Chapter 71: The Empress’s Suspicions (Part 1)
The rays had lost its colour and the night drew closer. The room was not lit and the windows were closed. The few persons each were lost in their thought and neither said any more words, making the room feel bleak and filled with a significant heaviness.
“Mistress, Imperial Physician Lin send over this medication.” The door was gently pushed open and Fu Ling’s soft voice broke the silence in the room.
Qing Feng recovered herself and reached out to take the medication. The concoction was somewhat cool and seeing Fu Ling’s serious expression, Qing Feng guessed that she had heard by the door what she and Chen Zhen talked about. This was also good, she would save energy on explanation. Fu Ling was someone by her side, there was still a lot of things that need her to deal. Seeing that the day was nearing to Xushi (modern timing: 7 – 9 pm), Qing Feng thought for a moment before softly saying, “Fu Ling, go dispose of the bloodstained things in the sedan then go get the sedan-bearers and let them wait outside the courtyard.”
Fu Ling nodded her head and lit the candles in the outer chambers and the dim candlelight entered the area. Fu Ling looked at calm Chen Zhen leaning against Wu-er and the baby she was carrying, Fu Ling’s brows knitted up again. She must have planned to pass her powers and problems to Mistress. Protecting both mother and child thoroughly? It was easier said than done…
Fu Ling did not move for a long time and Qing Feng guessed that she had some concerns so she sighed softly, “Go then.” Fu Ling held her expression back and turn to exit.
Qing Feng’s eyes swept across the utter mess in the room and called out, “Ru Yi.”
Ru Yi quickly walked into the room and Qing Feng whispered by her ears, “Throw the bloody water into the begonia flowers. As for the bedsheets, linen and sorts that were stained with blood, everything must be burnt and the ashes buried in the soil. Not a trace must be left and it must be done immediately.”
“Yes.” Ru Yi’s deft hands and legs started to clean up while Qing Feng passed the medication to Wu-er, “Feed her the medication.” This time, without anyone support, Chen Zhen held the baby with one hand and took the bowl of medication with the other and drank it finished in a few mouths.
Seeing the plain sheets stained with blood, Chen Zhen’s blood-soaked clothes can no longer be worn. Qing Feng brought out a set of new palace uniform and handed it over to Wu-er before carrying the child from Chen Zhen’s embrace, “Wu-er, help her to change out of her clothes.”
When Chen Zhen finished changing, Ru Yi also had tidied up the bed but the baby in Qing Feng’s arm started to cry without any reason. Perhaps its because he is still so small and weak, his cries were very soft, like a little kitten. The child in her embrace kept on struggling and keep heading towards her chest, making Qing Feng helpless, “Why is he crying?”
Chen Zhen smile softly and replied, “Perhaps he is hungry.” Finishing, she took the baby and sat on the bed before opening her robes. Qing Feng stood awkwardly at the head of the bed and cough lightly, “You have to hurry up. The evening banquet time is almost here.”
Qing Feng walked out of the room and Wu-er passed the clothes that Chen Zhen just changed out from to Ru-yi. She wanted to walk in but Qing Feng stopped her, “In a moment, I will send them back. You will now go over and wait by the road in front of the Cold Palace.”
Even though she wanted to accompany by her mistress’s side, now she could only listen to Qing Feng’s arrangements. Wu-er softly replied, “Yes.” And quietly exited.
Qing Feng waited outside for a while and when the child’s cat cries stopped, she then walk pass the screen to see. Chen Zhen was looking down at the small head in front of her chest and her face was still as pale as a sheet but that smile on her face showed her happiness. It indeed was a beautiful scene. Qing Feng’s heart felt a weird sense of irritation and she quickly walked out of the stuffy room. The courtyard and begonia fragrance in the night breeze help to appease her restless heart.
Qing Feng stood in the courtyard for a while and when Fu Ling came back after completing the tasks, she stood behind her and hesitated many times before finally asked, “You really do not intend to tell the Emperor?”
