“Fragrant Southern Bamboo? What’s that?”
Mo Ruo explained, “It’s the type of wild bamboo that grows behind the derelict temple of the Zhang Village. It stopped growing after being cut down when the Buddha statue was constructed, but after a heavy rainstorm several decades ago that may have replenished the soil, the Fragrant Southern Bamboo started growing again.”
The Capital Magistrate slapped the desk in realization. “No wonder the strange phenomena in the Zhang Village disappeared after the Buddha statue was constructed! This was the reason!”
Isn’t that so? Following that, everyone started toasting each other again, exchanging pleasantries.
Vice-Chancellor Yu suddenly spoke, “Now that the Case of the Dried Well has been solved, His Majesty will assign merit and rewards in court the next morning.” He turned towards Ji Yunshu, “Teacher Ji’s contribution cannot be understated; your work was indispensable and surely would receive commendations.”
“Lord Yu jests.”
“Does Teacher know that the post of Disciplinary Officer for the Ministry of Justice was previously dissolved by His Majesty?”
“His Majesty has always valued talents. The commendation that would be given to Teacher tomorrow may even be the post of the Disciplinary Officer.” Vice-Chancellor Yu said resolutely. “Throughout Great Lin, the only person with the ability to receive the responsibility of the Disciplinary Officer of the Ministry of Justice, would be Teacher Ji.”
Ji Yunshu was troubled by that statement, but her expression remained respectful and pleasant. “This one doesn’t dare.” She really doesn’t! Back then, she didn’t accept this olive branch that Old General Li once threw towards her. Now that it is again proposed by Vice-Chancellor Yu, there was a different feeling to it that induced chaos in her heart. Would His Majesty really bestow the post of Disciplinary Officer to her?
There was a small, low table placed within the raised pavilion at the end of the corridor in the back courtyard. The table had some pastries, a pot of tea, and two cups placed on it, as well as two cushion seats flanking it.
Jing Rong and Qin Shiyu were seated there with crossed legs. The two seemed to have just finished talking about the Case of the Dried Well.
“I wonder what Your Highness intends to do next?” Qin Shiyu asked.
Jing Rong didn’t answer immediately and merely lifted his teacup to his nose. How refreshing! He took a sip before answering. “Currently, he has made a major misstep and messed up his plans. Tomorrow, if Imperial Father has any policy decisions or confers merit, he will surely be enraged. Moreover, his Side Consort has also suffered a miscarriage. All these setbacks will make him be on his guard.”
“Your Highness’s meaning is..?”
“Back then he could incite the Crown Prince to rebel; today, this prince can also force him to rebel as well.”
“However, Prince Yi’s influence cannot be underestimated. Those in charge of all the major entrances and exits both within and around the palace have practically all been replaced by his people. If Prince Yi really becomes impatient, it would be as easy as catching a turtle within a pot.” Qin Shiyu was worried.
Jing Rong seemed to already have made preparations, and merely smirked.
Lu Jiang approached with a thick booklet and presented it to him. Jing Rong flipped through a few pages in the booklet and nodded with satisfaction. He then pushed it towards Qin Shiyu. “Lord Qin, after you look through this, I expect that you will no longer worry about being the turtle in the pot.”
What the heck is this? Qin Shiyu focused on the booklet and started reading through it. It was filled with dense records of military armaments: their types, prices, materials, transport locations… It was extremely detailed.
This… “Someone has been privately creating weapons?” He was astounded.
Jing Rong nodded and explained. “Every single line recorded in this booklet are the crimes of the Yulin Army’s Commander Lord Su.”
“That’s right. Think about it, Lord Qin. Prince Yi was able to smoothly change those on guard within and around the palace to his people; we can infer that this Commander Su has long become one of his. Coordinating from the inside and outside, they practically have complete control of all the entrances and exits of the palace. How could this prince not pluck such an important chess piece to put onto my own chessboard?
“Thus, I had previously ordered someone to investigate Commander Su and found such a pleasant surprise. Commander Su had all along been making weapon transactions with black market traders and must have made a killing from it. If this were reported to the Emperor, he would no doubt face death. However… this prince needs him as a chesspiece.”
Qin Shiyu was delighted. “Now that Your Highness has a hold over him, he would naturally be obedient to Your Highness.”
Of course! “Jing Yi has already lost the support of the Ji Family brothers. Now that I have stolen this chesspiece of Commander Su, he will no longer be able to stay passive.”
“I see that Your Highness had long made plans.”
“In the end, Jing Yi and the Crown Prince are both the same type of person; once they become anxious, they could do anything.” His thin lips curved upwards in a faint smile. However, his face maintained a warm countenance, without a trace of savagery to be seen.
Opposite him, Qin Shiyu poured a fresh cup of hot tea. “A toast to Your Highness.”
The two continued chatting for a while more. Seeing that it was getting late, Jing Rong bade someone send Qin Shiyu home. After all, he was getting on in years and couldn’t travel easily; it wouldn’t be good if he fell.
When Jing Rong returned to the main banquet hall, he saw that it was still boisterous with conversation, so he sat down to drink a few more cups.
Ji Yunshu felt a little tired and retired early to her room. Just as she finished washing up and was about to sleep, someone knocked on her door. “Teacher Ji, are you already resting?” Lang Po inquired from outside.
Ji Yunshu opened the door to a wave of alcohol fumes.
Lang Po was supporting a drunk Jing Rong, smiling awkwardly. “Teacher Ji, His Highness insisted on looking for you. I can’t do anything. Could you take care of him?” As soon as he finished speaking, he hoisted Jing Rong over to her and left hurriedly.
Before Ji Yunshu had time to react, a heavy body rested against her shoulder, nearly causing her to sprain her waist. Jing Rong hung his head, butting against her skinny shoulder and hugged her tightly. He turned his head slightly to nose against the crook of her tender neck. It all seemed intentional. A warm, moist breath buffered her neck, making her shiver faintly. “Jing Rong?” she called out gently.
“Let me hug you for a moment.”
She stood there obediently, letting him hug her tightly. After some time, Jing Rong’s ungainly form suddenly leaned backwards, forcing Ji Yunshu to hug him close.
He laughed. “I’m not drunk.”
“Go lie down on the bed for a while.” She helped him over to rest on the bed. “I’ll pour you some water.” Just as she was about to move away, he captured her wrist and pulled forcefully, but with care.
Her body surged forward with that pull of her wrist, falling neatly into Jing Rong’s embrace to trap her securely against his chest. At the same time, Jing Rong tugged on the neatly folded blanket to cover the both of them.
“Stop playing around. I’ll have the kitchens make some sobering soup for you.”
“This prince isn’t drunk.” He refused to let go of her.
Ji Yunshu’s struggles were naturally futile and she could only give up.
Jing Rong closed his eyes and rested his chin lightly on the head of the woman in his arms, a hint of an alluring smile on his lips. Wrapped in his embrace, Ji Yunshu’s nose was suffused with a thick scent of wine. She gradually got used to it and no longer found it stifling.
“Your body is so cold.” Jing Rong commented.
She didn’t reply. Instead, he hugged her even more tightly. The warmth of the man’s scorching chest slowly seeped into her chilled body, thoroughly warming it up.