“Yunshu, no one came forth to claim those five corpses. Tomorrow, I’m going to need a few more portraits of them from you. I’ll have my men post a few notices and have other people join in the search.”
Ji Yunshu wiped her hands with a handkerchief and tidied up her sandalwood box before coldly stating, “I cannot work tomorrow. Find yourself another painter to copy those portraits.”
The county magistrate concurred, “That's fine. It’s getting late. Do you want me to have someone escort you home?”
“There’s no need. I’m used to walking on the road at night alone.”
“It’s not safe to travel at night.”
“It's my choice to make.”
The county magistrate never learnt; Ji Yunshu’s temperament was naturally cold, even moreso towards outsiders. Since he continued to butt heads against her again and again, wasn’t he just asking to be rebuffed?
Suddenly, someone’s voice loudly reverberated from beyond the crowd, “Get out of the way! Step aside!”
The crowd was forcibly pushed apart by twenty-odd men, as they lined up to create a spacious path. Each carried a long sword at their waist, their clothes made of brocade, and their expressions were solemn and grave as they looked sharply ahead.
A man walked through the newly cleared path just moments later. He was dressed in a blue satin robes embroidered with lilac-coloured orchids. His golden boots were ornate and embellished with jade. His appearance was far from common, his sharp eyebrows framing star-like eyes. He had an upright nose bridge coupled with thin and tightly closed lips. In the darkness, the light of the lantern illuminated his intelligent and brilliant face, simultaneously highlighting his stoic countenance. He appeared calm and collected, but a viciously cold aura emanated from him with every step forward.
Next to him stood a tall and sturdy man, and a middle-aged man with upright eyebrows.
Ji Yunshu recognized the middle-aged man at a single glance. He was none other than her father, Ji Shuhan. Wasn’t he supposed to be receiving the noble guests from the capital? Could that man dressed in blue be the noble guest in question?
If Ji Yunshu could recognise her father, Ji Shuhan naturally recognised Ji Yunshu. He noticed her attired in men’s clothes, and then the pile of corpses nearby. Immediately, fury welled up inside his heart, but his expression remained unchanged.
The county magistrate observed his surroundings puzzledly before scratching his head. He asked, “Lord Ji, what brings you here?”
“Lord Liu, these five corpses are this young master’s subordinates. Withdraw your men. This matter has nothing to do with you anymore.”
Ji Shuhan had never put the county magistrate in his eyes, and he spoke extremely contemptuously and arrogantly.
The magistrate was at loss for words, but since the corpses were now claimed, he did want to wade in muddy waters. Hence he waved his hand, gesturing for all the yamen runners to withdraw to the sides.
“Young master, do you wish to carry these corpses to the memorial hall?” Ji Shuhan’s manner abruptly switched to a fawning expression as he carefully questioned.
The man remained silent, his only answer a frown. A cold light burned within his eyes as he looked at the five corpses, “Didn’t these five depart for the Capital yesterday?”
“They really did leave for the Capital yesterday. I also don’t know how they could be here. Young master, this situation is a bit odd,” stated the sturdily-built man.
The entire situation was evidently strange: an abandoned house had been set on fire, and without any rhyme or reason, five swordsmen were found burned alive within. Furthermore, they were supposed to have left for the Capital and shouldn’t have even passed through the East suburbs - the Capital was in an entirely different direction. Then, how did it come to this?
At this moment, Ji Yunshu had already tidied everything up. She was prepared to leave since her father was here and she felt uncomfortable in his presence. However, she had hardly taken a few steps when she heard the man command, “Burn them and bring back their ashes to the Capital to be buried.”
“This subordinate shall comply.”
Ji Yunshu got anxious. She halted her steps, giving the man an odd look, “Since you find this situation to be bizarre, why not ask for the coroner to examine them? All evidence will turn into ashes if the corpses are cremated.”
The man turned to face her when he heard her voice. What entered his sight was a person in plain but refined clothes, with a conspicuously thin build. 'His' small frame and delicate appearance coupled with fair skin and a lack of manly bearing gave that person a feminine and delicate feeling.
“Young master’s subordinates are already in such a wretched state. How could we let the coroner open their chest and pull out their guts?”
“However, these people were murdered. Young master, don’t you want to find out the truth?”
“Murdered? Do you happen to know something?” The man slightly narrowed his eyes.
Ji Yunshu did not speak. She glanced at her father, who simply looked at her with eyes filled with disgust and anger. She no longer paid attention to him and put on another pair of white gloves. She walked to one of the corpses and squatted down before yanking his lower jaw down.