Chapter 105: Homicide
Author: White Pear Flower
Translated by Pill Bug
Edited by Gumihou
Gumihou: Another happy ‘meng’ chapter. Or, is it?
Fu Qiuning absently swished the meat around, her mind occupied with all kinds of thoughts, when Jin Fengju suddenly interrupted, “Don’t just cook for the children and me, you should eat too.” After saying that, he picked up some meat and vegetables from the hotpot and placed them into her bowl. Then, he laughed and said, “I never had such a unique hotpot before. The sauce is especially tasty. I shall most likely eat a lot today. If I happen to lose my composure and overeat today, you must not laugh at me. I blame you for this, for hiding such a good thing from me. I see that if I wish to eat something good in the future, I must sneak in here quietly. I wonder, what other good thing I could eat next time.”
Fu Qiuning [a] forced a smile, “This is just some scraps of ingredients I put together without the aid of a recipe. Who knew that it would turn out so good? As for other good things, [a1] I’m afraid Lord Husband is biased in saying that our simple fares are delicious. Truly, we put in great effort to make more elaborate meals when we know Lord Husband is coming, but unexpectedly, those dishes were disdained by Lord Husband.”[b] Jin Fengju laughed loudly, “How can I be considered biased? Did you not see how fast Jin Ming eats? He eats faster than me.” Indeed, the trusted aide had not only eaten everything in his bowl but was also pouring the soup into his mouth. Aunt Yu and Yu Jie were too shocked to move, their chopsticks suspended over the hotpot, as though not daring to move and pick out the meat and vegetables.
“Jin Ming, you should mind your manners. Don’t only slap my face. Take a look at Aunt Yu and Yu Jie, they are so shocked by your lack of etiquette that they dare not eat. Poor Zhuan’er and Lu Hua, aren’t you leading these little children down the wrong path with your bad examples?” Jin Fengju scolded.
Jin Ming, the personal aide to Jin Fengju, placed his large empty bowl down and giggled, “Master, you should try and taste the soup with the vermicelli. Oh, and don’t forget to mix in the sauce too. It’s very delicious.”
Jin Fengju ladled two spoons of soup into his bowl. Fu Qiuning stirred some vermicelli in the hot broth and placed them into his bowl. She smiled and said, “These noodles are rather fragile, so they should not enter the soup until we are ready to eat or they will soften too much. They are just about right to eat now. Lord Husband, please try some.”
Just like that, this single hotpot meal nearly caused Jin Fengju to eat until his stomach burst. He kept walking around, doing his best to digest his meal as he talked to Qiuning. “This kind of meal must be eaten with a lively atmosphere. Tomorrow, you must collect more vegetables and slice up more meat. Serve the meal at Old Ancestor’s place. Invite Mother, Second Aunt and the rest of the people in the house. That’s right, Elder Brother Feng will be returning tomorrow, just in time to try your new dish.
Our marquisate has shops in various places, all of them under his care. Perhaps, once he has tried this, he could serve it as a signature dish at our various inns and restaurants and earn more gold for the estate. When that happens, Qiuning would have made a great contribution to the family.”
Fu Qiuning [c] curled her hand around her chopsticks. She thought: A great contribution to the family? Considering the popularity of modern-day hotpot restaurants, it would be no exaggeration to say that one could potentially ‘swim in gold’ in this business. Especially so, once they get proper chefs to refine this unique sauce. [c1] However, so what if my idea makes a ‘great contribution’ to the family? Would I even get to see any of that gold?[c1] She had a lot of grievances in her heart, however, the only thing that could be mentioned out loud was, “[c2] I have one concern, the vegetables in my hothouse are limited. If we are to serve this kind of hotpot to the whole family, I’m afraid there won’t be enough…”
Jin Fengju made a show of thinking about the matter seriously and said generously [c3], “Well, in that case, I shall not touch your vegetables. I shall have people buy more from the farmstead for the hotpot banquet. That’s right, the emperor’s spirits have been rather low, lately. His closest eunuchs mentioned that the emperor is getting older and that food feels tasteless to him. I’m sure he will enjoy this way of eating hotpot with a dipping sauce.”
