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Chapter 1: Prologue

Tonight the moon is exceptionally bright, it is covered with a layer of bloody red clouds, originally it should make the moonlight elegant, tonight it unusually causes the moon to look grim and eerie, even the air also seems to smell faintly of blood, two o’clock in the evening it’s unusually quiet, only the gentle sound of rustling leaves can be heard, no one cares about the night sky’s strange appearance.

The room is bright, every kind of surgical instrument is readily available, however, this is not an operating room in the traditional sense.

The woman’s face was mostly obscured by a mask, a pair of bright, piercing eyes was staring intently at a corpse lying on a white platform. Putting aside the measuring tape in her hand, the woman’s cold voice resonated: “The victim was a female, height 168 cm, between the ages of twenty to thirty years old. The body has decomposed, the findings, she should have died a month or more ago.”

Behind her stood a young girl, carefully taking notes, her hands not daring to be the least bit sloppy.

Scrutinizing each mark on the body, upon seeing the corpse’s fingers, Zhuo Qing frowned, but her cold voice remained calm, “The deceased had all her ten fingernails removed.”

“The ten nails were plucked again?” Xing Lan’s hands paused, quickly looked up and asked, “Doctor Zhuo, this isn’t a case of serial murders, right? Including this woman, this is already the fourth whose fingernails were pulled out!”

Zhuo Qing focused on inspecting the hands and did not answer, after a while, the cold voice just replied: “Whether serial murders or not, the Criminal Investigation department will find it out, as a forensic examiner, my responsibility is to record in detail all the features on the body and determine the cause of death of the deceased, provide evidence and clues to help solve the case. Arbitrarily concluding as a serial case is a simple preconceived notion, ignoring the other details.”

“I know.” Xing Lan secretly bit her tongue, Doctor Zhuo in just a few years is the youngest, most prominent expert forensic examiner, to follow her around learning, she has really improved quickly, but her work constantly seeing cold faces and icy eyes, it’s rather scary!

“The deceased has distinct fingerprints bruises on her neck, color is black, the rest of her body has no obvious injury, the cause of death was asphyxiation. The genital area is intact, ruling out the possibility of sexual assault before her death.” While Zhuo Qing took off the surgical gloves, she said, “Xiao Xing, collate the data and submit the report to me before dawn for my signature, afterwards hand it over to the Criminal Investigation department, also the collected samples, send it to the laboratory tomorrow morning, you can then take a break.”

Xing Lan’s heart wailed, but on her mouth was not a trace of hesitation, immediately she replied: “Yes.” Another sleepless night!

Xing Lan cut out samples of clothes and skin from the deceased, suddenly she saw a palm-sized, round metal object, and asked: “Doctor Zhuo, this is something found in the coat of the deceased, should I hand this over to the Criminal Investigation department?”

Zhuo Qing casually glanced back and replied: “send it first to the laboratory, they’ll take care of it.” After she finished talking, she went out of the autopsy room.

“Yes.” Collecting her notes and the samples, Xing Lan quickly followed after Zhuo Qing who quickly left the autopsy room. Although she had been working in the forensic department for six months now, she still could not stay with a corpse alone late at night.

“How are things? Is the autopsy report ready to come out?” Just now as they were approaching the office, they were immediately stopped by somebody head on! Leaning on the doorframe is a slim woman, her short cropped hair fresh and neat, her vitality abnormally high, the look in her eyes resolute!

Xing Lan cried out, “Team Leader Gu, you are too much! It’s middle of the night, it’s only 3:00 o’clock in the morning!”

Gu Yun lightly arched her eyebrow, smiled and said: “And so?”

Defeated, Xing Lan dropped her shoulders, reluctantly replied: “So you wait for a moment, I’ll go and finish it, the report will certainly be out before dawn!” No wonder Team Leader Gu and Doctor Zhuo can become good friends, these two people are workaholics!

Looking at Xing Lan’s drooping head as she entered her office, Gu Yun laughed, raised her voice said: “Thank you very much!”

Zhuo Qing opened her exclusive office on the opposite side, Gu Yun immediately followed her inside, before she could open her mouth, Zhuo Qing with her unique low voice unhurriedly said: “What, on this long night you’re not in the mood to sleep ah?”

“Screw you!” Giving her a sideways glance, Gu Yun denounced: “Since this month’s frequent homicide cases of women, Department Li’s both eyes are almost shooting flames, at the moment criminal investigation department has two teams assigned to work day and night!”

Zhuo Qing casually pulled out the fountain pen which she used to fix her hair, immediately her waist-long hair dangled down, she tiredly sat on the couch, half-squinted her eyes as if she had something in mind, idly asked: “Yesterday, was there any thrill in the results of the provincial level martial arts competition?”

