Shen Ninghua looked intensely towards the doorway.
A servant ran towards them, her complexion pale. It was the head servant girl who served under the old madam-Xue Zhu, “do not drink, there is poison in the wine!”
“Do not speak such nonsense. This wine was personally made by elder sister, it can’t possibly contain any poison!” Shen Linghan stood up and shouted at Xue Zhu furiously.
Shen Ninghua turned around, her smile turning contemptuous. Those words didn’t sound like they were defending her?
Shen Dong’s face was pale. He gave Shen Ninghua a stern glare, and asked Xue Zhu, “why have you come here? Aren’t you supposed to be serving the Old Madam? Where is the poison you speak of?”
Xue Zhu knelt on the floor, shaking with fear. She only relaxed slightly after realising that nobody had drunk the wine yet. “Replying to master, the Old Madam was very happy when she received the wine, and immediately ordered someone to fetch a cup to drink. The maid sent to fetch the wine was attracted to the sweet smelling wine and took a few sips quietly. Who knew she that she would die soon after. The Old Madam recalled that you were going to serve this wine to the guests today and asked this servant to inform you. It’s fortunate that nobody has drank it yet.”
Shen Dong stared at the wine on the table and he felt himself breaking in cold sweat. If not for the conversation earlier, the whole Shen Family would have been dead by now!
The Fifth Prince frowned. “Mister Shen, I think it would be best to investigate this thoroughly,” he said in a low voice.
“Of course, the Fifth Prince need not worry, this officer will give the Fifth Prince a reasonable explanation,” Shen Dong replied hurriedly. He cast a sharp glare at Shen Ninghua, wishing in his heart that he could just execute her on the spot, “Shen Ninghua, what is the meaning of this?”
Ridiculous, Shen Ninghua thought. He was so sure that I’m the one who did it?
“Father, Elder sister is a good person, she would never put poison in the wine. I am also at fault for serving the guests this wine. Please punish me as well, Father.” Shen Linghan said as she knelt down with a face full of guilt.
“Get up, you are also at fault here so I will naturally have to punish you as well. Shen Ninghua, are you going to confess yet?”
“Father,” Shen Ninghua got up and calmly turned towards Shen Dong, “even if it’s a servant who made a mistake, it is very important to investigate it properly before passing judgement. Ninghua is your own daughter, yet you only listened to the words of a single servant before forcing me to confess, Ninghua feels wronged.”
Shen Dong paused, he frowned and shouted, “servants, go and fetch me Doctor Qi.”
“One moment,” Shen Ninghua turned to Xue Zhu, “that maid secretly drank the wine and died immediately after?”
“Have you asked anyone to check if the cause of death was really because of the wine?”
Xue Zhu was stunned for a moment, “I was in a hurry so there wasn’t any time to check.”
Shen Ninghua huffed a slight laugh, “since you have not checked, how can you prove that she was poisoned?”
“This…” Xue Zhu could not reply.
Shen Linghan cut in, “sister, let’s call Doctor Qi over first. He can check the body as well. If Elder sister really is innocent, then Father will definitely take back his accusations.”
Innocent? This was clearly a plot to kill her. Even if the Heaven Emperor himself was present, the First lady would surely not spare Shen Ninghua from her schemes. Ninghua did not expect Zhao Shi to be so impatient, was she still angry over the incident with her own mother’s dowry?
Shen Ninghua wanted to say something, but Shen Dong gave the order before she could do so, “silence! Servants, fetch Doctor Qi. Also, bring all the wine here as well as that maid who was poison. This case must be thoroughly investigated.”
Shen Ninghua laughed drily, it seems that the First lady and Shen Linghan had planned this beforehand. She studied the people present at the feast and her gaze turned cold. All these experienced sly foxes, they could definitely sense that something was wrong but they didn’t want to help her. But that would be for the better because she would not have to worry so much once she settled this properly.
Doctor Qi was brought over quickly. He gave a quick bow when he saw the Fifth Prince and Chu Junyi.
“Doctor Qi, please check whether these wine have been laced with something.” Shen Dong requested.
Doctor Qi’s heart stopped for a moment. The waters in the Shen Family runs deep, and he did not want to be caught in the middle. He opened the wine jug and checked it. His eyebrows furrowed, “To Mister Shen, this wine……”
Shen Linghan held her breath as a smile hung on her lips.
“Don’t worry, Doctor Qi” Shen Dong’s thought was racing. If Shen Ninghua was truly guilty, he would have to think of ways to clear the name of the Shen Family. An attempt to assassinate a prince was a serious offence. If not handled properly, it could cause the downfall of an entire family. Just thinking about this caused Shen Dong to hate Shen Ninghua even more.
“This wine has been laced with arsenic.”
“Shen Ninghua, you vixen, kneel!” Shen Dong roared.
Shen Ninghua’s expression fell, completely disappointed at her father at this point. Shouldn’t fathers protect their daughters at any cost? But right in front of her eyes, Shen Dong was trying to throw her away.
“Father, Ninghua does not believe this outcome, and hopes Father can ask for another Doctor to check again.”
