Ji Yunshu’s laugh lightened the heavy atmosphere by several degrees.
Only then did Liu Qian cup his hands in greeting, “This lowly official did not know of Your Highness’s arrival and was not able to welcome you; please forgive the rudeness.”
His manner was as sincere as a defeated warrior asking for forgiveness! But this warrior wore the robes and sang the tune of a scholarly official; the facade was as incongruent as an ape hiding under the skin of a rabbit. It does not match, no matter how you look at it!
Jing Rong finished his cup of tea. Ignoring Liu Qian's words, he gave an appreciative sigh. “Jinjiang’s tea is still the best; it’s invigorating and has a clean, sweet taste. This Prince will recommend that the Ministry of Rites make Jinjiang’s tea part of the Imperial tributes.”
“It's good that your highness likes the tea.” Obsequious!
“This is the batch of tea leaves left behind by Liu Qingping, isn't it?”
The corners of Liu Qian's eyes twitched. “That's right!”
Jing Rong smiled. “Although Liu Qingping is foolish, he still retains his good taste in selecting tea leaves. Not bad, not bad.”
He then met Liu Qian's gaze squarely and got to business. “Last night, this prince visited the yamen without first informing Lord Liu. That was rude of me. I should still abide by the law and be reprimanded.”
Reprimand? Enough of your jokes alright?! If I dared to reprimand you, I'd lose my official post! I might even be silenced, resulting in the loss of both my money and my life, then what would happen to the young and the old in my family?
Liu Qian hurried to reassure him, “Although we should follow the law, Your Highness visited the yamen only to help redress the grievances of the wrongly accused. This lowly official should be thanking Your Highness and Teacher Ji instead!” He gave a deep, respectful now.
That's right, he said ‘visit’ instead of ‘barge in’ like before!
Interesting! Unexpectedly, Liu Qian was not only greedy but also extremely sly and shrewd. The whole incident had been neatly smoothed over by that little turn of phrase. However, Jing Rong was not so easily appeased. “Since Lord Liu will not pursue this further, this prince would like to pursue one of Lord Liu's mistakes instead.”
“This official's mistake? What does Your Highness mean?”
“You should know very well what I mean.”
“This official truly has no idea.” He had a troubled expression on his face. As an official, he had always acted professionally; when did he make a mistake? His record of case resolution was likewise superb; he solved every single case he personally handled.
But Jing Rong merely smiled lightly and gave him a look before saying leisurely, “Lord Liu, you retrenched every single person who worked in the yamen under the previous official once you were appointed, replacing them with your own people. This move is similar to what military generals would do; even though you've already become a civil official, you still keep the habits of military generals in the barracks, using force to control and suppress others. Additionally, I wager that most of those that entered the jail were only able to leave carried out horizontally. Those who couldn't withstand the beatings were taken as guilty; those that could were re-tried in the yamen, then interrogated until they couldn't take it and confessed. This must be the reason behind your exceptional track record in solving cases, isn't it?”
The clear and straightforward statement was like a sword pointed straight at Liu Qian’s heart. If he moved the slightest, he would be made into mincemeat. He lowered his head and tried to smooth over the situation with bated breath. “Your Highness, regarding Uncle Fu's incident, it was certainly this official's oversight. I didn't intend to torture a confession out of him; I only used force because there was both material evidence and an eyewitness against him. In this case, this official admits his wrongs and accepts punishment.”
“What kind of punishment?”
“Whatever your Highness instructs.”
“Good!” Jing Rong had been waiting for this statement. He lifted his chin. “This Prince will then fire you; what do you think?”
Liu Qian was sure that he heard correctly. Fire me? Are you joking?!
Ji Yunshu, who was listening, was not surprised in the slightest; she was full of anticipation for the next act in this drama. In contrast, the yamen runners in the room stared at Jing Rong in disbelief. With a half-joking, half-serious expression, Jing Rong smirked and asked, “Lord Liu, what are your thoughts on this prince firing you? Do you have any comments?”
“Your Highness, the reassignment of this official… has always been handled by the Ministry of Personnel.”
“Are you threatening this prince with the Ministry of Personnel?”
“This official doesn't dare, but regarding reassignment, the Ministry of Personnel…”
“When did this prince ever mention reassigning you?” Jing Rong interrupted him, annoyed.
Liu Qian was in trouble again!
“This Prince said he would fire you!” His expression lost any trace of humour. “Liu Qian, this prince knows that you've fought many bloody battles and won victories for our Great Lin. It's not unheard of for military generals to become civil officers, but even after you became a civil officer, you still kept the habits of a military general! Not only did you not change, but you even became worse!”
“Your Highness, I don't understand what you mean.”
“Don't try to prevaricate. This Prince has already conducted a thorough investigation. When you were an official at Liaojiang, you were already known to be barbaric. The commoners don't respect you but fear you. Cases reported to the yamen are all resolved within two days. One could say that this was highly efficient work, but in reality, it's a disregard for human life. I wager that there are dozens of Liaojiang citizens that were wrongfully imprisoned. However, don't worry, the Ministry of Justice will reopen and reinvestigate all your past cases, including those from your time in Jinjiang. Once evidence of your wrongdoings is found, you won't even be allowed to be a military officer, much less a civil officer.”
Every single word and phrase landed forcefully and with terrifying precision. Before, Liu Qian was adamant in his stance, but now, he was trembling like a chicken with its feathers plucked bare. His knees hit the floor with an audible thud as he kneeled in plea. “Your Highness, this official has never violated any laws for personal gain, nor wrongfully convicted anyone. Every case was supported by solid evidence!”
Jing Rong's brows knitted together tightly as he replied coldly, “We'll know the truth of the matter once the justice department sends its investigators!”
“Enough. You likely won't be an officer for much longer. The sooner you make other arrangements for yourself and your subordinates, the better. Don't kick up an unnecessary fuss when you get your marching orders.” He stood up once he finished speaking. With no regard for how it would look, he grabbed Ji Yunshu’s hand and led her out before she could even gather her wits.
Tang Si was still busy teasing Lang Po. This woman was capable of making others speechless every time she opened her mouth, causing Lang Po endless frustration.
Lang Po stepped forward immediately when he saw the two exit. “Your Highness, are we leaving now?”
Jing Rong glanced at Tang Si and said lightly, “You send Miss Tang Si back first; now that the rain has stopped, this prince will take a walk with Teacher Ji.”
“Why don't this subordinate…” follow you?
Before he could finish, the Prince had already walked out of the yamen with Ji Yunshu in tow.
Immediately after they got out, Ji Yunshu drew back her hand and hid it in her sleeves, glancing around warily.
“What are you afraid of?”
“Oh?” Jing Rong smirked and reached out for her hand again. He was just a beat too slow as she hid her hand behind her back.Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Ha! This was the most satisfactory chapter of the arc... Love the JR bitch-slapping.
Translator: ChouFleur, Editor: Dray