Chapter 207: Stunned, a secret as large as the Heavens
Once Murong Wanru had gotten everything off her chest, she'd lost all sense of reason. Or perhaps, she'd lost it the moment she decided to kill Grand Concubine Yi. When she saw Grand Concubine Yu's face of terror, she forgot all about the fact that she would have been nothing but an anonymous court lady without her. She might even have been buried alive with the dead Princess Changping as per custom if she had never left the palace. Right now, her entire mind was filled with thoughts of how Grand Concubine Yi hadn't helped her, protected her, or placed her in the position as the Duke of Qin's concubine.
This was probably an example of 'one sheng of rice earns gratitude, while one dou of rice breeds enmity1.'
"Ever since I was young, I had to rack my brains to guess your thoughts. I had to serve you carefully in case you got unhappy one day and sent me back to the palace. For what?"
"Grand Concubine Yi, seven years ago you first told me that I'd be married to the Duke of Qin. And the results? You married me off to that coward Zhangsun Che! Why are you so good to Han Yunxi? Even though I'm not your real daughter, I've waited on you for so many years. Can't I compare to a single Han Yunxi? Tell me!"
The more she spoke, the angrier Murong Wanru got. Grand Concubine Yi's tears poured down. Even with the needles at her neck, she shook her head to deny all of Murong Wanru's claims.
That wasn't it! All these years, she'd wholeheartedly treated Wanru well. Why did Wanru think this way? In her heart, Wanru was much more important than Han Yunxi. No matter how well Han Yunxi did, she was still an outsider!
"What, are my words wrong?" Murong Wanru gave a cold, disdainful smile. "In any case, you don't have long to live anymore. There's no harm in telling you that I was the one who spread rumors about Han Yunxi having medical knowledge. I also instigated Lady Xu to make a ruckus in front of our gates, and also..." Murong Wanru seemed to recall something just then as her gaze turned ruthless. "And also, what happened at the Plum Blossom Meet was something arranged between me and Princess Changping. Zhangsun Che should've violated Han Yunxi, not me...not me!" By now, Murong Wanru was practically pressed against Grand Concubine Yi's face as she howled.
"It wasn't supposed to be me!"
At her words, the needles in her hands pricked Grand Concubine Yi's neck before digging deep into the flesh.
Grand Concubine Yi never expected Murong Wanru to be the culprit of all these things. Her teary eyes looked at the girl who had long lost herself to madness. Murong Wanru looked at her emotionlessly as if enjoying the view. Grand Concubine Yi's neck really hurt as more and more blood flowed down. She was going to die! She was definitely going to die!
But nobody knew that Grand Concubine Yi's heart felt like it was being cut apart this very moment. The pain from her neck was nothing compared to her heartbreak.
No, Wanru couldn't kill her. Anyone in the world could kill her except for Wanru!
Finally, she couldn't bear it anymore and knocked Murong Wanru coldly aside. She took the gag in her mouth out and said, choking with sobs, "Wanru, you've disappointed me so much! Too much!"
How angry did Grand Concubine Yi have to be to grow enough courage to overcome her fear? Murong Wanru gave a start as she paled in panic. Quickly, she blocked off Grand Concubine Yi into a corner, violently jolting the carriage in the process!
By now, Han Yunxi had taken care of all the black robed assassins. She was about to get on the carriage when it suddenly jolted. Filled with suspicion, she climbed on board. Inside, the occupants had long forgotten about the world outside. Murong Wanru used her own body to completely trap Grand Concubine Yi, her hand clutching the three bloodstained needles. Again, she struck at Grand Concubine Yi's neck while holding her hands down. Grand Concubine Yi had no way to retaliate as her lips trembled. She even forgot to cry out for help.
"Mufei, don't blame me for being heartless. You wronged me first. But you needn't fear. These needles are Han Yunxi's, so I'll remain blameless!" After her cold words, she was about to act when Grand Concubine Yi finally opened her mouth.
"Stop! Wanru, you...you're my real daughter! You can't kill me!"
It wasn't that Grand Concubine Yi had grown too stupid to cry for help, but that she was worried that it would attract people as soon as she did. If they came, Murong Wanru's life would be over!
Murong Wanru's hands stilled at those words. Just what had she heard? The needles were still hovering over Grand Concubine Yi's neck, but her hands had turned stiff. She understood every single word that Grand Concubine Yi had just said, but somehow the words didn't make sense. Grand Concubine Yi shed silent tears that seemed like they'd never stop. She never imagined she'd tell the truth in this lifetime, much less in a situation like this one.
Murong Wanru was no court lady, but her own biological daughter! Murong Wanru's birth, age, and so-called relatives were all forgeries. Was this punishment for her sins? To taste the bitter fruit of her actions? That year, she had been the youngest, most beautiful and most favored concubine of the late emperor in his harem of 3,000. Unlike other imperial concubines, she didn't have a strong backer or strength to lean on. Her father was just a marquis, one whose title was much lower than even Marquis Pingbei in the order of feudal nobility.
Her only assets with her youth and beauty, but a beautiful woman would easily age. Moreover, the last thing the harem lacked was good looks. What was missing were sons! Using the same reasoning as 'exchanging the crown prince for a wild Chinese cat2,' she sent her own daughter out of the palace and turned Feiye into the late emperor's seventh imperial son. She had rejoiced at how the mama back then had found her such a innately gifted, intelligent, and outstanding son. Even though he wasn't of royal blood, the aristocratic air he emanated was completely unmatched. Of all the people who saw the baby in swaddling clothes back then, none doubted his legitimacy as a scion of imperial blood.
