A Nest of Snakes Inside an Old Tomb - Chapter 58
Feiyi flew in front, two other snakes flying behind Feiyi. Prey was towed along behind the three snakes.
Yin Xiaoxiao stared. The body of that strange snake that was behind and to the left of Feiyi appeared to be blue-black and several hundred meters long and with a scarlet cockscomb on its head. It looked very sinister. Yin Xiaoxiao racked his mind, but couldn’t recall anything about this strange snake, thus he then turned to look at the strange snake that was behind and to the right of Feiyi. That strange snake had the figure of a snake, but its body was even larger, with a head like that of a rat or a cat. On the top of its head were star-shaped spots. Yin Xiaoxiao actually did recognize this snake. This was Mabanshe.
Mabanshe, aka Maban, was a legendary dragon in the modern day provinces of Yunnan and Sichuan. Aside from its previously mentioned appearance, the Mabanshe’s whole body was slippery and moist. It was rumored that the Mabanshe would aggressively attack people and eat them.
Actually the Mabanshe was not well-known in history and there were even fewer descriptions of the Mabanshe. Because of this, the overwhelming majority of people also referred to the Mabanshe as the Goushe. But Yin Xiaoxiao didn’t agree with this theory. One, Goushe was a divine beast and so was unlikely to attack people. But the Mabanshe was its opposite and was called an evil beast. Two, Goushe’s appearance and Mabanshe’s appearance were vastly different. If you placed the two together, they absolutely wouldn’t look the same or even similar.
By the time Yin Xiaoxiao returned from this train of thought, the three strange snakes had already surrounded Yin Xiaoxiao and Mo Laoda — those encircled felt as small as a mite.
“We three had been sleeping for several hundred years and were roused by that guy, Xionghui, saying that we had to come join a party. Ai ya, that nap was really comfortable!” said Mabanshe.
“Xionghui said that the party was to celebrate Xiaoxiao’s arrival, right? Apparently, Xionghui is very fond of Xiaoxiao.” Yin Xiaoxiao didn’t know the name of that strange snake that had continued the conversation.
“Each of us brought food. Actually, I really miss the taste of food. It’s already been so many lifetimes since I’ve eaten anything,” Feiyi said. “I caught my favorite, three lions. Oh, but I don’t know if that’s enough food for me.”
“I don’t like the taste of lion, so I brought what I like, three black bears!” said the unknown strange snake.
“I prefer tasty, succulent meat,” Mabanshe said with a smile. Yin Xiaoxiao looked at the food Mabanshe had brought and saw, well, what was actually a large pile of livestock, so many that they couldn’t be counted.
‘It turned out that this really was a…party’, Yin Xiaoxiao silently thought, ‘but I’m not in the least bit convinced when they say it’s to celebrate my arrival. It’s more of a pretext to get together and eat’.
Taking advantage that the three strange snakes were chatting excitedly — after several hundred years asleep, it was only natural that they had a lot to talk about — Yin Xiaoxiao quietly asked Mo Laoda, “Heitan, who is that in the middle?” Naturally, Yin Xiaoxiao was asking about the strange snake whose name he didn’t know.
Mo Laoda had been staring with fixed attention at the cooking hare. When he heard Yin Xiaoxiao’s question, Mo Laoda looked up. “That one is Heili1. Those three are frequently together.”
Heili? Yin Xiaoxiao was somewhat surprised. That was actually Heili? In Chinese history, Heili was a well-known snake, but nobody knew what Heili’s appearance was. It was only roughly known that it was a snake, so it wasn’t a surprise that he didn’t recognize it.
Heili (li, fourth tone2), also known as (lun, second tone), Yinli, Shenli, perhaps abbreviated to li, was a legendary divine black snake which could cause clouds to form and rain to fall. The earliest account of Heili was in《Hauinanzi·Qi Suxun》in which it said “sacrificial oxen with pure coats are suitable sacrifices at temples. So that it rains, nothing less should be offered to Heili.” The author Gao You commented that Heili was “also a snake god” which would usually hide deep in the abyss 3 and create clouds and rain.
