Chapter 212: Status, name matching reality
Nothing was more lamentable than someone who deceived herself as well as others. With Murong Wanru holding her back, Grand Concubine Yi wouldn't dare kick up a row in the future. Now that she knew about the surviving witness to the truth, Long Feiye should be satisfied with the results, right?
Han Yunxi didn't ask any more, but coldly darted a glance at Murong Wanru. "Mufei, why don't you stay with Wanru for awhile? She'll regain consciousness for the length of time it takes to burn a stick of incense. After that, she'll never wake, so seize the time to tell her what you need to."
Grand Concubine Yi sucked in a cold breath at these words. She narrowly forgot to breathe altogether. After accepting that Murong Wanru would never wake up, hearing this so suddenly left her at a momentary loss. She didn't know what to do.
"She's almost awake. It's only a length of incense's worth of time. Mufei can take it into your own hands."
"A length of incense..." Grand Concubine Yi murmured to herself. Should she be thrilled or frightened?
Han Yunxi didn't explain much, but locked the door after she went out. She didn't leave, but sat right outside to wait in silence. It was then that Long Feiye emerged from the darkness. Han Yunxi was about to rise when Long Feiye signaled her to keep sitting. He didn't ask her anything, but sat down next to her.
"That mama's called..."
Before Han Yunxi finished, Long Feiye cut her off. "Mm, I've already sent someone to investigate."
Fine, she should've guessed that this guy would spy on everything happening inside the room. Judging by his reaction, he should be pretty satisfied with how she handled things.
Some time later, movement finally stirred within the room. Murong Wanru had woken up. It wasn't clear what she talked about with Grand Concubine Yi, but their low voices suddenly escalated with Murong Wanru's shrill tones.
"For what?! I hate you! Mufei, I'll hate you for the rest of my life!"
"I'm a princess! I'm a most respected, most honorable princess. Why won't you give me my proper title! Why can I only be a foster daughter!"
"Mufei, I'll never forgive you! You're the one who stripped everything from me!"
"I can't accept this, I want my true title! I'm going to tell the emperor everything. I'm the one who's part of the imperial clan. Me!"
"Mufei, you ruined my entire life. I wasn't supposed to end up like this! I don't want this! I don't!"
It wasn't clear how Grand Concubine Yi reacted after hearing every screech and bitter accusation, but she must be feeling awful. Despite that, it was Murong Wanru who felt the worst of all. She was right, her life shouldn't have ended up like this. The one thing she minded the most in her life was her lowly status. Who knew that this was the truth? Yet now that she knew, she was still helpless to change things. The screams in the room kept going, so Han Yunxi rose to walk away. She didn't want to hear the rest. She knew that doing this was even crueler to Murong Wanru and Grand Concubine Yi than killing them outright. Still, it served Murong Wanru right, so she wouldn't feel sorry for that fact.
Long Feiye watched Han Yunxi's retreating form as his lips drew into a satisfied curve.
Placing importance on ties of comradeship? Han Yunxi, you're simply ruthless...but such a ruthless heart is exactly what your lordship wants.
Marquis Pingbei's estate, the Ministry of Appointment's estate, and the third-rank minister's family naturally had no mood to join in the Spring Hunt either. They rushed back that very night and were waiting in the guest hall. Everyone was concerned about Grand Concubine Yi and Murong Wanru, especially Marquis Pingbei and his wife. Like ants on a hot pan, they dreaded lest Grand Concubine Yi and Murong Wanru came to some misfortune. They'd finally clambered up such a high branch, so if it broke, they'd have an ugly fall. Sadly, nobody received them at the Duke of Qin's estate, nor could they find anyone to ask. After waiting for two hours, the old magistrate and third-rank minister left, leaving the Marquis Pingbei trio to keep waiting.
Once Murong Wanru completely sank into her coma, Long Feiye found Imperial Physician Li. No matter how Imperial Physician Li looked, he couldn't find the cause of illness. In the end, he could only say she'd been frightened out of her wits and hit her head hard enough to cause unconsciousness. As to when she'd wake, he wasn't certain. Grand Concubine Yi stood on the side, clear about the true situation. Her face was grieved and heartbroken, the traces of tears still evident on her cheeks. She didn't ask a single question. If she wasn't going to ask for further investigation, who would?
As a result, the aftermath of the plot left Grand Concubine Yi severely ill and bedridden. Murong Wanru incurred serious injuries and ended up in a coma, while the two groups of assassins took the full blame. Early next morning, Marquis Pingbei's estate took away Murong Wanru as the news broke out to the public. The Spring Hunt's invited guests were still on their way to the hunt, while the empress dowager had long followed the crown prince to the camping grounds. Her original plan was to invite the crown prince for a walk after hearing the good news. Still, Man proposed but God disposed. Right now she sat stiff and still, her face expressionless. Last night, news had spoken of a second wave of assassins. Grand Concubine Yi and Murong Wanru had been injured and personally brought back to the estate by the Duke of Qin. The empress dowager had spent a sleepless night hoping that Murong Wanru had managed to luck out and make her move before she got hurt.
And yet, she never expected this to be the result!
After all, she'd waited an entire night for news of Grand Concubine Yi's death. She was anticipating the moment Long Feiye took three acupuncture needles out of Grand Concubine Yi and framed a case against Han Yunxi for killing her as an inside job. Then Han Yunxi would be charged with murder! How could she accept the results now? Grand Concubine Yi hadn't died, but Murong Wanru was as good as dead! More than that, the real assassins had been aiming for Han Yunxi, yet she'd escaped unscathed!
