Chapter 104: Night visit, life hanging by a thread
There was some distance between Solitary Enclosure and the Han estate. No matter how fast Long Feiye went, he still needed time to get there. It wasn't long before Han Yunxi's neck was aching and she started feeling uncomfortable. When she raised her head, the wind whipped against her face again, blowing her long hair hither and yon as it lashed against her like knives.
Han Yunxi buried her head again, only to lift it shortly afterwards. If she kept her head bent for so long, it was likely her neck would be stiff by the time they arrived at the Han estate. Of course, Long Feiye felt every little movement made by the person on his back, but he kept his eyes forward without saying a word, as if he was already used to it.
But...but...this was the first time His Highness Duke of Qin had piggybacked anyone!
After a while, Han Yunxi's neck had finally grown too sore for her to bear it. She was already tired from staying up all night and just about exhausted from keeping still on Long Feiye's back so long. After some hesitation, a sneaky expression crept onto her face as she secretly licked her lips. Her hands, which had been clutching Long Feiye's shoulders before, carefully stretched out and slowly wrapped around his neck. As soon as she did, Han Yunxi was afraid to move any further until she saw that Long Feiye had no reaction. She timidly rejoiced. This was much more comfortable for her arms. Her eyes spun in their sockets as she wetted her lips again, before carefully turning her head to the side to rest against his back.
Of course, her movements were still very stiff. Last time when Long Feiye had taken her to combat the mosquito swarms, he'd forcefully pulled her into his embrace. But this time she was the one nestling closer on her own initiative. Would this fellow think she was being wanton and not abiding by the wifely virtues? Han Yunxi felt depressed as she recalled his earlier warnings. These ancients and their pedantic ideals!
Han Yunxi waited a long time without hearing any sound of dissatisfaction from Long Feiye. She mused, this guy is running so fast, he probably has no time to worry about me. Finally, her taut nerves relaxed. She wasn't even sure what she was afraid of, but let out a breath and murmured in her heart, 'Your Highness Duke of Qin, please excuse me. I don't mean anything else by this, I just want to borrow you to lean on for a bit.'
When the person on his back finally settled in, Long Feiye's furrowed eyebrows relaxed as well. Again, he remained silent, though his gaze grew deeper as a shadow flitted across them. It was hard to tell what he was thinking. Their journey was quiet the whole way aside from the sound of wind and the inadvertent sound of their...heartbeats.
The skies were still dim by the time they reached the Han estate, since the wintertime sun always rose late. Han Yunxi pointed out the way and Long Feiye quickly led her noiselessly onto Third Madame's roof. Though she'd gotten Long Feiye's promise, Han Yunxi still didn't want to find any clues in Third Madame's quarters. It'd be best if the Han Family wasn't involved at all; she could always follow clues from elsewhere.
The layout of the Han Family courtyards were more or less the same, so Han Yunxi used her body's previous memories to pinpoint Third Madame's rooms, which had buildings bordering a courtyard on three sides. Right now, everything was quiet in the courtyard because no one had awakened yet. But Han Yunxi knew she had less than an hour before the servants would get up.
"Can you tell me what your clue is now?" Long Feiye asked in a low voice.
Han Yunxi gave a concise summary of her tea-drinking day in Madame Li's courtyard and what she found in the little wooden house. Long Feiye was intelligent enough to piece together the rest. It wasn't strange for there to be snake poison in Third Madame's wooden building, but the fact that they'd been replaced was suspicious.
"So I want to search the entire courtyard and see if there's traces of other snake poisons," Han Yunxi explained.
She'd found the snake poison in the wooden building because 1) those kinds of snake poisons were high in toxicity and easy to detect, and 2) their traces hadn't been fully cleared from the medicine cabinets. Before, Han Yunxi had hoped to find other snake poisons here. Now she really hoped that wasn't the case.
"This clue might be suspicious, but not highly so," Long Feiye said objectively.
Of course Han Yunxi was clear about that. "I hope that I've overthought things."
At these words, Long Feiye gave a cold smile as he looked with displeasure towards Han Yunxi.
"Bring me down," she said frostily, a hint of command in her tone.
Long Feiye gave a jerk as he met her furious eyes. Curiously enough, he didn't argue but held her in his arms to land on the ground and silently opened the front doors to the house. Han Yunxi observed how he worked the door with practiced ease and couldn't help sighing in emotion. This guy was the high and mighty Duke of Qin, but he possessed so much potential to be a good thief. If it wasn't for him, she really wouldn't have been able to get inside.
Han Yunxi hobbled through the open doors, Long Feiye following in her wake to shut the doors behind them without a trace. The first room they reached upon coming inside was the guest hall. Though there was little possibility of snake poison hidden here, Han Yunxi still limped around in a circle as she scanned the room with her poison sensors. Long Feiye stood like a door god by the entrance, watching Han Yunxi as she slowly moved about the dim surroundings.
If Han Yunxi was well, she could walk very quickly, but her foot injury couldn't help but delay things. Fortunately she had the detoxification system to save time, or else she'd have to trouble Long Feiye to bring her over multiple times. Soon enough, they scoured all over Third Madame's residence without finding a thing, leaving only Third Madame and Han Ruoxue's rooms unchecked. Right now, mother and daughter were probably both still dreaming.
