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"Has the body already been examined? What did the coroner say?"
The corpse had been left in the cellar of the North Prison, as when the weather heated up, it remained freezing. Yan Xiaohan didn't shun the uncleanliness of examining the body for himself. The dead Golden Crow Guard was extremely thin, his face bloodless and eyes dark, not at all like an Imperial Guard that trained every day and more like a Young Master that had his health deteriorate from going out carousing every night.
For some reason, Yan Xiaohan got the overall sense that his mug was a bit familiar-looking.
"What was the cause of death?"
Wei Xuzhou stood very far away as he spoke. "Acute Yang Dissipation  —— death during s.e.xual intercourse. He pa.s.sed at the scene and couldn't be resuscitated."
Yan Xiaohan opened up both the body's palms. Sure enough, they had red rings on them, formed by red varicose veins spread throughout their center and meeting together to create a loop, which was a typical symptom of a s.e.x-induced death. He put the palms back down. "Since the cause of death is clear-cut, what else still needs investigating?" he asked.
Wei Xuzhou forced a smile out. "Sir, look at him again carefully. Do you really not recognize this man?"
Yan Xiaohan made a short short show of close scrutiny, thereupon finally seemed to reach enlightenment. "I was just thinking that he looked familiar. Look at his moral fiber; is it not just like Yi Siming?"
"…No. This man's name is Yang Hexuan, Sir. His father is the prefectural governor of Tang, Yang Xu: he's a nephew of the Holy Empress, a younger matrilineal cousin to the Crown Prince, and is practically royalty considering the dimension of his blood relatives. For that reason, apart from our Flying Dragon Guard, which other office would dare to take up this case?"
As soon as he brought up the Crown Prince, Yan Xiaohan recalled something. "Oh, the Yang family. Is Yang Sijing, that General of the Nine Gates Guard, his brother?"
Yan Xiaohan laughed coldly and didn't say anything else. Wei Xuzhou felt a chill on his back from his inexplicable smile, constantly getting the feel that their superior's smiling face seemed to have a meaning to it that was yet undiscovered.
In the Crown Prince's previous advisory, he had recommended Yang Sijing to the Yuantai Emperor in the hopes that he would be married to Fu Shen. The matter had ultimately been rejected by the Emperor, but that didn't stop Yan Xiaohan from drinking a mouthful of that stored-up old vinegar. He hadn't the least bit of a good impression of the Yang family. For the sake of the dead, Yan Xiaohan wouldn't outright say the words "he deserved it"; counting on him to put all of his effort into investigating this case, though? Forget it.
Besides, the Emperor attaching importance to it was only because two Golden Crow Guards died one after the other, and he was anxious that there was a conspiracy aimed at the Imperial Guard. Yan Xiaohan knew that Fu Shen had dealt with Mu Boxiu and had no relevancy to Yang Hexuan's death. He could also tell that there wasn't anything fishy going on with the case at all; it was merely a hindrance to the Empress and Yang Xu's reputations, so there was no option but to put up the front that it was a serious matter.
"Bring me the statements of the witnesses so I can look over them." Yan Xiaohan discarded the kerchief he had just used to safeguard his hands with, then turned to find water to wash them both, talking as he walked. "All of you, disperse. Brother Wei and Jiang Shu will be going with me to Emerald Pavilion tomorrow, and the rest of you should do whatever. This case isn't worth us getting into a big fuss over."
Wei Xuzhou admired Yan Xiaohan's att.i.tude of looking at everything blasé. He obviously wasn't that old, and he really wasn't high-born, yet aside from the Emperor, he never bowed down to anyone. It wasn't just the Yang family – across the Emperor's relatives and every kind of official, Wei Xuzhou hadn't ever seen one he attached much weight to.
When walking out the entrance of the cellar, Yan Xiaohan seemed to have thought of something, then turned his head to warn the other man. "Keep your lips sealed about going to the Emerald Pavilion tomorrow. Don't let word of it get out."
Wei Xuzhou reacted only after freezing for a second, the feeling of admiration he had for Mr. Royal Inspector Envoy wavering just a tad.
Immediately after which he thought about the glorious achievement of 'that position', and he felt for his conscience as he comforted himself: how could he be afraid of something like being henpecked?
To talk of the two most bustling areas in the capital, one was "Curio Court", and the other was "Goldmelt Grotto". Curio Court referred to the market in the eastern part of the city; many foreign merchants gathered there, and there were all kind of priceless treasures, products from overseas, and everything else one could think of. Goldmelt Grotto, in contrast, referred to brothels, strip clubs , liquor stores, and gambling dens in the western part of the city. Yan Xiaohan and the rest were going to the Emerald Pavilion in the western section's Apricot Blossom Lane.
