Qi Yun frowned, looking over at Prince Duan reflexively. The excited glint in the old man’s eyes was a clear enough indication that he was behind this.
After some deliberation, Qi Yun hit the table with the gavel, putting a stop to the women’s argument. They begged for Qi Yun to find justice for them. Gui Yuan vehemently accused Widow Mu of killing her chickens, while the widow cried out that she was innocent. He was getting a headache listening to them.
Such cases were always troublesome. Qi Yun rubbed at his forehead, trying to clear his thoughts, and yet the two women refused to settle down. Their argument prevented him from thinking clearly. He frowned and turned to Prince Duan with a faint smile. “What does Your Highness think we should do?”
Prince Duan had been waiting for him to ask the question. He relaxed slightly and waved his fan, putting on a thoughtful look. “I believe that they should be subject to a maximum of thirty hits with wooden stave until either of them admitted her guilt.”
The women froze and fell silent. Qi Yun’s forehead creased like he was seriously considering the option, which prompted the women to accuse Qi Yun of abusing his power and disregarding peasants’ lives.
The farce was interrupted by Jun Huang’s sudden appearance. She was dressed in men’s clothes today. Her arrival dissolved some of the tension in the room.
“Prince Duan has a point,” she said as she entered the hall. She glanced at Prince Duan before greeting Qi Yun.
Prince Duan didn’t expect her to agree with him. Anyone with a lick of sense would know his proposal would do more harm than good. He wondered what she was planning.
Jun Huang didn’t spare him even a glance. She laid down the facts she’d discovered. It turned out that she’d heard about what happened and sent people to conduct an investigation. The truth was Gui Yuan was responsible for her chickens’ death. She had been unable to sell her flock and decided to set Widow Mu up because of the woman’s constant barraging. She poisoned the chickens herself and put the blame on the widow, trying to get compensation from her.
Gui Yuan felt chilled to the bones. She didn’t expect the gentle-looking man to be this shrewd. She broke into sweat.
Jun Huang threw her a cold glance and smiled slightly. “You may not know much about the law. Your false accusation not only doesn’t benefit you at all, it’s enough reason for you to be thrown into prison.”
Her smile didn’t reach her eyes, and her tone was frigid. Gui Yuan didn’t dare claim innocence anymore. She bent down and hit the floor with her forehead, making a loud thud, her eyes misty with tears. She painted a pitiful picture.
Widow Mu didn’t seem as happy as a woman being proven innocent should be. She looked at Gui Yuan and waved a hand in the air. “Esteemed officials, this is merely a little prank we women play on each other. It is inappropriate for us to take the case to the court. I don’t want to go through with the lawsuit anymore. Please don’t lock her up. We’ll settle the case ourselves.”
Jun Huang thought for a moment. “Even so, disturbing the proceedings of the court is a crime in itself. Thirty hits are considered merciful.”
Widow Mu’s face went pale. After some hesitation, she volunteered to take the beating for the other woman. Jun Huang raised an eyebrow at Qi Yun, who got the message and helped the two women up, seeing them out of the court.
The case was closed. Prince Duan went red in anger and left with a huff. Qi Yun sighed in relief. To his dismay, though, there were other cases just as troublesome waiting for them to deal with.
Qi Yun didn’t want to exhaust Jun Huang. He sent for Ji Bo and his other advisors to help reach a verdict. The first of the cases was a theft committed by a blind man. The crime itself was puzzling. How could a blind man steal?
As soon as the suspect entered the court, however, Ji Bo saw through his pretense and pointed out that he wasn’t actually blind. Jun Huang soon spotted the signs as well.
The man was a good actor, but it’d been a hobby of Ji Bo to observe all kinds of people. He knew how a blind person should act. The suspect refused to admit that he was acting, but a simple trick was enough to make the man slip and blow his cover. He was put in jail, awaiting his sentence.
Then there was a homicide where the head of a respected family was killed in a locked room. His concubine was the one who brought the case to the court, accusing the man’s first son of murder and demanding for him to pay with his life.
Qi Yun’s first reaction was the son had killed his father for inheritance. Jun Huang and Ji Bo disagreed. They went to the family’s manor in the afternoon to check the corpse. They both knew enough in medicine to conclude that the physical trauma wasn’t what killed the man.
