Reborn After Widowhood – Chapter 20
Shiqiao Town was not a big place. When the boy servant came to find him, Chen Tingjian was comforting the people in the south of the town where the flood was the deepest.
Knowing that something happened at home, and even the most stable eldest son wanted him to go back at this juncture, Chen Tingjian had no choice but to say to the village chief, “I’ll leave this to you first. I have to go back.”
The village chief bowed down and smiled: “Don’t worry, Cabinet Elder, this kind of small battle is not strange to the people in our town.”
Chen Tingjian nodded and hurried home with his servant. Whenever he met people saluting him on the way, he would return the salute humbly without any official authority.
The people were so enthusiastic that Chen Tingjian was delayed. When he returned to Chen House, he saw his third son waiting at the door.
Chen Tingjian looked stern: “What happened?”
Chen Xiaozong’s eyes turned red, and he briefly told the story of how his fourth brother accidentally found Qi shi‘s account book and discovered that Qi shi was secretly amassing money. The focus was on the two old ginsengs.
Chen Tingjian had no expression at first, as if he was not surprised that Qi shi would do such a thing, but when he heard what happened later, he clenched his hands.
Without looking at his son, Chen Tingjian raised his head and walked towards the courtyard.
In the middle of the second courtyard of the main house was the Chen Family Ancestral Hall.
Regarding the death of the old lady, Sun shi took the initiative to brought the whole family from the east house and their eldest family to the ancestral hall. Except for Hua Yang, the distinguished daughter-in-law, and Dalang and the other grandchildren, everyone else was there.
As soon as Chen Tingjian arrived, Sun shi stood up from her chair. Chen Tingshi, who was kneeling in front of the ancestral tablet with his head bowed and sobbing, moved out on his knees and faced his brother with tears streaming down his face: “Brother, I’m useless. I have let you down, and I even more have let our mother down!”
Chen Tingjian first saw half of his swollen face, frowned and said, “Who beat him?”
Chen Tingshi cried so hard that he couldn’t keep his eyes open: “I deserve a beating, brother, please beat me too!”
Chen Tingjian scolded: “How unbecoming is it to cry and cry? You get up first and speak!”
The brother’s power and the official’s power were pressed down together. Chen Tingshi trembled all over, wiped his face with his sleeves, and stood up with his head down.
Chen Tingjian walked to the main seat next to Sun shi, turned around and sat down. His eyes swept across the two distinct branch houses in turn. After pausing slightly on the disheveled Qi shi and the expressionless fourth son, Chen Tingjian looked at Chen Tingshi again: “Your face, who hit it?”
Chen Tingshi refused to say.
Just when Chen Jizong raised his finger to pointed out bitterly, Chen Jingzong also stepped forward and took the initiative to claim the “credit.”
Chen Tingjian’s face darkened and shouted angrily: “As a nephew, you dare to beat your own uncle, why don’t you kneel down!”
Chen Jingzong sneered back.
On the contrary, Chen Tingshi, who could not stand up straight, plopped down on his knees and said in tears: “Brother, don’t blame Jingzong, it was me who killed mother, I deserve the beating!”
Chen Tingjian: “Is there any evidence that you killed mother? Even if there is evidence, you are an elder; any punishment should fall on me as the older brother. What is he?”
Chen Tingshi didn’t dare to talk back and lowered his head in despair.
When Chen Tingjian saw that his son was still standing still, he raised his hand to slap the table: “You…”
“Master, Madam, the Princess is here.”
The steward guarding the door of the ancestral hall saw the princess who was being helped into the courtyard by the maid, and hurriedly went to announce inside.
The ancestral hall, which was too quiet under the intimidation of the Cabinet Elder, finally heard the sound of rustling clothes, and everyone turned and looked outside the door in unison.
Chen Tingjian quickly left his seat and went outside to greet the princess.
Chen Jingzong did not move, but turned his body sideways, looking past the tall and low family members in front of him, and fell on Hua Yang who was walking across the water.
At this time, most of the courtyard of Chen House was still filled with water. Fortunately, the water was not deep. Hua Yang wore a pair of foot-high rain boots and walked unhurriedly. Chao Yun held her hand and walked on the left side, while Chao Yue held up the hem of her skirt from behind.
There were many people running around in the mud outside, but she, the princess, still looked graceful and elegant. Even the rain boots on her feet were made of precious fox leather uppers and Tang wood soles.
