One didn't know without asking, but in asking one received a fright.
Han Congan had many concubines, but after all of them fled, there was only Second Consort Lady Xu, Third Madame Li, and Seventh Madame Helian.
Strictly speaking, Lady Xu was only a concubine and should be called "Madame" as well. But Lady Xu had special status as the daughter of the official wife of the Ministry of Appointment's magistrate. She married into the Han family because she had admired Han Congan. Since Lady Tianxin was the empress dowager's lifesaver, she didn't dare claim the position of official wife even when Lady Tianxin died. But how could a Ministry of Appointment magistrate's own daughter be a mere concubine? Han Congan thus referred to her as his second consort, while everyone else called her Lady Xu.
Those who fled the house had taken away jewelry and valuables, but the ones who'd remained were intelligent people who disdained such silver. What they competed for were the rare and precious items within the Han Family storehouse as well as the 《Han Clan Medical Canon》.
Hearing the little pageboy explain, Han Yunxi couldn't help wrinkling her brows. How is she supposed to help the Han Family rise with just these few people?
Lady Xu only had the eldest young master, Third Madame Li had one daughter, and Seventh Madame Helian had a son, but he was just six years old! Wouldn't the Han Family fall even faster if left in their hands? Of course, Han Yunxi had neither the time nor energy to worry about these matters now. The general's case was more pressing. Though it was a little thing losing face to Mu Liuyue if she lost, taking off her robes and running wildly through the streets was a big deal!
"Don't make a fuss and take me to the storehouse," Han Yunxi said in a low voice.
The little pageboy was startled by these words. It couldn't be that this married eldest young Miss was after the storehouse, too? These days, the three women left in the house had been stuck in a life-and-death struggle for its rights. Of course, the little pageboy kept his surprise in his heart, not daring to say a word as he led the way.
Second Consort had dismissed quite a few servants to cut down on costs and the little pageboy led Han Yunxi along a side path, so they didn't meet many people along the way. But before they reached the storehouse, laughter carried over from the covered corridor. It sounded like there were many people. Han Yunxi stopped and looked towards the sound, her form hidden by a patch of bamboo.
"What's over there, what's going on?" she asked in a low voice. The Han Family was already reduced to such a state, but who had the mood to laugh so cheerfully?
"To reply esteemed wangfei, that's Seventh Madame Helian's Cloud Water Pavilion. Maybe eldest young master and his people are over there." the little pageboy replied.
Cloud Water Pavilion of Madame Helian?
Han Yunxi didn't have a deep impression of this wife. Of all of Han Congan's wives, she was the last and youngest to have come. Of course she was the most favored one as well, who bore him a son named Han Yunyi. He numbered seventh amongst his brothers and sisters and was currently only six years old. This boy was the same one that Han Congan told her to take care of while he was in prison. Han Yunxi had no memories of this boy, but hearing that the laughter sounded like servants, she mused that they were probably teasing the youngest young master for fun. What would such a little child understand of family matters?
She had official business today and prepared to leave, but suddenly heard 'pahpahpah' mixed in with the laughter, as if someone was being beaten up.
Her steps stilled. "What's going on?"
"This humble one thinks Seventh Young Master's getting beat up again," the little pageboy said with a sigh. "Esteemed Wangfei, after master got in trouble, the favorite seventh young master was the first to suffer disaster. Everyone suspects that Seventh Madame Helian has the storehouse key! I don't know what Seventh Madame is thinking. People have urged her to leave long ago, but she refuses. She doesn't even have anyone from her maternal family to stand up for her, so how can she compete with Second Consort and Third Madame?!"
Hearing this, Han Yunxi's face turned grave. Coldly, she spoke. "Take me over there!"
The storehouse key was in her hands, so how could Helian have it? Helian came from a poor family, and her elder brother and sister-in-law weren't good people. Once she left the Han Family, she'd probably have no place to go. The little pageboy led the way and Han Yunxi quickly followed along the covered corridor until she walked past the bamboo.
