Chapter 110 - An Apology
“I plead guilty, I plead guilty! It’s all my fault, I should die! I hit Yu Hang when I was drunk and I was afraid of the consequences, so I made it sound like he had stolen money from me instead! Heavens, please forgive me, ah, please forgive me!” Zhang Dongming had been scared out of his wits . He held his head in his hands as he knelt on the ground crying for forgiveness like a broken record .
Zhang Dongming actually had a good business acumen . Otherwise, the rich and noble people from the capital wouldn’t bother coming to a backwards place like Tanggu Town to commission furniture . However, this man was not only miserly but he also had a fatal character flaw: he loved alcohol . In addition, his ability to handle alcohol was very poor . Every time he came across wine he had to drink it until he was drunk, and when he was drunk, he was given to violent tendencies .
Towards the people around him, especially the apprentices who came from poor and impoverished families, he would either beat them up with his fists or find some other way to torment them to satisfy his violent cravings . Thus, most of the apprentices at his store didn’t end up staying long as they all tried to find any method they could to leave . As for those who had no options, they could only be like Yu Hang, silently enduring until they lost their lives to him .
Out of all of the apprentices, Yu Hang was considered to be one of the people who had lasted the longest time . He was naturally diligent and cautious when he worked, so the main teacher of the shop took better care of him . Thus, Shopkeeper Zhang had fewer opportunities to make him his punching bag .
Unfortunately, Shopkeeper Zhang was like a rabid dog when he was drunk and didn’t differentiate between innocent and guilty people before he bit them . In fact, in his drunken stupor, he didn’t have any qualms causing the head craftsman trouble . Every time he was drunk, the apprentices in the store were out of luck, and Yu Hang often couldn’t escape the fate of being hit by Shopkeeper Zhang .
This time, the head craftsman had left to purchase some lumber and took one of the tall and strong apprentices to help . He left Yu Hang in the back courtyard to practice carving and shaving wood——the head craftsman had noticed that Yu Hang was hardworking and clever, so out of the kindness of his heart towards this apprentice, he wanted to transfer some woodworking techniques to him .
Yu Hang had been practicing his skills diligently and didn’t expect calamity to suddenly fall upon him . Shopkeeper Zhang had been invited to drink alcohol with some people, and, when he staggered back to the shop, he headed straight towards the back court to satisfy his drunken urge to beat someone . Yu Hang had turned into his victim . Not only did he beat the child with his fists from head to toe, but the drunken man also picked up every piece of spare lumber there was around and hurled them at Yu Hang’s tiny and weak little body . The boy tried to shield himself but in the end he spat up blood and stopped moving . . .
This wasn’t the first time he had accidentally killed an apprentice . In fact, Shopkeeper Zhang never cared about the lives of his students who had come from powerless, destitute families . After killing them, he’d carelessly throw their corpses into a common grave and let the feral dogs drag their bodies away . Once he got rid of any clues or evidence pointing towards him, he would then make a false countercharge . Shopkeeper Zhang would bring his partner along to visit the dead apprentice’s family and then accuse the apprentice of stealing something from the store and running off . Then, the timid family members would even have to kowtow to him and ask for forgiveness .
Shopkeeper Zhang had a vague idea what Yu Hang’s family situation was like . He was the son of an ordinary, poor fishing family that had relied on fishing for generations . Yu Hang had no background and no status, so even if he accidentally killed the boy, what was the worst that could happen? However, who would have thought that the Yu youngster had a little brother who was studying at Rongxuan Academy and that he would be on break and want to visit his brother today? Thus, his crime had been exposed prematurely .
In actuality, being exposed wasn’t really a big deal either . All he needed to do was make up something that made it Yu Hang’s fault and send his poor, trash family away . After all, weren’t impoverished fishermen, who were on the bottom of the social ladder, all cowardly and timid? Why was there a silly girl who managed to lead him by the nose and make him make a vow to the heavens? Usually making a heavenly oath meant nothing, but why did the heavens act today and send lightning to punish him . . .
In order to fix the problem now, his only choice was to kneel on the ground and ask the heavens for mercy and forgiveness! Zhang Dongming repeatedly knocked his forehead on the ground and the sound of his head tapping on the ground echoed . When he lifted his head, people could see a purple mark forming on his face, “I was wrong, I admit my guilt! I am willing to pay for all of Yu Hang’s medical fees! If, on the off hand, things get worse, then I will take charge of all of his funeral expenses!”
