Chapter 106: Close questioning, locking onto the target Original and most updated translations are from volare. If read elsewhere, this chapter has been stolen. Please stop supporting theft.
Throughout these years, Mu Qingwu often accompanied Mu Liuyue to the Celestial Fragrance Teashop to drink tea. But it wasn't very frequent, certainly not enough to match the poison dosing schedule. However, many people who drank tea there would buy tea leaves to bring home. Naturally, they'd drink that tea everyday.
Han Yunxi originally planned to focus her investigation on the tea leaves. Hearing Mu Qingwu's words, Han Yunxi paid close attention. He paused to reminiscence before answering, "Usually we bring lots of tea leaves back. Their leaves are better than anyone else's, and they have many unique strains."
Han Yunxi seemed lost in thought as she nodded. She'd checked through Mu Qingwu's teas at home and at the barracks beforehand but found no traces of poison. "Were the tea leaves I examined last time from the Celestial Fragrance Teashop?" she asked.
If Mu Qingwu hadn't realized there was a problem with the tea leaves by now from Han Yunxi's questions, then he was an idiot. "Esteemed wangfei, you think they added poison to the leaves?" he asked doubtfully.
"I can only say we shouldn't exclude the possibility. Compared to everything else, it holds the highest suspicion," Han Yunxi replied frankly.
Mu Qingwu knitted his brows as he thought back. After awhile he reported the details. "I'm rather nitpicky about tea leaves. The ones I take to the barracks are all from home, and the tea at home comes from either friends or Liuyue." Mu Qingwu grinned. "I don't buy much myself, personally."
Han Yunxi also smiled. He drank tea but didn't buy it, bought tea but didn't drink it. As the Young General, how many people were waiting in line to give Mu Qingwu tea? If the Ten-Thousand Snake Poison wasn't a slow-acting poison that needed regular doses, it'd be hard to find clues amongst all the tea he received. Fortunately, this poison needed to be administered frequently, so they could follow the most frequent tea-gifters to find a clue. Even without Han Yunxi's prompting, Mu Qingwu was clear on where matters stood.
"Outsiders don't deliver tea at regular intervals, so they can be ruled out..." he suddenly grew alarmed and looked towards Han Yunxi, voice inexplicably rising. "Could it be from Liuyue's side?"
Han Yunxi long had her suspicions, but found it hard to voice them aloud. Since Mu Qingwu said it himself, she decided to forgo the niceties. "If the problem comes from the tea, then she's the most probable suspect." At these words, Mu Qingwu's face immediately paled. But he didn't reject anything.
Han Yunxi understood his difficulties and spoke mildly, "Young General, these are all just conjectures. Everything has to wait until we've determined whether or not the tea has poison. Of course, I believe that your younger sister has no intentions to harm you, but I'm afraid...that she might have been used."
She was still his own sister after everything else. No matter how open minded he was, there was still sentimentality involved. Hearing Han Yunxi's words, he was finally able to raise his head again. "Esteemed wangfei, don't worry. I will do my utmost to cooperate with your investigation."
With these words, Han Yunxi set her cares at rest and personally poured Mu Qingwu a cup of tea. "Young General, think carefully. Is there any more tea we haven't checked inside your house?"
Mu Qingwu didn't even think before replying resolutely, "No."
"Then what about tea you've finished drinking, do you still have the containers?" Han Yunxi asked next, her pretty forehead slightly crinkled. She had an expression similar to her face when treating poisons, strict and sober.
Mu Qingwu shook his head as before. He had high standards for tea leaves and would often throw them away before he finished drinking them. That was because no matter how well one kept one's tea, time would still change the flavor.
"Then how long does it take for Young General to drink a tin of tea?" Han Yunxi asked curiously.
"I'm not sure about this. Different tea leaves have different preservation methods and shelf life. At most, two months. At the fewest, only ten days," Mu Qingwu replied truthfully.
Han Yunxi nodded and filed the information away in her heart. Then she asked, "Does Young General remember what kinds of teas little sister gave you? And how they came?"
Since they'd fixated on this clue, of course they had to chase it to the very end, leaving no possibilities untouched. Mu Qingwu thought back as he answered. "There were quite a few different varieties. But without exception, she'd deliver spring, summer, and autumn teas together, sometimes a few flower teas as well."
"Flower tea?" Han Yunxi didn't understand. Typically, only females would drink flower teas. Strictly speaking, flower teas couldn't even be considered as tea. Seeing Han Yunxi's doubtful look, Mu Qingwu knew she'd misunderstood and hastened to explain.
"I should say it's flower-scented green tea. The leaves are exposed to the natural scent of flowers so that the leaves themselves are fragrant. When steeped, they smell like flowers."
At these words, Han Yunxi grew alert. Undoubtedly, this flower-scented tea could mask many poisons and their smell.
"Does Young General remember which types he drinks the most often?" Han Yunxi pressed.
Mu Qingwu thought for awhile before getting brush and paper to write down a list of Mu Liuyue's teas from his memory. His strokes revealed everything.
Amongst the tea leaves from Mu Liuyue, most of them were green teas, followed by flower-scented green tea. He rarely received red teas, and there were only one or two white and black teas.
"How long can you typically keep green tea and flower-scented green tea?" Han Yunxi continued to ask.
"Green tea can keep for a month. Stored well and it can last one and a half months, probably. Flower-scented green tea can keep for two months," Mu Qingwu answered.
