Han Yunxi rejoiced over the fact that she didn't have to ask him. Though her face was worth nothing, she'd still redeemed herself. She knew that Long Feiye had intentions to foster her skills ever since she killed those Poison Humans last time. She was happy to agree to his terms-to not drag at his heels the next time they went out to do business!
A husband and wife who were only together in name and not reality couldn't last long. So what if the rumors of her being favored grew stronger? Leaving aside outsiders, even people by her side like Zhao mama wanted to figure out the truth. Even those noble wives with name and power, sons and daughters, fallbacks and background had to struggle and fight to keep their positions, much less someone with nothing like herself. Her awkward identity could support her within the Duke of Qin's estate, but what of her place in the Tianning Imperial Family?
On the second day of her arrival at the Duke of Qin's estate, she had told herself: if there was no way to cast off the shackles of her fate, then she had to firmly hold onto to her biggest patron, Long Feiye. The best way to conquer a man was through his stomach-such words were pure nonsense!
Actually, the best way to conquer a man was to have him come of his own will to conquer you.
Thinking up to here, Han Yunxi unconsciously licked her lips. The startling scene from before appeared before her mind again. He had said, Han Yunxi, from this day one, your innocence belongs to your lordship.
Did this count as 'conquering?'
No, it was more like he'd claimed his authority over an object, at most.
"Conquer" seemed like a most fantastic tale when used in conjunction with Long Feiye, Han Yunxi decided, regardless of whether he was doing the conquering or being conquered himself. She shook her head and filed the thought away. All she wanted was a peaceful existence at the Duke of Qin's estate and to have this fellow see her worth so he wouldn't kick her aside one day in a fit of bad temper.
Mm, she should work hard and learn the Tang Clan assassination weapons!
Han Yunxi was embroiled in her own thoughts when a happy Zhao mama came to call her over. "Esteemed wangfei, Imperial Physician Li is waiting in the guest hall of the main courtyard; esteemed imperial concucine is there as well. Hurry on over."
As expected, the news had moved Grand Concubine Yi. Han Yunxi was extremely sleepy, but had to pep herself up to follow Zhao mama. As it turned out, Murong Wanru was there along with Grand Concubine Yi. According to ettiquette, a married daughter shouldn't visit her parental home so casually, but Grand Concubine Yi doted on Murong Wanru and didn't fuss over the fact. Murong Wanru had been diligently making trips to the Duke of Qin's estate recently.
Seeing Han Yunxi arrive, Grand Concubine Yi couldn't resist getting up to greet her. She carefully took Han Yunxi's hand and led her to sit down, speaking thrice as intimately as usual. "Yunxi, why didn't you tell mufei you were feeling uncomfortable for so long? What if you hurt your body? Hurry, hurry, let Imperial Physician Li take your pulse!"
Han Yunxi saw how hard it was for Grand Concubine Yi to hide the delight in her eyes and knew things were over. She couldn't help but silently curse Long Feiye, whose single sentence cast her into utmost misery! See this, Murong Wanru had already raised her high up before she even took her pulse.
"Sister-in-law, congratulations, congratulations! Mufei has been waiting for news from your stomach for a long time. You've finally brought her credit this time!"
Hearing this, Han Yunxi withdrew her hand with a smile. "Since Wanru meimei1 is so certain, I think we should ask Imperial Physician Li to go back."
Murong Wanru never got tired of praising someone in a way that placed them at a disadvantage, but Han Yunxi was already sick of it. Imperial Physician Li's hand froze in mid-air as he was left at a loss.
"Sister-in-law, I didn't..." Murong Wanru didn't know how to explain, but looked piteously at Grand Concubine Yi. "Mufei, I didn't mean it that way. I was being happy for sister-in-law's sake."
Grand Concubine Yi was about to speak when Han Yunxi said, "If Wanru meimei didn't mean it that way, then does Wanru meimei think I'm not pregnant?"