Qing Feng’s back stiffen and her voice was deep and carried a bit of hesitation, “Hide it first… Even though both mother and child is safe, I had already hoodwink the Emperor and secretly took them out from the Cold Palace to give birth at Qing Feng Hall. This had already broken the rules of the Palace. At that time, the Empress will take the opportunity and I would not be able to escape from any blame. Furthermore… I also need to borrow Chen Zhen’s influence and power. The battle in the Inner Palace if fare more complicated that I originally thought and… Much more dangerous.”
Even though Qing Feng said it as such, there was another voice in her heart. Actually she did not want to tell Yan Hong Tian now because she was still unsure of Yan Hong Tian’s mind. She did not know what was she thinking about. Eldest Sister and Youngest Sister finally had a place to call home and she herself have this concern thing in her womb. She did not have the time and energy to fight with Yan Hong Tian. It was difficult for the relationship between both of them to ease up and she did not want to destroy this rare peace. It was better not to risk it.
But, was it so easy to hid it from the Emperor’s eyes? Fu Ling opened her mouth but finally she only answered, “En.” Standing in the courtyard for a while and seeing that the time was near, both of them walked into the house.
Chen Zhen carried the child and sat on the bed and the child fell asleep after he was full. Qing Feng found out that this child was very quiet, except for the two crying sound that he made when he was hungry, the rest of the time he was sleeping. This was also good as it would not be discovered easily.
Fu Ling worried that Chen Zhen would be discovered when she was heading back to the Cold Palace when she was carrying the child so she carefully found a bamboo basket and lined it with a thick cotton pad and covered it with a bamboo lid, like it was a food container and would not look conspicuous. Chen Zhen saw Fu Ling carefully placing the baby into the basket and her heart ache but she admitted that Fu Ling was this thoughtful about it. Sighing lightly, she hid back into the spacious sedan with Qing Feng help and this time there was an additional support which made her heart warm.
After settling the mother and son, Qing Feng also went into the sedan. Fu Ling placed the curtain down and after ensuring that everything was appropriate, she then open the main doors to let the sedan-bearers carry the sedan out. The sedan headed towards Qian Yang Hall but when they were around a corner, suddenly there was a voice that sounded inside the sedan, “Stop the sedan!”
The sedan-bearers stopped their feet and Fu Ling approached the sedan to ask softly, “Mistress, what is the matter?”
“The shaking of the sedan made Bengong feel uncomfortable.” The voice from the sedan was very weak but it made the sedan-bearer’s forehead sweat. This was a eight manned sedan and they did not walk quickly so it shouldn’t be like that. A few of them looked at Fu Ling like they were pleading. Fu Ling thought for a while and said, “This servant will open up the curtains so that you will be able to catch your breath before the journey is continued. Is that all right?”
The person in the sedan was not furious so the sedan bearers were secretly relieved and gently place the sedan down.
“You all can retreat.”
“Yes.” The sedan bearers did not think much and quickly retreated to a few zhang (1 zhang = 10 feet) away from the rear of the sedan, turn their back to the sedan and stood at the side of the path and wait. Imperial Concubine Qing’s appearance was not for them to see.
Confirming that they had retreated far enough and the darkness of the night would not be able to allow them to see the situation here, Fu Ling then open the curtains up. Qing Feng got out of the sedan first and looked around to ensure that there was no one else before nodding her head to Fu Ling. Fu Ling then went into the sedan to support Chen Zhen out.
“Mistress.” Seeing Chen Zhen’s figure, Wu-er who was hiding in the bushes for a long time quickly came up.
“I can only send you to here.” Not knowing when the guards will patrol, Qing Feng did not say anything more and handed the small basket that the baby was placed in to Wu-er hands before urgently saying, “Quickly leave.”
Chen Zhen had taken two steps when she suddenly stop, “You have to be careful.”
Qing Feng was surprise for a moment and she smiled, “I will.”
Her sight landed on Qing Feng’s abdomen and Chen Zhen lowered her eyes to think for a while. Just as Qing Feng was about to ask her if there was anything the matter, Chen Zhen said, “Be careful of Shui Xin!” Finishing, without lingering she hurried away with Wu-er support.
