Chapter 3 – Nameless Corpses
Original and most updated translations are from volare. If read elsewhere, this chapter has been stolen. Please stop supporting theft.
The rain continued to fall all day long until it finally stopped at night.
At this time in the front courtyard, the Ji family was receiving the noble guests from the capital. Meanwhile, Ji Yunshu was tidying the paint in her sandalwood box. All of the colors in the box were mixed by her. Each color was glossy, getting brighter as time goes on. Without a doubt, each color could be preserved for more than 1,000 years without fading.
After around the time it takes to brew a cup of tea, Luan’er hurriedly ran into the room and exclaimed, “Miss! The county magistrate wanted you to make a quick trip to the east suburbs. He mentioned that an abandoned house in the east suburbs had caught fire, and many had perished from the spread fire. Right now, their deceased families are waiting for the corpses to be identified, so they could retrieve and bury them. Unfortunately, since their corpses were charred beyond recognition, they wanted you to go and have a look.”
“When did it happen?”
“Two hours ago.”
Ji Yunshu let out a groan. She unhurriedly closed the lid of the sandalwood box, changed into men’s clothing, lit up a small lantern, and went out.
Whenever she goes out for work, she never brings Luan’er with her. Her maidservant stayed behind as Ji Yunshu needed someone to protect the courtyard during her absence.
Traveling at night wasn’t easy. Fortunately, the east suburbs wasn’t very far. When she arrived at her destination, the sight of a collapsed residence still billowing out smoke greeted her. The air was suffused with the smell of burning wood. Most of the villagers were carrying lanterns outside. Some of them wailed, while others repeatedly sighed.
Once she approached, she could see that more than 10 corpses were neatly lined up on the ground. All of the skin and flesh on the corpses were utterly burnt to a crisp; not even one corpse could be recognized.
When the county magistrate saw Ji Yunshu’s arrival, he hurriedly went to her. He spoke in an articulate and low voice, “Yunshu, come and see. If the situation wasn’t too grave, I wouldn’t want to alarmed you. This much work on the first month of the lunar year, don’t mention you feeling unlucky, everyone is crying out in grievances right now!”
“It’s getting late. The earlier we wrap everything up, the earlier we can go back.”
“Good, good, good.”
The county magistrate ordered people to carry over a table and to prepare a dozen sheets of paper. He also ordered the yamen runners to form a perimeter of security around the area.
While she observed the corpses lying on the ground, Ji Yunshu’s almond eyes widened with shock, but she quickly lowered them to conceal her emotions from prying eyes. Although she became accustomed to witnessing such scenes, to go as far as to say that she became completely apathetic was a complete lie.
She walked to the first corpse without hurrying. Then, she crouched in front of it for a closer examination. The corpse before her had signs of heat ruptures and had a swollen face. She continued to examine it for a moment before opening her mouth and whispering, “Deeply sunken eyes with no shape; low and flat zygomatic bones; the frontal bone is wide, and the lower jaw is narrow.”
Immediately after, she took out and wore a pair of white gloves. She lightly pressed on the corpse’s face and skull so she could have a rough idea of the cranial dimensions.
Then, she turned around and returned to the table. She opened her sandalwood box and took out a brush and her paint. Finally, she started to paint a human shape on the paper.
Once the portrait was completed, immediately a person rushed out from the crowd in tears, yelling out to heaven and earth as she ran toward the first corpse. “This is my husband. Aaah! Husband! How can you just leave me like this? How can I live in this world now that you have left me…”
Ji Yunshu proceeded with her work and examined the second corpse. ‘The occipital bone is fractured. That person must have been smashed by a wooden beam. The sphenoid bone is protruding, and the mandible is a little slanted.’
The portrait of the second person came out.
A man and a woman rushed out before hesitantly crying out “Mother.”
The scene was indeed tear-jerking!
Ji Yunshu spent an hour and 30 minutes to create the portraits of all 17 burnt corpses. Among the 17 corpses, only 12 were claimed, leaving behind five unknown and nameless corpses.
The county magistrate allowed his subordinates to take the portraits and inquire about the identities of those five corpses. Unfortunately, no one in the village recognized the people in the portraits.
Jinjiang city’s East suburbs wasn’t quite big to begin with, so why would there be five nameless corpses? Could it be that they were outsiders?
If they were outsiders, why would they appear in an east suburbs’ residence?
 What are heat ruptures? They are split of the soft parts (soft tissues, muscles…) of the body under great heat. It looks like a laceration or incised wounds. For more information, I put the link to a forensic reference, that contains laymen terms (WARNING: don’t scroll up or down if you don’t want visual of other things) click here.