Different Year, Same Thing (Part 18)
“Six defendants, what crimes did you commit? Identify yourselves.”
“Why did the imperial court send a clueless maiden here to take charge of this case? This is comparable to telling the world that the imperial court is so short on personnel that they have to send her here,” thought Xie Duzhe.
Shen Yiren started eating one of the dry biscuits on the table as though her tastebuds were dead. She knew that asking them anything else or flying off the handle would only encourage the six to slight her.
The six had an urge to tease the young maiden. As educated young men, they had an obligation to introduce themselves when meeting someone for the first time.
“My father is Wind Recoiling Blade. I am the wanderer of Menghezhen.”
“Golden horse rider, Jiujiang’s Bihu’s veteran sabre wielder.”
“Whoever in Huzhou dares to act up, Mo Clan’s descendent here will spear some sense into him.”
“A reunion in the pugilistic world, Luling Clan calls this one Zhang Erlong.”
“You know Jiaxing’s Dalang? I suggest you stay away from there late at night.”
“The young master who conquered three kilometres of Tanghe’s Fenghuanglin with just one cudgel!”
The six smugly enjoyed the laughter in the building. Their “Ancient Style Seven Wandering Young Masters” poem introduction would’ve been perfect if Ling Qingshu was there to add, “Dragon and phoenix rider, Qingshu can shave hibiscus”.
Xie Duzhe sealed his meridians to not laugh, while Shen Yiren spat crumbs all over her table and thumped her chest with one hand while covering her mouth with her other arm. Meanwhile, the six young masters enjoyed the puppies bouncing because of her thumping.
Shen Yiren guzzled tea from the teapot to calm down: “Fook me, you jokes almost made me choke to death…”
Xie Duzhe wasn’t sure if he just heard a government official using coarse language in public.
“Phew.” Shen Yiren returned the statement to the table then queried, “Ban Clan from Changzhou, Jin Clan from Jiujiang’s Bihu, Mo Jia from Changzhou’s Jinqiang, Ping Clan from Jiaxing and Wu Clan from Tanghe’s Taiping, correct?”
“Exactly,” the six replied in synchrony, nose in the clouds.
Shen Yiren contracted her brows ever so slightly: “I heard Wind Recoiling Blade’s Ban Clan has a son, while Jiujiang’s Jin Hujian’s second son is twenty-three this year. Mo Jinqiang, who is very old now, has a grandson. Luling Jian and Ping Clan only have one son. Tanghe’s Taiping Gun doesn’t have any descendants, so he adopted his young nephew as his son.”
Shen Yiren swept her languid gaze over the six: “If this statement is to be trusted, the main culprit is Ling Qingshu, who is currently on the run. Is it true that you six are responsible fortorturing Jiu Shaozhang’s family of three to their deaths?”
The six all had the corners of their lips tugged up as they ogled Shen Yiren’s body that they compared to Ming Suwen as they responded, “So what if we did?”
The citizens who with a strong sense of justice unleashed tongue-lashings, fuelling Xie Duzhe’s concern that Shen Yiren wasn’t experienced enough to say, “The law may be important, but it is also important to forgive and learn. These six men have realised their wrongs and will not do it again,” ideally with her head down to avoid them remembering her face. The way she was showing her face was a sure-fire way for them to give her grief once they were released.
Bang! Shen Yiren slammed the table with her hand when the gavel was right there; maybe it was her style. Nonetheless, she brayed, “If you have an opinion, step in here and say it. Don’t stand outside making a ruckus! That’s unbecoming!”
“The issue is coming in would also be unbecoming!” Xie Duzhe thought to himself.
“Are you six the only culprits? No other accomplices?”
“Yes and no,” the six answered simultaneously.
“Is there a witness? Bring the witness up.”
The county magistrate quietly notified, “Ma’am, we have their son’s testimony and the six culprits’ statements. A Qilin Guard inspected the bodies before the dead were put to rest. The autopsy is on the table.”
Shen Yiren picked up the autopsy and dismissively stated, “Mm, this is a big case. I shall personally question them.”
“Thank heavens she knows she has to release them,” Xie Duzhe told himself, relieved Shen Yiren was taking the right steps to save everyone.
It was a common ploy for magistrates to ask a few questions, question a witness to entertain procedure then nullify their testimony. The boy’s age was the best weapon to use against him.
Shen Yiren went down to meet the boy since he didn’t speak clearly as well as softly. It usually took her three to four sentences to get one back out of him. After an hour of waiting, one of the six young masters cursed, “All right, end the act and release us. I’ll pay you extra, okay? This is more tiring than bedding a girl at a brothel for god’s sake.”
Shen Yiren snubbed the young master and continued with her questions until she sent Jiu Shaozhang’s son off.
“I’ll ask one more time: do you admit that you are responsible for their deaths?”
“Yeah, we’re the ones who bloody killed him.”
Shen Yiren went back to the desk to write her verdict. She brushed her cape and, with a murderous undertone, read aloud, “In accordance with the law, rapists are sentenced to hanging. Murder via rape is punishable by decapitation. Premeditated murder is punishable by decapitation. If the suspect repents and has contributed to society commendably, they shall be hung. Wei Bandu, Jin Luting, Zhang Erlong, Ping Yilang, Wu Chang and Ling Qingshu raped and killed two innocent women, killed one man, dumped the three corpses in the wild and have shown no remorse, bragging about their crimes instead. Due to the severity of their crimes, the seven shall be executed in the coming days.”
