What? “Are you saying… that the Guanyin Seal was stolen by Du Sanniang of Lin An Inn?” Liu Zhiliang almost choked on his own saliva, “Do you have any proof then?”
“I have none. Du Sanniang confessed her crimes to me herself; she clearly knows that there is nothing I can’t find out in the whole of Anfu. Before the banquet commenced, Du Sanniang witnessed me covering the cat’s claws with Tea Poison and handing it to Butler Zhang. She wanted to blackmail me into ceasing my investigations into the Guanyin Seal’s whereabouts. In return, she wouldn’t report me to the authorities. But the Guanyin Seal is our Zhang Family’s precious heirloom - I couldn’t leave this matter as it was.” First Madam then looked towards Third Madam. “After I die, the Zhang Estate is in your hands.”
“Remember, you must find the Guanyin Seal - no matter what happens, it cannot fall into outsiders’ hands.”
Third Madam nodded, holding back her tears, “Big Sister, don’t worry - I’ll do as you say.”
First Madam finally let out a heartfelt smile, leaving willingly with the yamen runners to face her just desserts.
Third Madam and Zhang Yimo remained behind, pleading with Liu Zhiliang, “Lord Liu, our Zhang Estate’s Guanyin Seal must be found and returned to us.”
“Third Madam, don’t panic. This official will investigate this case; if Du Sanniang of Lin An Inn did indeed steal it, this official will do my best to retrieve it. This official will have my men bring Du Sanniang in for questioning. Third Madam, you can leave in peace - this official will inform you once I have any information.”
“Fine.” They nodded and prepared to leave. However -
Ji Yunshu called out from the corner where she stood observing, “Please hold on.”
Mother and son stopped in their tracks, looking at her quizzingly.
“Is there anything else that Teacher Ji has missed?” Liu Zhiliang asked.
“Since we’ve wrapped up the Zhang Estate murder case, then let’s examine the unsolved robberies in the last few years.” Ji Yunshu stated coldly, sternly.
It was precisely her calm that disturbed Liu Zhiliang. He gulped, stammering weakly, “Rob… Robberies? Is Teacher Ji referring to this robbery at the Zhang Estate?”
“Why is Lord Liu playing the fool?” Ji Yunshu chuckled. “Your weiqi moves were all precisely calculated to let Prince Rong win, in order to gain his favour - why would such a clever man suddenly become the court jester?” She raised her voice ever so slightly at the end. What was she trying to say?
Liu Zhiliang seemed to have some idea, but he hung his head and pretended to be in deep thought. Ji Yunshu did not have the patience for his antics and pulled out a case record book from her sleeve. “Does Lord Liu recognise this?”
Liu Zhiliang took a glance, but hurriedly averted his gaze. He nodded frantically, “I do, I recognise it. It’s a case record book of this yamen.”
“So you do recognise it. Then, how about Lord Liu hazard another guess - where did you think this one found this case record book?”
“Was it… the study?”
“That’s right - I found it in the study, but on the ground covered in dust. Really, Lord Liu, are you that cash-strapped that you couldn’t hire someone to clean the room? The study’s covered with dust and cobwebs; perhaps the yamen has not received any reports in so long a time that Lord Liu has not bothered entering the study at all these past few years?”
Liu Zhiliang immediately replied, “Teacher Ji’s correct. Nobody has made any reports to this yamen in a very long time; due to the peace in Anfu, this one hasn’t visited the study in quite a while.”
Ji Yunshu shot him an unreadable smile and began to flip the record book right under his nose, page by page. Liu Zhiliang hung on to her every movement; he tensed when her page-turning slowed and relaxed when she flipped quickly through. His emotions were entirely strung along by Ji Yunshu’s rhythm! He worked up a nervous sweat, and he had to wipe his brow with his sleeve from time to time.
Ji Yunshu continued, “All these years, Anfu has experienced many robberies, each one of them unsolved. What’s more coincidental is that every case was reported by a guest who had lodged at Lin An Inn. Why, then, have these numerous cases not been solved at all? Why haven’t the whereabouts of a single lost item been discovered after these guests left Lin An Inn? Yet, Lin An Inn still enjoys a roaring business. If this one remembers correctly, Lin An Inn is operated by that Du Sanniang, right? Strange, how strange indeed. His Highness and this one spent a night there as well on our way into Anfu. What’s odd is that someone lost their belongings that night as well. Luckily, we managed to recover them. Could that inn be cursed? Why are their guests always losing their belongings? First Madam just mentioned that it was Du Sanniang who stole the Zhang Estate’s Guanyin Seal - is there some sort of connection between all these cases?”
She narrowed her eyes as she continued to flip through her record book. Liu Zhiliang’s poor heart was about to give out from stress and his palms were practically dripping with cold sweat!
Jing Rong could not help but chuckle at Ji Yunshu’s act of seriously flipping through that record book. Not bad, little rascal, not bad at all. You’ve really grown, haven’t you, learning how to tease someone like this - Liu Zhiliang is already shaking all over! He finally finished munching on the last melon seed. He wiped his hands clean, stood up and dusted his robes, then strode over and gave a little tap on Liu Zhiliang’s shoulder. “Liu Zhiliang, how much did it cost you back then for you to earn this position?” He joked mockingly.
Liu Zhiliang was already in a frenzy from Ji Yunshu’s earlier ambiguous statements. With Jing Rong’s mocking, he became even more frantic, “Your Highness means…”
“Don’t get nervous now. The dividends from the investments made to get you where you are today must be collected, no?
Liu Zhiliang’s face fell, but Jing Rong had already begun his calculations, “Let’s see. Here, this Prince would do the math for you. Ten thousand silver taels were ‘donated’ to get you your official hat and robes. Lord Liu’s salary is only forty-five taels per month - based on that, it would be almost twenty years before you’d break even. That’s twenty years too long, but Lord Liu doesn’t look like a man who would participate in losing businesses. You’ve only governed Anfu for a few years, but I’m sure you’ve already earned more than your initial ten thousand silvers, right?”
“This official doesn’t understand what Your Highness is trying to say.”
“Liu Zhiliang, oh Liu Zhiliang. You wear your official robes, decorate your yamen simply, and serve the commonest of teas in your office - you look every part an honest official. But in reality, you are a golden-tailed peacock wearing a crow’s disguise! You’re actually extremely wealthy, aren’t you?” Jing Rong continued on in his light tone, even patting Liu Zhiliang’s bulging middle cheekily! Ji Yunshu burst out laughing, rolling up her record book for good.
Jing Rong and Ji Yunshu had been teasing Liu Zhiliang since last night, giving him ample opportunity to ‘fess up to his own misdoings, but this wily old fox insisted on maintaining his foolish act. Liu Zhiliang bowed deeply as his conscience was jolted awake, “Your Highness must be kidding. This official is neither golden-tailed peacock nor do I have much money.”
Jing Rong lost his cool, “Are you still trying to hide? Look at your petty face - are you afraid this Prince would want your silver?”
“Forget it. Old fox, if I don’t produce the evidence before your eyes, you wouldn’t remove your crow’s disguise.”Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Ha. Greasy bastard. Who expected this? Remember how Du Sanninang send someone to inform Liu about Jing Rong arriving?
Translated by: Tzegeek. Edited by: Choufleur