Taking place in Medieval Imperial China, during the reign of the Tang dynasty, the player is placed in shoes of the historical Chinese folk hero Di Renjie, a magistrate tasked with uncovering the truth behind a recent string of murders in the capital. As politics surrounding the Empress Wu's recent coronation come to a boil, Di realizes it's not only his reputation at stake...
It includes the following tropes:
- Artistic License History: The game opens with an open confession that while the plot and characters are based on real historical events and persons, they are also rendered through a heavily fictitious lens. Most notably, Di Renjie is regularly noted by other characters to be quite young for an government official, and is presumably supposed to be somewhere in his late 20s/early 30s. In real life, Di Renjie was 60 years old in 690, the time when Wu Zetian assumed power as Empress.
- Batman Gambit: The prologue case. Wu and Sun Ying figured that an intelligent but inexperienced young magistrate would be smart enough to put together the clues they left behind, while green enough that he wouldn't think too hard about how tidily he solved everything.
- Big Little Brother: Of the Kong brothers, the younger one, Mengtao, towers a head over the older one, Mengpu.Mengtao: You don't scare me! You haven't scared me since you stopped growing at the age of twelve!
- Calling Card: The titular silk roses, when the murder leaves the scene of the crime.
- The Coroner: In the Department of Justice, this job is undertaken by Yao Qinan, a salty old official with thirty years of experience.
- Criminal Mind Games: By the second case, Di discovers that the killer is directly taunting him, leaving a note specifically for him. The killer even uses this opportunity to drug him.
- Da Chief: Essentially Di Renjie's role as the magistrate.
- Dark Action Girl: Four of them actually. Before she became Empress, Wu personally handpicked four strong, beautiful, and intelligent young women to become the Silk Roses, her own squad of devoted and loyal assassins, who would use cunning, deception, and tenaciousness to get close to and eliminate her political enemies.
- Dirty Cop: Di's predecessor, Liu Zelin, was not very sharp, extremely lazy, and not big on paperwork, worrying more about his reputation and political standing than doing any actual police work. Di, who went to school with him, can only recall him as a bully, and none of his former subordinates have anything good to say about him; most of them even express open relief that he has been removed from his post. On top of that, he went around blackmailing suspects and stealing family heirlooms from children to get another spy. He casts an especially large shadow over the first case Di investigates in the capital, as it happens to also be the last case Liu worked on, and Di is tasked with undoing the damage he did.Yao: Thirty years I've worked at the Department of Justice. Magistrates come and go. And I've seen them all. Some were born enforcers, others born negotiators. A rare few had the gift of detection, while others preferred the path of least resistance. Liu Zelin was in a category of his own, a corrupt yet inept man willing to do anything to advance his career. All of us here knew it, but none of us could prove it.
Di: What do think he was guilty of?
Yao: Abuse of power, coercion, blackmail, you name it.
- Disposable Sex Worker: The murderer targets exclusively courtesans, be they former or current, though — this being Ancient China — more than a few of his victims are actually wealthy and well-connected.
- Dreaming the Truth: The Recurring Dreams that Di has are actually his subconscious trying to tell him that there was something he missed while investigating the case that made his career.
- Drowning Pit: What the killer aims to kill the Empress with in the climax.
- End of an Era: The older generation — represented by Wu's aging husband and Di's father — have more or less been replaced, and their heirs are still getting comfortable with their new jobs. Naturally, various criminals take this opportunity to pounce.
- Gentleman Detective: Di blends into high society easily, which makes his investigations into their affairs all the more simple.
- Minor Crime Reveals Major Plot: The only reason Di is investigating is because Empress Wu thought the murder of a daughter by the hands of a blind man sounds a little fishy. Or, rather, because she had employed the victim as an assassin that could expose her many crimes.
- Nepotism: Liu Zelin, Di's incompetent and corrupt predecessor, is mentioned to have really only gotten his job as an investigative magistrate because his father was a powerful minister.
- Never One Murder: Following the initial murder, Di discovers to his horror that the killer is picking up speed. His second case in the capital sees him having to investigate two murders, the second of which he discovers in the course of investigating the first one.
- Non-Action Guy: Di freely admits at several points that though he has some interest in martial arts, he is hopelessly untalented at them and not very handy in a fight at all. He very much prefers being a Guile Hero.
- Outliving One's Offspring: Xu Dan, the father of the first victim, Linfei, has suffered an especially sad fate. Not only did he lose his wife and his eyesight in a fire, but his daughter ended up being brutally murdered.
- Professional Killer: The secret shared between all of the victims.
- Recurring Dreams: Di has one, where he journeys by boat to a tower on an island, and meets a deer that speaks in riddles. He then climbs the tower, where the Empress stands at the top, only to be too late to stop a trio of assassins who come to kill her.
- Retirony: The Korean ambassador in the prologue was killed just before signing a treaty that would've stabilized relations between his country and China.
- The Summation: At the end of each case, Di methodically explains how the crime was committed. As he talks we see a re-enactment of the crime, with the backgrounds in black-and-white, but with Di and the victim and the perpetrator in color. As Di explains, the player is tasked with choosing the correct deductions.
- Undying Loyalty: Sun Ying was so dedicated to Wu, she was willing to commit suicide in order make the whole deception of Di that much more convincing.
- You Can Talk?: In his Recurring Dream of his, Di meets a deer blocking his passage of some stairs. Said deer speaks to him when he tries to shoo it away.Di: You... You can speak?
Deer: Flawless deduction... detective.