Chapter 129: A choice at the critical moment
Han Congan gave Han Yuqi an indignant glare before turning back to Grand Concubine Yi. "Eldest young master is ignorant and incompetent, a silkpants who will dissipate the family fortunes. The other young masters were slow-witted and stupid with no natural talent, and even ran off when the Han Family was in danger. Seventh Young Master is intelligent and gifted, but is still young. He isn't ready to inherit the position of household head just yet, so this convicted one decided to give the key to Han Family's sole married off daughter, Qin Wangfei, for safekeeping."
"Father, there's still me! I don't want to marry, I just want to study the Han Family medical arts!" Han Ruoxue was so agitated that she was about to cry. She had the best natural gifts, so why hadn't father ever considered her?
Han Yuqi wanted to retort when he heard his father badmouthing him, but Lady Xu stopped him with a ferocious pinch and spoke up. "Old master, how could you say those things about Yuqi? He's your eldest son! He's still young and likes to play around, but in a few years he'll know better! Not to mention, you should leave the key with us even if you haven't determined a successor yet! I'm your wife!"
But Han Congan was smart enough to follow along with their words. Of course, he kept his eyes on Grand Concubine Yi the entire time as he spoke. "Grand Concubine Yi, you've seen the situation with the Han Family. Because of this, this convicted one didn't want to make an unwise decision. In order to wait a few more years for the sake of these children, handing the storehouse key over to Han Yunxi was the most impartial choice."
Hearing this, Han Yunxi felt delighted. Han Congan was indeed a clever old fox. His words weren't fixed or definite, but left no room for a rebuttal. And yet, Grand Concubine Yi only laughed coldly in response.
"Han Congan, you should consider things carefully. You're certain you're telling the truth? If Qin Wangfei forced you, just say it out loud. Since I came today, I'd naturally stand judge for you. As for the Han Family's future growth, I'd take it to heart as well!"
At this, Han Yunxi's heart plummeted. Grand Concubine Yi's words just then were a bit too straightforward. Grand Concubine Yi actually gave her a significant look before sweeping her cold gaze across the assembled Han Family members. Only then did she pick up where she'd left off.
"Of course, if Qin Wangfei didn't force you and everything was your choice, I won't interfere. But I have to remind you. Your Han Family ran about crying out grievances, accusing Qin Wangfei of hankering after the Han Family properties and interfering with their business. The racket's stirred up the entire city. Even if Qin Wangfei doesn't fuss over this matter, I won't let it off so easily!"
When she finished, the entire room turned so quiet that you could hear a needle drop. Grand Concubine Yi seemed very satisfied at the silence as she calmly drank her tea. Then she kept speaking. "Naturally, if I find out that you spoke even half a lie today, I won't even...let you off!"
She set her teacup down at the same time she finished speaking, where it clacked loudly against the table to give everyone a start. Grand Concubine Yi's words seemed to express friendly goodwill and a warning at the same time. It wasn't just the Han Family, but Han Yunxi as well, who trembled with terror at her words!
Friendly goodwill would come if Han Congan admitted that Han Yunxi forced him to hand over the key. Grand Concubine Yi would take the Han Family matters to heart and give them heavy support.
The warning couldn't be any clearer. If Han Congan admitted that he hadn't been forced, the ruckus outside the Duke of Qin's gates would create a case against Lady Xu for defaming Han Yunxi. Lady Xu would be doomed!
Many of the people present were intelligent enough to figure out Grand Concubine Yi's meaning, especially Han Congan. He knew that since Grand Concubine Yi was here today, she wouldn't care about the truth. She just wanted to ferret out a handle on Han Yunxi. Grand Concubine Yi wanted him to admit that he'd been forced so she could sully Han Yunxi's name!
How should he decide?
Indeed, who would Han Congan choose?
Everyone looked towards him. Lady Xu was so terrified that he face had turned green. She was the one who'd caused such chaos before the Duke of Qin's gates! As soon as the old master chose Han Yunxi, she'd be a goner! A complete and total goner! Her hands began to shake uncontrollably before she became the first to speak.
"Old master, you have to think clearly behind you answer!"
At the same time, Han Yunxi had fixated her gaze on Han Congan, eyes dignified and imposing. Truthfully speaking, she didn't feel very confident. Her agreement with Han Congan was a man's word of honor. There was no concrete proof. As soon as Han Congan spoke out against her, she'd be marked guilty even if she tried to jump in the Yellow River and wash it off. Right now, Han Congan wasn't choosing between her and Lady Xu, but her and Grand Concubine Yi!
Grand Concubine Yi had plainly said that she'd take the Han Family matters to heart. Wasn't everything that Han Congan had done for the sake of the Han Family? Grand Concubine Yi had vastly more resources than her to raise the Han Family up into prominence again. She was a better choice than a powerless Qin Wangfei!
To ingratiate himself with Grand Concubine Yi, it was very possible for Han Congan to take a bite out of Han Yunxi!
"Old master! You absolutely must think it through clearly!" Lady Xu was to the verge of tears, so fearful was she.
Even Han Yuqi, the man with an exaggerated opinion of his abilities who considered everyone beneath him, felt anxious. Once his mother was convicted of her crimes, he'd be a goner with her. He suddenly strode towards Han Congan and fell to his knees before him. "Father, hurry up and agree with Grand Concubine Yi. You were forced! You were definitely forced!"
