While he was turning over the case in his mind, they had reached the tenth floor. The moment the elevator door was opened, a young girl rushed in with red-rimmed eyes and hit the first-floor button with force.
It was not until Jiang Lan left the elevator that he suddenly recalled that the girl was Tan Zhi’s daughter Tao Liu.
Judging by her looks, he thought she must have had a quarrel with her family and left home in anger.
He walked over to Tan Zhi’s home and pushed the doorbell while puzzling over the girl.
After a while, they could hear the sound of Tan Zhi’s loud cursing and cough.
“You damned girl. If you have the guts to leave, why do you come back?”
It was Tan Zhi who opened the door. She had messy curly hairs spreading on her shoulders and an unnatural yellow skin tone. A faint stench came out of her mouth when she started to speak.
When she saw that it wasn’t her daughter in the doorway, she paused for a second, then cursed and was about to close the door.
Jiang Lan grabbed the door with firm hands. At that moment, he could smell candles burning behind the door.
With squinted eyes, he said.” Auntie Tan, we just met this morning.”
Tan Zhi stared at him with a nasty look.” Let go of the door! How come the female ghost hasn’t devoured you yet?”
When she was cursing, Jiang Lan could catch a glimpse of the Red Devil Umbrellas in her mouth. The red mushrooms start to spread to her tongue as if ready to replace it.
“Have you seen the ghost in the manhole? Has she paid you a visit?” Jiang Lan suddenly asked.
The moment he asked this question, Tan Zhi immediately launched a stream of curses. She was cursing in the local dialect. Even though it was hard to understand, they could see the words must be nasty.
She acted as if she was an emotionless cursing machine. She could barely catch a breath when she talked quickly.
Jiang Lan saw her chest heaved while talking. It looked like she might pass out at any moment.
But she didn’t faint. When she was finished, she acted as if nothing happened and wanted to close the door.
Jiang Lan put a foot inside the door to stop her while throwing bait.” I guess you must sense something is wrong with you. But burning candles wouldn’t make much difference for you. I can help you.”
These words seemed to have an effect on her, and she wanted to say something. But when she opened her mouth, a stream of curse words came out.
The three of them stood and watched her coughing in great pain. After she bent to put her fingers into her mouth, as if trying to clear her mouth of something, she rose with great difficulty and said to them.” You come in.”
They followed her inside.
The white candles Jiang Lan just smelled outside were placed on the balcony together with a copper basin, which contained some black ashesThe remains of paper money, which Chinese elders used to burn for the deceased relatives, they might receive in the afterlife.
“You are performing a spiritual service for Chen Ruomei?”
Tan Zhi halted her steps, and instead of talking, she nodded.
Then she spoke in a pained voice.” Can you help me?”
The worried and scared looks on her face must mean she already knew her condition.
All of these further confirmed that Chen Ruomei’s death was not as simple as it appeared. It was them who rescued Cheng Ruomei. Even though they didn’t save her life, there was no need to be this scared. In addition to what she said during the day, she must think her current condition was connected with Chen Ruomei’s ghost.
Jiang Lan didn’t answer her question. Instead, he said.” Please tell us how Chen Ruomei died.”
Tan Zhi looked at him in surprise. Then her looks changed as if she recalled something. She said while holding her hands firmly.” She fell to her death.”
“If you don’t tell us the truth, there isn’t much I can do to help you.”
Jiang Lan watched her coldly. His usual reasonable manner and friendliness vanished at this moment when his worst suspicion was about to be confirmed.
He asked for an evil-dispelling Fu from Cheng Hua and threw it into a bowl of water after burning it. Holding that bowl of Fu water, he said to Tan Zhi.” This water can cure you of this strange disease. But first, we need the truth from you.”
Tan Zhi’s expression suddenly changed. When mouth agape, the red devil umbrella could almost be seen.
“If she didn’t tell you, I will.”
A woman’s gentle voice suddenly came out.
This voice was very soft and gentle, in sharp contrast with Tan Zhi’s high-pitched voice.
Jiang Lan suspected that this voice was Tan Zhi’s original voice.
Jiang Lan didn’t respond, so “Tan Zhi” opened her mouth again. Her mouth was now fully taken up with dark red mushrooms. Some fast-growing Red Devil Umbrellas even came out of her mouth. The smooth mushroom caps were as large as a dollar coin.
