Chapter 330: Still pleased and unrestrained?
What were Long Feiye and Han Yunxi doing now? Long Feiye didn't bring Han Yunxi back to the Duke of Qin's estate to eat, but took her to a famous teahouse to try some tea and pastries. The second floor of the teahouse had space for professional storytellers. Long Feiye and Han Yunxi settled themselves in a room by the window that was partitioned from the rest of the space by a beaded curtain. This way, they could listen to the storyteller while maintaining a modicum of privacy.
Long Feiye was a tea addict, Han Yunxi knew. It was probably the only hobby she did know he had. He ordered a pot of black tea before handing over the pastry menu to Han Yunxi.
Does this fellow have nothing to do today? He actually has time to take me out for tea?
Whatever the case, Han Yunxi was very happy. She skimmed through the menu before asking, "Your Highness, what would you like to eat?"
"You choose," Long Feiye only had requirements for his tea.
Han Yunxi picked a few things she liked before asking, "Does Your Highness want to eat pastries?"
"You can choose. There's no need to ask me in the future," Long Feiye said mildly.
In the future? Does this mean he'll take me out for tea often in the future?
"Oh!" Han Yunxi's mood skyrocketed. Because she was hungry, she ordered an entire table of pastries. Most of them had sugar because she liked sweets. "Did Your Highness find me for anything...in particular?"
Alright, Han Yunxi was clear enough to know that this busy man was different from Gu Qishao. How could he take her out to tea without a reason?
"I went to the palace to talk with Tianhui about the Northern Li coup, before picking you up along the way," Long Feiye replied honestly.
"You can lie about your reasons, you know," Han Yunxi muttered quietly to herself. Unexpectedly, Long Feiye actually heard her eyes and stared at her, his expression a little odd. Han Yunxi instantly shut her mouth and looked away, afraid to meet his gaze. Long Feiye stared at her for a long time without speaking, making her feel even more awkward. She had multiple guesses for Long Feiye's current expression and his innermost thoughts. Yes, she'd told herself that she'd walk those 99 steps on her own, but when she really thought it over...even taking one step is so hard!
Actually, if Han Yunxi had been brave enough to look back, she definitely would've noticed the amused curve to Long Feiye's lips. He wasn't angry at all, but thoroughly enjoyed the sight of her when she was embarrassed.
Han Yunxi was used to long silences between them, but she couldn't quite sit still this time. She pretended that nothing had happened at all and changed the topic. "There was a coup in Northern Li? Has Jun Yixie lost power?"
She and Long Feiye not only exposed the alliance between Duanmu Yao and Jun Yixie in Medical City, but even told the world that Jun Yixie was head of the Hundred Poison Sect. Duanmu Yao was now hiding in Celestial Mountain Sword Sect and didn't dare to return to Western Zhou. Meanwhile, Jun Yixie had even more troubles to deal with. His identity as the leader of the Hundred Poison Sect had caused an uproar in Northern Li. Because the Hundred Poison Sect was a user of gu, Medical City had set them in their sights as well. These days, Jun Yixie was laboring under a double burden like a candle being burnt at both ends. If it wasn't trouble from one place, it was hassles from another.
"There's news that the Northern Li emperor's reduced Jun Yixie's authority until he's nothing but a figurehead now. But it's uncertain if that's true," Long Feiye replied.
Finally, Han Yunxi dared to look back. By now, Long Feiye's face had resumed its usual icy mien. Northern Li Country's current status was unknown. There were many variables at play, but they could be certain of one thing: as long as Northern Li had stable rule, Tianning and Western Zhou would find no peace. But if Northern Li was rife with internal conflicts, Tianning and Western Zhou could seize the chance to amass their strength. The constant struggles at the Three-Way Battlefield had always put Tianning and Western Zhou on edge!
"Whatever the case, he's got a lot of troubles now!" Han Yunxi said viciously. When she recalled how Jun Yixie had assaulted her, she still felt traces of fear. Fortunately, the white-robed man had rescued her in time. Of course, fear in hindsight was still fear from the past. She wasn't weak, so she could face it head on! Han Yunxi silently vowed that she'd never let Jun Yixie off for the slight!
All that aside, Jun Yixie had to deal with his poisoned shoulder as well. That was Han Yunxi's own newly-created toxin, a slow-acting poison with symptoms that resembled rheumatism. It wasn't fatal, but it could torment Jun Yixie for the rest of his life! Any time the weather turned cloudy or rainy, Jun Yixie's shoulder would experience unimaginable agony. Nothing was capable of soothing the pain. He either had to endure it or cut off an entire arm. Han Yunxi had only created a single antidote, but she'd long tossed it away. She would never make another antidote or use another instance of this poison ever again. She didn't want a single instance of the cure to ever exist in this world!
Despite keeping her hatred in her heart, Long Feiye still noticed her change of expression.
"What is it?" he asked.
"Nothing. I just really hate that man." Han Yunxi didn't want Long Feiye to know about that unhappy memory. She'd skipped over the events entirely when telling him about the white-robed man's rescue efforts.
"Jun Yixie won't lose his power so easily when the Northern Li's emperor's placed him in such an important position," Long Feiye remarked. Jun Yixie wasn't related to the imperial clan by blood, but was the emperor's foster son. Despite this, he held the most influence at court, so there had to be some underlying reason. Han Yunxi didn't know much about Northern Li politics, so she didn't think too deeply. All she did was drop the issue with an 'Oh.' She didn't know that Long Feiye had sent men to Northern Li as soon as they returned from Medical City. Before, he'd warned Jun Yixie in the Sky Pit that he'd make the man regret.
