Chapter 302: Overthinking things?
Long Feiye's behavior in the imperial prisons and then his actions at Medical City, were basically one big joke to fool Emperor Tianhui. Now that his scheme with Long Tianmo had failed, how could Emperor Tianhui simply sit still? As soon as he got wind of Long Feiye and Han Yunxi's return, he summoned them to the palace. See here, Eunuch Xue had even come to their gates with a carriage in tow.
Gu Beiyue's question reminded Han Yunxi that Long Feiye wasn't here. It wouldn't be any good if she went to the palace by herself.
"Zhao mama, go and ask when His Highness is planning to return," Han Yunxi ordered.
But Zhao mama only shook her head helplessly. "Chu Xifeng's not here, either. Most likely, no one else at the estate knows either."
"Then send someone to search the Solitary Enclosure and Serene Pavilion." These were Long Feiye's two secret residences located within Tianning's capital city. Most of his time in the capital was spent in these two locations. Zhao mama was originally a servant of the palace, so she naturally knew the severity of the current situation. She quickly sent people off to look, but they soon returned to say that His Highness wasn't present at either locations. He'd left the city after lunch.
The time it took to brew a cup of tea passed before Eunuch Xue grew impatient. He couldn't help but urge, "Esteemed wangfei, just waiting around isn't a solution! If His Highness isn't here, you can go to the palace first. The emperor is waiting!"
Han Yunxi personally delivered a cup of good tea along with a secret purse filled with silver to Eunuch Xue. "Eunuch Xue, His Highness will be here shortly."
Eunuch Xue glanced at the purse before revealing an expression of disdain. It wasn't enough for him!
Han Yunxi doubled the amount and said, "Eunuch Xue, you've worked hard. Drink some tea and rest for awhile."
Only then did Eunuch Xue relent. Ignoring the presence of Gu Beiyue and Mu Qingwu, he accepted the silver right then and there. Han Yunxi thought that was it, but Eunuch Xue stood up as soon as he put away his silver, calm and composed.
"If esteemed wangfei still won't go to the palace, this old servant will return by myself. When the emperor decides on a punishment, heheh... The crime for defying an imperial decree isn't slight!"
Han Yunxi sucked in a cold breath. This old eunuch could've simply refused the silver, but he still said such things even after accepting the bribe? Was he trying to make fun of her? She narrowed her eyes and stared coldly at Eunuch Xue, who had obviously come prepared since he met her gaze squarely. Gu Beiyue and Mu Qingwu could both sense that Eunuch Xue had purposely picked a time when the Duke of Qin was away to make trouble.
"Esteemed wangfei, please calm your anger." Zhao mama could tell as well, but secretly tugged on Han Yunxi's robes as she coaxed, "Before you beat a dog, you have to be aware of its owner. You must endure." If esteemed wangfei made a move, Heaven knew what kind of crime Eunuch Xue would pin on them. He was the representative of Emperor Tianhui and was here on an imperial summons.
"A dog would at least bark a few times after being fed silver!" Han Yunxi murmured. Of course she could tell that this was a trap, but she endured. "Eunuch Xue, let's go then."
"Esteemed wangfei, this one needs to meet His Majesty in the palace as well. Let's go together," Mu Qingwu hastily stepped forward.
"Young General, it's already getting late in the day. Without the emperor's summons, you cannot enter the palace. This old servant asks that you refrain from stirring up muddy waters."
Mu Qingwu was about to retort when Han Yunxi silenced him with a look. Now was the time when their foe saw the enemy in every bush and tree; getting mixed up in the conflict between Emperor Tianhui and His Highness Duke of Qin wasn't easy for anyone. As things stood now, Emperor Tianhui was a tough foe to provoke, but His Highness Duke of Qin was also as stable as Mt. Tai. Most of the court officials, imperial clansmen, and old, established families had chosen to keep a moderate stance between the two. Mu Qingwu was in dire straits himself, so his willingness to stand out made him enough of a man already.
