Yu Hanjiang and Xiao Lou returned to Jiangzhou with Qi Fenghua while Ye Qi and Liu Qiao continued to track the second prince.
Jiangzhou happened to be at the border of Qi and Zhao. The second prince and the envoys rode fast horses late at night and quickly reached the border of the two countries. Ye Qi immediately reported what he saw and heard to Xiao Lou. “The second prince has returned to Zhao and a group of people was there to meet him. Should Liu Qiao and I continue to follow?”
Xiao Lou thought about it. “You come back first. The duration of the cloak is coming to an end. It will be a bad thing if the two of you are caught by the Zhao people.”
Ye Qi and Liu Qiao returned obediently.
Meanwhile, Yu Hanjiang interrogated Qi Fenghua. The young master was proud and calm after his capture.
Yu Hanjiang asked coldly, “Young Master, on the 15th of this month, on the day of the prince’s birthday banquet, what did you want to do when you returned to the prince’s mansion disguised as a guard?”
Qi Fenghua replied coldly, “You have the wrong person. I’m not a young master. I’m a hunter from the mountain.”
Yu Hanjiang raised his eyebrows and stared with sharp eyes. “You were in the backyard of the prince’s mansion and happened to meet Miss Qi Yiyao. She recognized you and asked why you came back. Then you actually ruthlessly poisoned your sister and hid her body. Once no one was in the backyard at night, you hung her on a tree with white cloth, disguising her death as a suicide, right?”
Qi Fenghua calmly refused to answer.
Yu Hanjiang continued, “Lin Shaobo returned to the backyard of the prince’s mansion, wanting to find the eldest young lady to give her an explanation. As a result, he saw the scene where you hung her on a tree. Lin Shaobo hurriedly fled and you immediately flew behind him, strangling him. He tore a piece of fabric off your sleeve while you were struggling and you pushed his body into the pond before leaving the prince’s mansion, right?”
Qi Fenghua’s face was even uglier and he couldn’t help sneering, “Yu daren can really make up a story. I don’t know what you’re talking about. Everything you said is just a guess. Is there any evidence?”
Yu Hanjiang replied indifferently, “The net of heaven is large and wide but it lets nothing through. Young master, do you really think that your every action was flawless and you left no clues behind?”
Qi Fenghua’s mouth twitched a bit and he seemed to be thinking about whether he left physical evidence or not.
Yu Hanjiang didn’t continue the interrogation and Qi Fenghua was secretly detained in the backyard of the prefectural magistrate’s office. He returned to the study where Xiao Lou was anxiously waiting. The moment he saw Yu Hanjiang’s expression, he knew the result of the interrogation wasn’t ideal. He stepped forward and asked, “Did Qi Fenghua refuse to speak?”
Yu Hanjiang answered softly, “He refused to say anything but his involvement in the rebellion is now well established. Ye Qi and Liu Qiao saw him make contact with the second prince of Zhao and agreed with the second prince to share the benefits. There are witnesses and material evidence. We find this medicine bottle on him. Perhaps by following the clue of the medicine bottle, we can dig out a deeper secret.”
Xiao Lou immediately responded. “You mean the serial murder crime my father investigated?”
Yu Hanjiang nodded. “I remember you once said that your father saw the poisonous powder being used by the murderer in the capital?”
“Yes, at that time, a few people in the capital suddenly committed suicide. The government almost decided to finalize it as a suicide but after a careful autopsy and investigation of the scene, my father found there were residual powders in their diet. After using animal experiments, he determined it was a colourless and odourless highly toxic substance mixed in food and it was characterized as a murder case.” Xiao Lou thought about it carefully. “Laster, the investigation identified the murderer as a master of drug production but during the arrest process, the main culprit escaped and only two accomplices were caught. After the two of them were put in prison, they committed suicide during the night and there was no trial.”
“Did they commit suicide or were they killed?” Yu Hanjiang suddenly asked.
“This…” Xiao Lou was stunned slightly. He wasn’t sure but after thinking about it, he felt this matter wasn’t simple. “Did the two accomplices know some secrets and were killed?”
“It is likely.” Yu Hanjiang stated. “The prison of the Ministry of Justice is closely guarded and it is very difficult for prisoners to commit suicide in prison. The guards will also search the body before entering the prison. The possibility of them possessing poison is almost zero. In fact, the Ministry of Justice might have a spy who killed the two of them on the night they were caught.”
