Shi Sheng expressed much ‘concern’ for Dai Yue after learning the latter had not only failed to kill Duan Qingyun, but also allowed him to escape.
“He can’t even truss up a chicken. Tell me, how did he manage to escape from you?”
Eyes narrowed, Shi Sheng gave Dai Yue a smile that terrified her more than had she not been smiling.
Cold sweat trickled down Dai Yue’s brow. “I’m not certain either…it was like I just blanked out for a moment—and by the time I came to, Duan Qingyun was gone.”
Shi Sheng slapped the desk, having trouble controlling her temper. “Is everyone else dead?! How the hell did you lot manage to let a fully grown person escape?!”
Dai Yue fell to her knees, not daring to speak, head lowered.
This was the odd part. There were guards everywhere in the vicinity, yet not a single one saw Duan Qingyun leave. It was as if…he’d just vanished into thin air.
Dai Yue was startled by this thought. ‘How could a living person vanish just like that? I must’ve overlooked something.’
Shi Sheng reached up to knead the space between her brows. It was impossible that Duan Qingyun would be able to escape Dai Yue on his own—he must have had help.
“Place all officials in the capital under house arrest.” Shi Sheng finally ordered.
Dai Yue’s eyes lit up. ‘Is Her Excellency finally going to rebel?’
No, Shi Sheng was not in the mood to rebel. She was just cutting off all of Jiang Zhi’s possible support.
If Jiang Zhi was the one who rescued Duan Qingyun, then according to the original plot’s progression: he would definitely tell Jiang Zhi that the Prime Minister had ulterior motives towards him, leading her to do something stupid like opposing Shi Sheng.
Regardless of whether this would really come to pass, Shi Sheng reckoned it was best to cut off Jiang Zhi’s avenues of retreat sooner rather than later.
With only the Ning Princess’s residence to back her up, Jiang Zhi wouldn’t be able to do much if the capital was controlled by the Prime Minister.
All officials in the capital, big and small, were put under house arrest. Apart from those who belonged to the Prime Minister’s faction, of course.
But even her people didn’t know what Shi Sheng was planning. All their visits were rejected, so no one got a chance to see her.
The rumours circulated even more fiercely than before.
The entire capital seemed shrouded in a strange tension, as though there were countless crossbows nocked and ready to fire.
The Empress immediately tried to contact all the other people with military authority to rescue her, but the supporters she could use were few and far between.
Her messages were either being intercepted by the Prime Minister’s faction, or their recipients simply didn’t have enough military might to resolve the situation at the capital.
When Shi Sheng climbed the stairs to the palace, she heard the Empress smashing stuff inside.
“Prime Minister…” The servants kneeling outside all bowed, trembling even more than when they’d watched her climb the steps.
She strode past them and opened the door.
The Empress was wearing her everyday clothes and smashing a bunch of porcelain. The floor was filled with porcelain shards, and several trembling men kneeled in the corner.
“Jun Liyou, why have you come? To watch me(z) make a fool of myself?!” The Empress shrieked and flung the porcelain vase in her hand at Shi Sheng.
Shi Sheng dodged it and examined the Empress. “You don’t look like a fool. Why are you calling yourself one?”
The Empress felt the anger messing with her breathing and couldn’t squeeze another word out for quite a while.
Shi Sheng pulled a chair over and swept aside the shards scattered across the seat before sitting down. “Want to keep your throne?”
The Empress’s hateful glare seemed to cut at Shi Sheng like knives. “Jun Liyou, just what are you playing at?!”
“A multiple choice question.” Shi Sheng pulled two strips of paper from her sleeve and presented them to the Empress. “Do you pick your throne, or your daughter?”
“Hmph! Would you really let me off?” The Empress scoffed coldly. ‘She’s already done this much; would she really give up the throne when it’s within her grasp?’
“What’s your choice?” Shi Sheng shook the papers.
The Empress cursed indignantly. “Jun Liyou, you traitorous vassal! You’ll die a terrible death!”
