Chapter 475 – Time Limited Case Solving
Qu Wanyue had never seen horror movies, not even when she was a child. Her parents were scientific researchers and had never told her ghost stories. Now she saw a house full of memorial tablets and thought of the bride who got married last night and she really got goosebumps. She had lived for so long and never seen any ghosts!
Long Sen wasn’t afraid of ghosts but he was still in a fog of confusion due to the rotation of day and night in this secret room.
As a school sports coach with ‘developed muscles and a simple mind’, Long Sen knew that his IQ was at the bottom of the team. He simply gave up thinking and looked at Xiao Lou, seriously asking, “Professor Xiao, the house is full of memorial tablets. The bride we saw last night should be a ghost bride, right? Does this mean there is a problem with the cause of death of the family and that we need to investigate it?”
Xiao Lou was still unsure of the theme of this secret room but Long Sen’s statement was the most likely. He stood by the tree and thought about it. “The death of this family is definitely not simple. You stay outside and I’ll go in to check with Hanjiang.”
Long Sen and Qu Wanyue nodded. They stood under the tree near the yard and pretended to chat, while they were actually standing guard.
Yu Hanjiang took advantage of no one being around to directly use the light footwork card. He flew into the yard from the treetops with Xiao Lou.
The yard was deserted. No one should’ve cleaned it for a long time. The height of the weeds in the garden almost exceeded the knees. Last night’s storm had broken a few branches of the old trees in the yard and branches and leaves were piled up all over the ground. It was a mess.
Xiao Lou and Yu Hanjiang avoided the branches and lightened their footsteps as they walked forward.
This was a typical large home. There were several small courtyards connected by arched corridors and there was even a pond in the middle of the yard. The water in the pond might’ve dried up because no one had taken care of it for a long time but the surrounding stone steps and pavilions were quite exquisite. The feng shui layout was also very exquisite. The family must’ve lived in prosperity until the accident.
The two men went around the pond and entered the hall.
Unlike the mess in the yard, the hall was very clean. There were no signs of fighting in the house and the tables and chairs were neatly arranged. As Qu Wanyue said, there was an offering table in the middle of the hall and a large number of memorial tablets laid upon it.
Xiao Lou counted carefully. From top to bottom, there were three rows of memorial tablets for a total of 16. Their names were written in red pen on each memorial tablet.
The family’s surname was Zhao and the one in the top row was ‘Zhao Chengrui’. Xiao Lou said softly, “In the mourning hall, the elders’ mourning locations are generally placed at the top. This Zhao Chengrui might be the grandfather of the Zhao family?”
Yu Hanjiang let out a hum of agreement and walked to the memorial tablets. He glanced at the row of names. “Those who aren’t surnamed Zhao should be the women who married into the Zhao family. The first row is the grandparents, the second row is the parents and the third row is the younger generation. However, there are four memorial tablets in the third row. Which one is the ghost bride who was married last night?”
The four names in the third row were Zhao Zeping, Zhao Zean, Zhao Zeshun and Zhao Zesui.
Xiao Lou touched his chin and carefully looked at the three rows of memorial tablets. “The last character in the name of that generation forms the saying ‘Pingan Shunsui (safe and sound, everything goes smoothly)’. The elders obviously hoped these children could grow up safely when giving these names. These four names can be used by both men and women. It is impossible to judge who was married last night just from the name alone.”
Yu Hanjiang said, “There are many memorial tablets on the offerings table. Is everyone in this family dead?”
Xiao Lou frowned slightly. “Is it… a massacre?”
Yu Hanjiang turned and looked inside the house.
The furnishings in the hall didn’t look like there had been a fierce fight. He didn’t have the luminous ammonia used by modern police to investigate cases and could only rely on his eyes. He glanced around and found no traces of blood. It wasn’t like someone had cleaned up after the family was destroyed. It was more likely that the murder didn’t take place here.
Yu Hanjiang said, “Let’s check the entire house first to see if there are any clues.”
Xiao Lou agreed. “Yes, the bride last night was from this house so she must have her own room in her mother’s house.”
The two of them left the memorial hall and turned to the backyard.
The backyard was divided into many small courtyards, of which the southern courtyard was separated by an arched gate. This was the residence of several maids and servants. There were countless rooms in the other courtyards which showed the huge size of the Zhao family.
The layout of the courtyards was comparable to a labyrinth. Xiao Lou and Yu Hanjiang had to use arrows to check one by one. The two people first found the residence of the elders of the Zhao family. Many hand-copied scriptures and Buddha beads were found in the house. The elders of this family obviously believed in Buddhism.
Then there were the residences of the parents’ generation. It was nothing special. Many exquisite medicine bottles were found in one room with the names of various medicines marked with paper labels. Someone in the Zhao family should be studying medicine and knew how to refine pills.
The room style of the younger generation was quite different from that of the older generation. Xiao Lou and Yu Hanjiang quickly locked onto four rooms. In order to facilitate the sorting of the clues, the two of them named the rooms A, B, C and D and made temporary marks with arrows of different colors.
Room A had a weapons room in addition to the reception room and bedroom. There was a row of wooden sword racks on the wall and there were seven swords of different lengths hanging there. These weapons looked very precious. The owner of this room should like to collect famous swords.
