"I wouldn't dare, I wouldn't dare." A single 'I'll have to trouble' was too hefty for the North Court Official to bear.
And yet Long Feiye continued to speak. "If Qin Wangfei fails to save Mu Qingwu, you'll take her back and do things according to official regulations. If Qin Wangfei does wake up Mu Qingwu..." He paused here, his voice suddenly turning cold. "Since you arrested your lordship's wangfei without adequate evidence, then don't blame your lordship when he does things according to official regulations, too!"
The North Court Official quivered in place, scared witless. He never checked whether Han Yunxi was helping or hurting someone, only followed Princess Changping and the empress dowager's orders! Everyone was trembling in fear, each uncertain of their fate. Princess Changping and Mu Liuyue both wished that Mu Qingwu would be well, but didn't want Han Yunxi to escape punishment either. They were both worried and caught in a tangle, their handkerchiefs nearly tearing in their hands.
A servant carried over a stool, and Long Feiye sat down with a domineering air before the door. He was like a deity with all living things under his command, whose eyes found nothing worthy of his interest in their gaze. If he said to wait, then nobody would dare move him even if they had to wait three days and three nights. The North Court Official grew more fearful the more he thought. His situation was different from the others. He was just a meager judicial officer of the justice courts. Mu Qingwu's life or death had nothing to do with him, but if the young general was saved, then he'd be doomed.
No, he had to think of a way to get inside!
And yet right at this moment, someone knocked on the door behind Long Feiye. This...someone from the inside? Stillness fell upon the scene. Everyone's eyes moved towards the door as the knocks sound in their ears: boom, boom, boom! There was only Mu Qingwu and Han Yunxi inside that room, so who could be knocking?
Long Feiye lazily rose to his feet and moved the chair aside. The door had been bolted from the outside, and the broken lock was still dangling from the door. Had Han Yunxi successfully treated Mu Qingwu's poison? General Mu was both excited and nervous, and might have shoved the door open if the Duke of Qin wasn't standing in front of it. He could only try to hold back his anxiety. Long Feiye was in no hurry to open the door, but gave the North Court Official a significant look that nearly made his heart leap out of his chest. His two legs grew weak as his vision turned dark, not knowing what the results would be. He really wanted to close his eyes and not even look at all.
After removing the chair, Long Feiye took off the iron chains and pulled out the horizontal door bolt while everyone stared at his hands. His every moment caused their hearts to quake with fear and their breath to catch. The person inside seemed to have heard the lock being undone and stopped knocking. The crowd fell into a deeper silence as their heartbeats quickened.
Suddenly, Long Feiye pushed open the door.
In an instant, the North Court Official's heart leaped out of his chest as he saw...a person in the doorway, standing tall and straight with thick eyebrows, big eyes, and a face with deeply ingrained features. Though the complexion was as white as paper, there was life in those pupils as they shone with an open and honest light.
This was none other than the young general Mu Qingwu!
He was awake! Not only was he awake, his eyes were shining as he stood in the door, angrily staring at He Ze of the Northern Court. When the poison had been expelled, he'd cradled his injury while listening to Han Yunxi explain everything. The crowd hadn't even had time to react before hearing Mu Qingwu's furious voice ring out.
"He Ze of the Northern Court, what's the meaning of this? Qin Wangfei is my lifesaver. Why did you brand her as an assassin and accuse her of misdiagnosing me? Why did you lock her up? Without her, I would've lost my life long ago. What, did you want me to die?"
Heavens, Mu Qingwu was actually awake! Han Yunxi had really saved him!
It's over and done for, he was a goner!
The North Court Official's legs trembled as he narrowly avoided collapsing to the ground. "It's a misunderstanding! Young general, I've been wrongly accused! I really didn't know Qin Wangfei could save you!"
Mu Qingwu next turned his fiery sights on General Mu. "Father! Qin Wangfei has no enmity with me. How could she hurt me or be my killer? When I was poisoned by the assassin that day, she was the one who saved me. I lost consciousness after I saw her!"
General Mu's face was completely red with shame. "Your father, he was just worried..."
"You became muddled and confused! You almost lost the lives of Qin Wangfei and I!" Mu Qingwu rebuked him.
General Mu had long ago realized that he'd made a mistake and quickly knelt down. "This old man was wrong! Wrong!"
Mu Qingwu was filled with righteous anger as he held his injury and took a step forward. Just when he was going to continue his reprimands, he saw the Duke of Qin on one side. Shocked, he prepared to kneel. With the Duke of Qin here, how could he speak so boldly!
"You're excused. Where's Han Yunxi?" Long Feiye asked coolly. At this time, Han Yunxi had just finished cleaning things up. She walked out neat and tidy in time to hear Long Feiye say her name. She wasn't sure whether it was because he had a pleasant voice or she had a pleasant name. In any case, hearing it made her heart especially comfortable and happy.
"Chenqie is here," Han Yunxi said as she walked out with a docile expression to stand by his side. In a flash, everyone's gazes shifted from Mu Qingwu to Long Feiye and Han Yunxi. In truth, none of the people here had seen these two standing together since they became husband and wife. As to the relationship between them, nobody knew. Han Yunxi had a slight figure and was small and delicate despite possessing a powerful aura. Standing next to Long Feiye, she looked like a small bird seeking shelter.
As soon as Han Yunxi had stepped inside the Duke of Qin's residence, all sorts of nasty rumors spread outside. Some people even predicted that she'd never even see his lordship. Yet now the Duke of Qin had shown up here without any prompting from Grand Concubine Yi. It truly did surprise everyone and made them wonder whether Han Yunxi's beauty had changed things.
How exactly did the Duke of Qin treat her?
"Why did you escape from prison?" Long Feiye asked coldly.