If the Xu mother and son pair's nervousness came from fear, then Han Ruoxue's anxiety came from anticipation. She heard from Mu Liuyue that Han Yunxi and Mu Qingwu were investigating the true culprit of the poison, and that they'd placed a bet. Just three days later, the loser would have to take off their outer robes and run around the streets. If the Han Family affairs could delay Han Yunxi's investigation past these three days, then she'd definitely lose the bet.
Moreover, her relationship with Mu Liuyue would improve as "comrades-in-arms." With Mu Liuyue's support, she could find a chance to seek connections with Princess Changping. Then she'd no longer have to fear the powers backing up Lady Xu. As a result, she introduced Mu Liuyue and Murong Wanru to Lady Xu so they could facilitate her farce. Of course, her mother had no idea of what she'd done.
She didn't consult with her mother either before kneeling down next to Han Yuqi, her chest heaving with emotion. "Father, the future prospects of the Han Family is all in your hands!"
Grand Concubine Yi found satisfaction in the Han Family's harried state. She didn't press the issue because she felt fully confident in Han Congan's choice. By her side, Murong Wanru wasn't worried, either. She only knitted her brows towards Lady Xu while hiding a cold smile behind her eyes. Lady Xu had been husband and wife with Han Congan for so many years. How could she not understand her husband?
Grand Concubine Yi tossed out such a good olive branch as a symbol of peace. How could Han Congan choose Han Yunxi then? It was clearly obvious who he'd pick, so what was the use of being so nervous?
Han Congan looked at the son and daughter kneeling before him, his hooded eyes hard to read. But he didn't say a word. This only made the restless Han Yunxi even more uneasy. Even she'd pick Grand Concubine Yi if she was in his place.
Things had gotten much more troublesome.
She quietly took in a deep breath at the same time Han Congan raised his head. At this, everyone's heartbeat quickened. Was he going to answer?
Han Yunxi knew what was coming, but she didn't want to give up before the results bore fruit. She shot Han Congan a questioning glance, but he immediately looked aside to peer at Grand Concubine Yi.
What does Han Congan mean by this?!
Han Yunxi unconsciously sucked in a cold breath. Had he already decided to forsake her?
Han Yunxi's heart beat wildly in her chest.
"To reply esteemed imperial concubine..." Han Congan began mildly.
Now both Grand Concubine Yi and Murong Wanru had straightened their backs to pay attention. They were anticipating the moment when he'd accuse Han Yunxi! And yet right at this moment, little Yi'er suddenly broke out of his mother's arms and tumbled to the ground beside Han Congan.
"Yi'er!" Alarmed, Han Congan turned to help him. But as soon as he picked him up, little Yi'er began to cry.
"Daddy, big sister Yunxi is a good person. Big sis Yunxi wouldn't have forced you, right?"
Little Yi'er was too young. He didn't understand all of what Grand Concubine Yi had said, but he knew that big sister Yunxi wouldn't tell lies. He was about to speak up when his weak and timid mother suddenly pushed him forward. With his mother's support, he had even more courage to say the things on his heart.
"Daddy, don't defame big sister Yunxi, all right?"
"Big brother bullied me, but it was big sister Yunxi that saved me. Big sister Yunxi even sent someone over to protect me and mother."
"Daddy, don't do this..."
Little Yi'er's words infuriated Grand Concubine Yi. "Someone, drag that child outside. This is a great hall, how can we tolerate children crying? Whatever next?!"
Seventh Madame rushed over and carried little Yi'er away, speaking timidly, "Please calm your anger, esteemed imperial concubine, please calm your anger. Little children aren't sensible enough to understand, but this commoner will muffle his voice now so he can't make any more noise. This commoner promises he won't make further fuss!"
So speaking, Seventh Madame held little Yi'er while her other hand tightly covered his mouth. That shrinking posture and terrified, timid manner was simultaneously pitiful and hilarious. Grand Concubine Yi despised such a weak-willed mother and son pair from her very bones. She gave them a cold glare before waving off the attendants and letting them be.
Originally, Han Yunxi thought that little Yi'er could help her out a bit. After all, he was Han Congan's favorite child with the best prospects. But seeing Seventh Madame's pathetic self now, she gave up all hope!
No one expected Seventh Madame to speak up after she muffled her child's voice.
"Old master, Yi'er and I both trust that you weren't forced."
Her voice was choked with sobs and very, very soft. It sounded extremely cowardly and frail, but was filled with an unusually firm steadfastness. It was almost unbelievable that these words had come from Seventh Madame. They sounded like hers, but didn't seem like hers, either. Han Yunxi looked over in astonishment. She hardly dared to believed that Seventh Madame would say such words in this situation! The rest of crowd shared in her shock. The saying went that 'words of the lowly carry little weight,' but Seventh Madame's words had made everyone uneasy.
Even Grand Concubine Yi felt disturbed as she spoke. "Enough! Han Congan, immediately answer your ladyship's question!"
Han Congan tore his gaze away from Seventh Madame and looked at Grand Concubine Yi anew. He took in a light breath and delayed no longer.
"To reply esteemed imperial concubine, this commoner was..."