Published at 8th of December 2020 10:47:42 AM
On the third afternoon after the incident of Zhu Fu’s murder, completely alone, Ju Mu’er paid the Fu Yun Lai Inn a visit .
Long Er had not been the least bit happy about this .
Ju Mu’er had explained her plan to him before . She mentioned that the killer had been well-built so she guessed that that individual must have previously been involved in hard labor . The killer had given off a slight scent of sesame oil, so the likelihood of the person having a connection with the kitchens was also quite high . He had known which room Zhu Fu had been staying in, and also knew that Zhu Fu had had some money on him . She was almost completely sure that the killer must be someone from the restaurant or the inn .
Long Er agreed with her reasoning, as he too had similar thoughts, they both believed that the culprit should be someone from amongst those individuals . And that was why, currently all the informants from both the government office and the Long Residence, were focusing on the task of investigating everyone that had either been present at the restaurant or inn on the day, or nearby .
Alas, of the people who had been in those two places, individuals of average height were not scarce . And out of every 10 persons, there were probably eight or nine who had muscular frames . Not to mention the fact that many had lingering smells of cooking fumes on them, but oddly none had any scent of sesame oil . Furthermore, according to Li Ke’s report, the informants also had their eye on a few unsavoury characters, but all of them had no signs of scarring on the backs of their hands .
Upon hearing this, Ju Mu’er slowly replied, “See, that’s why I need to go . If it’s just the informants and bailiffs, the suspect is more than capable enough of avoiding them; but if I go, then the suspect will naturally be lured out . ”
Long Er was no fool, he fully understood what she meant by this . However, he had no intention of letting her do that, and this was because, in his mind, Ju Mu’er was now ‘his person’, and that meant that he was now responsible for her protection . If she were to go to the inn so publicly she would easily draw the attentions of the suspect onto herself, and might even end up inciting his wrath!
“There is no need for you to risk yourself, we are already very close to uncovering the truth, and I think it won’t take us long to catch the real culprit . ” Long Er said as he tried to advise Ju Mu’er against going .
Ju Mu’er seemed to have a different idea as she replied, “I need to do this Second Master . It’s what I owe you . ”
In the face of this one sentence, all of Long Er’s advice crumbled before it . Long Er knew Ju Mu’er’s personality well, he too, deeply understood the feeling of being indebted to someone; if someone felt like they were in someone else’s debt, and you still prevented them from paying it off, that person would definitely be on tenterhooks forever .
And Long Er definitely did not want Ju Mu’er to feel indebted to him .
Even though there was not much of the element of feelings between them, they would still be getting married soon . Their union was built on the basis of an exchange of conditions, but deep inside his heart, Long Er knew that the reason why he had agreed to marry her, was not because of what she had said to him about knowing how to save Shopkeeper Lu; but it was because he knew of her present difficulty and need for marriage .
Long Er had been pitting his wits against her for so long, that there was now an odd feeling inside him . He had this instinct that somehow, he knew her . And that he and she had this odd sort of camaraderie, or perhaps it was something else, something that he could not put into words just yet . . .
She was so inexplicably clever, that even if she had no sense of sight, she was still able to do more extraordinary things than any other ‘normal’ young lady would ever be capable of .
She always managed to bring him endless surprises .
And she was wholly unlike any other young lady of his acquaintance before .
This was why Long Er had been willing to marry her, after all, he would eventually have to marry one or risk being nagged to death . And the timing of when she mentioned her need of marriage was coincidentally just when he had been bothered about his need for a wife, so it pretty much seem like she had turned up right on his doorstep . He had no wish to marry any of those boring ladies, those dull and unimaginative young respectable ladies of society .
But Ju Mu’er was different .
His feelings toward her were a mixture of longing to bully her and protect her at the same time . He felt that every moment he spent with her was meaningful, and he liked the way things were . This way, he could always have her under his wing, protected from the outside world . He could also always keep her within his field of vision, spend all his time with her, and keep her out of harm’s way . Not to mention he would have opportunities to get rid of that seemingly-non-existent-but-truthfully-quite-prideful aura she sometimes had . After all, they were to become husband and wife right? She would naturally have to follow his lead soon . . .
