Chapter 133: Unreconciled, publicizing the bet
Han Congan's sonorous words rang out imposingly over the crowd. Though he was dressed in prison garb, he still exuded the aura of a head of house. Such words dissolved suspicions. It didn't look like he was being forced, but was very sincere with his words.
When he finished speaking, Official Ouyang was quick to add, "Esteemed Imperial Concubine was benevolent today in light of the ruckus before the Duke of Qin's estate. Only Lady Xu was punished as an example without pursuing the faults of others. May these ladies and gentlemen learn to look out for themselves. If any more careless remarks are made, they won't be easily forgiven!"
As soon as his words landed, silence fell onto the crowd. The commoners were all scared witless. How could they have foreseen such an ending? Murong Wanru immediately sent a look into the crowd, quickly stirring a few people to fall to their knees in worship. "Esteemed Imperial Concubine is benevolent and merciful! Thanks to esteemed Imperial Concubine for granting her favor of forgiveness!"
As a result, everyone present fell to their knees to proclaim their gratitude, a magnificent sight before the justice courts. Only Mu Liuyue remained standing by a corner, eyes chilly as she stared at Han Ruoxue. Of course Han Ruoxue saw her too, but it was only a glance before she dropped her gaze. Upon seeing that, Mu Liuyue felt even more angry. She was a woman of lofty sights who looked down on the likes of Murong Wanru, a foster daughter, much less condescend towards a mere concubine's daughter. But to delay Han Yunxi's investigation time, she'd borrowed these two to scheme together. Only, they'd produced no results like using a wicker basket to draw water. It might've been fine if Han Yunxi remained unaffected, but her name had actually been restored and the key left rightfully in her hands. How could she swallow the sight of Han Yunxi standing so grandly up high? Mu Liuyue narrowed her eyes and came to a decision.
Meanwhile, Grand Concubine Yi's complexion had finally recovered somewhat at the sight of the kneeling masses. Still, she appeared proud and high-minded, disdaining to even spare the crowd a glance or speak to them. She prepared to leave by one side. Han Yunxi was anxious to check in on Seventh Madame and little Yi'er's situation as well. As soon as she turned, however, Mu Liuyue suddenly emerged from one side with a loud voice.
"Qin Wangfei, I've finally seen you today. I thought you had hid away because you were too meek and afraid of losing!"
Grand Concubine Yi, Murong Wanru, and Han Yunxi all stopped at the same time, turning around with the kneeling populace to look towards the right. There was Mu Liuyue casually standing to one side, appearing particularly lofty amidst all those kneeling. Mu Liuyue knew that if she revealed the terms of the bet now, it'd affect her father and brother's investigation. But in order to topple Han Yunxi, she was willing to sacrifice everything!
Today, in front of all these people, she was going to let everyone know she and Han Yunxi had a bet. Three days later, the loser would have to shed their outer robes and run around the street! She was sure than Han Yunxi hadn't found the culprit yet. If she did, she would've showed off a long time ago. How could she keep it under wraps for so long?
With three days left, she'd disclose everything so that everyone knew. Until the deadline came, she still had plenty of ways to run interference and take away her investigation time. In any case, Han Yunxi was certain to lose this bet!
Grand Concubine Yi glanced at Murong Wanru before her lips drew into a cold smile. She made an elegant turn as she halted instead of walking away. The curtains may have fallen on the Han Family's play, but not on Han Yunxi's!
Han Yunxi really wasn't a very popular person.
Murong Wanru never expected Mu Liuyue of all people to show up now. This was great news. She gave a significant look towards the girl, signaling her to make lots of noise. She'd definitely make sure to cause plenty of trouble in the next three days so Han Yunxi had no time or mood to find her suspect.
Han Yunxi was the most surprised. She never thought that Mu Liuyue would publicize their bet in such a place. After the shock wore off, she was quick to anger. "Mu Liuyue, have some propriety! Do you need to talk about our private matters here in public? You should know that the consequences will be severe!"
Han Yunxi was already being very blunt. Once the details of the bet were exposed, it'd reveal that she was helping the young general investigate the true poisoner too. Such matters involved the Northern Li spies, which Long Feiye had been keeping secret this whole time!
Had Mu Liuyue gone crazy or lost her wits?
But faced with Han Yunxi's direct warning, Mu Liuyue not only kept on, but turned even more serious. "Qin Wangfei, are you afraid you'll lose? That's why you won't publicize the details? In three days, the deadline for our bet will arrive. Since everyone's all gathered here with esteemed Imperial Concubine, let's have them all bear witness in case you regret your mistake."
"You!" Han Yunxi was truly angry. Out of the corner of her eye, she spotted Madam Li and her daughter. But Han Ruoxue seemed to take pleasure in her misfortune, while Madame Li was as calm as ever. If Madame Li knew the details of the bet between her and Mu Liuyue, would she react?
Seeing that Han Yunxi wouldn't answer directly, Mu Liuyue intensified her offensive. She feigned curiosity as she asked, "Qin Wangfei, could it be that you're scared? You're not planning to renege on your promise, are you?"
