You’re the one who smells bad. Heck, it’s your whole family that smells bad. Jing Rong was rather irritated by the remark and turned around to shoot a cold glance Lang Po instead, “Didn’t I tell you to take care of him? Why is he crouching in a corner? Did you hit him?”
Wh-? Lang Po responded nervously to the accusation, “Your Highness, I wouldn’t dare to hit Young Master Wei. He said himself that he was going to be… a carrot until Teacher Ji came out.”
A carrot? What?
Jing Rong puckered his lips as he realised that he may not possess the intelligence to understand Yi Wei’s world.
Wei Yi hurriedly shook his hands, “Big Brother, he didn’t hit me. He just stared at me and did not let me go anywhere.”
“I was afraid that you would go missing,” explained Lang Po.
“I wouldn’t go missing. I promised Shu’er that I would wait for her outside. I wouldn’t go missing, rather you would be the one who would go missing instead.” ..........
The pair continued to exchange somewhat playful remarks. Ji Yunshu looked at the falling snow and said to Jing Rong, “Your Highness, the case is finally solved. I’ll go return home with Wei Yi then. We have been out of the mansion for far too long.”
Jing Rong frowned, “I’ll escort you.”
“There’s no need for that. I have the same smell as Your Highness. Let’s not bundle up more than necessary, lest we would make the odour even stronger.
But Jing Rong was oddly persistent, “I’ve stayed in the jail for too long, and I’d like to take a puff of fresh air. I also have a few things to say to you, Teacher Ji.”
“What is it?” Ji Yunshu asked, somewhat wary.
“Shall we go ahead first?” Jing Rong decided to tease Ji Yunshu.
Fine, it seems like it’ll be the four of us then, thought Ji Yunshu.
Wei Yi seemed to enjoy playing in the freshly fallen snow quite a lot. He jumped around and led the way. Lang Po followed him closely with the ink and brushes in his arms, paying close attention to where the former was going. Ji Yunshu and Jing Rong were not far behind.
Ji Yunshu strode with a brisk pace, but Jing Rong would always catch up to her. Both stayed silent for a long time. Ji Yunshu looked straight ahead, her expression as cold as the winds. Jing Rong, however, scrutinised her carefully and finally broke the silence, “Are you still thinking about what happened earlier?”
“The case is closed. I won’t think about it anymore,” Ji Yunshu answered with determination.
“You know, there’s one thing Madame Jiang was absolutely unmistaken about,” said Jing Rong.
Ji Yunshu did not answer as she could guess what he wanted to say. She sped up and put some distance between herself and Jing Rong, but Jing Rong quickly made her efforts futile, “Jinjiang City is not the right place for you.” The words came out of Jing Rong’s mouth with an ironclad conviction.
This again? I’m tired of hearing these words. The Capital is a big place indeed, but not suitable for a little canary like myself.
Ji Yunshu stopped and gripped her robe.
She bent her eyes in Jing Rong’s direction, “Your Highness, I understand your concern for the Lin Capital Case, and you have been working hard at cracking the case since your departure from the capital half a year ago. There are likely many eyes in the capital paying close attention to its progress. I would rather stay in my little pond, with lotuses as my sole friends in the summer and snow and mist as a poem I can sing for the winter. The capital is a dangerous place; a place where tigers and dragons clash and even take lives. A canary imprisoned in a cage will end up either hurt or dead. May I ask Your Highness to also have some consideration for my situation? Talent is plentiful in this world, so it shouldn’t be hard to find someone else to replace me.” Ji Yunshu said these words without hesitation.
Upon hearing her plea, Jing Rong furrowed his brows. He stared at Ji Yunshu’s eyes, which seemed as serious as ever, and was suddenly seized by a feeling of disgust. Since when had he become someone who would force others to do things against their will?
“Yunshu,” he called quietly, “You call yourself a canary; I shall not be your cage. I will not break your wings by retaining you against your will. You win. I won’t bring this up to you ever again.”
The sincerity in Jing Rong’s pledge tugged at Ji Yunshu’s heartstrings. She felt reassured and answered, “Thank you, Your Highness.”
