourth Master spoke with great concern, "Second Brother, it's not that I can't get along with second sister-in-law. You know that she died suddenly, and sudden death is not auspicious. Since Father passed away, our family has not had good luck. Now, even Dingtang's whereabouts are unknown. I just consulted a fortune teller, and tomorrow at noon is an auspicious time. If we bury Second sister-in-law at that time, we can turn our fortunes around. You don't want our family to continue to have bad luck, do you?"
"Fuck your nonsense!"
Second Master rolled up his sleeves and was about to hit someone, but he saw that the Eldest Master stepped forward and actually stood in front of Fourth Master, whom he usually disliked.
"Second brother, as the eldest, I have something to say to you. We are all saddened by the situation with your wife. However, there are rumors outside that she has acted improperly and damaged her reputation. According to tradition, she cannot be allowed to enter the ancestral tomb. But as a family, we are kind-hearted and if you wish for her to be allowed in, we have no objections. However, this matter must be resolved quickly to avoid any further complications. You may not be thinking of yourself, but you must also consider the future marriage prospects of your children!"
The sudden lengthy speech from the Eldest Master surprised Guan Shizhi.
Upon reflection, it seemed to make sense.
He had no particular feelings towards his sister-in-law, and upon hearing the others speak, he added a comment of his own.
"Second brother, you should listen to everyone's advice. If our family can have a smooth sailing future, then even if second sister-in-law is no longer with us, she wouldn't mind. We can always burn more offerings for her during festivals and special occasions, so it won't be a problem in the coming days."
The Second Master's face was a mix of pale and green, and he eventually gave in.
"Whatever you say."
And so, the arrangements for Mrs. He's funeral were hastily made.
The next morning, the Second Master was bedridden with vomiting and diarrhea, but it didn't matter.
The funeral preparations for Mrs. He had already been taken care of.
Around noon, eight young men carried the coffin out of the Guan family's home and headed towards the mountains outside the city. Accompanying them were hired mourners dressed in mourning clothes, waving flags and blowing horns.
The Fourth Master of the Guan family and Old Yuan, as representatives of the Guan family, followed along.
But just as they left the house, the Fourth Master felt that something was amiss.
"Why are there suddenly so many police officers in Fengtian City, and why are they questioning everyone? Has something happened?"
The funeral of Mrs. He and the disappearance of Yue Dingtang had left the Guan family anxious and restless.
Except for Steward He and Guan Shizhi, no one had left the house for several days.
"Don't you remember? Fifth Master came back and said that the rumor about the explosion of Young Master Yue's car was because some people wanted to target a certain big shot, but that big shot happened to change his car at the last minute. That's why Young Master Yue was unlucky. Because of this, the whole Fengtian is now under martial law. We will definitely be searched if we go out."
Old Yuan's voice was steady and calm, without a hint of panic.
He may have been unremarkable during his years in the Guan family, but he was indispensable.
Even though there were always some conflicts among the Guan brothers, no one ever caused trouble for Old Yuan.
Fourth Master let out a sigh, "Will we be stopped at the city gates later during the inspection?"
Old Yuan replied, "We will definitely be inspected, but since there's a corpse in the coffin, it's impossible for it to suddenly come to life. It should be fine."
Not long after, his words were proven true.
There were several times more guards at the city gates than usual.
Anyone who passed by, regardless of age or gender, was stopped and even the eggs in their baskets were checked. The guards opened the red cloth covering each item one by one, even taking two eggs from the basket.
This was considered fair, but if anyone was greedy and took more than their share, the basket carriers could only silently complain and dare not say a word.
Fourth Master was a local and knew the rules.
Before the coffin even approached, he went up to greet the guards with a smile and gave each of them a red envelope. "This is for your drinking money, don't be polite, gentlemen!"
"Where are you headed?" asked one of the police officers.
"We're headed to a funeral procession," replied the Fourth Master. "We are the Guan family. My late father, Guan Desheng, was a notable figure in Fengtian City. I am the fourth son, and perhaps some of you may remember me."
