Chapter 328: With regards to being biased
History had multiple accounts of sovereigns being enamoured with their lovers and missing morning court sessions as a result.
Emperor Tianhui had come to Noble Consort Yun's quarters as soon as his morning court session adjourned. His actions were understandable to some extent, Han Yunxi thought, if his target was Chu Qingge. She suspected that he wouldn't let the girl go so easily.
"Zhen came to see how you're both doing your investigations. Ask and examine as you need, there's no need to have any misgivings," Emperor Tianhui said solemnly.
"Yes," Han Yunxi replied with a single syllable, but Chu Qingge was far more enthusiastic.
"Since Your Majesty is so open-minded, Qingge will do her best to uncover the truth!"
Han Yunxi couldn't help but roll her eyes. What, so you won't try your best if Emperor Tianhui didn't show up?
"Zhen believes you!" Emperor Tianhui had a meaningful look in his eyes. Chu Qingge nodded. She was about to interrogate some more court ladies when Emperor Tianhui added, "Miss Chu, if there's anything you need help with, you can ask Zhen directly. Zhen will definitely give your assistance without delay." He'd long left Han Yunxi to dry in the sun.
"Thank you, Your Majesty!"
If this was in the past, Chu Qingge would have long noticed something off with Emperor Tianhui's gaze. But her mind was filled with thoughts of competing against Han Yunxi now. As long as there was a chance to beat Han Yunxi and show off before her, she'd use it without hesitation.
"It's Qingge's honor to receive such trust from the emperor," Chu Qingge said as she intentionally raised her voice. The empress dowager might have pushed Han Yunxi to the forefront, but Chu Qingge couldn't believe that old woman was sincere. She guessed that the empress dowager had a trap lying in wait for Han Yunxi. Emperor Tianhui was even less likely to help the woman out. Maybe he was preparing a trap, too! Even if she herself didn't have the empress dowager's support, Emperor Tianhui's trust was already enough to give her a one-up on Han Yunxi.
So what if Han Yunxi was Long Feiye's proper consort? So what if the rumors said that Long Feiye doted on her? Long Feiye was such a cold and busy man. How was it possible for him to always be at Han Yunxi's side and help her out with everything?
Chu Qingge's voice was so loud that Han Yunxi would've felt embarrassed for her sake if she didn't at least look over. She gave the girl a bewildered glance, wondering what she was so smug about. Doesn't she know that it's not an honor to gain Emperor Tianhui's trust? It's actually her misfortune.
"Aye..." Han Yunxi sighed lightly.
"Esteemed wangfei, His Majesty's definitely set his sights on that girl!" Zhao mama couldn't help but whisper. Being an experienced former servant of the imperial palace, she'd naturally noticed those details. In fact, she'd noticed as early as Chu Qingge's qin performance at the birthday banquet, but she hadn't paid it any mind at the time. After seeing Emperor Tianhui's gaze in person today, she was 100 percent convinced.
Han Yunxi signaled Zhao mama to be quiet before she entered the inner rooms. She figured that Emperor Tianhui already hated her enough, so she shouldn't stick around and ruin his romantic pursuits. But Chu Qingge felt restless as soon as Han Yunxi slipped away. Why did she leave? Is it because she can't stand it anymore?
"Your Majesty, Qingge will look around a bit inside. Please excuse my absence," Chu Qingge said respectfully.
"Go on," Emperor Tianhui smiled slightly, looking very amiable. By the time Chu Qingge turned around, he was still admiring her delicate, appealing figure. When she walked, her steps were lithe and graceful. Eventually, a satisfied curve rose onto his lips.
Heheh, the more I see, the more satisfied I feel.
Once Chu Qingge entered the rooms, she noticed that Han Yunxi didn't seem to be examining anything. She was actually sitting in a corner and whispering something in Zhao mama's ear. Mistress and servant were both wreathed in smiles. At her entrance, Han Yunxi only cast her a single glance. Even when Chu Qingge settled to sit right across from her, Han Yunxi ignored her in favor of small talk with Zhao mama. Chu Qingge listened for a while, but realized they were talking about trivial matters she didn't understand that had no relation to the case. She assumed that Han Yunxi would say something when she came in, but that wasn't the case.
After a while of sitting, Chu Qingge began to feel somewhat awkward. She put down her lofty attitude and asked coldly, "Han Yunxi, judging from your state, you've found something out, haven't you?"
"Nope," Han Yunxi didn't elaborate.
"Emperor Tianhui believes in me so much. Aren't you afraid?" Chu Qingge asked again.
"I'm not afraid." Han Yunxi only answered her questions, but offered no explanations of her own. It was obvious that she didn't want to talk with Chu Qingge at all. But Chu Qingge dearly wanted to know whether Han Yunxi minded Emperor Tianhui's obvious bias. More than that, she wanted to know what kind of charm she possessed, to keep Long Feiye by her side.
"Han Yunxi, you don't really think that old empress dowager is on your side, do you? Even if she does want to help you, I estimate that..." Chu Qingge lowered her voice in a fascmile of goodwill, "When I came to the palace this morning, I heard that the empress dowager's palace lost a great deal of treasures. She's vexed beyond belief, searching for them everywhere. She doesn't have time to worry about anything else."
At her words, both Han Yunxi and Zhao mama burst into uncontrollable laughter.
Lil Thing was amazing!
Chu Qingge was completely at a loss. "Han Yunxi, what you two laughing about?"
But Han Yunxi's reply was as simple as ever. "Nothing much." After that, she kept on joking with Zhao mama, talking about a whole heap of things as she ignored Chu Qingge.
