TOMAS Chapter 24

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Chapter 24 Wind Crane: The Real Crime Scene

Flashing her badge casually to the manager at the door, Feng Luodi and the two tagging behind were quickly ushered in. Feng Luodi winked at Qi Jianqiu, who was visibly impressed.

“Wow,” Qi Jianqiu gave her a thumbs up. “To think that the last time I came, the only service I got was from a attendant demanding my entrance fee.” Her voice dipped into a low mumble. “And even then, I could only have some snacks and watch the performance from afar. I couldn’t even get close enough to touch the girls!” Startled, she realised that she’d just let her inner thoughts slip. Frantically looking to see if the other two had overheard her, she saw Feng Luodi and Jiang Moyin staring at her with a bemused expression.

The two exchanged looks, and burst out in laughter.

“Thank god you were dressed as a man that time.” Feng Luodi decided to rub it in. “If not…”

Now Qi Jianqiu was embarrassed. She waved her fist in the air, threatening to punch Feng Luodi, but realised that it was not befitting of her image of a “lady” today. She huffed and lowered her hand, opting to glare at Feng Luodi instead. This only fuelled more laughter from the other two, who watched her quick change of expression in amusement.

Her personality is strikingly similar to Qingjia, Jiang Moyin thought as he smiled, seems like it was the right decision to join her for lunch.

Perhaps because they were tired out from the previous day, Constable Zheng and his officials had  yet to arrive at the crime scene, and Feng Luodi was glad to have the place to herself. She held out her hands to take the puppy from Jiang Moyin.

“Master Jiang, please pass me the puppy if you will. It’s his turn to shine.”

“Him? What can a puppy possibly do?” Jiang Moyin was intrigued.

“Just watch.” Feng Luodi set the puppy carefully on the floor, and scraped off a few flakes of dried blood from the bloodstains in the room. She placed it under the puppy’s nose, who sniffed it carefully before running out of the room. “Quickly! Let’s follow!” Feng Luodi lifted her skirt and quickly ran after the puppy, with Qi Jianqiu struggling to keep up due to the stiff and formal gown she was wearing. Jiang Moyin trailed behind slowly, shaking his head as he smiled to himself. I’m doing things I’d never thought that I would, thanks to these two girls.

The grounds of Moonglade were much larger than what Qi Jianqiu expected. Other than the music halls where gatherings and performances were held, there were private rooms on the higher floors, with a huge backyard taking up most of the space. The latter was where the zither artistes, such as Linglong, stayed with their handmaidens. Their quarters were clearly separated from the houses where the guards and other employees lived.

The quarters in the backyard were complicated, packed full of small courtyards and winding corridors, with all of them looking identical. Luckily, Feng Luodi did not have to navigate through them; she merely followed behind the puppy who was on the scent. She was certain that there would be a trail of blood stains, given the nature of the wounds, leading to the primary crime scene However, it was likely that the visible bloodstains had already been removed by the daily cleaning, and that was where the the puppy came in: to sniff out the trail of blood.

The puppy ran along the corridor, barking in excitement as he went. The barking would have definitely caused quite the commotion, if not for the fact that all the employees were resting in the antechamber, barring them from impeding the investigation. Feng Luodi was close behind the puppy, but Qi Jianqiu could not keep up with her formal wear restricting her movement. Jiang Moyin stayed with her, the two walking slowly as they followed from afar.

The puppy rounded many corners, but stopped suddenly at a junction in the corridor, having lost the scent. Feng Luodi carefully examined the surroundings. To the left were a few rooms that looked more lavishly decorated than the rest of the quarters,  and the right was where the male employees lived, in the corner of the property, close to the side door of Moonglade. Suddenly, the puppy barked loudly again, and dashed off to the left, where the few rooms stood. Feng Luodi quickly followed, and the puppy stopped in front of a closed door, barking louder than ever with a hint of distress.

Feng Luodi was just about to push the door open when she heard a familiar voice. “Why is there barking? I don’t remember having a puppy in this yard.” The tone was soothing and gentle, perfectly honed from years of practice.

Feng Luodi quickly scooped the puppy into her arms, and looked towards the direction of the voice. The door opposite her opened, and Linglong stepped out. Surprisingly, Gan Qingjia followed behind her, coming out of what looked like Linglong’s bedroom. Different from his usual attire of dull colours, he was dressed in a short tunic of golden yellow, a pair of white pants showing under the folds. A white belt held his tunic together, and a jade pendant hung from his belt.

He sure is intimate with Linglong. He must be visiting her often, seeing how casually he just walked out of her bedroom.

 

Of course, the two saw Feng Luodi at the same time. Gan Qingjia raised an eyebrow, and was about to gibe at Feng Luodi, but was interrupted when another two people came around the corner. One was his close friend Jiang Moyin, and the other was Qi Jianqiu, famed for her peerless beauty. He swallowed the taunts before he could mock Feng Luodi.

Qi Jianqiu looked at the couple in front of Linglong’s bedroom and frowned a little, disdain apparent on her face. She briskly walked to Feng Luodi, and ignoring the tension in the air, started to play with the puppy in her arms.