In the distance, she saw a little boy stripped bare with his hands tied, squatting in the grass. Behind him stood a crowd of adults, at the head of which was the eldest young master Han Yuqi beating his back with bamboo clappers.
A crowd of adults were tyrannizing a little child, but they could still laugh so loudly. Han Yunxi was seized with terror, unconsciously recalling how she'd been beat by this same young master in years past. At that time, she was ten years old. But this boy was only six and in even more wretched straits!
They're too much!
In an instant, the furious Han Yunxi suddenly strode forward and raged, "Han Yuqi, stop it!"
The crowd turned as one at Han Yunxi's voice. Though her face had no poison scar, they still recognized her at a glance. Many had seen her on the day of her wedding.
"Han Yunxi!" Han Yuqi blurted, not expecting her to show up.
Han Yunxi stepped forward and saw the pitiful child shivering on the ground, his thin back streaked with bloody scars and bruises as if he'd been wildly whipped. It was a horrible sight.
"Chen Xiang, quick! Clothes!" Han Yunxi cried in alarm.
Where was little Chen Xiang supposed to find clothes? Luckily she was quick-witted and had the gatekeeper pageboy take off his outer robes instead. Han Yunxi took the clothes and was about to cover the child when Han Yuqi winked at the other servants to surround Seventh Young Master Han Yunyi.
He crossed his arms and walked forward, surveying Han Yunxi from head to toe with a cold laugh. "Han Yunxi, you've grown wings in the time since we've met! Instead of staying nicely at the Duke of Qin's, you dare come to my territory and interfere?"
"Impudent, you won't kneel after seeing Qin Wangfei. Are you all looking to revolt?" little Chen Xiang gave an icy rebuke.
At this, Han Yuqi burst into laughter. "Qin Wangfei? Did the Duke of Qin marry her? Did he recognize her? Kick her sedan chair door? This shameless woman delivered herself inside but has enough face to call herself Qin Wangfei!"
The servants around him were afraid of Han Yunxi's status and the consequences after hearing those rumors outside. But seeing eldest young master's attitude, they lifted their heads one after the other to size up Han Yunxi with disdain. Didn't this eldest young Miss get bullied by eldest young master all the way up to adulthood? Even before she was wedded off, eldest young master purposely tore her wedding clothes and she didn't dare to do a thing.
After all, eldest young master was Lady Xu's only child, the grandson of the Ministry of Appointments magistrate. His information should be much more reliable than the rumors outside. With eldest young master taking this stance, this Qin Wangfei was probably only an empty title.
"Han Yuqi, you dare to offend your superiors, you should..." Chen Xiang was enraged, but Han Yunxi stopped her, glaring icily at Han Yuqi.
Han Yuqi was indifferent at first, but seeing the spark in Han Yunxi's eyes, he felt inexplicably uneasy. It was a sensation that made him fidget. Why would he fear Han Yunxi? She was just a wangfei in name, disliked by both Grand Concubine Yi and the Duke of Qin. Neither did the empress dowager favor her. On his side, he had the support of his grandfather. After his old man had gone to jail, no one had more support than him now.
What was he afraid of?
So thinking, Han Yuqi grew cold. "Han Yunxi, if you have any tact then you'll get lost. Otherwise, this young master will beat you as well!"
Han Yunxi ignored him. "Chen Xiang, go to the justice courts and say that Han Family's Han Yuqi offended his superiors and spoke conceited claptrap to insult this wangfei!"
"Yes!" little Chen Xiang left immediately.
These people had the eyes of dogs. When the justice court's people arrived, they'd get to see esteemed wangfei's ferocity!
Han Yuqi suddenly laughed out loud. "Justice courts, aiya! This young master's so frightened! What should I do!?" His peculiar speech goaded everyone else into laughing with him.
Quickly, Han Yuqi recovered and gave Han Yunxi a disdainful glance. He wasn't afraid of the justice courts. Of course, he had no idea what happened last time with North Court Official He Ze, but from what he heard from the magistrate's people, his grandfather had been summoned for an inquest. Afterwards, his grandfather had personally recommended a new official for the justice courts, Official Ouyang.
