Chapter 147: Keeping silent, no one asks
Today was the fourth day since Madame Li had died. Though she wasn't clear on the Han Family's fate, Han Yunxi still took quite some care in its household, making sure that everything was properly taken care of.
Long Feiye hadn't returned at all through the night and she didn't see him all day either. Han Yunxi didn't ask after him on purpose, but waited in silence. As long as the Han Family was all right for one more day, she could follow his lead for one more day.
After eating dinner at the Han estate, Han Yunxi returned, only to see the lights lit in his quarters. It signified that Long Feiye had come back. Ensuring the Han Family's safety was something that he promised, so he should come explain things to her, rather than the other way around. After some hesitation, Han Yunxi walked with long strides back to Leisurely Cloud Pavilion, where she grabbed a medical text and started reading it in the courtyard.
Zhao mama brought over a cup of tea and said under her voice, "Esteemed wangfei, the duke's returned."
"Mm," Han Yunxi responded without reacting.
Zhao mama's doubts grew. These two days, the mistress seemed to be in low spirits, so she wondered whether it had anything to do with her master. But now it seemed that she didn't care much about the master at all!
At this very moment, Long Feiye was also in the courtyard outside his own quarters, sitting in his own chair as he read over some secret reports that had just been delivered. He was very busy, not only with the matter of the hidden spies, but other affairs as well. A silent stillness enveloped the entire Hibiscus Courtyard. Before long, thin snowflakes drifted down from the skies. He didn't seem to mind when they langded on him.
Soon enough, Chu Xifeng arrived.
"Master, the Celestial Fragrance Teashop's been all sealed up. We've paid for the title deed to the land, too. But Gu Qishao never showed up and gave plenary powers to Guard Shangguan to take care of things," Chu Xifeng reported.
When His Highness and esteemed wangfei returned, all the hustle and bustle had revolved around the issue of the Ten-Thousand Snake Poison. No menton had been made of the Celestial Fragrance Teashop until yesterday. Before His Highness had left for the palace, he'd specifically asked him to close up the shop.
Long Feiye's face remained expressionless until he finished reading another secret missive. Then he spoke. "Thoroughly investigate all of Gu Qishao's businesses in the capital city. Temporarily close them all down under suspicion of colluding with the enemy."
Did that fellow Gu Qishao touch one of His Highness's sore spots?
But what could that sore spot be? Chu Xifeng had served him for so many years and still didn't know. He didn't dare ask, but only nodded his head. "Your subordinate understands."
He was about to leave when Long Feiye opened his mouth again. "Simultaneously, check to see if Gu Beiyue's been having a lot of free time recently."
Chu Xifeng was even more mystified. Why investigate Imperial Physician Gu? Were there new developments in the spy case that implicated him? Though, that didn't seem too plausible.
"Your Highness, I heard that Imperial Physician Gu's been in the palace these recent days. He became seriously ill upon returning home. As your subordinate sees it, he's probably treating his illness now," Chu Xifeng reported frankly.
Still, Long Feiye only tossed three words at him: "Investigate him thoroughly."
"Yes," Chu Xifeng felt a bit resentful. Judging by His Highness's current attitude, he wouldn't get a clear reason as to why even if he asked.
The snowfall grew heavier and heavier.
Long Feiye stood up and dusted off the snowflakes from himself and his hair before grabbing an umbrella and walking towards Leisurely Cloud Pavilion. He was a naturally reticent person, and the evening snow only made his tall form seem more lonely and desolate. He hadn't walked far when he stopped, seeing Han Yunxi coming his way. She was dressed in thin robes and had no cloak, allowing the snowflakes to pile up on her shoulders.
Was she here to look for him?
From a distance, she saw his form as well and halted.
Was he planning to find her at Leisurely Cloud Pavilion?
Very quickly, he entered the covered walkway and looked at her coldly. Seeing that she still hadn't moved, he opened his mouth to speak. The words were loud and carried a faint touch of anger. "Still not coming over?"
She didn't reply, but lowered her eyes as she ran over, her body looking pitiful while covered in snow. He examined her icily, only to find that the temperature had turned her lips white and her face pale shades of purple and green. He took off his cloak and extended it towards her before commanding, "Put it on!"
"Many thanks to Your Highness, but chenqie will be returning soon so there's no need," she refused very politely.
His stare turned icy before he tossed over the fox-fur cloak. She had no choice but to catch it in her arms, but that was all she did. Still, she had to admit that just holding the cloak immediately warmed her hands. This luxurious, sumptuous robe still radiated with his warmth.
She really had come to find him. After finding it hard to go to sleep, she decided to simply have it out with him and clarify the situation. Was the Han Family going to live, or die?
But now that she saw him, she suddenly lost all her desire to speak.
He too, had truly been on his way to find her and talk about the Han Family's matters. He didn't promise others easily, especially women. But once he made a promise, he'd fulfill it no matter how much effort or cost it took.
"Madame Li's case will be wrapped up by tomorrow. The justice courts will issue a proclamation, but it won't implicate Han Yunyi or anyone else in the Han Family," his answer was clear-cut and straightforward. Before, he'd only promised to protect Han Yunyi, but now he'd secured the lives of the entire Han clan.
Hearing this, the downcast Han Yunxi suddenly raised her head to meet Long Feiye's icy eyes. She was filled with doubt and blurted out, "Really?"
"What your lordship says, he does. Protecting the Han Family is your reward for successfully producing the poison," Long Feiye explained frigidly.
Han Yunxi was thrilled. Lady Xu and Madame Li both had no connection with the Han Family. To be able to protect the Han family was equivalent to protecting little Yi'er's home! She immediately paid her respects with a bow. "Chenqie thanks Your Highness for your grace on behalf of the entire Han Family!"
