Chapter 237 - Coffins Unearthed on Lin Mountain
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It was already late in the evening when they arrived at Lin Mountain.
What used to be barren land was now filled with officials and their men. Several torches were erected all around, lighting up the dark ruins. The Capital Governor, the assistant senior official of the Supreme Court, and the newly appointed Ministry of Justice’s assistant minister were all present. Strangely enough, the Ministry of Rites’ assistant minister, Shen Changqin, was also there.
Did this case involve the Ministry of Rites?
These officials swarmed up just as Ji Yunshu and Jing Rong disembarked from their carriage.
“What brings Your Highness here?” Lord Yu, the assistant senior official of the Supreme Court, was the first one to speak up.
This man took only half a year to be promoted from a lowly bookkeeping official to where he was today! He exuded the typical features of a ‘laughing tiger’: always taking a bureaucratic stance, whether professionally or personally. Truly a fearsome man!
The head of the Supreme Court was wary of him, afraid that he would meet with disaster if his position was snatched by that man on his journey to power. Hence, even though the head of the Supreme court was in charge, he had to secretly appease this assistant senior official who was two ranks beneath him.
Jing Rong glanced disapprovingly at him, and turned to the Capital Governor, “When will it be finished?”
“Most probably at the hour of the horse[1. Hour of the horse = 11am-1pm] tomorrow. At our quickest, I estimate tomorrow morning.”
“Move more quickly and sharply. The weather has been unpredictable these couple of days - it would not bode well if the coffins got wet.”
“Yes.” The capital governor turned around and hurried his men along. Lord Yu’s face turned dark.
Ji Yunshu stood still at Jing Rong’s side, observing the men’s work - some cut down the unruly vegetation growing all over the tombstones, while others held torches in their hands, preparing to burn off what remained of the weeds. She suddenly cried out, “Hold it!”
Everyone froze and looked towards Ji Yunshu oddly. The men holding torches almost dropped their flames from the surprise.
Was this … that Teacher Ji? Wasn’t he wearing a mask? This flawless skin, those delicate features, he almost looks like a woman!
Ignoring these strange glances, Ji Yunshu walked over assuredly and told the torch-bearing men, “These bodies have been buried beneath for fourteen years - their bodies have already rotted away, leaving only bones. Although human bones are strong, they are still very fragile. If you try to burn these weeds but accidentally burn the ground as well, the rise in temperature will affect the bones lying in the coffins below, making them much harder to identify.”
Everyone suddenly understood with her explanation, “So there are actually these peculiarities!”
The Capital Governor hurriedly sent the torch-bearing men away and began unearthing the coffins. He sincerely admired Ji Yunshu. “Thankfully Teacher Ji reminded us, otherwise we would be in deep trouble.”
The title of ‘Teacher Ji’ had long struck an impression after the missing girls case, even more so with what happened with Qujiang recently. How could Lord Yu of the Supreme Court pass up such an opportunity? He leeringly approached. “I have long wished to have a few words with Teacher Ji, but feared to disturb as Teacher Ji was always busy. It is a real pleasure and honour to finally meet you.”
Honour your head! Ji Yunshu smiled but did not reply, instead turning to Shen Changqin, her future Second Brother-in-law, and said, “This must be Lord Shen?”
Shen Changqin, being the assistant minister of the Ministry of Rites, naturally had more gravitas and was more mild-mannered. He nodded, clasping his hands in front of his chest in greeting, “It is me.”
“I have long heard that Lord Shen was an honest, organised man with the looks to match - it really is so.”
“Teacher Ji flatters me. This official is nothing compared to Teacher Ji- look at how you investigate a case; that is truly admirable. As for my looks, all it is, is nothing but skin.”
Officials from the Ministry of Rites really lived up to their namesake - their mannerisms and words were completely different! Ji Wanxin would definitely be well-treated when she would eventually marry that man.
Ji Yunshu nodded and made no further comment.
On the other hand, Jing Rong’s face turned more and more dark. A thousand-year-old vinegar pot was just like that; it could be triggered anytime and anywhere. They had just sent off a Su Ziluo, why did a Shen Changqin enter the picture now? Jing Rong was not worried, however.
Just then, someone shouted, “It’s out.” A freshly unearthed coffin was being pulled up by a thick rope in the leftmost area. Everyone rushed forward, bringing their flames in for a closer look. The heavy coffin was slowly hoisted up, then placed steadily onto the ground.
The musty stench of decades-old rotten wood abruptly filled the air and everyone else immediately pinched their noses. Ji Yunshu moved closer towards the coffin; she was the only one unaffected by the stench. She lightly rapped her finger on the coffin, remarking, “This wood is from the Phoebe tree - it is much sturdier and has a low density so water should not have seeped in.”
“Density?” the capital governor was puzzled.
She instructed further, “Use some paper dampened with water to seal the coffin before you bring it back. We will open it tomorrow.”
Jing Rong was curious, “Why use damp paper?”
“Not to expose the bones to the air contaminants. Moreover, it will be humid on the road back to the manor. Using the damp paper to seal the coffin is almost like countering poison with poison, or in this case, water with water.”
Huh? The more he listened, the more puzzled he was.
Everyone else was scratching their heads in utter confusion, but Jing Rong was already used to the strange terms Ji Yunshu used, having heard too many.
The Capital Governor’s men did as they were told and quickly finished up with that coffin before carrying it to the empty manor in the city’s west. Several others were unearthed soon after.
As time passed and the night deepened, the air naturally grew chillier on the mountain. Afraid that these men would handle the coffins incorrectly and hence cause problems, Ji Yunshu could not bring herself to leave and so remained throughout the night on Lin Mountain. Since she stayed, Jing Rong stayed too; since Jing Rong did not return, the officials naturally remained.
All 67 coffins were finally unearthed only the following morning. Ji Yunshu followed the last coffin to the manor in the city’s west, but before that, Jing Rong pulled her aside. “Rest first.”
“I’m not tired!”
Ji Yunshu had nothing to say. This was how she investigated a case! Not eating or drinking for three days straight was normal.
In the end, Jing Rong had to follow along. That manor situated in the city’s west was called Bamboo Creek Garden. Although it was only about half the size of the Rong Estate, it had a good layout. As its name suggested, there was a bamboo garden, and there was a little stream.
It was peaceful and quiet! But it was also slightly eerie with the 67 coffins laid out neatly in the back courtyard.
Ji Yunshu dismissed all of the Capital Governor’s men, saying, “There’s no need to be here until the portraits are finished.”
“Would you need any help?”
“Oh, good!” The Capital Governor raised his fists and saluted Jing Rong, then he took all his men and left. Lord Yu and Shen Changqin also returned home to have a good sleep.
Only Ji Yunshu, Jing Rong, and a few of his bodyguards remained in the spacious backyard.
“Fourteen years, 67 bodies, all of them burnt alive… If each one had to be sketched, it would be difficult to finish it all in a year.”
Grenn's Rants Corner
Finally, the main plot!
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