Feeling indignant, Official DaWei replied with a recalcitrant tone, “Your Highness, that is not true. How can I act wildly when I have been ordered to come down and investigate the case? I do admit that the number of people sentenced to execution by myself, this lowly official, is not small, but they were all guilty and deserved it. How could such acts of justice end up being seen as ruthless by Your Highness? I don’t accept this.”
Feng Huan’s eyes sharpened, and he retorted back, “You call that solving a case? You are clearly making a mess!”
Official DaWei stared with widened eyes and was clearly distressed. “Your Highness’ words are equivalent to wiping out all my feats. Over the years, this official has been conscientious in solving strange cases for the imperial court, and such words from Your Highness now makes me feel bitterly disappointed.”
At this point, da sicheng also butted in, “Your Highness, such words should really not be said.”
“I have already said what should not be said.” Saying that, Feng Huan had an expression like he was expecting to be praised. Although Official DaWei was resentful, he could not do anything about it, while the da sicheng could only sigh. Even if Feng Huan stabbed the official blatantly, it would still end up remaining inconclusive.
As Feng Huan did not want to explain further, he stopped acknowledging them and turned to Zhuang Zhong. “Zhuang Zhong, what is your opinion on this case?”
When Zhuang Zhong saw Feng Huan, he was thoroughly relieved. Although Prince Si Zhao had a domineering attitude and an eccentric personality, he was very cautious in solving cases, as could be seen from the Wang Fu case. So, with him around, Zhuang Zhong did not have to worry about Official DaWei messing things up anymore. He greeted him, “Your Highness, I think that this case should be concluded so rashly. Instead, we should investigate more carefully before making a final decision. It is fine if there are no mistakes, but in the case that there were…”
Official DaWei snorted coldly, “Your Highness, are you seriously thinking of letting this boy “find the truth” and prove that this official will only make a mess out of things?”
Zhuang Zhong hastily refuted, “This student did not say that Han Chuan is definitely not the murderer. I just feel that we should investigate carefully to be on the safe side.”
Official DaWei became even more taunting. “From your words, I had thought that you would have an exceptional ability, but in actuality, you are just trying to show off. Upon seeing that something is not right, you immediately changed the subject.”
Zhuang Zhong’s expression turned serious. “My lord, this is a homicide case and should not be handled with spite. The deceased is still here, and the best way for him to attain peace is to find out the truth. The reason why I am so cautious is because I hope that there will not be any mistakes. If you dislike me specifically, you are free to criticize me wantonly in the future. Now, the most important thing is to respect the dead and find out the truth for him.”
At this moment, Feng Huan impatiently said, “What is the purpose of speaking so much? Quickly go and examine.”
With such words, the argument was interrupted, and no one dared to obstruct anymore. So, Zhuang Zhong dispersed the people in the room and began to investigate the scene.
Official DaWei glanced to the side. “I would like to see what you can actually find.”
Zhuang Zhong placed the chest he was carrying on the ground. Carrying the chest was a habit from his job – whenever he heard there was a homicide case, he would always bring his case along. In order to avoid exposing too much information about the box, Zhuang Zhong already had it rebuilt too. There were three layers and what was displayed at the first layer were things that could be seen by others.
Zhuang Zhong put on his gloves properly. As his clothes were too wide and inconvenient to move in, he had also gotten a white robe made specially.
Seeing this, Official DaWei was even more displeased and said sarcastically, “You are already afraid of getting your clothes dirty when solving a case. If you see a rotting corpse, will you faint in fear too?”
Despite such words, Zhuang Zhong did not pay him any attention, proceeding instead to take out a pencil and a drawing board before heading towards Yuan LiangJun. As he looked at the classmate who had still been beaming yesterday but was now lying here coldly, he felt grieved. He took a deep breath and quickly drew the general image of Yuan LiangJun’s postmortem appearance. As there was no camera here, Zhuang Zhong could only record by hand.
The education officer who was close to him, did not understand what he was doing and asked, “What is the purpose of this?”
“The first scene where the body is found must be recorded clearly so it can be used as one of the pieces of evidence to settle the case in the future. What happened on that day can also be remembered more clearly. Instead of using a thousand words to depict, it would be easier with a picture.”
Da sicheng’s face was full of appreciation. “It seems to be so.”
Meanwhile, Official DaWei just gave a cold hum and did not express his opinion.
As Zhuang Zhong was fast, he soon finished the drawing and proceeded to conduct the autopsy. Now that he was a law student, it was not as surprising that he possessed the relevant skills to do so. In order to examine the corpse, Zhuang Zhong had to strip off the deceased’s clothes first. However, the da sicheng thought that it was inappropriate and stopped him.
