Princess Changping and Mu Liuyue were waiting to see Han Yunxi make a joke out of herself. But she did no such thing. Raising her clear, calm eyes, Han Yunxi looked towards Gu Beiyue and the silent, brooding General Mu. "General, Imperial Physician Gu, you both know the young general's condition. You should be very clear that my life and his are connected!"
Of course Gu Beiyue understood what Han Yunxi meant. General Mu avoided her gaze and looked towards the side. Seeing this, Han Yunxi smiled faintly and turned towards the North Court Official. "North Court Official, let's go." When she finished speaking, she turned to leave with a calm expression without any guards to prompt her.
Han Yunxi actually...
The crowd traded looks with each other, not expecting anything like this. Princess Changping and Mu Liuyue wanted to attack her this way, but found themselves extremely disappointed. There wasn't any sense of joyful revenge in the proceedings. This woman was different, carrying a strength of character that none of the females in the capital possessed. Magnanimous and steady, she dared to act with the courage to take responsibility for her actions. Those who wanted to shame or strike her, could they do so that easily?
Seeing no one following her, Han Yunxi paused in her steps and calmly turned around. "What are you all spacing out for? Let's...go!"
The North Court Official and his men traded looks, each finding the situation inconceivable. It took them some time to recover. Seeing Han Yunxi's ramrod straight posture, the North Court Official couldn't help but reveal an admiring look. He'd arrested plenty of offenders from the imperial family before, all of whom either cried or begged for mercy. This was the first time he'd seen such a proud woman. She wouldn't be defeated by any man. It was a pity that such a unique female had the luck to fall into the empress dowager's hands. Those who entered the courts of justice found it difficult to get back out.
When she was taken away, Princess Changping gave Gu Beiyue a side glance before speaking. "General Mu, look at what kind of quack you've invited! Hurry up and chase him out, I've brought along a whole bunch of miracle doctors!"
As she spoke, her attendants brought over a few doctors, none of whom General Mu recognized. But he was worried over his son's condition and invited them all in, neglecting Gu Beiyue in the corner. Of course, Gu Beiyue understood the skills of the gathered doctors very well. If even he couldn't cure this situation, what chances did they have? Yet right now, neither General Mu nor Princess Changping were open to listening to reason, so he hastily left.
Only Han Yunxi could wake up Mu Qingwu again, but the only people who could get her out of the justice courts were from the Duke of Qin's residence. It wasn't that Gu Beiyue hadn't thought of reporting to the emperor directly, only that his position wasn't high enough to meet him on these matters. In addition, the emperor's position wasn't very clear on these things, either.
With Mu Qingwu's situation at a critical state, if Han Yunxi wasn't present when the slow-acting poison reacted, his life might be in danger. At that time, General Mu and Princess Changping would definitely accuse Han Yunxi for poisoning him in the first place. Deciding quickly, Gu Beiyue left the general's house for the Duke of Qin's estate, but found out that neither Grand Concubine Yi or the Duke of Qin were home.
"Miss Murong, did Grand Concubine Yi said where she was going?" Gu Beiyue asked hurriedly. He knew it was difficult to ask after the Duke of Qin's matters, nor was Murong Wanru guaranteed to know them. But she should at least have news of the grand imperial concubine, right?
Murong Wanru hated it when others called her 'Miss Murong,' but many people in the capital used this name. This two-character surname was a constant reminder that she was only an adopted daughter. No matter how much she despised it, she still hid it well. Her tender face only revealed an anxious expression. "Aye, only a new bride and she's gotten in so much trouble. If mufei finds out, she'll definitely get mad. Not to mention, she doesn't even know any medical arts, so how could she..."
"Miss Murong, Qin Wangfei is innocent. Your servant here can bear witness to that. Only..." Gu Beiyue explained the particulars of the situation to Murong Wanru. She didn't expect that this kindly Imperial Physician Gu could burn with impatience. Rumors had it that even when treating the emperor's illness, he could be coolly indifferent.
Now she pretended to be angry. "This! How could General Mu act this way? The situation's reached all the way to the empress dowager!? This..."
"A person's life is at stake, so I ask Miss Murong to hurry with some people to find Grand Concubine Yi. It's harder to get out of the justice courts than go in," Gu Beiyue couldn't help but urge.
This Miss Murong looked worried, but didn't make any move.
"Mufei doesn't like to be disturbed when she's resting. How about this? Imperial Physician Gu, you go find out more about the situation first while I find mufei to come up with a plan," Murong Wanru finally spoke.
Gu Beiyue nodded, finally exhaling in relief. He was worried about delaying Murong Wanru and thus left in a hurry after paying his respects. Still, Murong Wanru made no immediate move to leave. She sat in the host's seat of honor in the receiving hall, lethargic and comfortable as her lips curved into a disdainful, sneering smile. Calm and composed, she swept a cocky glance over all the servants gathered in the hall, her appearance delicate as she raised her eyebrows coldly.
"Anyone who says a word about today will face...the consequences!"
The servants all trembled as they kneeled to the floor. "Miss, don't worry! Your servants understand, understand!"
Murong Wanru would rather Han Yunxi never come back, so why would she seek out Grand Concubine Yi? When General Mu had charged in before, she'd fretted over losing the chance to sink Han Yunxi in a well and throw a rock after her body, but now things were fine. This actually saved her a lot of trouble. She lazily stretched her back before going back to her room and getting in bed. After getting disturbed twice these few nights, she just wanted to make up for lost sleep.