"Is there anything else?" Long Feiye asked.
Anything else...was there? What did he want her to ask? Even if she did, would he answer? Han Yunxi thought a bit before rising with a grin. "Just this, I won't disturb Your Highness any more."
So speaking, she resolutely turned and prepared to leave. But Long Feiye suddenly called out, "Hold it!"
Han Yunxi abruptly stopped, her heart skipping a beat. What did he mean by telling her to stop? Did he want to ask her something?
Would there be anything else besides that night in the Tender Fragrance Teahouse?
Was he going to warn her on "being cautious" and "proper decorum" again? She didn't even interrogate him about Duanmu Yao. If the roles of husband and wife were considered a sort of oath, then she shouldn't be the only person bound to it, right?
The more she thought, the more her lips drew into a line.
Unexpectedly, Long Feiye didn't do anything or ask any questions. He opened the umbrella resting by his side and handed it over past Han Yunxi's shoulders. His voice was thin and cold. "Take this."
He was very tall and held the umbrella high up. She could see his hand holding it as soon as she lifted her eyes. His hand was very big and wrapped around the entire handle.
So he wouldn't ask after the happenings in the teahouse?
Han Yunxi stood dazed for a long time before speaking. "There's no need, chenqie..."
But before she could finish, he suddenly pressed closer, engulfing her in his scent. She felt as if she had been swallowed up by a powerful force that made escape difficult.
"Take it!" he said sternly, voice fierce.
Han Yunxi curled her lips. If he insisted, then she'd take it!
She put on the fox fur cloak and instantly snatched at the umbrella. Long Feiye didn't seem to have expected this, because he didn't immediately release it. Han Yunxi tugged harder until he let go, then walked away with long strides, his cloak on her shoulders. Long Feiye's handsome brows furrowed together as Han Yunxi's figure disappeared into the swirling snowflakes. Even when the lights of the distant Leisurely Cloud Pavilion came on, he still stood in place, unmoving. It wasn't clear how long he stayed there, but the look in his eyes alternated between light and darkness.
When Han Yunxi returned to her quarters, she brought the umbrella upstairs with her before furiously tossing it aside. The cloak was taken off and thrown right next to it. She glared at the items before rushing over, preparing to stomp it beneath her feet. And yet, she couldn't bring herself to do it.
She cursed at them before falling heavily onto her bed. She loathed this feeling that made her heart suffer, but she couldn't fathom the reasons why. It felt like her chest was bursting, but with what? She didn't know. Hadn't that fellow fulfilled his promise of protecting little Yi'er? He even managed to safeguard the entire Han Family, so why didn't she feel happy at all?
Han Yunxi grabbed her covers and pulled them over her head, refusing to think it over deeply. She told herself, the Northern Li spy affair has basically come to an end, so there's nothing between us now. He can keep walking on his broad and sunny road while I traverse my single-plank bridge. Well water won't touch river water!
She had another sleepless night.
The next morning, Han Yunxi got up extra early to visit the Han estate. On the way, she really did see proclamations from the justice courts declaring the death of Madame Li as a main culprit. Han Ruoxue was branded as her accomplice despite being ignorant of all details. Her crime was still unpardonable, so she was to be held for an indefinite amount of time. In this way, Madame Li and her daughter's crimes had become a run-of-the-mill case. It neither implicated the matter of the Northern Li spies nor penalized the Han Clan.
As for how Long Feiye was dealing with the aftermath, or whether he was still pursuing the masked man, all of that was kept secret. Han Yunxi told herself that she had no need to meddle in his affairs now. She reached the Han estate and finally presented the 《Han Family Medical Canon》 to little Yi'er without worries. This book belonged with the Han Family, so it was natural that the heir took possession of it. Han Yunxi believed that with a good environment, he'd allow the Han Family to rise anew in the medical world.
In the past, it was always Lady Xu in charge of managing affairs around the household. Without her, Madame Li, or the concubines who'd fled the family, the task fell onto Seventh Madame's shoulders. With Han Yunxi backing her up, none of the patriarchal clansmen dared to covet or make difficulties. Instead, they all tried to curry favor with Seventh Madame by bringing over quite a few weighty gifts when they called.
A few days later, Seventh Madame fully recovered. Han Yunxi summoned over the household accountant and steward for talks. Though the Han Family had a substantial store of silver, enough to feed and clothe Seventh Madame and little Yi'er for a lifetime, costs still had to be reduced. The Han Family didn't have big business currently, and all of its pharmacies had closed. But expenses were still the same as before, so budgeting was a priority.
Through these talks, Han Yunxi discovered that Seventh Madame might have been fragile, but she wasn't slow-witted or stupid. In terms of managing a household and finances, she had quite a few original ideas. What she lacked beforehand was opportunity and the courage to prove herself.
"Little Chen Xiang, from now on you'll stay with Seventh Madame. If there's anything she's afraid of, you can back her up," Han Yunxi bantered playfully.
Little Chen Xiang pouted as she looked at her mistress, her heart caught up in a mixture of feelings. She couldn't say what she felt right now; though she didn't want to leave her mistress, she couldn't leave Seventh Madame and little Yi'er either. After serving the latter for all these days, she'd long developed an attachment to them.
Seeing Chen Xiang's silence, little Yi'er secretly tugged on her robes, instantly softening her heart. "Mistress, then can we visit you at the Duke of Qin's estate?"
Han Yunxi brightened. "Of course!"
Seventh Madame couldn't part with Chen Xiang either. When she heard these words, she wanted to bow and show her gratitude, but Han Yunxi quickly stopped her. "In the future when I come visit, let's not have so many formalities."
Her parental home might not be very powerful, but it was comfortable and happy. That too, was a form of support!