Chapter 164: Poisoned, it has to be you
Cause of death?
Gu Beiyue glanced at Han Yunxi out of the corner of his eyes, but still replied honestly under the circumstances. "To reply Your Highness, if I haven't made a mistake, Princess Changping should've died from poison. As for what kind of poison it was, I don't know."
If Princess Changping had still been alive, Gu Beiyue might not have been able to pinpoint poison. But a dead person would should signs of poisoning very quickly. There were dark marks on Princess Changping's white face. Before long, the poison would be even more obvious, perhaps enough for him to identify it.
These words were astonishing. It was actually poison? What kind of poison? Who poisoned her? Long Tianmo suddenly lost his temper at Shuang Hong. "Speak! Exactly what happened? What were you and the princess doing here?"
Changping should've shown up at the banquet long ago, but she'd been keeping mysteriously out of sight. Shuang Hong was scared senseless and could only shake her head. "Your servant...you servant didn't..." Suddenly, she turned towards Han Yunxi and pointed a finger at her. "It was her! She did it! Qin Wangfei, she..."
Only now did the empress and empress dowager realize that Han Yunxi was there.
"Her Highness the princess said she was going to prepare a present for the empress dowager. Because she hadn't finished engraving it yet, she hid herself here to carve. Just then she told your servant to bring something back for her. Your servant saw the princess lying on the ground when she returned, with esteemed wangfei by her side..." Shuang Hong was frightened to the point of tears. Hearing her words, the empress dowager and empress both stared at Han Yunxi with sinister expressions filled with venom.
Han Yunxi suddenly sensed that trouble had come her way. She'd been so focused on saving a life, and so shocked at what she found instead, that she didn't have time to realize how much danger she was in. Still, she kept calm as she explained. "I was preparing to change my clothes next door when I heard crash. When I came over here, Changping had already collapsed on the ground..."
"What was she poisoned with? She was perfectly fine, so how could she have gotten poisoned? Where did it come from?" the empress asked. She was physically paralyzed on the ground, her voice swift and fierce as if she wanted to rip Han Yunxi apart.
The empress dowager was even more straightforward. "Why did Changping fall down? Why did this rack get knocked over? Han Yunxi, did you get in an argument with Changping? Or make a move against her? Tell us!"
"I didn't!" Han Yunxi denied indignantly. "I'll say it once more, I was next door when I heard the rack fall down and came over. By the time I came inside, Changping was already on the floor. After I found out she died from poisoning, Shuang Hong appeared."
"What kind of poison? Aren't you a detoxification expert? Why didn't you save her? Why?" Long Tianmo was agitated as well. Changping was his only sister by flesh and blood!
"I haven't figured out what poison it is yet, but she had already died from it by the time I arrived. There was no way to save her," Han Yunxi said truthfully.
Hearing this, the empress scathingly denounced her. "Han Yunxi, you're lying! You ran over as soon as you heard the noise, how long could that have taken?! Wouldn't you have enough time to save her? What kind of poison could be potent enough to kill someone upon contact?"
This was something that Han Yunxi couldn't figure out, either. Despite this, her position was firm. "I'm not lying. Only a thorough examination of the poison can tell us what happened. I'll do that right now."
She only saw the aftermath. As to whether Princess Changping died before she crashed into the rack, or after the rack fell over, nobody knew for certain. There were quite a few poisons that could take a life in an instant. Han Yunxi, too, wanted to know what this poison was and-more than that-where it'd came from.
She was about to walk over when the empress's rage reached to the skies. "Han Yunxi, don't even think of doing any tricks! You're just a liar! Someone, arrest her!"
Han Yunxi knitted her brows in anger. "Who dares! Without evidence, what can you arrest me for?"
"Someone grab her!" the empress dowager's voice was even fiercer. Very soon, guards rushed over and took Han Yunxi into custody. She wasn't able to struggle free, but glared fiercely towards Long Tianmo.
"Your Highness Crown Prince, we don't even know what Changping was poisoned with. Are you all really going to make unfounded attacks upon a person without evidence or reason? Is this how you act in the imperial palace?"
Long Tianmo was caught between grief and wrath, but he never wanted to believe that Han Yunxi would poison Changping to death. Neither could he think of any motives that would drive her to commit such a deed. After some hesitation, he spoke.
"Imperial Grandmother, muhou, let Imperial Aunt check the poison. It won't do any harm."
The empress was extremely repulsed by the idea, but the empress dowager spoke up before she could refuse. "All right, let her look. I'd like to see what kind of poison she finds that can take a life instantly!"
Only then did the guards release Han Yunxi, who knelt down by Princess Changping's side. Once she saw the streaks of black on her tongue, she grew puzzled. On one side, she performed a conventional examination, while on the other, her scanners did a systematic check on the body. The results were beyond her expectations.
How could this be...
"Are you finished yet?" the empress pressed sternly. Han Yunxi stood up and looked around, her face uncertain.
"Did you figure out what it was?" the empress dowager demanded impatiently.
Only then did Han Yunxi speak. "Yes, it's arrow poison wood."
Her words left the room at a loss. What was 'arrow poison wood?' Nobody had ever heard of it before.
"What is it?" the empress dowager asked sternly.
"It comes from an extremely toxic tree commonly known as the Upas tree. As long as an open wound touches this tree sap, the victim will quickly be poisoned until their heart exhausts itself and breathing becomes difficult, causing them to die from suffocation," Han Yunxi explained.
The saying "Seven Up Eight Down Nine On the Ground" came exactly from this toxin. Whether the victim took seven steps up, or eight steps down, or nine steps on a flat road, they'd be dead soon afterwards. Actually, the toxicology of poisons present meant that some victims could even die within two or three steps. With this, Han Yunxi was certain.