Was this damned girl inherently blessed with strong survivability?
By her side, Li mama reminded worriedly, "Mistress, I heard that they captured some live ones from the first wave of assassins. They've been locked up in the justice courts, should we take care of them?"
Only then did the empress dowager recovered with a displeased tone. "Those were Murong Wanru's men. What do we need to take care of?" All she did was give Murong Wanru an idea and the three acupuncture needles. Both the carriage driver and assassins were arranged by the girl herself. Even if Han Yunxi thought of those three needles, she couldn't use it against her in any way. She wasn't afraid. If the girl poked her nose in in the future, she'd be the one with an advantage.
An angry Li mama said in a low voice, "Mistress, this old servant also heard that it was Qin Wangfei who injured those fake assassins."
"What? She knows martial arts?" the empress dowager found this very unexpected.
"It was told to me by eyewitnesses at the scene. They said she knew needle arts, and one needle was enough to kill a man," Li mama said resentfully.
The empress dowager was floored. "This won't do. We absolutely can't leave that damned girl about, she'll be a disaster sooner or later!"
"Mistress, as this old servant sees it, to face Han Yunxi we still have to start from...the Han family." Li mama seized the chance to make suggestions. She was about to go into detail when the empress dowager raised a hand to stop her.
"No, I've truly underestimated that girl. This matter requires time and future thought, it can't be rushed...can't be rushed..."
The empress dowager didn't show herself at the Spring Hunt. The next day, she returned back to the palace on the pretext of feeling unwell.
One month later, the justice courts found nothing from interrogating the assassins, and thus the matter of the assassination passed on like so. Meanwhile, Grand Concubine Yi suddenly turned pious after convalescing for a month. She handed over all matters at the Duke of Qin's estate to Han Yunxi. From then on, Han Yunxi became the one in charge of managing household affairs. When the news spread, all of the capital was in an uproar. Streets and alleys alike gossiped about how Han Yunxi was favored, but no one expected her to wield power at the Duke of Qin's estate so soon. From this day forth, the name of Qin Wangfei matched her status in reality! Still, the truth of the matter was limited to Han Yunxi and Long Feiye themselves. Even the empress dowager was stunned by the news.
"Absolutely. I heard the Duke of Qin's estate dismissed scores of servants yesterday. I'm afraid that Qin Wangfei is planning to bring in new blood."
The empress dowager shook her head. From what she understood of Grand Concubine Yi, the latter would never give up her power. Had Han Yunxi gained some sort of handle on her? But what sort of handle could she have over Grand Concubine Yi?
"Mistress, could it be the Duke of Qin's idea?" Li mama didn't understand either. This was the only possibility she could think of.
"Even if that was the case, it wouldn't be so easy, right?" the empress dowager was still lost in thought when a young eunuch ran over to report in a low voice.
"Esteemed Empress Dowager, Eunuch Gu's returned."
The empress dowager waved her hand impatiently. "Let him leave. That thing with no eyes, why is he bothering to investigate when the person's already gone?"
When the empress dowager had bribed Murong Wanru over to her side, she'd left herself some leeway in case the other betrayed her. Eunuch Gu was specifically sent to investigate Murong Wanru's past so her real family could be tracked down and used as collateral. Now that Murong Wanru was effectively a corpse, any more investigation was useless.
The young eunuch was about to leave when Li mama spoke up. "Mistress, since the investigation's been done, it wouldn't hurt to have a listen. Murong Wanru is still lying in Marquis Pingbei's estate, after all. I heard that Grand Concubine Yi even went to see her two times." When the empress dowager didn't reply, Li mama ordered the eunuch to hurry and bring the other one over.
As it turned out, Eunuch Gu brought over news. "To report to esteemed empress dowager, this old servant investigated according to the records of that year. Murong Wanru's family have all passed away, with no news regarding any of her other relatives. Nothing could be found."
Back then, the empress had personally selected Murong Wanru along with other girls to be Princess Changping's playmate. She was six years old, an orphan that was raised by her relatives, the Chen Clan village in the village outside the southern outskirts of the capital. Because she was chosen by the empress, nobody felt suspicious when Grand Concubine Yi took a fancy to her. And since Grand Concubine Yi couldn't have any more children after bearing the Duke of Qin despite wanting a daughter, such an action was only logical. But Eunuch Gu's words seemed to enlighten the empress dowager. She caught the familiar scent of something fishy about the whole thing!
"How could she not have a single relative left? Could it be that Murong Wanru's never contacted her family all these years?" Li mama was curious, too.
"The couple who raised her both died in an accident not long after she entered the palace. Later on, some relatives moved away, while others died. This old servant asked the Chen Clan villagers, but none of them knew a Murong Wanru anymore," Eunuch Gu replied honestly.
The empress dowager grew silent, a shadow falling across her eyes as they glimmered in the dark.
"Esteemed empress dowager, this old servant has already done his best, but it's truly..." Before Eunuch Gu finished, the empress dowager cut him off with a command.
"Li mama, bring me the 《Daily Records of the Imperial Harem》, quick!"
The 《Daily Records of the Imperial Harem》 recorded details such as when the imperial concubines received the emperor, their various pregnancies, births, and other such matters. It was usually managed by the empress, so the one in the empress dowager's hands concerned the years with the previous emperor.
Just what was she looking for?