The black cavalry troops surrounded the ancestral tombs of the Wang family so tightly that not even a fly could enter. Initially, the people from the Wang family insisted on waiting for the results. However, due to the summer heat and the lack of news for several hours, many of them had already given up and left.
Despite craning his neck outside, Wang Gui was unable to see anything and became very anxious. He wanted to step forward and inquire more, but the fierce-looking black cavalry troops made him withdraw his feet.
Eventually, there was a commotion coming from inside, and a group of people descended from the mountain. Wang Gui wanted to ask, but the elders were surrounded, and he was unable to send them a meaningful glance, let alone ask them.
“Are you Wang Gui?” a Yamen runner went up to him and asked.
Wang Gui quickly replied, “Yes, I am Wang Gui, the brother of the dead Wang Fu… What are you doing? Where are you going to take me?”
As the two yamen runners dragged Wang Gui away, he cried out.
“We are going back to the Yamen and the Lord will be interrogating you.”
Hearing this, Wang Gui was surprised. “Does it mean that my brother Wang Fu did not die from an illness but was killed?”
When Wang Fu died, he was under the same roof as him. So, it would not make sense for him to kill Wang Fu, as he would become a prime suspect!
The Yamen runner’s face was expressionless, and his voice was cold, refusing to reveal anything in his words. “Everything will be determined by the Lord.”
Along the way, no matter how Wang Gui inquired, the Yamen runners no longer spoke and were tight-lipped. This then caused his heart to beat quickly like a drum as he cursed at Madam Wu internally for causing a ruckus from nothing.
In the court, the governor sat down to conduct an interrogation, while King Si Zhao sat at the side. With the call of “the court is now in session1The author used “升堂” which means to hold a court trial. I decided to translate it as what we would usually hear in the English setting which was “the court is now in session” for easier understanding.“, third-class officials stood in a single row on two sides. After hearing the news, many people also came over to watch, including the Lu family.
Madam Wu, Wang Gui, and the servant with Wang Fu then, Li Si, all knelt down in the hall.
After tangwei2The author used “堂威” (tangwei) which is usually the verbal act of shouting ““威武” (weiwu) to show the authority the court has. According to the ancient Chinese judicial system, the authority and sanctity of the law should be conveyed through the rituals of shouting “weiwu”, hitting wooden sticks on the ground and setting up “avoidance” and “keep quiet” signs. In feudal society, these rituals were mainly employed to use shock to train and bind the commoners. was called out, the governor asked, “Wang Gui and Li Si, is it true that both of you claimed that Wang Fu, after drinking two flasks of wine, had fallen asleep drunk in bed and stopped breathing when he was checked on the next day?”
Both Wang Gui and Li Si replied in affirmative one after another. Wang Gui also added, “My elder brother is a light drinker. On that day, we drank a few more cups than usual, as we had not seen each other for a long time. I even helped him to his bed.”
Madam Wu also agreed to such words. “My husband is a lightweight and would be unconscious the whole night if he was drunk. Usually, if he drinks too much, I would be the one to change his clothes and wipe him down. No matter how I handled him, he would not wake up.”
The governor continued to ask, “Then, did Wang Gui and Li Si wipe down Wang Fu that night?”
Li Si replied, “That day, Master told me to go to bed early, saying that he wanted to have a good talk with the second master in the evening. Thus, I went to bed early and did not wait on him.”
Wang Gui also replied, “I had also drank too much that day, and have forgotten about this.”
“That is to say, Wang Fu did not touch water that day, and both of you slept until the next morning?”
Wang Gui and Li Si both affirmed such words.
“Madam Wu and the both of you will have to state the details of the corpse collection clearly. Think carefully, as you all cannot retract your statements after saying them. Otherwise, all of you will be judged to have given false statements on purpose and will be beaten thirty times with a rod.”
Wang Gui and Li Si could not help but look at each other. However, it was only for a short moment before they each started to account for how they handled this issue then. As Madam Wu also remembered what happened clearly, she was quite detailed in her words.
Suddenly, with a loud slam, the governor shouted, “Such bold criminals! One is the brother of the deceased, while the other is the deceased’s servant. For the both of you to join hands to harm the deceased is a huge crime. Such intolerable injustice!”
Both Wang Gui and Li Si kowtowed and cried out loudly. Wang Gui said, “Your honor has wronged me. I am so grateful to my elder brother, so how can I kill him? Besides, didn’t my elder brother die from an illness? How did it become a murder?”
Li Si also kowtowed reverently and cried out injustice. “That’s right. My Lord, I have also been wronged. How could I have dared to murder my master?”
