The empress's eyes were dark and gloomy with indignation. But since this was a matter of saving someone's life, there simply was no other way. She hid her anger and spoke gently. "Yunxi, how about this? You can say that Changping is ill but not what kind of illness it is. Since it's not a good thing, it's better not to spread it around."
"Empress, my mufei isn't an outsider. Naturally, she won't just tell anyone," Han Yunxi was a good daughter-in-law who immediately rose to defend her mother-in-law.
The empress nodded as she coaxed, "Of course. But...since Princess Changping's illness might be contagious, and since it's on her face, this unmarried girl needs to keep some of her pride, doesn't she?"
Han Yunxi looked completely understanding as she nodded. "Chenqie understands. Then I'll say that Changping's contracted an acute disease accompanied by fever, and needs the ten-seasons cicada slough to clear her internal heat and treat the poison."
"Mhmm, just like that. You'll...make the trip yourself, right?" the empress probed. She'd already yielded to this extent, so there was no way she'd sacrifice her face to beg Grand Concubine Yi. Things were bad enough!
If Han Yunxi went, then everything she did would be pointless. Of course she wouldn't, and she spoke with an earnest tone. "I need to watch over the princess here in case the poison turns contagious. Esteemed empress, it's not advisable to delay. I think you should send someone in my place." Mentioning 'contagious' made the empress anxious again. With no other choice, she handed over the matter to Gu Beiyue. He didn't express his opinion, but respectfully retreated to ask for the item from the Duke of Qin's residence. All afternoon, the situation there was unclear, especially when Gu Beiyue didn't return. The empress sat anxiously in the guest hall as a nervous wreck while Han Yunxi took refuge in the stove room to make her so-called antidote. She didn't allow anyone to disturb her, but she'd long stolen those valuable medicinal ingredients for herself.
All the precious items and ingredients she'd ran out of in her reserves were hidden in her detoxification system's storage space, while she replaced them with some plain and common ingredients to mix together and boil in their place. Right now she was warming herself by the stove fire while pondering over the situation at the Duke of Qin's.
Grand Concubine Yi was convinced that she'd lost face for them when thrown into the prisons. Well then, now she'd give her a chance to recover her pride, so she should be happy, right? Since Princess Changping was the one who was sick, Grand Concubine Yi wouldn't be able to explain herself if she refused to help. Han Yunxi was convinced that the grand imperial concubine would give it up. Murong Wanru would probably be frustrated to see her precious dowry being taken away, right? Han Yunxi couldn't help but laugh at the thought.
But even she hadn't expected that Gu Beiyue would return with Grand Concubine Yi to court at sunset!
This was a surprise even to the empress, who had to force herself to smile. Without asking any questions, she gained the initiative by speaking first. "Grand Concubine Yi, it's just a medicinal ingredient. Changping can't shoulder the responsibility of troubling you to come in person!"
Before she could explain any further, Grand Concubine Yi shot a glance at Han Yunxi sitting on one side and replied, "If I knew it was for treating an illness, I wouldn't have let her come. What kind of medical skills does she have? Isn't she just doing whatever she thinks and writing nonsense prescriptions? Wouldn't she harm Changping?"
Han Yunxi didn't say anything.
The empress grew even more anxious and hurried to explain, "How is that possible? There's Imperial Physician Gu to check on things."
"Imperial Physician Gu checking things? Then let him treat her, it's much safer!" Grand Concubine Yi replied, staring at Han Yunxi. "This ignorant and incompetent girl is a liar. If she knew how to treat illnesses, why would they still call her useless trash? A few days ago she was even in prison, so what can she cure?"
At these words, the empress's face darkened as she took deep breaths. Grand Concubine Yi came today to pick a quarrel! Yet still, an empress was an empress, and her self-cultivation was excellent. She only gave a helpless sigh. "Oh, my. Please don't make such modest remarks, Grand Imperial Concubine. Who dares to call Han Yunxi useless trash? I won't let them get away with it! The young general's situation was a misunderstanding! A misunderstanding! Changping already apologized for the offense, you as a superior shouldn't attend to words of an inferior."
Grand Concubine Yi was quite pleased to hear these words as she looked askance at the empress. "Now, now, everyone knows that Changping's bad temper all comes from you spoiling her!"
The empress's eyes were burning in fury, but she endured as before, politely half-rising from her chair to half-joke in reply, "Yes, yes, it's chenqie's mistake. Chenqie will ask forgiveness for her wrongs from Grand Imperial Concubine."
Grand Concubine Yi pretended to be flustered as she helped the empress up by the arm. "I don't dare, don't dare. I was just making a joke. These children, they're all spoiled and doted on by their elders. Just like our family's Yunxi, don't I spoil her everyday?"
Seeing these two harem females going at it with their false affections, both Han Yunxi and Gu Beiyue felt goosebumps rising on their skin as they exchanged glances. At the very least, Han Yunxi knew that her days back at home wouldn't be as difficult as before anymore. Grand Concubine Yi sure was enjoying this hypocrisy to her heart's content!
She was in the mood, and had the time, to put on a fake show of friendship. But the empress didn't have this advantage considering that Princess Changping's situation might turn contagious at any time. She didn't want to waste a second of time.
"Grand Concubine Yi, Yunxi's medical skills aren't any less than Imperial Physician Gu's. I don't know what they spread outside to say she was useless trash. As I see it, the empress dowager said it right: the Duke of Qin lucked out by wedding Yunxi," the empress was very earnest.
