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The Wei family had been Xianghe County’s richest. The head of its household, Wei Ce, was methodical in business, his concubines were in harmony, and he’d had a son in old age, which could all be labeled as perfection. However, the Wei mother, Lady Chai, and her cousin grew greedy for the Wei fortune, and plotted against Wei Ce.
They hadn’t expected that the youngest Wei daughter, Wei Zhuniang, would pass by them as she played hide-and-seek with her sisters. The Chai siblings believed that she knew something, and out of fear of information leaking out, they thus killed her.
By coincidence, at that point, the nanny Lady Hu took advantage of the chaos caused by the girl’s death to kill the Wei’s son, which created another murder case. Utilizing the Chai siblings to confuse everyone’s sights, she caused others to mistake the cases as being committed by the same people.
However, she didn’t know that in order to clear away his nephew’s suspicions, Tang Fan would interfere, first helping Magistrate Weng find out who actually killed Wei Zhuniang, then discovering something strange with Wei Ce, rummaging out that twenty-years-old case, and determining that the killer was the son’s nanny, Lady Hu.
Things had developed from there. Despite each wave having three turns to it, moving up and down at random, this still couldn’t have been called a bizarre case. It wasn’t until Lady Hu called out grievances, exposing everything that had happened over twenty years ago, that one felt all of this to have layers and layers of driving forces, and really couldn’t help but sigh at this strange twist.
If everything that she had claimed was the truth, then Wei Ce’s present face of being wealthy and kind was a complete sham.
How easy would it be to overturn the charge, however? It certainly wasn’t something that could be done with one flap of the lips.
First of all, this all had happened over two decades ago, and the evidence of that time period had long been destroyed. If Lady Zhang had died due to poison, a trace or two of that could have been gleaned from the bones, but she had been stabbed to death, the body long rotted to just a skeleton. Generally speaking, Tang Fan could not use the method he had in the Case of Marquis Wu’an’s Estate, where he had looked for clues off of Zheng Cheng’s body. In this way, the conditions for finding anything off of the corpse to overturn the case with simply did not exist.
Second of all, even if what Lady Hu had said was true, where Wei Ce was a false noble — taking the opportunity of worshipping Hu Hanyin as his sworn father to blame him for Lady Zhang’s death, then embezzle the Hu’s assets — that meant that he must be a man of deep schemes. Twenty years was more than enough time for him to remove key evidence from Daming Prefecture. Tang Fan’s group going to investigate now would probably not result in them finding anything.
Also, if Wei Ce really did do such a thing, he definitely wouldn’t be scared into confessing everything once they interrogated him.
Also, within this case, the other involved party — the alleged ‘rapist’ Hu Hanyin — had long been beheaded, and had no way to even think of defending how he had been wronged. His daughter had also only heard his one-sided claims, and she hadn’t been at the scene, leaving many details unknown.
All this old stuff made wanting to overturn this case really difficult.
Thinking about as much, Magistrate Weng felt a burst of upset.
Choose to believe Lady Hu, and that would bring trouble upon himself. He would really be looking for something when there was nothing.
Choose not to believe her, and he would be able to kick back and relax, yet his conscience wouldn’t be able to take it.
At the end of it all, Tang Fan and Sui Zhou had only come to help him, and couldn’t decide on his behalf. He wouldn’t be able to push this onto others. “When will you two Sirs be returning to the capital?” he had to ask in an inquiring tone.
“You really want us to hurry on out of here?” Tang Fan joked.
“Nonono!” the Magistrate panicked. “This humble official just fears that you two will be disturbed by this event, and that you’ll be inconvenienced!”
“What do you plan on doing, then?”
Furrowing his brow for a long time, Magistrate Weng then grit his teeth. “I’ll continue investigating.”
Tang Fan’s brows relaxed. “Very responsible of you,” he praised.
Magistrate Weng smiled bitterly. What was the use of being responsible? He didn’t flatter people, nor did he have a deep backing, both things causing him to be a minor seventh-rank official at the age of forty.
“Zimo, if you handle this case well, then once I return to the capital, I’ll present a memorial telling of your achievements for you,” Tang Fan said with a smile.
Whenever one reached high places, who wouldn’t want to keep ascending? That had no conflict with being a good official.
Hearing as much, Magistrate Weng couldn’t help but look ecstatic.
