Long Er and Qiu Ruo Ming had another brief discussion. Then, Qiu Ruo Ming ordered a bailiff to go undercover and poke around the sesame oil shop as well as the Zhu Residence, just to check if the two had anything in common. After that, he did not forget to remind Long Er to hurry up and bring Ju Mu Er to him.
Long Er hastily agreed and then took his leave.
Now that they finally seemed to be getting somewhere with this case, Long Er could not help but heave a sigh of relief. He first stopped by the tea shops, surveying the situation in each shop, and it was only after he made sure that everyone was calmly carrying out their duties, that he finally returned to the Long Residence.
Upon entering the residence, he handed the porter his horse. He was planning on checking whether that smelly blind girl was asleep already. Alas, before he could even set foot in that courtyard, he caught sight of Feng Wu eagerly dragging her beloved five-year-old daughter Bao’er in that direction.
“Quick, quick, let’s go before your second uncle (paternal) returns!”
Long Er felt like steam was coming out of his ears, and he could already guess what was happening. He quietly followed the mother and daughter duo, silently watching as they excitedly halted beside Yu mómo who was already perched outside the window trying to sneak a peek.
T/N: In previous translations, Clover’s Nook, and on Foxaholic, I notice there was a character old granny, Granny Xu, this person is the same person as Yu mómo. For purposes of accuracy and flow, I have decided to use the pinyin of 嬷嬷 mó mo to refer to the wet nurse/senior female household staff. Instead of Wet Nurse Yu lel
“Mómo, mómo, we just got back. What’s the situation now?” Feng Wu pulled Bao’er down to a crouch outside the same window.
Yu mómo waved her hand and two maidservants hurriedly walked out from the side, bringing two small stools with them. Yu mómo gestured for Feng Wu and Bao’er to sit down before she said, “She’s gone to sleep already.”
Feng Wu lengthened her neck as she tried to peek inside through the window, asking “She’s asleep right now? Then what are we doing here?”
“Keeping watch, of course~ She probably won’t be able to sleep for long in the daytime anyway… When she wakes up later, then we can get a look at her. Perhaps we can even talk to her for a bit, and find out more about why she’s here. Second Master actually brought a proper young lady home, this isn’t some small matter!!”
“A proper young lady? Wait, do you mean to say that he brought improper ladies home before?” Feng Wu’s eyes seemed to light up at the thought of this as an inquisitive look took over her face, “Mómo, what ‘situation’ are you speaking of? Did you see it with your own eyes? And I mean, what’s happening right now, it technically isn’t staying the night ba… It’s still daytime now, wouldn’t she have to stay until nighttime before it counted, am I right?”
Long Er could not bear to continue listening, and he stepped out from behind the tree, coughing audibly as he did so.
The maidservants, mómo, Feng Wu, and Bao’er all turned to look at him. The maidservants had a look of utter shock on their faces, while mómo and Feng Wu calmly exchanged a glance before simultaneously beginning to talk about how brilliant the weather was today, and how it was nice enough for them to spend the day chatting in the courtyard. Bao’er was the only one who acted normally as she ran over to hug Long Er’s leg, sweetly greeting him, “Second Uncle~”
Long Er reached down to pick Bao’er up and lifted her high up into the air, causing her to giggle happily. With Bao’er still in his arms, Long Er walked to Yu mómo, internally heaving a sigh before he asked, “Mómo ah, what do you mean by ‘he actually brought a proper young lady to stay the night’ ah~, I’ve never brought any young ladies to stay the night before alright?”
Yu mómo’s face had an awkward expression on it as she tried to explain, “That’s what I meant Young Sir, to say that Second Master has never brought a lady back to the stay the night before… And now that you have, it turns out that she’s a proper young lady too…”
Unbidden, Long Er’s face twitched, and he placed Bao’er back on the ground. With a wave of his hand, he tried to redirect their attention, “Mómo, the weather today is quite nice, why don’t you and Fengfeng take the children out for a bit? Where’s Little Xiao’er? That child is truly too small to be on his own for too long, go back to him ba~.” Long Xiao was the second child of Long San and Feng Wu, he had just become able to call out ‘father’, ‘mother’, and usually Yu mómo was completely enraptured with him.