“Humph, both of you still dare to quibble! The real cause of Wang Fu’s death has been found out from his bones by the post-mortem examiner just now. You two are really malicious and almost deceived me. Even up until now, both of you still refuse to admit your guilt, so do not blame me for punishing you severely.”
A chill traveled into Wang Gui and Li Si’s hearts before they calmed down again. They feared that the official was just deliberately making something out of nothing and intimidating them; where nothing would be done despite such words.
Wang Gui rebutted, “My Lord, how could you say this? I have no intention of killing my brother and also do not dare to do so. The death of my brother had also caused me to feel grieved, so how can I perform such a brutal act?”
Li Si also cried, “This servant dares not to even kill chickens, so how could I dare to kill people?”
“It’s true that one would refuse to be convinced until one is faced with grim reality. I will have to request the post-mortem examiner to step up and elaborate the results of the autopsy.”
The one who stepped up was the post-mortem examiner brought along by the governor. As Madam Wu had feared that it might damage Zhuang Zhong’s reputation, she had not wanted him to appear and instead requested for him to observe with the Lu family. Hence, with the consent of Prince Si Zhao, the post-mortem examiner would be the one to present the findings in court. However, on the case file, it was noted down that the findings and inferences were made by Zhuang Zhong himself, where he would be the one to bear responsibilities in the future for any mistakes. This was so as any errors made during the autopsy would affect the case’s judgment and result in possible subsequent retraction of verbal evidence, negatively affecting the post-mortem examiner.
The post-mortem examiner knelt down and bowed. “Just now, when I poured hot water onto the dead skull, there were ashes flowing out of the nasal holes. Thus, the deceased’s head must have been submerged in gray water3 The author used “灰水” which most likely referred to gray water. It was usually described as wastewater generated in households from streams without fecal contamination. . If one gets submerged into the water alive, the water and the sand sediments in it will enter the mouth and nostrils through breathing and swallowing. In the case where the head was still submerged after death, there will also be sediments deposited in the shallow part of the nasal cavity. Hence, this method can be used to find out whether the deceased had been in contact with water if there were only the bones left after death.”
Although Song Ci was a great forensic studies scholar, the limitations of that time also meant there were many unscientific points in his Collected Cases of Injustice Rectified. Among them, this was one of them – to pour hot water over the deceased’s head to see whether dregs would flow out of the nasal holes, so as to determine whether the person drowned before was inaccurate. Sands, sediments, and other dregs could enter the respiratory or digestive tract through breathing and swallowing. However, the cranial cavity was a relatively closed-off system, and it was impossible for such things to enter the cranial cavity through blood circulation. Besides, soil and sediments could also enter the nasal holes of decaying corpses. It was just that they were usually deposited shallowly, so it became impossible to judge whether the deceased was drowned or submerged after death. Essentially, to determine whether the deceased had drowned or gotten submerged after death, one could only examine for diatom if there were only bones left. This theory was similar to Song Ci’s, where it was theorized that unlike the dead, one would inevitably inhale diatom when breathing through their nose.
After hearing this, Li Si and Wang Gui began to tremble. Their heads were also deeply lowered as their foreheads were covered with cold sweat.
When the governor saw this, he hummed coldly. “Although this method was unable to prove whether the deceased was drowned or submerged after death, it also raises a question of who would, for no reason, submerge his head into the water after death. In all three of your testimonies just now, none of you have mentioned such a thing. Besides, according to Madam Wu and the previous autopsy results, Wang Fu’s face was yellowish-white as if he died from an illness. However, it seems that Wang Fu probably died due to being submerged in water!”
“The method employed then was also really vicious. Wrapped in a woolen blanket, he was inverted upside down in a val of gray water where he died a few breaths later. Even if there were bleeding on the head, it would stop immediately with death while the blood coagulation would dissolve after a while4Here, the author used “灰化” which I was unable to find anything about. I am assuming that it was referring to death and the decaying process cause that is the only way that it would make sense.. On the surface, there would be no sign of cyanosis5The author used “青紫” which is known as cyanosis, a bluish hue to the skin, gums, fingernails, or mucous membranes caused by a lack of oxygen in the blood. or injuries, so without an able person examining the corpse, it would never have been discovered! Both of you may think that you can conceal and get away with it, but the heavens would never let you go6The author used “天网恢恢疏而不漏” which essentially means “justice have long arms” (I didn’t translate it as so as I felt that not many would know this saying and that it also seemed unsuitable given the story flow). In summary, it just means that the heavens are fair and that those who committed evil would not be able to escape from justice and punishment.! Wang Gui and Li Si, at this point in time, what else can you say for yourselves?”