(More important than that was the fact that Tang Fan called him by his courtesy, which demonstrated closeness, eh?)
“Don’t get too excited too soon, though,” Tang Fan interrupted. “As we just said, wanting to overturn this case is not only thorny, but exceedingly difficult. The difficultly lies in the partition of so many years; nearly everyone from that time has died, leaving only Wei Ce behind. And, if he really is as sneaky and cunning as Lady Hu claimed, it will be difficult to find any inconsistencies with him, just like that one day we paid a visit. If he hadn’t hesitated a bit, his tell would not have been noticed even now.”
Magistrate Weng nodded. “I will do all I can to investigate. However, two localities are involved. The county bureau’s people may not be able to handle it, so I may need to request that Sir Sui send some powerful men to help a little, when the time comes…”
Saying so, he shot a glance at Sui Zhou. That timid expression made Tang Fan kind of want to laugh, thinking to himself that since everyone had been interacting for these many days, Magistrate Weng ought to know that Sui Zhou was not someone that used force to bully people. Why was he being so meek?
Yet, Tang Fan himself had forgotten that him believing Sui Zhou to be easy to interact with was established on the basis that the two of them had gone through life and death together, and had associated for a long time. In the view of anyone else, Sui Zhou’s reticence made him unfathomable, his expressionless face having profound shrewdness. The vicious repute of the Bastion Envoy was even more impressive, causing people to stop in their tracks before him. Even if Sui Zhou was a little white rabbit at his core, Magistrate Weng would dare not be rash, to say nothing of the fact that he was a fierce tiger that merely looked to be docile.
Sui Zhou had heard him, but he didn’t agree, instead asking, “Where do you intend to start investigating?”
“From Wei Ce’s assets of the past years. Lady Hu said that he previously had a dire financial situation, whereupon he sought shelter at the Hu’s. After Hu Hanyin’s death, he left Daming, then became instantly rich by doing business. He had evidently already become a County Honorate, so why would he suddenly relinquish the opportunity of scholarly honors to turn to trade? If what Lady Hu said is true, there must have been some massive incentive therein that had caused him to be willing to give up the exams and start being a merchant. For that reason, I can find out where exactly the Hu’s assets went after Hu Hanyin’s death.”
That idea was quite reasonable, though it would likely not get any results. Sui Zhou looked towards Tang Fan, meaning that he was letting him determine whether or not he would send help for this.
Tang Fan thought for a bit. “We might as well send people to take a look based on what the Magistrate has said, as they might actually find something. Zimo, are the case’s files here with you? Give them to me so that I can look them over when I get back, I’ll see if I can discover anything.”
“This humble official will go fetch them.”
When it came to certain subjects, Tang Fan would have an abnormal obsession. This case was clearly unrelated to him as of right now, and he could just thrown it entirely over to the Magistrate to handle, but as the issue had appeared right in front of him, his interest was hooked, and he would have to find the truth before he’d be willing to rest.
Hence, after bringing the files back to the inn, he holed himself up in his room, unable to be lured out even for dinner. It wasn’t until Sui Zhou went in and dragged him out that he obediently sat down to eat.
But, even that meal had no peace, and he ate on-and-off, mumbling to himself as he did so. “Hu Hanyin came back home from the pawn shop in broad daylight… even if he did have ill intentions towards Lady Zhang, there was no way he would be in such a rush… according to Lady Hu, their household had three different courtyards. Hu Hanyin and Wei Ce were sworn father and son, but in order to avoid talk, it would have been impossible for the married couple to have lived too close to Hu Hanyin. Supposing that he actually did want to hurt Lady Zhang, how could he have dragged her so far away to his own study without anyone seeing…?”
In order to help Magistrate Weng uncover the whereabouts of the Hu’s seized capital, Yan Li and Gongsun Yan hadn’t yet returned from Daming. Tang Yu and her son weren’t around, either. Qian San’r couldn’t stand this demonic noise irrigating his ears, resolutely abandoning them with a face of suffering to go run off to another table and eat alone.
That left Sui Zhou alone, who wasn’t leaving, to insist upon eating at this table. Still, he had to say something. “That’s soy sauce, not vinegar. You’re soaking an entire dumpling in soy sauce. Are you trying to kill yourself from salt?”
“Huh?” Tang Fan stared at him blankly. Evidently, he had only subconsciously turned his head because he heard a sound next to him, not because he had heard what Sui Zhou said.