Still, it really would be useless if he came along. The one waiting for them in the palace was none other than Tianning's highest authority, its ruler. He would only worsen his plight if he went.
"Imperial Physician Gu, Young General, I won't be able to receive you today. Let's continue this some other time," Han Yunxi's face was full of optimism, her bearing graceful and elegant.
Mu Qingwu didn't speak, but followed Han Yunxi and Eunuch Xue all the whole way to the carriage. Gu Beiyue had never expressed his opinions out loud, but he too, followed closely behind Han Yunxi. And yet, when they reached the gates, they saw Long Feiye standing by the carriage with his hands clasped behind his back. His posture was tall and straight, his appearance handsome. The imposing manner of his presence was simple and steady. In a flash, everyone froze in their tracks. Han Yunxi's lips curved up into a grin because she knew she was safe for good.
She had no idea that people had been especially sent to guard her after that night with Aunt Ru. Even something as minor as the wind ruffling through the grass would be instantaneously reported to Long Feiye. Eunuch Xue was caught off guard and stood there, stunned. After all, the emperor had made inquiries before he came to verify that His Highness Duke of Qin had left the city.
Under the gazes of everyone present, Long Feiye reached out a hand towards Han Yunxi. "Still not coming over?"
He seemed to ask her this question often.
'Han Yunxi, you're still not coming over?'
'Han Yunxi, you're still not leaving?'
Although his tone was cold and impatient, Han Yunxi loved listening to that voice. She eagerly strode over with a happy heart. Of course, she didn't forget to prick Eunuch Xue with a laxative as she passed by him. The eunuch stood with his head bowed, afraid to even make a fart. Leaving aside the fact that Emperor Tianhui had seized the chance when His Highness Duke of Qin was gone to order him to fetch Han Yunxi, there was the simple reality that he had no way of causing His Highness Duke of Qin any difficulties to begin with!
Long Feiye held Han Yunxi by the hand and helped her onto the carriage. He was about to get on himself when he stopped and turned around. "Eunuch Xue, since when did imperial brother grant you the privilege of seeing your lordship without bowing?"
Eunuch Xue had indeed forgotten. He quickly knelt on one knee. "This old servant greets Your Highness Duke of Qin. May Your Highness be blessed with 10,000 years of fortune!"
Long Feiye didn't spare him a glance before climbing on the carriage and leaving. Mu Qingwu and Gu Beiyue both looked with rapt attention as the carriage left. They were a little unreconciled, but helpless at the same time. Still, their hearts were at ease since it was Long Feiye who had taken Han Yunxi away. Only when the carriage left their line of vision did they stop looking and exchanged glances. Both of them broke into small smiles of mutual sympathy.
As for Eunuch Xue... Long Feiye had never given him permission to rise. Heaven knew how long he'd be kneeling in front of the Duke of Qin's estate?
When hitting a dog, know who its owner is. Long Feiye not only avenged Han Yunxi, but beat Emperor Tianhui's dog in front of everyone in the world.
When Long Feiye and Han Yunxi arrived at the palace, they were told that Emperor Tianhui was entertaining the empress dowager with a banquet at her palace. By the time they reached her Peace and Wellness Palace, they discovered that crown prince Long Tianmo and Qinwang Rong were present as well.
What was the meaning of this?
"Ye'er, is your mufei doing well?" the empress dowager still treated Long Feiye quite politely.
Long Feiye nodded but didn't speak.
"I heard that she often visits Murong Wanru at Marquis Pingbei's estate?" the empress dowager asked again.
"I'm not clear."
Long Feiye could always leave the empress dowager in a awkward position with just a few words. Thus, she pulled Han Yunxi aside and lightly patted her hand. "Yunxi, you've saved the crown prince's life again. Today it's not just the emperor but myself as well who are planning to reward you!"
Was she really here to get a reward? Han Yunxi felt that she'd overthought things. She pasted on a smile and said, "Chenqie is already content with the fact that I'm not imprisoned in chains with a criminal name. I dare not accept any rewards."