"I didn't!" Murong Wanru denied immediately. She was filled with hate, why did her faceoffs with Han Yunxi always leave her speechless? The empress dowager had given her three months' time, but she'd rather this woman disappear from the Duke of Qin's estate this instant!
"Then just what did you mean?" Han Yunxi pressed. By now Murong Wanru was completely out of things to say. She looked pitifully at Grand Concubine Yi, her eyes red as if she had suffered a great grievance.
Grand Concubine Yi shot Han Yunxi a glare. "Yunxi, you can't joke with things like this. Wanru was celebrating for your sake! Hurry and have Imperial Physician Li take your pulse." She saved Wanru from embarrassment as she patted the girl's hand. Murong Wanru looked at her like a poor and pitiful little wife. Though Grand Concubine Yi didn't speak, her grip on Wanru's hand tightened to comfort her. None of this escaped Han Yunxi's eye. She really couldn't understand why a shrewd woman like Grand Concubine Yi couldn't see past Murong Wanru's white lotus facade?
She was just an adopted daughter with no blood relations. Murong Wanru owed Grand Concubine Yi for her kindness, but Grand Concubine Yi didn't owe Murong Wanru her love. How could Grand Concubine Yi be so hoodwinked with such a personality? Fine, her relationship with Grand Concubine Yi had only warmed up recently, while Murong Wanru had stayed by her side for a dozen or more years.
As Imperial Physician Li took her pulse, mother and daughter both looked over. Grand Concubine Yi felt anxious while Murong Wanru felt pained. She couldn't bear it even if Han Yunxi wasn't pregnant. Zhao mama had said that the Duke of Qin personally asked for Imperial Physician Li, which was enough to confirm that this woman had been visited in the bedchamber! His Highness Duke of Qin had been akin to an Immortal in her heart ever since her youth. Whenever she thought of someone sleeping with him, her insides would shudder!
Silence descended on the audience hall as everyone fell into anxiety. Perhaps it was contagious, because even Han Yunxi fell into deep thought while already knowing the results. Would Long Feiye allow any woman to bear his child?
Suddenly, Imperial Physician Li released her hand and broke her train of thought. He rose to his feet in a rush and said with a fearful bow, "To report to esteemed imperial concubine, esteemed wangfei's pulse looks..." Though he didn't want to say it, he had to anyways. "...like it isn't a pregnancy pulse."
Immediately, Grand Concubine Yi stood up. "What do you mean, 'looks like?'" I want a clear answer!"
A frightened Imperial Physician Li backed up a few steps and braced himself to answer. "Esteemed imperial concubine, this official confirms that esteemed wangfei has no pregnancy pulse."
Hearing this, Murong Wanru released a breath. No matter what, this was the best result. Grand Concubine Yi didn't speak, but sat down, her glad and expectant expression now fallen. She really didn't take Han Yunxi's face into consideration when she placed all the faults and anger onto Imperial Physician Li. "Useless thing, get lost!"
Han Yunxi knew she'd be disappointed, but never expected her reaction to be so obvious. She'd completely neglected her face. Even if she treated Grand Concubine Yi as her own mother, she was still a daughter-in-law, not her own child. What extravagant hopes could she have? She wasn't sad upon seeing Grand Concubine Yi and Murong Wanru still holding hands. She'd never planned to ingratiate herself to others so they could treat her kindly. She only wanted to live a more comfortable life in this estate. However, now she was clearer on how some things stood.
At this point, Zhao mama hastily spoke up. "Esteemed imperial concubine, it's not normal for esteemed wangfei to want to sleep so much. Let's have Imperial Physician Li have a look."
The sensible and tactful Imperial Physician Li quickly added, "Esteemed wangfei's pulse is heavy and slow, I fear that she's been over exhausted and lost some of her vitality. But as long as she takes good care of herself, she can definitely expect a child."
Imperial Physician Li's last words were intended for Grand Concubine Yi's ears. Only then did she strive to lift her spirits and said, "Yunxi, don't run about these few days. Take good care of your body."
