003 – Who Coin Is This?
translated by Grenn
When she heard the desperate scream, she got up and made her way through the crowd. After finally reaching the front row, she caught sight of a white-haired old man with a face furrowed with wrinkles. He dressed in plain clothes covered in soot, even his skin was very tanned from long hours in the sun, and he was thin from malnutrition. It was clear as day he wasn’t blessed with wealth. He was overwhelmed by the situation with eyes haggard and filled with tears. Yet, his finger, although trembling, continued to point at the grey-clothed waiter at the counter in accusation. In an upheaval of sorrow and anger, he shouted once again, “Even if I have to slam my head and die today, I will not let you off!”
Joining his words with action, he tried to slam his head on the restaurant counter, but some onlookers stopped him immediately while the rest was indignant for the old man.
The grey-clothed waiter raised his hands in a gesture of appeasement as he said, “Everyone, hear me out first. I wasn’t bullying this senior. This senior relied on his great age to make things difficult for me! He said his granddaughter wanted to eat our restaurant’s Drunken Duck, but he didn’t pay, so I can’t give it to him. Then, he threatened me with suicide. Now, everyone tells me, how could I possibly do that? We are running a business here.”
After listening to the waiter’s version, the crowd the old man was too much, and many changed their attitude, darting disdainful eyes at the old man.
“Ladies and gentlemen, please don’t listen to his words!” The old man struggled to free himself and stepped forward while trembling. He addressed to the crowd, “My surname is Meng and 59 this year. I have a son and a daughter-in-law who had passed away earlier, leaving behind a granddaughter. One night, she went out in the rain and fell gravely sick soon after. She has become weak from the illness and only wished to eat the Drunken Duck at the Drunken Immortal once in her life. I labored and struggled finally to save up 500 coins to buy the dish, but after receiving the money, this waiter told me to wait here. Who would have thought not only did he not give back the change, but he tried to extort me for more! Please, judge for yourself. I gathered these 500 coins with my blood and sweat and lost them to an ignoble demon! I don’t care about the money, but my granddaughter’s wish… All her life she suffered hardships and didn’t enjoy a good day. Now she is at the deathbed, her last wish couldn’t even be fulfilled…”
His last words were replaced by sobs.
The waiter spoke with a hint of anxiety. “Everyone, you must not be deceived by him. What kind of place is the Drunken Immortal? How can we steal a measly 500 coins? This old man is obviously trying to scam money from us!”
Since both sides claimed to be right, the onlookers were caught in a dilemma.
Some people suggested that the waiter gave the Drunken Duck to the old man. There are even people who proposed to pay for the old man, but most of the onlookers only pitied the old man. Those reactions irritated the waiter instead. He glared at the old man and said, “This is out of the question! Our restaurant does not condone thieves. If this matter spread and attracted more rogues, how can our restaurant remained open? Today’s matter has to be made clear otherwise, don’t even think about it!”
Elder Meng was a stubborn man, so he was stimulated by the waiter’s word. He argued back while hyperventilating from anger. “I have been honest all my life. Not once has I took anyone money. Don’t you dare tarnish my reputation!”
Both sides once again argued and were caught in a deadlock.
Meanwhile, Mu Wanqing observed them. Then, she turned to her waiter and inquired, “He sounded very arrogant. How can be acting like this?”
Her waiter made sure that no one was around before he leaned near her ear and whispered, “His name is Wu Chi, our manager’s nephew. He is officially a waiter, but his standing is no different from a second manager!”
“How his character usually?”
The waiter grimaced. “Miss, this lowly one doesn’t know. I am not acquainted with him.”
“It appeared you are quite a smooth talker. I didn’t expect you to protect your people. No wonder the restaurant’s owner has to hire you!” She beamed at him while scheming something in her mind. The next moment, she stepped forward and gave a hand to the old man.
“Senior, are you a lard seller?”
Elder Meng was shocked. “Miss, how did you know?”
“I guess it after I saw the grease stains on your hands and clothes.” She continued with a smile. “Is it alright if you tell me again what happened when you gave the money to the waiter?”
