The Rising Dead drug certainly deserved its reputation. The name hadn’t been given by chance, because as more of the liquid seeped in, the corpse gradually recovered until it was in the same state as right after death. Aside from slight discoloration of the skin, the body now resembled a living person fast asleep. Those who didn’t know the truth might even assume that Empress Xue had even come back to life.
Everyone was stunned by the effects of the medicine. Even Long Feiye was silently impressed. Many things were impossible to accomplish no matter how good one’s martial arts skills were; however, the field of medicine could create its own miracles. Cao Tong’s eyebrows continued to scrunch up at the sight of the recovering corpse. He could see the secret hidden on the body at a glance, thus solving half the mystery. Nevertheless, this new revelation only left him shaking his head. Everyone was preoccupied with the body’s recovery, so his reaction went unnoticed.
“The effects of the Rising Dead will only last four hours. Afterward, this body will dissolve into blood and water with no bones left. Lass, you had better hurry if you want to inspect anything,” Pill King’s eyes only held Han Yunxi. If it wasn’t for her, he’d never let these strangers so casually into the realms of his Medicine Hut.
“Great Coroner Cao, you’d better hurry,” Han Yunxi said calmly. She didn’t look like a suspect at all. Duanmu Yao had been observing her the entire time. Despite her reluctance, she had to admit that Han Yunxi seemed less and less guilty with each passing moment. Now she was getting fidgety.
She avoided looking at the woman entirely and declared, “Great Coroner Cao, the cost of recovering the corpse to its death state is huge. You better examine it carefully. If there are any mistakes, you know the consequences!”
“Princess Duan, there is one thing this one must tell you,” Cao Tong said seriously.
“Is it more important than the autopsy? You only have four hours’ worth of time, and you’re still wasting them?” Duanmu Yao fumed.
But Cao Tong only replied, “This is just as important as the autopsy. Princess Duan, you must know this. Please, come over here with me.”
Duanmu Yao was standing at the head of the coffin, while Cao Tong stood at the foot. Why was he beckoning her over? She went over doubtfully and asked, “Just what do you want to say to me? Can’t you get to the point? Four hours’ worth of time is hardly--” She immediately shut up because as her gaze followed Cao Tong’s finger, she realized the injury on her mother’s foot had disappeared!
The injury there had been made by an acupuncture needle piercing through the sole of her foot. It wasn’t very obvious, but the effects of the poison had turned the area around the site a purplish-green. Then the coroner had caused more damage while retrieving the needle from inside, thus making the wound even more obvious to the naked eye.
Why would it disappear now?
“How could…” Duanmu Yao couldn’t believe it, even though it was in front of her. She scooted closer for a better look, but still found no signs of injury. Empress Xue’s foot was clear and white, with no signs of a wound at all!
“Impossible! I refuse to believe it!” Duanmu Yao spun towards Han Yunxi again. The woman was currently staring back at her, her eyes calm and crystal clear! Even though she knew who the true culprit was, she didn’t harbor any signs of a guilty conscience in her gaze!
What did Long Feiye’s victims have to do with her? She just didn’t understand why both Chu Qingge and Ning Cheng had to harbor such a grudge against her. If they couldn’t find the cause of death, they could always fake a sword wound and blame Long Feiye himself!
“Princess Duan, this is what I wanted to inform you about. The Rising Dead drug will allow the body to recover to its previous state just after death and erase everything that happened afterward. Thus…”
Duanmu Yao had figured out that much before they applied the medicine. She grew listless as she mumbled to herself, “So, my mother didn’t die from the poisoned needle?”
“Yes!” Cao Tong was certain. “Princess Duan, this acupuncture needle was applied to Empress Xue’s foot after she passed away. The practitioner must have been very skilled. If it wasn’t for the Rising Dead, it would have been impossible for this one to determine whether the needle was applied before or after esteemed empress’s death…”
“You suspected this long ago?” Duanmu Yao asked angrily.
“Yes,” Cao Tong admitted.
“Then why didn’t you say so? Why didn’t you explain yourself? Why?!” Duanmu Yao was almost to the point of tears. “Why didn’t you tell me earlier? If you did, my mother wouldn’t be dissolving away to nothing later! Why?!”
“Princess Duan, it was only a suspicion on this one’s part. Any proof I had then would have been merely theoretical. I expect you wouldn’t have believed it, either. Now you’ve seen the truth with your own eyes, so this one needn’t explain any further,” Cao Tong replied honestly.
Duanmu Yao was furious enough to kill the man, but she had to admit that his words were right. If she didn’t see this with her own eyes, she wouldn’t believe anyone who rose to defend Han Yunxi’s innocence! So in the end, Han Yunxi had been framed and the needle was added later? The evidence in her hands was all a fabrication?
Who else could have killed her mother but Chu Qingge and the rest?
What a Qingge! She dared to trick me! Just so she could use me against Long Feiye and Han Yunxi? Dream on!
Hatred grew to be her strength. Duanmu Yao’s eyes turned red. “Cao Tong, why aren’t you hurrying up and inspecting the body yet? Just how did my imperial mother die? You have to give me answers!”
The body was already beginning to change again, displaying the signs of rigor mortis. Cao Tong quickly took out a pile of small tools and put on a set of gloves before starting his examination. Although his time was limited, he still scrutinized every inch of the corpse carefully from head to toe without sparing any details. Silence reigned in the courtyard as everyone focused on his hands. It had to be said that Han Yunxi was even feeling a little nervous right now. If Cao Tong really did find a clue, then she and Long Feiye would have ended up dropping a stone on their own feet.
