Under Jing Rong and Ji Yunshu’s coordinated attacks, Liu Zhiliang’s defenses had crumbled beyond repair. His beady eyes were stretched wide open in fear, his sleeves hiding his sweaty palms. He did not know where to rest his gaze, eventually settling for his feet. The angles of his lips twitched into an awkward smile. “This official has no clue as to what Your Highness is saying. What crow? What golden-tailed peacock? This official really doesn’t understand. Shouldn’t we be focusing on the robbery of the Guanyin Seal?”
“Aren’t we investigating that right now?” Jing Rong became serious. “Lord Liu, are you still going to deny what you have done?”
Liu Zhiliang had no answer to that.
Ji Yunshu waved the book in her hand. “Everything recorded in this book has already listed Lord Liu’s crimes. Whether you decide to confess to them or not, these are already proven facts. Not one of the robberies at Lin An Inn have ever been solved. Not only that, but when First Madam spoke of Du Sanniang stealing the Guanyin Seal, you were not even the least bit surprised, even asking Third Madam to first return. Is Lord Liu already planning to handle this case like the thirty-four ones before it, burying the robbery of the Zhang Estate’s Guanyin Seal in the depths of your study?”
Liu Zhiliang looked up in panic. “Is Teacher suspecting this official of being in cahoots with Du Sanniang?”
“I’m not only suspicious; I’m a hundred percent sure.” Ji Yunshu declared confidently, “All these years, you’ve been colluding with Du Sanniang. Whenever she would steal the possessions or pricey items of the merchants staying at Lin An Inn, you would accept the complaints of those victims who came to report to your yamen, but you never once did you investigate them. As those people were merchants and not locals, they would not spend much time in Anfu. As you dragged on your non-existent investigations, these men would eventually leave in acceptance of their fates. Thereafter, Du Sanniang would exchange the stolen loot for gold and silver, giving Lord Liu your cut of the profits.”
“No… never!” Liu Zhiliang was frantic, but he did his best to keep calm, “This official sees himself as the guardian of Anfu; I would never allow such dirty, corrupt acts to occur within this county. This official has the utmost respect for Teacher Ji, and knows that the Teacher is extremely clever, but to accuse this official of colluding with Du Sanniang with only this case book as proof… where have these false accusations come from? Lin An Inn is an enormous inn that has always served a steady stream of customers; with so many leaving and entering each day, it would be impossible to investigate everyone passing through! This official is a useless bum who was unable to solve these cases.” He pleaded his innocence, this time at Jing Rong, “Your Highness, you must believe this official. This official is being wronged!”
Jing Rong laughed. “This Prince may distrust everyone else, but the only one I trust in this world is none other than Teacher Ji. Since she insists that you have participated in such acts, using your power of position to commit such crimes, this Prince fully believes what she says. Even if she called you a murderer, this Prince would judge you as one. In any case, whatever Teacher Ji says, must be true.” In other words, he was her biggest fanboy!
Liu Zhiliang was well backed into a corner, his heart jumping out of his chest. In the end, he could only force out a weak denial. “This official… is being framed.”
“You keep insisting you’re being wronged, then fine, this Prince wants to know - how did you know this Prince was arriving in Anfu?”
“The news of Your Highness heading to Yufu County on royal decree had spread far and wide, so -”
Jing Rong cut him off sharply, “The news might have spread, but not necessarily to your ears. Before stepping into Anfu, this Prince had already sent an order that there was no need to inform you, nor anyone else in Anfu, of my arrival. There was no way that you could have known about my arrival, yet you were waiting at the yamen long before I arrived. Unless you claim that it was this Prince’s subordinates that brought you this piece of information?”
“With Lord Liu’s wit, there’s no way your partner-in-crime, Du Sanniang, would be a fool as well. If she hadn’t realised who I was and informed you secretly, how would you know this Prince was coming to Anfu?”
Liu Zhiliang’s gaze darted back and forth as he tried to think of a counter-argument, but Ji Yunshu took over the narrative. “Not only that, Anfu County has enjoyed several years of peace; not one of your cases were submitted to the imperial government for judgement. Everyone said that Anfu’s peace was thanks to their governor, many even claiming that Anfu County is a place suited for retirement. In this one’s opinion however, these are all lies that Lord Liu has woven to project Anfu as a peaceful, lawful county. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have ordered your prison overseer to torture that actress so harshly. Whether she was the real culprit or not, her confession would help you protect Anfu’s image as a peaceful county. Lord Liu, isn’t that right?” Ji Yunshu gave a panic-inducing radiant smile.
He protested wildly, but silently, that’s not true! Of course you’re wrong! But his guilty conscience was already overwhelming him, and he retreated, putting up a last feeble argument, “Teacher has no evidence supporting what you have claimed. How and why, should this official accept these accusations?”
Jing Rong continued, “When Teacher Ji complimented you last night, you wouldn’t accept them; now that she’s exposing your true colours, you likewise refuse to admit to them. Liu Zhiliang, oh Liu Zhiliang, will you only shed a tear when you see your own coffin?” With that, he snapped his fingers and two guards pulled a woman in, with Mo Ruo following closely behind.
What in the world was this?
That woman was none other than Du Sanniang. Her arms were tied behind her back and her signature off-the-shoulder outfit had slipped further down, revealing part of her snowy, soft mounds. Her cheeks were flushed red while her eyes were bloodshot and fatigued; smelling strongly of alcohol, it was clear she had been drinking. Her curvaceous figure was much weaker than before, resulting in her immediately crumpling onto the ground once she was brought into court.
Liu Zhiliang gaped at the sight of Du Sanniang, his whole body trembling in fear! One of the guards detaining Du Sanniang also had a box in his hands, which he handed over to Ji Yunshu as he entered. “Teacher, the item’s inside.”
Ji Yunshu received it, and handed it to Third Madam without opening it. “It’s inside.”
Hmm? Third Madam opened the box, exclaiming, “It’s the Guanyin Seal!”
“Now that it’s been returned to its rightful owner, make sure not to lose it again in the future.”
“Understood.” Third Madam held that box tenderly, her eyes filled with tears of gratitude.
Ji Yunshu glanced at Zhang Yimo. “Young Master Zhang, bring your mother home.”
“Many thanks, Teacher Ji.”
Ji Yunshu but nodded calmly as Zhang Yimo led Third Madam back to Zhang Estate. Ji Yunshu next walked over to Mo Ruo, who was leaning against the door frame, pointing at Du Sanniang, asking, “What’s wrong? Why is she in this state?”
“Doesn’t she love drinking? After capturing her yesterday, I drank with her all night.”
Ji Yunshu rolled her eyes at him.
Mo Ruo shook his head and sighed, lamenting, “How great would it be if she weren’t a thief.”
“So that you can marry her?”
“I wouldn’t dare marry such a woman. I just want to have her as a drinking buddy; as a fellow lover of wine, Du Sanniang is not too bad a choice.”
Ji Yunshu rolled her eyes at him again. Mo Ruo decided to leave the court as he continued his drinking session outside on the stone steps.
In court, Liu Zhiliang was as limp as a deflated balloon. Du Sanniang scoffed as she knelt, looking up at Liu Zhiliang, “Lord Liu, this time, we’ve truly lost. Everything has been exposed; I think it won’t be long before you lose your official’s robes.” She smirked!
Liu Zhiliang stumbled backwards straight into the large desk at his bench, falling to the ground with a loud, resounding ‘thud’. His forehead was glistening with cold sweat, but who knew if it were from the pain of the bump or his downfall?Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Lol Mo Ruo... you and your drinking!
Translator: Tzegeek, Editor: Lunarlark