As long as Han Yunxi died, the position of head wife would be forever empty. After Murong Wanru became the secondary wife, she could enjoy all the benefits of a consort and forget about her nightmarish status as a woman of low birth. When they finally reached the woodhouse door, the calm Murong Wanru almost couldn't wait any longer. As soon as the guards unlocked the doors, she pushed her way inside. In the room filled with firewood, an icy-blue figure lay paralyzed in the sogon grass, weak and frail as if a single puff of wind could blow her away.
"Heheh, I knew she had fainted," Grand Concubine Yi gave a cold snort. "Someone, go wake her up."
The guard immediately brought over a bucket of water. Murong Wanru knew exactly how things stood and suppressed her rising emotions as she spoke. "Mufei, the water's so cold. Why don't I go wake up sister-in-law instead?"
Grand Concubine Yi gave her a grudging look. "You're still so softhearted!"
Murong Wanru was filled with exultation as she quickly stepped forward, pretending to push Han Yunxi. "Sister-in-law, sister-in-law, wake up. Mufei's here...sister-in-law. Sister-in-law, be good and admit your wrongs to mufei, she'll forgive you then."
While she pushed, she used her body to block the view of the people behind her while her other hand trembled involuntarily. She was both excited and a bit fearful, but still went to check for Han Yunxi's breathing beneath her nose. As the finger drew closer, her heart clenched. She already knew what to shout after discovering that Han Yunxi had died, and exactly what to say.
Murong Wanru's hand didn't even reach Han Yunxi's nose before the latter opened her eyes to stare at her.
"I'm not dead yet. What are you doing?" Although she was already extremely weak, Han Yunxi hadn't lost consciousness. Her innate cautiousness made her stand on guard right now like a hedgehog, her phoenix eyes giving Murong Wanru a glare as sharp as a knife. Startled, Murong Wanru gave a shrill cry of 'Ah!' and tumbled backwards.
"Wanru! What's wrong?" Grand Concubine Yi cried out in alarm. Two guards immediately rushed over to hold Han Yunxi in place.
Taking Murong Wanru by the hand, Grand Concubine Yi looked disdainfully down at at Han Yunxi. "What did you do to Wanru?"
"I haven't eaten for days...mufei, what do you think I could still do to her?" Han Yunxi mocked in return.
Grand Concubine Yi was speechless for a while, before flying into a rage out of humiliation as she kicked aside the rancid food. "Even a dog of the house can eat but what, you can't?"
Was this insult to say that she was less than even a dog?
Han Yunxi raised herself up with difficulty. "Mufei...chenqie will, will place a bet with you, how's that?"
Grand Concubine Yi was unhappy but still curious. "What other things could you have? Say it for us to hear."
Han Yunxi used great effort to lift the bowl of clear water by her side. "Mufei...I bet that even the dogs of the house won't drink this water."
Murong Wanru was astonished. "Sister-in-law, why are you betting with mufei like this? Mufei was just too angry, that's why she used dogs as an example. The younger generation shouldn't try to match wits with the older one." So speaking, she seized the water from Han Yunxi's hands and angrily poured it out. In response, Han Yunxi carried a cold smile in her heart. She was so weak that it took effort to even talk, much less argue with Murong Wanru. All she wanted was to verify her guess. With Murong Wanru acting so nervous, she was certain without a doubt that the poison was hers!
As Han Yunxi looked at her, her white lips drew into a ridiculing smile. Murong Wanru seemed to have gotten an electric shock and hastily avoided her gaze. She held onto Grand Concubine Yi's hand instead. "Mufei don't be angry, give sister-in-law a little more time. Sister-in-law will definitely admit her mistakes."
Han Yunxi smiled coldly. Murong Wanru was afraid that she'd apologize, right? She feared that she and Grand Concubine Yi's relations would warm up, didn't she? Murong Wanru was like a mediator in a quarrel, hurriedly trying to drag Grand Concubine Yi away. Compared to the likes of her, who acted meek and subservient to get to Grand Concubine Yi's good graces, Han Yunxi had a bargaining chip that no woman of this time period possessed. She looked icily at Murong Wanru, her lips quirked in that perpetually mocking smile.
