Very well, if so… – Wang Chao, Ma Han, Zhang Long, Zhao Hu!
– Here! – Hold court at once!
– Sir! [Court chant] Power, vigour! Today, I shall hear a case that took place in the palace twenty years agone. Chen Lin, former palace curator and chief eunuch, as you represent the victim’s family, you are deemed prosecutor. Guo Huai, harem custodian and chief eunuch, you are deemed defendant. Lord Bao, I’m here to give evidence. Why am I now considered defendant? When Kou Zhu lost her life, she was a maid at the Golden Flower Mansion. At that time, you were curator of the Golden Flower Mansion. You are therefore defendant. Lord Bao! The prosecuting party is not always right. The defending party is not always wrong. What do you worry about? In this court of law, all questions and replies are recorded. You two are prosecutor and defendant, respectively. I shall directly refer to you by your name, not by your office. I beg you to understand this. – Chen Lin.
– Lord Bao. What is your complaint? Relate it to me in every respect. Many years agone, Palace Maid Kou Zhu died from an unknown cause. The Golden Flower Mansion failed to compensate her family in line with customs. Now, her parents cannot maintain themselves. They then asked me to sue the Golden Flower Mansion for compensatory damages. Guo Huai. Lord Bao. How do you reply? Lord Bao. At that time, Kou Zhu committed suicide. Thus, no compensation was provided. Now that her family has presented a claim, I do want to help them. No need to continue the hearing. I’m willing to compensate them. For what reason did Kou Zhu commit suicide? Lord Bao. It’s a matter of twenty years ago. Why do we need to dig it up again? I’ve said that I’ll pay them compensation. You can dismiss the session. No need to examine me any further. No. Though the sum will be provided by the harem, it will still be paid out of the public accounts. Public money should be used appropriately. Without necessity, why should it be used? If the facts cannot be ascertained, how could the case be closed? – Lord Bao…
– Guo Huai! For what reason did Palace Maid Kou Zhu commit suicide? Lord Bao. It’s been a long time. I myself don’t want to talk about it again. But as you insist that I reply, I’ll give you a frank reply. At that time, Kou Zhu felt lonely, and badly she missed her home. She then attempted to flee from the palace, but to no avail. What have you done?! The harem is of tight security. Why do you think you can escape? Don’t you see how you’ve been arrested and brought back here? What do you want me to do then? High Eunuch, I really miss my home. Please take pity on me and let me go. The palace is as wide as an ocean. It’s a place that you can enter but cannot leave. Till your pension age, don’t think of leaving the palace. Even myself faces the same fate. Though I want to help you, I think I can’t. I can no longer stay within this palace. Otherwise, I’ll go insane! High Eunuch, please help me! Kou Zhu. I think I really can’t help you. You should be more tolerant. These two days, I’ll give you no work, so that you can rest. As for your escape, I’ll just ignore it. Behave well, will you? High Eunuch! I can’t stand it anymore! If you don’t let me go, I will… What do you think you can do? I… I will give up my life! You! Alack, Kou Zhu! What a pity! She’s too young to meet such a grisly end. I really don’t want to mention it again. Guo Huai! Your story is utterly groundless! Chen Lin! I am carrying out a hearing. Disturb me not. Guo Huai. If your word is true, why does none of the harem records that I have inspected mention the escape and arrest of Kou Zhu? Lord Bao, you’ve inspected the palace records? Before holding an examination, an investigation must be held. Answer me now. At that time… At that time, I feared that the Golden Flower Mansion would be disgraced. Concubine Liu, or the current empress dowager, also gave importance to reputation. I then asked the officers to refrain from recording this scandal. Is that so? If you want to punish me for neglecting my duty, I’ll assert no defence. But it’s the power of the Supreme Court to address this matter. The Kaifeng Prefectural Court has no jurisdiction over it. Correct. In