Chapter 161: No chance to make concessions
After sending off Duanmu Yao, Han Yunxi was ready to leave when Grand Concubine Yi called her back. "Yunxi, come with me for a bit."
Although Grand Concubine Yi spoke in a kindly tone, Han Yunxi knew that no good was coming. She kept up her guard as the woman led to to Peony Courtyard. She already knew what Grand Concubine Yi was going to ask before she opened her mouth. After they entered the courtyard, Grand Concubine Yi even dismissed Gui mama.
"Yunxi, did you go out with Feiye just then?" Grand Concubine Yi asked. Even since Han Yunxi had successfully settled into the Hibiscus Courtyard without Long Feiye kicking her out, Grand Concubine Yi had somewhat disapproved. She didn't mind Long Feiye's attitude beforehand because she was hoping to kick this girl out of the estate as soon as possible. But now things had changed. She'd learned to accept this daughter-in-law, so she had to take her into consideration for things.
"No, we just happened to return at the same time," Han Yunxi wasn't sure why she made up a lie. Perhaps it was to cover up for her first fib, when she had said she had an appointment with someone else. Grand Concubine Yi nodded thoughtfully. She wouldn't have believed it if Han Yunxi said 'Yes.' Although Feiye wasn't as distant towards this woman as before, he wouldn't make many exceptions for her, either. Wanru had helped her look into things before and said the sole reason her son didn't reject this girl was because of her poison skills. They were both useful and formidable, enough to help him quite a few times. Han Yunxi did have many abilities, but compared to Feiye, she was like the mud on the earth next to the cloud in the skies. Their feelings would never mingle.
In other words, Han Yunxi couldn't claim ties of kinship with those in high positions!
Now that Murong Wanru was being married off, Grand Concubine Yi considered Han Yunxi's acupuncture skills to be a worthy asset worth leaving by her side as a lifelong companion. If Feiye could marry Yao Yao, then she'd have no other desires besides waiting to hold her grandchild. One daughter-in-law could be left at her side to serve her, while the other brought more face to the Duke of Qin. When the time came, Han Yunxi could move out of the Hibiscus Courtyard and live with her while Yao Yao moved in. With her here, the two daughter-in-laws shouldn't kick up too much of a row! Moreover, Han Yunxi really couldn't gain any advantages from causing a ruckus with Yao Yao.
"Yunxi, how do you feel about Princess Rongle completing her marriage alliance with the Duke of Qin's estate?" As expected, Grand Concubine Yi asked this question.
Han Yunxi had a forced smile as she replied, "This matter should be settled by mufei and His Highness."
"Yunxi, today you...weren't very polite," Grand Concubine Yi came right to the point. Was she trying to give her a warning by being so blunt?
"Mufei, Princess Rongle is the golden branch and jade leaf; moreover, she came with the intention of completing a marriage alliance. Her status is unique and particular, so chenqie naturally understands the importance of matters. I wouldn't dare act recklessly or wanton to stir up trouble." Han Yunxi spoke very earnestly, leaving Grand Concubine Yi quite satisfied. This girl is quite self-aware, so I don't need to take the time to explain everything.
"Since you understand, then when you see her in the future, you should speak..."
Before Grand Concubine Yi could finish, Han Yunxi cut her off. "Mufei, chenqie may be of petty and low birth, but I'm not someone who can be bullied at will. Chenqie only asks for a safe haven in this estate and won't compete for anything. But if someone wants to stick up their nose and provoke chenqie, then chenqie can only accompany them to the end."
Grand Concubine Yi narrowed her eyes at these words. It looked like this girl hadn't truly understood her meaning. Duanmu Yao had a naturally bad temper even without recalling her hateful losses at Pill Fiend Valley and the Plum Blossom Meet to Han Yunxi. Once she married into the family, she definitely wouldn't make Han Yunxi's days easy. Grand Concubine Yi not only wanted Han Yunxi to behave herself and abide by her lot without causing trouble, but to swallow insults and indignation while yielding to Duanmu Yao under all circumstances.
