As Ji Yunshu pointed out, First Madam had no need to hide her true colours any longer. Her calm mask twisted into a fearful grimace. Her gaze overflowed with killing intent as if daggers would fly out of them any moment to Ji Yunshu into a bloody mess! First Madam, however, was well aware that the beast within herself was now no more than a tied up bird stripped of its wings and locked in a cage. She was definitely going to prison where the execution knife awaited; she would not walk out alive!
She let out a little self-deprecating laugh, hiding her true face no more, “Right, you’re right, and I’m wrong.” She laughed wildly, her eyes bulging out of their sockets, “I shouldn’t have killed that scoundrel Zhang Han; I should have chopped off his hands and feet and slowly tortured him to death. I should’ve had him experience a fate worse than death!” She was full of hatred and resentment.
Ji Yunshu only watched quietly, unmoving. Third Madam came limping forward in disbelief, “Big Sister, why did you kill the old master? Has he not treated you well all these years? You’ve overseen everything in the estate for the last thirty-odd years no matter their importance. What did the old master ever do to you? Why must you be so ruthless?” Third Madam was like one of those cats going wild at catnip: agitated and aggressive!
Zhang Yimo quickly pulled his mother back, speaking soothingly, “Mother, that’s enough, it’s already too late.”
“Why shouldn’t I speak?” She flung his hands off. “All these years, when has she ever treated us as part of the Zhang Family? She’s treated us mother and son like rubbish all these years, and now, she’s even killed the old master so brutally - Yimo, that’s your father!”
“Mother…” Zhang Yimo was known to be a filial and gentle son; he was kind and never quarrelled with anybody. Even now that he knew that his father died at the hands of his own wife, he didn’t dwell on it but only felt profound sadness at this turn of events. He held on firmly to his mother’s hands, refusing to let go.
First Madam gave a lifeless smirk as she dragged herself to stand in front of Third Madam. It was clear by her arms hanging limply by her side that she had lost the will to struggle against her fate. “I regret it all now - I should have killed you too. I should have tossed you down to the deepest level of hell together with that scoundrel Zhang Han. No, there’s still your son, all of you should go to hell. If you hadn’t bumped into me all those years back, I wouldn’t have miscarried, and your son would have never been the first-born son of the Zhang Family! I thought that scoundrel was trying to compensate me for my loss by handing the Zhang Estate over to me, but I was far too naive. Only someone as foolish as me would so willingly be his slave all these years. Not long ago, he told me that he wanted to hand the estate over to your son - why should he have it all? The properties under the Zhang Family’s name only flourished with my hard work, what rights do you swindlers have to take them all away? Why?” She felt shortchanged!
Third Madam shook her head slightly, her eyes red from crying, “Big Sister, you’re wrong. I never wanted to snatch anything from you. Yes, I bumped into you accidentally back then and caused your miscarriage, but haven’t I already paid for my mistake these twenty or so years? Have I said anything at all against your harsh beatings? Weren’t all the wounds on Yimo and I inflicted by you? I protested strongly against the old master when he wanted to hand over the family business to Mo’er. Even if he insisted, Mo’er and I wouldn’t have taken them.”
Zhang Yimo added, “That’s true, Big Aunt. Mother and I wouldn’t have taken any of Zhang Estate’s properties. With father dead, my mother and I had already planned to leave the Zhang Estate for good. Our belongings were already packed up last night. If not for Lord Liu’s summons, we would have already left first thing this morning.”
What? First Madam was shocked to her core! “Do you really intend to give up all these properties?”
“Big Aunt, we don’t want or need, anything. I just want to return to Anlang with my mother and live out the rest of our lives quietly.”
First Madam let out a bitter laugh and shook her head, “How, oh how foolish have I been. I so carefully plotted it all out, but the one who lost it all was still me.” Her tears rolled down her cheeks. This woman was actually quite a tragic character as well.
Third Madam began to sob as well; for a long time, only their cries could be heard in the quiet room. It was quite some time before First Madam finally took a deep breath in, looking up at Lord Liu at his bench, “Lord Liu, I’ll confess. I killed him - you can arrest me later, but you can’t let that actress off lightly.”
Liu Zhiliang spoke, “That actress did poison the tea; she cannot escape a sentence. Once this official reports these to the Ministry of Justice, she will reap what she sowed.”
It was cosmic timing that a prison overseer stumbled his way in as soon as Liu Zhiliang finished his statement. He panted heavily, reporting, “Lord Liu, it’s horrible, that… that criminal… is dead.”
Liu Zhiliang jumped out of his seat, “What did you say?”
“That actress who killed Old Master Zhang’s dead - she died from an illness.”
“Dead? This…” Liu Zhiliang was taken aback. He dusted his sleeves speechlessly and sighed. She passed away from an illness - what more could he say?
First Madam’s legs gave way beneath her and she fell onto her bottom, “It’s karma, karma it must be. They all said that your past would catch up to you; I never believed them, but now I must.”
Hmm? Nobody else but Ji Yunshu understood the real meaning behind her cryptic words. She knelt down on one knee, looking at First Madam’s regretful gaze, “Death has freed that young lady. She’s lived for twenty-five years but also hated for twenty-five years. In the end, ‘The Villager’s Dream’ she sang over and over again, was no more than a fleeting dream.”
First Madam looked at her, tears falling once more down her cheeks.
Huh? How were that actress and Zhang Estate connected? Why did she want to poison Old Master Zhang? Now that she was dead, where would they get their answers?
Ji Yunshu pushed herself up and retreated to one corner, reaching into one sleeve as she held the case scroll she hid in there.
Liu Zhiliang was relieved now that the case was closed, proceeding to order his men to lock up First Madam and the kneeling Butler Zhang in cells. Butler Zhang struggled against the men’s grips, rushing towards Liu Zhiliang’s bench, “Lord Liu, I didn’t kill anyone - I did everything I did at First Madam’s orders. First Madam told me she would pay me a large sum of money once the deed was done. Lord Liu, please, I beg you, have mercy on me. I have too many mouths to feed - I can’t die here, Lord Liu, please, I’m begging you!”
Liu Zhiliang commanded firmly, “Bring him away!”
“Lord Liu…” He bawled as he was dragged away.
First Madam was the complete opposite; she was so calm and composed, it was as if she had lost her bearings. However, as the yamen runner was about to take her away, she suddenly spoke, “Hold on.”
“What else do you have to say?” Liu Zhiliang questioned.
“I want to report a case.” She was dead serious!
The court was stunned.
Ji Yunshu’s grip tightened on the case scroll in her hand.
Liu Zhiliang finally broke out of his trance, “What case are you reporting?”
“A robbery.” First Madam steeled herself, “Lin An Inn’s Du Sanniang stole the Guanyin Seal from my Zhang Estate.”Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Oooh back to Du Sanniang eh? And what a tragic story of one holding grudges too long and poisoning everyone else around them...
Translated by: Tzegeek Edited by: Lunarlark