Bone Painting Coroner Chapter 152-153
Chapter 152 – Guilty of Offending People
Inside the carriage, Jing Rong and Ji Yunshu sat in front of each other. Only the rattling of the carriage and their regular breathing filled the silence between them, making the atmosphere more awkward as time passed. After a long time, Ji Yunshu glanced at Jing Rong and finally spoke, "In fact, your Highness doesn't need to go with me."
"I didn't come to accompany you. Today, I also want to go see my imperial father. The situation at the border is pressing. Yesterday, I received a message to report back to the palace."
Jing Rong paused a bit before continuing in a grave manner, "Although Concubine Xiao has lived in the depth of the palace for a long time, you cannot underestimate her. You should already understand this point clearly after what happened during her birthday feast."
Ji Yunshu nodded. "I understand."
"You must be on guard against her. If I haven't guessed wrong, she summoned you to the palace for two reasons. On the surface, it's to inquire about the progress of the missing girls case, but underneath, her desire is inevitably linked to the power and position of her son." As his explanation reached this point, Jing Rong became a bit worried. He was not worried about being Concubine Xiao's target of assassination. Instead, he was anxious that Concubine Xiao wanted to rope Ji Yunshu into her faction. Considering how Ji Yunshu was stubborn, she would immediately refuse, and there is a high possibility that she would became Concubine Xiao's second target for assassination.
Seeing the concerned look on Jing Rong's face, Ji Yunshu simply smiled without saying anything.
"Did you understand what I just said?" Jing Rong heavily frowned.
"Since it has already happened, let's take it calmly. You don't need to worry about me. Even if Concubine Xiao took the initiative to take control of the situation and wanted to play her chess pieces, I will make sure that she won't be able to place the pieces on the board or even be able to reach for it."
Ji Yunshu showed an enigmatic smile. From Jing Rong's words, she understood a thing or two about the woman called Concubine Xiao. Jing Rong did not fully grasp the complete meaning behind Ji Yunshu's words. He faintly warned her, "In short, be careful. Women who have lived in the harem are extremely terrifying, especially those who can survive well without falling. They are considered monsters." Ji Yunshu agreed with Jing Rong. However, she could not help feeling amused and used her white and slender fingers to cover her curled lips.
A small breeze blew into the carriage, lifting the curtain and billowing Ji Yunshu's wide sleeve. As the wind stirred inside the carriage, it brushed against her hair, making her long chevelure dance. At times, strands of hair flew and partially concealed her face. It was a sight to behold!
Whenever Jing Rong's sight lingered on Ji Yunshu, his icy eyes would always melt into a conflagration of passion. He was willing to light himself on fire to remain by her side. But, after a second, he lifted the window curtain and averted his gaze towards the scene outside while changing the subject. "We're approaching the palace gates."
Ji Yunshu followed his gaze. Last time, they were in a rush to enter the palace, so she was waiting for the occasion to take a closer look at those grand and imposing gates. Visible to all, the signboard marking the south gate hung high above the gates, aligned right into the center. The blazing golden character written on it, similar to the chill oozing from the icy wind, gave the impression that each stroke was a complex network of blood vessels coursing through a human body. The words, devoid of warmth, could not be more representative to the core reality of the palace. Everything within the palace has been thoroughly permeated by coldness, tantamount to a snow palace. Thus, it could explain why whoever lived inside would transform into tortured souls.
Jing Rong discussed with Ji Yunshu, "I don't care about your plan. It's better to be vigilant at all times. So, be more careful. After I'm done reporting to imperial father, I will wait for you at the south gate."
"Your Highness should focus your thoughts on the situation at the borders. The recent invasion of Qujiang has caused turmoil at our borders, a problem that truly caused lots of headache. If I've guessed correctly, the emperor might want to discuss with you about a strategy to solve this situation. You should put your mind into finding a good solution."
'Eh?' Jing Rong abruptly froze. In fact, he froze from shock. He knew that Ji Yunshu was intelligent from the murder cases' investigation. However, he never knew that her cleverness gave her such a clear understanding of the situation within the imperial court and the empire. He could not help but marvel at her and asked, "Since you already know about the situation, do you have a good plan?"
