The speeding carriages stopped not long after departing from the Duke of Qin's house. Princess Changping's poison had already flared up on her face, becoming unbearably itchy. Things were fine as long as they left the premises. Even if they were the middle of the streets, she didn't care.
One hand held the lantern while the other grabbed her dress as she hurried to Han Yunxi's carriage. Inside, Han Yunxi was still drowsy and instinctively put up a hand to block the light as the princess entered.
"Your highness, this is..."
Before she could finish, Princess Changping abruptly tore off her veil and revealed a face covered in rashes from the poison. Her pale complexion combined with the lantern light to create a horrifying sight.
"Monster!" Han Yunxi blurted out, only half-pretending. She understood this type of poison very well, but she'd never actually seen a case in person.
"Han Yunxi, you actually dared to call the princess a monster?" Princess Changping was very angry. Did she really look like one? And yet all the doctors who'd seen her had all been so frightened that she didn't even dare look in a mirror anymore.
"That's not...that's not..." Han Yunxi seemed extremely weak, too tired to even shake her head as she lay there, paralyzed. Actually, after taking a pill and drinking some millet congee, in addition to the ginseng flake, she was far from being so frail. But before such a strong-willed princess, of course she had to appear 'weakly.'
"Han Yunxi, get up! Imperial Physician Gu said you're very skilled in treating poisons, so hurry up and treat this for me! Hurry! I'm going to itch to death!" Princess Changping rudely demanded. Leaving aside the fact that Princess Changping belonged to the younger generation, she shouldn't be yelling or so insufferably arrogant towards the person she wanted a favor from. Without teaching her a real lesson, she'll never learn how to behave.
"Prin...cess, princess, I...I..." Han Yunxi tried for a long time without saying much of anything, making Princess Changping even more desperate. Her hands reached for her face multiple times, but she still couldn't bear to scratch.
"You ah what, you? Hurry up and see for me!" she said and suddenly drew closer, plastering her face up to Han Yunxi's. If this was anyone else, they might have thrown up already, but Han Yunxi had seen poisons much worse than this and was immune.
"Princess...princess...I...I don't have...any strength!" Finally, she finished what she was saying.
"Just look! Take a look! What kind of strength do you need for that? Aren't you super skilled? What, now you can't do anything?" Princess Changping was like an ant on a scorching pot, ordering her about as her hands clutched here and there, afraid of losing control.
"Then...then princess, bring..." Han Yunxi sounded like someone on her last breath.
Princess Changping couldn't bear to listen and yelled, "What do you want to say?!" She didn't know that the more excited she felt, the more her adrenaline would rise. These hormones would only encourage more flare-ups for her itching.
"Bring the lantern...a bit closer, so I can see clearly," Han Yunxi murmured slowly.
Despite how she felt, Princess Changping would do anything Han Yunxi asked her to now. She was very obedient and immediately brought the lantern closer. Unexpectedly, as soon as the light arrived, Han Yunxi didn't even spare Princess Changping a glance before closing her eyes and fainting away.
"AhhHHHHH!" Princess Changping couldn't hold back her rage and gave a shrill scream. Why was it like this?! She raised the lantern to smash Han Yunxi's face, but checked herself in time, just like how she forced herself to stop scratching.
Han Yunxi was her last hope!
Hearing the scream, the empress waiting outside couldn't help but ask, "Changping, what's wrong?"
Princess Changping stormed out of the carriage and smashed the lantern on the ground. Finally, she started to bawl. "She fainted! Wahhh, that slut actually fainted! Worthless thing!" As she cried, her hands started unconsciously clawing at her face. Seeing this, the frightened empress immediately grabbed both of them.
"You can't scratch! It'll leave a scar!"
A court lady on the side hastily helped her put on the hat and veil, but Princess Changping suddenly shoved the empress's hands away, tossed aside the hat and veil, and began to scratch in earnest. Heavens knew how itchy she was and how hard she scratched? Just one claw was enough to leave her cheeks bleeding! Princess Changping didn't seem to feel the pain, but kept on scratching.
"Ah!" the empress's face paled in fright. "Someone, quick...quickly stop her! Grab her hands!"
The guards rushed forward and did as she told.
"Let me go! How dare you! Let go!"
"I'll itch to death, release me! I'm ordering you to let go! I'll kill you all!"
Princess Changping's violent struggles scared the empress to the point of tears. "Hurry, tie up her hands and gag her!"
Even though it was the middle of the night, they were still on the main streets. If they startled the surrounding houses awake and word of this spread, how would Princess Changping face anyone in the future? Soon enough, the princess was gagged and tied. The empress looked towards Han Yunxi's carriage with red-rimmed eyes that were filled with hate.
Han Yunxi, if it wasn't for you, Changping wouldn't have gone to the prisons and contracted this poison. You better make sure that you can save her face, or else the empress dowager and I won't let you off!
She brought Princess Changping back into her own carriage before the whole retinue hastened back to the palace. Though the carriage was speeding along, it was barely bumpy in the wide and spacious carriage. Han Yunxi reclined languidly within without opening her eyes, though a secret smile shone on her face.
She got mixed up in all this, just so she could pay them back. She got mixed up in all this, so she wouldn't be afraid.
When they finally reached the palace, light was already coming in from the east. Princess Changping had grown weary and fallen asleep long after the poison's flareup receded. Han Yunxi was half-awake as they sent her to Princess Changping's Peaceful Hall. A court lady eased her onto a bed. Soon after, the empress arrived with Imperial Physician Gu.
"They say she's caught a chill. She's very weak and fainted on the way over," the empress explained the situation.
