Chapter 167: The domineering Duke of Qin
Not only did the empress stand up, she walked to the crystal ice coffin and pressed down on the lid with a cold glare at Han Yunxi. "You murderer, I definitely won't allow you to disturb Changping!"
Half the day had already passed for the one-day deadline. As long as night fell without Han Yunxi finding the true origin of the poison, she'd have to admit her guilt! The empress would rather delay her the whole way so she couldn't do a thing.
Han Yunxi was already impatient. She'd had enough of this senseless blaming. By now, she could already sense that something was peculiar about the empress. The empress was Changping's birth mother. It was understandable that she was pained over her daughter's death, but her savage censure now was out of the the norm! Wouldn't a mother want to know the truth? Why was she so convinced that I am the murderer?
Even if she believed it herself, she should find proof of it first! Long Feiye already told her on the way here that neither coroners nor poison experts were allowed to touch Changping's body these five nights and five days. The empress had forbidden anyone from getting near.
"Esteemed empress, if you're acting like this, I can only go back to the justice courts. However, please refrain from extorting confessions from me without any proof. This isn't how the empress of a country should act!" Han Yunxi warned.
Many of the people present exchanged glances at each other, only just realizing that the empress had gone to the prisons to perform torture. Long Tianmo knitted his brows as he went forward to grab the empress.
"Muhou, Imperial Father's already agreed to Imperial Qin Uncle's terms. Just let her investigate."
But the empress sprawled across the crystal ice coffin and started to wail her heart out. "No, how could I let her murderer touch Changping again? As a mother, how would I explain things to Changping?"
Long Tianmo couldn't persuade her and looked back at the empress dowager, who only looked at the empress in silence. The empress had given into her feelings, but the empress dowager was still clear-headed. She'd made her own investigations in the past five days and found that security was airtight on the night of New Year's Eve. Her Peace & Wellness Palace was especially well-watched. The western wing of the palace was right by her palace, so it was basically impossible for any assassins to sneak in. They'd be even more hard-pressed to kill anyone without a trace.
Moreover, Changping was a princess whose social circle consisted of friends from influential families. People were too busy currying favor with her. Usually, they'd be the ones offending her instead of the other way around. How could she attract killers that way? And how could such a rare poison appear in the palace? Who would dare poison Changping?
After all her thoughts, it was still poisons expert Han Yunxi who held the greatest suspicion. Furthermore, she was the only person with enmity against Changping. What a Han Yunxi. I haven't even drawn you to my side yet and you've killed my precious granddaughter first. I was truly wrong about you!
With the empress dowager keeping mum, the empress remained stubbornly sprawled over the coffin. None of the underlings dared to move her as time trickled by. Winter days were short, so it would be dark soon if they delayed.
Han Yunxi held her temper in check as she demanded, "Empress, are you going to move or not?"
The empress glared at her without a word.
Han Yunxi turned to leave. "Your Highness, please send chenqie back to the justice courts."
Unexpectedly, Long Feiye looked at the empress, his voice cold. "Empress, just what are you afraid of?" Even he had noticed that something was off. With the empress's usual personality, she wouldn't kick up a row to this extent even if she was grieving. Now she had lost all the restraint befitting the imperial mother of a country.
The empress unconsciously released the coffin at these words. "I'm not!"
"Then open the coffin and check the body. There's only half a day's time left, what's there to fear? Unless you're worried that Han Yunxi will find some evidence?" Long Feiye kept asking.
His words caught both the empress dowager and Long Tianmo off-guard. The former slapped a table as she stood up.
"Duke of Qin, what do you mean by this? The empress is grieving for her daughter, but you not only show no sympathy, you even speak rudely! Aren't you husband and wife pair going too far?"
Long Feiye slapped the table in turn, his cold eyes fixating on the empress dowager. "Your lordship used the late emperor's command seal to get this chance, yet the empress is trying to bar the way. What does she mean by looking down on the previous emperor's authority?"
At this, everyone present fell to their knees. Heavens, the Duke of Qin was angry. He even brought up the late emperor?
The empress was scared speechless and immediately retreated, falling to her knees. "Chenqie doesn't dare! Chenqie absolutely doesn't dare!"
The empress dowager stood in place, staring stricken at Long Feiye. For a while, she didn't even know what to say. If she remembered correctly, this was her first time seeing the Duke of Qin angry. The cold and detached, unfeeling Duke of Qin had actually lost his temper and took out the late emperor's command seal?
Just for the sake of a trifling Han Yunxi? A woman who had been forced onto him?
Do you favor her that much? Or are you just that generous?
While everyone was still in shock, Long Feiye issued a command. "Someone, open the coffin!"
At the same time, Han Yunxi was recovering her senses as well. She finally understood why she and Long Feiye could leave the prisons with ease. Her heart beat rapidly as she looked at his icy face. This isn't a dream. Why is this man treating me so well?
"Han Yunxi, what are you spacing out for?" Long Feiye said angrily without a trace of kindness. His voice was always sharp, his attitude constantly cold.
By now, the crystal ice coffin had been uncovered. Han Yunxi gave a start, neglecting the matter of her palpitating heart in favor of immediate examination. She'd already organized her thoughts on the way over. Her first step was to determine the place of poison. That would help her figure out the poisoning method, since the location of poison usually pointed to how the poison was incurred.
