414 Under Her Control
Lady Ge Beining slapped a hand over her mouth, her eyes widened with terror. She couldn't stop the trembling of her fingers, but her reaction was a lot more graceful than her peers.
Suddenly, she was glad she had not consumed breakfast yet. Unfortunately, the same couldn't be applied to the other ladies-in-waiting who were gagging or had already thrown up beside her. Some had fainted, only to be caught by a maidservant.
"T-this is so horrible…" one of them managed to choke out, only to look away a second later. The sight was too unbearable. Her stomach uncomfortably churned, threatening to spill the morning tea she drank a few minutes ago.
"I-I can't stomach this…" she added on, turning her back on someone she once called a friend.
"How can the Crown Prince be so cruel?" a different lady-in-waiting asked whilst whipping her mouth with a handkerchief. She had finally finished throwing up, her nose scrunching in disgust.
Lady Ge Beining ground her teeth. "The Crown Prince is not cruel. He dished out a punishment that he deemed to be fitting," she snapped.
The minute she said these words, Lady Ge Beining regretted it. Her palms were clammy with anxiety. Seeing the sight of Xu Jiaqi's mangled body was enough to warn her to be even more cautious moving forward.
"I-I mean…" She struggled to regain her elegance. "The Crown Prince is just a doting husband, that's all. Any man would protect his wife."
"I-it doesn't justify this type of protection…" someone said.
Lady Ge Beining couldn't even turn to face her friends. The fearful expression on her face was not something she wanted the others to see.
To others, she seemed horrified at Xu Jiaqi's punishment, but that was not the full picture. She was scared of facing the same thing.
Lady Ge Beining touched her smooth face, free from powder, yet she was more dazzling than any other woman here. She gulped. Just the thought of her face being marred like Xu Jiaqi was enough for her skin to crawl with goosebumps.
"H-how long were we supposed to stand here for?" someone asked.
Lady Ge Beining pressed her lips together. She subtly glanced around her surroundings. There were more Eunuches than usual today. No doubt, it was to make sure these ladies-in-waiting would remain here for a while.
"Hook a big fish and hang it," she muttered under her breath, knowing this technique.
Lady Ge Beining swallowed back a gag. The smell here was putrid—especially with the contents of someone's stomach a few feet away from her.
"Not for long," Lady Ge Beining responded. "Lady Xu was one of our treasured friends. Let's lower her from this misery and help her down."
"Was?" someone repeated. "You're speaking in past tense as if Lady Xu had already passed, Lady Ge…"
Lady Ge Beining's gaze sharpened. These backstabbers. Even at a time like this, they still had the time to come at each other's throats. Grinding her teeth, she dug her nails into her palms.
Keeping her emotions at bay, Lady Ge Beining turned around with a forced smile. It never reached her eyes, impatient and irritated.
"We should focus on helping our dear friend, don't you think so, Lady Han? Certainly, you aren't cruel enough to nitpick at words when our beloved peer is suffering?"
Lady Han flinched back. As always, she could not argue against Lady Ge Beining. It wasn't because she didn't want to. It was because Lady Ge Beining had one of the strongest supporters in the entire palace—the Empress herself.
How nice it must've been to be born with a golden spoon and a future already set in stone… Not everyone had the privilege of having a mother who was great friends with the Empress herself.
"I-I believe we shouldn't touch Lady Xu…" Lady Han finally said.
Lady Ge Beining tried her best not to glare. These cowards. They talked kindly with Lady Xu Jiaqi, but when their friend fell, none of them would help her up. So much for considering them as allies…
If only Xu Jiaqi hadn't rushed things. If only she hadn't gotten ahead of herself and took action without the support of the other ladies-in-waitings. Maybe then, she wouldn't have gotten into this mess.
"What are you saying, Lady Han? Xu Jiaqi was close to all of us, this is the least we can do." Lady Ge Beining directed a hand in the motionless woman's direction.
"Can't you see, putting her there on display is killing her twice?" she added on.
"But Lady Xu isn't dead." Lady Han was bewildered as to why Lady Ge Beining seemed to insist that Lady Xu was dead. It was almost as if—
"Lady Han is right," another lady in waiting said. "The Empress only told us to take a good look at Lady Xu, so that we aren't foolish enough to harm the Crown Princess."
She paused, before quickly saying, "Not that we would ever dare to harm the gentle Crown Princess."
Lady Ge Beining's blood boiled. She used to have such a tight rein on these women. Now, they're running amok, ignoring her words, and acting on their free will. All because of Xu Jiaqi's current state. These women were too cowardly for her taste.
'I have no use for them anymore,' she angrily thought to herself. 'They can't even be trusted as comrades.'
For some reason, her temper was threatening to surface. She was usually not like this. Being poise and calm was her specialty.
Lady Ge Beining supposed seeing Xu Jiaqi had frightened her too much. Her brain was in shambles, too worried to take a wrong step and fall to her demise. By now, she knew these women would be happy to see her fail.
"How can we dare to call ourselves ladies-in-waiting if we are unable to even help each other?" Lady Ge Beining demanded in a soft voice. She did her best to contain herself, despite wanting to yell and scream at their cowardly behavior.
"Well, we serve the Empress," Lady Han slowly explained, as if speaking to a child. "And the Empress didn't specifically inform us to help Xu Jiaqi down."
"You're speaking as if Lady Xu is no longer one of us," Lady Ge Beining impatiently said. She tried her best to ignore the betrayal happening directly in front of her.
It was bound to happen. Lady Ge Beining had already prepared herself for it. Now that she was experiencing it in real time, Lady Ge Beining realized she wasn't as prepared as she initially thought.
"With her horrid crimes," Lady Han haughtily said whilst revealing a grim smile. "I do not think the Empress will even consider her as a lady-in-waiting any longer. We all know the troubles that had plagued our dear Empress."
"And for Lady Xu to have purposely caused something like that to happen… it must've brought up horrible memories for our beloved Empress. Do you think you can forgive her for her crimes, Lady Ge?"
Lady Ge Beining's eyes flared. At times, she wished her eyes could kill. If so, these women would drop dead and no one would bother her anymore.
Previously, all of these ladies-in-waitings would heed her every word, believing it was the best of advice. But now, they wouldn't even lend a listening ear.
"Don't you think it is only honorable that we make sure she gets the proper medical treatment, friend to friend?" Lady Ge Beining slowly said, despite their visible reluctance to even look at Xu Jiaqi for a minute longer.
Lady Ge Beining prided herself on being different from the rest. Unlike them, she actually had a heart. Xu Jiaqi was once her friend. Lady Ge Beining would not abandon a peer so quickly, even if they miserably failed…at life.
"Her dishonorable crimes do not allow for such a thing," Lady Han instantly said. "Besides…the Crown Prince might even punish us for taking her down."
At this, the ladies-in-waiting began to whisper amongst themselves. Suddenly, Lady Han's words were making even more sense than ever. Everyone had finally witnessed the full extent of the Crown Prince's cruelty.
No one dared to oppose him before this incident…but now, everyone would never dream of opposing the Crown Princess as well.
Everyone, but Lady Ge Beining. "Fine then," she softly sighed. Placing a hand upon her chest, she looked at them with visible disappointment on her face.
"I suppose we should at least send our prayers to Lady Xu in hopes for a fast recovery."
"Hah, good luck recovering from such a beating. If I were to heal from it, I would hang myself from the ceiling," Lady Han muttered.
Lady Ge Beining bit back an insult. Right now was not the time to reprimand these women, especially her reign on them was weakening. She would need to give an incentive to reel them back under her control.