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Han Zao’s boyservant was called Xiao Gao, ‘Little Cake’. That out-of-place name had come from Han Zao himself. He was a few years older than him, and was already so thin after getting locked up for a few days, his bones showed. Upon seeing Han Hui, his eyes brimmed with tears of excitement. “Eldest Lord, you managed to come! This lowly one has been accused wrongly! I didn’t kill the Second Lord! Please, help me by beseeching the Madam!”
Han Hui consoled him. “I know, don’t worry. She’s been in poor health these days, so we’re all afraid to irritate her. You’ll have to be further wronged with staying here for a few more days, but I’ll tell them to bring you some more food. When she calms down a bit, all will be fine. These two gents were sent by the Court to investigate Xiao Zao’s case. Cooperate with them, and answer anything they ask you with the truth. If you’re innocent, they will certainly bring you justice.”
Xiao Gao nodded on end. “Yes, yes, yes! I’ll tell everything I know!”
“Explain the whole story, in detail and its entirety, of the day you accompanied Han Zao out,” Tang Fan said to him.
Xiao Gao calmed his emotions a bit, thinking back. “That day… we left as usual. Xiao Chan called for the Second Lord to get up, then helped him freshen up and eat. I just waited outside. We left at about thirty minutes into the time of the Tiger.(3-5a) He looked to have been in high spirits, then, and didn’t appear to be unwell. After we were out the door, he got on a sedan chair, and I followed at the side—”
“Did you two come across anyone else before going out?” Tang Fan interrupted.
“Yes. We met Aunt Zhou.”
“Junior Lady Zhou? Your Master’s cousin? Explain, carefully.”
“Yes, that’s her. She talked to him for a minute. He ate quickly, and then his sleeves were a little wrinkled, so she helped him straighten them out.”
“How was her relationship with your Second Lord, normally?”
“Pretty good. He liked her, but the Madam didn’t, so she forbade him from going to see her. She ordered us to always be looking out for him, too.”
That was in line with what Han Hui had said.
“But, when meeting Aunt Zhou, he would still greet her. She knew that the Madam has a mind illness, so she never intentionally sought him out, but she would at times slip him some trinkets when she found the chance.”
“What kind of trinkets?”
“Anything he could eat or play with. Sometimes it was a cloud cake she had bought outside, sometimes it was a little fish she had sewn herself. He had liked it all, so he asked us to help keep it a secret from the Madam.”
“Did you run into anyone else after you two left? Did the chair stop at any point?”
Xiao Gao shook his head. “No. After we left, we went straight to the palace gates. I watched him get taken in by the palace’s people, and then I went back. I was supposed to have gone back to pick him up in the evening, but… who could have known…”
Tang Fan felt that there was no need to ask anything else. He looked at Han Hui. “We want to see Junior Lady Zhou.”
Han Hui nodded. “Please follow me.”
Junior Lady Zhou had also evidently already received the news. When she greeted them, her eyes were red, lovely and pitiful. Looking at her age, she was indeed a bit younger than Lady Lin, making it little wonder as to why the latter was deeply wary of her.
Upon hearing Han Hui announce their identities, she bowed to them. “Widowed women are unlucky to begin with. If I hadn’t always been visiting Xiao Zao, maybe this wouldn’t have happened to him.”
Tang Fan had no duty nor inclination to comfort her. “I heard from Xiao Gao that on the day of Han Zao’s incident, you had met with him before he left for the palace?” he questioned directly.
She nodded. “Yes. I was going to pay respects to my Aunt at the front courtyard, then happened to run into him. I knew my cousin’s wife didn’t like for me to have much contact with Xiao Zao, so I never played with him much, but… he was a lovable child. Once I saw him, I couldn’t resist joking around with him, and we chatted for a short bit that day, around the time a cup of tea would brew. At the time, his boyservant Xiao Gao was there, and my maid La Mei was, too.”