She shook her head. "Your Highness, I was just guessing. I don't have any good countermeasure. I was just thinking, what could be the benefit of this war. It's alright to grab resources or territories, but in the end, the ones who will suffered from this are only the common people. Since ancient times, there should be no monarch who wanted to be known to sacrifice his people for the sake of achieving his ambitions and consolidating his supremacy." She spoke with indifference, without any fluctuations in her intonation as if she was having a casual conversation.
Opposite of her, Jing Rong was overflowing with admiration. "Who informed you about all of this?"
"I gathered some information from the Lin annals and memorized some of it. I was just speaking casually, don't mind my words." Her explanations made him a bit skeptical.
'What Lin annals?!' Ji Yunshu absolutely did not even spend a second on it. What she based herself on is the knowledge she gained from her conversations with Ji Pei. During the two years they were together, Ji Pei had taught Ji Yunshu how to write and showed her some tactics and military strategies. Due to being interested in the subject, Ji Yunshu put lots of effort into absorbing knowledge. What she told Jing Rong came from a conversation she had with Ji Pei long ago.
"The greatest enemy of this world isn't the one standing in front of you, but the swords, spears and weapons of the soldiers. The best thing to do is to spend all your effort in protecting the common people." Once said Ji Pei.
At that time, Ji Yunshu did not understand his words, but with time, she gradually comprehended it. In exchange for the greater ambition of uniting the whole world, it came with the cost of people rebelling. A great emperor can easily turn into the next Qin Shi Huang1.
Jing Rong gawked at her and mutters, "Thank you very much."
"I didn't say anything worthy of your thanks." Ji Yunshu lowered her eyes. Once again, she had overstepped her status with her speech.
"No, you have roused my mind."
"This is because your Highness has a sharp mind."
Her reply made Jing Rong smile. It's true that Ji Yunshu did not suggest to him any good plan and was only casually speaking with him. 'Hmm…' Since she did not want to take credit for words casually spoken, he would not force her.
The carriage parked outside the gate. After they disembarked, they parted ways since their destinations differed. Before separating, Jing Rong remembered to warn her again in addition to reminding her that he will wait for her at the south gate. Ji Yunshu acquiesced before following a eunuch to Zhangzhi hall.
On their way to Zhangzhi hall, there was a furnace placed at every dozen of steps causing a big contrast of temperature in the cold weather. Finally, they reached the hall and Ji Yunshu waited outside for her summons while the eunuch went inside to announce her arrival. A moment later, the eunuch came out. "Please come in, Teacher Ji."
She stepped inside. Her movements caused her wide sleeves to billow, brushing along her sides. Her posture was upright and she did not reveal a single trace of nervousness. As she went inside, she caught sight of a curtain of muslin hanging from the roof beam. The muslin was thin enough to make out the silhouette of a woman sitting at a position where an imperial consort would be, but it made her features hazy.
Gradually, the curtain parted. Concubine Xiao, whose face made her looked as if time had forgotten her, clearly reflected in Ji Yunshu's eyes. The imperial concubine was wearing a violet brocade gown which had a phoenix tail embroidered on it. On the hem of her skirt, dark rose stems could be seen as they climbed upward and blossomed all over her gown.
Magnificent and unmatched were words that perfectly described Concubine Xiao. It was no wonder the emperor favored her so much. Her beauty must be the main reason! In the end, all emperors loved beauties, a fact unchanged since time immemorial.
- Qin Shi Huang is the first emperor of Qin who unified China and ended the Warring States era. His reign was punctuated with many controversies and he became obsessed with the futile search of the elixir of immortality in the later years of his reign. For more informations, click here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qin_Shi_Huang ↩
Chapter 153 – Pick Either One?
Concubine Xiao's red lips stretched into a smile as she sat on her chair, which gave people a deep impression of mystery. Ji Yunshu was about to salute her per etiquette, but she was stopped by a light gesture from Concubine Xiao. "No need for courtesy. This imperial self has summoned you to the palace, thus you are my noble guest."
