The body was brought back to the yamen. Under the supervision of the judicial subprefect, the yamen runners went directly to work, examining the body more closely this time and documenting everything they found.
“Judging from the state of the clothes, as well as the ropes, he didn’t even try to free himself. If somebody actually managed to capture him and intended to kill him, that is quite strange.” The leader of the yamen runners had thought so already when taking a first look at the body at the house of the Zhongs but hadn’t dared to say that outright. Now that they were back at the yamen, he reported his suspicion though.
The judicial subprefect showed a thoughtful expression. “You said he was a cultivator?”
“That’s right. At the very least, his father-in-law and the servant who found him both said that. They were unsure which sect he was from though. The servant said it might’ve been the Yun Zou Sect but …” He looked back at the body and shook his head. “Those, for sure, Aren’t the robes of the Yun Zou Sect. I’ve seen them before when they came to test for disciples and their robes were always white. Whatever sect this man was from, it was not the Yun Zou Sect.”
The subprefect nodded, not believing it either. “The question is whether they are lying or whether they really didn’t know any better.”
The yamen runner slightly furrowed his brows. “If I might give my opinion on that: I don’t think that they lied deliberately. If they wanted to conceal which sect he was from, they would just need to say that they don’t have any knowledge of that and we might have trouble finding out with how many sects there are likely out there.
“Telling us that he is of the Yun Zou Sect when he is obviously not is just way too obvious. They are making themselves suspicious by doing this. I don’t think that in this kind of situation, anybody would do that willingly. If the servant didn’t just speak thoughtlessly, then I believe that he really must have thought this was the case.”
The judicial subprefect nodded slowly. “What you say makes sense. In that case, there seems to be more to the story than meets the eye. Maybe the son-in-law lied to them himself but they didn’t know enough about cultivators to catch him in the lie. What do we know about his wife?”
The yamen runner shook his head. “Nothing so far from the investigation. What I know about the family from before is that the father-in-law has a restaurant and a teahouse that are both doing very well. If it is a family matter, then it should be something private and not related to money.”
“Are there any other family members?”
This time, the yamen runner was even less sure. “I asked that servant to compile a list with names of all the people in the household. We can check by then.”
The judicial subprefect once again nodded. “Let’s do that. Anyway, we should check the body for drugs. No matter what the reason is behind this crime, it would be one that is difficult to perpetrate. A cultivator can’t be that easily killed by a normal person. The only way to do that would be to drug him. Unfortunately, that kind of thing could be done by anybody in the house so our list of suspects isn’t too small.”
The yamen runner nodded and then motioned at one of the others to do the tests.
At that time, another one of them came inside, bowing to the subprefect. “One of the servants of the Zhong family sent over this document.” He handed it over with both hands, before leaving again.
The subprefect looked through what turned out to be the list of the members of Zhong Gang’s household and nodded slowly. “There are quite a few people. Apparently, there is a nephew as well. Have you seen him when you were there?”
The yamen runner shook his head. “Only the father-in-law and two women of the family were present when we arrived.”
“I see.” The subprefect rolled up the list before turning away. “Tell me when we know if any poison was administered or if you find any other traces that might explain why he wasn’t able to react to the attack.
“Also, send somebody to investigate the relationships of the Zhong family members. I want to know how everybody gets along and if there was any bad blood between them. Don’t exclude the servants or any so-called family friends either. Who knows if somebody was trying to harm the whole family and even wants to push the blame on them? It wouldn’t be the first time something like that happens.”
Anyway, this was the capital city. That type of thing wasn’t unheard of in this place. In fact, it happened much too often and even in the cases where it was plainly obvious that somebody had engineered the whole thing, it couldn’t always be proven and innocent people would be dragged down.
So far, the judicial subprefect couldn’t tell which one it was in this situation but there was enough time to clear that up. For now, they only needed to gather more information so they would be able to get a better picture of what was going on. In any case, the situation wasn’t a simple one. That much was for sure.