Author: Su Youbing
Translator: xallisonjanex, chiangyushien
“Why do you say such things, Litigator Jiang!?” Wang Pengcheng’s litigator immediately jumped out and said, “Wang Pengcheng’s mother has been widowed for more than ten years. Wang Pengcheng is her son, has she ever been short of food and clothing?”
“Is being good at serving one’s parents only limited to not lacking clothes and food?” Mrs. Liao’s litigator said, “I heard Wang Pengcheng kept pet birds, which have never been short of anything, too. Don’t tell me that the principle of being filial to one’s parents is actually no different from giving to such creatures?”
Wang Pengcheng’s litigator called out: “Not being short on food and clothing is only one principle amongst them. Being filial to one’s parents is naturally much more than that.”
Mrs. Liao’s litigator cupped one hand in the other before his chest and said: “I’d like to hear that in detail.”
Wang Pengcheng’s litigator seemed to have noticed that he lost his calm and had fallen into the mediocre level . Because of this, he quickly adjusted his frame of mind, and said: “How do you enact filial piety? Confucius said: ‘Observe a man’s ambition during his father’s lifetime; observe a man’s behavior after his father’s death. If a man hasn’t changed his eagerness to his father’s way, he can be called filial.’ As we all know, Wang Pengcheng is a son who has carried on his father’s legacy and he manages their textile business in perfect order, which has been well-known in Tan Yang County for more than ten years. Whether this is filial piety or not, everyone can be a witness.”
( “落了下乘” means “fall into the mediocre level.” This refers to mediocre understanding of Buddhism. However, this phrase can be borrowed to describe ‘being mediocre’ in other fields.)
Mrs. Liao’s litigator responded: “Filial piety is being good at serving one’s parents. With regard to Wang Pencheng not changing his stance toward being a dutiful son, it is only aimed at his father. Where is his filial piety toward his mother?”
Wang Pengcheng’s litigator responded: “You keep on insinuating that he is unfilial, might I ask you, when was Wang Pengcheng unfilial?”
After listening muddle-headedly and ignorantly for so long, Tao Mo finally heard the key points from them and could not help but be shaken by this.
“Disobedience!” Mrs. Liao’s litigator spat out the word coldly.
Wang Pengcheng was somewhat uneasy as he knelt continuously, then he quietly took a glance at Mrs. Liao.
Mrs. Liao seemed a little uneasy too, then he secretly took a glance at her litigator.
The litigator was observing his opponent’s reaction.
And the opponent…
…was looking at the new county magistrate.
Tao Mo squeezed the gavel in his hand, and slowly moved it to his chest.
At the moment, most people’s eyes were on him.
Even Secretary Jin, who watched the whole thing passively, could not help but feel nervous.
So are you going to strike it or not?
Their eyes were fixed firmly on Tao Mo’s hand that was holding the gavel.
“How exactly did he disobey?” Tao Mo felt the gavel with his hand and asked.
When everyone saw that he did not intend to strike the gavel, they withdrew their eyes. Somehow, they were all disappointed.
Mrs. Liao’s litigator collected his thoughts and responded: “There are three unfilial acts: following one’s parents faults and never pointing them out is the first one; failure to provide for one’s parents when they are old and impoverished is the second one; and having no posterity is the third one. Amongst these three acts, having no son is the worst. Wang Pengcheng lived as a widower for many years, and did not think of remarrying after the death of his wife to preserve the future of the Wangs. On top of that, he often defied his own mother. It is said in the Book of Rites: ‘A filial son, in nourishing his aged, seeks to make their hearts glad.’ It is thus clear that benevolence to one’s parents is empathically not limited to looking after them in their old age, but to comply with their wishes as well, so that they will not have to worry about being unable to swallow their foods and being uneasy in their sleep in their remaining years.”
Wang Pengcheng looked ashamed.
Wang Pengcheng’s litigator was about to speak, yet he heard Tao Mo’s heartfelt words: “Being able to listen to your mother’s voice is such a blessing.”