Long Er felt that the way things would turn out would definitely be interesting to find out, and in reality, he felt like things were moving in the direction he had anticipated . As of now, the way she viewed him seemed much more gentle than when they had first met .
Ultimately, Long Er now felt that Ju Mu’er was his, and saying this, ‘his Ju Mu’er’ - the words really do fall smoothly off his tongue . Since she was now his, and under his protection, thus he naturally could not allow her to face any potential danger, however, the one thing he did not want, was for her to have any hidden resentment against him .
He was not being forced to marry her, and he hoped that she was marrying him out of affection too, and that she did not feel indebted to him .
Thus, in the end, he gave in to her request to go to the inn .
The next day, Long Er brought Ju Mu’er to the prefectural magistrate’s office, and after a brief discussion, he dropped her off at the mouth of Xi You Street . Ju Mu’er got off the carriage, readied her bamboo staff and walked round the corner, in the direction of Fu Yun Lai Inn .
The time was noon, just past meal-time, and there was a hardly a soul in the foyer . The moment Ju Mu’er entered, the attendant Shanzi quickly spotted her and was soon making his way toward her . Then, he led her to a relatively secluded table, and sat her down there .
Ju Mu’er had her head tilted slightly to one side as she listened to her surroundings, and Shanzi hurriedly tried to explain, “Young Lady, don’t worry! This seat is by the corner, so not only is it quiet, but there also won’t be many people passing through this area, and they are unlikely to unsettle you Young Lady . ”
Ju Mu’er nodded, and smiled her thanks to him .
Shanzi hastily began to bombard Ju Mu’er with some questions, asking her what she wanted to order, and things like why was she out and about all by herself?
Ju Mu’er did not respond to his questions, instead she asked, “Brother Xiao Er, you’re the one who was at the questioning right? I recognise your voice . ”
Shanzi was slightly ruffled by this, and he instinctively scratched his head, “Young Lady you really do have such expert hearing! Yes I was the one who was being questioned by the prefectural magistrate that day . ”
“So you were the one who had found us that day Brother Xiao Er, and were you also the one that reported us to the officials?”
Shanzi nodded meekly, then remembering that Ju Mu’er could not see it, he added, “That’s correct, another guest and I found you that day . Even thinking about it now, Young Lady, you really were very lucky, and you will definitely have a very bright future ahead of you . ”
As a restaurant attendant who was the backbone of the waiting staff, he definitely had a sweet tongue, and what he said was very pleasing, which brought a smile to Ju Mu’er’s life .
Shanzi continued to ask, “Young Lady, what have you come to do this time? Are you here for a meal or …”
Ju Mu’er shook her head, but then began to shake it, “Could I trouble you to bring me a pot of tea Brother Xiao Er, I’ll just sit here in the meantime . ”
Shanzi felt a little odd but it was not his place to say anything, so he acknowledged her request and left .
In no time, a pot of hot tea was served, and Shanzi began to pour some out for Ju Mu’er . He made sure to ask her if she needed anything else, but Ju Mu’er shook her head . Shanzi placed the pot of tea down on the table, and told her to come and see him if she needed anything .
In thanks, Ju Mu’er faintly smiled again and then began to sip daintily at the tea in her cup . Then she reached a hand out to the teapot and poured herself another cup .
And so she sat thusly for a brief period of time, until a voice suddenly rang out from beside her, “Young Lady, why are you on you own here?”
Ju Mu’er could not help but feel that the voice was quite familiar, and just as she was trying to recollect who it belonged to, the person spoke again, “Young Lady, I’m Big Tiger, one of the attendants here . Remember the day you came to stay at the inn, I was the one who led you to your room . ”
Ju Mu’er finally succeeded in putting his voice to a face, and hurriedly answered his greeting . Then Big Tiger continued, “Young Lady why are you here on your own? Did that murder suspect get sentenced yet?”
Ju Mu’er was slightly caught off guard by this, “What murder suspect?”
“That fellow ah - Shopkeeper Lu, wasn’t he the one who had killed someone? But how come during these past few days I still saw officials coming round here? Could it be that he was not the real culprit?