On a survey of the capital, the Pavilion was a notable area for prost.i.tution, but due to having the misfortune of running into a murder case, its visitors all wanted to avoid its bad luck and successively went to others places to peruse. Consequently, the entryway was barren, and business wasn't as big as it was before.
Yan Xiaohan's group of three had traveled in casual dress, not wanting to brazenly announce themselves. Wei Xuzhou was a frequent visitor here, so the bawd recognized his face, immediately and happily letting them pa.s.s upon determining his ident.i.ty. In response to that, Yan Xiaohan had him stay behind to question the bawd and a prost.i.tute, after which he walked up three flights of vermilion stairs himself, pushing open two sliding doors that had been sealed shut.
The decor inside the room looked old, and had been preserved very well. Taking a kerchief out of his sleeve to barrier his hand with, he inspected the dishware on the table one by one, then pulled open every small drawer in the vanity, rummaging out a secret stash of all sorts of aphrodisiacs from within them. He coolly pulled out a kerchief to wrap them up in preparation to take them back for individual inspection.
Beside the vanity was a small and short endtable with a copper, gold-plated suan ni censer displayed on it, a faint lingering fragrance still able to be smelled coming from it when close enough. Yan Xiaohan wrapped up a paper packet of its incense ash, put it away, and then went and lifted the hanging muslin curtain. The sheets on the bed were in disarray, with even a few personal, bed-related items exposed to the air. Yan Xiaohan noticed that there were still cloth stockings on the bed that no one had the time to put away, and his heart suddenly jumped.
He squatted down, looking around at the base of the bed and the floor. Not finding what he was looking for, he thus got up and went downstairs. Wei Xuzhou was in the middle of listening to the bawd and the prost.i.tute, Qin Zhen, as she complained with tears in her voice. "…and I don't know how it happened, but even though Young Master Yang was thin, he was getting increasingly brash. Big Sister Shu Xian was unable to take his toying several times, and nearly died. This slave——"
When she saw Yan Xiaohan come downstairs, her cheeks went crimson and she couldn't resist covering her face with her sleeves, too ashamed to say more.
Yan Xiaohan didn't notice. "What are you all talking about? You just said Yang Hexuan was 'brash'? Did he frequently use aphrodisiacs?"
Qin Zhen sounded like a mosquito. "Young Master Yang, he… he used to loiter around Apricot Blossom Lane and spent up all his energy, so that— that was a usual thing, needing to take something to get in the mood. It's just that, starting from last year, he got a new fix from some other alley, and then he got weirdly bold. This slave usually urged him not to use those potent drugs, but he said he wasn't taking any drugs, and that this slave shouldn't make random guesses…"
"No drugs?" Wei Xuzhou was astonished. "Everyone who dies by s.e.xual exhaustion is trying to impress others by doing more than they're able to. This Young Master Yang had more than enough face to save."
"That evening, apart from the Emerald Pavilion, where else did Yang Hexuan go?"
"This slave heard that he had gone to Hundred Warblers first. As the first-card Miss Flying Swallow wasn't there and no one else served him to his liking, only then did he come to the Emerald Pavilion," Qin Zhen responded.
Yan Xiaohan tossed the handkerchief-wrapped bundles of aphrodisiac and incense ash to Jiang Shu. "Go back and find an imperial physician to test these and see if they're poisonous." He then turned and walked out. "Follow me to Hundred Warblers, Brother Wei."
Hundred Warblers was in another lane and was completely different from the lonesome Emerald Pavilion. As soon as they approached, they heard the cries of warblers and swallows as the notes of wind and string instruments. A gorgeously-dressed young lady was roping in guests at the door – with one look at frequent-customer Wei Xuzhou walking with a handsome man she had never seen before, both of them not in uniform, she took it for granted that they were here for reasons of pleasure. Promptly pulling out all the stops on her coquettish fawning, she roamed up to them so smoothly it was like she had no bones. "h.e.l.lo, handsome gents; would you be willing to do us the honor of coming in for a cup of light wine?"
The scent of cosmetics stung him in the nose. Yan Xiaohan pushed down the reproach that was at the tip of his tongue. He had barely opened his mouth when, suddenly, a familiar voice came from behind him that made his scalp go numb——
"Yo. You busy?"
Yan Xiaohan turned his head around in terror. The one that had him yearning from going one day without seeing him was seated in his wheelchair, holding an unopened folding fan and hitting his other palm with it rhythmically, gazing over at him placidly.
