TIGR Chapter 44
The Imperial Guard’s Revenge
Chapter 44 Jealous
The voice was sobbing and complaining, hoarse and resentful, and its words were even more creepy. The palace maids screamed in fright, and Wang Yanqing immediately turned around and pushed open the palace door with force.
It was pitch black outside, and the night wind swirled around Wang Yanqing’s clothes. The chill was everywhere, as if it was about to penetrate the bone marrow. Wang Yanqing swept around with a hard face, but there was nothing but cold air.
As soon as she heard the sound, she came out immediately. In such a close distance, they should not have been able to escape. Who in the world was hiding out there?
Wang Yanqing didn’t believe in ghosts and spirits, but her scalp was numb at the moment. At this time, the sound of the gate being pushed was heard and a group of people carrying lanterns quickly entered the courtyard. Wang Yanqing saw the leader and rushed towards him subconsciously: “Second Brother.”
Lu Heng caught Wang Yanqing with a steady face, and at just a touch, he realized that her palm was ice-cold. Lu Heng didn’t say a word but raised his head lightly, and the Imperial Guards behind him naturally lined up to disperse, wrapping the main hall of the Ciqing Palace like an iron bucket.
After Wang Yanqing finished speaking, she realized that she had called the wrong name. The palace maids in the room didn’t hear her, but she was afraid that the Imperial Guards might have noticed her form of address. Wang Yanqing’s heart was alarmed, and she quickly stepped back, but Lu Heng didn’t let her go. He did not shy away from holding Wang Yanqing’s hand and asked in a low voice: “Are you alright?”
Lu Heng had a premonition that something would happen tonight, and sure enough, a woman’s scream came from the Ciqing Palace just now. Lu Heng made a quick decision and ordered the gate to be broken in, but he was still a step late.
Wang Yanqing shook her head, speechless. Lu Heng looked at her pale face and felt distressed. At this time, Guo Tao came back to report. He stopped three steps away, lowered his eyes, and did not look at the hands of the commander and the woman: “Commander.”
“Have you found anything?”
Guo Tao shook his head: “The surrounding area of the main hall has been checked and there is no trace of anyone.”
“Go check the people behind you, don’t let anyone go.”
Guo Tao took his orders and left as Qin Xiang’er came out with the people in the palace. Wang Yanqing pulled back her hand gently and stood behind Lu Heng with her eyes down. With a lamp in hand, Qin Xiang’er walked down the steps solemnly and greeted Lu Heng: “Master Lu.”
Lu Heng nodded lightly at Qin Xiang’er and said: “It was very rude to break in late at night, but I heard that there was a change in the East Palace. How is the empress?”
“The empress is fine, thank you for your assistance, Commander Lu.” After Qin Xiang’er finished speaking, she paused and asked, “Commander Lu, those strange noises appeared one after another in the Ciqing Palace. Do you know what it was?”
Lu Heng didn’t comment, and said, “I’m ordering someone to investigate, please tell the empress that the Imperial Guards may have to be a bother for a while. Although the empress can rest assured, with me here, the demons will never be allowed to do evil.”
Qin Xiang’er gave her blessings and turned around to report to the empress. After that, Lu Heng stayed in the yard. The Imperial Guards pushed open the doors one by one to check, and grabbed the roster to identify everyone in the room. The night wind came from all directions, the firelight swayed in the wind, and the ground was covered with dark shadows. Wang Yanqing stood in the wind for a while, her emotions gradually calmed down, and she finally regained her ability to think.
During the previous haunting, the Imperial Guards might have delayed some time from hearing the sound to opening the door, but tonight Wang Yanqing was in the palace, and she came out as soon as she heard the strange sound. With such a short interval, even if they ran, they couldn’t run far. Why was there no one?
Wang Yanqing’s face was pale, and the tips of her eyebrows were twisted, puzzled. Lu Heng glanced at her, suddenly untied his cloak, and put it over Wang Yanqing. Wang Yanqing was taken aback, and hurriedly avoided: “Second Brother.”
The Ciqing Palace and the Imperial Guards were still here, how could she wear Lu Heng’s clothes?
Lu Heng didn’t say anything, silently but not indifferently, he wrapped his cloak around her. Wang Yanqing wanted to hide again, but he had already pressed her shoulders. She didn’t dare to pull away this deep in the palace, so she had to stop stiffly and let Lu Heng’s breath come down and wrap her completely.
