In order to facilitate the investigation of the case, the prince deliberately set aside a hall to let Yu Hanjiang interrogate suspects.
Xiao Lou, Mo Xuemin and Long Sen accompanied Yu Hanjiang to the hall and the four people first sorted out the current known clues.
Xiao Lou took the pen and ink and drew a map of the backyard on the paper while Long Sen added a map of the front yard. The map of the entire prince’s palace was presented in front of them.
The front yard of the palace had a magnificent hall for receiving guests, the prince’s study and a separate courtyard for the prince, as well as a residence for the male guards and miscellaneous servants. The backyard was full of the female dependents.
There were four small courtyards in the backyard, among which was the largest Xiushui Pavilion. This was the residence of the real princess but she had passed away. Now her daughter, Qi Yian, the second young lady lived there as well as the servant girls who served her.
Changqui Park was the residence of Madam Yun and Miss Qi Yiyao. Qi Yiyao also had a brother called Qi Fenghua, who was fighting the Yan state on the front lines and hadn’t returned home for three years. To the side of Changqiu Park was the small Buddhist temple for Qi Yiyao.
Yinfeng Pavilion was where Madam Qing and the third young lady lived. There were fewer flowers and more open space in this courtyard because the third young lady loved to practice martial arts. She danced in the yard every day with a knife and spear. The flowers she grew were easily killed so Madam Qing just grew trees instead of flowers.
Hongmei Park (Red Plum Park) was where Madam Han and Miss Qi Yiwei lived. It was said that Madam Han loved plum blossoms and the prince spent a huge sum of money to transplant red plums into her yard. The scenery was extremely spectacular. Madam Han had the gentleness of a Jiangnan woman and was currently the prince’s most favoured wife.
The four courtyards were connected by a ‘回’ shaped corridor. The position where the young lady was hung was the tree just behind the rockery. It belonged to a dead corner in the field of view and this corner couldn’t be seen from the gates of the four courtyards.
There were no outsiders in the hall and Yu Hanjiang simply asked Xiao Lou, “Can the exact cause of death be judged?”
Xiao Lou replied, “Based on the livor mortis and the condition of the skin and nails, I feel it is poison. She didn’t have any pinpricks on her body and there were no traces of a struggle before she died. It might be that someone poisoned her food, poisoning her before the dinner began. Then once dinner started and everyone went to the pond to watch the show, they secretly hung her from the tree.”
Yu Hanjiang nodded. “The three wives, the three young ladies and the prince himself have time to commit the crime. Of course, if the prince wants to kill his daughter then there are many ways to do so. He could place a crime on her. He didn’t need to hang her from the tree.”
Long Sen added, “We can rule out the prince. This afternoon, many people came to him to give him valuable gifts. He has been too busy in the front yard and never went to the backyard. He spent most of his time in the study. I can testify to that.”
Mo Xuemin analyzed, “Madam Yun should also have no motive to kill her biological daughter? Her daughter is going to marry into the Lin family and the Lin family is one of the richest families in Daqi. I heard that the Lin family gave her several boxes of gold and she was so happy when accepting it. She has already accepted the gifts. Now that her daughter died, it will be hard to explain it to the Lin family.”
Xiao Lou and Yu Hanjiang agreed with this speculation.
The Eighth Prince and Madam Yun could be excluded. The remaining people included the hot-headed Madam Qing and her daughter, the third young lady who liked martial arts. There was also the gentle and weak Madam Han and the fourth young lady. Then there was the second young lady and Lin Shaobo, who was present today and had a marriage contract with the deceased.
However, the motive for the crime still needed to be investigated carefully. Thinking up to here, Yu Hanjiang told Long Sen, “Go and call Madam Yun first. I want to ask her about her daughter’s situation.”
Madam Yun had been crying while holding her daughter’s body. Her eyes were swollen as she had been comforted by the maids and the prince. By this time, she had adjusted her mentality. She also wanted to catch the murderer and give her daughter an explanation as soon as possible. Thus, she was very cooperative with Yu Hanjiang’s questioning.
