“Ganli Palace is where Empress Dowager Ye lives alone, so the side halls have not been opened for many years.” Nijin said while watching the young maids cleaning the elegant room covered with dust, “The only place people can live in is this Wangxing Pavilion, as Princess Duanrou comes here once in a while. Your Grace, it’s just for one night.”
Qiu Yelan asked in confusion, “Should I not greet Empress Dowager Ye? Didn’t you say that Empress Dowager Ye would be settling me?”
“Empress Dowager Ye generally does not meet outsiders apart from the Empress and Princess Duanrou.” Nijin smirked and said, “She’s just saying... I’ll go to find you some clothes. You would stay here for one night and I’ll find someone to send you back tomorrow, and that’s the end of your visit to the palace this time.”
“What do you mean by ‘the end’? Gu Yan was beaten so badly. Even if I leave the palace, would he let me go?” Qiu Yelan thought.
“No, if I leave the palace, he would be fearless in taking revenge on me.”
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Qiu Yelan bit her lower lip and said, “Um, madam...”
“The cleaning is done.” Nijin interrupted her abruptly and scanned around the room. She asked, “Your Grace, please look around and see if there’s anything else you need. If not...” She said, looking sorry, “I have to go back and serve the Empress.”
“Don’t mind me, madam. Thank you for today.” Qiu Yelan gave her a purse and Nijin took it without hesitation. Then she said with a smile, “Your Grace, please rest well today. The Empress should be taking time to meet you tomorrow.”
If she could meet the Empress again, there was still a chance.
Qiu Yelan was a bit relieved and took a few steps to send Nijin out. Then she started figuring how she could hold on to the Empress tomorrow to become her protection.
After she thought for a while, she found that Su He was staring at her emotionlessly.
“Are you scared? Are you okay?” Qiu Yelan stopped thinking and asked with concern, reaching out to touch her forehead.
Surprisingly, Su He asked, “Your Grace, aren’t you hungry?”
“Hungry?” Qiu Yelan paused for a moment and immediately felt hungry. Su He and she had been fasting since the morning in order to enter the palace. She didn’t even realize before Su He mentioned it. Since she did, Qiu Yelan felt worse.
“Then why didn’t you say it when Nijin asked you what you needed?” Su He looked at her helplessly.
Qiu Yelan looked at the room with gorgeous furnishings, but there was nothing to eat or drink apart from the tea on the table. Her mouth twitched, “I...forget!”
The young lady and the maid were silent for a while, and then Su He said quietly, “I’ll go out to ask the young maid who just cleaned the room and see if she could find us some food in Empress Dowager Ye’s kitchen.”
“... Okay.” Qiu Yelan wanted to bang herself against the wall. It was just a few days since she was well served, and she forgot to mention such an important thing as food!
After a while, Su He returned with a pale face, saying that there was no one around. Qiu Yelan suddenly thought of something and stood up, “I forget that you are afraid of darkness. Perhaps the maids happen to be away, I’ll go look for them.”
It was New Year’s Eve tonight, and it was not surprising that the palace maids were slack.
Moreover, Qiu Yelan was not qualified to ask the people in the Empress Dowager’s palace to serve her with respect, even though this Empress Dowager Ye was not doing quite well in the palace. Being the birth mother of the Emperor, even the Commandery Princess hadn’t heard of her before.
However, just when she was about to leave, Su He, who was soothing herself from the shock by some hot tea held her back and said seriously, “There’s really no one out there!”
At this time, the maid had drunk more than half a cup of the hot tea, but her face was still pale. Apparently, she was quite scared, “I’m worried that you are hungry, so I bravely looked around three courtyards! There’s literally no one. It’s not supposed to be like this in the Empress Dowager’s palace! Even if it’s the Lunar New Year’s Eve, it’s impossible that there’s no one in such a big place! The maid of the Empress has just settled us here.”
Qiu Yelan suddenly thought of the anxiety she had when leaving the Palace of Ganquan, and she grabbed Su He’s hand, dragging her to leave. “Hurry up! I’m afraid we...” Before she was able to finish by “have fallen into a trap.” Someone outside the door said coldly, “You want to leave? Where to? To hell?”
It was definitely Deng Yi with such words that deserved to get his teeth kicked in.
Deng Yi pushed through the door. He had urgently cleaned up and changed his crimson clothes covered with mud and snow for him falling a few times before into a turmeric colored brocade.
Surely it was not as eye-catching as crimson, but he was so good looking that anything he wore suited him perfectly. Even though there were still a few bruises on his face, it would not affect his beauty.
However, his expression was still icy, “You’ve done tons of unwise things and it’s your own fault that you are here today. Think about it carefully in hell and be smarter in your next life!”
“It’s you.” Qiu Yelan took a deep breath, and said, “How dare you harm the Commandery Princess in the palace?” Knowing that he came with the order from the Empress Dowager, and wouldn’t be afraid of her title as the Commandery Princess, she continued, “Aren’t you afraid that the Empress would investigate it thoroughly?”
“The Empress deliberately arranged you to come to this Ganli Palace, but left no one to accompany you. Do you really not understand what this means?” Deng Yi said lightly. Qiu Yelan’s heart sank.
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What if the Empress was using her as bait? If this was the case, it was a good thing now. The more terrible possibility was that the Empress treated her as a sacrifice to accuse Empress Dowager Gu of commanding her grandnephew to murder the offspring of a hero, the Commandery Princess.
The powerful and fierce Empress who seemed to protect her in all ways in the Hall of Taishi offered to send her to this Ganli Palace. Her maid took her purse and tipped that the Empress would meet her tomorrow. What if those were all for completely making use of her?
