Translated by: TaffyGirl13
Chapter 9: The Fifteenth Person
“True, all four of us don’t have train tickets.”
Ye Xiao stared at Yan Kai’s corpse on the ground, then glanced back at Ma Hong Liang’s corpse next to the staircase. Realisation dawned on him as he said, “We were not supposed to appear in that last carriage in the first place, let alone appear here. That’s why someone wants to eliminate us extras!”
But who exactly is the person able to kill others using bees?
Ye Xiao abruptly thought of Zhang Xiao Long, about that final sneer on his face that was chilling enough to make his skin crawl.
Don’t tell me he’s the murderer? But what’s his reason?
There was no reason to be found.
Every single person in that last carriage aside from the Shao sisters were complete strangers with zero connection to each other. What kind of reason would make them harm and even slaughter each other like this?
Oh, no, wait a minute.
Ye Xiao’s thoughts came to a halt. If they were to go by their previous conjecture, then these people technically did just barely have a common point: the invitation letter.
The four of them that were extras not only were missing tickets, they also did not possess invitation letters.
Because we don’t have an invitation letter, we have to be expelled and disposed of?
In that case, things had gone full circle and the problem was back to square one.
What is the significance of that mysterious invitation letter? What in the world do those two strange sentences in it mean?
“When the night of the cocoon breaking arrives, the door of thorns will open. The triumphant monarch will return with sacrificial blood on their lips as a pledge of allegiance at the mist of dawn.”
Ye Xiao quietly recited this over and over, yet it remained incomprehensible.
He slowly paced back and forth in the living room. Suddenly, he spotted Su Mu standing on a step with a pink backpack in his hands. The backpack had a cartoon bear printed on it.
The bag should have belonged to Jin Duo Duo. Since boarding the train, she had carried it with her, never separating from it or even putting it down. Yet now, the backpack’s strap had snapped, perhaps accidentally ripped amidst the chaos earlier.
For some reason, Su Mu was staring intently at the backpack, seemingly pondering some important question. At this moment, a sweet voice rang out from the second level.
“Mr. Officer, could you please return my backpack to me?” Duo Duo stood at the staircase, blinking her large eyes down at Su Mu.
Su Mu did not move from his spot as he slowly lifted his hands and passed the bag over.
Duo Duo wore a bright red dress and a pair of shiny red dress shoes. A pure and innocent smile stayed on her lips as her eyes remained locked onto Su Mu alone, ignoring the blood and dead bees covering the living room, ignoring the dead Yan Kai and Ma Hong Liang on the ground, and even ignoring Ye Xiao. She kept her gaze fixed on the backpack in Su Mu’s hold as she slowly walked down step by step.
After taking the backpack from him, she very politely said, “Thank you”, and then turned as though nothing had happened and returned to her room on the second floor.
This entire scene appeared very natural with nothing out of place, yet it gave Ye Xiao a strange feeling. There was an indescribable eeriness permeated through the still atmosphere.
He watched the girl’s back vanish from his line of sight.
Su Mu wordlessly walked over from the staircase.
Ye Xiao glanced at him and asked, “What’s wrong?”
Su Mu found a chair to sit down, his complexion still poor. The wound on his right hand had not yet clotted and was bleeding slightly, though he did not seem to pay it any mind.
After a moment of silence, he replied, “Have you ever considered this point?”
“How did Jin Duo Duo buy a train ticket?”
Su Mu leaned back against the chair and slowly stated, “Per the train station’s regulations, minors cannot purchase long-duration train tickets alone. They must have an adult accompany them to take the train. Jin Duo Duo previously said that she was only twelve this year, and there were no adults traveling by her side. In that case, how did she buy a train ticket?”
Ye Xiao started. After some thought, he suggested, “Maybe she asked someone else to buy it for her?”
Su Mu shook his head and answered, “No, that’s not it. I just saw an invitation letter in her backpack.”
Ye Xiao blinked in understanding. “Ah, that’s right. Then it’s just as we previously guessed; everyone’s invitation letters must have contained a ticket. Duo Duo had to have used that to board the train then.”
“But don’t you find it odd?” Su Mu lifted his head to look at Ye Xiao. “The other seven girls that received invitation letters were all twenty-five years old, and coincidentally happened to share their birthday today. Why is she the only exception?”
“Oh, if you’re talking about exceptions…” Ye Xiao scratched his head and commented, “Isn’t Zhang Xiao Long an exception from the exceptions? All the ones that received invitation letters are women, why is he the only man?”
