TIGR Chapter 45
The Imperial Guard’s Revenge
Chapter 45 Bounded Hair
Wang Yanqing’s body froze, and she wanted to sit up subconsciously: “What am I jealous of?”
She felt a little anxious at this joke. Lu Heng held her shoulders to prevent her from moving. He pulled out her hairpin with his other hand and Wang Yanqing’s long hair immediately fell from Lu Heng’s fingertips like a waterfall.
Wang Yanqing was not prepared for Lu Heng to do this and was stunned for a moment. Her hair was scattered on Lu Heng’s knees. It was meandering and beautiful, with a delicate luster. From a distance, it looked like a gorgeous black satin. Lu Heng combed Wang Yanqing’s hair with satisfaction, and said: “Qing Qing isn’t jealous? Then I’m disappointed.”
Lu Heng’s reactions exceeded Wang Yanqing’s expectations one after another. Wang Yanqing subconsciously denied being jealous, but he admitted it directly. Wang Yanqing didn’t know how to respond. After this interruption, Lu Heng had already untied all her hair and spread it on his lap, playing with great interest.
Lu Heng had long thought that her hair felt good to the touch. In the past, she only had a bun on her head, and he could only touch a small section of it. Now, from the root to the end, the strands of hair slipped through his fingers like water, which was really enjoyable.
He had no intention of restraining himself, so Wang Yanqing had to reach out and hold his wrist: “Second Brother.”
Hair was bounded for the relationship between husband and wife. Even if there was no doubt about their love, the hair was not touched casually. Combing each other’s hair had always been something that couples do.
However, Lu Heng looked at Wang Yanqing doubtfully as if he didn’t understand the meaning of this: “Why, did I hurt you?”
Wang Yanqing looked at Lu Heng’s shallow sparkling, magnanimous and sincere eyes and felt that it was a sin to reject him. She hesitated for a moment and said: “Not really.”
“That’s good.” Lu Heng fiddled with her hair brazenly and said, “There are a few acupuncture points on the top of the head that are particularly good for soothing nerves, but I can’t remember exactly. Thank you, Qing Qing, for helping me recall them, if it hurts, please tell me.”
Lu Heng looked like he wanted to help massage and Wang Yanqing couldn’t refuse. She could only lie on Lu Heng’s lap and let his fingers slide between her hair. While Lu Heng was playing with partings in her hair, he asked: “Qing Qing, what did you hear tonight?”
After such a long time of adjustment, Wang Yanqing was no longer afraid of the hauntings. She didn’t make many memories but said smoothly: “I went to the main hall with the palace maids after dinner. When the empress finally slept, I stayed in the next hall with the palace maids. I don’t know when I fell asleep, but at around midnight, I was awakened by a burst of cold air. At that time, I especially looked carefully, and everyone was asleep except me. I remembered I was moving my legs when I heard crying outside. I immediately went to open the window, but I didn’t see anything. When I came back, I accidentally disturbed Cui Yuehuan, and the other palace maids also woke up one after another. At this moment, we heard a knock on the door. A very strange voice said that it was cold outside and to let them in.”
Lu Heng narrowed his eyes thoughtfully and asked: “Apart from these words, was there anything else?”
“They were still talking about how cold it was, and without saying anything, I pushed the door open. As soon as I went out, the sound from the outside stopped, but I searched several times and there was no one outside the house, including by the doors, windows, and beams. Immediately afterward, Second Brother, you and the rest came in.”
Wang Yanqing was lying on Lu Heng’s lap, and when she raised her eyes, she could see Lu Heng’s calm and indifferent face. She stared at Lu Heng’s slightly fluttering eyelashes, watched for a while, and whispered: “Second Brother, what are you thinking about?”
Lu Heng blinked, returned to his senses, lowered his head, and smiled at her: “It’s nothing.”
Wang Yanqing was filled with a wave of nameless anger. She gathered her hair and pulled it to the side of her neck like flowing water, while supporting her arms to get up from Lu Heng’s lap: “You always do this, I don’t keep anything from you, but you don’t say anything to me.”
Lu Heng was surprised for a moment, and then he was amused and exasperated. He held Wang Yanqing’s shoulders with both hands, stopped her from trying to move, and said: “It’s not that I don’t trust you, but that it needs to be verified.”
Wang Yanqing frowned, suspicious of Lu Heng’s words: “Really?”