As of now, the skies were gradually getting brighter, and Han Yunxi had just arrived at the gates to the justice courts prison. The cells were already cold and gloomy, but the winter chill made them frighteningly cold. When she'd rushed out of the house, she hadn't worn much clothes to begin with. Just the walk to the prisons made her sneeze, and the deeper she went, the more she thought that this place was a giant freezer, making her shiver uncontrollably. Due to her special status, she was locked in a solitary cell with three walls facing the bars. It was relatively clean and could be considered liveable. The prison doors shut with a clang as she went to the heated-brick bed for warmth.
So cold, she feared cold the most! Thank goodness this bed was here.
After huddling for a long while, her body gradually grew warmer. Who knew how long she had to stay in this godforsaken place? Even if Mu Qingwu woke up, the justice courts had already started their investigation. Between inquiries, evidence collection, and all kinds of interrogation, no one could tell how much time it'd take to finish things. At the very least, those who came here found it very, very difficult to go back out.
Han Yunxi thought about her potential rescuers in Grand Concubine Yi and Long Feiye. The latter was definitely out searching for antidote ingredients these few days. Grand Concubine Yi, no matter how much she disliked her, wouldn't let the empress dowager pass so lightly. The fact that the empress dowager had issued the arrest warrant was probably a way to match strength with Grand Concubine Yi.
Aye, in the end she was still too inexperienced. She should have expected that the empress dowager wouldn't forgive her for acting as loftily as Long Feiye that day in the palace. The empress dowager originally wanted to use her as an ugly woman to humiliate Grand Concubine Yi, yet she'd turned out beautiful instead. Then she wanted to use the cloth for the drop of red on the marriage night to condemn the Han Family, but Long Feiye had helped out instead. Wouldn't the empress dowager loathe her to her very bones?
As she thought, Han Yunxi couldn't help but shiver with cold. What a decline in fortunes to offend two of Tianning Country's frightening woman, Grand Concubine Yi and the empress dowager.
All right. No matter what happened, she should uphold the title of Qin Wangfei before they declared her guilty of any charges. The justice courts wouldn't dare to torture her until she confessed. More or less, Han Yunxi felt relatively self-assured about her current situation. She was still more worried about Mu Qingwu.
It was definite that he'd wake up within the next three days. But if the poison wasn't expelled by then, there would be big trouble. If Mu Qingwu died because of his poison, even Long Feiye wouldn't be able to save her tiny life if he appeared. At this point, the young general's life and hers were tied together.
Three days! It could be as slow as slow could be, or as fast as the blink of an eye! Gu Beiyue should visit the prisons, right? All her hopes rested with him.
After a tiring day and night, Han Yunxi finally drifted off to sleep in the midst of her thoughts. Not too long afterwards, she was chilled awake from her legs down. No matter how she huddled up in the covers, she couldn't get warm. She discovered that the firewood beneath her brick heated bed had long burned itself out, but there was no other wood in the cell.
This was too much!
Wrapping herself in the flimsy covers, Han Yunxi sneezed multiple times as she climbed off the bed to call for help.
"Is anyone there? Someone come!"
The night watch didn't reply, so Han Yunxi decided to throw around outright lies.
"There's an assassin!"
But no matter how or what she shouted, only echoes answered her cries. She exhaled and decided to stop wasting her energy, rubbing her hands constantly as she hopped in place to warm up. Most of the people who died in the justice court prisons never saw blood or injuries from tortures. Even without these methods, there were plenty of ways to cause an inmate to die from illness.
Han Yunxi realized that she'd underestimated the darkness behind the justice courts.
Just as she was hopping and jumping, there was the sound of footsteps and people hurrying over. She was about to turn around when a bucket of ice water came flying her way, drenching her from head to toe! The cold drilled through her skin down to her very bones and every corner of her four limbs, chilling her to a point where she froze in place. Outside the cell door, she saw Princess Changping wrapped warmly in a cotton-padded jacket, face flushed with success as she grinned from ear-to-ear. The North Court Official and a few water-carrying lackeys stood respectfully to one side.
"Princess Changping, you dare to try and torture the wangfei?" Han Yunxi asked coldly, her body dripping wet. She was battered and exhausted, but her eyes were clearer and colder than anything around her.
Though she knew this woman couldn't do anything against her, Princess Changping still felt her heart quail at the sight of those eyes.
No! There was imperial grandmother and imperial mother to support her, so no one would ever spread what happened here. Han Yunxi wouldn't have any proof, either. As a result, Princess Changping calmed down and gave an chilly laugh. "Han Yunxi, you're speaking too highly of the princess. I know you're my imperial aunt so I have to respect you. See, I've especially come to supervise the North Court Official as he cleans your cell. I heard plenty of people have died from disease here since it's so dirty."
Cleaning her cell in the middle of the night? She could sure think up excuses!
"There's no need," Han Yunxi declined, but the North Court Official was already impatiently issuing orders.
"Come, hurry up and clean out the place. Do you think you can take responsibility for treating Qin Wangfei unfairly?"
As his words finished, four to five old jailers lifted their buckets of water, so cold that it held chunks of ice inside.
"Pour for the princess!" Princess Changping ordered without any hesitation.
The cold water, mixed with ice, splashed in from different places, forcing Han Yunxi to dodge. Any rebukes she tried to make now would be useless. She turned to escape for the furtherest corner of the cell, running back and forth to evade the water. But these jailers were thoroughly experienced and hit her without fail, one after the other!
 sink Han Yunxi in a well...throw a rock after her body () - luojingxiashi, basically a figurative way of saying she wanted to ruin her.
 heated-brick bed () - huokang, some forms of ancient beds worked like an oven; the interior was hollowed out to make room for firewood, which would be lit until the heat warmed the surface of the bed above.
 imperial grandmother () - huangnainai, aka her father's mother, the empress dowager.