Now her mouth was so stuffed with mushrooms at this point that she couldn’t close it while her eyeballs were turning in horror. With mouth agape, the mushrooms in her mouth twisted together to form a “tongue” to replace the host’s original tongue and said.” How about I gave you the truth in exchange for your guys staying out of this?”
Jiang Lan was not impressed.” I will listen. Whether we stay out of this is not for you to decide. Anyway, you can’t win me in a fight…….I mean us.”
He switched from “me” to “us” at the last moment while throwing Ying Qiao a guilty look.
But Ying Qiao thought the look he gave him and the last-minute change of words meant Jiang Lan was scared. So he pushed Cheng Hua forward to defend Jiang Lan and dragged Jiang Lan back to his side and reassured him.” Don’t be afraid.”
I am not scared.
He turned to look at Ying Qiao and Boss Cheng, who was pushed forward to protect them. Suddenly it dawned on him that it was Ying Qiao who was scared.
No matter how disgusting and scary Red Devil Umbrellas appeared to be, Jiang Lan wasn’t frightened because he was a Tao Tie. On the other hand, Ying Qiao was only an ordinary snake monster.
He must have been frightened while feeling too awkward to admit it.
Thinking this, Jiang Lan suddenly felt urged to protect him. He leaned closer to Ying Qiao and grabbed his hand while trying to comfort him in a soft voice.” Don’t be afraid. He is very weak.”
Ying Qiao looked at the Little Monster, who was saying,” don’t be afraid.” At the same time, the Little Monster’s body was honest, leaning close to him as if a cub was seeking protection.
Ying Qiao had a very soft look in his eyes, taking care not to hurt the Little Monster’s self-esteem.” En, we are not scared.”
Suddenly being pushed forward to face the Red Devil Umbrellas and hearing their soft talks behind his back, Cheng Hua was like.”????”
What the hell are you guys talking about?
The Red Devil Umbrella didn’t expect Jiang Lan to be this uncompromising. Extending his many thread-like stalks from the mouth, he said to them in a provoking manner.” Looks like we can’t reach a deal. No need to continue now.”
Then the mushrooms instantly vanished into a red mist.
Tan Zhi was almost scared witless after she regained control of her body. With her hands grabbing her throat, she tried to empty the contents of her stomach.
Cheng Hua didn’t feel any sympathy for her.” If you are not willing to talk, we will speak to Xu Meifang or Xie Guizhen. I am sure one of you will eventually tell us the truth.”
“Xu Meifang wouldn’t tell you anything.”
Tan Zhi suddenly raised her head. With red-rimmed eyes and lips covered with a kind of red liquid and pieces of mushroom stalks, her face was not a pleasant sight.
She gave them a neurotic smile.”It was her who pushed Chen Ruomei to her death. She killed her. How can she confess it?”
The feeling of being controlled while remaining wide awake seemed to drive her crazy. Tan Zhi leaped forward with total abandon, trying to grab that bowl containing Fu water.” Please give me the Fu water. I will tell you everything.”
After a little thought, Cheng Hua poured away half the water and gave her only half.” This amount of Fu water will only make you a little more comfortable but wouldn’t cleanse your body of that stuff. You better tell the truth.”
Tan Zhi grabbed the bowl and poured the water into her mouth.
It took her a while to emerge from the bathroom with a pale face. A smile of relief was on her lips.
She began to tell them what really happened that night from the start to the end.
On the night when Chen Ruomei died, they three were indeed on the way back from a group dance. But what they told the Police was not true. They didn’t hear the loud cry for help from Chen Ruomei and tried to rescue her. The truth was that they had a conflict with Chen Ruomei at the entrance of the apartment complex.
To be more precise, it was Xu Meifang who had a conflict with Chen Ruomei.
Xu Meifang and Cheng Ruomei lived in the same building. Because Chen Ruomei was good-looking and a newcomer, she had attracted a lot of attention. Xue Meifang’s favorite pastime was matchmaking, and she happened to have a single nephew. Seeing Chen Ruomei was always alone and seemed to be single, an idea sprung to her mind. From then on, she took every opportunity to have a conversation with her to gain her confidence.
After they knew each other properly, Xu Meifang naturally brought up the topic of introducing her nephew to her. Chen Ruomei refused without a second thought, claiming she wasn’t looking for a boyfriend at that time.