The justice courts and the Ministry of Appointments both held third-rank officials, so his grandfather had awe-inspiring authority.
Han Yuqi allowed Chen Xiang to leave unimpeded as he sat calmly on one side, eyebrows raised at Han Yunxi. "This young master's in a good mood today, so I'll wait for your people to come!"
Han Yunxi ignored him and looked towards the trembling child. She even felt pain for his sake and wanted to move forward, but the servants barred her way. Neither did the pageboy by her side dare to speak, but only retreated to one side to look.
It was a deadlock.
Seeing the boy huddled up in a ball, Han Yunxi couldn't help but grow anxious. This child was so young that if things continued, he'd die from the pain if not the cold. She tried a few more times, but the servants formed a human wall and refused to budge an inch.
Han Yunxi didn't have the strength to shove them aside and grew angry. She warned, "Han Yuqi, you better not regret it!"
"Regret? Heheh, Han Yunxi, you'll be the one to regret!" Han Yuqi laughed loudly. He only heard of the young general's poisoning incident but didn't believe it. How would he know the details? He only expected the justice courts to send their people over.
Han Yunxi's phoenix eyes narrowed into slits. This place wasn't far from the justice courts, so she'll wait! But just as they were locked in stalemate, a shrill voice carried over.
The voice belonged to a young woman just over twenty years old, running over in fright. It was none other than the child's mother, Seventh Madame Helian Zuixiang. As soon as she saw her son's state, she forgot everything else and went wild with wailing.
"Stop her!" Han Yuqi said sternly, getting to his feet.
Helian Zuixiang was but a weak woman who was blocked by a single servant that knocked her to the ground. But she quickly got up and denounced Han Yuqi. "Han Yuqi, are you still human? If it's anything, come at me instead! What kind of man picks on a little child?"
"Heheh, come at you? Fine then, give up the storehouse key and this young master will let you go right over," Han Yuqi smiled coldly. Hearing this, Han Yunxi understood everything.
"I don't have it! I've told you so many times, I don't have the storehouse key. How could the old master give it to us? The old master suddenly ran into trouble, so the key must be with him!" Helian Zuixiang said seriously.
"Heh, you think I'll believe your lies? Ever since you came into this house, my father's been sleeping in your rooms and teaching that boy medical knowledge. You think I don't know? Even if my father didn't give you the storehouse key, you definitely know where he's hidden it!" Han Yuqi gave a cold snort.
"I don't know! The old master came everyday to make sure Yunyi was studying well. He was personally tutoring him," Helian Zuixiang explained in a rush. As she spoke, she took advantage of the servant's distraction to go towards her son, but was dragged back and thrown to the ground.
This time, Helian Zuixiang had trouble climbing to her feet and sobbed at the sight of her son's horrifying back. "Son, what's wrong with you? Answer your mother!"
"Son, don't scare mother, answer me, look at me!"
"Son, son, please don't frighten your mother!"
 Second Consort Lady Xu ( ) - er furen xu furen, in which Xu is a surname that also means 'slowly, gently.'
 Third Madame Li ( ) - san yiniang lishi, in which Li is a surname that also means 'plum.' Shi is a suffix used after a married woman's maiden name.
 Seventh Madame Helian ( ) － qi yiniang helian, in which Helian is a two-character surname. He means 'conspicuous, grand.' Lian could mean 'link/join/connect' or 'continuously, in succession.'
 Madame () - yiniang is the original term here, which refers to a father's concubine as called from Han Yunxi's perspective.
 Cloud Water Pavilion () - name for the living quarters and courtyard of Madame Helian.
 Han Yunyi () - Yun means 'cloud,' Yi means 'ease, leisure, flee,' or 'excel.'
 Han Yuqi () - Yu means 'jade,' Qi means 'a black horse.'
 the eyes of dogs () - gouyan kanren, meaning someone who is arrogant and looks down upon others. A type of expletive.
 Yi'er () - nickname for Han Yunyi. Er is a common suffix attached to a name to indicate affection or youth.
 Zuixiang () - Madame Helian's first name, meaning 'intoxicating fragrance.'