Xiao Xun had a hand on the hilt of his sabre, standing behind Fu Shen expressionlessly. Shen Yi'ce looked like he no longer wanted to be alive and was maybe already starting to mentally recite an incantation to go be reborn. Behind Yan Xiaohan was the dumbstruck Wei Xuzhou and a lineup of giggling girls showing a lot of skin. The two groups, in such a dramatic fashion, had met at the entrance of a brothel with no prior warning.
Yan Xiaohan's mouth was agape and no words came out. He narrowly questioned Fu Shen on why he was there, immediately after which he abruptly recalled that he had sent someone to the villa yesterday to tell Fu Shen to prepare for a return trip to the capital in order to partic.i.p.ate in the Vast Longevity Festival.
Fu Shen was giving him a profound look, ‘you dare go whoring behind my back?‘ written all across his face.
Yan Xiaohan's heart stuttered, his powerful desire to survive instantly defeating his rationality, and even took no consideration to the fact that his subordinate and outsiders were on the scene as he blurted out: "I've been wronged!"
This was probably the fabled 'karmic retribution'.
Fu Shen smiled fakely. "The Heavens are a dense blue above my head. How could you be wronged?"
As the two were talking, the still-indiscreet brothel woman went to s.n.a.t.c.h Yan Xiaohan's sleeve, smiling coyly. "What are you all standing out here for? Gentlemen, please come in."
He might have used all the skills he'd acquired in his life to dodge right then, barely managing to avoid the young woman's outstretched hand in the dense crowd. Before he could sigh in relief, however, he heard Fu Shen's voice. "Hey, this young lady's not bad. Pretty nice to look at."
Yan Xiaohan's face turned green in the s.p.a.ce of a second, glaring at Fu Shen in disbelief.
Marquis Fu had always had a good name among the citizens and was more popular in comparison to Yan Xiaohan. That young woman also adored young, handsome heroes, and had even been within the crowd that had flung flowers at him way back when. She recognized Fu Shen with one look, ditching Yan Xiaohan on the spot, cooing flirtatiously, and pitiably throwing herself at him——
"However." Fu Shen smiled, using his fan to hold her away by the chest. "Compared to my dear wife, you fall a bit short."
The G.o.ds had come to write a new twist. Everyone turned their heads simultaneously to look towards the 'dear wife'.
Yan Xiaohan: "……"
He saw it now. This scoundrel knew everything, like a mirror in his heart, and was deliberately making sport of him to try to have a nice chuckle to himself!
The made-fun-of Yan Xiaohan ground his teeth in hate, a series of 108 different methods to do this and that to Fu Shen marching through his brain.
"A misunderstanding! This is all a misunderstanding!" Wei Xuzhou deserved to be called Yan Xiaohan's heavily relied upon right-hand man, finally becoming aware at this moment that he shouldn't be standing by and watching the show. He hurriedly flashed his identification tag from his waist. "The Flying Dragon Guard is on a case! All unconcerned, withdraw!" he shouted.
The three words 'Flying Dragon Guard' had the patrons and prost.i.tutes immediately incited into a panic. The bawd gave a loud cry of fear, and the great number of people in the main hall knelt where they stood.
Yan Xiaohan rushed to prove his innocence to Fu Shen. "Don't be angry. I really did come here for an investigation!"
Fu Shen snorted playfully. "I'm aware that you don't have eyes on this flock of made-up ladies. You're busy, so I'll be going back."
He truly was deeply versed in the way of ‘beating someone with a stick, then giving them a sweet', so those few words placated the other man. Fu Shen had had enough fun, but just as he was about to withdraw, Yan Xiaohan suddenly stopped him right under everyone's staring eyes and grasped his hand, the palm of his own hot enough to burn someone. "Let me speak with you in private, Marquis," he stated, leaving no room for refute.
The translator says: Ah-Yan is in the doghouse now, RIP.
I forgot to mention this last time, but I accidentally skipped over some author's notes in a few chapters; 22, 23, 25, and 28 have been amended with them.
 Traditional Chinese Medicine time! Without getting too squicky, TCM dictates that men shouldn't have too much s.e.x because it depletes their ‘yang essence', more so than it would women, because men's o.r.g.a.s.ms are more… messy.
 They're not literally modern-day strip clubs, but you watch women dance around and sing and perform while they may or may not be wearing a whole lot of clothes, so…?
 Suan ni is one of the nine sons of the dragon, and a lion-dragon hybrid. The censer in question probably looks something like this.
[-] The censored word of the day is: 操练 – to train/practice, used in a military sense. Ok China.