Lin Haihai stopped before the door to one of the rooms and pushed it open. “Go in,” she said. “Piaoxue’s waiting for you!”
Huang Wensheng blanched, feeling the sudden urge to flee. Lin Haihai reached out to stop him and said with a smile, “What’s wrong? Didn’t you love that woman? Why would you run?”
That reminded Huang Wensheng that he had personally buried Piaoxue. She was dead. There were no ghosts in the world. Regaining his calm, he said coolly, “This official doesn’t know any Piaoxue, Consort Lin. If that’s who you want me to meet, please forgive this official for turning you down!”
He was about to leave when Bai Muyang emerged from the room. Stunned, he asked, “Shouldn’t you be in prison?”
“There are things the three of us should sit down and sort out, Huang Wensheng,” Bai Muyang said with an impassive look on his face. He grabbed Huang Wensheng’s wrist and dragged him inside. Bai Muyang was trained in the martial arts. The poison didn’t completely cut off his access to his power. Moreover, Lin Haihai had blocked his meridians to stop the poison from spreading. He was as powerful as he had been before he got afflicted by the poison, only feeling a little weaker. Meanwhile, Huang Wensheng was a scholar who couldn’t even subdue a chicken. It was only natural that he couldn’t resist Bai Muyang and ended up dragged into the room.
The door shut suddenly, and the eerie wind blowing inside shook the windows and made them creak. Huang Wensheng glanced uneasily at Bai Muyang before scanning the room. It eased his mind after seeing that there was no one else here.
“Where’s the antidote, Huang Wensheng?” Bai Muyang asked coldly.
Huang Wensheng gave him an alerted look. The last time he visited him in prison, his poison had come into effect and prevented him from even standing upright. There shouldn’t be any antidotes for the poison in the market.
“Has your poison been cleansed?” he asked in confusion. “How did you get out of the prison?”
Bai Muyang’s eyes blazed with fury, his pale face twisted. “I’m here to settle a score with you. You poisoned me and forced me to commit atrocities for you. You made me surrender the woman I love in exchange for an antidote. I’ll make you pay for that!”
“Ha, you were the one who coveted glory and fortune and yearned for becoming an official. And yet you always have an excuse for your own actions. You didn’t have to come with me to visit the grand councilor that day. Besides, if you truly love Piaoxue so much, why would you sacrifice her in exchange for three months of your life? You’re a coward who fears death, that’s why!”
Huang Wensheng spoke in a mocking tone. They had been classmates in the past. For the longest time, Bai Muyang had been better than he was as both a scholar and a martial artist. And the woman they met together ended up falling for Bai Muyang instead of him. He couldn’t accept it, not anymore. That was why he had put poison in Bai Muyang’s food the day before the imperial exams. Bai Muyang fell unconscious the next day, and Huang Wensheng became the principal scholar without him in the competition, which made him a household name overnight. He’d finally won!
Bai Muyang hated the man with his entire being. He admitted that he had his head in the clouds and had been too eager to achieve something. That was why he fell into Huang Wensheng’s trap. Over the years, he had been tasked with all the atrocities they committed. Many lost their lives at his hands, Piaoxue being one of them. There was no use feeling regret for what he’d done.
“I did wrong Piaoxue due to my cowardice, and I know I can’t be forgiven for that. I also acknowledge that I was an accomplice when you beat up Piaoxue and caused her to die of illness. I’ll admit to everything when His Majesty holds the culprits accountable. However, you’re not getting away with this!”
Bai Muyang’s blood boiled as he heaved with anger. He pressed his hand into his chest and collapsed onto a chair.
His words alearted Huang Wensheng. The man was cornered and wanted to drag him down with him. That must not happen. Huang Wensheng had worked hard to reach where he was today. He must not allow the man to destroy everything.
Seeing Bai Muyang struggling to breathe, he knew the poison must have reached Bai Muyang’s heart. He darted his eyes around and hardened his heart before pulling out a dagger from his sleeve. Then he stabbed Bai Muyang when he wasn’t expecting it.
