Chapter 160: Entanglements, his stance
Long Feiye had his back to Han Yunxi, but he sensed her as soon as she stopped. When he turned around, it was to see Han Yunxi looking at the closed down Tender Fragrance Teahouse. He wanted to speak up but stopped himself, looking at her with a cool gaze.
Han Yunxi was wondering whether Long Feiye was the one to close down Gu Qishao's teahouse again. Did he do it because he caught her eating here last time?
She couldn't help but feel distress for Gu Qishao's sake again. The Celestial Fragrance Teashop had a criminal record, so Long Feiye had every excuse to shut down his properties and investigate them. Why couldn't Gu Qishao learn to keep a low profile? Han Yunxi was about to leave when she discovered Long Feiye looking at her. Immediately, she averted her eyes.
"Do you know Gu Qishao very well?" Long Feiye asked simply.
Han Yunxi shook her head. "Your Highness is investigating him, so you should know him better than chenqie, right?"
Indeed, Long Feiye had done investigations, but only found out that Gu Qishao was a wealthy merchant whose businesses could be found all over the place. As for his poison skills and potential martial arts master, there were no clues. Judging by his age, he had to have some sort of backing, wealth, or family properties to be so successful while so young. Unfortunately, Chu Xifeng hadn't found much information at all.
"Your lordship has seen that you two are quite close," Long Feiye said, clearly referencing the scene from that night at the Tender Fragrance Teahouse. Han Yunxi resented this type of interrogation. She hadn't even asked him about anything, so what right did he have to question her private life?
"In any case, he's saved chenqie's life once, so he could be considered a friend." About 70 percent of Han Yunxi's words stemmed from the truth. Although Gu Qishao was neither honest nor respectable, at least he wasn't an enemy. She rather have one more friend than one more foe. Long Feiye only gave her a deep look without asking any more. Then he turned and kept walking. They'd been uncommunicative from the start, but their silence grew after this conversation. Still, as Han Yunxi followed, Long Feiye maintained his slow pace. With one behind the other, they managed to come to a tacit understanding.
Han Yunxi had been walking with her head bowed the entire time, lost in her own world. Suddenly, Long Feiye's voice sounded from above her. "Hungry?"
She looked up and found that he was standing in front of her. One more step, and she would've bumped into him again.
"A bit." Actually, her stomach had started rumbling like a thunderstorm a long time ago. But every time she was with this guy, she seemed to change into another person. She wouldn't call herself restrained or reserved now, but extremely pinched.
Long Feiye said nothing as he entered a restaurant, with Han Yunxi quickly following behind him. He asked for a private room, and the two of them sat down across a table, where he pushed over the menu to signal her to order. Han Yunxi didn't refuse, but chose a few dishes that she liked before pushing the menu back to him. Long Feiye only gave it a cursory glance before ordering a flask of wine and calling for the dishes.
While they waited, their silence stretched to fill the room until everything seemed to grow still. Han Yunxi wasn't used to such silence and accidentally met Long Feiye's eyes when she looked up. She gave a start and waited to look away, deciding to talk about a random topic instead.
"Your Highness, is there any news about the masked man from last time?"
Although Madame Li was dead and most of Tianning's hidden spies had been eliminated, the masked man still existed as a great threat. With Long Feiye's personality, how could he simply let things go?
"There's signs of a positive outcome, but investigations are still underway," Long Feiye said without hiding anything. He had been busying himself with these exact matters recently. If he guessed correctly, that masked man had to be a high-level member of Northern Li's imperial family. It was difficult to directly investigate Northern Li's imperial family, but he could find information from the jianghu's various poison sects and poison schools. A formidable figure like the masked man had to be famous within his own circles.
Now that there was something to talk about, Han Yunxi was much more relaxed, as if she was a person who'd been granted general amnesty.
"What kinds of signs?" she asked urgently.
Actually, she'd done some digging of her own. Gu Beiyue had said too that a man with such powerful poison skills had to have a famous master. Gu Beiyue also said that there were many poison schools and sects in the world, but all of them originated from the scattered sections of the poisons concentration of the medical academy. Nowadays, there was no poisons concentration in the medical academy, but the world's poison sects and schools had flourished and grown in the past two years.
Still, in the end poison was still poison. A detoxification expert was a poisoner as well, so many medical communities couldn't accept such schools or sects. Thus, they formed a circle within themselves that was hard for outsiders to get in.
Long Feiye didn't answer Han Yunxi's question. Neither would he tell her that interrogating Madame Li's subordinates revealed that the masked man had demanded her kidnapping, not to threaten him, but to take her away. Those who were ignorant were innocent, those who were talented would arouse the envy of others. Han Yunxi was a woman with brilliant poison skills. How many eyes in the darkness were fixing their sights on her? Leaving aside outside threats, there was even the troublesome Emperor Tianhui.
"How did Lady Tianxin get all her poison medical manuals?" Long Feiye said, changing the topic.
Han Yunxi said she'd learned her poison skills from her mother's medical books. Although it was a flawless explanation that he couldn't verify with the original owner dead, it didn't mean he believed it easily. He'd investigated into Lady Tianxin before and found that her entire family was a fabrication. This medically skilled woman who allowed Han Congan gain fame and fortune was a woman who appeared out of thin air. Of course, Long Feiye had long gone to the prisons to interrogate Han Congan, too. Naturally, Han Yunxi had no idea.
"I don't know either. I found it while digging through her things," Han Yunxi continued with her lie. She really had no idea whether Lady Tianxin knew any poison skills.
Soon enough, the food arrived. Long Feiye didn't say anything else, but began to eat. Han Yunxi felt much more at ease after conversing, and relaxed even further as she ate her dinner. She was about to reach for a morsel when her chopsticks bumped against Long Feiye's pair. Immediately, she drew back, but Long Feiye acted the part of gentleman and placed his morsel silently into her bowl.
