Rapist ejaculates too soon, murders brothel customers out of anger
While Murong Lian hurried over in a rush, the Emperor was, in fact, putting on an untroubled facade.
He was playing with the two golden beasts by the firepit, listening to them trade off singing his praises with phrases such as “The Emperor is handsome and charismatic” and “The Emperor is as charismatic as a god”. At the same time, he was offhandedly reassuring Murong Lian with a few words, so Murong Lian could focus on solving the case without worrying about other troubles.
“The palace is heavily guarded. Even if Gu Mang is really in cahoots with that cook, what can he do? Is he capable of wreaking havoc?”
Murong Lian said, anxious, “Your Majesty cannot be too careless. This matter arose due to this servant’s oversight after all, and if any harm befalls Your Majesty…”
The Emperor set down the golden chopsticks meant for handling incense. “That’s enough, do you think that I don’t know you? The man escaped from your villa. You’re only this antsy because you’re scared that I’ll be angry and hold you responsible.”
He glanced at Murong Lian with the hint of a smile. “A-Lian ah, you’re my blood brother. Be most assuaged, how can I possibly assign you blame for something like this?”
After the Emperor had ascended the throne, by convention, he had to address his own siblings by their official titles. But in private, he would still occasionally call Murong Lian ‘A-Lian’.
Especially during times like this, when he needed to comfort him, he naturally had to emphasise their closeness as blood relatives.
“As for Gu Mang, if you’re really worried, I’ll lock him up in jail. Even if he has wings, it’ll be hard for him to escape.”
Murong Lian calmed himself with great effort, made a sound of acknowledgement, and continued, “Your Majesty, if the case requires it in the future, would you allow this servant to interrogate him?”
“Sure, interrogate him, there isn’t anyone you can’t interrogate.”
“What about the torture this servant is allowed to implement—”
The Emperor looked at him, chuckled, and then hummed lightly through his nose. “They say ‘Xihe of indomitable will, Wangshu the merciless official’, this saying is really true. Is torture the only method you have for prying the truth out of him?”
Murong Lian coughed lightly. “That Gu Mang is no ordinary person, after all.”
“Alright, interrogate him however you want, but don’t go overboard. I see that Xihe-Jun still has some obsession with him; witnessing you two squabble in court is interesting to me the first time round, but irritating the second time.”
The Emperor played with the beads in his hand, and said coolly, “Know the limits and do only as appropriate, I don’t want to see him lodge a formal complaint about you because of this matter.”
Saying this, he rolled his eyes. “One of you is a key military official, another a royal relative. For the purpose of taking revenge for a personal grudge, you’re acting like three-year-olds fighting over a toy. Did you really think I couldn’t tell?”
Murong Lian: “……”
As the new day dawned, morning light breaching the darkness, the citizens rose from bed and left their houses one after another, chatting and gossiping. The news of yesterday’s Hongyan Brothel murder case was leaked in short time, and spread throughout the capital rapidly, becoming the hottest topic to be discussed after meals for the civilians of the capital.
In a jiffy, even the ancient elderly above and the youngest runts below could gather and come up with some explanations.
“In just one night, almost everyone in the building had died. What a tragedy!”
“Aiya aiya! Heavens! Has the killer been caught?”
“He’s long escaped! Before he fled, he even composed a poem on the wall, writing, ‘Gold and priceless treasures are easy to come by, a man who lasts seven rounds in one night is hard to find!”
“How come the version I heard said it was ‘Lonesome this humble one is, earnestly collecting wives and concubines’?”
“Erm…who knows, anyway, the Hongyan Brothel has been completely sealed, other than the officials investigating the case, no one can enter. But if you ask me, no matter ‘Gold and priceless treasures are easy to come by, a man who lasts seven rounds in one night is hard to find’ or ‘Lonesome this humble one is, earnestly collecting wives and concubines’, this sounds like a case of rape and not robbery.”
“It can’t be a rapist with a fetish for murder, can it?”
The rumours grew more fantastical as news spread further, until a storyteller1[说书先生: People (usually of a scholarly persuasion) hired to tell stories and tales for entertainment at taverns and eateries, sort of like a tone-deaf bard.] concocted an unbelievable explanation—“The sordid energy of Hongyan Brothel was too potent and attracted a licentious spectre, which took advantage of the prime conditions to covertly enter the building, hehe, males, he killed them first before raping them! Females, he raped before killing! That spectre was unusually virile, raping and killing those seventy-plus in Hongyan Brothel in one night, indiscriminate of all, not even sparing Elder Yu, who’s past the halfway mark to being a centenarian!”
