The Empress Dowager Was Poisoned
If life is a game, then by now Xia Hou Shang Yue is already on the chessboard. The fate that she can’t escape from is slowly unraveling.
When she was ten, her Imperial Father allowed her to choose a personal servant amongst the palace maids. At that time, her attention was immediately taken by the thin and haggard Xue Wu. Even though her Imperial Father was initially hesitant to let Xue Wu be her maid, he relented in the end.
In the blink of an eye, it’s six years now. Xue Wu has been serving her for six years and this is the first time she ever punish Xue Wu like that. She knows Xue Wu only wants what’s best for her, but the way she acts will instead push her farther into the eye of the storm. From now on, a peaceful life is no longer possible for her.
“Shui Tian, has Xue Wu eaten?” Shui Tian is, like Xue Wu, a servant Xia Hou Shang Yue brought from Yue Kingdom. These two people are her confidante. Just Shui Tian is much more mature and speaks less.
“This servant already sent her some, but this servant does not know if she eats them or not.”
Xia Hou Shang Yue did not enter her chamber and instead heads towards Xue Wu’s room.
The room is completely dark. After she entered the room, Xia Hou Shang Yue can hear the faint sound of sobbing. She sighs lightly and lights up an oil lamp.
Xue Wu is burying her head in her knees, so she can’t see her face, but from the shaking of her shoulders, she can tell Xue Wu is crying. Crying real hard at that.
“Xue Wu, I am sorry….” Xia Hou Shang Yue gently says those words. As the beloved princess of Mu Kingdom and the empress of Yue Kingdom, she can’t even protect her own people. Don’t talk about Xue Wu’s sadness, even she has a hard time forgiving herself.
“Please don’t say that, mistress. It’s all Xue Wu’s fault. Xue Wu shouldn’t have talked back to the emperor. It would have been alright if only I receive punishment, but in the end, even mistress got implicated. I am sorry, I was only concerned for Mistress, that’s why I couldn’t hold my mouth!”
Xue Wu’s face is drenched in tears, her pair of eyes are red. She can tell she had been crying for a while. Xia Hou Shang Yue gently wipe away her tears. She look over to the table where her food lays untouched.
“Xue Wu, hearing you said that makes me feels so ashamed. As the empress, I can’t even protect you. My heart is— Let’s not talk about this anymore. From now on, I will not let anybody harms the people by my side anymore!” As she said that, traces of firmness flashes in Xia Hou Shang Yue’s eyes. She can endure any kind of grievance, what she can’t endure is when the people by her side got harmed because of her.
“Alright, you should eat. These meals are cold, I’ll heat them up for you.”
“Mistress, I’ll heat them up myself. When had a mistress heat up food for her servant?”
“Xue Wu, I forbid you from saying that. You and Shui Tian are not servants. Both of you are my friends, my closed ones.”
Shui Tian’s cold face changes a little, moved, but he did not say anything as he quietly takes the meals and leaves.
Xia Hou Shang Yue and Xue Wu both heads over to Feng Qi Palace’s main hall. Seeing Xue Wu eating, Xia Hou Shang Yue is finally relieved. She remind her to use cold water to ease the swelling on her face before heading back to her chamber.
The next day, Xia Hou Shang Yue woke up early and got busy in the kitchen. Even Xue Wu can’t intervene with what she was doing.
“Imperial Sister-in-law, what are you doing?” Bai Chu Xun stretch her neck into the kitchen with a mischievous smile. Seeing Xia Hou Shang Yue’s flour-stained hands, she was curious and couldn’t help but ask.
“Imperial Grandmother seemed to have no appetite yesterday, so I want to make sour plum cake to help open up her appetite.”
Xia Hou Shang Yue answered without turning her head. Sour plum cake? Bai Chu Xun smiles and knit her eyebrows. “Imperial Sister-in-law, let me wash my hands first. Teach me how to make them, can you?”
“Yes. As long as you don’t mind doing work.”
Bai Chu Xun run outside to wash her hands before she enters the kitchen and start helping Xia Hou Shang Yue making the cake.
After a busy morning, the two ladies’ sour plum cakes are finally made. Bai Chu Xun study the vermillion-colored sour plum cakes with a frown.
“Imperial Sister-in-law, why is it coloured like that? It doesn’t look good!”
Xia Hou Shang Yue put the cakes into a container and look at Bai Chu Xun with a smile. “Let’s go. Let’s send this to imperial grandmother. This is Xun Er’s first time making a cake, imperial grandmother will be so happy.”
After they arrive in Ci Ning Palace, the empress dowager is still unhappy because of last night’s incident.
“Put all these away, aijia does not want to eat!”
Mo Yuan worriedly eye the empress dowager. Putting it away will not do, not putting it away will not do as well. She wants to persuade the empress dowager but she does not know how to. She has been persuading her the whole morning, it did not have any effect.
The first thing Xia Hou Shang Yue sees upon entering is Mo Yuan’s difficult expression. “Mo Yuan, take the meals away. Imperial Grandmother, Xun Er and I made you sour plum cakes, why don’t you taste them?”
After she said that, she took out the sour plum cakes from it’s container. The cakes are in the shape of plum flowers, but the color is a little unpleasant. It’s the color of vermillion. But it’s small artistic shape makes up for it’s inadequacy.
“Sour plum cake? What kind of cake is that? It looks pretty good, but the color…”
“Imperial Grandmother, this sour plum cake is our Mu Kingdom’s specialty. It uses sour plum powder, tangerine peel’s powder, glutinous rice powder and honey. The pregnant concubines in the back palace will eat them to regain appetite. I noticed Imperial Grandmother did not have the appetite to eat yesterday. I remembered back when my Imperial Father would not eat, I would make the same cake for him.”
The empress dowager take a piece of the cake, smiling as she bring it to her mouth. She chews on the cake slowly, there is a trace of sourness and sweet, it indeed taste good.
“It taste really good. Xun Er, this is your first time making a cake, why don’t you eat with aijia?
Bai Chu Xun did not answer, taking a piece of the cake quietly and eating them. A smile broke out in her face. “Imperial Sister-in-law, why don’t you eat as well. It taste really good!”
“No thank you. Imperial Grandmother, this is chicken porridge. You should eat it while it’s hot. People must always eat. If you starve yourself to illness, it would be disastrous.”
Xia Hou Shang Yue take out a bowl of porridge from the other container. The empress dowager drink them with a smile on her face. Deep inside, she likes this child more and more. She is considerate and thoughtful.
“In the end, only the empress can do it. Just a few words from the empress and Her Majesty already drank half of the bowl.”
“Knowing Yue Er and Xun Er cook something for aijia makes aijia so happy. In the end even aijia’s appetite turns better.”
The empress dowager takes Xia Hou Shang Yue and Bai Chu Xun’s hands, her face carving a content smile. The imperial family being able to have such children is not an easy thing ah.
Xia Hou Shang Yue and Bai Chu Xun look at each other before they smile.
Suddenly, the empress dowager’s face turns blue.
“Aijia—- can’t breath—–“
“Imperial sister-in-law, something is wrong with me…..”
“Mo Yuan, call a physician!”