This damned girl Han Yunxi actually used her own words against her! A furious Lady Xu felt so stifled that she could taste blood rushing up her throat. If she hadn't held back, she might have spat it out.
This cheap thing with no sense of honor, did she think she could throw around the empress dowager's name just because she saved the crown prince? That was too naive! Lady Xu's hands curled into fists inside her sleeves, her eyebrows rising to her temples as she gave her an angry stare. She was originally planning to wait until her son's injuries were better before demanding for the storehouse key in the name of the household's eldest son. Now she had no time to worry about that! An auspicious day couldn't compare with a day chosen by chance. She wanted the key now to suppress Han Yunxi's arrogance!
"Esteemed wangfei is right, this commoner has been disrespectful," Lady Xu gave a thin smile as she bowed.
"It's fine as long as you can change yourself," Han Yunxi was steady and confident.
"If Seventh Young Master is all right, then I won't go in. Esteemed wangfei, you've come at just the right time. I was planning to pay you a call one of these days. How about you come to my place for some tea?" Lady Xu asked.
With these words, Han Yunxi knew that she was after the storehouse key! Little Chen Xiang had been urging Seventh Madame all these days without being aware of her worries. But Han Yunxi understood. She was a married off daughter. Despite her noble position, common customs decreed that she couldn't visit her old home too often, much less meddle in its affairs. Tianning Country was relatively open-minded and civilized, so many of its married daughters only returned home if they were divorced. In that case, if Lady Xu allied herself with a few concubines to demand for the storehouse key, she really had to hand it over.
But Han Yunxi dared to come precisely because she had a counter plan in place. She wasn't afraid!
"What's there to say that you can't say here?" Han Yunxi pretended to be ignorant and asked with curiosity.
"Despite that, I'm the current Han household head. It's merely more fitting to speak about it at my quarters." Lady Xu said, readying to leave before turning to give Han Yunyi a disdainful glance. She shouted into the nearby courtyard, "Seventh Madame, why don't you come along as well?"
Seventh Madame jerked, realizing this was a bad turn of events. But she had no choice but to follow along, reminding little Yi'er as she passed. "You and big sister Chen Xiang stay in the courtyard and wait. Don't run about, understand?"
Han Yunyi obediently nodded his head and stole a peek at Han Yunxi's back. For a long time, his dark eyes didn't even blink as he stared, as if he'd never see this big sister again. But Han Yunxi only took a few steps before turning her head.
"Little Yi'er, come here. Go along with your big sis."
A child was still a child. Han Yunyi immediately broke into a grin, unable to hide his feelings. He was about to run over when Seventh Madame cut in. "Esteemed wangfei, adults are going to discuss things, so maybe children..."
"It isn't anything important, so it's fine if he comes! I like him," Han Yunxi smiled, waving at little Yi'er.
Worry flitted across Seventh Madame's eyes before she stopped herself from speaking. She originally wanted to wait until esteemed wangfei came to talk about the storehouse key. But this time they ran into Lady Xu, which made things far less predictable.
Seeing that his mother didn't try to stop him anymore, little Yi'er was thrilled and flew over. But in the end, he was still shy. Although he was aiming for Han Yunxi in the beginning, he ended up grabbing his mother's hand instead.
Han Yunxi laughed and picked him up. "Why are you so afraid of me? I saved you before, so it's not like I'm going to eat you!"
Little Yi'er's face turned red, but he didn't say a word.
On one side, Lady Xu's lips curved up in derision as she allowed Han Yunxi to dote on the brat. No part of the storehouse key belongs to him! Han Yunxi, you just keep laughing. I'll be anticipating your reaction to the meeting.
"Go, tell Third Madame she's been invited as well. Just say there's important matters and she has to come!" Lady Xu ordered her servant in a low voice.
The whole way, Han Yunxi teased little Yi'er. Though he was bashful, he was also stubborn. No matter how Han Yunxi teased, he didn't speak. Perhaps it was fate, but Han Yunxi was remarkably patient and didn't get mad.
"Heyheyhey, little squirt, do you know who I am? If you won't answer me, I'll punish you!" Han Yunxi warned.
But Han Yunyi only looked at her as he blinked his big eyes, mute.
Han Yunxi mused again before asking, "Little squirt, big sister's decided to be your guardian and protect you. How do you plan to thank me after you've grown up?"
Little Yi'er actually moved his lips before timidly speaking, "When I grow up, I'll...I'll protect you."
Surprised, Han Yunxi laughed out loud. "So you finally chose to open your mouth, little squirt. Fine, big sister will remember. Here, pinky swear!"
So speaking, she stuck out her pinky. Little Yi'er blushed and stuck out his pinky as well. As they pinky promised, Han Yunxi's heart felt heavy. Little Yi'er, you have to grow up smoothly!
Aside from Lady Tianxin's Orchid Residence, only Lady Xu's Falling Serenity Residence commanded the largest area and best position in the household. In the beginning, this courtyard matched its name: quiet and beautiful. But after eldest young master Han Yuqi's multiple remodeling attempts, it lost its original elegance and refinement. Now it looked luxurious and lofty, so those who knew its name beforehand might think they came to the wrong courtyard at first glance.
Lady Xu looked forward to taking the storehouse key from Han Yunxi the whole way over. She fantasized over the reactions she'd get. Already, she'd prepared all sorts of excuses to make Han Yunxi hand it over. Otherwise, it'd be hard for her to take a step out of the Han house!
