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   Chapter 99 Framing

Eight-year-old Princess: Phoenix Reborn By Lan You Ruo Characters: 18096

Updated: 2018-09-03 18:13

Yun Shang realized she was able to speak again. A spurt of anger flashed through her. She had thought that the marriage issue would be solved after she had told her father that Master Wu Na said she should not get married for another three years. But she didn't expect that Prince Jing would set a trap for her.

Yun Shang was unhappy with the thought that someone else could control her destiny. She opened her mouth, "Father, I..."

Her words were interrupted by several exclamations. Yun Shang was taken aback, and upon turning around, she found that Li Yingying who had been sitting next to her, had fallen to the ground. Blood was flowing from her lips.

After seeing that, Emperor Ning immediately stood up and shouted, "Servants, call the imperial physician!"

Before Yun Shang regained her composure, she found herself being lifted up and put aside. She furrowed her brows, pushed aside the hands around her waist, and shouted angrily, "Uncle, please behave yourself!"

Unlike his usual apathetic attitude, Prince Jing curled his lips and whispered in Yun Shang's ear, "Behave myself? Yun Shang, all the officials in the Hall know that you will be my wife soon."

Yun Shang wriggled to free herself while frowning at his reminder. She went back to her seat and looked down at Li Yingying. The blood was black. Was she poisoned?

A woman rushed to Li Yingying's side. After seeing Li Yingying's status, her eyes filled with tears. She suddenly fell to her knees and held Li Yingying tightly in her arms crying, "Yingying, Yingying, are you okay? Please don't frighten me..."

Yun Shang wondered if this woman was the daughter-in-law of the oldest son of the Li clan. In a little while, an imperial physician hurried in. He felt Li Yingying's pulse for a moment and then opened his mouth, "Your Majesty, Lady Yingying was poisoned. I have never seen such a poison before."

"Been poisoned? Why is there poison in the Imperial Palace? Who is it that poisoned Lady Yingying?" Emperor Ning furrowed his brows, "Servants, take Lady Yingying to the side Hall and bring all imperial physicians from the Imperial Hospital to treat her. Physician, check all the items on Lady Yingying's table."

While the servants carried Li Yingying away, the imperial physician began his inspection of all items on the table but found nothing. "Your Majesty, I didn't find anything that is poisonous..."

"Really?" Emperor Ning felt relieved although he remained speechless. It was said that Li Yingying was Grand Councilor Li's favorite granddaughter. If something happened to her at the Imperial Palace, Grand Councilor Li might take this opportunity to do something.

Lady Li immediately yelled, "Your Majesty, Yingying was fine a moment ago. Oh! I see. Except for the items on the table, Yingying touched the Pipa. She played the Pipa a short while ago."

Emperor Ning frowned as he was unhappy with Lady Li's insinuation. Lady Li seemed to believe that the source of the poison was in the Imperial Palace.

"Your Majesty, please don't be angry with my sister-in-law. She is agitated as she is worried about her daughter. What about asking the imperial physician to check the Pipa? The Empress gave a bland smile and suggested.

"Okay! Physician, check the Pipa!" Emperor Ning's face was expressionless, however, in his eyes, there was a trace of displeasure.

Hearing the order, the imperial physician walked to the Pipa to check it. He took out a white handkerchief and wiped the strings of the Pipa. The white handkerchief turned black. The imperial physician brought the handkerchief closer to his nose and sniffed it carefully. After a while, he turned to Emperor Ning, "Your Majesty, there is poison on the Pipa. And it is the same that was used to poison Lady Yingying!"

"That's absurd! How dare someone try to poison Lady Yingying in the Imperial Palace? Guards, find the culprit! Bring all people that have touched this Pipa here." Emperor Ning slammed the armrest and shouted in anger.

Yun Shang felt as though someone was watching her. She looked back and saw Hua Jing was staring at her with a weird smile.

Yun Shang panicked and wondered, 'Was this a trap for me?'

'But it doesn't make sense at all. Li Yingying is a complete stranger to me. I have no reason to poison the daughter of an official.' Yun Shang began recalling the events from her previous life, and suddenly remembered a similar scene. Yun Shang curled her lips. She had thought that her new life would be different from the previous one, but the same incident had happened again.