Ju Mu’er shook her head, “This case is a bit complicated, there are some things that even I don’t really understand . ”
Big Tiger sat down from across Ju Mu’er and said, “Truth be told, this entire thing is quite dangerous . I mean, who would have been able to guess that in the blink of an eye, someone would end up dead?”
“The situation that day, were you a witness to it Brother Xiao Er?” Ju Mu’er asked .
“It was only much later, when everyone was making a ruckus, that I managed to rush over, and then only I caught a glimpse of what was happening . The day I led you to the guest room, when I returned, I felt extremely drowsy after a while . There weren’t too many guests around that day, so in the end, I fell asleep . Then, after who knows how long, that fellow who got caught - Shopkeeper Lu, he came in and patted me awake . He asked me if Boss Zhu was here, and I told him what I knew . Aiya~ It seems like I am also to blame for what happened, if I had not told him that that day, perhaps Boss Zhu might still be alive . ”
“Brother Xiao Er, there is no need to beat yourself up over this . I’m sure that in the afterlife Boss Zhu knows everything, and won’t hold this against you . ” Ju Mu’er calmly commented, and though this seemed like consoling remarks, what she said greatly shocked Big Tiger, so much so that he began to break out into cold sweat as he burst out, “Do you mean to say that his ghost might come after me?”
Ju Mu’er did not say anything further, and Big Tiger merely continued to sit there as he rearranged his thoughts . Then, he ran off .
After another period of waiting, Shanzi reappeared, as he came to ask Ju Mu’er if she needed anything again . Ju Mu’er declined with the shake of her head . Then, Shanzi began to ask if she was waiting for someone here, to which Ju Mu’er shook her head once more . Shanzi awkwardly scratched his head before saying, “Young Lady, if that’s the case, where do you want to go next? Do you have some friends waiting for you around here? Let me help you look for them, and get them to come pick you up . Your sight poses a problem for you, so it’s better if you don’t try and make your own way home . ”
At this, Ju Mu’er let out a little sigh, “Brother Xiao Er you truly are a kind-hearted soul . To tell you the truth, I’ve run into some trouble . ”
Shanzi cautiously glanced to his left and to his right, only after he made sure that there no guests that required his assistance, he sat down and asked, “What trouble are you in Young Lady?”
Ju Mu’er tilted her head listening to the commotion around her, and upon hearing no signs of anyone closeby, she whispered under her breath, “The prefectural magistrate had already decided that Shopkeeper Lu is innocent, and he has asked me to supply him with the details of what happened that day . I originally did have some memories of a few things, but after hurting my head, I’ve recently been feeling quite dizzy and I could only remember a few things . ”
Upon hearing this, Shanzi quickly asked, “I overheard the officials talking and they mentioned that they were on the lookout for someone of average build, a male, with scars on the back of his hands . They have been searching the area since yesterday . ”
Ju Mu’er nodded, “Those were the only things I was able to remember . However, up until now, the government officials have yet to find the suspect . The prefectural magistrate said that there was no concrete proof that Shopkeeper Lu was the one behind this, so he would be released from custody tomorrow . However, the scale of this case was exceptionally large, so the case could not continue without a suspect . At the time of the incident, the only other person there, apart from Shopkeeper Lu was myself . And if I am still unable to uncover any more substantial evidence, then I will have to go to jail . ”
Shanzi was very sympathetic when he heard this, “Young Lady, you’re such a delicate and frail person, just one look at you and anyone would be able to see that you are incapable of killing a person, how can the prefectural magistrate do such a thing?”
“As an appointed official, his main concern is solving the case, what else can a poor ordinary citizen like myself do?”
“Then what are you here for Young Lady?”
“I was thinking about returning to the place of the incident, that way I might be able to remember something . I was afraid that His Lordship might accuse me of trying to divert attention, so I thought it was better to come here on my own, and if I did manage to think of any new clues, then I could quickly discharge my responsibilities . ”
Shanzi continued to ask, “So, did you think of anything yet?”
Ju Mu’er nodded her head, “Yes I have . ” Before Shanzi could ask her what it was, she continued, “But, I still need to confirm something . ”
“How do you plan on confirming it?”