Jiang Moyin smiled and shook his head. “The other two had wanted to go out for a drink together, but we couldn’t get hold of you. Now I know where you were hiding; just imagine Xue Yiqi’s expression when he finds out why you abandoned us.”

Gan Qingjia clicked his tongue, wagging a finger at his friend. “He knows very well I’d rather go out with a beauty than go for a drink with you guys.”

“Pfffft!” Qi Jianqiu huffed in disapproval, her back still turned to Gan Qingjia.

Linglong spoke up then. “Miss Feng, are you investigating the case again? The security around Moonglade has become so lax ever since we closed for investigation. Now, anyone can walk about as they please. We would have screamed in surprise if this happened previously.” She spoke the truth, but sarcasm was practically oozing out of her mouth.

Feng Luodi was about to reply, but Gan Qingjia cut in quickly. “You’re right, Linglong. These quarters are for the ladies, and it’s inappropriate that we have people entering carelessly. Not to worry; I’ll bring the matter up with the Administrator.”

“I thank you on behalf of my fellow sisters, Master Gan.” Linglong curtsied.

Gan Qingjia smiled, wrapping his arm around her waist as they walked out of the courtyard. “It’s my pleasure to help a beauty such as yourself.” He waved his other arm casually, bidding farewell to Jiang Moyin.

Jiang Moyin smiled. That fellow, he never changes.

Feng Luodi patted Qi Jianqiu on her back, knowing her disapproval of Gan Qingjia’s flirtatious ways. “Is this room the one you were looking for?” Jiang Moyin walked closer, looking at the door in front of them.

“I guess it is.” Feng Luodi took a breath, and pushed the door open. Stale air gushed out, and the trio scrunched their noses at the smell.

“This room feels very…sinister.” Qi Jianqiu said, a chill running down her spine. “Looks like a pretty simple room. Must have been where the handmaidens stayed.”

She had barely finished her sentence when the puppy dashed into the room, barking furiously at and circling the carpet that was placed in the middle of the room. It seemed out of place, for a carpet to be in an otherwise plain room. Feng Luodi strode over, and in a fluid motion, flipping over a corner of the carpet. Beneath it was a huge dark stain,  likely to be what the puppy was barking at.

“This is…blood?” Jiang Moyin frowned.

“Blood…why is there so much blood on the floor? If someone were to lose this much blood…” Qi Jianqiu gasped. “Could this be the original crime scene?!”

“That’s what I’d suspected.” Feng Luodi’s expression was solemn as she pulled the carpet further back to reveal the rest of the bloodstain.

“Didn’t you say that the officials had already searched the entire property twice? How could they have missed this!” Qi Jianqiu exclaimed.

“Perhaps they didn’t get to search this area properly.” She looked pointedly at Jiang Moyin. “They might have been stopped by someone, someone they couldn’t ignore.”

“Qingjia can be playful, but he knows right from wrong..” Jiang Moyin reassured her.

“What are you two talking about?” Qi Jianqiu looked between the two, puzzled.

“Let’s head outside. It’s pretty stuffy in here.” Leading the way, Feng Luodi stepped back into the courtyard.

Just as they came out, a servant carrying a tray of snacks and wine walked passed the courtyard.

“Wait!” Feng Luodi quickly called after him.

The servant stopped, and realising that it’s Feng Luodi, quickly approached. “Miss Feng,” He bowed. “do you have any questions for me? The constable has already questioned me a few times.”

Feng Luodi nodded curtly. “Yes I do. His questioning is unrelated to mine, and I will need your cooperation to answer me honestly.” Her voice was stern, commanding attention.

Qi Jianqiu and Jiang Moyin had never seen this side of Feng Luodi before, and they both waited in anticipation to hear what she was about to ask. They knew little about the case, and were merely following Feng Luodi out of curiosity.

“Please go ahead, Miss Feng. The constable had told us to comply with you and answer any questions asked.”

“Who was living here previously? Why is it vacant now?” Feng Luodi pointed at the room with the bloodstains. Coincidentally, it was diagonally opposite Linglong’s bedroom.

“Oh, that. The two handmaidens lived there before they died. They were proud and very much admired by the rest for being the handmaidens of Miss Linglong, but their death was so sudden. Who knows why they got killed in the room with the zithers in the middle of the night.”

Feng Luodi frowned. “Wasn’t it their duty to watch over Wind Crane in that room?”

The servant said dismissively. “Moonglade is a mere zither parlour, Miss Feng. We don’t have such presumptous practices. The zithers of the artistes are kept in their handmaidens’ room all the time. The room where the bodies were found is but a small storeroom to keep the unused or spoilt zithers. Being a zither parlour, we naturally have many of those.”

“Oh? Is that so?” Feng Luodi’s face darkened. This was important to the investigation. “You didn’t explain in such detail when the constable questioned you, did you? The omission of such details can make or break this case.” At the very least, the true location of the crime scene might bring new leads, like the motive for murder.

The servant shook his head nervously. “I wouldn’t dare to hide anything from the constable, Miss Feng. We were told that the owner had already conveyed this information to the constable, and they never asked any of us this question.”

Feng Luodi narrowed her eyes, looking intensely at the servant. Jiang Moyin and Qi Jianqiu exchanged looks, not knowing what she was up to.


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