Chapter 128: Dying Message

Zu An was stunned. He never thought that a day would come where a law-abiding citizen like him would be arrested by the police.

Trialed for my crimes? What crimes?

While he was still overwhelmed by the situation, the constables had already fastened his hands behind his back with a pair of metal shackles. It was fortunate that he was protected by the guards of the Chu clan, who wouldn’t allow him to be taken away so easily by the constables, especially after accepting his money the previous day.

“Zu An, are you trying to resist arrest here?” asked the head constable coldly.

Zu An finally snapped out of his daze.

Having been in this world for some time, he knew just how powerful the royal court was. He couldn’t allow things to proceed down this direction. So, he stepped forward and stopped the Chu clan’s guards first before asking, “You should give me a reason at the very least. I can’t possibly allow myself to be taken away without any justifications, right?”

“You shouldn’t have done it in the first place if you don’t want others to know of it.” The head constable pointed to the side. “You can’t hear it?”

Zu An turned his head sideward, only to be shocked by what he saw. A huge crowd was rushing in his direction with indignant looks on their faces, roaring furiously.

“Murderers have to pay for their crimes!”

“The Chu clan oppresses the people and condones the vile deeds of their son-in-law!”

… 

Looking at those banners that wrote stuff like ‘Bring justice back to the Great Zhou Dynasty’ and ‘Commoners’ lives matter’, Zu An couldn’t help but frown. He felt like he had been mired into a huge scheme.

It was then that Chu Zhongtian, Qin Wanru, Chu Chuyan, and the others rushed out. Chu Huanzhao was still in the estate because she was still recuperating from her injuries, but Chu Zhongtian stopped her from coming out.

“What happened?” Chu Zhongtian ordered his men to stop the rioting crowd before turning to the head constable with a cold look in his eyes.

The attitude of the head constable immediately became much more amicable. “Brightmoon Duke, Zu An is under suspicion for murdering Official Yang Wei and Commoners Plum Blossom Twelve and Plum Blossom Thirteen. The city lord has ordered us to arrest him to be trialed.”

Everyone in the Chu clan was shocked to hear those words. It was one thing for Plum Blossom Twelve and Plum Blossom Thirteen to be killed, but Yang Wei’s death was quite a huge issue. He might be a low-ranking official, but he was still a subordinate of the royal court.

Zu An’s mind was quickly whirred into action. All three people had previous conflicts with him, so their deaths hinted strongly at a ploy directed toward him.

“Nonsense! Ah Zu has been in our Chu Estate all this while, so how could he possibly kill anyone?” Chu Zhongtian could also tell that it was an attempt to frame Zu An.

“We’re just acting according to the city lord’s orders. Brightmoon Duke, I’ll have to humbly ask you not to make things difficult for us.”

However, the crowd only grew more inflamed after seeing how the constables were bowing down to the Chu clan.

“Is the Chu clan trying to cover for a murderer?”

“Does the laws not apply to the Chu clan?”

“Where has the justice of our Great Zhou Dynasty gone to?”

… 

It was always easy to rile up the populace, especially when it came to acts of injustice from the rich and the powerful. Everyone was always quick to hop onto the bandwagon, speaking up indignantly as if they had suffered grievances themselves. This was simply how humans were.

Chu Zhongtian realized that this matter would be hard to deal with. It would be a huge matter if the people were to turn against the Chu clan against him over this. “Very well, I’ll follow you all back to the yamen. I would like to see how you intend to judge this case!”

He patted Zu An’s shoulder and said, “Ah Zu, don’t worry. As long as I’m here, I won’t let you suffer any grievances!”

He was a duke of the country after all. With him keeping an eye on the proceedings, the others wouldn’t dare to carelessly make a ruling on the case.

Zu An felt a surge of warmth into his heart. My father-in-law is truly a decent person.

Chu Zhongtian told Qin Wanru to hold the fort in the Chu Estate and be prepared to send reinforcements whenever required before leading a group of guards over to the yamen.

Chu Chuyan was intending to follow as well, only to be stopped by Zu An. “I need you to find a person for me. Relay these words to her…”

Chu Chuyan was taken aback by the abrupt request, but she nodded in response before swiftly disappearing amidst the crowd.