Be careful of Shui Xin? Qing Feng and Fu Ling were momentarily surprised. Not be careful of the Empress or be careful of the Empress Dowager but it was be careful of… Shui Xin?
Not sure why, suddenly there was a flash of Shui Xin smiling face in her mind and Qing Feng could not help but shiver. She initially intended to send Chen Zhen back and head to the evening banquet as if nothing had happened but now she no longer had any intention to go to the banquet.
“Return back.” With two words, Qing Feng was already back sitting in the sedan.
“Yes.” Fu Ling shouted to the sedan bearers at a distance, “Her Ladyship do not feel well. Return back to the palace.”
The bearers were bewildered but they did not dare so say anything and carried the sedan back. This time Fu Ling let them stop outside the house and she supported Qing Feng out the sedan before telling them to carry the sedan away.
The servants of Qing Feng Hall that were chased out for more than half a day had now all returned but after what had happened in the afternoon, everyone tacitly stayed in their rooms and dared not walk around. There was only one palace maid that was standing far away at the bottom of the steps waiting for orders.
Qing Feng entered the house and saw that the candles were bright and the house was spick and span without any traces of the mess and blood that were seen in the afternoon. There was an intermittent wind blowing through the half opened window, bringing in the light elegant fragrance of the begonia. Qing Feng walked over and sat on the couch before picking up a teacup to sip. The tea was fragile and the temperature was suitable. Qing Feng was satisfied and look at Ru Yi who was standing quietly by the door. The corners of Qing Feng’s lips raised up to form a smile but she did not rush to praise her.
“Fu Ling, it is almost winter. Prepare some daily necessities and send it over to the Cold Palace.”
“Yes.” Thinking of the situation she saw in Cold Palace, Fu Ling was thinking of what things to prepare. Qing Feng suddenly said, “And also, from now onwards, to outsiders, announce that my foetus energy is interrupted and is currently bedridden.” Before she could clearly understand more about Shui Xin, not changing was better than changing ten thousands times. She will not leave the house so others will not have the opportunity to peep.
Fu Ling nodded her hand and Qing Feng held a teacup but did not drink or speak. Fu Ling saw Ru Yi standing beside her and she understood, thus quickly exiting the room.
When Fu Ling left, Ru Yi’s heart jumped to her throat. Even though she kept her head down, she could feel the pair of eyes looking deeply at her.
The call was light and warm which made it sound nice but Ru Yi’s heart tightened.
“Your Ladyship…” Opening her mouth, Ru Yi only then know that her voice was quivering so much and she swallowed her saliva and dare not speak at all.
“What are you afraid of?” The soft and gentle voice had a little laughter which made Ru Yi scared witless. She was truly afraid. Over these days, she constantly remind herself to be careful and extra careful but she was still young. Previously she mixed around with Mama, Gonggong, Gui Rens and Beauties. If her mouth was sweet, there would be rewards and if one was stupid, the worst was that she would be beaten or scolded. She had never before served a mistress that could have her life with one small wave of her finger. She had overcame the calamity of Imperial Concubine Hui’s delivery but today if she did not become Qing Feng’s confidant, she could… Only die!
Seeing Ru Yi behaving like a little mouse in a corner, Qing Feng’s brow slightly tighten, she should feel scared but she did not want her to be so fearful. Lightly coughing, Qing Feng softly said, “You did well today.”
Qing Feng’s praise made her tighten heart relax a little but her next sentence hanged her heart up in the air.
“Do you know why it is you?”
Ru Yi thought for a while but she dare not answer and just shook her head lightly.
“Actually your brother’s illness is not serious, if he is taken care, he would have a long life.” Saying that, Qing Feng looked in satisfaction at Ru Yi, who was all along lowering her head in fright, suddenly looking up with full of fear and doubt in her bright eyes as she stared at her.
She knew that she had chosen the correct bargaining chip. Previously Yan Hong Tian also used Eldest Sister’s life to blackmail her so she know the feeling of someone grabbing one’s weakness. She does not allow any single trouble by her side and she did not have so much trust to give it to another. Thus this was the only way to go.