Caught off guard, Bai Muyang only managed to take a step to the side, and the dagger ended up burying into the right side of his waist. Blood overflowed from the cut. He stared at Huang Wensheng in disbelief before collapsing to the floor without a word.
“You’re a cruel man, Sir Huang!”
Huang Wensheng felt a chill run down his spine as wind blew behind his back. The icy voice was oh so familiar to him. It was the voice that had been haunting him in his nightmares, demanding him to pay with his life!
He turned around and widened his eyes at the white figure floating in the air. The woman’s face was pale but stunning. Her brooding eyes shone with grievances that were still fresh in his memory. In a trembling voice, he murmured, “Piaoxue?”
“It’s been years,” Piaoxue said coldly as she approached him. “What an honor that you still remember me!”
Huang Wensheng staggered backward and shook his head. “This is impossible. Piaoxue died. You aren’t her. Who are you? Why are you putting up this act?“
His voice broke at the end of the sentence. Piaoxue advanced upon him with a fiercely chilling expression on her face. Her hair rose and flew in the air as she glared at Huang Wensheng. “That’s right. Piaoxue died. The one you’re facing now is nothing but a ghost with grudges. You were the reason why I died in an unfamiliar land and ended up wandering in limbo with no place to go. I’ve been through so much torment. I’ll make you pay for everything!”
Huang Wensheng scrambled back in panic, looking at the approaching white figure with fearful eyes. “Ghost!” he screamed as he fled. “Don’t come after me, Piaoxue! Go after Bai Muyang! I’ve killed him. I’ve avenged you! Let me go!”
The door opened suddenly. Lin Haihai crossed her arms before her chest and said, “You may go, Piaoxue. I’ll hand this man to you later. For now, I need him to go after a bigger villain!”
Piaoxue’s expression calmed and she said respectfully, “Thank you, Physician Lin!”
Her elegant figure vanished into a puff of white smoke and disappeared in the back of the room. Huang Wensheng glared in that direction, still reeling from what had happened. Lin Haihai walked up to Bai Muyang and sealed his death point to make him seem like he’d died from blood loss. She then stood up and said to Huang Wensheng, “This princess consort invited you here so that you could meet up with him and talk. Who would’ve thought that you would kill him? Not even Grand Councilor Yan would be able to get you out of this, Minister Huang!”
Her pleased look alerted Huang Wensheng. It dawned on him that this was a trap for him. He staggered back in panic. It should’ve been easy for him to talk himself out of the trap. However, Piaoxue’s appearance made him lose his calm. In a moment of fear, he lost the ability to discern the situation and ended up speechlessly listening to Lin Haihai’s accusation.
“Elder Sister, Grand Councilor Yan and First-Grade Madam have arrived!” Xiao Ju reported.
Lin Haihai raised her voice. “Welcome them in!”
“That won’t be necessary. We’ve come in ourselves. Yan Lirong is here to greet Consort Lin!”
Yan Lirong and Grand Councilor Yan had rushed into the North Court with a group of men. Lin Haihai gave her a closer look. The woman bore some resemblance to Imperial Consort Li, but with the additional shrewdness and fierceness on her face. Fortunately, Yan Lirong wasn’t the one Grand Councilor Yan had sent to the imperial harem, or she would have become a great threat to them.
“No need to be so formal, First-Grade Madam!”
Lin Haihai shifted her gaze to Grand Councilor Yan. The man dressed in a snake robe stared at Lin Haihai with a keen look in his eyes. “Greetings, Consort Lin,” he said in a mocking tone. There was no respect in his expression.
“Why did Grand Councilor Yan rush into the North Court with so many guards?” Lin Haihai looked over at the guards who seemed ready to strike any moment. Xiao Ju, Liu’er, and Tangtang were the only ones left here. “Go outside,” she told Xiao Ju. “Don’t come back no matter what happens!”