Su Mu hummed to himself. After a while he slowly replied, “Actually, what I wanted to say was that Jin Duo Duo might be like us: someone that shouldn’t have appeared in the last carriage in the first place.”
“Huh? Why, didn’t she also receive an invitation letter?”
Su Mu shook his head and answered, “The invitation letter in Jin Duo Duo’s backpack had Du Yao written as the receiver name on it.”
“Du Yao?” Ye Xiao frowned and asked, “Why does that name sound so familiar to me?”
He pondered this more carefully, then realisation suddenly dawned on him. He stared at Su Mu in shock and said, “Du Yao? Don’t tell me it’s that Du Yao?”
Su Mu nodded. “It’s exactly that Du Yao. The address on that envelope said White Sands Road, #158.”
Ye Xiao was dumbfounded. “How could there be such a coincidence?”
“Do you think it’s a coincidence?” Su Mu gave him a look.
Ye Xiao fell silent.
Indeed, this was not a coincidence.
Du Yao was the name of the victim from the homicide case on White Sands Road from two weeks ago.
This was an open murder case. Du Yao was a young, 25-year old white-collar worker living alone in S-City. Around midnight two weeks ago, she had been killed at her own front door.
The murder weapon had been a crossbow. While the door had been open midway, an arrow had pierced through her back, striking her heart and ending her life on the spot.
The murderer had yet to be found.
“So it should have been Du Yao receiving the invitation letter originally…” Ye Xiao muttered.
“That’s right. If the person that first received the invitation letter was Du Yao, then everything makes sense.”
“What makes sense?” Ye Xiao was lost.
Su Mu pointed at the staircase, then back at the seats. “Eight 25-year old women, eight chairs, eight rooms. This was all prepared for them.”
Ye Xiao stared blankly for a moment before replying, “In other words, everything had been arranged by someone from the beginning. However, the person controlling things from behind-the-scenes hadn’t imagined that Du Yao would be assassinated upon receiving the invitation letter.”
“Yes. Du Yao’s death was outside their calculations.”
“Then who exactly killed Du Yao? It can’t be…”
Ye Xiao did not finish his sentence, because he found his own words a bit hard to believe.
Su Mu shot him a look and commented, “There was something that I never understood about Du Yao’s case.”
“The murder weapon.”
“The murder weapon?”
“Yes. Why was the murder weapon a crossbow?”
Su Mu crossed his arms over his chest and closed his eyes as he calmly stated, “The fact that the murder weapon was a crossbow makes it evident that this was not a spontaneous murder, but one that had been planned long before. Yet if this was a premeditated murder, why would the criminal specifically choose a crossbow over other weapons?”
Ye Xiao considered this and replied, “Maybe the murderer thought using a crossbow was easier?”
Su Mu rejected him. “No, it is extremely difficult to kill someone using a crossbow, because it needs a certain level of professional skill. If the first strike doesn’t land, the other party would not only flee or retaliate, but they could also shout and cry out to draw others’ attention, or even call the police. In actuality, this is quite a risky choice. If the murderer isn’t a professional, they would need to first train themselves for a while before the murder.”
Ye Xiao scratched his head and asked in bewilderment, “If using a crossbow to kill is so troublesome, why would they choose such a challenging and unrewarding tool? Wouldn’t choosing some random knife or cleaver be less of a hassle?”
Su Mu paused for a second and asked, “What’s another advantage that crossbows have over other murder weapons?”
“Advantage?” Ye Xiao pondered this and answered, “Long-range.”
“That’s right, long-range is one of the advantages it has. But that isn’t enough to explain the issue. There’s something else a crossbow possesses that’s even more important—”
A thought popped up in Ye Xiao’s mind. “You mean power?”
Su Mu opened his eyes to look at Ye Xiao. “The biggest difference that a crossbow has compared to other murder weapons is power. No matter how drastic the power gap between the two parties is, a person could kill someone several times stronger than themselves with little effort just by aiming accurately and lightly pressing the trigger. That is probably the reason the criminal chose to use a crossbow for committing the murder.”
“But…” Ye Xiao frowned and said in confusion, “The victim of this case, Du Yao, was barely 160cm tall, and she had a slim physique. She was just a frail young girl. Under normal circumstances, any random adult would have the ability to murder her, wouldn’t they? Why choose a crossbow then?”
Su Mu raised a brow and gave him a sideways look. “What if the murderer was a child that was even weaker than her?”
