Chapter 355 - The Corpse Which Lacks A Head
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An entire human skeleton in there?
Zhao Huai immediately shot her down in disbelief, “Impossible, there’s no such thing in the urn!”
“We can know for sure once we open it,” Ji Yunshu answered.
Zhao Huai hesitated.
It was quite some time before he commanded, “Open the urn.”
The urn was brought to the hall in no time; it was two meters tall and rectangular, built entirely out of wooden planks, tightly sealed from all four sides. There was a thin pipe sticking out on one side which was used to extract the wine.
On Zhao Huai’s word, several men climbed onto the small ladders built into the sides of the urn, carefully cracking away at its lid to reveal its contents. The aromatic fragrance of wine began to permeate the room as more and more of the urn was exposed; some of the bandits licked their lips, others swallowed their own saliva as their mouths watered. This wine had been brewing for five years altogether, initially by the First Master and Second Master as a form of respect to their late father.
The Zhao Family had begun as a wine-brewing business; the entire Gaoshan Village was, in fact, a complete wine production factory. When the old master was still alive, his wine had been tasted by the previous Emperor who had fallen for it after just a single sip. Unfortunately, the old master had passed away ten years ago from old age, leaving his estate and legacy to his two sons, but who could have expected that the esteemed Gaoshan Village would have become a bandit’s nest just a month after the old master’s passing. The Gaoshan Village name was feared in Shanhuai County since, the Gang’s First and Second Masters gaining notoriety for their prowess and ruthlessness - what had led to this outcome? How did the once flourishing Gaoshan Village end up in such rambles?
Nobody knew the true reason why, nor did Zhao Huai or Zhao Qing ever explain.
The urn’s lid was finally removed, the wine it held so clear one could see right through to its bottom. “Ahh!” One of the men screamed, almost losing his footing on the ladder rung.
At the very bottom of the urn sat segment after segment of bone, each one clearly separated from the other, littering and covering the entire base. There were even several fragments floating towards the top of the urn.
“Boss, this… inside… there’s a skeleton.”
Ugh! Everyone present retched. Some even climbed onto the tables and strained to have a better look, only to end up covering their mouths as they tried to stop themselves from gagging.
Zhao Huai dragged one of his subordinates off the urn, climbing up to witness it for himself. True to what he had heard, a skeleton sat inside the urn. He could see femurs, ribs, pelvic bones...
Zhao Huai was confused, “Why doesn’t this skeleton have a skull?”
No skull? Was this a headless corpse? The room erupted in chatter.
Zhao Huai jumped off the urn, looking angrily at the room, “Who did this?!”
“It wasn’t me… not me…” His men stepped back in fear, away from him, his urn and his fury. One brave man piped up, “Boss, this is… suspicious. When we sealed the urn, there was nothing else inside. This urn had not even been touched once in the last five years.”
Ji Yunshu intercepted, “This urn was crafted from galangal wood and sealed airtight across all faces. To prevent rainwater from seeping in, the lid was created specifically matching this urn from the outer corners inwards. The entire structure is as sturdy as a house, but it has its own pros and cons; when the lid was first placed onto the urn, it would have been completely airtight, but if it was removed and replaced, the interior surface would no longer adhere to the body of the urn, leaving a gap. When the alcohol fermented within the urn, the gas would have moved towards the top of the urn, encouraging the growth of green algae along the exposed seam.”
Hmm? Zhao Huai paused, but was quick to react. He went over Ji Yunshu’s words, eyeing the seam she spoke of at the bottom edges of the lid, discovering a thin layer of green algae exactly where she said it would be.
Ji Yunshu closed her eyes as she caught her breath. The wounds on her back did not hurt as much as before and she looked much better. She spoke to Wei Yi, “Help me over there.”
“Mm,” Wei Yi nodded, gently holding her across the hall towards the urn.
She stretched out her delicate bloodstained fingers to pick up the scaphoid and capitate bones from the bowl of wine, fingering them as she concluded, “These remains have been dead for a year.”
“Someone must have beheaded this corpse’s head, opened the urn, and dumped the body inside.”
“How can you be so sure?” Zhao Huai asked distrustfully.
Ji Yunshu replied confidently, “Very few people know how to open such a lid, especially since every lid is created according to each urn’s size. Hence, the person who removed it was most likely the murderer, and this murderer might have even been the one who crafted this lid, or had a part in sealing it.”
“How do you know such things?” It was Zhao Qing who spoke this time.
How did she know? She had to know!
When she was still a fresh university graduate, she had the opportunity to be part of a project - the ‘Zhongning Hill Thousand-Year Tomb Excavation’. All of the coffins in the ancient tomb were made of urns. She spent an entire year researching how to open those urns; she was always on site at the dig or in the library unlocking the mystery. Her hard work was eventually rewarded as she managed to open all of the urns in the tomb after a year, even making the local news for her achievements! She did not accept any interviews then, only hiding behind a lens; she was even crowned the ‘mysterious genius girl’ for her antics.
Ji Yunshu did not tell them this, of course, only saying, “This one is only more well-read, chancing upon manuals illustrating how these urns were made.”
Zhao Qing glanced at her from top to toe, adding warily, “Who, no, what, exactly are you?”
“Just a mere scholar.”
“You know medicine and know bones, now even the structure of such urns, and you call yourself a mere scholar?”
“Didn’t this one just say? I’m just more well-read than others, it’s only natural I will know more than others.” She turned away from Zhao Qing to face Zhao Huai, raising her eyebrows as she tried to strike a deal, “First Master, I can tell that this wine urn must be very important to you - you must want to find out who threw a corpse into it, am I right? What’s more, you’ll want to know who this is as well, correct?”
“Stop beating around the bush.”
Ji Yunshu replied much more determinedly, “If I could help you weed out the culprit who threw this headless corpse inside, as well as identify the body, you will release Wei Yi and I, never to come after us again.” She was firm!
“Release you? Let you go?” Zhao Huai scoffed coldly, “You’ve killed so many of my brothers - did you think this would cut it? How could I believe a weak scholar like you who only knows the world through books?” He ridiculed her, obviously unwilling to accept her conditions.
Zhao Qing intervened out of nowhere, “If you agree, I’ll give you the Jade Extraction Bottle that Father left to me.”
Zhao Huai was startled! The Jade Extraction Bottle!
The old master left only two mementos when he died ten years ago; one of them was the Twin Tiger Dagger, and the other, the Jade Extraction Bottle.
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