Fu Qiuning’s [d] lips twisted, but she quirked up the other corner of her lips into a smile to say, “Lord Husband has so many things to worry about, but here you are, thinking of the emperor again.”
Jin Fengju laughed in return, “Otherwise, what do you think I should do? Although the royal favour I receive is considerable, it did not depend solely on my ability to complete missions. A person must be attentive to these little details in order to move the royal heart.” After he was done speaking, he gave Qiuning a steady stare, “If your father knows that you are such a talented person and yet is wedded to me, I am afraid his bowels will turn green with remorse.”
Seeing his mirthful, wondering eyes, [a] Fu Qiuning blanched and scooted away. She pulled up a business smile and said, “Such praise for such a small thing? Surely Lord Husband over-exaggerates? Speaking of which, when is the Old Master coming back? This humble woman heard that he should be back before the New Year. As that is only a month later, he should be back soon, yes?”
“Yes, he has already returned his official post and will return to the Capital once the handover has been completed. In fact, I should have gone over to personally fetch him back, but I was afraid that I would not have the time. Fortunately, Elder Brother will also be returning and the two of them could make the journey back together and look out for each other.”
“[e] Would not have the time? Well, Lord Husband is an important figure after all,” Fu Qiuning said, half flatteringly.[e1] There was an unusually long pause after this and she looked up to see Jin Fengju with an anxious look on his face and something in her heart clenched. She thought: Don’t tell me, is he going to start another one of his monologues to emphasise his cleverness again? [e1] Sure enough, Jin Fengju stared at her steadily and launched into his opening dialogue, “Remember the stones on the road that day we returned from your maternal house?”
Fu Qiuning privately sighed and played along, “Yes, Lord Husband and Jin Ming hurried out and acted very furtively. Even bade this humble woman to cover her eyes and not look out. Though it felt a little worrying, this humble woman did not take the matter to heart. Why? Was it related to something serious?”
Jin Fengju nodded. Then, he sighed, “Jin Ming found traces of blood on those stones. He also found that something had been deliberately buried beneath the snow. However, perhaps due to time constraints, it had not been properly concealed, which was why it had been ultimately discovered by Jin Ming. After removing the snow, Jin Ming found it was actually a blood trail. We hurried after it and saw it led to the nearby river which had been iced over. A hole was cut into the ice. When Jin Ming looked in, he found a body under the water.
The person who killed him appeared to be on their guard against discovery. After all, who would come near the river in such weather? After throwing the corpse into the river, it would not take an hour for the hole to freeze over once more. Come spring, even if the body was discovered, it would be so bloated that no one would recognise it.”[f] Fu Qiuning thought she vaguely recognised variety of plot. Still, she ought to ask some common sense follow-up questions, “Was it some important person?”
Jin Fengju shook his head and said, “It wasn’t anyone important. The person who examined the corpse happened to recognise him as a fellow villager, saying that it was one of the staff members of the Yangzhou office. Even so, though this person was an official of some sort, there should be no reason for someone to kill him once he reached the capital. Moreover, there is really no need for such an elaborate effort to conceal the corpse, especially considering how much manpower is needed to drag the body to the river, clear the blood trail and cut the hole into the ice.
This matter has been reported to the emperor by the Ministry of Justice, and the emperor has given the order for a thorough investigation. Something must have roused the emperor’s suspicion, therefore, it is possible that an imperial envoy would be sent to Yangzhou. If that is the case, I shall be one of the first candidates to go. Therefore, as mentioned, I might not be in the Capital for New Year.”
