Chapter 224: Your presence brings light to my humble dwelling at the justice courts
Since when had His Highness Duke of Qin ever gone to the justice courts, much less visit someone in jail? The news of Qin Wangfei being imprisoned had already caused a stir. The crown prince was still being treated for his illness, while the emperor had yet to set a crime on the criminals. Everyone was paying close attention to the Duke of Qin's movements. Unexpectedly, this duke didn't even bother with the palace, but went straight for the prisons instead.
Official Ouyang of the justice courts was naturally one of Emperor Tianhui's men, but he didn't dare slight His Highness Duke of Qin. That man's tricks and schemes were fine enough to cut his official's hat into nothing. Between Emperor Tianhui and His Highness Duke of Qin, even a third-rank official like him had to tread carefully as if walking on thin ice. Originally, Han Yunxi and Gu Beiyue had been given common prison cells and treated as ordinary prisoners. Official Ouyang had even prepared the torture chambers and was simply waiting for Emperor Tianhui's command to start the inquest. But as soon as he heard His Highness Duke of Qin was coming, Official Ouyang firmly relocated each of the pair to clean, comfortable adjacent cells and waited upon them with the best service.
The reason why Long Feiye's visit to the prison cells was such public news was because he had ordered people to spread the word before his visit. This meant that the justice courts...had to formally receive him.
A carriage bearing the insignia of the Duke of Qin stopped before the gates of the justice courts. Dressed in magnificent robes, Long Feiye stepped on the back of a prostrate servant to descend elegantly from the carriage. His handsome, solitary figure emanated an untouchable aura of nobility. All the doors of the justice courts had been flung open to receive him, while Official Ouyang and the rest were all prostrating themselves before the steps in respect. The grand sight made it impossible for the capital to be ignorant of Long Feiye's visit to the prisons. What kind of a visit was this? Those who didn't know any better might assume the Duke of Qin was here to inspect the prisons instead!
Meanwhile, Long Feiye didn't pay any attention to the display spread out before him. He walked right past Official Ouyang and said coldly, "Still not leading the way?"
"Yes, yes!" Official Ouyang got up immediately to personally lead the way. This was his first time seeing His Highness Duke of Qin up close and personal, but he was too frightened and awestruck to even raise his head. Long Feiye didn't ask any questions during their trip. But once they reached the prisoners' cells, he had the misfortune of seeing Han Yunxi plastered to the prison bars as she spoke to Gu Beiyue in low tones. The two looked very intimate. His steps stopped as he wordlessly took in the sight.
Was His Highness Duke of Qin eating vinegar? Did a man whose very existence sent countless women into frenzy need to eat vinegar at all?
Neither Official Ouyang or any of the men by his side grasped the full situation, so none of them dared to speak up. Official Ouyang worked up the courage to lift his head and steal a glance at Long Feiye, but the sight was enough to make him break out in cold sweat. After that, he didn't dare to lift his head again!
Heaven knows how utterly frigid his face was!
Official Ouyang was beginning to wonder whether his choice of prison cells was the right one after all. In the silence, even the air grew taut with tension. It was only when Han Yunxi inadvertently looked over and noticed them that everyone collectively exhaled. Things might've turned serious if she hadn't. Han Yunxi was surprised. She'd only been moved into this cell this morning, but Long Feiye had shown up in just half a day's time. She knew that this fellow would take care of the situation quickly even without Zhao mama speaking up, but she never thought he'd make an appearance in person. Just then, she'd been discussing the situation with Gu Beiyue. Short of people from Medicine City showing up to help them out, aid would be difficult.
Long Feiye should know this as well, right?
He was good friends with Medicine City's Wang Family. It'd be easy for Wang Gong to step forward and seek out Medicine City's Council of Elders. Naturally, Han Yunxi didn't tell this part to Gu Beiyue. Currently she was puzzling over why Long Feiye had come here instead of going to the Wangs. Whatever the case, she'd be safe now that he'd arrived. Han Yunxi didn't manage to hide the pleasant surprise in her eyes as her pupils shone.
"Greetings to Your Highness Duke of Qin," Gu Beiyue paid his respects with a bow as Han Yunxi murmured in turn.
