Chapter 408 - You're the Dong Xian to My Emperor Han Ai
Original and most updated translations are from volare. Please don't read elsewhere and stop supporting theft.
Chang Yiyan’s testimony dramatically altered the direction the case was heading in; everyone involved in the investigation thus far fell deep in thought at her words - if what she had witnessed were true, then weren’t all their leads thus far rendered useless?
With Chang Yiyan’s and Li Mingzhou’s statements, Fang Mingsan could only order his release, as well as Miss Yuyin’s. Ji Yunshu made the trip personally to deliver the news, but Yu’in instead questioned, “Why am I being released so suddenly?”
Did you want to remain here? Ji Yunshu replied, “It’s not out of the blue. Your bosom buddy, Li Mingzhou, helped vouch for your innocence.”
“Mingzhou?” She was startled, her hands covering her bracelet instinctively.
Her actions were not lost on Ji Yunshu. “You don’t have to hide it; we already know everything, otherwise, we wouldn’t let you go.”
Yu’in’s chest tightened. “How did you find Mingzhou?”
Mingzhou, Mingzhou - every sentence she spouted from the moment they spoke began with his name. Fortunately, Ji Yunshu had plenty of patience to spare. “He went to excavate Chang Shiliang’s grave in the middle of the night and was arrested. He was brought back here to the yamen for questioning, and told us everything.”
“He dug up his coffin?”
Ji Yunshu nodded. “He said it was because he wanted to retrieve that jade ring of his from Chang Shiliang’s hands.”
Realisation dawned upon Yu’in’s face, before she lowered her head, seemingly baffled about something as she spoke no further. Ji Yunshu carefully observed her every expression, etching all of them into her memory. By the time the two of them left the prison, the morning sun was already peeking through the clouds.
Once Yu’in left, Ji Yunshu returned to the yamen. She took a short nap in her room before looking for Mo Ruo. Mo Ruo was relaxing and having his wine in the yard. As soon as he saw her, he asked, “Wasn’t Teacher Ji busy with interrogations through the night? Don’t you need to rest?” What a superwoman! I take my hat off to you!
Of course she was there for a reason. “Have you discovered what that stain on those clothes is?”
“You can’t identify it?”
“That’s not it,” he replied.
Ji Yunshu was frustrated. “Then what is it? It’s already the third day today, if I still have nothing, then…”
“Why are you so impatient? Don’t you have two more days?”
It’s not your life at stake - of course you’re not worried! Ji Yunshu dabbed at the sweat on her brow haplessly.
Mo Ruo languidly pulled out a sheet of paper from his sleeve as he handed it to her, “There’s a medicinal herb mixed into that stain. You’re lucky I know what that herb is - it’s the Eclipta prostata, or false daisy, and it has many medicinal properties. It’s good for clotting blood, reducing inflammation and heatiness, and…”
“Get to the point.”
Mo Ruo shrugged his shoulders as he took another gulp of wine, “You were the one who told me to get straight to the point, that’s what I did.”
Hey, hey, hey, can’t you set that attitude right, brother? It’ll be difficult to continue playing this game if you act this way. Ji Yunshu waved her hand, “Fine, take your time.”
Mo Ruo closed his eyes as he recounted, “The false daisy is one of the commonest herbs that practically anyone can buy; those who can’t afford it can just harvest some from the mountains - it’s everywhere, but they usually grow on cliffsides, so it’s still a challenge to harvest it.” His voice faded away as his wine jar began to slip away from his fingers. His body began to sway as he continued, “But, that stain on Old Master Chang’s clothes was made by ink, a kind of ink that contains the extract of false daisy.”
“What does this all mean?”
“The false daisy is not just a medicinal herb, but can also be used to stabilize ink. Those who have some experience with calligraphy will add this to their ink; if you were to get your ink from a well-known calligraphy store, false daisy would already have been mixed in.”
Ink stains? Ink that was mixed with false daisy?
Mo Ruo stretched lazily. “That’s the extent of my knowledge. Figure the rest out yourself.” He entered his room for his nap.
Ji Yunshu pondered for some time, before looking for Jing Rong. She hoped that, after hearing her report, he would secretly send some men to the Chang Estate and Li Mingzhou’s Estate to search for such an ink. However, Jing Rong was still resting in bed; he had been up in the hills arresting Li Mingzhou, then interrogating him - he was exhausted! Jing Rong turned over, saying, “This Prince’s subordinates are not made of steel. They’ve hurried the entire journey here, then spent the last two days working on this case - they’re tired as well. When they’ve rested sufficiently, they’ll go.”