Cheng Shouping also quickly rushed up to Zu An’s side fawningly, asked, “Young master, young master! Is there anything I can help you with? I’ll be willing to brave through a sea of flame for you as long as you give the word!”

“Yes, I do have something I need you to do,” replied Zu An.

Cheng Shouping’s eyes lit up right away. “What is it?”

“Zip up your mouth.”

“… Orh.”

Unless Zu An was tired of living, there was no way he would entrust anything important to the troublemaking Cheng Shouping anymore. He needed Chu Chuyan to deal with it personally in order to give him peace of mind. As for Cheng Shouping… all he needed to do was to disgust his opponents when the time came.

As Chu Zhongtian was tagging along too, the guards didn’t insist on shackling Zu An up. Just like that, they swiftly made their way toward the yamen.

City Lord Xie Yi and Vice Magistrate Pang Chun personally stepped forward to welcome them, saying, “What brings Brightmoon Duke here today?”

“You’ve already sent your men to arrest my son-in-law, so how can I not come by personally?” Chu Zhongtian harrumphed.

Xie Yi shook his head bitterly and said, “Someone knocked on the drums of the yamen, crying out his grievances. On top of that, an official is even implicated in the matter. Given the circumstances, I have no other choice than to hold a trial.” [1]

“Who’s the one who knocked on the drums?” asked Chu Zhongtian. 

He had to at least figure out who his enemy was here first.

As they headed into the yamen, Xie Yi replied with a lowered voice, “It’s Yang Wei’s widow and the relatives of Plum Blossom Twelve and Plum Blossom Thirteen. Mei Chaofeng is here too.”

Chu Zhongtian’s eyes narrowed. “It looks like the Plum Blossom Sect is determined to turn against our Chu clan. I sure do wonder where their courage is coming from.”

“Don’t get careless. They seem to be confident this time around,” reminded Xie Yi.

Once they entered the court, solemnity swiftly returned to Xie Yi’s face as he stopped talking altogether.

Zu An scanned the surroundings, only to see two long horizontal banners that wrote ‘Laws made of our virtues, enforced through discipline’. It gave an air of severity to the court.

Xie Yi and Pang Chun headed toward the front of the court, where their seats were located. Similar to how it was depicted in historical dramas, there were two rows of guards standing by the sides of the court, standing on attention with long metal poles in their hands. 

There were several people kneeling before the court. One of them was a middle-aged woman, who appeared to be Yang Wei’s wife from her fairly well-to-do attire. The others appeared to be farmers, which likely made them family members of Plum Blossom Twelve and Plum Blossom Thirteen.

Mei Chaofeng was standing at one side, looking at Zu An with utterly cold eyes. 

Seeing this set-up, Zu An smiled quietly in anticipation. Very well, show me what you’ve got then.

“Since the plaintiffs and the defendant are already present, I hereby declare the commencement…” Xie Yi was just about to declare the commencement of the trials when a commotion sounded outside.

“Governor Sang has arrived!”

Astonished, Xie Yi quickly got up with Pang Chun and the other subordinate officials to greet Sang Hong. Casual laughter could be heard from the entrance as Sang Hong’s voice sounded, “Lord Xie, there’s no need for you to rise. You’re the one in charge of the court proceedings. I’m here just to spectate.”

Chu Zhongtian, on the other hand, was much less polite. “Lord Sang, I really see you everywhere I go.”

It was just a day ago when Sang Hong openly sided with the Yuan clan, and now, he was here to deal with his son-in-law. Even the most patient man in the world would lose his temper after being picked on time and time again.

Toward that, Sang Hong calmly replied, “I should have returned to my office, but I heard that something major has happened in the city. After quickly looking into it, I realized that it involves the Chu clan. Out of concern, I came here to take a look lest the civilians claim that the law of our Great Zhou Dynasty sides with those in power. Brightmoon Duke, surely you wouldn’t mind, right?”

Seeing that Sang Hong was pressuring him with the law, Chu Zhongtian replied calmly, “No one is blind here. I won’t stand idly if someone tries to distort the facts.”

Sang Hong laughed at those words. “Of course, of course. Everything will be dealt with according to the law. I believe that Lord Xie will handle the case promptly.”

