The terrible news surrounding the Wei Family soon spread like wildfire across Jinjiang city. It was not long before nearly everyone was aware of what happened to the Wei family as well as Ji Yunshu, who was now in prison.
Upon hearing the news, Ji Shuhan and Old Madame Ji nearly fainted. A murderer who bore the Ji name?! It was an utmost disgrace for the Ji family.
Jing Rong, of course, had received the news of Ji Yunshu’s imprisonment. Dawn had barely fallen when he arrived at the prison.
The two guards at the gate, unaware of his identity, halted him. Lang Po drew out his token and said, “Prince Rong is here, do you dare offend him?”
The two guards dropped down to their knees upon seeing the token. They trembled in fear, “This humble one… greets Prince Rong. This humble one was not aware that it was… Please forgive this humble one.”
Jing Rong’s piercing eyes made them shiver again, “Bring me to Ji Yunshu.”
“Yes, Your Highness.” The two hurriedly stood and led the way with their heads lowered and their backs bent.
Jing Rong’s heart sank, and his hands clenched into fists as the putrid odor from the humid and unlit cells reached his nostrils. He grew increasingly irritated until he saw the fairly cleaned up interior of Ji Yunshu’s cell. He ordered, “Open the door.”
The jailkeeper obeyed and retreated to the side. Jing Rong strode into the cell. He found Ji Yunshu’s little frame crouched on the ground, shivering as she curled up into a ball. The heater beside her had run out of coal, and only a pale fume emerged out of it.
“Yunshu…” he called out quietly.
Ji Yunshu shrunk her legs further and only raised her head after a long while. What entered her eyes was a pair of silver threaded boots with golden ornaments and the corners of a long silk robe. A little further up were Jing Rong’s eyes, looking back at her with mixed affections. It had been just one day, but the ruddiness in her cheeks had already been replaced by a pallor which could rival a clean sheet of paper.
Jing Rong knelt down and brushed her forehead that was as cold as a block of stone with his long fingers. He carefully swept a lock of hair behind her ears, and slid his hands down until he met another pair, a smaller pair of hands, which was devoid of any warmth.
Ji Yunshu did not resist his hold. She stared back at him with sunken eyes and asked in a tired voice, “What about Wei Yi, how is he doing?”
Jing Rong shook his head, “He’ll be fine, I promise you that.”
“He doesn’t deserve any of this,” Ji Yunshu’s soft voice reverberated within her tiny cell.
Jing Rong added, “Rest assured. I won’t let anything happen to you. Even if all the evidence points to your guilt. My trust in you will stay by your side even if the whole world abandons you.” His countenance was serious, and he kneaded her hands firmly.
Ji Yunshu remained unmoved; thoughts swirling within her mind distracted her.
Two runners arrived at that moment. Upon noticing Jing Rong, they approached with utmost care, for fear of offending him with a single misspoken word, “Your Highness, we are here on behalf of Magistrate Liu’s orders. We’d like to bring Miss Ji to the great hall."
Jing Rong flashed a menacing glance at the two, which caused them to retreat in fear. He turned his head around and said to Ji Yunshu, “I’ll go with you.”
Ji Yunshu ignored him and followed the two runners to the great hall, with Jing Rong following behind her.
When they arrived, they found Magistrate Liu on his chair, and a few people knelt down on the ground in front of him. The one closest was Wei Fu, the housekeeper of the Wei Mansion. Behind him were two other servants and the doctor from the day before.
When Magistrate Liu saw Jing Rong behind Ji Yunshu, he stood up to salute Jing Rong properly, but was cut short by a hand gesture.
“Start the trial,” said Jing Rong coolly.
Magistrate Liu scrambled for an answer, “Yes, yes, Your Highness.” He bowed down and pointed to a chair right beside him, “Please, Prince Rong, have a seat.”
Jing Rong threw a worried glance at Ji Yunshu and accepted the invitation.
The runners constrained Ji Yunshu, kneeling her down beside Wei Fu. Magistrate Liu smashed his gavel and opened up with formalities, “We begin the trial of the murder case at the Wei Mansion. To the person below who is accusing Ji Yunshu, do you have any proof to support your claim?”
Wei Fu’s eyes immediately turned red. He looked at Ji Yunshu and bowed at the Magistrate once again. “Milord, she poisoned our masters,” said Wei Fu as he pointed his finger.
Ji Yunshu did not answer him. She knelt silently with her back straightened.
Magistrate Liu gulped and asked, “Well, where is your proof?”
“A banquet was hosted at our mansion yesterday. When it ended, Miss Ji, instead of going home, asked our master and our mistress to go with her to a side room. She poured two cups of tea and the poison was within it.”
“Where did the poison come from?”
The doctor behind Wei Fu answered, “Milord, this humble one has found traces of Pitohui poison within the tea. Since the tea within the teapot did not contain any poison, we deduced that the poison must have been added in by whoever poured the tea.”
Magistrate Liu frowned, “But… these are circumstantial at best.”
