Ji Yunshu finalised the closure of the yin-yang corpse case by submitting a written report.
Upon receiving it, Magistrate Liu picked up a small sack of silver and handed it over to Ji Yunshu. “Here, your salary for this month, as well the reward for your work on the Zhou Mansion case and this case. I’ll give you forty taels.”
Hmm, I didn’t know commissions were a thing in ancient times.
Ji Yunshu took the sack and removed fifteen taels from it, giving back what remained, “There’s no need, I don’t need a bonus payment for these two cases.”
Curious, what happened to the Yunshu I know? thought the Magistrate, he was quite used to the supplemental payments Ji Yunshu would always ask for if she had to travel for her investigations, although he was not going to complain about it.
Ji Yunshu exited the yamen with the taels of silver in her hands. Jing Rong accompanied her. She led the way and Jing Rong followed her, and both walked in silence. Jing Rong looked at her small frame from behind and felt the urge to jump forth and lock his arms around her, but his sanity stopped the impulses within him again and again.
Ji Yunshu was quite lost in her thoughts and did not pay much attention to where she was going. She ended up stepping on a small stone without noticing it, and quickly tipped towards the left. Jing Rong caught her in the nick of time by wrapping his long fingers around her thin arm.
Ji Yunshu’s spirit returned to reality only after she regained her balance. She instinctively tried to pull her arm out of Jing Rong’s grasp, but was not able to do so due to his tight hold.
“Thank you, Your Highness, will you please…” Ji Yunshu had no time to say 'release me'.
Jing Rong looked at her with a gaze fervid enough to melt ice that has never seen the sunlight and gently called her name, “Yunshu.”
What? Ji Yunshu thought she heard wrongly. Did he just call me Yunshu?
Jing Rong noticed her surprise and bafflement, but did not react to it. He continued, “If I insisted on you coming back to the Capital with me, or even ordered you to do so, would you be willing to come with me?”
Of course not. Ji Yunshu should have been able to refuse him cleanly, just like she did yesterday. However, her reluctance, her refusal melted away when she saw his deeply affectionate glance. It became something less, a reluctance which should not have existed to begin with.
“There’s no need for an immediate answer; I will stay at Jinjiang until you are ready to give me an answer. Just know that however slim the chances of success might be, I will not give up without a fight.”
Ji Yunshu looked away and bit her lips. After a long moment of silence, she asked, “The Lin Capital case, does it have to be me?”
“Yes,” answered Jing Rong, which left little room for doubt. Ji Yunshu did not reply to his affirmation.
Jing Rong tightened his grip on her wrists as he narrated, “There should’ve been seventy-three corpses in the remains of the Imperial duke’s mansion after the great fire. However, one went missing. That massacre marked the end of seventy-two lives. Now, only you can solve the mystery. I left the Capital half a year ago, searching for the people whose names were on the list of the residents according to the Ministry of Revenue. I still haven’t found the one who’s missing. If I can, it will be a long-awaited clue for this fourteen-year-old case.”
Jing Rong offered a quite detailed description and, Ji Yunshu, who had read the files on the Lin Capital Case, understood what he said quite well. She pushed away her wrists and said, “I understand your intentions, Your Highness. I will consider the proposal carefully.”
“Just promise me that you will think about it thoroughly.”
“Yes, I promise.”
Ji Yunshu finally felt the fetters on her wrists being removed. She rubbed the skin near her wrists, which were red, sighed, and raised her head to look at Jing Rong.
“I will think about it, Your Highness, but may I ask you to not be such a brute?” said Ji Yunshu seriously.
“I would think that I am being incredibly serious.”
“Do you see the skin around my wrists? Is that seriousness?” said Ji Yunshu, as she flashed a look of condemnation at him.
Jing Rong seemed nervous. “Let me have a look,” as he said so, he reached out once again towards Ji Yunshu.
She was fast enough to dodge him and hid her wrists in her sleeves, behind her back. “This humble one is tired. I will not stay to chat with Your Highness. Please allow me some time to rest,” said Ji Yunshu as she left as quickly as a gust of wind: it was a dangerous place to be.
Jing Rong did not try to catch up to her. He smiled and called out, “Lang Po.”
A shadow appeared out of nowhere and stood subserviently right next to Jing Rong. Lang Po greeted Jing Rong with a hand gesture and said, “Yes, Your Highness?”
Jing Rong merely nodded in the direction Ji Yunshu left and said, “Follow her, make sure that she gets to the Wei Mansion safely.”
Jing Rong was well aware of Ji Yunshu’s departure from the Ji Mansion, as well that the Wei Mansion was her temporary home. He also knew about Ji Yunshu’s engagement to Wei Yi. The fact that he did not mention it meant that he was not angry, or rather, jealous about it. Lang Po answered, “Yes, Your Highness.”
“Wait,” added Jing Rong, “Be careful, and don’t get too close.”
Lang Po was unimpressed by the obviousness of the request, but he did not dare to comment on his master’s decision. He acquiesced and disappeared into an unseen corner once again.
The next moment, Jing Rong took out the azure crystal orb that Ji Yunshu dropped last night. It was an ornament which should have been found on the hairpin of a lady, but Ji Yunshu removed it and put it on the crown made for a man instead. A warm smile climbed up Jing Rong’s cold lips and he called out gently, “Yunshu.”
Ji Yunshu made her way into the backyard of the Wei Mansion and knocked at the door. The person who answered her was Luan’er, who still had traces of undried tears on her cheeks: she must have waited at the door the entire night.