Room B had a small study next to the bedroom. There were many ancient books on the shelves such as the Book of Changes, the Analects of Confucius and Mencius. The owner of this room liked reading very much. In addition to that, there was a cradle in the bedroom with a child’s toy. Xiao Lou picked it up and looked at it. It was a small red rattle-drum.
At first glance, Room C was a girl’s residence. The bed curtains and sheets were pink. There were many flowers on the windowsill of the bedroom. Unfortunately, most of these flowers had withered and only a pot of palm-sized cactus was still tenaciously alive. There was a white handkerchief embroidered with a pair of mandarin ducks on the desk. There were colored needles and threads next to a handkerchief with an unfinished embroidery.
The last room was also a girl’s residence and a big, red happy word was pasted on the inner window.
Xiao Lou and Yu Hanjiang glanced at each other and carefully searched the room.
Unfortunately, the clues in this room were the least. They didn’t find anything special in the desk, drawers and cabinets. The wardrobe and jewelry box were half empty. It should be that this girl was bringing her favorite jewelry with her when getting married.
The two men walked to the window and discussed it in a low voice.
Xiao Lou said, “There are four young people’s rooms, two men and two women. In ancient times, the older sister would get married before the younger sister. At present, what can be determined is that Room D belongs to the ghost bride who got married last night. Room C is her sister’s room and the table has a handkerchief half embroidered with mandarin ducks on it. What do you think?”
Yu Hanjiang said, “According to your analysis, the older sister isn’t married but she should have a sweetheart. She wants to embroider a mandarin duck handkerchief to give to the other party. Unfortunately, she died before the embroidery was finished.”
Xiao Lou nodded. “I think so too. The meaning of mandarin ducks is special, not to mention they are hand-embroidered mandarin ducks. It is most likely she planned to give it to her sweetheart.” He paused before adding, “For the other two men’s rooms, the one with a lot of books should be the oldest brother Zhao Zeping. He is married and has a child.”
Yu Hanjiang agreed. “Yes, the second oldest has many weapons and doesn’t seem to be married yet. The question now is how do we sort the four children? The eldest should be male. So who is the second, third and fourth child? Who is the male and who is the female?”
Xiao Lou thought carefully about the four names. “I feel that Zhao Zean and Zhao Zesui are female names while Zhao Zeping and Zhao Zeshun are like male names. The four children of the Zhao family might be in the order of oldest brother, second sister, third brother and fourth sister?”
Yu Hanjiang said softly, “That is my guess as well. Still, we need more clues to verify if it is accurate or not.”
Xiao Lou said, “There is another key point.”
Yu Hanjiang asked tacitly, “The child’s toys?”
Xiao Lou picked up the rattle-drum found in the oldest brother’s room. “The cradle and child’s toy were found in the eldest brother’s room, indicating he is married and has a child. However, in the Zhao family’s memorial hall just now, the memorial tablets of his wife and child weren’t found. Usually, a couple’s memorial tablets should be side by side. For example, their parents’ memorial tablets are placed together.”
Yu Hanjiang added, “Moreover, there is incense in the memorial hall. When we went in just now, the three incense sticks were still lit and more than half of it had been burned. This indicates that someone has come to offer incense at the memorial hall of the Zhao family.”
Xiao Lou said, “This person is probably a survivor of the massacre. The oldest brother’s wife or child?”
Yu Hanjiang nodded in agreement. “I think so too.”
The two of them looked at each other. Along the way, they had gone through so many secret rooms and their tacit understanding when investigating cases was increasing. They could always think together. Based on the distribution of memorial tablets and investigation of rooms, they found out the general character relationship of the Zhao family.
The key figures were the bride and the wife and child of the oldest son, whose whereabouts were unknown.
The thing they didn’t have a clue about at present was: what happened to the Zhao family?
Was the scene of the bride getting married last night an illusion or a replay of a scene that once happened?
This was important.
If the second sister died before she got married, what they saw last night might be the illusion of ‘marrying a ghost bride’ in the underworld. However, if she died after she got married then what they saw might be a ‘reappearance of the past’ caused by a ghost’s obsession.
Xiao Lou suggested, “Let’s go to the inn and inquire about it.”
Yu Hanjiang flew out of the Zhao house with him.
Qu Wanyue and Long Sen had been waiting outside. Once the two men came out, Long Sen immediately stepped forward and asked, “Professor Xiao, have you found any clues?”
Xiao Lou explained simply, “This younger generation has four siblings. The oldest brother is already married and has a child. It is likely that the second sister is married. The thing we need to figure out now is what happened to the Zhao family back then. How could they be wiped out?”
Long Sen nodded as if he understood. “Yes. Are we going to the inn?”
Yu Hanjiang said, “Let’s go. I’ll ask about the situation on Old Mo’s side and we’ll meet up at the inn later.”
He pressed the Voice Headset, connected to the team’s voice channel and spoke softly, “Everyone, pay attention. The case of this secret room is more complicated. We found a room full of memorial tablets in the house where the bride got married last night. The Zhao family was tragically killed. Old Mo, where did you and Liu Qiao go?”
Old Mo quickly replied, “I took Liu Qiao to the house where the baby was born last night. It was deserted and no one was present. I asked the nearby residents and they said that the family suddenly disappeared many years ago. They didn’t know if the family had moved.”
Liu Qiao added, “They inexplicably disappeared overnight. The young lady of the family had just given birth. The neighbors in the area wanted to check on them the next day but the entire family had disappeared.”
Proofreader: Paranoid Kitten & Fictional Reality