Xiao Ju nodded and took her leave.
“Didn’t I ask Commander Zheng to give you a message? We have come to visit and greet Consort Lin!” Yan Lirong looked very much like Imperial Consort Li when she acted in this arrogant manner. Just like her younger sister, she had a face that invited a slap.
Lin Haihai smiled faintly. “Now that we’ve gotten the formalities out of the way, we should get to business. You’ve come with many guards and soldiers. It just so happens that a murder has taken place here with the culprit caught redhanded. I'd like to entrust the soldiers to take him away for a trial!”
“Murder?” Yan Lirong exchanged a look with her father. “Where’s my husband?”
“Your husband, Minister of Revenue, is the one who committed the murder!” Lin Haihai said with feigned regret.
Huang Wensheng emerged from the room with his face ashen. He had killed Bai Muyang. Even now he couldn’t figure out why he would do something so reckless. At that moment, he was compelled by his killing intent, and he killed the man without thinking. He knew it would be impossible to escape from his sins when he saw Piaoxue. Who would have thought that ghosts were real? Heavens were always watching. No matter how long ago he had committed the crime, his retribution would come one day.
Yan Lirong went up to him to support him and asked in a concerned tone, “What happened, Husband? Did she frame you for murder?”
Huang Wensheng looked up at her beautiful face and said weakly, “I did kill someone, and I know why I did it. When I came to my senses, the victim had already collapsed!”
“Stop with the nonsense!” snarled Grand Councilor Yan. “You’re unwell. Leave to take a rest first.”
He turned to Lin Haihai. Time and experience had left deep wrinkles on his forehead. His gaze was sharp, but his expression was calm. “Are there any witnesses for the murder, Consort Lin?”
His voice was commanding. He hadn’t become the grand councilor for nothing. The trap might be enough to fool the fearful Huang Wensheng, but Grand Councilor Yan would never fall for it.
“Everyone has heard Minister Huang admit to his crime,” Lin Haihai said. “Besides, I bore witness to his murder. What more does Grand Councilor Yan need?”
Grand Councilor Yan took a step forward to have a look into the room. There was a man lying on the floor. Blood had formed a pool, but it was too dark for him to make out the man’s face. Everything in the room was in perfect order. No signs of struggle could be seen. It didn’t make sense. He knew Huang Wensheng. The man was calm and collected. He wouldn’t kill someone without an argument. This was a trap!
Yan Lirong knew from her father’s bemusement that he must have noticed something. She said in a serious voice, “Why did you invite my husband here, Consort Lin? He was busy with work today and wanted to postpone the visit. However, Commander Zheng forced him to come by force. In only half an hour, my husband seems to have lost his marbles. Then you accused him of murder. What exactly has happened?”
She pointed out that Huang Wensheng had been taken here by force, which would lead people to consider this a trap set up for the minister.
Yan Lirong was indeed a shrewd woman. She was calm and careful, and she deftly conveyed her accusation through polite words. Thankfully, Lin Haihai had sent Zheng Feng to find help for them. She wondered who he would end up seeking help from.
“What do you mean, Madam Yan?” Lin Haihai tore away the veil of diplomacy. “Are you accusing me of killing a man and framing Minister Huang?”
Yan Lirong was caught off guard. She didn’t expect the princess consort to bluntly put her subtext into words, and in a faint tone free of anger.
“Wensheng, Lirong, let’s not trouble Consort Lin further. We’ll take our leave, Consort Lin!” With age indeed came experience. Grand Councilor Yan planned to take Huang Wensheng away quickly and pretended nothing had happened. He knew this was a trap, and that he would be making an enemy out of Lin Haihai should he attempt to resolve the trap. He didn’t want that to happen just yet, so he offered her an olive branch.
But then they heard Xiao Yuan’s voice declaring, “His Majesty has arrived!”
Lin Haihai’s heart pounded. He’s here!Previous Chapter Next Chapter