With no other option, Sui Zhou pushed the vinegar dish in front of him, grabbed his hand to maneuver the dumpling held in his chopsticks into the vinegar, and sent the dumpling into Tang Fan’s mouth.
Getting fumigated by the vinegar stench, Tang Fan finally tasted it, and his face scrunched up from the strange flavor of the vinegar-and-soy-sauce-soaked dumpling. “What’s with this flavor? Why is their vinegar so salty?!”
“It’s the unique vinegar-soy sauce of the Tang clan, unlike any other,” Sui Zhou answered collectedly, thinking to himself that next time, he would switch out the vinegar with chili peppers.
He knew that Tang Fan’s personality was just like this, though. As soon as he came across anything important, he would get particularly focused, and no one would be able to shake him out of it. Such was how it had been before, and this time was naturally no exception.
As expected, after he was finished with his absent-minded meal, Sir Tang got up and returned to his room to continue deliberating.
Scattered about his bed and table were dossiers relating to the old case, copies of Wei Ce’s household registry, and other such things. There were even copies of Lady Hu’s plea petitions that she had written for her father’s redress; it had to be said that the woman was very meticulous. Because she had been Hu Hanyin’s only child, he had put his heart into teaching her, and she had grown up rich and pampered, which inevitably made her different from the average woman that couldn’t even read.
While she had scrambled all over the place back in the day, she had been cautious, having people write multiple copies of her plea petition as well as keeping all of her previous correspondences with her father, which had all been properly hidden away by her until she reported them to Magistrate Weng.
Perhaps all of these objects appeared to have no use, but Tang Fan always had faith in one principle: when someone did something, regardless of whether it was a good or a bad thing, they would always leave clues of it behind. The was no such thing as clothes without visible stitches in this world.
People’s hearts were variable, and the relationships between them even more so. As long as one was human, they would have their own ideas and behaviors.
Therefore, even though Lady Zhang and Hu Hanyin were dead, and all sorts of evidence had been annihilated, a faint trail still existed. They just needed to see if they could find it.
The process of poring over each and every line of the dossiers and documents, picking out every flaw in them, was, without a doubt, very tedious, and not much better than when he had had to memorize the writing style of eight-legged essays. However, he had always abided by the ethic of either doing something to its fullest, or not doing it at all. By the illumination of faint candlelight, he looked over everything very carefully, his entire body practically lying prostrate on the table; sometimes he would crease his brow, sometimes he would mumble to himself, and sometimes he would have an expression of sudden epiphany.
When Sui Zhou pushed open the door and came in, this was what he saw.
Witnessing him devotedly throwing himself into the files, he couldn’t help but frown. He had originally thought that since he couldn’t help, he just wouldn’t bother the other man, lest he disturb his trail of thought. Now, it seemed like if no one kept an eye on Tang Fan, he would probably stay like this through day and night.
“You’re still not sleeping?” Sui Zhou betrayed nothing, even though he had thought as such.
“What time is it?” Tang Fan lifted his head, automatically stretching his back and showing momentary relaxation.
Sui Zhou stepped up and kneaded his shoulders for him, that moderate strength making him so relaxed, he immediately let out a groan.
“It’s the time of the Rat.(11p-1a) Stop reading and go to sleep, we can speak more tomorrow.”
“That late?” Tang Fan was alarmed, looking at the hourglass on the tall sidetable. “Why aren’t you asleep, then?”
“I’m waiting for you,” the other replied succinctly.
“You really are a good brother!” Tang Fan said, extremely touched. “Good, right there, it’s really sore… a little higher.”
Sui Zhou discovered that the other’s hair was thick and silky. After being bound, it nearly had an indigo-colored luster under the dim lighting, and his nape appeared all the more white and soft, like mutton-fat jade, when contrasted with his hair. It made one want to stroke it, just to see how it felt.
As he thought so, he did so, and the one being touched showed a look of relaxation, even asking for more kneading of his own volition. “Get both sides when you massage them.”
The corners of Sui Zhou’s mouth raised slightly; he would do as the monarch wished.
All of a sudden, Tang Fan seemed to sense something, letting out a noise of surprise. “Guangchuan, I noticed you’re using your left hand to massage my neck… and there seems to be no difference in strength from your right hand?”