“Really.” Lu Heng brought a pillow, adjusted the angle, and helped her lie down, “When has Second Brother lied to you? I suddenly remembered something, but I don’t have any information now, and I’m not sure if I remembered it wrongly, so I didn’t want to bring it up and have it interfere with you. Are you angry with me for such a thing?”
Wang Yanqing lay passively on the pillow and argued: “No…”
Before Wang Yanqing could finish speaking, Lu Heng touched the top of her head with a smile and said: “It’s okay, I don’t blame you.”
Wang Yanqing did not feel that she had made any mistake, however, she was already forgiven. Wang Yanqing was gloomy, but holding on to this topic again seemed like making unreasonable trouble, so she ignored it and asked sincerely: “Second Brother, where could the person with the voice hide?”
“The two most suspicious people right now, Cui Yuehuan and Xiu Yao, were both in the house tonight. At the time of the incident, I saw with my own eyes that they were sleeping, and it would be impossible for them to make any strange noises. But the voice was clearly outside the window. Could it be that they have accomplices?”
Before the eunuch left, he left a small lamp in the room. The candlelight flickered, and the room was warm. Even Lu Heng’s eyes seemed to be sprinkled with fine golden light. Lu Heng said: “The Imperial Guards went to the backyard of the Ciqing Palace to ask. No one went out after dark, and everyone was sleeping in their own room when the incident happened. Unless everyone made a good confession in advance, what the fellow said is weak.”
Wang Yanqing sighed and leaned on the pillow with a headache: “No outsiders came in, the people in the main hall of the Ciqing Palace didn’t go out, and the people sleeping in the back didn’t leave. Who else could it be? Where did that sound come from?”
Lu Heng knew he shouldn’t, but he couldn’t help teasing her: “What if there was really a ghost?”
Wang Yanqing was annoyed, and her eyes widened at him: “Second Brother!”
Lu Heng chuckled softly. He spent most of the day with a smile on his face. No matter who he met or what had happened, he always smiled lightly and gracefully, but the smile seldom entered his eyes. However, now, his eyes glittered with gold, and broken stars surged, he actually looked a little happy.
Wang Yanqing was stunned. Lu Heng held back his laughter, pinched Wang Yanqing’s cheek admiringly, and said: “I’ll stop making fun of you, you should go to sleep.”
Lu Heng stretched out his hand and covered Wang Yanqing’s eyes gently but firmly: “Go to sleep, we can discuss those things tomorrow.”
There was darkness in front of her eyes, and Lu Heng had a thin callus on his palm, which tickled her eyes. Wang Yanqing thought to herself that she really couldn’t do anything now, so she closed her eyes obediently and said in a low voice: “Okay.”
In Wang Yanqing’s impression, Lu Heng’s warm and powerful palm rested on her eyes, as if she just closed her eyes and she fell asleep. When she opened her eyes again, the sky was slightly bright, the charcoal fire in the corner of the room had been extinguished, and the ashes exuded residual warmth. She lay on the couch, not knowing how long she had slept.
Wang Yanqing moved slightly, and a piece of clothing slipped off her body. Wang Yanqing sat up rubbing her neck and found that she was covered by Lu Heng’s cloak, the cloth completely wrapping her up, with her own body temperature carried inside. The furnishings in the room were the same as yesterday, and no one else moved except her.
Lu Heng had already left. Didn’t he sleep last night?
Wang Yanqing was a little surprised by this discovery, but it was not unexpected. She woke up on the couch, folded her clothes, and put on her shoes.
She had just walked a few steps when there was a knock on the door: “Miss Wang, are you awake?”
Wang Yanqing sorted out her clothes and went over to open the door. There were two eunuchs standing outside, the head eunuch bowed when he saw her, lowering his eyes so he didn’t look at her face: “Did you sleep well, Miss?”
Wang Yanqing nodded: “Very well, thank you. What about Second… Commander Lu?”
“The Imperial Guards had something to do, and Master Lu left first. Before Master Lu left, he explained to the servants that if Miss woke up, we should give these to you.”
Wang Yanqing clearly saw the utensils in the eunuch’s hand, moved away, and let the eunuch enter. The eunuch led someone to put away the things for washing, and then bowed to Wang Yanqing, saying: “Master Lu has prepared breakfast for you while the servants went out on watch first. Xiao Liuzi was just outside the room and when Miss had finished cleaning up, he called me in.”
