Chapter 5 - A person, a lantern and a sandalwood box

“A human corpse can lie, but bones never do.”

As she spoke, Ji Yunshu had already pried open the corpse's mouth. The surrounding charred skin cracked and fell to the ground, faintly echoing in the silence of the night.

“The hyoid bone [1] is obstructed. If we continue upward, you can clearly see that the coronoid process [2] is shattered. This would indicate that someone used an extremely heavy object to strike the victim's lower jaw.” She carefully titled the corpse's skull, gently pressing along the contours of his nape.

“There is a faint circular mark on the nape, likely left by the strikes from a similarly shaped weapon. It caused the tips of the bone to fracture, leading to copious blood loss. Although it’s impossible to determine the exact time of death due to the burnt skin and flesh, I can approximate from the bone tissue within the remaining teeth. From these three loosened teeth, the estimated time of death should be yesterday. However, that fire started four hours ago. It’s clear that these five people were brought to this abandoned house after their deaths. If nothing else, there is also no sign of struggle while they burned.”

Jing Rong was curious after listening to her logical explanations.

Ji Yunshu walked to the next corpse and examined it. She palpated the corpse’s hyoid bone. "In a normal human, the regions above and below the hyoid bone are always softer compared to the bone itself in the middle. However, the hyoid bone on this corpse is identical to that of the first one. Both of their hyoid bones are soft whereas the surrounding regions are hard. There is only one logical explanation - they died from poisoning, which would explain why they didn’t struggle at all while being burned.

“Poisoned?” Jing Rong lowered his eyes.

Ji Yunshu scrunched up her forehead as she continued her analysis, “The skeletons of these five bodies are amazing. They must have been trained in martial arts, which means it would have been quite difficult to kill them. Both sides must have fought hard, which resulted in their bones receiving such damage. However, their opponents must have been on the losing side and decided to resort to poison. Since they used poison, it was certainly one that needed to be ingested, leading to the abnormalities found within their throats. If you want to investigate further, it would be better to start from their food, perhaps… from where they had last stayed, like an inn.”

“Do you see anything else?”

Ji Yunshu shook her head. She got up slowly, taking off and throwing away her white gloves. Her hands rose to dust off her outfit.

“Are you a coroner?” Jing Rong asked.

That man asked as many questions as there were stars in the sky!

“This humble one is but just a painter. I merely have a bit of knowledge about bones, so I can only examine them. A coroner would open the torso and examine the organs, such as the heart, liver, spleen, lungs, kidneys and brain. Their work is completely different from mine. If Young Master would still like to investigate further, send these corpses to the coroner for a formal examination. If not, there’s no need to continue.”

She did not have the habit of forcing others. Besides, whether he investigated these murders or not, had nothing to do with her in the end.

Jing Rong scanned Ji Yunshu with his eyes. He did not expect there to be such a character hidden in this tiny Jinjiang city! This scholar had already said so much - it was inexcusable if he still insisted on cremating the corpses. Furthermore, he did indeed want to find out who had poisoned his subordinates.

Could it be… that this was related to the Capital? Unfortunately, it seems that his return to the Capital has to be delayed once more!

“Lang Po, instruct your men to deliver the corpses to the coroner for an autopsy. Notify me immediately once you have the results.”

“Understood.” The burly man called Lang Po immediately ordered some men to carry away the corpses.

Jing Rong turned to Ji Yunshu and looked at her, “How should I address this young master?”

Ji Yunshu was indifferent and reserved, but to be polite, she still wore a careful smile, “I am a simple painter not worthy of a name. It is already getting late. This humble one would like to return home to take care of my bedridden father. Farewell.”

Bedridden father? Her so-called 'bedridden father', Ji Shuhan, was standing there. The corner of his eye twitched when she mentioned her father.

At this moment, Ji Yunshu had already taken a lantern and sandwiched the sandalwood box under her arm. She walked to the county magistrate and whispered, “I was called to work twice today. In addition to six hours of work, I soiled two pairs of shoes and wasted two pairs of white gloves. Add at least ten taels more to next month’s salary.”

This kind of planning and calculation, truly meticulous!

The magistrate clutched his fingers behind him as he quickly calculated. The Zhou family had given them forty taels of silver as a bonus, the court allocated seventy taels, and the murder case of the East Suburbs could fetch twenty taels. His monthly salary was forty-five taels. Even including his salary and other miscellaneous expenses, there were still sixty taels left. 

Oh-oh, he had more than enough to spare! The magistrate was even more meticulous!

“I’ll add fifteen taels. The weather is getting cold; you should buy a flask.” Magistrate Liu was beaming as he waited on this indifferent ancestor of his.

Ji Yunshu’s expression remained cold. She did not take the effort to reply, simply striding deeper into the black of the night. Her lantern flickered in the darkness, revealing the only sign of her passage. 

A person, a lantern, and a sandalwood box - what a picturesque sight.

Jing Rong contemplated. Although that scholar had a slender frame, he appeared to be anything but weak. The old sayings were true - since time immemorial, talents hidden in any city were never as simple as they seemed.


[1] The hyoid bone can be visualized in this picture. The hyoid bone looks it's floating, but in fact, it is not held in place by another bone but rather by muscles and ligaments. Its function is to allow a wider range of tongue, pharyngeal and laryngeal movements. For more information click here.

[2] The coronoid process is the red part of the picture here.

Previous Chapter Next Chapter