Liu Qiao’s testimony immediately made Yu Hanjiang alert. He asked Long Sen to guard the door so that people wouldn’t approach and took Liu Qiao to the side, lowering his voice and asking, “The fourth young lady is often covered with a white gauze and it is easy to disguise as her. Are you sure that the person you saw is her?”
“Yes. There is a very small red mole on the right eyebrow bone of the fourth young lady. I was wearing an invisibility cloak and looked closely. That person was Miss Qi Yiwei. She was dressed and sounded exactly the same as the fourth young lady.” Liu Qiao spoke firmly.
“Did you see the man who had a private meeting with the fourth young lady?”
“I saw him clearly. He must be a rich young man because he was very particular about his clothing. He also gave the fourth young lady a round jade pendant. I don’t understand jade but the jade pendant was crystal clear and should be quite valuable.” Liu Qiao carefully recalled the details. “In ancient times, giving a jade pendant should mean love?”
Old Mo said, “According to the customs of Jiangzhou, it is true that men give jade pendants to women they have an affection for.”
Yu Hanjiang glanced over at Xiao Lou, who had just looked up from the table. The two people thought of a possibility at the same time.
Xiao Lou asked, “Was the rich young man wearing a dark blue robe with black boots embroidered with silver thread, hair tied up with a blue hairband? He has very white skin and wears an emerald ring on his hands?
Liu Qiao froze before answering, “That’s right, all the details are correct.”
Old Mo turned back and exclaimed, “Isn’t that the Lin family’s young master, Lin Shaobo?”
Yu Hanjiang folded his arms and thought about it. “I remember that during the assassination attempt of the prince, Lin Shaobo wasn’t at the scene at all.” He turned to Xiao Lou. “How long did Young Master Lin leave for?”
During dinner, Yu Hanjiang watched the movements of the guests on the left while Xiao Lou was responsible for observing the right.
Lin Shaobo was sitting on the right at the same table as Shao Qingge. Xiao Lou was very careful so he noticed when Lin Shaobo got up and left.
He heard Group Leader Yu’s question and explained in detail, “When Ye Qi came out, Lin Shaobo used the excuse to leave and go to the toilet. Ye Qi played the instrument and the five women performed the sword dance. The performance time was around 10 minutes. The assassin suddenly attacked the prince and the prince fought with the assassin. The assassin failed to escape and fled. Then the maid came to report… this time added up should be around 20 minutes.”
Yu Hanjiang speculated, “In other words, Lin Shaobo disappeared for 20 minutes. This is a long time and it is long enough for him to go to the backyard to hanging the eldest young lady and fake a suicide.”
Xiao Lou looked at Liu Qiao and asked, “What time did you see the fourth young lady and Lin Shabo dating?”
There were no watches in ancient times and Liu Qiao couldn’t clearly determine the time. She had to speculate based on the position of the sun in the sky. “It should be around five in the afternoon. The sun hadn’t set yet and a scent was coming from the kitchen where they were preparing dinner.”
Xiao Lou touched his chin and analyzed it. “The time of death of the eldest young lady was six o’clock. Young Master Lin appeared in the backyard at five o’clock and left the party at eight o’clock. Doesn’t it match with the death time of the eldest young lady?”
Yu Hanjiang added, “There is a possibility that the eldest young lady was murdered because she witnessed the love between her fiance and her younger sister. Then Young Master Lin and the fourth young lady colluded to poison her meal in advance. The eldest young lady was poisoned at six o’clock when she ate her snacks. At around eight o’clock, Young Master Lin excused himself from the party and went to the backyard to hang her from the tree, creating the illusion that she hung herself.”
Lin Shaobo had time to commit the crime and also a motive.
If his meeting with the fourth young lady was discovered by the first young lady, he really had a motive to kill. Moreover, the crime scene was disguised as a suicide. The prince would think that his daughter had been short-shorted. Meanwhile, the prince’s house had already received the dowry from the Lin family and would have to return it. At this time, Lin Shaobo could find a way to ask the prince to betroth the fourth young lady to him.