Zhuang Zhong explained, “Although the deceased was killed by this knife on the neck, we can only know about the state of the rest of the body after careful examination. Besides, if we find other wounds on the body, we can also gain more information. The corpse can tell us a lot, but it requires living people to examine it carefully.”
After hearing this, da sicheng sent all the onlookers away, ordering them to stay in their own rooms and not roam around. Even for the deceased, one should help keep their dignity and refrain from exposing them indecently to the public.
“There are clear signs of livor mortis1 “尸斑” refers to the pooling of the blood (gives a purplish-red discoloration) in the lowest points of the body due to gravity and the lack of blood circulation as a result of the cessation of cardiac activity., which could be affected by the shifting of the body position. Rigor mortis2 “尸僵” refers to rigor mortis which is characterized by stiffening of the limbs of the corpse caused by chemical changes in the muscles postmortem (mainly calcium). is also obvious, and bodily releases3I felt that the author is referring to the lack of control the deceased have over their bodily releases such as stool and urine when the muscles relax after death. could still happen. It can then be inferred that the deceased should have died between two and a half hours. As it is chenshi4辰时 (chenshi) refers to the period of the day from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. now, the dead should have died between choushi5丑时 (choushi) refers to the period of the day from 1 a.m. to 3 a.m. and yinshi6寅时 (yinshi) refers to the period of the day from 3 a.m. to 5 a.m..”
After hearing that, Fang Xiang expressed his uncertainty, “I rushed into the room only half an hour earlier from now. That is to say, if Han Chuan had not been out of the room all night, he would have been in the same room with Yuan LiangJun’s corpse for more than two hours? To stay in the same room with the person he killed and sleep peacefully, he would have needed to be cold-blooded enough, but when I rushed in, Han Chuan was paralyzed with fright on the ground, and the pile of feculence had just appeared.”
When Han Chuan heard that he had been cohabiting the room with a corpse for such a long time, his body trembled even more severely. Despite the humiliating nature of such a reaction, he had not cared for his pride.
Instead, Fang Xiang became embarrassed. “Actually, when I rushed in, I did not pay attention to Yuan LiangJun, but looked towards Han Chuan, so I remember such things very clearly.”
Da sicheng said, “If it is so, the inference made by the official is not very accurate. How can a person be brave enough to kill someone and stay with the dead body safely? It is not reasonable that after two hours, he would suddenly scream with fear.”
Official DaWei narrowed his eyes. “How can you be sure that your way of judging the time of death is not wrong? How come I have never heard of this before?”
Zhuang Zhong actually planned to participate in the deduction after the autopsy, but he was called into question and chose to reply, “This is knowledge. If you do not believe it, you can ask an experienced coroner.”
Official DaWei was noncommittal and hummed coldly. “Even so, the suspicion on Han Chuan cannot be ruled out. Just now, I mentioned that some people will suddenly turn into demons and even kill people while sleepwalking. So, they themselves will also be frightened when they wake up.”
Zhuang Zhong did not deny this possibility. Although the probability was very small, it could not be ruled out either. “Your deduction is not unreasonable. If the murder was committed while sleepwalking, the final conviction will also be different. However, the autopsy has only just begun, and a careful investigation has yet to be conducted. So, it is not time to draw a conclusion yet.”
Feng Huan swept his eyes over Official DaWei and said, “Why are you so anxious when there is a time for you to speak later?”
Initially, Official DaWei was already dissatisfied with Feng Huan, but now, he was even more angry. However, he could not do anything, and his face turned red.
Meanwhile, Zhuang Zhong attentively examined the corpse. His tender face was marked with a seriousness that was not in line with his age. “There is a cut on the deceased neck where the edges of the wound are neat with no scratches. The wound cavity is also deep, and the trachea was completely and neatly broken. Besides, the blood on the wall is wavy instead of being zipper-shaped, which is typical for a bloodstain caused by a blood jet from a carotid artery rupture. No other wounds were found on the surface of the deceased’s body, but there are obvious marks on the lower part of his face. It can be concluded that in this first crime scene where the corpse was not removed, the deceased’s mouth was covered before his throat was cut with a sharp instrument. According to the wound on his neck, this knife is indeed the weapon that was used to murder him.”
Hearing this, Official DaWei sneered, “We were tossed around for so long that I thought that the results would be exceptional. However, after such a long time of investigation, this is the only result? There is no difference from what I have deduced before, and we have wasted so much time in vain.”
When Zhuang Zhong saw the scene, he had also guessed such a result. However, he had a strict attitude and believed that there must be a careful inspection. After all, in criminal cases, if there was a homicide, it was necessary to have a routine autopsy.
“The murderer killed with a single cut, so his technique is very skillful. As there are also no other shallow markings on his neck, he had slit the neck without hesitation. He did not worry about further actions because he was sure that the cut would lead to death. The dead also did not struggle too much before he was killed, so the murderer was quick and ruthless. If Han Chuan is the killer, he must be experienced to have such confidence when the school buildings are all next to each other, and the sound insulation is poor.”