Wang Yanqing returned the greeting and thanked him. The eunuch turned his body sideways, refused to accept Wang Yanqing’s thanks, and immediately took Xiao Liuzi out. After everyone left, Wang Yanqing looked at the small and proper washing tools in the room and thought to herself that the people in the palace paid attention to everything. The eunuch was clearly afraid that she was not used to being served by him, so he made excuses to retreat, and at the same time reminded her that there would be breakfast in a while. Second Brother often mixed with these people, no wonder he was always talking in circles.
Wang Yanqing finished washing up and was about to bound her hair when Lu Heng came back. Lu Heng was different from the eunuch. He had nothing to avoid. He pushed in the door and happened to meet Wang Yanqing dressing. When he saw Wang Yanqing fix the hairpin on her head, he naturally took Wang Yanqing’s hair: “Does your head still hurt?”
Wang Yanqing shook her head, but Lu Heng didn’t think it would be comfortable to sleep in the palace, so he said lightly: “It’s been hard for you today, bear with it a little longer, and you’ll be able to rest well when you return to the house.”
Wang Yanqing saw Lu Heng helping her fix her hair and thinking he was familiar with it, she let go with confidence. As a result, the arranged hair completely deformed in Lu Heng’s hands. His fingers were slender and his movements were calm, but the bun was crooked and unsightly. Wang Yanqing had no choice but to pull it all down and comb it again.
This time, Wang Yanqing did not dare let Lu Heng use his hands, she repeated her previous actions, and glanced at Lu Heng suspiciously in the mirror: “Second Brother, you don’t know how?”
Lu Heng wondered how he could comb a woman’s hair into a bun. He was about to speak when he suddenly thought that he should be a person with ten years of experience in raising a younger sister. How could he not have combed a woman’s hair before? Lu Heng held back and said lightly: “You didn’t let me help you before, with a couple more tries, I will be able to do it.”
Wang Yanqing thought about it again. After all, they were different as men and women. Early in the morning, Second Brother came to her room to help her comb her hair… No matter what she thought, it was not right.
Wang Yanqing had no doubts and she finished tying her hair. The eunuch named Xiao Liuzi didn’t know when to come in, he nimbly took away the basin towel, and after a while, he brought in a food box. Lu Heng did not let Xiao Liuzi continue to serve her, he set the dishes down personally, and said: “The emperor does not like killing, so the meals in the palace are basically vegetarian. These are the desserts that Shang Shanjian is best at. Do you like them?”
The cakes in the palace were exquisite and small, with only one bite to ensure that the ladies would not smear their makeup on their faces. Wang Yanqing sandwiched a piece, and the cake melted in her mouth. Although it was a vegetarian meal, it took a lot of effort to cook and there was no shortage of oil and water. Wang Yanqing nodded and said sincerely: “It’s delicious.”
Seeing that she was enjoying it, Lu Heng smiled and unknowingly ate a few more pieces. Lu Heng understood a little why the emperor would look for someone to accompany him when he had a bad appetite. After meeting Wang Yanqing, she did not gain weight, but Lu Heng’s appetite improved a lot.
Wang Yanqing was almost done eating, took a sip of the goat milk soup, and asked: “Second Brother, what am I going to do today?”
Without answering, Lu Heng asked: “What do you want to do?”
Wang Yanqing sipped a spoonful of milk soup and said softly: “It is now certain that Cui Yuehuan has concealed something, but there is no need to question her further until there is more evidence. Only the right questions could get the right answers, and if she starts to panic we will waste the first chance, it would be useless to ask again until after we are prepared. I think Xiu Yao was also very strange, but I didn’t have time to ask yesterday. Today I want to find out what Xiu Yao and Qin Xiang’er are hiding.”
Lu Heng nodded: “Your plan is very good, just do as you think.”
After eating, Wang Yanqing was resurrected on the spot. She was full of energy and went to the Ciqing Palace to inquire again. Unlike Wang Yanqing, who was in high spirits, everyone in the Ciqing Palace was listless and had not recovered from the shock of last night.
Yesterday, in the first half of the night, the female ghost visited again. The Imperial Guards took the second shift and no one slept well. It was not until dawn that Empress Zhang finally fell asleep.