However, currently, Yu mómo was reluctant to leave, and she sent a longing look toward the room where Ju Mu Er was, causing Long Er to heave a sigh before giving in, “Mómo, do you remember that list of auspicious wedding dates you showed me before? I can’t find it anymore, could you help me pick a date?”
Yu mómo sucked in a breath as her mouth dropped open in shock, she stuttered through her next sentence, “You-you-, Do you mean dates for marrying or to be married off?”
T/N: In Chinese culture, men marry wives, and women are married off to their husbands. The auspicious wedding dates differ for each side, so families usually have to discuss, picking on the one date that best benefits both sides (if the woman’s side has enough social power ofc). If one side is at a lower social rung, or the more disadvantaged side (perhaps it’s a Princess being married off to a consort, or an official marrying a second wife) then they might just opt for whichever date benefits the side with the higher social status, (Princess - a good date to be married off, Official - a good date to marry). Usually, it’s a good day for both, unless it’s like those novels where the ML/MC is sick and they need to 冲喜 (chōng xǐ) which means to arrange a wedding for the dangerously sick with the aim of driving away the devil and the disease.
Alas, upon hearing this poor Long Er was a hairsbreadth away from losing all face, Feng Wu hastily tried to rectify the situation, “Mómo is just overcome with happiness right now, so she wants to confirm, Second Uncle, whether you’re the one who wants to marry someone, or if you’re asking on behalf of someone else?”
Yu mómo hurriedly nodded her head, yes that was the reason behind her questioning. Her wide-eyed stare locked onto Long Er and an extremely hopeful expression appeared on her face. She looked so desperate, it was almost as if, if the Second Master were to reply and say he was asking on someone else’s behalf, she would end up coughing up blood right away.
Luckily Long Er’s reply was, “I’m marrying, and she’s being married off (to me).” As he finished, he pointed in the direction of Ju Mu Er’s room.
Yu mómo almost cried at this, this news was truly such a relief! She fumbled over her words as she began to plan, “I need to go and tell Old Master and Old Madam… Ah~ No, I need to go pick a date first, and there’s so much to prepare… Ah~ Maybe I should just wait a while longer, so I can meet the young lady when she wakes up.”
Long Er’s patience was pretty much depleted by now and he raised his voice with a warning, “Mómo!!”
Yu mómo jumped at this and seemed to regain a bit of composure as she continued, “Alright, alright, I’ll go and pick a date. Then I’ll bring it with me when I go see Old Master and Old Madam, and once this young lady wakes up I’ll see her then.”
Long Er nodded in agreement, waving a hand to dismiss her, as long as Mómo quickly took Fengfeng and Bao’er away now, it was all okay.
This time Yu mómo did not let him down, and she happily pulled Feng Wu and Bao’er away. Long Er released a pent-up breath but suddenly caught sight of Yu mómo rushing back toward him. She was asking, “Second Master, Second Master, what is the young lady’s name?”
“Ju Mu Er.”
“Good good, what a pretty name, let me tell the Old Master and Old Madam.” She turned away as soon as she finished saying this.
Long Er could not help putting a hand to his forehead, Yu mómo’s body was really exceptional, just looking at those agile moves of hers was enough to cause mixed feelings of worry and happiness.
Soon, Yu mómo, Feng Wu, and Bao’er had all left. A thick blanket of silence soon fell over the courtyard. Long Er coldly glanced at the maidservant on duty beside the courtyard entrance, and the poor maidservant shakily gave her report. She mentioned that Young Lady Ju Mu Er had taken her medicine already plus a bowl of porridge but had been fast asleep since then.
Long Er pointedly stared at her, and the maid shivered like a leaf, she understood that he was reprimanding her for having leaked this information to Yu mómo. Luckily Long Er did not say anything but just walked straight in.”
Inside the room, wrapped in blankets, Ju Mu Er was sleeping soundly. Long Er reached a hand out to feel her forehead and was pleasantly surprised to feel that it was no longer as hot as before. Her entire face was flushed, and her neck felt sweaty. It must have been the heat that caused her to break out sweating, helping the fever go down, he thought.