There was not much difference between the styles of men’s and women’s capes, but Lu Heng’s stature was much taller than hers. She wore his normal clothes, and on her body, his sleeves were almost dragging on the floor. She was trapped in overly large clothes, looking exhausted and pitiful.
Wang Yanqing carefully lifted the edge of the cloak, trying not to let the ground dirty his hem. She approached in a way that reminded Lu Heng of a thief: “Second Brother, I am still a guard right now. If you get too close to me, it will make people suspicious.”
Lu Heng thought that she was brought by him, and his claim was clearly marked. Was there anyone who did not know? Lu Heng looked at Wang Yanqing nonchalantly, and finally, like her, lowered his voice and said: “It’s okay, they can’t see.”
These words purely treated everyone as if they were blind. Wang Yanqing was stunned for a while, and she couldn’t answer.
When they were talking here, the Imperial Guards at the back gently rummaged through every room in the Ciqing Palace, inquired about the movements of the palace servants one by one, and checked whether there were any people hiding in the palace. After a while, Guo Tao came back and shook his head vaguely at Lu Heng.
Lu Heng was sorry, but not surprised. Taking into account the difference between inside and outside, he did not enter the house to greet Empress Zhang, but stopped outside the window and said through the window sash: “The empress has been disturbed tonight, please forgive me. Strange things are happening frequently in the Ciqing Palace, and I am worried that the traitor will harm the empress, so I can only continue to overstep. I have ordered people to guard the exits of the Ciqing Palace until dawn. As a precaution, the empress is requested not to leave the East Palace tonight.”
Empress Zhang had been frightened by the spooky hauntings one after another, so how could there be any objection? Although the Imperial Guards had a bad reputation, when they stood at the gate fiercely, daring any ghosts to approach, it made people feel extremely reassured.
To avoid suspicion, Lu Heng left the main entrance of Ciqing Palace wide open and asked the Imperial Guards to patrol the front yard with torches, so that they could see each other and ensure that the palace community would not be offended. There was access control in the palace, and it was reasonable that he could not open the door now, but there were special exceptions for everything. Lu Heng would mention this kind of trivial matter to the emperor tomorrow, so the eunuchs on patrol will not have trouble coming to the Imperial Guards without cautious eyes.
The Imperial Guards were a group of big men. When Lu Heng arranged a patrol, Wang Yanqing curled up in the shadows with the cloak, quietly covering her mouth while yawning. She thought her movements were very slight, however, it was caught completely in the eyes of others. Seeing this, Guo Tao said very discretely: “Commander, subordinates are watching here, you should go and rest for a while.”
Lu Heng held the largest post in this place but he didn’t even bother to pretend, and said directly: “Keep watch carefully, come and find me if there is any movement.”
Guo Tao cupped his fists: “Yes ”
He didn’t mind taking night watch for the emperor, but the mere Empress Zhang was not worthy of letting Lu Heng stand outside all night. In fact, if it wasn’t for Wang Yanqing, Lu Heng would not be here tonight.
Lu Heng confessed to the good man, turned around, and walked toward Wang Yanqing. When Wang Yanqing saw him coming, she immediately cheered up and said: “Second Brother, are you leaving? Here is your cloak.”
This dimwit was still planning to go back to Empress Zhang’s bedroom to guard? Lu Heng glanced at her lightly, tightened her collar, and said: “No need. With so many people in the Imperial Guards, why would they need one girl to keep the fire warm. You come with me.”
Wang Yanqing thought that Second Brother had other arrangements for her, and followed without saying a word. The Imperial Guards and Dongxichang were originally in a competitive relationship, but they were no match for Lu Heng acting with integrity and organizing all of the eunuchs in the palace very well. Seeing that Lu Heng was young and promising, the eunuchs were happy to have a good relationship with Lu Heng, so Lu Heng did not need to say much and someone would already arrange matters for Lu Heng.
Master Lu was investigating the case in the palace and going through a lot of trouble, how could the commander stay in the cold wind all night? The supervising eunuch from the Department of Rites prepared a place for Lu Heng long ago. The eunuchs were used to serving people and the rooms were kept clean and proper. Lu Heng covered Wang Yanqing with a cloak, and thanked the eunuch who led the way: “We have disturbed all of you very late at night, thank you for your trouble.”
