Chapter 304: Why investigate Gu Beiyue?
The night was still, and so were the people.
His dark pupils were as deep and vast as the night skies, swallowing up everything in the world. Her eyes were clean and bright, as pure as the lakes of the steppes, eternally unchanging and removed from the dust of the mortal plane.
As they stared at each other, the world fell silent.
Inexplicably, he drew closer until his breath brushed against her face. She didn't move, but her heart was beating incessantly against her chest. His gaze lowered until it rested upon her tender pink lips. Slowly, he tilted his head and drew closer. He had never started a kiss with such quiet warmth and gentleness. His movements were exceedingly slow. This was the first time she didn't refused his advances or dreaded his actions, but simply felt restless with anticipation. Unmoving, she watched him with a hooded gaze as he drew near. Her eyelashes fluttered a few times before she shut her eyes.
But right at that moment, Zhao mama's voice drifted over from inside the rooms. "Esteemed wangfei, have you returned?"
Long Feiye immediately stiffened, while Han Yunxi's eyes flew open to look inside the house, just in time to see Zhao mama walk out. Both her and him were frozen in the action of initiating a kiss. At the sight, Zhao mama first grew stunned, then gave a shriek as she turned and fled.
If she had left quietly, that would've been fine, but her scream jolted Long Feiye to his senses. His warm gaze immediately resumed their icy calm before he straightened up. Han Yunxi didn't move, but stood there in silence. Both of them kept quiet for a while before Long Feiye spoke up again. "Go on and rest. I still have to take a trip out of the estate tonight. If anything comes up, you should-"
Before he could finish, Han Yunxi suddenly stood on her tiptoes and lightly kissed him on the cheek. She was very nervous, but pretended to be calm as she replied, "Mm, you go ahead!"
Then she turned and ran into the house before he could reply. Long Feiye hadn't expected that at all. He stood stunned for a long time before he recovered his wits. Then, he lightly touched his cheek and couldn't help breaking into a soft chuckle.
"Women..." he murmured to himself, finding it unbelievable that he finally had a day where he let one kiss him. Forget it. Hadn't he allowed this woman to close their distance long ago?
Han Yunxi stood by her bedroom window upstairs, watching as Long Feiye's form vanished into the night. Only then did she withdraw her gaze. Her face was still burning when she recalled her bold actions. She was a little afraid, but still couldn't resist bursting into laughter-both at herself, and at Long Feiye.
Love was all about taking risks. If you love someone, be brave and love him thoroughly!
Long Feiye, I really like you a lot.
Meanwhile, Long Feiye looked lost in thought as he headed for the back gates, his fingers repeatedly stroking the place where Han Yunxi had kissed him.
Chu Xifeng had been waiting for him for ages, and only found Long Feiye's movements strange. Still, he didn't dare to question the man.
"How is it?" Long Feiye asked.
"Your Highness, I've gotten the details. Gu Beiyue is on shift at the palace and will be away from home the entire night."
Long Feiye nodded and made to leave when Chu Xifeng asked, "Your Highness, is there something...up with Gu Beiyue?"
Long Feiye instantly gave him a cold look, and Chu Xifeng realized he'd said too much. "Master, please calm your anger. This subordinate doesn't know a thing."
Satisfied, Long Feiye stalked off with large strides. Chu Xifeng really had no idea why his master had told him to check whether Gu Beiyue would be home tonight without any further explanation. What was Long Feiye planning to do? What was there worth investigating about Imperial Physician Gu, who didn't even have the strength to truss a chicken?
Chu Xifeng wracked his brains but couldn't come up with an answer, so he gave up and went to the front gates to watch over Eunuch Xue.
If His Highness Duke of Qin didn't allow Eunuch Xue to get up, then he couldn't rise. As a long time denizen of the inner palace, he was very clear on the severities of such actions. If the Duke of Qin hadn't pursued the matter, he could have gotten up without much consequences. But since the Duke of Qin had gotten personally involved, he would be defying his orders if he got up. That would be equivalent to lèse majesté, which would land him the death sentence. All he could do now was stay there obediently and hope for his master to save him.
But as it turned out, Eunuch Xue had been wishing for far too much. He had no idea how many hidden assassins Chu Xifeng had eliminated throughout the night.
"What, another failure?!"
Emperor Tianhui hadn't slept a wink all night, his attentions wholly focused on Eunuch Xue's plight.
"Your Majesty, none of the men we sent returned."
"Bunch of useless trash!" Emperor Tianhui had his hands behind his back as he paced back and fro in the imperial study. He would never allow Eunuch Xue to kneel in front of the Duke of Qin's estate until daybreak. Once news of this spread amongst the people, would he have any face left? Long Feiye's actions were clearly a slap to his face!
Just a few hours earlier, he'd tidied up Han Yunxi with his imperial grace without Long Feiye muttering a word. But then, Long Feiye had gone back and made a fool out of Eunuch Xue as his declaration of war! No matter what, their first battle was precisely Eunuch Xue, and it was a fight he had to win.
"Have someone employ assassins from the City of Daughters. Kill the man and haul away his corpse!" Emperor Tianhui ordered anxiously. There was no need for him to preserve useless servants like Eunuch Xue.