There were many things that Long Feiye would never say, and that Han Yunxi would never find out.
Han Yunxi didn't want to talk about Jun Yixie anymore. She grinned and said, "Your Highness, you've taken me out for tea. But aren't you afraid that I won't be able to solve the case and lose to Chu Qingge instead?"
Long Feiye was a little perplexed. He didn't care about the case in the slightest. If Noble Consort Xiao didn't have the skills to solve her own problems, it was useless to leave her in the palace. Just like Aunt Ru once said, he wasn't the type of man who kept around useless people.
"Why should I be afraid?" he asked, not understanding.
Han Yunxi grew amused before she dove into gossip. "Your Highness, didn't you notice how His Majesty was interested in Chu Qingge?"
Long Feiye was very intelligent-or rather, he possessed both wisdom and insight. But sometimes, he really had trouble understanding women and their train of thought. "What does this have to do with whether you win or lose?" he asked.
If Aunt Ru was here, she'd be amazed that Long Feiye was actually talking so much today.
"Your Highness, if I let Chu Qingge lose wretchedly, Emperor Tianhui wouldn't be as interested in her!" Actually, leaving aside all the hefty conflicts involved in the mess, Han Yunxi would rather Chu Qingge marry Emperor Tianhui anyways! Still, she kept her reason. If Chu Qingge really married into Tianning's imperial family, she'd be a Noble Consort at the very least. Wouldn't she cause Han Yunxi trouble everyday, then? Moreover, Chu Qingge had the backing of a Great General's family in Western Zhou!
Chu Qingge was different from Duanmu Yao. Although the latter possessed a higher rank, it was only an empty title. Otherwise, Emperor Tianhui wouldn't have tried his best to pair her up with Long Feiye. Chu Qingge possessed both exceptional skills in archery and an impressive family background! When it came to power struggles, nothing could beat the practical possession of military might. Once Chu Qingge married Emperor Tianhui, the man would have more chips to counter Long Feiye. In short, her marriage was a disadvantage to them in every way!
Han Yunxi laid out all the points while Long Feiye drank his tea. When she was finally done, he said, "Even if you lose, it's nothing serious. However...your lordship likes it when you win."
Han Yunxi was stunned. She felt like she'd taken too much pains to worry about the entire thing. Does this fellow not see Western Zhou's Chu Clan as a threat? How strong is he? How much more power is he hiding away?
Long Feiye finished his cup of tea and rose to his feet. "Do you want to go back?" Actually, they'd been sitting and chatting for a long time, but Han Yunxi felt like things had passed in a flash! She wanted to ask him about many more things, but when she really thought it over, she didn't know what to say.
She reluctantly got to her feet. "I'd like to take a trip to General Baili's estate." It'd been some days since she last saw Baili Mingxiang, so she didn't know how the woman was faring. Since she was taking poisons frequently now, their effects would act up more often, too.
"Let's go, then. Your lordship wants to make a visit as well," Long Feiye replied.
Han Yunxi thought that Long Feiye was going to see Baili Mingxiang, but once they arrived, he went to talk with General Baili in private instead. When Han Yunxi went to Baili Mingxiang's rooms, the woman had just recovered from another bout of poison. She washed and cleaned herself before lying down to rest on the bed, her pale face devoid of all color.
The two of them chatted for awhile before Baili Mingxiang asked, "I heard the servants say that His Highness came as well?"
"Mm, he's in your father's study," Han Yunxi replied while checking Baili Mingxiang's pulse.
Baili Mingxiang had only glimpsed His Highness once this entire year, and that was at the empress dowager's birthday banquet. How she wished the palace held more banquets! Still, she hid everything in her heart without asking for any more details. In the end, it was Han Yunxi who ended up posing the question.
"Baili Mingxiang, was His Highness's personality like this when he was younger, too?"
"Mingxiang rarely had a chance to see His Highness, but I've heard it was more or less the same," Baili Mingxiang's answer was very prudent.
"I feel like he's a bit depressed." Han Yunxi would probably only say such words to Baili Mingxiang. She hadn't even raised the thought to Zhao mama. Heaven knows whether the old servant would pass them on to Long Feiye's ears instead. As she saw it, Baili Mingxiang was simply one of Long Feiye's subordinates, just like one of his guards. She was a woman who respected him and utterly obedient to his orders.
As it turned out, that was Baili Mingxiang to a tee.
"Depressed..." Baili Mingxiang muttered to herself. She never thought Han Yunxi could see that part of Long Feiye as well. She very much wanted to say she didn't know, but she couldn't help but recall the sight of the boy by the lotus pond all those years ago. He had a cold, cheerless gaze, and his eyebrows were always furrowed deep in thought.
Baili Mingxiang sighed softly. "Esteemed wangfei, could a man who holds the entire world in his heart be free to act pleased and unrestrained?"
That's right. Long Feiye's striving after the entire world. The world in his heart is bigger than I could ever imagine!
Han Yunxi smiled. "Miss Baili, you understand him quite well." It was a careless remark on her heart, but it gave Baili Mingxiang the jitters.
She hastily made to say, "Esteemed wangfei, Mingxiang doesn't deserve your words. It's impossible for anyone to carelessly guess His Highness's thoughts."
Baili Mingxiang, ah, Baili Mingxiang. She was someone who loved Long Feiye down to her very blood, so much that even Han Yunxi couldn't see the signs. In the midst of Baili Mingxiang's anxiety, a servant girl spoke up from outside the door.
"Esteemed wangfei, His Highness is waiting for you in the guest hall. He asks that you go over when you're ready."