One of Li Bo’s lackeys followed suit and smiled at Madam Zhong. “You had quite a bit of time to deal with your loss. I hope you took some of it to think about the offer our Master made.”
Madam Zhong frowned. They had really come again. And they were still as unreasonable as before. Well, why had she expected anything else? Would these three really change their ways just because her husband had lost his life because of them? They were so sure that they wouldn’t be held responsible and without that threat looming over them, they wouldn’t care at all. They just were that type of people.
Ai Hua also furrowed her brows. She didn’t know what had happened but neither did she like the tone of that servant nor the smile of his Master. His Majesty’s beloved was here and the woman that had served them the tea before seemed to be his mother so she was equally important. Could they be treated like this by just anyone? Hmph! These guys deserved a good beating!
“I don’t know what you are talking about.” Madam Zhong pulled Jing Yi to her side and held onto his shoulders. She had to be careful or she might lose her son too. That couldn’t happen!
The second servant, Xiao Guo, snorted in contempt. “Your husband stole our horses! Obviously, we want you to compensate us.”
“My husband has never stolen anything.”
“So you still dare to deny it. It seems we’ll have to get the justice court involved.” Xiao Nuo nodded at Xiao Guo.
With another smirk, Xiao Guo ran outside and waved at two men on the other side of the street. Naturally, they had already gone and called someone they knew from the justice court before they even went to confront Madam Zhong. Why would they take the risk of her running away with the child that could guarantee them success with their business? They wouldn’t let this opportunity run through their fingers!
Madam Zhong tensed. She wouldn’t be able to persuade the people from the justice court if things stood like this. Whatever ruling was made she wouldn’t be able to contest it. She patted Jing Yi’s head. Now that things had come to this, she had to make sure that neither of them would panic. They had to stay calm so that they could deal with this.
Maybe there would be an opportunity to get out of this even if they just ran away and returned to the village. Jing Yi was already ten now. She could show him how to work in the fields and together, they would somehow manage to get by. He wouldn’t mind. Jing Yi was used to a frugal life from their time back in the village. He wouldn’t mind returning there even if they were poor. It was only a pity that he wouldn’t be able to see the friends he had made in the capital anymore.
The two men from the justice court followed Xiao Guo into the teahouse and glanced around. “What happened?”
Xiao Nuo pointed at Madam Zhong. “Her husband stole six of our horses and now she refuses to compensate us.”
The man turned around to her and smiled just like Li Bo and his servants. “How can you do that? Theft is a serious crime. Even more so if we’re talking about something with high value like horses.”
“My husband didn’t steal anything.”
The man narrowed his eyes.
“See that?” Xiao Nuo hurried forward and stood right next to him. “She was like that from the beginning! We know he stole them but she just keeps saying he didn’t.”
“That’s not all!” Xiao Guo came forward too. “She even slandered our Master and said he killed her husband.”
“Now that’s a harsh accusation. You’re damaging his reputation. In fact, you should compensate him for that too.”
Madam Zhong kept quiet. What was there to say? This was just an act they put on for the two guests that had finally come to the teahouse, as well as the passersby on the street.
Satisfied with her reaction, Li Bo stepped forward. “I’m afraid this young woman wouldn’t be able to afford to compensate me for both. She was out of her mind when she made that accusation so I won’t hold it against her. But the horses … I’ll need them back.”
Madam Zhong lowered her gaze. Six horses? They had taken some from the bandits and maybe Zhong Gang could give her the remaining ones. It wasn’t fair but maybe he would do it in consideration of his relationship with her husband. She looked up fiercely. “Then you’ll get these horses. Tell me where to take them.”
Li Bo pressed his lips together. What? That woman really wanted to give him six horses? What would he do with six horses?! He wanted the boy! The boy! The secret to boosting his business!
Xiao Nuo and Xiao Guo knew the plan of their Master. Xiao Nuo snorted. “Give them back? Do you think that would help? You’ve used these horses for so long and you don’t know the first thing about them. They’re practically worthless by now.”
“Right. You should compensate our Master with money!”
They looked at the official from the justice court.
The man pursed his lips and nodded. “That sounds like a reasonable demand to me. I assume they were good horses?”
Xiao Nuo and Xiao Guo nodded fervently. “They were! Extremely good horses!”
“Then … a thousand liang for each of them should be appropriate.”
Madam Zhong clenched her fists. A thousand liang for one? So they wanted her to pay six thousand liang? She wouldn’t be able to earn that much even if she worked herself to death in a hundred lives!
“You heard Mister Li’s offer, Madam. Pay up and you are good to go. Otherwise …”
Madam Zhong pressed her lips together. Her expression was answer enough. The official sighed as if he found it to be a pity.
“Then you’ll have to spend time in prison, I’m afraid.”
“Don’t! Don’t be hasty!” Li Bo waved as if to placate the official. “I’m sure she had nothing to do with it. It was all that husband of hers. She shouldn’t have to suffer for his sins. How about I let her compensate in another way?”
The official lifted his brows. “Oh? Mister Li has another proposition? That is very generous of you!”
“Mn. She’s without her husband now and has to take care of such a large teahouse. She doesn’t have much time on her hands I’m afraid. I’ve seen that she has a young son. How about I’ll take him in as a servant? He can work for me to pay off his father’s debt and he’ll even have someone to look after him! Wouldn’t that be great? I think this would be the best solution for everyone.”
Madam Zhong pushed Jing Yi behind her and glared at the five men. “Over my dead body. You’ll never get my son!”