Wei Fu immediately added, “This humble one has found Pitohui bird plumes inside the Miss Ji’s living quarters.” The two maids behind him immediately presented a few feathers wrapped in white cloth to the Magistrate. It was common knowledge that these feathers were extremely toxic, and even animals are known to avoid water which has been touched by them.
Wei Fu emphasised, “Milord, Miss Ji must have added the poisonous water made with the feathers when she poured the tea. Please, Milord, we beg for a just and fair judgment. You must bring justice to our masters.”
Magistrate Liu slapped his own forehead in frustration. He squinted at Ji Yunshu and noticed her unbroken composure.
“Ji Yunshu… Care… to explain yourself?” he attempted. Please say something. I don’t want to say that you are guilty, and I definitely don’t want to have to sentence you to death.
Ji Yunshu had her head lowered, she seemed to be pondering about something. Jing Rong was worried on her behalf; despite being a prince, he could not hold the law in contempt. He stood up and walked briskly in Ji Yunshu’s direction, his countenance as cold as a block of ice.
He lowered his head and threw a glance at her before shifting his attention to the Magistrate, "Magistrate Liu, I’ve heard the details about this case. It is too far-fetched to assume that Miss Yi is the culprit based on the poison being in the tea.”
“Yes, it is indeed far-fetched, yes.” Magistrate Liu wholeheartedly agreed with the remark.
The fact that the statement came out of Jing Rong intimidated Wei Fu to a fair extent, but he burst into sobs as he recalled the gruesome deaths of his masters, “Your Highness, Milord, are these Pitohui feathers not irrefutable proof? We did indeed find them in Miss Ji’s room. Furthermore, she was alone with our masters and she was the one who poured the tea. Please, I beg you to shed light on this case and to avenge the Wei family.”
Jing Rong spoke his thoughts, “The Pitohui feathers cannot prove her guilt. If she is being framed, then these feathers’ presence would only be natural. Moreover, no one saw her add the poison, wouldn’t it be too hasty to come to conclusions then?” He swept his sleeves and created a gust of wind as he concluded his deduction.
Magistrate Liu agreed and added, “Wei Fu, Prince Rong is absolutely right.”
Wei Fu raised his head to look at Jing Rong and started to weep, “Prince Rong, I speak the truth. Miss Ji killed them - we wouldn’t wrong her.”
“Well then, I ask you: why would she murder them?”
The question caught Wei Fu off guard, and he thought hard about it. He lowered his head and stuttered, “This… Old Master and Madame were very kind to Miss Ji when they were alive. Why she should want to see them dead… I… don’t know.”
Jing Rong pounced on this loophole, “If no one has seen her add the poison, and the feathers were only found after she was thrown into prison, then is it not senseless to condemn her? This is not even counting the fact that her motives remain to be found, and that she herself might have been framed.”
Wei Fu could not retort.
Magistrate Liu hurriedly added, “There are still important points of consideration about this case. I will not mistreat an innocent person, but, Wei Fu, I can guarantee you that I will not let the culprit escape. What you wanted to say has been heard, and we will work on resolving the case as quickly as possible and give justice to Lord Wei and Madame Wei.”
Wei Fu had no choice but to accept the outcome. He kowtowed, “Thank you, milord.”
Magistrate Liu added, “Lock up the suspect, Ji Yunshu, until the case is solved.”
The runners carefully approached Ji Yunshu and made her stand up once again. She remained silent the whole time.
Before the runners could bring her out of the hall, Jing Rong pulled her over and whispered into her ears concernedly, “I know that you are still grieving right now, but you need to save yourself right now. I will do my best to find proof of your innocence, but I also need you to galvanize yourself into action. Only you know what happened in that room.”
Ji Yunshu’s brows moved; she seemed to have heard what he said. In fact, she had been focused on the case since last night, but she was quite unable to figure out how the poison had made its way into the tea.
The discovery of the Pitohui feathers was simply ridiculous, and, if anything, only made her suspect that someone was indeed intending on making her shoulder the blame. But how... how did the culprit know that I was going to pour the tea?
This question preoccupied her mind for the entirety of the night, and the truth had just begun to unearth itself.
She raised her eyes and whispered back to Jing Rong, “Prince Rong, I need to perform an autopsy.”
An autopsy? The people from the Wei Mansion think that she murdered their masters. They will never agree to let her perform an autopsy. Jing Rong frowned and nodded, “I will make it possible for you.”
Ji Yunshu threw a thankful glance and exited the hall with the runners.
Jing Rong, on the other hand, headed towards the Wei Mansion as soon as the trial was over. White cloth strips of mourning decorated the mansion from its entrance all the way to the inner courtyard. Even the lanterns, which were otherwise colored by a red silk, were now white.
Jing Rong entered the mourning hall with Lang Po behind him. He saw the coffins aligned with their tops still open, and two memorial tablets with candles still lit.
Wei Yi, wearing a white robe, knelt right before the two tablets and fixated his gaze upon them. The trace of tears in his eyes and the red eyes revealed the obvious: he had been crying, mourning the loss of the two people dearest to him in the world.
Grenn's Rants Corner
*selling tissue boxes*Previous Chapter Next Chapter