The eunuch who led the way lifted the curtain for Lu Heng and said with a smile: “Master Lu, you are very polite. You are an important minister and you share the worries of the emperor. We servants can’t help with anything else, so we can only do these small things.”
Lu Heng nodded and smiled, said a few more polite words, and brought Wang Yanqing inside. The eunuch also acknowledged the sight before him, so he stirred up the charcoal fire and went out without disturbing Master Lu’s rest.
Wang Yanqing hadn’t slept all night, and until now, her temples hurt. Seeing that Wang Yanqing’s face was not good, Lu Heng took off her cloak and said: “If you are sleepy, just sleep for a while.”
Wang Yanqing rubbed her head vigorously and took a deep breath, trying to refresh herself: “I’m fine. Second Brother, I asked about a lot of news today. I will just tell you right now.”
“No hurry.” Lu Heng hung the cloak aside and pulled Wang Yanqing to sit on the couch, “It’s still early so you can speak slowly. If you really have a headache, go to bed first.”
Wang Yanqing sat down, looked left and right, and asked: “Second Brother, don’t I have to go back? Then what will you do?”
“No, this place was originally prepared for you.” Lu Heng said and glanced at her with a half-smile, “Qing Qing has grown up and knows how to feel sorry for her brother. They only prepared one room, what do you think should be done?”
Wang Yanqing’s figure was obviously tense, and Lu Heng laughed, holding Wang Yanqing’s shoulders to make her lie down, and gently put her head on his lap: “Just kidding.”
Lu Heng stroked Wang Yanqing’s temple with his fingers and kneaded gently. Wang Yanqing originally wanted to avoid it. What would happen if a person of her age was still resting on her brother’s lap? But Lu Heng’s fingers were too comfortable, Wang Yanqing snorted lightly, and was reluctant to push him away, so she lay down halfway.
No one was there anyway so she should not be in the way for a while.
Lu Heng was a martial artist and knew acupuncture points, he pressed for a while and asked: “Are you feeling better now?”
Wang Yanqing closed her eyes and responded in a low voice, almost falling asleep listening to the sound. Lu Heng smiled lightly, no longer limited to kneading the acupoints, his fingers slowly shuttled between her hair: “Yesterday you were so fierce, I thought you were really not afraid.”
Wang Yanqing was a little embarrassed. She thought she wasn’t afraid of ghosts, but only after seeing the situation did she realize that she was also an ordinary woman. The second time she heard the ghost’s cry, she was really frightened, but she didn’t dare to show it because of the reputation she had to carry. Unexpectedly, Lu Heng found out.
Wang Yanqing pouted, closed her eyes, and deceived herself: “No way, I’m not afraid.”
Lu Heng looked at her expression and couldn’t help laughing. When he went in, her hands were cold, and she was still choosing to be stubborn? Lu Heng had no intention of poking at her and said: “Okay, I misunderstood Qing Qing. What did you ask about during the day?”
Seeing that Wang Yanqing couldn’t fall asleep for a while, it was better to talk. Wang Yanqing was refreshed when he mentioned this, opened her eyes and said: “Second Brother, I found two suspicious people today.”
“Hmm?” Lu Heng responded in a low voice, pressing his fingers to Wang Yanqing’s temples, not knowing whether to massage the acupoints or play with her hair, “Who?”
“One is the palace keeper of the night watch on the twenty-ninth day, named Cui Yuehuan. The other is a little palace maid who is suspected of being treated with injustice in Empress Zhang’s palace, named Xiu Yao.”
Lu Heng remembered that he had also questioned the palace maid who was guarding the night, but she didn’t say anything at that time. Lu Heng sighed and asked: “Why does Qing Qing doubt them?”
Wang Yanqing adjusted her angle slightly, found a comfortable position on Lu Heng’s leg, and said: “Let’s talk about their motivation first. I ran out tonight as soon as I heard the sound but didn’t see anything suspicious. I still don’t know how the other party did it, but it must have taken a lot of thought to set up such a big game. Why did they have to pretend to be a ghost? Pretending to be a ghost itself represents a kind of weakness and reflects a strong sense of revenge. To put it bluntly, if the emperor or Empress Jiang wanted to take revenge on Empress Zhang, they would not choose to pretend to be a ghost at all.”
