Chapter 25 Wind Crane: Sparks Fly
Suddenly, Feng Luodi broke the silence and laughed lightly. “It’s alright, I was just asking. I’m sure you spoke the truth.”
The servant wiped his brow that had already been covered in a sheen of sweat, from Feng Luodi’s intimidating demeanour. Just as he thought he would be allowed to leave, Feng Luodi continued.
“As you said, the handmaidens were not in charge of safekeeping the zithers, but were the personal handmaidens of Linglong. Surely they would know the habits and schedules of her daily life?”
“Of course they do.” The servant nodded. “That’s their responsibility as the personal handmaidens of Miss Linglong.”
Feng Luodi nodded but kept quiet, deep in her own thoughts.
The servant looked at her cautiously, obviously intimidated by her commanding presence when questioning him previously. “If you have no other questions for me, Miss Feng, may I proceed on my way? I was about to serve these snacks in the antechamber.”
“Alright. I have nothing else for you.” She paused. “What’s your name? You’ve helped me a great deal today.”
“My name is Shun, Miss Feng.” Shun bowed. “I’ll take my leave.”
As soon as Shun disappeared from their sight, Qi Jianqiu excitedly grabbed Feng Luodi by her arm, her eyes full of admiration. “I never knew you could be so commanding, Luodi!”
Jiang Moyin chimed in. “Neither did I. Luodi, seems like aside the gift of musical talent, you also have the gift of the gab!”
Feng Luodi glanced at him. “Luodi?” Since when are we so close? This is only the second time I’ve met him…
“We’ve had lunch together, listened to a performance together, and now we have investigated a case together. Doesn’t that make us friends?” Jiang Moyin’s tone was casual and confident.
“Of course, I was just surprised.” The two of them exchanged a look, and smiled. The smiles were warm, and seemed to light up the courtyard.
Sensing a change in the mood that she could not put her finger to, Qi Jianqiu quickly butted in. “Luodi, is that all we’re supposed to do? What are we going to do now?” Her face turned sour. “Why don’t we understand what’s happening at all, Master Jiang?”
“Nope. You’re the only one that doesn’t understand.” Jiang Moyin shook his head seriously.
“What?” Qi Jianqiu widened her eyes, stunned by the sudden ‘betrayal’.
Feng Luodi pulled her along as they left the courtyard. “I just need to confirm my speculations. The officials from the yamen would help with that when they arrive. I wonder how Constable Zheng is doing?”
Qi Jianqiu shook her head, still unable to process how the investigation had already reached this point. Beside her, Jiang Moyin’s smile broadened, admiration apparent in his eyes.
Unbeknownst to the trio, Shun was met by another person at the other end of the courtyard.
“Have you told them what I instructed you to say?”
“Yes I have. I had repeated every single word to them.”
“Good. This is for you then.”
The trio quickly returned to the room where the bodies were found to meet up with the constable, who arrived promptly with a few officials behind him.
Seeing Jiang Moyin in the room, Constable Zheng quickly bowed to him. “Grand Tutor Jiang.” Jiang Moyin nodded at him, and the constable greeted Qi Jianqiu before turning to Feng Luodi.
“Miss Feng! I have new leads.”
“I have several findings as well. But first, tell me what you’ve found.” Feng Luodi gestured for him to speak first.
Constable Zheng could hardly contain his excitement. “My boys and I had checked with all the night watchmen in Chang’an, and we found a watchman who was in the area the night of the murder. According to him, a man in white was spotted leaving the side door of Moonglade hurriedly, sometime around 9pm that night. However, he did not manage to get a glimpse of his face because of the night. This wasn’t reported earlier as he lived far from Moonglade, and have not heard the news of the crime that happened here.”
“I’m sure this isn’t all there is, to make you so excited.” Feng Luodi smiled.
“You sure can read people well, Miss Feng.” Constable Zheng nodded. “Although the watchmen didn’t manage to see the person’s face, he remembered the direction that he had escaped towards. We searched the direction he pointed out for us, and found important clues.” The Constable took a sack from the official behind him, and opened it to reveal a robe splattered with blood.
