The Green Lotus Peasant GirlChapters List
Chapter 96: Resolved
"Who is it that wants to live with you!" Mrs. Zhou shouted whilst turning around, and went straight to her room. Even though she said those harsh words, her heart was warmed to a soft mood. In fact, she knew her children the best. If she had to rely on someone then it would be on Zhou Chengkang and Li Qinghe. They both were very hard-working and sensible enough. As for the most important aspect, they both knew to show filial piety. When Li Fu married Mrs. Qian, while he raised and supported Zhou Wanwan as his daughter, Li Qinghe didn't care. And now, there is no end to the gifts they receive from Li Fu whenever there is a festival.
Although she said that she wasn’t desperate to stay with these two kids, she didn't say she was going back either. Since there wasn't much work to do on the farm, it didn't matter where she stayed behind with them.
Moreover, it was helpful for them to have her here. Mrs. Zhou would take care of Xiyu while Li Qinghe went to the mountains to chop wood, or sometimes just to accompany Zhou Chengkang.
Soon they received news from the town that the person who ran away that night was Zhao Tianfu.
Now this was really unexpected…
They rushed to the town as soon as they received this news. Zhao Tianfu was already under arrest; the two thieves who were caught earlier had identified him in the end. Even though he refused the allegation, the case was still registered.
Zhao Tianfu was the one who made the plan and convinced those two to steal the fish. He asked Liu Cheng to catch the fish and Yang Lanhong to lead the way and then the three would take the fish to Liu Cheng's brother and have him sell them.
They had a mutual agreement long ago that they would sell the stolen fishes in the town. All fishes looked the same anyway, so there was no way anyone could prove that the fish they had was from Li Qinghe's pond.
Zhao Tianfu's family used to be financially alright before, but after the land was passed down to him, he didn't do any work all year round. He hired workers to plant on the farm and half of the produce was given to them. During the tough times, the workers didn’t have enough food. He also spent a lot on going to brothels and drinking wine. Even though from the outside it looked like the Zhao family still had its past glory, in reality, it was perishing as time went on. Gradually the Zhao family became no different than the other families in the village.
The case was investigated and the verdict was finally announced. People who had nothing to do with the case were not allowed to go in. But, still, there were quite a lot of people present. From the Yang family, Mr. Yang and his wife, as well as Yang Lanrou and her husband were there. From the Liu family, Lui Cheng's brother and his sister-in-law had come. And as for the Zhao family, a beautiful woman in her twenties came along with a child in her arms. Tears were streaming down her face as she stood there.
"That's pretty much the inside story." The magistrate finished reading and closed the record booklet.
"Yesterday you guys said that if you find the real culprit, you are willing to let my son go." Mr. Yang spoke first. Then he tugged Liu Yuan's hand to confirm what he just stated, "Right?"
Liu Yuan also spoke words to sync with his father, "Yes, that's why we asked the magistrate to investigate and find the culprit this quickly."
The subtle meaning implied here was that they had asked the magistrate, and they had done their best and should be released since their part was now done.
Zhou Chengkang answered, "I did say that I wanted the culprits to be punished. But stealing was wrong all together, and they should not be spared for anything. The law states that anyone who steals more than two hundred pieces, their property shall be sealed for two years as punishment. Those who involve others to steal property are to be imprisoned for five years."
As soon as he finished speaking, the expressions on everyone’s faces in the room turned ugly.
Mr. Yang closed his eyes for a few seconds and said, "They stole two buckets of fish from your family, right? We three families could contribute and buy those two buckets of fish from you. It will suffice, right?"
It was obviously stealing fish before, but now they turned it into buying fish.
"It's not as if my family's fish can't be sold." Li Qinghe sneered, "You speak as if my family’s fortune lies on you buying those two buckets of fish. We will not sell them to you!"
Mr. Yang finally realized that this couple seemed to have some problems with him. Even though they live in the same neighborhood, the couple had never given him any face.
"Then what do you want in return?" Liu Yuan sighed, "We're willing to compensate you if we can, so long as you let both of them go."