Han Chuan, who was still paralyzed on the ground, cried out, “Normally, I do not even kill chickens, let alone kill people. As a scholar, I do not experience such things often either. The knife was given to me by my father, who said that it should be brought along to bolster my courage. I was not aware when I lost it yesterday, and I even told Yuan LiangJun about it, saying that I felt very sorry towards my father that I accidentally lost the knife. This knife was worth a lot of money, and I was afraid of letting my father down.”
Official DaWei retorted coldly, “With this point, we still cannot rule out the suspicion on Han Chuan. In the cases I investigated before, there were many people acting like pigs while eating tigers7 “扮猪吃老虎” (literally acting like pigs while eating tigers) refers to people who spend a lot of efforts to play tricks. Essentially, they act weak so that the opposite party would be negligent (they seize the chance and win in the end)..”
Zhuang Zhong then asked, “When was the last time you saw this knife yesterday?”
Han Chuan thought about it and replied, “It was there before I invited you all to eat tadpole noodles. I only found it missing when I went to bed at night.”
Official DaWei said, “That is to say, except Yuan LiangJun, no one knows that you had lost this knife?”
Han Chuan looked depressed when he replied, “Yes.”
Zhuang Zhong felt that it was even more unlikely that Han Chuan would kill Yuan LiangJun. After all, Han Chuan was such a smart person that even if he did the murder, how could he let himself be implicated? Even if it was a crime of passion, there were more than four hours of buffer time in the middle, and he should have figured out a way to deal with it, run away, or cover it up. How could he still stand here and foolishly let himself get caught in the net? Despite such thoughts though, this was all just speculation. Maybe it was the reverse, and Han Chuan was deliberately being misleading or was actually that foolish.
Zhuang Zhong once again began to investigate the scene. As the site had been damaged, there was very little useful information. Zhuang Zhong’s serious expression while investigating was so awe-inspiring that even Official DaWei did not taunt him despite feeling impatient.
When Zhuang Zhong went to the window, he suddenly frowned, attracting everyone’s attention. Da sicheng asked, “What have you found?”
Zhuang Zhong did not rush to answer and took out something that looked like a rattle with a transparent middle from his case. Those around him were puzzled and did not recognize what it was.
“Everyone, come and take a look!”
After he said that, everyone surrounded the window. Official DaWei took a look and said, “There is nothing.”
Others also shook their heads and said they could not see clearly.
Zhuang Zhong then handed the magnifying glass to Official DaWei. “Look at this place with this.”
“Eh, this plaything…” Before Official DaWei could continue, the object was already taken away by Feng Huan, causing him to feel gloomy.
Feng Huan was also quite surprised. “This can enlarge things?”
“Yes, it is called a magnifying glass and was bought from the westerners.” In order to hide that he had a lot of strange things, Zhuang Zhong purposely went to the place where the foreign vassals gathered for a few days.
Phrasing it like this, those around would not find this unusual anymore. As after opening the port, those light-haired and green-eyed foreigners had indeed brought a lot of strange things.
When Zhuang Zhong saw that Feng Huan was very interested in it, his heart became lodged in his throat. “Your Highness, this is the only one…”
Feng Huan glared at him and said coldly, “Do you actually think that this lord will be greedy for your things?”
Zhuang Zhong laughed hollowly, “Your Highness is definitely not a person who will snatch away what others treasure.”
Feng Huan hummed coldly.
Zhuang Zhong then faked a cough to redirect the others’ attention back to the matter. “Let us take a look at the windowsill where there are some traces of dust. The rooms at Tai Xue are cleaned every day, so it is extremely pristine. One will then be able to see even a little dust contamination.”
After careful examination, Feng Huan said, “There seems to be a faint print of a sole.”
- 1“尸斑” refers to the pooling of the blood (gives a purplish-red discoloration) in the lowest points of the body due to gravity and the lack of blood circulation as a result of the cessation of cardiac activity.
- 2“尸僵” refers to rigor mortis which is characterized by stiffening of the limbs of the corpse caused by chemical changes in the muscles postmortem (mainly calcium).
- 3I felt that the author is referring to the lack of control the deceased have over their bodily releases such as stool and urine when the muscles relax after death.
- 4辰时 (chenshi) refers to the period of the day from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m.
- 5丑时 (choushi) refers to the period of the day from 1 a.m. to 3 a.m.
- 6寅时 (yinshi) refers to the period of the day from 3 a.m. to 5 a.m.
- 7“扮猪吃老虎” (literally acting like pigs while eating tigers) refers to people who spend a lot of efforts to play tricks. Essentially, they act weak so that the opposite party would be negligent (they seize the chance and win in the end).