Liu Shi asked Fan Xian, "What ended up happening at the restaurant?"
"I broke the nose of one of their guards." Fan Xian blamed himself.
"Were you alright?"
"How could I not be alright? All the guests there saw that I’m the type of person who refuses to be put down by others."
Liu Shi signed. She turned to the official and said, "Hear that? Those that harbor vengeance always tend to get taken advantage of. Our Young Master was the one taking advantage; how could he still hold any malice?"
The official had come to court to listen to the attorney spew some nonsense. He wasn’t expecting anyone to show up in court and defend themselves. The situation left the official helpless. Liu Shi emotionlessly signaled with one finger, and the official found himself with coins in his hand. His eyes shone at the sight of money.
Liu Shi then resumed the dignity of a countess and said, "We shall go to the court. Might as well go see what the Guo household is playing at. But not right now. Go back and tell Sir Mei that when that Master Guo decides to go to court, we will meet him there."
The official thought this went against the rules. He had come here to apprehend an offender; how could he receive money and go back instead? As he was about to speak, he was stopped by the little one, so he answered "Yes" and left Fan Manor.
Having finally attained peace and quiet, only Liu Shi and Fan Xian remained in the reception pavilion. Fan Xian watched Liu Shi and smiled, thinking how great it would be if she wasn’t his enemy. Having seen the way she handled things, he couldn’t help but be impressed. The Guo household attacked while father wasn’t home, and yet Liu Shi managed to neatly take care of everything. Not losing face was one thing. More importantly, she had bought valuable time.
Taking a sip of her tea, Liu Shi asked, "Why did you decide to make such a scene?"
Fan Xian grinned. "Father hoped I would quickly make myself known in the capital. Stuff like writing poetry is boring. If I could settle a court case with the Guo household, my name is sure to spread much faster." Of course, he was joking.
"I don’t care if you gave him a beating, but why did you fully expose yourself? As if there wasn’t enough trouble in your life already." There was a hint of anger in Liu Shi’s words.
Fan Xian replied respectfully, "I only wanted to get even. How could I have done that if I didn’t reveal my identity?"
Looking at him, Liu Shi felt this handsome young man was much more capable than her own son. Even though he would still occasionally do some uncivilized things like this, both his demeanor and the way he carried himself showed that he knew what he was doing. Liu Shi couldn’t help but feel a sense of loss and sighed.
Fan Xian didn’t know what she was thinking, and asked with a curious smile, "Why did you help me?"
Liu Shi slowly raised her head; the areas around her eyes were slightly wrinkled. As if surprised by the youth’s direct question, she only spoke after giving it some thought. "Although my family name is Liu, I’m still a member of the Fan family."
Fan Xian stared into her eyes, knowing he must believe this woman. He didn’t believe her entirely, but he also didn’t know how to properly respond.
It was so quiet in the reception pavilion, one could hear the drop of a needle.
"Sir Mei is my father’s head disciple. I’ve already dispatched someone to get the letter. Your father should have gotten notice already. I don’t think anything will happen; in the worst-case scenario, compensate them with some silver." Liu Shi closed her eyes, seemingly fatigued. "This afternoon, go to the capital building with the housekeeper. Teng Zijing was with you last night. He doesn’t need to come along today. That way we can avoid putting up too much of a front."
Intrigued, Fan Xian looked at Liu Shi’s still-beautiful face; he didn’t understand why such a capable woman with such a background would agree to be his father’s second wife.
At noon, everything was ready at the Fan manor. The location had been set, and the path was already determined. After making sure Guo Baokun had already been carried to the courthouse, Liu Shi half-heartedly prepared a carriage and some servants. Fan Xian marched out like a victorious general.
In the carriage, Fan Xian didn’t care too much about this trip. He really did beat Guo Baokun out of vengeance; he had wanted to do it the first time Guo Baokun looked at him wrong. Being humiliated at the poetry gathering further fueled his hatred. However, this was his first time in the capital, and while he kept a few tricks up his sleeve, he still wasn’t sure if he could handle all this.
