"Chen Ge, should we wait for Captain Yan's support team to come before we head into the mountain together?" Ol' Wei looked at his phone that had no signal-the time shown was 00:50 am.
"It takes at least one hour to come from Jiujiang to Lin Guan Village. If we need to wait for them to enter the mountain, the sun will have already risen." Chen Ge's group had been walking through the forest for almost two hours, but there was still no sign of any village. All they could see were mountains and mountains.
"But can we do this with just the three of us?" Ol' Wei was worried that if there was a real altercation, they probably still needed to worry about Master Bai.
"That shouldn't be a problem." Chen Ge had initially been worried about Master Bai's physical condition, but after one hour of trekking, he realized that his worry was unfounded. Master Bai was healthy since he had grown up in the mountain and knew the local geography very well.
"What are you two mumbling about?" Master Bai walked in front with a branch. "A few more steps, and we'll reach a fork in the fork. If we take the road going over the mountain top, we'll need to walk for another two hours, but if we take the shortcut that crosses through the mountain valley, we'll only need thirty minutes before we reach Coffin Village. Which one should we take?"
"Is the shortcut not an easy path to trek?" Chen Ge clearly understood that since Master Bai had brought it up, something had to be wrong with that path.
"Yes." Master Bai's face was serious. "The mountain valley is haunted."
"Hauntings are fine. I thought you're going to say that it is home to wolf dens." Chen Ge patted his backpack, and the white cat poked its head out with dissatisfaction.
"Now, I'm curious. In your world, why are wolves more terrifying than ghosts?" Master Bai leaned against the branch. He could not understand Chen Ge's way of thinking.
"Ghost are immaterial, but wolves are real." Ol' Wei did not believe in the talk of ghosts.
Chen Ge rolled his eyes but did not argue. "We'll trek through the valley."
"Are you sure? There are things in this world that can't be explained." Master Bai once again asked for their opinion.
"Master Bai, did something happen to you before?" Chen Ge saw the unnatural expression on the old man's face. He was really reluctant to go through the valley. "You are very familiar with this path, so you must have taken it more than once already. We're doing this to save the children, so I hope you won't purposely hide something from us."
"I'm not trying to, but I'm afraid you won't believe me even if I tell you." Master Bai shared the events from his youth. "My father knew a thing or two about medicine. In the forties, when there was an epidemic of the measles, he trekked through the mountains to help all the nearby villages, and it was then that he discovered Coffin Village.
"This village is isolated from the world, and there weren't many who even knew how to read. They depended on folk remedy for their sickness, and when my father arrived, the condition of the village was very serious. To save the villagers of Coffin Village, my father paid the place several visits.
"At the time, I was still young, and my father wanted me to take over his practice. After all, a doctor is more respected than a farmer, so he would bring me on these visits. Everything was fine the first few times, but there was that one time my father got into an argument with one of the villagers. I'm not sure what the cause was.
"Normally, we left at 2 pm, but that day, when we left Coffin Village, it was already late afternoon. However, since the sun hadn't fallen, we decided to trek through the valley. Half way through, my father suddenly urged me to move faster. All I was thinking about then was the hot meal at home, so I did run faster.
"However, after some time, my father urged me again from behind, telling me to run even faster. It was then that I realized something was wrong. I was about to turn around and ask him what was wrong when he used his hand to cover my eyes.
"All he said was for me to move faster. I peeked through the slit in his fingers, and I saw someone leaning on my father's back!
"My father's face was white, and he walked behind me, pushing me forward. Perhaps due to his regular acts of charity, the thing on his back didn't harm him. However, I remember that when we entered the valley, the sky was bright, but when we exited it, the sky was completely dark.
"After that, my father fell seriously ill, and we stopped visiting Coffin Village. Even now, I have no idea what the source of the argument was or what the thing that was leaning on his back was."
Master Bai sounded sad when he told this tale. Chen Ge understood why Master Bai would feel so guilty for not helping Jiang Ling's sister. He had seen a ghost when he was young, so he believed these things more than most.
"Do you still plan to go through the valley?" Master Bai asked.
"The detour will take too much time; we'll take the valley." Chen Ge gripped the Pen Spirit. "The two of you can walk in, and I'll close up the back."
"Are you sure you can do that?" Originally, that was the role assigned to Ol' Wei. He had been making marks on trees as they moved through the forest. Master Bai wanted to advise Chen Ge, but he remembered what had happened that night. Chen Ge chased Jiang Ling's sister out of the room and even seemed like he was trying to communicate with her. The old man's lips twitched. Now he suspected that Chen Ge had purposely told them to use the shortcut through the valley because he heard it was haunted.
"Why are you two looking at me? Don't worry, let's go." Chen Ge did not feel panic. His backpack had a white cat, so if the ghost wanted to have someone to lean on, it would attack the white cat first. He nuzzled the cat's head gently before following Master Bai and Ol' Wei into the valley.
The trees became more common and twisted like everything around them was changing.
"Move faster, we must leave within twenty minutes." Master Bai's emotions were shaking. He looked nervous, probably because the memory from his youth was returning.
"Chen Ge, you be careful at the back." Ol' Wei walked in the middle. Although he gave Chen Ge a reminder, he did have some faith in the lad. They walked for five minutes before the narrow path became completely covered by brush and branches. They could see half-buried coffins by the side of the road. The coffins looked like they were placed there on purpose. Some of them were not even closed.
"Don't be afraid." Master Bai's voice was shaking. He forced himself to calm down. "This is Coffin Village's tradition. These are all empty coffins. They line the side of the road in increasing height, representing moving higher in life."
"Not really afraid, but I agree that we should move faster."
Chen Ge turned to look behind him, and a shadow seemed to be trailing them. He did not tell Ol' Wei or Master Bai about this. He rummaged in his bag for something.
Only one? Don't say I'm bullying you with my advantage in numbers.