Right at this moment, Gui mama suddenly rushed in from outside. "Grand Imperial Concubine! Grand Imperial Concubine, it's not good! Not good!"
"What's made you so flustered?" Grand Concubine Yi said unhappily.
"Grand Imperial Concubine, Princess Changping's arrived!" Gui mama said in a rush.
With these words, Han Yunxi's smile widened as she saw Murong Wanru grow suddenly fearful.
"Princess Changping?" Grand Concubine Yi was flabbergasted. This spoiled princess of the empress dowager and empress had never come to the Duke of Qin's estate before, what did she want?
When there was nothing going on, the grand concubine never visited the imperial halls. It had been a long time since she'd formally faced off against the empress dowager's people. In a moment, Grand Concubine Yi was filled with high spirits as she pushed Han Yunxi's matter to the back of her head.
"So what if she's come? Why are you so flustered? Even if the empress dowager comes, it's the same thing! Let her wait, I don't have time to see her," she gracefully waved a hand. "I'll go soak in a hot bath first, then take a nap. Aye, it's still the hot springs at home that are comfortable."
Upon seeing this, Gui mama was laden with grief. She didn't dare speak, yet she couldn't not say it, either. "Grand Imperial Concubine...Princess Changping said...she said she wants to see Qin Wangfei!"
Everyone was shocked by those words. So she'd come to find Han Yunxi. Murong Wanru was greatly alarmed and looked with dread at Han Yunxi. Grand Concubine Yi's face was burning with shame and anger as she kicked Gui mama with her foot. "Useless thing, you can't even report things properly! What does Princess Changping want to see her for?"
"Your servant doesn't know. Princess Changping is very anxious. She says if she doesn't see her, she'll stay here overnight," Gui mama replied quickly.
Only then did Grand Concubine Yi turn to look at Han Yunxi with a cold scoff. "What does Changping want you for?"
Han Yunxi withdrew her smile and pretended to shake her head weakly. She didn't reply. Grand Concubine Yi narrowed her eyes but didn't ask further, only delegating Gui mama. "Go tell her that Qin Wangfei has no time, and to let her wait." Since the empress dowager had dared to issue an arrest warrant for the Duke of Qin's people behind her back, of course she'd seize the opportunity to show strength against Princess Changping.
Seeing the group of people leave, Han Yunxi finally lowered her guard to lie listlessly on the grass, her hands clenched into fists. So painful, it felt like her insides were eating her up. Still, she encouraged herself from the bottom of her heart. "Han Yunxi, you have to hold on. Just bear it a bit longer, you'll be okay very soon."
How could Princess Changping stand waiting around? She shouted and screamed from the guest hall, but Grand Concubine Yi allowed her to do as she pleased without paying any attention.
"What a Han Yunxi! Hmph, this princess will go find imperial mother, then we'll see if you meet me or not!" Princess Changping left behind these words and angrily stormed out.
Grand Concubine Yi was very puzzled. "Wanru, why do you think Princess Changping came by?"
"I thought it strange too. She's not holding a grudge from the young general's incident, right?" Murong Wanru guessed.
"As if she dares! I haven't even settled accounts with her yet, but she still has the face to see me?" Grand Concubine Yi immediately grew angry.
No matter why Princess Changping came, Murong Wanru wouldn't give Han Yunxi any chance to leave the woodhouse. She had to show a strong hand first. That night, she'd arranged for hitmen to kill her, but unexpectedly, Princess Changping came at late night with the empress instead. The empress differed from Princess Changping in that she was the mother of the nation and the emperor's official wife. Grand Concubine Yi still had to be polite on the surface.
"Oh my! What kind of breeze did we have tonight to blow mother and daughter to this one's house?" Grand Concubine Yi's face was pleasant and amiable as she summoned the servants to bring out good tea.
