“Mistress, cefei has encircled the courtyard!” The little servant girl panicked, her face as pale as paper.
The news over there was already severed.
We have also cleaned all our tracks in the residence.
How can she still have leads” The woman’s eyes were filled with hesitation.
Her initial confidence started to shake a bit.
Just as the mistress and servant girl were harboring all kinds of suspicions, a steward outside came in to pass a message saying that cefei will be interrogating people in the courtyard one by one tomorrow afternoon.
As soon as the steward left, the servant girl was trembling with fear, even her voice was shaking.
“Mistress, since there will be an interrogation tomorrow, could it be that cefei has some evidence in her hand”
“What’s there to be terrified of! She’s merely taking people for little questioning.
Don’t tell me that she can interrogate them under torture and export a confession from them.”
“As long as you stay cool, without any proof, what can she do to you You’ve just to refuse to admit any allegations.
You’ve been hiding in the residence for so many years, and the things you’ve done were also done in an extremely confidential fashion.
Nobody has ever taken notice of you.
This time, you will, too, be able to turn misfortune into blessing and manage through this smoothly.
If you dare to make any careless mistake tomorrow during the investigation, do you know of consequences The lives of your old man, mother, and the whole family, are all in the hands of his lordship.
Even if things were revealed, you have to resist and find a random person to serve as your scapegoat!”
The little servant girl slumped on the ground with a thud.
Her lips were trembling.
Mistress was the secret chess meticulously groomed by the rebel faction.
She only became aware of this after attending to her for a year.
Her greed was to be blamed.
She had accepted mistress’s huge bribe and often handled things for her in private.
Later, she accidentally learnt that mistress was using her to pass the information to the outside of the residence.
The other party wasn’t a good person either.
Although she was extremely afraid and regretful, she was already deeply stuck in the swamp and was unable to free herself.
When mistress came to her to lay her card on the table and used her family’s life to blackmail her, she finally realised she was already riding a tiger and it was hard to get off1.
She had to stick to the end.
Since then, she became a pawn in her mistress’s hand.
It seems that her retribution was coming.
“Mistress, if things come to the worst, this servant is willing to take the charges.
This servant just asks mistress to plead his lordship on this servant’s behalf, so that this servant’s family can preserve their lives.” The little servant girl used all of her strength to prop up her body which was limp from the scare.
She knelt to the ground and kowtowed with a loud bang to the sitting woman.
“So be it.
If it wasn’t for lady Mu putting so much pressure on us, how could I have the heart to let you throw away your life If you keep kowtowing so hard and the skin on your forehead breaks, wouldn’t it be even more suspicious What you’ve asked for just now, I’ll definitely do it for you.
But, during tomorrow’s questioning, you have to be very careful.
That woman is too shrewd.
Take care not to fall into her trap.”
The next day, in the hall of Danruo Courtyard.
Mu Xi Yao was followed by a capable maidservant.
The chief steward was standing aside, waiting for her instructions.
“This servant pays respect to cefei.” The four concubines from Lantai and Zhuyin Courtyards were all standing respectively below.
Each of them took along their two personal maidservants.
Mu Xi Yao swept a glance at them.
Intentionally or otherwise, her gaze stayed a bit longer on them.
Her lips were curled into a smile.
She raised her right hand and told them to rise.
“Since qie called you here today, qie doesn’t intend to hide it from you.
You should sit down and listen to some things.”
Lady Wu and lady Kong from Lantai Courtyards were seniors.
They were used to being suppressed by Mu Xi Yao’s overwhelming aura.
Hearing her words, they courteously sat down.
The remaining lady Qi, who entered the residence later than the previous two, was a schemer and a flexible person who took advantage of the situation.
As for lady An, since entering the prince’s residence, apart from going to Chanruo Courtyard during breakfast to attend to the principal consort, she rarely appeared in public.
Until now, she always passed her days behind closed doors and hardly visited anyone.
She was also adequately respectful to Mu Xi Yao.
“On the first day of this month, on the evening his Highness established his residence, the Shu Zhong rebels have infiltrated the prince’s residence, intending to assassinate his Highness.
After the failure of the assassination, they were killed on the spot.” Mu Xi Yao spoke slowly.
She observed, one by one, the people sitting below.
