At Ji Yunshu’s words, Liu Qian immediately ordered one of his men, “Quickly head to Qing An Temple; We need to capture the culprit and close this case!”
“Understood!” His yamen runners began to move but were abruptly interrupted by Ji Yunshu.
She called out, “Actually, there’s an even simpler method.”
What simpler way could there be in the pursuit of a criminal? The yamen runner stood rooted to the spot, looking up at his superior. Liu Qian waved him and his partner away from his bench, asking, “What is this ‘simpler method’?”
Ji Yunshu kept quiet, instead, turning towards Old Chu with furrowed brows, who by now had shrunk to a corner of the room. She spoke, albeit mysteriously, “Master Chu should know better, even an amateur coroner would not have missed the above points I have just described, much less a veteran like yourself, Master Chu. There’s no reason why you would miss such glaringly obvious signs, no? How could you make mistakes even the greenest coroner would not?”
“I... “ Old Chu swallowed uneasily as if he knew his end was coming.
“You don’t have to be this tense, Master Chu. The old sayings were right; just as birds would die for food, men would die in their pursuit of wealth - who can say that they’ve never once lusted after something they didn’t have?” She was prodding and pushing, an unreadable smile on her face.
Old Chu shifted uneasily, averting his gaze from Ji Yunshu’s eyes, voice trembling as he answered, “I… I don’t understand what you’re saying.”
Ji Yunshu slowly circled around him, her gaze landing on a piece of jade peeking out slightly from his waistband. “As a coroner working for the imperial court, I can’t imagine you’ll be drawing an extremely high salary. Your shoes are so old they’ve almost disintegrated, and you’ve obviously mended your clothes in a few spots; you didn’t suddenly become wealthy but that piece of jade is definitely new and expensive. For a coroner who can’t even bear to buy himself a pair of new shoes, it’s strange for him to have such a fine piece of jade like this.”
Old Chu began to panic, covering his waistband, and that piece of jade, away from her sight, but it was precisely that movement that was even more suspicious! He even had the cheek to rebut, “Can’t I buy myself some jade?”
“Of course you can, but you didn’t buy this piece - someone else gave it to you.”
“I...I bought this myself.”
Ji Yunshu’s expression turned stern, her tone as eerily calm as it was before, “Did you not listen to what I was saying earlier? Someone like you who’s been in this profession for over ten years would never make such stupid mistakes. Together with that piece of jade on your waistband, all prove one thing - you purposely messed with your report, pushing the blame onto the innocent Fu Bo. All of this arose from the fact that someone gave you a piece of priceless jade in exchange for your help in hiding the fact that he had committed such a dirty act!” Ugh!
“I.. I’ve never done anything like that!” Old Chu shook his head fervently, his eyes as wide as plates.
“Master Chu, are you really still going to cover for the culprit at this juncture? A trip down to Qing An Temple would tell us who we are looking for; why not speak the truth? You might escape with your life.”
That’s right! He should become a whistleblower! Nobody could know how Old Chu felt; he must have carefully weighed up his options as he stared emptily at his feet, before falling dramatically to the ground onto his knees. He whipped out that piece of jade from his waistband as he held back his tears. “Lord Liu, this one was indeed too greedy. I accepted this piece of jade and agreed to cover up someone else’s crime, only to wrong Fu Bo. This one is well aware of what he did wrong, please have mercy, Lord Liu!”
Liu Qian was livid. “Speak - who is it?”
“It’s Old Master Xie Yuan from the City South Jade Store. He knew that this one would be performing the autopsy for the deceased and came to me that very night, offering this piece of jade in exchange. I… I was bamboozled by this piece of jade and lost myself in the moment and agreed to his request. This one has too many mouths to feed - I’m the sole breadwinner! Please, Lord Liu, spare this one!” Old Chu wailed and pled for mercy.
The official record keeper seemed to recall something at Old Chu’s words, “Lord Liu, that Xie Yuan does indeed have a missing right finger.”
Liu Qian slammed down his gavel in rage. “Men, bring in this Xie Yuan!”
“Yes!” The yamen runners scurried off with purpose.
“Well, well, Old Chu. This official invited you to assist the yamen in solving our cases as a respected professional, but instead of helping me, you dare partake in such deeds behind my back? Men, take him away and give him fifty paddles. Remove him from his position and then lock him away - we will decide on his sentence later.”
Old Chu was screaming his head off as he was dragged away, and this case was finally closed! Half the crowd was busy praising this Teacher Ji, whilst the other half rejoiced for the end of this absurd case!
However, owing to his background, Liu Qian was a stickler for rules; since this murder mystery had come to its end, Ji Yunshu’s illegal trespassing must now be addressed, “Teacher Ji, can you now answer this official’s question?”
Ji Yunshu had no reason to lie, “This one knows that it’s against the rules to break into the yamen at night, much less perform an autopsy, but, that was the only way for this one to solve this case.”
“This is the yamen! This official cannot ignore the fact that you, Teacher Ji, have trespassed illegally. You must receive the appropriate punishment.”
Ji Yunshu laughed, as another voice emerged from the crowd, “Then, should I be interrogated as well?” Jing Rong stepped into the court, exuding a natural, cold charisma.
Liu Qian knew who he was. After the war between the Great Lin and Qujiang five years ago, he had seen Jing Rong but once in court, when he sought an audience with the Emperor alongside his chief. Jing Rong did not speak much then, in fact, he said nothing at all, leaving all the chattering to the then Crown Prince and Prince Yi. Liu Qian was stunned at his arrival, but he quickly regained his composure; he had heard of the Emperor’s orders for Prince Rong to investigate the missing relief silver at Yufu, but he had expected Prince Rong to already be there, not just at Jinjiang.
Liu Qian hurried off his bench, but not in the mousy manner Liu Qingping carried himself. He carried himself like the soldier he used to be as he eyed the watchful crowd. “Could I trouble this young master to head to the backyard?”
Jing Rong gave a curt nod.
In the backyard.
Jing Rong sat in the middle with Ji Yunshu at his side. Liu Qian stood in wait, a pot of tea already served up at their table.
They remained silent for a while, this stalemate was broken only by Tang Si’s mumbling from outside, “Why doesn’t this yamen have a training space? There’s one at the Anfu yamen!” If you peeked outside then, you would see Tang Si grumbling at a clueless yamen runner like a potty-mouthed middle-aged auntie.
Lang Po pulled her back, half in embarrassment, “Miss Tang, His Highness is having a discussion inside. You’d best keep your voice down, or I’ll send you away now.”
“All I did was ask if they had a training space - why are you so mad?”
“When was I mad?”
“Just then!” Lang Po was at a loss for words.
Inside, Ji Yunshu let out a soft chuckle.Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Haha Tang Si does her job of comic relief again! A bit of respite from the frustrating ease and blandness of the last few cases.
Translator: Tzegeek, Editor: Dray