Then, Long Er looked at the bandages wrapped around her head, he knew that the wounds ought to have stopped bleeding as there were no bloodstains seeping through the bandages. Looking at how soundly she was sleeping, he assumed that her wound was probably not as painful as before...
Long Er carefully pulled up a chair beside the bed and sat down to accompany her for a while. He felt an immense sense of relief as he watched her sleep with no indication of waking up. Yu mómo and the others had been quite loud just now, yet they had not disrupted her sleep? Well, at any rate, things turned out for the better, huh… At least she managed to avoid hearing weird theories about him bringing young ladies back home, and this way, she would not end up overthinking.
Long Er sat in silence for few minutes, when a sudden thought came to him. He had just remembered that the chair he was sitting on was called ‘èr zi’ and he instantly felt slight anger toward Ju Mu Er. Out of annoyance, he poked her face while thinking, this naughty girl is always making me angry!
T/N: I haven’t read the previous chapters so I’m not sure what the joke refers to, might be second son, hungry one etc. Will do more digging later
Although Ju Mu Er was being poked in the face, she had no reaction. Long Er poked her again, and the corner of her mouth scrunched up. At the same time, she furrowed her brows before absent-mindedly scratching the place where she had been poked, before turning on her side to continue sleeping.
Long Er nervously pursed his lips as an unhappy feeling filled his heart as well. Was this young lady a pig or what? Even that couldn’t wake her up? And what about him? The one who was stupidly standing guard over her as she slept… He truly was the world’s number one fool. Urgh, whatever! He decided that he was not going to worry over her anymore, he still had many official affairs to see to in his study.
And with that thought in his mind, Long Er finally decided to leave. He left instructions for the maidservant to keep a close eye on the door, and to not allow anyone in while she was resting. He instructed the girl to come and inform him first, once the young lady woke up. He did not want other people to learn of her recovery before he did, and end up disturbing her tranquil stay here.
The maid, having been caught in the act (of letting other people on) earlier, had been queasy since then, and earnestly accepted his demands, all the while promising that she would not make the same mistake again.
Satisfied with her response, Long Er returned to his study. Usually, if he was at home, he would have some light snacks in the afternoon. His manservant asked him what he wanted to eat today, then brought a platter of fresh prawn dumplings to him. Long Er ate these, but upon thinking that the lazy fellow was about to wake up, he wondered if she might be hungry later? It wouldn’t do to just let her have some porridge. He ordered the kitchens to prepare some more desserts for her later.
After Long Er finished eating, he went to go and check some of the files. He waited nearly all day, but no one came to tell him that Ju Mu Er had woken up, and this made Long Er think about going to take a look himself. At the same time however, he was worried that he might give off the impression that he treasured her; because he had no intention of caring about her at all, so he would just have to wait for one of the servants to come and inform him.
After waiting for half a day, Li Ke finally came.
Li Ke had been tasked with leading the spies to go an investigate Shopowner Lu’s case, and he came back bearing a message. Initially, Long Er had asked them to keep an eye on that the Zhu Chen person, but this lead had absolutely no developments. And this was mainly because since Zhu Chen had returned from the yamen, he had not left his home at all, nor had he met with anyone. The spies had been aimlessly standing guard when they noticed that one of the yamen bailiffs had changed into plainclothes and gone undercover at the sesame oil shop.
It had not been much at first, but the bailiff had barely said anything when one of the sesame oil shop’’s customers had recognized him. And the customer had asked him outright whether he was on duty right now, and how could he come and buy sesame oil while on duty; instantly revealing the bailiff’s true identity.
The bailiff awkwardly tried to explain his presence before leaving, but the rest of the spies soon noticed that the sesame oil shopowner seemed rattled by the turn of events. After waiting a while, he left one of the employees in charge of the shop, while he changed into a new outfit, exiting the shop from the backdoor as he made his way to Zhu Chen.
Instinctively Li Ke felt that there must be something afoot, so he instructed one of the men undercover, to go an report this to the bailiff. He, on the other hand, would lead the rest of the men into the Zhu Residence, so that they could eavesdrop on the conversation between the duo (Shopowner x Zhu Chen).