The empress sat in a higher position than an imperial concubine, but in terms of filial piety, she still had to pay respects to Grand Concubine Yi. Of course, the grand imperial concubine returned the salutations. Princess Changping was already in a huff and stood to one side, unmoving. Only now did Grand Concubine Yi discover that the princess was wearing a bamboo hat with a white muslin veil all around the perimeter, completely covering her face and head.
"Changping is..." Grand Concubine Yi was curious.
A single question was enough to incite Princess Changping, who cried out, "I'm fine!"
"Changping, don't be rude," the empress chided unhappily, though she was helpless at heart.
Princess Changping had no idea what sort of dirty thing had infected her that night at the prisons. After her feet and face had tickled for two days, an unbearable itch had developed that made her claw and scratch. Who knew that she'd grow a tinea rash afterwards?
At first it started on her feet, but by the second day it'd grown on her face. There were chunks after chunks of skin that resembled psoriasis, but all the imperial physicians she'd seen said that wasn't the case. They could only verify that it wasn't psoriasis, but no one could diagnose it specifically. A few suspected that it was poison, but none of the poison doctors could figure it out, either. Thanks to Mu Qingwu's incident, Princess Changping hated Imperial Physician Gu and didn't look for him. But ever since the day before yesterday, her foot rash began to itch again. There was no way Princess Changping could stand it beyond scratching and scratching until she clawed her skin open. The imperial physicians who saw her could only stammer that she might leave scars.
Princess Changping was desperate enough to set aside her resentment to look for Imperial Physician Gu. He said it should be poison, but it wasn't something he could treat. Then he suggested she ask Han Yunxi to have a look instead. Princess Changping had lost it right then and there, saying that was impossible.
And yet, starting from yesterday, the rashes on her face began to itch as well. If she scratched, she'd leave scars, but when the rash reacted, she couldn't help but roll around the ground in suffering, not daring to touch them with her hands.
She didn't want to ruin her face!
Though she was neither resigned to nor believed in Han Yunxi's medical skills, there was no other way left. She couldn't give up her last thread of hope and ended up sullenly looking for Han Yunxi.
Grand Concubine Yi drew her lips up in a satirizing smile. "This girl's is just this temper, I'm used to it."
The empress was here for a favor and didn't dare retort. Instead she laughed. "Grand Concubine Yi, is Qin Wangfei not at home? Changping said she came at night but didn't see her."
Grand Concubine Yi asked in reply, "What matter do you have with Yunxi?"
The empress was about to speak when Princess Changping cut her off. She didn't want Grand Concubine Yi to know her face was ruined. The more people that knew, the more people would laugh at her! If Grand Concubine Yi treated it as a joke, she'd be even more disgraced
"I have some business to find her for. Grand Concubine Yi, hurry and have her come out, I have important matters that will take her into the palace," Princess Changping said directly.
Grand Concubine Yi exhaled lightly. She didn't ask any more, but said lightly, "Is it like that? But Yunxi and the Duke of Qin went out for a sightseeing tour."
"What? Where did they go?" Princess Changping was astonished enough to take a few steps forward, extremely agitated.
"Aiya, Changping. You should know your Imperial Uncle Qin's disposition. He never tells this mother of his where he's going," Grand Concubine Yi wore a helpless look on her face.
Princess Changping was burning with impatience. "Then...then they..."
At this moment, the empress suddenly grabbed Princess Changping's hands. An empress was still an empress. She knew Grand Concubine Yi was purposely making things difficult. Princess Changping still wanted to talk, but the empress tightened her grip on her hands, rebuking her sternly.
"Changping, I've taught you so many times not to be so forward. You're showing no respect for your elders. Yes, your matter's very important, but since the Qin Wangfei's not here, aren't you just making things awkward for Grand Concubine Yi?"
 tinea (?) - xuan, also called ringworm due to its appearance as a circular rash with a ring-like appearance. A type of common fungal infection of the skin.