Wei Kun: Wei Luo’s father
Wei Chang: Wei Kun’s brother, Wei Luo’s third uncle
Madam Liu: Wei Chang’s wife, had rivalry with Wei Luo’s mother
Jin Lu: Wei Luo’s trusted maid
Jin Ci: Wei Luo’s maid, previously bought over by Madam Du (stepmom)
Nurse Ye: Serves Wei Luo
Wei Luo herself didn’t know what was wrong with her. She had obviously already recovered, but she had unexpectedly relapsed. And it seemed to be a lot more severe compared to before.
After eating the congee, she had lied down to sleep. Halfway into resting, she got a splitting headache. Moreover, her stomach felt extremely uncomfortable, making her want to throw up. After vomitting, she not only hadn’t felt any better, her body had started to slightly twitch. She had lost control over her own body and even her mind was somewhat fuzzy.
It looked like symptoms of poisoning.
However, she had only eaten a bowl of yam congee, as well as the candy from Changhong. She hadn’t eaten anything else, so how could she get poisoned?
Wei Luo wasn’t able to finish her thoughts as her breath gradually weakened and her long eyelashes slowly drooped down, covering her pair of glittery black eyes. She lost consciousness in the end.
Wei Kun’s complexion was unsightly as he made Jin Lu and Nurse Ye bring all the servants who had worked in this room, additionally ordering someone to invite a physician without delay. He really wanted to find out, just who was so bold as to dare harm his daughter so openly!
The doctor soon rushed over. After checking Wei Luo’s pulse and examining her eyes and tongue, he heavily determined. “It’s poisoning.”
Wei Kun clenched his fist and asked in a hoarse voice, “What poison? Can it be treated?”
The doctor shook his head as he said, “At present, it’s still unclear.” He let go of Wei Luo’s wrist and called two maids over. The top priority right now was to take care of Wei Luo’s toxicity first. They had luckily found her in time, so the toxicity hadn’t turned too grave. If they had been just a little late, it wouldn’t have been solved so easily. Even if they had managed to rescue her, there would have been some aftereffects left. He told the two maids, “Think of a method to make the fourth Miss throw up, so she’ll throw up everything she had previously eaten. I’ll be waiting outside. Call me when you’re done.”
As the matter was urgent, the two maids didn’t dare waste time. Following the physician’s words, they promptly assisted Wei Luo into vomiting. She hadn’t eaten a lot, so it didn’t take long before her belly was completely empty. She looked a bit better than she did just a moment ago.
After the doctor inspected the stuff that had come out of Wei Luo, his face stiffened up and he asked the maid by the bedside, “What has the fourth Miss eaten today?”
Jin Lu wiped the corner of Wei Luo’s mouth with a thin handkerchief, while blaming herself for not taking good care of her. Though she was feeling depressed, she still carefully replied to the doctor, “Miss didn’t have much appetite today. She only ate a bowl of yam congee and nothing else.”
The doctor asked whether there were any leftovers from that bowl of congee, and Jin Lu gave an affirmative. She made someone quickly fetch the congee from inside the kitchen. Worried that Wei Luo would be hungry after waking up, so she had kept the food warm. As soon as Wei Luo woke up, it would be ready to eat. She never expected that such a thing could occur. She had personally carried out the congee from the kitchen, and no one had touched it on the way. Was there really a problem with it?
The doctor used a spoon to stir around the congee, then raised a ginkgo nut from inside. His expression sank as he asked heavily, “Who added this thing in? When was it added?”
Jin Lu was at a loss. She didn’t know, because it was the kitchen staff’s responsibility.
With an ugly expression, Wei Kun squeezed out a sentence through clenched teeth, “Bring the kitchen staff here!”
It didn’t take long for the cook who had made the congee, Song San, to be brought to the main room. Seeing Wei Kun, he first knelt down, then knocked his head on the floor three times in succession. “Master, this servant absolutely doesn’t harbor any intentions of harming the fourth Miss…”
Who could’ve guessed that the problem was caused by a tiny ginkgo nut?
