Chapter 213: Move back for your lordship
Of all the people present, only the young eunuch had no idea what was going on. Li mama and Eunuch Gu had both served the empress dowager for over ten years. No matter how stupid they were, years of living in the palace had made them witnesses to many things. All of them could catch the oddity with this matter.
Nobody had suspected Grand Concubine Yi and Murong Wanru before because the empress was the one who summoned her to the palace. Furthermore, she had never been conferred a title. Because nobody suspected anything about her, no one bothered to investigate her past. But now the results were enough to stir suspicions within the empress dowager. With Grand Concubine Yi favoring Murong Wanru, the Murong family should be favored as well. Even if Murong Wanru wanted to distance herself from the Murong family, they should've come knocking on the door themselves. With such connections alone, the local officials would have to treat them well.
Why did it seem like everyone had disappeared from the Murong family instead? Grand Concubine Yi was so fond of Murong Wanru. Did she have any other reasons besides finding her agreeable?
Once she got her hands on the 《Daily Records of the Imperial Harem》, the empress dowager turned to Grand Concubine Yi's pages. Here, there were detailed accounts of Grand Concubine Yi's pregnancy, such as when she was determined to be pregnant, when she gave birth, and the midwives present. The empress dowager carefully looked at line after line before Li mama couldn't hold back any longer.
"Mistress, His Highness Duke of Qin is an age older1 than Murong Wanru."
The empress dowager didn't even raise her head as she replied coldly, "She only entered the palace when she was six years old. Who knows if she was really six at the time?"
At these words, Li mama and Eunuch Gu exchanged glances. It seemed like they were on the same wavelength as esteemed empress dowager.
"Cui Ping, Shuang Xi2, Imperial Physician Lin, Gui mama, Mother Chen, Mama Su..." the empress dowager's long, long nail pointed at each of the names without leaving anyone out. "Eunuch Gu, go and find all these people for me. I want to interrogate each of them personally. Remember, no one else can know of this matter!"
Eunuch Gu glanced at the names before silently committing them to memory. "Mistress need not worry, your servant understands."
The empress dowager was very satisfied. She even handed the 《Daily Records of the Imperial Harem》 to Eunuch Gu, her eyes sharp and incisive.
Grand Concubine Yi, Duke of Qin, you two better pray to Heaven for protection. Don't let me find anything, or else...I'll have your Duke of Qin's estate disappear off the face of Tianning forever!
Danger spread its roots without anyone the wiser.
It wasn't clear whether Long Feiye had found Mama Su yet, but Han Yunxi spent the past month extremely busy. It wasn't good to care too much after his affairs, so she didn't bother asking, either. She fulfilled her promise to leave Murong Wanru at Marquis Pingbei's estate, while Grand Concubine Yi did her half by relinquishing all matters related to the estate. Besides the occasional trips to Marquis Pingbei's estate to check on Murong Wanru, she spent most of her time in the Peony Courtyard.
With help from Steward Xia and Zhao mama, Han Yunxi made drastic reforms to the estate. She got rid of Grand Concubine Yi and Murong Wanru's most trusted subordinates and placed two dependable servant girls to wait upon the Peony Courtyard. She even dismissed most of the idle workers, leaving only a few servant girls and pageboys for Zhao mama and Steward Xia. As for security measures, that was Chu Xifeng's responsibility. In a flash, there were only a few pieces left of a once gigantic system, leaving things pure and fresh. Efficiency rose as a result, while cliques and groups lessened, helping everyone to become of the same mind. After taking care of such business, Han Yunxi still had something very important to do: moving out of the Hibiscus Courtyard.
That was Long Feiye's territory. Without his permission, no one could enter or exist. Han Yunxi had relied on that courtyard in fear of Grand Concubine Yi and Murong Wanru seeking her trouble. She couldn't keep relying on it now that the troubles were gone, right? Not only did that fellow have an unhealthy obsession with cleanliness, he was also very secretive. Han Yunxi stood at the window of her little garret and looked towards Long Feiye's darkened quarters. She thought and hesitated for a while. She could admit that she was reluctant to part with this place, but she knew it was a futile effort to stay. Nothing would come of it.
Early next morning, she was resolved as ever to move out. The goal was a large, empty compound next to Grand Concubine Yi's called the Narcissus Residence. After busying herself for an entire day, she fell onto her back on the bed, exhausted. Though her body didn't move, her mind was still spinning its gears. Everything had just about ran its court in the estate, but her detox system was still in the middle of upgrades to recover its abilities. Even her mental state had just about recovered, so why hadn't the detox system started working again? Just how long would these upgrades take? Could she get an estimate of time? Fortunately, nothing major had happened recently to need the system, or else she'd be crying by now.
"Esteemed wangfei, this old servant still thinks it isn't appropriate. After all...you should tell His Highness first, shouldn't you?" Zhao mama was still talking about the same thing. She didn't want esteemed wangfei to move out.
Han Yunxi was ready to sprout cocoons from her ears as she waved a hand. "Zhao mama, it's getting late. You should go sleep."
Fine, even Zhao mama was tired from persuading her all day. She helplessly shook her head and silently retreated. Only then did Han Yunxi open her eyes to stare at the ceiling. Long Feiye should be very happy that she moved out. Why would he blame her for not telling him first? Moreover, a busy man like him probably didn't have time to notice such minor matters. Heaven knows if he was even back yet. Han Yunxi lazily got up and prepared to get ready for bed. Right at that moment, Zhao mama suddenly returned, smiling at Han Yunxi with a mysterious look on her face. Han Yunxi felt her hairs stand on end as she said unhappily, "If there's something to say, then speak up!"
