Chapter 97 - Another Case Starts
The letter ascertained Jing Rong’s doubts. ‘Jing Yi, does our bond of blood and flesh really mean nothing to you compared to the throne?’
Lang Po added, “I would not have thought that Prince Yi would resort to something like an assassination to prevent you from going back to the capital.”
‘An accurate enough analysis,’ thought Jing Rong. He squinted and looked at the droplets of water running down the eaves. “That case at the Imperial Duke Mansion, it was Lord Qing who asked for a reexamination of the evidence by kneeling down at the front of the Nanzhe Gate for three days and three nights. He even pointed out three points of contention within the file report. Father finally decided to reconsider the case, and it has fallen down on my shoulders. Jing Hua might be the crown prince, but Jing Yi has vied for the position of heir to the throne for a long time already. If I happen to solve this case, then I will surely receive favor from father. If something… were to happen to Jing Hua, in order to be able to replace him, Jing Yi would need to get rid of me first.”
“But Prince Yi is not only plotting for your demise, he’s also targeting Miss Ji. The best thing we can do right now is to bring Miss Ji back to the capital. Prince Yi wouldn’t dare to overstep his boundaries there. We can also keep an eye on Miss Ji’s safety this way.”Jing Rong frowned. “Jing Yi is surely worried about the help Ji Yunshu can provide if she returns to the capital with me. It is unlike him to leave any loose ends.”Lang Po reflected for a moment and proposed, “My Highness, Prince Yi has tried to prevent you from going back to the capital for several times now. Why don’t we report it to the Emperor?”“Tell it to my father?” Jing Rong raised the ball of paper in his hand. “With this?” “Your Highness, Lu Jiang gave us a pretty extensive description. Prince Yi did send a group of his subordinates from the capital, and the Shiban poison was produced by this person called Yan Weiyi, who is also connected to Prince Yi. Do we need anything more than that?”
‘More?’ Jing Rong had a cold smile. “Father has always been a distrustful person. If I go and accuse Prince Yi without irrefutable proof, he’ll think that I am slandering him for the sake of the throne.”
‘Father has always been full of suspicions. He’ll be on his guard at even the slightest signs of abnormality. He would rather cut down an innocent person than risk letting anyone get away. It is a trait typical to emperors, and in that sense, Jing Yi is most similar to him.”
Night fell, and with it, a thick fog slowly descended on the city. It was exceptionally cold, but that did little to slow down the many thoughts which ran through the heads of those who had trouble sleeping. The next morning, Lord Wei and Madame Wei made it back home. Wei Yi woke up very early to go greet them, while Ji Yunshu readied herself to do so too. Inside the hall, Ji Yunshu was about to give a curtsy to Madame Wei, but the latter stopped her midway. She led her to sit down on a chair and gently tapped her hand. “Yunshu, how are you? Is there anywhere you feel uncomfortable?”“Thank you for your concern, aunt Wei. I feel a lot better now.”
“It is good then. We were both worried sick for you. You look a lot better now, so I can rest assured,” said Madame Wei. Ji Yunshu smiled back at her, touched by the display of compassion. Lord Wei turned his head toward Wei Yi and asked, “Yi’er, have you been causing any trouble the past two days?”Wei Yi shook his head and made a hand gesture, “Dad, I didn’t cause any trouble. I listened to you and took good care of Shu’er.” “Good. From now on, you should treat Yunshu even better, okay?”
“Dad, will Yunshu be my bride?” asked Wei Yi rather innocently, but his question was quite embarrassing for Lord Wei and Madame Wei to answer.
Ji Yunshu was also caught off guard by the question. She did not quite know how to answer it, but it did remind her that she needed to confess her true intentions to Wei Yi: she could not afford to wait for much longer. Madame Wei seemed to have suddenly remembered something. She said to Ji Yunshu, “Oh yes, tonight we are hosting a banquet, and I have already sent someone to the Ji Mansion. We’ve brought you here under rather forceful circumstances, so your uncle and I think that it would be best if we could make up with your parents. After all, our families are soon to be united though you two, aren’t we? We are hoping to have a family reunion tonight.”‘A family meal?’
Ji Yunshu quickly declined, “Aunt Wei, there’s no need for that, really. Also…”“We’ve already decided, and the Ji Mansion has been advised. Please rest assured tonight. I reckon that your father and grandmother are thinking of a way to bring you home right now, but they haven’t found one to do so without injuring their pride. Let’s give them a chance. If they ever ask you, please go home with them.”
‘Clever. She’s very smart about this,’ thought Ji Yunshu, and she had no choice but to accept. As she exited the hall, she pondered about how to approach her situation.
Wei Yi came out of nowhere and stopped in front of her. “Shu’er, are you really going back home today? Could you stay?” He pulled at Ji Yunshu’s sleeves very timidly.
Ji Yunshu thought about it for a while and finally pushed his hand away with resolution. She said to him very seriously, “Wei Yi, I need to be honest with you. I will not marry you, and I will not become your bride.”“Shu’er, what… What are you saying?”“I meant what I said. Wei Yi, I know that you are very kind to me, and so are your parents, but I can’t be that selfish. I cannot lie to you. There is no way I will marry you.”Wei Yi’s expression sank as he heard Ji Yunshu repeat her words. He asked nervously, “Why? Shu’er, why won’t you become my bride? Mom has told me that you are my bride.”“I am not.” Ji Yunshu emphasized. “Shu’er…”Ji Yunshu grasped his arm and said, “Wei Yi, I see you as a little brother. Do you understand?” She tried as hard as she could to make him understand what she wanted to convey. But Wei Yi was stricken by extreme dejection. Tears quickly filled up his good-looking eyes. He lowered his head and puckered his lips. After a long silence, he asked, “Shu’er… is it because I am dumb?”