“This is an urgent matter!”
“But this Prince needs to sleep.” He drawled, turning, this time, to face her directly, “Why not ask Fang Mingsan? Can’t you have him bring his men to the Chang Estate?”
Ji Yunshu wore her worry on her face. She spoke by his bedside, “I’m worried that stain is the key to solving this case. If Lord Fang were to do so, the murderer would surely destroy the evidence if he catches even the slightest wind of Lord Fang’s movements. This was why I never once mentioned that ink stain on those clothes to Lord Fang.”
“Then how are you so sure that ink stain would be connected to the murderer?”
“Did you forget? Miss Chang told us that day at the mourning hall - Old Master Chang hated filth. If that ink stain was already there when Old Master Chang was still alive, he would definitely wash it out. There are two possibilities: one, he has such ink in his estate and his clothes were dirtied accidentally when he was knocked unconscious by the murderer, but if the Chang Family doesn’t use such ink, then the second possibility is left - the murderer left that stain whilst he was going in for the kill.”
Jing Rong did not hide his laughter, “Would there be anyone who would carry ink around at all times?”
“There are all sorts of strange people in this world! If there were such a person, he or she would be considered strange indeed. This would help narrow our search, making our investigation much easier.”
Fine! Jing Rong was curious, “Then why investigate Li Mingzhou as well?”
Why so many questions! Ji Yunshu took a deep breath in, before continuing patiently, “Although Li Mingzhou’s statement was completely logical and was supported by Chang Yiyan’s account, he may have been absolved of the crime, but he must not have told us everything. In fact, he might not even have mentioned it at all. Thus, even if he really was not the murderer, he might know something useful. As for Yu’in’s ghost act in retaliation of her mistreatment, it feels too forced a story. It’s as if this entire case were submerged in deep waters; I can see every detail clearly, but it feels like a fog is obscuring it at the same time. Strange!” It was the first time she had ever come across such an unusual case!
Jing Rong’s gaze darkened at her conclusion, but he turned over again, “This Prince understands what you’re trying to say, but no matter how urgent, people need time to breathe. I’ll send someone in two hours.” True, you would need to breathe even if you wanted to hang yourself!
Ji Yunshu did not want to make things more difficult than they already were. As she left, Jing Rong grabbed onto her arm. He pulled her towards himself under the covers, holding her tightly in his arms. She was shocked momentarily, only reacting once she felt herself up against his firm chest. She pushed him away. “What are you doing? There’re people outside.”
“What are you afraid of? They’re our people.”
“You… Let go of me first.”
“No way.” He clutched her even tighter, whispering right next to her ear, his lips touching the flesh of her earlobes, “Are you that impatient? Can’t you even try to persuade this Prince? If you had asked just one more time, this Prince would have sent men to investigate immediately. You little troublemaker, where has your usual mule-headed persistence gone?”
You’re the mule-headed one! She crossed her arms in front of her chest. “Didn’t you say that they needed rest? I was just taking what you said into account.”
“When did you become this obedient?”
“Stop messing around. Let me go first. If other people were to see this, they’d say we’re… having a cut-sleeve affair.” [1. 断袖之癖, literally cut-sleeve, was a term used to refer to homosexual affairs of the past, because of the two historical figures (see below for more). Legend has it that the Emperor Han Ai had to attend morning court one day, but Dong Xian was still lying on his sleeve, so the Emperor had his eunuch cut his sleeve off so he wouldn’t wake his (male) lover. More here (in Mandarin, unfortunately): https://zh.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E8%91%A3%E8%B4%A4]
Jing Rong’s mesmerising eyes widened, “Emperor Han Ai had his beloved Dong Xian, this Jing Rong has Yunshu. If this anecdote were to spread, it’ll be known as a fairy tale to all.”
Ugh! The corners of Ji Yunshu’s mouth twitched! Please, you’re not Emperor Han Ai, and I’m not Dong Xian, okay? [2. To cut a long story short, Emperor Han Ai, the thirteenth Emperor of the Han Dynasty, was so fond of his male lover Dong Xian, that he gave him ultimate wealth and ultimate power. The two of them were always together, whether in court or in bed, but were not great rulers. When Emperor Han Ai passed away, Dong Xian committed suicide shortly after. More here (in Mandarin, unfortunately again): https://zh.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E8%91%A3%E8%B4%A4]
Just then, a shadow dropped to the ground just before the doors in their room, the silvers in the figure’s hand rolling to the ground with a clang. Large eyes peered at those two lying in bed, shimmering with tears.
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