Her face fell as she asked coldly, "Han Yunxi, what qualifications do you have to accompany them to the end?" This girl. Just because she cut her some slack recently, she was going to treat herself as all that?
Han Yunxi didn't want to clash too much with Grand Concubine Yi. After all, she'd worked hard to improve their relations. However, Grand Concubine Yi was already warning her even before Duanmu Yao stepped in the door. Once that girl really moved in, wouldn't she be eaten alive? She'd rather be a broken piece of jade than a whole tile-better to die in glory than live in dishonor.
"Mufei, you should know chenqie's temper as well!" Han Yunxi replied icily.
"You!" Grand Concubine Yi stood up in anger.
Han Yunxi did the same. "Mufei, if there's nothing else, chenqie shall take her leave."
Grand Concubine Yi was too mad to speak, so Han Yunxi took a deep breath before turning to leave. Once she left the Peony Courtyard, she began to talk to herself. "Grand Concubine Yi, ah, Grand Concubine Yi. Would you treat me sincerely if I treated you sincerely? Maybe in your eyes, I'll always be no different from the servants in the estate?"
Were birth and status really so paramount?
Nobles, generals, and ministers, what types were they? They'll come a day when I, Han Yunxi, will definitely show you that none of these things matter!
By the time she returned to Hibiscus Courtyard, that mysterious shadow called Long Feiye had long disappeared. That fellow's stance was still uncertain, but Grand Concubine Yi and Duanmu Yao were both convinced of a wedding after the new year. Han Yunxi took a deep breath and told herself, this isn't something I can change. It has nothing to do with me, either!
So don't brood over it!
There were only a few more days until the new year, so the Duke of Qin's estate grew lively as well. The servants were all busy cleaning and decorating the place. Due to her impending marriage, Murong Wanru spent all her days in her rooms. Grand Concubine Yi paid her frequent visits to comfort her, but ever since that night, she had completely ignored Han Yunxi. Han Yunxi didn't find her for her acupuncture and moxibustion sessions, either. Even though their relationship had stalled, they still managed to live in peace together.
Han Yunxi didn't need to worry about preparing for the New Year's banquet, so she was left with nothing to do. She took the chance to make frequent visits to the Han estate. Seventh Madame's body had recovered excellently. Her meals had improved and her worries lessened, so her mental state was superb. She'd lost much of her former timidity and weak-will in favor of doing more things proactively. Little Yi'er was still too young, so Seventh Madame became the pillar of the household. Han Yunxi was the happiest one to see her changes.
Right now, little Chen Xiang and Seventh Madame were busily preparing for the New Year's. Han Yunxi was in the study, looking over little Yi'er's homework. Actually, she couldn't be considered a teacher when it came to medical knowledge, but she did take foundational classes in Chinese medicine. Add that to her prior experience in the medical field and she could at least learn quicker than little Yi'er when it came to the 《Han Clan Medical Canon.》
The six-year-old Yi'er had a delicate, jade-like countenance and a clean and tidy disposition. Although he was a young master, he was decked out like a young scholar. Whenever he was caught up in reading, his eyes would turn hooded as his long lashes blinked across the pages. Every time Han Yunxi teased him, he'd raised his head with eyes wide open, staring at her in confusion. That wide-eyed gaze seriously tempted Han Yunxi to kidnap him and take him home to raise as a pet.
"Big sis Yun, the prescription in this medical canon...can I adjust it?" little Yi'er asked cautiously.
Han Yunxi grew curious. The 《Han Clan Medical Canon》 were filled with prescriptions added by generations of Han Clan members after weighty consideration. Whether it was the ingredients in the prescriptions, or the quantity needed for each item, everything was thoroughly tested and examined before being added in. Little Yi'er was only six years old and had studied for a few years. Yet he wanted to change the prescriptions of his elders. This little guy sure had guts!
Admittedly, she liked the young ones and their fearlessness.
"Tell me, how would you change it?" Han Yunxi asked with a grin as she drank her tea.
