Ji Yunshu was sleepless for the entire night. She sat on her bed with her arms around her knees and stared at the little window in the wall facing her. Her heart was stricken by an odd apprehension which lingered despite herself.
Day dawned, and, after a long while, the door was suddenly flung open.
Someone trod into the cell lightly: it was Magistrate Liu. He slowly approached her and stopped behind her, sighing regretfully as he called out her name, “Hey, Yunshu…”
Ji Yunshu’s eye twitched from the sunlight which glinted through the small window. She puckered her pale lips but did not intend to respond to him.
The Magistrate sighed again and seemed to be hesitating about something. He rubbed his hands and grimly said, “I received news this morning… the culprit has been found.”
‘What?’ Ji Yunshu heard the uneasiness in his voice and waited for him to continue.
“Luan’er… she’s dead. She committed suicide out of fear for the consequences of her own crime. She hung herself.”
Astonishment filled up Ji Yunshu’s eyes. She turned her head and asked, “What did you say?”
“Luan’er… she’s dead… she hung herself.”
Ji Yunshu’s whole body trembled fiercely and she clenched her hands with all her strength; the omen of anxiety from last night had finally materialized into a surge of emotion which reddened her nose and her eyes. She paused for a long moment and asked in a low voice, “When?”
“Last night, at midnight.”
“In the western quarters of the Ji Mansion.”
This was the final blow to Ji Yunshu’s composure. Tears flowed out of her eyes. She felt a crushing pain in her chest and she gritted her teeth until a faint taste of blood spread out through her mouth. Her nails sank into her flesh. She remained impassive, but that surface of calm hid a heart which had been pierced by a thousand blades. ‘I should’ve thought of it, I should’ve realized earlier!’
Magistrate Liu felt sorry for her, but still continued, “We have examined the corpse, and she did indeed commit suicide. She also left behind a piece of paper and confessed everything. Yunshu, you are safe now.”
‘Yes, since Luan’er shouldered the blame for me, I am safe now.’
As he said so, the Magistrate handed over a piece of paper. Ji Yunshu examined it with red eyes and saw the scribbles written on it: it was Luan’er’s handwriting.
“She confessed. She said that she was the one who added the poison. She did it because she did not want you to marry someone like Wei Yi, so she poisoned the wine with Pitohui poison.” Magistrate Liu explained the contents of the piece of paper to Ji Yunshu. It was a short message, but enough to absolve Ji Yunshu completely.
Ji Yunshu brushed the surface of the paper with one of her fingers, leaving a fine trail of crimson behind. She was the one who had taught Luan’er how to write. Every single stroke on this piece of paper now became a fresh wound in her heart. When she passed by the last character, she suddenly came to a stop,
There was another faint fingerprint, one that was too big to belong to Luan’er!
Ji Yunshu scrutinized the mark carefully. The mark ran beneath the ink, so it must have been put onto the paper before the letter was written. She approached her nose and sniffed the paper. The odor of ink was there, as she expected, but there was also a more subtle smell. A smell of tangerine.
‘This…’ Ji Yunshu raised her eyes in shock. She mumbled, “She did not commit suicide…”
Magistrate Liu was equally surprised when he heard what she said, “Not a suicide? But the coroner said that she did commit suicide. Was it a mistake?”
Ji Yunshu stood up from her bed and asked with a tearful gravity, “Where is Luan’er’s corpse?”“The people at the Ji Mansion have brought it to the Memorial Hall. “
Ji Yunshu put away the piece of paper in her pocket and left in a hurry without any explanations. Magistrate chased after her, only to give up after a few steps and scratched his head at Ji Yunshu’s reaction. ‘Well, all is well, the culprit has confessed her crime and Ji Yunshu will be alright.’
Outside of the prison, an old servant from the Ji Mansion was there to bring her home. Upon seeing Ji Yunshu, she greeted her and said, “Third Miss, I am here on Old Madame’s order. You should go home with me.”
Ji Yunshu was unmoved, skirted around her and kept walking.
“Where are you going, Third Miss?” asked the servant, who caught up to her and blocked her way.
“Everyone is waiting for you at the Mansion. Please come home with me.” It seemed like an order.
Ji Yunshu stared at her coldly. The servant quivered; it was a glance that could kill. Ji Yunshu said with a glacial voice, “Go back and tell my father and my grandmother. If there’s anything suspicious about Luan’er’s death, I will find the culprit and make that person pay with his or her own life.”
“Oh!” The servant’s countenance paled upon hearing those words. She had never heard these kinds of piercing words, nor received that kind of menacing look from the mild-mannered Third Miss.
Ji Yunshu hurried away from the scene before the servant could stop her again. She arrived at the Memorial Hall after a short walk. Fu Bo was just about to cover up Luan’er with a white sheet when Ji Yunshu arrived.
Upon noticing her, Fu Bo obligingly removed the cloth and retreated to the side.