According to conventional reasoning, everyone had one hand they were used to using. Most people were right-handed, so even if they were massaging someone’s neck, their hands would definitely be at different strengths due to their different usages.
Sui Zhou nodded, then remembered that he was standing behind him and the other wouldn’t be able to see that, so he changed it to a verbal answer. “Correct. It’s owed to my specialized training. People like us sometimes have to fight, where a single moment can be the difference between life and death. I don’t want to show any flaws due to my own negligence.”
Tang Fan had long been aware that beneath the other’s ice-cold exterior was an quite meticulous mind. Upon hearing this, he not only felt no surprise, but rather extreme admiration. Right when he thought to say some words of praise, though, he unexpectedly thought of a question. “Can you write with your left hand, then?”
“Yes, but not as well as I could with my right.”
“If you were made to use your left and right hands to write the same character once each, and were also required to make it so that no one could tell the difference between them, would you be able to do that?”
Sui Zhou pondered this in earnest. ”I might be able to get them nearly identical, but because each hand has more power in different directions, if one looked closely at them, they would definitely be able to tell. They wouldn’t be completely the same.”
Tang Fan quickly got up, found a piece of yellowed paper that was on the table, then gave it to him. “Take a look at this!”
Sui Zhou observed it under the light for a while.
“How is it? Is it left-handed writing?” Tang Fan asked.
“Yes,” Sui Zhou finally determined, after a very long while.
“That’s it!” Tang Fan exclaimed, slapping the table. “Look here; the dossier plainly writes that when the coroner examined Lady Zhang’s corpse, he discovered that she was stabbed with a paper-cutting knife, which ruptured her spleen and caused her to die of blood loss. If Hu Hanyin really had tried to rape her and then kill her, she must have put up a fight at the time; and since he was left-handed, this illustrates a problem.”
Sui Zhou nodded, getting what he meant. “The response someone makes at a critical moment is certain to be an instinctual action that doesn’t undergo thought. Were Hu Hanyin to actually have killed her, as he was left-handed, when face-to-face with her, the area he would have stabbed would have been on the right side of her body, not her spleen, which is on her left.”
Tang Fan showed a grin. “That means that he genuinely didn’t kill her!”
Seeing how exhausted he looked, Sui Zhou had to say, “Go rest. You can handle this tomorrow.”
The other shook his head. “A burst of energy declines quick. Since I’ve already got the general outline, it won’t be hard to arrange the clues into writing. I’ll write it now and be done soon; you can go rest, don’t worry about me.”
“What do you want to eat? I’ll go cook it.”
The eyes of a certain someone, originally filled with tiredness, immediately twinkled. “Yangchun noodles! I saw the cook kneading dough in the kitchen at nightfall.”
Those were some pretty discerning eyes. Was there anyone that would go and peer into a kitchen at an inn all day long like Tang Fan did?
The corner of Sui Zhou’s mouth twitched. “Okay.”
By the time he brought the made noodles over, he saw that the other man was slumped over the table, asleep.
Still no answer. He had probably been exhausting his energy the whole day, so he had fallen asleep after sudden relaxation.
Sui Zhou walked over, placed the noodles down, and gently shook him.
Tang Fan mumbled vaguely, shifted a little, then continued to sleep. The other had no choice but to pick him up and settle him on the bed.
To be objective, Mister Tang looked pretty good when he slept. He didn’t snore or have other faults that other men had, and wouldn’t sprawl out on his back the instant he touched down on the bed, instead obediently folding his hands across his stomach, sleeping soundly with his eyes closed.
Sui Zhou stared for a long time, smiling lightly.
Beneath the candlelight, two figures cast on the wall. The standing one stooped over, slowly getting in close to the one lying down, and, bit by bit, the two shadows nearly overlapped into one…
In reality, only the positioning was ambiguous. Right when his lips were about to touch the other’s… Tang Fan turned over, groped randomly about his side, and rolled twice after finding the blanket, turning right into a log. Wrapped up in the blanket, facing the wall, he proceeded to sleep soundly.
“…” Was he actually sleeping, or what?
Sui Zhou reached out to poke him in the face (as of right now, only his head was exposed to the outside world), but the man didn’t move even a little.
He then scratched the other’s earlobe. Tang Fan seemed to feel a bit of a tickle, but his arms were bundled and couldn’t move for right now, so he could only furrow his brow, showing an upset expression.