‘Oh no.’ Ji Yunshu trembled. Her chest felt as if someone had ripped it open. She shook her head. “No, Wei Yi, it’s not because of that.”
Wei Yi sobbed quietly. He pushed Ji Yunshu away and stepped back. “It’s okay. I get it. I know that you don’t want to be with me, because you think that I’m dumb.” He turned around and ran away.
“Wei Yi, no!” She called out his name repeatedly, but Wei Yi ran as swiftly as a rabbit and disappeared. Her eyes reddened, and she bit her lips. But, she was at a loss for what to do.
When night fell, everyone from the Ji Mansion, with the exception of Ji Lingzhi, arrived. Wei Yi was absent from the banquet. Lord Wei sent someone to go look for him, but the servant came backing saying that Wei Yi was alone in the backyard and refused to budge no matter what. Ji Yunshu took her own seat, but she was absent-minded and restless; she couldn’t think much about the meal at all.
Ji Wanxin sat down next to her and bent over to whisper to her, “Yunshu, have you enjoyed your stay at the Wei Mansion?”Ji Yunshu nodded and said, “Yes.”
“Father made Lingzhi kneel for an entire night for making Munqing fall into the water. She even had to copy scriptures. It would be good to end it right now and come home tonight. You have no idea how angry father and grandmother were the past few days.”‘All the better if they get angry. Better yet, let them have a seizure.’Ji Yunshun answered impassively, “Don’t worry sister. I will return tonight.” “Yes, you should. We are one family after all; no grudges ought to be held forever.”
“You are right, elder sister.” Ji Yunshu said inattentively. She was thinking about Wei Yi and simply did not want to spend time bickering about family matters. She also had an uncertain feeling about Ji Wanxin. The latter’s disposition remained a mystery to her, and she always believed that there is something else hidden beneath her frailty and gentleness. Ji Muqing looked at the moment of “intimacy” between the two and derided, “Humpf, birds of a feather flocking together.”
The food and utensils were soon brought in by the servants. Ji Yuanzhi also took his seat and flashed a glance at Ji Yunshu before he picked up his cup and took a long gulp. His favorite little sister had been wronged by Ji Yunshu, and the latter even slapped her. As her big brother, he was quite unhappy about it. It was unsurprising, therefore, that he also harbored an animosity toward her.
Lord Wei announced the start of the feast by lifting his cup in Ji Shuhan’s direction. “Lord Ji, there was a lack of civility on my part during our last encounter. I would like to ask for your forgiveness. Ji Shuhan was expressionless. “Of course not. On the contrary, we’d like to thank you for your generous hospitality in taking care of Yunshu.”
The two families chit-chatted, crossing topics ranging from Ji Muqing’s fall into the water to the marriage that was to happen between Wei Yi and Ji Yunshu. Ji Yunshu listened without saying a single word. At the end of the meal, Ji Yunshu suddenly said that she would stay a bit longer and return to the Ji Mansion later. Ji Shuhan and old Madame Ji’s countenance turned sour, but they would not deign to drag her forcefully into the horsecart, so they accepted her proposition. Ji Yunshu waited for her family to leave and asked Lord Wei and Madame Wei to go into a side room with her. As soon as they entered the room, Ji Yunshu poured two cups of tea and respectfully offered them.
‘Is this the tea from a daughter-in-law?’ Madame and Lord Wei exchanged glances and drank them rather happily. Suddenly, Ji Yunshu knelt down on the floor.
Ji Yunshu’s sudden movement surprised Madame Wei greatly. “What are you doing, Yunshu?”“I am sorry, aunt Wei and uncle Wei.” Their hearts skipped a beat upon hearing the sudden statement. They looked at each other and asked, “Yunshu, why are you telling us that?”
Ji Yunshu explained very seriously, “I am aware that being the daughter of a lowly concubine from the Ji Mansion, I shouldn’t hope to have much of a say over whom I will marry, and I should obey the decision of my parents on this matter. But, I cannot hide the truth from you much longer. There is someone I hold dear to my heart. I have waited for him for over two years, and I simply cannot consider my union with another person.”
Madame Wei and Lord Wei were astonished by the explanation.
Ji Yunshu touched the floor with her forehead, but the determination shone even stronger in her eyes. “I am sorry. I know that you have been kind to me, and I shall remember it from this day onwards, but I cannot lie to my heart. I cannot marry Wei Yi.”
Madame Wei looked disappointed and downhearted. “Are you really… unwilling to marry Yi’er.”
Lord Wei sighed. “What if Yi’er wasn’t…”
Ji Yunshu immediately answered. “Uncle Wei, that is no cause for repulsion. I simply cannot commit to anyone else. Wei Yi is a nice man, and I do not wish to lie to him. I am sure that he will find someone that will love him for who he is.”
Madame Wei had barely started talking when she suddenly brought both of her arms to her chest and spat out a mouthful of blood. “Aunt Wei?” Ji Yunshu was extremely shocked.
The next moment, blood also came out of Lord Wei’s mouth. He fell from the chair onto the ground and clasped his shirt. His face turned blue, he stared at the ground and opened his mouth to speak, but he could not produce a single sound. The next moment, Madame Wei also fell onto the floor.
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