Most of the people did not know what was the reason behind his thoughts and feelings. When Mrs. Liao’s litigator saw that he had the advantage in this case, he conveniently said: “If that is the case, Your Excellency, please pass the verdict that Wang Pengcheng has lost this case.”
“Pass the verdict that he lost this case?”
Wang Pengcheng’s litigator hurriedly said: “No, you mustn’t. I still have more to say.”
“You don’t have to say more.” Tao Mo waved his hand and added, “Although I don’t quite understand what all of you are talking about, I’m aware that disobedience to one’s parents is wrong and having no male heir is even worse. Therefore, in accordance to this, this official has decided…”
Mrs. Liao’s litigator looked happy.
“…to sentence Wang Pengcheng to be punished with thirty flogs!” Tao Mo stated.
The whole court was solemnly quiet.
No one spoke and Mrs. Liao and Wang Pengcheng were dumbfounded. Even the two litigants were also dumbfounded. In this kind of case, rather than saying that they would sue the other party, it would be better to say that they were debating about what was right or wrong. In the past, if one loses in this kind of case, they would only be fined with a certain amount of money, either overtly or covertly. This was the money for the county magistrate’s hard work in trying the case. In Tan Yang County, where litigators gathered, and the court was regarded as their backyard, it was common to go to court for such trivial matters. However, they had never heard of anyone being beaten as ordered by the county magistrate.
Secretary Jin finally reacted. After he saw Tao Mo foolishly looking at the courtroom, seemingly awaiting for someone to carry out his sentence, Secretary Jin quickly coughed and pointed out: “The red head marker.” Since he was the secretary, it was natural for him to do his best to enact the duty of a secretary. It was just about that he was willing to worry about, but not the desires of this ‘one ladle of water in the three-thousand-li-long Ruo River’ person.
Tao Mo seemed to have been flustered when he grabbed and threw a red head marker on the ground.
The court servant eagerly stepped forward, pushed Wang Pengcheng down, and raised his wooden cane to flog Wang Pengcheng.
This could actually be a source of profit for a court servant.
As long as their beating was not severe, the defendant, who was unluckily beaten after losing the case, would know that the court servant had made some allowances for them. Afterwards, they would definitely send some silver to thank the servant. This was the usual practice. However, the court servants did not expect that the new official, who had just assumed office, would give them some benefits. Tao Mo kindly allowed them to celebrate the New Year comfortably.
In Tan Yang County, Wang Pencheng could be considered as a prestigious figure with many evil deeds. It would be a loss if they would not beat him up.
Wang Pengcheng had some troubles in the first two strikes, and cried out of pain in the third.
As soon as Mrs. Liao saw this, her tears fell down like pearls, and pierced through her heart. However, when she realized that she could not stop the court servant, she had no better option but to kneel and beg to Tao Mo, crying out: “This woman is shallow. Your Excellency, please don’t grant my dispute, let my son go! From now on, I won’t dare taking him to court again!”
How could Tao Mo withstand her tears? He hurriedly waved his hand and said: Enough hitting, enough hitting.”
The court servant stopped, although he still wished to continue.
Mrs. Liao miserably shrieked and threw herself to Wang Pengcheng.
Of course, Wang Pengcheng was a bit hurt from the beating, but when his mother bumped against his wounds, the wounds on his body suddenly burned fiercely, his eyes turned white, and he almost fainted.
Regardless of their sides, the two litigators asked Mrs. Liao to loosen up her grasp, so that Wang Pengcheng could breathe properly.
Tao Mo said to Wang Pengcheng: “Look at how much your mother loves you.”
Wang Pengcheng’s eyes turned white.
The two litigators looked at each other in dismay and made a tacit agreement. They cupped one of their hands in the other before their chests and said, “Your Excellency, please conclude the case quickly.”
Tao Mo looked at Secretary Jin.
After all, Secretary Jin was a veteran. He wrote down the case and had the litigators look over it.
After the litigants looked over Secretary Jin’s notes, they were very pleased with the compliments that it contained about the mother and son’s deep affection for one another.
And so, this case was settled thanks to a single cane.
While Wang Pengcheng was being assisted in getting up and walk, Tao Mo followed after him from behind and warned: “In the future, you must be more filial to your mother and listen to her.”