After a while, the imperial guards brought three servant girls to the Hall. "Your Majesty, these servants have touched the Pipa tonight. Xi'er normally keeps this instrument. The maid, Xi'er gave this Pipa to Que'er because of the imperial dinner tonight. Que'er wiped the Pipa and then gave it to Yun Xi, Lady Ming's servant. Yun Xi brought the Pipa here."

Emperor Ning narrowed his eyes as he studied all three servant girls who were on their knees. "All of you! When did you touch the Pipa? Was there a witness? Think it through!"

The servant in the middle immediately answered. "I'm Xi'er. I am responsible for the storage of this Pipa. I wiped the instrument for the imperial dinner tonight and then gave it to Que'er. All the servants in Imperial Treasure House can testify on my behalf. After I gave the instrument to Que'er, she checked the timbre of the Pipa."

Everyone in the Hall understood Xi'er's unspoken message. Que'er checked the timbre of the Pipa, thus implying that the instrument was non-toxic when it was passed to Que'er. If Xi'er had put poison on the Pipa's strings, then Que'er wouldn't be alive.

Hearing Xi'er's words, Que'er immediately stated, "She is right. Pipas tend to go out of tune when they have been stored for a long time. So, I like to check the timbre first and then wipe the instrument. When I was wiping the Pipa, two servant girls who were maintaining other Pipas and zithers saw my actions. They are my witnesses. Then I handed the instrument to Yun Xi."

The last servant girl looked timid. After hearing Que'er's words, she kowtowed before the host seat, "Two servant girls and I fetched the Pipa. We were together before we sent the instrument to the Palace."

Everyone seemed to have their witnesses. Yun Shang lowered her eyes to conceal her excitement and wondered what surprising turn this drama would take.

Emperor Ning snorted coldly, "Are you sure nobody else touched the Pipa during this process?"

The three servants immediately shook their heads. However, the servant named Que'er looked hesitant and everyone in the Hall noticed her hesitation.

Hua Jing stood up and walked to the three servants. She asked, "Are you Que'er? Do you remember something? If you do, don't hesitate. Speak plainly. There are so many people in the Hall. We will protect you. I, the Princess, give you my word that nobody will harm you."

Que'er raised her head, looked around in alarm and then faltered, "I... I remember that when the other servants and I were cleaning the Pipa, Qian Yin, the servant girl of Princess Yun Shang came and said that a servant in the Princess's Palace had broken a vase. Qian Yin said that although breaking a vase was a good omen*, the room looked empty without it. So she wanted to get a new one. She also said that the Princess brought some pastries for us because it was New Year's Eve. So we went to eat the pastries. During that period, Qian Yin entered the Imperial Treasure House."

(*TN: In Chinese, the pronunciations of "break" and "year" are the same. If you break something, it means you will be safe and sound in the coming year.)

Yun Shang narrowed her eyes, and finally understood why the Empress had asked Qian Yin to fetch a vase from the Imperial Treasure House. Yun Shang had believed that the Empress was going to make an issue of the vase. After the vase was brought to her Palace, Yun Shang had checked it for a long time but had found nothing odd. It turned out the Empress had set a trap for her tonight.

Yun Shang was about to say something, but a tremendously loud crash stopped her. Que'er, who had been on her knees before, had been catapulted into the pillar in the Hall. Yun Shang watched as her limp body fell to the ground. Hearing her moans, people were startled as if they had also felt her pain.

"Prince Jing, what are you doing? Are you trying to kill the maid who might produce evidence against Princess Yun Shang?" The accusation was followed by a deafening roar. Yun Shang raised her eyes and saw Grand Councilor Li's ferocious face.

Yun Shang turned to Prince Jing, and the latter looked nonchalant as if it wasn't him who had kicked the servant, "How dare a servant denigrate the Princess? She deserves it."

Blue veins stood out on Grand Councilor Li's temples. He gnashed his teeth, "Prince Jing, you have insulted me beyond limit. Are you trying to cover Princess Yun Shang's guilt?"