Because Empress Zhang was still sleeping, no one in the palace dared to make a sound, and they walked around on their tip-toes. The Ciqing Palace was immersed in dead silence, but fortunately, the master did not wake up and they didn’t have to work, so the maids were very leisurely. Wang Yanqing found Xiu Yao and asked: “Xiu Yao, can I ask you for a favor?”
Wang Yanqing did not question her but instead asked her for help. Xiu Yao couldn’t refuse, so she nodded in response. Wang Yanqing asked Xiu Yao for help in embroidering handkerchiefs and took Xiu Yao to a quiet and sheltered corner. Wang Yanqing asked a few questions about embroidery and slowly got to the point: “Xiu Yao, your embroidery skills are really good. You are younger than me, and you have such a powerful needlework skills. It makes me feel ashamed.”
Xiu Yao pursed her lips, smiled, and said shyly: “Miss Wang’s fingers are precious, what’s the use of doing these trivial tasks. I am stupid, but thanks to Aunt Qin’s teaching, I can at least embroider a few decent handkerchiefs.”
“You are not stupid.” Wang Yanqing praised Xiu Yao with a smile, she was a little surprised, and asked, “Your embroidery work was taught to you by the female official, Qin?” ”
Xiu Yao nodded: “Yes. Aunt Qin is smart and can do anything. If only I were half as smart as Aunt Qin.”
Wang Yanqing looked at Xiu Yao’s face and said tentatively: “You seem to respect Aunt Qin very much.”
Yesterday Yu Wan was like this, and Xiu Yao was like this too. Xiu Yao didn’t hesitate and said as she should: “Of course. Aunt Qin is dignified, fair, and knowledgeable. Everyone in the palace respects her very much.”
Wang Yanqing replied softly and suddenly asked: “It’s been three years since you entered the palace, have you been homesick all these years?”
Xiu Yao was startled and her eyes lowered subconsciously: “Being able to enter the palace is the merit of my life, I should be grateful. What will missing home do?”
She didn’t admit it, but her expression already betrayed her thoughts. Wang Yanqing sighed and said: “I’m not actually from the capital either. My hometown is in Datong, where wars were fought all year round. I haven’t been back for many years. I don’t know what my village looks like now and whether the neighbors are still there.”
When Xiu Yao heard Wang Yanqing’s words, her face showed empathy. It was natural for Wang Yanqing to say these words, but her mind was empty. The emptiness held feelings, but she couldn’t remember the pictures that carried those feelings.
According to Second Brother, she came to the capital at the age of seven. After not returning for ten years, the unfamiliar hometown had already become a symbol. She had no impression of the Datong Mansion, and she didn’t even remember anything before the age of seventeen.
She lost her memory, and even her life seemed to be missing a piece. Obviously, the person closest to her was by her side.
Wang Yanqing found herself in a daze again and quickly stopped. Her purpose today was to inquire about Xiu Yao, not to recall the past. Wang Yanqing first used the same experience to get closer and then asked, and it turned out that Xiu Yao cooperated more.
As the sun rose, the palace was dazzlingly illuminated, and even the ground reflected dazzling white light. Xiu Yao looked at the spot of light on the ground, and said absently: “Miss Wang, you still have your hometown to think about, but I don’t even have a home, so I don’t even know what to think about.”
Wang Yanqing remembered that Yu Wan said that Xiu Yao was sold to the palace by her brother and sister-in-law. She obviously had relatives, and she was better than an orphan, but no one in the family expected her to return. Where in the world was her home?
Wang Yanqing was silent for a moment, then pressed Xiu Yao’s hand and said: “You are still young, and you may be able to return to your hometown when you ask the palace for grace in the future. Even if you don’t go back to your hometown, you can find a small town with beautiful mountains and rivers, and find a good man to marry and have children, that will be your home.”
Once a palace maid entered the palace, she would be a servant for life, but some palace servants who were old or who had done meritorious deeds would be let out of the palace if their master was sympathetic. Although these ideas were false, it was better to have an idea than nothing.
However, after Xiu Yao heard these words, her face turned gloomy and her body tightened. She clasped her hands tightly, stared at the toes of her shoes, and murmured to herself: “No, I won’t.”
Wang Yanqing was surprised by Xiu Yao’s reaction. When she mentioned her imagination about the future, even if the prospect was out of reach, this should not have been her reaction. Xiu Yao’s body shrank, her tone weak but sure, and most importantly, she used “no, I won’t.