"And us too." The beautiful woman held the child in her arms tightly and cried, "My child is not even half a year old yet. If his father is taken away like this, how will he live in this village in the future? And as for me, if I am left to live alone at home...... I might as well just die."
She carried her child and knelt in front of the magistrate, "Magistrate, please help..."
The only sound in the room was her gentle sobbing, which made people feel pity for her. At that very moment, someone else came in from outside. It was Zhao Wanwan. It looked as if she had run here, since she was panting. She also bought Hu Yanxi along with her.
Seeing Zhao Tianfu kneeling on the ground, she hurriedly stepped forward and asked, "Father, I heard that you were arrested by the magistrate, what happened?"
"He stole fish." The magistrate explained, "These three people together were in it, and the other two were caught red-handed. They confessed who the third person was. Though Zhao Tianfu is the mastermind, one was responsible for catching and selling the fish, the other for leading the way. All three of them share the same blame of crime, equally."
Seeing his daughter and son-in-law coming, Zhao Tianfu who had been silent for a long time suddenly said, "I don't plead guilty. I was sleeping at home that night, and my wife can testify for my stead."
The beautiful woman stopped crying and quickly agreed, "Yes, yes, yes, for the past half a month, he has not gone out, and slept at home each night."
The magistrate ignored their words and said, "The problem now is that they both want a private settlement and are discussing it."
Zhao Wanwan stepped forward and tried to convince, "Sister, my father wouldn't do such a thing."
The two had met for the first time since that coincidental encounter at the clinic. And as for Zhao Wanwan, it was the first time they had met since Hu Yanxi passed the exam. Li Qinghe looked at her and said, “It's useless for you to talk to me about it. It's not me who identified your father as a thief, they did it."
Li Qinghe had an indifferent expression on her face. When Zhao Wanwan saw her expression, she remembered Li Qinghe returning home from an injury long ago. After that, she took her to the town to help her get hired as a cook. She was like a sister to her, who helped her buy hairpins. Moments like these seemed far away to her at the moment.
She was a little dazed for a while and looked at Hu Yanxi for help.
Hu Yanxi stepped forward and said, "Sister, brother-in-law, we are all family. Why don't we settle this matter privately?"
"The law for theft was very harsh and they were caught red-handed. But they didn't steal the fish in the end, so according to the law, the sentence can be reduced to half. If such an incident occurs in our town and news will be passed to the town, it will not be good for the reputation of our town. Aren't I right, magistrate?"
He spoke the last sentence while looking at the magistrate. Hu Yanxi is now a scholar and the magistrate was just a child student*. Although he doesn't take the county exam every time, he does occasionally go to the exam. So the two of them can be termed as familiar with each other.
*t/n: child student - In the imperial examination system of the Ming and Qing dynasties, all students, regardless of their age, were called child students before they were qualified as scholars.
Li Qinghe lowered her eyes. Sure enough, the scholars are different. They are very good at catching loopholes.
In fact, both she and Zhou Chengkang knew the truth deep in their hearts, that even though the magistrate had brought them and these people to settle the matter, he still hoped for them to settle the matter privately. Or else he could have just sent them to the county, and there was no point in bothering them.
"You're wrong about one thing." Zhou Chengkang looked at him, "We are not family, not even relatives. So it's better to handle this matter in a formal manner."
Hu Yanxi looked unhappy with this statement. Since he passed the exam and became a scholar, everyone in Luoyue Town, whether they knew him or not, would at least give him some face. At the least, they would show a smile when they saw him. But looking at Zhou Chengkang's attitude of distancing, he knew Zhou Chengkang wasn’t taking him seriously.
Zhou Chengkang on the other hand, did not care what he thought in his heart and continued, "Since we have to settle this privately, I do not know how much silver is appropriate. If the compensation is less and they're not punished, what if they try to steal again later? I don't want to chase thieves every night."
"It's still up to the magistrate to decide."
Everyone's eyes fell on the magistrate, who frowned slightly and said, "He is also right, how about...... you each give ten taels of silver, as for the mastermind, he should give twenty taels of silver."
I knew he was thinking of settling this privately!
