A couple of weeks passed by and the harem was silent. The low ranking concubines and consorts stopped whispering rude comments about Su Yin and me, I assumed it was because of our relationship with Chang Ying. Of course, they did talk behind our backs in their chambers.
Hua Er’s mother came to the palace and stayed with us. I never get to see her because she does a vast amount of labour work, but all in all, Hua Er was still joyful.
As said, it was getting a little silent in the harem, and perhaps, maybe a little too silent. There was no ruckus and arguments, just the Empress bossing concubines around.
I was still reminiscing Chang Ying and I’s conversation. I did long for another conversation because I feel extremely idle in where I am right now. I was bored. It was weeks without technology and I was starting to get used to it. The only thing that distracted me from everything was the Emperor as he continued to visit me every day. We continued to play instruments together in silence and talked about philosophy.
“Your Majesty, you’re okay with silence?”
“I’m alright when I’m with you.”
“Sounds good. I’m honoured...”
“Your Majesty is here again?”
“You look surprised?”
“Definitely. You must really want to be with me?”
“Why wouldn’t I be?”
I was annoyed by his visits because it interrupted my time to see Jaxon.
Speaking of Jaxon, this week, he was sent off to investigate thieves in a small village with a few guards. Without Jaxon around, I felt powerless. As stupid as it may sound, I felt like I was invincible when he was around because I knew he would stand by me.
With Jaxon gone, I spent more time with the Emperor. I have to admit, I enjoyed his company. He was starting to look attractive in my eyes. Every time he would enter my chamber, I had a strange feeling in my heart. I was confused... as I should be. He had that consort murdered... I never brought it up, or even have the guts to because I was scared of what he would say to me. He would’ve asked where I got the information from, and I could never rat out Chang Ying. I still worried about the consort, although she died. Execution? She did not deserve execution.
I felt bad for all the people that have been executed in this time... Or punished. It didn’t make sense to me as to why they deserved brutal punishments. I could never punish someone like that. I’ll feel bad.
“Lady Ying Yue, what tea would you like this morning?” Hua Er’s mother asked in a rushed manner, she was busily scrubbing the floor of my chamber.
“Anything is fine,” I finished up my calligraphy and rested the brush on the stand. “Lei Shu, you don’t need to clean the floor every single morning.”
Sweat was trickling down her forehead and down her temple, her hair looked chaotic. Hua Er’s mother looked exhausted due to the labour work she had to do, but I always invited her back to my chamber so she can take a break. Yet she never stops working.
Lei Shu dropped the sponge and wiped her forehead with the back of her hand. “I know but the floor needs to be spotless so His Majesty can enter.”
“His Majesty should not be picky. I order you to stop and take a break.” I bent over to grab the sponge and held my hand up for her. She accepted it quickly and stood up.
Once Lei Shu settled up, her eyes wandered off and she bowed hastily. “Great blessings to Your Majesty.”
I turned to face the Emperor. Even though with the stern expression on his face, he never ceased to make me smile. His jawline was more chiselled when he was serious, and his soft lips pouted out more. His eyes would’ve intimidated me in the beginning, but it wasn’t long before I started to feel safe when I looked into them. Gross. I know.
“Great-” I was about to kneel until he stopped me.
“Don’t,” he held my wrist and helped me up. The Emperor stared at me in awe, slowly sliding his hand in mine. I was grinning unintentionally. “Lei Shu, you are needed in the Empress’s chamber.”
“Your Majesty, Lei Shu is already occupied in my chamber.” I looked behind my shoulder to give her a quick wink.
“I’ll inform the Empress that she’s busy.”
With that, his silky black hair swiftly moved along with his body and exited the room.
Every stroke of the brush onto the paper, every time she set her brush down to ponder her thoughts, every sip of her tea, consisted of rage and decisions. Empress Nian Shu was ready to begin.
Will it work?
Do I truly want to do this?
The answer was yes. Yes. Nian Shu was ready to carry out her plan, and if it meant slightly risking trouble upon herself, she would still do it. She gritted her teeth and sighed through her nostrils. Today, she will not have her title threatened by Han Ying Yue ever again.
Was she delusional? She could be. But she didn’t care. She felt threatened every day because she didn’t want to lose the Emperor’s favour.
The Emperor slowly walked into her bedroom. He craned his neck to have a slight peak at her poetry. Before reading a single character, the Empress hastily placed her hand on the paper. Swiftly, she turned around to face her husband.
“Your Majesty.” she plasters a smile on her face. While she greets the Emperor, she pushes the paper away from the table.
“Unfortunately, Lei Shu is not available. She is at Noble Consort Han’s chamber,” her husband calmly says. “Is there-”
“Don’t worry! I have no more chores left for her.” Nian Shu interrupted. Ying Yue this, Ying Yue that, I will feel pity once I get rid of her. After Han Ying Yue is gone, I will be the shoulder for you to cry on. “Your Majesty must be stressed over the trial this afternoon! Let’s have a drink.”
The Emperor was reluctant at first. It was the trial for the assassination, and it was time to interrogate the remaining assassin that Ying Yue left behind. Thinking about the assassination reminded the Emperor of Ying Yue. Her bravery that night was recognized by the whole entirety of the Palace and the population outside of the Palace as well. Emperor Shi Zhong smirked at the thought of her.
He nodded. “Empress, I would love to have a drink with you.”
They both situated themselves at the table.
It was time to strike.
“This wine was sent from Noble Consort Han,” the Empress motioned her maid to pour the wine vessel that the Empress had prepared herself. “She used special ingredients that relieve stress. She was very considerate, Your Majesty.”
“That’s amazing to hear. Ying Yue has always been considerate of me,” the Emperor replied.
The Empress brought the cup to her lips and pretended to gulp. She gave the maid a last look and took one last breath before whacking the cup out of the Emperor’s hands.
“Your Majesty! Don’t you dare drink that!” she cried.
Her acting skills weren’t impressive but the Emperor sure was gullible.
“Empress! What have you done?” he stood up, gritting his teeth as he brushed the liquid off his hanfu.
Nian Shu’s breaths became heavier by every second, she snatched the vessel from the maid and narrowed her eyes. “This must be poisoned.”
“How would you know if it was poisoned?” he yelled while he fumbled with hanfu. In defeat, he let the maids handle his clothes.
“It tastes like something I’ve drunk before! Get the needle right this instance!”
With that being said, the maid hurriedly grabbed a needle from a wooden box. The Empress snatched it from her hand and dipped the needle into the vessel effortlessly. The tip of the needle turned pitch black, causing horror in the Emperor’s eyes. His heart stopped and rage rushed through his entire bloodline.
Nian Shu cocked an eyebrow and smirked. The Emperor couldn’t see the mischievous smirk played across the Empress’s face as her back was turned against him, which hid all her insecurities and evil within herself.
“Han Ying Yue,” he whispered.