Were he just feigning sleep, he ought to have long woken up. It seemed like it was genuine.
Sui Zhou sighed silently, blew out the candle, and shut the windows for him, after which he left with the bowl.
Tang Fan woke up early the next morning, sniffed, and caught the faint smell of yangchun noodles apparently lingering in the air. He was confused for a minute, but it slowly came back to him.
Last night… apparently… Sui Zhou had made him a bowl of yangchun noodles?
…Where were they? As he recalled, he hadn’t eaten them himself.
Rubbing his eyes, he asked for the waiter to fetch him water, and after he washed up, he strolled over to his neighbor to knock on the door. A short moment later, the door opened, and Sui Zhou appeared in front of him.
Right as he came to face him, Tang Fan was greatly alarmed. “You didn’t sleep well last night?”
This was an exceedingly rare event, when it came to Sui Zhou, but the two bags beneath the other’s eyes were quite real.
Sui Zhou hummed, turned around, went back in, and washed his face. Tang Fan followed him in with a smile. “What’s wrong? Tell me about it, and I’ll help you solve it!”
“I ate too much.”
Sui Zhou looked at him. “I made you yangchun noodles. You didn’t eat them because you were asleep. I ate them myself.”
Tang Fan had an epiphany, remembering what had happened last night. He smiled in embarrassment. “Sorry, I was too tired last night. I kept sitting and sitting, then fell asleep and forgot about that.”
Mhm. You fell asleep, then rolled yourself up, Sui Zhou thought. “After I ate the noodles, my stomach hurt. I didn’t sleep well the whole night.”
Tang Fan now felt really guilty. “I’ll go with you to see a doctor!”
Sui Zhou remained unmoved. Wouldn’t going to see a doctor expose him? “No need. I just want to rest.”
The more unfazed he was, the more ashamed Tang Fan was. Sui Zhou had gone to cook noodles for him in the middle of the night, only for him to not eat them, thus wasting his hard work, causing him to have a stomachache, and also not sleep well at night. Just listen to all that! What kind of heartless deed had he done?!
The guilt in Mister Tang’s heart was about to break through the horizon, his expression worried. “That won’t do, let’s go to a doctor before that. Can you still walk? Do you want me to help you?”
“No need, I don’t want to. I’ll lay for a bit and be fine.”
“Fine, lay down right now, then. I’ll have the waiter fetch some water and get some congee and light dishes prepared. If you have a hurt stomach, you should eat that.”
Saying so, he pulled Sui Zhou straight to the bed to lay down, covered him with a blanket, and finally turned to attend to the food, soon after which he brought gruel over. Sui Zhou made to get up, but the other hurriedly said, “Lay down and don’t move, I’ll feed it to you!”
Had he not said that, it would’ve been fine, but once he did, Sui Zhou recalled that time they had come out of the Gong noble’s tomb, when Tang Fan feeding him medicine had ended with the entire bowl of it overturned on his face.
That shadow had not yet dissipated to this day.
The favor of beauties is the hardest to enjoy. The ancients truly have not lied to me.
“Let it be, I’ll do it myself. You can just sit here.”
Mister Tang clearly remembered what had happened the last time he fed him medicine, too, but he was thick-skinned, merely chuckling and passing the bowl over.
Sui Zhou took a light sip; the temperature was just right. His speed then gradually picked up, and he effortlessly drank it down in a few gulps, as he normally would.
In the end, he was met with Tang Fan’s surprised expression. “Doesn’t your stomach hurt? Are you sure you should eat so fast?”
“…” He had accidentally revealed himself again.
“I’m fine.” He calmly set his bowl down, prepared to divert. “Having something padding my stomach is better. Since the paramount clues of the case have been found, we’ll have to return to the capital as soon as possible. You’re no longer part of the Ministry of Justice, and you haven’t yet reported to the Inspectorate, intervening in this case that you had no authority to. Don’t give others an excuse to attack you as soon as you take your post.”
Tang Fan’s intention was indeed diverted, and he nodded. “I will hand this over to Magistrate Weng. With this clue had, the truth about Hu Hanyin’s case can come to light, and although no evidence of Wei Ce murdering his wife can be found, the Wei’s reputation will certainly suffer from this. The He’s and he are in-laws, so I hope the He’s don’t mistakenly believe that I specifically targeted them because of He Lin. No matter what, my sister is a member of the He’s in name.”
