Chapter 153 – Pick Either One?
Original and most updated translations are from volare. Please don’t read elsewhere and stop supporting theft.
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 one 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 a 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 one still has 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 was 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 a 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 techniques are 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. Since you like it, it would be for the best for this exceptional work to be given to you, than for it to gather 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 in 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 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. ^^;;