Chapter 777 - Cutting Corners
Translator: Iris, Editor: Choufleur
The moment he removed his hat, the officers from the Ministry of Justice swarmed him and surrounded him. Murderer! We won’t let you escape!
Everyone watched him with bated breath. Some glared at him like he was a monster, others watched him with fear-stricken eyes and more simply stared at him with eyes as wide as saucers.
Old Man Zhang scanned the crowd around him, and let out a chilling chuckle. And then, he bowed to the person seated at the highest seat in the court, Lord Li and declared, “Lord Li, the eight people you found in the well… that was my work. I killed Idiot Si as well. My crimes are exactly as Prince Rong and Teacher Ji had described; their deductions are completely correct.” He admitted to his murders rather easily.
Lord Li asked, “In that case, do you confess?”
“Yes, I confess to all those crimes.” A chill seeped through his deep voice. Soon after, he bowed deeply to Jing Rong and Ji Yunshu,”You saved my son’s life. It is time for me to return the favor with my life.” He spoke and breathed out a long sigh. It seemed as if a stone that was weighing on his chest had been lifted.
He shambled to his son and stretched out his hand, hands that were covered in sin and drenched in blood, and gently ruffled Zhang Daqi’s messy, unkempt hair. The old man slowly squatted down and met his son’s eyes, tears streaked down his wrinkled face as he whispered, “I’m sorry, my son.”
Regret swam in his eyes as he apologized.
Zhang Daqi opened his festering mouth and groaned a few times, he could no longer speak. The father and son held each other, each let out a sorrowful cry.
Everyone in the courthouse watched on in silence. The scene before them may tug at their heartstrings, but Old Man Zhang is still a serial killer. As the saying goes, whoever is pitiful must have a cause to be despised. Lord Li shattered that pitiful scene and questioned sternly, “Zhang Yicheng, I will ask you once more. Do you confess to the murder of the eight individuals found in the well under the dilapidated temple in the Zhang Village?”
“Yes, I confess!” Old Man Zhang declared.
Thus, the scribe that was recording the court proceedings quickly drafted a confessional and brought it before Zhang Yicheng. He laid it on the floor and said, “Then, please sign this.”
Old Man Zhang read through each line carefully and smiled with relief before stamping his fingerprint on it without a moment of hesitation.
With that, Lord Li made his final ruling on the Case of the Dried Well. “The criminal Zhang Yicheng has confessed his crimes and yielded to the law. Men! Bring him to the prison at once! The final verdict would be given once this case has been reported to His Majesty. As for Zhang Daqi, he may not have harmed anyone, but due to his intent to conceal and help a criminal escape conviction, he is also to be imprisoned and dealt with later.”
Several court guards stepped forward and dragged them away. The case was finally closed.
Lord Li stepped down from his seat and greeted Jing Rong and Ji Yunshu. “Without Your Highness and Teacher Ji, we would not have learned the truth of this case.”
Jing Rong kept his serious visage, “Lord Li, do handle the case as it should be handled. Take care not to… cut corners for the promise of success. “
Those words were obviously meant for Jing Yi’s ears, whose face burned as if he had been slapped several times. He had lost completely. Not only did he lose to Jing Rong, he was also sabotaged by Wen Shisan.
The older prince growled between gritted teeth as he glowered at his rival, “Don’t get so cocky.”
Jing Rong replied calmly, “Worry about yourself.”
“What do you mean?”
“You skipped past the details of the case in order to try to close it as soon as possible, all so that you can claim credit in front of Father. You even sliced off Zhang Daqi’s tongue to mask the mistakes in your case report. Now that the truth has been revealed, you ought to start plan how you would explain to Father.”
“There’s nothing for me to explain.” He huffed in contempt. “So what if the case has been solved? You don’t have any evidence that shows that I ordered for Zhang Daqi’s tongue to be sliced off. Besides, he signed the confessional on his own accord, all I did was report the facts that I had, what’s there to explain? That’s exactly what I would say, even if Father was here.”