Feiye was favored by the late emperor and even had a great possibility of taking the crown prince's power away. Unfortunately, the late emperor had died young. Otherwise, the world could have been her Duke of Qin's estate by now. Still, Wanru was of her own flesh and blood. She seized the opportunity to have her six-year-old daughter sent to the palace and took her in as a foster child. Her heart had been scared witless in those years, so she hadn't conferred a title upon her. As long as her daughter could be by her side, then all was well. She had even planned everything out so Wanru could become the Duke of Qin's concubine when she grew up. In this way, she could stay at the Duke of Qin's estate for the rest of her life and spend her days with her. This could count as her repayment to Wanru.
Though she hadn't objected outright when Han Yunxi brought up the subject of Wanru's marriage, her heart was long filled with ideas. Sadly, the Plum Blossom Meet came too suddenly and made too big of a ruckus for them to retreat! She had no choice but to marry Wanru off, but even so, she made a supreme effort to strive for a better future for her daughter. If not for her guilty conscience and her secret, why would she ruin and lower her own status to give face to Marquis Pingbei's estate for a mere foster child? All her thoughts had been in consideration for her daughter, but she had only brought herself deep-set hate and complaints. Murong Wanru actually wanted to kill her! Even if one took 10,000 steps back and assumed she really was a foster daughter, she still shouldn't have bit the hand that had fed her!
Grand Concubine Yi felt half her heart die at the sight of the dumbfounded Murong Wanru. Her tears were still streaming as she kept shaking her head. She only felt weary and at a loss for what to say. Gradually, Murong Wanru recovered from her shock. Her hands turned limp as the acupuncture needles fell to the ground.
"You... You, what did you say?"
Grand Concubine Yi cried soundlessly, too tired to want to talk.
"I'm your real daughter? You gave birth to me?" Murong Wanru's shock was indescribable. Suddenly, her hands clutched Grand Concubine Yi's throat as she screamed, "You liar! You lied to me so you could preserve your own life! You think I'm an idiot?"
"No...you are my daughter, Wanru...I didn't lie to you, that year, the mama who helped with your birth was..." Grand Concubine Yi was almost breathless from the choking. "Wanru, you should've been...should've been a princess, it's mufei...who acted unforgivably! Wanru, you..."
When she heard 'princess,' Murong Wanru suddenly stilled her hands.
She was supposed to be a princess? She was originally part of the same generation as Emperor Tianhui. She was supposed to be respected and honored!
But in all these years, how many eyerolls had she faced from members of the imperial clan? How much frigid irony and scorching satire had she endured? She was only a foster daughter, and even the servants at the Duke of Qin's estate called her "Miss Wanru"! Shock, wrath, resentment, dissatisfaction and various other emotions flooded Murong Wanru's heart. As before, she kept her hands on Grand Concubine Yi's neck, but she'd stopped using any strength. Instead, she stood there dazed in place. Everything had happened too suddenly that she didn't know what to do.
By now, another person was caught in the throes of astonishment as well. This was none other than Han Yunxi. She'd alighted the carriage long ago and was currently standing just outside the door curtains. One hand was on the curtains, just a move away from pulling it aside. Still, the words she'd heard had frozen her hand in place, even now. She didn't experience quite as wide a range of emotions as Murong Wanru, but her brain was fixated on one thought. If she's Grand Concubine Yi's real daughter, then wouldn't Long Feiye be...
Grand Concubine Yi only had one child in her life. After that birth, she couldn't bear any more children. Everyone knew that! Rather than Murong Wanru, it was Long Feiye's identity that startled her the most. Right now, the guards were all taking care of the assassin corpses outside. A few assassins had been captured alive and were tied up, while the people in the carriages behind them had slowly gotten out. Zhangsun Che and Marquis Pingbei were hurrying over. Han Yunxi was still standing blankly in front of the door curtains as she slowly recovered her wits. She really wished she hadn't heard such a huge secret!
Hidden in the underbrush, Long Feiye had no idea what had happened in the carriage. He only felt that Han Yunxi was acting a little strange.
"Your Highness, what's esteemed wangfei doing?" Chu Xifeng asked in a low voice. Still, he'd hardly spoken when countless hidden weapons suddenly shot out from the underbrush and headed straight for Han Yunxi.
"They finally showed up!" Long Feiye said coldly as he leapt high into the sky. His speed was akin to lightning as he withdrew his sword to deflect the incoming weapons before diving into the underbrush. As it turned out, it was only a plot to lure the tiger from its domain on the mountains. Northern Li's Duke of Kang Jun Yixie flew in from the opposite direction, his dark pupils brash and wicked beneath his mask. He approached Han Yunxi and reached out a hand to grab her.
Nobody expected there to be more assassins, and Han Yunxi expected Jun Yixie's arrival even less. Without a second thought, she lifted the curtains and dove into the carriage!
1. one sheng of rice earns gratitude, while one dou of rice breeds enmity () - sheng mi en, dou mi chou, a saying based on a story that shows how people are quick to change gratitude into enmity based on circumstances. Sometimes, giving more to a person only encourages their hatred and resentment. The story goes like this: once upon a time, a rich family gave a poor family 1 sheng of rice to live through the winter. When Spring came, a man from the poor family came to give his thanks and mentioned they hadn't started growing anything yet, so the rich family gave him 1 dou of rice. 10 sheng of rice = 1 dou of rice. Despite getting more rice than they did in wintertime, the poor man's family was resentful because the rich family could have given them so much more. The rich family grew angry at the poor family's complaints, and the two ended up as enemies. Thus came the idiom, sheng mi dou, dou mi chou
2. exchanging the crown prince for a wild Chinese cat () - limao huan taizi, an idiom based on a historical event set in the Song Dynasty when a jealous consort exchanged the son of her rival with a skinned Chinese wild cat, causing her rival to be demoted and nearly sentenced to death. The story has no place in this chapter beyond the initial baby-switching comparison.