Time trickled by slowly. Next to show on the body was livor mortis, but Cao Tong knitted his brows and only watched carefully. He seemed to have discovered something because he glanced up towards Long Feiye and Han Yunxi. Everyone was waiting for him to speak, but all he did was look back down again.
“How is it?” Duanmu Yao was getting antsy.
Cao Tong checked the time before he grew hesitant. “Princess, this one is still looking for the cause of death. There’s still time, so this one will try his best.”
Over two hours had already passed, but he still couldn’t find a clue. How was he supposed to find any other signs of proof? Duanmu Yao grew incensed. Cao Tong, what kind of words are those? Why can’t you find the cause of death? Just what kind of ‘World’s Number One Coroner’ are you supposed to be?!
“Princess Duan, take a look yourself. There’s no sign of injury or illness anywhere on esteemed empress’s body,” Cao Tong explained.
“If it was that easy to find, why would we need to invite you in the first place?” Duanmu Yao shot back.
Cao Tong had no choice but to shut up. This wasn’t the first time he’d run into such a situation, but it was the first time under such pressing circumstances. He had to seize the time while it was there. Han Yunxi was observing the body as well, feeling bewildered. She had eliminated the possibility of any physical wounds, but it didn’t seem poisoned, either. Was a sickness to blame?
In some situations, illness caused deaths in ways that even modern medicine could fail to track, and within a short window of time, too.
“Princess Duan, this one can confirm that esteemed empress didn’t die from an outside force or poison. The only possibility left is that she wasted away from sickness. Did esteemed empress have any chronic ailments during her lifetime?” Cao Tong asked.
“My imperial mother was always healthy. Occasionally she’d catch a chill, but it definitely wouldn’t sicken her to death! Someone must have moved against her instead!” Duanmu Yao grew agitated at his query. Although she’d left her mother for a long time, she still exchanged letters with her frequently. She understood the woman’s situation very well.
“Princess Duan, this one won’t eliminate the possibility that someone used esteemed empress’s illnesses against her. If we want to find the cause of death, I’m afraid that…” Cao Tong didn’t finish the sentence. After all, they were dealing with the body of Western Zhou’s empress. Emperor Kangcheng had been negotiating nonstop with the Chu Clan barracks and Prince Regent Ning to return the corpse and hand over the murderer.
Ironically, her death made her more important than her life ever did!
“You’re afraid of what? Just say it!” Duanmu Yao cried.
Cao Tong was still hesitating when Han Yunxi spoke up. “Afraid that he would have to dissect the corpse, probably.”
From what she understood of ancient autopsies, most of them were limited to examining the surface of the body. The fact that Cao Tong could even pinpoint illness as a probable cause of death was already a surprise for his time.
“Impossible!” Duanmu Yao refused without a second thought. She could accept the body dissolving away into blood and water, but never the thought of cutting it up! She would never allow her imperial mother to endure such humiliation after her death!
“Princess Duan, if we don’t dissect the body, we may never be able to find the cause of death,” Cao Tong said helplessly.
“And will you absolutely find it if we do?” Duanmu Yao challenged coldly.
Cao Tong admitted honestly, “I cannot guarantee that.”
Duanmu Yao shot him a venomous glare, but she was already too exhausted to argue any further. She knelt in front of Empress Xue’s body as tears poured down her face.
She regretted it! Utterly and completely!
She shouldn’t have trusted Chu Qingge’s lies or made such a loud racket that it was impossible for her to retreat!
Imperial mother’s corpse was going to disappear any time now. What was she supposed to bring back to imperial father as an explanation? She had been hoping to use ’s strength to pressure the Chu Clan and Duke of Ning to get to the bottom of her mother’s death. Then she’d bring her remains back to Western Zhou.
But how could she have any face to return now? Everything had been ruined by Chu Qingge!
Cao Tong didn’t lose heart just because he couldn’t find anything. His attitude remained as serious and focused as ever. “Princess Duan, although it’s impossible to determine esteemed empress’s exact cause of death, we can at least prove that it wasn’t Qin Wangfei who killed her. The Chu Clan framed Qin Wangfei as a murderer. Their intentions merit consideration.”
“Besides them, who else could it be? Qingge, Ning Cheng! You and this princess are now irreconcilable!” Duanmu Yao gritted her teeth. She expected that Chu Qingge was probably laughing at her right this moment.
Cao Tong didn’t pass any judgment, nor did Han Yunxi move further to explain herself. Just like that, Duanmu Yao determined that the Clan were the true culprits of her mother’s death. She dearly wished that none of this had happened at all, or that she could have been a little smarter and seen through Chu Qingge’s schemes. Unfortunately, the harsh reality was laid before her eyes.
Suddenly, a strange sound issued from the corpse. In a flash, Empress Xue’s body melted into blood and water, not leaving a single bone behind.
“Imperial mother! Yao Yao was unfilial to you! I’m sorry!” Duanmu Yao burst into wails as tears streamed down her face.
Although Han Yunxi knew the truth, she still couldn’t sympathize with the girl. Perhaps it’s better that Empress Xue left this way instead of being tormented any further.
Meanwhile, the true culprit stood right next to her side. He stood with his hands folded behind his back, his eyes nothing but icy cold like a heartless spectator removed from the proceedings.
Han Yunxi grasped his hand and said in a low voice…Previous Chapter Next Chapter