But Xu Meifang tended to overthink. She believed Chen Ruomei had snubbed her nephew, and she was looking for a rich and powerful man. Her two friends had heard this complaint several times.
It so happened that one day, a middle-aged man drove a BMW to their apartment complex looking for Chen Ruomei, and he coincidentally met and asked Xu Meifang for her whereabouts.
Before, Xu Meifang always thought it suspicious that Chen Ruomei went to work in the middle of the night. This further confirmed her suspicion that she wasn’t a decent girl. If she wasn’t in the flesh business, she must be the secret lover of the middle-aged rich man.
She loved to gossip and held a grudge against Chen Ruomei. From then on, she liked to imply to anyone that Chen Ruomei was a prostitute in a bar.
Everyone who heard this was doubtful about this at first. But it was not long before a rumor appeared claiming Chen Ruomei had a quarrel with her client and called the Police. Xu Meifang lived in the same building, and afterward, she made up in detail what happened at the scene. As a self-claimed witness account, this led many people to believe her story, which described Chen Ruomei as a prostitute. Many people in this apartment complex started to have a low opinion of her.
Chen Ruomei had no friends or relatives here, and no one took the trouble to tell her the rumor. She knew it only after her landlord became reluctant to extend the lease because the landlord thought she was a prostitute.
She had great trouble persuading the landlord to extend the lease until she could find other places to live. On her way to work, she ran into Xu Meifang and her friends, who at that moment were still talking about the incident about the Police and a “client.”
Even though she was silent and tends to keep to herself, she wasn’t weak and stupid. Otherwise, she wouldn’t have the presence of mind to preserve the evidence after being raped.
After being slandered like this, naturally, she wanted to demand an explanation.
But Xu Meifang was known for her temper and tongue. In the midst of a quarrel, Xu Meifang started to act violently and pushed Cheng Ruomei around. Seeing this, Tan Zhi and Xie Guizhen tried to pull them away from each other. No one noticed the manhole behind them missed a cover.
Chen Ruomei was pushed into the manhole.
In the darkness, they heard a dull sound after Chen Ruomei fell into the hole, which must have a depth of several meters.
They instantly fell into a panic. Xu Meifang realized she might kill a person.
Their first reaction was to try to flee. This part of the apartment complex was not lit after the street lights went out, and no surveillance camera covered this area. They might get away with it.
But the moment they decided to escape, Chen Ruomei regained her consciousness and started to cry for help in a weak voice.
Tan Zhi and Xie Guizhen wanted to call the Police, but Xu Meifang stopped them and tried to intimidate them with the debt they own her and the fact that they were accomplices of murder. Finally, under Xu Meifang’s direction, they managed to pull Chen Ruomei out of the hole.
Chen Ruomei had sustained a serious head injury during the fall, and her face was covered with blood. She soon stopped breathing after being lifted out of the hole.
Xu Meifang’s original plan was to save her and compensate her with money while keeping the whole matter private. But seeing the lifeless body, a bold idea sprung to her mind…..
After calling the Police and the first-aid ambulance, she conspired with her friends to present themselves as kind-hearted bystanders to conceal the truth about this killing.
No witnesses, no surveillance footage, and the autopsy report indicated the heavy head injury was the cause of her death. Everyone saw they were on the way home, and as far as the Police know, they had no grudge against Chen Ruomei……….As a result, they fooled the Police and turned from a killer and accomplices to kind-hearted model citizens.
They acted in common interest and stuck to their version of the story.
If not for the series of bizarre events, Tan Zhi would never tell the truth.
She looked at Cheng Hua with a twisted face.” I have told you what I know. Please give me the rest of the FU water.”
Cheng Hua watched her with disgust. Even though he didn’t have any prejudices against humans, he had to admit that once humans decided to be vicious, monsters are no match for them.
So he decided to be a little mischievous.” I just lied to you. I have only one Fu left.”
Tan Zhi stared at him in disbelief. Her eyes almost jumped out of sockets.” Impossible! Are you a grandmaster? Please save me. I didn’t kill her. If there is anyone to blame for her death, it’s Xu Meifang.”
“You didn’t kill her, but you are an accomplice.”
Jiang Lan felt he was supposed to be angry. But after witnessing her attempt to shift all blame to Xu Meifang, he felt his anger had turned to cold disgust.