Yu Hanjiang said, “I heard that Miss Yiyao was in poor health as a child and she was fostered outside.”
Madam Yun replied, “My daughter was weak since she was a child. She was seriously ill at the age of three and almost died. I was worried she wouldn’t live long and took her and the prince to ask for a sign outside the city. A fortune-teller told me that her fate was against me and she couldn’t be kept around me when young. Thus, I placed her in the care of a great teacher at the temple and took her back when she was 10 years old.”
Xiao Lou quickly took notes by the side. His writing speed with the brush wasn’t so fast but he picked the key points to remember and could keep up.
Yu Hanjiang saw that Xiao Lou’s paper was full of the write words and put down his worries as he asked, “When was the Buddhist temple built? I also want to ask you to elaborate about her marriage to Young Master Lin and what was the exact situation.”
Madam YYun sighed and said. “Ah Yao built a small Buddhist temple at home the year she came back. She has been fasted and praying for us. She is actually very filial. The marriage was the prince’s idea. Last year, the Lin family came to propose to have their eldest son marry our eldest daughter. It could be regarded as an appropriate match.”
Xiao Lou heard this and asked doubtfully, “Young Master Lin spends a lot of time in the brothel, drinking with female entertainers. Haven’t you heard about these things?”
Madam Yun was calm. “How many men aren’t careless? Hasn’t the prince married several ladies as well? Lin Shaobo is well-known in Jiangzhou and he is also very handsome. He is just a bit more romantic. What rich young master isn’t romantic. It would be better for a wife to take care of him after marriage. The Lin family promised that Lin Shaobo would only marry Ah Yao and would never take a concubine. Ah Yao wouldn’t suffer from marrying him.”
Xiao Lou and Yu Hanjiang glanced at each other.
An ancient person’s concept wasn’t the same as modern times. In this era, a man having multiple wives and concubines was normal. Thus, Madam Yun considered Lin Shaobo a good son-in-law candidate. He was handsome, rich, talented and promised to only marry her daughter. In addition, he sent a sincere dowry to the prince’s mansion.
It wasn’t surprising that the prince and Madam Yun agreed.
Yu Hanjiang asked, “The eldest young lady and Young Master Lin, have they met before?”
“They have met once. I asked Ah Yao how she felt about Young Master Lin and she said that generally, she doesn’t hate or like him. My daughter is like this and she doesn’t mind anything.”
Yu Hanjiang questioned, “Did she behave abnormally when you asked her to go back this afternoon?”
Madam Yun thought carefully about it. “No, her face had no expression. I asked her to change into beautiful clothes that I had specifically prepared for her. She told me to wait and she would change into it later. I didn’t manage her anymore and went to the kitchen to see the dinner menu.”
Yu Hanjiang asked, “You didn’t see her after that?”
Madam Yun nodded. “I was checking the menu with Li Wei in the kitchen. I was in charge of arranging this meal and couldn’t let anything go wrong. This Li Wei can testify for me.”
Yu Hanjiang asked Madam Yun to go back first. Once she left, he looked at Xiao Lou. “I remember that Lin Shaobo wasn’t at the banquet when the eldest young lady died?”
“Yes, I observed that he wasn’t there,” Xiao Lou answered.
Mo Xuemin and Long Sen glanced at each other. According to reason, a son-in-law shouldn’t leave his future father-in-law’s birthday banquet yet people weren’t aware of when Lin Shaobo left.
The four people were thinking when there was a knock on the door and Liu Qiao’s voice was heard. “Yu daren.”
Yu Hanjiang immediately had Long Sen open the door.
Liu Qiao walked into the house. Once she saw no one around, she spoke in a low voice. “I have a clue to report. Before the dinner began, the fourth young lady said she had stomach pains and excused herself to go to the toilet, disappearing for a long time. I suspected her and went to the toilet. I found no one in the toilet. Instead, I saw a rich young man talking with the fourth young lady in a stone cave behind the rockery. They were acting ambiguously and I suspect these two people should have a private, emotional relationship.