“Miss Shen, are you doubting this old doctor?” Qi Zhengjun’s expression turned ugly, “I have always served the Shen family dutifully, I would never do anything against you!”
“Ninghua does not dare doubt Doctor Qi, but we are all humans. This concerns life and death, isn’t it better to ask for a second opinion?”
“Good, good, Mister Shen, looks like I am not qualified for this, do send someone more suited for this job.” Qi Zhengjun said, as he motioned to leave.
Shen Dong’s face turned purple. He got up and gave Shen Ninghua a slap, “Vixen! Are you not going to kneel?”
Shen Ninghua dropped to to the floor with a thud, but her back remained straight. She lifted her head and looked at Shen Dong, her cold and bright pair of eyes did nothing to betray any emotions. Shen Dong unknowingly froze as his raised hand hovered above Shen Ninghua’s face.
Chu Junyi’s fist was clenched around the cup he was holding. The expression on Shen Ninghua’s face reminded him of their first meeting, and when Shen Ninghua woke up suddenly, her expression was also this cold and distant… filled with despair…
A sudden cry rang out:
“Master! This servant needs to see Master to right this unjust case!”
“Who is making all this noise?” Shen Dong gave a furious shout.
A man wearing a blue shirt was brought in. His expression sorrowful. He broke into tears upon seeing Shen Dong, “Master, you have to help this servant.”
“Aren’t you Liang Cai’s son, Liang Yu? What are you doing here?”
“Replying Master, this servant’s mother was called by the Eldest Miss yesterday morning, but she has not returned since then. It has been almost an entire day, this servant really has no choice but to beg to see you. Please, Master has to help this servant and have the Eldest miss release my mother.”
Shen Ninghua gave a cold glare, she turned to Liang Yu and said, “I don’t even know who you are, why would I have business with your mother?”
“Looks like the Eldest miss is rather forgetful, this servant’s mother is Nanny Zhou. My mother offended you before, but she has already received her punishment. She is rather old, if you punish her anymore, she might die. Please forgive her and release her.”
“Nanny Zhou has served Mother for many years… Since she has been punished for her wrongdoings, Mother could not bear to see her suffer anymore and let her go back to her family. Elder sister, have you asked anyone to call for Nanny Zhou?”
“No, I have not.”
“Eldest miss, if you have any anger remaining, vent it on me instead. A day ago, this servant saw it with his own two eyes. The servant under you, Wan Xiang, came to call mother and sent her to the Shen family courtyard entrance. Lots of other people saw it. Master, please help this servant, or this servant can only go to the feudal official courts to seek help.”
Shen Dong seem to have run out of patience, “Shen Ninghua, what have you done this time?”
Shen Linghan turned to Shen Ninghua, her face full of concern, “Elder sister, Nanny Zhou used your Mother’s dowry, it’s understandable that you will feel angry, but she has served the Shen family for a long time, it is not good to punish her for so long, it’s better that you release her.”
What a great sister!
“I have not seen Nanny Zhou since Mother had punished her. I also did not let Wan Xiang call her. Not to mention, Wan Xiang is a maid that Mother gave me. I have treated her well these few days, and did not ask her to do any tasks for me.” Even if she really did want to punish Nanny Zhou, she would not ask a maid that has just been given to her.
Shen Linghan put on a kind face, “Since elder sister has some doubts in her mind, why don’t we ask someone to search the courtyard, maybe we can find Nanny Zhou there?”
“Does younger sister actually want to search the Shen family’s Eldest daughter’s courtyard just because of a lowly servant’s request?” Shen Ninghua asked icily.
“That’s not what I meant, I just wanted to prove elder sister’s innocence.” Shen Linghan replied carefully, scolding her own impatience mentally yet at the same time her heart was filled with disdain. Hmph, I’ll let you feel some relief now, but let’s see how you will beg and cry later.
“Then I would have to give you my thanks. Since you are so enthusiastic, shall we search your courtyard first?”
“You…” Shen Linghan clenched her teeth.
“Mister Shen,” Chu Junyi, who had been silent all this while, put down the wine glass in his hand. He cast a glance at Shen Ninghua who was still on the floor and said, “let’s put aside the case regarding Nanny Zhou for the time being. The poison in the wine has yet to be investigated properly. The Eldest miss was not wrong earlier, since this is a matter concerning a death, it would be safer to send for one more doctor. Let’s not trouble anybody else, ask someone to go to the Xiao family court and bring Doctor Chen over. Say that it is a favor from me.”
Shen Ninghua looked up at Chu Junyi in surprise. Doctor Chen was extremely skilled and he was the current head of the Royal Medical division. He was an unbiased person and has saved the life of the current Emperor before. Many had tried to earn his favor, but all of them were exposed to the Emperor by a single report from him.
She had heard that Doctor Chen and the Xiao family had a little history. The only person who could ask him for a favor would be the head of the Xiao family. Even the Fifth Prince Baili Jinze did not know him well enough.
Who knew Chu Junyi could also get help from him.