Sometimes my brain just goes odd places….
The rule of a righteous emperor suppresses demons! …So of course any records of such attacks would be hushed up, or buried in administrative files, to preserve the stability of the empire. And yet, a truly righteous emperor (or at least some of his more far-sighted and practical minions) would see things need to be handled.
Enter Coroner Su Kuli and Investigator Mu Du (called Du’er by some). In their adventures they encounter:
The Lone Archers, three would-be scholars who’ve failed the imperial examinations due to their impious and frankly weird answers, who’ve turned to street performances, storytelling, and managing a messenger pigeon network to get by. They’ve got access to some hidden library troves, and lots of other info….
The Pipe-Smoking Man, a mysterious figure who may or may not be an imperial eunuch, but definitely has Connections in various armies and shady places.
Monsters, monsters galore. Just check out the Record of Things Strange for inspiration. Also recall that historically China got pirates and merchants from Japan, Korea, and just about anywhere else, so if it’s a case related to a port town anything might turn up. And I do mean anything. You could easily replicate one of the X-Files’ “monstrous infections of almost everyone in X place” with one penanggalan cooking stew….
The episode format doesn’t have to change a bit. Mu Du’er drags something out of the archives or the Lone Archers’ pigeon messages, the pair of them hare off to the nearest mess, everyone else swears it’s regular kidnappings, people getting eaten by tigers, or bandit attacks….
(Cue a scene of bandits attacking some helpless traveler – only to find they’ve Mugged the Monster. Or they kill some of their victims only to have the Monster show up to eat ALL of them.)
Of course, in this setting Su Kuli must be a much better rider, to take advantage of the fastest travel available. She’s also likely an excellent archer. (Mu Du’er, not so much.)
It’s a tossup if you want to make the aliens/black ooze just more monsters (if weirder than normal) or some kind of foreign influence from a frozen, barbaric land. The Himalayans could hold all kinds of horrible secrets; the Siberian tundra, likewise.
Not sure how you’d want to model someone always losing their cell phone. Unless their messenger pigeons regularly fall prey to hawks and cats.
…I would be so amused if someone wrote the story using the imagery of brush-strokes appearing at the bottom of the screen to label the latest time and location.
Oh, and in a setting where who wears what robes and color combinations is often prescribed by law, Du’er’s colorblindness should get him in serious trouble. It’s even possible he got an assistant to keep him out of horrible color choices first, and coroner experience later….