Chapter 316 - Important Object
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How could all the officials who were dispatched to investigate in Yufu have died on their way back to the capital?! One died from illness. Another died from exhaustion! The causes of death were so varied that it couldn’t be more obvious something was fishy.
Jing Rong pondered a bit, then asked Lu Jiang, “What did you find about those officials?”
Lu Jiang reported, “Not much. They all died for odd reasons like from illness or exhaustion on their way back. The imperial court didn’t seem to put much importance on the causes of their deaths. However, this subordinate believed those men must have found something. Moreover, it had to be related to the missing disaster relief money. They must have hurried back to the capital to report but were murdered on the road. The murderer’s purpose is to silence them.”
Jing Rong nodded in agreement. He thought a little, then said in a hushed voice, “This case is really problematic.”
“Your Highness shouldn’t go there if necessary. Plus, the Emperor has not sent down the decree.”
“Perhaps… It is a difficult choice for him. However, for Jing Yi and me, this is only the beginning of the fight.” Although there was determination in his tone, one could sense some helplessness.
Qi Zhen Emperor had to choose between him and his brother. Either way, there would only be two outcomes that awaited whoever was sent to solve the case - fail to solve the case and get exiled to Yufu for the rest of their life, or solve the case and return triumphant. The case was complicated. Hence, it would not come as a surprise if the victor was granted the title of Crown Prince as a reward for the achievement. This was too good an opportunity to miss.
Qi Zhen Emperor was a truly crafty man. The sons schemed the father, and the father plotted against the sons. An imperial family indeed!
The next day.
Jing Rong woke up at dawn and was busied handling all the trifles that came with the aftermath of the Crown Prince’s burial, such as cleaning up the mess left behind by Jing Hua’s death. He had to reorganize all the annoying tasks at the East Palace, list all the Crown Prince’s possessions and settle all the debts left behind.
It was a mess sorting everything out. Although there wasn’t anything important amongst the inventory of the Crown Prince’s treasury, the number of objects was quite daunting. It was simply too troublesome, and it gave him a throbbing headache.
Fortunately, Jing Rong was highly efficient and could tie all the loose ends in a day.
When he returned to his estate, he had planned to change his clothes before going to Bamboo Creek Garden. He touched his waist, then paused and touched it again. His expression flipped.
At that moment in the General Mansion.
Ji Wanxin was sitting in a pavilion, draped in a blue cloak. Her head propped up by her cheek with her elbow resting on the stone table. Her other hand was fiddling with an ordinary bead. She turned the bead around between her slender fingers. As her gaze landed on the side of the bead, light refracted through, making the thing glint with a blue glow. Despite the ordinary material, the bead was shining brightly.
Isn’t that bead quite similar to what Ji Yunshu used to fasten her crown hat?
Ji Wanxin observed the bead with more scrutiny. The more she looked at it, the dimmer the gentleness within her eyes. She tilted her head and got up. The maidservant beside her helped her up, but Ji Wanxin unexpectedly pushed her away and snarled at her.
“No need! I’m not dead yet!”
“I’m fine.” Right after, she coughed several times.
The maidservant distanced herself slightly.
Ji Wanxin walked to the pond next to the pavilion. The orange-tint of the sunset glow reflected onto her white complexion. At that moment, it gave her a juvenile quietness. However, her tense jaw betrayed her agitated mind. A ruthless expression showed on her face, contrasting with her gracious appearance.
She pinched the bead with her fingers and stretched out her arm above the lotus pond. As long as she let it go, the bead would disappear into the pond.
She was ready to let it go, but suddenly, a pageboy ran to her.
“Second Miss, Prince… Prince Rong has come. He wants to see you,” the pageboy reported while searching for his breath.
Ji Wanxin retracted her hand subconsciously, tightly clenching the bead in her palm. She didn’t want to probe for the reason for his visit. Her face sank as she asked the pageboy, “Where is he?”
“At the entrance.”
He didn’t even come in!
Jin Wanxin turned away and ordered a maidservant to retrieve a fine brocade box. Then, she left. At first, she wanted to throw that bead into the pond where no one could reach it, but she changed her mind and put it in the brocade box instead.
When she reached the entrance, Jing Rong stood on the stone steps, back facing the entrance. The wind blew and his clothes fluttered. His posture was upright, exuding a manly and imposing aura of magnetism. He was low-key and didn’t alarm Ji Li and Ji Huan of his presence.
Ji Wanxin trotted quickly to him. Her eyes were lowered as she bent her knees into a curtsy. “Paying respect to his Highness.”
Jing Rong heard her. He turned and faced her with a cold expression. “Second Miss Ji, you may get up.”
She continued to look down, but her eyes sneaked a glance at Jing Rong.
“This Prince dropped something, do you have it?” Jing Rong said bluntly.
“Something?” She scowled then looked at Jing Rong. She continued, “Your Highness came only to ask me this?”
“Is this thing very important to you?” she probed.
Jing Rong didn’t hide the truth. “Yes, it is very important to me.” There was no hesitation in his words, only affirmation.
This is the love token my future wife gave me.
Ji Wanxin abruptly felt like her heart was being choked with lead. His words suffocated her. However, her acting skills were splendid. None of her internal turmoil could be seen on her face. With a slight smile, she withdrew a brocade box from her sleeve and handed it to him.
“Your Highness’ important thing is inside of this box.”
Jing Rong took the box and opened it. Inside, a translucent bead of common quality rested in the middle on top of a handkerchief. It was quite a contrast seeing so ordinary an object placed in an expensive brocade box, giving it an impression of incongruity.
“This bead must be the one your Highness dropped. What a coincidence. It happened to fall on my clothes. I have guessed your Highness might want it back, so I kept it in this box for you. If you didn’t return for it, I would have sent someone to deliver it to your estate,” she said.
Jing Rong collected the bead and thanked her, “Thank you very much, Second Miss Ji.”
“This is yours, so it is natural that I return it to you.” Her voice was low and gentle like a petal fluttering in the spring breeze as it transmitted to Jing Rong’s ears.
Unfortunately for her, Jing Rong’s head seemed to be made of cold stone. Her sweet, gentle voice had no effect on him.
“It’s cold outside, so you should go back. This Prince bids you farewell,” he bluntly declared.
Jing Rong strode away before she could react. She stepped forward with the intention to chase after him but stopped herself in the end as she witnessed him enter his horse carriage. The expression in her eyes dulled as she watched his carriage go further and further away. Her tears fell, but no one knew if it was the dry wind or her emotions. She bit her lips with sadness. As she was lost in her pain, a shadow loomed not far behind her.
Grenn's Rants Corner
Ji Wanxin is like Mr Hyde and Dr Jekyll.
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