Ye Xiao instantly froze in astonishment as he murmured, “You mean the murderer is…”
Su Mu nodded.
The murderer that had used a crossbow to kill Du Yao was the 12-year old little girl, Jin Duo Duo.
Actually, this was the conclusion that Ye Xiao had wanted to say earlier, but had not dared to voice.
After all, it was somewhat incomprehensible. How could an obedient, innocent, adorable-looking 12-year old girl actually be a killer?
Ye Xiao softly exhaled and said, “Her motive for the murder was the invitation letter?”
Su Mu nodded. “The perpetrator wanted to obtain that invitation letter.”
Ye Xiao bitterly chuckled in disbelief. “What kind of reason would make a 12-year old child kill someone without hesitation to grab an unknown invitation letter?”
Su Mu remained silent instead of responding.
Indeed, what was the reason?
The reason behind Jin Duo Duo wanting the invitation letter was not the only unknown factor. Everything about this incident was missing a reason, missing a critical factor.
Why did the train carriage split off? What did the seven tombstones in the cemetery represent? Who was the owner of this empty house? Why did Yang Wen Jie, Zhou Yue, Feng Jing Jing need to die? Why did Shao Yue Ting’s body transform? And who exactly controlled those killer bees that had appeared out of nowhere?
Every single incident in this house, every single question, perhaps only needed a single trail, a single explanation that could connect it all together. However, they were currently unable to find that trail, unable to find that explanation.
Ye Xiao’s brows were tightly furrowed together as he fell into deep thought.
After a while, he murmured, “Do you believe people turn into ghosts after death?”
Su Mu raised his gaze to stare at him.
Ye Xiao tilted his head and contemplatively stated, “I’m thinking about that fifteenth person Yuan Meng Yu had mentioned. According to what she said, that person had been in the carriage from the start, then followed us the entire way to this house. That person had a pair…of bloodred eyes…”
“What exactly are you trying to say?” Su Mu gave him a strange look.
Ye Xiao blinked and chuckled. “Oh, I was just thinking, could the person she mentioned be Du Yao’s ghost?”
“Yes, since a ghost doesn’t have a physical body. That’s why even though I bumped into it inside the air ducts, it was able to pass through without us sensing it. Isn’t that what you said?”
Su Mu was dumbstruck for a moment, then he suspiciously asked, “What exactly did you see back then?”
“I…I’m not too sure either.” Ye Xiao rubbed the back of his head as he recalled, “I seemed to have seen a pair of bloodred eyes. Yuan Meng Yu had previously told me that she had seen them as well. That’s why I was wondering if this invisible fifteenth person could be Du Yao’s ghost.”
“Tch, what kind of physique do you have? How do you bump into ghosts no matter where you go?” Su Mu had an exasperated expression on his face. “There is typically a reason behind a ghost being unwilling to leave this world. What reason does Du Yao have for not moving on?”
“Of course she has a reason.” Ye Xiao laughed before voicing his attempted analysis. “Think about it: a girl so young that’s right in her prime was suddenly murdered without any reason. She would have to at least want to know why, right? Du Yao was unresigned about her death. When I saw her body, her eyes were open wide and impossible to close. Because she had died with lingering grievances, she became a malicious ghost that followed her murderer onto the train and into this house. Her objective is to figure out—”
“Wait a second.”
Right as Ye Xiao’s words began to pick up momentum, Su Mu cut him off.
“What’s the matter? Did I say something wrong?”
Su Mu was quiet for a beat before he responded with a different answer, “Text message.”
“Huh? What text message?”
“Zhou Yue’s text messages!”
A thought came to Su Mu’s head and his words sped up. “While having no phone signal, Zhou Yue managed to receive five text messages with photo attachments. I always found it strange; what kind of person and for what reason would send those five images to her? Now we’ve finally found the answer.”
Ye Xiao was taken aback. He grimaced and dryly chuckled, “Oi oi, Dead Fish-Eyes, you…can’t be saying that those photos were sent to her by Du Yao’s ghost? A paranormal text?”
“That’s right.” Su Mu went on, “If this house really does have an invisible fifteen person, and that person is Du Yao, then those photos must have been sent to Zhou Yue by her.”
“Du Yao wanted to remind her that someone wanted to kill Zhou Yue. Unfortunately, Zhou Yue did not understand the meaning behind the images.”
“Hm…” Ye Xiao pondered this and asked “If what you said is true, then Du Yao’s ghost repeated appearances to us is actually because she wants to tell us that there’s a murderer here?”
