The incident happened far too abruptly and left Ji Yunshu no time to prepare for it. The quarters that Luan’er and herself inhabited were usually so quiet that no one would have noticed even if they had died.
But today was an unusual day, since not only did Ji Lingzhi choose to show up, Ji Wanxin also happened to be here as well.
Ji Yunshi stared at Ji Lingzhi’s back as she ran away, knowing that serious trouble would soon ensue if she allowed her to tell everyone about what had happened.
Ji Wanxin, with a habitual frown on her face, approached her timidly. She was worried about Ji Lingzhi’s wounds, but also cared for Ji Yunshu, “Yunshu, there’s no need for you to worry about Lingzhi or to run after her, just leave it to me and focus on what you have to do.”
“Thank you, sister,” said Ji Yunshu.
“We’re family, aren’t we?” answered Ji Wanxin with a sincere look.
Ji Yunshu nodded and said, “The Ji Mansion may be big, but you are the only one who thinks of me as family.” Her voice revealed a mixture of feelings: bitterness, happiness and even fear.
Ji Wanxin gently tapped Ji Yunshu’s hand and said, “I know that you’ve gone through a lot here since you were born and it’s natural for you to be resentful. After all, not everyone could have endured what you endured. I’m actually quite envious of your resilience and strength.”
Ji Yunshu smiled but did not reply.
“I’ll leave you and go keep an eye on Lingzhi. What she says could cause a lot of trouble if she gets her way, I’ll try to keep her off your back for the moment!” said Ji Wanxin.
“Thanks,” Ji Yunshu nodded at her. Ji Wanxin walked away with delicate steps, and a few coughs were audible even after she had become a silhouette in the distance.
“What a shame, such a gentle soul, but plagued by disease,” thought Ji Yunshu.
At that moment, Luan’er bit her lips and said, “Miss, has the fourth miss gone to inform master and the old madame?”
Of course she has. Ji Yunshu inwardly replied, but this was the least of Ji Yunshu’s worries right now. She went back into her room, changed into her male outfit and quickly left for the yamen.
When she arrived, the two runners standing outside the yamen greeted her with a large smile. “Teacher Ji, what a pleasant surprise!” It was as if she was taking a casual walk into the yamen.
Ji Yunshu did not even raise her eyes to look at them. As she moved, her blue robe flew behind her, and her large sleeves fluttered back and forth to the rhythm of the cold winter wind. The light frown on her face conveyed seriousness without being said, and her visage as a whole was enigmatic without being devoid of charisma, epitomizing her beauty and elegance.
Bright you were in your sweetheart’s eyes.
Your beauty never eroding,
From each journey’s wear,
Or the passing skies...
These poetic lines would indeed be a perfect fit for her! The two runners looked at each other and thought, “How weird, Teacher Ji isn’t his usual self…”
To their surprise, Ji Yunshu walked past them, straight to the large drum at the entrance of the yamen , took the drumstick and struck the drum vigorously.
Bong! Bong! Bong! Bong! Bong! Bong! Bong!
The two runners were still numb with shock as the seventh and last strike of the drum echoed through the yamen.
Ji Yunshu put the drumstick back to where it was, looked at the two, and said seriously, “The drum has been struck, is no one going to advise Lord Liu?”
One runner finally gained enough composure to answer as he hesitantly moved back, “Yes, yes, yes,” and ran towards the inner part of the yamen.
Ji Yunshu followed him into the yamen. Magistrate Liu was seated under a small pavilion which was erected in the courtyard, sipping his tea slowly. Everything should have hinted at a relaxing atmosphere and the enjoyment of a good time, but instead, he looked nervous, with an ingratiating smile hanging on his lips and trembling hands which just did not seem to be settling down.
The source of this anxiety was none other than Jing Rong, who was seated in front of him.
Jing Rong had a rather comical posture as he tried to drink his tea with a sling around his neck, immobilising his injured arm. Jing Rong had arrived two hours ago under the pretext that he wanted to have tea with the magistrate and discuss a few things.
What is wrong with him? Why is he telling me tales of his adventures over the past year? An old monk who went back to secular life? A fight between a dog and a pig? A woman sentenced to live with pigs because of infidelity? Pfffft, I’ve seen much more than that! I’ve seen flowers blossom out of a rock and blood gush out of trees! The magistrate was almost at his wit’s end. Ultimately, he did not even dare miss a single word coming out of Jing Rong’s mouth.
