Chapter 14 - Rice Poison

“Teacher, did you miscalculate? After my daughter died, the coroner came and said her time of death was early morning two days ago.” Lord Zhou was puzzled.

Magistrate Liu panicked, and he sidled up to Ji Yunshu and whispered, “Yunshu, don’t get the time wrong. The coroner did come to examine the corpse.”

She addressed their questions together, “I didn’t miscalculate.” Both men fell silent and did not speak any further. 

Ji Yunshu looked at Miss Zhou’s shoulder. She picked up her dagger again, this time, slicing a bit wider to reveal the shoulder bone, “I once said that a human corpse can lie, but the bones will never do the same. According to the coroner, Miss Zhou’s time of death was determined to be early morning two days ago. However, this type of swelling on her shoulder takes shape an hour postmortem. Based on the hardness of the swelling, its shape and the purple coloration, her time of death was certainly during the night three days ago.”

“Then why did the coroner say it was early morning two days ago?”

“That’s because the coroner had overlooked a certain point. During the night three days ago, there was a heavy downpour of rain. The temperature dropped a few degrees below zero… Le'ts just say that it was very cold that night, which influenced the temperature of the liver  [1]. The coroner determined the time of death based on that misconception, but bones are not influenced by ambient temperature.”

Blame this era for not having any advanced technology, otherwise she would have needed to spend so much energy, like cutting open Miss Zhou’s shoulder, to prove her point. This was really annoying!

Although the Zhou family’s people did not understand the specialised terms she had just used, they still understood the overall meaning of her explanation. Tears trickled out from Madame Zhou’s eyes. She asked in a trembling voice, “Then… Then, how did my daughter die?”

“Ah right, how did my daughter die?” Lord Zhou was also feeling anxious.

Ji Yunshu took her time. With her hand still covered in white gloves, she extended her fingers and directly shoved them deep into the rotting corpse’s mouth. She wiggled her fingers inside a few times and took them out. Her other hand dipped down to her waist and came up with a few candied lotus seeds. She then dropped them into Miss Zhou’s mouth and waited for a brief moment. As everyone looked on, she then fished them out of Miss Zhou’s mouth.

The originally orange colored candied lotus seeds had unexpectedly become blue.

“Miss Zhou died from poisoning.” Ji Yunshu gave her verdict.

“Poisoned?” Lord Zhou was flabbergasted. “The coroner didn’t say anything about death by poisoning.”

“He certainly didn’t. To determine if there had been any kind of poisoning, he would’ve needed to examine her throat. However, this kind of poison didn’t enter her throat. He wouldn’t have found any traces within her throat during his examination. Yesterday, when I was drawing Miss Zhou, I discovered that the insides of her teeth were black.” 

As she explained, she discreetly pulled out one of the corpse’s loose black teeth and held it up, “This type of poison is called rice poison and comes from the Western Regions. This poison doesn’t enter the throat, instead seeping in through the teeth. But it only requires a small dose to be lethal. One way to detect this poison is through the use of starch. Contact between starch and the poison will create a blue precipitate. Which, is why the candied lotus seeds turned blue once it came into contact with the poison.”

Lord Zhou nearly collapsed. His eyes widened and turned red. His voice trembled as he inquired further, “In the end, who wanted to harm my daughter? Who is the murderer? My daughter was young, but clever and sensible. She didn’t go outside or go far from her courtyard. She absolutely couldn’t have offended anyone.”

“Lord Zhou, please do not worry. Since Miss Zhou didn’t leave the mansion and died inside, it won’t be hard to investigate.”

“Teacher Ji, you must help my daughter find her murderer. If you can, you will be our Zhou family’s benefactor!”

“Lord Zhou’s words are too serious.” Ji Yunshu felt somewhat uncomfortable, so she lightly nodded. She put aside the tooth and the blue candied lotus seeds and removed her bloodied gloves. She walked over to the young servant girl earlier and asked, “What is your name?”

The girl was still crying, but she raised her head and answered, “This servant is called Qiaoxin.”

“Miss Qiaoxin, I’ll ask you once again, when your young miss fell from the attic, where were you?”


[1] The liver is less subjected to environmental temperature changes and is a good indicator to determine the core body temperature when determining time of death. 

Previous Chapter Next Chapter