“Wh-wh-what was that you wench? Heh, just you wait. My father is coming for you!”
“I’m not done.” In an ice-cold voice, Shen Yiren continued, “Thanks to you identifying your families, you’ve saved me a lot of trouble. In accordance with the laws, you will be executed for killing the family of three. Your families must hand over all of their assets to the deceased’s family. Your parents shall be exiled five hundred kilometres from their homes, while your wives and children will be exiled a thousand kilometres from home. You are their family members, correct? Inform your masters that Liu Shan Men will soon visit to check the numbers. If as much as a grain of rice is missing, everyone will take eighty canes as punishment. Prepare handcuffs and ankle cuffs. If any family member absconds, the severity of your punishments will be taken up a notch. Once those who abscond are arrested, their heads will be put on display to the public.”
The servants of the six young masters bolted off to report back to their masters.
Shen Yiren trained her gaze on the young master who just threatened her and queried, “What did you want me to wait for again?”
The young master’s mind couldn’t process what was going on.
“Y-Yan Shisan’s only disciple, Shen Yiren?! Wh-why is she personally handling this case?” wondered Xie Duzhe.
“Ar-are y-you really sentencing us to decapitation?”
The six felt as though their cuffs were tightened around their sweaty wrists.
“You killed three people. Why did you think you wouldn’t die?” Shen Yiren inquired with a brow hiked up. “Where do you think you are? Shouldn’t you have expected this on the first day you arrived here?”
“But didn’t y-”
The young master stopped himself when he realised there was no way Shen Yiren had anything to do with the VIP treatment last night. There was no way it’d have been her when her stare could kill them.
“This one arranged that,” elucidated the county magistrate. “We call it ‘the last supper’. Have you not heard of that? This one wanted you to enjoy one last meal and have enough to last you to the other side.”
After sifting through the other documents in her hands, Shen Yiren announced, “Take them back to their cells. They will be officially executed tomorrow.”
The six, sweaty backs practically stuck to their chairs, didn’t want to believe it, but there was no denying Shen Yiren was serious from her indifferent tone.
“Miss Shen, may I have a word with you?” Xie Duzhe requested.
“This one is Qilin Guard Xie Duzhe.”
Shen Yiren barely raised her head to take a gander: “Please allow me to express admiration for your dedication to come here when you are still nursing your injuries.”
Face flush, Xie Duzhe forced himself to press on: “This one wishes to have a word with you…”
“Please feel free to speak.”
Voice stifled, Xie Duzhe notified, “The six of them are from prominent clans in the martial world. If you go through with the penalties you announced, their families will get back at you, and Jiangnan’s martial world will face another period of anarchy. His Majesty stressed many times to prioritise peace and minimise any conflicts.
Nodding, Shen Yiren dismissively remarked, “True…”
Glad, Xie Duzhe asked, “So, you will retract your verdict?”
“Yes. My verdict does need to be adjusted.” Shen Yiren fixed her piercing gaze on the six criminals again, declaring, “You seven also killed a scholar carrying the ‘Tian’ surname. You dug out his eyes and subjected him to an excruciating death that words can’t do justice. In accordance with our nation’s laws, you are to be crucified for amputating him while he was alive and gouging his eyes out. Men, take them. There’s no need to wait for tomorrow. They will be executed today.”
“Five horses dismemberment, kiddo,” responded Shen Yiren, huffing through her nose and gesturing with her hand for the six to be hauled out.
The six bellowed as they were dragged out of the court room.
“M-Miss Shen!” exclaimed Xie Duzhe.
“Yes?” Shen Yiren authoritatively replied.
Xie Duzhe, intimidated, gulped.
“Vice-Captain Xie, I have a question for you.”
“Please feel free to ask.”
“Are you literate?”
Xie Duzhe found himself bemused: “Yes… This one has learnt a little.”
Shen Yiren pointed to the plaque above them: “Can you read what that says?”
The cat caught Xie Duzhe’s tongue.
“Qilin Guards and Liu Shan Men have different modus operandi. I don’t expect Qilin Guards to align with my thought process. That being said, as a fellow official, I’d like to give you the following reminder.” Shen Yiren sat down and wrote down the text on the plague then read out, “Don’t ever mistreat the people.”
Xie Duzhe would never forget the words that rolled off Shen Yiren’s tongue that day. That very same moment, Xie Duzhe believed Shen Yiren was the hope that would propel Liu Shan Men back into the spotlight.
Ancient Style Seven Wandering Young Masters – “Ancient style” can also be considered gufeng, which you may have heard me use before. It’s just a term applied to anything deemed to carry ancient characteristics. There’s no English equivalent, which is why “gufeng” is the universally accepted term when referring to ancient characteristics in Chinese things (music, movie, literature etc.). For the record, this novel is gufeng style in Chinese.
There’s a lot lost in translation. In essence, the seven of them used their clan names in their introductions in language that hooligans would use. That’s how Shen Yiren was able to figure out their clans, yet it doesn’t appear so obvious in English. You just can’t translate it. The stuff left in pinyin are clan names and locations (real geographic locations in China). Imagine Shakespeare grammar with “dawg”, “whatcha” and Eminem quotes. That’s close to how it sounds in Chinese.
Gavel – This is the ancient China version https://qph.fs.quoracdn.net/main-qimg-4513eb5618e855293a97eb5a330e37be