Chapter 3 - Nameless Corpses

The rain continued to fall all day long, finally petering out when night fell.

At this time, in the front courtyard, the Ji family was receiving the noble guests from the Capital. Meanwhile, Ji Yunshu was tidying the paints in her sandalwood box. Every color in the box had been personally mixed by her. As she carefully cleaned and organized them, the glossy paints grew brighter with each passing day. Without a doubt, these colors would last for more than a thousand years without fading!

About fifteen minutes passed before Luan’er hurriedly ran into the room and exclaimed, “Miss! The county magistrate wanted you to make a quick trip to the East suburbs. He mentioned that an abandoned house there had caught fire, and many have perished as a result. Right now, the deceased's families are waiting for the corpses to be identified to retrieve and bury them. Unfortunately, as the corpses have been charred beyond recognition, they want you to go and have a look.”

“When did this happen?”

“Two hours ago.”

Ji Yunshu sighed. Nevertheless, she took her time packing up her sandalwood box. She changed into men’s clothing, lit a small lantern, and went out once more. She never once brought Luan'er along whenever she went out for work - someone had to protect the courtyard in her absence.

Traveling at night wasn’t easy, but fortunately, the East suburbs were not very far away. When she arrived, the sight of collapsed residences greeted her. Thick smoke was still billowing out, and the air was suffused with the acrid smell of burning wood. Many of the villagers were keeping watch outside, carrying lanterns; some of them wailed in despair, while others sighed repeatedly.

Ji Yunshu approached carefully. Almost twenty corpses were neatly lined up on the ground - all of the skin and flesh on the corpses had been utterly burnt to a crisp, none of them recognisable at first sight.

The county magistrate saw Ji Yunshu arrive and shuffled quickly over. He spoke in hushed tones, “Look, Yunshu, I wouldn’t have alerted you if the situation wasn't this grave. Who could have expected this much work in the first month of the lunar year!  Everyone is crying out in grievances right now, much less you!”

“It’s getting late. The earlier we wrap everything up, the earlier we can return.”

“Good, good, good.” The county magistrate ordered some men to carry a table over and to prepare a dozen sheets of paper. He also ordered the yamen runners to form a security perimeter around the area.

As she observed the corpses lying on the ground, Ji Yunshu’s almond eyes widened slightly with shock, but she quickly lowered them to conceal her emotions from prying eyes. Although she had become accustomed to witnessing such scenes, it would be a blatant lie if she said she had become completely apathetic.

She walked to the first corpse after taking a deep breath, crouching down for a closer examination. The corpse before her had signs of heat ruptures and its face had already swelled up [1]. She continued to examine it for a moment before muttering to herself, “Deeply sunken eyes with no shape; low and flat zygomatic bones; the frontal bone is wide, and the lower jaw is narrow.”

Immediately after, she took out a pair of white gloves. Deftly pulling them on, she lightly pressed on the corpse’s face and skull so she could estimate the cranial dimensions. She then turned around and returned to the table. 

She opened her sandalwood box and retrieved a brush and her paints. Finally, a human form began to take form on the paper before her. Once the portrait was completed, a person immediately rushed out from the crowd in tears, crying out to the heavens as she ran toward the first corpse, “This is my husband! Aaah! How could you just leave me like this, dear? How can I live in this world now that you have left me…”

Ji Yunshu pressed on methodically, examining the second corpse, "The occipital bone is fractured. That person must have been smashed by a wooden beam. The sphenoid bone is protruding, and the mandible is a little slanted." The portrait of the second person was soon completed.

A man and a woman rushed out before hesitantly crying out, “Mother!”

The scene was indeed tear-jerking!


It took Ji Yunshu ninety whole minutes to complete the portraits of all seventeen burnt corpses. Only twelve bodies were claimed, leaving behind five unknown and nameless corpses.

The county magistrate allowed his subordinates to take the portraits and inquire about the identities of those five corpses. Unfortunately, no one in the village recognized any of them.

Nameless corpses?

Jinjiang city’s East suburbs was not that big an area, so why would there be five nameless corpses? Could those people be ... outsiders?

If they were outsiders, why would they appear the East suburbs’ residences?

[1] What are heat ruptures? They are split of the soft parts (soft tissues, muscles...) of the body under great heat. It looks like a laceration or incised wounds. For more information, I put the link to a forensic reference, that contains laymen terms (WARNING: don't scroll up or down if you don't want visual of other things) click here

Previous Chapter Next Chapter