“Miss, why did you not come back for the entire night? I was so worried about you that I almost went out to search for you.” Luan’er’s complaint was broken by sobs, and, by the time she finished, Ji Yunshu was already inside.
“I’m back home now. Now, now, stop crying.”
“But I’m worried about you.”
Ji Yunshu glanced at her and smiled. She walked towards the inner courtyard and asked, “Oh yes, has anything noteworthy happened?”
Luan’er shook her head, “Lord Ji and Old Madame have yet to send anyone here, and Lord Wei and Madame Wei are out of the Mansion right now. But Young Master Wei…”
“What about him?” asked Ji Yunshu, who halted her steps at the entrance to the courtyard.
Luan’er pointed inside and said, “Young Master Wei stayed awake the entire night waiting for you. He even went out once to look for you. He’s still sitting inside waiting for you right now.”
Ji Yunshu did not respond, but she walked through the courtyard and went through the door. She found Wei Yi on a chair with both of his hands resting on the table. He had a worried expression as he twisted and played around with the tablecloth using his fingers.
Wei Yi turned his head upon hearing the door open and saw Ji Yunshu standing at the door. He rushed towards her with tears in his eyes and said, “Big Brother, Shu’er is gone! Does this mean that she doesn’t want me anymore? I’ve waited for her for a long time, but she’s not coming back… Tell me, Big Brother, is Shu’er angry at me? Can you help me bring her back?”
Wei Yi’s question was choked out between outbursts of nervousness. He clasped one of Ji Yunshu’s arms and shook it energetically.
Luan’er, who, just a moment ago, still had tears in her eyes, laughed when she saw the scene unfold.
However, Ji Yunshu did not find it funny at all; a wet mist climbed into her eyes: she was deeply moved. She thought that her wait for Ji Pei would be a one-sided act of devotion: it was inconceivable that someone would do the same for her. The next second, Ji Yunshu reached for her crown with her hand, seized it, and pulled it towards. A waterfall of hair, dark as ink, dropped from her head onto her shoulders.
“Big Brother?” Wei Yi took a step back in shock.
“Wei Yi, I’m Big Brother, but also Shu’er.”
“I….” Wei Yu was seized with a panicked look. He walked around and uttered, “That’s not possible, that’s not possible… Big Brother is Big Brother, and Shu’er is Shu’er. Wait, that’s not it. Big Brother is Shu’er, but then who is he? Who’s Shu’er?”
Ji Yunshu felt sick as she tried to follow Wei Yi’s come-and-go. She gave up on trying to understand the world of a crazy man and pulled him to a halt, “Stop walking. Wei Yi, I am Shu’er. I disguised myself. Do you understand that?”
Wei Yi shook his head, “Disguised?”
“It’s what I did just now. I wore men’s clothes and had my hair arranged like a man. But I’m actually a girl.”
“Oh,” answered Wei Yi, who seemed to have understood something. His eyes suddenly lit up and he said, “So you are Shu’er?”
Upon hearing the affirmation, Wei Yi suddenly jumped on Ji Yunshu and wrapped his arms around her. He hugged her tightly and seemed very excited. Ji Yunshu was having a little difficulty breathing, but thankfully Luan’er removed Wei Yi away from her rather quickly.
Luan’er, who was quite protective of Ji Yunshu, said, “Young Master Wei, you will choke my Young Miss to death.”
“She won’t die, Shu’er won’t die,” said Wei Yi with a broad smile and a hand gesture.
Ji Yunshu smiled and said, “Wei Yi, I need some rest. You should go rest too, okay?”
“But I want to talk with you.”
“But I’m tired.”
“Oh,” said Wei Yi as he puckered his lips in disappointment. He then added, “Okay then, I’ll wait for you to rest, and then I’ll come to talk to you, okay?”
Ji Yunshu nodded.
Wei Yi smiled at her and left, quite happy with the end result. He had waited for Ji Yunshu for an entire night and needed to get some sleep as well.
Ji Yunshu also felt the tiredness catch up to her: despite the fire they lit, the night she spent at the temple was full of winds and was rather unkind for her health. Sheer determination sustained her through the case, but now that everything was over, she also lost the reason to stay awake.
Ji Yunshu changed her clothes and sank into a deep slumber as soon as she laid down on her bed.
Ji Yunshu was woken up in the middle of the night by a gust of cold wind that sent shivers down her spine. She turned around in her bed and opened her eyes. She suddenly noticed the presence of a man sitting right next to her.
Ji Yunshu raised her eyes and saw a bloody face: it was as if the flesh on the man’s face been sliced a thousand times. The facial features were but a horrific mess, and half of the chalky skull bone was visible. Some string of flesh hung over it: it was a gruesome spectacle. A pair of eyeballs, protruding from their sockets into the untidy hair, stared at Ji Yunshu.
“AHHH!!”Ji Yunshu jumped from her bed. Beads of sweat rolled down her forehead as she backed away to a corner. She clung desperately to her blanket.
“Who are you?” asked Ji Yunshu.
The man did not answer. He sat still by the side of the bed.
Suddenly, his left eye popped from its socket and rolled onto the ground. The next instant, the man’s clothes sudden disintegrated, as if it was shredded by invisible knives. Blood gushed out of his wounds and tainted his clothes red. The colour quickly spread into the bedsheets.
“Help me… Help me…” The man raised his hand and extended it towards Ji Yunshu.
Grenn's Rants Corner
Jing Rong: Yunshu~
Ji Yunshu: *stares* ....
Suddenly, the door opens.
Wei Yi: Shu'er!! *glomps*
JR: *dying from overdose of vinegar*