As soon as he heard her words, Elder Meng grabbed her hand as if seeing a savior and took out a blue money pouch hidden under his clothes. “I sold lard for a living but there isn’t much profit with it. So, I have no choice but to sell whatever I can in the house finally to earn 500 coins. With so much money, I was afraid to lose it, so I put it into this pouch and held it tightly on me all the way here. When I arrived at the counter, I took out the coins and put them on the counter. I am sure of it because I counted them one by one again before giving them to the waiter. I remembered being relieved when I made sure I have enough money. But who would have thought…” His tears flowed out again.
Mu Wanqing patted his back in comfort and waited until he calmed down before she continued to inquire. “Did you see where the waiter put your money?”
The old man nodded as he wiped his tears. “I saw with my own eyes he opened a small drawer behind the counter and put the money in.”
Mu Wanqing had a slight smile when she asked the grey-clothed waiter, “Is it possible to let me see?”
The man showed some signs of panic, but he straightened his back before stepping aside. “If you want to look, then look! There’s nothing out of ordinary in there. I did nothing to be guilty of. This restaurant is so big and flourishing; why would I covert his measly 500 coins? Besides, there are countless of coins inside. It’s not like his name is written on them!”
Mu Wanqing went behind the counter. Despite its large size, there was only one drawer. When she opened it, there a messy pile of copper coins and various size of pieces of silver scattered everywhere. She took out a handkerchief from her sleeve and grabbed a copper coin which she flipped around under the daylight. A smile flashed on her face after that quick examination. She turned to the grey-clothed waiter.
“Are you sure you didn’t take that old man’s money?”
The waiter’s eyes shifted around when he realized she might have found something. However, he stayed determined. “I am sure!”
“Oh~ How strange!” She lined up three coins on her handkerchief and addressed to the crowd. “This elder is a lard seller for many years, hence with time, his hands are covered in hard to wash grease. If the coins are his, there will be traces of lard on it when they get wet. Look at those coins carefully; There are traces of lard on it. Furthermore, you can see blue fabric residues on two of the coins, and it just happens Elder Meng’s purse is of the same color.”
When the old man heard her, he took out his coins pouch quickly.
Mu Wanqing held up the purse and the coins for everyone to see. Then, he went up and passed it along. “Everyone, please look at these. There are blue threads on the lard which is the exact same color as the purse which proof that the coins came out from that purse!” She turned to Wu Chi, her expression changed to a grim one. “You said you didn’t take his money, but how do you explain there are coins stained with lard and blue thread in this drawer? Did you think he was a weak old man that could be bullied, so you hid his money and tried to extort for more? How despicable!”
The crowd was suddenly enlightened by Mu Wanqing’s explanations. They gasped and clapped at her while throwing gazes of condemnation at Wu Chi.
Wu Chi became flustered and spoke in urgency when the situation reversed. “Miss, your words are baffling! How can you determine everything based on just some grease and blue threads on the coins? I am a waiter, so I always go into the kitchen. It’s normal if there are oil or grease on my hands. Those coins are probably stained by me. As for the blue threads, this could come from another purse. We are a very popular restaurant after all. Who knows how many clients came this morning. To judge me guilty based on these two points, I refuse to accept it!”
He argued back with vigor, and his arguments weren’t unreasonable. There was a logic to it which caused everyone to look at Mu Wanqing in anticipation. They were eager to know how she would respond.
Mu Wanqing sighed. “I didn’t want to say this, but since you like sophistry this much… Then, I will give you the irrefutable evidence you’re asking for!” She glanced at the people in the hall and continued, “Anyone here has gold powder, a piece of thin fabric and cinnabar that they can let me use?”
They only came here to eat, so why would they bring those things with them? They looked at each other and shook their heads.
At that moment, a pageboy in black clothes forced his way out of the crowd. He appeared to be around 14 or 15 years old with tender traits, but his eyes were bright and clever. He grinned at her. “Miss, my master greatly admires your quick wits, so he had already ordered people to buy these things. Can you please wait for a moment?”
“Thank you very much for your help!”
Not long after, she had everything she needed and displayed on the counter. She put one of the coins on the counter and sprinkled evenly the golden powder on it. She waited a bit before blowing on it lightly. As the excess scattered into the air, it revealed a vague pattern – fingerprints.