At this moment Qiu Yelan was utterly shocked.
Deng Yi looked at her emotionlessly and said in a mocking tone, “If you could bear it back in the Liuchun Pavilion, you wouldn’t have been in this situation now.”
Strangely, his voice was a bit peculiar and his glance was complicated.
“Bear it? How could I bear it?” Qiu Yelan held back her disturbed mood and smiled sweetly and innocently at him, “Should I just bare the fact that Gu Yan assaults me? So that I could happily be your wife in name and his toy in fact? Do I have to live such a life?”
Her expression turned serious and she sneered, “General Jiang was right. You are not a man at all! No matter how you hate me, I am still your fiancée by name! You not only just watched your cousin harass me, but tried to help him in every way... Are you sure you are still a human now? Or does Gu Yan even treat you as a human?”
“Shut up!” Deng Yi’s face darkened immediately. He yelled loudly and flicked his sleeves, “I was thinking that you would die tonight anyway, so I planned to let you live a little longer. Since you can’t wait to die, I will do it as you wish!”
Before he had finished his sentence, two strong and tall palace guards walked in from the darkness behind him, both with a white strip of cloth in their hands, and headed towards Qiu Yelan and Su He.
Su He, who had been stunned by this scene, came to her senses at this moment. She covered her ears and screamed, “Help!”
However, since Deng Yi knew that the Ganli Palace might be a trap of the Empress, and still dared to bring people here for the murder, he would not be afraid of Su He’s crying for help.
He stood outside the door, holding his hands back, looking at the scene indifferently and calmly, as if he had not heard Su He’s tone changing.
But to his surprise, compared to Su He’s panic, Qiu Yelan looked quite calm.
“Manners of nobles, huh? You are about to die and yet still so conscious about it!” Deng Yi thought sarcastically. He was about to turn around, not because he couldn’t bear it, but because he knew that no matter how beautiful people were during their lifetime, they looked extremely ugly after being strangled.
However, just when he turned around, he heard the guard’s dull hum. Deng Yi turned his head back in shock and his pupils shrank.
Qiu Yelan, who seemed to have accepted her fate and lay on the couch the last moment, suddenly moved like a flash!
First, as she had dealt with Gu Yan before, she gave the guard who wanted to kill her a fierce kick in the groin. The guard immediately fell to the ground and twisted like a cooked prawn!
Then, at a spooky speed, she flew towards Su He and lifted her hands. Pink dust with a rouge scent rose up. Both Su He and the guard who was strangling her closed their eyes instinctively!
Right at the moment when the guard closed his eyes, a sharp silver hairpin pierced into his eye without hesitation and penetrated the back of his head! Then, Qiu Yelan picked up a candlestick at her hand and stabbed it together with the candle on top of it into the chest of the guard who was still screaming on the ground!
The action was so fast that it would not exceed the time of ten breaths!
Outside the door, Deng Yi stood very still and felt a chill creeping up his hands and feet.
As for Qiu Yelan, she calmly looked at the guard’s struggle with his shout weakening. She loosened her hands only after he lost his breath and disgustedly looked at the blood spilled onto her clothes. She got up to help Su He, “Go take a rest on the couch.”
Su He was almost strangled just now, and she was still breathing greedily. Qiu Yelan removed the white strip of cloth around her delicate neck to see a deep purple, almost black, bruise.
Qiu Yelan touched the bruise gently and saw Su He suddenly shrink back. “Just lie down first. Don’t worry!” She retracted her hand and instructed quietly.
She turned around and turned her wrist. Another silver hairpin was already between her fingers. The tip of the hairpin exuded a cold glare under the candlelight.
“I have no way to cancel the marriage, but I can manage to marry someone else, so you can get away.” Deng Yi looked at her calmly even though he watched her kill two people. His face was pale but there was strange light in his eyes. He slowly said, almost word by word, “I can help you cover the two people you killed tonight, under one condition.”
Qiu Yelan looked down at the silver hairpin in her hand and smiled, “Do you think you are in a position to talk about the conditions?”
“Yes, I do!” Deng Yi looked at the silver hairpin as well, “I just hinted that Empress Jiang knew the Empress Dowager’s plans and still arranged you here. In fact, I just made that up. The incident outside Liuchun Pavilion happened unexpectedly. The fact that I’m here was also a last-minute plan of the Empress Dowager. How would the Empress know?”
Seeing Qiu Yelan looking up himself and the silver cymbals in between her fingers glinting, Deng Yi’s pupils contracted a little and he speeded up his words, “Empress Dowager doesn’t like Empress Dowager Ye, but Empress Dowager Ye is kind to Empress Jiang and that’s why Empress Jiang always protects her. This time, the Empress Dowager first expressed her plan of censuring Princess Yongfu and also agreed on sending you here. The plan was just to distract the Empress’ attention with Princess Yongfu and kill you right here while claiming that you caught Empress Dowager Ye carrying on a clandestine love affair, and she killed you to cover her tracks! These two bodyguards in Ganli Palace are Men of Sacrifice and are bribed by the Empress Dowager. They would kill themselves after killing you and write a suicide note. If I don’t cover for you and handle the intrigant quietly..., not only you and Empress Dowager Ye, but also Empress Jiang will get in big trouble!”
He looked up at Qiu Yelan’s eyes, “How can you turn to Empress Jiang then? If you don’t turn to Empress Jiang, you will die before you marry me!”
Qiu Yelan was silent for a moment and she said, “What’s your condition?”
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