general, I have no jurisdiction. However, after Kou Zhou died, the law required that her body be sent to the Kaifeng Prefectural Court for autopsy. As Prefect of Kaifeng, I am therefore competent to exercise jurisdiction over this matter. Instructor Gongsun. Here. For numerous years, the Kaifeng Court has well kept judicial records. Having checked, I found that Kou Zhu, Golden Flower Mansion maid, died of a severe concussion which resulted in a sudden gust of blood. She hit her head herself! Guo Huai. None of us is thinking that Kou Zhou was harmed by someone else. Why hurriedly explain? I just spoke out of my impatience. Please don’t mind me. Instructor Gongsun, carry on. Sir. An autopsy file records that there were external wounds on many parts of her body. These wounds indicate that she had been lashed with a leather whip. It is evident that she had been tortured prior to her death. Lord Bao. I… I really don’t know why there’re wounds on her body! Perhaps they’re old wounds or the coroners erred! Pursuant to your statement, at that time, not only ignoring her wrongful act, you also consoled her. You would not have tortured her, right? That’s totally right! How wise you are! My Lord, the autopsy file contains one more thing. State it. Sir. Having examined the bloodstains and wounds, the coroners believed that the lash wounds and the concussion occurred on the same occasion. No, no way! Guo Huai, let me hear your explanation, will you? Lord Bao, I didn’t torture her at all! The coroners might have erred! You might not know much about the judicial procedure. I shall now enlighten you about it. Autopsies are done meticulously. Conducted by coroners, they are witnessed and countersigned by juries. Before a corpse is coffined, a countercheck is performed. After everything is found correct, the case can be closed. We observe such a complex process for the value of men’s lives is as high as the sky! As you said that the coroners might have erred, I can tell you that a mistake can barely happen in this court of Kaifeng, the capital of our empire. L… Lord Bao…. Why did you utter a falsehood? Why did you torture Palace Maid Kou Zhu to the extent that she ended her own life? Why did you punish her to death? State the reasons for all these things. If you don’t state the truth, you shall not blame me for ignoring your dignity and inflicting penalties upon you in accordance with the law! Lord Bao. Twenty years have indeed passed. How could my memory serve me right? But I told you no lies. At that time, Kou Zhou really missed her home and tried to flee from the palace. Why needed I torture her? Why needed I force her to commit suicide? It is not yet clear whether Kou Zhu killed herself or was killed by someone else. How can you prove that she missed her home to the degree that she committed suicide? Lord Bao, as you asked me so, I must retort you with this question: how can you prove that she didn’t miss her home for real? So easy! Before entering the palace, Kou Zhu was a homeless girl. How could there be any home for her to miss? Her family seeking compensation is just a devised story to lure you here! You… What I want to investigate is, in sooth, the reason why she had been tortured to death! You! How dare you deceive me?! I’ll return to the palace and ask Her Majesty to handle this matter! Stop! Today, you can come here, but you can’t leave! Lord Bao. You think you can detain me by force? You think I can’t do so? Lord Bao. Don’t forget that I’m curator of the harem. Want to lay your hands on me? Go seek Her Majesty’s consent first! Guo Huai. If you think that an allusion to Her Majesty would halt me, you are completely wrong! Now, you are a suspect in a murder case brought to me. I am fully empowered by the law to detain you. Though being in His Majesty’s presence, I shall never let you go undealt with! Don’t think you can escape the clutches of the law! Bao Zheng, you! – Officers!
– Here! Take Suspect Guo Huai to the gaol and hold him in custody pending further trial! Sir! Curator Guo Huai has accepted our invitation to stay here and give more evidence. You all can go back to the palace now. Your Majesty. Men. Ma’am. – Rise.