The ‘La Mei’ she spoke of was precisely the young maid standing behind her now. She was around the same age as Han Hui, her head lowered with her hands clasped over her abdomen. Hearing Lady Zhou talk about her, she bowed to Tang Fan and them.
Tang Fan glanced at her, then looked at Lady Zhou again. “You had also gotten in close to help Han Zao tidy up his clothes, correct?”
She was taken aback. “Yes. Does… does that matter?”
He didn’t really answer. “I’d like to take a look around your room, alright?”
She looked at him, both shocked and terrified. “S-Sir, do you suspect me?”
“Whether I do or don’t is something to be said after looking around,” he said indifferently.
She bit her lip. A woman getting her room searched by someone was the greatest of humiliations, and conveyed a message to the outside world by itself. “And if I were to decline?”
Tang Fan looked at Wang Zhi.
Eunuch Wang, who had been playing the part of a signboard next to him this entire time, now appeared on stage, immediately grinning nastily in close cooperation with Sir Tang. “We can either search now, or wait until I bring you back to the Western Depot to search. Your choice.”
Tang Fan mentally gave him a big thumbs up.
When spoken by the Director of the Western Depot, the effect of those words increased tenfold. If Tang Fan were to bring Shuntian Prefecture up, there would be no such menacing force.
He thought to himself about how His Majesty having Chief Eunuch Wang himself come out and monitor-plus-aid him had actually turned out to not be worthless.
The Western Depot’s mighty name struck even the ears of sheltered women like thunder. Her face quickly lost all of its color.
She took two steps back, La Mei promptly coming to help her.
Lady Zhou bowed low. “I beg you, Sirs, this truly has nothing to do with me. I loved Xiao Zao as a nephew! How could I ever hurt him? I’m a woman, so if my room is searched, how will I have any dignity left after word gets out? Please understand this, Sirs!”
Tang Fan’s voice was gentle, but his tone wasn’t moved in the least. “We have imperial orders to handle this case. Please understand that.”
With that said, he no longer paid her any mind, going straight into her room.
The people Wang Zhi had brought with him now came in useful. With them added onto Wang Zhi and Tang Fan, a search of the room began.
Western Depot folk couldn’t do anything with any sort of gentleness, of course, so it wasn’t long before the bedding, dressers, and other such things were all overturned into a mess.
When it came to women’s bedrooms that Chief Eunuch Wang had set to searching himself, Lady Zhou’s could be considered the very first. Yet, he was all the rougher when doing it, digging up those nooks that few people paid attention to, and even tearing down the bed’s canopy.
The most generous was Tang Fan. He looked at spots like the corners of the bed, which rarely brought about devastating destruction.
For Han Hui to come in would be improper, so he waited outside.
Having no way to prevent this, Lady Zhou could only follow them in. Upon seeing the disarray, her legs immediately went weak, and she nearly fainted.
La Mei supported her frantically. “Milady! Milady!” she shouted.
“Chief Eunuch!” One of the few men Wang Zhi had brought suddenly called out. He was standing by the windowsill. The magnet held in his hand had sucked out a thin needle from a crack between the sill and the window’s edge.
Wang Zhi and Tang Fan immediately went over to examine it.
Upon closer inspection, it was seen that the needle was little longer than two cun, and had a width similar to a hair’s. Had it not been for this Western Depot scout listening to Tang Fan and specifically bringing a magnet along, they might never have discovered the object’s existence.
“This is a broken needle!” Wang Zhi exclaimed, then turned to Lady Zhou with a frigid gaze where she was collapsed weakly on the ground. “Han Zao happened to have died from a broken needle immersed in his shuifen acupoint. Do you still dare to claim that you didn’t do it?”
Her eyes went wide, and she shook her head viciously. “I didn’t! I didn’t! I don’t know whose needle that is!”
Wang Zhi didn’t hear her excuse out, speaking straight to his sidekicks. “Arrest her before anything else!”
“No! Sir, I’m being wronged!” she wailed.
La Mei also grabbed her sleeve and started crying.