Jing Rong remained silent.
Suddenly, Wei Yi ran over and grabbed Ji Yunshu by the arm while pointing at somewhere nearby, “Shu’er, look!”
Look at what? thought Ji Yunshu. Both her and Jing Rong turned their heads to look in the direction Wei Yi was pointing at. In the broad street, they saw a forest of red paper lanterns. In front of residences, shops, and inns, people were busy hanging lanterns under every roof and corner. Even the doors were decorated with red sheets, and tables full of ornaments were set up on the street; everyone was preparing for the Lantern Festival.
The small merchants were busy making a living, whereas the big store owners were busying themselves to make fortunes. Women and children, rich or poor, were simply impatiently awaiting the beginning of the festivities.
“Shu’er, it’s the Lantern Festival today. Can we please go out at night? I want to see the lanterns with you,” asked Wei Yi in a hopeful tone.
The Lantern Festival was celebrated every year, at the end of the first month of the lunar calendar. Jing Rong turned his eyes in a thoughtful way upon hearing Wei Yi’s proposition and he interjected, “The Lantern Festival is a sight not to be missed. Teacher Ji, I’d like to invite you to the Hall of Gathering Frost for a meal. It will be my way of showing my thanks for all the work you’ve done over the last few days, and we’ll even get to admire the splendor of the festival in its fullness from our seats.”
Wei Yi hurried to interrupt him before Ji Yunshu could answer, “What about me, Big Brother? Am I not invited?” He sounded like a child excluded from his friends.
Why would I want you there? Jing Rong’s first reaction was to express his refusal. However, upon reconsidering, he decided to show his magnanimity and invite Wei Yi; he would not cause much trouble anyways if he gave him enough food as a distraction, “Very well, you are invited too.”
“Wow, you are so nice, Big Brother!” Wei Yi was elated. He pulled on Ji Yunshu, “Shu’er, let’s make a lantern together, okay? We could even go and hang it together tonight, okay?”
Ji Yunshu’s head was starting to ache again. She could do nothing else but nod, “Okay.”
The four quickened their steps and arrived at the Wei Mansion under the intensifying snowfall. Jing Rong took the set of stationery and gave it to Ji Yunshu in a rather forceful way, “This is my gift. It belongs to you now. Whether you throw it away or sell it, I do not care.”
“Tonight, at the Hall of Gathering Frost. I shall not leave until I see you.”
Jing Rong left with Lang Po by his side. His imposing silhouette slowly vanished into the snowstorm. Ji Yunshu held the stationery and was still staring emptily into the distance. The next second, Wei Yi suddenly grabbed the stationery from her, “This is heavy, so let me carry it for you, Shu’er.”
Wei Yi scuttled into the Mansion and brought the package all the way into Ji Yunshu’s room, depositing it gently onto the floor. I’ve done a good thing today, he thought rather gleefully.
Luan’er looked at the two in surprise, especially at the huge box Wei Yi brought back. She approached and asked, “Young Miss, isn’t this the very expensive set of stationery from Treasured Calligraphy House? “
“Yes, it is.” Ji Yunshu nodded.
Suddenly, Luan’er seemed to have noticed something and sniffed the air. She frowned and said, “Young Miss, do you smell something weird?”
Of course I do, it’s the stench of rotten corpses! thought Ji Yunshu.
But Wei Yi yelled, “Oh yes, it’s from Big Brother. He smelled awful. He made the two of us smell bad too.”
Well, Jing Rong, you’ll excuse me if I leave this unfortunate burden to you. Ji Yunshu smiled sweetly at Wei Yi and made a gesture towards her own nose, “Wei Yi, you should go outside and play. Go find someone to do a cricket fight with you. Even better, make a lantern if you feel like it.”
“Are you not going to help me with the lantern?”
Ji Yunshu showed him her palms, “How am I supposed to go to the Festival the way I am now?”
Wei Yi turned his eyes to show that he understood the hint, “Oh, you want to take a bath right now.”
“......” Ji Yunshu gave him another gentle smile.
