A Bad Beginning
The eight people, mainly Dee, Rui, Yuchi, and Shun, made their way to the second death scene, which happened only a day after the first. The second death happened in General Sha’s private mansion in Chang’an, not far from the Royal Palace. Just like Doctor Li’s place, this mansion is also surrounded by guards and tall brick walls. Measuring the height of it, probably only people who know Kung Fu can climb over. Ordinary guards in the city are not capable of Kung Fu skills, so the mysterious murderer could still easily sneak in or escape from the guards despite having them.
Like the first case, the death scene’s only entrance is completely locked from the inside. There is only one other window in the room. Dee entered the mansion with the others. The mansion is a huge area containing three large houses and a central garden. It is a typical mansion built for higher-ranked officials. People from the Dali department are already at the scene. They are always the first to arrive, maintaining orders around the scene. One of the workers from Dali explained to Dee the background of what had happened.
The deceased is General Sha, a well-respected General by the city. As of right now, he serves as a general at the country’s board, connecting with the northern prairie. He has been serving there for a long time, stopping lots of attacks from the outside. According to his wife, General Sha returned to Chang’an two weeks ago to attend the Spring Festival. He right now lives with his wife and kids, and in the mansion also lives other workers.
“So the murder could be done by people within the mansion,” Rui suggested.
There are clear wounds on the deceased’s body that are speculated to be from a sharp knife or sword. From the looks of it, most wounds except one, appear to be undeadly. They are not deep inside enough to take someone’s life. A clear cut that went across the dead’s body is determined to be the fatal stab. From a professional examination, Dee believed the sword struck through the general’s body from front to his back. This suggests the killer was standing right in front of the deceased when the fatal stab occurred. Around the body are drops of blood. The darkened blood drop could be either from the wounded deceased or from the killer. There is also evidence of fighting in the room, as the shelves have fallen down, papers, books, and scrolls chaotically splattered around without any pattern. The whole room can not get messier.
“If the information is correct,” Dee said. “I don’t think the murder was done by anyone in the mansion. There are only a few people in this world that can beat General Sha in a fight. No regular man could stand in front of him and stab his weapon right through.”
“But what if it is his most trusted person?” Yuchi questioned. “It would be unexpected for him.”
“True,” Dee replied. “However, if you look at the shape of his hand, he seemed to be gripping on to something, like this iron spear which laid right beside him. There are multiple wounds, which indicates a fight has happened. If it really is an unexpected assassination, then how do we explain the other wounds?”
When a person dies, his muscle will tighten, frozen until it cannot be easily moved around. The shape of General Sha’s hand is in a position that interests Dee.
“What if the death scene was made up,” Rui questioned. “Like, he was actually killed by a poison to death, but the murderer created an illusion of a fight scene to clear himself.”
Dee walked over to the dead body and went back to examine it. “More evidence supports that he probably fought with someone.”
“According to the gardener that works here,” The Dali worker interrupted. “Last night, he was wandering near the room. He heard a loud noise, sort of like someone breaking in the door. Then, he heard a loud sound of things falling down. There is also apparently a loud TING sound, but he is not sure of what it is.”
Dee’s brain started storming, processing all the information. “This could be someone breaking in from the window,” Dee points at the slightly opened window in the room. “The two encountered a duel, in the process things fell down, this is why the room is like this. Then, the TING sound, I suspect, is the weapons colliding with each other.”
Dee told Yuchi and Rui to draw out their swords. He tested the sound of the two swords clashing together. It did make a sound very similar to a TING. At this point, Dee suspects the killer or killers should be great fighters that broke into the room, had a fight with General Sha, and convincingly won it. In terms of the motive, or if this case has any to do with the previous one, Dee still has no clue of it.
“Is the gardener the only witness?” Dee asked.
“So far, he is the only one,” The Dali worker answered.
“Why is General all alone in this room?” Yuchi has an excellent point.
Dee started to cluelessly wander around the room full of mystery. From the looks of the map of the whole mansion, this room is located near the outer, its window looking straight at the tall brick wall. This building is the farthest one from the main building, and usually, it will be empty with no one around. The building is used mainly for storage. This room in particular seems to be for storing letters and documents.
According to the deceased’s wife, every week, on a certain day, the deceased will come to this room to read and write letters to faraway friends. On this day, he will burn incense in honor of his fellow dead soldiers. Today, he came to this room just like usual. But, he took more time than usual. Then, there was the whole thing of the gardener hearing the sounds, resulting in the reporting of the death.
“He took more time than usual,” Dee wondered. “What could that possibly mean? There is probably something in this room that made him stay in longer.”
Dee kept roaming around, examining potential useful clues to fulfill his curiosity. Dee started with all the papers and books scattered on the ground. The papers consist of letters General Sha received and wrote, and the books are mainly ancient histories, poems. These findings did not help any bit, Dee is getting a bit frustrated. He scratched his head, trying to get rid of the irritating feeling. He peeked his head out of the window, for some fresh air.
The others were busy as well. Rui kept observing the dead body. Shun wandering outside protecting their safety.