Her cold eyes were filled with natural arrogance.
Chen Jingzong looked straight at her.
Hua Yang just walked slowly without looking at anyone.
“Blame this minister for not managing the family strictly, causing scandal and disturbing the princess.” Chen Tingjian bowed and apologized.
Although Hua Yang respected this father-in-law, she still had to put on airs when it was time to put on airs. She said calmly: “Father, please dispense the curtseying. If it is just a matter of the Chen family’s inner house, there is no need for Daughter-in-law to come over. But the second branch family have taken advantage of your reputation embezzle and accept bribes. If the evidence is conclusive, it is against the national law, and as an imperial princess, I have to supervise it for my Father Emperor.”
Chen Tingjian’s shoulder hung lower and said, “What the Princess said is true. This minister is about to hear the matter. Please take a seat, Princess.”
Hua Yang nodded, passed by her parents-in-law, and entered the ancestral hall first.
Sun shi gave up her seat to her daughter-in-law, and then stood next to her husband.
Everyone returned to their respective places. Hua Yang said to Chen Tingjian: “Daughter-in-law doesn’t know how to judge the case. Father is the Cabinet Elder, you continue the trial.”
Chen Tingjian nodded and looked back at his fourth son, who was standing straighter than a bamboo.
If the princess was not here, the son was just his son, and he would punish him if he deserved it. But the princess was here, and if he insisted on making his son kneel down, the princess would lose face.
Chen Tingjian changed his tone and asked, “Where is the account book?”
Sun shi kept it and handed it to him immediately.
Chen Tingjian looked through it and asked his son: “Where did you get this account book?”
Chen Jingzong was too lazy to answer such nonsense.
Chen Bozong respectfully explained what happened to his father.
The Zhuangyuan‘s voice was clear, low and restrained, and he still retained respect for his uncle and aunt in his address. Originally a handsome person, and he was so dignified and prudent that it was hard not to admire him.
Hua Yang glanced twice, because the brothers stood too close, her peripheral vision inevitably caught Chen Jingzong.
Chen Jingzong showed disdain towards the old man on his face.
Chen Tingjian asked Qi shi again: “Sister-in-law, can you admit that this account book belongs to you?”
Qi shi’s long hair was messy, and only half of her face covered with mud was exposed. Just when she was thinking whether there was any chance of turning around, Chen Tingjian said coldly: “If it’s not yours, Sister-in-law can deny it. But even if you deny it, I will also send people to confront those who involved one by one according to the accounts inside, including the two old ginseng. If they can be sold, there is definitely a buyer.”
The little extravagant hope in Qi shi’s heart was immediately poured out by this basin of cold water.
She looked like a person who was sentenced to death by a thousand cuts. Chen Tingshi was filled with regret and cried: “Brother, why are you still investigating? It was all her doing. You should handle it according to the law! And I, I’m also guilty. I was wrong to trust that poisonous woman, and it caused our mother’s death. You should punish me too!”
Chen Tingjian: “She has to plead guilty.”
At this time, the guards sent to search the east house came back carrying a bamboo trunk and placed it in the middle of the ancestral hall.
The leader of the guard said: “Master, this bamboo trunk was found in Qi shi’s small warehouse. There is a lock on it. I asked the maid over there and she said that the key is in Qi shi’s hand and only she can open the trunk.”
When Chen Tingshi heard this, he immediately rushed to Qi shi and, regardless of everyone watching, forcefully grabbed a red rope from Qi shi’s close-fitting collar.
Some people like to wear jade Buddha, some like to wear jade Guanyin, but what Qi shi wore was a copper key!
“I didn’t even know she owned this bamboo trunk. The first time I saw her wearing this key, she told me that it was a destined object drawn from the temple and had been consecrated by a master. I actually believed her!”
Holding the key, Chen Tingshi cried and laughed, full of ridicule for himself.
The guard leader took the key and opened the trunk.
Luo Yuyan was really curious, so she followed her husband to take a few steps forward while holding her belly. When she took a look, she was immediately dazzled by the gold, silver, jade and a stack of silver notes inside!
There were bank marks on the silver notes, and jade and other artifacts could also be matched with certain entries in the ledger.
In this way, Qi shi’s crime of privately accepting bribes had been confirmed!
Chen Tingjian didn’t need to give his second brother any face, and ordered the guards with a stern face: “Take all the servants in charge of the east house to the woodshed. Bozong, if you go and interrogate them, you will definitely find out all of Qi shi‘s accomplices.”