Long Feiye walked closer wordlessly. Official Ouyang hurried forward to unlock the cell, but Long Feiye had no intentions of going inside. Coldly he asked, "Official Ouyang, who allowed you to unlock the cells of the emperor's personally convicted criminals without His Majesty's orders?"
Everyone gave a start at these words, even Han Yunxi. She had no idea what he meant. Gu Beiyue stood in the shadows, his expression hidden. But Long Feiye refused to let him rise, so he had to keep his half-bent stance. Official Ouyang couldn't make heads or tails of the situation, but dutifully retreated.
"Yes, yes, Your Highness's instruction is apt. This official has neglected his duties."
Even if Long Feiye wasn't going inside the jail cells, he couldn't simply be left standing. Official Ouyang hurriedly ordered someone to bring over a chair so he could sit outside the cells, along with ample tea, snacks, and burning incense. Long Feiye sat down lazily, but he was in no rush to speak. Because of this, Han Yunxi kept quiet too since she had yet to grasp the full picture. This left Official Ouyang extremely anxious.
He was stuck between them!
Just what did His Highness Duke of Qin mean by his actions? Should he tactfully retreat so His Highness Duke of Qin and Qin Wangfei were left to talk alone? Or should he stand by and hear what they had to say?
"Official Ouyang, now that the emperor's imprisoned the people here, are you the one overseeing their case?" Long Feiye finally spoke up.
"Yes." Official Ouyang was afraid to reveal too much as he silently cried for help. The Duke of Qin wasn't here to visit any prisoners, but to interrogate him.
"When will the trial began?" Long Feiye asked next.
This official is waiting for His Majesty's orders as well." Official Ouyang really had no idea.
"According to law, is it possible to bail out Qin Wangfei until the trail begins?" Long Feiye asked once more.
So Long Feiye was here to bail her out. This fellow at least possessed some semblance of human warmth. Han Yunxi's heart eased.
"Your Highness, according to the law...there's no way to post bail for the emperor's personally convicted criminals...unless..."
Before Official Ouyang could finish, Long Feiye raised a hand to signal him to stop speaking. His attitude took a 180 degree turn. "Even the Son of Heaven commits a crime should be treated the same as a common citizen after committing a crime. Official Ouyang is quite just and impartial, this deserves a commendation."
Overwhelmed with favor from his superior, Official Ouyang was left at a loss for words. Surprised by the unexpected turn, Han Yunxi arched an eyebrow as she looked fixedly towards Long Feiye.
What was the point of him coming?!
Long Feiye's gaze was calm. He was about to keep talking when there was a sudden announcement.
"Qinwang Rong arrives..."
Who was he? Tianning had six ranks of prince (wang), duke (gong), marquis (hou), earl (bo), viscount (zi), and baron (nan) 1. The princes (wang) were blood relations of the imperial clan. Princes of the first rank were typically called Qinwang 2, while those of the second rank were called Junwang3. Judging by status alone, Qinwang Rong and the Duke of Qin were both equal to Qinwang rank. But in terms of seniority within the family, both the Duke of Qin and Emperor Tianhui had to call this Qingwang Rong their imperial uncle.
Qinwang Rong was none other than the late emperor's younger brother! He was the most outstanding subject of the previous emperor who'd fought to help him win state power. After the previous emperor had ascended the throne, he'd resoltuely retired at the height of his official career to live in seclusion away from politics. It was rare for him to interfere in affairs of state. Despite having no true power with his status, he was extremely prestigious within the imperial clan. While the previous emperor was still living, Qinqang Rong was the one who best had his ear. When the imperial sons were all vying for the throne, none of them had spared any effort to draw him to their side. Despite this, Qinwang Rong maintained his distance and didn't favor any of the princes. Now that Tianning belonged to Emperor Tianhui, this old qinwang who'd refused Emperor Tianhui in the past still possessed weighty words as of old. Both Emperor Tianhui and the Duke of Qin still had to hail him as an imperial uncle.
Who would've expected Qinwang Rong to show up at this critical juncture? But why had he come? Had Emperor Tianhui invited him over to frighten the Duke of Qin? That didn't seem very possible. Back when the imperial sons were still fighting over the throne, Qinwang Rong hadn't shown his face, but the one he doted on most was His Highness Duke of Qin.
