Before getting onto the carriage, Han Yunxi took an antidote. The common antidotes and poisons she always carried along were especially useful today. The ancients were actually quite vicious with their poisons. A majority of modern toxins were man-made, but ancient poisons came from things like flowers or plant stems.
She sat in the same carriage as his highness, the Duke of Qin on the way to the palace while he kept his eyes closed, allowing Han Yunxi to unconsciously steal peeks at him. A better look at this man made her realize his face was even prettier than last night. This was especially true when he was calm, because then he resembled the statue of some reverent and untouchable god. A drop of red on the handkerchief might not have meant much to him, but it decided the course of her entire life. Although they'd made a deal beforehand, Han Yunxi was still grateful from the bottom of her heart.
She, of course, had no idea of the betting pools placed around her final fate within the palace. Many people lost their money because of her, so she'd offended quite a few parties. Originally, she thought they were just going to see the empress dowager, but she spotted a room full of people-specifically women-as soon as they arrived. Though the place was quiet, there were still pairs of cold eyes looking her way like a host of arrows in scorn, disdain, contempt and resentment.
A glare couldn't kill a person, but it could certainly scare them to death.
Han Yunxi sighed a little in her heart. What, exactly, had she done wrong to be so disliked? The Duke of Qin was also the imperial uncle. As his official wife, Han Yunxi became the empress dowager's daughter-in-law. For the empress dowager's sisters-in-law, to say nothing of the emperor's own wives and offspring, it was protocol to pay respects when they saw her.
What were these people looking at? It wasn't like she was ugly, so go and stare all you'd like!
Under the gaze of the crowd, Han Yunxi didn't falter. She raised her chin up high, elevated and elegant as she walked easily by Long Feiye's side. Her devastatingly good looks and refined bearing combined with her boundless intellectual brilliance to settle on her body, making her a very suitable match for Long Feiye. It was as if they were a couple crafted by the Heavens themselves. The more the crowd watched, the more their gazes seemed to shift-from stunned stares to admiring ones.
A confident woman is always the most beautiful one.
The room was quite big so it took them some time to reach the raised seats at the end. Seeing the empress dowager, Han Yunxi realized how young Grand Concubine Yi really was. This woman already had a head of white hair and exuded an affable, aristocratic aura. Next to her sat the empress, a woman around thirty-years old filled with stately poise. Together, the two woman emanated an awe-inspiring aura that showcased their impressive strength to the entire imperial harem.
"Erchen wishes good health for the Imperial Mother and 10,000 blessings for Elder Sister-in-Law," Long Feiye greeted them formally.
Han Yunxi rose to follow. "Chenqie wishes good health for the Imperial Mother and 10,000 blessings for Elder Sister-in-Law."
"As long as you two can be a good couple, I will have good health! Hurry and rise-someone, bring over some seats!" the empress dowager was in a good mood as she smiled kindly.
As soon as they straightened, the concubines flanking both sides behind them all stood up to pay their respects. "We wish peace for Your Highness Duke of Qin and 10,000 blessings for Qin Wangfei."
The importance of men revealed itself now. The reputation of the wife rested on that of her husband, wouldn't you say? Han Yunxi was preparing to sit down when the empress dowager called on her.
"Yunxi, hurry and come over, let me have a good look at you!"
With such an intimate address, Han Yunxi finally remembered that it was her mother who once saved the empress dowager's life. That was the reason she was arranged to marry Long Feiye. Except, respected Empress Dowager, was it really appropriate for you to play matchmaker between your savior's daughter and your enemy's son? Everyone knew you had the most vicious struggles with Grand Concubine Yi. And now because the Han Family can't figure out a way to cure the crown prince's illness, you're aiming to ruin them. It's already obvious that you return kindness with enmity, hate for love, so why put on such false pretenses?
Han Yunxi didn't get too close, but the empress dowager actually pulled her over to sit by her side, joyfully looking her over before sighing with emotion. "Tsk tsk, look at this radiant beauty, what's so ugly about this pretty person? What sorts of evil creatures called you unattractive? If we ever find out, I won't let them off easily!"
"When we met in your youth, you had a scar there, didn't you?" the empress wondered out loud.
"Is that so? Why don't I remember such a thing? There's no telling what a girl will look like when she grows up! Her mother was a stunning beauty; otherwise, would I have arranged such a marriage with the Duke of Qin?" the empress dowager said earnestly. Hearing this, the tactful empress kept her mouth shut.
Now the empress dowager was turning to look at Long Feiye. "Duke of Qin, I haven't cheated you with such a beautiful woman. I heard you didn't kick the sedan chair door yesterday? Did something happen?"
Ah...Han Yunxi suddenly discovered that coming to court for greetings could give Long Feiye his share of troubles as well.
 erchen () - equivalent to "your subject" or "your servant", a self-deferential way of referring to oneself for males.
 chenqie () - the female equivalent of erchen.
 Wangfei () - his official wife in name and in title, his duchess to his duke, his married partner, etc. Higher status than any concubine.