"Nothing in any of the places?" Long Feiye was clearly disappointed.
"There's still the two bedrooms, we'll keep looking," Han Yunxi said mildly, though her heart was secretly delighted. Those two or three poisons must have been a coincidence, she must have been overthinking things!
Long Feiye didn't ask any more, but walked with Han Yunxi to Han Ruoxue's quarters. A woman's rooms were different, and these exuded a faint fragrance as soon as they drew near. Long Feiye paused before saying, "Come back when it's daylight."
Han Yunxi glanced at the skies and replied, "We can still make it. It'll save us an extra trip."
First and foremost, she had a bet at stake and no time to waste; secondly, she wouldn't be able to sleep soundly until she thoroughly cleared things up. It was very possible that she was over thinking things when she couldn't find any more traces of snake poison. But it was also highly possible that the poisons were hidden in these bedrooms. Long Feiye was about to speak when Han Yunxi retrieved a stick of something that resembled sandalwood and carefully lit one end. She poked a hole through the paper-covered windows and inserted it inside.
Even if such sleep-inducing incense was only used by the likes of riffraff, it was still convenient at critical moments like these. Han Yunxi calculated the time before shooting Long Feiye a mischievous smile. "Your Highness, break open the door."
Long Feiye couldn't help but think these words were quite daring. Actually, if they wanted to investigate Third Madame, it was a simple affair to come by at daytime and turn the house inside out without anyone the wiser. He must have been crazy to bring this woman here in the middle of the night to do such things.
He expressionlessly pried the door open and watch Han Yunxi slip in, but remained unmoving in place without taking a single peek inside. He avoided women's rooms like the plague; besides, its owner was still sleeping inside.
Han Ruoxue was already asleep, but the added effects of the incense made it nearly impossible for her to wake up. Han Yunxi inspected all corners before drawing closer to check the bed. She lifted the bedcurtains and saw that Han Ruoxue had a terrible sleeping posture, sprawled messily all over her bed. Unconsciously, Han Yunxi glanced towards the door, musing that it was a good thing Long Feiye hadn't entered.
She didn't know whether to regret or rejoice that Han Ruoxue's rooms were free from poison. Now there was only Third Madame Li's rooms left. Han Yunxi didn't dare to look at Long Feiye's face, but thought that tonight's disappointments were enough to dispel his good mood.
As before, she used sleep-inducing incense to sink Madame Li into unconsciousness before opening the door and slipping inside. Long Feiye stood silently outside, but kept a careful watch on his surroundings for movement. If Third Madame Li was a spy, then this courtyard wasn't so simple at first glance. She'd at least have guards that came and left the place.
Madame Li's rooms were much bigger than Han Ruoxue's, and also the most suspicious. Han Yunxi examined everything carefully, completely focused so as to not miss a single trace. Yet after a thorough search, nothing had triggered her detox system alarms. Finally, Han Yunxi's eyes rested on the bed, the last place to inspect in this entire courtyard!
"Third Madame, did you administer the Ten-Thousand Snake Poison?" Han Yunxi murmured to herself, step after step leading her closer to the bed.
If Long Feiye had followed her inside, he would've sensed something off long ago. Unfortunately, he was still outside.
Han Yunxi approached the bed in degrees. She didn't know any martial arts, so how could she sense the frightening killing intent emanating from its occupant? As soon as Third Madame smelled the sleep-inducing incense, she'd woken up. Right now, she held a sharp dagger in one hand. Her expression was sinister and diabolic, completely different from her usual self. She'd heard Han Yunxi's mutterings and realized that she'd come. So Han Yunxi really did suspect her, and she'd even dropped by to investigate!
How did this girl start suspecting her?
Did she really find traces of poison that day in the wooden house? Those three drawers that she'd opened indeed used to hide snake poisons, but they'd already been cleared out. They didn't leave behind any scent, so how did Han Yunxi find out? This girl could cure Mu Qingwu's Ten-Thousand Snake Poison, which proved that her poison skills weren't bad at all. But no level of poisons master could sniff out the traces of scent left behind by those three snake poisons!
Third Madame was filled with questions, but she didn't have time to consider so much right now. She hadn't even made her move before this damned girl gained the initiative. Very well then, today she'd help her achieve her aim! If Han Yunxi died here, nobody would ever know. One less poisons expert in Tianning's imperial family would save them a whole lot of trouble. Thinking up to here, Third Madame's killing intent grew stronger.
Han Yunxi stopped before the bed. She wouldn't be able to investigate so thoroughly without the detoxification system, but even with that she wouldn't leave any corner untouched, including Third Madame's own hands! She didn't want to find anything, but she had to stick to her principles. Since she'd promised Long Feiye, she had to work earnestly until the end. Han Yunxi focused and concentrated hard to increased the sensitivity of her detox system. Inside the bedcurtains, Third Madame's cold phoenix eyes narrowed, one hand holding a dagger, the other the curtains.
Han Yunxi also raised a hand to grasp the curtains, about to lift them aside. Just as her life was hanging by a hair, a cold voice suddenly rose from outside. "Han Yunxi, are you done yet?"
Hearing this, Han Yunxi turned her head while Third Madame suddenly grew apprehensive. Of course she recognized the owner of that cold and emotionless voice.
It was him, Long Feiye!