The owner of the sesame oil shop was a sturdy man in his 30s, his name was Ren Bao Qing. Initially, it seemed like Zhu Chen was unwilling to see him, but at the sight of the worry on his face, Zhu Chen gave in, and hurriedly pulled him inside the house. The two of them behaved unusually, worriedly hiding inside the house before Zhu Chen spoke, “Why are you here? At this point, we really should not be meeting each other.”
Ren Bao Qing answered him, “You still dare to demand this of me! Tell me, what did you tell the yamen, that they would want to come to my shop?!”
Zhu Chen as obviously startled by the news as he nearly jumped in fright before asking, “What? Why would I? Wait, what did they ask you?”
“They didn’t manage to ask me anything before one of my customers recognized one of the bailiffs. Seeing as his own identity had been uncovered, the guy did not stay much longer and quickly left. However just think about it, they must know something, otherwise, why would they come and nose about in my shop in plainclothes? No, no, this won’t do, we had better pack up and leave this place!”
“How do you expect us to leave here?” Zhu Chen immediately shook his head in disagreement, “The prefectural magistrate specifically told me, that he might randomly drop in to come and verify somethings with me. If I leave now, wouldn’t it end up making me even more suspicious in their eyes?”
“If that’s the case, I’ll leave on my own then. Now that everything is under their control, with the rate that they’re investigating at, it won’t be long before their digging brings them to me! I can’t worry about you anymore.”
Up to this point, Li Ke had a pretty clear picture of what was going on. Then, the duo’s discussion continued to focus on how they ought to make their escape, and they did not bring up the case again. That Ren Bao Qing fellow told the other outright, that if Zhu Chen could not make a decision now, then he would leave on his own and right away.
Li Ke had an inkling that the situation was going to go out of hand, and hurriedly snuck back outside, coincidentally running into the scout who was returning with a bailiff. Li Ke reported everything he had heard to the man, and the bailiff felt like they could not delay much longer. He hastily arranged for some of the men to keep watch over Zhu Chen and Ren Bao Qing, while he sent another batch to go an inform the prefectural magistrate. Then, he prepared an order of detainment so that the officials could arrest the duo who were packing up their belongings in order to escape.
Long Er was ecstatic, “So this means that the real criminal has finally surfaced, and Shopkeeper Lu will soon be able to come out again.”
He tasked Li Ke with sending someone to the Lu Residence, so that Shopkeeper Lu’s family members could be informed of the developments, and perhaps get some relief. They would just need to wait a couple more days, once the prefectural magistrate had finished investigating, and they had found the true criminal, then everything would be over.
However, Long Er had absolutely no idea, just how hard it would be for this case to be wrapped up.
Having slept one whole day, Ju Mu Er finally woke up at night. At dinnertime, she had been forcibly woken and fed her medicine along with her meal. She had then continued sleeping, completely oblivious to the fact that even her father had come to the Long Residence out of concern for her.
The Old Father Ju had visited the Long Residence and had been treated like a distinguished guest. And, Long Er took the opportunity to inform Father Ju of their impending nuptials.
Upon hearing this, Father Ju was absolutely dumbfounded. Hadn’t his daughter come here to act as a witness for a case? Yet in the end, she hadn’t even gone to the government office, but spent the whole day asleep in someone else’s home?! What’s more, she had yet to wake up, but someone was already eagerly asking for her hand in marriage?
Poor Father Ju was drowning in confusion, and when he finally did regain some faculty of thought, he replied, “The issue of her marriage is not something I can decide for her, Mu’er will have to decide for herself.”
Woe to the Long Family members who were waiting in nail-biting silence beside them… All of them were rendered speechless by his reply, look at how ‘fatherly’ he’s being!
Thus, everyone was relegated to waiting for Ju Mu Er to wake up again. Alas, before she could wake up, they ended up receiving a bailiff and two yamen runners. According to them, they were there to escort Young Lady Ju to identify a suspect at the government office.
