Chapter 112 – The Case (part 1)
The hostility within Ji Yunshu’s eyes sent shivers down Ji Shuhan’s spine. ‘She was wrong? What does she mean?’
Ji Yunshu snarled. “Despite enduring time and time again, it did not abate your cruelty. Your lack of compassion is what has given you this bloodthirsty son.”
“What are you talking about?” Ji Shuhan frowned.
Ji Yunshu ignored him and flashed a cold glance to Ji Yuanzhi, who was still impaled through the shoulder onto the gate. She looked back at Magistrate Liu and pleaded, “Magistrate, please ready the hall for trial… for the murders at the Wei Mansion.”
‘Wei Mansion? Isn’t this about Luan’er’s death?’ thought Magistrate Liu.
Ji Yuanzhi was brought to the great hall of the yamen and knelt down at the center of the room. He had a bandaged hand and a gaping hole in his robe around the shoulder. His hair was messy, and he seemed to be quite uneasy. Jing Rong stood right by him, casting down a look akin to an eagle stalking its prey.
Ji Shuhan was rather confused. ‘Why are we back at the Wei Mansion case?’ His heart was struck with sudden apprehension.
Ji Yunshu stood upright by Ji Yuanzhu’s left. In her usual garments, she lacked the proudness and the sharpness of Teacher Ji but gained a womanly softness which rightfully belonged to her normal self. However, the animosity in her eyes expelled almost all of it away; a little more and she would have seemed enraged by hatred, a little less and she would be seemed softhearted.
Magistrate Liu wiped his eyes with his sleeves and habitually reached out for his gavel. He was about to smash the table with it, when Jing Rong interrupted him with a cough. He suddenly realized who was there and immediately dropped the object. He cleared his throat and flashed a glance at Ji Yuanzhi. Then, he shifted his attention toward Ji Yunshu and asked in a much more gentle manner, “Yunshu, so, are there any links between the murders at the Wei Mansion and Luan’er’s suicide?”
Ji Yunshu did not answer him. Instead, she lowered her eyes toward Ji Yuanzhu, who dodged her eyes and kept his fists clenched. She asked him, “Do you really hate me so?”
‘What is she doing? That’s not the normal flow!’ thought the Magistrate.
Ji Yuanzhi seemed surprised at the question. He raised his head, showing a contemptuous smile. “Yes.”
“Do you hate me to the point that you want to see me dead?”
“……” Ji Yuanzhi frowned. He seemed to have understood her intentions, and he remained silent.
“Why?” asked Ji Yunshu.
Ji Yuanzhu remained silent.
This exchange was quite puzzling for Magistrate Liu. He asked in curiosity, “Yunshu, does this have anything to do with the case?”
“Of course it does.”
Ji Yunshu kept her eyes fixated on her brother. She skirted around him, and her countenance sank only when she arrived behind him. She asked, “That night, you joined us only after the feast had started, didn’t you?” She continued without giving Ji Yuanzhi a chance to interrupt her, “That’s because before you came to the main hall you went to the kitchen. You lingered around its entrance, wondering how you could sneak in, but you did not have a chance to do so.”
“What nonsense… I.. why would I want to go there. I haven’t been in the kitchen at all,” retorted Ji Yuanzhu.
“You don’t need to deny it so quickly. There are probably a few things even you can’t quite understand, such as… why did Madame Wei and Lord Wei die, and why I am unharmed.”
“Ah!” Ji Yunshu’s calm voice seemed to have pricked a fatal weakness. Ji Yuanzhi’s eyes widened, and his countenance turned ashen. His quickening breath revealed his nervousness: it was clear as daylight.
To everyone’s astonishment, Ji Yunshu brought a fabric pendant out of her pocket. She held the thread with her index finger and swung it in front of Ji Yuanzhu’s eyes. “You should recognize this. After all, Wei Yi said that you were the one who dropped it, and he didn’t forget to ask me to return this to you… He’s nice like that.”
Ji Yunshu flung the object at Ji Yuanzhu with a flick of her finger. It fell onto Ji Yuanzhi’s dirty robe with a thud. It seemed like a ball of fire to Ji Yuanzhi. He shook it off with vigor, causing it to fall far away from him. “That’s not mine.”
“Oh, really? Am I blind or illiterate? Can you tell me what’s written on it?”
‘There’s something written on it?’ Magistrate Liu was curious enough to leave his seat. He picked up the pendant and pointed at Ji Yuanzhi. “Hey, this is yours. Look, your name is sewn on it.”
“I…” Ji Yuanzhi stuttered; the focused air in his eyes was gone.
Ji Shuhan could not hold it in anymore. He grunted at Ji Yunshu, “Yunshu, what exactly are you trying to do? First, you say that Yuanzhi is at fault for Luan’er’s death, and now you are expecting us to believe that Yuanzhi is somehow related to the case at the Wei Mansion with a pendant and a few nonsensical remarks? He’s your third brother! Won’t you stop at nothing until he’s dead?”
‘Third brother? I’d love to know a time when he thought of me as a sister.’ Ji Yunshu maintained her composure, but resentment flashed through her eyes. “I’m not the one wishing his death, quite the opposite actually.”
“What nonsense?” shouted Ji Shuhan.
Ji Yunshu quirked her lips and turned her head toward Ji Yuanzhi, who was collapsed on the ground. “Listen, and I will throw light upon your confusion.”
She took a deep breath and fought against the tears in her eyes. “That day, before you came to the Wei Mansion, you prepared a pair of chopsticks identical to the ones used by the hosts at the Wei Mansion and soaked them in Pitohui poison for a few hours. When you arrived, you found an excuse to the kitchen and waited there until you saw a maid carry utensils. You knew that what she had was meant for me, so you offered a hairpin and used it as a distraction to swap the chopsticks with the poisoned ones you were hiding.”
At this point, the main hall had sunk into a complete silence. A silence due perhaps to surprise or shock. Despite the implausibility of the tale, even Ji Yuanzhi did not speak out against it. Ji Yunshu continued, “What you didn’t think of, however, is that when you were about to leave, Wei Yi bumped into you. In doing so, he caused his parents chopsticks, carried by another maid, to fall into the same container as mine; yes, the chopsticks were identical, so the two maids simply picked them up randomly.”
“The pair which was meant for me was split up. One was given to Uncle Wei, and the other one, to Aunt Wei.”
“No… stop it! STOP IT!” Ji Yuanzhi’s suddenly exploded into a frenzy. He raised his hands and was about to leap toward Ji Yunshu. However, before he could do so, Jing Rong arrived, quick as a gust of wind. He pulled Ji Yunshu behind him, raised his leg, and dealt a mighty kick to Ji Yuanzhi’s chest. The latter flew for nearly a meter and fell to the ground with blood on the corner of his lips.
Ji Shuhan hurried to help Ji Yuanzhu, but Lang Po and another bodyguard stopped him. “If you lay even a finger to help, I’ll end you right here, right now,” growled Jing Rong.
Ji Yuanzhi laid prostrate, looking at Ji Yunshu with hatred. He protested in a last-ditch effort, “You are lying. I haven’t, I haven’t!”
“You may not know, but you gave me the evidence I needed.”
“……” Ji Yunshu took out the handkerchief wrapped around the poisoned chopsticks out of her sleeves and cast it to the ground. “Look at your own thumb.”