The county magistrate was still resting since he was busy last night at the eastern suburbs village. He had barely closed his eyes for less than two hours when a yamen runner knocked on his door, “Milord, someone is beating the drum.”
The county magistrate rolled over, but otherwise didn’t move.
“Milord, someone is beating the drum.”
The county magistrate crawled out of his bed, extremely reluctant. He put on his official uniform and boots, dragged his feet to the hall with his eyes still closed, and hit the desk with the gavel, "Who is beating the drum?”
Two men, both dressed in magnificent changpao, entered the hall, standing one behind the other. The one in front had brows that exuded a noble and heroic spirit, while the one behind had sword-like brows highlighting his valour. Jing Rong was looking around, but he did not see the young scholar from yesterday.
The magistrate waited for a long time, but no one came in to report the names of the visitors. He rubbed his eyes sleepily with his thumbs before opening them. When he finally opened his eyes, he finally, clearly saw the person in front of him.
Wasn't this the young master who came with Ji Shuhan to the East Suburbs yesterday? “Who are you? Why did you beat the drum?” The county magistrate still asked, as per protocol.
“Sir, my young master came today to find that painter. I will have to trouble you to call that person here.” Lang Po clearly stated his purpose.
“To find Yunshu?” Magistrate Liu softly muttered under his breath. He immediately started to scheme. Outwardly, he nonchalantly raised his eyes and said, “Teacher Ji has a day off today. Please come back another day.”
“Where is he?” Jing Rong asked.
“How should I know where he is? If there’s nothing important, then you should hurry and leave. The yamen’s drum is not something that can be hit so casually.” The county magistrate was lacking sleep, thus he was somewhat curt with his guests.
Jing Rong remained expressionless; he simply glanced at Lang Po. One glance was enough for Lang Po to understand what Jing Rong wanted.
He took out a token from his waist and showed it to the county magistrate, “Liu Qingping, open your eyes wide and look.”
What! He actually dared to address the county magistrate directly by his full name!
The magistrate was greatly angered. Emotion overtook him as he leaped to his feet, his gavel held high. But right as he was about to slam it down, he caught sight of the word engraved on the command token. The wooden block in his hand slipped free, clanging loudly on the floor. At once, he lifted up the robe of his official uniform and ran to the main hall below. His legs were shaking as he kneelt down with a plop and respectfully welcomed the two men.
“Pr-prince Rong, this lowly official was blind. I didn’t know who you were and… tried to drive you away. It was negligence on my part. I hope Prince Rong can forgive me.”
Jing Rong watched Liu Qingping’s expression quickly change with amusement, “One who doesn’t know can’t be faulted. This prince also doesn’t want to greatly startle people. There’s no need to use such grand etiquette to greet me. You can get up.”
“T-t-thank you, Pr-prince Rong.” The country magistrate was sweating profusely in fear. His legs trembled to the point he could barely stand, and his body remained slightly bent at all times.
The corner of Lang Po’s mouth pursed as he replied in Jing Rong’s stead, “What did you say before? Today, we came to find the painter from yesterday. Summon him at once.”
“What but? He’s just an insignificant little painter. Is he trying to put on airs?”
The county magistrate hurriedly waved his hands, “N-n-no! This lowly official will send someone to find him.” He turned towards a yamen runner and ordered, “Hurry, go find Teacher Ji.”
“Yes sir.” The yamen runner took off like a startled rabbit.
The county magistrate definitely feared offending this great deity in front of him; thus, he bent his body, and with a smile plastered on his face, he invited Jing Rong and Lang Po to rest inside the rear court. Then, he poured them a cup of the best tea he had and stood to the side. He was still trembling in fear and was furiously wiping his sweat with his sleeve.
When did such a high profile person come to Jinjiang city?
Jing Rong sampled the tea. Jinjiang city was renowned for producing a variety of tea. The fragrance of the tea assailed his nose with a sweet aroma. Its quality proved its well-deserved reputation.
Jing Rong asked, “Who is this painter?”
“He is called Ji Yunshu, and he is our city’s famous painter,” replied the county magistrate.
“What do you mean by ‘famous’?”
“These years, within our city, there were many rotten and burnt corpses that no one claimed. Ever since Teacher Ji came, it didn’t matter if the corpse had decayed beyond recognition or if it was just a pile of bones, he could still paint the deceased’s former appearance. Not only that, he was also able to help this lowly official shed light on many unsolved cases.”
The county magistrate seemed to glow as he spoke, almost pridefully.
“Such an amazing person? For such a person to reside in a tiny little city like Jinjiang is such a waste of talent.” When Lang Po spoke, he intentionally glanced at his master.
It seemed that there was a deeper reason for this!
Jing Rong raised his eyebrows. “You only have that much information?”
Liu Qingping thought a bit before answering, “Teacher Ji has a bad temper.”
“What do you mean by that?”
The county magistrate stammered, “He… He loathes speaking and is cold by nature.”
‘Cold? How cold?’ Jing Rong poured some more tea into his cup. Soon enough, the yamen runner returned and reported, “Teacher Ji is sleeping at home and said that he will not come to work today.”
The county magistrate’s complexion suddenly turned green, and he broke out in a cold sweat.
But this time he was caught between a rock and a hard place. He did not know which side to lean towards, since one side was his treasured Ji Yunshu and the other side was the almighty Prince Rong.
He had to carefully pick who to support!