As he handed over the red envelope, which was quite heavy, the officers' attitudes naturally became much friendlier.
"So you're from the Guan family. Of course we recognize you. You must be the clever and knowledgeable Fourth Master Guan."
"Fourth Master, I remember you. My wife went to see you for a fortune-telling last month and came back saying how accurate you were!"
"Fourth Master, can you take a look at my fortune too?"
Unexpectedly, they encountered some supporters while on their way to the funeral procession.
The Fourth Master Guan chuckled and almost started promoting his magical talismans to them.
But realizing he had a task at hand, he quickly changed the subject.
"Excuse me, excuse me! The person lying in this coffin is my second sister-in-law. She passed away from a sudden illness a few days ago, and today happens to be an auspicious day for her burial. If you officials want to consult divination or ask about anything, please come back another day and I, the Fourth Master, will welcome you with open doors."
A police officer said, "Fourth Master, we don't mean to trouble you, but there have been major incidents these past few days causing chaos throughout the city. We have been ordered to stand guard here and search anyone who passes by, even a coffin. We must ask to take a look."
Fourth Master replied, "Of course! The coffin hasn't even been closed yet. This coffin cannot touch the ground until it reaches the grave. Would you all be so kind as to lend a hand?"
Together, they lifted the corner of the coffin lid, revealing a ghastly pale face.
No matter how beautiful Mrs. He was in life, her appearance in death was enough to frighten anyone who laid eyes on her. The officers didn't want to look too closely, just taking a quick glance and calling it a day.
"Fourth Master, just a reminder that there's a curfew at night. You need to be back before the hour of the monkey, or you'll have to spend the night outside!"
"Thank you for reminding me, thank you!"
Fourth Master thanked them with a bow and quickly led the group and the coffin out of the city.
In theory, Mrs. He, a weak woman, wasn't heavy, and with the coffin, eight people carrying it should be safe.
But for some reason, the eight people felt that this coffin was heavier than any other they had carried before.
"Why is this coffin so heavy? Could it be that there's some injustice involved?"
One of the coffin bearers couldn't help but mutter. As the Fourth Master heard the words, their hearts skipped a beat.
He urged everyone to hurry and return before curfew, as there was a feast waiting for them at the Guan family. He also reminded them to carry the coffin steadily and not to drop it, as it would bring bad luck.
The burial site had already been chosen and prepared in advance.
The procession made it up the mountain and lowered the coffin without incident.
However, when it came time to light the incense and pay respects, the incense refused to ignite.
To make matters worse, the weather suddenly changed, and dark clouds rolled in, threatening a downpour.
The Fourth Master grew anxious and frustrated, fearing they wouldn't make it back in time and would have to spend the night at the burial site.
He joked that if they encountered any ghosts, at least they would be their own family's ghosts.
But the cost of feeding such a large group for another night would double.
At that moment, Old Yuan spoke up. "Fourth Master, you go ahead with the others. I'll stay here and keep watch. I'll also be the one to seal the grave."
Fourth Master hesitated, "But where will you sleep and what will you eat?"
Old Yuan replied calmly, "I have some dry rations with me, and not far ahead is the grass hut where I once kept watch for the old master. It will be enough to shelter me from wind and rain."
Fourth Master breathed a sigh of relief and quickly said, "Then I'll trouble you. When you return to the mansion tomorrow, I will make sure my eldest brother and the others prepare a feast to thank you!"
Old Yuan replied modestly, "You're too kind. We're all family here."
Fourth Master nodded in agreement, "Yes, you're right. We're all family!"
After exchanging a few more pleasantries, Fourth Master and his entourage hurriedly left.
Not long after they left, it started to drizzle.
But Old Yuan didn't rush to find shelter.
Instead, he jumped into the pit, brushed off the dirt that had fallen on the coffin earlier, and struggled to open the lid.
"You could at least lend a hand!" he grumbled to the coffin.
If the Fourth Master was here, he would definitely be scared out of his wits by now.
After a moment, there was movement coming from inside the coffin.
The sound of a body shifting and a deep cough could be heard.