In ancient times, if a woman committed suicide then it wasn’t unusual for her sister to take her place in marriage. Thus, it was the best of both worlds.
Everyone listened to Yu Hanjiang’s analysis and felt that Lin Shaobo and the fourth young lady were likely to join forces to kill the eldest young lady. However, the Hearts room often had reversals and it couldn’t be finalized based on pure reasoning. Yu Hanjiang wouldn’t easily draw conclusions until he found precise evidence. This was just one possibility and there might be other possibilities.
Yu Hanjiang glanced at Liu Qiao. “You are very close to the fourth young lady these days. What type of person is she?”
“Miss Qi Yiwei’s personality is a bit like her mother, Madam Han. They are gentle, considerate, speak softly and love to smile. I have never seen her angry.”
Xiao Lou thought about it for a while. “She knows medicine so she should be able to dispense medicine to poison people, right?”
Liu Qiao suddenly remembered something. “Yes, she asked me to come to the prince’s mansion today because she was uncomfortable recently. She asked me to bring some herbs to her. Among them are several types that according to Master’s medical book, can be deadly poisonous if the right dosage is exceeded.”
Xiao Lou said, “Perhaps she secretly added these medicines to the first young lady’s food or tea?”
At present, all the evidence pointed to the fourth young lady and Young Master Lin.
Yu Hanjiang spoke very simply, “Liu Qiao, first go to the prefectural magistrate’s prison to meet Chief Shao. I will ask someone to find the fourth young lady.”
Liu Qiao nodded and slipped out through the back door, soon disappearing into the night.
Long Sen went out to take a look. In the nearby hall, the three young ladies had been called to come here and wait for Yu Hanjiang’s questioning. Yu Hanjiang questioned the remaining two wives first in order.
Madam Qing had been cleaning up the yard this afternoon and several of her maids could testify for her.
Madam Qing told them bluntly, “My daughter accidentally cut a tree when practicing martial arts yesterday, making the yard a mess and scattering mud and leaves everywhere. I have been watching the maids clean up in my Wind Pavilion all afternoon. It wasn’t until the prince sent someone to tell me that dinner was starting that I changed my clothes to attend the banquet.”
Throughout the banquet, she had stayed by the prince’s side and never left. The messenger also confirmed Madam Qing’s words, saying that when he went to the Wind Pavilion to convey the message, a group of people were indeed cleaning the yard.
Yu Hanjiang called the most beloved Madam Han to come over. Madam Han spoke quietly, “I have been resting in Hongmei Park in the afternoon. I have been feeling weak recently and slept all afternoon. I only woke up to wash and then changed clothes to attend the prince’s birthday banquet.
Yu Hanjiang asked, “Can anyone prove that you slept in the room all afternoon?”
Madam Han frowned and thought about it. “I slept in the inner room. I often woke up to drink water so my two maids, Xiao Xue and Xiao Shuang, were waiting in the outer room. They can prove that I never went out all afternoon.”
Yu Hanjiang called the two maids over to question them.
Xiao Xue said that the madam had been feeling unwell recently. She would go to bed every afternoon and today was no exception. She took a break after lunch and woke up three times. It wasn’t until dinner when someone sent a message that she got dressed.
Xiao Shuang’s testimony was consistent with her companion. She also added that the madam had no appetite recently. She would only eat a small bowl of porridge for her meals. She was pale when she woke up today and her forehead was covered in sweat. Seeing that she was ill, the two maids deliberately applied a lot of rouge and carefully painted her brows to enhance her look.
Both ladies had alibis.
Madam Qing’s testimony was more credible because the tree in her yard had indeed been chopped down by the third young lady. The cleaning of the yard could be heard by other maids passing by and the messenger saw the madam in the yard giving commands.
For Madam Han, only the maids could testify.