T/N: Yamen runners are, as the name suggests, the runners for the government office (I guess they rank lower than a normal bailiff)
Now, this was quite a pressing matter, and Long Er felt that this lady, who had been sleeping like a pig for the better half of the day, had gotten enough rest, so he ordered for her to be woken up. Father Ju felt loathe to subject her to having her sleep disrupted, so he hastily tried to make excuses for her. He said that his daughter was normally like this at home too, she had to go to bed early every night, otherwise, if she failed to get enough sleep, she would need to replenish almost double the time for her to be back to normal.
As he was explaining, a maidservant arrived with Ju Mu Er. Ju Mu Er’s fever had dissipated, plus she was well-rested, so she felt recharged and much better. She had heard that officials had come looking for her, wanting her to identify someone, so she quickly responded, saying that she was ready to leave right away.
It was because of this, that poor Yu mómo was once again unable to get a look at her, as Long Er and her father accompanied Ju Mu Er, the bailiff, and the yamen runners away.
Yu mómo had spent most of the day going over what Second Master had explained to her earlier; about how he valued “unusual” ladies, ladies that were so “unique” that one could easily overlook her looks, personality, and her talents. As she slowly went over her thoughts, she realized that this young lady truly was just like that. Apart from her “uniqueness”, Yu mómo really could not be bothered to imagine what she looked like, nor what her personality was like, or whether or not she had any talents.
Mmm, either way, she truly was a unique young lady.
At that moment, Long Er did not know that Yu mómo had finally “understood” his “reasoning on uniqueness”. He and Ju Mu Er had just arrived at the government office, and Qiu Ruo Ming was explaining the situation to them. Once he finished, he instructed the men to bring Ren Bao Qing forward, as he wanted Ju Mu Er to properly identify him.
In order to avoid unnecessarily disturbing Ju Mu Er’s process of identification, Qiu Ruo Ming did not mention much to her. Instead, he whispered to Long Er, “Second Master, the Young Lady’s words that you told me, they were all correct! This Ren Bao Qing fellow is of average height, he has a stocky build, plus the back of his hands have many small scars that were caused by oil burns. The only thing is, he doesn’t have any marks of being scratched by a bamboo staff on his stomach, nor does he have any scratch marks on his wrist. Although this could be because Young Lady Ju isn’t that strong, she might have been mistaken about whether or not she had truly injured the criminal. Apart from these, he fulfills all the other characteristics listed.”
Long Er nodded before asking, “Has he confessed yet?”
“No, he just won’t budge. That’s why I was thinking that if perhaps Young Lady Ju were to come and identify him, then he would finally give up the fight.”
Again, Long Er nodded in agreement, he could see that Ju Mu Er was concentrating on the sounds of Ren Bao Qing who was being brought to them. The latter was complaining all along the way, professing his innocence as he walked, and even though it was clear that Ju Mu Er could hear him, she showed no sign of it on her face.
Ren Bao Qing soon caught sight of Ju Mu Er and began to loudly shout, “I’ve never seen her before in my life! I didn’t kill Boss Zhu, my lord, I’m innocent!”
Qiu Ruo Ming ignored his cries, focusing on Ju Mu Er as he said, “Young Lady.”
Ju Mu Er nodded in reply, before walking two steps in the direction of Ren Bao Qing. She stopped and asked, “My lord, may I touch his hands?”
Qiu Ruo Ming nodded in agreement, it had been one day since the incident had occurred. Clothing and scent would have undergone changes by now, so the only thing that they could identify the killer by would be from the scratches that marked them.
Standing to the side was Father Ju who was quite worried now, he was afraid that this b*stard might injure his daughter. He walked over to assist Ju Mu Er, this way, in the event this rascal tried something dangerous, he would be able to defend her.
However, Long Er’s brows were furrowed as his mind was occupied by something else entirely. This woman had asked to marry him, yet now she was about to touch another man’s hands right in front of him?!
He glared at Ju Mu Er as he broodingly watched her caress and touch the entirety of Ren Bao Qing’s hands. He felt like chopping those hands off, that way she could touch them as much as she wanted.
Everyone patiently waited until Ju Mu Er finally had her fill of touching, and she took two steps back once she finished. Poor Ren Bao Qing was shivering in anxiety, awkwardly holding out his hands in fear.
And under the watchful eyes of the audience, Ju Mu Er finally spoke, her words being, “It wasn’t him.”
End of Chapter