The crowd of customers stared in shock.
“That’s way too psychotic.”
Someone amongst the customers burst out laughing. “Hahahaha!!!”
“Younger2[He’s addressed by 岳小公子, because 岳公子 (Yue-gongzi) is his dad.] Yue-gongzi? What, what’s with this reaction.”
“Hahahaha!” The one roaring with laughter was Yue Chenqing, who had nothing better to do. He said joyously, “I’ve heard many versions, but yours is still the funniest. Raping and murdering seventy in one night, brother, I’m afraid that rapist isn’t virile, but rather a quick shot hahaha!!”
With his disruption, the atmosphere that should have been frightening was instantly ruined. People were laughing they shook their heads. Even the maidens covered their mouths to giggle. The storyteller was extremely embarrassed, but the other person just had to be the young master of the Yue family–he couldn’t chase him out or rage at him, and could only laugh along and say, “Yes, yes, Younger Yue-gongzi is right.”
With the help of Yue Chenqing’s retelling, the act《Virile rapist mounts seventy in one night》became《Rapist ejaculates too soon, murders brothel customers out of anger》.
Those who were in no mood to listen to the speculation were probably the relatives and friends of those customers who had died, the imperial guard busy slaving away, those of the Shennong Terrace, as well as the two honoured officials Xihe-Jun and Wangshu-Jun.
Within the Wangshu Manor, a bodyguard lowered his head and said,
“Master. The servant from the Luomei Garden Villa that you wanted to question is here.”
Murong Lian had just finished smoking two bowls of Rapture, and was full of energy. “Alright, let him come in.”
The servant hurried into the hall. He knelt in front of Murong Lian to report, “This servant pays respects to the esteemed Wangshu-Jun, may the esteemed Wangshu-Jun enjoy great peace—”
“Alright, alright, cut the nonsense out, let me ask you, you shared rooms with the escaped cook, right?”
“Come, tell me, what’s that cook usually like?”
The servant said, “Erm…that cook was sent to the Luomei Garden Villa five years ago, and he does not talk much usually. He is a little shady, and always alone.”
Murong Lian asked, “Had this person formed any grudges against prostitutes in the past?”
“He did not form any grudges,” the servant replied. “But I heard that he was rather lecherous when he was in the Liao kingdom, and wanted to claim any pretty lady he saw for his own. Allegedly, he even slept with the wife of his sworn brother.”
‘…” Murong Lian sighed, “So he’s a lecher.”
As he sighed, he thought that the folk explanation might be right: the cook was indeed the licentious rapist with some sort of perverted fetish. Otherwise, why else would he keep those five women by his side?
Murong Lian then asked, “What about him and Gu Mang? Did they have any interactions?”
“It looks as if they don’t have any personal relationship at all.”
“…” Murong Lian was silent for a while, then said, “Got it, you may leave.”
After this servant had left, Murong Lian told his bodyguard,
“Bring me my warmest furskin cloak, the one of silver foxskin. I’m paying the jail a visit to interrogate Gu Mang.”
If Murong Lian was placing emphasis on “interrogate”, Mo Xi was entirely focused on “investigate”.
He was investigating the various details of the case.
The case of the Hongyan Brothel had too many questionable areas—if he were a spectre, how could he have left writing behind? If he were a living person, why did he need to rip hearts out?
And thus, Mo Xi ordered the Shennong Terrace to continue their detailed examination of the deceased’s wound, expecting that they should be able to find some hints.
Indeed, after close examination, the healers discovered some sword wounds that had been disguised. But those wounds were unexpected; they even elevated the case into an enigma.
“What was odd about the wounds?”
“…” The healer hesitated, and said three words, “Water Parting Sword Technique.”
Mo Xi raised his head. “Water Parting Sword Technique by Li Qingqian?”
Mo Xi muttered, “But…how…”
Li Qingqian, a grandmaster of swordplay, was a cultivator born in Lichun.
He was a poor but kind soul who had traversed the world, north to south, for more than a decade slaying countless evil demons, but was too naïve as a person. Many times, he would be the one risking his life to exterminate evil, yet his merit would always be claimed by other cultivators with nefarious intentions. Thus, he remained unheard of even after having roamed the world for more than a decade, and lived a tough life.
