Huang Rong said, “If this emblem is his, this government officer’s rank was not low.”
Guo Jing replied, “A high-ranking official died in here, this is strange.”
Huang Rong checked the skeleton on the ground again and she noticed something sticking out around the rib area. She used the torch end to push on it. The object fell, dispersing the dust and revealing a sheet made of iron. She called out in a shocked low voice and picked up the object.
Guo Jing also saw the object in her hand, “Ah!” he also exclaimed.
“Do you recognize this?” Huang Rong asked.
“Certainly,” Guo Jing replied, “This is the iron ‘ba gua’ [Eight Diagram] of Village Master Lu of the Cloud Village.”
“It is an iron ‘ba gua’ alright, but it doesn’t necessarily belong to Martial Brother Lu,” Huang Rong said.
“That’s right!” Guo Jing said, “Certainly not. These two men’s clothes and flesh have been decomposed clean; they have been here for at least ten years.”
Huang Rong was silent for half a day; suddenly a thought came into her heart. She pulled out the blade stuck on the iron chest’s lid and brought it close to the fire; she saw a character ‘Qu’ was engraved on the blade. She could not help blurting, “The one lying on the ground was my martial brother, Qu Shige [older martial brother Qu].”
“Ah!” Guo Jing exclaimed in surprise.
“Martial Brother Lu said that Martial Brother Lu was still alive, who would have thought he had already died in this place … Brother Jing, look at his legs bones,” Huang Rong said.
Guo Jing stooped down and looked, “Both of his legs were broken. Ah, it was your father who broke them,” he said.
Huang Rong nodded her head. “He was indeed Qu Lingfeng. My father once said that among his disciples, Martial Brother Qu had the strongest martial art, he was also my father’s favorite …” Speaking to this point she suddenly dashed out the room. Guo Jing followed.
Huang Rong quickly went over to Shagu and asked, “Your surname is Qu, isn’t it?” Shagu giggled but did not answer.
Guo Jing gently asked, “Miss, what is your surname?”
“Surname? (Giggle) Surname!” Shagu said.
Two people wanted to ask further, but Zhou Botong had already called out, “I am starving! I am starving!”
“Right!” Huang Rong said, “We need to eat first.” She untied Shagu and invited her to eat together. Shagu was not bashful; she smiled, held out her hands to take the bowl and ate.
Huang Rong told Hong Qigong everything she found in the secret room. Hong Qigong also thought it was peculiar, “It seems like that government officer surnamed Shi had killed your Martial Brother Qu; who would have thought your Martial Brother Qu had not breathed his last, he threw the blade and killed him.”
“Most probably so,” Huang Rong concurred. She took the blade and the iron ‘ba gua’ and showed them to Shagu. “Whose are these?” she asked.
Shagu’s countenance suddenly changed, she leaned her head sideways to think; looked like she recalled something, but after a while her face turned indifferent. She shook her head and took the blade, not willing to let it go.
“Apparently she has seen this blade before,” Huang Rong said, “But it must be a long time ago and she can’t remember it anymore.”
After eating she took care of Hong Qigong and let him sleep; then Guo Jing and she went back to the room to take a further look. They thought they key to this mystery must be hidden inside the iron chest; therefore, they removed the skeleton crouching on top of the chest and opened the lid up. Turned out the lid could be easily opened since it was unlocked. Under the torch light their eyes were dazzled by the gleaming of a chest full of pearl, jade, and all kinds of treasures and antiques.
Guo Jing only felt surprised, but Huang Rong knew each article was a very rare and precious treasure. Her father’s collection was not as extensive as the content of this chest. She grabbed a handful of pearls and let her finger loosened; the pearl made nice clinking sounds as they fell back into the chest and hit the other pearls and jades. She sighed, “There must be history behind all these treasures; if father were here he would be tell us the origin of each.” She took them one by one and explained what it was to Guo Jing; this one was a jade bracelet, this one rhino skin case, that one was cornelian cup, that one was emerald dish, and so on.
Guo Jing grew up in the desert; not only he had never seen this kind of treasures, he had never even heard of them; he thought, “People spent so much effort to collect these gadgets, don’t know what they are going to do with them?”
While speaking Huang Rong continued to grope around in the box, and her hand touched a piece of hard board; she knew there must be another layer underneath. She moved the jewelry aside and saw rings around the board; she inserted her little fingers inside the rings and lifted the board up. Underneath were a bunch of greenish copper colored antiques. She had heard her father illustrated to her some antique copperwares, and she recognized some to be ‘long wen ding’ [imperial culture tripod], ‘shang yi’ [an article from the Shang Dynasty (16th to 11th century BC)], ‘zhou pan’ [plate from Zhou Dynasty (1027BC)], ‘zhou dun’ [an article from Zhou Dynasty], ‘zhou ju lei’ [tableware from Zhou Dynasty] and such. In the end she had to admit she did not know much about these articles. If the pearls and jades were considered treasures worth a fortune, then these bronze antiques were priceless.
The more Huang Rong looked at them, the more marveled she became. She lifted another board underneath the antiques and discovered rolls and rolls of paintings. She asked for Guo Jing’s help and together they opened up the paintings one by one. She was shocked! The first painting was Wu Daozi’s ‘song zi tian wang tu’ [send off a child heavenward]. The next painting was Han Ganhua’s ‘mu ma tu’ [herding horse]; the other was Southern Tang Dynasty’s Li Houzhu’s ‘lin quan du zhui ren wu’ [crossing the forest spring]. Altogether there were more than twenty scrolls and not even a single one of them did not originate from the pen of a famous artist. Several scrolls were calligraphy and paintings from Hui Zong; several others were from the penmanship of contemporary artists, but each one of them was of the most exquisite and highest quality art. Among them were the handiworks of imperial court’s artist Liang Kai’s unique two-rolls splashing ink characters, with a very vivid image; a part of it reminded her of Zhou Botong.
Huang Rong only looked at about half of them and did not feel like continuing; she returned everything into the chest, closed the lid and sat on top of the chest, hugging her knees. She thought, “Father had amassed all kinds of treasures all his life, but the value of his collection maybe only one tenth of the content of this chest; how did Martial Brother Qu have this kind of ability to obtain these many rare and priceless treasures?” No matter how hard she racked her brain she could not think of any good explanation.