“It makes sense. Why did my father let the main culprit escape when arresting the criminals? Perhaps it was because someone in the Ministry of Justice reported the news!” Xiao Lou felt that his heart had suddenly opened it. The case that his father was involved in wasn’t simple. The main culprit escaped and the two accomplices immediately committed suicide. Eventually, it became a suspended case and his father was also poisoned!
“What is the connection between those dead people in the capital?” Yu Hanjiang pressed his thumb against his chin as he thought about it. A moment later, he wondered, “What year did your father investigate this case?”
“It seemed to be 13 years ago.” Xiao Lou took a moment to recall it. “I fled with my mother 13 years ago.”
“13 years ago?” Yu Hanjiang carefully searched his memories for what happened that year. As a child, he had served as a companion for the current emperor for a while. He thought about it and it was exactly 13 years ago!
At that time, the late emperor had just established his grandson as the crown prince and the little prince was only 10 years old. Not long ago, the queen and concubines suddenly died in the palace. All these things happened in the same year. Was it a coincidence?
Perhaps Xiao Lou’s father’s poisoning case inadvertently involved palace secrets so he was killed?
Thinking of this, Yu Hanjiang immediately became alert and stared at Xiao Lou. “Do you remember how your father died?”
Xiao Lou carefully remembered what happened. “That day, my mother took me out of the house. Once we arrived home, I saw my father had fallen on the floor of the study. My mother immediately checked his body and found that my father was poisoned to death. She guessed the murderer had come back and retaliated. She packed up the same day and took me and my brother to escape from the capital.”
It might only be a false memory given to him by the keeper but these past events were too clear in his mind. Xiao Lou thought of the scene of his father’s death and still felt sad.
“Were there any traces of things being searched at the scene?” Yu Hanjiang questioned.
“It seems to be.” Xiao Lou frowned. “The desk was a mess and the books in the bookcase were thrown to the ground. It looked like someone had entered the house to steal things.”
“Then the person should be looking for clues gathered by your father and destroying the evidence.”
“Yes, I think so as well. The case my father was involved in was very strange. The two accomplices committed suicide and the main culprit escaped. The families of the deceased strangely no longer pursued an investigation. The Ministry of Justice also gave up on the investigation and ended the case directly.” Xiao Lou looked up at Yu Hanjiang and asked softly, “Did you think of anything?”
“I have a guess that this is probably related to the deaths of the crown prince and empress.” Yu Hanjiang answered in a deep voice.
“The crown prince and the empress.” Xiao Lou’s eyes were slightly wide. At that time, he was only 10 years old and didn’t know much about the palace court. He just learned medicine and autopsy from his mother and father every day.
“8 of Hearts is actually three cases.” It was only now that Yu Hanjiang finally straightened out the structure of Beacon in Troubled Times.
There was the Jiangzhou assassin case, the prince’s mansion murder case and the serial murder case in the capital in the past that might involve an internal court battle. Once Qi Fenghua was captured and the colourless and odourless medicinal powder found, the mysterious veil that covered the past 13 years was finally unveiled.
“13 years ago, many things happened in the capital.” Yu Hanjiang took out a book and wrote things down while speaking. “In spring, the crown prince went hunting and was killed by the poisoned arrow of a masked man. The late emperor was furious and ordered the Ministry of Justice to investigate. After investigation, the Ministry of Justice found that the third prince was responsible for it. The late emperor simply gave the third prince a cup of poisonous wine.”
“……” Xiao Lou saw Yu Hanjiang carefully drawing the timeline on the notebook and stood beside him to watch.
“After the crown prince’s misfortune, the late emperor started to choose another successor among the princes. The fifth prince’s mother is Concubine Shu and the sixth prince’s mother is Concubine Ming. There were fighting and scheming in the harem. The crown prince’s birth mother, the empress died of illness. The late emperor carefully investigated and found that the empress was probably poisoned by Concubine Shu. Concubine Shu also died of illness and investigation found that she was poisoned by Concubine Ming. This was also mentioned in the gossip that the Ninth Princess told Qu Wanyue. The death of the empress and concubine happened in the summer.”
“Yes, I remember this.” Xiao Lou remembered that Qu Wanyue had mentioned the gossip involving the harem and analyzed it. “Concubine Shu and Concubine Ming were all involved in the harem struggle. The late emperor was very disappointed with the fifth prince and sixth prince so he could only set the eighth prince as the crown prince. Unexpectedly, the eighth prince took the initiative to set up the crown prince’s son, the emperor’s grandson as the crown prince?”
