Chapter 186: Argument, overreaching oneself
Next day, the justice courts started on time for the hearing of the Han family clinic case. It was originally a simple homicide, but the empress dowager's command had brought it to the justice courts for review with Official Ouyang presiding over the proceedings.
Actually, the materials from Shuntian Prefecture yesterday were already extremely detailed. As long as Official Ouyang finished up the rest of the trial, things would be set. He was very clear in his heart that the empress dowager had brought the case to the justice courts as a pretence. She wanted to give the Han family a criminal name and take away their rights to practice medicine in Tianning.
Everyone soon arrived, with Han Yunxi sitting on the side as always to listen in. Due to her calm presence, Official Ouyang felt a certain pressure and spoke his words very cautiously. He bore his temper and went through the entire case again. He only pronounced judgment after seeing that Han Yunxi had no objections.
"The three pieces of evidence show that Doctor Li made a mistake in his prescription, resulting in Madam Chen's mother-in-law dying from poison. Doctor Li committed suicide to escape punishment for manslaughter; hence, the court will not further pursue his responsibilities for the offence."
Speaking up to here, Official Ouyang paused. Seventh Madame was about to cry injustice, but last night Han Yunxi had told her not to worry, so she held back. Right now, Han Yunxi was leisurely drinking tea, still sitting calmly on the side without a hint of anxiety. Seventh Madame couldn't see through her motives, while Official Ouyang only felt nervous at the sight. The proof alone was enough to make this case irrefutable. Judging from his years of experience, it'd be impossible to overturn this case, yet seeing Han Yunxi's staid and steady state still made Official Ouyang uneasy.
An abnormal silence fell upon the courtroom. There were no objections anywhere, so Official Ouyang continued. "The Han family neglected their supervisory duties and didn't do their best to watch over their people. They cannot escape blame and shall pay compensation to Madam Chen with 1,000 taels of silver!"
Again, Official Ouyang paused to look at Han Yunxi, only to see her calm and composed as if she hadn't heard a thing. Only then did Official Ouyang set aside his cares. He thought, with such conclusive evidence, even if esteemed wangfei wants to argue, she won't have a reason to. Looks like this is it.
As to revoking the Han family's right to practice medicine, that was the empress dowager's decision and had nothing to do with the justice courts. Withdrawing his gaze, Official Ouyang exhaled a breath and continued to read from the court accounts. "To present esteemed empress dowager's orders, the Han family's misdiagnosis of the crown prince was already a heinous crime that reached the skies. Now, they have not only failed to repent and mend their ways, but brought about such a grave mistake. Hence, their southern clinic shall be sealed and closed down, all of their medical assets confiscated, and their rights to practice medicine in Tianning Country forever revoked!"
His words fell upon a silent crowd. This truly was a little too...
Seventh Madame couldn't stand it anymore and cried out in anger. "You can't, it's injustice! The Han family has been unfairly accused! Doctor Li must have..."
Before she could finish, Han Yunxi finally raised a hand to tell her to calm down. Seventh Madame was seething with rage and very agitated, but although she couldn't settle down, she forced herself to collect her senses at the sight of Han Yunxi. Yesterday, they'd only mentioned revoking the Han family's right to practice medicine, but today they'd added on a stipulation to confiscate their medical assets. The Han family's reserves of medicinal ingredients were equal to their family properties. Had the empress dowager steeled her heart to leave the Han family penniless?
She should remember, her old life was saved in the past by none other than Lady Tianxin!
If Han Yunxi hadn't kept her cool to listen to the very end, she wouldn't have seen the empress dowager's ruthlessness first-hand!
She had really gone too far!
Han Yunxi narrowed her eyes and looked coldly towards Official Ouyang, who was so scared that he immediately started shifting the blame. "Esteemed wangfei, this is the empress dowager's intentions, not the justice court's. This official is just representing..."
"Official Ouyang, didn't you hear Seventh Madame cry injustice?" Han Yunxi cut him off icily.
