Chapter 1106 The Empress’s Dilemma
“Imperial Mother, please summon the imperial physician first!” The Empress reminded her.
The Empress Dowager nodded and asked someone to call the imperial physician over. Then she went to the small tent with some people.
When they arrived at the tent, they saw Rui’an Great Elder Princess sitting on the couch in a panic. Shao Wanru was lying on the bed, and she held her hand with tears streaming down her face.
The Empress Dowager staggered and only managed to stand still by holding a palace maid’s hand. After taking a deep breath, she asked solemnly, “How is Princess Chen?”
“Your Majesty…” Rui’an Great Elder Princess was helped up by Nanny Gao and struggled to salute the Empress Dowager. However, right after she called out, she burst out crying.
“What’s wrong with Princess Chen?” The Empress Dowager ignored Rui’an Great Elder Princess and hurried to the bed. When she saw Shao Wanru lying motionless on the bed with a pale face, she was shocked and almost fell.
Her grandson had asked her to take good care of Princess Chen thousands of times. How could she die at her birthday party banquet? How could she explain it to her grandson?
“What on earth is going on?” After pulling herself together, the Empress Dowager turned around and asked Yujie and Qu Le, who were kneeling on the ground. The Empress Dowager had seen the two servant girls who served Shao Wanru.
Nanny Wei reached out to help the Empress Dowager sit down on a chair aside.
The Empress sat on another chair while those imperial consorts and princesses crowded at the tent entrance. They all looked inside nervously. Princess Chen looked fragile when presenting the gift, but it had never occurred to them that she would suddenly die.
How could her life end abruptly?
Since everyone here had some connections with the royal family, they certainly took it as a plot against Princess Chen’s life. Some people tried to assassinate Princess Chen and even made a big scene. Last time, Princess Chen narrowly escaped death, but it didn’t mean that she could also survive this time.
Those people familiar with each other exchanged glances, knowing full well that they were thinking the same thing.
“She was fine before. How could such a thing happen? You didn’t serve her well, did you? Some people, come here! Take the two servant girls away and heavily flog them twenty times.” The Empress Dowager was in a towering rage. When her grandson returned and asked her how Princess Chen ended up like this under her protection, she would feel too guilty to answer him. Would Chen’er think that Princess Chen had an accident because she had struggled to send her the birthday gift?
Thinking that she might take the blame, the Empress Dowager Queen could no longer suppress her anger.
“Your Majesty, please spare us. My master was fine before and even got up to have the meal. After that, she went to sleep… Then, she became like this.” Yujie cried loudly and kowtowed hard several times on the ground.
Qu Le kowtowed twice to the Empress Dowager and sobbed out, “Your Majesty, when Her Lady fell asleep, she was all right. We had been waiting on her. But she didn’t get up after sleeping for so long, so we went up to wake her up. But no matter how hard we tried, Her Lady didn’t wake up. We panicked and reported it to you.”
The two servant girls kowtowed very hard. Though on the mud ground, they repeatedly kowtowed with thuds. Instantly, they got a blue mark on their foreheads.
“Did she become like this… after the meal?” Rui’an Great Elder Princess asked hurriedly. At this time, she was so anxious that she ignored the Empress Dowager. Now her granddaughter was lying there with a pallid face. Seeing that there was no trace of blood on her face, she was greatly flustered.
“Yes, my master didn’t want to eat at first. But Great Elder Princess sent someone to tell her to have the meal. So, my master ate a little more, but… but… Why couldn’t she get up for no reason?” Yujie explained in tears.
Shao Wanru was lying stone still on the couch. Her face was colorless, but her expression was extremely calm. Under the cloak, her hands could be seen folded properly before her chest, as if she were sleeping as usual.
“Having a meal? Was it because of the food?” Though Rui’an Great Elder Princess was smiling, she looked more painful than when she was crying. She looked around with her alarmed and panicky eyes, seemingly searching for something. Finally, she saw the food basket in the corner of the tent. “Check, check what’s in it. Is there anything strange in it?”
“Your Majesty and Your Grace, when only the two of us were in the tent, a eunuch of the kitchen came to take the hamper, but we didn’t give it to him. He was not the one who sent the lunch here. Why would another person come to do this after such a short time?” Yujie said.
“Great Elder Princess had specially sent someone to ask my master to eat more. Otherwise, my master wouldn’t have had more food…” Qu Le added in tears.
“I… The Empress reminded me, so I asked someone to come here.” Rui’an Great Elder Princess muttered subconsciously to herself.
The Empress Dowager was calmer than her. At this time, she had already collected herself, her eyes falling on the Empress’s face. “You asked the imperial kitchen to prepare lunch for Princess Chen, didn’t you?”
In the beginning, it was the Empress Dowager who wanted to prepare the lunch for Princess Chen and was about to send someone there. It happened that the Empress’s servant would go to the kitchen for the banquet, so the Empress took over the matter. The Empress Dowager didn’t feel anything wrong about this, but it turned out that the meal went wrong. Upon hearing Rui’an Great Elder Princess’s words, everyone on the spot felt that something fishy was going on with the food.
