Chapter 88 – Solving the Case
Original and most updated translations are from volare. Please don’t read elsewhere and stop supporting theft.
“Stop it, stop it…” Madame Jiang’s countenance took a turn for the worse. Her dilated pupils suggested an extreme fear, or rather, an unbearable mortification. Her snobbishness was, by now, no more than a burden which dragged her deeper into a raging folly.
Ji Yunshu lips moved swiftly: she had no intention of stopping. “You didn’t inform the yamen. Instead, you and Li Zhao buried the corpse, that’s because you knew that if you told the yamen about it, it would become known that Lord Jiang…”
Ji Yunshu hesitated for a time: she clenched both of her fists, which were hidden in her sleeves. The tip of the fingers paled as the nails pierced into the flesh and drew blood-red lines around them. She looked at Yu Sao: the words she wanted to say were stuck in her throat. Her eyes reddened. She looked at Madame Jiang and hardened her determination. “Madame Jiang, you knew for a long time that Ah Yu, in her youth had been… sullied by Lord Jiang.”
‘Sullied?’ Under the immensity of the situation, it took a while before everyone understood the euphemism. The buzzing sound of the whispering within the crowd resumed. Jing Rong finally realized why Ji Yunshu insisted on pushing him out of the room the day before; the truth was unbearably cruel. He looked at Ah Yu, who remained motionless in the arms of her mother.
Ji Yunshu said with tearful eyes, “Two years ago, Ah Yu was only six years old. She deserved a childhood that should have been full of happy memories; fishing at the small stream, picking berries in the forest, making a kite, and cutting origamis. She would have been a happy little girl blessed with a radiant smile if it were not for that less-than-an-animal Lord Jiang!”
Yu Sao was still occupied by her monologue to Ah Yu. With a sad smile on her lips, she patted Ah Yu’s back gently and said, “My little Ah Yu, just be a good little girl and listen to mommy okay? I’ll bring you home soon, we’ll go look at the rapeseed flowers together and fly our kites. I’ll buy you the candied hawthorn sticks that you like so much. Don’t be scared, mommy is right beside you, and mommy won’t let anyone hurt you ever again. Do you hear me, Ah Yu?”
Ji Yunshu felt a crushing pain sear through her chest. She looked at Li Zhao and said, “You confessed that you were the only person involved in the burial because you wanted to protect your sister. You can’t say, you don’t dare to tell the truth, because just like Madame Jiang, you are scared to bring shame to the Li Family. Honor above all else.”
Li Zhao didn’t answer, but his darkened expression was enough of reply itself. Suddenly, Madame Jiang laughed hysterically, as if she had lost her last bit of sanity. She looked at Ji Yunshu defiantly, “Teacher Ji, you are truly amazing. Who knew that a secret I hid for so long would be brought to daylight by you in the matter of a few days?”
‘Oh, we have a confession here.’ Magistrate Liu eyes lit up upon hearing the statement. He pointed at Madame Jiang, “Née Li1, so you do confess to witnessing Yu Sao murder your husband, as well as to burying his corpse?”
Madame Jiang ignored the Magistrate’s question. Her attention remained fixed on Ji Yunshu. Her legs, which a few moments ago, barely had the strength to keep her standing, stopped shaking, powered now by a burning hate. She accosted Ji Yunshu and threw a gloomy look at her. “You are right, I saw it,” said Madame Jiang as she pointed at Yu Sao, “I saw her kill that beast. I saw her stab him once, twice, thrice… I lost count of how many times. I saw it but did nothing to stop her. I even hoped that… I shouldn’t have buried him, I should have dumped his corpse and fed it to the animals, so that nothing, not even bones would remain. Oh, I hate myself, why, why was I not a little bit crueler?”
Madame Jiang’s face was distorted with rage. Her husband was nothing but an “animal”.
‘I wouldn’t call him an animal. It would be an insult to those with four legs,’ thought Ji Yunshu.
Madame Jiang gave yet another frenzied laugh. She approached Yu Sao, knelt down in front of her and touched the pallid skin on her face with her hand. “Poor Yu Sao, she had to bear everything. She saw the frail body of her daughter crushed under the weight of that animal. She heard her screams of agony and despair. But she did nothing, even until the last moment. Poor Yu Sao, and what a miserable life for Ah Yu.”
Yu Sao acted as if she heard nothing. She pressed even more tightly against Ah Yu. Madame Jiang stood up and swept the hall with her eyes, finally halting on Magistrate Liu. The latter shuddered at the ferocity he saw.
Madame Jiang’s hatred was aroused once again. She clenched her hands into fists within her sleeves and railed, “The Li family has been blessed with honor by the late emperor, yet I married a monster: someone who’s neither a man, nor a woman. The fact that I’ve had no child after so many years was already a great shame to the family. I could only bear it and hide that animal’s condition. But… but I didn’t think that he would do something like that. Ah Yu was not yet ten years old when…”
Madame Jiang stopped: she couldn’t force herself to continue her narration.
Ji Yunshu asked, “If you had known about it, why didn’t you stop him? Why did you sit by and let him hurt Ah Yu, again and again?”
“Stop him? How could I? That man was an animal; he could not be stopped.” Madame Jiang turned around and looked at Yu Sao, “In order to stay at the Jiang Mansion, even Yu Sao herself endured it, what could I have done differently?”