Seeing that everyone had an expression filled with horror, she did not catch any anomaly.
“Qie and his fifth Highness’s shufei have also met with danger at the water pavilion.
We were almost killed and lost our lives.”
Mu Xi Yao deliberately distorted the facts and completely erased the event of her being abducted outside the prince’s residence.
She wasn’t afraid that the mole would expose her for telling lies in public.
Nowadays, she was worried that she was unable to find any threads.
If someone foolishly jumps out to clarify the facts and testify that she had shown the way to the rebels and abducted Mu Xi Yao, wouldn’t she just happen to hit the muzzle of her gun2
“Qie’s chief maidservant has once said that at the time she happened to witness a back of a servant girl who acted in a very sneaky way.
She’s suspected for showing the way to the rebels and leading the two renegades to the water pavilion, intending to commit immoral deeds.” Mu Xi Yao’s left hand gently stroked the table, her eyes dark.
The person who saw the servant girl that led the way wasn’t the maidservant mentioned by her, but she herself.
After being forced to leave with the rebels that day, as they were passing a corner, a dirty-faced servant girl suddenly emerged and very nervously guided the way for rebels.
She was pretty familiar with uncrowded alleys.
From start to finish, she spoke no words.
She always used gestures to point directions.
Now, she was under light and the mole was hiding in shadows.
No matter how bold was that secret chess piece, she wouldn’t dare to refute her words in front of people.
Naturally, whatever she said was valid.
“The one who could go to the front and guide the rebels that night, whose figure and age is similar to that servant girl, out of the whole residence, only Zhuyin and Lantai Courtyards remain to be investigated.
Everyone from those other courtyards offered evidence to show their innocence.
Now, it’s turned for the courtyard of you four.
Whether there’s anyone inciting trouble among you, you’ll know in a moment after questioning.”
As soon as Mu Xi Yao’s words fell, she slapped hard her left hand.
With a smack, it landed on the table.
“Daring to collude with the rebels and assassinate his Highness, that person is quite bold! If we’re able to ferret out the spy buried in the prince’s residence today, the person shall be immediately tied and sent to the Chanruo Courtyard and then handed over to authorities to be disposed!”
Everyone has not yet recovered from her talks about the assassination and they saw the woman sitting in the head seat lose her cool.
Her face was completely different from the gentleness before.
It was gloomy and fierce right now.
“Since this servant girl dared to guide the way for the regenerates, if anyone dares to cover her up and exculpate her actions, that person shall be punished severely along with her.
According to the domestic discipline of the prince’s residence, daring to collude with outsiders and plot against the prince and cefei, this is offense charged with beheading.”
Mu Xi Yao spoke sternly and explained to them clearly the seriousness of this matter, scaring in the process a few unworldly women into quietness.
His Highness was actually attacked by assassins! Even cefei has almost lost her life.
This was simply atrocious.
No wonder the entire yard was placed into confinement a few days ago.
It turned out that such a big event happened.
What a pity….why was lady Mu so fortunate
Now that she was looking for the guiding servant girl with such great fanfare, it was inevitable that a little grudge played a role in it.
This matter couldn’t be handled with carelessness.
Not only couldn’t they interfere, but they also couldn’t incite her resent.
Otherwise, if she fails to find the real culprit in the end, and randomly frames it on someone, wouldn’t it be a great injustice to them
“Replying to cefei, this servant had indeed sent a maidservant out that night.
However, it was not to collude with rebels but to see a steward to ask……to ask for a sanitary pad for qie.
Qie begs cefei to make a fair judgment.
That steward should be able to prove the innocence of qie’s maidservant.”
With a flushed face, Lady Qi anxiously pleaded her innocence.
This accusation was too scary.
She absolutely mustn’t get herself involved.
Although it was a servant girl who committed the offense, who can guarantee that her mistress won’t be suspected
“Replying to cefei, qie’s maid also went to the laundry room at the front yard to wash qie’s dresses.
She was gone only for a moment.
She shouldn’t have any involvement with the regenerates.”
Lady An was so frightened she confessed the whereabouts of her maid.
Fearing that she wasn’t accurate enough, she didn’t even hide how much time the maid had been there.
The maids of the remaining two replied that they had never gone out and stayed in their courtyards all the time.
