Most wealthy families usually had the habit of putting a mark on their tablewares. They often used their surname, the name of the current era, or one of the twelve zodiac animals to identify their tablewares. The porcelain bowls and wine cups of the Wei family had the word “Wei” engraved at the bottom. As for the chopsticks made of precious wood, since they were comparably more fragile and would snap if the word “Wei” was to be engraved on it, only a corner at their ends would be shaved as a mark of identification.
However, the poisoned chopsticks didn’t have such a mark.
“Are you absolutely certain that no one else came into the kitchen on that evening?” Ji Yunshu put an emphasis on the question.
Everyone looked at each other in dismay, causing another round of head-shaking.
“Are you certain?”
Suddenly, a maidservant within the crowd exclaimed, “It’s true that no one else entered the kitchen to tamper with the tablewares, but on the way to the banquet hall, I ran into Third Young Master Ji.”
‘Third Young Master Ji? Ji Yuanzhi?’
“Why would he appear near the kitchen?”
“This lowly servant doesn’t know. At that time Third Young Master Ji, he…”
“He what?” questioned Ji Yunshu.
The maidservant slightly blushed while biting her lips and lowering her head. Then, she reached out for the hairpin decorating her hair. She stammered and spoke with a trembling voice, “At that time, Third Young Master Ji gave me this hairpin. Since I saw how pretty it was, I accepted it.”
‘There really is an unforeseen circumstance. But such a superficial way to flirt! He couldn’t even let a little girl go.’ Ji Yunshu’s expression sank. “At that time, whose tablewares did you take?”
“I was on my way with Miss Ji’s tablewares,” she spoke with certainty.
In other words, Ji Yuanzhi also didn’t come into contact with Lord Wei’s and Madame Wei’s tablewares. It seemed like the investigation had lead to another dead end! Ji Yunshu looked at Jing Rong. She appeared a bit distressed.
Jing Rong promptly comforted her. “Since we know that the chopsticks were poisoned, then we can certainly find out the truth in the end.”
She nodded and grumbled in agreement. Inadvertently, as she moved, her sleeve brushed against the chopsticks, making them drop to the ground. She used her handkerchief to pick up the chopsticks, but she accidentally saw a piece of black chopstick fall off and turn into a crimson color. That tiny piece was very easy to overlook without a keen eye.
Her expression immediately tensed as she stared at the wet floor with her nose wrinkled. She asked, “There’s vinegar on the floor?”
“Yes, we usually clean the floor with diluted vinegar,” replied a servant girl.
“So it’s like that!” That’s right! The dense fog clouding her mind was gradually dispersing! She turned around and spoke to Jing Rong, “Your Highness, I might need your help!”
Jing Rong frowned. “Tell me.”
Ji Yunshu wrapped the chopstick with her handkerchief and dragged Jing Rong out of the kitchen. Her expression was grave as she whispered into his ear, “I need you to send people to the prison and…”
After she was done explaining her plan, Jing Rong ordered his subordinates to accomplish it.
Meanwhile in the prison, Ji Yuanzhi was shouting his innocence as if his life depended on it. He was too young. There was no way he could accept this kind of punishment.
In the gloomy and damp prison cell, time seemed to pass quickly. He was barely imprisoned for a bit more than the time it took for a joss stick to burn, yet it felt longer. “Someone! Release me! Do you know who my eldest brother is? He is General Yi’s Left Secretary! Offending me is the same as offending him! Let me out of here!” He hit both of his hands on the wooden barrier of his prison cell, while bellowing until his voice became hoarse.
Finally, his shouting bore fruit.
Several people hurriedly arrived, but they weren’t part of the prison staff. Each one of them wore an expressionless face that leaned toward a feeling of cold austerity. They opened the prison door, bringing with them a bowl and a knife. “What are you planning to do?” screamed Ji Yuanzhi in fear.
No one spoke to him. Some of them restrained him, pressed him to kiss the cold floor, and pried his palm open.
“What are you doing? What do you want to do? Release me!”
“GYAAAAH!” A blood-curdling scream resounded as his palm was cut open by the knife. His blood poured into the bowl. The pain he felt caused him to continue shouting as his complexion became ashen. It was only until the bowl was half-full did the men release him. They threw a small pot of ointment and bandages to him before leaving.
The men didn’t speak from start to finish and did everything with extreme efficiency.
Ji Yuanzhi crawled to a sitting position and looked at his palm that was slashed for no reason at all. He simply felt helpless and powerless. He had no other choice but to smear the ointment on his wound while gritting his teeth.
That half bowl of blood only took less than half the time to burn a joss stick before being delivered to Jing Rong. Once he received it, he sent it to Ji Yunshu which made her get caught in between laughter and tears.
“I didn’t tell you to take that much blood.”
“The more, the better!” Jing Rong replied in a frivolous tone.
‘The more, the better? Oi, oi, oi! This is blood, not water!’ Ji Yunshu rolled her eyes at him then no longer pay attention to him.
She poured a bit of camphor juice and vinegar in the bowl of blood and then dropped the little pieces of dark red chopstick into it. After a short time, she fished out that chopstick piece. The dark red color on it had faded into a brighter red, completely blending with the color of the blood within the bowl. ‘Hmm… The truth is quite self-evident now.
’“Ji Yuanzhi is the owner of those poisonous chopsticks. The blood on it belongs to him. Do you remember about the scab on his thumb? It must have been caused by him scraping his thumb on it.” When she came to that conclusion, the truth scared her even more.
As curious as ever, Jing Rong threw a question at her, “Why would he want to kill the Wei couple? But he didn’t even come near their tablewares. How did the chopsticks end up getting switched?”
“Ah right! How did he replace the chopsticks? And what was his motive for murder?”
The truth was quite dubious and also very shocking.…….....................
Ji Yunshu returned to the mourning hall.
By the time she returned, Wei Yi had finished his meal and put down his chopsticks. He was sitting with a straight posture while waiting for her. She walked up to him and sat next to him. “Shu’er, why did you leave for so long?”
“Didn’t I come back?”
He repeatedly nodded, then crooked his head as if he was thinking about something. Then, he took out from his pocket a tassel and handed it to Ji Yunshu. “Shu’er, this is big brother Yuanzhi’s tassel. Can you help me give it back to him?”
She glanced at it. It was indeed something Ji Yuanzhi would own. “Why do you have this with you?”
“The other night, I wasn’t careful and bumped into him, which caused him to bump into the two sisters who were holding a tray. After that, he scolded me before leaving, but that thing fell on the ground.” He spoke earnestly, yet he didn’t notice why he was justifying himself.
When Ji Yunshu heard his words, her expression completely turned dark. She felt as if inside of her a machine was pounding and crushing all of her organs! She avoided looking at Wei Yi as tears threatened to spill out, and her throat felt like it was caught in a vise.
She forced a smile. “Sure, I’ll help you give it back to him.”
“Thank you Shu’er!” Wei Yi got up and lifted the hem of his mourning clothes as he kneeled in front of the coffins once again. He bowed and knocked his head several times on the floor. His mouth only uttered words reminiscing his parents.
Ji Yunshu wasn’t in the mood for listening.
She stood up and stayed behind him with her head lowered. All her attention was focused on her hands. She tightly clenched the tassel as if she was strangling someone’s neck. In the end, she couldn’t hold back her tears. ‘Wei Yi, I’m sorry! I’m really, really sorry! Damn it! It should have been me!’
Grenn's Rants Corner
The bet are now open. Who is the one who tamper with the chopsticks?