Winter nights were dark, and outside it was impossible to see anything once the lights went out.
As he turned around, he couldn't see a thing.
Without hesitation, Ling Shu quickly got up and rushed forward.
But he found nothing.
The room was empty.
The hallway was empty.
In this large building, only the sound of his hurried footsteps echoed on the wooden floor.
"Yue Dingtang!" he shouted.
"I'm here," came the steady voice from downstairs.
"Power outage?" he asked.
"Seems like it," Yue Dingtang replied, lighting a kerosene lamp he had found and holding it up as he climbed the stairs.
The dim flickering light became the only source of illumination in the entire building, making the surrounding darkness even more pronounced. Walking with a lamp in what felt like hell, Yue Dingtang found that light couldn't scare away the darkness. Instead, it seemed to stir up the lurking shadows.
"I didn't come up here earlier," he said as he climbed the stairs to the second floor.
Ling Shu stood at the doorway, watching as Yue Dingtang pushed open each room and shone his light inside.
"Did you see anything?"
"I felt like someone was behind me just now, but when I turned around, there was no one there," Ling Shu replied.
"Could it have been your imagination?" Yue Dingtang walked into Du Yunning's room and looked around.
"Maybe," Ling Shu said uncertainly. He even suspected that his head injury from earlier was still affecting him, as he felt dizzy and disoriented. "But the old butler might have lied."
"You noticed that too?" Yue Dingtang asked. Ling Shu nodded, "When you asked him if there were any ghosts after the Yuan family moved in, he looked uneasy. First, he fidgeted with his fingers, then he scratched his ear and cheek. Among the suspects I've interrogated, this is often a sign of lying."
Yue Dingtang said, "If he's lying, then it's very likely that the ghostly incidents in the Yuan family were artificially created."
Ling Shu asked, "Are you suspecting that the deaths of these three people are related to the old butler?"
Yue Dingtang replied, "Yuan Bing and Du Yunning had no children, and the old butler had enough motive. Moreover, he lied about the ghostly incidents, so there must be something he's hiding from us. This may be the key to solving the mystery." Ling Shu yawned, "Shouldn't we head back home now? With the power outage, we won't find anything even if we keep searching. I need to go home and rest."
Yue Dingtang replied, "It's only six in the evening. Come back with me and change into something suitable for the seven o'clock cocktail party."
Ling Shu's hand covering his mouth froze. Couldn’t Yue Dingtang forget about the matter?
He walked down the stairs and stopped at the landing because Yue Dingtang still held the lantern.
"I think I can just go to the party in this outfit," Ling Shu said, looking up.
Yue Dingtang was about to descend the stairs.
In the limited range of the kerosene lamp, Ling Shu clearly saw a black shadow on the wall behind Yue Dingtang.
The shadow was long and humanoid, but it was definitely not Yue Dingtang's. Because -
The dark figure held an axe high in its hand, ready to strike at Yue Dingtang's back!
"Get out of the way!"
In that critical moment, Ling Shu only had time to shout two words.
Those two words were enough to convey all the meaning.
If he had shouted "be careful," Yue Dingtang wouldn't have known what to be careful of.
If he had shouted "behind you," Yue Dingtang might have turned around, leaving him with no time to dodge.
For half a second, it all depended on Yue Dingtang's reaction time and whether he trusted Ling Shu.
If he thought Ling Shu was joking, he might not have moved at all.
But Yue Dingtang did move.
He immediately grabbed the staircase railing and leaped forward, his lower back slamming into the railing, his feet slipping, and he tumbled down several steps before finally regaining his footing at the bottom of the stairs.
The kerosene lamp in his hand fell and shattered on the ground, extinguishing the flame. As he pounced, Ling Shu had already jumped several steps away, completely unaffected and standing unscathed on the side.
Yue Dingtang: ...
He didn't even have time to touch his aching old waist before turning his head to look up.
The faint light outside reflected the swaying bare branches, resembling human figures with bared teeth and claws.
But there was nothing there.