Sui Zhou shook his head. “They won’t. They can’t curry favor with you enough right now, and dare not offend you.”
Tang Fan thought it over, and that seemed to be right. Patriarch He was unlike He Lin; he was someone that was very capable of deducing pros and cons, so even if he was unhappy with Tang Fan, he would never show that. Moreover, Wei Ce’s situation was unrelated to Lady Wei. She might suffer criticism, but with He Ying around, he would never allow He Xuan to divorce her, else the He’s would be suspected of taking advantage of other’s troubles.
While they spoke, Qian San’r came and said that Magistrate Weng was outside, requesting to see him.
Tang Fan invited him to the main hall downstairs for the talk, then said to Sui Zhou, “Your stomach hurts, so don’t move, just rest here. I’ll have Qian San’r bring you lunch later.”
Sui Zhou nodded. “Go ahead.”
Tang Fan headed down to see Magistrate Weng. The latter was vexed, as he hadn’t found any evidence. “Sir, the Guards passed news along that after the Hu’s property was all confiscated, the Daming Magistrate returned a portion of the properties to Wei Ce on the grounds that he was the Hu’s sworn son, and that his wife had been killed by Hu Hanyin. It was from that first wealth that Wei Ce was able to create his fortune, and it passed along a legal road, so that can’t be used as evidence against him.”
Tang Fan told him of his left-right hand hypothesis that he had thought up of last night. Hearing this, the Magistrate beamed at once, his dejection swept away into nothing. “You’re brilliant, Sir! With that evidence, Wei Ce won’t be able to deny it!”
Tang Fan didn’t have his optimism. “This could only prove that Lady Hu’s father wasn’t the murderer, at most. It couldn’t prove that Lady Zhang’s death had anything to do with Wei Ce. The reality that Lady Hu killed the Wei son still exists. Her father’s case can be overturned, but hers cannot be. We both know that it’s impossible for Wei Ce to have nothing to do with Lady Zhang’s murder, but he will never admit that himself.”
Thinking that to be true, Magistrate Weng sighed. “Lady Hu should be satisfied with the exoneration of her father, as we’ve already done our best. From this alone, it will be more apparent that Wei Ce is kind on the outside, but evil on the inside, and nothing good at all.”
“Make a memorial about this, and I’ll support it. It should be able to draw the attention of the Court quickly. Hu Hanyin’s case will be able to be overturned; since he did a lot of good in his life and died in such a way, he should obtain honors, which I will report.”
The other hesitated. “Will that be too much trouble for you?”
Tang Fan shook his head. “Not at all. This won’t be enough to awe people, otherwise. Those officials that are confused on how to judge cases will look to this as an example.”
His talk of helping him out was really not just talk; Tang Fan’s current post was as a censor, and such a position could make tall waves without any wind. It was no problem for those to pick out and denounce people’s shortcomings all day long, to say nothing about what Wei Ce had done.
If Magistrate Weng unveiled the inside information of what had happened twenty years ago, then Tang Fan would only have to send a memorial up in support of him. As was imaginable, this bizarre and twisty case-within-a-case would certainly attract the interest of the Court censors that had their fill of doing nothing important all day long.
On account of Lady Hu taking revenge for her father, even though Tang Fan himself believed that she shouldn’t have killed the innocent Wei son, when it came to present viewpoints, that would be enough to label her as a filial daughter. As that point would add to her bright image, it could also indirectly impel her father’s injustice to be smoothly scrubbed away.
“This case will inevitably shock society, and you’ll get great fame for it,” he stressed to Magistrate Weng, “but you must keep one thing firmly in mind.”
After coming to Xianghe County, Tang Fan was always friendly, not imposing his own status. Today marked the first time he had adopted such a chiding posture.
“Do tell, Sir,” Magistrate Weng quickly answered with a solemn countenance.
“Lady Hu is sympathetic, but the Wei son was innocent. You cannot ignore what evil she’s done because you want to exonerate her father; the two things are not contradictory. The censors can largely point fingers at random because they are disconnected from the event, and commonfolk tend to lean to one side because they don’t understand the truth, but you, as a parental official, must uphold an impartial viewpoint, and not be biased. Even though Wei Ce is reprehensible, conclusive proof is needed before he can be convicted. Over twenty years ago, it was the Daming Magistrate’s idiocy that caused the Hu father to die wrongfully. You can never repeat his calamitous methods!”
