TL/N WARNING: Despite the title, you REALLY don't want to be eating while you read this... at least the JYS part.
Why on earth were these remains black? Everyone present was stupefied by this.
Ji Yunshu nonchalantly tossed out the answer as she looked at the messy pile of bones, “Poison!”
There were only two reasons why a person’s bones would turn black after death; they were either poisoned, or had consumed large amounts of analgesics just prior to passing away. However, Ye’er was a healthy young lady who had never had the need for painkillers. Moreover, if she really did so, her bones would not be so homogeneously darkened - hence, it was obvious she had been poisoned.
Aunty Xie immediately collapsed by her daughter’s coffin, wailing out hysterically, “No, that can’t be true. My daughter would never commit suicide. Teacher Ji, please, I beg you - please find my daughter’s murderer!”
“Please get up first, Aunty Xie.” Ji Yunshu helped her to her feet, consoling her, “Ye’er indeed died by poison, but the truth remains hidden. You need to look after yourself until we figure out what happened.” Ji Yunshu had someone accompany the sobbing Aunty Xie to her quarters, reassuring her that she would be alerted once news was available.
Zuo Yao took his chance to satisfy his curiosity, “Teacher Ji, did the deceased really die from poison?”
“Then, doesn’t this mean that she committed suicide?”
“If so, then there’s nothing left for us to investigate, no?”
Ji Yunshu replied with a stoic expression, “Magistrate Zuo, can you please use your common sense? Even if Ye’er did die of poison, it doesn’t necessarily mean that she took her own life.”
“Sure, sure, sure.”
“I need to piece the remains together for our investigation. Magistrate Zuo, please keep your distance, lest you soil your robes.’
“I’m not bothered.” Zuo Yao put on a smile, but he slid slowly away from the coffin.
Ji Yunshu couldn’t care less; she ordered for some men to carry over a long table, as she started piecing the skeleton back together. As the cemetery was situated at the bottom of a valley, it was perfectly placed for collecting the excess rainwater flowing down from the forests. Over the last three years, the wood of the coffin had already swelled with water to the point of bursting. Naturally, the remains within were not spared either. The corpse had been reduced to a disordered pile of sticky mush. Some of the bones were covered in fine dirt, and others with a fine sheen of moisture...
They almost reminded Ji Yunshu of a sumptuous plate of sweet and sour ribs!  This coffin truly demonstrated what a difference good (and shoddy) coffin wood made!
At Yufu Relay Station.
Jing Rong sat regally in the centre of the room, exuding an overwhelming presence. He was stern, and unmoving, with his lips pressed into a thin line. The air around him felt as cold as the cup of stale tea beside him. Behind him, Lang Po had on a similar chilly mask, though it was one that could never surpass the real deal. Several trembling officials lined up in front of Jing Rong, their hands stiffly held behind their backs, as they looked down fearfully. The entire hall was practically sub-zero!
It was a long time before Jing Rong scanned the room with his eagle-sharp eyes, before asking an official, “Official Lin, you should know that This Prince has been sent to investigate the missing relief funds?”
“This official is aware,” He treaded carefully.
“According to these scrolls, the chests holding the relief funds were never opened. Moreover, according to the accompanying officials, these chests never once left their sight until they were shipped to Yufu Relay Station.”
“That’s right. The relief funds would always be sent straight to Yufu Relay Station from the Capital, before they are then transferred to the yamen, without once opening the chests. It was only after they reached the yamen that we discovered that instead of the relief funds… there were rocks inside those chests…” His voice trailed off. What could he to do if Prince Rong were to blame him for this disaster!
Jing Rong was not impressed, “Official Lin, This Prince is not here to find a scapegoat, but for you to go over this case conscientiously. If you were not involved, then you have no need to fear.”
“Understood, Your Highness.”
“Good. Let This Prince ask you again - who was in contact with the relief funds after they were brought to the station?”
“Apart from those working for the ministry, nobody else touched the funds.”
“Then how long did it take for it to reach the yamen?”
“It took one day.”
“Then where were the relief funds held in the meantime?”
“They were stored in a secure warehouse.”
“Did anyone enter?”
“After the relief funds were moved inside, the gates were locked. Nobody can enter during this period.” Official Lin was clear!
Jing Rong frowned. He dusted his robes and stood up, commanding, “Bring This Prince to said warehouse.”
Official Lin bowed with utmost deference, “Understood.” He promptly led the way.
The warehouse was located in the tightly guarded northern quarter of the relay station. It had a tightly sealed, cube-like structure, much like a modern-day safe, sitting amongst other warehouses for goods. Outside each warehouse stood two guards keeping watch!
“Open the door,” Jing Rong spoke. Official Lin waved, and his subordinates very quickly opened the doors as instructed.
As they entered, they were met with steel walls all around them - there were no windows or crevices, and not even the slightest ray of light could leak in after the doors were closed. Even a fly could not gnaw its way into this place; if it did, it would probably die of asphyxiation! Not even the most infamous thieves would be able to pull off their heist if the funds were held in a place like this. Official Lin explained, “This is a warehouse specially built to house the relief funds; nobody can enter, and there are guards always stationed outside. The keys are kept by myself, only used annually for this sole purpose.”
Jing Rong questioned, “At that time, who handled the transfer of the relief funds, Official Lin?”
“The officials from the Capital were responsible for escorting the funds here. Subsequently, my men were the ones who moved the silvers inside.”
“Were there any mishaps in between?” Jing Rong shot a cold glance at him.
Official Lin stiffened; he knew what Jing Rong was suspicious of, so he scrambled, “Your Highness, this official has always been meticulous. My men would never make these kinds of mistakes - moreover, this official was supervising the entire operation. There could never have been any room for any hanky panky!” Official Lin was dead certain! Did His Highness really want to pin this on him? No way!
Jing Rong circled the room, tapping on the walls as he paced back and forth. They felt solid and well built. He pondered for a moment, before addressing Official Lin, “If there were no accidents when the funds were being transferred into this room, then something must have happened when they were being transferred to the yamen.”
“But… but everything went smoothly.” Official Lin was practically trying to convince himself, he swore that he didn’t see anything suspicious during the entire journey!