Chapter 518 - Fishing For Bones ChouFleur's Thoughts

Bone Painting Coroner

An incomplete skeleton? Even though nobody was familiar with bone structure, they could tell that the skeleton on the floor was incomplete as even the skull was missing. A tall student stood out and questioned, “Could it be that you are familiar with these?”

If she’s not familiar, then who would dare to say they were?! Ji Yunshu answered, “Humans have 206 bones. Presently, what was fished out of the well, including the broken finger and toe bones, is obviously less than 206 pieces.”

“What a farce!”

A farce? The people from ancient times really are stupid!

At this time, Teacher Yu slowly stepped forward to enquire, “If Teacher Ji is familiar with bones, then what are your thoughts?”

His student immediately interjected, “This student believes he’s babbling nonsense, Teacher. We should move this skeleton over and wait for the people from the yamen come to deal with it.”

“Didn’t Teacher Ji already say that the skeleton will be damaged if it is moved again? Why don’t we listen to what Teacher says before making a decision. Since this happened in the Academy, we cannot take this lightly.”

Residing deep in the mountains in faraway Bingjing, Teacher Yu had never heard of the famous Teacher Ji of the capital. However, he had a former student, now working as a government official, who once briefly mentioned this person in a letter long ago. Even though it was merely a passing remark, no one mentioned this student’s letter would be small fry. He had made his decision! Teacher Yu inclined a bow towards Ji Yunshu, who quickly reciprocated. She couldn’t afford to receive such an honour!

“Teacher Yu please speak your mind, I will surely get it done.”

“Teacher Ji, I had heard of your accomplishments in the Capital in letters from my students. I also know that you and Young Master Jing have matters to settle in Yufu. A case like this has never occurred in the forty years since the founding of my Mingshan Academy. I would like to invite Teacher to stay for two more days to investigate this skeleton from the well.”

“Since Teacher Yu has entrusted this to me, I will not decline.”

“Many thanks, Teacher Ji!”

Let this thin and frail man investigate? The students of Mingshan Academy were amazed and flabbergasted. Why a letter from the capital would have mentioned Teacher Ji? How could Master Yu trust an outsider so easily? They began to privately discuss amongst themselves.

Ji Yunshu glanced at Jing Rong as if to garner his opinion. When Jing Rong caught her gaze, his expression chilled and grew solemn as he nodded. Go ahead and investigate!

Thus, Ji Yunshu glanced towards the bottomless well with a serious look and spoke, “This skeleton is incomplete and the remaining pieces are probably still in the well. They must be fished out as soon as possible. However...” She gazed around at everyone before proceeding, “To prevent the bones from being damaged, a bucket should not be used. A person should go down and fish out the skeletal remains.”

Go down and fish out bones? The crowd startled and felt cold sweat run down their backs. “The well hasn’t been used for a year. Who would dare to go down to a place where someone died?”

“Right, what if we touched something unclean?” No one wanted to accept the task. A bunch of scaredy cats!

Jing Rong gestured at Lang Po. “You go.”

“Yes!” His reply rang out loud and resonant. A rough man like him wasn’t afraid of such things; he would get to work right after rolling up his sleeves!

Lang Po ordered people to find him a thick rope which he tied around himself and brought along a fire stick. Before he entered the well, Ji Yunshu handed him a piece of cloth.

“Use this to cover your nose as a precaution. The corpse has been soaking in the water for one year and there is bacteria breeding on the walls of the well. At the bottom, there are likely toxins from the decay. Better to be safe than sorry.”

“Alright.” Lang Po accepted the cloth, tied it around his face and stuffed his nose. Then he cautiously descended. The people above prudently held the rope as it was lowered bit by bit until a shout was heard from below. “Stop!”

In the darkness of the well, Lang Po held his fire stick in between his teeth and surveyed his surroundings. The mottled rock walls of the well were covered with a glistening layer of moss. A closer look revealed bunches of tiny insects crawling within the moss. Lang Po felt a frisson of disgust raise goosebumps on his arms. Even though his nose was covered, it couldn’t prevent the stench of the well water from seeping through the holes in the fabric into his nose. That smell was as overpowering as minced meat mixed with chilli oil, and the resulting assault on the nose was enough to make anyone nauseous.  [1]

Lang Po cursed mentally. This is the most disgusting smell I’ve ever encountered! He resisted the churning disgust in his stomach and submerged his hand underwater.

Splashes of water were heard for a while before he raised his head and shouted with a strained tone, “Pull me up!”

The people above pulled him up and saw him cradling the many pieces of broken bones and a stray weed in his clothes. Lang Po cautiously laid the bones on the ground. His haul included a skull, a radius, the sternum and several rib bones.

Ji Yunshu commented “It’s not enough, go fish again.”

Girl, do you think this is a buffet? Haven’t you had enough? Lang Po didn’t say anything aloud and took a deep breath of fresh air before going back down again. Not long after, he emerged carrying another pile of bones.

Ji Yunshu swept over the pile of bones skilfully. “It’s still missing two facial bones of the skull and the metacarpals.” If one wanted to draw the face of the deceased, they couldn’t do without the facial bones.

What is a facial bone? What are metacarpals? Lang Po had no idea. He only knew to follow Ji Yunshu’s orders and went down again to find it. After more groping around in the dank water, all the missing pieces were finally found. All 206 pieces were present. Whether large and small, not a single one was missing!

On Lang Po’s fishing expedition, he also brought back a wine bottle which he placed on the ground before inquiring, “Teacher Ji, I found a wine jar. Please take a look, could it be related to the deceased?”

A wine jar?

Ji Yunshu looked at it curiously. Isn’t it just a normal wine jar? However, at the mention of wine, Mo Ruo suddenly perked up and strode over lazily from where he had been quietly watching by the side. He eyed the wine jar keenly and bent down to take a few sniffs.

A rapturous expression spread on Mo Ruo’s face as he nodded in appreciation. “Mm, a top-quality pine flower wine.”

Are you secretly a dog? Lang Po questioned in amazement, “Master Mo, you can even identify it by smell?”

“Of course!”

“But the wine was long gone. It could even have fallen in the well with the deceased.”

Mo Ruo stood up straight and looked around with a confident smile. “Haven’t you heard of aged wine? The most fragrant of them all is the pine flower wine; the older it is, the more concentrated its fragrance. Even if it the wine has been gone for several years, I can identify it by smell as long as the bottle still exists. Moreover, I have savoured this world-class wine countless times. Although my nose can’t identify different stinks, I can identify wine by its fragrance even if I’m separated by hundreds of meters. If you still don’t believe it, you can send this wine bottle to a wine shop to be verified by the proprietors to verify my claim.”

Jing Rong smiled inwardly. You damned brat, taking every chance to show off.

Mo Ruo felt like he was bathed in an enormous spotlight, glittering onstage. Quick, compliment me, compliment me!

[1] A brand of chilli oil is mentioned here, called Lao Gan Ma or Old Godmother, but I really cannot see the link the author is trying to draw… it’s oily spicy deliciousness.

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Translator: Nightcache & ChouFleur