The sight was mind-blowing and left them gawking at the discovery.
She had a faint smile as she turned to Elder Meng. “Senior, can you dip your hands in the cinnabar and then stamped them on the fabric?”
Full of respect at his savior, Elder Meng didn’t hesitate to do as she said. When he was done, she took the fabric and compared the fingerprints on it with those on the coin. Next, she put the fabric next to the coin for everyone to see before explaining in a relaxed tone. “Please look at this. As you can see, there is a vertical scar in the middle Elder Meng’s right hand which explained the interruption in the lines here. Same goes with some of his fingers. If you compare it with the fingerprint on the coin, it shows a similar mark as this finger. Waiter, look at this. Can you explain why the fingerprint of Elder Meng is on your coins? Don’t tell me it’s a coincidence. Or do you want me to test to see if there are 500 coins in your drawer with the same coincidence?”
What she used was a very basic and old way to collect fingerprints. Since the situation came suddenly, she didn’t have a special brush for brushing off the excess of powder and had to blow on it. This also explained why the fingerprints on the coin didn’t show a clear pattern. However, when she was observing the scene, she had noticed the scars on Elder Meng’s hands which was a clear characteristic that would help determine the fingerprint even if the pattern was vague. Besides, most coins are held with the thumb, so if countless coins had a similar pattern with the scar on it, it won’t be a problem to determine the truth. For Mu Wanqing, even if the fingerprint was vague, it was a giveaway when she saw the scar on Elder Meng and the similar characteristic on the coin. However, those people in ancient time had yet to understand the principle of uniqueness of fingerprints, so she has to go for an extra mile to make it irrefutable by doing directly showing the visual comparison.
Wu Chi panicked, and his face was covered in sweat. He denied in a trembling voice. “You… You are not human. Monster… You…” His eyes rolled up, and he fainted.
People encircled Mu Wanqing with eyes full of worship while applauding and cheering at her performance.
She patted her hands before giving back the leftover gold powder, cinnabar and fabric to the pageboy. Next, she went up to Elder Meng and spoke in a gentle voice. “Senior, what does your granddaughter have?”
Elder Meng spoke with humility. “I have no idea. The doctor told me it was very serious. Much money is needed for the medical fees and the decoction prescribed, but no matter how much I tried, I couldn’t gather enough. I only have enough to buy her a drunken duck here. I am grateful for your kindness!”
She didn’t ask further, but she took out all of her money and gave it to the old man. “How can a Drunken Duck be enough? She is so young and needs to enjoy more blessing from now on. This is for you. Go back and treat her illness. When she is better, you can bring her here to eat the drunken duck! Please don’t refuse. It’s more important to save your granddaughter first, right?” A smile hung on her face as she spoke.
With all her spending earlier, she had a bit more than 18 taels which were the equivalent of 1,000,000 RMB. It was a very generous move.
Well, it wasn’t her money, anyway. This money technically from the Prince of Valor mansion. Although she felt a bit of heartache from spending that much money, she still gave it away as she was a generous person in the end.
Elder Meng clasped tightly onto the money with tears in his eyes. Then, he burst out into sobs while looking at that noble and beautiful young lady in front of him with deep gratitude. His voice was shrilled from emotion as he spoke. “Miss, your generosity and kindness are grand like the Bodhisattva of Compassion! I have to give you a kowtow!” As he spoke, he kneeled on both knees and about to kowtow to her.
She was shocked and rushed to stop him. “Senior, you kowtowed to me, this junior, will short my life!”
After stopping him, she comforted him before sending him away. The old man trotted quickly to the entrance. She heard everyone praising her and felt contented and pleased to do a good deed. However, she soon remembered a very important thing. At the realization, her face turned ashen, and she ran after the old man. “Elder Meng! Wait!”
Elder Meng stopped and turned back. “What do you need, Miss?”
“Hum… That is…” She mumbled in hesitation with a sour expression on her face. Finally, she pointed at the money in his hands and said with embarrassment, “You see… Can you… um… pay for me before you go?” She pointed at a table in a corner; her body sweating and hot from shame. “I still haven’t paid for the food I ordered!”
“…” Elder Meng went silent.