When little Yi'er saw that Han Yunxi was smiling at him instead of getting mad, he instantly grew confident. Quickly, he brought out brush and paper to write down his adjusted prescription. Han Yunxi gave it a glance and was so surprised that she spat out her tea!
This...this prescription....no, to put it rightly, this was a formula for poison!
When little Yi'er saw his sister's reaction, he nervously stuck out his tongue before retreating to a corner like a child who'd gotten into trouble. Han Yunxi quickly snatched up the medical canon to compare the two prescriptions. Upon closer inspection, she realized that little Yi'er hadn't changed any of the ingredients, but merely readjusted their quantities.
Traditional Chinese medicine followed the principle of mutual promotion and restraint between the five elements. Certain medicinal ingredients, when mixed together in set quantities, would create a whole new type of medicine. Perhaps the components would encourage its medicinal properties, or perhaps they'd ruin its effectiveness or even turn into poisons. The newly created products from these mixtures could then be further used to create even more different effects.
The explanation was simple in theory, but it involved thousands of links between various complicated elements. It wasn't something just anyone could understand. Even a veteran like Han Yunxi couldn't change medicine into poison just by glancing at a prescription sheet unless she gave it careful thought. She never imagined little Yi'er actually created something from his adjustments.
"Who taught you how to do this?" she asked loudly.
Little Yi'er looked like a child who'd done wrong as he twisted his hands together, head bowed. Only then did Han Yunxi realized she'd overreacted. She quickly sat down by his side and asked in a calmer voice, "Yi'er, tell me who taught you to change this prescription?"
"I looked at it by myself before suddenly thinking up how to change it," Yi'er answered honestly.
Han Yunxi found it inconceivable and asked, "Then how did you know which quantities to use for the ingredients?"
"Before, daddy had me memorize an ancient record about mutual promotion and restraint of five elements in medicine. It was hundreds of pages thick. When I saw the prescription then, I suddenly realized that I could change it," little Yi'er blinked his big, wide eyes, filled with simplicity and innocence.
Han Yunxi knew he wouldn't lie, but his ability to achieve mastery through comprehensive study was really too great, wasn't it?
"Do you know how to change any other ones?" she asked hastily.
"I have to look at it and think a bit first. The one I just made up took me a day to think up." little Yi'er was a little embarrassed as his face turned red. He had no idea that, being a six-year-old, having the ability to think up a new formula from the old within a day was already in defiance of natural order! Han Yunxi realized that this child's innate gift for poisons was quite similar to her early days. If he kept up his diligent studies, he'd be a formidable force in the future. Han Congan really had great insight into his potential successor.
That same day, Han Yunxi gave Yi'er a few pointers in poisons while exhorting him to study well. At the same time, she told him to temporarily keep his skills to himself. Now that he'd earned Han Yunxi's approval, little Yi'er was extra motivated. According to Chen Xiang's reports, he didn't leave the study for days after Han Yunxi left.
The days passed one after another. Soon enough, it was New Year's Eve and all of Tianning's capital city was swept up in the jubliant mood of the holidays. Families gathered together for reunions on New Year's Eve, so the empress dowager set up a family feast in the imperial palace. Grand Concubine Yi, the Duke of Qin and Murong Wanru attended every year, but this year they had additional guests in the form of Qin Wangfei and Princess Rongle. As for Murong Wanru, she had no face to enter the palace after her fiasco; neither did Grand Concubine Yi wish to take her along.
Zhao mama specially prepared a red, cotton-padded jacket for Han Yunxi lined with white fox fur at the edges. It was both warm and sophisticated. Currently, she was combing Han Yunxi's hair.
"Esteemed wangfei, this is your first time participating in the family reunion banquet. Actually, all you're doing is eating a meal with everyone else, so there's no need to be nervous."
Han Yunxi wasn't nervous at all. Emperor Tianhui, the empress dowager and the empress were all people she'd seen before. She figured that since Princess Rongle was coming as well, Emperor Tianhui would probably express some indication regarding the marriage alliance.