These results, combined with the required frequency of poison dosages, meant that green tea and flower-scented green tea were their main objectives.
Han Yunxi's lips quirked into a smile as she asked, "These teas of your little sister's, they're all bought from the Celestial Fragrance Teashop?"
Mu Qingwu nodded. "Most of them are, they have the Celestial Fragrance logo on the tins. But oftentimes there's tins without logos as well, probably gifts from someone else."
Gifts from someone else? Things were getting complicated.
Han Yunxi was in no rush. She'd follow the clues one by one. Casting a glance outside, she saw that the skies had already dimmed. By the time they reached the Celestial Fragrance Teashop, it'd be completely dark.
"Young General, how about we go to the Celestial Fragrance Teashop tomorrow?"
"Everything will be as esteemed wangfei says," Mu Qingwu was easy to talk to. Even though he had many affairs to manage in the military, he didn't dare delay this matter. On the one hand, it concerned the lives of his family; on the other, the Duke of Qin was keeping his eye on things...
After scheduling a time to set out tomorrow, Mu Qingwu took his leave, but Han Yunxi didn't grow idle.
"Green tea...flower-scented green tea..." she muttered to herself as she dove into the study. Even as night fell, she didn't come out.
Zhao mama paced back and forth in front of the study door multiple times, unsure whether she should knock. This mistress hadn't eaten her morning, midday, or afternoon meals! It was already dark out, and dinnertime was due to pass at any moment. Zhao mama really couldn't bear it and carried the dishes to the door. She was about to knock when Long Feiye entered.
Seeing this, Zhao mama set the dishes aside and hurried over to pay obeisance. "Your Highness."
Long Feiye looked travelworn; he'd probably been busy all day. His eyes swept around the room before asking coldly, "Where is she?"
Zhao mama clearly knew who he meant but pretended not to. "Your Highness is asking after...esteemed wangfei?"
Long Feiye's voice grew even colder as he persisted. "Where is she?"
Zhao mama didn't dare to feign ignorance anymore and hurried to answer. "Esteemed wangfei is inside the study."
She thought he'd go over and prepared to mention the matter of dinner, but Long Feiye tossed over a package with a surly air. "Give it to her, tell her to look after it. This isn't something she can lose haphazardly."
It was a bright brocade package wrapped around a small object. Zhao mama held it in her hands and secretly felt the package, but she didn't know what it was. Of course, she didn't dare to ask either, but only said, "Yes."
Long Feiye seemed to want to say more, but only pursed his lips and kept silent. He rose and prepared to leave.
"Your Highness, please wait!" Zhao mama called out hastily. Long Feiye looked over without saying a word. Silence really was golden for him!
Zhao mama was long used to it and laughed secretly as she spoke. "Your Highness, it's getting late. Why don't you have your meal here?"
"No need," Long Feiye didn't even think twice before refusing. Aside from banquets, he never had the habit of taking meals with others. Even if it was an invitation from Grand Concubine Yi, he frequently refused.
But Zhao mama only heaved a soft sigh before speaking helplessly. "Your Highness, esteemed wangfei's been in the study the entire day. She's completely skipped her three meals. This old one can't exhort her, but perhaps she'll heed the duke's words."
Unhappiness flickered past Long Feiye's eyes as he looked towards the shut study door. Zhao mama had served him for many years and naturally knew his temper. He definitely had thoughts about this, or else he would've left long ago. Inexplicably she began to anticipate what would happen next, but Long Feiye only looked before speaking coldly, "Whether or not she eats is her own business. It has nothing to do with your lordship, so there's no need to tell me these things in the future."
All right, Zhao mama more or less expected it, but she was still somewhat disappointed. And yet Long Feiye had just finished speaking when with a creak, the study door opened. Han Yunxi boldly walked out, face expressionless. Since when had she stayed in the study all day? She spent half of today just sleeping, all right? Since when did she refuse to eat her three meals? She was just too busy and forgot, all right?!
She'd never treat herself poorly, so she'd find something to eat as soon as she felt hungry. Who knew that she'd overhear Zhao mama "tattling" on her right before she came out? And then afterwards, Long Feiye's ruthless reply?
This unfeeling, indifferent soul!
Han Yunxi's sudden appearance surprised both Zhao mama and Long Feiye. The former was left in an awkward situation, afraid that her words would be exposed. But Han Yunxi wasn't that bored. Her foot still hurt, so she hobbled over to make a bow. "Your Highness."
"Un." The word was squeezed out from between stiff lips as Long Feiye furrowed his brows. He wasn't even sure where his discomfort came from.
Han Yunxi rose and turned. "Zhao mama, I'm hungry. Get dinner." As she spoke, she walked towards the hall on one side, not sparing Long Feiye another glance. Once again, Long Feiye knit his eyebrows. Seeing this, Zhao mama couldn't help but swallow, but didn't dare to speak. She only lowered her head and went to deliver the dishes. Long Feiye was left to dry in the guest hall with no one to receive him.
Zhao mama didn't even dare to walk past him with the tantalizing dishes, but took a meandering path to deliver them to the side rooms. Han Yunxi was famished and started taking large mouthfuls as soon as the dishes arrived. But she'd hardly taken a few bites when a brocade package was tossed inside to land before her.
She looked back and saw Long Feiye still wearing his ice cube face as he walked inside.