“So that’s how it is.” Fu Qiuning nodded. [e1] When Jin Fengju did not answer immediately, she looked up and saw the man frowning into the distance, looking all handsome and contemplative. She stifled another sigh. Clearly, he wanted a different prompt. Fu Qiuning thought for a moment and went with a gentle, “Lord Husband already has his own plans?”[e1] When that also did not elicit a long recital of his plans, she considered her possible tactics. After all, he was the husband of that spoilt and dramatic Jiang Wanying, and considering his taste in women… Fu Qiuning switched gears, gave a tittering little laugh and said, “Forget it, as a mere woman, it’s not like I could come up with any real plans and could only display a womanly curiosity. If Lord Husband does have a plan, there is no need to tell a foolish woman like me about it.” [e1] Arrgh, she wanted to slap herself in the mouth. I’m so sorry, sisters in the modern world. Qiuning is just acting, you know? Acting! [e1] As expected, this kind of remark pleased an egoistic man like Jin Fengju, who laughed and launched into a half-condescending, detective noir monologue [g], “Qiuning is too modest, ah. In the future, I may still need to consult with you. For now, though, I only have some suspicions in hand and no real plan. Plans can only be made once I am sure of the facts. As for the Governor of Yangzhou, I did interact with him a few times in the past. Though I cannot claim to know this person well, I do have some understanding of his nature.
However, in the two years since he had gone to Yangzhou, he has become very different from the person I once knew him to be. At first, I believed that he must have hidden his true self well, but with this case, I cannot help but instinctively wonder, is there something more sinister behind this?”
“Does Lord Husband suspect Su Lingbo to be an imposter? That this person has been killed because he had discovered something he should not?” [e] Fu Qiuning said absently as she thought back to those investigative TV series and novels. The favourite themes in most of those stories were hidden identities and misdirections after all.
Jin Fengju suddenly leapt up from the kang bed with a loud ‘huh?’ He stared at her with a horrified expression, “An imposter? But how can this be? No matter what, he is a court official. Who would dare replace him? If anyone were to discover him, it is a crime worthy of the Nine Lines of Extermination ! No… impossible… this is impossible.”[h] What was with this strong reaction? Should she just stick out her tongue and go ‘tee hee, It’s just a joke~’ or give a more serious reaction? Jin Fengju was still muttering ‘impossible’ to himself over there, so she just shrugged and said, “Is it, truly? After all, there are people who look very alike in this world, and not to mention, twins also exist.” It was also possible that this man was more ignorant than stupid. Their political dramas were limited to the real thing and the stage which only produced a new play every few years or so. She really should not judge them for being ignorant.
Jin Fengju appeared to be thinking hard for a while. Suddenly, he broke into a smile and said, “If I have to leave for Yangzhou, you should visit the Old Ancestor more. I know that you do not wish to provoke needless trouble, but I’m afraid that trouble would come and find out nevertheless.”[a] And whose fault was that again? Fu Qiuning smiled in reply and said, “There is no need for Lord Husband to worry, this humble woman understands the reason why certain things need to be done. It’s getting late, I’m afraid Feng’er and Jiao’er have finished reading by now, why not ask them about their homework and rest for the night?”
Jin Fengju nodded. [c3] There was a momentary pause before he suddenly spoke up, as though he had just recalled something. “Ah, yes. Did you not say that you wish to have Feng’er and Jiao’er be entered into the family genealogy after the New Year? Since Father and Elder Brother will be here, the timing could not be better. It’s just, the children’s names would have to be changed. Changfeng could be Zhenfeng, as for Changjiao, she could be Jin Xiu…” He stopped and eyed Qiuning for a moment, “Why don’t you give some suggestions?”
“How about Xiuhan? Instead of ‘han’ for ‘cold’, how about the ‘han’ from ‘hanyang’ for ‘conservation’?  What does Lord Husband think?” Fu Qiuning continued with her embroidery, putting in the final stitches for a peony leaf before looking up at Jin Fengju.
“Xiuhan is good. We shall call her Jin Xiuhan,” Jin Fengju nodded. “Then, it is settled. Just one more thing, I think it is better for you to move into the inner court. Once the children have entered the family genealogy, it is not appropriate for you, as the mother, to stay with them at Night Breeze Pavilion. This place was originally an abandoned area. Not only is it remote, it is also inauspicious.”[c] Says the man who threw his official wife here, abandoned his children, and threw his childhood friend under the bus to make himself look good in front of a woman he is now lusting after. Fu Qiuning said indifferently, “I will not move to the inner court. Back then, did we not agree that I would remain here at Night Breeze Pavilion? [c4] It has been less than a year since your promise, how many times have you tried to move me into the inner court since? You say that this place is remote; I do not see this as a bad thing. As for auspicious, can a large house claim to not have inauspicious deaths every year or so?