"Grand Counci

lor, what do you mean? Why would I kill you granddaughter? Moreover, I haven't seen your granddaughter before today!" Yun Shang stated indifferently as she glanced at Prince Jing, who had a cold expression.

"I don't know why you want to kill Yingying, but I know the evidence is conclusive. It is you who instigated your servant to put the poison on the strings of the Pipa. Guards, seize Qian Yin!" Grand Councilor Li snorted, his eyes looking cold.

"Really? I want to ask you a question Grand Councilor Li. Perhaps my servant went to the Imperial Treasure House by chance today. But why would I put poison on the Pipa? It was the Empress who suggested we play the game, and the rule was made by my father. How would I know that Lady Yingying would play the Pipa?" Everyone looked at Yun Shang with disbelief. Yun Shang was calm. She was sitting nonchalantly in her chair while questioning Grand Councilor Li.

The servant named Yun Xi seemed to have something to say. After a long time, she stammered, "Since the Empress has been recuperating for a while, Lady Ming was responsible for the imperial dinner. Several days ago, when Princess Yun Shang visited Lady Ming, Lady Ming was discussing the game with other ladies..."

Yun Shang narrowed her eyes and thought, 'Is she implying that I had known about the game, and had enough time to do something about the lot pot?'

Someone from among the crowd yelled, "Lady Yingying seemed to fancy Prince Jing. If Princess Yun Shang is also fond of Prince Jing, maybe..."

"Maybe what? Maybe I'm jealous of her? Maybe I'm envious of her? Maybe I wanted to eliminate a potential rival for this reason?" As Yun Shang talked on, she couldn't help laugh out loud, "I didn't know the gentlemen and ladies in the Imperial City were so imaginative..."

Grand Councilor Li, however, was fuming, "Princess Hui Guo, I didn't expect you to be so vicious. You said it wasn't you who poisoned Yingying. Prove it to me!"

"Prove?" Yun Shang raised her head and walked to Que'er with a smile. Looking at the miserable expression on her face, Yun Shang slightly bent down and was about to say something, but Grand Councilor Li's roar interrupted her. "Princess Yun Shang, are you going to kill the witness? We are all here now..."

Yun Shang ignored him and spoke to Que'er, "Except for cleaning musical instruments in the Imperial Treasure House, where have you been?"

Que'er coughed. She felt terrible after being kicked by Prince Jing. Then she spoke, "I have been in the Imperial Treasure House the whole day. I was just brought here from the Imperial Treasure House by the guards."

"Really? Are you sure you don't need time to think it over?" Yun Shang smiled indifferently.

Que'er lowered her head to conceal the fluster in her eyes, "I've been in the Imperial Treasure House all this while..."

Yun Shang gave a bland smile and said, "I remember only Meiying House has plum blossoms. Since you have been at the Imperial Treasure House all this while, why is there a plum blossom petal on the sole of your shoe?" When Prince Jing kicked the servant, Yun Shang saw the plum blossom petal on her shoe sole and chanced upon this thought.

Que'er trembled and said softly, "I...I have no idea. Maybe someone went to Meiying House, trod on a plum blossom petal and brought it to the Imperial Treasure House. And I happened to step on it."

Yun Shang gave a little smile and walked to Yun Xi, "I haven't seen you before in Lady Ming's Palace. What do you do at the Changchun Palace?"

The servant immediately answered, "I serve outside the Palace."

"Really? Outside the Palace? Could you hear what we were talking about outside the Palace? Well then, tell me, what did Lady Ming say this morning? Okay?" Yun Shang smiled indifferently.

Yun Xi shivered, "I...I... I forgot."

"Really? Forgot? Since you have forgotten what you heard this morning, why do you still remember what Lady Ming said several days ago?"

Almost everyone in the Hall realized that this was a conspiracy to frame Yun Shang. However, Grand Councilor Li sneered, "Princess Hui Guo, don't beat around the bush if you've got something to say."