But who knew that their group had hardly reached Falling Serenity Residence when they saw Second Young Miss Han Ruoxue run out the door as if fleeing for her life?
What was going on?
Han Ruoxue spun around and saw Han Yunxi with the others. At first she was surprised, but soon she became choked with sobs. "Lady Xu, eldest young master is too much of a bully!"
"What happened?" Lady Xu asked, knitting her brows.
But before Han Ruoxue could complain, the sound of restless movements came from beyond the doors. Soon after that, a group of female servants poured out the doors in a swarm, many of them jostled to the ground as they stumbled forward.
"Lady, Lady, eldest young master's lost his temper again. It's fine if he chased everyone out, but he smashed countless items as well, and almost injured Second Young Miss!"
"Lady, eldest young master even smashed his medicine, including the ointment you applied on him this morning. I couldn't coax him otherwise no matter how I tried."
Hearing the servants' reports, Lady Xu's face turned black. Wasn't he fine when she left him? This unfilial son, how could he change moods so quickly! Making a ruckus like this in front of Han Yunxi and Seventh Madame was simply too shameful!
The servants were about to say more, but Lady Xu cut them off. "Enough, you useless things. Not one of you can serve him well, so it's no wonder eldest young master shooed you away! Why don't you all get lost!"
How could the servants retort? All of them resigned to their fates and retreated.
"Lady Xu, you were the one to invite mother and I over. What does eldest young master mean by this! Isn't it too outrageous?" Han Ruoxue huffed.
Third Madame Li's family background wasn't as fine as Lady Xu's, but she still came from a rich family. Her clansmen were located in northern Tianning Country's Tianshui City and had a rather good background. Madame Li was the daughter of a concubine, but she'd married in with a sizable dowry. In addition, she'd always been generous and liberal, rarely coming into opposition with Lady Xu. The two of them could be considered well water and river water, different forces that tolerated each others' children.
"Ruoxue, where's your mother? Still inside?" Lady Xu pretended to care.
"My mother told me to leave first and that she'd follow afterwards. Good thing we didn't come together, or else I'm sure eldest young master would've tried to hurt her too!" Han Ruoxue disliked Han Yuqi the most, so of course she'd seize this chance to make a good accusation.
"Aiya, he's in the wrong, in the wrong! In light of his heavy injuries, just forgo finding faults with him this time," Lady Xu consoled.
"Lady Xu, don't worry. I'm not so petty," Han Ruoxue said, before pretending to lift her head and notice Han Yunxi and the rest. "Yunxi! Isn't this big sister Yunxi?"
Han Ruoxue gave a cry of pleased surprise, before pretending to shoot Seventh Madame a dissatisfied look. "Seventh Madame, when did big sister Yunxi come? You didn't even tell me!"
Han Yunxi had a forced smile. What a smooth and slick Second Young Miss. You had good relationships with every house, so why did you never bother treating me well?
She'd been a big sister for so many years, but this was the first time she heard Han Ruoxue call her "big sister Yunxi." When she fell into disgrace as the first wife's daughter, Han Ruoxue became the head of all the other sisters in the Han house. In private, she'd spared no expense instigating the other girls to pick on her. Don't think I never knew, just because you hid behind the rest of them!
Han Ruoxue carefully examined Han Yunxi's face, her own drawn with excitement. "Big sister Yunxi, your face really recovered. It's so beautiful, I just..."
Han Yunxi cut her off coldly before she could finish. "Second Young Miss, this wangfei isn't that familiar with you, right?"
Tch...Han Ruoxue's expression turned rigid before she quickly recovered. "Big sister Yunxi sure likes to joke around."
Unfortunately, Han Yunxi wasn't planning to save her any face. Again she spoke, tone frosty. "This wangfei isn't joking."
Her words instantly turned the atmosphere around them chilly. Han Ruoxue's eyes held a glimmer of hate as she thought, Han Yunxi, you shameless thing. You caused father to be imprisoned and stole the storehouse key, but you still dare to strut around the Han house. Did she think no one know what kind of things she did?
She'd endure. She'd wait to see how Lady Xu snatched back the storehouse key and sort her out! That must be the reason why Lady Xu summoned them all together. Because of that, Han Ruoxue held her temper in check and gave a slight smile, bowing particularly deep for Han Yunxi.
"This commoner Han Ruoxue greets esteemed wangfei, may esteemed wangfei live thousands and thousands of years!"
Han Yunxi was too lazy to spare her another glance and said coldly, "You may rise."
Just then, an angry shout came out from the courtyard. "Where's that shameless slut? She still dares to come? This young master sees her as nothing more than a thief! She stole my family's things and she still dares to strut around here?!"
"This young master would like to see how long she can run rampant!"
"If she has any tact, she'll return the thing now, or else I'll make her regret it!"
These curses didn't mention any names, but it was clear they were directed at Han Yunxi. It was obvious that the young man within the rooms knew Han Yunxi had come and was insulting her for having the storehouse key! Han Yunxi narrowed her eyes. She wasn't so stupid as to rise to Han Yuqi's taunts and recognize herself as a thief.
Han Yuqi won't be getting the storehouse key even in his next life!
 Tianshui City () - literally "sky water" or "heavenly water" city.