– Yes. Curator Guo has returned yet? Not yet, Ma’am. What about his escort guards? They all have come back. They said Lord Bao wants Curator Guo to stay there and give more evidence. Bao Zheng, you’re such a bold man! Bring my mandate to the Kaifeng Court, telling them to release my servant at once! Yes, Ma’am. You come here to demand his release? I convey Her Majesty’s mandate here to bring Curator Guo back to the palace. Now, I command that Guo Huai remain here. You alone shall go back to the palace. In my hand is a mandate of Her Majesty! Insolent! How dare a servant like you argue with me? I dare not. But if I can’t return with Curator Guo, how can I return this mandate to Her Majesty? Well. I shall now make you know how to answer her. Royal Guard Zhan. Here is the sword of state from the previous reign. Seeing this sword is like seeing the sovereign. May Your Majesty live for ten thousand years, ten thousand of ten thousand years! In the name of the previous emperor, I command that Guo Huai be here for further trial. No one shall obstruct the court. I hereby receive your command. Thanks to your arrival to exhibit the sword of state. Otherwise, I would have needed to release Guo Huai. Lord Bao. At last, you have a mission for me to undertake. I dare not. Empress Dowager Liu won’t easily cease tampering with us. She would soon go to see the emperor. Worry not. I shall stay here until Lord Bao obtains Guo Huai’s confession. Gramercy, Your Highness. No need. This matter affects both the government and the royal house of Zhao. How can I remain unconcerned? Report, My Lord. I have prepared everything. Good! Eighth Prince and High Eunuch Chen, please wait here for a while. I shall get Guo Huai’s confession forthwith! Lord Bao, you’re going to… Your Highness, Lord Bao is going to try Guo Huai at night. Trial? Correct! Follow us to the courthouse. Bao Zheng might fear that Her Majesty will send someone to bring me back. He then rushes to try me on this night. Stop dreaming. People from the harem have come and have gone. You better quit expecting their help. Th… then, why need to try me at night? Have you ever heard people say that Lord Bao is the arbiter of both worlds? Just an urban legend. Can he really contact gods and ghosts? Yes, he can! I’ve seen with my own eyes for many times since I started working here! Stop blabbering! Hurry up and go! Go now! [Court chant] Power, vigour! Guo Huai. Twenty years agone, you were curator of the Golden Flower Mansion. You bribed a nurse to replace the infant crown prince with a wild cat, before deceiving everyone into believing that Concubine Li gave birth to a monster. You then ordered Palace Maid Kou Zhu to kill the crown prince and dump his body at the Golden Water Bridge. This was to allow Concubine Liu to become empress consort. Do you plead guilty to all these deeds? Lord Bao. I’ve no idea what you’re talking about. How can I plead guilty? Silence! Kou Zhu was a conscionable girl. She refused to cooperate with you in committing those crimes. She secretly sent the infant prince out of the palace. You then tortured her, forcing her to reveal the prince’s whereabouts. Unable to bear the pain, Kou Zhu committed suicide. Do you still plead not guilty to all these matters? Lord Bao. As she had died, she could no longer testify. Though what you’ve said is true, do you have anyone to testify it? The reason I hold court at night is to render void all your excuses! Though I have no human witness, I do have a ghost witness! Kou Zhu, where are you?! Wrathful Spirit Kou Zhu hereby pays respect to you. You… Guo Huai, do you remember her? Sh… she’s… Kou Zhu! No way! She isn’t Kou Zhu! Kou Zhu’s dead! She can’t be Kou Zhu! You will see whether or not she is Kou Zhu after I examine her. Kou Zhu! Here, Your Grace. At that time, how did Guo Huai direct you to kill the infant crown prince? And how did he torture you and compel you to reveal the prince’s refuge? Relate the truth to me in every detail. Yes. Guo Huai had already bribed the nurse ere the birth of the prince. The nurse replaced the infant prince with a skinned wild cat. Guo Huai ordered me to place the prince in a basket and bring him out of his mansion. Guo Huai instructed me to throttle the prince to death and dump his body at the Golden Water Bridge. Seeing the little prince sleeping peacefully, I felt pity for him. I decided not to follow Guo Huai’s order, before finding someone to help. High Eunuch Chen! – High Eunuch, please help!