Thinking that he was hearing a commotion inside, Han Hui swiftly came in. Seeing this scene and getting struck dumb, he just as swiftly spoke to Wang Zhi. “Eunuch Wang, what happened? Has there… been some misunderstanding?”
Wang Zhi huffed coldly. “We’ll only know if there’s been a misunderstanding when we bring her back!”
Had Tang Fan brought people from Shuntian Prefecture here, it definitely wouldn’t have been easy for them to take someone away like this, since no matter what was said, the Han’s were a clan of officials, and Han Fang further had a connection with Chenghua. Eunuch Wang, however, had no such apprehensions, simply waving his hand to have them take Junior Lady Zhou.
Han Hui couldn’t stop them; he couldn’t speak for the Han family, nor did he have an official’s post, which was why Wang Zhi apparently didn’t feel like explaining much to him.
La Mei, a maidservant, was even more flustered. Her face full of panic, she looked at the pair that was still in the room, then ran out to follow.
Wang Zhi turned his head to see Tang Fan still standing by the window. At a glance, he looked to be viewing the scenery, but a closer look told that he was staring blankly out the window.
“You don’t want to leave, or something?” Wang Zhi frowned, giving him a slap on the back.
Tang Fan nearly caught something from his smack, coughing on repeat all of a sudden.
He tried to talk as he coughed. “This is too much of a coincidence. We came, said we were going to search, and then happened to find that broken chunk of needle. Wouldn’t it be way more strenuous to find such a thin thing if it were randomly thrown into shrubbery or stuck in the ground? Lady Zhou isn’t addled. Why would she stuff it into the window frame and wait for us to find it?”
“What knowledge can a sheltered woman be said to have? Lady Lin hated her, found trouble for her repeatedly, and nearly shamed her into hanging herself. Junior Lady Zhou harboring a grudge and wanting to kill Han Zao in revenge against Lady Lin, causing her so much pain that she wouldn’t want to live anymore, wouldn’t be a bit surprising. After killing him, she inevitably got panicky and didn’t think too straight, hiding needles all over the place, never expecting that we would find that particular spot… what are you always staring at me for?!”
“With how astute you are, don’t you notice that your own words have a lot of holes in them?” Tang Fan asked him, voice flat.
Wang Zhi sneered. “What do you mean?”
“I can understand your hopes to conclude this case as quickly as possible, but when the circumstances are unclear and the murderer hasn’t truly been found, isn’t it too early to make decisions?”
Wang Zhi put his hands behind his back and narrowed his eyes, his softness suddenly turning sharp.
Tang Fan was unafraid of the faint murderousness the other showed, meeting his gaze as calmly as ever.
They looked at each other for a short moment, then Wang Zhi spoke, the way he did so slightly slow. “This eunuch understands your desire for wanting to establish merit. Once this case is finished, I will report your contributions to the Emperor. Even if the killer hasn’t yet been identified in full, Junior Lady Zhou’s suspicion is considerable, and there’s no need to doubt that anymore. I will be having people rigorously interrogate her, so if you’re interested, you can also join in.”
In officialdom, there were no genuine enemies, as well as no genuine friends. In their cooperative relationship, they shared the same goal — also known as the East Palace case — but in the details, they each had somewhat different key agendas.
Tang Fan’s was to find out the murderer. Wang Zhi’s was to resolve this affair without inciting too grave of consequences.
At present, Junior Lady Zhou had sufficient motive and a possible sequence of events for the crime — someone else had just planted evidence on their own initiative. The best thing about this was that it implicated no one in the palace, nor anyone in the Han family, and preserved the Emperor’s desire to appease his teacher.
With those conditions, there was no need for anything extra. Wang Zhi felt that this was simply the best candidate for a murderer that the Heavens could have given him. If Tang Fan was allowed to dig even deeper, it would be hard to prevent some scandal from getting drawn out, which would lead to a not-so-perfect, nor immensely satisfying result.
Therefore, Eunuch Wang wasn’t being unastute, but too astute, taking all sorts of political aspects and factoring them into a homicide case.