“Yes, the late emperor determined the crown prince and it happened in autumn. That autumn, I went to the palace to be the crown prince’s reading companion and I also heard some rumours about the death of the empress and the concubines. The late emperor had investigated the harem but there was no evidence, so it could only be finalized as an illness.”
“I clearly remember that the case my father was involved in happened in winter.” Xiao Lou frowned thoughtfully.
The city was a mess that entire year.
In the spring, at the royal hunting ground outside the capital, the crown prince was shot dead by a poisonous arrow while hunting.
In the summer, the empress and concubine were poisoned one after another. Eventually, because no evidence was found, it was said they passed away due to ‘illness.’
In the autumn, the eighth prince wrote to the late emperor, hoping the late emperor would set a rule where the throne was passed on from the eldest son to his grandson. The late emperor listened to the suggestion of his youngest son and officially established his grandson as the new crown prince. Yu Hanjiang, who was a child, was called to the palace to be a companion for the crown prince.
In winter, a case of serial murder suddenly occurred in the capital. Xiao Lou’s father was involved in it only to be killed by the murderer. The serial poisoning case was eventually closed by the Ministry of Justice and became a pending case.
There was a flash as Xiao Lou looked at the timeline clearly drawn by Yu Hanjiang. “Based on the chronological sequence, the serial poisoning case happened at the end. It is almost like someone was cleaning up the aftermath, killing a group of people to shut their mouths. Killing everyone who knows a secret?”
Yu Hanjiang nodded. “In addition, all the cases involve a common factor—poison.”
The prince was killed with a poisonous arrow, the empress was poisoned, the concubine was poisoned, the serial murders also involved poison and Xiao Lou’s father was also poisoned. All these seemingly unrelated cases actually had a core—the same crime tool. They were all killed by poison!
It was likely that all those who died were killed by the same poison, which was the poison that Qi Fenghua gave to the second prince of Zhao. It looked like rock sugar powder and was colourless and odourless when added to food. People would be poisoned to death without knowing it.
The more Xiao Lou thought about it, the more wrong it felt. “There are many doubtful points when carefully analyzing it. The crown prince died and the murderer was found to be the third prince. The empress died and the most suspected one was Concubine Shu. This suspicion is too broad. How could so many people get a rare poison at the same time? The harem is so strict yet the third prince and the concubines all managed to get the poison. This is impossible!”
Yu Hanjiang frowned. “Madam is right. In the harem, it is impossible for so many murderers to kill with the same crime tool. This highly toxic drug should be banned and it can’t be easily brought into the palace. The third prince and concubines couldn’t have all used the same poison. Then it is likely… they were framed!”
Xiao Lou heard this and his back became cold. “You mean to say, the real murderer has been lurking in the back the entire time?”
If this was the case then the murderer’s heart was really deep and terrible!
Yu Hanjiang carefully analyzed it. “Assuming that our speculation is correct, the real murderer first sent someone to shoot the crown prince with the poisonous arrow and planted the evidence on the third prince, causing the late emperor to kill the third prince by mistake. Then they secretly poisoned the empress and planted the evidence on Concubine Shu, making the late emperor extremely disappointed in her son, the fifth prince. Then they poisoned Concubine Shu and planted the evidence on Concubine Ming, so that the late emperor didn’t like her son, the sixth prince. In all, the late emperor had five living sons. The crown prince and the third prince died. The fifth and sixth princes are out of favour with the late emperor. Who would be the most advantageous?”
Xiao Lou, “………”
There was only the eighth prince.
Apart from the perverted murderers, most murderers had motives for committing a crime. According to Yu Hanjiang’s analysis, the real murderer borrowed a knife to kill their enemies, getting rid of the crown prince, the third prince, the empress and Concubine Shu and Concubine Ming in one breath. The forces of the late emperor’s sons were all pulled down and only the eighth prince wasn’t affected.
Who could it be?
It could be seen that the eighth prince didn’t love power. After his older brothers died or fell out of favour, the late emperor wanted to pass on the crown prince position to him. Yet he actually twisted things and made the late emperor set his grandson as the crown prince, which was equivalent to giving up the throne.
If he hadn’t given up then he would’ve naturally been the crown prince.
Who would plot all of this for him?
Xiao Lou and Yu Hanjiang glanced at each other and spoke in unison. “The mother of the Eighth Prince?”