At first glance, Xiao Xue and Xiao Shuang were the personal servants she brought into the mansion after she got married. In ancient times, these servants were very loyal to their master and some were even willing to die for their master.
Madam Han’s testimony wasn’t 100% certain but she couldn’t lie about her body. Xiao Lou studied medicine and he could always tell if people were sick or pretending to be sick. Madam Han was very sick. Even if her complexion improved due to the makeup, she still seemed to have no spirit. Xiao Lou had carefully observed her nails and the half-moon shape at the root of her fingernails had almost faded. The maids said that she only had one bowl of porridge for her meals recently. This was apparently due to a weak stomach and prolonged malnutrition.
She might have a gastrointestinal tract disease, causing her appetite to be severely reduced. Based on her current condition, it was impossible for her to carry the eldest young lady to a tree and hang her… seeing her fragile appearance, it was hard to imagine she could even hang thin silk from a tree.
Xiao Lou told Yu Hanjiang his conclusion. “Madam Han isn’t pretending to be ill. Her health is really bad.”
Yu Hanjiang touched his chin. “It seems the focus is still on the young ladies.”
Just then, there was a knock on the door and Long Sen whispered, “It’s the Ninth Princess.”
YU Hanjiang raised his eyebrows. “What is she doing here?”
Xiao Lou smiled. “Let her come in. I remember she said she received a letter from the eldest young lady. Perhaps she will have a clue.”
Seeing Xiao Lou’s unconcerned appearance, Yu Hanjiang let go of his worries and motioned for Long Sen to open the door. The Ninth Princess wore men’s clothing and entered the room with Qu Wanyue. Then she declared bluntly, “I know who the murderer is!”
Yu Hanjiang was quite surprised. “Oh? Why do you say that?”
The Ninth Princess’ face was full of indignation. “Qi Yiwei must’ve done it! Ah Yao wrote a letter to me previously and mentioned something in the letter. You take a look at it yourself!”
She took out a letter and handed it to Yu Hanjiang. Yu Hanjiang took the letter and stood beside Xiao Lou. Xiao Lou moved closer in order to read it. Every character was written squarely as if the letter was printed. They saw that the letter said:
I hope you are safe and sound.
My marriage with Young Master Lin is scheduled to take place on the 15th of next month. As the marriage nears, I am afraid.
There are rumours that Young Master Lin spends all day in brothels and makes friends with many female entertainers in Jiangzhou. My mother said that a man having three wives and four concubines are very common. The Lin family promised that he wouldn’t take any concubines after marriage and especially favours me. As long as he changes the former thing after marriage, I don’t mind his indulgence for a while. Moreover, I can only obey my parents and the matchmaker when it comes to marriage.
However, a few days ago, I went outside the city to acquire incense and inadvertently came across Young Master Lin and my younger sister. She gave a hand-embroidered blue handkerchief to Young Master Lin and he was staring at her tenderly. He told her that she is his love in this life and the person he wants to marry is Yiwei, not Yiyao.
In recent days, my heart has been suffering and I didn’t know what to do.
I want to tell my mother about this but my mother and Mrs Han have always been at odds. Once things become serious then I’m afraid they won’t be able to come to a conclusion.
Ninth Princess, you and I have known each other since childhood and you are also the emperor’s favourite sister. If it is you then things might have a turning point.
Young Master Lin and I have only met twice and there are no emotions between us at all. Since he is infatuated with my Fourth Sister, I want to fulfill their wishes. However, there are rumours that I have a marriage contract with Young Master Lin and it isn’t easy for Fourth Sister to directly marry him.
For the best of both worlds, I have decided to become a monk.
As long as I become a monk, the marriage between the Lin family and the prince’s mansion doesn’t need to be terminated. Fourth Sister can replace me and has justification for marrying into the Lin family.
I grew up in an ancient temple in Qingyou since I was young. I no longer have nostalgia for all types of things in this world. It would be better for me to spend the rest of my life with Buddha.
Father won’t agree with me becoming a monk so I hope that you can persuade him and help me realize this wish.