Chapter 480 – Clues Left by the Murderer
Shao Qingge and Ye Qi were wandering on the street. Qingfeng Town was bustling with people during the day and it was very lively. Ye Qi’s sharp eyes found that there were many children holding a red rattle-drum in their hands that dangled when they walked around. It made a clear and beautiful sound.
Ye Qi saw a few children playing together. He walked over to a little boy, leaned over and asked him, “Your rattle-drum is very fun. Where did you buy it?”
The child pointed to the street in front of him and spoke in a child-like voice, “My mother bought it from Grandpa Zhang. Big Brother, do you want to play with this?”
Ye Qi smiled and stuffed a piece of candy into the child’s hand. “Thanks. I will go and buy one.”
The two men followed the directions of the child to the end of the street. Sure enough, they saw a store specializing in selling children’s toys. There were colorful figures, a nice assortment of marbles and a large number of rattle-drums hanging on the walls.
The old man who sold the toys should be around 50 years old. He had all white hair and a long beard. He wore a blue cloth shirt that had been washed so many times that the color was fading. He was smiling with squinted eyes and looked very loving. Shao Qingge took a step forward with Ye Qi, took out a piece of silver and handed it to the old man. “Uncle, I want to buy a rattle-drum.”
The old uncle put away the silver, gave a handful of broken silver to Shao Qingge as change and said, “There are many patterns painted on the rattle-drum. Young Master, you can choose by yourself.”
Shao Qingge took a closer look. There were indeed many patterns painted on the drum surface of the rattle-drum. The most classic pattern was the 12 zodiacs.
Ye Qi’s eyes lit up and he asked curiously, “If a child is born in the year of the tiger, do parents usually buy a rattle-drum with a small tiger pattern?”
The old man smiled and touched his beard. “Yes. You can buy one corresponding to the sign of your child.”
Shao Qingge looked at Ye Qi and asked, “What do you belong to?”
Ye Qi coughed softly. “The monkey.”
Shao Qingge picked out a rattle-drum with a small monkey painted on it. He smiled and handed it to Ye Qi before speaking to the old man, “The big child in my family hasn’t lost his child-like heart. The rattle-drum is bought for him.”
The old man looked puzzled, as if thinking, ‘Is it appropriate for you to play with this type of thing as an adult?’
Ye Qi smiled and took the rattle-drum. He played with it and asked curiously, “By the way, are there many stores selling rattle-drums in the town?”
The old man shook his head. “It is just my family as far as I’m concerned. I did all of this myself.”
Shao Qingge followed up with another question. “Your rattle-drums are really exquisitely made. Do all the children in town have one in hand?”
The old man looked proud. “That is natural. My craft isn’t something that ordinary people can learn. It is said that most of the people in this town have bought the gadgets I have made.”
Shao Qingge and Ye Qi glanced at each other. This seemed to be a key plot NPC.
Ye Qi asked softly, “Uncle, you have been in the town for so many years. Do you know what happened with the famine that occurred around 20 years ago? One of my cousins, surnamed Zhang, lived in Qingfeng Town. I heard that he starved to death 20 years ago.”
The old man’s expression changed dramatically when he heard the word ‘famine’. Then he sighed and said, “That year was really miserable! It wasn’t just our town but also the nearby Qingzhou and Yuezhou. All of them were in the midst of the famine. If it wasn’t for the fact that there was still some grain stored in my house, I would’ve almost starved to death. Alas… many people had to eat bark and leaves. Some people died so others ate the flesh of the dead people!”
Ye Qi was horrified to hear this. He had experienced the Nightmare Room of 3 of Spades and had survived by eating leaves. The keepers had him survive in the Nightmare Room for 15 days and he almost couldn’t hold on. Imagine what would happen if a person was hungry for months? They would probably be driven crazy by extreme hunger and it wouldn’t be strange for them to eat human flesh and drink human blood.
Shao Qingge handed back the broken silver that the old man had given him. “Uncle, there was a famine that year. Did you hear about anyone deliberately killing people and eating human flesh?”
The old man accepted the silver, nodded solemnly and leaned toward Shao Qingge’s ear in a mysterious manner, “At that time, the pigs, sheep and cattle in the town had been robbed. Later, they really couldn’t find food so some people set up a gang to find those who were powerless to resist. They encircled them and caught them, raising them like cattle. When hungry, they would cut the meat from their bodies and eat them…”
Ye Qi got goosebumps. Hunger was indeed unbearable but letting him eat human flesh? He would rather starve to death. Then what about directly raising people as livestock and cutting some flesh to eat when hungry? This was even more brutal than killing.
Shao Qingge spoke in a deep voice, “What happened to those people afterwards?”
The old man smiled bitterly and shook his head. “They probably also knew this was against the law of heaven. They would dress in black and wear masks when they went out to capture people. No one had ever seen their true faces. At that time, everyone was unable to protect themselves and no one dared to be nosy. After the famine passed, most of the people in the town were dead and not many people knew about it.”
He looked around and cautiously lowered his voice. “Why are you inquiring about what happened 20 years ago? I advise the two of you to not be too curious. Looking at your ages, your cousin should’ve been very young and must’ve starved to death.”
Shao Qingge explained, “My father asked us to stop by to hear the news of my cousin. If my cousin really is dead, we might as well go to the grave to worship and burn some paper money for him.”
The old man quickly shook his head. “Don’t go there. The bodies of the people who starved to death were all thrown at the mass burial grave. I heard it isn’t clean there. There are powerful ghosts in the middle of the night. The people of the town never go to the mass burial site!”
The duo looked at each other. Then Ye Qi smiled and said, “Got it! Thank you, Uncle.”