Until that year, when he had fought the battle of the Maidens’ Lament.
Maidens’ Lament3[editor’s note: 女哭山 (nǚ kū shān) literally translates to “Crying Women Mountain”. We considered leaving it in Chinese but we thought that since the name was a “nickname” for the place, it made sense to translate it.] was situated within the borders of the Liao kingdom. It was originally named Mountain Fengyu, but the Liao kingdom troops had somehow gotten hold of a batch of women, hundreds of them all wearing bright red bridal clothes, and buried them alive amidst a sea of their mournful wailing.
The Imperial Preceptor of the Liao kingdom provided an explanation: he had “observed the stars, and the mountain god hereby required a sacrifice.”
After those innocent women, bearing hatred, were buried, their resentful energy filled the sky and refused to dissipate. Many wandering cultivators came forth to subdue them, but all died by the hands of the female ghosts, and so fearful villagers living near Mountain Fengyu called it “Maidens’ Lament”.
“The soon-to-be-wed mountain bride, she weeps at night,
First she loathes her haplessness,
Second, the misfortune of her beauty,
Third, the eternal separation from her groom.”
“A red wedding shawl over her back, a golden crown on her head,
One giggle twists her beautiful face,
Two giggles and tears of blood flow,
Three giggles and none may pass.”
This rhyme was about the countless beautiful maidens buried alive under this mountain; if one wanted to pass through this mountain, the journey had to be completed when the sunlight was strongest within the day, and no children, elderly or ill individuals could be included in the travelling party. Otherwise, the few hundred wronged spirits would be incited to rise—once three peals of laughter sounded, the female ghosts would appear, and all those passing through would die on the mountain.
After hearing of this, Li Qingqian came to Maidens’ Lament to subdue the ghosts. Although he had slain countless evil spirits by then, not many people knew about him as he was not good at publicising his reputation.
The authorities there saw only a young Daoist priest, with robes patched up in places, and felt that he was not a person with outstanding ability. Unable to bear watching him die, they told him, “Although the reward is bountiful, the mountain is teeming with hundreds of extremely vicious female ghosts. It’s more important for this cultivator to treasure your life, and not risk it for this.”
But Li Qingqian merely said that he was not doing this for money, and went up the mountain alone with his sword.
This trip alone took three days, and just as the townsfolk were sighing that another cultivator had lost his life on the mountain, the wailing of hundreds of women suddenly echoed from Maidens’ Lament. An azure light that could be seen for hundreds of miles around erupted–
“The Water Parting Sword Technique pierces the skies and penetrates the earth, transcending the heavens4[可通天彻地，恸破九霄： Seal and I interpreted this line differently, but ultimately we decided to go with her more literal translation. Metaphorically, it could mean that his sword technique encompasses the secrets of the universe, but the gist is the same: it’s OP.].”
Those were the words that people would sigh when talking about that technique of his afterwards, their expressions dreamy, full of yearning.
The shine of gold can never be buried; after living in obscurity for so long, Li Qingqian was finally catapulted to fame by this one battle. Until today, many storytellers were still fervently describing the scholarly aura of his slender frame then—robes of azure cloth billowing, a sword in one hand and a soul-gathering lantern in another, drifting down along the mountain path.
What was even more rare was that in this battle, Li Qingqian had trapped hundreds of spectres. These souls were prime material for relicsmithing; if he had sold them to a smith, he would never have to fret over his living expenses for the rest of his life.
Yet, Li Qingqian couldn’t bear to do so.
“They are all pitiful maidens. Being buried alive at such a young age and turning into malicious ghosts to harm people were beyond their control. If they are cast into artefacts, they will never reincarnate. This is too cruel.”
And so he made the decision to go to the spiritually-charged immortal island in Donghai5[We believe it’s referencing Donghai County], in order to send off the souls of these hundreds of deceased maidens. He knew that their grievances were too deep, and there were too many of them; he might have to spend upwards of a decade to successfully complete this task. Thus, before he set off, he left his 《Water Parting Sword Manual》to his kid brother, reminding him to train faithfully and to use this sword technique for doing good to his best ability.
While he himself disappeared into the vastness of this world without a trace.
The Shennong Terrace healer said carefully, “Even though Grandmaster Li has a noble reputation, the wounds on these bodies are undoubtedly inflicted by the Water Parting Sword Technique. Could it be that the rumours have lost their truth?”
