Clue in the Forest
During the daytime, Qingfeng Town looked like a very normal town with people coming and going.
Lu Jiuchuan and Tang Ci stayed at the gate of the town and found several hunters carrying tools and moving toward the mountain forest not far away. Last night, the two of them had ridden the vermilion bird through the forest. They worried about wild beasts in the forest and didn’t land on the mountain. Now they could take this opportunity to investigate the situation of the mountain forest. At the very least, they could gain a good understanding of the surrounding environment.
Lu Jiuchuan and Tang Ci silently followed behind the group of hunters and entered the mountain forest.
The trees in the forest were densely distributed and blocked the sun. Only a small amount of light sprinkled through the gaps in the leaves. After entering the forest, they could hear the clear chirping of birds and there were many hare and pheasants. These wild game were the target of hunters.
The hunters started to hunt separately. The two men followed behind the hunters for a long time but didn’t find anything unusual.
However, there was only one winding path through the forest.
Tang Ci said softly, “The end of this forest should be connected to the mountain we flew down last night. There is only one path. How did so many bodies get carried up to the mass grave?”
Lu Jiuchuan frowned and thought about it for a moment before shaking his head. “I don’t understand it either. According to Xiao Lou’s deduction, the missing people in town were all killed by the murderer and dumped at the mass burial site. Why did this person go to such great lengths to move the bodies to the top of the forest? Wouldn’t it be more convenient to find a place to burn them?”
Tang Ci speculated, “The ancient people were very concerned about leaving the whole corpse behind and reincarnation after death. The powerful and noble families would build tombs and hold funerals with great fanfare. Maybe throwing the bodies at a mass burial site and letting them be eaten by eagles and dogs can also be a means of revenge? This way, they won’t have peace after death?”
Lu Jiuchuan touched his chin. “That makes sense. It seems that the murderer has a deep hatred with these two families?”
Tang Ci said, “Let’s find the path first to see if there is a shortcut to the mountain.”
Just then, Yu Hanjiang’s voice rang in Lu Jiuchuan’s mind. “Brother, you went into the forest?” The Heart has a Tacit Exchange of Romantic Feelings connection allowed Yu Hanjiang to detect the thought fluctuations in his brother’s mind at any time. Thus, he already knew that Brother Jiu and Tang Ci were in the forest.
Lu Jiuchuan explained, “I stood guard at the entrance with Xiao Tang. It was too boring so we followed a group of hunters into the mountain forest to see. At present, there are no abnormalities. The strange thing is that there is only one path which is leading to the mountain area where we saw the zombies last night. How were so many corpses moved to the mountain?”
Yu Hanjiang said, “Xiao Lou also thought about this problem just now. He suggested that we should go to the mass burial site again.”
Lu Jiuchuan wasn’t surprised. Last night, they had just arrived at the secret room. After a burst of lightning and thunder, a large number of zombies suddenly appeared at the mass burial site and forced them to flee for their lives. At that time, it was dark and they didn’t have time to figure out the situation of the mass burial site. Since the bodies of the deceased were buried in the mass grave, this place definitely had to be investigated again.
Lu Jiuchuan happily agreed. “Okay, I’ll go up the mountain with Xiao Tang later. Do you want to come too?”
Yu Hanjiang answered, “Use Li Qingzhao’s mark to pull us over. Xiao Lou said that he wants to conduct an autopsy.”
Lu Jiuchuan, “……”
Running to a mass burial site to do an autopsy? He never imagined he would experience something like that!
However, for forensic doctors, it was actually easier to ‘tell’ the truth from the dead than the living.
Lu Jiuchuan relayed Yu Hanjiang’s message to Tang Ci. The two of them continued along the path in the forest. They walked a certain distance before suddenly stepping on air. Their bodies fell down!
Fortunately, Lu Jiuchuan reacted quickly enough. He hugged Tang Ci’s waist with one hand and moved to the side without any hesitation.
The two men were shocked and looked back.
They saw that the place they had just stepped was actually a huge trap with a depth of over two meters. The bottom was full of sharp barbs that emitted a cold light. If they hadn’t reacted fast enough, they might’ve been stabbed to become hedgehogs by now.
Lu Jiuchuan cursed before wondering, “This is a trap used by hunters to catch wild beasts, right?”
Tang Ci nodded. “The trap was very hidden. It was covered by leaves and we didn’t find it at all just now. This section of the path is likely to be full of traps. We should be more careful.”
He released his mechanical ants as he spoke, letting two ants walk in front to explore the way.
