The smile on Jing Rong's face grew broader as he gently pushed the cup of tea toward Ji Yunshu. “Have some tea and call it a day.”
“I’ll skip the tea. I'll get water retention if I drink before I sleep."
“Water retention?” Are you some corpse floating in the water?
Ji Yunshu could not bother to explain it to Jing Rong as it would require a lengthy lecture and involve a vast amount of specialised knowledge. It was already late at night and she was too tired to engage in such conversation.
When she was about to head for her room, Jing Rong noticed the pebbles in her hand.
"Why are you holding the stones in your hand? You should be taking a big rock if you need a self-defence tool. These small stones are not going to hurt your opponent." Jing Rong was puzzled.
Can you not make such a sarcastic remark?
She shrugged as she replied, “Both big rocks and small stones have their advantages; they are just different in terms of purposes.”"
"What are you going to do with the pebbles?"
"You'll find out tomorrow." Ji Yunshu left the room.
When she entered her room, two maids came in at her heels, bringing along a bucket of water.
"Teacher Ji, this humble one has brought you a bucket of water for you to wash up. Please rest early."
Out of courtesy, Ji Yunshu responded with a smile as she stared at the two maids with delicate features. All of a sudden, she asked in a gentle tone, "What are your names?"
Ji Yunshu had been born with a beautiful face. Even now, dressed in a male outfit, she looked extraordinarily charming and handsome. The two maids gazed into her alluring eyes as they listened to her gentle and warm words. Immediately, they got butterflies in their stomachs as their cheeks turned red.
One of the girls pulled her sleeve anxiously as she answered, "This humble one is named Qiao'er while my friend is Zhuang'er."
"How old are you?"
"We are both fourteen years old."
"How long have you been here?"
"We’ve been here for three years."
Looking at the obedient and meek girls, Ji Yunshu was rather pleased.
Occupied by the cases involving Aunty Xie's daughter and the disaster relief funds, Ji Yunshu reckoned that she would stay in this place for some time. As a stranger in an unfamiliar land, it would be useful to have two ladies who were familiar with Yufu around. At the very least, she could turn to them when she had any queries. Therefore, she happily took in the two maids who were sent over by Zuo Yao.
"Miss Qiao'er and Miss Zhuang'er, I'm not your master. Therefore, you don't have to refer to yourselves as humble ones before me."
"We do not dare to comply."
"It doesn't matter if you dare to do so or not. I am not used to being treated like this, so you can just refer to yourselves by your names. I feel awkward if you continue to address yourselves as the humble ones."
The two maids exchanged looks before they nodded.
"Alright, you go get some rest too. I do not need any assistance for now."
"If Teacher needs assistance, please call for us at any time."
"Sure," Ji Yunshu replied as she nodded in acknowledgment.
After they left Ji Yunshu's room, the two maids giggled secretly.
She watched the two girls as they disappeared into the distance before she summoned Shi Zijin. Immediately, Shi Zijin's silhouette formed as she stepped out of the darkness.
"Teacher, what are your orders?"
Ji Yunshu explained with a sombre expression, "Ask around and find out the places where the Qiao family’s Young Master usually visits, and who he always mingles with. All in all, keep a watchful eye on him and report everything to me."
"Yes." Shi Zijin was never one who questioned orders, always carrying them out obediently.
After she left, Ji Yunshu closed the door. She then found a beautifully sewn money pouch to keep the pebbles. She briefly weighed the pouch in her hand. For someone who did not know, it felt as if there were a few silver ingots inside.
The next day, Zuo Yao prepared a table full of delicious food. There was an extensive variety of food, ranging from chickens, to ducks, to fish. There was no doubt he spared a fair amount of money. Jing Rong’s expression darkened subtly.
Thinking that he had certainly got into Jing Rong’s good graces this time, Zuo Yao secretly praised himself as he added proudly, "These dishes are personally cooked by the masterchef of the Yellow Crane Tower. This humble official understands that the food of the common people definitely doesn't suit the Prince's palate, and thus prepared these special dishes to welcome Your Highness’s arrival."
Praise me now! It's even better if you can reward me with some pocket change.
However, Zuo Yao was wrong.
Jing Rong furrowed his brows as he glared at him. "There are many disaster victims in Yufu County. They hardly get to eat and many of them starved to death. Yet, Lord Zuo prepared such a feast here. Are you trying to take years off this prince’s life?" 
"Lord Zuo, this prince is not here for a vacation or to enjoy your local delicacies. If you can spare this table of dishes with the impoverished people, you might be able to save one or two lives."
"Your Highness has misunderstood me."
"You don't have to try to please me. Don’t think that this prince cannot see through your petty thoughts."
Zuo Yao was trembling out of fear. The prince, who was rather amiable yesterday, had turned into such a ruthless man. It was merely a meal - there was certainly no need for the prince to be so harsh.
Even Ji Yunshu also thought that Jing Rong didn’t have to go so far.
She put on a grin before she said, "Lord Zuo is such a considerate host. You've prepared so much food for us early in the morning. Thank you for the thought. This humble one is hungry and can't wait to try the dishes cooked by the chef of Yellow Crane Tower. I reckon that it must be very delicious!" As she spoke, she took a seat before the table, grabbed her chopsticks and began to feast on the food.
"Hmm. It's tasty!" Ji Yunshu complimented. Then, she proceeded to invite Tang Si to the table. "Miss Tang, aren't you hungry? Hurry up and take a seat. Don't let Lord Zuo's effort go in vain."
Disregarding everyone else, Tang Si immediately took a seat as she patted her flat tummy. "Yes, I'm indeed a little hungry." She then began to devour the food as though it was a free Haidilao buffet.
Jing Rong watched from the side, puzzled. What is this woman trying to do?
Ji Yunshu rose to her feet before she dragged Jing Rong to sit down beside her. "Your Highness has a picky tongue. I believe that these dishes must suit your palate very well."
Jing Rong furrowed his brows before he leaned forward and asked in a muffled tone, "What are you doing?"
Ji Yunshu then placed a drumstick in his bowl, causing Jing Rong to frown.
At this moment, Mo Ruo arrived. Seeing the ongoing feast, he quickly joined the table by taking a seat too, and savoured all the dishes.
Zuo Yao had discovered Mo Ruo's love for alcohol yesterday, and so had ordered his subordinates to prepare a jar of superior wine and deliver it to Mo Ruo.
Mo Ruo opened the lid and took an appreciative sniff of the wine. "Hmm. Magistrate Zuo, this wine of yours seems pretty good."
"It's my pleasure as long as Young Master Mo likes the wine."
"Of course I like it!" He then began to drink directly from the bottle.
Jing Rong had lost his appetite and did not seem to enjoy the meal at all.
After they finished the meal, Zuo Yao brought all the scrolls that were related to the missing relief funds and handed them to Jing Rong.
"Prince, all the information has been recorded on these scrolls. Please take a look."
There were several thick books.
With a serious face, Jing Rong began to flip through the documents.
Next, Zuo Yao brought over the documents for the case involving Aunt Xie's daughter and passed them to Ji Yunshu. "Teacher, the details of the case have also been recorded here."
Ji Yunshu gently pushed the documents away. "I won't look at it for now."
"Are you not going to read it?"
"Just leave it here."
"But…" Zuo Yao was confused.
Ji Yunshu added, "There's no rush. Besides, I heard that although Yufu is not that big, it has some beautiful scenery to offer. This humble one intends to tour the county first before I start the investigation of the case. What does Your Magistrate think?"
She had a warm smile on her face, but there seemed to be a glint of something sharp hidden behind that smile.