The rain had cleared up, and the sky was once again filled with clouds and warm sunshine. Ying Yue felt like her hair had grown out from waiting so long.
Standing by at the foot of the mountain, Ying Yue decided to ascend the mountain to look for her lady if she didn’t return by today. Just after making her decision, she saw Shi Sheng and Ling Yue descending, one after the other.
Shi Sheng’s careful manner as she helped Ling Yue onto the carriage nearly caused Ying Yue’s eyes to fall out of their sockets.
‘Your Excellency…just what did you do with Sir Ling Yue on the mountain?’
In Ying Yue’s heart, Shi Sheng and Ling Yue had already slept with each other that night. So she didn’t think it was weird for them to spend a few days alone on the mountain.
‘It’s so hard to understand what Her Excellency is thinking…’ Shaking off her random thoughts, Ying Yue began driving the carriage back to the residence.
Duan Qingyun had waited outside the Prime Minister’s residence for a full day without seeing the person he was looking for, so he appeared a bit crestfallen.
But as he prepared to leave, the crisp sounds of hooves clopping against the ground could be heard.
He looked up to see a carriage, hanging lanterns bearing the mark of the Prime Minister, stop outside the residence.
Seeing Shi Sheng emerging from the carriage, joy appeared on Duan Qingyun’s face as he prepared to go over. But he stopped in his tracks after seeing her carefully helping a man off the carriage.
The man wore a normal green priest’s robes. But even so, it couldn’t hide the face that anyone would be jealous of.
‘So the rumours were true… She really has taken a liking to a priest. And she’s so good to him…’
Duan Qingyun’s hands clenched into fists, as he watched their backs.
Shi Sheng and Ling Yue had only just entered the residence, when Gu Su suddenly showed up and pounced into the latter’s arms.
Since Shi Sheng was busy talking to Ying Yue, she didn’t react fast enough to stop the boy.
Dai Yue dashed over from the corridor in a rush, only to find Gu Su clinging to Ling Yue’s waist and her lady staring at him with a dark expression.
Dai Yue’s heart pounded, as she went over to peel Gu Su off Ling Yue. “Your Excellency, this subordinate didn’t keep a good eye on Sir Gu Su. Please do not blame him.”
“Let go! I want my Senior Brother!” Gu Su struggled in Dai Yue’s grip.
Dai Yue wanted to seal his mouth shut.
‘Little ancestor, you still dare to cause a scene in front of Her Excellency? Don’t you see her expression? She looks about to chop someone up!’
Despite Shi Sheng’s killer glare, Ling Yue took the initiative to approach Gu Su and patted his head, calming him down instantly.
“Lady Dai Yue, please release my Junior Brother.”
Dai Yue felt awkward and looked to Shi Sheng for instructions, but the latter didn’t say anything as she left in a huff.
‘Your Excellency, just what is your intention? Do I release him or not???’
Ying Yue just shook her head at Dai Yue, expressing her own cluelessness as to their lady’s thoughts.
In the end, Dai Yue still released Gu Su.
After all, he was their future Master’s Junior Brother, so it would be better to not offend him.
“Senior, Senior…” Gu Su tugged on his hand. Ling Yue shifted his gaze back and patted Gu Su’s head, out of habit.
Gu Su was like a kitten that refused to be parted from him.
Ling Yue didn’t see Shi Sheng at dinner.
After putting Gu Su to bed, he slowly made his way back to the bedroom.
“The Empress invited Her Excellency to the palace just now. I wonder what it is, to have kept Her Excellency there till this late…”
“It’s not like Her Excellency is afraid of the Empress; what’re you so worried about?”
“I suppose. Oh, Sir Ling Yue.”
The two chatty youths hurriedly greeted him.
Ling Yue nodded slightly and walked past them, but he could hear them softly discussing.
“Sir Ling Yue is truly fortunate to gain Her Excellency’s favour! This is the first time she’s pampered someone this much. Not even that Sir Duan had this type of treatment.”
“Yeah, did you see the stuff Lady Dai Yue made the servants prepare yesterday? …I don’t think even those in the palace would get this type of treatment.”
Ling Yue’s steps slowed. ‘Sir Duan? What Sir Duan?’
The Empress had invited Shi Sheng into the palace to ask about the matter of the Crown Princess’ disappearance.
Even the Empress had thought that she had snuck out at first. The Crown Princess would typically take at least one person with her on these little excursions, but she had gone alone this time.
Only after realizing this did the Empress start to grow anxious.
After investigating, she discovered that the last place where the Crown Princess had been seen was the palace Ling Yue had stayed in.
And Shi Sheng had just so happened to be going there at the time.
This was too much of a coincidence for the Empress, hence she summoned Shi Sheng for an audience.
“Beloved official, have you truly not seen the Crown Princess?” The Empress’ gaze nearly bore a hole through Shi Sheng with how hard she was staring.
Shi Sheng stood there with a lazy posture. “Your Majesty, even if you suspect I did something to the Crown Princess, you have to produce some evidence ah!”
“Imperial Sister disappeared on the way to Jingyang Palace, and you were the only other person taking that road at the time…” Jiang Zhi spoke up from her spot beside the Empress.
Jiang Zhi now looked at Shi Sheng with apprehension. ‘Is she really a transmigrator too?’
“I can’t magic a grown person into nonexistence, can I? I didn’t bring anything with me when I left the palace.”
Shi Sheng had put the Crown Princess’ corpse into her space and jauntily exited through the front gates, so she had plenty of witnesses.
The Empress was unable to dispute that. She had ordered all the guards on duty to be captured and questioned, but all their reports corroborated.
The Prime Minister arrived and departed alone with no abnormalities.
‘Was it really not her? Then where did the Crown Princess go?’
Shi Sheng got people to fetch her a chair. After sitting down, she leisurely spoke, “Even if I killed her, what can you do to me, Your Majesty?”
Pa! The Empress smacked the table in front of her. “Jun Liyou!”
“I was just joking. You don’t have to get so agitated!” Shi Sheng crossed her arms, her carefree manner a stark contrast with the tense atmosphere.
The Empress pointed at Shi Sheng but couldn’t say anything. ‘This Jun Liyou is simply too arrogant and audacious! I’m going to be angered to death!’
Shi Sheng insisted she never saw the Crown Princess, that Ling Yue had been the only one in the palace when she got there.
Those guards that night had also testified that Shi Sheng only entered the palace after the Crown Princess left.
Without concrete evidence and the Jun Clan restricting her moves, what could the Empress do to her?
In the end, she could only grit her teeth and allow Shi Sheng to leave.
“Zhi’er, do you think she has anything to do with the Crown Princess’ disappearance?” The Empress looked at Jiang Zhi, an unspeakable coldness in her eyes.
Jiang Zhi felt her scalp crawl from being looked at like this and replied conservatively, “I(ec) don’t know.”
‘The Crown Princess disappeared, but as her mother, the Empress isn’t worried about her safety at all. The only thing she’s worried about is how this matter will affect her, how it might negatively impact her, and how she can benefit from it.’
To the Empress, there was probably nothing more important than her throne.
‘Yet, I was naïve enough to harbour fantasies of enjoying a bond of kinship with her…
This world is nothing like mine, let alone the fact that there is this Empress in such a high position of power.’
The Empress scoffed coldly, and spoke forcefully, “Even if it really wasn’t her, she must be the culprit.”
Jiang Zhi lowered her head to hide the shock in her eyes. By the time she emerged from the palace, her back was already soaked through with cold sweat.
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