"This humble one is only a commoner. I do not dare assume to be your Ladyship's noble guest."
Concubine Xiao didn't argue. She glanced at a chair on the side and lightly raised both of her hands in a gesture of invitation. "Teacher Ji, please take a seat."
"Many thanks, your Ladyship." Ji Yunshu slowly proceeded to the chair Concubine Xiao pointed at and sat down. Respect could be seen on her expression, yet her heart was brimming with cold prudence.
Concubine Xiao curled the corner of her mouth and inquired as she looked at her. "Teacher Ji is a clever person. That day, when you took advantage of the missing girls case to make the emperor agree to unseal the coffins of the victims from the imperial duke case, it made me extremely impressed. Since you are an intelligent man, I suppose you already know the reason for my summon today, right?"
'Oh! Unexpectedly, she went with a straight punch! Her speech goes straight to the heart of the matter.' Ji Yunshu dully spoke, "This humble one does not dare to casually guess your Ladyship's intention to summon me into the palace."
"There's no harm in it. Why don't you take a guess?"
"This humble one doesn't dare to guess your Ladyship's intention. I hope that your Ladyship can enlighten me."
She played dumb the same way Concubine Xiao did earlier; An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. Ji Yunshu was very clear on one point; If she did correctly voice out the other's intention, she would fall into her trap and would have no other choice but to be swayed into her faction. If she deliberately guessed wrong, it signified that she refused to stand on Concubine Xiao's side and would be turned into a target of assassination.
There were two options in front of her, but picking either one would send her to a dead end! It's better for her not to pronounce herself.
Concubine Xiao is an intelligent person. She quickly understood that Ji Yunshu had seen through her little scheme. Since it failed, she simply smiled as if nothing has happened, "Forget it. Since Teacher doesn't want to guess, I won't make things difficult for you. In fact, I summoned you here today to inquire about the progress of the missing girls' case."
'Lies!' But Ji Yunshu didn't expose her and went along with her by giving an honest reply. "I won't hide from your Ladyship; there has been no progress for the case."
"No progress?" Concubine Xiao was inwardly quite delighted by the news. However, outwardly, she didn't forget to raise an eyebrow in an act of displeasure and questioned Ji Yunshu, "I have heard that, two days ago, they found a body related to the missing case on Lin mountain. Not to mention that the body didn't have both hands, even her face was peeled off. I heard that you went to examine the body and made a portrait of the girl who turned out to be the granddaughter of Old General Li. Am I correct?"
"Yes your Ladyship."
"Then… aside from the identity of the deceased, there is nothing else?"
"The clues led to a dead end, so we cannot investigate further." Ji Yunshu continued to play the transparency card since it was useless to hide anything from the other woman. After all, this is the outcome that Concubine Xiao desired the most.
Concubine Xiao acted as if she was very disappointed. She even showed hint of sadness as she lightly sighed. "This case has dragged on for so long. Innocent girls continue to go missing one after another. Perhaps, they have perished in the same way as Old General Li's granddaughter." She grievously sighed, showing deep sorrow.
That woman's acting skills truly made Ji Yunshu nauseous. Due to the disgust she felt, Ji Yunshu replied back with much effort. "Your Ladyship's concern is the common people's grace. This humble one will do my best to solve this case."
"It is good that you have confidence." After she was done speaking, Concubine Xiao turned to a palace maid and signaled her.
The palace maid stepped forward while holding a very exquisite brocade box. Then, she placed the box on the small table beside Ji Yunshu. With precaution, she lifted the cover of the box. What reflected inside Ji Yunshu's eyes was a very beautiful Southern Sea pearl.
"That Southern Sea pearl was a gift the emperor bestowed me a few years ago. Although this imperial self is very fond of it, I believe that this pearl would suit Teacher Ji's belt. I don't lack such things, so I don't mind gifting you this."