"Your Majesty, it'll take at least three days to hire killers from the City of Daughters. They'll be useless for Eunuch Xue then," Eunuch Chen replied. He was Emperor Tianhui's second most favored Eunuch. Though he would prefer that Eunuch Xue never come back at all, he still had to remind the emperor about these details.
Eunuch Xue would be able to get up after three days, but Emperor Tianhui would have thoroughly lost his face by then.
"Reinforce the men! If they can't kill him, they can come back with their own heads instead!" Emperor Tianhui had flew into a rage, his happy evening reduced to a sleepless night.
Early next morning, Eunuch Xue was found still kneeling unharmed in front of the Duke of Qin's estate. It took less than noontime on the same day for crowds of people to surround him in ever changing mobs. News spread quickly throughout Tianning's capital city, then the nearby towns. Turbulent waves spread throughout the paranoid capital city as everyone felt on tenterhooks. Those in the know understood that His Highness Duke of Qin had declared his stance! There were only three more days until the empress dowager's birthday banquet. Many guessed that her celebrations this year wouldn't be too pleasant.
Long Feiye was really too busy. After he left that night, Han Yunxi suspected they wouldn't meet again until the day of the banquet. While Grand Concubine Yi was known for being obsessed with face, the empress dowager was famous for her love of presents, especially when it came to her birthday. Han Yunxi had long heard that the old woman didn't even like to get her gifts ahead of time, but preferred to unwrap them publically during the banquet. If she was unsatisfied with the gift, she'd cause difficulties for the giver right there and then.
Heaven knows how long the various officials and noble families had busied themselves for the sake of her birthday presents?
The act of gift giving was a formal affair to begin with, especially when it was done in public like this. Anything too unsightly would incur the laughter of the spectators and appear insincere. Anything too rare or precious would incite jealousy and even danger if the gift surpassed that of one's superiors. Thus, presents had to take a middle road. They had to cater to the receiver's tastes without being too unique, and still be special enough to warrant a surprise.
In Han Yunxi's case, she had to find a gift that wouldn't offend the empress dowager while making sure the woman couldn't use it to get a handle on her. While she was fretting over the problem, Chu Xifeng sent word from Long Feiye. He said that there was no need to prepare a gift, so she should rest well instead.
Is he planning to give her the Mu Clan's Medicine Fan? It'll fit the empress dowager's needs perfectly!
Han Yunxi was even considering whether such a gift could allow her to talk terms with the empress dowager so she could have the emperor rescind the order to send her to the western mountains.
"Has His Highness prepared a gift already?" Han Yunxi asked.
"This subordinate didn't see His Highness prepare anything, so it doesn't seem that way," Chu Xifeng replied frankly.
Han Yunxi gave a significant nod. Maybe Long Feiye's planning on gifting the Medicine Fan after all.
Aye, but it's such a shame! The Medicine Fan's a great item!
Even without the trouble of looking for a present, Han Yunxi was still busy. This wasn't some small gathering, but the biggest public event she'd attend since entering the Duke of Qin's estate. As the female master of the Duke of Qin's estate, she would be standing side by side with Long Feiye before all the various officials and noble families. Her clothes were very important!
Clothing, hair, shoes, hair ornaments, jewelry, and makeup were all equally critical points. She couldn't lose face for the Duke of Qin or herself. Zhao mama had long prepared a few articles ahead of time, all custom-tailored pieces, but Han Yunxi wasn't satisfied with any of them. After signing in at the Imperial Physician Courtyard and failing to see Gu Beiyue, she returned quickly to prepare for the banquet instead. It was too late to order more clothes, so she'd have to go shopping in person. Since this was the capital city, she was sure to find something good as long as she had the silver!
Han Yunxi left with Zhao mama from the estate early in the morning. A few shops later, and she'd already amassed a good collection of nice things. As time approached noon, master and servant entered a restaurant and decided to have a meal before continuing their shopping spree. But Han Yunxi had hardly reached the restaurant door when a chair came tumbling down towards her head.
"Mistress, be careful!" Zhao mama reacted quickly and pulled Han Yunxi aside. Meanwhile, the chair crashed to the ground inches from Han Yunxi and broke into pieces. Han Yunxi was quite startled. She'd never been so shocked even when facing assassins, but this chair had shown up out of nowhere!
"Shopkeeper! What's going on? Do you still want to stay in business?!" Zhao mama immediately raised an outcry.
But soon enough, they heard the sound of fighting breaking out above them. Soon enough, a crowd of people swarmed downstairs to flee for their lives.
"They've started to fight! Too scary!"
"They're simply two female tigers!"
"Tsk tsk, you can't judge people by their looks. Hurry, let's get out of here!"
Two women were fighting each other upstairs?
"How unlucky. Zhao mama, let's try another restaurant." Han Yunxi was too lazy to get involved with unrelated matters. She was about to leave with Zhao mama when she heard a familiar voice from upstairs.
"This girl doesn't care who you are. If you don't apologize today, don't think of taking a single step out!"
Han Yunxi froze in her tracks. "Mu Linger!" She could recognize the sweet, clear tone of her voice right away. She's still around? Who's she fighting with?
Very soon, another voice floated downstairs. "Damned girl. Listen up, I'm Chu Qingge from Western Zhou's Chu Clan. You should know who's going to kill you today!"
Urk...Chu Qingge! Han Yunxi licked her lips in amusement before she laughed...enemies were destined to meet!