Bai Xiangxiu felt a vague tug of familiarity. But everything was happening too quickly, and she couldn’t gather her thoughts. As she was trying to figure things out, the old madame spoke up in an icy tone. “My son has offered life and limb for this country. Now that he’s returned, does he have to face the schemes of his own family? Absolutely unacceptable! Servants, beat her to death right here.”
“Old Madame, please spare me! Spare me!!” Obviously, no one was going to listen to her. A few stockily built granny servants immediately came over and held the maid down. Two adult males wearing servant’s clothes also came over. They were each holding a rod thicker than an arm. They hesitated and looked at the old madame for confirmation.
The old madame spoke again. “No one is allowed to look away. I want you all to witness what happens to anyone who tries to harm our family. Begin!” The rods started to slam down on the girl as soon after the matriarch gave her order.
The girl screamed and wailed in agony as puddles of blood formed around her…
Bai Xiangxiu felt her mind turn numb. She feared this kind of scenario the most. She never thought she’d have to witness ancient torture mere days after her arrival. A life had been snuffed out, just like that, and there was nothing she could’ve done. She couldn’t even avoid listening or witnessing it. Although the girl was at fault, she could have simply been banished or sent to jail instead. This kind of punishment makes me sick. As for the old madame and Prince Li, well, they were sitting at the head seats, as peaceful as could be. They were even drinking tea. This was clearly a dog-eat-dog society. She definitely didn’t belong here.
Bai Xiangxiu had no idea how she managed to leave. Most of the other women had either fainted or vomited. She was the only one who could walk away. She was even the one supporting Xiaoshi, who was busy throwing up all over herself.
The maid felt a lot better after throwing up. However, she thought there was something incredibly wrong with her mistress. Everyone else was scared out of their wits. Yet, her mistress appeared to have lost her soul. She kept walking forward, but this wasn’t the route back to the Winter Garden…
Bai Xiangxiu didn’t know what was happening to her, just that the floor was suddenly getting closer. Fortunately, an arm caught her, bringing her up. The hand was warm to the touch, slightly soothing her troubled heart. She slowly lifted her head, absentmindedly registering the white brocade worn by the man. Her reaction was an automatic, “Thank you.”.
Song Jiaoyue felt something was off after reaching out to the woman wobbling on her feet. Her temperature was completely abnormal! She was freezing, and her face drained of all color. She didn’t even look alive anymore. He had the feeling that if she had fallen just now, it might have ended her. But, for some reason, her forlorn figure looked familiar. Especially her voice… He felt a pang in his heart. “It’s you, hmm?”
But sadly, she didn’t seem to notice and continued walking. Xiaoshi could only follow behind her mistress, guiding Bai Xiangxiu back to the Winter Garden.
Bai Xiangxiu became violently ill the moment she returned. She even started to hallucinate. At one point, she felt like she’d returned to the modern world as a spectator. She saw her unconscious self being transported by an ambulance. She was back in her body in a hospital while a bunch of doctors stood over her. Her parents held her hand, haggard looks on their faces. She smiled and reassured them, “I’m fine. Don’t worry. I’m really okay. I just had a nightmare.” The ghastly incident just seemed like a realistic nightmare. She didn’t want to accept it.
Her parents were relieved and called out loudly, “Doctor, come! My daughter is awake!” But by the time the doctor had come over, she’d already slipped back into unconsciousness, back to her realistic dream.
The old madame lectured Long Heng after the incident. She told him to get his act together and prevent the other women from thinking inappropriate thoughts. He already had four concubines in the house. If he would just sleep with them, then the others would naturally fall in line.
Long Heng promised he would, but didn’t really seem to care. After he left his mother’s residence, he instead went drinking with Song Jiaoyue. Long Heng had barely taken a seat when Song Jiaoyue asked, “I heard that Prince Li just had a servant beaten to death?”
“Mm.” Prince Li was quite irritated by the maid’s scheming.
“Old Madame still acts so swiftly and decisively, but she frightens the lovely flowers from your rear court.” He described his encounter with Mistress Xiu. “I can’t believe you let them watch. You should learn to be tender towards women.”
“Tender towards women? Even men cannot compete with them when they decide to be vicious. On the battlefield, the enemy camp often sent beautiful women to us to pose as military prostitutes. Did tenderness help those men who died beneath them? Jiaoyue, you’ve always been too soft-hearted towards women.”
Long Heng didn’t often say so much, and his tone was so bitter that Song Jiaoyue was stumped for words. He lifted his wine cup and changed the topic. “Let’s not talk about this anymore. Let’s drink instead.” The two of them rarely saw each other, so they toasted and drank.
Long Heng was a bit drunk by the time he returned to his residence. But seeing that Song Jiaoyue had to be carried back to his carriage, he felt he’d done quite well. A pageboy handed a towel to him in his study. “The old madame has left orders that you must spend the night with one of the four mistresses tonight….”
Slap. Long Heng irritably slapped the towel down on the table. Could things like this be forced? He paced around the room like a caged beast before he remembered what Song Jiaoyue had said earlier. “Very well. Let’s go to the Winter Garden.”
He wasn’t that familiar with the buildings in the princely complex. He’d only recently heard of the Winter Garden. The pageboy rushed to light a lantern and lead as the two of them made their winding way through the halls. The route was a bit off the beaten path, but the view more than made up for it. When they arrived, they saw outsiders rushing in and out. The pageboy quickly stopped one of them, questioning, “Who are you people? Why are you in Mistress Xiu’s garden?” It’s so late at night!
The pageboy, stopped at the door, responded, “We’re from the medicine hall in the complex. Mistress Xiu has fallen ill. The physician is here to take a look at her.”
“What illness?” Long Heng frowned. Is she really sick or can she simply not handle even a small fright? She said earlier she wanted to whip a corpse. That was all just talk!
“The… the physician hasn’t come out yet… this servant greets Your Highness.” The medical pageboys had finally realized who was standing in front of him and sank to their knees. It had been too dark to tell earlier.
Long Heng wanted to leave immediately, but as the head of this residence, he felt he should at least show some concern. So he waited until the physician emerged. The man also fell to his knees as soon as he caught sight of the prince. It took a while before Long Heng could get the physician’s diagnosis, that Mistress Xiu was only ill due to excessive fright. She would be fine after taking some calming medication. The physician didn’t dare say that Mistress Xiu had actually had no pulse when he’d initially arrived. He had no idea how she ended up reviving.
“Mm.” Long Heng responded casually and ordered his pageboy to send some nourishing food. He decided to return to his residence, and quickly forgot about the incident. Although Mistress Xiu had a stunning face, he’d never been interested in beautiful women. Long Heng could never forget that the more beautiful the assassin, the more men they were able to kill.
As for Bai Xiangxiu, she finally came to a few days laterk. She was woken up by a very weak voice.
“I’m so thirsty. I really want to drink water, mistress. I want to drink water.”
“Water…” She subconsciously murmured.
“Mistress Xiu. You’re finally awake! You want water, right? Just a moment.” Xiaoshi rushed to pour a cup of water for her mistress, then carefully propped her up and helped her drink. Xiaoshi’s anxiety only lasted until her mistress had finished the cup, and then promptly burst into tears. “You nearly scared your servant to death, mistress!”
Bai Xiangxiu sat up and looked around the room. She knew right away that she hadn’t been transported home. When she looked at the cactus, she said, “Give it some water as well.” She had been so dizzy these past few days. She couldn’t recall when she’d last watered it.