“Last chance: which do you pick?”
The room suddenly fell silent, as the Empress simply stood there with bloodshot, hate-filled eyes.
After a long time, the Empress finally reached out and pointed at one of the two strips of paper.
Shi Sheng released the other one, which fluttered to the ground to lie amongst the shards of pottery.
“Before dawn tomorrow.” Shi Sheng got up and placed a tiger tally and the piece of paper on her chair. “I don’t want to see a single person from the Ning Princess’s residence any more.”
The Empress was someone of this world, so she would have a much easier time killing off the female lead than Shi Sheng.
Shi Sheng gave the Empress a malicious smile. “Naturally, you can use these against me too. As long as you feel you can win, of course.”
The Empress’s gaze fell onto the tiger tally.
When Shi Sheng emerged from the palace, all the people kneeling outside remained completely silent. They seemed to wish there was crack in the ground for them to bury themselves in, so the Prime Minister couldn’t see them.
However, Shi Sheng didn’t say anything, merely descending the steps in a leisurely manner before disappearing into the night.
“Guards.” The Empress called.
That night, all the people living near the Ning Princess’s residence could hear the horrible, despairing shrieks coming from within.
After midnight, a great fire burned the residence to the ground.
Shi Sheng saw Duan Qingyun’s corpse, but not Jiang Zhi’s.
Her smile was rather dark right now.
‘Not even this could kill the FL! For fuck’s sakes, why not ascend the heavens while you’re at it?!’
Shi Sheng sent people to look for Jiang Zhi, but no trace of her could be found even after searching the entire capital. Shi Sheng felt that missing this chance to kill the FL was going to end in disaster.
After several days of lockdown, the curfew on the city was lifted. The officials that had been placed under house arrest regained their freedom.
It was like the storm clouds had passed.
The Prime Minister hadn’t rebelled. The Empress was still in charge.
The only difference was…the Ning Princess’s residence had turned into a burnt ruin.
According to rumour, not a single person had escaped and everyone perished together with the Ning Princess in that fire.
One could overhear this matter discussed on any of the major roads.
“Did you know? On the night of the fire, I heard screams coming from the Ning Princess’s residence, and some people saw the Imperial Guard appear in the vicinity…”
“You mean Her Majesty…?”
“Wait, that can’t be right. All the commanding tokens are currently being held by the Prime Minister. Could it be her?”
“The Prime Minister and the Ning Princess…”
Their enmity stemmed from a man.
Several days ago, said man had disappeared, and both parties had sent out people to search for him.
The people with more active imaginations immediately invented a story behind this rumor.
A few people suddenly quietened down and signalled with nervous looks to their companions stop speaking.
Ling Yue descended from the second floor, causing absolute silence to fall.
‘Why is the Prime Minister’s plaything here?!’
Many had seen Ling Yue on the day of the Heaven’s Ritual. They later heard the Prime Minister really doted on this little priest. Hence, after seeing Ying Yue behind him, could there be any doubt as to his identity?
‘Though we have to say…the Prime Minister’s taste is impeccable. No one in the capital can even compare to this beauty!
That waist. That skin. That face… The Prime Minister sure is lucky.’
“No wonder the Prime Minister treasures this plaything of hers so much. If it were me, I’d favour him greatly too.”
“If I could have him under me for just one night, I’d wake up laughing from now on.”
Several of the braver ones examined Ling Yue lecherously, as lascivious words spewed from their mouths and travelled into his ears.
He frowned slightly, causing his aura to suddenly turn cold and sharp.
“What are you saying?!” Ying Yue snapped loudly. “You want to die?!”
‘These people actually dared to call Sir Ling Yue a plaything! Are they unafraid of Her Excellency’s wrath?!’
 I will just copy and paste the yabla dictionary’s meaning: (a two-piece object made in the shape of a tiger, used in ancient China as proof of authority. One half of a tally could be issued to a military officer and this would be matched with the other half when verification was required.)
Here’s a pic if you’re interested:
Little Fairy: Please vote~