“Master Dee, I’ve found something.” It was Yuchi, who first found some useful clues. It seemed to be an envelope, inside a written letter.
Mister, If you want to maintain your position, do what’s told by me.
Earliest by tonight, or else your secret….
Meaningful message hidden, maybe you will have a clue.
The secret may never be told, no one will watch.
Eerie voices might remind you of ther.
Echos of the sound will lead you to your heart.
The message is hidden in your biggest secrets.
The letter reads. It is not very long nor easy to understand, but it certainly feels like it contains tons of information. The letter was originally opened, and put on General Sha’s table. From the looks of it, before dying, General Sha seemed to have just read this letter. The reason being is, normally letters are put in an envelope. Other letters present in this room are all stored nicely in an envelope. However, this letter is opened and nicely put on the table. Dee suspected that General Sha had to have read this letter, and is maybe considering doing something with it, before being killed. It could be writing a letter back, or maybe he is trying to follow procedures. The most important Dee took away from this is, General Sha has a massive secret hidden somewhere.
“He must be threatened,” Rui stated the obvious. “This letter sender is trying to make General Sha do something, it is hidden in secrets.”
The letter is anonymous, It’s not clear who wrote the letter. There might even be a chance that General Sha himself wrote it. However, by examining other writing in the room, the worry quickly vanished as General Sha has his own distinctive writing style.
“By finding his secret, we could then understand what the letter really meant,” Rui suggested, this could be a nice place to build more on.
This is also what Dee has thought about. To add on furthermore, Dee said. “If General Sha, after reading this letter, stayed in the room. Chances are, the secret is somewhere hidden here.”
“Then we should get to searching,” Yuchi agreed. Others do as well.
“In this letter that I’m reading,” Said Rui. “Last year, General Sha was late reporting to the border. He claimed that he was sick. However, he was actually participating in a local poem contest, north of Chang’an.”
Everyone turned at Rui, looking confused. A smart person would know this is not a huge enough thing to consider. Rui’s sight swept through everyone. “Does that count, Mater Dee?” He quietly asked.
Dee’s face expressed disappointment, rolling his eyes to the side. Rui froze in awkwardness, not knowing what to say. After standing still for a moment, he put his head down and went back to searching.
Time has run by fast. Their investigation still hasn’t progressed by much. After endless hours of searches, despite having a clear direction, the group still could not find a direct connection with General Sha’s hidden secret. There are small findings, like what Rui has found. But, the information within those findings is often hard to tell, and it takes a lot of time to really dive deep into it.
There is already sweat going down Dee’s neck. The room right now is hot as the desert lands. Dee looked around the room, and everyone else seemed also to be tired from the long-lasting searches that felt like an eternity. Dee went numb for a second, a feeling of defeat struck him for a moment.
“Everyone take a break,” Dee directed. “We can go for lunch.”
The group has unconsciously spent the entire morning, now it is the middle of the day. The group decided to go to a nearby place to have lunch, to relax a bit in order to maintain their best condition for the afternoon.
“Can we get two tables of Changshou Noodles?” Rui ordered. “Is that fine for everyone?”
“I don’t like noodles,” Shun said. This is the first time he spoke a word after getting to the mansion.
“Then please get him a bowl of fried rice,” Dee kindly told the waiter.
The eight members seated at two separate tables. Dee, Rui, Yuchi, and Shun are together at one. Things are still a bit awkward between some members of the group, as they’ve only met for one day.
Rui as usual is really chatty. He started to share his thoughts on the murder cases, proceeding to guess the truth. Making up multiple ridiculous stories.
“What if the murder was done by aster Dee,” Rui suspensefully said. “As smart as Master Dee, he can easily kill the two, without ever getting called.”
“But how did Master Dee do it?” Yuchi went along with the joke.
“For doctor Li’s death. I think Master Dee used his illusion skills to make the guards see a different image. Then, he snuck in and killed doctor Li.” Rui’s face all of a sudden turned serious.
Dee laughed. “The Illusion skill has elapsed for several decades now. How I’m I supposed to master this skill?”
Rui ignored what Dee had said, and continued with his nonsense theory. “In terms of the second case. Master Dee must’ve killed General Sha by poisoning him somehow. Then he created those distortions to make it seem like a fight has occurred. Aiming the blame towards the Kung Fu masters, people like me.”
“Well, I can do the same thing. So shouldn’t I be suspected as well?”
“Well, you do not have the Illusion skill, which Master Dee does have. Plus, you are not nearly smart enough to do any of that, Yuchi.”
The two started to bicker, like two talking parrots. Dee does not mind it, as it reminded him of his younger days when he and Xun used to bicker over the same boring things. The two would continue quarreling to the point of even wanting to fight each other. This made the other members around them laugh. Dee found it funny as well, having some jokesters around is relaxing. Yet, Shun appears to not be interesting one bit. Dee remembered what Ke had told him about Shun. Ke specifically told Dee to treat Shun well.
“I’ve got to make Shun feel belonged.” Dee wrote the statement in his heart. “We are currently people on the same boat. I’ve got to make him feel like he’s at home, with friends.”