Even so, he had still wanted to do it. Beating up Guo Baokun was merely the means; more importantly, he wanted to see what the consequences would be. Fan Xian had beaten Guo Baokun for three reasons. First, he wanted to see exactly how much power his father held over the government circles—his father had always hidden such details from him, and asking directly would certainly not get him the answer he wanted. Now his greatest question could finally be answered. Secondly, he wanted to dirty his reputation just a little bit. No matter what, he would play out the role of a ruthless son to the fullest. Fan Xian did hope that would happen, for he had been carefully controlling the palace’s opinion of him,just as his father requested—to show his learned side while being notorious at the same time, making the palace consider voiding the marriage. It was all for Miss Drumstick.
The third reason was simple enough: Guo Baokun really deserved a beating.
Once he arrived at the courthouse gates, Fan Xian was in for a shock. Outside the red wooden fence was an excited crowd. Only with a few servants clearing the way did Fan Xian manage to squeeze by. Standing on the stone floor, he stared at the wall behind the official’s desk, which was painted with a mural of a red sunrise over the east sea. On both sides stood wooden staves used for punishment. Deep down Fan Xian thought, "Nice!" It reminded him of Beijing Municipal High People’s Court. Apparently, this trip was worth it.
Turning around, Fan Xian discovered the crowd outside was even more excited, for the spectators all tried to find the best spot by squeezing forward. A few "professionals" almost sat on the red fence.
Fan Xian asked Liu Shi about his attorney, Zheng Ta. This Mister Zheng was once a very famous secretary of jurisprudence around the southern regions. Even today, in the capital, he still had very friendly connections. Liu Shi was correct in choosing him.
"People in the capital tend to be bold," Zheng Ta explained with a smile. "They may appear to be some poor peasant, but they could turn out to be some distant relative of the royalty, so no one is afraid of each other. Today’s case… a lawsuit between a high official and a minister is truly rare. No one wants to miss out on such a spectacle."
Fan Xian thought, "Did you guys come here to watch a blockbuster?" The thought gave him a slight headache, so he shook his head. Zheng Ta said quietly, "Young Master, while we’ve talked back in the manor, I am going to ask one last time: were you responsible for this incident? Of course you wouldn’t admit it in front of the magistrate, but you should be honest with me here so I know what to say later."
"Mister Zhang, I didn’t lie to you," Fan Xian said with a face full of sincerity. "I truly did not attack Guo Baokun." Seeing the youth’s handsome face full of honesty, Zhang Ta chuckled and patted him on the shoulder in appreciation.
After a while, the call to begin the case could finally be heard. Magistrate Mei Zheli came out from the back hall and sat down, full of swagger. A while later, a "mummy" rolled out on a wheelchair, followed by an attorney who gently fanned him. Seeing the mummy, Fan Xian couldn’t help but laugh. He hadn’t hit Guo Baokun that hard; apparently a proper household would also play such tricks to receive pity.
Of course, this mummy was none other than Guo Baokun, who was beaten to a pulp. He was currently in great pain, especially his nose. Treatments from the doctors didn’t help much. Unbeknownst to him, Fan Xian had put some neigong into that punch; Fan Xian’s zhenqi was already unusual in this world. Being so overpowering, the injury it caused couldn’t be healed in such short period of time.
Seeing Fan Xian standing so nonchalantly, rage seeped out of Guo Baokun’s eyes from behind his bandages, as if wanting to eat Fan Xian alive. Fan Xian pretended not to notice and looked instead at the attorney holding the fan. He asked Zhang Ta and learned the other attorney was the great barrister Song Shiren. He was very famous in the capital; his conduct had always been questionable. He only worked for officials, which earned him the nickname "rich mouth".
Seated high up, Magistrate Mei Zheli slammed down the wooden block on his desk with a crisp smack. The noisy scene outside the courthouse became quiet for the moment; the spectators on the red fence didn’t make a single sound. After all, no one wanted to miss out on this.
"Who has come to court?" Mei Zheli asked slowly. He already knew about the two parties beforehand, but he still needed to carry out the necessary formalities. With great authority, he scanned the people before him.
Regardless of who you are, here in the capital’s courthouse, you have to listen to me.