He suspected that Ling Shu had either mistaken what he saw or was deliberately playing a trick on him.
Looking at Ling Shu again, his expression was as innocent as could be, as if he wasn't the one who had just spoken.
The old butler stood outside the door, holding a lamp and stretching his neck to look inside, but he refused to take a step forward.
"Have you seen everything clearly? Do you need a lamp?"
In the cold wind, his hunched back trembled as if it could collapse at any moment on this winter night.
"Just now, did you enter the room?" Yue Dingtang walked out. The butler shook his head like a drum. "I was standing outside when I heard someone shouting inside, so I walked a few steps closer to take a look. As I've told you before, it's best not to come to this room at night!"
Ling Shu said, "Even if the room is not clean, it's just the ghosts of your master and mistress. It's understandable for others to be afraid, but why are you so scared? Did you do something wrong and now you can't face them?"
The butler hesitated, his face showing a difficult expression. "Madam didn't treat us well when she was alive. Once, after a fight with the master, she even said that the Yuan family had delayed half of her life. Even if she became a ghost in the future, she wouldn't let everyone here be happy..."
Under the gaze of Yue Dingtang, his voice became smaller and smaller.
"You're lying," Yue Dingtang said calmly. "The madam never said those words. And just now, when you were making up the story about the haunting at the Yuan family's house, you were clearly lying," said Ling Shu.
"I would never dare to deceive you both!" the old butler argued. "Madam did indeed..."
"I just saw her," Ling Shu interrupted.
His tone was eerie and ethereal, like a cool breeze on a dark night blowing towards the old butler.
The butler was so frightened that he shuddered. Before he could react, Ling Shu continued, "She was just standing in the room in her nightgown, just as beautiful as she was in life, but with a gloomy expression and blood dripping from the corner of her mouth."
Ling Shu stared straight at the butler, as if his gaze was fixed on a point behind him.
"Don't believe me? Turn around and see for yourself," Ling Shu challenged.
The butler almost dropped the lantern in his hand. He didn't turn his head, but instead took a few steps forward. "Don't scare me. Every wrongdoing has its perpetrator. I am not the one who killed Madam, so why would she come back to haunt me?"
Ling Shu smiled coldly, "Are you saying that you know who killed me?"
He deliberately lowered his voice, adding a touch of sinister sharpness, speaking slowly and deliberately. It almost sounded like the emphasis Du Yunning used to put on her words when she was alive.
The old butler's knees gave out and he fell to the ground.
"I don't know anything! I swear! The Yuan family is really haunted. If you don't believe me, ask them. The servants and even the chief of the patrol room have all seen it. How could I have made this up on my own?" Ling Shu crouched down, ready to continue his investigation, when a patrol officer returned with two boxes of late-night snacks. He was planning to butter up Yue Dingtang, the red man in front of the foreign high-ranking police officer.
"Boss, why don't you take a break?" The officer approached with a smile, unknowingly interrupting Ling Shu's progress.
The old butler suddenly snapped out of his daze, sweating profusely and shifting from fear to alertness.
His mouth clamped shut like a clam, refusing to utter a single word.
"You came just in time. Take him back to the patrol station and interrogate him thoroughly about his involvement in these murders," Yue Dingtang thought for a moment. "The other members of the Yuan family may also be involved, so bring them all in together."
The patrol officer was taken aback but quickly agreed, calling his colleagues to take everyone away. The Yuan family had never had many members, so two patrol officers were enough to handle them. However, the servants of the Yuan family were already frightened by the murder case, and when they suddenly heard that they were going to be taken back for questioning, they panicked, shouting and crying out for injustice, causing chaos with five or six people in a mess.
"This person is already old, and can be interrogated, but not excessively, to avoid causing trouble that outweighs the benefits," Yue Dingtang instructed.
"I understand, you can rest assured!" the patrol officer replied.
The Yuan family members were soon brought out, all looking dejected and worried.
Ling Shu took a quick glance.
"How come one is missing?"