This was the first and most crucial step.
Han Yunxi crept closer and started up her scanners for a thorough examination. Her careful scanning revealed the important detail she'd missed in that night's chaos! The position of the poison was none other than Changping's hand, where an injury had gotten infected. In other words, no one had poisoned her. Changping's hand had a wound that touched the origin of the poison!
Han Yunxi was secretly thrilled. She knew that the security on New Year's Eve was too tight for any killers to charge in. Back then, she'd ran over as soon as she heard a crash, but hadn't seen any other person. In addition, all the windows in that room had been shut! Nobody had poisoned Changping; she'd touched it herself by accident. She hadn't walked more than a few steps before it took effect, causing her to knock into the rack and creating the crash. Then, when she ran over, she saw her dead body on the ground.
With such a delightful discovery, the entire matter had turned far more simple. After all, if an assassin had really dropped by, it would be nearly impossible to track them down now. She'd be ruined instead. But something like accidental poisoning only needed her to find the source. For an old hand like Han Yunxi, this was beyond easy.
Right now, everyone's attention was focused on Han Yunxi. She secretly snuck a peek a Long Feiye before going back to her work. The source of poison could be divided into two types. One came from natural sources, such as toxic flora or fauna, while the other were man made poisons, such as pills or toxic drugs.
Upas poison was a rare type of toxin that was typically found in the south. Even fewer people knew of its existence, so how did it show up in the palace? Feeling uncertain, Han Yunxi took some samples of dried blood from Princess Changping's hand and did a chemical analysis. Five days had already contaminated the corpse with various impurities, so it'd be impossible for a normal poisons expert to come to any conclusions. Luckily, Han Yunxi had her most considerate friend, the detoxification system, to help.
Still, the results shocked her. She never expected that to be the source of the poison! That was a little too unbelieveable! Han Yunxi hid her amazement as she retreated from the body, taking off her gloves and washing her hands clean. By now, silence had suffused the entire room. Everyone had watched just then but didn't see Han Yunxi do a thing. In truth, she really hadn't done much beyond getting some blood particles with her acupuncture needle.
Did this count as examining the body? What did she even find?
Seeing Han Yunxi's unpleasant complexion, the empress dowager was first to speak up. "Han Yunxi, did you find anything?"
The empress looked over with nervous eyes. Han Yunxi looked at both the empress dowager and empress without a word, before turning to Long Feiye. "Take me to the western wing of the palace."
Long Feiye rose to leave with Han Yunxi without asking any more questions, leaving a room full of uncertain people.
"What does...she mean by this?" the empress dowager whispered unhappily.
The empress held a complicated expression in her eyes and didn't reply. Long Tianmo spoke under his breath, "Imperial Grandmother, let's all go have a look."
Han Yunxi's expression turned serious as she entered the western wing of the palace. She looked around her surroundings as if searching for a certain object, but quickly withdrew her gaze to head directly for the room where they'd found Princess Changping's body.
By now, Long Feiye had turned curious and asked, "How is it?"
"The source of the poison should be right inside this palace," Han Yunxi said seriously. By the time she'd made her rounds around the room, the empress dowager and party had already arrived. Because she hadn't lowered her voice, they heard her every word.
Long Tianmo was the most agitated one. "Imperial Qin Aunt, what did you say?"
"The source of the poison is still in the palace. If it's not here, then there's definitely something wrong!"
Seeing this, even the empress dowager was stunned. Could Han Yunxi have been falsely accused? "Then seek it out!" she said coldly. By her side, the empress suddenly trembled, causing Long Tianmo to catch her.
"Muhou, are you all right?"
Han Yunxi darted a glance at the empress, still feeling that she was acting strangely. But right now, she had no time to think of why. "Summon Changping's servant Shuang Hong to come," she said simply.
"What exactly are you planning to do?" the empress dowager was anxious.
"Esteemed empress dowager, don't be alarmed. Before night falls, Changping will definitely rest in peace," Han Yunxi said mildly.
These words further convinced the people present that she'd discovered something. The empress dowager curled her lips before speaking, "Very well, I'll be waiting!"
But the empress was staring fixedly at Han Yunxi without realizing that she was clenching her teeth. Her entire body had turned taut with tension. Long Feiye stroked his chin expressionlessly by one side, taking in the empress's reactions.
After Princess Changping had died, Shuang Hong had fallen ill. It took a long time before two other court ladies supported her over. Seeing Han Yunxi, Shuang Hong was filled with hate as well. Though she kneeled, her eyes held nothing but anger.
Yet Han Yunxi squatted down to asked her word-by-word, "Shuang Hong, what did you bring out of the room on the night of New Year's Eve when Princess Changping told you to fetch something?"
Han Yunxi was convinced that it hadn't taken long for Changping's poison to react. The source of the poison had to be in this room. Yet when she'd looked around on New Year's Eve, she hadn't found anything. Today was still the same, so the item must have been taken away. At these words, the empress's legs collapsed beneath her as she fell paralyzed in Long Tianmo's arms. Shuang Hong hadn't even made a move to speak.
"Muhou! Muhou, what's happened to you?" Long Tianmo exclaimed.