Wang Yanqing paused for a while when she said this, and quickly looked out the window. Lu Heng bent his fingers and tapped Wang Yanqing’s forehead lightly: “So I knew you were afraid. The palace is not like home, this is not to be repeated.”
Wang Yanqing knew that he was right, so she let Lu Heng give her a couple of taps and responded with a sound of agreement. She continued her thoughts just now and said: “So, the person who came up with this method should be someone who has a lower status than Empress Zhang, but carries a deep hatred for her.”
After Wang Yanqing finished speaking, she looked at Lu Heng expectantly. But Lu Heng didn’t say anything, just asked: “And then?”
Second Brother didn’t say whether she guessed right or not and Wang Yanqing was a little disappointed but continued: “I asked Cui Yuehuan, the palace maid who was on night watch first. Originally, I didn’t suspect her, I just wanted to find out the suspect from her. But unexpectedly, her performance was very suspicious.”
Lu Heng was very interested in this and ran his fingers through Wang Yanqing’s hair, signaling her to continue. While thinking back, Wang Yanqing said slowly: “I asked her if she ate something by mistake before the watch, and she acted strangely at the time. She seemed depressed, but she didn’t admit it. A person who was beaten should be angry when she heard that she might have been plotted against by others. How could she be so calm? I felt suspicious, so I used words to test her. I remember talking about tea, pastries, and snacks, I noticed that when she heard the pastries, her eyes blinked faster and her eyelashes narrowed downwards. She is guilty, and the problem is most likely the pastry. Then I asked her about the details during the haunting…”
Wang Yanqing paused slightly and Lu Heng didn’t understand why she didn’t say it at first. He looked at her expression, suddenly realized, and couldn’t help chuckling: “What was wrong with the haunting?”
Wang Yanqing thought of the big word she just said, endured the embarrassment, and changed her words: “The movement made by that ghost… is actually a bit scary. However, when I pressed on, Cui Yuehuan was patient and nervous, but not afraid. I asked her if the ghost was scary, and she answered first, then nodded. That was obviously lying. Under normal circumstances, expressing affirmation by nodding and acknowledging should occur at the same time. How can it be possible to speak first and then nod? Unless she knew that the ghost was man-made, so she was not afraid. I suspected her at the time, and then I suddenly held her hand. She avoided it subconsciously, and her palm was sweaty. At tonight’s watch, she temporarily changed shifts and was transferred to the first half of the night. When I heard movement and opened the window, she was the first to wake up.”
Wang Yanqing exhaled and came to the final conclusion: “She lied and was very nervous. Either she is the mastermind of the haunting, or she is defending the real culprit.”
Lu Heng ran his fingers through Wang Yanqing’s silky hair. His eyes were deep and thoughtful: “Qing Qing is indeed very talented, so much information can be found in just a few words. What about the other woman, why do you still doubt her?”
“Xiu Jin was a completely unexpected gain.” Wang Yanqing said, “I was wandering in the Ciqing Palace at the time, and I didn’t expect to find them. As soon as I went in, I found that Xiu Yao was uneasy. Looking at what the other palace maid revealed, she should have suffered something big and serious and was deeply affected. I was about to ask in detail, but then Qin Xiang’er came. I was called to dinner by Qin Xiang’er, and the questioning could not continue. What exactly happened to Xiu Yao, I might have to find another chance to ask tomorrow.”
Lu Heng narrowed his eyes slightly and suddenly asked: “How does Xiu Yao look?”
“Pretty and beautiful, but young and childish.” When Wang Yanqing said this, she couldn’t help turning around and looking at Lu Heng carefully, “Second Brother, why are you asking this?” ”
Lu Heng glanced down at her, and reached out to cover her eyes: “These skills are only used on outsiders, don’t keep staring at me.”
Wang Yanqing couldn’t help laughing, she pushed Lu Heng’s palm away and said: “Come on. Second Brother, why do you care about Xiu Yao’s appearance?”
Lu Heng didn’t plan to really cover her eyes, so he let go and rubbed his fingers along her chin: “I should know what secrets this woman has.”
After speaking, Lu Heng lowered his eyes and said with a half-smile: “Why, is Qing Qing jealous?”