Wei Yi scratched his head, “But why do I have to leave when you are taking a bath? I’ve even helped Ami take his bath…”
Ami is a dog, and I’m a human being, that’s why! Ji Yunshu was rather irritated and knocked a heavy blow with her finger on Wei Yi’s forehead, “What nonsense are you talking about, little boy?”
Nonsense? What nonsense? Wei Yi gave Ji Yunshu a perplexed look, “I’m not talking nonsense. When Ami was taking a bath, I was right beside him. Why wouldn’t I be able to stay when you are taking a bath?”
What… How am I supposed to explain this to him? Am I really going to talk about small Wei Yis? No way, I’m not doing that. Ji Yunshu quickly organized her thoughts and said, “If you want to go to the Lantern Festival tonight, then go outside. Otherwise, I won’t go out with you.”
Wei Yi quickly nodded, “Oh, I’ll leave right now, don’t worry.” He hurried outside, as fast as a gust of wind.
Luan’er threw a few glances at Ji Yunshu and asked, “Where have you been, and how did you get this…” She did not dare to say 'stench'.
Ji Yunshu did not mind her remark. She said, “Bring me some hot water and add some tangerines to the bucket, that’ll get rid of the smell of cadavers.”
“Alright, miss,” answered Luan’er, and she quickly left for the task.
Ji Yunshu cleaned herself and even ordered Luan’er to burn the linen robe she wore. She contemplated her own reflection in the mirror after the bath. She saw a girl dressed in marine silk. The fabric of the robe splashed onto the ground like a waterfall. Above it was another cascade of a different color, one of pure darkness. It was decorated by a hairpin on top of which a pearl shone in all of its radiance. She saw a certain kind of disquietness between the brows of the visage in the mirror, as if they were troubled by some kind of innate, perpetual worry. It was a face that could arouse sympathy even in a heart made of stone.
At that moment, Wei Yi busted into the yard with two lanterns, but he did not dare to enter Ji Yunshu’s room. He yelled, “Shu’er, I’m done with the lanterns!”
Ji Yunshu asked Luan’er to bring him into the room. Wei Yi ran in with the two lanterns in his hands, and carefully put them on the ground right in front of her, “Look Shu’er! I’ve made these, one for you and one for me.”
Ji Yunshu scrutinised the two objects. They had an octogonal base, and the body was held together by red sandalwood. There were traces of flour paste everywhere, but the small knots made of threads were hanging down beautifully. Ji Yunshu was surprised by the delicateness of the objects.
“Did you really make this?” She asked as she raised her brows.
Ji Yunshu met a pair of eyes staring blankly at her, “Yes? Why are you staring at me like that?”
“Shu’er, you are beautiful,” said Wei Yi most earnestly.
He may not be bright, but he’s certainly not blind. Luan’er thought. She chuckled and said, “Young Master Wei, who knew you had such an acute sense of beauty? My Young Miss is as fair as a fairy who descended from the Heavens!”
Luan’er’s compliment made Ji Yunshu a little uneasy. She flashed a glance at her and said, “What are you talking about? I’m not a fairy.”
“I’m speaking the simple truth, Young Miss. You are beautiful.”
“Yes, yes, yes! My Shu’er is really beautiful,” Wei Yi agreed.
Wait a second, who exactly is your Shu’er?
Grenn's Rants Corner
*spits out water* Oh my god! Now, I'm imagining all of them as elementary school kids.
In an elementary school class
Teacher Ji Yunshu: Now class, let's round up and play a fun game.
Kids: Yes Teacher Ji.
Teacher JY: You will now tell me what you want to be in the future and disguise into it. Now, let's start with Ji Muqing.
JMQ: I wanna be a Queen!
Teacher JY: Alright. Next, Jing Rong.
JR: I wanna be Teacher's husband.
Teacher JY: Reject. Find something else while I ask Wei Yi.
JR: *pouts, but plans to use his cute self and sticky attitude to make JY agrees*
WY: I-I-I want to be a-a-a... *fidgeting and acting shy*
Teacher JY: *smiles* Go on! What do you want to be?
WY: A CARROT!