Official Ouyang was about to go greet the guest when Qinwang Rong appeared. His coarse eyebrows arched up to his temples, framing a pair of intelligent eyes. Though old in years and white of hair, he carried an innate aura of luxury along with his commanding presence. Even though he was dressed in scholarly robes, it couldn't mask stern dignity and awe-inspiring air he'd gained after half a lifetime riding on military horses. Han Yunxi had heard of this Qinwang Rong for awhile. Of all the princes in Tianning, this Qinwang Rong was the most respected one aside from Long Feiye. Just what kind of wind had blown in Tianning's most noble princes to shed light on the humble justice courts?!
No one else knew why Qinwang Rong had shown up, but Han Yunxi had an idea. News of Mama Su must have traveled to his ears, too. Long Feiye rose with a respectful greeting. "Imperial Uncle, it's been a while."
Han Yunxi did a most formal bow with everyone else. "Greetings to Qinwang Rong, may Qinwang Rong live for thousands and thousands of years!"
Qinwang Rong didn't even bother with Han Yunxi's existence, much less look her way. He sat down in Long Feiye's seat and said, "Feiye, this prince just got the news and came to take a look. I won't hinder you all, will I?"
Long Feiye didn't reply directly, but said coldly, "Han Yunxi, why haven't you thanked Imperial Uncle for his solicitude yet?"
Han Yunxi expressed her thanks, but Qinwang Rong didn't even accept it. Instead he laughed coldly and said, "This prince made a special trip for the crown prince's sake to see what kind of degenerate woman dared to swindle the palace and plot against the crown prince!"
Silence befell his words. Han Yunxi clenched her fists and was about to retort when Long Feiye spoke up. "If she wasn't the daughter of the empress dowager's lifesaver, would His Majesty even believe her? It's a pity..." he trailed off with a light chuckle.
Han Yunxi looked at him in disbelief. Only now did she sense that this fellow wasn't here for a visit or to bail her out. Instead, he was making his position clear by drawing a clear line of demarcation between them! Because of Mama Su? Because of the upheavals in court, the crown prince's illness, and the appearance of Qinwang Rong, he was going to abandon ship and save his own skin?
How could he be this kind of person?
Han Yunxi gritted her teeth, her anger at Long Feiye surpassing that of her dissatisfaction towards Qinwang Rong. She could hardly believe it. Did he knew that he'd have to toss her aside one day, and that's why he refuse to share with her all his secrets? She'd been fully willing to help him, but this was the first time she realized how pathetically foolish she was.
Qinwang Rong was surprised by Long Feiye's attitude as well, but he was an experienced old man, not some easily startled calf. "Han Congan has already misdiagnosed him once. Now this happened. As this prince sees it, the Han Clan must be put to death!" he said coldly.
The Han Clan was probably what Han Yunxi cared about the most. Unbelievably, Long Feiye echoed his views. "After a verdict's been reached, severe punishment is necessary. Your lordship came today specifically to make things clear for Official Ouyang. He need not harbor misgivings about your lordship's face. He can just abide by the laws." So speaking, he paused before adding, "Officialy Ouyang is quite the impartial man. Your lordship was just praising him."
Official Ouyang was long left at a loss by His Highness Duke of Qin's behavior. He assumed that the Duke of Qin must be making concessions to His Majesty now that Qinwang Rong was here. Qin Wangfei was nothing more than a woman, after all. When it was time to throw her out, then she'd be tossed aside.
"Your Highness is mistaken in his praise. It is this official's duty to handle affairs impartially. This official definitely won't disappoint His Majesty!"
1. prince, duke, marquis, earl, viscount, baron (，，，，，) - wang, gong, hou, bo, zi, nan, noble titles of differing ranks and their approximate English equivalents. Note: the Duke of Qin is literally "Qin Wang" (), and his ranking is officially equal to that of the princes (wang). However, I did not translate him as "Prince Qin" to avoid confusion, as his power is greater than that of the imperial princes. There were also consistency/clarity considerations related to spoilers for later on in the story.
2. Qinwang () - a prince of the first rank in the imperial clan, usually sons of the emperor. Important Note: the "Qin" in Qinwang is a different character from the Qin in Duke of Qin ( vs ). Qin () means "next of kin, blood relation, relative" while Qin () is a surname.
3. Junwang () - a prince of the second rank. Jun is a character that means "prefecture."