“Pah! Surnamed Zhang, stop cursing my older brother!! Is being well off really that great? You should know, everything that people do here on earth is seen by the Heavens!! If you sin too much, don’t be surprised when the Heavens decide to punish you!!” When the lightning had struck, Yu Xiaocao had been shielded behind her father . Now, without the slightest bit of fear on her face, she walked forward a step with the flash of lightning behind her . It made her seem as if she was a child sent by the Heavens .
Yu Yunxi had been standing for a long time in the midst of the crowd . He serenely watched the slightly-built, fearless girl in the middle who had a cold expression on her face . A faint sense of respect for her rose in his heart along with another indescribable feeling .
Although Shopkeeper Zhang wanted to refute the little girl in front of him in his heart, he continued to kowtow to the heavens and admit his wrongs . As he apologized and repented, the dense lightning in the skies slowly dissipated and the thick, dark clouds in the sky gradually disappeared .
After witnessing this phenomenon, the townspeople of Tanggu Town soon had a saying based on this event, ‘If you do bad things you’ll get punished by lightning’ .
Yu Hang, who had been diagnosed as a hopeless case by the doctor from Tongren Medicine Hall, slowly opened his eyes after the black clouds scattered . With a very weak voice, he called out at Liu Muyun, who had been sobbing endlessly, “Mother…”
The people surrounding them all commented one after another, “The Heavens have eyes! The gods have not only punished the evil person but also saved Yu Hang’s life…”
“Are you awake, Xiaosha? What part of you feels uncomfortable?” Yu Hai softly asked his weak son as he supported his wife who was crying tears of joy .
Yu Hang barely managed to squeeze out a placating smile on his supernaturally thin face and replied with great difficulty, “Father, Mother! I’m okay, I’m sorry for making you two worry…”
“It’s all my fault, it’s all my fault! If I had made you come back earlier, then you wouldn’t have encountered such a bad fate…” Madam Liu had cried so hard that her eyes had swollen up until she almost couldn’t open them . After the crazy rollercoaster events of the day, she felt physically and emotionally exhausted .
Yu Xiaocao noticed that her older brother was struggling in an effort to sit up and hastily stopped him, “Older Brother, you broke three of your ribs! Doctor Sun had just done his best to bandage you up, but you’re absolutely not allowed to flail around!” Mother, it’s a good thing that Older Brother has woken up, so stop crying . Your body is not very healthy, so if you keep crying, it’ll make Older Brother very worried for you . ”
“Older Brother, let’s go home! Father and Shitou will protect you, so there will be no other bad people who can bully you!!” Little Shitou’s eyes had turned as red as a rabbit’s eyes . He slightly sobbed as he tried to comfort Yu Hang . Yu Hang did his best to smile back at him .
However, Yu Xiaocao had turned around to face Shopkeeper Zhang, who was picking himself up from the ground, “Shopkeeper Zhang, we’re going to take my older brother back home . Do you have any problems with that?”
“Ah…usually, if the apprentice leaves the store before finishing their training, a penalty fee needs to be paid…” Shopkeeper Zhang secretly shot a glance at the dark clouds near the horizon as he stood up with great effort . He barely managed to steady his weak legs as he patted himself on the chest .
When Third Young Master Zhou heard the news, he had hurriedly rushed over from the docks . He dismounted from his horse when he got there and broke through the crowd . He came just in time to hear Shopkeeper Zhang’s shameless comment, so he coldly snorted and said, “Surnamed Zhang! We haven’t even settled your debt from injuring someone, so how do you have the face to ask for a penalty fee?! How about this, let’s go to the county magistrate’s office and settle things there?”
Everyone in town knew that Zhenxiu Restaurant’s business had been roaring hot . After all, there was a three month wait to reserve a private room there . In addition, with the imperial merchant Zhou Family behind the young master, how could Shopkeeper Zhang not know the status of this youth in front of him?
“Third Young Master Zhou, what sort of relationship do you have with Yu Hang?” From Zhang Dongming’s perspective, one was the son of a prosperous, rich family, and the other was the son of a poor fisherman . There was not much in common between the two . However, judging from the tone of Third Young Master Zhou’s voice, why did it sound like he was on the side of the Yu Family?
Zhou Zixu casually brushed off some dust from his clothes as he inquired about Yu Hang’s current condition . In addition, he learned the whole story of what had happened, including all of the details . Only then did he slant a sidelong glance at Shopkeeper Zhang, who he had coldly ignored the whole time . He stated solemnly, “This young girl, Miss Yu, is someone I consider to be my younger sister! Whoever wants to bully my younger sister is telling me that they don’t want to have a good relationship with me, Third Young Master Zhou!”