Did the Empress plan this?
It sounded reasonable if this matter was done by the Empress. The assassination targeting Princess Chen hadn’t yet been investigated thoroughly. But there were only a few people who might have schemed against Princess Chen. The Empress and Prince Zhou were very likely to do this. Since their previous plan failed, they devised a second plan to murder Princess Chen.
The Empress appeared gentle and kind on the surface, but she was vicious. How could she be so kind-hearted?
The Empress could do such a thing to Princess Chen. After all, the Empress was the leading suspect if anything unusual happened in the Palace.
“Imperial Mother, I indeed had asked someone to order lunch for Princess Chen according to your instruction.” Seeing that the Empress Dowager was suspicious of her, the Empress was angry and resentful, but she had to stand up and explain.
“The eunuch who took back the food basket was not the one who sent it over. Do you know that?” The Empress Dowager questioned her sternly with a cold face. As soon as the imperial physician came, she would tell him to check the food first.
Everything in the Palace should be done according to the strict rules. No one was allowed to take over other people’s business at will.
“Imperial Mother, I don’t know it. I have no idea why the imperial kitchen would send different eunuchs. I’ll investigate it now. Once I find out who did this, I won’t let the person go easily.” The Empress hurriedly said, eager to put the blame elsewhere.
“Punish a few eunuchs? If something bad happens to Princess Chen, you’ll only punish two eunuchs. Do you disdain Princess Chen or look down on Prince Chen? If Prince Chen gets into trouble for no specific reason like this, you’ll promise to punish some people and leave this matter behind, won’t you?”
The Empress Dowager rebuked, pounding the table angrily with annoyance.
All the princesses and imperial consorts kept quiet out of fear and lowered their heads, not daring to say a word.
When the Empress Dowager and the Empress had a fierce dispute, how could they dare to say anything with their inferior status? At this time, they might be put to death because of an indiscreet remark.
Many people were secretly sizing up the situation. It was said that Prince Chen would arrive in the capital city soon. No one knew what terrifying things he would do then.
It was not all because Prince Chen highly valued Princess Chen. On the surface, Prince Chen had been gentle and refined, but he was an overbearing bully who held grudges. If he was enraged, it was hard to predict what would happen next.
He wouldn’t yield an inch, even to his eldest brother or second elder brother.
“Imperial Mother, I’ll find out the truth and the people behind this. Princess Chen wouldn’t suffer in vain.” The Empress was in a peeve over it. Somehow, she had to be responsible for this, but she hadn’t done anything. She just asked someone to deliver the message and offered to help out of kindness. It turned out that she was wrong to do all of this.
If she had known this, she wouldn’t have kindly reminded Rui’an Great Elder Princess. The whole episode turned out to be entirely her fault.
Yujie wiped away the tears from her bloodshot eyes and said, “Your Majesty, I can recognize the two eunuchs. I’ve seen the one who delivered the meal and the one who came over to get the food basket. We’ve paid some attention to them and remembered their looks!”
“We can identify them!” Qu Le echoed.
“Take one of them to the imperial kitchen to pick out the eunuchs!” The Empress Dowager ordered coldly. She had made up her mind. Though she was completely surprised by Shao Wanru’s accident, it didn’t happen to Chu Liuchen after all. Although the Empress Dowager looked at the Empress gloomily, she stayed rational.
“Anyone? Come here and take a person away to identify the eunuchs!” The Empress ordered loudly.
“There is no need to use your people. My servant will take her there!” The Empress Dowager said, looking at her servants in the Palace of Benevolent Peace. Then, a eunuch came over and took Qu Le away as the Empress Dowager had ordered.
The Empress was humiliated in public. There was a flash of anger in her eyes, but she couldn’t say anything. The Empress Dowager was preventing her from doing something on the sly.
Speaking of this, the Empress felt aggrieved and angry. After all, she was inexplicably involved in this matter. In the previous, the Empress had been trying to ease the relationship with Shao Wanru so that the Emperor and the Empress Dowager would stop suspecting her. But now she was suspected of plotting against Shao Wanru. She was so annoyed that she almost lost control.
The imperial physician entered in a hurry and saluted the Empress Dowager and the Empress. Then he was taken to the corner to check the dishes Princess Chen had had.
First, he tested the food with silver needles but found nothing wrong. Then he checked all the things carefully. When he figured it out, his face changed drastically.
“What do you think?” The Empress Dowager asked.
“Your Majesty, there is the medicine for promoting blood circulation in the rice. Princess Chen’s wound hasn’t healed yet. If she had taken this medicine, she would… would…” The imperial physician stammered. He had only heard that something had happened to Princess Chen, but he didn’t know what exactly it was. Judging from the current situation, he deduced that Princess Chen’s wound must have burst open, and she had bled to death.
“Zhuozhuo!” Rui’an Great Elder Princess wailed. Her body crumpled, and she passed out.
Nanny Gao reached out to hold Rui’an Great Elder Princess and cried out anxiously, “Your Grace, Your Grace!”
“What happened?” A cold voice suddenly came from the door. The Empress, who was about to speak, was suddenly shocked and felt a chill on her back…
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