Ji Yunshu stood at the entrance and slowly proceeded towards Luan’er. The latter laid on the cold wooden floor and looked paler than eyes. Her eyes, which were often watered by tears, were now tightly closed, never to be opened again. “Luan’er…”
Ji Yunshu extended her arm and grazed Luan’er’s cheeks, which were completely devoid of warmth. She suddenly trembled and quickly pulled her hand back into her sleeve as tears rolled down her cheeks. She reminisced over the five years she had spent in her company, and the sisterly feelings she felt for her.
‘I was thinking that one day, should I be able to save up enough silver, I would help you find a suitable marriage. I hoped that you would be able to live a happy life, without excessive luxuries perhaps, but full of simple joys. I would never have thought that you would leave me like that before you could taste the pleasures of life…’
“Did I not tell you to not get yourself involved in this case? Why didn’t you listen to me? How can I live without being haunted by my mistake?” Ji Yunshu was slumped in deep dejection.
Fu Bo sighed and approached with his back hunched. “Death is inescapable to us all. Some of us will pass away peacefully, while others might not deserve it so soon. A few of us might fully deserve it. Are our bodies not simply a husk for our souls? Some people live, but they are no better than dead. Some people pass away, but they will live forever within the hearts of those who remain, won’t they? You shouldn’t grieve too much about such matters.”
Ji Yunshu took a deep breath and finally managed to make her tears vanish. She turned around and asked Fu Bo, “If it were you, what would you do?”
Fu Bo smiled and answered, “Have you not been fighting against the injustices of this world for the past five years, one corpse at a time? Do what you have to do, and don’t get too emotionally involved. You need to find the answer you seek.” He then pulled his hands behind his back and slowly left her with his back still bent. “It seems like this time, we won’t need water and vinegar.”
Ji Yunshu bit her pale lips and tried to regain her composure. She finally put on her gloves and started her examination. Luan’er’s body already had a certain degree of rigor mortis; the limbs were stiff, and marks had appeared around the abdominal area. She looked at the bruises around her neck, which ran from her throat to the base of her ears. She forced her mouth open and saw that the tongue was slightly curled up. ‘Death by hanging it seems, as expected.’
Ji Yunshu removed her gloves and stared quietly at Luan’er. “A life for a life. I swear, I will not leave the culprit unpunished.” She replaced the white cloth over her slowly and walked out of the room. She saw Fu Bo burning incense outside and left in silence.
By the time she arrived home, it was already two hours past the moment she walked out of her cell.
This time, she did not enter the mansion through the western gate. Instead, she walked through the front gate without minding the attention she would receive; it was the first time she ever did so since she had transmigrated. The thin rain had sprinkled a thin layer of white frost on her long hair. Her eyes, ever so vivid, slowly shifted from the entrance to the main hall as she entered the mansion. She saw every single person from the Ji family reunited, waiting for her with razor-like looks as if they were going to peel her open.
Ji Yunshu’s own eyes clashed with her family’s without shying away. The glacial raindrops which sank into her shoulders from her wet hair armed her with a coldness which sent a shiver down everyone’s spine.
Ji Yunshu strode into the hall with her back straightened.
Ji Shuhan shouted at her in anger, “Did I not send someone to fetch you? Are you not safe now? What impudence are you playing at again? Have you not lost enough of your dignity already?”
‘Impudence? My dignity? What dignity? Luan’er is dead. Does she mean nothing to these people?’
The question put a quirk in her mouth. She asked, “Are other people’s lives only weed that ought to be cut, to you?”
“You…” Ji Yunshu was baffled by the retort.
Old Madame said with a low voice, “Yunshu, she’s dead. She was a murderer, and she paid the price for her crime. You are her master, but you should not let emotions blind you; atonement for one’s actions is but the most natural order of things and the simplest of truths. She...”
Ji Yunshu cut her off, “Luan’er did not kill anyone.” Her voice was as firm as a block of ice, and it reached the ears of the listeners with an incredible coldness. Ji Yunshu’s relatives quickly exchanged glances with each other.
Slap-Ji Shuhan smashed the table and rose in anger. “Everything is over now, I forbid you from bringing it up again!”
‘Forbid? Oh, I’ll show you just that.’
“Luan’er did not poison anyone. Someone here forced her to commit suicide.” Ji Yunshu dared.
“Shut up!” Ji Shuhan roared in a fiery rage. “I care little about how she died. For the sake of our family, you will stay silent, and you will not cause any more trouble. You are free now, and if Luan’er died for your sake, then it was absolutely worth it.”
“I will not give up on this. I swear that I will find the true culprit and render justice to Luan’er, Uncle Wei and Aunt Wei.”Slap!
Ji Yunshu felt Ji Shuhan’s full strength on her cheek after she barely finished her sentence. The pale skin on her face quickly reddened, and she slowly turned her eyes to look at the cruel man who stood in front of her.
Her eyes slowly sank until nothing remained in them but a raw outburst of anger.
“Trust me, this will be the last time you hit me.”
Grenn's Rants Corner