And she trusted her own foresight. Sure enough, Ru Yi understood somthing in the next moment and got down to her knees and firmly said, “Ru Yi will definitely be loyal to your Ladyship and to her best!”
The effect that she wanted was attained thus Qing Feng smiled gently, “All right, get up to speak.”
Ru Yi got up slowly.
Qing Feng said one sentence and Ru Yi then moved and slowly came to Qing Feng’s side.
Seeing her being that careful, Qing Feng shook her hand and said softly, “There isn’t anyone by Bengong’s side. As long you are loyal and dedicated, naturally you will not be ill-treated.”
“Thanking your Ladyship.” She finally got her wish to be Qing Feng’s confidant. She initially thought that with that position there would be many opportunities for money but she did not understand why as the same time her heart was also mixed with a deep sense of fear.
Li Yan Palace
After the palace banquet, there was a performance of the arts and after that there was also fireworks. It was only the first day of the celebration and she was death tired. Xin Yue Ning sat in front of the bronze mirror and lightly rubbed her sore neck as she let Shui Xin help her remove the heavy and gorgeous hair ornaments. Thinking of how Shui Xin had disappeared for a few hours during the day, she asked with some dissatisfaction, “Where did you go today?”
Carefully unwinding the hair with her hands, Shui Xin did not want to hide it from her and told Xin Yue Ning everything she saw today.
“What?” After finish listening to Shui Xin, the exhausted eyes that were previously closed opened immediately and said, “There was indeed such thing? Why would there be blood for no apparent reason?”
“This servant had viewed the sedan that Imperial Concubine Qing used and was unable to find any traces of blood inside. But this servant and check the remains of the medication that Imperial Physician Lin brewed it for Imperial Concubine Qing. It is a medication for postnatal replenishing of blood.”
Xin Yue Ning’s brows slightly knitted as she murmured, “Her child is not born yet, why drink a medication for postnatal replenishing of blood?”
Wait, postnatal?! And also… Bloodstain?! Xin Yue Ning’s expression changed. Not sure if was because of her shocking thoughts or excitement due to the developments, her voice changed, “Could it be… Could it be that she has miscarried her child?!” No wonder Qing Feng did not let Imperial Physician Wang to treat and insisted on Lin Feng. And she also chased everyone away from Qing Feng Hall. The more she thought about it, the more she felt that she was not wrong. Xin Yue Ning lightly pat her hands on the table and sneered with some anger, “It must be like this! Such a good Qing Feng. She still think she can continue to pretend to be pregnant and later replace a fake one? It’s simply her wishful thinking!”
Xin Yue Ning had a happy expression on her face while Shui Xin had a normal calm face and she continued in a plain and faint voice, “But at Xushi (modern timing: 7 – 9 pm), Imperial Concubine Qing’s sedan left for the banquet but when halfway, she suddenly said that she did not feel well and went back to Qing Feng Hall.” She guessed that Qing Feng must had some secret plans, whether it was a miscarriage or not it was still unclear. She was unable to see through if Qing Feng did today was to preparing for something or was purposely trying to attract attention.
“She definitely did that in order to deceive everyone and in the end she dare not attend the evening banquet.” Xin Yue Ning suddenly stood up and push Shui Xin away from helping her to undress and eagerly said, “No, Bengong will go inform the Empress Dowager now. Lets see how long can she still pretend!”
Shui Xin held Xin Yue Ning’s shoulder, “Mistress, keep calm and don’t get excited. There is no conclusive evidence in the matter and it is still the celebration thus it would not be wise to disturb the Emperor and Empress Dowager. If she is still with child, she would take the opportunity to cause trouble. If it makes the Emperor angry, then it would not be good.”
“This…” Thinking of Yan Hong Tian’s pair of piercing eyes, Xin Yue Ning’s heart slightly became timid but she was unwilling to let Qing Feng go. She softly said, “Then think of something to verify it!”
Verification? The corner of Shui Xin’s lips tighten and a flash crosses her eyes before she softly reply, “Yes.”
She should indeed test her out…