“We are not masters. We work for the Government.” Jiang Lan showed her his work ID.” I just voice-recorded every word you say. Now the choice is yours. Do you want to turn yourself in to the Police or want us to report you to the Police? TL’s note: 1. Accidental killing carried a light sentence in China, depending on the circumstances. Sometimes charges will not be brought against the suspect if the victim’s family … Continue reading”
Tan Zhi stared at the word ID with a blank expression.
Jiang Lan called Wang Qin to tell him what had happened here, But Wang Qin was the first to speak.” Xu Meifang was dead.”
She committed suicide this morning. After her husband went to work, she used a knife to cut her throat.
Her son and daughter were at school, and her husband worked extra time. When Wang Qin came to their flat, her husband came back and tried to open the door locked from inside.
After Wang Qin showed his Police badge and explained his purpose, her husband told them the problem with the door. When they forced open the door, they discovered her dead body on a bed.
She hadn’t been dead for more than 24 hours, but a stench had already come from her body. Oxidized blood turned dark and turned solid. Wet bed sheets acted as a breeding ground for the Red Devil Umbrella Mushrooms growing on the bed.
This scene was both bizarre and scary.
Xu Meifang’s husband fainted right away. Wang Qin and Zhao Heng immediately requested reinforcements to cordon off the scene and returned the body for autopsy.
Jiang Lan sent the voice recording over to Wang Qin. Even though the evidence acquired in this way couldn’t be used in a court of law, Jiang Lan still kept a copy of it.
When Tan Zhi walked out of the bathroom, she overheard what Jiang Lan said on the phone.
With a shocked look on her face, she repeated what she heard.” Xu Meifang is dead.”
With trembling hands, she collapsed on the ground.
Jiang Lan warned her.” If you turn yourself in, you might get a lenient punishment.”
Then the three of them left.
Two police cars were parked nearby when they left the building, with many officers putting up a cordon line. After seeing this, many residents came out and gathered around, trying to get a sense of what’s going on.”
Wang Qin and Zhao Heng were nowhere to be seen. So they must still remain in the flat. Jiang Lan looked up and vaguely saw a red mist floating around a window, looking for their next hosts.
Ying Qiao patted his shoulder.” You can go and wait in the car. It will take a while to finish the business here.”
Jiang Lan nodded and sighed. He was in a low spirit and looked like a helpless cub, first witnessing the dark side of the human’s heart.
Ying Qiao thought he must be very disappointed, considering his affinity with the humans. Raising his hand to pat his head, he tried to comfort him.” Humans are evil by nature. You wouldn’t be disappointed if you always bear that in mind.”
“I am not disappointed.”
He didn’t expect Jiang Lan would shake his head and contradict him.” I am not disappointed. Except for people we just met, the vast majority of humans are good people. I just feel sorry for Chen Ruomei. She was a good girl.”
He never felt disappointed at the evil in people’s hearts; He was just sad about a good girl’s tragic passing.
These people’s evil ruined a girl who was supposed to have a bright future before her and destroyed a family struggling to support themselves.
Cheng Hua shrugged and thought it very interesting that this Little Monster would genuinely feel sorry for a human. The sad looks on his face even moved him to comfort him.” It’s her fate. The Red Devil Umbrella had a hidden agenda in this incident, but anyway, she was revenged.
What he said seemed to have an immediate effect on Jiang Lan.
” You are right. Now Xu Meifang is dead, but Tan Zhi and Xie Guizhen are still alive. They are accomplices to this cover-up and will be punished by the law. I think the Police will release an announcement to dispel the rumor and restore her name.”
He was again his usual self, full of vigor.” I will look for Wang Qin now.”
Ying Qiao looked at the spirited Little Monster, then glanced at Cheng Hua……
……..he took another look at Cheng Hua.
You succeed where I failed
I shouldn’t bring Cheng Hua along.
In his heart, a sense of crisis suddenly emerged.
|↑1||The remains of paper money, which Chinese elders used to burn for the deceased relatives, they might receive in the afterlife|
|↑2||TL’s note: 1. Accidental killing carried a light sentence in China, depending on the circumstances. Sometimes charges will not be brought against the suspect if the victim’s family accepts the financial compensation. But misleading the Police is a grave offense. 2. Voluntarily report to Police after committing a crime is considered a mitigating factor in sentencing|