– Kou Zhu! At that time, you handed the prince over to Chen Lin, who then brought him out of the palace, right? Yes. I lied to Guo Huai that I had dumped the infant. Doubting me not, Guo Huai didn’t inquire me anymore. Guo Huai. Do you have anything to say? Sh… she must have heard these things from Chen Lin! She can’t be Kou Zhu! I’m sure… I’m sure she’s a false witness forged by Chen Lin! Then continue listening to her testimony. Kou Zhu. As Guo Huai had no further doubt in you, why did he later torture you for the whereabouts of the crown prince? Your Grace, after Concubine Li was committed to the Cold Mansion, I learnt that this was because she had been maligned by Guo Huai. But I durst not disclose the truth, especially the truth about the crown prince. Why didn’t you disclose the truth? I feared that if I spoke anything out, Guo Huai might be aware that the prince was still alive. Continue your testimony. I then secretly went to the Cold Mansion to soothe Concubine Li. Unexpectedly, Guo Huai got wind of this. Despite my denial, Guo Huai began to suspect about the crown prince. What happened then? Guo Huai forced me to tell the dumping place. I pointed here and there. Guo Huai sent his men to dig everywhere around the Golden Water Bridge. But their efforts were in vain. He then tortured me to reveal the truth. I told him I couldn’t recall anything for I was very confused at that time. He believed me not and kept torturing me. I feared that I might reveal anything out of my unendurable pain. I then decided to commit suicide, hitting myself with a pillar, so as to make Guo Huai believe that I was innocent. Wh… whence did you learn of all these matters? The wounds you inflicted upon me are still here on my body. My blood on the pillar with which I hit myself hasn’t yet dried. Though you hurriedly cleaned that pillar in the royal mansion, you can never cleanse the sin from your soul. Now that I’ve begged Lord Bao to hold court at night, I’ll take your life to cleanse my twenty-year wrath! Guo Huai, give me back my life! – Don’t come! Don’t come to me! Don’t come! Don’t come!
– Give me back my life, Guo Huai! Lord Bao! Kou Zhu! Different are the realms of the living and the dead. You shall not nigh a living person. Your Grace, I’ll take Guo Huai to the underworld and have him punished by its overlord. No. Guo Huai is still alive. He must be dealt with by the law of the living world. Guo Huai! Lord Bao, don’t let her approach me! Do you plead guilty to all those she has said? Yes, yes! I plead guilty to them all! But it was Empress Dowager Liu who ordered me to commit them! As to whether this is true, I shall further investigate. Now that you have pleaded guilty… Instructor Gongsun! Here, My Lord. Let him sign his plea. Sir. Sign… I’ll sign! – Officers!
– Here! – Take Guo Huai back to the gaol and hold him there pending delivery of judgment!
– Sir! Proper job, Lord Bao! Even a sly person like Guo Huai can’t avoid liability. Finally, we got his confession. But I feel ashamed. I have always denounced superstition. But now I resort to superstition to extract Guo Huai’s confession. It’s the result of his own ill deeds. Without having done anything wrong, how could his mind be overwhelmed with fear? You’re right, High Eunuch Chen. If he didn’t have any secret motive or malicious intent, he wouldn’t have feared that the ghost of Kou Zhu might come and get even with him or take his life. And he wouldn’t have been afraid of any spirit or ghost at all. With regard to the girl disguised as Kou Zhu, whence came she? How could she convince Guo Huai to believe that she was Kou Zhu for real? Everything was well arranged by Instructor Gongsun. Your Highness. The girl was selected from amongst opera cast members, for she looks very similar to Kou Zhu. Theatrical blood and wounds were then applied on her, based on what described in the autopsy files. But how did you make Guo Huai unable to distinguish her from the real Kou Zhu? I let the warden provide Guo Huai with food and drink. During the session, Guo Huai was therefore a bit drunk. I also ordered the warden to boast to Guo Huai of Lord Bao’s alleged ability to judge both the living and the dead. Moreover, it was quite dark and dim in the courthouse. As a result, a ghost fearer like Guo Huai was unable to distinguish anything. Nonetheless, when the girl was required to give an account of the past, how could she fulfill this task? Your Highness, that duty belonged to me. You joined them too? I informed the girl of everything that I had been told by Kou Zhu. I then instructed her and trained her to speak like Kou Zhu. How could Guo Huai not tell that she was Kou Zhu? For these reasons, Guo Huai eventually fell into the trap. He might not know that, afore Kou Zhu was tortured, she brought certain tidings to High Eunuch Chen. Now that we have Guo Huai’s confession, we should rush to the palace, shouldn’t we? Your Highness, no need to do so. If my prediction is correct, His Majesty will soon summon us himself.