“Impossible.” Mo Xi shut his eyes, and said, “I had the luck to meet Li Qingqian once, before he became famous. He is truly a righteous man who will not do such vile things.”
“Could it be his younger brother, then?”
Mo Xi shook his head. “The Water Parting Sword Technique is extremely difficult to master. It is impossible to wield it without ten, twenty years of harsh training, and it has only been a few short years since Li Houde received his brother’s sword manual. It does not fit the timeline.”
After the Shennong Terrace healer had finished delivering his report, Mo Xi sat in the courtyard and shut his eyes, frowning, mulling over the connections between these few events.
To his side, Li Wei asked curiously, “Master, the current gossip on the streets says that this thief is a rapist, who, due to some peculiar fetish, killed most of the people in the brothel but left five ladies with beautiful features alive and took them away. Do you not share the same view?”
Li Wei did not expect Mo Xi to reject the hottest speculation of present so directly, and was taken aback. “W-why?”
Mo Xi unfurled a spiritual jade scroll on the table. The names and faces of those who had died in this incident, and of those five missing people surfaced on it instantly.
“Come take a look at this.”
Li Wei went over and looked at it seriously for a long while, but couldn’t find anything amiss, and answered in a grovelling manner, “This servant is stupid, and is unable to glean any insights into divine secrets.”
Mo Xi said, “Pick the five best-looking from all these people here.” 6[Moxiᵀᴹ, the hottest dating app of 1130BC]
Rating and ranking others was a chore that Li Wei liked best, and very quickly, he had pointed out a few beauties from the brothel. “This one, this one…ai, no, this one isn’t as pretty as the one beside her…”
While he was happily choosing away, he suddenly heard Xihe-Jun ask, “Did you notice that among the ones you chose, not one of them was taken away by the rapist?”
“Ah…” Li Wei was flabbergasted, his eyes widening as he checked. “Indeed…”
“He left the most popular courtesans behind, and beheaded many songstresses of fine looks. Yet, he left only these five.” Mo Xi looked at the small figures on the jade scroll, crossing his arms. He seemed to be explaining the case to Li Wei, yet as he spoke, also seemed to be sinking into deep thought once more.
“He is not doing this to rape them.”
“‘Lonesome this humble one is, earnestly collecting wives and concubines’, might not be his true motive either.”
At this very moment, a servant boy from the Xihe-Manor came scurrying over. “My lord, my lord—”
“What is it?” Mo Xi turned and frowned. “What has happened this time?”
“Previously, you tasked Xiao Li-zi to monitor Gu Mang’s movements in jail. Xiao Li-zi just sent a message over, saying that because Wangshu-Jun suspects that Gu Mang has connections with the murderer in the Hongyan case, he, he…”
Mo Xi’s expression changed instantly. “What?”
“He interrogated Gu Mang on his own in the Frost Chamber, that cell doesn’t, doesn’t have windows. Xiao Li-zi didn’t know anything about the situation at all, and he didn’t want to alarm you needlessly, so he waited until Wangshu-Jun came out…and then he saw that…Gu Mang had already…he had already…”
He swallowed fiercely, mustering the courage to continue.
Yet Mo Xi didn’t wait for him to finish before he had already thrown the jade scroll down, sprinting towards the palace jail without glancing back.
The author has something to say:
《If you only type the first letters of the names, what will Autofill enter? 》
Mo Xi: Obvious7[明显 (míngxiǎn)] (In what way? Obviously proud like an arrogant lady?)
Gu Mang: Light8[光芒 (guāngmáng)] (……suddenly angst???)
Murong Lian: No one stayed9[没人了 (méirén le)] (……Does A-Lian already infuriate people so much)
Yue Chenqing: Wants to go out10[要出去 (yào chūqù)] (The sheltered child is discontented with his lot)
Jiang Yexue: Unbelievably, a little11[竟有些 (jìng yǒuxiē)] (Unbelievably, a little what???)
Junshang (The Emperor)：Water Serpent Mountain12[蛟山 (jiāo shān) – A location in 2ha…currently locked for those reading tl only :^)] (……Sorry, Autofill has still not forgotten 2Dog)
Yuwu: Lust17[欲望 (yùwàng)] (I apologise, the Autofill’s name is the most apt one, this humble one has lost.)