In the past, these words would have provoked Grand Concubine Yi, but now they sounded soothing and comfortable to her ears. She originally thought that there was something fishy about Han Yunxi curing the young general, but after Imperial Physician Gu came to her house and explained the situation, she was amazed. Who knew that Han Yunxi's medical skills were so good? The empress dowager must regret forcing the Duke of Qin to wed her! Meanwhile, the empress alternately apologized and coaxed Grand Concubine Yi until her heart finally softened. After years and years of vying with the empress dowager, it'd been a long while since she worked off all her anger. As a result, she cheerfully took out the ten seasons cicada slough and bypassed the empress to personally give it into Han Yunxi's hands.
"Yunxi, you must take good care with Princess Changping in your hands."
Han Yunxi rose to accept it. "Mufei can set her worries at rest, chenqie understands. Chenqie will go boil the medicine right away."
"Esteemed wangfei, this official will be your assistant," Gu Beiyue rushed to say. He knew that Han Yunxi's prescription was a sham and was curious to find out more about the true antidote.
The head imperial physician wants to be Han Yunxi's assistant? Grand Concubine Yi was even happier as she smiled. "Then go, Imperial Physician Gu, and hurry."
And yet halfway there, Han Yunxi dismissed Gu Beiyue. "Imperial Physician Gu, you should check on Princess Changping." Gu Beiyue knew she didn't want him to follow. He hesitated, wanting to say something else, but ultimately decided to keep quiet with a smile.
"This official shall obey your command."
And yet as soon as he was about to leave, Han Yunxi turned around with a smile as fresh as a flower. "Gu Beiyue, thanks!" Then she turned back and left, leaving him a little stunned. After a while, he helplessly shook his head, the pupils of his eyes were as warm as an April breeze.
Han Yunxi entered the stove room and got rid of the brew she was boiling before, before replacing it with the packet of antidote she retrieved from her medical pouch. She made it into a decoction before personally carrying it out. The empress and Grand Concubine Yi were both waiting by Princess Changping's door. Seeing Han Yunxi carry over the bowl by herself, the empress was delighted. "This is it, right?"
"Exactly so," Han Yunxi nodded.
The empress personally opened the doors but didn't go inside. She even barred the way for Grand Concubine Yi. "Grand Imperial Concubine, the inside smells like medicine. Changping's afraid of the wind so we haven't opened the windows these past days. Why don't we wait outside?"
Grand Concubine Yi had an unhealthy obsession with cleanliness. Once she caught the whiff of something unpleasant, she drew back in fear. "That might be better."
Gu Beiyue naturally went inside, leaving the empress and Grand Concubine Yi waiting in the rooms beyond. Though the princess could be cured, the empress was still nervous about the final results. Even the rampaging Grand Concubine Yi who invited herself inside was a bit perturbed. Unexpectedly, they ended up waiting for an hour before the empress couldn't sit any longer.
"Someone, go inside and see what's the matter."
Grand Concubine Yi frowned slightly, thinking to herself, Han Yunxi, ah, Han Yunxi. I came here to boost my pride today. If you make me lose face in the palace, I won't just starve you for a few days and nights!
The court lady dreaded the risk of catching an infection, but had to go inside. And yet the doors opened before she even took a step. It was Gu Beiyue who came out, followed by Han Yunxi. Very quickly, the windows on both sides were opened as well. The empress and Grand Concubine Yi practically rose at the same time to ask, "How is it?"
"We've treated the source of the illness. It's just that the princess has tired herself out these few days, so her body is very weak. She needs be properly nursed back to health, " Han Yunxi said calmly.
"Really!" the empress looked disbelieving. "So it's true that...everything's all right?"
What she really wanted to ask was whether there were any scars left. These words were just Han Yunxi being mischievous in her acting. She nodded and replied, "Esteemed empress, Changping has been waiting to see you. You should hurry inside."
With Han Yunxi's words, the empress's heart finally settled in her chest as she went in wordlessly. Grand Concubine Yi kept thinking that something felt off, but couldn't describe what it was. She followed inside as well.
Within the chambers, Princess Changping had been untied. Although she didn't have much energy, her mind was filled with excitement. She commanded a servant to bring her a mirror for a look. Although her skin looked coarser than before, with a slight wound on her left and right sides, it was still better than a face full of rashes! Gu Beiyue and Han Yunxi had both said that her scars would take a few months to completely disappear, but at this moment, she was too thrilled to fuss over details.
Her face was fine! Her looks weren't ruined, and she wouldn't infect other people!
Princess Changping didn't want to admit it, but she had to say that Han Yunxi saved her entire life by recovering her face. The empress rushed in and covered her mouth as soon as she saw Changping.
Heavens, it was true!
All the imperial doctors and famous poison specialists had no way to cure this poison like Han Yunxi did with a single bowl of medicine! And it was done with amazing speed! She sat down and stared at her daughter's fair and clear face, too moved for words.
But Grand Concubine Yi remained bewildered. "Changping, you caught an illness with fever, but how did you hurt your face?"
"Of course it's because she couldn't take the sickness and scratched herself," the empress hastily offered an excuse. Princess Changping was too wrapped up in her own joy, staring at the mirror while ignoring everyone else.
"What, so Han Yunxi didn't treat that in the meantime as well?" Grand Concubine Yi asked doubtfully.
A mama by the side spoke up. "To reply the grand imperial concubine, Qin Wangfei prescribed a medicine for external application. She says the marks will heal in a few more months."
Grand Concubine Yi was very satisfied and laughed. "Then that's good. Heheh, Changping, it's your fortune to have such an imperial aunt."