As if she already knew the future.
Wang Yanqing felt there was something unusual, she did not dare to stimulate Xiu Yao, and asked cautiously: “You are always unhappy, have you encountered any problem?”
Xiu Yao looked down, her upper lip pursed into a flat line, and her eyes remained motionless for a long time. Xiu Yao seemed to be immersed in her own world and had no intention of speaking at all. Wang Yanqing could only guess her mood by her expression.
She was habitually silent and did not seem to please Empress Zhang. She may feel that she wouldn’t be released from the palace at all, so it was normal for her to feel sad. However, Xiu Yao’s behavior seemed to be more than just fear and sadness, it was also shame.
Even if she didn’t do a good job of serving people, she shouldn’t be ashamed if she was not put in an important position by Empress Zhang? At this time, Wang Yanqing remembered that Lu Heng asked for Xiu Yao’s appearance abruptly last night, and then showed a meaningful expression, combined with the performance of Yu Wan, Qin Xiang’er, and the others…
Wang Yanqing suddenly came up with a very absurd guess.
Wang Yanqing stared at Xiu Yao’s expression, her fingers loosened and tightened, and after silently cheering herself up twice, she pretended to speak randomly: “In my opinion, although the capital is big, there is nothing good about it. On the day of the Lantern Festival, I went out with my family to look at the lanterns, and I met the Duke of Chang Guo on the way. I walked well, and I didn’t provoke anyone, but they thought I was a brothel woman, and my words were very disrespectful. Fortunately, my brother was there and protected me, otherwise, I would not have dared to imagine what would have happened that day.”
This is what Wang Yanqing had really experienced. Lu Heng took her to the street to watch the lanterns, and she met Zhang Heling. Although nothing happened in the end, Wang Yanqing dared to guarantee that if Lu Heng was not there that day, things would not have ended so peacefully.
Lu Heng had said that Zhang Heling was an old lecher, and Zhang Heling dared to be arrogant to any woman on the street. Wouldn’t he be unrepentant when facing the maids in Empress Zhang’s palace? Most of the women on the street had good records, but these palace maids, their lives were in the hands of others, and they were completely vulnerable.
After Wang Yanqing finished speaking, she stared at Xiu Yao without blinking. Xiu Yao fanned her lower eyelashes, her eyes suddenly turning red. She raised her hand, wiped her eyes, and said: “Miss Wang, you are fortunate to have your elder brother to support you. Those women who have no one to trust do not know how to live.”
Wang Yanqing was sure that her guess was correct. Her heart seemed to be clogged with cotton, and she couldn’t breathe easily. She stretched her arms around Xiu Yao’s shoulders and said softly: “It’s not your fault.”
This was obviously not their fault, but they had to bear the bitter consequences.
Xiu Yao had been in pain for a long time since she encountered that incident. Aunt Qin rescued her indirectly, but she couldn’t tell Aunt Qin. The maid who shared the same room probably guessed it, but she didn’t dare to confirm it. Only at this moment, when she met Wang Yanqing, another woman who had a similar experience, Xiu Yao couldn’t hold back any longer and burst into tears.
After staying in the palace for a long time, she didn’t even dare to cry loudly, and could only shed tears. Xiu Yao cried for a long time and Wang Yanqing put her arms around her shoulders and silently accompanied her. Because of her suppressed emotions, Xiu Yao’s voice finally choked up: “That day, the empress asked me to give cleaning cloths to the Marquis of Jianchang, and I didn’t do anything, but he suddenly touched me and even pulled my clothes. I was so frightened that I accidentally knocked over the water basin and annoyed the Marquis of Jianchang. I didn’t know, I really didn’t know what to do.”
Wang Yanqing didn’t say anything, just hugged Xiu Yao tightly, but she was shocked.
She thought that Xiu Yao was the same as her, that it was the Duke of Chang Guo who had a dirty mouth, but unexpectedly, it was Zhang Yanling, the Marquis of Jianchang, and it developed to the point of tearing clothes. If Xiu Yao hadn’t knocked over the water basin, and if other palace servants hadn’t found her, what would have happened next?
This was in the palace. To put it in the worst way, the palace maids were the property of the emperor. Zhang Yanling dared to be so lawless in the palace. As an elder sister, did Empress Zhang even care?