The Empress' Livestream Chapter 25
According to Liu Lanting's memories, she seldom asked about family matters because she only focused on studying and reading.
Their current house, although not spacious, was divided into three main parts. Each had a specific function, such as admitting visitors or accommodating the ladies. The house had already been bought before Master Liu left for his official duty.
The Liu's territory was based in another territory that was a little closer to their relatives. They had needed to live near their family because the women would have been pitied and mocked if the Master had left his wife and the other ladies without the protection of an adult man. However, the family chose to settle somewhere that was a little further away so that the ladies could seek help from their relatives if they were in need, but they could also remain undisturbed if they were fine.
Still, it was safe to assume there were not many guards or servants for such a small house. They might not have realized that she had been kidnapped because both of the ladies were ill. The naughty illegal son had also injured his head, so they needed to give him medical treatment quickly in order to save his life.
Jiang Pengji felt her head ache.
"I was only kidnapped. It is no big deal. I escaped from the simple-minded bandits and came back with the province chief." She explained briefly and then remembered the servant at the entrance. "I will take a look at my mother. Meanwhile, gather those who searched for me last night. I will have a word with them."
It seemed more likely that Madam Hu did order someone to look for her. Since most of the servants were too busy taking care of their other masters, however, only few of them were assigned to the mountain. Because it too dangerous to save their langjun from the outlaws, however, the servants had given up the task and sought their own entertainment instead . The man who visited his mistress was one of them.
She could tell how undisciplined they were.
Jiang Pengji snorted cooly as she reached her conclusion. Despite having a high status, the family had gradually, but not unexpectedly, lost control of their servants after they moved away from their relatives. Master Liu's absence and the lack of other male masters to monitor the servants simply made things worse. It was now common for servants to disobey orders.
The noble's residence was unlike what she had imagined. It was quiet and isolated rather than cheerful. Female attendants were scarcely seen, which was peculiar for the home of a legal son like Master Liu, who belonged to a prominent family.
Since Jiang Pengji was also the stepmother's "nephew," their relationship was supposed to be intimate, so she could enter her chamber freely.
The sky was clear with a blazing sun. However, the room was dark and filled with the strong odor of herbal medicine.
After passing the folding screens, Jiang Pengji was able to take a closer look at the indoor furnishings. The objects were far too basic for a noble lady like her. On the dressing table were some old jewelry boxes that had outdated designs. Beside a copper mirror lay a sophisticated hair clip decorated with butterfly shapes.
Jiang Pengji paused for a second when she saw the hair clip and then turned her gaze to the furniture.
The pale stepmother was in the bed, and she appeared older than what Liu Lanting had remembered. It might have been because of her grey hair, the dark circles under her eyes, and her sickly countenance.
Jiang Pengji took the bowl of medicine from an attendant and kneeled beside the bed to feed her.
"Lanting" The lady looked at her with kindness and sincerity, though her gaze seemed to see right through Jiang Pengji's disguise. Tears swelled up in her eyes as they met Jiang Pengji's. She was on the brink of death, and she felt blessed to see her stepchild once again.
"It is me. I am back." Jiang Pengji smiled warmly.
Yet the inky black medicine distracted her with its strange scent. It was unimaginable that ancient people could make such unpalatable potion. Was it intended to cure or kill?
"Yesterday" said the stepmother, looking at her softly with reminiscence. Her voice was weak as if it would fade away in a blink. With difficulty, she panted and then continued slowly, "I was told that you perished How could I bear it? Later, I saw my sister at the Bridge of No Return in the nether world"
"As a matter of fact, Liu Lanting is dead," Jiang Pengji thought to herself. Her hand went behind the lady's neck and thin shoulders, and Pengji pulled her toward her bosom. With her aid, the lady sat straight so that she would not choke when she swallowed the medicine.
"Hush Finish the medicine and get some sleep."
The stepmother's neck was splattered with red spots from laying down for such a long time. To prevent them from becoming bedsores, Jiang Pengji discreetly asked the attendants for warm water. She cleaned the lady's body and ordered the bedsheets to be changed. She also tried to improve the air circulation indoors to create the best environment for recovery.
After she had cooled the bitter medicine, the lady drank it. Her dark eyebrows furrowed.
When Jiang Pengji saw her expression and the debris of herbs left in the container, she could imagine the revolting taste in her mouth. She told the attendant, "Bring more candied fruit to my mother. I wonder how many bitter medicines were added"
Liu Lanting had not been close to this woman because she thought her stepmother's caring deeds were hypocritical, and Lanting disliked how often her stepmother asked about her health. More than anything, she despised her stepmother for taking the title and position of her mother.
Even so, Lanting had hidden her feelings and wore a friendly mask in front of everyone. If she hadn't, Jiang Pengji's consideration would have looked suspicious.
"My son Did they hurt you last night?" Her sight remained blurry, but she could now speak with more energy.
"No. How could those fools hurt me?"
When the attendant returned with new bedsheets, Jiang Pengji wrapped the stepmother up with the blanket and carried the lady in her arms. The stepmother exclaimed.
"Mother, do not worry. I will hold you firmly. Let them bring you a hand warmer after they change the sheets."
The lady replied, "My child, you are becoming more and more like my sister Tell my what happened last night."
"I will tell you everything." Jiang Pengji observed her and suddenly lifted the corners of her lips.
Repeating a story usually made her impatient because it could no longer bring her excitement. But since this lady was an ancient beauty, she did not mind illustrating her powerful image once more.
The story was intriguing. Afterward, the lady examined Jiang Pengji's demeanor and gestured to the attendants that they should leave.
"Lanting How did she pass away?" she asked with the same warmth in her smile. When noticed Jiang Pengji's calmness, she added, "Are you not afraid?"
Jiang Pengji shook her head. "I suppose I am the last to be afraid of it."
"You are an honest child," she said. "You could continue your lie, and I could pretend as if my child were still here."
Jiang Pengji disagreed. "There is no point of lying. I thought about keeping the secret before I came in. But as soon as I saw your gaze, I knew that would be in vain. Liu Lanting and I are different people, even though I am in her body now. Pretending to be her would only exhaust myself and create fake situation for both me and you."