On second thought, Yin Xiaoxiao was thinking that Ji Zhao really was an intelligent and interesting person. Probably at that time, in order to guard Ji Kang’s imperial tomb so it wouldn’t be disturbed by later generations, Ji Zhao had made so many preparations. He still wasn’t sure the reason for the vipers, but the strange snakes below the cliff made Yin Xiaoxiao finally see how fierce and stubborn the people of that time had been. Ji Zhao had been able to find so many strange snakes and trapped them below the cliff, it seemed that he was not a simple character. Not only did he find strange snakes, he also considered their characteristics. For instance, Xionghui and Mingshe: surely Ji Zhao had originally looked for Mingshe to guard the imperial tomb. Afterwards, he looked for Xionghui. First, Xionghui could suppress Mingshe’s “great drought follows appearance”. Second, Xionghui and Mingshe had a close relationship so if he found Xionghui, then Mingshe might be more at ease staying here. Then, another example was the Feiyi, Maban and Heili before them. Feiyi also portends drought and in each case there was a large drought where it resided. But it must be said that Feiyi’s ability absolutely shouldn’t be underestimated. After Ji Zhao caught Feiyi he couldn’t just decide to release it and he absolutely couldn’t have the land around Ji Kang’s imperial tomb become cracked and barren. Xionghui could suppress Feiyi, only unfortunately a third person couldn’t be inserted between Xionghui and Mingshe. Moreover, suppressing two strange snakes might also be quite difficult for Xionghui, so Ji Zhao then hit upon the idea of Heili.
Heili was called a divine snake, and its top tier ability was much greater in comparison to Feiyi’s. It could easily suppress Feiyi’s portents of drought and also incidentally suppress Maban. Mabanshe had already become a legendary dragon and, in the normal course of events it would be impossible for a snake to suppress it. Only, unfortunately for Maban4, Heili was a god with a snake’s body. Since its status exceeded that of Mabanshe, naturally it could also simultaneously suppress Mabanshe.
Yin Xiaoxiao raised his head to gaze at the sky. It was only that there were so many large and capable strange snakes guarding Ji Kang’s tomb. How powerful the species were during the end of the Zhou Dynasty! The humans of his era absolutely couldn’t compare!
“Mingshe and Xionghui went to look for you5. But how come they didn’t return with you6?” Yin Xiaoxiao asked. Well, Yin Xiaoxiao in no way wanted to admit that, because he saw Mo Laoda cooking the hare, he wanted to eat but, since this was a “party”, he had to wait until all the snakes had arrived before eating.
“Those two must have gone to look for the last two strange snakes,” Mo Laoda replied, indifferently. He cooked the well cooked rabbit meat over to Yin Xiaoxiao. “Don’t mind them. You eat first.”
“Still, there’s two more?” Yin Xiaoxiao stuttered. No way, there were actually more?
Mo Laoda let out an impatient “En”. “Why do you care so much about that? Hurry and eat!”
“But not all the snakes are present. It’s not right to eat first,” said Yin Xiaoxiao, hesitantly.
Mo Laoda, looking down disdainfully at Yin Xiaoxiao, said, “Little Idiot, how long do you think it will take for them to eat these things?”
Yin Xiaoxiao looked at the three lions, then looked at the three bears, and finally looked at the pile of livestock. “Oh, half an hour?”
“Three minutes! In only three minutes they can swallow all the food in front of them. If you wait to eat together with them, you will be the last to finish.”
Yin Xiaoxiao: “…”
Hey! Was it really possible to swallow one lion or one bear in only a minute?! Was it really nothing to swallow several livestock in one minute?! They must not be snakes, but pits!