After that, Wang Pengcheng was quickly dragged away.
Tao Mo could not follow after him anymore, so he could only turn around awkwardly and it was just in time when Old Tao and Hao Guozi walked out.
Hao Guozi rushed over and said: “Young Master, you’re really awesome!”
Old Tao did not look very proud. He looked at Secretary Jin with special profound meaning.
Secretary Jin stood up and gave Tao Mo a thumbs up: “Master, even if this is your first time trying a case, you actually came up with such a surprising move. You’re really admirable.”
Tao Mo replied: “I just want him to keep this lesson in mind.”
Secretary Jin nodded, then said: “That’s true. Such trivial matters shouldn’t be brought to court. Master, you’re clever to use the ‘killing the chicken to warn the monkey’ trick skillfully. I don’t think anybody would dare doing this again.”
Tao Mo was at loss, “What’s killing the chicken to warn the monkey?”
Secretary Jin gave Tao Mo a tacit understanding look and quietly asked to be excused.
When Old Tao noticed that Tao Mo was confused, he explained: “Young Master, Secretary Jin thought that you deliberately had Wang Pengcheng flogged to prevent the commoners in the county from taking such trivial matters to court once again.”
Tao Mo shook his head and said: “That’s not what I meant. The moment I heard that Wang Pengcheng was unfilial, it‘s as if I saw my former self and couldn’t help but want to beat myself thoroughly.”
In other words, Wang Pengcheng became a substitute for Tao Mo’s desire to beat himself?
Wonder what Wang Pengcheng would think if he finds out the truth.
Old Tao and Hao Guozi looked at each other and they both thought that it was better to keep this as a secret.
Old Tao meaningfully said, “Young Master, this matter shouldn’t be made known to others.”
Tao Mo subconsciously asked: “Why?”
Old Tao replied: “Young Master, I fear that if this matter about you and the Old Master will be found out by others who uses their heads, there‘ll be a commotion.”
Tao Mo sadly nodded.
Old Tao felt at ease and said: “Young Master, you must be tired after sitting in the court for so long. It’s better for you to go back and have a rest.”
“All right.” Tao Mo tugged Hao Guozi’s sleeve, “Come on.”
Of course, Tao Mo called for Hao Guozi because of Gu She.
However, Hao Guozi was full of complaints regarding Gu She.
“Have you seen Gu She?” Tao Mo looked at him expectantly.
Hao Guozi shook his head and said: “No.”
“Huh? Why?” Tao Mo was shocked and suddenly felt uneasy.
Hao Guozi coldly snorted and replied: “That Gu She‘s very famous. Every day, there are many people outside his residence with visitation cards. He only picks one or two of them for him to meet with.”
Tao Mo impatiently asked: “So you’ve seen him?”
“Of course not. I’m just a servant. When their residence’s doorkeeper heard that I’m the only one who came, they even almost threw the visitation card away.” This was the first time in Hao Guozi’s life that he was treated like this and it filled his heart with anger.
Tao Mo anxiously said: “No wonder he asked me to personally go and wait outside his residence. Alas, he’ll probably be upset with me since I didn’t go this time.”
Hao Guozi replied: “Young Master, your first trial today is known by everyone in this whole county, how can he not be aware of it?”
Tao Mo replied: “I hope he can understand.”
Hao Guozi looked at his foolishness and could not help but console him: “I think that Gu She‘s not a good person. Young Master, it’s better if you don’t deal with him.”
Tao Mo was embarrassed that his worries was seen through by Hao Guozi, so he said: “I just wanted to learn from him.”
“What can he teach you?”
“I also don’t know.” Tao Mo thought for a moment and added, “But he completely gives the feeling that he‘s very competent.”
“…actually, Secretary Jin‘s very competent as well.”
“Yes, so I‘ll invite him back here.”
Hao Guozi was shocked. Don’t tell me that you also want to invite Gu She back here? However, when he thought about it again, he felt that with Gu She’s personality, it would be likely that Gu She would not be willing; thus, he was a little relieved.