Lu Ruo recounted what happened in a truthful manner, neither exaggerating nor adding any details.
When she went to bring the young prince back, they’d only met Shi Sheng and no one else. The prince hadn’t eaten while inside the academy, and there hadn’t been enough time to eat before the poison acted up after his return.
“Zhuang Qiong, what else do you have to say for yourself?” Yuwen Xun interrogated Shi Sheng, a fire burning in his eyes, as if he wished to immediately reduce her to ashes.
Shi Sheng knew that regardless of the truth of the matter, Yuwen Xun was going to use this as an opportunity to make things hard for her.
‘Looks like I should just start chopping! Where’s my(lz) sword?’
“Your Majesty.” Someone rushed in from outside the chamber, falling to one knee in front of Yuwen Xun as he presented his findings with both hands. “We found this at Yun Jie Yu’s palace.”
The man held two porcelain bottles in his hands. They were even labelled.
“You guys were certainly well prepared.” Shi Sheng reacted faster than Yuwen Xun. “Did I kill your whole family or something?”
Though it was unknown who she was addressing.
“Zhuang Qiong, what nonsense are you rambling on about?” Yuwen Xun angrily tossed the bottles at Shi Sheng. “See for yourself! What do you have to say now? These were found in your sleeping chambers, yet you deny having poisoned Jing’er?!”
Lu Ruo heaved a sigh of relief. ‘Looks like I’m in the clear now. It’s really tiring to live in the palace…’
“Well, okay then. May I ask you, Your Majesty, why on earth would I poison the prince? And then put the poison I used in my own palace? Do I look that dumb to you?”
“Who knows why you poisoned the young prince? As for the poison, perhaps you simply weren’t able to dispose of it in time.” Shu Fei interjected from the side.
Shi Sheng laughed mockingly. “I could’ve chucked a bottle that size anywhere and called it a day. Didn’t have time to dispose of it? At least think things through a bit more before framing me.”
“What, do you mean to say I framed you?!” Shu Fei suddenly got agitated.
Shi Sheng’s lips curved in a false smile. “I never named names—what’re you being so riled up for? Only people with a guilty conscience jump at ghosts.”
“Your Majesty, just look at her! She doesn’t know to reflect after what she did!”
“Why should I reflect when I didn’t do it? You, on the other hand, might have to.” Shi Sheng continued her provocations in a fearless manner.
‘Anyone could tell something was up with her exaggerated reactions.’
Shu Fei was angry and desperate, “Yun Jie Yu, don’t make false accusations!”
Shi Sheng shrugged, smiling in a rather dark manner.
Yuwen Xun’s gaze was chilling as he shot Shu Fei a look.
Shu Fei’s heart skipped a beat. ‘What does His Majesty mean by that?’
Just as the room had fallen into a stalemate, De-gonggong entered the chamber and whispered into Yuwen Xun’s ear, “Your Majesty, Sir Ming seeks an audience.”
“Sir Ming claims he has a lead for us.” De-gonggong replied respectfully.
Yuwen Xun’s brows furrowed. He hummed for a moment before speaking, “Summon him.”
Ming Jin entered the palace. The moment he appeared, all the palace maids and concubines lowered their heads demurely.
Ming Jin had gotten changed into a new set of clothes. Though it was still white, it was of a different style from what he previously wore. He looked more ethereal than he did during the day.
His long, black hair flowed along after him, creating an elegant arc.
He walked into the light from the dark, his eyes gentle and warm, his lips slightly raised in a smile that was akin to a ripple in a pond, slowly taking over their hearts.
Shi Sheng examined him boldly.
Ming Jin smiled and nodded. He stopped right beside Shi Sheng, making a salute with his fists and bowing in greeting. “Ming Jin greets Your Majesty.”
Seeing the way Shi Sheng looked at Ming Jin, Yuwen Xun suddenly felt rather unhappy. ‘Regardless of anything else, she’s still my concubine. Yet she dares to look at other men so boldly!’
“What clue do you have?” ‘How did this Ming Jin learn about this matter so quickly?’
Ming Jin put his hands down and straightened his body, speaking in an unhurried manner, “I just so happened to see the young prince eat a piece of osmanthus cake at the academy today. I wonder if this information is of any use to you, Your Majesty?”
Yuwen Xun’s expression changed slightly. “Does Sir Ming know who gave it to him?”
The little prince was very important to Yuwen Xun—he simply refused to allow anyone to harm his son.
“I had the good fortune to catch a glimpse of her. As it happens, I do remember who it was.” Ming Jin smiled, his every move filled with a gentle warmth.
Shi Sheng had to admit, he was the only one who could take the phrase ‘gentle warmth’ to this level.
Most of the supporting male leads in novels were the gentle type, but Ming Jin’s gentleness was a different thing altogether. Whereas the supporting male was well-mannered yet distant, Ming Jin’s gentleness was more overbearing—one couldn’t feel that distance from him, instead wanting to lose themselves in the warm illusion he created.
‘Why is there such an unexplainable person? Honestly.’
Shi Sheng silently inched away from him. Noticing her movement, Ming Jin turned and shot her a slight smile.
‘Smile smile smile! Smile your grandpa!’
“Sir Ming, please speak.” Yuwen Xun was naturally unhappy about the fact that his concubine was exchanging glances with another man, but the matter of his son being poisoned was most important right now.
Ming Jin’s gaze landed on Lu Ruo. Just as she tensed up, he slowly shifted it away, scanning over everyone present before finally landing on Shu Fei.
“Shu Fei-niangniang, where is your maid, Xiao He?” Hints of laughter were woven into his voice, making it sound very pleasant. But his words caused Shu Fei to shake, if only for a moment.
“Xiao He wasn’t feeling well, so I(bg) told her to rest.”
“If it isn’t anything serious, may I ask Your Ladyship to summon Xiao He here? After all, this does concern the young prince.”
Shu Fei lifted her head to look at Ming Jin. She could see no trace of him actively opposing her, merely gentleness.
“Shu Fei.” Yuwen Xun’s eyes burned like torches.
Shu Fei could feel the frosty pressure emanating from Yuwen Xun. Cold sweat formed on her back as she clutched tightly at her handkerchief. “Call for Xiao He.”
Shu Fei shot the messenger a look loaded with meaning.
“An Zhao Yi, you may rise.” Yuwen Xun spoke.
“Thank you, Your Majesty.” After kneeling for so long, Lu Ruo’s legs had gone numb. It was only with the help of one of the maids that she managed to stand up.
Yuwen Xun bade Lu Ruo to sit by his side. Only now could she see Ming Jin’s features clearly. Everyone liked beauty, especially the Lu Ruo who had come from the modern era, so she couldn’t help but stare at Ming Jin a bit longer.
‘After that scare I got, looking at beauty is just what I needed to calm down!’
But Yuwen Xun harrumphed loudly.
‘All my concubines are staring at another man! Do they even respect me as their Emperor at all?!’
Lu Ruo pouted. ‘Isn’t it just a look? Why’s this Emperor so petty? It’s not like I’ve never looked at a man back home.’
The wait was a long one, during which many people were secretly pondering ways to further their hidden agendas. The ones with the simplest thoughts right now were probably the FL and Shi Sheng.
The FL was feeling relief over proving she had nothing to do with the matter, as if the giant stone weighing her down had been shifted aside.
Shi Sheng, on the other hand, was pondering the likelihood of being struck to death by the heavenly dao if she were to toss one of her little lightning balls here and get a double-lead-kill.
‘That little heavenly dao bitch is as cheap as that little bitch system. It’d simply be letting everyone down for the two of them to not be coupled together!’