Let me see you without your clothes
No wonder Cui Mei wanted to commit suicide in such a drastic manner. She had given up her body to protect her mother, and when the matter was done, she found that she was doomed.
Her body was infected with syphilis, and her face was disfigured. She had killed someone with her own hands while carrying their baby. In addition, she might have had some affection for Han Shan in her heart.
Some people say that the closest distance to the bottom of a woman’s heart is through her core[mfn]Kiari: Core here is a euphemism for the female reproductive organ. This is a phrase from Eileen Chang’s novella- Lust, Caution, in which she said “because once a woman agrees to accept you into her, it means she likes you in her heart[/mfn], which is also applicable to a Qingguan like her, for Cui Mei who is still guarding her body in the Ji Pavillion.
“Who killed Fan Chun? Who wanted to kill you?” Ran Yan asked.
“Fan Chun was killed by Fourth Miss Yin and Wei Xia.” When Wan Lu talked about Yin Wanwan, her voice held a hint of sorrow. She didn’t know whether it was sympathy, hatred, or regret.
“Fan Chun was Fourth Miss Yin’s original maidservant. When Fourth Miss Yin heard that they needed more manpower she immediately offered for Fan Chun to help. The next afternoon, when Fourth Miss Yin went to visit Lady Wei, she ‘accidentally’ spilled a drink on her clothes, so she asked to bathe and change in Lady Wei’s yard. Wei Xia and Fan Chun had waited on her, and working together, Fourth Miss Yin and Wei Xia killed Fan Chun.”
This was a deliberate murder plot. It was easy to see why they had killed Fan Chun.
Fan Chun was originally one of Yin Miaomiao’s maidservants. She knew more about her lady’s every move, more than Yin Wenshu and Madam Ling would. Fan Chun must have voiced out his suspicions, which led to his and Fan Chun’s death.
“As for this servant, this servant had overheard that Cui Mei and another woman were conspiring to frame Qin Musheng for the murder, but before this servant could tell anyone what this servant heard, this servant was struck from behind. Wei Xia never learned that the person who had knocked this servant unconscious was Fourth Miss Yin, as this servant was hit on the head at that time. This servant was confused and couldn’t see things clearly. This servant only saw the hand with the jade bracelet that was on this servant’s neck.” Wan Lu thought for a second before adding, “Wei Xia said that the person who had conspired with Cui Mei was herself.”
Ran Yan recalled the lively girl in the cherry red dress. She could not correlate her with the late Yin Wanwan. One was innocent while the other was on the extreme end. The only thing that did not change from the beginning was her love for Qin Musheng.
“It’s true that even the lowest of vermin can find love.” Ran Yan murmured. Looking at Qin Musheng, she did not see anything special about him, but Yin Wanwan was unswervingly committed to him.
These tragedies all occurred due to a single letter written by Qin Musheng. He was tricked by Zhang Fei into writing a letter to meet with Yin Miaomiao. After Yin Wanwan saw it, she snuck to the meeting place and was unfortunately caught by Zheng Fei where he stole her innocence.
But in the end, Yin Wanwan never resented him.
Xing Niang sighed before she turned around and went into the kitchen. She brought out the hot dishes and put them on the table by the porch.
She turned to Wan Lu and said, “You’ve had a hard day, eat as much as you can.”
Wan Lu reluctantly grabbed the chopsticks and picked up some rice. Though she did not have much of an appetite.
Ran Yan pulled out a book from the stack next to her. It was a Buddhist Scripture sent by the nunnery during dinner.
She flipped through it, reading what was written inside. Although she knew each word and that they connected to form sentences, she could not comprehend their meaning.
After watching the sun for a while, Ran Yan sighed before putting down the book. She got up and went to her bedroom to rest.
She had come to the Yingmei Nunnery to cleanse herself, not to appease the others. It did not matter if she could read and understand Buddhist scriptures.
Wan Lu looked up from her rice. She looked at Xing Niang suspiciously. “What’s wrong?”
“Perhaps… I feel uncomfortable when I hear so many chilling matters.” Xing Niang said, moving to tidy up the books on the floor.
Wan Lu nodded and continued to eat her rice. Xing Niang gave her a sideways glance saying, “Didn’t you say you had no appetite? I don’t think the rice is enough for you.”
Wan Lu spoke in between taking a mouthful of food. “I panicked earlier, but I feel better after talking about it. These matters have nothing to do with me. Why should I take it seriously?”
“Heartless.” Xing Niang stretched out her arm and pointed at Wan Lu’s head. “Who was the one who promised me they would pinch their heart shut smaller than the eye of an embroidery needle?”
Wan Lu rolled her eyes. If she were to be so closed-minded, she would never let warmth into her heart. But she knew that if she were to talk back to Xing Niang, she would never hear the end of it. So she kept her head down and busied herself with eating.
Xing Niang sat on the porch watching Wan Lu stuff her mouth full. Her eyes were filled with anger.
Ge Lan was a child who could make people feel pain. She had been so sensible as a child, worrying about everything for Miss. She had good bearing and knowledge. Alas, she can only hope that Miss can identify Ge Lan’s bones and give her a proper burial. So in the next life, she can be reborn in a good family.
Wan Lu continued eating. Xiao Man knew that this was a sensitive matter for many people, so she dared not interject.
No one spoke for a while.
“She was such a good child, she will definitely be reborn into a good family in her next life. Fortunately, Miss has let this matter go in her heart, and she will be able to continue being happy.” Xing Niang murmured.