That was where he and Tang Fan differed.
Intelligent people did not need to say too much to understand each other’s thought processes.
However, in spite of understanding him, Tang Fan had no intention of doing things how Wang Zhi wanted.
He smiled lightly. “You seem to have forgotten, Eunuch Wang. His Majesty said that I would be the one taking charge of this case, while you would only be providing help with the investigation.”
“Tang Runqing, you’re shameless and unbridled!” Wang Zhi raged. “I understand better than you on how this case should be handled! This would be the best result!”
“But it wouldn’t be the one that’s most true,” Tang Fan replied placidly. “If she’s not the murderer, wouldn’t she bear senseless injustice? In my generation of scholars, we must act and behave in ways that do not dishonor the conscience of the Heavens and Earth. The majority of officials filling the Court do naught, but that doesn’t mean that everyone has forgotten those words. What Duke Yu has said, I will never dare to forget for even one day.”
Saying so, he cupped his hands towards Wang Zhi, turned, and left.
Wang Zhi furrowed his brow. After thinking for a good while, he remembered what the phrase ‘what Duke Yu has said’ was referring to.
‘Duke Yu’ meant Yu Qian, the Prime Minister that had saved the nation, then been unjustly killed in Yingzong’s era, subsequently getting posthumously pardoned in Chenghua’s early years. How he acted in life was corresponded to with his own written poems.
Do not fear your body being crushed to pieces. You must maintain your innocence in the human world.
Tang Fan’s personality was not as stalwart as Yu Qian’s, but the latter was an idol for all civil officials in the realm. Many still yearned to have that lofty demeanor.
However, only some had the courage to accomplish things, while others could only blow hot air out their lips.
Ever since Eunuch Wang had forced Shang Lu to resign and swept away opposing powers in the Court, when had he ever come across anyone differently-opinioned that had the guts to veto his suggestions to his face?
Bah! He really was the same kind of bloke as Shang Hongzai — soft-looking, but actually immune to both persuasion and force!
Wang Zhi cursed several times, his temper rising. He didn’t even feel like dealing with Han Fang, straight-up flinging out his sleeves and leaving. Later on, though, he sent someone over to explain the course of events to Han Fang in consideration of his face.
Tang Fan was also a bit angered at heart, actually: You’re not letting me handle this case even though we agreed that I would be the one in charge, and now there’s a lot of meddling going on!
Still, he understood how difficult it was to do anything with the current general atmosphere being how it was. It was to the point that even Shang Lu, once venerated as the Chief of Cabinet, couldn’t take it anymore, forthrightly quit his job, then ran away.
But he didn’t plan on giving up. After quarreling with Wang Zhi, he went straight to the Northern Bastion Office.
Xue Ling had gone with Sui Zhou on his assignment, but his other assistant, Pang Qi, was still there.
Tang Fan asked him to research Junior Lady Zhou’s background.
Since he had disagreed with Wang Zhi, he didn’t intend on asking the Western Depot for help on this. In the case that the Depot fabricated some evidence at Wang Zhi’s instruction, this wouldn’t be made any easier for him.
However, the results of Pang Qi’s inquiry surprised him by a lot.
After her husband died, she had left her ancestral home to shack up with the Han’s; that bit, he had long known about. However, it turned out that her late husband had been a practicing doctor that had run a small apothecary. She knew a bit of the medical sciences herself and had helped him operate the store, but he died young later on. Not good at running the place as a lone woman, she had to then close up shop and relocate to the North with the Han’s.
During the investigation of Han Zao’s cause of death, Doctor Sun had said that shuifen was a precarious acupoint where improper treatment of it could easily cause death, but the average person definitely wouldn’t know such a thing. Only someone familiar with medical scriptures and comprehending of medical sciences would be able to think up such a murder method.
And now, Junior Lady Zhou just-so-happened to match that condition.
Hostility with Han Zao’s mother, close contact with him prior to his death, personal slight knowledge of medical theory, and a vitally important silver needle found in her room… but with all that said, was she really the one that had killed Han Zao?
