“I am here today, not for me, but for my husband and for the two young children in my family!” Shao Yunan’s words were unexpected, because everyone thought he had come to seek justice for himself.
“My husband is the eldest son of the family, but was forced to leave for mandatory labor within two months of his marriage and he was gone for two years. Today, I’m going to risk my unfilial life to seek justice for my husband and for his two poor children. My mother-in-law took 50 taels of silver to buy the life of her youngest son, but she could not afford to let her eldest son, who was newly married to accompany his pregnant wife. After two years of mandatory labor my husband came back sick and wounded but in less than two years he was sent to military service again.”
“According to the law of our dynasty, those who already served for more than one year are exempted from military service, but my mother-in-law forced my husband to join the army for her second son’s sake. She even went to the Yamen and lied about my husband’s willingness to join the army. It was not until the Yamen sent someone to take my husband away, that he learned that his own mother could not bear the suffering of her second son, but refused to spend more money, so she pushed him out of the house again.”
“This time he was away for three years. During these three years my husband’s ex-wife left home because she couldn’t stand the abuse of her mother-in-law and siblings, while my husband lost an eye and half of his face. But within two days of his return, he was forced by his mother to get married again to clean up his younger brother’s mess. My husband could not stand it anymore and proposed separation from his family for his contest of this marriage. Afterwards his mother signed the deed of separation in front of the clan patriarch and other village patriarchs. But I had just entered his house for two days when my mother-in-law started forcing my husband to divorce me, because my husband refused to hand over my dowry which angered his mother. For me, my husband wrote down the deed of separation again and returned all the proceeds from the separation, including every grain of rice or bundle of firewood, in exchange for his freedom to stay with me.”
Shao Yunan felt shameless when he said this.
“However, this deed was invalid. My husband was left without a roof over his head, so he now lives in a house borrowed from kind hearted villagers, so my family is really in need. I had no choice but to sell the three stones that my husband gave me on the day of our wedding. Fortunately the owner of the Butterfly Pavilion took a fancy to them and paid for them. But as a result, when my mother-in-law learned about it, she came with my second brother and sister-in-law to ask for them, saying that the stones were my husband’s belongings before separation and had to be returned to the family. She also wanted to open the ancestral hall and convict my husband of unfiliality.”
“I would like to ask this child student of my husband’s family… When your elder brother was treated like this by his family, where were the virtuous books you read? When your sister-in-law was bullied by your brother and sister-in-law, where were the virtuous books you read? When your young nephew had to get up before dawn to cook for your family, where were the virtuous books you read? When your niece who was only 2 or 3 years old had to do the laundry for your family in the winter, where were the virtuous books you read? Where were the virtuous books you read when your young niece and nephew didn’t have enough to eat or wear, while you had fish and meat to eat?!”
“Where were the virtuous books you read when you pushed the marriage you didn’t want on your elder brother? Where were the virtuous books you read when you hid in the county town, meeting with your classmates when your elder brother got married? When your family asked your elder brother for money on the grounds that you needed it for study, where were the virtuous books you read? When your family threatened the head of the village and the patriarch of the clan to force your elder brother to leave the house because of your capacity as a child student, don’t tell me you weren’t at home and didn’t even know about it!”
“In my opinion the virtuous books you read were completely wasted on you! Don’t say that your parents’ orders can’t be disobeyed and filial piety is more important than heaven! You have attended reading lessons since the age of five and private school since the age of 8, so you have been here for ten years. Do you really not know that the treatment your eldest brother received was wrong and so was bullying your niece and nephew? Don’t you know that it is unkind and unjust to push your unwanted marriage to your brother? Don’t you also know that you should at least be present for your elder brother’s wedding?”
“You are just a child student, but you are so indifferent, heartless, and totally ignore the feelings of brotherly love by letting your family do what they do. As long as you persuade and discipline a little and set an example to respect your brother and sister-in-law, treat your nephew and niece well, your nephew and niece wouldn’t be motherless since they were young. How could you be so cold towards your eldest brother?”
“If a man like you really passes the exam and becomes a government official, how can you treat the people well and think for their sake? You would definitely become a corrupt official who is unkind to the people! You had a full decade to remedy your mistakes, but as result you only became worse! Why does your family dare to disregard the laws of the court and the deed of separation? Why do you dare to force the patriarch to open the ancestral hall? Isn’t it because you are a child student and they believe that you have a future as a scholar? If all the scholars were like you, what hope would there be for our dynasty?”
“It is the fourth day since I married your elder brother. So Wang Zhisong, I ask you, do you recognize me?”
The whole audience was shocked. As a new child student this year, Wang Zhisong was recognized by everyone. Shao Yunan’s last bomb fell and everyone’s eyes were fixed on the panicked Wang Zhisong, as everyone around him quickly backed away. In an instant Wang Zhisong’s surroundings were empty. The county magistrate and the Dean’s face were set in stone, while the two teachers wrinkled their browns in cold expressions. At this time, all four people looked at Wang Zhisong and the Dean even shook his head.
Shao Yunan took a few steps to Wang Zhisong, whose face was pale and trembling, and asked loudly, “Wang Zhisong! My brother-in-law, do you or do you not recognize me?”
Wang Zhisong was usually arrogant, but he was after all only a 15-year-old boy who had not yet seen much of the world. In the village everyone praised him. At home everyone spoiled him, so how could he cope with such a scene? Shao Yunan’s previous words have already made him panic, but now in the face of Shao Yunan’s questioning, he was not able to respond and was very confused.
Shao Yunan saw Wang Shijing at this time. Wang Shijing’s height also made him stand out here. He also saw Wang Shijing’s expression and for a moment, his heart was aching. Shao Yunan walked towards Wang Shijing step by step. The county magistrate, Dean, and the two teachers all followed his movement and noticed a few people that looked out of the place. Especially the tall man with a black eye patch and half of his face destroyed. The county magistrate stood up, so the Dean and the two teachers also stood up immediately, all of them turning in the same direction.
People along the way voluntarily made way for Shao Yunan. Without any sound, Shao Yunan walked up to Wang Shijing and grabbed his fist, breaking open his fingers before holding his hand, then he titled his head. “Wang Shijing, your parents don’t love you; your brothers bully you. In the future, I will love you and little Qing and Nizi will be yours and my children.”
Wang Shijing forcefully hugged Shao Yunan with his empty hand, his voice hoarse. “Wife, I have made you suffer.”
Letting go of Wang Shijing’s hand, Shao Yunan vigorously embraced him with both hands. He embraced a man who suffered too much in his life. At this moment, Shao Yunan had no other thought in his head except just wanting to hug this man.
“Your Excellency, do you think this family affair can be concluded?” Everyone looked at the two people who were embracing each other, almost sighing so they made some noise.
As soon as the Dean spoke, Shao Yunan broke free from Wang Shijing’s arms and walked towards them, still holding Wang Shijing’s hand. Wang Shijing was about to kneel and salute the county magistrate, afraid that the county magistrate would want to punish Shao Yunan. But the county magistrate just reached out to stop him and said gently, “Your wife asked for justice for you, but the official still doesn’t know your name.”
Wang Shijing looked at Shao Yunan first before replying, “I am Wang Shijing. My wife’s surname is Shao and his name is Yunan. He did it for me, so please don’t blame him for going to the county school. All reprimands and punishments should be borne by me alone.” The county magistrate waved his hand and smiled lightly, “This is the county school, so you need to ask the Dean if he wants to reprimand you.”
Edited by: Jaisland