Xing Niang began sobbing, wiping away her tears.
Wan Lu’s throat tightened in grief as she swallowed a mouthful of rice. “You are deliberately making it hard for me to eat so that you can save the rest of my meal.”
Having said that, she took a few more mouthfuls, then stood up to clean her dishes. Xiao Man came to help her, and the two of them quickly cleaned up the porch.
Yingmei Nunnery was very poor. After the sun went down, there was no lighting in the front hall except where the Bodhisattva was enshrined.
There were many mosquitoes in the wilderness. Ran Yan didn’t want to stay outside so she went to bed early. However Ran Yan did not feel sleepy, so she thought about how to deal with her cases.
Lady Wei had never killed anyone. Strictly speaking, she was also a victim. The only thing she could be convicted of was hiding her humble blood and marrying into a noble family.
According to the Tang Dynasty law, anyone who marries two levels above their status will be exiled. If they are a concubine they will be flogged.
For two years, a total of six people had died: Yin Miaomiao, Ge Lan, Fan Chun, Han Shan, Zheng Fei, and Yin Wanwan. This was considered a big case and had been sent to the Ministry of Criminal Justice for review. It would be hard for Provincial Governor Liu to take this case lightly when the case has been sent to the Ministry of Punishment for review. The sentencing will have to wait until the news from the Ministry of Punishment has been received.
While lost in thought, Ran Yan began to feel drowsy. Suddenly there was the faint sound of a piano playing in the distance.
Ran Yan remembered the promise she made last night to throw the umbrella into the woods for Su Fu. She quickly got up and opened the chest in the corner of the room. She had asked Xing Niang earlier that day where the umbrella was located.
The moon was shining brightly when Ran Yan went out. The sound of the piano was a little clearer now that she was outside, but it was still muffled and far away. The music was soft and quaint, like a stream flowing out of the forest.
Ran Yan held onto the umbrella and stopped by the grove of fruit trees. After enjoying the music for a while, she threw the umbrella into the forest…
The umbrella was thrown beyond the fruit trees and into the wild greenery past it, rustling the branches and leaves as it did so.
Ran Yan listened until the rustling stopped, but she did not hear the sound of the umbrella hitting the ground. Unsure of what had happened, she couldn’t help but lean a little closer.
With a bang, the plain white paper umbrella opened, and hit the nearest fruit tree, causing the fruits to fall to the ground.
The white umbrella was then lifted. A god-like face appeared from the shadows. He was on the tree and dressed in a white tunic. His ink-black hair flowed around him and made his appearance seem less cold.
“I have always believed you to be a cold person, but you are also very talented. It turns out that you can play the piano.” Ran Yan said slowly.
Su Fu did not answer her, but he gently twisted open the handle of the umbrella. There was the sound of the cold steel being unsheathed, the moonlight reflecting off of the blade. It turned out that inside the handle of the umbrella was a two-foot sword.
The bright, cold light reflected onto Su Fu’s beautiful face, illuminating his dark eyes. For a moment his temperament was reflected into the sword in his hand as if he could kill someone at any moment.
Ran Yan’s heart tightened in her chest. She had not forgotten that Su Fu had considered killing her before.
“Do me a favor.” Su Fu said as he gracefully jumped out of the tree, putting the sword back into the sheath.
Ran Yan looked at him with calm eyes. “Can I refuse?”
“Of course.” Su Fu leaned against the umbrella as if he was holding a sword in front of him, his broad arms like a solid mountain. He opened his mouth slightly. “However, I hope you will consider it carefully.”
Ran Yan pursed her lips slightly. Was that a threat?
The night breeze was gentle as the two stood quietly facing each other. Ran Yan did not like this kind of intimidation. Sometimes she could lower her head, but now was not one of those times. “It depends on what it is. If it is not something I can do, you can kill me; I am useless.”
“An autopsy.” Su Fu replied bluntly.
Ran Yan raised an eyebrow and glanced at him. Why would an assassin want me to perform an autopsy? “It would need to be at night.”
“If the light is not sufficient, the autopsy could omit some information.”
Su Fu nodded and asked, “Do you have everything you need?”
Ran Yan opened her mouth. Did she say that she agreed?
Su Fu seemed to know what she was thinking and said, “I know that you will agree. As I never said that I wouldn’t kill you if you did not follow the instructions. Besides, I am not asking you to do the autopsy for nothing. You will get paid afterward.”
“Can I choose my own reward?” Ran Yan smiled, her eyes showing some interest.
Su Fu saw that she was interested, so he said, “As long as it is within my capability.”
Ran Yan was satisfied. She looked him up and down and said, “Let me see you without your clothes.”
Su fu’s frigid face showed a crack. He began to doubt whether he had heard her correctly. He couldn’t hide the confusion in his voice as he spoke. “You… What did you say?”
“I have no other motive besides looking. It’s a hobby of mine. When I see a special human body, I can’t help but to want to see it with my own eyes. Whether the body is mutated or peculiar in any way, I want to dissect it and analyze it. Out of all the male bodies I have seen, yours is almost perfect.” Ran Yan did not try to hide her inner thoughts.
Su Fu stared at Ran Yan in surprise. He couldn’t help but be shocked by her hobby.
Moreover, she said “all the male bodies”, how many were “all”?
Ran Yan’s lips curved into a partial smile.
Her request was more or less a joke. However, including this life and her previous one, Su Fu was the most perfect one to make her harbor this thought…