Tang Fan’s brows knitted tight. He felt too weird about this, as if someone had deliberately led them all in one direction, sent the ‘murderer’ straight to them, and provided flawless evidence.
However, because it was too flawless, it became even more questionable. A result like that would undoubtedly be the best one in Wang Zhi’s eyes, though.
If he wanted to prevent Wang Zhi from labeling Junior Lady Zhou as the murderer, he needed to find even stronger evidence that would certify her innocence.
The next day, he went to Shuntian Prefecture for roll call before anything else.
The case he was currently undertaking wasn’t under the Prefecture’s jurisdiction, but he was still its Judge no matter what. Pan Bin was his immediate superior, too, so he had to take emotion, reason, and Pan Bin’s feelings all into account. He couldn’t make him think that he had forgotten his old friends just because he had climbed up a big tree.
Pan Bin was more or less happy with Tang Fan’s know-how. He held no complaints towards Tang Fan’s investigation of the East Palace case. Tang Fan belonged to the Prefecture, but still had to call him his ‘senior brother’ in private — regardless of what fortunes came in the future, that gratitude would not falter. Rather than be envious of Tang Fan’s great luck in suddenly building a connection with the palace, he was better off taking advantage of the present opportunity to foster their relationship for a future day of payback.
Faced with his senior’s enthusiasm, Tang Fan only wanted to laugh bitterly.
Others regarded him, a minor Shuntian Judge, suddenly getting appointed to a case by the Emperor as something terrific, but the reality of it was that he might be shit out of luck at any time and place if he found results that weren’t presentable. Fortune actually being disaster in disguise was a real thing.
He didn’t speak much with Pan Bin, only giving him a couple random words to deal with him, then went straight for the Western Depot under the pretext of investigating the case.
Once there, he met with Junior Lady Zhou. The latter howled about how wronged she was over and over again. She hadn’t suffered any horrible beatings, but it wasn’t due to Eunuch Wang suddenly knowing how to cherish the fairer sex; there was simply adequate enough proof to report the case back to higher authorities. It would end with the Emperor making his own decision, whilst Wang Zhi would have no need to do any further thankless and tedious things.
Upon seeing Tang Fan’s arrival, Wang Zhi took out a featherlight dossier and flung it onto the table.
“Take a look. Don’t go saying that I’ve intentionally made up her guilt; her late husband had been a doctor, and she had some knowledge of medical theory. She wouldn’t have known where to use the needle, otherwise.”
Tang Fan smiled unhappily. “I already know about this.”
Wang Zhi slightly raised his chin, awaiting his admittance of defeat. “That’s good. Due to her resenting her cousin’s wife for ruining her name, she went after Han Zao. The evidence is conclusive, even though she still refuses to admit it. The entire process of events is crystal clear. When we go to see His Majesty, you’ll know what you ought to be saying, yes?”
The other shook his head. “My apologies, Eunuch Wang. I have no intention of going with you to the palace.”
Wang Zhi hadn’t expected that he would not only not admit defeat, but still be so obstinate. “Don’t think that I’m too afraid to do anything to you, Tang Runqing!” he raged. “If it weren’t for the bit about you being entrusted with this heavy case by the Emperor himself, I would’ve long kicked you to the side to get nice and cold!”
Tang Fan looked as composed as ever. “You don’t need to get so angry. As I see it, the case is not yet concluded, so investigation must proceed. If you want to go into the palace to make a report, you can do so by yourself, while I’ll go check things out. We’ll have nothing to do with each other.”
Nothing to do with each other, my ass!
Wang Zhi near about exploded into foul language. You’ll keep on investigating on your end, while I go have a grand old time ending the case and getting the merits for it? If something goes wrong then, won’t this old man be getting buried alongside you?!
He was currently regretting the instance he had recommended Tang Fan to His Majesty. If this had just been handed straight to the Western Depot, he would have been able to investigate it however he wanted. Why did it have to be such an annoyance now?