“No!” To bring up this subject she right away got angry, so many cases, yet department leader wanted her also to participate in the provincial competition, every year she’s women’s team number one, no one can be a match to her! Zhuo Qing looked comfortable and appeared to be falling asleep, Gu Yun lightly pat her shoulder, chuckled low: “May I say Miss High and Mighty, I’m here and you have a case to explain to me!”

Narrowing her eyes lightly, Zhuo Qing with her sluggish voice, yet always clear and cold, said: “This dead person and the first three murder cases indeed had things in common, they were all strangled in the trachea and died of suffocation. Moreover, all the ten fingernails were removed. The murders were committed using the same technique, if indeed this is a serial murder case, according to the degree of decay of the corpses, this is the first female victim.”

Listening to the analysis of Zhuo Qing, Gu Yun was also walking back and forth in the office, pondering over the case, suddenly she noticed near the office door a faint gleam of light from an object, went over, picked up and examined it, indeed it is a small golden disk inlaid on one side with a trigram map, encased in an evidence bag, it must be part of the exhibits.

Walking over to Zhuo Qing, Gu Yun asked: “What’s this?”

Slowly opening her eyes to look at the object in the hands of Gu Yun, Zhuo Qing cursed, Xing Lan, this girl, always works so carelessly, to lose such an important exhibit!

Zhuo Qing sat up straight, replied: “It was found in the victim’s pocket, after waiting for colleagues in the laboratory department to examine it, it will be submitted to you.”

A trigram (bagua) map; photo from take5moment.com

Hearing that the object was part of the exhibits of the case at hand, Gu Yun immediately became animated, since the office was only lit with a small table lamp, Gu Yun just opened the blinds, taking advantage of the unusually bright moonlight tonight, she carefully scrutinized it. Eyes glued to the object in her hands, Gu Yun was completely oblivious to the dark night sky, when she put out the trigram disk at that moment the moon was gradually shrouded with scarlet clouds.

Strange, just a moment ago the color was clearly golden, how come it looks red now?! Is the opposide side the golden one? Turning it over for a closer look, the other side has the same blood red trigram map, the entire small disk seems to glow a faint trace of red light, how is this possible?!

“Hiss -” While wondering, she suddenly felt pain in her hand.

Zhuo Qing got up, walked up behind her and asked: “What’s wrong?”

Lowering her head to examine her finger, she saw a deep bloodstain on her index finger, a few drops of red blood fell on the evidence bag, Gu Yun smiled indifferently, “Nothing, I don’t know what thing I’ve scratched.”

The cut on the finger was deep, blood still steadily dripping, Gu Yun’s indifferent look made Zhuo Qing frown, bringing absorbent cotton from the nearby shelf to cover the wound, Zhuo Qing coldly snorted: “Press the wound!” Gu Yun rolled her eyes, it’s just a little scratch!

Pressing the wound with cotton, it was quickly soaked with blood, Zhuo Qing’s keen eyes glinted, what is so sharp that could cut this way, even the bleeding is difficult to stop?! She took the object in Gu Yun’s hand, looked at it, Zhuo Qing with great alarm: “how could this be?!”

What made the always cold and arrogant Forensic Investigator Zhuo to be shocked ah! Gu Yun also curiously leaned her head, took a glance below, she was also startled and softly cried out: “Blood … soaked in.”

Blood drops originally outside the transparent exhibit bag disappeared, the blood appeared unexpectedly above the blood red trigram map! How is there such a thing, the blood able to penetrate the exhibit bag … !

“Oh, no!” After staring speechless at each other, both cried out in unison: “This time it will be difficult to write the report.”

The two looked at each other and grinned, it’s going to be a headache how to explain why Gu Yun’s blood appeared on the crime’s material evidence, in the meantime no one has noticed that the blood which dripped into the trigram disk seeped along the curved grooves, flowing into the yin and yang elements intersecting in the center …

When the blood fell into the center of the disk, at that exact moment, a strong red light suddenly radiated from the trigram disk, Zhuo Qing and Gu Yun were both shocked, before their own eyes they just saw darkness and fell gently to the ground.

Brilliant rays of light flashed in the chief forensic investigator’s room, lit with only a small table lamp, two figures were lying unconscious on the floor.

The bleeding wound in Gu Yun’s finger instantly healed, leaving no trace of a scar. The golden trigram disk fell lightly beside their bodies, showing nothing of its strange appearance before. Outside the window, on the horizon the moonlight was clear and bright, everything was so tranquil.

[1] The trigram (bagua) (Chinese: 八卦; literally: “eight symbols”) are 8 trigrams used in Taoist cosmology to represent the fundamental principles of reality, seen as a range of 8 interrelated concepts. Each consists of 3 lines, each line either “broken” or “unbroken,” representing yin or yang, respectively. Due to their tripartite structure, they are often referred to as “trigrams” in English. The trigrams have correspondences in astronomy, astrology, geography, geomancy, anatomy, the family, and elsewhere. Learn more about bagua maps here. (Source: Wikipedia)



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