“Yes, because Du Yao could not let go of her grudge, she wanted to use this method to give us a warning.”
“Pfft, her method of warning is way too terrifying; she nearly gave me a heart attack.”
As Ye Xiao quietly muttered this, he considered how absurd this entire matter was. However, he could not come up with any other explanation.
Just then, a scream came from upstairs.
The one screaming was Jin Duo Duo.
What happened this time?
Ye Xiao and Su Mu exchanged a look and immediately broke out into a run up to the second floor. The moment they reached the top, they saw a shocking scene.
The black-robed Xue Qing was currently holding up a glinting glass shard and madly stabbing it towards Duo Duo, who she had pressed down on the ground.
Duo Duo let out a scream and hurriedly jerked her head to avoid it.
The sharp piece of glass firmly stabbed into the floor right next to her cheek.
“Stop! Hurry up and stop!”
Yuan Meng Yu was dizzy with panic, shouting as she lunged forward to grab Xue Qing.
As though possessed, Xue Qing refused to loosen her right grip on Duo Duo’s collar.
“Move! Get lost!” She shoved Yuan Meng Yu away and glared at Duo Duo with gritted teeth as she panted out, “You were preparing to kill me, weren’t you?”
“I…I wasn’t…I wasn’t…” Duo Duo struggled back and began loudly crying in fear.
“Let her go, you’re scaring her!” Yuan Meng Yu ran over once more to try obstructing Xue Qing from behind.
Xue Qing spun around and slashed the glass shard through the air as she furiously declared, “Don’t come here! I’ll kill anyone that tries to come over too!”
Yuan Meng Yu froze in place and stared at Xue Qing in shock.
Zhang Xiao Long was quietly standing in the corner, apathetically watching the two women and one child brawling in front of him.
Xue Qing anxiously shook her head while gulping down large breaths of air. The hood of her black robe had already fallen to reveal her long and messy black hair. Her lips trembled as she emotionally glanced around at every single person in the area. With red eyes, she choked out, “You’ve all been deceived…you-you’ve all been deceived by that child’s appearance…She’s actually…that person’s murderer! The next one she wants to kill is me!”
Yuan Meng Yu smiled dryly and shook her head. “You must be mistaken somehow. Duo Duo is just a child.”
“No, I’m not mistaken!”
Xue Qing agitatedly roared out, “The tarot cards never lie to me! The tarot cards’ predictions have never failed! The divination told me that she—that child—wants to kill me! Ha…haha….hahaha…Rather than being murdered by her now, I might as well take the advantage and attack first!”
As she spoke, Xue Qing lifted the glass fragment in her hand once more.
“No, don’t!” Yuan Meng Yu gasped in horror.
Seeing the sharp glass piece being stabbed towards the child on the floor, Ye Xiao hurriedly shouted, “Freeze!” and pulled out his pistol. He aimed it at Xue Qing and shouted, “If you don’t stop now, I’ll shoot!”
This claim was naturally just a threat made out of desperation; he would not actually open fire. However, Xue Qing was undoubtedly frightened by him. The hand gripping the glass instantly froze in midair.
No one imagined that in the instant her movements paused, Duo Duo unexpectedly reached out to push back on Xue Qing’s chest with all her strength.
In Xue Qing’s lapse of concentration, she stumbled backwards from the shove and her foot tripped onto the hem of her own black robe. Then she immediately fell backwards at a 180-degree angle and tumbled down the stairs.
She yelled out in panic, wildly flailing her arms around. However, she did not have the chance to grab hold of anything and rapidly rolled down the stairs.
The instant she touched the ground, they heard a shlick.
The glass piece she was clutching onto pierced deep into her own throat.
“Ah!” Yuan Meng Yu exclaimed in horror and covered her mouth.
The anxious atmosphere instantly froze over. Everyone watched this scene with dumbstruck expressions, and no one was able to speak for a very long time.
Xue Qing’s body was sprawled motionlessly on the staircase like a doll with broken limbs. Her entire head was snapped at an abnormal angle. Her eyes and mouth were open wide as she spasmed, seemingly trying her best to express something. But ultimately, only a gurgling sound came out from her stabbed throat.
Dark crimson blood dripped down from under her head and slowly spread outwards, soundlessly spilling over the floor.
The seventy-eight tarot cards hiding within the black robe floated through the air like falling flower petals around a fairy.
One card landed on top of her face.
The card’s image was the shocking sight of a death god gripping a scythe…