"This..." Official Ouyang gave a start before trying to defend himself. "Esteemed wangfei, you're clear about the entire case, too. The three pieces of evidence are all here. If Seventh Madame wants to claim injustice, she needs to provide proof of injustice, isn't that right?"
"Proof?" Han Yunxi elegantly set down the leg crossed over her thigh to stand up, her voice frosty. "The three items in this wangfei's hands are precisely the proof. Madam Chen's mother-in-law died under strange circumstances, as did Doctor Li. Someone had evil intentions to frame a case against the Han family!" So speaking, she thumped the autopsy report, appraisal of the medicinal ingredients, and prescription onto Official Ouyang's desk with a bang. The loud noise reverberated through the quiet hall.
"This...esteemed wangfei, this...this evidence proves that Doctor Li wrote the wrong prescription. How could it proved that someone framed the case? Esteemed wangfei, you can't just say whatever you want in a court of law," Official Ouyang really didn't understand and assumed that Han Yunxi was willfully making trouble.
But Han Yunxi only asked, "Who wrote this autopsy report? Call them over. Also, which doctor wrote down the details of the medicinal ingredients? Call them over too. This wangfei has questions to ask them."
Hearing this, Official Ouyang finally understood what esteemed wangfei wanted to do. So her suspicions lay in these two pieces of evidence. If the evidence had been faked, then there really was a problem with this case.
But where did the problem lay?
Leaving aside all else, just the simple existence of Doctor Li's prescription was sufficient to prove the validity of the autopsy report and ingredient appraisal. Actually, even without those two pieces of evidence, the prescription alone could pin the crime on Doctor Li and the Han family!
The strangest part of this case lay with Doctor Li's mistake and subsequent suicide. Official Ouyang was clear on this in his heart, but he naturally wouldn't disobey instructions from the empress dowager. After all, now that Doctor Li was dead, they couldn't investigate much no matter how fishy it was. Official Ouyang also didn't believe that Han Yunxi could find any flaws if she questioned the authenticity of the evidence. He did as she told and gave out orders. "Someone, summon the coroner Old Xia, and Imperial Physician Lin from the Imperial Physician Courtyard."
Old Xia was a full-time coroner at Shuntian Prefecture, while Imperial Physician Lin was a doctor from the Imperial Physician Courtyard that held concurrent posts at the justice courts and Shuntian Prefecture. Both possessed top-notch skills in their respective fields, gaining public praise in their related circles. As soon as they heard Han Yunxi had called their examinations into question, the two were indignant and aggrieved.
After coming inside and paying their respects, Old Xia couldn't resist speaking first. "Esteemed wangfei, Madam Chen's mother-in-law's body was inspected by me alone. The report was also written by me, so if there's any issues, point them out directly."
Han Yunxi liked people who got straight to the point. Since Old Xia had already said this, she forgoed the niceties. "You're certain that Madam Chen's mother-in-law died from Kuigen poisoning?"
"Certain! The report was very explicit on the details. Kuigen mixed into medicine will poison its victim. Tests performed from remnants of the medicine left in the victim's oral cavity also revealed traces of Kuigen." Old Xia was full of confidence as he added, "Esteemed wangfei knows the poison arts as well. If you don't believe me, you can examine the body yourself!"
Han Yunxi nodded and asked, "What was the victim's time of death?"
"The night before yesterday at Xu hour (between 7 to 9PM). After taking the medicine, death was instantaneous," Old Xia remembered it very clearly.
Again, Han Yunxi nodded her head. She didn't ask any more questions, but looked towards Imperial Physician Lin. "Imperial Physician Lin, you've inspected all three of the medicine packs that Madam Chen brought in?"
Imperial Physician Lin was also very confident. "All of them. There were a total of 11 ingredients, all identical to Doctor Li's prescription, including the addition of Kuigen."
"Are those three packs of medicine still around?" Han Yunxi asked again.
Official Ouyang immediately ordered someone to bring them over. All of them were neatly wrapped in their packages and presented on a plate. Han Yunxi examined them, very satisfied, and continued to ask, "Imperial Physician Lin, Doctor Li's prescription detailed exact quantities of medicine to be used. Why didn't your appraisal of the medicine detail this point? Have you weighed out the contents? Were the quantities identical?"
