Chapter 772 – If a Rat Crossed the Street
Translator: Iris, Editor: Choufleur
“But what I said… is true.” The young apprentice trailed off as he shrunk away.
“You’re still talking?”
The apprentice finally snapped his mouth shut.
Mo Ruo was upset that a young kid could read his mind so easily. Was I really that obvious? Whatever. He dismissed that thought and made his student fetch him a jar of wine, so that he would have a good night’s sleep.
His apprentice soon returned with the requested item. He set the jar down on the bamboo table, and noticed a small ant on the table. “Hm? s.h.i.+fu, why are there ants here?”
Ants? Mo Ruo looked down, and sure enough, there was one! All of the bamboo tables in Yuhua Pavilion had been smoked with herbs to repel insects. Normally, there would not be any ants, unless something sweet was close by.
The student and teacher duo began to search for what had attracted the ants. Then, his apprentice exclaimed and pointed, “s.h.i.+fu, look! This corner is crawling with ants!”
Indeed, one of the table corners was covered in ants that formed into a tight, squirming ball. It was very disgusting.
Mo Ruo, with his stellar vision, noticed that the ants were surrounding a small, black object. Could this be the mysterious herbal substance that Ji Yunshu sent to him to examine?
He swept away the ants and held the black object in the palm of his hand, as if it was a piece of treasure. Then, with the object cupped in his hand, he headed to his research room.
His student yelled in panic as his teacher left, “s.h.i.+fu, what do I do about these ants?”
Baiye herb? Oh right, it can repel ants. The young apprentice hopped down the stairs to fetch the herb.
That night, Mo Ruo stayed in that room and closely a.n.a.lysed that black substance all night. Morning came, and he left for the Rong estate on horseback at the first call of the rooster. No one slept at the Rong estate as well, all of them stayed up and waited for the news.
Mo Ruo rushed to the gate and almost slammed head first into Lang Po. “What brings you here, Mo gongzi?”
“I’m looking for Teacher Ji.”
“Oh, then let’s head in together then.” He was in a hurry as well. It seemed that his visit to the Zhang village was quite fruitful. Mo Ruo nodded and they entered the Rong estate together.
Jing Rong and Ji Yunshu waited all night in the main hall. They were only waiting for Lang Po, but Mo Ruo showed up with him.
When they entered, Lang Po reported his findings, “We have rea.s.sembled the base of the statue as according to Teacher Ji’s instructions. The base formed a square that, as expected, was hollow inside. And it fits the well perfectly. There were no hidden mechanisms as well, and it can be easily moved with a single push. However, the villagers had no idea, so no one had moved it. But the murderer must be very familiar with the statue, that’s why he could use this and throw the victims into the well. I’ve also visited Old Man Zhang, but he has gone missing even since Zhang Daqi was taken away by Prince Yi. Still, I found something in that house.”
Hm? Lang Po held out a thin sheet of silver and explained, “This was pried off Old Man Zhang’s wheelchair.”
Ji Yunshu took the piece of metal, it was a square sheet of silver, extremely thin and extremely light. She frowned and thought aloud, “Back then, at the Zhang ancestral hall, when Zhang Daqi pushed Old Man Zhang into the building, a ray of light flashed past my eyes. It must have been something metallic, like a sheet of steel. But at the time, neither of them had any metal on them, I only spotted something similar on the handle of the wheelchair. Afterwards, when the candles went out, I saw that ray of light again. But by then Old Man Zhang was already brought into the ancestral hall to rest, the wheelchair was not outside. So where did that light come from? Unless…”
Jing Rong finished her sentence, “Unless, when the lights went out, Old Man Zhang came out from the ancestral hall on his wheelchair, he was the one that killed Idiot Si with the silver needle.”
Huh! Is the murderer really Old Man Zhang?
Everyone present was shocked by that revelation. Ji Yunshu solemnly picked up from where he left off. “Zhang Daqi was always by his side when Old Man Zhang committed his crimes. That explains why he was so worked up when I asked if the murderer was from the Zhang village. The person he was trying to protect is his father.”
“But we don’t have any evidence to prove it.”
Mo Ruo, who had kept quiet the whole time, “I think… I should have that evidence.”
Everyone turned their attention to him. He carefully took out that black object.
“This is…” Ji Yunshu gasped.
“That’s right, it’s the thing you’ve sent to me. I’ve a.n.a.lysed it, this is a kind of medicine called Hei Lizi, mixed with sugar and alcohol. It would let out a smell similar to diced garlic and it’s specifically used to treat Withering Bone Syndrome. This medicine is usually applied on a person’s arm, and it would attract ants when exposed to sunlight.”
Withering Bone Syndrome?
“Withering Bone Syndrome? On the arm? Diced garlic?” Ji Yunshu mumbled to herself and finally pieced everything together. “You’re right, this was the smell I caught from Old Man Zhang. Now that I think about it, he should have the Withering Bone Syndrome, that’s why it was applied on his arm. So when he held the dagger with a reverse hand and stabbed Gao Meng in the chest from behind, the medicine on his arm grazed against Gao Meng’s ear and left some residue inside his ear. Now we just need to find Old Man Zhang, prove that he does have this medicine on his arm, and the truth would be revealed.”
The clouds were slowly lifting.
However, Jing Rong asked, “There’s something I don’t understand. If Old Man Zhang is the real murderer, then how did Zhang Daqi’s blood get onto the Huxian stone?”
“I know!” A bright shout came from outside the hall. They followed the voice, it was Tang Si. She ran into the hall excitedly. She wiped away the sweat on her brows, swallowed, then grabbed a cup of tea and downed it in one breath. Glug, Glug, Glug. After that, she finally said, “I know, I know why Old Man Zhang was killing people, and I know why the stone has Zhang Daqi’s blood…” Her voice boomed through the hall.
In that very instant, the Ministry of Justice was transporting Zhang Daqi in a prisoner’s cart, to the “Market Square”, where the execution was to be held. They happened to pa.s.s by one of the most busy streets in the capital. The Case of the Dried Well had spread through the capital, and many had been feared for their lives for quite some time. Now that the murderer was found and apprehended, the people were both relieved and angry. They all rushed towards the cart with baskets full of eggs and vegetables, filling up the entire street.
“Yeah, kill him!”
“Slice him into ribbons!”
“Beat him to death, beat him to death!”
The populace shouted as they hurled eggs and rotten greens at Zhang Daqi, who took the blows without a squeak. He no longer had a will to live as he was tied down to the cart like a pool of sludge. That salve from Ji Yunshu was never used, so the injuries that littered his body continued to bleed red as his head, his face and his body was covered with eggs and rotten vegetables. It was a sorry sight to behold. There was an old saying, if a rat crossed the street, everyone would try to beat it to death. That saying must have been talking about him.
The prisoner’s cart finally arrived at the Market Square under the angry shouts and screams of the angry mob and the a.s.sault of eggs and vegetables. He was dragged to the execution deck and forced to his knees with his hands tied behind his back.
The bare-chested executioner stood next to him with a giant sword in hand, he had been waiting for a long time. The official in charge of overseeing the execution glanced at the sky, it was time. He took out the command plaque from its bamboo holder, and tossed it out to land on the ground with a heavy thud.
“Commence the execution.”
 黑栗子, A fictional medicine.