It was a rare snowstorm that was unseen in the last decades in the Ding capital but on the second day, it abruptly stopped. The thick snow piled up till one’s knees and in such a cold weather like this, even the most diligent traders would prefer to bury themselves in their warm beds rather than risking the cold to set up the stall.
It was the person who was sounding the night watch that had missed the timing and hastily got up with the gong. The sun had yet to rise and the skies were not lit but he tightened the worn out jacket on his back and stepped into the snow. In a steady pace, he passed the main doors of Prince Yu residence.
The main doors of Prince Yu residence were slightly opened with a slight seam and there was only half of the word ‘Joyous’ on the door. The old man that sounded the night watch did not see a single guard and his heart whispered. The people of Prince Yu residence were extremely fierce and evil, and he had been scolded by them many a times but it was strange not to see them today. After seeing half the ‘Joyous’ word, suddenly he realized. Yesterday was the day of Prince Yu residence welcoming the Wangfei to the residence so probably the guards were also rewarded with food and drinks and became drunk.
Thinking of the future of that Young Lady who was married into Prince Yu residence, the old man shook his head and was about to walk pass the main doors of the residence of Prince Yu of the First Rank. Coincidentally a cold wind blew out making the heavy door to squeak and the black slit to widen. The old person who sounded the night watch could not help but be surprised. The door squeaked and slightly shook, and unknowingly, he suddenly had a strange feeling coming from his heart. He also did not know how this feeling was formed, so he stood at the door for a long time until a hawker who was out and about saw him and greeted, “Old Fourth Lee, what are you doing at the door?”
The person who sounded the night watch’s heart jumped and suddenly understood what the strange feeling was. In the broad daylight, no matter how ferociously drunk one was last night, how would there be no sounds from the residence at all? Even if everyone were drunk and fast asleep, there would be still dogs or pet birds but there was nothing. The air was dead, as if it was a grave.
His hand was somewhat trembling but he could not help it and took two steps forward. When he just reached the creak at the door, a thick strong smelling scent washed over, almost making him stagger. The old person who sounded the night watch pushed the door but the main door of the Prince Yu residence did not open. When one looked down, between the dark slits of the door, there was a piece of solid ice stuck there.
Most probably due to the wind and snow last night, it was frozen solid and was stuck at the door.
The old person who sounded the night watch stared wide eyed and took two steps back before suddenly screaming, making the people on the streets look over at him.
With the first ray of dawn, that piece of crystal clear ice was particularly clear. It was thick concentrated blood that had solidified into an ice piece, from the door slits flowed out an ice river but halted at the front of the door. It was as if those who were being chased were struggling to live but were cut off from the route by the distance of a door.
As if it was the flow of fresh blood.
Ding capital’s Prince Yu of the First Rank residence’s entire household was exterminated the day it welcomed the Wangfei. From the top to the bottom of the residence, servants to concubines, even a cat, dog, chicken or duck was not spared. It was as if the person who did it had a huge debt of deep seated hatred so they slaughtered everyone cleanly. Such clean and neat execution that death comes in one stroke and in addition that there was not a single loss of gold or jewellery, it was obvious that one was not seeking for money.
It was assumed that Prince Yu was a ferocious and vicious person that did so many evil deeds and had made lots of enemies, so no one knew who would have done it. But the person that took action was very courageous, as by going against the Prince Yu residence was as good as going against Ming Qi’s heavenly family. Everyone knew that Emperor Wen Hui valued this brother greatly, so Prince Yu was so secure with his backing for so many years that even the Princes would fear the consequences. It was nothing more than relying on the support of Emperor Wen Hui.
But this time it was beyond everyone’s expectations. Emperor Wen Hui actually did not place any order to vigorously apprehend the culprit, not even a bounty was offered. He only instructed the officials to investigate and passed the matter to the Administer of the Capital. It was alright for the Administer of the Capital to handle other things but for investigations, they were mediocre. Emperor Wen Hui’s actions meant that he did not want to waste too much energy on the case of the extermination of the entire household. The smart people saw the knack to it. Presumably, Prince Yu had done something before that made Emperor Wen Hui angry else Emperor Wen Hui would not be so cold. Perhaps Emperor Wen Hui in his heart already known who was the culprit who had dealt the problem.
But be it conjecture and rumours, as it spread from word of mouth, many had deviated further from the facts. But some were definitely close to the truth.
In the case of the Prince Yu’s entire household being exterminated, one person survived. This person was not someone else but Shen Qing, who was married into the Prince Yu residence yesterday night. The person who sounded the night watch was the one who first found that something was not right in the Prince Yu residence, and at that time there were many pedestrians on the streets and those braver actually accompanied each other into Prince Yu residence. When they saw the scene in Prince Yu residence, even from the hearsay, it felt creepy.
According to someone who said, in Prince Yu of the First Rank’s large mansion, it was all filled with iced corpse and blood ice pieces. Those blood were displayed all over the courtyard and the snow and wind last night quickly froze them, making the entire floor appear to be red ice. The corpse were all frozen and were as hard as sculptures.
No matter where it was, the air of death was heavy as not a single person survived.
And Prince Yu’s body was in his bed chambers. There were knife wounds on his chest, two maids were likewise beside him and Shen Qing had fallen at the door of the bed chambers, surrounded by gold and silver. At first people thought she was also killed but she awoken when moved. Thus Shen Qing became the only survivor in the entire Prince Yu residence.
