Magistrate Liu felt the corner of his mouth twitch at the ridiculousness of the situation, but he did not know what exactly to do about it.
“But… the culprit has already confessed, and I didn’t even have to question or torture her. Not only did she confess, she even signed the report accusing her. Who would be dumb enough to confess to a crime they didn’t commit?”
“That’s because even she wasn’t aware that someone else was the real culprit,” said Ji Yunshu.
“What? What do you mean by that?” asked Magistrate Liu. The thunderous declaration was enough to make Magistrate Liu jump out of his seat: he stood up, grabbed his robe and scrambled down the stairs towards Ji Yunshu.
As he walked, he grumbled, “Stand up first, I just feel uncomfortable talking to you when you are kneeling down on the ground like that.”
“Does this mean that you agree to have the case reopened?” asked Ji Yunshu as she raised her head.
Magistrate Liu answered with a hand gesture, “Well, you need proof. According to protocol, if you want to reverse the decision on a case which has already been settled, I need irrefutable proof. If you don’t have it, then I can’t reopen the case. You should know that.”
“Of course I have proof,” said Ji Yunshu.
Ji Yunshu stood up, brushed the dust off her robe, and said, “Milord, please bring the old housekeeper from the Zhou Mansion here for questioning.”
“The old housekeeper? Was there someone like that from the Zhou Mansion?” thought magistrate Liu.
Frustrated by his slowness, Ji Yunshu glared at Magistrate Liu and said, “Milord, would you like your humble servant to go and strike the drum again?”
“O-of course not. Also, drop that humble servant thing,” said the Magistrate Liu, his hand waving her apparent need for drama away. She knew he trusted her more than that. He turned around and said to one of the runners, “Grab some men and bring the housekeeper from the Zhou Mansion.”
“Yes, sir,” answered a runner.
Ji Yunshu stopped him as he ran by her.
“What is it, Teacher Ji?” asked the runner.
Ji Yunshu moved closer to him and whispered into his ears. The runner nodded and left with a few others for the Zhou Mansion.
Magistrate Liu was puzzled. He approached Ji Yunshu, frowning, and puckered his lips before asking, “The real culprit is someone else?… What does this have to do with the old housekeeper? Unless.. it’s him?”
“Would you really like to know, milord?”
“Of course!” answered the magistrate with an expression overflowing with curiousity, as he leaned closer to hear Ji Yunshu, “Tell me, weren’t you the one who caught the two we locked up? They also confessed, and if you want to reverse the verdict, you better explain yourself properly.”
“Milord, have you ever hear of an old saying?” asked Ji Yunshu.
“What?” asked the magistrate
“Curiousity kills the cat.”
The magistrate could not find a suitable reply in the face of that.
At that instant, another pair of eyes, ones as ardent as a flame, were fixated upon the two. It was Jing Rong, who was peeking through a little slit from the back of the hall.
“What is that guy doing? What could they be saying to each other?” thought Jing Rong as he tried his best to make out what was happening. His ear was almost glued to the door, but his injured arm had become an obstacle that prevented him from getting closer. Liu Qingping, you’re quite the daring one, aren’t you?! You dare to lean this close to my scholar.
Unbeknownst to him, a hint of frustration and annoyance had begun to colour his tone.
The runners returned in the time it took to brew a cup of tea with the old housekeeper.
The latter had his hands behind his back, and his back was as hunched as always. His body was so limp and devoid of force that as he was dragged into the hall by the runners, it looked like he was about to fall forward.
The housekeeper was brought to the middle of the court hall where he knelt down without resisting. The only thing which stood out was the scar which made his face look rather terrifying. As usual, he lowered his head and stared at the ground.
Lord Zhou and Madame Zhou followed him into the hall. After all, the old housekeeper had been working at the Zhou Mansion for many years already, and there was no way that the owners of the place would not be made aware that he had been dragged to the yamen by the runners.
Magistrate Liu hurried back to his seat since everyone had finally arrived.
Bam! The gavel slammed down onto the table from the platform where the magistrate sat, the housekeeper knelt on the ground, whilst Ji Yunshu, Lord Zhou and Madame Zhou stood beside him.
