Chapter 131: Behind the scenes, just one step short
"I...sister-in-law, that's not what I meant. The Han Family's your family, you..."
Murong Wanru was about to explain, but Han Yunxi didn't give her the chance. "Little sister Wanru's words aren't wrong. The Han Family is my parents' home, so these could be counted as my parents' domestic matters. But the Duke of Qin's household is my husband's home. How could I favor my parents' home to hurt my husband's home? Isn't that right, little sister Wanru?"
Murong Wanru hastily nodded her head. "Naturally, but..."
Han Yunxi interrupted again. "I'm not even planning to be partial to my parents' household, so little sister Wanru has no need to plead for them for my sake."
These words turned Murong Wanru's face green! She wanted to feign her care and say she was acting for Han Yunxi's benefit to help out her family. But Han Yunxi rejected her before she even got to speak. Murong Wanru cast a glance below them, only to see Lady Xu paralyzed on the ground. It wasn't clear whether she'd lost her senses or was listening to every word.
This Lady Xu was really troublesome!
Murong Wanru was still at a loss when Han Yunxi spoke up again. "Of course, if little sister Wanru is pleading on someone else's sake rather than for myself, I won't stop you."
"I'm not!" Murong Wanru blurted out in haste.
Grand Concubine Yi wasn't an idiot. There wasn't much thought needed to hear a clue from her words. She frowned as she looked towards Murong Wanru, who gave a start and sat back down. How could she dare to move again? Instead she hastened to explain. "Since sister-in-law is so just and fair-minded, I won't say anything more. I'll heed mufei's decision in dealing with the matter."
Grand Concubine Yi completely trusted Murong Wanru, so she didn't overthink things. One hand rested on the table while the other cradled her forehead. But Lady Xu's eyes suddenly lit up as bright as snow as if she could see through a person's eyes straight into their hearts. The person she was looking at was none other than Murong Wanru!
Seeing this, the guilty Murong Wanru suddenly felt her heart start pounding. The hairs on her body all stood up. This Lady Xu, what does she mean? What's she planning to do?
Han Yunxi saw everything. Today, she was going to get three vultures with one arrow. Not only would she prove to the common people that she didn't covet the Han Family properties, she was also going to eliminate the Xu mother and son pair for little Yi'er. Most importantly, she was going to reveal the person behind the scenes that instigated Lady Xu!
Murong Wanru, you've finally fallen into this wangfei's hands!
Han Yunxi's lips curved into a cunning smile as she asked, "Little sister Wanru, I see that mufei's vexed and worried. Why don't you come up with an idea in her stead? Consider how Lady Xu should be severely punished, to warn others against a bad example?"
Severely punish Lady Xu? To warn others against a bad example?
Murong Wanru was already stricken because she had no way to intercede on Lady Xu's behalf. Now Han Yunxi had set her up with this question. She was dumping her into a fiery pit!
Lady Xu's fierce stare glinted like knives. Murong Wanru didn't even dare to face her head on. She could only try and plead again. "Sister-in-law, mufei believes in Buddhism. Whenever it's possible, she tries to forgive people for their mistakes. I say that since this matter's a misunderstanding that concerns your parents' family, why don't we..."
"Little sister Wanru, I already say that you don't need to worry about giving me face," Han Yunxi reminded her helpfully.
"Sister-in-law, I know you're a fair-minded person, and that your heart's with our household. That makes it difficult for you to plea on behalf of your parents' family. How about this, for this matter today..."
Murong Wanru didn't finish before Han Yunxi laughed. "Little sister Wanru is so partial towards the Han Family. How could you be worthy of mufei then? It doesn't matter if Lady Xu defamed me, but how could she make such a ruckus at the Duke of Qin's gates? It's become the talk of the town, so those who don't know might even think something's amiss with mufei..."
As Han Yunxi spoke, she pretended to thinking deeply before continuing. "What were the words we heard before? Oh, right, they were suspecting someone had bought off the justice courts because they were hankering after the Han Family properties! How could I have enough skills to buy them off? They were obviously suspecting mufei. And there was something about how the Han Family's medicinal ingredients were the real valuables."
Grand Concubine Yi immediately raised her head at these words, looking sternly towards Han Yunxi. But Han Yunxi felt no dread as she spoke on. "Mufei, now that the truth is out, you don't have to worry about chenqie's face. Lady Xu is guilty of a most heinous crime and needs a severe punishment as a lesson to the rest. Otherwise, the rumors outside wouldn't have grown to this extent."
After missing her chance to grab Han Yunxi today, Grand Concubine Yi was forced to stomach her temper with all sorts of dissatisfaction. But she couldn't help but admit that Han Yunxi's words were very reasonable. This was the exact issue she'd been considering herself. This affair had already spread all over the city, so what was the best way to end it neatly and effectively without a trace?
It was obvious that she'd have to let Han Yunxi off, but Lady Xu was unforgivable even without Han Yunxi's reminder! She was trying to figure out how to deal with the issue so it'd restore her reputation and trust in the eyes of the common people waiting outside the justice courts. After all, all of them had believed with her that Han Yunxi coveted the Han Family properties. If they didn't think up a good strategy and just threw out the results of their questioning, the matter would end, but the people might not accept it.