"Escape from prison? Only criminals escape from prison! I didn't commit any crimes, right? You can't count me as a fugitive?" Han Yunxi wore an innocent expression before turning to ask, "North Court Official, your words are the ones that count. Would you say that I escaped from prison?"
When Mu Qingwu woke up, Han Yunxi told him everything. With him testifying on her behalf, even the emperor himself wouldn't be able to pin the blame on her. Long Feiye had come as well and wouldn't allow her to come to grief. He couldn't arrive and lose face for himself, right?
The Han Yunxi of right now had very solid backing!
Escape from prison?
Faced with this dilemma, the North Court Official wished he could ram his head into something and kill himself. "No, no. Esteemed wangfei has no crimes, so she isn't a fugitive."
"If I didn't commit a crime, why did you lock me up?" Han Yunxi asked curiously.
He Ze of the Northern Court lost his head in a fit of panic, his reasoning mixing itself up in his head. He didn't know how to explain himself, but just kneeled down to kowtow with his head.
"Misunderstanding, it's really a misunderstanding! This one will bow to esteemed wangfei in apology! Please spare my life, esteemed wangfei!"
Han Yunxi guilelessly blinked her eyes. "Your highness, is the North Court Official trying to say that he planted false charges against me?"
A misunderstanding versus false charges, there was a big difference between these two!
Planting false charges against the Qin Wangfei? That wasn't an ordinary crime! The North Court Official's bows turned rigid as he wanted to cry. But what good would tears do? He could only keep kowtowing and begging. "Your highness, please spare me! Esteemed wangfei, please spare me! This lowly official knows he's done wrong! He's done wrong!"
A flicker of resentment passed through Han Yunxi's eyes. When the North Court Official dumped ice water on her that night or sent an assassin after her today, did he ever imagine that he'd end up in this sorry state? If Long Feiye hadn't appeared in the nick of time to bar the way, Mu Qingwu would've died. That would be the conclusive evidence to give her the death penalty. Even if He Ze of the Northern Court kowtowed himself to death, she'd remain aloof and indifferent. If someone respected her a foot, she'd respect them ten feet. If someone burned her three millets, she'd seize their three grains.
She was a doctor, not a saint; she wouldn't save everyone that came her way. She was a small woman, not some great man; she didn't have the heart to forgive the people who harmed her. With Long Feiye's powerful support, she knew it was time for the winds to change. Calm and composed, she looked towards Princess Changping, who seemed timid in comparison. The princess didn't even have time to be happy for Mu Qingwu's sake as she resentfully lowered her head.
Ah, but that hate brimming in her heart!
She had no way to accept the current state of events. This useless trash Han Yunxi had actually saved her Qingwu gege? Even Han Yunxi's father had been useless, so where did she get these skills? She couldn't believe it! Looking at the fresh bandages wrapped around Qingwu gege's chest, who knew what this woman had done to him in the room? For a woman to look at a man's body, wasn't she just shameless?
But what angered her most of all was that Qingwu gege had gotten out of bed as soon as he was awake to lose his temper. Wasn't this all to protect Han Yunxi and testify for her sake? She felt like she was eating vinegar even when Qingwu gege looked out for his little sister, much less shield a completely different woman! Princess Changping might have bowed her head, but not her heart. The more she thought, the more outraged she felt.
Long Feiye wasn't leisurely enough to listen to someone beg for mercy all day. He shot the North Court Official an impatient glance and spoke, "Your lordship said that he'll do things according to official regulations. Someone, take him away and refer the case to the Ministry of Appointments for severe punishment!"
As soon as he finished speaking, all of the North Court Official's men vied for the chance to apprehend him. To carry out the orders of the Duke of Qin, even if it was only once, was a honor and glory they'd hold for the rest of their lives.
More than anything else, this was like a resounding slap for the North Court Official. He was too busy to worry about losing face as he suddenly prostrated himself before the princess. "Princess Changping, I was listening to your orders for everything! Please speak on your official's behalf and explain the matter!"
The Duke of Qin had already involved himself in this matter. The crucial point was that Mu Qingwu had regained consciousness, so the empress dowager would naturally show restraint and absolve herself of all responsibility pertaining to the case. After it was referred to the Ministry of Appointments, not only would the North Court Official find it difficult to keep his title, but he'd face harsh punishment as well.
Princess Changping kicked aside He Ze of the Northern Court. "You still dare to talk! Weren't you the one instigating me the whole time? Someone, take him away!"
The North Court Official cried out in injustice. "Not me! It wasn't me, but Mu Liu..."
He hadn't finished speaking when Mu Liuyue came to gag his mouth. "You cur of an official, you almost lost my big brother's life! It was all you inciting the princess! The Duke of Qin can clearly see the downy feathers of autumn so there's no room for you to quibble!" Though Mu Liuyue's face was filled with righteousness, she was terrified in her heart that the Duke of Qin would get a bad impression if the truth came out.
Sadly, despite all her acting efforts, Long Feiye treated her as air and didn't even look her way.
Han Yunxi felt her heart raging as she watched Mu Liuyue's performance. Even if she and Giant Ice Cube were only husband and wife in name, they were still a couple. While you're trying so hard to win favor with him, did you forget that I exist too?
Thinking this far, Han Yunxi gave a light laugh. "Third Young Miss Mu, speaking of which...the one who kept insisting I had hidden motives to hurt your brother was you, right?"
 chenqie () - a humble form of self-address for females equivalent to 'your subject' or 'your servant'.
 eating vinegar () - chi cu, the Chinese equivalent of jealousy, because vinegar is acrid and burns if you drink it...much like envy.
 the downy feathers of autumn () - ming cha qiuhao, an idiom from Mencius meaning to be sensitive to the finest detail, to distinguish right from wrong with acuity, to be omniscient.