What’s more, Feng’er and Jiao’er grew up to be intelligent and sensible children in this very house despite not being under your eye. Now that you have them in your eye enough to miss them when you do not see them, surely this house could be considered very good for their upbringing? Therefore, how could you call this place inauspicious?”
Jin Fengju [d] did not even have the decency to squirm with guilt. Instead, he sighed heavily, as though Fu Qiuning was the one making things difficult for no good reason. “I know, I understand. Enough, I shall help you to delay the inevitable once more. However, when the inevitable day comes, I hope you would not shout at me like this again.”[c5] Fu Qiuning frowned. She thought: Again? What did he mean by ‘again’? What is he talking about? Did a completely different scenario play out in his mind while we talk? Is he delusional? Was he seeing himself as some kind of a tragic hero in his mind to the point that he could not process reality?
She was still pondering over the matter when the sounds of footsteps were heard from outside. It was Jin Changfeng and Jin Changjiao, here to show their homework to their parents.
Gumihou: In White Pear Flower’s POV, Swish Pot = Hotpot with dipping sauce. How? By the way, shabu-shabu traditionally comes with two dipping sauces, Ponzu and Gomadare. Also, I think the last few paragraphs are problematic because White Pear Flower may have written and deleted certain things and forgotten to smooth out the passage.
Gumi is left to fill the holes. Gumi had already given JFJ a weird memory distortion disease where his brain creates false or distorted memories, to explain why he keeps giving himself credit and minimises his own faults. Will continue to do it this way to explain all the whitewashing bestowed by the author onto this ML.
Contrastingly, FQN will be made to remember things clearly with limited modern value bias. Any and all traces of AR Qiuning will be scraped away or rendered into a ‘false front’ to deal with Solo Actor!JFJ who seems addicted to acting in a play where he is the main dramatic lead.
Pill Bug: Too bad mental disorders are frequently attributed to ‘demonic possession’ in those ancient times… There ARE herbs around that contain medicine for mental disorders, you know? St. John’s Wort for depression is one of them. For Jin Fengju who seems to have delusions of grandeur, Blackboard Tree (Alstonia Scholaris) exists in Southern China, you know…
Gumihou: Well, in that case, AR Qiuning is more like a demonic possession, right? Gumi shall dispel her whenever she appears.
[a] Maintain an air of ‘general distaste’ and ‘subtle blame’.
AR Qiuning is getting too comfortable with JFJ[a1] Add discomfort. Delete: It is only because when you come over, I would always have to make some elaborate meals, but who knew you repeatedly do not appreciate it, yet say that the simple fare we eat and drink is delicious.
In place of ‘aww’, put in ‘you made trouble for me’[b] Awkward reply in the face of [a1] [c] Add ‘disdain’ and =_= [c1] Add ‘cynical thought’ [c2] Instead of ‘the biggest concern is veggies’, change it to ‘the only concern I can say is veggies’. AR Qiuning waxed on and on about the issue of ‘oh noes no veggies’ ignoring other more valid concerns. Like money from the hotpot sales. [c3] Make JFJ’s douchiness more obvious [c4] Let’s throw some truth bombs to remind JFJ and the readers what happened in the past. [c5] JFJ’s ‘you had better not shout at me like this again’ Again? What again? Have FQN display puzzlement over this weird statement [d] Make this more sinister [e] Minimize AR Qiuning’s ‘ara?’ presence.
AR Qiuning going: Ara? Hubby busy? Eh?
As a platform to launch JFJ into one of his monologues. Not that it’s needed.[e1] FQN’s POV as JFJ got ready to launch into one of his dramatic detective noir monologues [f] Apply basic modern TV drama viewer common sense. [g] Literally dramatic actor!JFJ [h] AR Qiuning really did ‘tee hee *blep*’ thing according to Word of God…
Pill Bug TL Notes:
 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nine_familial_exterminations Yeah… your extended family gets exterminated. Heavy stuff.  绣寒 Xiuhan, 寒 cold, 涵养 conservation
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