Li Xueyue had made up her mind. The Empress had made her allegiance clear.
Li Xueyue refused to waste any more time convincing the Empress otherwise. The Empress had said she loved her children, but turned her back on her own son. The Empress had done this in the past, yet, she still did not learn her lesson.
The wind howled. Lady Ge Beining's voice was drowned out as she was dragged before the entrance of the palace. Two tall, enormous pillars stood before them, reaching towards the heavens.
"Unhand me!" Lady Ge Beining snapped as she roughly yanked her elbows away from the guards.
Li Xueyue slowly turned her head. But she was not prepared to see Lady Ge Beining's current state. Yu Zhen had informed her the Thousand Needle poison would be excruciatingly painful. Despite that, Lady Ge Beining was still the most beautiful woman in the entire of Hanjian.
Her skin was pale, her hair long and silky. However, her hair was not loosely styled. It was pulled back, with a variety of hairpins decorating it. It was more than what Lady Ge Beining usually wore.
'Was she hiding something?'
"What is the meaning of this, Crown Princess?!" Lady Ge Beining demanded when she was yanked towards the pillars. "Have I wronged you that you must kick me out of the palace?"
Li Xueyue finally saw the signs of wear and tear. Lady Ge Beining's eyes had lost its shine. There were grey eye-bags under her eyes, and the corner of her mouth had cuts. There were scratch marks on her neck that Lady Ge Beining desperately tried to hide with a high-neck collar.
"The Empress is not here. You do not have to pretend to be innocent," Li Xueyue slowly said.
"Crown Princess, this is an abuse of your power," Lady Ge Beining hoarsely said. She cleared her throat and tried to keep calm. But it was difficult. Her voice was weak and brittle. It was no longer smooth and soft. She had screamed for three nights straight and just saying a few words hurt her.
"Once the Empress hears of this abomination, you will not be able to get away with it," Lady Ge added on. She refused to lose her control over the pesky Princess. So what if the Crown Princess had gathered her men here?
What were they going to do? Strip her naked and force her to walk down the staircase? Over the Empress's dead body!
"Think about it, Princess," Lady Ge Beining warned. "All of your hard work can come tumbling down over a wrong move."
Li Xueyue tilted her head. She surveyed their surroundings. They were surrounded by her people. Everyone here catered to her every whim. There was not a single person who would refuse her request.
From the corner of her eyes, she saw Hu Dengxiao walking up to her. He was alone. It was as Li Xueyue planned. Yu Zhen was not supposed to be here anyway.
"Just like you," Li Xueyue deadpanned. "All your years of servitude became nothing after what you did that afternoon."
"You mean, after what was done to the both of us?" Lady Ge Beining instantly hurled out in a low, patient voice. She placed a chaste hand upon her chest and appeared offended by the Princess's insensitive words.
"I was also a victim, Princess. Didn't you hear that I was also poisoned? By not only those men, but—"
"You fled from your own estate, instead of screaming for help, knowing my men were outside and ready to save both of us," Li Xueyue deadpanned.
She took a daunting step closer, as her voice became awfully calm. She had reached beyond the point of anger. There was no going back now.
"Do not play victim, when you're the villain."
Lady Ge Beining flinched back. "Princess, you have to understand that if you were in my shoes, then—"
"Save the excuse for someone who cares."
Lady Ge Beining's blood boiled. She ground her teeth and bit on her tongue. For a split second, she nearly called the Crown Princess a bitch. But that was exactly what this spoiled, haughty brat was. A fucking bitch.
"Women hurting women," Lady Ge Beining spat out. "Is that what you stand for as the future Mother of this nation? Is this what you will do to your own daughters in the future?"
"I wouldn't know," Li Xueyue softly said. "You killed my child before I even saw a face."
It was a curveball. Li Xueyue had only said it as a bluff, to test Lady Ge Beining's reaction. And Lady Ge Beining gave Li Xueyue exactly what she wanted.
Lady Ge Beining was pale. Her face went blank and her mouth went slack. Instantly, she changed her expression to disbelief and confusion.
"Princess," Lady Ge Beining exasperated. "I understand you are still hurt from the actions of Lady Xu Jiaqi, but it is wrong to put the blame on someone else!"
Li Xueyue was tired of this conversation. From the corner of her eyes, she could see the townspeople lining the streets, curious about what the Imperial Palace would show them. Their bustling conversation was carried by the wind, and it sounded like the small hums of busy bees.
"That's strange," Li Xueyue mused. "You did the same exact thing."
"What are you talking about, Princess?" Lady Ge Beining cried out. She played the role of an innocent white lotus too well. Her eyes were trembling as if she was trying to maintain her composure.
The servants instantly pitied her. Especially because she was dragged before them, like some kind of prisoner. They had all remembered the whispers of Lady Ge Bening's kindness towards the maidservants. She treated them like family, and would always go out of her way to help them.
"You claimed to be great friends with Lady Xu, only to have her blamed for the bath oils."
"No! That is not true!" Lady Ge Beining shrieked.
"You claim to care for your maidservants, only to let them be dragged away by the Empress and be whipped to death. You've always placed the blame on someone else, Lady Ge."
Li Xueyue's lips curled into a frown. "And yet, you stand before me, attempting to place the blame upon an actual victim?"
Lady Ge Beining was floored by the Crown Princess's words. Whispers instantly hummed through the air, as servants gossiped amongst themselves in disbelief. She glanced at them with a taunt expression, her heart racing with anticipation.
"That is enough, Princess!" Lady Ge Beining cried out. "I refuse to stand here and let you drag my name through the mud, all because you deem me as the only woman in the palace who can sway the Crown Prince!"
Lady Ge Beining allowed her tears to flow. It was the first time she had ever cried in front of someone. And despite her sorrow, despite her wronged expression, she held her head high, never once lowering it for the Princess.
"That's alright," the Crown Princess suddenly said. Her voice was soft and peaceful as if she was reading a bedtime story. "You don't have to continue standing here as I list out your sins that will tarnish your reputation."
Lady Ge Beining recoiled at her words. She was taken by surprise, yet again, but did not believe in the Crown Princess's faux kindness.
"W-what are you talking about, Princess?" Lady Ge Beining breathed out. She hiccuped a bit whilst holding back a sob. She turned her shoulders a bit, seemingly hiding her tears from the maidservants.
Lady Ge Beining was on edge. She saw the Crown Princess's slow, unsettling smile.
"Oh, Lady Ge, don't you know?" The Crown Princess innocently tilted her head. Her smile widened, reaching her sharp, cunning eyes.
Lady Ge Beining took a hesitant step backward. Suddenly, she wanted to run back into the Empress's arms. She was clearly outnumbered here. The Crown Princess was a bully. And she wore the title shamelessly.
"Know what, Princess?" Lady Ge Beining whispered. She continued walking backward until she collided into a hard chest.
Before she could move or say anything, hands grabbed her from behind. The Crown Princess's men had grasped her shoulders.
Li Xueyue finally moved her hands that were tucked in front of her. She gestured to her right where the grand staircase of the Imperial Palace was.
"You will no longer be standing before me, as your name gets tainted. Lady Ge, you will be walking down the Imperial Staircase, stark naked, as you taint your own name and reputation."
Please go to https://www.qzxyzy.com/The-Rise-of-Xueyue/
to read the latest chapters for free