Since Long Feiye was sitting next to her, she didn't spare anything with her words.
"Emperor, just look. This girl is mad at you! You nearly framed an innocent person and ruined Tianmo's life!" the empress dowager pretended to scold.
"It's fine if chenqie was framed, but it's the crown prince's life that's more important. As long as the crown prince is well, what does it matter if chenqie was wronged?" Han Yunxi was quite magnanimous with her words, but everyone present was intelligent enough to understand her meaning.
Emperor Tianhui had used the crown prince's life as a counter to frame her! And now, she was sowing discord!
Emperor Tianhui's eyes flashed with hatred. If he had any regrets in this life, it was being too softhearted. He'd readily trusted Long Feiye's stance in the prisons and didn't torture Han Yunxi to death. The crown prince was a pawn that he'd discarded easily, yet Han Yunxi not only saved this chess piece, but returned to sow discord between them. She was truly trying to instigate trouble!
However, Emperor Tianhui himself had underestimated the severity of the situation. It had long surpassed the state of a nuisance and had become a deep set loathing. Long Tianmo appeared calm on the surface, but his hands had long clenched into fists beneath the table. He thoroughly despised this father of his! If not for this time, he would have still tried his hardest to share his father's burdens and be a fitting successor to the throne. But now he understood that the only way to protect his current position as crown prince was to ascend the throne early. Otherwise, he'd be sitting around waiting for his doom, while his father held him in the palm of his hand.
The struggle for the throne wasn't simply limited to brothers, but between fathers and sons as well!
"Crown prince, what do you think?" Emperor Tianhui asked.
Long Tianmo was quite intelligent. Instead of answering the question, he simply rose to his feet with a wine cup in hand. "Erchen has caused Imperial Father to worry over the past few years. Erchen will penalize myself with three cups of wine."
Only then did Emperor Tianhui nod his head in satisfaction. "Sit down. You should be clear on why Zhen has cultivated you all these years."
Originally, they had wanted to find trouble for Han Yunxi, but never expected that she'd instigate them instead. The last thing the empress dowager wanted was to see the emperor and crown prince at odds. The emperor was her son, while the crown prince was a grandson that affected the fate of her parental home. She dearly wished that he would inherit the throne smoothly.
"Someone come, bring over the item that I've prepared," the empress dowager changed the topic just in time.
A servant girl then brought over a deep green jade bracelet, its lovely emerald green luster marking it as a top-quality jade.
"This was left to me by the previous empress dowager. It's been with me for many years. Yunxi, today I'll give it to you." So speaking, the empress dowager personally put it on Han Yunxi's wrist.
Han Yunxi subconsciously withdrew her hand, alarmed by the sudden favoritism. It couldn't be that she was really getting rewarded?
The empress dowager still managed to grab her hand. "Such a girl, are you looking down on this bracelet?"
"No, no. It's simply too precious, chenqie can't..."
The empress dowager refused to let Han Yunxi reject her and forcibly put the bracelet on her wrist. Han Yunxi cast Long Feiye a glance. When she saw that he had kept quiet, she silently accepted the jewelry as well. By now, Emperor Tianhui's reward had arrived too, in the form of an imperial decree. At this, Han Yunxi glanced at Long Feiye again, only to see him crease his eyebrows.
Typically, it was impossible to defy an imperial decree without sufficient reasons. Back when Long Feiye refused the decree to marry Duanmu Yao, the consequences hadn't been slight. This imperial decree made Han Yunxi none other than the Right Courtyard Head of the Imperial Physician Courtyard while relegating its original head, Gu Beiyue, to take charge of the Left Courtyard. She was also bestowed a salary equivalent to that of a third-rank official.
Han Yunxi was left stunned by the time the eunuch finished reading the decree. It was hard enough being a daughter-in-law of the imperial family, much less one of its officials! Emperor Tianhui's move this time was extremely formidable!
And yet, the most formidable move had yet to come...