Han Yunxi expected that Long Feiye would face difficulties answering the empress dowager's questions, but his reply was casual and easy.
"I was too busy to go yesterday. It's fine since the bride entered through the doors."
Such a simple explanation, being 'too busy'...does that really count? Han Yunxi could clearly sense the empress dowager's fingers turn stiff as the crowd around them fell silent. She suspected that a storm was about to break upon them all.
Unexpectedly, the empress dowager only turned thoughtful for a bit before giving Long Feiye a displeased glance. Her tone was strange when she spoke again. "I understand you're busy, but you shouldn't give your new bride the cold shoulder."
Long Feiye's expression remained as before: a lone block of ice with no anger that harbored an impressive might. The empress dowager patted Han Yunxi's hand.
"In the coming days, if he slights you again, come to the palace and complain to me. Your Imperial Mother will back you up, understand?"
Han Yunxi obediently nodded her head, but her heart was shaken. Everyone said that even the emperor had to give some way to the Duke of Qin. She never expected the empress dowager to be the same. This man was too revered! Right at this moment, the old mama delivered up the handkerchief.
"Esteemed empress dowager, here is the drop of red on the handkerchief, please take a look."
The relaxed atmosphere suddenly grew tense at these words. Countless eyes looked over, waiting for the empress dowager to take the cloth. To be more precise, they were all waiting to laugh at Han Yunxi's expense. So what if Han Yunxi was a beauty? The empress dowager paired her up with the Duke of Qin who was forced by the emperor to take her as his wife. For the Duke of Qin to bring his new bride here to pay respects was already giving emperor and empress dowager lots of face. Most likely, Han Yunxi hadn't even slept on the same bed as him during their wedding night.
The people sitting up front intentionally leaned forward, while the ones in the back stood up, each and every one taking pleasure at her impending misfortune. There were even people placing bets between themselves: would Han Yunxi admit she wasn't a virgin, or that the Duke of Qin refused to bestow favor on her? With such a good show waiting, everyone was excited. In contrast, the empress dowager wasn't hasty to check the handkerchief at all, but affectionately grasped Han Yunxi's hand, speaking in a low voice.
"Don't be shy. You're going to be an adult now, so you should try your best to help the Duke of Qin grow a new branch with fresh leaves."
"Yes, that's the most important thing. Imperial Mother, I don't think there's any need to check it. The Duke of Qin's household is as pure as jade and chaste as ice, there's definitely no mistake!" one of the bolder concubines exclaimed.
"The Han Family is a household of the world. Their upbringing is strict, so definitely nothing would have happened."
"That's right, that's right. See how shy the new bride looks. We should just take away the handkerchief. How could there be anything wrong with the person chosen by your highness the Duke of Qin?"
The group of concubines took turns saying their part, seemingly out of goodwill. But their tongues hid needles as they raised Han Yunxi higher and higher, all the better to watch her fall and shatter. Han Yunxi lowered her head as if seemingly shy, secretly thinking that these imperial harem women really must be bored out of their minds.
The empress dowager smiled at the crowd of people and said laughingly, "There's no need for you to say it. I know there'll definitely be a drop of red on this handkerchief, but this inspection's a matter of course passed down from our ancestors. It's essential." Her smile was especially happy and affectionate as she plucked up the handkerchief, showing it for all the world to see.
A fresh red stain!
"Ahh...!" it wasn't clear who shrieked in the crowd below, but a sudden uproar took over the room. Nobody could hide their surprise!
How was it possible? The Duke of Qin bestowed favor on this woman last night? This was the most highly respected His Highness Duke of Qin, the same Duke of Qin that never showed interest in women, the one who stood out to the crowd as an immortal amongst men!
What did Han Yunxi count for?!
The concubines that had spoken of her before were now all mute and speechless from disbelief. It was as if someone had slapped their mouths. They were all waiting to see how much of a joke Han Yunxi would be, and how the empress dowager would punish the Han Family! The medical family of Han had failed to cure the crown prince's illness for so many years that the empress dowager had long forgotten the kindness they'd given her in the past. She was preparing to ruin them.
Who knew that Han Yunxi had really become the Duke of Qin's woman!