Yun Shang turned to Grand Councilor Li and spoke to him with a smile, "I've heard that a person should pay attention not only to their feelings but also to the evidence when handling a legal case. Now, the testimonies of these two servants are full of contradictions. Grand Councilor Li, are you still going to pronounce me guilty? Did you behave in such a brash way when you handled legal cases before?"

When Yun Shang was speaking, a guard entered the Hall. In his hand, he held a eunuch, "Your Majesty, he prepared the lot pot."

The eunuch suddenly knelt, "Your Majesty, this has nothing to do with me. I'm just a hired servant. It was Princess Yun Shang's maid who had asked me to replace all the lots with new lots with Pipa written on them when it was Lady Yingying's turn."

His voice had hardly faded away when the guests in the Hall exchanged whispers, "It turns out she..."

Yun Shang was not anxious at all and inquired calmly, "You said I asked you to do it, do you have any evidence?"

The eunuch immediately took out a small piece of silver from his sleeve, "A servant girl of Princess Yun Shang gave this to me, and said there would be a rich reward for me when the swap was done. I was stupid at that time and agreed to do it."

"Really?" Yun Shang walked to the eunuch and took the silver. After checking it for a while, she curled her lips and spoke to Emperor Ning. He had been sitting on his seat and watching this inquisition and accusation exchange with a mysterious expression. "Father, I want to ask the eunuch a few questions."

"Go on." Yun Shang called forward several servant girls, and asked them to stand in a line. Then she turned and spoke to the eunuch, "Since you said my servant asked you to replace the lots, please identify the servant from those who stand before you."

The eunuch was dumbfounded but he raised his head to look at the servants. They seemed to be similarly dressed. Suddenly, he saw a servant in pink point at another pretty servant secretly. He gnashed his teeth and made his decision. He stood and pointed at the pretty servant, "It's her! She is the one who asked me to do this."

Yun Shang turned to the servant and asked the eunuch with a smile, "Her? Are you sure?"

The eunuch immediately nodded and said, "I'm sure."

Yun Shang turned and looked at the Empress, "Your Majesty, this is pure slander! He said that I sent your servant, Xiu Xin, to instigate him to do evil."

The Empress gnashed her teeth and seemed exasperated at his words, "That's nonsense!"

Yun Shang smiled, "He is talking nonsense. But I have found something interesting. There is the smell of plum blossom on this silver. Does it mean that this eunuch also went to Meiying House?"

Yun Shang gave the silver to Master Zheng who then passed it to Emperor Ning. Emperor Ning smelled the silver and furrowed his brows, "It is the smell of plum blossom! Guards, seize these two and strike them hard. I need their confession right now. I want to know who has the guts to malign the Princess!"

Prince Jing stood and stated, "Your Majesty, let me handle this. There is no need to beat them. I'm good at extorting confessions. How dare these two denigrate the Princess? I will show no mercy toward them. Guard, give me the needles!"

Everyone was dumbfounded, 'Needles?' 'What does he want needles for?'

A guard working for Prince Jing brought a box of needles to the Hall. The crowd gasped as they realized that the needles were longer than standard embroidery needles. They looked terrifying all by themselves. What would the Prince do with these? The crowd shuddered. Prince Jing curled his lips, "Do it!"

Two guards took out needles from the box and pierced them between the nail and the finger of the servant and the eunuch. Everyone in the Hall shivered all over again. Two heartrending cries escaped from the lips of the servant and eunuch. It is said that the nerves of the fingertips are linked with the heart. Prince Jing was indeed merciless.

But this was just the beginning. The guards pierced ten needles into their fingers separately, and then brought two basins of water into the Hall. The guards put the hands of the servant and eunuch into the water. Their ear-piercing and agonized screams froze everyone again. Their faces looked as pale as death.

"This is saline water. How are you feeling now? If you still keep your mouths shut, I will change the saline water to chili water." Prince Jing walked to the servant and the eunuch with a vicious smile.

Everyone was shocked by his words, and their faces were ghostly pale with fright.

"I...I will...I will confess. Prince Jing, please spare my life. I was..." Que'er spoke in a gravelly voice as if she was suffering from extreme pain. But she fell to the ground before she was able to share her confession.

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