"Now? A-are you kidding?" the farmer stammered.
"Yes, now. My two kids are missing, and they might have wandered into Coffin Village." Chen Ge could not afford to delay this any longer. The mountains were hard to trek through, and the two kids might get into some accident.
"Go ask another family." The water in the host's cup spilled out. He was clearly nervous and afraid. "I've only heard about the stories from the older generation; I don't really know the location."
He noticed Chen Ge's gaze changing, like it was turning colder, so he immediately added, "You can ask the seniors in the village. They must know something. I can bring you to go meet them."
When the farmer said so, Chen Ge nodded. "Please."
"Of course, of course." The farmer wiped the sweat from his brow and went inside the house to look for a flashlight.
"Chen Ge, be careful, don't scare the poor man," Ol' Wei, who stood beside Chen Ge, reminded him. To be honest, he was worried about partnering up with Chen Ge, especially when he thought back to the things that Chen Ge had done.
"I know what I'm doing," Chen Ge said softly. Now was not the time to mind the details; they needed to find the children first.
"I've heard from my grandparents that the village once accepted a group of people who escaped from the mountain; they should come from Coffin Village." The farmer walked out with the flashlight. "Those people are staying at the western side of the village, and the rest of us live on the east side. Normally, we have no interaction. Before my grandmother passed away, she used to tell me that those people aren't clean."
The farmer was honest and did not hide anything from Chen Ge and Ol' Wei. "At the time, I secretly mocked her for believing in something like that in this day and age. I just brushed it off as her superstition, but as time went by, I realized that there was something off about these people."
"What do you mean?" Chen Ge and Ol' Wei were curious.
"They rarely leave their homes, especially after the sun has fallen, like there are things waiting to harm them outside," the farmer said softly. "Every one of their houses has a rope hanging across the window and a cleaver hidden behind the door. I asked them once why they did that, and they said it was to prevent thieves."
"There's also one very strange thing." The farmer's voice turned even smaller. "Every few days, one of them will go missing, but they never seem worried. If anything, they appear very happy just like..."
"Like what? Tell us," Chen Ge urged.
"Just like as long as it wasn't them who got caught." The farmer's words were a bit accusatory, and it made Chen Ge and Ol' Wei silent.
"I'm just sharing my thoughts. Please don't read too much into it!" the farmer quickly explained. The trio walked to the middle of the village and turned left. After a short walk, they saw a broken brick home.
"Here we are." The farmer prepared to knock on the door, but when his hands fell on the door, it swung open on its own. "Elder Zhu?"
He walked into the room, but he only took one step before he froze. On the dining table facing the door sat an old man's black and white picture. The old man's face in the picture was looking at the door, and the scariest thing was, the eyes in the picture were gouged out.
"Don't panic." Chen Ge patted the farmer on his shoulder. He strode into the room without putting on the light and picked up the black and white photo from the table. "The picture looks old, and the edges are worn. He probably knew this day was coming a long time ago."
Thinking about what the farmer said earlier, Chen Ge believed that the old man in the photo had gone missing.
The people who escaped from Coffin Village hang rope across the window and hid a cleaver behind the door. Obviously, they are afraid of something getting in. Chen Ge scratched his chin. Could it be the monster from Coffin Village? Also why are the eyes gouged out in the picture? This is too similar to the ghost stories society's MO.
"Big brother, can you please put the picture down? I have a feeling he's looking at me for some reason." The farmer stood at the door and showed no intention of coming in. "Shall we move on to another family?"
"Sure, let's go ask them about Elder Zhu." The trio went to the house next door. Before they reached it, Chen Ge had a bad feeling. With Yin Yang Vision, he could clearly see that the family's door was open. As he expected, the family residing there was also missing. Creepily enough, there was also a black and white picture on the table, and the eyes were also gouged out.
"Where are they?" The farmer led Chen Ge and Ol' Wei here. The two outsiders didn't say anything but the local started to panic.
"Let's go look at the other homes first." They looked through other homes, and it was as if all the people who escaped from Coffin Village had disappeared. There were black and white pictures on the table, and the whole village felt like a ghost village.
"What is going on‽" The farmer's face was blanched, and he turned to Chen Ge and Ol' Wei for help. Looking at his inquisitive gaze, Chen Ge pulled out his backpack to grip the hammer. "Everyone has disappeared, but why are you still here?"
Chen Ge told the farmer that, and it honestly freaked him out. "I really don't know! The mouth of the village still has a few families from Bai Family Village; they should be fine."
The farmer was proven right. Only those from Coffin Village were missing.
"Chen Ge, where do you think those people have disappeared to? And why did they leave behind these black and white photos?" Ol' Wei had a feeling that things were heading down a weird direction.
"They probably returned to the Coffin Village." Chen Ge took out Fan Yu's third drawing, which read-Going home.
"We cannot wait any longer. We need to enter the mountains now!" He walked to the farmer. "Someone at the village has to know how to get to Coffin Village, right? Several lives are at risk, please show us your cooperation."
"Brother, I really want to help you, but the people who knew about the village are either missing or dead or too old." The farmer staggered back and stopped beside Ol' Wei.
"Too old?" Chen Ge suddenly thought about a suitable candidate. He called Ol' Wei and headed for the peach plantation in the mountain. "Master Bai should know where Coffin Village is!"
Hopping over the mountain, Chen Ge found Master Bai inside the wooden hut. After explaining his intention, the old man pretended not to know anything. However, when he heard two kids might have been kidnapped and taken to Coffin Village. He agreed to take them into the mountain.