Gu Beiyue didn't speak, but sat by the bed and parted the curtains to check Han Yunxi's pulse. He was quite the genius at his craft and understood Han Yunxi's state as soon as he had examined her. Her current situation stemmed from starvation rather than any illness. She was feeble because she had no energy, but fortunately she was rescued in time so there weren't any major complications. Right now she should be recovering and not as delicate as the empress claimed. A spark of delight flashed in Gu Beiyue's clear eyes as he rose.
"To reply esteemed Empress, this is a severe case of the chills. Esteemed wangfei's body is extremely weak and needs careful nurturing. If she's forced awake to treat the princess, then this one fears..."
"What?" the empress asked hurriedly. Now that they were in the palace, she didn't care a whit about Han Yunxi's health. As long as she could treat Changping, she'd agree to do anything, even take Han Yunxi's own blood.
"This humble official fears the esteemed wangfei will not only be unable to treat Princess Changping, but possibly lose her own life as well!" Gu Beiyue was obviously exaggerating. But how would the empress know that much? As soon as she heard the situation, she grew anxious. If this was really the case, she could neither save Changping's face or pay back Han Yunxi's life. Had she but known earlier, she would've coaxed Changping to stay at the Duke of Qin's residence instead. So what if she was laughed at? At least it'd be easier than being responsible for Han Yunxi's life.
The empress took a deep breath. "Then we'll save her first. How long should it be until she recovers?"
"One or two days. But, I'm afraid Princess Changping will continue to have to suffer in the meantime," Gu Beiyue replied honestly.
The empress crinkled her eyebrows, filled with feelings she couldn't express in words. And yet there was no other way except to hand things over to Gu Beiyue. "Use the best medicines and have Qin Wangfei recover as soon as possible, understand?"
"This official understands," Gu Beiyue nodded. "This official will go write a prescription immediately." When he left, the empress gave Princess Changping one last look before leaving behind a court lady to watch over her.
Han Yunxi was so pleased that she almost laughed out loud. Heavens knows what kind of nice things Gu Beiyue would ask for her body's sake? One or two days' time wasn't enough to completely recover, but at least it made it safe for her to move around again.
Gu Beiyue was truly a smart and considerate man.
As Han Yunxi had expected, he prepared for her a very famous and precious type of nourishing medicinal soup. Han Yunxi wanted to eat it all up, but people who'd been starved for long periods couldn't eat or drink too much at once or else they'd die from indigestion. Gu Beiyue's prescription used the mildest method to nourish her body while also alleviating her intense hunger pains. With the medicine of this protective man and adequate sleep, Han Yunxi was doughty as a dragon and lively as a tiger after two days.
But...Princess Changping was miserable. Over these two days, her poison had flared up three times. The suffering was akin to tearing open her heart or ripping apart her lungs. She even entertained the thought of killing herself by ramming her head somewhere. By the time Han Yunxi got out of her bed, Princess Changping was lying on hers, hands and feet tied up to prevent her from trying self-mutilation. The empress sat by her bed and tried to coax her, but the princess heard none of it, murmuring instead, "Where's that slut, Han Yunxi? She won't help me, isn't that right?
"Muhou, bring her here, she has to be faking it! She definitely wants to see me die from poison!
"It's all her fault! She ruined everything! If it wasn't for her I wouldn't have gone to the prisons...wahhh, muhou, she was the one who hurt me!
"Muhou, let me go...I'm going to go find her!"
Han Yunxi followed Gu Beiyue in, listening without saying a word. Princess Changping hadn't even thought about what she did in the prisons that night, but instead had the audacity to blame Han Yunxi. When Gu Beiyue had been describing her situation these past two days, she felt enough sympathy to treat the princess's poison today. Now though, she changed her mind. A pitiful person still had a despicable side! Princess Changping wasn't someone she wanted to save, regardless of all those high morals about a doctor's benevolence.
"Chenqie pays respects to the esteemed empress."
"This official pays respects to the esteemed empress and her highness, the princess."
Han Yunxi and Gu Beiyue made salutations from beyond the bed curtains before the empress hastily had them rise. Kindly she said, "Yunxi, come quickly. Changping's been waiting for a very long time."
Princess Changping was no longer making an uproar, but her eyes stared nastily at Han Yunxi, who sat by the bed and said, "It's too dim, get a light here."
A court lady hastily shone a lantern over, the bright light forcing Princess Changping to blink; still, she stared fixedly at Han Yunxi. Once again, Han Yunxi spoke lightly. "Changping, why don't you close your eyes? Let me see if the poison's spread to the eyelids."
At these words, Princess Changping immediately closed her eyes in panic, giving Han Yunxi a sense of disdain. What was this girl so fixated on? She could keep staring if that's what she really wanted. Only now did Han Yunxi carefully examine her face, activating her detox system scanners in the dark to check how much the poison had spread, and whether it'd mutated in the meantime. Afterwards, she inspected the situation around the princess's legs as well. Princess Changping could be considered extremely lucky that the poison hadn't spread or changed form.
Seeing Han Yunxi finish her examination, the empress couldn't help but ask, "How is it, is it poison? What kind of poison? Can we treat it?"
Only then did Princess Changping realize Han Yunxi was done. Her eyes flew open as she demanded, "Han Yunxi, what are you dawdling for? Hurry up and speak!"
 an ant on a scorching pot (??????) - reguo shang de mayi, idiom meaning extremely anxious/agitated.
 doughty as a dragon and lively as a tiger (????) - shenglong huohu, to be brimming/bursting with energy, full of vim and vigor.
 muhou (??) - imperial mother, the variation on mufei; in this case, the mother is an official consort/empress rather than a concubine.