“Since ancient times, the villagers of Dawan Village have buried their dead here.
There are at least hundreds of graves, perhaps more.
Over time, Wen Mountain became a mountain filled with graves, so the locals changed its name, calling it Graveyard Mountain.
With Dead Man’s Riverbend just nearby, they’re rather well-matched, don’t you think?” The old man chuckled, revealing his repulsive, brownish-yellow teeth yet again.
“Anyway, the villagers are none too keen to come here most days.
It’s too inauspicious.
I, on the other hand, am forced to deal with the dead all day.
If you ask me, the price I offered you people for my services was a steal, honestly.”
Chen Peng changed the subject.
“That metal pole your son’s holding, what’s that used for?”
The gaunt old man glanced at his son, who was leading the group in silence, and said, “That’s called the body fishing pole, and it’s something that was handed down to me by my grandfather.
Corpses can face downwards or upwards, but all of them float.
A long shaft gives us good reach, and the hook on the end enables us to drag the body across the water toward our boats.
We will then tie a rope around the corpse, and pull it onboard.
The pole is crucial to our work—the result of our ancestor’s intelligence! It’s important that the hooked end must be blunt, not sharp.
Otherwise…” Wang Laowu chortled, lowering his sharp, raspy voice to a whisper.
“…the half-decomposed, bloated corpses submerged in water—especially during summer when the water is warmer—will be easily ripped apart by the slightest tug.
Do it wrong and klkk, the head pops right off!”
“Heck!” Chen Peng slipped on a stone covered with moss while listening intently to Wang Laowu.
His attempts to steady himself only ended with him falling on his back with a loud thump.
“Peng’er! Are you alright?” His mother hurriedly helped him up.
Chen Peng stood up, seemingly no worse for wear.
He brushed the back of his pants angrily and grimaced.
“Stop telling us these details, old man.
Wang Laowu gave him the side-eye.
“You can’t even bear listening to that, young man? I’m merely mentally preparing all of you for what you are about to see by the riverbend.
Don’t say I didn’t warn you when you people start crying out in horror and puking everywhere later.
Puke mixed with your own snot when you people cry, now that’s revolting.”
Everyone kept silent, unwilling to respond to the old man’s snide remarks.
There was no walkway leading up to the riverbend.
What was there was only a winding trail forged by the feet of many villagers after years of trekking through the mountain.
Shitou, who was the most agile of them all, walked far ahead of the entire group, with Wang Laowu strolling leisurely behind him, telling his clients about local folklore and all the hardships he had faced while trying to earn enough money for a living.
Everyone inevitably felt a little sympathetic towards him.
About half an hour later, they arrived by the edge of the woods, where towering trees and wild shrubs no longer obscured their view.
Not far from where they stood, they saw a wide, fast-flowing river, twisting and turning as it tumbled downhill.
Gusts of strong wind blew across their faces, bringing along whiffs of indescribable odours as they crossed the last few hundred meters to reach the riverbend.
As they walked along the pebble-strewn riverbank, the old man jerked his chin towards the river.
“Do you all see that? Those things floating downstream are corpses.”
All eyes turned to follow his gaze.
At first glance, the bluish-green river seemed to be decorated by splashes of colour, streaks of various hues that floated along the rushing torrents.
Chen Peng lifted his head.
“Where? I don’t s—” Before he could finish, his face turned pale.
“Those are the clothes worn by the bodies.
The body that you people are looking for, what was he wearing?” The old man asked.
The secretary gulped, suppressing the urge to vomit.
“Black tailored suit with a white collared shirt.
He wore a blue striped necktie as well.”
“Got it.” The old man nodded and pointed away from the river.
“There’s a little hut over there, where you can sit and wait.”
Chen Yunzhi led the way to the hut, a shabby thing made from horseweed and bamboo poles.
It was empty except for two chairs, and two more items lying on the ground—a metal water tumbler and a palm leaf fan.1https://zh.wikipedia.org/zh-hant/葵扇
Wang Laowu had mentioned that the area was blanketed by a heavy Yin aura.
So, they would only come here during the day, inspect the area for newly-arrived bodies, and leave before nightfall, which explained the sparse furnishings.
As there were only two wooden chairs in the hut, Chen Yunzhi—the eldest by far—sat down right away.
The other was taken by Lin Luoyan, who couldn’t bear walking another second in her ten-centimetre-tall stilettos.
Chen Peng stood by her side and took occasional glances at the river, his eyes filled with disgust.
Since there was no place to sit down inside the hut, Tang Tian decided to step outside, where she found a large rock close by to rest on.
Vroom! The engine of Shitou’s boat roared to life.
With Shitou’s help, Wang Laowu got on the boat and they both got to work.
Shitou stood at the front to observe the bodies nearby, with the rope and the metal pole in his hands, occasionally pulling a corpse up to the boat side to peer at their clothing, whereas Wang Laowu steered the boat forward slowly, pushing against the bodies in the river.
Apart from rotting human corpses, the river was filled with all sorts of junk as well.
Carcasses of various small animals could be seen poking through the surface, accompanied by buzzing flies and mosquitoes, and stained plastic bags drifted on the water, blown along by gusts of wind, spreading a foul, putrid stench.
Tang Tian found the smell eerily familiar.
She was sure Chen Xu’s ghost had smelled something like this, back when he was in the study with her, albeit not as horrid.
Confidence swelled in her heart.
Chen Xu’s body must be here somewhere, and they would definitely find it by today.
After a while, Chen Peng found himself thirsty.
“Anyone brought water?”
Chen Yunzhi’s secretary murmured apologetically, “I’m sorry, it must’ve slipped my mind when I rushed out of the car to check out the village.”
Chen Peng exploded with pent-up anger and shoved a finger onto the secretary’s chest.
“You’re so incapable! How would you like to be responsible for my death if I die of thirst?”
The secretary’s head sank lower and lower as he apologised profusely.
Chen Yunzhi couldn’t abide his son’s tantrum and said, “Simmer down, look around you.
Secretary Chen hasn’t slept a wink since last night, getting us our ride and navigating us around.
Such a small mistake is acceptable.
There’s a whole carton of bottled water back in the car, so just bear with it a little while longer.”
Suddenly, Lin Luoyan spoke up.
“I saw that Xiao Tang had a bottle of water with her.”
Four pairs of eyes turned to Tang Tian, who swiftly took big gulps of water from the bottle, until there was not a drop left in there.
“It’s empty now.”
Everyone fell silent.
Apart from Tang Tian, no one else had brought water with them.
They had assumed this little trip wouldn’t take long.
Chen Peng’s face was contorted with rage, like a balloon just on the verge of exploding.
Meanwhile, Chen Yunzhi’s secretary hurriedly looked around the hut and spotted the red water tumbler on the ground.
“Second Young Master, if you wish to drink some water, I’ll go see if there is any in that tumbler.”
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