Both Wang Gui and Li Si knelt on the ground limply.
Once the cause of death was revealed, the subsequent interrogation became much easier. At that time, the two men were also in the house and unable to deny their involvement. Initially, they had denied insistently, yet the governor not only grasped the motive of their murder, but also the evidence of their money transactions. Thus, after several interrogations, they both had no choice but to speak the truth.
It turned out that Wang Gui had been coveting his brother’s property, but Wang Fu was unwilling to share a part with him. Wang Fu would even come to check the accounts from time to time at the cloth shop Wang Gui was in charge of, not regarding Wang Gui as a member of his family. Besides, Wang Gui was lazy, having great ambitions but little talent. So, no matter how prosperous the store was, he would still cause the store to lose money eventually, resulting in Wang Fu scolding him many times.
Despite already having a wife and children, Wang Gui would still be reprimanded by his elder brother. Even when asking Wang Fu for some money, he would face objections, thus drawing his wife’s mockery and a lack of respect from her family. Hence, he detested Wang Fu greatly for causing him to lose face. Three years ago, the cloth shop also made a big lapse of judgment, and Wang Gui was afraid that Wang Fu would no longer put him in charge of the store anymore. As his only way to make money would disappear, he was in a panic. Most importantly, he noticed that Wang Fu had no son, so he began to plot.
Since quite early on, Li Si had already noticed such intentions from Wang Gui. However, it was only later, when he had a lot of unresolved gambling debts, that he subtly disclosed such a killing method he heard in the gambling house to Wang Gui. Finding such a method brilliant, Wang Gui then decided to unite with Li Si to murder Wang Fu. After all, Wang Gui would not be able to conceal it from Li Si, and Wang Fu’s fat stature also required at least two people to carry this out.
Originally, Li Si was not the one accompanying Wang Fu on that trip, and he was only chosen after he gave laxatives to another servant. Meanwhile, Wang Gui was afraid that the presence of more people meant more eyes that may disrupt the plans, so he had sent his wife and children away. On that day, Wang Fu was actually furious after checking the accounts. However, seeing Wang Gui’s sincere attitude, he did not blame him much. He even deliberately sent Li Si away, hoping they could get closer by drinking and talking together – conveying his expectations that Wang Gui should manage things more properly in the future.
Wang Fu, who was anxious for his good-for-nothing brother, also berated him more than usual with good intentions. However, he did not expect that it would make Wang Gui more resentful and gave him greater intentions to kill him. At that time, Wang Gui then intentionally intoxicated Wang Fu before calling for Li Si. After wrapping Wang Fu in a cotton-padded jacket, they both hung him upside down submerged in gray water, killing him.
After hearing these words, Madam Wu cried bitterly, “You ungrateful and vicious person! Your brother cared so much for you but ended up in such a state! His assets were the results of his hard work and struggles, so no one can say anything if you were not given a part. However, who would expect that giving you the chance to manage the store would cause him to face such retribution. In the end, it is you who is a disappointment, causing a mess at the store. Your brother was afraid that you would lose your family, so he was strict with you. Who knew that it would bring such a fatal disaster to himself! No wonder you have been trying to let your second son take over; everything had already been planned in advance!”
“And you, Li Si! My husband was very kind to you. If it was not for your father’s service, how could you, a shameless loafer, have a job in the cloth shop?! It turned out that you are greedy – greedy enough to swallow an elephant, and thought of such a vicious idea to kill my husband!”
The onlookers, one after another, reproached Wang Gui and Li Si severely. Many of them were people from the Wang family and the workers at the cloth store, who clearly knew how Wang Fu had treated the both of them. At that time, their father was biased towards Wang Gui, giving him many resources, while Wang Fu had nothing. It could then be said that the family properties were earned by Wang Fu himself with great efforts. Later on, when Wang Gui was in dire straits, Wang Fu helped him on the account of their familial ties. Who would have known that he would raise such a white-eyed wolf7 “白眼狼” literally white-eyed wolf is a saying that a person is malicious and vicious.!
Additionally, the servants also hated Li Si deeply. Although DaYou had no slavery and the crime of killing their master was not as severe as that of the previous dynasties, he would still be sentenced to death.
After Zhuang Zhong heard the results of the trial, he quietly left the crowd. At the start, he was very worried, as he could not directly prove that it was the both of them who had killed Wang Fu. If they did not admit it, he feared that the case would not be settled so easily. The system here was also vastly different from the place he was from, so it was no wonder that the governor quickly arranged for a trial after hearing the reason for Wang Fu’s death.