But, in the end, there was no need for Yin Xiaoxiao to tangle with the question of whether or not to wait for Xionghui and Mingshe to return, because the silhouettes of four strange snakes had already appeared in the sky. Flying in front of the other two strange snakes were Mingshe and Xionghui. Yin Xiaoxiao’s line of sight was drawn to the two strange snakes at the back.
Flying to the left was a strange snake with the head and body of an ordinary snake and from the tail he could make out the identity of this strange snake — Goushe. As said before, the overwhelming majority of people would conflate Goushe and Mabanshe with each other, but Yin Xiaoxiao didn’t believe in this. So when he saw this strange snake flying in the sky, Yin Xiaoxiao became even more convinced of his way of thinking.
Goushe’s, as the name suggested, most obvious characteristic was that its tail was different from that of normal snakes’. The tip of its tail was bifurcated into two hooks. Moreover, its hooks were also its way to catch prey, using its tail to hook onto its prey before devouring it. Its temperament was fierce and belligerent, and it was extremely venomous. Legend had it that it ate people. Goushe was written of in 《Shan Hai Jing》once or twice. And in 《Shu Jing Zhu (Ruo shui)》, it was discussed even more clearly.
Yin Xiaoxiao’s line of sight then turned to the other strange snake. Only a glance, and Yin Xiaoxiao smiled. This strange snake was even more familiar — Bashe.
Bashe, also called Xiushe. It was said that its body reached 180 meters7, but very clearly, the Bashe in front of Yin Xiaoxiao was much longer than 180 meters. Bashe’s head was blue and body was black, in the past it had resided in what is today called the Dongting Lake region where it devoured passing animals. It was said that it once swallowed an elephant whole and it took three years for it to spit up the skeleton. Because Bashe attacked and devoured people, Yao, who was, at that time, the head of the humans, sent Houyi to kill and behead it. Houyi first loosed an arrow that hit Xiushe, then chased it West and cut it in half. Xiushe’s corpse became a hill, now called Baling. Although Bashe had been killed by Houyi and became a hill, there was also the aforementioned Xionghui, who had been killed by Da Yu and turned into a swamp, but who had later been caught for Ji Kang. So, Yin Xiaoxiao didn’t think that Bashe’s appearance here was unexpected.
Similarly, Xionghui, Mingshe, Bashe and Goushe all came with food to eat. After a short introduction, the seven strange snakes plus the two vipers began the potluck — Yin Xiaoxiao, not surprisingly, became the last to finish eating.
Actually, Yin Xiaoxiao, all along, had forgotten one problem. Even though in this communal meal, Yin Xiaoxiao was still, as before, eating cooked food, why hadn’t the strange snakes asked about this? The answer certainly wasn’t that the strange snakes thought that it was quite normal for snakes to make fires. Rather it was because all the strange snakes present could see through to Yin Xiaoxiao’s soul, which was, of course, a human soul and not a snake soul.
Although the duty of the strange snakes was to prevent outsiders from setting foot on the mountain where the imperial tomb was located, for the strange snakes, it was already enough that Yin Xiaoxiao’s body was that of a snake’s. Even though his soul wasn’t that of a snake’s, well, in fact the truth was that the strange snakes thought of Yin Xiaoxiao’s existence to be like that of a child to the point that they had no desire to dispose of him. Moreover, Yin Xiaoxiao had been acknowledged by the person that they were to protect, so the strange snakes also couldn’t easily move against Yin Xiaoxiao. Although this “protection” was a contract into which they had been forced rather than one they had voluntarily undertaken.
T/N: Sorry for the strange disappearance of chapter 57. It should be there now. Happy Thanksgiving/other holiday!
- 黑蜧, honestly I keep getting pictures of the Ultraman Kaiju, Snake Darkness; from its constituent characters, it seems to be a black colored legendary snake
- tone is how it’s pronounced
- 深渊: with the connotation that it’s a watery abyss
- added for clarity
- about 590 feet