Yu Xiaocao rolled her eyes inwardly, ‘Surnamed Zhou ah, when did this girl become your younger sister? At most, we are only a couple of business associates, okay?’
Zhou Zixu seemed to be able to sense her inner thoughts and turned around to look at her reassuringly before he turned back to faintly smile at Shopkeeper Zhang . For a split second, it seemed like the small and frail looking figure of a young man had suddenly become tall and lofty .
In order for Shopkeeper Zhang to be able to conduct business as easily as a fish swimming in water, he naturally had a good sense of who he could offend and who he had treat carefully . Although Third Young Master Zhou was young in age, the patriarch of the Zhou Family regarded him highly . It was obvious that this young man’s future would be bright in the future .
Furthermore, Third Young Master Zhou had a close relationship with the son of County Magistrate Wu, and he was in the wrong in this situation . If they really did bring this to the county magistrate’s office, Shopkeeper Zhang was afraid that the one who would lose would still be him . . .
Zhang Dongming immediately showed off his acting skills by ‘changing expressions to fit the situation’ . A large smile crossed his face as he said cloyingly, “I really didn’t have the eyes to tell the difference between trash and treasure . Since Third Young Master Zhou is helping us settle our differences, this dumb one will return the apprenticeship contract back to the Yu Family in consideration for Third Young Master Zhou’s reputation…”
After seeing the extent of Yu Hang’s injuries, Third Young Master Zhou was angered and aggrieved at how vicious Shopkeeper Zhang was to the young boy . He cut off Shopkeeper Zhang’s flattery short and frostily replied, “Shopkeeper Zhang, there is no need to do this out of concern for my reputation . We can find out who is truly at fault at the magistrate’s office! Simo, please go to the county magistrate’s office to report a case, tell them that the Zhang Ji Carpentry Shop’s shopkeeper had seriously hurt someone while drunk…”
“Wait a moment, wait a moment!” Although it was a chilly spring day, Shopkeeper Zhang suddenly felt cold sweat dripping down his bruised forehead . He immediately bowed deeply and repeatedly pleaded, “Young Master Zhou, tell me what needs to be done and this lowly one will immediately obey!”
Third Young Master Zhou glanced back at the silent and taciturn Xiaocao and quietly asked, “Xiaocao, how do you want to handle this Shopkeeper Zhang…”
“Shopkeeper Zhang violently beat up my older brother and caused injuries serious enough that he almost died . In addition, he also caused severe psychological damage to him . We’ll waive the psychological fees . As for the fees for medications, nursing, disability, and nutrition . . . he needs to pay for all of these to repent for his mistake . Furthermore, Shopkeeper Zhang falsely accused my older brother of stealing from him and damaged his reputation . He must sincerely apologize to my brother in front of everyone here!”
Zhou Zixu watched as the tiny figure in front of him, with her hands clasped behind her back, pretended to have the demeanor of an adult . Everything she said had made sense, and it only made him feel that she was an adorable little girl . He couldn’t help but soften his gaze towards her and reveal a warm and gentle smile on his face .
“Did you hear all of that? Medication fees, nursing costs . . . all of it . Given our status as fellow townspeople, I’ll cut a deal with you . Pay out a hundred taels as a courtesy okay? That won’t be considered too expensive, right?” Third Young Master Zhou was as gentle as a spring day towards his friends, but towards his enemies, he was as severe and ruthless as the cold winter day .
Originally he had wanted to extort the man for around three hundred to five hundred taels, but he was afraid that Xiaocao and her family would then be slandered as blackmailers . So he modified his request to a more reasonable one hundred taels as compensation for Yu Hang’s injuries .
Shopkeeper Zhang obviously couldn’t say anything at this point . His heart dripped blood at the thought of the terms but he still kept a smile on his face as he nodded furiously, “Not too much, not too much! Young Master Zhou’s terms are very fair, very very fair!”
Third Young Master Zhou took the banknote worth a hundred taels from Shopkeeper Zhang’s hands and then turned to face Yu Hang, who was lying in the donkey cart . He hinted, “The compensation has been paid in full, so quickly apologize now! We still need to go back to the medicine hall to check on his condition again!”
Shopkeeper Zhang really didn’t want to apologize to his poor and humble apprentice . However, if he didn’t do it, it was likely that he’d be brought to the county magistrate's office——in that case, then he’d really lose his face and reputation . After considering the facts, he decided to assume an air of sincerity and figuratively pinched his nose as he apologized to Yu Hang .