“Ji Yunshu, you’ve struck the drum to decry an injustice. Tell me, what’s this all about?” asked the magistrate.
Ji Yunshu joined both of her hands into a respectful gesture and answered, “Milord, I have wronged you for the murder of the daughter of Lord Zhou. The real culprit happens to be someone else. I request that you consider reopening the case.”
“Well, I’m listening to you. Speak, and I will listen. If the real culprit is indeed someone else, I’ll reopen the case,” said the magistrate.
Upon hearing that the culprit might be someone else, Lord Zhou and Madame Zhou trembled, “Milord, what’s happening exactly? Isn’t Suyun the culprit?” asked Lord Zhou.
“This… please wait for Yunshu’s explanation. I… I also don’t know much about the details…” answered Magistrate Liu.
Both of them looked at Ji Yunshu for an answer.
Ji Yunshu trotted slowly around the hall. She lowered her eyes to look at the housekeeper and asked in a dispassionate voice, “Old mister, do you know why you were brought here?”
Silence answered her.
Ji Yunshu had a smile that looked a bit sinister and said, “Old mister, do you know that the prisons here are cold, humid and infested with rodents? With your current health condition, it would be terribly unfortunate if you’d have to spend some time in there, wouldn’t it?”
She was answered by silence once again.
Everyone else was baffled: why was she talking about prison conditions?
Jing Rong, who was also as curious as ever, moved his chair a little more forward, despite being already practically stuck to the wall. After moving left and right for a bit, he realised that no matter what he did, the silhouette of the Magistrate, who was slightly overweight, would always obstruct his view. So he snuck out of the back of the hall, and hid in a corner to the side.
“Finally, what a great view, perfect for the show,” thought Jing Rong.
Ji Yunshu, who was still pacing around the old housekeeper, did not see Jing Rong. She went behind the housekeeper and her lips curled upwards once again, “You can stay silent all you want, but the truth will be unveiled by the evidence you carry on you. How about you confess… that you murdered the young miss?”
That was but the first of many surprises for everyone present. It was indeed a show not to be missed.
The old housekeeper, who was still kneeling on the ground, quivered when he heard those accusatory words, and clasped the corners of his robe tightly with both of his hands.
For Ji Yunshu, that little movement was an obvious hint of culpability.
The first person to react to her accusation was Madame Zhou. Her feeble voice matched her eyes that were swollen from fatigue, “That’s impossible! Ah Jing would never do something like that! He watched my daughter grow up.” There was a lot of conviction in her voice.
Lord Zhou agreed with his wife, “The culprit has already been found. Teacher, how can you say that the culprit is Ah Jing now? You must have made a mistake.”
“Lord Zhou, Madame Zhou. Unfortunately, I made a mistake while solving the case. The punishment for that mistake is something else to be discussed, but now, it is my responsibility to find the real culprit,” said Ji Yunshu.
“But…” said lord Zhou.
Ji Yunshu went back to the old housekeeper. This time, she accosted him in a very sharp tone, “I’ll ask you again. Did you murder the young miss? Why did you murder her?”
It was a simple question, but the anger was audible in Ji Yunshu’s voice.
The flurry of questions prompted the old housekeeper to raise his head and look at Ji Yunshu. His visage was still ruined by the horrible scar, but his expression was strangely gentle. He chuckled and answered, “Teacher Ji, you’re smart, and you should know the answer already. Why don’t you hazard a guess?”
“Huh?!” Ji Yunshu was surprised: there was no fear in the housekeeper’s answer, but rather, relief.
The housekeeper’s answer was enough to make one fact clear as day for everyone present.
He did murder the young miss!
Grenn's Rants Corner
Me: *sits next to Jing Rong* Your Highness, would you like some popcorn while you enjoy the show on the sidelines?
Jing Rong: *throws popcorn in his mouth* Indeed, watching a good show with some snacks is the best. I'll ask Lang Po to send you some silver later.
Me: Oh, no need! (As long as you get more passionate interactions with Yunshu, I'm all good. Fufufufu~)