The trials conducted in DaYou were much simpler and crude than those from his previous life. In the case that the suspect could not prove his innocence, he would be found guilty. There was also no need for so much evidence before convicting someone, and refusal to speak would also result in cruel punishment. Although this may result in an unjustly-handled case, at least for this time, Zhuang Zhong felt relieved. In the past, he had experienced such a case before. He knew that the man was the murderer, but due to a lack of evidence, he could only allow the murderer to get away with it. At that time, he really wanted to be turned into spiderman, punishing the evil while promoting the good.
In this line of work, it was also always easy for one to lament the viciousness of human nature. So, every time he finished a case, he would have a drink to relieve the stress, and this time was no exception. After he circled around the area twice, he found a tavern and sat inside.
After ordering some affordable alcohol and nuts, Zhuang Zhong started to drink. He rubbed the Buddhist beads on his wrist while thinking that it would be nice if YuanJue was here. Drinking alone was really lonely.
Suddenly, the alcohol pot in front of Zhuang Zhong was taken away. Looking up, it turned out to be Feng Huan.
Lifting his head, Feng Huan took a swig before frowning immediately, “This alcohol really tastes bad.”
The author has something to say:
PS: This case was adapted from a case in the Qing Dynasty which was later solved in accordance with the drowning principle described in Song Ci’s Collected Cases of Injustice Rectified. However, as mentioned in this story, Song Ci’s theory is not accurate. Such a murder method is also known as “death by submersion8The author used “渍死” which does not have an equivalent English term. As “渍” means to steep/soak while “死” means death, I translated it to “death by submersion”.“. Besides this, there is also another method involving the mixing of lampblack9 Lampblack is the fine soot collected from incompletely burned carbonaceous materials. It is used as a pigment and in matches, explosives, lubricants, and fertilizers., chili powder, feces, kerosene, etc. into the water. As there is the presence of irritants in the water, less water would be taken in, causing a more rapid death. (After typing this sentence, why do I feel that I am teaching others how to kill people = – =, cough, this method can only be used in the transmigrated world as it would only take minutes to solve the case now.)
-Like what I mentioned in the last chapter, I actually had some trouble researching more information regarding the method of pouring hot water on the skull. However, I did find a note in Song Ci’s work that said “sand and mud are sucked into the nose and mouth of a drowning man by his efforts to draw breath, which of course is not the case with a body thrown into the water after death”. So, at least it was hinted slightly that Song Ci had such a theory and Zhuang Zhong’s method was supported to a certain extent. Also, if you all had any evidence or information on how this method works, do share cause I am pretty interested!
-Also, I would like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas (p.s. I am pretty sure for some of you, it is still the 25th)! Have fun and stay safe guys! 🙂
- 1The author used “升堂” which means to hold a court trial. I decided to translate it as what we would usually hear in the English setting which was “the court is now in session” for easier understanding.
- 2The author used “堂威” (tangwei) which is usually the verbal act of shouting ““威武” (weiwu) to show the authority the court has. According to the ancient Chinese judicial system, the authority and sanctity of the law should be conveyed through the rituals of shouting “weiwu”, hitting wooden sticks on the ground and setting up “avoidance” and “keep quiet” signs. In feudal society, these rituals were mainly employed to use shock to train and bind the commoners.
- 3The author used “灰水” which most likely referred to gray water. It was usually described as wastewater generated in households from streams without fecal contamination.
- 4Here, the author used “灰化” which I was unable to find anything about. I am assuming that it was referring to death and the decaying process cause that is the only way that it would make sense.
- 5The author used “青紫” which is known as cyanosis, a bluish hue to the skin, gums, fingernails, or mucous membranes caused by a lack of oxygen in the blood.
- 6The author used “天网恢恢疏而不漏” which essentially means “justice have long arms” (I didn’t translate it as so as I felt that not many would know this saying and that it also seemed unsuitable given the story flow). In summary, it just means that the heavens are fair and that those who committed evil would not be able to escape from justice and punishment.
- 7“白眼狼” literally white-eyed wolf is a saying that a person is malicious and vicious.
- 8The author used “渍死” which does not have an equivalent English term. As “渍” means to steep/soak while “死” means death, I translated it to “death by submersion”.
- 9Lampblack is the fine soot collected from incompletely burned carbonaceous materials. It is used as a pigment and in matches, explosives, lubricants, and fertilizers.