"Princess Changping must have crashed into this rack after she was poisoned."
There were two ways to get poisoned. One was by accident, while the other was applied intentionally. When she was looking around just then, she hadn't seen any items that resembled arrow poison wood, nor did she discover things that contained poison. Did someone come to poison the princess and ran off before she saw them?
The situation had grown complicated.
She was about to do a thorough analysis on the poison inside Princess Changping's body when the empress cried out, "Someone, immediately take her to the imperial prisons! She has to be the murderer! There's nothing else to say!"
Han Yunxi looked towards Long Tianmo once again. "Let me investigate things thoroughly. A poison like this is very rare. It's not anyone who can recognize it!"
But the empress actually countered her words. "Indeed, it's rare. Nobody's heard of it here except you, Han Yunxi. Who else could have poisoned her except you?" Her words were logical. At the very least, there was no one else in the palace who would know how to use this poison besides Han Yunxi.
"What if it was done by an assassin? Empress, you can suspect me, but please have some evidence first!" Han Yunxi argued strongly on just grounds.
"Assassin? She was perfectly fine, how could there be an assassin? What kind of place do you take the palace to be? Could an assassin just casually saunter inside? Did anyone see an assassin? Shuang Hong only saw you!"
"And also, who told you to change your clothes here? Why did you just-so-conveniently end up next door to Changping?"
"You and Changping are always on bad terms. You must have harbored hard feelings against her and used treacherous means to kill her. When Shuang Hong caught you in the act, you resorted to fallacious arguments to defend yourself! Han Yunxi, ah, Han Yunxi, I never knew your heart was so poisonous! I even regarded you as Tianmo's lifesaver, but it seems I've misjudged you!"
The empress's face was filled with tears as she launched into a tirade against her. Han Yunxi didn't even know how to explain things to her. How could a person use such weak arguments? She took a deep breath and replied, "Xu mama can bear witness, she's the one who brought me here!"
At this, the aforementioned Xu mama hurried inside, her hands still holding Han Yunxi's change of clothes. "To reply esteemed empress dowager and esteemed empress, it was indeed your servant that brought esteemed wangfei here. But when your servant went to fetch her clothes, I had no idea what happened here in the meantime!"
Her last words were like adding another layer of frost to the pile of snow. Han Yunxi sucked in a cold breath and was about to explain when the empress dowager cut in with a frosty voice.
"It's just as that Madame Li from your Han Family said. The most formidable detoxification expert is also the most terrifying poisoner! Someone come, take this murderer immediately to the imperial prisons. No one can visit her without my permission!"
Han Yunxi knitted her brows at Long Tianmo, but this time, he was silent as well. Disappointment filled her as she mused that she'd saved Long Tianmo for nothing in the end.
"I want to see the Duke of Qin!" she said coldly.
But the empress dowager's voice was even colder. "It's no use even if the Duke of Qin comes! Killing the princess with poison is an unpardonable offence, Han Yunxi! No one can protect you now!"
Despite Han Yunxi's struggles, the guards held her tightly and escorted her outside. Han Yunxi raised her voice and shouted, "Empress Dowager, you'll regret it! It doesn't matter if you lock me up, but if you don't find the source of the poison, someone else will definitely die from it!"
If the poison was inside the palace, it didn't matter whether it came from an object or a poison assassin. Both were extremely dangerous.
Unfortunately, the only thing to answer her was the empress and court ladies' anguished sobs. Nobody took her words to heart. Right now, Grand Concubine Yi was comforting Duanmu Yao, while Long Feiye and Emperor Tianhui were shut up in his study. Neither of them knew that such a monumental event had occurred. The inconsolable empress hugged Princess Changping's body while Long Tianmo stood guard on one side, unable to coax her away. On one side, the empress dowager sat with furrowed brows, heaving sorrowful sighs. She wasn't sure how to face such a reality. Changping was her most doted on granddaughter!
Suddenly, the empress raised her head in agitation. "Muhou, kill Han Yunxi to avenge Changping. She has to be killed!"
"Muhou...she's not stupid enough to poison Changping to death. This matter..." Before Long Tianmo could finish, the empress waved her arm at him.
"You thing that lives off one person while helping the other! Your little sister is already dead. Dead! You can still say such things?"
Long Tianmo felt resentful, but didn't retort. The empress was so worked up that she wanted to say more, but she suddenly gave a start and fainted away.
"Muhou!" Long Tianmo cried out in alarm. Gu Beiyue immediately rushed over to take her pulse.
"Empress Dowager, Your Highness, esteemed empress was too upset. She lost her breath because of the psychological strain, and her qi and blood circulation are both unwell. She needs to stay in bed and rest. Avoid shocking her with anything else," Gu Beiyue wrote a prescription as he spoke and had a court lady hurry off to grab the ingredients.
When the empress was sent away, the empress dowager looked at Long Tianmo and said, "Tianmo, make arrangements for Changping's funeral." Then she looked outside the door. "Someone, tell the emperor that Princess Changping...is no more!"
When she finished speaking, her voice faded into heartbroken sobs...
 arrow poison wood () - jiandumu, the Chinese term for upas poison, or Antiaris toxicaria, from the poisonous Antiaris tree, colloquially known as the Poison Tree of Macassar. It's commonly coated on arrows, darts, and blowdarts to make them more deadly.
 Upas () - jianxuefenghou, another name for the arrow poison. The name literally means "seeking blood, sealing the throat."
 Seven Up Eight Down Nine On the Ground () - qishang baxia jiudaodi, besides the definition given in the chapter text, "seven up eight down" is also a 4-character Chinese idiom that means "to be agitated, be perturbed."