Sure enough, they had barely walked a few meters before they encountered another trap. Tang Ci quickly withdrew the ants and released them again. In this way, the two of them avoided more than a dozen hunting traps along the way until they saw a tree house appear in front.
It was a simple house built on a large tree. The roof was covered with a number of branches and leaves and there were steps made of vines next to the large tree.
A disheveled man came out of the wooden house. His hair was like a nest of weeds and his clothes were torn and tattered. It wasn’t known how long he hadn’t shaved but he had a large beard. His face was stained with a lot of mud, giving him the appearance of a ‘wild man’.
After seeing Lu Jiuchuan and Tang Ci, he narrowed his eyes and asked angrily, “Are you two the ones who broke my traps?”
Then he shouted loudly, raised a long knife and slashed at Tang Ci!
Tang Ci hurriedly retreated back. Lu Jiuchuan guarded Tang Ci and acted as fast as lightning. The moment the other person slashed at Tang Ci, his hand grabbed the wild man’s wrist like an eagle’s claw and twisted it.
The wild man screamed in pain. Lu Jiuchuan simply and neatly put down the other person in two or three moves. Then he found a convenient hunting rope from the side and skillfully tied up the other person.
Lu Jiuchuan clapped his hands and smiled at the guy who was tied up. “Don’t be angry. We were almost stabbed into hedgehogs by your trap so we let something explore the way. We didn’t destroy your traps. You just need to cover it with leaves and you can continue hunting.”
The wild man glared at Lu Jiuchuan angrily, almost burning a hole in Lu Jiuchuan’s face.
Lu Jiuchuan escorted the wild man to the wooden house and tied him to a stool.
Tang Ci walked to the other side and asked in a low voice, “Have you always lived in this forest?”
He found that the wooden house might be small but it was complete. In addition to the bed and clothes made of animal skin, there were a bunch of daily necessities such as pots and pans. This didn’t look like a temporary place to stay.
The wild man heard Tang Ci’s question and struggled. “I am an orphan and live in the forest to hunt and make a living. You destroyed my traps and tied me up. What do you want to do? I don’t have anything of value here!”
This was treating Lu Jiuchuan as a bandit robbing his home.
Lu Jiuchuan also felt that his style was quite like a villain so he simply took a knife from the stove top. He walked up to the hunter, gently pressed the back of the knife to the other party’s face and spoke in a soft voice, “Honestly answer our questions and we will let you go.”
As he approached, he checked the back of the wild man’s neck as well as his back. There were no tattoo marks symbolizing the Hunter’s League, making Lu Jiuchuan sigh with relief. He blinked at Tang Ci and the latter immediately asked, “How many years have you lived in the forest?”
The wild man turned back to stare at Lu Jiuchuan. Lu Jiuchuan moved the knife forward. “Say it.”
“……” The cold blade pressed against his face. The wild man stiffened in fright and hurriedly stuttered, “T-Ten years!”
Lu Jiuchuan and Tang Ci glanced at each other. This guy who lived in the forest and hunted for a living was perhaps an important eyewitness. Lu Jiuchuan thought of this and immediately informed Yu Hanjiang of the news. Yu Hanjiang asked him to inquire in detail about the situation three years ago.
“Did you see anything on the night of July 14th three years ago?” Lu Jiuchuan asked.
“No, I don’t remember.” The wild man wanted to escape the question but as a result Lu Jiuchuan unceremoniously moved the knife forward and a strand of his hair was cut in half in an instant.
Lu Jiuchuan said coldly, “Think about it. Don’t try to do this again or next time it will be your head that falls off.”
“I-I will say it!” The wild man trembled. “I remember! There was a torrential downpour that night and I was awakened by thunder. I got up and went outside to take a look. I wanted to retrieve the animal skins that I had tanned outside when I saw… I saw…” He seemed to remember something bad and his lips couldn’t help trembling.
“What did you see?” Tang Ci asked. “You should think about it carefully and clearly before answering.”
“……” The wild man took a deep breath before saying, “I saw a wedding procession walking deep into the forest. They were all dressed in red clothes and no one was speaking. Dozens of people were quietly carrying the palanquin and walking at exactly the same pace. I was frightened and thought I saw ghosts!”
“The pace was the same?” Tang Ci raised an eyebrow slightly before asking, “Where was the group to greet the procession?”
“I don’t know! They kept walking deep into the forest. I was so frightened that I quickly closed the door and huddled under my quilt.”
“Then later? Did you see anyone else?” Lu Jiuchuan asked.