The concubine’s expression clouded, which didn’t escape Jun Huang’s notice. She narrowed her eyes at the woman in her thirties.
“If that’s the case, he must have poisoned my husband,” exclaimed the woman, pointing at the young man. “That must be the truth.”
Jun Huang frowned and thought for a moment. “Why are you so certain?”
“He was the one who was with my husband that day. Who else could it be?”
She and the other advisors went around asking the residents of the manor. They all agreed with the concubine. However, Jun Huang believe things weren’t as simple as it seemed. She met with the young man with Ji Bo and asked him what had happened. He said that he had a private discussion with his father earlier that ended in an argument. In the end, he stormed away. When he went back after realizing his father hadn’t left the room, the old man was dead.
Jun Huang asked if he’d noticed anything unusual. The young man thought for a moment and said there was an odd smell that made him antsy and eventually walk out on his father. Jun Huang and Ji Bo both believed it was the lead they were looking for. They entered the room under the young man’s guidance, only to find it ransacked.
After thorough searching, Jun Huang found a wilted leave. She took a whiff before handing it to Ji Bo. They’d come to the same conclusion.
They had people look around the manor and found a plant in the concubine’s room she had yet to discard. The plant was lethally toxic, which matched the way the victim died. Upon further questioning, they found out that the concubine had murdered her husband for fear of losing all the wealth of the family to the oldest son. She was later sentenced to death.
The cases failed to obstruct Qi Yun as Prince Duan had planned. Instead, Qi Yun was more and more respected among the public. The officials often praised Qi Yun for having an agile mind before the emperor, which pleased him and made him forget about his previous contention with his son.
After the failure, Prince Duan had been quiet, but Jun Huang didn’t dare relax her guard. There was no telling what Prince Duan would do when he was cornered.
In the past, Qi Yun had kept a low profile and was often forgotten despite him being a prince. Now, he’d made a name for himself. When he was in public, people would come up to him and greet him with genuine smile. He was delighted. Jun Huang was his lucky charm. He grew even more attached to her.
Qi Yun had been temporarily staying in Jun Huang’s manor after he took charge of the Court of Judicial Review. In order to help him with the court cases, Jun Huang had went back to dressing up as a man. At night, she’d take time to discuss the current situation with Qi Yun, overlooking her own health.
Nan Xun invited Jun Huang and Qi Yun to his manor as guests. Jun Huang hadn’t seen him for a while. She’d missed him. She accepted the invitation readily. Qi Yun didn’t want to let the two of them be alone together. He went as well.
During the meal, Qi Yun continued to discuss court matters with Jun Huang, who answered his questions seriously and didn’t have the attention to spare for Nan Xun or even the food. Nan Xun frowned at them.
In the end, he put down his chopsticks, the clink interrupting their conversation.
“What’s wrong?‘ asked Jun Huang. “Do you not like the food?”
Nan Xun took a deep breath and shook his head with a smile. “It’s nothing. You should eat more.” He turned to Qi Yun with a dark expression and said, “A word, please.”
Qi Yun looked up at Nan Xun. He knew what Nan Xun was going to talk to him about. He wasn’t intimidated. He nodded and told Jun Huang to enjoy the food before walking away with Nan Xun.
Jun Huang was puzzled. She didn’t know what Nan Xun had to say to Qi Yun in private. Since he wasn’t going to tell her, though, she wasn’t going to ask. She focused on eating now that Qi Yun wasn’t here.
Nan Xun took Qi Yun to the backyard and looked into the distance without a word. Qi Yun wasn’t as patient as Nan Xun. He took a deep breath and asked, “What’s on Brother Nan’s mind?”
“Don’t you know about Jun Huang’s condition?” Nan Xun said bluntly, his brows furrowed. “Her health is bad enough. She entered the palace with you so that she could rest and be well taken care of. And yet you burdened her with even more responsibilities. You didn’t even let her eat properly! Can’t you think about her wellbeing for a second, Qi Yun?”
Qi Yun didn’t have a word of comeback, but he still thought Nan Xun was being too forceful. He must be boasting about his close relationship with Jun Huang.
The polite smile on Qi Yun’s face dropped. Without a word, he lowered his head and looked away.Previous Chapter Next Chapter