Chapter 38 – Do You Want to Save Yourself?
Edited by Eris
Original and most updated translations are from volare. If read elsewhere, this chapter has been stolen. Please stop supporting theft.
As he approached, the housekeeper did not raise his eyes even once to look at Ji Yunshu.
“What use would you have for this old servant?” asked the housekeeper in a voice that betrayed his deep loneliness.
A gentle smile hung on Ji Yunshu’s lips as she handed the brocade box over to the housekeeper.
“Old mister, I came to bring this to you. If you grind it, add brown sugar and spirit and apply it onto the scar on your face, it’ll certainly help,” said Ji Yunshu.
The housekeeper was so surprised by this sudden display of care, he almost seemed terrify; his body trembled as he raised his eyes to meet the kindhearted visage of Ji Yunshu.
His first reaction was to decline the offer, “Please, teacher. Your old servant has done nothing to deserve the bestowal of such a valuable medicine.”
“Please accept it, old mister. The value of a medicine depends entirely on the patient. If it’s useful for the patient, then it’s precious indeed, but for those who don’t require it, it has very little value. I believe that it’s best used on you, and that’s why I hurried to bring it to you, despite the snow. I insist that you accept my gift,” said Ji Yunshu.
Ji Yunshu gave him no chance to further argue and pushed the box into the old housekeeper’s chest.
“Please, I insist.”
It was true, that if the medicine were to be properly preserved until the modern age, it would have been worth millions.
But, to each what is needed. Ji Yunshu liked money, but there are lines she would not cross.
If she cannot return to her own time, her only fate is to become a pile of bones.
In the end, the housekeeper held onto the box and said, “Your old servant is extremely grateful for your kindness, teacher.”
As he spoke, he bent over to salute her. Ji Yunshu, whose young age made it inappropriate for her to receive such a display of thankfulness, hurried to stop him before he could fully bend down by supporting his elbows.
“Please, old Mister, there’s no need for such formalities. I wouldn’t dare to receive a bow from you,” said Ji Yunshu.
“Teacher, you are a kind man, how can your old servant ever repay you?”
“Please make good use of this medicine to mend the wound you have on your face, that’ll be enough.”
“Again, my deepest thanks,” said the old housekeeper.
Ji Yunshu smiled back and was about to reply when a feeling of stickiness on her fingers made her think otherwise. It seemed as though something got stuck to her hand as she reached for the elbows of the housekeeper. She glanced at his sleeves discreetly while maintaining her smile and saw a dark spot: the fabric was burnt.
Whatever that was on the housekeeper’s sleeves became stuck to Ji Yunshu’s thumb when it rubbed against the fabric.
Ji Yunshu stopped looking at the old housekeeper and moved her hands away from his elbows, as if nothing happened. She then asked with a quiet voice, “Old mister, I left my sandalwood box here during my last visit. Did you happen to find it?”
“Yes, of course, I’ll bring it to you right away.”
Ji Yunshu nodded.
The moment the old housekeeper turned away, the smile on Ji Yunshu’s face vanished without a trace and was replaced by a stern look. She raised her hand and carefully inspected her thumb: a thin piece of wax was adhered to it.
She sniffed it and knew instantly that the unique scent it possessed resulted from a mixture of Roxburg rose flowers and lotus flowers.
This is out of place.
She remembered the burn on the housekeeper’s sleeves. The wax must have gotten there as the fabric touched the flame of a candle.
I remember smelling this somewhere, but where?
Ji Yunshu seemed to be on the verge of grasping something, but it was still not quite clear to her.
“Teacher, here’s your box, I’ve put everything I found in there,”
The sight of her sandalwood box, carefully presented to her by the housekeeper, interrupted Ji Yunshu’s thoughts. She looked at the old housekeeper, at the scar which ran across his visage, and something clicked in her head.
“I shall bid you farewell then,” said Ji Yunshu.
“Allow your old servant to escort you,” proposed the housekeeper.
“No need, the roads are slippery now, it’s best for old mister not to see me out,” answered Ji Yunshu.
Ji Yunshu did not head home, and instead, she went directly to the prison.
According to procedure, she ought to first ask for the permission of the magistrate before she can visit anyone who was incarcerated.
However, since the magistrate held her in high esteem, he had ordered that she would hold the same authority as himself to his subordinates.
As a result, as soon as she showed up at the entrance of the prison, a yamen runner opened the gate without any questioning, and greeted her with a large smile which was meant to flatter her, as displeasing her in anyway would surely spell disaster.
“Teacher Ji, what a pleasant surprise to see you here today! Oh, please mind the steps, it’s dark around here.”
The words “Would you like to hold onto my arms” almost slipped out of runner’s mouth.
“What a waste for him to not become a eunuch,” thought Ji Yunshu.
“Where are the two prisoners from yesterday? The two from the Zhou Mansion,” asked Ji Yunshu.
“They are inside, teacher.”
“Bring me to the woman,” ordered Ji Yunshu.
“Very well, please follow me,” said the runner.
Ji Yunshu followed the runner as the latter led her through the dark corridors which linked the many cells found within the prison. An uncomfortable humidity exacerbated the gloominess, and it was quite easy to understand why prisoners who had been incarcerated for a long time would suffer from atrocious joint pains.
‘This would be called rheumatism in the modern age.’
The runner stopped at the leftmost cell of the corridor and said, “Teacher, this is the one.”
Under the dim light which projected from the corridor and into the cell, Ji Yunshu was barely able to discern its occupant.
Suyun was curled up in a corner, trembling as she held onto her own arms for some desperately sought comfort.
A bone-chilling wind, which partly resulted from the coldness of the weather， incessantly circulated throughout the cells. Without the protection of warm clothing, it was perfectly conceivable for a prisoner to freeze to death before he or she could see justice delivered.
“Open the door,” said Ji Yunshu.
“There’s a prisoner inside…” answered the runner.
“Do I need you to remind me of that?” asked Ji Yunshu.
The runner smiled sheepishly and opened the lock which held the chains wrapped around the door.
Ji Yunshu took an oil-lamp from the wall off of which it was hung and stuffed her sandalwood box into the hands of the runner.
“Take good care of this and wait for me outside.”
She approached Suyun and knelt down right beside her. As the lanterns light shone brighter and brighter on Suyun, Ji Yunshu was finally able to see her bloodless face clearly.
It was a face whose pallor would have been unfathomable the day before.
“Suyun,” said Ji Yunshu.
There was long silence before an answer came to her. With trembling limbs, Suyun raised her head and looked at Ji Yunshu. Her eyes, which were deeply sunken into the orbitals, were filled with coldness and seemed devoid of emotion, as if she possessed some kind of lucidity about the imminent death which awaited her.
“Suyun, do you want to get out of here?”
Ji Yunshu’s voice resonated in the tiny cell, and seemed to make the air even harder to breath than it already was.
Suyun opened her mouth and no sound came out of it due to the feebleness of her body. She struggled to croak out a response, “What did you say?”
“I said, do you want to save yourself? Do you want to save Lin Duan’s life?”
Ji Yunshu repeated her question.
Suyun laughed quietly at the question, “I killed someone, so I’ll have to pay with my own life, there’s no getting out of this…”
“Oh, there is.”
“What do you mean?”
Ji Yunshu brought the oil-lamp closer to Suyun in the hopes of warming her a little using the swaying light emitted.
“Suyun, listen to me carefully, and think before answering my question. What I’m about to ask you is very important,” said Ji Yunshu very seriously.
Suyun nodded after a little while.
“Tell me, on that night, when you entered the young miss’ bedroom, what did you see? Was the room dark?” asked Ji Yunshu.
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