“I believe that this belongs to the killer. Looking at the bloodstains on this robe, his inner clothes must have been bloodied as well. Unfortunately, this is all that we found; he must have destroyed or hid his inner clothing.”
Qi Jianqiu, who had been silent all the while, leaned over and touched the robe. “This fabric feels like the newest silk that’d just arrived in Chang’an. And it’s embroidery is the current trend. The owner must have had spent a fortune and pulled strings to get it.”
Hearing that, Feng Luodi looked at Constable Zheng. “Another lead to follow.”
Constable Zheng quickly dispatched two officials to visit the silk merchants in Chang’an and compile a list of clients that they had sold this fabric. He turned to Feng Luodi. “What findings do you have, Miss Feng?”
“Send a couple of officials into the courtyard in the corner of the property. Search the first room on the left carefully; that is where the murder actually took place.”
“What? Are you serious?” Constable Zheng was shaken by the news, and wanted to check it out for himself immediately. Feng Luodi quickly stopped him.
“Constable, just send a few officials to do it. There’re more pressing leads for you to investigate currently.”
Listening to her advice, the constable quickly dispatched another two officials to check out the room Feng Luodi had pointed out, and looked expectantly at her. “What other leads do you have for me?”
Feng Luodi smiled, full of confidence. “Now, we already have the location of the real crime scene, the clothes of the murderer, and we are currently searching for his whereabouts. Why don’t we try to find out his motive?”
“Motive? How would we go about to do that?” The constable furrowed his brows. “The two handmaidens are always in Moonglade and rarely interact with anyone.” That was what impeded his investigation the most.
“But not for the person they served.” Feng Luodi called an official over. “If you will, please fetch a servant from the antechamber by the name of Shun. Tell him that Constable Zheng is looking for him.”
“What do you mean by ‘not for the person they served’?” Constable Zheng looked at her, confusion written all across his face. “Weren’t they responsible for looking after the zithers?”
Feng Luodi shook her head. “They were the personal handmaidens of Miss Linglong. For all the suitors and admirers that Miss Linglong have, the handmaidens would’ve had interacted with them.”
Qi Jianqiu scratched her head in confusion, not understanding what Feng Luodi meant. She turned to Jiang Moyin, but he was looking at Feng Luodi intensely again, his eyes bright with admiration. However, Constable Zheng was enraged by the situation. “How dare they hide it from me! The guts!”
“It doesn’t really matter,” Feng Luodi placated him, “we would have found out sooner or later. But this expression could be useful during the questioning; try to maintain it.” She leaned closer to the constable, and whispered a plan in his ear.
“That sounds like a good plan; let’s just do as you said.” The constable nodded.
Feng Luodi looked around. “Did anyone bring a set of slats and writing materials? We would need a scribe for the questioning.”
An official quickly passed the stationery to Feng Luodi. Now she was stunned; there was no way she could be write well enough for the words to be legible – her words look as if they had been chewed by the puppy in her arms. She looked around helplessly, and her eyes landed on Jiang Moyin.
“Why don’t you do it, friend?” She emphasized the last word, a hint of a smile playing on her lips.
Jiang Moyin laughed, and took over the stationery. Seeing that the rest had their attention on Shun who was walking towards them, he leaned closer to Feng Luodi, and whispered in her ear. “I would never have thought that you can’t write, Luodi. What a waste – you have such beautiful hands.” He quickly straightened his body, and acted as if nothing happened.
Feng Luodi turned and glared at him. “I just don’t want to tire out my hands writing these things down.”
“Oh~~~~~~~~~” Jiang Moyin dragged out the word, completely ruining his image of a gentleman. This jeer quickly earned him another glare from Feng Luodi. Qi Jianqiu reverted her attention back just in time to catch him in this act, but now she was more confused, unsure what the two were up to.
Meanwhile, Constable Zheng had begun questioning Shun, putting on his angry face as Feng Luodi advised. “Are you Shun?”
