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Coffin of Spirits

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My master once told me that I am the reincarnation of a being known as Yang Lingzi, born out of alignment with the Four Pillars and not fitting within the Five Elements. My survival to this day is solely due to a pure essence of Yang energy inherent in my destiny. Ironically, this same Yang energy also attracts various zombies and evil spirits, making me a target for ghosts since childhood. I even narrowly escaped being turned into a little ghost by a South-East Asian ghost-raiser! Later, I met my master, who bore the Black Water Coffin, and with the help of two significant people in my life – friends who stood by me through life and death – I inherited a great business, the business of Soul Lodging Coffins!

Chapter 1 I was born in 1987

I am a businessman, constantly on the move. Since 2008, my life has been akin to living out of a suitcase – always either on the road or settling down in unfamiliar places.

Many don't understand why someone in the silver jewelry business like me needs to constantly travel far and wide, even missing the chance to be home for holidays and festivals. This is especially true for my relatives back home, who cast strange looks my way whenever I visit, especially after learning that my silver jewelry store isn’t profitable, but rather consistently losing money.

Truth be told, the small silver shop I own in the city is just a façade. My real occupation has nothing to do with jewelry. I’m involved in what’s known in our circle as the “Coffin Business,” which essentially deals with corpses and coffins.

The corpses I've dealt with over the years were anything but ordinary. The most common types were shadow corpses and malevolent corpses, and there were also ancient corpses that had undergone multiple transformations due to prolonged exposure to Yin energy. The older the corpse and the more transformations it had undergone, the more challenging it was to handle.

Nobody would believe this business is anything but dangerous. If I were to tell people about my real occupation, they would hardly believe me, some might even think I’m insane. Hence, I never explained it to my relatives. My parents, over the years, have been under great pressure to keep this secret.

Early last year when I went back to my hometown, a relative asked what business I was really in and advised me to avoid illegal activities, suggesting that I should earn as much as ‘clean’ money as I can and stay away from ‘dirty’ money. My father and I just smiled helplessly in response, but we didn't say much.

Shortly after this incident, my father spent all his savings to buy a small 70-square-meter apartment in the city and moved out of our ancestral home with my mother. Before they moved, my father called me, a rare occurrence, asking me to come home and see if there was anything I wanted to take with me.

I was busy at that time and couldn’t get away. By the time I managed to sort things out, it was already the end of the year. I hastily packed my bags and took a train from Xinjiang back to my old home in Shandong.

When I arrived, it was deep into the night. Except for a few dogs barking at the eastern end of the village, no one knew of my return.

I wasn’t sure what to take from the house. I walked around, looking through things, and packed anything I thought might be useful into my suitcase. While rummaging through an old chest in the west room, I accidentally found a diary from my middle school years.

Due to the passage of time, the pages of the diary had yellowed. Inside, I found an equally yellowed old photograph.

The photo showed a dimly lit cellar with a large, blood-red coffin in the center. The surface of the coffin was covered in a black, viscous liquid, resembling boiling asphalt.

Beside the coffin stood an old man in a military uniform. His posture was stiff and unnatural, his arms and legs rigid. His eyes stared straight ahead, and his smile was eerily frozen.

Though a color photo, the overall tone was dreary and gray, as if it had undergone some special processing.

To others, this photo might seem creepy, but when I saw it, I felt a warmth that I hadn’t felt in years.

Had I not stumbled upon this photo, I might not have written down these past events. My reason for writing is not just to tell a story, but also to preserve a memory in my heart.

My master once said that time is powerful. No matter what you experience in life, as time passes, most of it fades away.

As the days go by, I fear I might forget too many things.

The man in the photo was my master,

Not just a master, but a father figure – once a master, forever a father.

Meeting my master and ultimately taking over such a business was both fate and opportunity. I was born on a particular day, lived in a certain place, and experienced specific events.

But the past is the past. With no more to lament, I settle down to share my experiences over the years. Sadly, some memories have faded so much that even trying hard, I can only recall fragments.

The person in the photo is my master.

Not just a mentor, but a father figure, as the saying goes, "Once a teacher, a lifelong father."

Meeting my master and eventually taking over this unique business was a twist of fate, a stroke of destiny because of the day I was born, the place I lived, and an incident I experienced.

But the past is the past. With no more melancholy, I settle down to recount my experiences over the years, although, some memories have become blurred with time.

I was born on the 9th of September 1987, the Double Ninth Festival, a day of significance. Being the third generation only son in my family, my father named me Zuo Kang, hoping for a healthy life ahead.

My mother told me that at the moment of my birth, sunlight streamed through the window, landing perfectly on the bed. Combined with the fact it was the Double Ninth Festival, my grandfather named me Yangyang, meaning sunlight.

However, it was on that very day, my grandfather, who suffered from severe hypertension, passed away suddenly due to a stroke, after having a couple of extra drinks out of joy.

What should have been a joyous occasion turned into a deep sorrow for my family. Some said my strong fate, marked by the double nine in my birthdate, was responsible for my grandfather's death.

