Chapter 7

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Trouble Comes

Two days later, as expected, the Empress brought some people to the Palace. She claimed that Yun Shang was possessed, as, within a short space of time, two inexplicable events occurred. First, she fell from the attic and then, the palace where she lived caught fire. The Empress sent somebody to call for a savant Taoist from Lingyun Temple to hold an exorcism for Yun Shang.

The Empress arrived just as Yun Shang had just finished her breakfast. Decided on a nap, the young princess left the table. As she walked past the window, she saw the maids-in-waiting curtsying to the Empress. Yun Shang yawned and winked at Qin Yi. Qin Yi withdrew secretly from the Palace.

Yun Shang stepped out of the Palace and walked towards the Empress. "Mother, what are you doing here? It is too noisy. I wanted a nap, but now I can't fall asleep." She yawned again to emphasize her point.

"My little sister, you are the younger princess. How can you care so little about your manners while under the watch of so many maids-in-waiting and eunuchs? You should be wary. It would not do well to be seen by madams who would take you for etiquette training." said Princess Hua Jing. As Yun Shang turned, she found Hua Jing standing behind the Empress. Hua Jing wore a light blue court dress with peach blossom petals embroidered on the fringe of the tunic, a jade hairpin on her head, and fine silver beaded tassels hanging from the hairpin. As she was coming of age, she had a grown woman's body. Yun Shang looked over her sister's slim waist, beautifully defined shoulders, rosy cheeks, and bright eyes.

Yun Shang smiled. There was no doubt that Hua Jing was a real beauty. No wonder her husband from her previous life had mistreated Yun Shang to stay with Hua Jing.

Yun Shang said smilingly, "My elder sister is also here……"

Hua Jing nodded and walked forward to take Yun Shang's hands. "I heard that the ritual of exorcism is more miraculous and interesting than folk acrobatics. I came all the way to see it. You are already out. Let's go to see it together!"

As Hua Jing touched her arms, Yun Shang forced a smile. Hearing Hua Jing talk to her in such a heartfelt way enraged Yun Shang. She thought that Hua Jing must enjoy watching her suffer.

Yun Shang didn't show her emotions. Instead, she said, "Well, I'll go with you. What you think is interesting must certainly be just that. I wouldn't want to miss it." Yun Shang turned round to look at the Empress. The Empress looked graceful and gorgeous in a phoenix robe. The tunic stretched behind her; the colors glittering in the morning sun. At the moment, the Empress was looking at her and Hua Jing with a gentle smile. She certainly looked like an amiable mother.

Yun Shang smiled and turned around. "This is going to be a long ritual. You will get very tired if you keep standing here. My servants, go to the Palace and bring out three chairs."

As the eunuchs brought out the chairs, Yun Shang said, "Please sit down, my Empress and sister. Let's sit and watch the ritual." After that, she sat down first.

Yun Shang noticed the Empress frowning at her lack of respect. The look disappeared so quickly that Yun Shang wondered if she had imagined it. She smiled and turned to see Qin Yi standing nearby. Feeling Yun Shang's eyes, Qin Yi shook her head before leaving.

Yun Shang frowned. Then she saw that the eunuchs had prepared candlesticks. The Taoist made a gesture with his hands implying that the ritual had begun. He pulled out his sword, closed his eyes and murmured a chant. After that, the Taoist picked up the bells and began chanting and swaying to the rhythm of the bells.

"Temptation may grasp a person for a short while. But human beings should remember to follow the right path. Those who choose the path of enlightenment cherish life, while those who accept the evil path devote themselves to stifling good things. Those on the path of enlightenment and that of compassion will live a happy and satisfied life, while those following the evil way will find themselves trapped in a cycle of unhappiness, greed, and selfishness…" The Taoist murmured an incantation before taking a sip of water from the bowl placed near the candlesticks. With the sword, he lifted several spiritual magic figures*. The chants continued as he brought the figures closer to the candles. Once they had lit, he sprinkled some water on them. The spiritual magic figures started burning furiously, giving out a strong smell of sandalwood. (*TN a kind of yellow paper with incantation on it, which is thought to have magic powers and to supposed to bring good luck.)