Chu Qingge had come with full intentions to show off her strength, but her proud heart suddenly felt a sense of inferiority from being ignored. She gritted her teeth and left filled with hate. Han Yunxi, just you wait!
As soon as she went outside, she saw Emperor Tianhui drinking tea.
"Miss Chu, would you like to take a break?" Emperor Tianhui asked thoughtfully.
Finally, Chu Qingge sensed that something was amiss. She felt a bit strange, but she was too preoccupied to pursure the matter. "Many thanks for Your Majesty's kindness, but Qingge needs to seize this time to question more court ladies. There's quite a few I still need to find." Chu Qingge was very earnest. She spent all morning interrogating court ladies, asking for the most minute of details. She even repeated a few of her questions just in case the court ladies were lying. She had no idea that Emperor Tianhui had been watching her the entire time.
Chu Qingge was both industrious and diligent, but Han Yunxi spent her entire morning sitting down to gossip with Zhao mama, who told her lots of funny stories and scandals of the imperial palace. Han Yunxi wasn't being lazy, she'd just finished examining most of what she needed to investigate. She'd checked Noble Consort Yun's body, asked the court ladies a few questions, and generally knew where things stood.
Emperor Tianhui only left when it was nearly noon, but had someone send a sumptous lunch to Chu Qingge. It even had fruit for an after-lunch dessert. Han Yunxi and Zhao mama had to wait for the sedan chair to take them back to their living quarters to eat. Their temporary residence at the palace was rather far from Noble Consort Yun's quarters.
Chu Qingge sat alone at her table, elegantly enjoying a table full of delectable, delicious-smelling delicacies. Meanwhile, Han Yunxi and Zhao mama were left waiting by the door.
"Don't worry, esteemed wangfei. This old servant used silver to ensure the sedan chair arrives quickly. I've also arranged the palace's famous flower feast for you," Zhao mama murmured in a low voice.
"It's fine, I'm not hungry," Han Yunxi said honestly. With an old hand of the harem like Zhao mama by her side, she'd eaten and lived very well.
However, by the time Chu Qingge finished her meal, there was still no sign of their sedan chair. Zhao mama immediately understood what was going on. She cried angrily, "Those despicable calves! They took the silver but didn't do the work! Don't think they can underestimate this old servant just because I'm not in the palace anymore! I was here before the empress dowager was an empress dowager, before the emperor was an emperor!"
Han Yunxi felt her mouth twitch at the sight of Zhao mama. She never thought the woman had such a bold side to her personality. Inexplicably, she began to imagine the past. The empress dowager and Grand Concubine Yi, Emperor Tianhui and the Duke of Qin-they must have been embroiled in palace schemes of life and death back then. But Long Feiye should've been very young.
"Aiya, how come you two are still here?" Chu Qingge's voice rose up. Han Yunxi turned to see the girl walking towards them. Behind her, various court ladies were cleaning up the table of half-finished food.
Han Yunxi ignored her and murmured, "Zhao mama, why don't we walk there instead? We have nothing to do anyways."
Chu Qingge saw that they were about to leave and laughed out loud. "Han Yunxi, if you two are hungry, I can tell them to hold on clearing the table. You can eat what's left."
Zhao mama lost her temper. There was nothing cute about this Miss Chu at all. Esteemed wangfei hadn't bothered her all morning, so why did she keep picking on them?
"Miss Chu, the mistress of this palace only passed away recently, and yet you're eating an ostentatious meal in her very hall. Aren't you afraid she'll find you at night to demand her share?" Zhao mama's tone was very serious.
Chu Qingge felt a chill wind at her back after hearing those words. She subconsciously darted her head towards the coffin and spirit tablet in the main hall, where Noble Consort Yun lay at rest. Immediately, she felt her hairs stand on end.
"Old servant, what kind of nonsense are you spewing? That meal was awarded by His Majesty! Are you saying His Majesty's made a mistake with his conduct?" Chu Qingge replied sternly.
"Miss Chu, you keep mentioning His Majesty left and right. Noble Consort Yun won't be happy to hear that. She was always a type who liked to eat vinegar, don't you know?" Zhao mama reminded her faintly.
Once again, Chu Qingge's hairs stood on end. Still, her mouth refused to admit defeat. "What, are you guys jealous that His Majesty's biased in my favor?"
Zhao mama laughed. "What kind of things is Miss Chu saying? Everyone in the palace knows that His Majesty's just and impartial. How could he be biased in your favor? Now if you're talking frequent biases, my family's Duke of Qin is precisely such a man."
Han Yunxi wasn't even planning to speak up at this point. For the first time, she realized how amusing it was to have Zhao mama by her side! Most likely, Chu Qingge hadn't caught the true meaning behind the mama's words. Everyone in the palace knew Emperor Tianhui was just and impartial. If word spread that he was favoring Chu Qingge, she'd have a tough time of it during her stay here! The infighting between females of the imperial harem was even more terrifying than the struggles between men of the court. They could be callously cruel. It was impossible for the emperor to show them all consideration; otherwise, why would so many harem members meet with tragic deaths or unexpected miscarriages?
As expected, Chu Qingge didn't catch the implication in Zhao mama's words at all. She laughed coldly and said, "Is that so? Then why haven't we seen His Highness Duke of Qin coming over to deliver lunch? Qin Wangfei, I heard that His Highness Duke of Qin dotes on you. As it turns out, rumors are just rumors in the end!"
Unfortunately, as soon as Chu Qingge finished speaking, a eunuch by the gates loudly announced, "His Highness Duke of Qin arrives!"