“Yes I am, sir. I’m a servant responsible for the serving of refreshments.” Shun kept his head down, the plan Feng Luodi had clearly working.
“I have a few questions for you, and you are to answer truthfully. Is that understood?”
“Yes, sir. I promise to answer truthfully.”
“Are there many suitors and admirers looking for Miss Linglong, on a daily basis?” Surprisingly, Constable Zheng’s first question was one that seemed unrelated to the investigation.
“Of course! Miss Linglong’s beauty, gentle personality and musical talents are famous in Chang’an. All the nobles and officers in the city fight to hear her play. From Master LI, the nephew of the Chamberlain for the Imperial Insignia, to Master Xiao, grandson of the Chamberlain of the Palace Garrison…” Once the topic of Linglong was brought up, Shun spoke with much more confidence than before, even looking Constable Zheng in the eye. However, once he looked at Qi Jianqiu and Feng Luodi standing at the side, his gaze dropped. Undoubtedly, Qi Jianqiu was much more beautiful than Linglong, and Feng Luodi had bested Linglong in a ‘competition’ playing a song on the zither during that gathering. If it wasn’t for the 7th Prince tarnishing her reputation with the rumours he spread, Feng Luodi would definitely have many admirers by now.
However, Constable Zheng had no patience to listen to Shun’s list of patrons. He quickly interrupted, “If that’s the case, do they still turn up after knowing what happened at Moonglade?”
“No, they don’t. We haven’t had many patrons visiting as of late, but many of the young masters send their servants to enquire about the situation at Moonglade every day.”
“Seeing as how you have such a good memory, why don’t you list out the people who were admirers of Miss Linglong, but who never sent their servants to Moonglade after the incident?”
“Oh…” Shun hesitated. “I might not be able to remember all of them. And…and I don’t think it’s right for me to disclose their information. They are our guests after all.” He looked up meekly at the constable.
Constable Zheng smiled suddenly, but it was a menacing smile. “I wasn’t asking for your permission.” His face darkened. “Do it.”
“O-okay.” The effect was immediate. Shun immediately listed out all the names that satisfied the two criteria, including the background of the client and the number of times they’ve visited Moonglade in the past month. Now it was Feng Luodi and Constable Zheng’s turn to be surprised. They never knew that Moonglade had kept such detailed registers on the comings and goings of their patrons.
Beside them, Jiang Moyin tirelessly copied down the information that Shun had said. Feng Luodi leaned over and took a look at his writing. Damn, his penmanship is superb. He looks handsome, is well versed in the arts, and even is the Grand Tutor of the Crown Prince! Not to mention that his father is the Censor-in-chief, a governmental official of the 1st Rank. If he was in my world, he would have been very popular amongst the girls… Feng Luodi’s attention started to wander..
Before she realised, Jiang Moyin had already taken down the information Shun provided, and handed the slats back to Constable Zheng.
Constable Zheng nodded at him. “Thank you for your help, Grand Tutor Jiang.” Then, he turned to Shun. “You may go now.”
He looked at the bamboo slats in his hand, and then back at Feng Luodi. “Miss Feng, now I understand what you meant. Do not worry, I will quickly go through these names, and immediately put my officers on investigating them. Please go back and rest; I’ll let you know if I make any progress on the case.”
“Thank you, constable. We appreciate the effort you’d put in to solve this case.”
Constable Zheng promptly excused himself, and left with the rest of his officers to continue the investigation.
Qi Jianqiu sighed, then quickly complained. “I never thought that investigating a case would be this tiring. I’m hungry again!”
“Alright then, let’s go for a meal then. We’ll order all your favourite dishes!” Feng Luodi smiled, and invited Jiang Moyin along. “Master Jiang, why don’t you join us?”
Before he could reply, Qi Jianqiu quickly cut in. “Of course he’s coming with us!” She winked at him. “You’re the only one among us to have a salary. This meal is on you!”
“Of course. It’s my honour to do so.” Jiang Moyin smiled, and gestured for the ladies to walk ahead.