Taking a deep breath, he suppressed the fire of fury filling his chest. “What do you actually want?”
Seeing that he had forced Eunuch Wang into such a sorry state, Tang Fan stopped being so invariably unyielding, else the case wouldn’t get investigated and nobody would get any sort of benefit from it. He cupped his hands. “Please don’t be impatient, Eunuch Wang. I believe that there’s still an area to investigate in the Han family, and I’d like to go back. If you’re willing to walk with me, I’ll explain things to you on the way there; how about it?”
The man was unmoved by anything, giving Wang Zhi no way to get a handle on him. Just because there was no way now didn’t mean that there would be no way in the future, however. It was only because he had recommended Tang Fan that he was weighing him down right now. Imperial eunuchs took revenge, and even ten years later wouldn’t be too late for it; he secretly wrote this debt down in his heart, thinking to himself, If I don’t make you want to cry out for your parents when this case is done, then my surname isn’t Wang!
That notion harbored within him, Wang Zhi’s tone and expression became slightly better. “Tang Fan, His Majesty called for us to bear joint responsibility in this case, so we must be honest with each other. I don’t want this kind of situation to keep happening!”
Clearly, it was Eunuch Wang that had been the one itching to catch a murderer, but the evil one was the first to file a complaint, thus inverting black and white. Tang Fan had no choice but to pinch his nose and nod in acknowledgement.
Witnessing him assume a humble, apologetic posture finally put Wang Zhi at some ease. “Say it. What did you find out?”
“I’m only guessing, and I’m not sure if it’s accurate. I need to go to the Han’s to know.”
Seeing Wang Zhi glare at him again, he smiled painfully. “Alright, alright, alright. I’ll talk, I’ll talk. I think Junior Lady Zhou’s maid is a bit suspicious.”
“Oh, that one. What was she called again?”
“Right, La Mei. Why do you think she’s suspicious?”
“I’ve already read the dossier you gave me, because I previously had a friend from the Northern Bastion Office help me with background checking Lady Zhou—“
Wang Zhi wrinkled his nose. “I should’ve been the one you sought out! How could that trash bureau compare to the Western Depot?!”
That was… completely beside the point. Moreover, there were several prosecution departments in the Great Ming aside from the Brocade Guard and two Depots. If the Guard was trash, would any of them not be trash?
Tang Fan was annoyed. “I’m not going to talk about that. Before Junior Lady Zhou had gone up north, this La Mei had already been serving her. The latter is now about eighteen, which means that she’s been at her side for many years. Reasonably speaking, someone like that should be interdependent on Lady Zhou, the affections between mistress and servant deep, but her performance yesterday had been a bit suspicious. When people panic, they always have some impulsive behaviors, but when her mistress was arrested, La Mei merely gripped her sleeve without conviction and called out louder than before, as if she was afraid of bumping into the wardens. Further still, when Lady Zhou was taken away, she only chased after while wailing, which made it seem like she was a bit too calm.”
“What’s so shocking about that?” Wang Zhi mocked. “The woman was cowardly to begin with, to say nothing of the fact that her type wouldn’t have seen much of the world. Something happened to her mistress, and she started to look after her own self, worrying about getting implicated. Everyone is selfish. This is just normal.”
Tang Fan shook his head. “Think about it, Eunuch Wang. La Mei had accompanied her travel northwards to seek shelter. Two frail women would surely have no lack of hardships from the trek, even if some guards were escorting them, yes? They traveled for thousands of li, so how could she be described as having never seen the world? Even if she’s timid and reserved, she should have tempered her courage long ago.”
There was one other point of suspicion that he didn’t declare yet. He was going to wait until he saw La Mei, where everything would become clear.
“People really can’t be judged on appearances, huh, Tang Runqing? I really couldn’t see it. You go on and on about scholars and venerated writings, but you also understand so much about women!” Wang Zhi ragged on him.
Tang Fan was speechless. Where did that come from?
