Chapter 376 - Case Closed (Prelude)
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He honestly knew nothing about it!
This was not his doing. His plan was to only bring in the twenty trunks of taels sprinkled with sulphur powder. When Ji Yunshu and Wei Yi left this place safely, he would use the sulphur powder to leave Gaoshan Village without causing a fuss or sacrificing a single soldier.
Nobody had expected this to happen. All his plans were ruined. This was exactly as Murphy’s law predicted: Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.
Zhao Huai was enraged when he heard the news. He heaved at the table before him, sending it wheeling through the air before landing with a heavy thud. Bang! It broke into half. He then drew his machete from the tiger-skin shield and glared at Jing Rong. “Bastard, I promised to exchange their lives with taels, yet you dared to kill my people. Fine, I want all of your lives today. None of you can leave here alive.”
In unison, the bandits held up their machetes and aimed at Jing Rong and Ji Yunshu’s group. Shi Ziran smirked and stepped forward to blocked them. “All of you are useless idiots. Since our prince is already here with the gold, naturally he will not kill any of your people at the foot of the mountain.”
“Enough with your excuses. Who else could it be if you weren’t the one? I’ll kill all of you today!” Zhao Huai charged towards Jing Rong with the machete in hand.
Shi Ziran instantly pulled out his sword and blocked Zhao Huai. Sparks from the swords flew across the air. All the other bandits stepped forward and joined the fight too. Zhao Huai then attacked Jing Rong once again.
Jing Rong pulled Ji Yunshu aside and exhorted Shi Zijin, “Take care of her.”
Shi Ziran pulled Wei Yi to his side to protect him too. A brawl broke out between the two factions. It was mayhem on the campsite.
Jing Rong had already been injured; with the exertion, his wound reopened, his tendons were strained and an intense pain radiated in his chest. His sword strokes lost vigor and he was forced to retreat several steps till he had his back against a column. Assessing the situation, Zhao Huai was quick to press his advantage and prepared to strike the final blow. To settle Jing Rong once and for all. Amongst the blood and chaos, Ji Yunshu saw what was happening.
“No!” She shouted as she threw herself in front of Jing Rong, using her own body to shield him.
Jing Rong wanted to push her away but the injury on his chest stopped him from lifting his arm and Ji Yunshu seemed unexpectedly stronger than usual. As the machete was about to fall on them...
Zhao Huai’s machete was suddenly deflected.
The strength was so great that the machete fell onto the ground. Clang!
It was Zhao Qing who appeared to stop Zhao Huai. At this, the surrounding bandits all paused their actions to gather behind Zhao Huai. The two opposing factions regrouped, regarding each other contentiously.
Jing Rong pushed Ji Yunshu away with all his strength. He put a hand to his chest, back hunched and his lips pale with pain. He glared at Ji Yunshu. “Do you know what you’re doing? You want to die?”
Ji Yunshu did not care about anything else. “If you die, I don’t want to live either.” Her eyes welled up with tears as she bit on her lips and she tore Jing Rong’s clothes apart to expose his chest. It was dyed ta glistening crimson red. His arrow wound had ripped open.
“When did you get this wound?”
“How could it be fine when it looks like this?” Without further delay, Ji Yunshu tore a piece of fabric from his clothes and used it to compress his wound.
Shi Ziran and Shi Zijin flanked Jing Rong, ready to defend their master.
At this moment, Zhao Qing blocked the few of them and confronted Zhao Huai. “If you kill any more people here, you will be past the point of no return. Everyone here will have to be buried together with you.”
Zhao Huai was not pleased about being blocked. He picked up his machete from the floor. “Get lost!”
“Brother.” Zhao Qing suddenly called out. This was the first time in a year he had acknowledged their blood tie.
Even though Zhao Huai was moved, it was not enough to quench his anger. “Go away! Are still defending them after they had killed so many of us?”
“I can’t bear to see you continue making mistakes.”
“Don’t force me. Go away.”
Zhao Qing refused to give in and stubbornly stood his ground. Zhao Huai’s nostrils flared with anger as he questioned him. “Why do you have to help these people?”
With such direct questioning, Zhao Qing knew he could no longer hide his motivation. After some contemplation, he came clean. “I want Teacher Ji alive.”
Huh? “What do you mean?”
“I want to know how Jiu’er died. Only he can find out the truth for me.” Zhao Qing trembled and he turned breathless. He was choked up with the lump in his throat, “I sent people to unearth Jiu’er’s grave, and… it was empty.”
“That body discarded inside the urn without a head. It might be Jiu’er’s.” Zhao Qing said these words weakly, as he did not want to believe this either. If the skeleton really belonged to Jiu’er, it would devastate him. He remembered vividly how he had personally buried Jiu’er.
His words caused commotion amongst the crowd. Zhao Huai twitched. Obviously he was not surprised by the statement. However, he appeared to be trying hard to hide his anxiety. It was as if someone was digging up his secret bit by bit.
Zhao Qing said, “Brother, I don’t believe that you would kill Jiu’er. But no matter how hard I have tried to ask you about what happened that night, you would not reveal anything. Which is why I could only entrust Teacher Ji. He promised me that he will find out the truth if he could leave this place. But who would have imagined that the skeleton from the urn would be destroyed? Neither did I expect to find Jiu’er’s grave empty. What if the crushed skeleton really belonged to Jiu’er? Who would be so cruel and merciless to decapitate her and dispose her remains in the urn, to not even leave her skeleton in one piece?”
Zhao Huai’s lips were trembling and his palms turned sweaty. The atmosphere was filled with complete silence. This was when Ji Yunshu spoke. “I’ll tell you the truth that you want to know.”
Every gaze in the room landed on Ji Yunshu. Zhao Qing and Zhao Huai looked at her appalled.
Ji Yunshu supported Jing Rong as they sat down aside. She let him compress his wound on his chest with the piece of cloth. She then walked towards Zhao Qing, looking solemn, “Zhao Qing, the truth might be very brutal to you. This was why Zhao Huai never wanted to reveal it to you. One year ago, on the night of their wedding… What actually happened.”
Zhao Huai chimed in before Ji Yunshu spoke, “Shut up! Stop all the nonsense, you know nothing about what happened.”
Ji Yunshu’s gaze turned from gentle and determined to complete coldness. She sighed. “Do you plan to keep this from him forever? You’d rather bear the charges of murdering Jiu’er for him? Or even worse, destroy the skeleton?”
ChouFleur Rants Corner
This arc is finally coming to an end! But not without another cliffhanger.
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