"Your Grace!" A handmaiden dashed down the hallways before dropping to her knees in fear. The double doors to the Empress's estate parted open, but the entrance was blocked by a maidservant.
"Such insolence and this early in the morning too!" the Empress's maidservant barked out irritably. "Speak! What do you want?"
"L-Lady Ge Beining, s-she has been poisoned with aphrodisiac!" Lady Ge Beining's handmaiden pleaded out with shaking eyes. "Lady Ge Beining saw the five intruders in her room and escaped from her bedroom window to search for help, but then someone came up from behind her and force-fed her aphrodisiac!"
"What did you just say?" the Empress harshly demanded from the doorway.
The Empress glowered at the handmaiden. She was informed of the unfortunate incident yesterday and how the Crown Princess was poisoned at Lady Ge Beining's estate. If Lady Ge Beining was also poisoned yesterday, then why didn't she hear about it?
"Why is this only reported now?" she bit out.
"Your Grace, We found Lady Ge Beining at the edge of her pond this morning, where she nearly drowned herself to get rid of the heat. She could have been there since yesterday afternoon and have been trying all night..."
The Empress's gaze turned frigid. This sequence of events was too conflicting and confusing.
How was it possible that Lady Ge Beining was not spotted near the pond of her own estate the day before? If Lady Ge Beining was terrified of the intruders, all she had to do was scream and the guards outside would rush in. What exactly was going on?
"Bring the Imperial Physician to her estate," the Empress coldly said.
Without another word, she backed into her bedroom, where her maidservants hurriedly dressed her. Despite the rush, she was dressed to perfection. There wasn't a single strand of hair that was out of place.
Once the Empress was dressed and presentable, she immediately made her way to Lady Ge Beining's estate. It was not far from hers.
When the Empress set foot into Lady Ge Beining's room, she already heard the hushed whispers of the Imperial Physician.
The Empress was more worried than she was upset. Initially, the primary suspect for the Crown Princess's poisoning was Lady Ge Beining. After all, the aphrodisiac was found in the teapot served by Lady Ge Beining herself. But what if…just what if…the gentle lady-in-waiting was framed.
The Empress's heart raced with anticipation. She could not have such a malicious rumor tainting Lady Ge Beining. When that happens, who shall marry her? Who shall take care of the beautiful Lady Ge Beining?
The entire country would turn their back on her if they found out she had poisoned the Crown Princess and purposefully tried to ruin an innocent woman's reputation.
Lady Ge Beining's maidservants opened the door for the Empress. They took timid steps backward and deeply bowed their upper bodies when the Empress stepped into Lady Ge Beining's bedroom.
"What is the meaning of this mess?" the Empress sharply said with her hands folded in front of her stomach. She glanced around the bedroom where shattered vases littered the edges of Lady Ge Beining's bed.
"Answering your question, Your Grace, out of pure agony, Lady Ge Beining had accidentally knocked over the vases, as she struggled and grappled with her sanity," a timid handmaiden whispered.
"Sanity?" the Empress narrowed her eyes. Aphrodisiac was a tonic that stirs up immense desire, so much so, that the taker would be hallucinating about their beloved. They would yearn for lustful touches and promiscuous positions.
The Empress turned to the Imperial Physician who had deeply bowed upon seeing her. He stood by the foot of Lady Ge Beining's bed with a bothered expression.
"What is the diagnosis?"
"There are bruises on Lady Ge Beining's wrists, as if someone held her down, and poured the aphrodisiac down her throat. Most likely, she was ambushed from behind by the same intruders who dared to hurt the Crown Princess, Your Grace," the imperial Physician informed.
"And did anything happen to Lady Ge Beining?" the Empress demanded. "Is she still ripe and untouched? Or, has she been used?"
The Imperial Physician bowed his head. "Currently, there isn't a way of examining whether her dignity is intact or not. Lady Ge Beining has been slipping in and out of consciousness, and each time she is awake, she cries and screams incoherent things."
The Empress cast a pitiful glance towards Lady Ge Beining. Three women, all harmed in the span of one afternoon. They had barely escaped with their reputation intact. Who could've committed such a heinous crime?
"Y-Your Grace…" Lady Ge Beining pitifully croaked out from the bed. She had finally regained consciousness, her eyes barely peeled open.
"Oh, dear child," the Empress softly said. She approached the bed where Lady Ge Beining laid, with tears trickling down her eyes.
"Your Grace, am I going to die?" Lady Ge Beining sobbed out, her body trembling. "I-I can't move my limbs, and it is so…so hot."
Lady Ge Beining turned her head as tears stained the pillow. "This heat…it is worse than a fever. It feels as if I am being burned alive, from the inside out."
The Empress's brows scrunched together in confusion. She leaned down and grasped Lady Ge Beining's hand.
"Aside from this heat, do you feel something strange?"
Lady Ge Beining blinked back her tears. Even nodding her head was difficult. "Yes, I-I feel a wanton thought of…of…" she struggled to finish her sentence as pure embarrassment flashed within her eyes.
The Empress curtly nodded. "You do not need to explain yourself, Lady Ge Beining. I know the effects of this aphrodisiac."
"I-I tried so hard, Your Grace. I dragged my body to the pond, clawing at the dirt and all. I tried to quench this fire with the pond water, but it didn't work. I nearly drowned myself in the process, for I couldn't lift a single finger shortly when I made it to the pond."
The Empress's gaze softened. She took off the long-claw like accessories [*insert reference photo*] placed over her nails and handed it to a maidservant, knowing this would hurt Lady Ge Beining. Then, she placed a cooling touch upon Lady Ge Beining's warm face.
"You will get better, I'm certain of it," the Empress gently cooed. She turned to the Imperial Physician. "Prescribe a medicine for my lady-in-waiting."
The Imperial Physician bowed his head. "Unfortunately, Your Grace, there is no cure for aphrodisiac. The tonic was banned in every corner of the continent, thus, none of the Physicians were able to research the aphrodisiac in time to find a cure."
"Then what shall be done?" the Empress demanded. She bore a deep, disgruntled scowl on her face. This Imperial Physician was quite useless! Aside from this obvious diagnosis, he couldn't come up with a medicine to cure Lady Ge Beining?
"Your Grace, it would be the same thing that the Crown Prince has done for his Wangfei…" the Imperial Physician hesitantly said with lowered eyes.
"Which is?" the Empress pressed on.
"Lady Ge Beining will need to have her entire body submerged, from head to toe, in icy cold water, then taken out. The process will have to be repeated again and again until her body temperature has returned to normal, Your Grace."
The Empress's heart sank. She turned to Lady Ge Beining and noted her frail appearance, pale skin, and gentle demeanor. Such a violent treatment…
"Lady Ge Beining would not survive it."
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