The ginkgo was also called a maidenhair tree. Usually, eating the nuts boiled not only didn’t present a problem, it was even beneficial for the body. However, it contained toxicity when eaten raw. That type of poison manifested most distinctly in children’s bodies. If it was light, there would be dizziness and vomiting. If it was heavy, it would lead to heart failure. Just now, the doctor had seen precisely an undigested ginkgo nut inside Wei Luo’s vomit. It hadn’t been boiled. A glance was enough to tell that it was raw.
However, the ginkgo nuts inside the congee that Jin Lu had just brought were cooked. They had probably still been raw when they were added in, but after the bowl had been left to keep warm on the stove for so long, they had already cooked.
As he found out the cause and effect, Wei Kun fiercely questioned the cook Song San, “You were the one to cook the congee. Who else could’ve done it besides you?”
Song San solemnly denied, raising up three fingers to swear on his life, “This servant really doesn’t know…”
Don’t know, don’t know; those were all useless protests to Wei Kun. He was about to shout for someone to take the cook away for a punishment of 20 boards, when the cook suddenly said, “After making the congee, this servant left once for a short while. Master, it was probably during that time that someone added this thing!”
Wei Kun’s expression sank. After pondering for a moment, he felt that there could be some truth to his words. Thus he ordered people to investigate who had come into the kitchen today, when they’d been there, and what they’d been doing there.
The results came out very quickly. Altogether two maids had gone inside the kitchen today. One was Jin Lu, the other – Jin Ci.
Jin Lu had gone to get Wei Luo’s congee. Wei Luo hadn’t given many responsibilities to Jin Ci recently. She hadn’t served nearby for ages. Why had she gone to the kitchen?
Speaking of it, Jin Lu suddenly recalled. It was precisely Jin Ci who had passed the congee to her!
As Jin Lu said that, Wei Kun took the small bell-shaped cup with inked drawings on the table and violently smashed it on the ground. He got up and arrived in front of Jin Ci to ask her, “Speak, was it you who wished to harm the young lady?”
Wei Kun was a person with a very good temperament. He was immensely tolerant toward others, gentle and courteous. However, everyone had their bottom line. As long as it concerned his children, he would change into his present self – irritable and impatient.
Jin Ci shook her head in denial, stuttering out with difficulty, “This maid…this maid, is wrongly accused…”
The facts at present were like this. Jin Lu was loyal and devoted to Wei Luo, it was absolutely impossible for her to harm Wei Luo. Jin Ci was the only one who was suspicious. Who else could it be besides her? Wei Kun didn’t ask further. He threw Jin Ci to the ground in rage. “Since you won’t speak the truth, what’s the use in keeping your tongue? Might as well cut it off!”
Jin Ci’s face immediately turned white as a sheet of paper, while her body went limp.
Since that wasn’t enough, Wei Kun added, “Deliberately plotting to murder her employer, cruel and unscrupulous! No one would want this kind of servant. After cutting off her tongue, she doesn’t need to remain here. Throw her in the mountain outside the city to feed the wolves and the wild dogs.”
Feeding the wolves and the wild dogs. Just thinking about it was dreadful. With those animals gnawing on her meat bit by bit, she wouldn’t have the slightest chance of fighting them off. Only a pile of bones would be left in the end. Knowing that, Jin Ci was very afraid. She knelt down and kowtowed to beg for mercy, tears flowing down her face. “Master, spare my life, this maid didn’t do it voluntarily… It was, it was the third madam who forced me…”
Wei Kun’s body stiffened up as he turned his head to ask, “What did you say?”
In order to preserve her small life, Jin Ci spoke all about how Madam Liu had made her do it. Madam Liu had said that Wei Luo liked eating Ginkgo nuts and that there were many Ginkgo trees by the gates of Ginkgo courtyard1. That if she picked several to add into the fourth Miss’ congee, it would let her get better even faster. Jin Ci made a final effort into struggling out of this. “Master, this maid is innocent… This maid didn’t know that raw ginkgo seeds were poisonous…”
Wei Kun kicked her aside. Even if she didn’t know they were poisonous, adding arbitrary things to the fourth young lady’s food was enough to prove her guilt.
Wei Kun sat down on the chair again, taking in a few mouthfuls of air as he held his forehead. He didn’t expect to get this kind of outcome.