Eunuch Wang’s moods were really inconsistent. One minute, he’d be open to freely chatting, laughing, and joking around, and the next, he’d switch out to his ‘serious business’ face, that tremendous sharpness making one apprehensive. No wonder his subordinates held expressions of suffering all day long. How could they not have vexation all across their brows when dealing with such a hard-nosed boss?
Once the people of the Han Estate saw them coming, they didn’t dare to obstruct them. While a servant hurriedly went to notify Han Qi and the rest, the two were allowed to go straight for Junior Lady Zhou’s courtyard.
However, as soon as they came to the outside of it, they ran right into Lady Lin, who had scrambled over.
“Why is it this crazy lady again? What rotten luck!” Tang Fan heard Wang Zhi grumble next to him.
The next development satisfied Wang Zhi’s discontent, because as soon as she caught sight of them, she threw herself right on over.
The action was super fast, like thunder that the ear couldn’t flee from.
With his feats of skill, Eunuch Wang agilely dodged to the side, promptly avoiding her. In consequence, Tang Fan was the one she jumped.
Wang Zhi gave him a sly smile that said, ‘Every man for himself.’
Tang Fan: “…”
As expected, Lady Lin looked crazed, snatching his clothes without any leeway for letting go. She stared at him. “I heard you caught the murderer! Did you or didn’t you?!”
“Madam, you need to let go first…”
She played deaf to his words. “I knew it was her. I knew it was her! She’s such a shameless slut! Seeing that I had a son and she didn’t, she got jealous! She wanted that old harpy to get me divorced so that she could marry the Old Lord, but that plan didn’t work, so she made another one! I always thought that she’d inevitably do something like this—“
Her force grew and grew. He was getting strangled painfully by his collar, unable to take any steps back. She still did not let go, while Eunuch Wang stood by to watch the excitement. Without his command, the Western Depot folks wouldn’t step forth to resolve this.
Tang Fan had no choice but to shove her away with brute force, shouting thereafter, “She wasn’t the murderer!”
With that said, everyone was stunned.
Lady Lin staggered from the push, nearly falling into a sit on the ground, but she didn’t care to cry out in pain. She simply struggled up with the help of a maid, then bowed apologetically towards Tang Fan. “This woman had just been preoccupied with the death of my son, and thus lost my mind for a moment, my words and actions lacking in tact. Please have magnanimity, Sir. If Junior Lady Zhou wasn’t the one that killed my son, who actually was it? Please, gentlemen, tell us.”
She had put herself into order at once, her speech rearranged into reasonable parameters. Compared to the deranged woman from moments prior, she was like a completely different person.
He wasn’t able to adapt to her syndrome of being bad one minute, fine the next; once she normalized, her behavior became above-ground, and she performed with propriety, her poise completely captivating. No wonder Han Fang would cherish her so.
Tang Fan tidied up his clothes, not answering her question. “Where is La Mei?”
The steward of the Han Estate, who had just been leading them, quickly answered, “She still resides in this courtyard.”
Wang Zhi had already given an order for one of his people to preemptively barge in and search the place. After searching it inside and out, he quickly came out to report to him. “Chief Eunuch, no one was found. Needlework beside the bed was left half-done, and the rear door of the courtyard was wide open! I’m thinking she hasn’t left for very long!”
Right when the reporter said this, another warden had already gone out that door in pursuit.
The small back gate of the courtyard Junior Lady Zhou lived in led to a flower garden outside, which allowed servants to come and go.
Even though La Mei knew her way around the Estate better, she was a feeble woman, so there was no way she would be outpacing the warden. It wasn’t long before she was caught and brought back.
She looked panicked, the hair beside her face in a mess. Presumably, she had put up quite a fight in the process of being chased and captured.
“La Mei, why were you running?” Tang Fan asked.
“I-I didn’t…” she stammered.
His eyes swept across her face. “You’re the one that put the needle in the windowsill, aren’t you?”
He stared coldly at her. “You’re still lying right now? Tell me; whose blood are you carrying in your belly? Whose child is it?”