Chapter 153 The Emergence of the Busybodies
Long Tianhao, disregarding the on-going banquet, carried Lin Mengya and escaped out of the back gate of the Crown Prince's Mansion.
He laid Lin Mengya down in the sedan carefully. He felt a strong protectiveness well up in him as he gazed at Lin Mengya's beautiful profile.
Unfortunately, he could not leave the palace at this moment.
"Watch the princess carefully, and go slowly. Lin Kui, will you follow the princess home? Carry her on the sedan directly into her courtyard and don't wake her up."
When he had given all the instructions, Long Tianhao stood in the dark alley as he trained his eyes on the sedan as it went further.
After making sure that she had left safely, Long Tianhao's heart was finally at rest.
He turned around to return to the Crown Prince's mansion.
In the last few days, he had either been summoned into the palace or sent for by Concubine De for a chat at the Art Courtyard.
On every occasion, he had to wait until midnight, when no one would see him, to secretly go into Lin Mengya's bedroom to look at her sleeping face.
Since when was his life filled with her images?
Despite the presence of various beautiful women in the palace hall, no one except Lin Mengya was able to catch his eye.
Why was this so?
Although on the surface, it seemed that everyone was fearful of the Crown Prince's fury, and no one dared make a comment despite what happened in the palace hall being outrageous.
Nevertheless, everyone was looking at the Crown Prince with eyes of mockery.
An adulterous concubine was not uncommon.
It happened in almost all households.
However, who would have reacted like the Crown Prince, who gave them a sneak peek of the Crown Prince's chamber for free?
It was more entertaining than watching an opera.
"Didn't you claim that everything had been properly prepared? Why did it turn out like this?"
Although the Crown Princess tried to suppress his fury, his eyes appeared vicious like a poisonous snake.
Vice Princess Dugu never expected things to turn out in this way.
She lowered her head as beads of cold sweat dotted her very fair forehead.
"Please forgive me, Your Highness. I didn't know how things turned out to be this way! I had clearly instructed men to carry Prince Yu into that room. To make sure nothing went wrong, I even had the room locked."
Vice Princess Dugu was wondering to herself about what really went wrong.
She had only spiked Long Tianhao's portion of the soup with the special ecstasy pill.
Even if he had been rescued by someone, the effect of the poison would not subside so quickly.
Why on earth was Madam An there too? What had happened in between?
The beautiful and delicate eyes of the vice Princess swept across the entire banquet hall.
Eventually, they came to rest on the one and only empty seat. Regardless of where she looked, she concluded that Princess Yu was the most likely suspect.
"That's enough, I don't want to hear any further explanations, case closed. I want you to investigate as to who is the likely suspect who would collude with outsiders to do this."
Nodding her head, vice Princess Dugu had learned her lesson and kept her mouth shut for now.
Even if Princess Yu was the one who had done it, there had to be someone who acted as her agent from within the palace.
She had to ferret out the culprit if she did not want to lose the favor of the Crown Prince.
Long Tianhao had returned to his seat in silence, despite the Crown Princess shooting him murderous looks.
The rise and fall of a prince depended on his success or failure. If he had been caught in an adulterous act, marrying Ming Yue was not a big deal. More importantly, his entire life would be tainted with this flaw.
The Crown Prince must be at his wit's end to have resorted to such a scheme.
"Third Younger Brother, have you sobered up from the wine?"
The Crown Prince had purposely pretended to be intimately concerned, but he really wanted to get rid of this blood brother in his heart.
"Thank you for asking, Your Highness, I'm alright now."
Long Tianhao would be stupid not to realize by now that he had become unconscious because of that bowl of soup.
"That's good. Don't be so greedy for wine in the future."
The Crown Prince almost spoke these words through gritted teeth.
The Crown Prince gave Long Tianhao a cold look, then turned away and stopped talking to him.
"Yes, I will abide by the Crown Prince's instructions in the future."
That was right, he was never going to be so careless ever again, to have fallen into the Crown Prince's snare.
The banquet proceeded under an awkward atmosphere and soon, the Crown Prince asked to be excused, citing fatigue as the reason.
Vice Princess Dugu was left to entertain the guests and in the absence of the Crown Prince, her smile was no longer so natural and easy.
After what seemed like a long time, the banquet finally adjourned. Vice Princess Dugu could not wait for all the guests to leave before she rushed back to her courtyard.
However, something puzzled Long Tianhao. When he was on his way home, he overheard some guests talking. They were accompanied by their servants in the courtyard where they sobered up from drinking. There, they saw Princess Ming Yue, who had a low tolerance for alcohol, emerged from the Crown Prince's room as if she was fleeing.
A look of approval flashed across Long Tianhao's eyes.
His wife was excellent. She had even prepared a gift in return to the Crown Prince.
The gossip about Ming Yue and the Crown Prince was sufficient to create havoc that could not be silenced by any explanation.
There were three people from Prince Yu's Mansion who attended the Crown Prince's banquet, however, only Lin Mengya and Long Tianhao returned from the banquet.
The scandal took only one night to brew. By sunrise the next morning, the entire Capital City was savoring the gossip regarding what happened in the Crown Prince's Mansion.