“This humble official will act impartially, and never be biased,” Magistrate Weng respectfully agreed.
Only then did Tang Fan smile, patting him on the shoulder. “Zimo, your luck in your career was poor for the first half of your life, but I believe that was just the Heavens testing you. Many in this world take time to get their achievements, so I hope that you don’t get discouraged. There will come a day that you can get rid of the fog to see the clear blue sky!”
Magistrate Weng smiled back. “I thank you for your kind words, Sir!”
The case arriving at this point meant that Tang Fan couldn’t help in any area anymore; what came next would not be an issue, with Magistrate Weng’s capabilities. If he remained in Xianghe, that would only add to the latter’s busyness.
Sure enough, the Magistrate managed to find a servant that had served Hu Hanyin, and verified that the man had indeed formed the habit of using his left hand to write and work. That had stemmed from suffering arthralgia, which had left his right hand, and even his right shoulder, lacking in strength. With that, it was reasonable to say that it would have been impossible for him to injure anyone, and also proved the guess that Tang Fan and Magistrate Weng had established — a left-handed person, when killing someone, would stab unconsciously, and go for a spot most convenient to them.
In other words, Lady Hu’s father truly had been wronged.
There had been no circumstances of him killing Lady Zhang or assaulting his daughter-in-law at all. It had simply owed to Lady Zhang having died in his room and been murdered by his paper-cutting knife that the stupid Magistrate had foolishly ‘cracked’ the case, which had also coincided with turbulence in the capital that had left higher officials not in the mood to care, that had led to this injustice.
After learning of this, Lady Hu couldn’t help but sob, calling out that her father’s spirit in the Heavens could rest. The sorrow of her cries could move those who heard it, and make those that saw it weep.
Upon hearing Magistrate Weng say that Tang Fan had found the key clues to this case, Lady Hu deferentially kowtowed three times in the direction of where Tang Fan was staying, and told the Magistrate that she knew her own death was inevitable; she would be unable to repay the favor of them redressing her father’s wrong in this life, and would have to seek to repay them in the next one. Then, she peacefully awaited her fate in jail, not saying a word despite her son’s multiple visits and questions.
Pitying her misfortune, the Magistrate specially ordered the jailers to not to make things harder for her, so that she could pass her days peacefully prior to the Court’s punishment.
On Tang Fan’s end, he had a discussion with Sui Zhou, asked for Tang Yu’s opinion, then found a day to say farewell to Patriarch He, following which he brought his sister and nephew away with them all to the capital.
Tang Yu and He Cheng’s departure was presented to outsiders as them going for a short visit to their natal family, but because there had long been rumors about the disharmony between He Lin and his wife, everyone knew what had happened. He Lin’s friends jeered at him yet again, which made him thunderously angry, so he simply cut contact with those scoundrels and shut himself up in his house all day.
However, he obviously harbored a huge bias against his brother-in-law. During the departure, no matter what their reasons, all of the He’s had come out to mingle, while He Lin’s figure alone had not been seen. Tang Fan and Tang Yu hadn’t cared, but Patriarch He had felt a little awkward, and found Tang Fan to apologize himself.
The Wei case had already spread throughout all of Xianghe County. Even the neighboring Counties had heard of it. For this spell, regardless of whether they were gentry or commoners, all that anyone ever talked about over tea or after meals was this odd case-within-a-case.
It was actually three cases, to be blunt. First was the murder of Wei Ce’s concubine-born daughter by his second wife and her cousin, after which came the death of his son. All had believed things to be done there, only for a case from more than twenty years ago to then be brought out. What had originally looked like a bewildering matter with no clear outline had had a clue gleaned out of it by Censor Tang via letters, which exonerated Lady Hu’s father.
Such twists and turns were favored bits of street gossip. From that point on, storytellers of teahouses and pubs would add some more material to this: ’The Wei Estate’s children died violently, it was suspected to be an evil ghost demanding lives, a fierce woman cried out of wrongs to avenge her father, and Don Tang cracked the case-within-a-case.’
The translator says: I keep bloody forgetting, but I made a Discord server a while back that contains channels for discussing FYC, one for discussing the novel as it goes, one for other non-spoilerly stuff. Here’s a link, come say hi~