Chapter 189: Old Trick
“How could I not know about things even you noticed? Feng Baiyu and Nan Guyue are not easy to deal with. Nan Guyue has the entire Southern Mu behind her, while Feng Baiyu is the one the prince trusts the most. From what we’ve seen, that damn Nan Guyue must have allied herself with Feng Baiyu. It won’t be easy to take them down.”
Wei Lanying’s eyes were as dark as the bottom of a frozen pond. Dangerous current lurked underneath the calm surface, waiting to claim its victim.
“What does Lady Wei propose we do?” The maid was convinced that if Wei Lanying didn’t do anything, they would lose their place in this manor. She herself would be shunned by others along with Wei Lanying.
Wei Lanying narrowed her eyes in contemplation. She had an idea. She needed only a point of attack. She turned to the maid and asked, “Are there any newcomers in the manor? What kind of people are they?”
The maid didn’t know why Wei Lanying asked such a question, but she answered in a respectful tone, “A few days ago an official sent a few women to the manor to butter up the prince. The prince was smart enough to turn him down, but one of the women managed to stay by seducing the prince. She’s called Xiaoyun. She’s not from Northern Qi. This servant has met her a few times. She is pretty and has an alluring body. She is a serving concubine now. Lately the prince has been visiting her a lot...”
“Have I asked you about that?” Wei Lanying snapped. She was angry enough because of Nan Guyue. Her mood turned even darker hearing her maid complimenting another woman. “Just answer my question.”
Worried that she might have alerted Qi Chen and Nan Guyue, she looked over at them. Qi Chen helped Nan Guyue up and they left together. They looked like the perfect couple. It put a heavy weight on Wei Lanying’s chest.
The maid was upset that Wei Lanying suddenly lashed out at her, but she didn’t dare to voice her complaints. She stared at the ground and said, “This Xiaoyun knows her manners. Yesterday she gifted Lady Wei with some plum blossom cream. She must know the position you are in and is trying to get on your good side. When the prince is not around, however, I heard that this Xiaoyun would forget herself and look down on everyone else in the manor. Even the concubine Rou’er, who’s talented in all forms of literature, has been insulted by her. Rou’er has been in this manor for a while. Even though she is a serving concubine, she holds a more important place in the prince’s heart. She didn’t say anything because she doesn’t like troubles, but Xiaoyun continues to pester Rou’er.”
Wei Lanying hummed. This Xiaoyun was not someone harmless either. Who knew why she would try to approach Wei Lanying? The fact that she kept harassing Rou’er indicated that she wasn’t a smart one. Everyone knew that Qi Chen trusted and favored Rou’er. Even Wei Lanying didn’t dare to target Rou’er. Xiaoyun, though, recklessly walked into deep water.
Wei Lanying scoffed and carrassed her hairpin. “Ah, is that so? She is someone the prince likes after all. As the first woman to enter this manor, I should pay her a visit. I can’t let others think that I’m a petty spouse, can I?”
Wei Lanying turned to her maid and put on a smile. “Fetch me the white jade bracelet the honored consort has given me. I’ll go meet with this woman.”
“The bracelet is from the consort,” the maid said with a frown. “Isn’t that too valuable a gift? Why do you pick it for a woman like that? This servant can go find some random item to serve as a welcoming gift. Lady Wei is showing her enough regard by going to her in person. She isn’t going to complain.”
“This is why you can never be somebody,” Wei Lanying said. “You can’t lure a wolf in if you’re not willing to let your child get bitten. I’m being generous because there is something I’ll like her to do for me. It’s only a white jade bracelet. I can afford to give her one. A servant is always a servant. You don’t understand even something this simple. What will happen if I leave this matter in your hand? Go fetch the bracelet now, or you’ll get your punishment.”
The maid didn’t dare to say another word. She nodded and ran away. After about the time for an incense stick to burn, she came back with a delicate box. Wei Lanying opened it, revealing a white jade bracelet. With a smile, she led her maid to the building Xiaoyun was living in.
Xiaoyun was enjoying the sunshine in the garden. Hearing the footsteps, she thought that Qi Chen had come. She jumped when she opened her eyes and realized that it was Wei Lanying. She bowed at her respectfully.