That wily old fox!, Xie Yi cursed under his breath. This put him in a quandary. That being said, as long as he judged the matter fairly, neither sides would be able to fault him.

It was then that Zu An spoke up, “I understand that Governor Sang is here to ensure the fairness of the procedure, but may I know in what capacity is young master Shi here to spectate the proceedings? Is he an official?”

He had sharply noticed that Shi Kun had come together with Sang Hong.

“My father is the Minister of War…” replied Shi Kun calmly.

But before he could finish his words, Zu An had already interjected sharply, “I’m asking you if you’re an official. Why are you mentioning your father instead? Do you have nothing else to speak of other than your father?”

“You!!” Shi Kun’s face immediately reddened in anger. With his background and his reputation, he was treated like a VIP no matter where he went. No one had ever tried to put him down in public in such a manner before.

You have successfully trolled Shi Kun for +500 Rage!

“What do you mean by ‘you’? You should watch the way you address your teacher. Is that how you were brought up in the Shi clan?” Zu An’s mouth was like a relentless machine gun, shooting out bullets endlessly.

Shi Kun felt a little light-headed. Why am I being interrogated here instead?

You have successfully trolled Shi Kun for +653 Rage!

“Scoundrel, how dare a mere child like you dare to sully the name of the Shi clan!” Shi Lezhi stood forth from Shi Kun’s side to bellow at Zu An. He released his powerful aura to intimidate the latter.

However, Chu Zhongtian immediately waved his hand to dispel Shi Lezhi’s aura, saying, “You should think twice before attempting to strongarm others in the court. Besides, Ah Zu isn’t wrong either. He’s a teacher at the academy. It’s only right for young master Shi to pay respects to him as a student.”

Shi Kun’s face turned completely red. He felt incredibly stifled. There was no way he could bring himself to bow down politely to Zu An in the capacity of a student before so many people. That would be a stain on his reputation!

Snow felt an urge to step forward to speak on her young master’s behalf, but somehow, she felt guilt-ridden facing her old masters once more, leaving her at a loss.

Fortunately for Shi Kun, Sang Hong stepped in at this moment, “Zu An is in the position of a plaintiff now. Until he’s finally cleared of his charges, it’d be inappropriate to view him as a teacher of the academy. I believe that we should skip the formality for now. As for young master Shi, it’s indeed inappropriate for him to view the proceedings without an official position. He shall stand by the doorway for now.”

Sang Hong had taken on an impartial position, putting down both sides together. So, no one could raise any doubts against him.

It was just that Shi Kun had expected to be able to comfortably rest on a seat while watching the drama in the front rows, only to be shoved in together with the rest of the populace. It made him feel both humiliated and indignant. 

To be fair, Shi Lezhi had secretly released his aura to prevent anyone from coming close to Shi Kun, giving him some privacy. But even so, Shi Kun’s face remained incredibly livid.

Zu An!!! Celebrate your little victory while you can. I’ll make sure that you’ll cry your eyes out later on!

You have successfully trolled Shi Kun for +444 Rage!

“Silence!” Seeing that Chu Zhongtian and Sang Hong had settled down in their positions, Xie Yi started off by silencing the crowd before slamming a wooden brick onto the table, saying, “Zu An, do you plead guilty?” [2]

Zu An shrugged leisurely as he replied, “What am I guilty of?”

An opulently-dressed middle-aged woman pointed her finger at Zu An and bellowed, “Zu An, how vicious you are! Despite having defeated my husband in a competition in the academy, you still weren’t satisfied and viciously assassinated him! Milords, you have to redress my grievances!”

The middle-aged woman proceeded on to bawl pitifully, but her reactions did nothing to faze Zu An. Instead, he asked calmly, “What does Yang Wei’s death have to do with me?”

Xie Yi coughed softly and said, “Lord Yang left a dying message that points you out as the murderer.”


1. In the past, there would be a drum placed outside the yamen, where civilians could knock on it and request for a trial so as to have their grievances redressed.

2. Just like how modern-day judges use gavels, the hammer to gather everyone’s attention, in ancient China, the magistrate used a wooden brick called Jing Tang Mu, literally translated to ‘wood that disrupts the court’.

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