He listened carefully, but his attention waned as drowsiness assaulted his mind time and time again.
“Milord…!” yelled a runner as he broke into the courtyard. “My savior!” thought the magistrate; he was looking forward to go preside over a case instead of being verbally tortured by Jing Rong.
The runner panted as he approached, and said, “Milord, Ji, Ji…”
“What chicken ?”
“Not a chicken,” answered the runner with a gesture. “It’s Teacher Ji, he  struck the drum!”
Seven strokes signified a case of utmost importance.
The magistrate stood up in shock and stared at the runner, “What? Teacher Ji is striking the drum? Why?”
“I wouldn’t know sir, he says that there’s something urgent that requires you to open the court.”
“Um…” the magistrate looked at Jing Rong and awaited his permission. Jing Rong’s striking eyes and brows contorted into a frown, and he clasped the cup he held tighter between his fingers.
“That guy is finally here... He left me to sleep in such a desolate place last night, and didn’t even bother to stay to explain things to me in person. Is he that eager to get away from me?” thought Jing Rong. He nodded and said, “Go, I’ll be behind you. Don’t tell him I’m here.”
“Of-of course, your Highness,” answered the magistrate promptly. Liu Qingping left for the main hall at a run while lifting the corners of his robe with his hands.
Ji Yunshu was already standing in the main hall as she waited for the magistrate to take his high seat.
Magistrate Liu sat down, and habitually reached for his gavel to strike the table and call for order. He paused as he was about to reach the gavel and remembered that it was Ji Yunshu who had struck the drum. "Phew, almost made a stupid mistake,” thought the magistrate.
He looked at Ji Yunshu and asked in a perplexed voice, “Yunshu? Why are you here? Did someone treat you badly?”
Ji Yunshu knelt down on the floor and answered, “Milord, your humble servant is here to decry an injustice which has just transpired.” Her act surprised everyone: there was no way she needed to kneel, given that she knew just about everyone working at the yamen.
In contrast to Ji Yunshu, the magistrate stood up and said hurriedly, “Yunshu, come on, stand up! The floor is cold.”
Ji Yunshu did not budge and said with a very serious voice, “Milord, your humble servant is here to decry an injustice.”
“What injustice?” asked the magistrate hesitantly.
“Your humble servant wants to accuse someone,” said Ji Yunshu.
“Who?” asked the magistrate.
“The person is called Ji Yunshu.”
“What?” What insane nonsense was she spouting?
The magistrate rubbed his ears with his fingers, as if he wanted to make sure that he did not hear anything wrong.
Jing Rong, who had been hiding in the corridor behind the hall, was also surprised. What was going on exactly? "But it should be interesting. Shame I didn’t bring a snack to the show," thought Jing Rong.
The magistrate pointed at Ji Yunshu with his trembling finger, and said, “Can you… repeat what you just said?”
Ji Yunshu looked at him and said, “I’m here to accuse the painter of the yamen, Ji Yunshu, who was reckless in his deductions, resulting in the wrongful imprisonment of two people.”
No one in the yamen knew what exactly was going on.
Was the case at the Zhou Mansion not closed, and the culprits already behind bars. With a confession, no less? The case report had also been filed and sent to the ministry. It only needed a formal approval.
“What’s going on?” thought the magistrate, a question that echoed throughout the minds of everyone in the yamen. Magistrate Liu swallowed and said, “Yunshu… can we stop playing around?”
“Who’s playing around?” answered Ji Yunshu.
Grenn's Rants Corner
Did you enjoy the Labor Day Bonenza? Bonus chapter coming up soon and I'll explain the answer for the BPC's trivia question. :)
 It is common practice for a drum to be made available at the entrance of a governmental building, especially those involving justice, for citizens to use if they ever wished to see the person in charge. Kind of like a really big, primitive doorbell.
 This is a wordplay on the fact that chicken in Chinese 鸡, is also pronounced Ji.
 Why a footnote for a “he”? This part is significant detail in the story and something that couldn’t be translated into English. From the start, the magistrate knows Yunshu is a woman and possibly some of the runners also knows about it. They used “she” when addressing Ji Yunshu, but in Chinese, “she” (ta) has the same exact pronunciation as “he” (ta). The only difference between them is the written character. So, if no one confirm which “ta” they used, everyone would assumed the other person’s gender. Thus, Jing Rong still think Ji Yunshu is a young man while everyone was using “she”.Previous Chapter Next Chapter