To Shen Qing, this was perhaps a good thing but it seemed even worse than death. The entire household of Prince Yu was exterminated, so why leave Shen Qing alive? If it was because Shen Qing was innocent and had no relationship with the Prince residence, then why did the people who did it not let even the servants and concubines go, it was definitely not that they had gotten soft. Moreover, when Shen Qing fainted, at the side there were gold and silver sprinkled like she was escaping.
The most important thing was that other than the stab wound on Prince Yu’s body, there were also stabbed traces of a woman’s hairpin. Thus the most suspicious person was Shen Qing, who just married into Prince Yu residence.
With so many suspicions, it made Shen Qing in a moment the target of public criticism that even if she had nine mouths, she would be unable to clear it up. There was no methods, who asked the entire household of people of Prince Yu residence to die but she remained alive?
Naturally the Administer of the Capital’s people wanted to bring Shen Qing back for interrogation. Regardless of whether Shen Qing was involved in the matter or not, she became the only witness for being alive. To find for clues or even just to do anything for the rest of the world to see, Shen Qing would not be able to get out easily.
When the Shen family received the news, the officials already went to Prince Yu residence to arrest people. Upon learning about the incident, Ren Wan Yun fainted on the spot and it was Shen Gui and Shen Yuan who rushed to pack up and head out.
“Yuan-er, where do we go now?” When Shen Gui faced his own son, he was still somewhat undecided. He knew that even if it was real or not, Shen Qing was involved in the matter and although the Emperor was not in a rage about the matter, but accompanying a monarch was like accompanying a tiger. Who knew what was Emperor Wen Hui’s real thoughts? If this matter was used to provoke him in the future, this would impact his career.
Shen Yuan said icily, “Go and find the Administer of the Capital. It is too late to go to the residence of the Prince of First Rank now. Younger Sister was taken away so the Administer of the Capital will know more of the inside news.” Pausing, he swept a look at Shen Gui, “Father need not worry. This matter will not be on Father’s head.”
Shen Gui heard the sarcasm in Shen Yuan’s words and he was slightly angry but it was not good to say anything so he could only pretend not to understand Shen Yuan’s meaning and said, “That being the case, let us hurry.”
At the other end, Luo Xue Yan and Shen Xin also got ready to leave.
“Qiu-er, go and take a trip to the residence of the Prince of the First Rank. Now that Number Two went to the Administer of the Capital and Number Three entered the Palace to listen for news, someone should still pay attention to the Prince residence. Your Father and I will first go to the Palace, since the matter is huge, it would be bad if spies enter the city now.” Luo Xue Yan instructed Shen Qiu, “Go and negotiate with the Prince residence side and investigate which of our Shen family’s people died so that compensation payments can be given out.”
“Rest assured Mother, leave this to me.” Shen Qiu readily complied.
Waiting till after Shen Xin and coupe left, Shen Qiu tidied up his clothes and intended to leave but suddenly heard Shen Miao’s voice from behind, “Eldest Brother.”
“Younger Sister?” Shen Qiu was surprised for a moment and turned to ask, “Why is Younger Sister not staying at home and come out?”
“Is Eldest Brother going to the residence of the Prince of First Rank?” Shen Miao asked.
“Correct.” Shen Qiu answered, “There are still some things that have to be dealt with. Once these matters are completed, I will quickly return.”
Shen Miao looked at him and said, “Eldest Brother, bring me along.”
Shen Xin was startled but then shook his head and said seriously, “Younger Sister, I know that you have deep resentment with Prince Yu residence and now that Prince Yu residence had fallen to such a state, to be honest, I too find that they invited it upon themselves. If you want to personally see their fate, then Eldest Brother will do it for you. It is not worthwhile for you to personally take a trip down.”
Shen Miao smiled, “I only want to take a look.”
“There is nothing worth looking.” Shen Qiu deliberately scare her, “One heard that last night those people died miserably, they were all cut open and the blood was amassed for a few chi (1 chi = 1 foot = 1/3 meter). Fear that when a person die so miserably, the soul still remains in the residence. For a little young lady like you to go, it is possible to see ghosts.” Even though everyone in the Prince Yu residence died miserably, it was not as horrifying as what Shen Qiu had described. Shen Qiu only wanted to scare Shen Miao as he really did not wish to let Shen Miao see such bloody scenes. How could a delicate lady of an official family see a death scene.
However when he finished saying those words, Shen Miao who was facing him did not have any response. It was as if what he said was a common picture and Shen Miao even laughed, “As children of a military family, if one were to be scared of ghosts and gods, one would scorned by others. Could it be that in the battlefield Eldest Brother would also fear of seeing scenes of the death?”
“Of course not!” Shen Qiu immediately said and once he opened his mouth, he knew he had said the wrong thing. Seeing Shen Miao looking at him quietly, she then said, “That being the case, these are not considered fear so Eldest Brother will bring me along.”
“No. Younger Sister, why do you want to go to Prince Yu residence?” Shen Qiu asked, “There is really nothing there.”
“I go there just to see. Eldest Brother need not to care about me, just like Eldest Brother mentioned, now there are guards defending outside and there will not be any danger. There would not be any trouble in bringing me along.”
Every word that Shen Miao spoke was extremely firm. Shen Qiu found out in the recent things that Shen Miao had a mind of her own and a very stubborn temper. Once she had decided on something, ten cows would not be able to pull her back. Even if he did not let her go today, there would be a day where she will go secretly on her own behind his back, so it would be better to bring her as a companion today and it would be much safer.
“Alright.” Shen Qiu stared at her, “Once in the Prince residence, you cannot wonder about. I will let Mo Qing follow you. If there is anything wrong, immediately shout for me.”
Shen Miao smiled, “Alright.”