Chapter 125: Havoc at the Duke of Qin's estate
Though there was still some distance to the main gates, the clamorous noise outside was obvious. Lady Xu was saying something that the crowd echoed back, creating a sensation. If Han Yunxi heard, then naturally Grand Concubine Yi and Murong Wanru would hear as well. Although her heart was in a flurry, Han Yunxi still smoothed out her lips and paid respects. "May mufei be fortunate."
Grand Concubine Yi wasn't sure what was going on outside. Steward Xia was going to report when he saw the Duke of Qin and Qin Wangfei turn and told them first. Seeing Han Yunxi in the middle of rushing outside, Grand Concubine Yi was about to ask when Murong Wanru opened her mouth first.
"Sister-in-law, did you go somewhere far away? How come I haven't seen you in the past few days? I looked for you multiple times without finding anyone."
"Go somewhere far away?" Grand Concubine Yi was filled with doubt. Han Yunxi was part of the Duke of Qin's estate now, so shouldn't she tell her before heading off first?
She couldn't have gone to the empress dowager's palace, right?
Ever since the last time Han Yunxi came back from there, Grand Concubine Yi had taken precautions in her heart and told Murong Wanru to keep an eye out on the sly. Murong Wanru had always kept tabs on Han Yunxi's movements. She hadn't returned after leaving with Mu Qingwu that day. Though Murong Wanru had no way to find out the affairs of the general's estate, nor did she dare, she'd been observing the Han Family on the side. She'd long sent someone over to get all the details.
Han Yunxi agreed to let the wives of the Han Family meet Han Congan in prison. She should've gone yesterday, but she wasn't at home. When Lady Xu came by last night to look for her, it was Murong Wanru who received her.
Han Yunxi's kidnapping was related to the matter of the enemy spies, so it was inconvenient for Han Yunxi to mention it. She made up a lie on the fly. "I caught a bad chill these few days and couldn't get off the bed. It's only today that I felt a little better."
Murong Wanru rushed over at these words, face filled with concern. "You didn't get off the bed so many days? It must be a severe chill. Why doesn't sister-in-law rest more?"
Han Yunxi was in a rush to take care of the situation outside, and didn't have time to play false friends with Murong Wanru. She ignored her complete and said, "Mufei, there's a situation outdoors. I'll go take care of it."
So speaking, she took large strides until Grand Concubine Yi stopped her. "Han Yunxi, it was clear that you weren't home the past few days. Where did you go? All that fuss before the door, could it be that you're the reason?"
Hearing this, Han Yunxi was filled with doubts. Grand Concubine Yi didn't know what was going on outside? Looks like the person backing up Lady Xu wasn't her. Her heart filled with suspicion, she nevertheless came out with the truth. "Yes. But it's just a misunderstanding. Mufei don't worry, chenqie will handle it appropriately."
"Sister-in-law, they're making quite a fuss. I think they're cursing people? They dare to stir up trouble right by our gates, so it must be a big deal. Just who did you provoke? Is it all right for you to go out alone?"
Murong Wanru the white lotus really had a formidable mouth. It sounded like she was speaking out of concern, but she easily stirred Grand Concubine Yi's curiosity and indignation with her words. Before Han Yunxi could reply, Grand Concubine Yi had already spoken. "Han Yunxi, I'd like to see exactly who you've provoked. Who has the guts to clamor at my gates?" So speaking, she furiously whipped her sleeves and walked towards the front doors.
This damned Murong Wanru. Would she die unless she disgusted her and drove a wedge between them every time they met?
Han Yunxi's eyes flashed with fury before she hurried after them. She thought, a fortune won't be disastrous, a disaster can't be avoidable. Even if Lady Xu has the guts to make a fuss at the Duke of Qin's gates, that should be her limit. It's just a storehouse key, she shouldn't make too big of a deal, right?
She wanted to see her anyways to fulfill her promise. She might as well bring the Han Family to see Han Congan right away! However, when she reached the gates and heard clearly the words being spoken, she realized that things had exceeded her expectations to turn serious. Lady Xu hadn't come on her own, but brought along quite a few old "women of dubious character" to shout by the front door.
"Everyone chime in, what kind of good intentions does a married off daughter have, coming back to her parents' home to meddle in family affairs?"
"Our Han Family's storehouse key is the emblem of the household head. We've plenty of young masters holding up the house, so why did that Han Yunxi seize it from us?"
"Saying that our family head gave her the key for safekeeping so she could choose a heir from our young masters? Think it over, everyone, is that possible? Can you believe it? Han Yunxi isn't the mother of the Han house, has my family head turned muddleheaded?"
"As I see it, the old father wasn't muddleheaded, but was forced! Otherwise, why would he give something so important to a married daughter?"
Lady Xu and the women murmured amongst the crowd, attracting debate and voices of support.
"That's no logic. Even if Eldest Young Miss Han is Qin Wangfei, she has no right to interfere in her parents' home affairs. This is too preposterous!"
"A married off daughter, hehe. She's not going back to compete over the family properties, is she?"
"Couldn't be, as if the Duke of Qin's residence would covet those Han Family properties?"
"Then what's going on? Ah! Unless the grand imperial concubine embezzled Han Yunxi's stipend, so this esteemed wangfei has no silver to spend?"
Murong Wanru supported Grand Concubine Yi's arm as they stood behind the gates. The more Grand Concubine Yi listened, the uglier her face became. Han Yunxi sucked in a cold breath, not expecting things to develop this way. She originally thought that Lady Xu was coming to ask for the storehouse key. If she was too wanton, she'd be sullying her claim to the Han Family properties. But who knew that she'd implicated Grand Concubine Yi in the matter?
Wasn't she tarnishing Grand Concubine Yi's image?
The one thing this esteemed imperial concubine couldn't afford to lose was face!
