Shen Ninghua frowned, and looked down at the unresponsive Wan Xiang kneeling on the floor. A trial of blood was flowing from the corner of her mouth. This girl actually bit off her own tongue*.
*see TL notes
Nanny Qin’s words were clearly a warning to Wan Xiang. The First Lady must have taken her family as hostage, to force her to take her own life to protect her own family. It seems this girl was rather loyal, a pity that she’s dead now.
With Wan Xiang dead, there was no way to prove Nanny Qin wrong. And now, the First Lady could come up with whatever absurd lies she desires without consequences, a flawless plan.
“Sigh, this girl took things too hard on herself. If she really had a relationship with Liang Yu, she could have told Mother. I’m sure Mother would agree due to her kindness. Now, her death is all for naught.”
Su Shi gave a sneer, and pulled Shen Ninghua towards her, “you are just too kind. You were being accused a second ago, and now you are pitying others. But you are right, there was no need for her to take her own life, and yet she still chose to do so. This does feel really strange.”
The First Lady’s expression eased considerably. Wan Xiang’s death meant that Nanny Qin’s words would be taken as the truth. The “cleanup” would definitely be easier. She ignored Su Shi’s words and said, “who would have known that all these were the plans of a single servant girl. Master, it’s all my fault, do punish as you see fit.”
Shen Dong nodded and turned to Baili Jinze, “apologies for the trouble that we have caused you, Fifth Prince. I will make it up to you in the future, I promise.”
Baili Jinze gave an understanding nod. “You’re too kind, Mister Shen. Our meeting has been cut short today, but we can continue another day,” he said as he made his exit.
Chen Wen followed him out, his gaze sweeping across the Shen Family members. He abruptly stopped, and turned to Shen Ninghua, “the wine recipe looks special, if there is still any wine remaining, could I procure some from from Miss Shen?”
Shen Ninghua gave a smile, “if Doctor Chen has taken a liking to it, Ninghua can send someone to deliver a few jars later.”
Chen Wen stroked his beard, nodding. He gave a side glance to Doctor Qi, “it seems that Miss Shen has won the bet just now. Looks like the Shen family is now lacking a family doctor. How about this, I know a doctor, Zhang Nian. He did not wish to enter the palace as a royal doctor, and is rather laid back. But his medical skills are definitely top-tier. If you need his service, you can send someone to bring him here.”
Qi Zhenjun was the Shen family’s doctor for a long time, and has long been bribed by the First Lady. In her past life, Shen Ninghua’s injured ankle would act up every time it rains. The First Lady brought Doctor Qi to treat it for her. If not for her servants who found out that the medicine to be used on her was strange, her leg would probably have been crippled. Someone had warned her that the First Lady was vicious and venomous, but Shen Ninghua was not seen as a threat to her. And because Shen Dong did not bother to take care of her, as well as her Grandmother Xiao Shi gave her no attention, she had no choice but to rely on Zhao Shi then.
Based on Chen Wen’s personality, the person he recommended may not be an ally, but he definitely could not be easily bribed by the First Lady.
Shen Ninghua gave Chen Wen a bow, “thank you for your kindness, Doctor Chen, but it still depends on Father’s decision.”
Chen Wen nodded silently. An amazing display of social awareness, as expected from a lady of a big family. It wouldn’t hurt to help her a bit, “Mister Shen, your thoughts?”
How could Shen Dong not agree to this? After seeing Doctor Qi’s performance, he was at a total loss of ideas. With Chen Wen’s recommendation, he could say that he has some amount of dealings with Doctor Chen. It was considered a desirable move, “then I shall take your recommendation, thank you Doctor Chen.”
“Good.” Chen Wen turned to the pale Qi Zhenjun. “Doctor Qi, there are many ways to turn the silver needle black, but I think you should use your silver needles less, in case you accidentally kill someone one day,” he said with a sweep of his sleeves, and walked out.
Chu Junyi studied Shen Ninghua and Zhao Shi silently before taking his leave, laughing secretly. It was enjoyable seeing how Zhao Shi’s plan fell apart, how she planned to frame Shen Ninghua, but instead caused trouble for herself. Still, how did Shen Ninghua manage to remove arsenic from the wine? Seems there were still many secrets about her that he had yet to discover. But no hurry, there were plenty of opportunities to find out. He had yet to get revenge for her causing him to soak his arm in vinegar!
After all the guests had left, Shen Dong waved to the guards to leave before turning to a table. With a loud crash, he threw a tea cup on the floor. His cold gaze seemingly cutting through bones. “So long as the Shen family is safe, will we live peacefully. If something were to happen to the Shen family, we will all pay the consequences! Lady, the house matters were always under your care, do you have an explanation for today?”
Zhao Shi raised her head in surprise, and looked at Shen Dong. Her heart sank. It looks like Shen Dong wants to get to the bottom of things. She had underestimated Shen Ninghua today, the more she tried to salvage her plans, the worse things became. “Master, I did not realise such acts were being performed. It almost caused bigger troubles, and wronged Shen Ninghua for it.”
“Father,” Shen Linghan called softly, her eyes welling with tears as she knelt in front of Shen Dong, “please don’t punish Mother, it’s all my fault. I used Elder sister’s wine without permission and gave an opportunity to that servant Wan Xiang. Please punish me instead.”
The First Lady lowered her head, tearing up. Her face filled with anguish.
Shen Dong’s brows furrowed and twitched, and finally relaxed, “very well, today’s events……”
“Ah, young miss, what happened?” Shen Dong’s words were cut off by Bai Ruo’s exclamation.