In addition to making people suffer once, compensating with dozens of taels of silver would also make them remember the pain forever. The magistrate was very calculative. Not only does he want to cover the crime in Luoyue Town, but he also wanted to let them suffer the pain so that they wouldn't dare to steal again.
In fact, all three people who committed the crime here, except for Zhao Tianfu, should be able to take the money out.
"Twenty taels!" Zhao Wanwan exclaimed in shock.
The expression of Mr. Yang and Liu Yuan over the corner was not good either. They tried to negotiate, "Magistrate, the compensation is too much for us. It's been a few years since we have been able to produce a good harvest…"
"I'm not talking nonsense." The magistrate said solemnly, "If you do not agree, then I will send them directly to the county, and it will be up to the county magistrate to decide."
The room turned quiet. If they were willing to go to the county in the first place to get convicted by the county magistrate, then they would not have waited here for so long.
Zhao Wanwan murmured, "Father doesn't have so much money."
Zhao Tianfu frowned, "Can I write an IOU?"
"Yes!" Mr. Yang came back to his senses with a start, "It's okay to write an IOU, right? I'll write an IOU for twelve taels and pay it off next year."
Li Qinghe didn't want to get entangled with them and said directly, "If you can give the money, then you can take the people right away. Even if you write me an IOU for a hundred taels, what's the point if I don't get my money back on time? I don't want an IOU!"
Zhou Chengkang replied, "I'm giving you guys two days. If I don't get the money within this time period, it would be useless even if anyone intervenes and tries to help you."
After that, he pulled Li Qinghe to say goodbye to the magistrate, "We still have something to do at home. If they are ready to pay the money, please have someone let us know."
The two walked out, got on the carriage, and went home.
They didn't stop along the way. When the carriage left the yard, they saw Zhao Wanwan hurriedly chasing after them.
She even went to their house to persuade them. Mr. Yang from the next door also came to their house. But they didn't see any of them. They didn't even open the door.
On the other hand, Liu Yuan, who paid the money in the afternoon that day, took Liu Cheng back.
Then, in the next two days, they heard that their neighbor, Mr. Yang, went to everyone in the village to borrow money. He even went to Yu Yan's house to borrow money. He was willing to pay them 20% interest if they lent him money.
On Zhao Tianfu's side, he pawned his old brick house to raise enough silver.
Two days later, Li Qinghe and Zhou Chengkang went to the magistrate's house again and got forty taels of silver.
The magistrate smiled and said, "Here's the silver. Do you want to weigh it?"
"No, we trust you." Zhou Chengkang instead pushed the silver back towards him, "We're not taking this silver back home. We want to buy land on the mountain behind my house. Please help us measure the land there."
Hearing this, the magistrate was a little surprised, "Do you want to use all this money to buy the land?"
"Yes." Zhou Chengkang said firmly.
Hearing his answer, the magistrate finally realized his reasoning. The imperial court would be happy if they turned the barren hills into functional lands. If this was done, he would get huge merit. A smile blossomed on his face as he said, "The barren hill is cheaper since it's a slope, and can't be converted to land. It can be sold for one tael of silver per mu for you. If you agree, I will write the deed now and then have someone follow you to measure it."
"Okay, please help us write the deed." Zhou Chengkang said immediately.
The pen, ink, paper, and inkstone were all ready. Originally, they were prepared to write the deed to pay back the money. After Zhou Chengkang signed the deed, the magistrate began to write the deed.
Seeing him pick up the pen, Zhou Chengkang hurriedly said, "Write Li Qinghe’s name on the deed."
Not only the magistrate, but even Li Qinghe was surprised as well. Zhou Chengkang smiled at her, "I already said everything in the house belongs to you, including me"
Li Qinghe smiled and reached out to touch his face, "Don't worry, I will treat you well."
The magistrate's teeth went sore from envy when he looked at them being all lovey-dovey. Thinking of his old wife, he thought it would be better to go back to her.
Instead of taking the money, they left the magistrate's house with a deed whose ink had yet to dry. They asked to measure the land tomorrow since it was too late today.
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