A different voice sounded from amidst the crowd right when he finished that sentence, “Oh really? Then say that again, right before me.”
Hm? That voice was oddly familiar to the princes. It was a thick, commanding voice, albeit a little weak. They watched as Qizhen Emperor stepped out from the crowd with the support of Zhang Quan. Two imperial guards stood behind them, ensuring the safety of the Emperor. Jing Yi felt his blood turn cold.
In an instant, everyone in the courthouse dropped to their knees. “We greet Your Majesty.”
The crowd of onlookers outside soon followed suit, “We greet Your Majesty.” Their voices shook as they answered, they had never seen the Emperor in person, nor did they ever think that they would have the chance and honor.
The Qizhen Emperor glanced at his citizens and said, “You may rise. We are not in the Empire Affairs Chamber.”
“We thank Your Majesty.”
Lord Li immediately dispersed the onlookers outside the courthouse and ordered someone to bring a horseshoe chair and laid down a soft cushion on the seat, then he helped the Emperor into that chair. Qizhen Emperor was exhausted from his journey from the palace to the courthouse due to his weakened constitution.
He looked towards Jing Yi and scolded harshly, “So, tell me, why have you submitted such a beautifully written case report without a single detail when the case was still riddled with mystery and full of holes?”
“Thank goodness Jing Rong found new evidence and overturned the case. Or else, how would I answer to the people of this nation?”
“Please, Imperial Father. I only submitted that case report because Zhang Daqi confessed and admitted to those crimes. You have to believe me.”
Hmph! Anger boiled in the Qizhen Emperor’s veins. “It was precisely because I believed you that I almost convicted and executed the wrong man! You are a prince, you are supposed to uphold justice and truth in your investigation, you are supposed to ease the worries of the people. Instead, you handled this case carelessly and endangered many innocent lives.”
“Father, your son would never…”
“Enough, save your breath.” Qi Zhen Emperor raised his hand and interrupted the older prince. “I don’t need to hear any more of your explanation. I had already heard everything I needed to hear and seen everything I needed to see.” Nothing Jing Yi said would change a thing.
Then, Qizhen Emperor turned to Wen Shisan and asked with a raised brow, “You are Wen Shisan?”
The older prince’s partner in crime stepped forward and greeted the Emperor. “Yes, this peasant is Wen Shisan.”
“Speak truthfully, how did you write that case report?” The Emperor questioned.
Jing Yi shot his partner a glare, signaling him to speak well and not to throw him under the bus again. And yet, Wen Shisan replied, “To answer Your Majesty, actually this peasant always had some doubts and suspicions regarding the case. There were some details that did not add up and make sense. This peasant wanted to continue the investigation and dig further, but once Prince Yi learned about the blood-stained stone, he became certain that Zhang Daqi was the killer. Soon after, Zhang Daqi confessed and tried to end his own life by biting off his own tongue. As such, this peasant has drafted that case report as per Prince Yi’s orders.”
His reply was calm and collected, a clean, thorough betrayal.
Jing Yi’s face flushed red with rage as his head hung low and he swore to slice Wen Shisan into a thousand pieces. The Qizhen Emperor’s mood soured even further, he had expected Jing Yi to play dirty, but he had not expected his son to stoop so low.
Bam! The Emperor slammed onto his armrest and he returned his attention to Jing Yi, “It seems that you were cutting corners for the promise of success.” His disappointment was audible.
Jing Yi remained silent and finally acknowledged his loss.
The Qizhen Emperor shifted his attention to his younger son, “It was thanks to you that this case could be solved.”
Jing Rong replied, “I could not have done this alone, Father. Had Teacher Ji not assisted me, the truth would remain buried.”
Ji Yushu picked up from where he left off, “This peasant could not claim sole credit for this case either.”
The Qizhen Emperor scanned Ji Yunshu from head to toe and said, “Those who deserve credit would be rewarded. Those who made mistakes would be punished. All will be done in tomorrow’s court.” He coughed and slowly stood up from his seat with Zhang Quan’s aid, then sighed, “Enough, help me back to the palace.”