Magistrate Liu stood up as soon as the door opened.
Ji Shuhan made his entrance. His expression was stern and his brows wrinkled. White puffs of breath could be faintly seen coming out of his nose. He had one hand in front of him while the other was placed behind. He strutted in, his whole being exuding an aura akin to a mass of flame, shocking Magistrate Liu.
“Lord Ji, why did you come here at such a late hour?” The magistrate immediately welcomed his visitor.
Ji Shuhan snorted as he sat down. Of course, he would come at this time. Ever since Ji Yunshu had been accused of murder and imprisoned, his Ji family’s honor had been greatly smeared and he had no face to go out in broad daylight! “Lord Liu, you should know why I came here.”
“Of course I know.” Magistrate Liu sighed as he sat down. His hands clenched into fists and laid on his thighs. “This case involved two lives. The Weis identified her as the murderer. I had no choice and could only imprison her first to quell them.”
Ji Shuhan glared at the magistrate. His eyebrows rose to the point it almost seemed to disappear under his hat. He harrumphed, “Lord Liu, I presume you know that our Ji is a prestigious family. Your order to arrest my daughter is simply a slap in my face.”
“Lord Ji, this official had absolutely no such intention when I ordered her arrest!”
“I don’t care about your intention. I’ll be brief. Release her.” Ji Shuhan hatefully spat out the words as he displayed an overbearing and arrogant attitude.
Magistrate Liu’s expression twisted into one of embarrassment as he helplessly said, “Lord Ji, I didn’t want to arrest Yunshu. However, I am a magistrate and absolutely cannot go against the laws. Besides, the Wei’s have already presented the evidence. Even if Yunshu is innocent, we have to wait until this case is resolved before she can be released. Unfortunately, we have no choice but to wrong her this time.”
After everything was said, Ji Shuhan raised his hand and slammed it on the table while glaring daggers at the magistrate. He spoke in anger. “You should know that my daughter and the Wei family are tied with a soon-to-be marriage. The death of Lord Wei and Madame Wei have nulled this marriage. Not only that, she became their murderer. You tell me, how will my Ji family have any standing in Jingjiang city from now on?!”
Blabbering all day, the main reason fuelling his actions still came down to one word - reputation! For him to force the magistrate to release Yunshu was clearly screaming of an ulterior motive.
Magistrate Liu’s lips trembled, many words came to his mind without any chance to be voiced.
Ji Shuhan pressured him once again, “My two sons have official positions in the capital. Lord Liu should have heard of it, right? Then again, I once was an assistant minister in the Ministry of Rites and I’ve still kept contact with a few old friends. I believe that Lord Liu would give some face to me.”
Unexpectedly, such moves came out from the other side, causing the magistrate to be nervous and beads of sweat to appear on his forehead. He was at a complete loss on what to do. Even Jing Rong couldn’t compel him to release Yunshu, which proved the importance he attached to the laws.
Yet this Ji Shuhan really had too much guts and ambition. Magistrate Liu’s expression slowly became crestfallen, but he still argued, “Please don’t make things difficult for me. I truly have no choice and can’t release Yunshu. As long as we have evidence that proves her innocence, I will immediately release her. As for right now, your request is far too thorny and impossible to fulfill.”
Magistrate Liu’s thousand excuses seemed to wear out Ji Shuhan’s patience. He fished out from his sleeve a stack of money and threw it on the table before pushing it toward the magistrate.Seeing that stack of money, Magistrate Liu’s jaw dropped in shock!
‘Ten thousand taels!’ This was the amount of money he would earn if he were to toll until his last breath. “This… Lord Ji, what do you mean by this?” His tone was trembling as he asked.
Ji Shuhan leaned in slightly towards him and whispered, “Lord Liu, since you’re an official, you should understand the meaning of giving someone a second chance and should also give yourself a way out.”
“This matter concerns the reputation of my Ji family. Lord Liu is an intelligent person. You shouldn’t be too serious about those… processes. You know what I mean? In Jinjiang, with only a wave of my brush, even a death row prisoner could be pardoned! Our esteemed emperor is far away, you should be clear on which way to lean!” His words scared the magistrate no less, causing his whole body to tremble.
Ji Shuhan didn’t forget to add, “Although Lord Wei and Madame Wei were poisoned, as long as you say that their food was poisoned instead, everything can still be cleared up after my daughter’s release. It would preserve our family’s reputation and you would also pocket this 10,000 taels. Won’t it be a win-win situation for the both of us? What do you say?”
Magistrate Liu had to admit that Ji Shuhan’s offer was extremely tempting. He felt his will swayed in his favor. His eyes were glued to the banknotes as he felt torn in his innermost heart.
He wavered. In the end, he truly wished that nothing would happen to Ji Yunshu.
Discovering the hesitation on the magistrate’s face, Ji Shuhan pushed the banknotes closer to Magistrate Liu. “Lord Liu, you should carefully consider my proposal.”
Magistrate Liu’s body shook as if he was suddenly roused. He raised his head and observed Ji Shuhan. He placed his index and middle finger on the stack of banknotes and, unexpectedly, pushed it back to Ji Shuhan. Furthermore, he even declared, “Lord Ji, I shouldn’t take unjustified rewards. I only have a few words to say… Those 10,000 taels, please take it back.”
Ji Yunshu was shocked. “You’re not taking it?” Unbelievable!
“This official will absolutely not take it.” Then, he continued, “Yunshu is your daughter. You should believe that she didn’t poison anyone. Rest assured that I will certainly investigate the truth of this matter and give her justice. As for you, Lord Ji, for the sake of your family’s reputation, you tried to instigate me to hastily conclude the case regardless of the laws, and as a retired official, you dared to go against the laws by using money to bribe me in order to distort the truth. If I wanted to charge you for a crime, wouldn’t that add more to your crimes?”