When these rumors reached my father, busy with my grandfather's funeral, he paid no heed. But in rural areas, such gossip spreads quickly. By the time of my grandfather's burial, the rumors about me had spread far and wide. In response, my father had a physical altercation with the rumor-mongers, which, my mother said, nearly resulted in a fatality.

But rumors are hard to quell. My father, who cared a lot about public opinion, couldn't stand the pressure. After my mother finished her postpartum period, he moved us into a dormitory allocated by his factory.

That was my first experience of moving, but I was too young to remember anything.

My father worked in a rubber factory at that time, and we lived in a tube-shaped apartment building from the mid-1960s.

Our family of three squeezed into a tiny room of a few square meters, with a cooking stove and kitchen utensils set up in the corridor. The toilets were communal, located at each end of the floor, and it was common to see a queue there every morning.

In the center of the building was a spacious courtyard where people gathered to play cards in summer. I remember one year, someone even held their wedding banquet there.

It was there I made my first friend, Liu Shangang, who was the same age as me. From as early as I can remember, Liu and I were always up to mischief in the corridors – from mixing mud in neighbors' pots to sprinkling water on the quilts hung in the courtyard. We did it all.

Every time we caused trouble, someone would come to complain to my parents. My dad hardly ever disciplined me, but my mom had a fierce temper. She would chase me down the corridor, spanking me while I wailed in protest. Generally, after I got my share of discipline, it was Liu Shangang's turn to face his father's wrath.

But, while my mom was all too willing to discipline me, she would always intervene on Liu Shangang's behalf, pleading for leniency with his family. I used to wonder if I was really her biological child.

In retrospect, the years we spent in the tube-shaped apartment block, until I was six, were probably the most peaceful times for our family.

However, in the year I turned six, an incident occurred in the apartment complex.

One early autumn morning, my mom got up early and rummaged through the cupboard, making a lot of noise.

Both my dad and I were woken up by the racket. It was still dark outside, around 4 or 5 in the morning. My dad, yawning, asked my mom, “What are you doing? It’s so early, and you’re making such a commotion.”

As my mom continued searching through the cupboard, she replied, “The weather forecast said there’s a cold wave coming. I’m looking for some warm clothes for Yangyang.”

Seeing it was still early, my dad told me to go back to sleep. He put on a jacket and left the house alone. As he opened the door, he cursed under his breath, “It's d*mn cold, almost like winter.”

Every morning, my dad had a ritual of going to the communal toilet. Usually, he woke up late and had to wait a long time for his turn. That day, he was eager to get there early to beat the queue.

The weather was not only cold that day but also unusually windy. As soon as my dad closed the door, a gust of wind blew it open again. My mom quickly got up and closed the door, muttering, “Who’s cooking so early in the morning? It smells terrible.”

Half-asleep, I didn’t notice any smell. After my mom closed the door, I wrapped myself in the blanket and soon fell back asleep.

I don’t know how long I slept, but I was eventually awakened by the noise in the corridor.

As soon as I opened my eyes, I heard Liu Shangang's dad shouting outside, “Old Zuo, Old Zuo, come out and help.”

My dad hadn’t returned yet, so my mom opened the door. Liu Shangang's dad glanced inside our house, then asked my mom, “Where’s Old Zuo?”

“He went to the toilet early this morning and hasn’t come back yet. What happened?” My mom became anxious upon seeing the worry on Liu Shangang's dad’s face.

He sighed and said, “Something happened at Old Wang’s place.”

Then he hurried away.

In the tube-shaped apartment block, we were all close-knit like a family. Hearing that something had happened at Old Wang’s place, my mom quickly put on a jacket and rushed out of our house.

The noise outside grew louder. I heard someone shouting in the corridor, “We need some strong hands to help carry him out, hurry up!”

Then I heard my dad’s voice, “Old Liu, drive your car, take him to the hospital quickly!”

Everyone’s voice was filled with genuine concern and urgency, unfeigned and heartfelt. Thinking back to those days in the apartment block, the relationships between people were pure and simple.

About an hour later, my parents returned home, both looking very solemn.

Chapter 2 Mysterious Events in the Tube-Shaped Apartment Building

As soon as we entered the house, my dad collapsed onto the sofa, sighing continuously.

My mom handed him a cup of hot water, “What exactly happened at Old Wang's, dear? He was fine just yesterday, how could he just…”

My dad glanced at the cup in his hand, uninterested in drinking. He set it aside, lit a cigarette, and said, “Ah, it was the stove last night. The whole house was filled with the smell of coal smoke. All four of them, the whole family, got poisoned.”

Back then, the tube-shaped apartment block had no central heating. During winter, every household would stock up on honeycomb coal to heat their homes. Carbon monoxide poisoning incidents were not uncommon in our small county around that time.

My mom also sighed, “Oh dear, Old Wang's eldest daughter is about to take her high school entrance exams next year, isn’t she? This incident might disrupt her studies. And Old Wang, it’s not even winter yet, why was he ligh

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