"Thanks." Han Yunxi fixed her gaze on him. He was sitting perfectly upright, a bowl in one hand and chopsticks in the other. Even his eating motions were elegant. She had no idea that this was the first time the Duke of Qin had gotten food for anyone besides his mufei.
Still, she couldn't help but recall the day he spent window-shopping with Duanmu Yao while accompanying her to eat. It must have been just like this too, right? Thinking up to here, Han Yunxi fell entangled into her thoughts. The first time she met Duanmu Yao was when they were facing off against the poisonous python. Long Feiye risked his all to save his junior sister, but today... Earlier on, he'd accepted her gift, but the next second he was running over to spend time with her instead.
Where was Duanmu Yao's place in his heart?
If, if on the off-chance she guessed right, and this marriage business was another thing forced by Emperor Tianhui, did this mean he couldn't refuse? When the new year came, he'd have to marry Duanmu Yao? As Han Yunxi watched Long Feiye eat in silence, she suddenly felt a strong urge to ask him, do you want to marry her?
But when she remembered that she'd been forced on him by Emperor Tianhui as well, she only angrily lowered her head and resumed eating. Their entirely meal passed by in silence. Han Yunxi realized that this fellow could spend his night without saying a word if she didn't find a topic to talk about. Still, his silence wasn't oppressive, but a type of cold aloofness that kept others at a distance even as they drew closer.
After the meal, Long Feiye didn't mention going anywhere else. Han Yunxi followed behind him as before while they circled around the city. When the liveliness in the streets finally dispersed and scattered, they returned to the Duke of Qin's estate. Unluckily, they met Grand Concubine Yi escorting Duanmu Yao out as soon as they reached the gates.
Duanmu Yao was already gloomy from Long Feiye standing her up. She was out of sorts the entire night, but had to kindly accompany Grand Concubine Yi to eat dinner and chat while comforting her about Murong Wanru's impending marriage.
When she saw Long Feiye return, she quickly ran up and demanded, "Senior brother, where did you go? I was waiting for you to open that flask of snow wine!"
"Let's leave it for mufei to drink," Long Feiye said mildly.
This...hadn't he accepted it before? This was wine she'd sealed up for ten entire years for safekeeping! Duanmu Yao felt stifled and was about to speak up when she saw Han Yunxi appear from behind Long Feiye. It couldn't be...did senior brother go out with this woman?
What a Han Yunxi. I can tolerate you refusing to honor me with your presence, but you even stole away senior brother. She couldn't swallow this down easily.
Immediately, Duanmu Yao's temper flared up as her hands clenched into fists inside her sleeves. She was crazed with anger as she ran out to interrogate him. "Senior brother, what do you plan to do about the marriage alliance in the new year?"
Han Yunxi started at these words. She hadn't dared to ask about this, but Duanmu Yao did. Grand Concubine Yi was startled as well, her complex expression settling onto her son. But Long Feiye seemed to have heard nothing. He didn't reply, but walked away with long strides.
Now Grand Concubine Yi grew angry. "Feiye, you stop right there!"
Too bad Long Feiye didn't listen.
"Senior brother!" Duanmu Yao stomped her foot and chased after him.
Long Feiye's figure flickered before he disappeared into thin air.
"Senior brother! Master's been asking about us as well!"
"Senior brother!" Duanmu Yao shouted a few more times in a huff. Unfortunately, nothing but silence answered her calls. Utterly discomfited, she turned back to glare at Han Yunxi before throwing herself into Grand Concubine Yi's arms. "Grand Imperial Concubine, senior brother's bullying me again! Sobsob..."
Did this...count as bullying?
Only, if Long Feiye really was unwilling, why didn't he refuse her outright? He wasn't the type of person to dawdle about matters. Han Yunxi mused to herself before deciding that this might be a form of bullying, too. Maybe.
"All right now, don't you cry. I'll give him a good lecture later."
"Be good. Yao Yao's the most obedient one. The emperor and I will be the judge for this marriage alliance, so don't you worry," Grand Concubine Yi coaxed sincerely.
Han Yunxi couldn't help the cold smile in her heart. Grand Concubine Yi, ah, Grand Concubine Yi, you've certainly taken a fancy to this daughter-in-law. This time you're not even working against Emperor Tianhui?
Duanmu Yao wiped away her tears. "I knew it, Grand Imperial Concubine is the best person of all."
"Silly child, your senior brother never said he wouldn't wed you, did he?" Grand Concubine Yi smiled. Duanmu Yao lowered her head as her face finally turned red.
"As for that flask of snow wine, I'll guard it for you. When it's New Year's Eve, I'll bring it to the palace for unsealing." Grand Concubine Yi's patience towards Duanmu Yao was even more tolerant than her attitude towards Murong Wanru. On New Year's Eve, families had a reunion feast, so Long Feiye would naturally attend as well. Duanmu Yao had been waiting for these exact words, because they meant that she could attend the feast as well.
Before she left, Duanmu Yao intentionally drew close to Han Yunxi and said under her breath, "Esteemed wangfei, in the coming year...I'll have to trouble you to take care of me."
"Things haven't even started taking form yet. Don't be happy too soon," Han Yunxi replied, not willing to be outdone.
"We'll see!" Duanmu Yao replied coldly. If not for Han Yunxi, she might have waited a little longer until senior brother saw her good points and willingly married her. Unfortunately, Han Yunxi's existence gave her a strong sense of danger.
Even if she had to use Imperial Father to apply pressure, she would marry into the Duke of Qin's estate after the New Year!
 jianghu () - phrase for a community of martial artists that live outside of the laws and politics of society.