Woah! Since when was Magistrate Liu’s eloquence this good? His words left Ji Shuhan stunned. Ji Shuhan’s threatening attitude also receded, replaced by annoyance at first, then panic and finally, anger. He took back the banknotes and got up in anger; his eyes burning with unwillingness. He spat out, “Since you are this determined to be a good official, I have nothing more to say.” He brushed his sleeves and left in fury.
Magistrate Liu let out a heavy sigh. His forehead was still covered in sweat while he held his stomach with both hands like he went through a frightening experience. He hardly believed what he had just said to Ji Shuhan. It really made his heart fill with worry and apprehension!
Ji Shuhan, who had returned to the Ji mansion, threw his cup and slammed his table, causing the bustling sounds to echo through the reception hall. Old Madame Ji remained calm as she sat on the side. Ji Muqing, Ji Wanxin and Ji Yuanzhi were seated beside her.
Old Madame Ji waited until her son had vented his anger before inquiring about his discussion with Lord Liu. “What happened in the end for you to break everything as soon as you came back from the yamen? What did Lord Liu say?”
Ji Shuhan forgo any control he had on his emotions and hit the table once again, “That obstinate rock didn’t heed my words!”
“How can that be?”
Ji Shuhan snorted and shook his head. “I don’t know. He was spouting about following the Great Lin’s code of laws.”
Ji Yuanzhi asked in an anxious voice. “Father, could it be that the 10,000 taels weren’t enough?”
Ji Shuhan didn’t reply as his anger grew stronger.
“How about we give him 20,000 taels? Perhaps, he would agree to it then.” Ji Yuanzhi tentatively asked.
“The money was not the problem.”
“Then what was the problem? It couldn’t be that he wasn’t moved by that much money? Isn’t it merely to alter the case a bit? A simple line of ‘The food which Lord Wei and Madame Wei ate was poisoned.’ shouldn’t have been too complicated?” Ji Yuanzhi was extremely agitated as he spoke.
Ji Shuhan shook his head and sighed. He didn’t know what to say.
Ji Muqing snorted, pouting her small and red lips before speaking. “See that, there’s 80% probability that she poisoned them to death just because she didn’t want to marry that idiot.”
“Muqing! Yunshu is not the kind of person to do that. A kindhearted person like her would absolutely not have poisoned anyone. Moreover, the Wei’s people treated her so well, how could she bear to harm them?” Ji Wanxin refuted Ji Muqing while her brows wrinkled with worry.
“Ji Wanxin, I know you are on good terms with her, but you better keep your eyes open and look at it more objectively. Lingzhi was pushed by her, next I was the one who fell in the water. Maybe, she was the one who pushed me, then she blamed it on Lingzhi. If she can do something like that, what else can’t she do?”
“That impossible! I reiterate that I believe in Yunshu’s character. Let’s keep things as it stands and don’t confuse one thing with another.”
“When did I confuse one thing with another? Ji Yunshu is simply a ruthless person. If people said she poisoned someone, I will absolutely believe them. She should be beheaded.”
BAM! A loud sound resounded as soon as Ji Muqing finished speaking. Ji Shuhan had hit the table with all his might once again. The flames of anger were furiously burning in his eyes as he glared at Ji Muqing. “What do you know? If our Ji family actually had a murderer bearing our surname, that would be a tremendous disgrace! In the future, how will I have a firm foothold in Jinjiang? Your eldest brother’s and second brother’s official career in the capital will also be greatly affected!”
Ji Muqing lowered her head despite feeling that she had been wronged. “Father, I…”
She had yet to finish her sentence, but Ji Shuhan interrupted her. "In addition, you should think more about your situation. If Yunshu really killed people, do you still think you can become the crown prince’s consort?”
“Hey?!” That revelation frightened Ji Muqing to no end!
“If our Ji family had a murderer and the words were to be spread to the ears of the emperor and empress, you can stop dreaming about becoming the crown prince’s consort. The road I have paved for you will be completely destroyed.” Each word Ji Shuhan spoke nailed the precarious situation Ji Muqing was in. Her complexion turned blue.
Since her childhood, she had been cultivated to be the crown prince’s consort. It wouldn’t be long until she was sent to the capital for the crown prince’s consort selection. However, at a crucial moment in her life, such a big incident had occurred. She could not let herself be rammed into such an obstacle that would destroy all her efforts!
Ji Muqing panicked. Her eyes reddened. She urgently spoke, “Father, your daughter must become the crown prince’s consort! Later when the crown prince ascends to the throne, I will become the empress. We absolutely cannot let anything go wrong! It would be better if we send more money to Lord Liu. We’re just buying a few of his words, it should be easy.”
Old Madame Ji also gave her suggestion. “That’s true. We can add in another 10,000 taels. In any case, our Ji family doesn’t lack money. As long as we can sweep the case under the rug, anything is good.”
“Nothing but talk. I said money wasn’t the problem.” Ji Shuhan felt distressed as he had no plan to suppress this case. He continuously shook his head and continued. “Lord Liu seemed determined and didn’t listen to what I said. Even if we gave him 10,000 taels more, it would not make a difference.”
“Then, what do we do right now?” Old Madame Ji began to worry.
Ji Wanxin opened her mouth to speak. “Grandmother and Father, It’s impossible for Yunshu to poison people. The truth of the matter will certainly come to light. When her innocence is proven, will not everything be resolved at that time?”
“What do you understand?!” Old Madame Ji reprimanded her. “Our Ji family had never had anyone imprisoned! This matter is too ominous. If words were to spread to the capital, it will affect our influence.”
“Alright, alright!” Ji Shuhan raised his hand to stop the discussion. He sighed. “At present, we can only hope that Yunshu isn’t the murderer.”