Chapter 3: The Six-feet-under Stall

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The brick well turned out not as deep as she'd thought. If she wanted, she could reach the edge in a single leap. Knowing this, Phượng Ngân felt much better.

Inside the well, on the side of the west shrine, there was a tunnel barely large enough for a single person, with a light every ten meters. Waiting inside the tunnel was a small old woman with a slouching back and gray hair falling down around her face making her looked like an old willow tree. Seeing Phượng Ngân, she opened her toothless mouth to speak:

"Follow me, miss. Master Quý is already waiting inside."

She was trying to be friendly, but her voice seemed to be hiding a sort of magic that made listeners shiver with cold sweat.

What she'd just said made Phượng Ngân even warier...

Điền Quý had only gone down a couple of seconds before she did. Yet, he was nowhere to be seen, and she couldn't even hear his footsteps. Even if he started a sprint as soon as he hit the ground, he couldn't have gotten away that fast.

Unless, of course...

He was a ghost.

The train carriage in which the two of them met earlier were in fact, not empty at all. Phantoms–those unfortunate souls that died elsewhere took the train of the dead to get home–sat in every seat, including the one next to her. Yet, as soon as Điền Quý entered, all the spirits became restless, panicked, and retreated away from him.

It was the first clue that told her he was not a simple man as he appeared.

Then, even as weird things kept happening around him since they got off the train, she wasn't actually afraid. She was warier of him, sure, but she still didn't believe any ordinary ghosts or demons could harm her. Even if Điền Quý and that chicken farmer Bắc were to work together, she was confident she could still get away safely.

So, when the old lady asked, she followed suit, determined to see what would happen next.

The woman appeared to be old and frail; she had to lean on the wall and tread slowly – taking one trembling step at a time. As she trailed behind the older woman, having nothing better to do, Phượng Ngân pretended to be asking random questions to see if she could unearth any helpful information:

"What was this tunnel built for, aunty?"

"To evade the bombs, miss. Now that we're in peacetime, I had my son remove the door in the tunnel to make it more convenient."

The elderly woman replied, showing no signs of hiding anything.

"What are you selling down here, aunty?"

"I own a water stall, miss. Business is booming down here."

Her answer sent a slight chill down Phượng Ngân's spine.

What kind of water stall would be making profit six feet underground? Who are they selling to? The dead?

***

As it turned out...

Her random guess was correct.

The old woman's stall indeed served the dead.

Beneath the shrine was a simple bomb cellar, with a few low tables and some plastic chairs. A sign hung on a side, on it written "The Six-feet-under stall."

The customers were drinking tea, eating peanut candies, smoking their pipes, or chatting. The scene was not much different from a street vendor.

"Though this street is a bit lower than others." Phượng Ngân added silently while trying not to stare at the other customers or their dire conditions. Most of the Six-feet-under stall's frequent customers were soldiers who died in the wars, some by bullets, others by bombs or napalm, etc. They all appeared precisely as they did when drawing their last breath, making her averting her eyes out of sympathy.

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