Chen Bozong used to work as an errand atin the capital, so it was most appropriate for him to interrogate them.
After Chen Bozong left, Chen Tingjian looked at his brother who was kneeling in front of him and begging for mercy. His eyes turned red, and he suddenly left the table, lifted up his clothes, and knelt down in front of him.
Chen Tingshi was stunned!
Chen Xiaozong even rushed over to help his father up.
Chen Tingjian waved his hand away and did not allow anyone else to help him up. He only watched his brother shed tears: “Our father passed away early. They all say that an elder brother is like a father, but I only focused on my own studies and didn’t care enough about you. After I left our hometown to become official, for thirty years, I completely entrusted mother to your care. Second Brother, in terms of filial piety to mother, I am far inferior to you. As long as I can take care of mother a little more, mother will not…”
“Brother, don’t say that. It’s all my fault that I was deceived by her beauty and insisted on marrying her despite mother’s objections. She is a scourge!”
Chen Tingshi hugged his choked brother, not daring to blame himself anymore, and vented all his resentment on Qi shi!
Qi shi, who seemed to have resigned herself to her fate, suddenly laughed when she heard that her useless husband, who had always only tried to please her, said such words. The low laugh gradually turned into a big laugh, laughing until tears came out from the corners of her eyes: “Deceived by my beauty? Okay, I married you because of my beauty, but didn’t you also get profit? Did I not sleep with you, did I not give you a son? It’s as if you were wronged by marrying me. Why don’t you take a piss and look at yourself? Your own brother won Zhuangyuan’s title and become a high official, but you can only bury yourself in farming and cannot even pass the county exam. If it weren’t for the fact that someone in your Chen family is an official, would I fancy you?”
Earlier, when the Chen brothers embraced and wept, it seemed like a touching story of brotherhood affection. However, when Qi shi began to scold, the atmosphere in the ancestral hall immediately changed.
Sun shi gave a meaningful look at the maid.
Two maids rushed over and stuffed Qi shi’s mouth with rags.
Qi shi whined and resisted, looking desperately at her only son, Chen Jizong.
Qi shi acted cautiously and accepted more than 20,000 taels of tributes from others, and she even hid it from her son because she knew that her son was a playboy and could easily get into trouble for money.
Now that the eldest house wanted to punish her, Qi shi was finally afraid, fearing that she would never survive.
Chen Jizong had followed his mother since he was a child. He knew that his mother’s corruption could no longer be quibbled with. Now he crawled to Chen Tingjian’s crying and kowtowed repeatedly: “Uncle, my mother should never be greedy, moreover should never exchange grandmother’s ginseng. She is guilty, and you can punish her with family law. I just ask you not to report her to the official. For the sake of your nephew, please save some face for my mother!”
Chen Tingshi spat at her son: “What kind of face does she have? She killed your grandmother, and you still protect her!”
Chen Tingjian helped Chen Tingshi to stand up, looked at his nephew and said, “If she makes other mistakes, I don’t have to pursue them, but she violated the law first by accepting bribes, and then by being unfilial to your grandmother. In public and private matters, I can’t be lenient.”
After saying that, Chen Tingjian turned to Hua Yang, who was still calmly sat on her chair, cupped his hands and said: “Princess is insightful, when this minister found out all of Qi shi’s accomplices, this minister will report the matter to the Emperor in detail, and let the Emperor decide on all charges.”
Chen Jizong, who had given up hope, his eyes lit up when he heard this, and he knelt down and crawled towards Hua Yang: “Princess, please…”
Chen Jingzong directly lifted him by the collar and threw him to the guard with a cold face: “Take him away!”
This kind of trash was not even qualified to decontaminate her eyes and ears.
The guards escorted Chen Jizong and Qi shi away.
The ancestral hall became quiet, Hua Yang’s expression softened a little, and she left the table and returned the salute to Chen Tingjian, saying: “Father acts impartially, Daughter-in-law admires it. Don’t worry, Daughter-in-law will also write a letter to Father Emperor to clarify that Qi shi‘s corruption has nothing to do with you, it’s all because her audacity and acted without permission. Father Emperor is wise and will understand your helplessness and difficulty.”
Her Father Emperor was a lecherous person, but he had always treated virtuous courtiers generously. Not only would he not angry at her father-in-law, he might even praise her father-in-law for exterminating family for righteousness.