Why would the third madam want to harm Wei Luo? He originally thought that Madam Du’s evil intentions hadn’t disappeared. That harming Wei Luo once wasn’t enough for her, so she had harmed her a second time. But it was actually Madam Liu!
After deliberating for a long time, Wei Kun couldn’t help but call the third Master Wei Chang over to his place.
The two brothers hadn’t sat together for a talk in a long while. All these years, they had been the same as strangers. Though they lived in the same Duke Ying’s residence, they still rarely spoke to each other. When Wei Chang came over, he naturally didn’t have a good expression. Sitting down on the ironwood chair, he asked, “Why are you looking for me?”
Wei Kun didn’t beat around the bush with him. He directly ordered for Jin Ci to be brought, then made her repeat her words from before.
Jin Ci had originally received some benefits from Madam Liu. Madam Liu had promised her that as long as she completed this task, when the time came for her to leave the residence, she would arrange for a good marriage for her. Now that it seemed that she wouldn’t make it out alive, and since her life was more important, she had no other choice but to spill everything in detail.
By the time her story was over, Wei Chang’s complexion was as black as the bottom of a pot. He asked, “Do you have any evidence?”
Jin Ci took something out from within her sleeve and placed it in front of Wei Chang. “This is what the madam gave me in advance. Master, take a look…”
It was a pair of golden earrings with jade stones. The design was ordinary and not that distinct. However, Wei Chang actually recognized them, because Madam Liu had once scorned them, complaining that they weren’t compatible with her style and didn’t match her clothes. And now they were in Jin Ci’s hands… Wei Chang closed his eyes and tightly gripped the armrest. He didn’t speak for a long time.
Wei Kun motioned for the servants to lead Jin Ci out, coldly instructing, “Cut off her tongue and sell her away from this residence. Let nature run its course.”
One couldn’t speak irresponsibly without a tongue. Wei Kun’s act could also be taken as a consideration for the family.
Jin Ci didn’t expect that after escaping death, she would still suffer. She was instantly frightened stiff, unceasingly weeping and begging Wei Kun for forgiveness. “Master, have mercy…”
Wei Kun seemed as though he couldn’t hear anything. The guard lead her outside, held her chin still, drew out his blade, and did a swift motion that seemed to happen in a flash. Right away, blood started spurting out of Jin Ci’s mouth, dying the ground in front of her red. Her whole body was covered in cold sweat due to the pain, but she couldn’t utter a single word. Falling down, she shivered all over.
Inside the room, Wei Chang quietly sat for a while, then collected the pair of earrings with an expressionless face and got up to leave Pine courtyard2. He headed for Pear courtyard3 in the third branch house.
He had just come back from outside. Before he could even reach Pear courtyard, he had been called over to Pine courtyard by Wei Kun.
So now, he had barely stepped inside the main room, when Madam Liu came out to welcome him. Showing concern, she said, “Why are you coming back so late today? Did something delay you? Will you be having dinner? I’ll ask someone to warm up the food and bring it over.”
After saying so much, she noticed that Wei Chang hadn’t spoken a word, and even his face didn’t show the slightest expression. He was looking at her fixedly instead. Her heart panicked, but she kept calm on the surface. Putting on a small smile, she asked, “Why are you looking at me like this? Is there something on my face?”
Wei Chang was observing her – the wife he’d been married to for seven or eight years. It was the first time he felt she was so unfamiliar. He admitted that he was unfair to her, so he did anything to make it up to her. She could be rude, arrogant and willful; he would be patient and accommodating. She had some enmity with Wei Luo and Changhong; he could also understand that. But he’d never thought that her mind would give birth to harmful intentions.
That child was only six years old. What was she actually thinking?
Madam Liu grew increasingly uneasy. She stepped forward to pull him by the hand toward the round table. “The kitchen made your favorite dishes today. Come and see…”
Wei Chang stood motionless. He took out the pair of golden earrings and placed them on the table.
The earrings shone red in the setting sun’s few remaining rays of light. After Madam Liu saw them, her expression turned rigid.
Notes: Again, a whole courtyard is like a house, with a main room, a reception room, study room, bedrooms for the main wife and concubines, and other rooms. The rooms themselves can be of different sizes and they are all like one story separate mini houses. Hope you can picture that. The whole thing is the so-called branch house in the Duke’s residence.