Chapter 272 - The Calm Before The Storm
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The calm before the storm.
Nightfall, Chuxiu Palace, the Imperial Palace.
Ji Muqing lay on her bed with the handkerchief Jing Yi gave to her placed neatly by her pillow; she must have washed that handkerchief countless times today. She turned onto her side to face it, a shy smile on the corners of her lips. The entire Chuxiu Palace was already fast asleep; only the pitter-patter of the rain resounding throughout the hall.
After a short while, a eunuch clumsily opened the large red gates to the yard and popped his head in. He held a flickering lantern in his hands and carefully approached Ji Muqing’s door.
Ji Muqing quickly kept the handkerchief under her covers, propping herself halfway up, asking, “Who’s there?”
“Miss Ji, it is this humble servant.”
“What is it?”
“This servant was tasked to present you with something.”
Ji Muqing could not be bothered to get up but she grit her teeth and hopped off the bed. She got dressed and opened the door impatiently, “What is this thing?”
The eunuch eyed his surroundings warily before pulling out a letter from his sleeve, handing it over to Ji Muqing, “His Highness had this one send this here, asking Miss Ji to come alone, quietly.”
Ji Muqing received the letter and opened it. Her initial puzzlement turned into panic, then unsettledness. This letter was delivered on the Crown Prince Jing Hua’s orders, asking to meet her beside the gates of the East Palace. Ji Muqing grabbed the letter excitedly, asking the eunuch, “Is this letter really from the Crown Prince?”
“Yes, His Highness also asked that Miss Ji hurry over.”
“Many thanks to you, eunuch, I will be there when I am ready.” Her words could not conceal her obvious anticipation.
The eunuch bowed, “Then this servant will take his leave first. This lantern will be left just here for Miss Ji to use on your way.”
After the eunuch left, Ji Muqing closed her room doors and began to prepare in a hurry. She put on her makeup and powder, then set the jade hairpin gifted to her by Concubine Xiao on her crown, only leaving for her meeting when satisfied with her dainty appearance in the mirror. She stealthily left Chuxiu Palace, lantern in hand and an umbrella in the other. She meant to hurry, but was also afraid that the rainwater would stain her dress and make a mess.
Along this whole way, she was extremely nervous. Was the Crown Prince going to take her to his bed tonight? At this thought, she bit her lips, a faint blush reaching all the way to her ears, trying to push Jing Yi whom she had longed for all this time to the back of her mind. She alternated between quick and slow strides, reaching the last corridor to the East Palace. Just then, she heard a voice coming from behind.
She stopped short in her tracks, a chill running down her back. No matter how savage and wild she was, she was still a woman and would still be afraid. Her umbrella shook along with her trembling hands as she stood still for a long time, before slowly turning around.
However, there was no one behind her, not even a speck of light could be seen. Ji Muqing frowned, was it just her imagination? She heaved a sigh of relief and turned back around, when a sharp pain shot through her neck. Before she could clearly see the black shadow that suddenly appeared in front of her, she had already lost consciousness and fell to the ground, her robes soaking wet in the rain. The flickering flame of her lantern extinguished.
A long while after, an orange ray slowly approached from afar, inching upon Ji Muqing.
Concubine Xiao’s ferocious face gradually grew before Ji Muqing’s eyes, her elaborate garb still showing off her status even on this rainy night. Two palace maids and three eunuchs stood by her side.
Sang Lan held an umbrella over Concubine Xiao, staring at the drenched Ji Muqing lying on the ground. She scoffed, “Your Ladyship, how did the Ji Family raise such an idiot?”
Concubine Xiao sneered, her eyes clearly giving away her deliberate intentions, indicating that jade hairpin on Ji Muqing’s head with her chin. One of her palace maids kneeled down, retrieving the hairpin and handing it over to Concubine Xiao.
Concubine Xiao fiddled around with it in her hands for a bit, then pulling that jade bead off the hairpin. Some blue liquid flowed out of the tiny hole on the bead as she pressed it in her hands.
Sang Lan was curious, “Your Ladyship, do these things really work?”
Concubine Xiao replied, “This clover-infused liquid, although weak, when worn constantly on one’s head for a few days could break apart even the purest of bodies.” In essence, it could result in a broken hymen!
That same palace maid knelt down once more, pulling up Ji Muqing’s sleeve for Concubine Xiao to inspect. Sure enough, there was no red mole to be seen anywhere on her fair arm, not even a single spot! In other words, smelling the scent of clover in close proximity could make that mole disappear from one’s body.
Concubine Xiao was very pleased and ordered for the hairpin to be placed back into Ji Muqing’s hair, then gestured towards the three eunuchs waiting behind her, “Bring her over, then.”
“This servant understands!” The three eunuchs stepped forward and hoisted Ji Muqing in the direction of Han Academy…
Concubine Xiao wiped her hands; since everything was finished, all she had to do was wait for her plan to unfold the next day and she returned to Zhangzhi Hall with peace of mind.
That night, what began as a drizzle developed into a thunderstorm; raindrops battering the red brick and green tiles of the palace unforgivingly.
The next morning.
A door within the inner yard of Han Academy was kicked wide open. Several eunuchs rushed into the room, surrounding the red bed with some muslin drapes.
Ji Muqing was awoken by the sudden commotion; she opened her eyes groggily and sat up in bed, cracking her sore neck, only then noticing the eunuchs by the bedside through the muslin drapes. “What are you…”
She had the shock of her life as she looked down! Ji Muqing was wearing only a red binder across her chest. She immediately pulled the sheets to cover herself, but she unveiled another surprise in store. There was a man lying beside her!
“Ah-” She let out a shrill scream!
Gao Bingze was startled awake by her scream. As he opened his eyes and finally registered the scene unfolding before him, he too, was frightened. He floundered as he sat up trying to get off the bed as quickly as he could, eventually falling straight to the ground and into the waiting hands of a eunuch outside.
“What is this? How did this happen? Why…” Gao Bingze was driving himself mad. As the Vice-director of Han Academy, he was well aware of who the lady sitting on the bed was.
The eunuch who caught him replied, “Vice-director Gao, Concubine Xiao wishes to see you.”
“No, I don’t know how it turned out like this, I was framed.”
“Whether you were framed or not is up to Her Ladyship to determine. Take him away.” The eunuchs who caught Gao Bingze were quick to act, dragging him away at the head eunuch’s orders. The head eunuch then directed his attention to Ji Muqing, sitting blankly on the bed, “Miss Ji, please get dressed quickly and follow this servant.” Ji Muqing had no idea how long she had sat for, until she was dragged in a daze to Zhangzhi Hall.
Inside the hall.
Both Ji Muqing and Gao Bingze were kneeling on the ground. Concubine Xiao was furious. She glared at Gao Bingze, “This Ladyship finally understands why you had removed Miss Ji’s name from the list earlier; the two of you already had feelings for each other, and now even dare to commit such shameless acts within palace grounds.”
Grenn's Rants Corner
Gao Bingze... I believe he will not be a simple chess piece for Concubine Xiao. She might want to pull him into her faction since he is after all very talented but too green for palace conspiracies.
As for that clover liquid, clover has no such effect in real life.
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