Just at this time, Xiao Lou’s voice came from the earpieces of the two people, asking them to return to the inn as soon as possible. Shao Qingge also felt that this matter wasn’t ordinary and immediately took Ye Qi back.
Xiao Lou pressed on the earpiece and asked, “Everyone has arrived, right?”
Shao Qingge answered, “Ye Qi and I are back.”
Chu Huaying said, “I questioned a few wandering beggars in an alley and got some clues.”
Gui Yuanzhang added, “I went to the local academy to investigate. Rest assured, I am wearing an invisibility cloak and can protect myself.”
Yu Hanjiang was very appreciative of the efficiency of his teammates and simply said, “Okay. Let’s summarize the clues we know first. At night, we will go to the ghost town to investigate in a targeted manner.”
Ye Qi spoke actively, “Let me go first. We found the owner of the store who sells rattle-drums and got two clues. First, the rattle-drum has a zodiac sign painted on the drum surface which usually corresponds to the child’s zodiac. Secondly, during the famine 20 years ago, someone set up a mysterious organization to capture those who couldn’t resist, raising them as livestock to eat.”
Xiao Lou was slightly shocked when he heard this. Modern people might have a hard time imagining the feeling of not having enough to eat for several months. Xiao Lou once heard people talk about the chaos during a famine. There was indeed a terrible thing such as ‘people eating people’. Eating the dead was still okay but eating the living was… it was too cruel to set up a special organization to keep people in captivity like cattle!
Chu Huaying added. “I found this out from a lame tramp. This gang was called Hound. They had a very fierce, wild dog that could smell people to find targets. It was usually at night and they only captured the elderly, children and women who were weak in resistance to be kept in captivity. They were called ‘human animals’. Their flesh would be cut off when the captors were hungry and their blood drunk when thirsty.”
Human animals? In other words, using people as livestock that could be eaten?
Lu Jiuchuan couldn’t help cursing. “F&k, capturing people to eat. They aren’t even as good as animals!”
Yu Hanjiang frowned, “What about Senior Gui’s side?”
Gui Yuanzhang said, ”I found the classmate of Zhao Zeping, the eldest son of the Zhao family. At present, I can determine that Zhao Zeping married a woman from Qingzhou surnamed Qin eight years ago. Her family was in the silk business and she is said to look very beautiful. The two of them gave birth to a son after marriage and his wife also disappeared three years ago. Her family came here to find her.”
After synthesizing this information, Xiao Lou analyzed it. “In the great famine 20 years ago, the mysterious gang kept the elderly, children and women with weak resistance as ‘human livestock’, eating their flesh and drinking their blood. Their means were extremely cruel. Those who were imprisoned experienced terrible suffering. If someone escaped or if their relative found out about this and returned to Qingfeng Town to take revenge—this is a reasonable motive for committing the crime.”
Yu Hanjiang added, “This murderer is meticulous and has mastered a type of magic. He can manipulate the living and the dead. They act according to his instructions but the specific way of manipulating them isn’t very clear. The thing that is certain is that the Zhao family and Chen family were manipulated by him to go to the mass burial site on that rainy night three years ago. Xiao Lou anxiously summoned everyone back because he was afraid the murderer would manipulate one of us. After all, the murderer is hidden in darkness while we are in the light. Thus, we should be more careful.”
Xiao Lou continued, “After leading those people to the mass burial site, the murderer mimicked the famine of the past and starved everyone to death. During this period, they might’ve manipulated the zombies to scare those people so they were in a state of fear and hunger. Our autopsy found that the faces of the deceased were terrified and there was no food residue in the gastroduodenum. This justifies this speculation.”
Yu Hanjiang added, “There is someone who offered incense in the Zhao family’s memorial hall. Judging from the names on the memorial tablets, the biggest probability is that the wife and child of Zhao Zeping weren’t killed in the Zhao family’s extermination case. Perhaps his wife happened to escape the clutches of the murderer. She went back to arrange the memorial hall and secretly lit incense for the family. She must know something.”
He paused for a moment. “In addition, the two missing families have a rattle-drum. This might be a coincidence. After all, all the children in town will buy rattle-drums. However, if it isn’t a coincidence then the rattle-drum is a key clue and likely to be related to the murderer.”
Xiao Lou took out the rattle-drum he found from the Zhao house. “The pattern on the surface of this drum is a small tiger. So the child of the Zhao family most likely was born in the year of the tiger. Liu Qiao, which one did you find in the Chen house?”
Liu Qiao answered, “It is also a small tiger.”
Xiao Lou was stunned. “How come? Judging from the news from Senior Gui, Zhao Zeping got married eight years ago and gave birth to a child seven years ago. Meanwhile, the scene we saw of the Chen family was his wife giving birth. We saw it in the ghost town at night and it was exactly three years ago on a rainy night. The two children are four years apart. There is no reason why the zodiac pattern on the rattle is the same, right?”
Ye Qi looked at the rattle-drum with the monkey pattern on it and replied, “No. The old man sells toys with all the zodiac signs and the price is the same. A parent should buy the toy with the corresponding sign for the baby. No one would buy a tiger zodiac pattern for a monkey child, right? The same rattle-drum pattern appeared in the two houses. Is it…”
Yu Hanjiang interjected softly, “It was left behind by the murderer.”
The moment he spoke these words, a clear sound came from outside the window. The sound was clear and pleasant. The sound of projectiles beating on the drum surface seemed to penetrate through all barriers and reached people’s hearts.
The moment the sound was heard, the surrounding area suddenly became extremely quiet.
This was the sound of a rattle-drum.
Proofreader: Paranoid KItten & Fictional Reality