Lin Mengya, having slept through the night soundly, was now full of energy while she sat at the table to eat her breakfast.
"Look at that glee on your face. Do you happen to stumble on gold ingots?"
Lin Mengya took a bite of the pork dumpling as she stared at Baizhi, who could not stop grinning.
"Well, I didn't stumble upon any gold ingots, but listen, I heard that last night, the virtuous Princess Ming Yue had stayed out the whole night."
Although Baizhi was not aware of what happened the night before, she was well-informed. None of the gossips outside and within the mansion could escape her.
Lin Mengya, who shared a tacit understanding with Baisu, exchanged knowing looks with each other and smiled.
Baisu was the one who sent Ming Yue into the Crown Prince's room. She was also responsible for the others who went into the room "by mistake".
Qinghu was such a shrewd guy, who only needed a small scheme to fabricate a story of an untidily dressed Princess Ming Yue fleeing the Crown Prince's room.
The Crown Prince's young concubine had just committed adultery and the Crown Prince immediately showed favor to Princess Ming Yue.
The Crown Prince had become notorious in Dajin overnight!
"Oh yes, has Concubine De heard about this yet?"
Lin Mengya turned to look at Baiji. Since she returned to the mansion this time, Jinyue would reveal whatever inside stories to her through Baiji.
Baiji nodded immediately. Smiling, she said, "Of course, Concubine De has learned about it the moment she got out of bed when some careless maidservant let the cat out."
Jin Yue was generally cautious and observant, so she knew who among the maids loved to gossip.
In this manner, the maidservant "accidentally" revealed the secret.
Concubine De was known to esteem the code of ethics. Ming Yue, being an unwedded girl emerging from a strange man's room in the middle of the night, was unforgivable.
The hope to become Prince Yu's vice Princess could be shattered.
"Yes, I haven't been to pay my respects to Mother for quite some time. Let's go to the Art Courtyard now."
Lin Mengya, accompanied by her four maidservants, set out, wearing a signature faint smile on her face.
She had hidden the pain and sorrow deeply in her heart. Someone had to shoulder the grievances of Yue Ting.
She was the best candidate to do so.
The servants in the prince's mansion eyed Princess Yu with puzzlement.
Did someone not say that Princess Yu had fallen ill from grief and recuperating in the Liuxin Courtyard?
However, the princess seemed to have fully recovered apart from the fact that she lost some weight.
The Art courtyard was quiet and tidy as usual. Lin Mengya had just stepped in through the door and the old maid Jinyue had quickly come to welcome her.
"Greetings of peace to Princess Yu."
Although their relationship was not as simple as the relationship between a master and her servant, Old Maid Jinyue was exceptionally careful to stay within her bounds on the surface, lest she violated any protocol.
"Please rise quickly. I haven't been feeling very well for a while, which was why I haven't been coming to pay my respects to Mother. I hope Mother isn't upset with me."
Lin Mengya acted as if she and Jinyue were mere acquaintances.
Their interactions, which consisted of unremarkable conversations, were not especially intimate.
Jinyue immediately shook her head and said with a gentle voice, "Why would she be upset with you? But she is having a bit of cough this morning."
That was to be expected given that the candidate for vice Princess carefully selected by Concubine De had done something which warranted shame to her reputation.
Even a strong woman like Concubine De would be vexed to death.
"I have some Sichuan fritillary Loquat cough syrup made personally by Baiji. It is very effective in clearing coughs and cleansing the lungs. Baiji, quickly to back to our courtyard to fetch it."
Lin Mengya and Jinyue exchanged a knowing look.
This was the perfect time to eradicate Princess Ming Yue's status.
If Ming Yue wished to covet her man, she would not even spare her a way of escape.
A wisp of smoke rose up from bronze incense burner.
The aroma of burning sandalwood filled the entire room, giving it a calming atmosphere.
Behind layers of the curtain, on the heated brick, Concubine De was laying there on her side.
Her beautiful countenance was now slightly contorted by a frown due to headache.
Despite the maidservants giving her constant massage on her long legs, there was no relief for her pain.
The subtle fragrance of sandalwood was taken over by bursts of another fragrance.
At first, this new fragrance was uncharacteristic, however, the more one smelt it, the more it livened one's spirit.
"You may excuse yourself, I'll take over to serve the concubine."
A familiar gentle voice sounded, but Concubine De purposely kept her eyes closed and pretended to be asleep on the heated brick.
A pair of soft hands with a gentle touch came to press on Concubine De's forehead and the back of her head simultaneously.
The strength from the hands was just right and very soon, her headache disappeared.
Coupled with the bouts of aroma, Concubine De actually fell into a deep slumber.
It was noon time when she woke again.
Concubine De opened her eyes and saw Jinyue and a few other maidservants, but no Lin Mengya.
"You've woken up, Your Highness. Quick, help the mistress up," Jinyue instructed.
Concubine De had not had such a good sleep in a while. For this reason, her mood was lifted greatly.
Regardless of how good she thought of Ming Yue, she was by no means more considerate and attentive to Concubine De than Ya'er.
On every occasion when Concubine De felt unwell or fell ill, Ya'er was able to solve her problem with ease.