Shen Ninghua was covering her neck, and had a pained expression, “I’m fine.”
“How could you say you are fine? Your neck and arms are covered with red spots!” Bai Ruo hurriedly knelt on the floor and said to Shen Dong, “Master, Lady, please fetch a doctor to look at the young miss.”
Shen Dong was startled when he looked at Shen Ninghua. Her neck and arms were covered with a layer of rash. Because of her pale complexion, the red rash was especially noticeable. “What happened?” Shen Dong asked.
“It should be something I touched earlier, it’s nothing. Apologies for worrying you, Father.”
Shen Linghan was angry at being cut off earlier. Father was about to forgive them, only to be stopped because of Shen Ninghua. Why didn’t the rashes grow on her face and disfigure her looks!
Qing Que came forward, supporting Shen Ninghua, “young miss, even though your body isn’t fully recovered, it’s should not be so weak that anything could cause you harm. Hm? Why is the colour coming off the clothes?”
Shen Ninghua frowned, and said angrily, “watch your mouth, this clothes are specially picked by Mother, why would the colours come off?”
“Young miss, this servant is not lying, the colours have even dyed your neck. Your rash must be because of this.”
Qing Que knelt down immediately, not saying another word, but anger was still contained in her expression.
“Father, please let me go and change my clothes.” Shen Ninghua said, biting her lips in pain.
Shen Dong looked at the First Lady, his eyes full of disappointment. Even if he did not like Shen Ninghua, she was still his own daughter. With her good looks, she would be especially useful in the future. How could Zhao Shi so openly plot against her!
Zhao Shi’s face went pale, “Master, the clothes that Ninghua wears are all prepared by me, but I told the servants to use the best materials. Nanny Qin, go and take a look at the clothes.”
If it was any other time, Shen Dong wouldn’t suspect Zhao Shi so easily, but after today’s events, his suspicion towards Zhao Shi grew by the minute. He was also sure of Zhao Shi’s animosity towards Shen Ninghua.
Just as Nanny Qin walked to Shen Ninghua, the Old Madam Xiao Shi entered with her servants.
“No need to look. Zhao Shi, do you want to throw away the reputation of Shen family? If you can’t stand the presence of a single daughter now, are you going to chase this old lady out in the future as well?”
The First Lady knelt down with a thud, and wailed, “Mother, you have misunderstood your daughter-in-law, how am I supposed to explain myself like this?”
Xiao Shi knocked the cane in her hand, her eyes full of disgust, “hmph, misunderstood? What am I misunderstanding? The clothes that Shen Ninghua is wearing were clearly soaked in Oleander water. You are trying to kill her! And are you saying the servant that died in my household has nothing to do with you?”
Zhao Shi’s mind went blank. That servant girl was indeed poisoned by her, but she had not done anything to Shen Ninghua’s clothes!
“Master, Ninghua may not be my own daughter, but I definitely have not done anything wrong to her. Now that she is back, why would I do so? Please believe me, Master.”
Xiao Shi took Shen Ninghua’s hand, and studied the rash with a frown. “Have not done anything wrong? Then please explain to me, why is the Eldest Miss staying in the Jingxin courtyard? Whenever your niece visits for two days, she stays at Luomei courtyard, but Ninghua has to live beside the servants. Is this what a mother does?”
If not for today’s events, staying at Jingxin courtyard wasn’t something that could be used as ammunition. But with today’s events, people would start to think that Zhao Shi mistreated the Eldest daughter!
Shen Ninghua’s face was streaked with tears. Standing beside Xiao Shi while suppressing her sobs, her fingers tightly held on to Xiao Shi’s sleeves. Her helpless appearance earned her pity from the people around her.
Kneeling on the floor, sweat forming on Zhao Shi’s forehead, “yes, I have failed as a mother. Master, I have been married to you for more than ten years, and I have not relaxed for a moment for fear of being considered less than the previous First Lady. I have specially prepared Yingyue courtyard for her. But even then, some still said I was mistreating Ninghua. I was out of ideas and decided to let Ninghua stay in Jingxin courtyard temporarily, and move elsewhere later……”
Shen Ninghua sneered mentally. That Zhao Shi, actually using her own dead mother as a reason!
Su Shi was also not satisfied by the First Lady’s excuses. “Sister-in-law, that doesn’t justify your actions. The servants of this house all listen to you. If anyone were to badmouth you, you can just throw them out, why would you take your frustrations out on Ninghua? The child has just recovered from her illness, if something were to happen to her, how are you going to face her mother in the afterlife?”
Xiao Shi nodded in agreement, and turned to Shen Dong, “exactly, a young miss from my Shen family should not be mistreated by anyone. Eldest, what do you say?”
Shen Ninghua raised her head, her eyes teary, but her mind was calm. She had asked someone to fetch the Old Madam earlier, so that she would arrive at this exact moment. Shen Dong was always biased, especially to his favourite daughter Shen Linghan. Shen Linghan was clearly forcing Shen Dong to make a decision earlier. Shen Dong wanted to pick favourites? Not if she could help it!
*Biting off her own tongue:
A very common way of suicide in many chinese shows. Probably not gonna happen in real life since blood clotting exists (and you gotta bite real hard too). The theory for it is that the tongue contains an artery and if you bite hard enough the artery is punctured and you die from blood loss.
I abandoned ya’ll for awhile… Sorry about that… I got really busy with stuff. >< But I’m back!