"Mufei, it's all a misunderstanding. I'll go out right away to clear things up," Han Yunxi said, ready to open the gates.
But Grand Concubine Yi stopped her, so angry her teeth were chattering. "Keep listening!"
"Mufei, how about..." Han Yunxi wanted to explain, but Grand Concubine suddenly turned stern.
"Han Yunxi, shut that mouth!"
Han Yunxi gave a start, but could only resentfully shut her mouth. Things were already at this state, so there was no choice but to continue. Soon enough, even more outrageous statements came from outside the door.
"Aiya, those with wealth speak louder than others. The Duke of Qin's estate has no need to cherish those rubbish properties of the Han Family, but the Han estate's medicinal ingredients are very rare. That person's not interested in silver, but the medicine! These years, you can't buy good ingredients even if you do have silver."
"Heheh, that's possible. I heard that the esteemed wangfei even paid a special visit to the storehouse when she went to the Han estate that day. Who knows what kind of treasures she took away?"
"Tsk, a married off daughter, what right does she have to go into her parents' home storehouse? The Duke of Qin's estate is going too far with their bullying! I think someone from their house must have bought off the justice court's men. Otherwise, old Han wouldn't be so muddleheaded!"
"Lady Xu, didn't your father personally promote the newest official of the justice court? What happened in the justice courts, do you know?"
Lady Xu was immediately choked with sobs. "Ever since the old master was sent to jail, not a single member of our Han Family was able to see him. So what if my father appointed the newest justice court official? There's another master behind him preventing me from seeing the old master!"
Sighs and hissing followed her words. No one knew how Han Yunxi had a hand in rescuing the crown prince, so of course they wouldn't believe she had any privileges at the justice courts. As a result, many of them thought that this master behind the scenes was Grand Concubine Yi.
In fact, someone mentioned it on purpose. "Who's this person behind the scenes!? Qin Wangfei can't order around the justice courts, right? I heard she'd still not favored, even to this day!"
"Aiya, in that case there must have been someone who instigated Qin Wangfei to go home and fight for the family properties?" Someone else shouted out loud on purpose.
Even an idiot could tell that these mocking words were all placing the blame on Grand Concubine Yi. When she heard them, her very bones trembled as her eyes flashed. She narrowly fainted away, but luckily Murong Wanru was there to support her.
Grand Concubine Yi had lived in luxury since her youth, enjoying the comforts of her high position. She stayed aloof from politics and material pursuits and had never been disgraced in her life. Neither had she accepted any of the presents bestowed on her by the previous emperor, but left them behind in the palace when she moved out. Putting aside the Han Family, she didn't even covet the imperial family's things.
But now, people were smearing her name!
After living for all these years, this was her first time losing so much face, and before the very citizens of the capital. How was she supposed to get along in the capital in the future? If news of this traveled to the palace, the empress dowager, and the various concubines' ears, how was she supposed to face them in the future?
How unbearable would it be?
Grand Concubine Yi touched her forehead with one hand while Murong Wanru supported her by the other. She calmed herself first before her fierce phoenix eyes swerved to Han Yunxi, pinning her down with a look that could dismember her to pieces. This was the first time Han Yunxi had seen such a ruthless glare from her, and she couldn't help giving a start. But she didn't have time to worry about it, and turned to open the doors.
Instead, Grand Concubine Yi shouted, "Someone, detain her and take her outside!"
Grand Concubine Yi was perfectly capable of issuing an order to drive away all the people before her gates, then pin them all with the crime of defying their superiors. But if she did that, her namesake would be even more ruined. Heaven knows what kind of rumors would follow instead? Since everyone originated from Han Yunxi, of course she had to turn her over to the that shrew of a woman and have Han Yunxi give up the key.
The doors slowly opened, silencing the crowd beyond. There really was a sizable mass of people sincerely interested in the proceedings. Lady Xu and a few other married woman stood in the center, facing the crowd instead of the front gates. It was obvious that they were instigating the crowd to create a disturbance. Still, in a society ruled by imperial power, their authority was absolute enough to still the crowd as soon as the doors opened. Everyone turned quiet as Lady Xu and the rest hastily turned around.
Hidden in the crowd, Mu Liuyue smiled coldly as soon as she saw Han Yunxi walk out. As the day of their bet drew closer, she was naturally very interested in the progress of the investigation. Unfortunately, neither her father nor her elder brother would tell her anything. However, she'd heard from Murong Wanru that Han Yunxi hadn't been home for the past few days, so she was probably disoriented from all her investigating. There were only three more days until the deadline, so of course she'd find ways to hinder Han Yunxi's progress.
It was only three days. She'd wait until Han Yunxi's reputation turned notorious enough for everyone to curse her, before adding more frost to the layer of snow. When it was time for her to strip and run around the streets, she'd definitely attract a crowd.
This time, Han Yunxi is dead meat!
Lady Xu was surprised to see Han Yunxi appear. She had been waiting all this while to see Han Congan, but the ten days had passed without Han Yunxi showing up. Of course, she was ready to spread the facts all over town to ruin Han Yunxi's reputation so she couldn't sit still. Unexpectedly, Han Ruoxue actually helped her thread the needle through the eye by ganging up with Mu Liuyue and Murong Wanru to make up this idea. They also said that if she wanted to get the key immediately, she'd have to make a fuss at the front doors and blame everything on Grand Concubine Yi. Only then would she see results.
Lady Xu didn't have the guts to act this way, but Murong Wanru and Mu Liuyue both promised that she'd be all right.
 women of dubious character () - san gu liu po, literally "three aunts and six grannies", a name for women who make a living via less mainstream methods (female matchmakers, sorceresses, etc.)
 thread the needle through the eye () - chuanzhen yinxian, to act as a go-between, middleman.