Zhao mama smiled even more happily. "Esteemed wangfei, just then His Highness sent people over to, what were the exact words again..." as Zhao mama spoke, she cleared her throat before adopting Long Feiye's icy, aggressive tone. "The things that were moved out of the Hibiscus Courtyard today, must all be returned without fail to their original places within an hour!"
Han Yunxi startled at these words. Zhao mama's voice wasn't very loud to begin with, but she felt like her ears were ringing in pain.
"Esteemed wangfei, His Highness has orders. Please forgive me."
Zhao mama wasn't a bit apologetic, her smile so wide it was impossible to close her lips. With a wave of her hand, the crowd of people outside swarmed in like bees. Aside from the servant girls, there was Steward Xia and the pageboys. A dozen or so subordinates were all personally picked out by Han Yunxi herself, their hands quick and dexterous. They swarmed in and whizzed out, using only a few trips to sweep the giant compound clean. Han Yunxi had always hated unreasonable, aggressive people, but when she looked around at the forcibly emptied rooms, she didn't feel disgusted at all. Instead, she felt something indescribable.
By now, Zhao mama had returned again. "Esteemed wangfei, His Highness has further words to pass on."
Han Yunxi felt that she was getting nervous as she hastened to ask, "What words?"
But Zhao mama held back and said, "Esteemed wangfei, take a guess."
"Are you telling me or not?" Han Yunxi was going to get mad.
Zhao mama wasn't afraid at all, but grinned joyfully. "Esteemed wangfei, His Highness said that the person who moved out has to move back as well!"
At this, Han Yunxi's heartbeat quickened. He wanted her to move back, he'd actually forcibly ordered her back. So then, she wasn't just being shameless by relying on him before? So then...
Han Yunxi stood staring at Zhao mama without saying a thing.
"Esteemed wangfei, this old servant is going back. What about you?" Zhao mama asked.
Han Yunxi didn't answer, but turned around and ran straight towards the Hibiscus Courtyard. Zhao mama gaped at the sight before she recovered her wits. What was wrong with this mistress? What kind of reaction was this?
Han Yunxi reached Long Feiye's quarters in one breath without stopping. When she saw the lights on inside, she didn't think twice before barging in. Last night, she'd already hesitated while standing by the window. If she was being impulsive today, then let her just be impulsive this once. She only wanted to check by asking one thing!
Why did he want her to move back?
She could admit that she was nervous from anticipating the answer. Unexpectedly, her first sight upon going in was an undressed Long Feiye preparing to enter the hot springs. His long, slender body was refined from all angles, the cold, stiff contours as beautiful as the edges of a perfect knife. The strong visual assault forced Han Yunxi to stop in her tracks and freeze in place. She only felt a rush of blood to her head and narrowly avoiding her mind shattering to pieces. Even so, Han Yunxi still couldn't pull her eyes away. That wild, unruly back, sexy behind, long legs, each and every part was filled with boundless physical strength, overwhelming her brain with various thoughts.
At this moment, Han Yunxi only felt one way: there was no saving her now.
Perhaps Han Yunxi didn't realize how heated her gaze had become, but Long Feiye sensed it. He detested such wishful thinking and voyeurism, but this time he didn't reject it at all. Instead, he really wanted to see the expression of the woman currently standing behind him. He reached a hand into the air and grabbed a long, unlined gown, which he then wrapped around himself. By now, Han Yunxi had just recovered her senses, but Long Feiye had already turned around to look at her. She seemed like a thief caught in the act, her face reddening immediately before she subconsciously turned to flee.
In a flash, Long Feiye had blocked her way. He really was thoroughly wicked, arching an eyebrow at her without saying a word. She lowered her head until her chin was almost touching her neck. Her scalp turned numb as she dearly wished for a crack in the ground to take her back to the future.
"Who let you in?" Finally, he spoke up.
The glib-tongued Han Yunxi could only stammer. "I...I, you...didn't you tell me to come back?"
"Your lordship told you to return to the Leisurely Cloud Pavilion, not here," Long Feiye rebutted heartlessly.
Anxious, she blurted, "Why are you having me go back to Leisurely Cloud Pavilion?" The words further cleared her senses. That's right, she'd come to ask for his reasons!
Long Feiye didn't expect this, nor for her to ask the question in such a way. Still, he was forceful as ever as he replied. "These are orders, there's no 'why' involved."
Han Yunxi silently took a deep breath and bolstered her courage. She raised her head to meet him and said, "If there's no 'why,' then I refuse to come back!" Her ears and cheeks were still dusted with red as if on fire, but her sparkling pupils revealed a earnest stubbornness that forced itself into his eyes. The two of them stared at each other in the silent room until everything seemed to turn quiet. Long Feiye didn't reply, while Han Yunxi patiently waited.
Long Feiye, I think I might've started to like you, just that teeny tiny bit.
Give me an answer, so I can see how futile my efforts will be...or perhaps, how hopeful, instead.
1. an age older (...) - da le...yi sui, please take note that the more literal translation was used here. Li mama isn't referring to an exact year here, but LFY and MRWR's difference in ages. It's possible that Li mama is referring to their current difference in age, and that LFY could be anywhere from one to two years older than Murong Wanru, depending on their birthday months. (For example, if LFY was born in January and MRWR in November, then LFY would be a year older than MRWR in winter but two years older than her from January to November.) Li mama's words are basically a moot point since we know Murong Wanru's age was faked, but it's something to consider from her point of view when seeing things.
2. Shuang Xi () - a name that means "double happiness."