“I couldn’t fall asleep that night. I don’t know how much time passed before there was the sound of more footsteps outside. Several groups of people were going deeper into the forest but I didn’t dare to go out to take a look. The Ghost Festival was coming and I was afraid I would meet ghosts again…”
“Did you see anything wrong with their expressions?” Tang Ci asked.
“Those people’s faces were very white. They were as white as ghosts. Perhaps the ghost world is having a ghost marriage!” He paused before saying mysteriously, “Behind this forest is a mountain. There is a mass burial site on top of the mountain. It is said that there was a famine in the town 20 years ago and many people starved to death. The bodies were left at this mass burial site. The wedding procession went in the direction of the mass burial site. Isn’t a ghost king over there getting married?”
“……” Lu Jiuchuan and Tang Ci looked at each other.
This wild man was indeed a witness.
However, he only saw the wedding procession walking toward the mass burial site. He was awakened by thunder in the middle of the night and suddenly saw a group of people dressed in red with expressionless faces. They walked quietly and in unison, giving a visual impact that would make the brain become dull due to excessive fright. He had preconceptions and defined this group of people as ghosts. He thought they were ghosts getting married in the middle of the night.
Yu Hanjiang told Xiao Lou the information that Brother Jiu had found. “This hunter’s words are only half credible because people are likely to have some hallucinations in a state of panic. He has also used his imagination to add to his description. Fortunately, his words have provided us with at least two key pieces of information.”
“First of all, the bridal procession was what he saw with his own eyes. The wave of footsteps after that should be the missing Chen family and Zhao family. Ghosts don’t make the sound of footsteps. This means that he saw living people, not ghosts. It is just that these people were manipulated by something and weren’t quite conscious.” Yu Hanjiang paused and added, “The hunter’s words can confirm that all the missing people walked to the mass burial site on their own. It wasn’t the killer who carried their bodies to the mass burial site.”
“This can explain how the killer moved a large number of corpses.” Xiao Lou spoke thoughtfully. “It seems that those people were hypnotized and under control of the murderer. They killed them and buried them at the mass burial site. This is why no traces of fighting or blood stains were found at the Zhao home and Chen home.”
“Yes, the crime scene isn’t in the town but at the mass burial site.” Yu Hanjiang nodded.
“What is the key information?” Ye Qi heard this and couldn’t help interjecting. “The famine 20 years ago?”
“That’s right. The hunter said there was a famine in the town 20 years ago. Many people starved to death and their bodies were discarded in the mass burial site. The reason why there was a large number of corpses is that there are many people who have nothing to do with the case and starved to death 20 years ago. It isn’t just the people the murderer killed.” Yu Hanjiang looked at Xiao Lou. “For the specific situation, we have to go and examine the bodies to find out.”
“We have to go to the mass burial site again. I can tell the time of death from the corpses. The people who died three years ago are the focus of our investigation. The murderer should’ve committed the crime three years ago.” Xiao Lou paused before adding, “One more thing. I think the motivation of the murderer to commit the crime is likely related to the famine 20 years ago.”
“Do you mean that they chose to commit the crimes at the mass burial site because during the famine 20 years ago, some of their relatives died and were left behind at the mass burial site?” Yu Hanjiang wondered.
“Yes. If this is the case, they lured people to the mass burial site and killed their enemies in front of the bones of their relatives… isn’t this equivalent to a blood sacrifice to one’s loved ones?” Xiao Lou speculated. “Do you think this is the case?”
“It makes sense.” Yu Hanjiang frowned. “From the perspective of criminal psychology, this possibility is quite large. A revenge murderer likes to recreate the scene or plot to achieve psychological satisfaction.”
20 years later, the ‘evil ghost’ returned to take their revenge. They led their enemies to the mass burial site and killed them one by one. This sounded like a reasonable explanation.
Of course, this was only Xiao Lou’s speculation based on the current clues. Perhaps the murderer just had a quirk and liked to kill people at mass burial sites? Or perhaps it was because the mass burial site wasn’t easily found in the middle of the night and it was easy to kill people.
Currently they couldn’t rule out all those possibilities.
Xiao Lou looked at his teammates. “You stay here. I will go to the top of the mountain with Group Leader Yu.”
Ye Qi thought of the large number of zombies at the top of the mountain and couldn’t help worrying, “Professor Xiao, be careful. There are too many zombies to count and we don’t know if what we saw last night were hallucinations or not. What if the zombies swarm to attack you?”
Xiao Lou took a deep breath. “Rest assured. We have the Peach Blossom Spring as a way out. We will seize the time.”
Proofreader: Paranoid Kitten & Fictional Reality