Chapter 2 – Unfortunate Past
Original and most updated translations are from volare. If read elsewhere, this chapter has been stolen. Please stop supporting theft.
The silk brocade now showed an image of a woman wearing light pink clothes, standing beneath a plum blossom tree. She had a pointy chin, a rosy-red complexion, a pair of deep and profound eyes. The tip of her nose was plump and upright, and her thin lips stretched to form a faint smile. From Ji Yunshu’s hands, a beauty had come to life, and yet a beauty that felt all too real.
Once Lord Zhou saw the painting, his eyes immediately reddened and his body trembled once. A man could have tears, but he couldn’t shed them easily. He forcibly restrained himself from crying, instead rolling up the painting and handing it to his wife.
“This is indeed Ning’er. This was exactly how she looked like before the fall claimed her life. My poor daughter… When you were alive, you were often sick. But even in your death, you have to suffer with such an appearance. Mother is so sorry to have let you down! My poor daughter…”
Madame Zhou hugged the painting close as guilt consumed her. Her tears fell like raindrops on a pear blossom.
“Madame, stop being sad. Ning’er wouldn’t want to see you so heart-broken. Your health is not good; you will make your husband worry!”
Madame Zhou stifled her sobs, but her eyes were blinded with tears. Finally, the maidservants supported her back to her room.
Ji Yunshu cleaned her materials. She hefted the sandalwood box under her arm and prepared to leave.
“Don’t bother to see me out.” Lord Zhou interjected and gave her a bag of money, “I hope that Teacher will accept this money.”
“There’s no need. This is part of a yamen’s job, so the county magistrate will give me a wage.”
She returned the bag of money and departed quietly from the mourning hall.
She worked as a yamen runner, and should receive money from the yamen. So, she couldn’t desire that kind of extra money. If she decided to accept tips, people would start coming directly to her instead of going through the yamen to make requests. She would then be swarmed with jobs and be worked to death.
It is said that without a standard, nothing could be accomplished. Having an established schedule had its own advantages!
The downpour was heavier on the way home. Ji Yunshu travelled back on the same path, but she didn’t go toward the main entrance when she reached the Ji’s residence. Instead, she walked through a side door.
West Side Courtyard
Luan’er looked outside while twisting her hands anxiously. When she noticed that Ji Yunshu had returned, she hurriedly got up, welcoming her back.
“Miss, you were gone for 4 hours. Earlier, the Old Madame sent people here. They said that several noble guests from the capital were coming for the evening banquet and that you are not allowed to attend. They also said that you would bring bad luck to the family, because you make portraits of the deceased.”
“I don’t want to go either. So, why are you flustered?”
“The other misses could attend, but they only gave you the cold shoulder.” Luan’er complained.
“I just dread the noise; you should know that. Besides, it’s raining today. It’s better to rest inside instead.”
Ji Yunshu washed her hands using the water flowing from the eaves before entering the house.
Luan’er felt heartbroken for her miss. She sighed softly, and dutifully followed after her.
Ji Yunshu took off her male clothing and removed her makeup, revealing her white skin and beautiful face. Her facial features were sharp and refined, giving off an impression of wisdom and intelligence.
The beautiful countenance reflected on the mirror was not Ji Yunshu’s original appearance.
Five years ago, she’d died on the operation table. When she woke up, she seemed to be in the body of the barely 13-year-old Third Miss of the Ji family in Jinjiang city. As the former owner’s memories rushed through her brain like a tidal wave, she was able to understand her situation. The former was the unloved and bullied daughter of a concubine. Her mother was a prostitute from a brothel who’d become pregnant with her after a night of passion with her drunk father. When the child had entered the world, her mother had died due to the difficult childbirth. Since her tender childhood, she had lived in the West Side Courtyard under the care of Wet Nurse Zhang. Unfortunately, a few years ago, Wet Nurse Zhang had passed away from illness.
After her death, in less than a month of neglect, the 13-year-old Ji Yunshu had turned into skin and bones and met her demise due to starvation.
Soon after, the empty body was taken over by the new Ji Yunshu.
Fortunately, Ji Yunshu was a famous forensic anthropologist in the field of archeology during the 21st century, who specialized in facial reconstruction of skeletons. Therefore, in order to obtain money to survive, she simply resumed working in her previous profession and became a yamen runner who drew portraits of corpses that had their faces destroyed beyond recognition.
However, because of her status as a daughter born of a prostitute, from top to bottom, no one in the family liked her. Not to mention that the Ji family was a prestigious household, if rumors were to spread about her frequently being in contact with corpses, wouldn’t the Ji family greatly lose face?
Thus, Ji Yunshu had to crossdress as a man every time she went to work and could never rely on her family background. Besides, the Ji family never acknowledged her in the first place, which she was happy about since it gave her freedom. With her salary, she could buy a few new clothes from time to time.
In the span of five years, Ji Yunshu had gradually gotten used to this body and could now use it freely.