Han Yunxi narrowed her eyes, her entire form emanating a killer's aura. If not for all the people here, she really would rush over to seal Mu Liuyue's mouth!
This idiot! The suspect was right here, so what was she muttering for!
"Sister-in-law, just what kind of bet did you make with Miss Liuyue? It's not anything shameful, so just let everyone have a listen." How could Murong Wanru keep quiet at a time like this?
"That's right, it's nothing shameful. Qin Wangfei, I'm going to tell," Mu Liuyue pressed.
"Miss Liuyue, just what is it? Go ahead and speak. I won't tolerate any trickery while I'm here!" Grand Concubine Yi spoke up as well.
Mu Liuyue was filled with triumph as the crowd unconsciously parted for her to walk over. Han Yunxi looked at her coldly, unable to stop the progression of events. She might as well risk everything, then! In any case, this was the capital and Long Feiye's territory. It wouldn't be so easy for Madame Li to escape. Before the examination results of the tea leaves came out, she could use this chance to feel out Madame Li and her daughter. Han Yunxi was anticipating Madame Li's reaction.
Mu Liuyue walked to the steps by their platform before she couldn't hold back any longer "To reply Grand Concubine Yi, Qin Wangfei and I bet that she'd find the true culprit of the young general's poison within a month. Otherwise, the loser..." Here, Mu Liuyue intentionally cast Han Yunxi a provoking glance before continuing. "Otherwise, the loser will take off her outer robes and run a circle around Xuanwu Street. The deadline is in three days!"
At her words, the crowd fell into silence first, before they grew into an uproar.
"Heavens! This bet is...too much!"
"Who came up with this bet? It's really too ruthless!"
"Tsk tsk...looking forward to it!"
It had to be said that this was really a thrilling gamble, so much that many people even neglected to wonder what they were betting on. Han Yunxi's first reaction was to look towards Madame Li and her daughter. To her surprise, Han Ruoxue was still gloating, while Madame Li remained quiet and serene without revealing any shock or guilt.
How could...they be like this?
At least show a little reaction!
Han Yunxi was filled with disbelief, enough to make her suspect her own deductions. But in truth, Madame Li's heart had long started flip-flopping in her chest. She originally thought that Han Yunxi would be too troubled this time around to look into Mu Qingwu's incident, but it only took her half a day to recover! Who knew that Han Yunxi had such a bet going on as well? There were only three days left. With such stakes, how could Han Yunxi and her personality willingly agree to lose?
If she wouldn't lose, then she had to win. All of that depended on whether Han Yunxi could find the culprit within three days. Except, who would she uncover then?
She still wasn't clear why Han Yunxi and Long Feiye had snuck into her courtyard last time. Though they already suspected her, they hadn't been able to find any evidence. These past few days, Han Yunxi had been held under duress for her kidnapping. How could she have time to investigate the poisoning? Unless she already had evidence on hand? And that's why she made such a bold bet?
Could it be that canister of tea leaves?
The more Madame Li thought, the more uneasy she grew. She was always strict in her dealings. Besides that canister of tea leaves, she'd never left any evidence behind. Even if Han Yunxi suspected her, she couldn't do anything.
But that canister of tea leaves...
Madame Li's heart grew uneasy as she thought. Yet she'd hidden low for so many years that she was able to remain steady and calm without revealing a thing. Very soon, she consoled herself with the fact that nothing had happened yet. She shouldn't jump to conclusions so soon! Moreover, her poison skills were exceptionally cunning. Even if that canister of tea leaves ended up in Han Yunxi's hands, the girl wouldn't be able to find anything wrong with it. With the exception of her master, it was impossible for anyone else to find the poison in her tea leaves.
Within a short frame of time, Madame Li steadied her heart, her expression even more calm and unhurried without revealing a single hint. Han Yunxi grew puzzled the more she looked. She couldn't admit that she made a mistake with her conjecture, but Madame Li's reaction...
Aye, what was Long Feiye doing right now?
Did it take that long to find the poisons expert for the results of the examination? After getting the results, they could use it as evidence to arrest the culprit!
"Han Yunxi, is what Miss Liuyue said true?" Grand Concubine Yi's words silenced the hubbub and pulled back the distracted Han Yunxi.
Murong Wanru was quick to follow up. "Sister-in-law, it can't be true, right? Were you missing for days because you wanted to avoid this bet? Sister-in-law, even though...even though this bet is too much, you have to be a person of your word!"
Han Yunxi was too busy trying to confirm her deductions to remember the bet. At Grand Concubine Yi and Murong Wanru's words, she recalled her current plight. These people were abominable, all of them filled with bad intentions. They throw rocks one after the other to sink her in the well and wait to laugh at her! Han Yunxi's head filled with irritation. Before she could reply Grand Concubine Yi, an unexpected voice filled the air.
"Big sis, I heard about this bet from Miss Liuyue long ago. You're not going to back out of it now, are you?" The speaker was none other than Han Ruoxue!
One of Han Yunxi's suspects, the one who'd personally delivered the poisoned tea leaves to Mu Liuyue. Not only was she acting guilt-free, she was actually helping Mu Liuyue out?