'How generous!' Ji Yunshu didn't show any pleasure receiving such gift, yet she also didn't show any intention to refuse it. She simply reached for the cover, her fingertips touching the top and gently, she closed it, leaving her hand on it.
Concubine Xiao became confused. "Could it be that you don't like it?"
"Your Ladyship's gift is too beautiful and precious. This humble one is too used to plain clothes and common commodities. If I wear such an expensive object, I fear that I can't get used to it."
"Eh? Since Teacher doesn't like Southern Sea pearls, this imperial self still have other things that may be to your liking."
The palace maid understood the meaning and went to fetch a scroll. She unfolded the scroll in front of Ji Yunshu, revealing a full-colored painting of plum blossoms. That painting was more than a meter long and had focused on one thing only – plum blossoms. Each blossom were painted in light red, smudged at some places for gradient. The whole painting gave out a comfortable feeling for anyone who gazed at it. Moreover, the branches of the plum tree were arranged in an picturesque and intricate pattern, so it was not too dense nor too sparse, very pleasing to the eyes and dazzling as a whole. Ji Yunshu had to admit that this bribe made her feel moved.
Concubine Xiao extended her slender, long forefinger and pointed at the stamp on the painting. Then, she probed, "Do you recognize this stamp?"
Ji Yunshu looked at it and realized it was the stamp of the best painter in Great Lin – Master Bai Que. "Yes, it's Master Bai's stamp." Ji Yunshu nodded.
"Master Bai's painting skills is considered the best in the whole empire and none has yet surpassed him. The painting in front of you is the 'Land of Plum Blossoms', which is his best masterpiece. I just happened to acquire it. Such a valuable object deserves to be appreciated by someone worthy of it. I believe that Teacher is that someone. An exceptionable work like this is better to be given to you than collect dust by my side."
What a dilemma, Ji Yunshu really wanted to receive this generous gift, but she knew that as soon as she accepted it, it meant that she would join Concubine Xiao's faction and renounce helping Jing Rong with the Lin Capital case. Coldness surged inside her eyes which she quickly concealed it in a heartbeat, leaving only a pleasant smile on her face.
Meanwhile, Jing Xuan, who had changed into new clothes and re-combed her hair in a very good-looking hairstyle, was speeding toward the Zhangzhi hall. Behind her trailed several palace maids, appearing as if they were chasing after her. Finally, Jing Xuan arrived at the main hall entrance. Her heart was bursting with happiness as she was prepared to go inside. However, she was stopped by a eunuch.
"Princess, her Ladyship is currently meeting with Teacher Ji. She has instructed us not to let anyone disturb the meeting."
"Presumptuous! You dare to obstruct this princess?!"
"This lowly slave doesn't dare."
"Then, get out of my way."
The eunuch didn't dare to obstruct her any longer and was forced to take two steps back while trembling.
Jing Xuan snorted. She lifted the hem of her skirt a bit and strutted in just in time to see Ji Yunshu let go of a captivating painting, and her imperial mother prying away at 'his' expression.
In another place, to be precise, in Fuyang hall, Qi Zhen emperor sat in front of a table with an appearance wrought with worries and solemnity from governing his empire and his people. Placed in front of him were a pile of memorials. When he looked over his table, Jing Yi stood on the left, followed by Jing Hua and Jing Rong who stood on the right. Behind the three princes stood the several ministers.
And behind those ministers, there were several young officials. Amongst them, there was one called Chen Zhangqin, the son of the Minister of Rites. Half a year ago, he was chosen by his father to fill the position of assistant-minister of the Board of Rites.
Chen Zhangqin also happened to be Ji Wanxin's future husband.
He was slightly bowed, but it didn't hide his delicate appearance of a modest gentleman. Appearance wise, he was a perfect match for Jinjiang's number one beauty, Ji Wanxin.
Grenn’s Rants Corner
I like that little mind game between Ji Yunshu and Concubine Xiao. It’s nice to see a confrontation between two smart women.
With this chapter, there will be only two more chapters left from last week regular chapters that I haven’t release. ^^;;