Ji Yunshu finally understood the cause of Yu Sao’s deep guilt towards Ah Yu. A woman’s forbearance often led to results she herself wouldn’t be able to imagine. Su Yun was a perfect example: she endured, endured, and endured. In the end, she lost her child and even her own life. Was it not the same for Yu Sao?
The case was elucidated. The Magistrate sighed and slammed his desk with his gavel. “Née Li is found guilty of withholding information and burying a corpse with her brother Li Zhao without alerting the authorities. Lock both of them up for now and I’ll ask for instructions from the Minister of Justice.”
Li Zhao panicked upon hearing the sentence. He jumped and said, “No! You can’t do this to me! I haven’t killed anyone!”
“Bring him out of here,” ordered Magistrate Liu.
A few runners went forth to subdue Madame Jiang and Li Zhao to bring them to their cells. Madame Jiang yelled and threw a venomous look at the Magistrate, “I’m from the Li family. So what if I’ve committed perjury and buried a corpse? If you throw me into prison today, I can guarantee that you’ll be no more than a peasant before long.”
“I dare you!” Jing Rong smashed the table and caused the teacups to clatter.
Everyone looked at him. Jing Rong stood up and approached Madame Jiang. He towered over her like an eagle ready to descend on its prey, and there was such a coldness in his eyes that they stung the hearts of those who met it. “Do you dare to defy my will as well?”
Jing Rong’s sonorous voice brought Madame Jiang out of her hysteria: she had forgotten that a royal Prince was amongst her audience.
“The Li family have inherited their prestige and glory from the service of General Li to the emperor. Do you dare to transgress the limits of your privileges? Will you remove my princely title as well?”
“Do I need to remind you that it constitutes an act of high treason, and that the only end for you and your family would be death?”
Madame Jiang’s legs gave way, and her pupils dilated upon hearing these words. She realized that even summoning the prestige of her bloodline would be a futile struggle. She lowered her head in an act of submission and stopped resisting.
Upon seeing that she was finally “obedient”, the runners escorted her out of the hall. Madame Jiang stopped briefly on her way out, in front of Ji Yunshu. She said, with a miserable voice, “Teacher Ji, it has come to the worst for me today. I’ll submit to the result. But some acts, be it murder or perjury, are not done with bad intentions. You are a moral person. I think that you’ll understand that some people ought to die for their crime, while some don’t.”
“What do you mean?”
Madame Jiang smiled, “Are you not a smart one? Time to prove it.”
‘What is she trying to say?’ thought Ji Yunshu. She voiced her thought, “What do you mean?”
Madame Jiang seemed to have briefly forgotten the dire situation she was in; she looked at Ji Yunshu defiantly and said, “I hope that you won’t disappoint me, Teacher Ji.”
Both Madame Jiang and her brother were brought out of the hall. Her remark seemed to have struck something within Ji Yunshu’s mind. What Madame Jiang said resonated within her head, and she could not get her attention away from it.
Magistrate Liu looked at Yu Sao, who was still kneeling on the floor. He sighed, looked away and waved his hand. “Bring Yu Sao to the jail too. She will pay for her crime with her own life.”
“Yes sir,” said the runner as he approached Yu Sao. He hesitated a little. “Sir, about the little girl…”
“Take her away, away,” ordered the Magistrate.
The two runner, having received their orders, approached Yu Sao to make her stand up and tried to remove Ah Yu from her arms.
“Don’t take my Ah Yu… Stop it! You are all bad people, go away, go away…” Yu Sao held onto Ah Yu’s corpse as hard as she could, and fought the two runners. The putrid smell of the cadaver was made more noticeable by such strong movements.
The two runners covered their nose with their hand and backed away: the smell was simply too strong and Yu Sao’s grip, too firm. Magistrate Liu looked at her and said, “Well, fine, just let her go like that.”
Yu Sao was still humming when the two guards escorted her out of the hall. It seemed like she had lost her soul.
Magistrate Liu announced the closing of the hall, and the runners returned to their affairs.
Ji Yushu remained where she was with furrowed brows. Something in her, maybe her diligence, kept her on what Madame Jiang said. ‘What did she mean? Is she simply playing me? She’s a smart one, so it’s definitely a possibility.’
“Teacher Ji,” interrupted Jing Rong.
Ji Yunshu’s train of thoughts was derailed. She looked at Jing Rong and answered, “Yes, your Highness?”
Jing Rong said very seriously, “I just want to tell you, don’t get too emotional.”
Ji Yunshu was scared by Jing Rong’s perceptiveness. It seemed like he was able to see right through her, her thoughts and her emotions; there was nothing she could hide from him. ‘Yes, he is right, Yu Sao deserves pity, but she killed someone. There are no exceptions to the law.’
She looked away and puckered her lips. “Yes, this humble one understands.”
Grenn’s Rants Corner
Oh! Another twist is awaiting us from Madame Jiang’s mysterious words. What could it be?
- The original text used 氏 (shi) which is a character that followed the maiden family name of a married woman. This also helps to distinguish between the women in a harem that is not the emperor’s harem. Thus, Madame Jiang’s maiden last name is Li, thus it translates as Née Li. ↩