Ju Mu’er did not answer this, and after a pause, she lowered her voice even further and said, “Brother Xiao Er, I trust you . Can you take me back to the room where Boss Zhu was attacked?”
Shanzi was quite shocked by this request, “What for? That room has already been cordoned off, no one is allowed to enter it now . ”
“Exactly! Since no one has been able to enter it, if I go there and sit inside for a while, I’m sure no one else will find out . I just remembered something, but I need to go to that room to confirm it . Brother Xiao Er, this is connected to uncovering the true suspect, won’t you do me a favour?”
Shanzi felt quite put on the spot, but he answered, “That place is really off-limits for people, and I am not about to risk my livelihood just to help you out, Young Lady . How about this, let me escort you to the guest rooms in the back courtyard, and maybe you will remember something there?”
Ju Mu’er thought this over, then answered, “If it’s just walking about the back courtyards, I am more than capable of doing that . Brother Xiao Er, there’s no need to accompany me there . This way, if anything happens, then I won’t end up causing you more trouble . ”
Shanzi shyly scratched his head but he did not try to press his case, “Alright then, but be careful Young Lady alright?”
Then, Shanzi left . Ju Mu’er sat down again for a while, then picked up her bamboo staff, and slowly made her way to the back courtyard . She knew the route well, and walked focusedly toward her destination, all around her, the courtyard was silent .
Slowly, she made her way up the stairs, down the corridor, then she came to a stop right in front of the room “Tian Zi Number 6” .
She stood out there for a few moments, and when she could hear no noise, she reached a hand out, and touched the body of the door . With a light push, she found that the door was unlocked . Ju Mu’er stood silently in the doorway, then she took a step forward, and turned around to close the door .
And thus, Ju Mu’er waited patiently inside the room . After another long wait, someone knocked on the door, startling Ju Mu’er but she remained where she was without moving . Then, she heard a soft voice from outside the door, saying, “Young Lady Ju, it’s me!”
Ju Mu’er steadied her nerves, walked to the door and pulled it open .
The person turned out to be Shanzi . He quickly entered the room and closed the door behind him . His voice seemed agitated as he asked, “Young Lady, didn’t you say you were only going to walk around the back courtyards? How could you sneak into here on your own?! If anyone saw you doing that, what would happen?!”
“All I did was walk and walk . When I reached here, I just lightly pushed the door, and it seemed to be unlocked, that was why I entered this room . ”
Shanzi let out a breath of air at her reply, and said “Young Lady, it’s best if you leave as fast as possible . No one is allowed to enter this room right now, so we really cannot let anyone see you here . What if Old Master blames me for this?”
Ju Mu’er nodded her head, “Brother Xiao Er, I’ve finished rearranging my thoughts, let’s leave now . ”
Shanzi asked, “So what did you remember?”
“The way to determine who the suspect is, I’ve finally thought of it . Let me go and inform His Lordship! Tomorrow, we need to call for a gathering of everyone currently inside this inn . If I can go through each and every single individual on the ship, then I can find out who the real culprit is . ”
“Are you sure of this, Young Lady?”
“Without a doubt . ” Ju Mu’er nodded her head, “Although the killer did not utter a word last night, he still managed to leave behind a very important clue . It’s all my fault, it’s because I had been afraid for a while, and I had also recently injured my head . That’s probably why it slipped my mind earlier, but after returning here I was able to clearly remember it again . ”
Shanzi said, “In that case, congratulations Young Lady, on clearing yourself of any suspicion . I still think we need to leave earlier, and make sure that no one spots us .
Ju Mu’er smilingly agreed to his words, and Shanzi cracked the door open slightly . After checking the surroundings outside, Shanzi turned around to tell Ju Mu’er this, “It is the afternoon nap time, and there is no one waiting outside . If that’s the case then Young Lady, you can remain in here for a little while longer before leaving . ”
Ju Mu’er nodded her head, then she heard the sounds of the room-door opening and closing, but Shanzi walked away .
Without moving, Ju Mu’er sat there in silence . The room was extremely noise-less, and after another period of waiting or so, she suddenly hears Long Er’s voice as he said, “You had better not have touched even a hair on her head! Otherwise, whichever hand you used to touch her, I will take it from you . ”