"I missed the only chance to save her."
The old man kept his head lowered with he spoke. His words were filled with guilt and regret. After some time, he continued.
"I visited them again after one month to see whether they had found the girl. I knocked on the door for a long time, but there was no answer.
"I walked to the side of the hut and saw that the window had been shattered. I stood on my tiptoes and glanced through the window. The girl's mother was collapsed by the window, and one of her hands was gripping the edge of the window. She seemed like she was trying to escape, but the room was built like a prison. The window was too small for her to fit through.
"I grabbed the hoe to smash the lock on the wooden door. The father had built a sturdy house, and I needed to knock several times before the door fell open. There was a faded stench inside the room, and the tables and chairs were all tipped over. The father was lying beside the door, and there was a deep scratch mark gouged into the door. It must have been painful for him.
"I called the police and the ambulance. When I was about to run back to the village to call for help, the door to the hut next door suddenly opened. It was the Zhu family's second daughter. She walked out obediently from the house.
"Seeing the key in her pocket, I was reminded of the fact that the door was locked from the outside!
"This place was so isolated that normal people wouldn't come here, and the villagers gave the family a wide berth, so no one would come to poison them for no reason and lock them inside the hut. There was only one possibility, the killer had to be the daughter.
"Suddenly, looking at the young girl, it felt like I could not recognize her anymore. Perhaps she saw her future in her sister, so she was just trying to protect herself. After all, the little girl had been born with a not-so-noticeable abnormality.
"However, a scarier thing happened. When the girl saw me, she did not panic or show fear. She walked over like normal. She raised her beautiful face and looked so innocent, but the words that left her lips still chill me to this day.
"She said them with a flat tone without any emotion. She told me that her sister had been buried inside the peach plantation several weeks ago, and she hoped that I would help her find her sister. I wanted to tell her, after one was buried in the ground, they were dead already. I tried to explain the concept of death to her, but she just smiled happily at me. She told me, after we die, we would change into something else, and her sister actually hadn't left!"
The old man gripped his hands tightly. Thinking back to the day, his forehead still broke out in cold sweat. "I didn't know how to communicate with the child, so I ran back to the village alone to call a few young men to guard the perimeter of the plantation while we waited for the police to arrive.
"Then there was a long investigation. I told the police there might be a body buried in the plantation, but the police couldn't find Zhu Xinrou. They tried to use the little girl as an opening, but she refused to speak; it was as if she had turned mute overnight.
"Due to my guilt toward Zhu Xinrou, I didn't expose her sister. Furthermore, from how I see it, their parents got what they deserve."
There was a bitterness in the old man's voice.
"The couple always hit their children, and when the escapees from Coffin Village wanted to execute Zhu Xinrou, they not only did not stop them but even gave their silent approval. If not for the people from Bai Family Village, a tragedy would have happened a long time ago."
"Other than the little girl, you're the biggest suspect, right? Didn't the police say anything to you?" Chen Ge was calm; the case was as he expected.
"I tried to hide the little girl, but the police were not so easily fooled. They managed to discover many things from the little clues, and I believe that one of them by the name of Yan seemed to have figured out everything. However, he did not point it out."
The old man looked at the coffin and reminisced about the past.
"He was not that interested in the poison case but showed more interest in Coffin Village. After giving my statement, I was free to go.
"The girl was taken away by the police, and I moved to the city to live with my son. However, whenever night came, I could hear Zhu Xinrou's voice crying, 'Save me, save me.'
"I asked my son and daughter-in-law, but they claimed that they didn't hear anything. It was normal for the two adults, but my grandson who had just started kindergarten would point at the bottom of his bed or the cupboard and yell, 'Spider! Spider!'
"We ransacked the house but could not find any spiders. I suspected it had something to do with Zhu Xinrou, so I bought the peach plantation and moved here. My aim is to find Zhu Xinrou's body. I'm old now, with a few years ahead of me. I only have two wishes left in my life-one is the safety of my family, and the other is to find Zhu Xinrou."
The old man held the black jacket and stood beside the coffin. He seemed to be ready. His voice lowered like he was talking to himself. "Whether she can be found or not, at least this coffin can be put into good use already."
"Old master, don't be that pessimistic. Now that we know the exact location of the burial site, we can report to the police tomorrow."
Digging for body would disrupt the crime scene, so Chen Ge wanted to leave that to the police.
"That's fine but I wanted to go and check. When the poison case happened, I told the police there is a body inside the plantation, but they couldn't find it. I'm afraid of an accident."
The old man grabbed the lamp and the hoe.
"You have a point."
The rain outside had receded. Chen Ge grabbed his backpack and followed the old man to the largest tree that was at the middle of the plantation. They dug around it for a long time but could not find Zhu Xinrou's body.
"This shouldn't be." Chen Ge believed Zhu Xinrou had no reason to lie to him. After all, he only wanted to help her.
"Sigh, looks like it's not here either." There was a thick disappointment in the old man's voice.
"Wait a minute." Chen Ge looked at the decaying tree, and he retrieved the hammer from his bag to smash at the trunk. The trunk wasn't that thick to begin with, and it shook from the force.
"The roots are dead; the trunk might be hollow."
The two worked together to loosen the soil around the roots and then pushed the trunk down. Underneath the cluster of roots was a hole filled with spiders' webs, and through it was something that looked like a woman's legs.
"This is it!"
Zhu Xinrou was buried headfirst, and the peach tree sealed off her body.
When the body was found, Chen Ge's black phone vibrated. He took several steps back to look at the message.
"Congratulations, Specter's Favored! You've triggered the trial mission for a three-star scenario-Coffin Village! The scenario is extremely dangerous! Please decide whether to accept the mission within a week!"