“Silence,” Dee yelled, interrupting the ongoing bickering. “Let’s be quieter, so we don’t disturb anyone.”
Dee’s words made peace in them, for now. The two stopped their childish arguments. Dee waited until they stopped, and coughed to attract everyone’s attention.
“We should have conversations that are more meaningful, shall we?” Dee glanced around the room. “As an official celebration of the forming of our crew, I shall honor you all with a glass of wine.”
Dee picked up the wine bottle and slowly poured the wine into his cup. Everyone else did the same. “In the hopes of bringing the truth to the emperor.” Dee cheered. As everyone stood up and drank from their cup.
“How are you doing, Master Shun?” Dee asked, everyone had now settled.
“Decent,” Shun gave a short answer
“I heard from Master Ke that you are from Japan,”
Shun simply nodded, seemingly not interested in having a conversation.
“Are you then a swordsman?” Rui joined in. “I saw you wielding your swords earlier.”
Shun again did not say anything, he simply showed Rui his sword.
“This sword is amazing! Is so beautifully crafted.” Rui was amazed. “I am interested in learning to be a swordsman, can you teach me?”
Shun did not give an immediate answer.
“I can teach you Kung Fu in return,” Rui continued. “I’m an expert at it.”
“I didn’t know that you were interested in being a swordsman,” Yuchi said.
“Oh, I haven’t told you this,” Rui realized. “My dad was the best swordsman in the dynasty when I was not born.”
“So, that’s about 25 years ago.”
“At the time, my dad was out in the world defeating the evils, helping people in need. He was honoured with the crown of the best swordsman by his peers, and is a big part of helping our dynasty,” Rui proudly said.
“What is his name?” Shun asked.
“The top four most famous swordsmen are my teacher Toda Minori. Master Yi Xue from Shaolin temple. The wandering exile, Master Wen. And Master Ke, who you’ve just met.”
“How come your dad isn’t on the list,” Yuchi laughed. “Now you are just being dishonest in front of new friends.”
“Your list might be wrong,” Rui argued
“Did your dad tell you his stories?” Yuchi wondered
Rui suddenly went silent, past memories swarming in his head.
“Rui’s father died when he was still a baby,” Dee answered for him. Dee looked at Rui, his face showing grief. Years ago when Rui told Dee the same story he cried for a whole night. Dee knows his feeling of losing a loved one, it is painful and leaves a deep scar in one’s heart. The best way is to move on.
Rui took a deep breath and put away his grief. “My mother told me the story, and I know she won’t lie to me.”
“Sorry for…..” Yuchi apologized to Rui for bringing this up.
“We believe you,” Dee comforted.
“My father is the best swordsman ever. He will never lie to me,” Rui firmly stated.
Shun smirked in disdain, and Rui noticed him. “You have a problem with that?” Rui’s voice clearly showed anger.
“I know all the great swordsmen in recent history. So your dad is probably just an ordinary one at best” Shun said while using a cloth to wipe his sword.
“Why are you being so disrespectful?”
“I am just stating the truth.” Shun shrugged.
Rui’s face is red hot, ready to unleash his anger. Dee quickly got off of his seat, walked over trying to calm him down.
“How about we fight?” Rui ignored Dee. “My fist will break your sword easily.”
In the blink of an eye, Shun dashed over beside Rui, knocking Dee to the ground. Pulling out his sword ready to cut off Rui’s head.
“Looks like I won.” Shun again showed his contempt towards Rui.
Rui quickly fought back, his anger on the top level. He grabbed a chair and knocked Shun’s sword onto the ground. Just as Shun was about to reach his sword, Rui jumped up and threw a punch right at Shun. The punch pursued at Shun’s head. As the punch was about to land, Yuchi blocked it. Yuchi’s hand firmly blocked Rui’s deadly punch. His body did not even move one bit.
Both Shun and Rui seemed to be shocked by Yuchi’s ability; they did not continue fighting. Helped by other members, Dee got up. His back is still hurting from getting knocked to the ground.
“Enough,” Dee yelled, panting heavily. “You two have to be separated. Rui! Get back to the mansion. I’ll bring you the food later.”
Rui glared at Shun, before rushing out the door in embarrassment. To make peace the two have got to be separated.
“Here is your food.” The waiter came in at this awkward moment, and saw the broken chairs and flipped tables from the fight. Dee sincerely apologized and paid the owner some money for their loss.
“Master Shun,” Dee said. “I am sorry that Rui made you mad. I hope you can forget about it, and still help us with our investigation.”
“I’m sure if you know Rui better, you will learn that he is always kind, and he will never mean to hurt anyone’s feelings,” Yuchi said.
Shun definitely heard what Yuchi said, however, he did not say anything or express any bits of emotion.
Yuchi and Dee looked at each other. Yuchi let out a helpless sigh. Nobody would’ve thought a thing like this would happen. This is not the time to be having issues.
Today has so far been rough for Dee. Waking up hearing about the bad news. Finding nothing of significance for the entire morning, and now his team breaking apart. There is still a long, rocky route to go.