No one had considered this question before. The prescription contained poison and the ingredients included poison. This was already adequate proof, so what did the quantity have to do with anything?
Moreover, measurements in Chinese medicine were approximations to begin with, such as a liang1 or two here and a qian2 or two there. When filling up a prescription, amounts were approximated, so there was no need for exact measurements. Imperial Physician Lin found it unexpected and unbelievable. A so-called member of the medical field like Han Yunxi had actually thought up such a pointless question.
"Esteemed wangfei, because the ingredients in the medicine were identical to the ones in Doctor Li's prescription, this official didn't weigh the amounts. Both contained the poison," Imperial Physician Lin explained.
"Identical?" Han Yunxi laughed coldly. "Imperial Physician Lin, what do you mean by the 'ingredients were identical?' Would both the prescription and the medicine contain the same quantities just because they have the same ingredients? Examination work must be done carefully, meticulously, and professionally. You don't need wangfei's reminder for this, correct?"
At this, Imperial Physician Lin's complexion abruptly shifted. Han Yunxi was putting his professionalism and work ethic under suspect! His temper flared up, though he didn't dare show it. Suppressing his anger, he sought to explain earnestly. "Esteemed wangfei, this official has practiced medicine and prescribed prescriptions for 20 odd years without ever making a mistake. Madam Chen's mother-in-law died from poisoning, but that has nothing to do with the quantity of medicine. As long as one can prove the medicine contained poison, then that's the evidence! Kuigen can be used as poison or as medicine. If placed in other medicines, it might not contain poisonous properties, but it'd definitely be toxic when paired with Doctor Li's prescription! This has nothing to do with quantities!"
This Imperial Physician Lin knew quite a bit about Kuigen!
But to discuss matters of poison in her face was an overestimation of ability!
After she heard this much, Han Yunxi gave Imperial Physician Lin a significant look, shaking his conviction and resolve into something less confident. But it was temporary feeling at best. Imperial Physician Lin firmly believed that there was no need to investigate the quantity of medicine. He thought that Han Yunxi was trying to refute the results of the case by looking for a flaw in an egg-nitpicking for faults where there was none-and make trouble!
Thus, Imperial Physician Lin continued to speak. "So this official believes there's no need to check for specific quantities in the medicine!"
Han Yunxi nodded her head and asked with a smile, "Imperial Physician Lin, you know as well that Kuigen isn't merely medicine, but poison as well. But do you know that the quantity of poison will affect its reaction time and symptoms in the victim?"
These words immediately made Imperial Physician Lin grow still. By his side, Coroner Xia was startled as well. Perhaps the rest of the people hadn't realized it yet, but these two professionals suddenly had a bad premonition.
Quantity of poison...poison reaction time...
Imperial Physician Lin...truly hadn't considered the possibility. He only knew that the victim had been poisoned by Kuigen and died. The corpse had shown evidence of the same poison, so everything matched up.
Seeing Imperial Physician Lin and Old Xia fall silent, Official Ouyang was uneasy as well. "Esteemed wangfei, there's always differences when it comes to filling prescription quantities. How can things be calculated so precisely?"
Han Yunxi smiled coldly. "Kuigen may be an acute poison, but different quantities will result in different reaction times! Just then, Coroner Xia said Madam Chen's mother-in-law died the night before yesterday as soon as she drank the medicine. But the quantity written in the prescription, when mixed with the other 10 ingredients, won't cause a toxic reaction even if she finishes all three packs of medicine at once. That amount of Kuigen would take three days before the poison showed signs of reacting! Either the Kuigen present in the medicine far exceeded twice the amount outlined in the prescription, or else Madam Chen's mother-in-law...was poisoned by someone else!"
Official Ouyang stood stunned at Han Yunxi's words as the courtroom fell into silence...
1. liang () - Chinese unit of measurement around 50 grams.
2. qian () - Chinese unit of measurement around 3-9 (or 4-11) grams.