Those who didn't know the details might even accuse her Duke of Qin's household for torturing the Han Family in the justice courts to force out favorable results. Grand Concubine Yi had spent many years in a position of high power. Though she still felt unsatisfied, she calmed down at this critical juncture to consider all points. She gazed at Han Yunxi for a long while without answering directly. To do that would be admitting her own defeat, a feeling that she loathed.
She looked towards Official Ouyang and said, "Official Ouyang, since the truth is out now, how should Lady Xu be punished for defaming Qin Wangfei and insulting the Duke of Qin's household name?"
In a moment, everyone's gazes focused on Official Ouyang, even the cold and silent Lady Xu. On the side, Han Ruoxue stood standing with her palms soaked in sweat. She knew that things had been finalized by this point with no chance of return. When everything was cleared up outside, wouldn't Mu Liuyue be extremely disappointed?
No, she had to find a way to say some favorable words.
"What's wrong with you, why are your hands so sweaty?" Madame Li asked in a low voice.
"N...nothing, I'm just angry. Father really shouldn't have." Han Ruoxue was quick to reply. She didn't dare tell her mother that Mu Liuyue was outside, much less the details of Mu Liuyue and Han Yunxi's bet. When she was delivering tea leaves last time, mother had told her to stop contacting Mu Liuyue since she had bad relations with Han Yunxi. No matter what, she was still Han Yunxi's little sister and should avoid such taboos.
Within the room, Lady Xu was the quietest one, raising Murong Wanru's hairs on end. She only felt that Lady Xu was waiting for something, something like a verdict before she erupted and dragged them both into ruin. Murong Wanru clenched her fists, her back covered in cold sweat. What should she do? Could she do anything to stop Lady Xu?
Official Ouyang didn't quite dare to look at Lady Xu. He turned his head aside and said with difficulty, "According to law...she should be beheaded!"
At this, the kneeling Lady Xu suddenly stood up. Murong Wanru gave a start and couldn't help but stand up as well, alarmed. "Lady Xu, what do you think you're doing?"
"Second Madame, merely spreading rumors won't warrant the death penalty. Yet you not only did that, but stirred up trouble in front of the Duke of Qin's gates to incite the people. Were you muddleheaded? You actually did such a thing!" Han Yunxi said coldly.
It sounded like a lecture, but she was reminding Lady Xu that spreading rumors wouldn't lead to a death sentence. She had been used by someone else to end up in this state! A dog at his wit's end would jump over a wall, much less a human being. Her son was already going to be jailed for three years, herself was stuck with the death penalty. There was no hope of gaining the Han head of house position either. Everything had fallen and broken apart for Lady Xu.
When a person was in her state, what else would she care about? Right now she was like a person who had fallen into water. Anyone she grabbed, she'd drag down with her! When Han Yunxi's words landed, Lady Xu looked coldly at Murong Wanru before suddenly moving forward.
Scared, Murong Wanru stepped before Lady Xu and blocked her way, as if trying to protect Grand Concubine Yi. Her tone was furious. "What are you planning to do? You're being outrageous. If you alarm the esteemed imperial concubine, it'll be an unforgivable crime!"
Lady Xu backed up a step to get a better look at Murong Wanru before slowly breaking out into a cold, mocking laugh. This Murong Wanru had promised that Grand Concubine Yi would still be fair even if she was angered. Otherwise, why would she cause a ruckus at the Duke of Qin's doors? That was like making a fuss at the imperial palace, a guaranteed death sentence! Murong Wanru's back faced Grand Concubine Yi, her face flustered. She'd planned so well for mufei's mood to improve once they dragged down Han Yunxi. A few words then would be simple enough to highlight Lady Xu's contributions and pull her out of danger! How did she know that Han Yunxi could take the turn for the worse by gaining Han Congan's support!?
"Wanru, hurry up and come over. Someone come, take Lady Xu away!" Grand Concubine Yi was nervous about Murong Wanru's safety.
Han Yunxi watched coldly from the side, waiting for Murong Wanru to sit back obediently until Lady Xu spilled everything. But right at this critical moment, Lady Xu suddenly drew closer to Murong Wanru and gripped her by the wrist. She was about to curse her when Murong Wanru spoke in a low voice.
"Lady Xu, don't forget that you still have a father! If you dare expose me now, you'll have no support or evidence. My mufei definitely won't believe you. Moreover, I can guarantee that your Xu Clan won't meet with a good end!"
At these words, Lady Xu gave a start. That's right, she still had her father. She still had her fellow brothers and sisters in her clan. Without backing or evidence, if Grand Concubine Yi didn't believe her and Murong Wanru bore a grudge, the Xu Family would have hard days ahead!
Lady Xu's hands turned numb before she immediately released her victim. Murong Wanru backed away as if she was fleeing, so frightened that her face turned pale. She patted her heart multiple times as she took deep breaths. Bystanders all thought that she had been scared by Lady Xu. In actuality, she was rejoicing at finding a chance to finally warn the woman. Otherwise, who knew where she'd end up today? Even without evidence, mufei's heart would have questions if her role was revealed. After all, she'd used her mufei's reputation as the stakes this time! Mufei wouldn't forgive her just for this simple fact. No matter what, in the end she was still a foster daughter.
Grand Concubine Yi finally expelled a breath when she saw the yamen runners apprehend Lady Xu. She stood up and hurriedly waved towards Murong Wanru.
"Wanru, come over quick! Let mufei take a look. Are you hurt anywhere? Frightened?"