Wei Lanying could tell that Xiaoyun was far from innocent. Her show of deference was a way for her to gain a foothold in the manor. Qi Chen was the crown prince. He was going to inherit the throne from the emperor. No one could predict what his harem would be like then, but it was smart to lay down the foundation now.
As for why Xiaoyun would treat Rou’er this badly, she must have thought that someone meek like Rou’er would not be able to cause her any troubles.
She wasn’t completely brainless, but she wasn’t smart either. She was putting her efforts in the wrong place. Wei Lanying couldn’t help feeling angry knowing that this was the woman Qi Chen had been treating favorably. She hid her anger behind a smile. She still had some use for Xiaoyun.
Wei Lanying opened the decorative box and took out the bracelet. She put it on Xiaoyun’s wrist. “This is a gift from the consort. Now it’s yours. We are both the prince’s spouse. We should put his well being first and help each other.”
Xiaoyun got excited by the fact that the bracelet was a gift the consort gave to Wei Lanying. Her emotions were clear on her face. She held onto the bracelet in delight.
“You must be careful, though,” Wei Lanying said in a steady voice. “Even if you see the princess being with gentleman Feng, you must not talk about it. Understand?”
Xiaoyun’s eyes widened. “Are the maids telling the truth? Is the child the princess bears not the prince’s? The father is that strategist called Feng Baiyu?”
Wei Lanying arched an eyebrow. The rumors started because of what happened on Qi Chen’s birthday. She didn’t know that people were still talking about it. It seemed that even fate was on her side. She didn’t need to say anything more.
Wei Lanying put on a scowl and looked around before turning to Xiaoyun. “No one knows for sure,” she said in a low voice. “Besides, if the prince knows of it, heads are going to roll. Someone like the princess won’t make such mistakes. You shouldn’t dwell on it.”
Xiaoyun made a noncommittal sound, preoccupied by her thoughts. She didn’t even realize that Wei Lanying had left. When she came to her senses, Wei Lanying was nowhere to be seen. She turned to her personal maid with a frown. “When did she leave?”
“In response to the lady, she’s left for a while,” the maid answered.
Xiaoyun nodded. After a pause, she asked, “How close are the prince and the princess?”
“The princess is pregnant, and it won’t be long before she gives birth,” the maid said with a smile, massaging Xiaoyun’s shoulders. “Some time ago people started saying that the child might not be the prince’s, but who knows for sure? Weirdly enough, the princess is pretty close to gentleman Feng. If I remember right, gentleman Feng was the one who noticed that the princess was pregnant. That was a long time ago, though. The lady hasn’t even come to this manor then.”
Xiaoyun was getting suspicious. She drank some tea and asked, “Do you know how many concubines there are in this manor?”
The maid thought for a moment. “Five or six.”
“Who else has gotten pregnant?” Xiaoyun continued.
“Lady Wei has mistakenly thought that she was pregnant. The prince punished her for causing a fuss. Other than that, no one has gotten pregnant. Why does the lady ask?”
Xiaoyun shook her head silently. She was more and more convinced that Wei Lanying was right, that Nan Guyue’s child was not Qi Chen’s. She let out a chuckle. The goddess of fate had smiled upon her! She had been worrying about what she should do after Nan Guyue gave birth to the child, but now she knew Qi Chen wasn’t the father! If he knew the truth, he would not go easy on Nan Guyue. Then, Xiaoyun would be one step closer to becoming the empress.
She didn’t voice her thoughts. Her deepened smile was the only indication of her excitement. It remained on her face even when Qi Chen visited her in the evening.
“What happened?” Qi Chen asked with an arched eyebrow as he poured himself a cup of water. “Why are you so happy? Did something good happen?”
Xiaoyun had done everything she could to seduce Qi Chen. Today, she wore a turquoise silk dress. The way it wrapped around her body without showing skin was arresting. Her long hair ran down her back, framing her face. Her smile was as vibrant as the peach blossoms in spring.
Qi Chen followed his desires and pulled her into his arms. He kissed her on her supple lips.
Blushing, Xiaoyun grabbed the hand that was caressing her arm and complained in a sweet voice, “Your Highness has been in too much of a hurry today. I still have things to tell you.”
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