They could find people to testify for them.
“The four of you needn’t hurry to explain yourselves.
No one can say for sure whether any of them made any detour after they went out.
Don’t tell qie that people who have remained behind in the courtyard were truly well-behaved and stayed there, not secretly leaving even for a moment No one can be certain about it, right Besides, people from the same courtyard speaking for each other is not a rare occurrence.” Mu Xi Yao leisurely shook her circular fan with a disbelieving expression.
“This…how to put it.
There’s truly no way to prove one’s innocent, right Cefei, isn’t it too harsh” Lady Kong’s face was filled with embarrassment.
She has already explained so clear, yet she was still not satisfied Could it be that lady Mu was trying to find fault with her
“This can be easily handled.” Mu Xi Yao’s words answered lady Kong’s doubts.
“This maidservant of qie, since she was young her greatest skill was to distinguish people based on the sound of their footsteps.
Ever since she started to follow qie, she has never made a mistake.
Having each of your maids turn around and take a few steps to let her look at their figure and listen to their steps will suffice.”
Mu Xi Yao raised her eyebrow and looked at the faces of the four women below.
She summoned Mo Lan and assumed the posture of someone who was waiting for the culprit to be caught.
The four of them looked at each other in dismay, skeptical about the skills of cefei’s maidservant.
It would be great if she was correct.
Their innocence will be immediately proved.
However, if she was inaccurate, wouldn’t it be like watching helplessly how they are being accused wrongly
“As long as you haven’t done anything shameful in secret, you don’t have to meddle in and worry for nothing.
Qie’s maidservant is taking a look at them merely to pick out the suspicious person.
Afterward, that person still needs to be carefully interrogated.
The authorities don’t acknowledge the argument of “distinguishing people based on sounds”.
We still need to have tangible evidence, don’t we”
Mu Xi Yao’s words made most people breathe a sigh of relief.
As long as it wasn’t only her statements and definitive evidence was stressed on then this method was doable.
Only one person was inwardly panic-stricken, yet she didn’t dare to show any signs of it on her face.
Cefei has said that even if that person was identified, without any proof, they cannot make that person admit a confession by tortures.
As long as she carefully followed her mistress’s instructions, she would be able to escape this disaster.
“Mo Lan, let’s begin.” Mu Xi Yao took the mint tea handed over to her by Hui Lan and took a sip.
She then ordered the people below to successively walk two rounds in the main hall in front of everyone.
Since nobody kept an eye on the way they walked before, no one felt awkward.
Now that they were being stared at by the pairs of eyes of present mistresses, the eight maids walked as if on tenterhooks, fearing that any mistake they make would lead them to be arrested as a suspect.
Everyone watched as each maid came forward with a sweaty forehead and walked two rounds with stiff bodies.
No one’s footstep was steady.
The way they walked was simply not their usual selves.
Those timid ones were even trembling and they almost tripped themselves.
Mu Xi Yao’s eyes twitched as she watched their awkward appearances.
If the servant girls in the prince’s residence all had this standard, they would be a laughing stock.
Leaving the prince’s residence aside, even among wealthy families, all servant girls went through special training, and only those capable ones were chosen to serve their masters.
Why is that once they came to the Danruo Courtyard the walking part which was their basic skills turned into a limp marionette-like movement
Was she a she-devil or something Was she so intimidating Mu Xi Yao realised for the first time that she might not have a reputation as a kind person in the residence….
Having Mo Lan observing people was merely a gimmick that gave her grounds to act afterward.
These servant girls were so timid.
Moreover, they didn’t commit any crimes.
Each and every one of them was shivering like chicklings.
Don’t tell her that they all had guilty consciences and were too weak to go through a close investigation
Mu Xi Yao thought of secrets in the inner yard.
Her thoughts went askew.
Although she was sitting there, there were all kinds of ideas in her mind.
There will be no lack of inner yard and imperial harem struggles in the future, will it She needs to revise regularly lest she falls into a hole dug by others and be schemed by them.
 If you ride a tiger, it’s hard to get off is a Chinese idiom which means that it is impossible to stop halfway
 Hit the muzzle of a gun is a Chinese phrase that means to bring about one’s own destruction or ask for trouble