Han Yunxi smiled hypocritically as she nodded. "Yes."
Imperial Physician Li wrote a prescription and left a few instructions before he departed. Han Yunxi saw that the formula was for a rather good nourishing medicine and accepted it.
"Mufei, the Spring Hunt is at the start of next month. As things stand, will sister-in-law be able to join in?" This was the purpose of Murong Wanru's visit today. The Spring Hunt that took place around Pure Brightness time (in early April) was a grand occasion in Tianning Country. Marquis Pingbei's estate had already received an invitation, while the Duke of Qin's estate had naturally received theirs even earlier. The Spring Hunt was an ideal chance to make her move. Since the empress dowager only gave her three months, she had to make use of time.
"Yunxi, the fifth of next month is the Spring Hunt. This will be your first time participating, so you can't be absent. Take good care of your body so you don't miss the occasion," Grand Concubine Yi said carelessly, her mood already waning.
"Yes," Han Yunxi didn't say much else, but obediently nodded her head.
With Murong Wanru there, Han Yunxi didn't stay long before leaving with Zhao mama. The whole way back, Zhao mama sought to console her.
"Esteemed wangfei, don't be sad. Things like this depend on fate, you won't have it just because you say you do. First, nourish your body well. As long as the green hills last, there'll always be wood to burn."
"Esteemed wangfei, walk a bit slower. I heard that there's a Hu ethnic physician trained in herbal medicines in the western part of the city who has a certain drug. A lot of girls in the palace have asked him for it. It's really effective, so this old servant will secretly get one back for you too."
"Esteemed wangfei, don't be depressed. Your build and bones weren't good to begin with, but low spirits will only hurt your body. Things like children come slowly. You and His Highness are both still young, there's no rush!"
Finally, Han Yunxi stopped to looked at Zhao mama, caught between anger and laughter. In the end, what she felt was warmth. How nice, there still existed people in this world who genuinely cared for her. She didn't want to lie to this kind hearted old mama, so Han Yunxi switched the topic. "Mama, tell me about Miss Wanru."
"What does esteemed wangfei want to know? This old servant will tell you everything she knows," Zhao mama said positively.
"How was she adopted by Grand Concubine Yi? Where are her real parents?" Han Yunxi asked.
Zhao mama thought back. "Back then, the late emperor was still alive and the Duke of Qin's estate didn't exist. The wife of the crown prince, our current empress, wanted to find a few court ladies to act as Princess Changping's playmates. Miss Wanru was one of the candidates, but as luck would have it, Grand Concubine Yi discovered her by chance. After giving birth to His Highness Duke of Qin, she couldn't have any more children. She'd always wanted a daughter, so perhaps it was fate that she liked Miss Wanru at first sight and adopted her. She'd always been a foster daughter without being conferred as princess. Then when the late emperor passed away, there was no one to confer the title anymore."
Han Yunxi listened carefully before asking, "Then what about her birth parents? They've never come by in all these years?"
Even servants of the palace had set times to leave and see their families. Han Yunxi had married into the family for so long without ever hearing about Murong Wanru's visiting relatives.
"I heard she was an orphan raised up by her relatives. They came by a few times when she was younger, but later on the relatives died too," Zhao mama replied truthfully.
Han Yunxi seemed lost in thought as she nodded her head. "Why didn't the emperor confer her the title of princess back then?"
If she had a title, then Murong Wanru's identity would be completely different now. The people of the estate wouldn't have to call her Miss Wanru then. Even if Grand Concubine Yi doted enthusiastically on Murong Wanru, things shouldn't have been left to this extent.
Zhao mama didn't know either, but ventured to guess. "Perhaps Grand Concubine Yi only intended to raise her temporarily, but after the late emperor passed away and the crown prince ascended the throne, Grand Concubine Yi couldn't bring up the topic anymore."
Han Yunxi still felt that something was off, but she couldn't tell what. In the end, she nodded her head and asked no more.
1. meimei () - little sister.