Yun Shang closed her eyes and took a deep breath. Suddenly her body jerked. It occurred to her that Taoist priest didn't use sandalwood.

In her previous life, she had spent some time learning about Buddhism to pacify her mother-in-law, a Buddhist believer. Though she was not an expert in Buddhism, she knew that Buddhists use sandalwood while Taoists burn aquilaria agallocha. She was certain that what she smelled was sandalwood. There was no mistaking its distinct smell.

Yun Shang saw Qin Yi appear again. She was blending in with a group of maids-in-waiting. She nodded her head. The tips of Yun Shang's mouth lifted in a brief smile. From the corner of her eye, Yun Shang saw that Hua Jing had been watching her since the sandalwood had begun to smoke.

For some reason, the smell was essential to the ritual.

Yun Shang heard several unusual noises coming from outside the palace. Putting these things together, she had a vague idea of what to expect next. What she didn't know was what responses would come from the ostensibly virtuous Empress and the seemingly courteous Princess Hua Jing.

Yun Shang put her hands on her forehead while thinking. The instant her hand touched her brow, Hua Jing spoke, "My sister, are you ok? Do you feel sick now?"

Yun Shang nodded and said, "I don't know why but the smell kind of sickens me and there is a buzzing in my head." Yun Shang said to the Empress and Hua Jing with a forced smile, "I feel very unwell. I will retire to my chamber to rest."

The Empress nodded. However, Hua Jing couldn't let go of this chance to embarrass Yun Shang in public. "The Taoist hasn't finished the exorcism yet. Stay with me for another moment."

Yun Shang looked at Hua Jing and waved her hands. She pretended to speak as though the act required quite an effort. "No, I can't. I have a bad headache and I'd better rest now." After this, she beckoned Qin Yin. The servant quickly stepped forward to hold the young Princess's arms. Just as they proceeded to the inner room, the Taoist exclaimed, "Get rid of the evil spirits, then life can be saved. With a pure heart, you'll have a peaceful mind. Those who keep cultivating the Tao way, will have an immortal soul. Take effect immediately!"

Just as the Taoist finished his speech, Yun Shang felt a gush of wind sweep across her face. Before she could register what transpired, a sword stopped her path.

Yun Shang just frowned while Qin Yin lost her temper and said, "How dare you do that? Are you gonna kill our Princess, Yun Shang?"

Qin Yin's outburst ended the audience's trance-like state, but nobody went forward to stop the priest. It was not until a while later that the Empress said, "Taoist, have you noticed something unusual?

The Taoist stared at Yun Shang coldly with a harrumph. He took the spiritual magic figure from the table, and placed it on Yun Shang's forehead. "The Qingxin Palace would have been tranquil if Princess Yun Shang wasn't being haunted by a ghost. I have just placed a spiritual magic figure to repress the ghost. And I will expel the ghost from the Princess by exorcism…"

The spiritual magic figure must have contained sandalwood for as soon as it was placed on Yun Shang's forehead, the fragrance became overwhelming. Yun Shang smiled. She took down the spiritual magic figure, and threw it at the Taoist. "I am not possessed and this ritual is a sham. I will ask my father to inquire into this business. Where on earth are you from? My beautiful Empress, don't be cheated by this deceitful and fake Taoist…"

These words hardly left Yun Shang's mouth when a commotion caught her attention. The attendees had not heard it as they were gaping at Yun Shang. As the noise got louder, everyone turned round to look. Since the door was open, they could see outside the courtyard. A few figures seemed to be rushing straight for them. Seeing this, Qin Yi grabbed Yun Shang's arms and forced her behind a nearby tree

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