The Han Family storehouse was located behind the main courtyard of Han Congan, Hundred Grass Courtyard. It was a secret underground warehouse whose entrance was protected by not servants, but guards who all knew martial arts. Even though Han Congan had been imprisoned, these guards still kept watch, waiting for the next head of house to appear.
The storehouse was a forbidden area where not just anyone one could enter as they please. The little pageboy stopped far away and said, "Esteemed wangfei, go on ahead. This one will wait here for you."
Han Yunxi walked over and was immediately accosted by a guard. "Who are you? You dare to approach the storehouse without authorization?"
"First wife's daughter, Han Yunxi," Han Yunxi replied coldly.
The guard looked at her intently before recognizing her features. Still, he remained unmoved. "Since it's eldest young Miss, you should know the regulations."
Han Yunxi calmly took out the storehouse key. "Seeing the storehouse key is equivalent to seeing the head of house, you all should understand this as well."
In response, the guard was greatly alarmed. The remaining guards drew closer for a look and verified that it was indeed the storehouse key. Actually, seeing the key was like seeing its master. As subordinates, they had no right to ask where Han Yunxi got the key, but could only respectfully let her pass. Han Yunxi boldly walked in. Ever since childhood, she'd heard that the Han Family storehouse was huge, but she didn't realize the extent of its size until she went inside.
The left side of the storehouse was for money, filled with gold and silver sycee. They were the Han Family's financial reserves and only to be used as a last resort. The right side was the medicine warehouse. Han Yunxi had just reached the door when the smell of medicinal ingredients assailed her nostrils. Such a familiar scent made her feel very comfortable.
The medicine warehouse was like a small-scale library, filled with tall racks of medicine with classification labels on the sides. Each drawer in the name had the name of various ingredient names, divided into distinct and detailed categories so it was convenient to find them. Very quickly, Han Yunxi found the section for poisons. The Han Family didn't specialize in poisons, but medicine, so these weren't true poisons. Rather, they were poisonous plants that could be used for medicinal purposes.
She wouldn't known if she hadn't looked, but the Han Family's secret stores of ingredients shocked Han Yunxi with their scope. It was much more high-end than she had ever imagined. A pity that she looked through all the drawers and corners and only found the seven common snake poisons. From the beginning to the end, there was no sign of the other three, rarer poisons.
Looks like those three snake poisons didn't come from the Han Family after all. Another lead had come up for naught.
Han Yunxi closed the final drawer with a sigh, before spotting a writing desk out of the corner of her eye. On top of it was a book, its pages opened to the halfway point. Han Yunxi walked over and flipped to the cover, only to see the four words:《Han Family Medical Canon》. So this was here too!
She paused before hiding the book within her sleeve, a crafty smile on her lips as she muttered to herself. "It's too early to give this to Yi'er, so I'll keep it on his behalf for now!"
The entire way out of the storehouse, Han Yunxi kept her head bowed, deep in thought. She could eliminate the Han Family from the list of suspects, so now all she could do was to check on Mu Qingwu's progress with the investigation. She really hoped she could see Gu Beiyue soon. With his connections, she wouldn't have to work so hard to track things down.
Not long after she left the storehouse, the little pageboy caught up. "Esteemed wangfei, are you returning home? This one will escort you out."
Han Yunxi stared at him before asking, "What's your name?"
"To reply esteemed wangfei, this one's name is Wang Xiaosi and I watch over the gates. I know everyone that comes in and out of the house," Wang Xiaosi hastened to reply.
Han Yunxi was just looking for someone to use, but didn't expect such a good volunteer to show up.
She said in a low voice, "Give more care to Seventh Madame's quarters, understood?" So speaking, she tossed over a silver sycee. "Have a drink with a few of your brothers. This wangfei still knows the way to the Han estate!"
Wang Xiaosi was smart. He accepted the silver sycee, pleasantly surprised as he expressed his gratitude. "Many thanks for esteemed wangfei's favor. This humble one is willing to serve esteemed wangfei like a dog or a horse."
Han Yunxi had already walked far away while Wang Xiaosi stood in place, immersed in joy. He'd guarded the door for so many years but finally found his chance for promotion today. Why wouldn't he be happy? Leaving aside the high status of Qin Wangfei, even the storehouse key in her hand was proof that she'd call the shots and choose the head of house in the future? When it came to estate disputes, unimportant figures like himself had to choose their positions carefully. As long as he followed Qin Wangfei, he'd definitely end up on the right side. If that was the case, of course he had to get his fellow brothers to help out Seventh Madame. Thinking up to here, Wang Xiaosi cheerfully pocketed the silver and hurried off.
At the same time, Madame Li walked out from the flowering shrubs nearby to look between the storehouse door and Wang Xiaosi's retreating back. A scornful smile rose to her lips...
The competition within the Han house was fierce, but Han Yunxi and Mu Liuyue's bet was even more urgent. They only had one month's time and nearly 10 days had already passed. When Han Yunxi returned home, she waited two more days in hopes that Gu Beiyue could see her. But tragedy befell her.
"Esteemed wangfei, the steward of the Gu house said Imperial Physician Gu's been confined to the palace for a month. As for the details, I couldn't find out," a young servant boy reported.
"What?" Han Yunxi was stunned.
The servant boy thought she hadn't heard clearly and repeated, "The steward of the Gu house said Imperial Physician Gu's been confined to the palace for a month. I asked him why but he said he didn't know."
Han Yunxi's face had long turned white. If Imperial Physician Gu couldn't leave the palace for a month, then Emperor Tianhui's illness must have worsened! A house steward wouldn't necessarily know such things; even if he did, he wouldn't dare to say it out loud.
"This is bad!" Han Yunxi muttered to herself. She paused briefly before going out to General Mu's estate.
"Esteemed wangfei, this official was just about to come make his report, I didn't expect you to come," Mu Qingwu was surprised though he inwardly rejoiced. Fortunately, Liuyue was out with a friend or else she'd make another fuss with Qin Wangfei here.
"Did you make progress investigating the things from last time?" Han Yunxi asked.
Last time they'd analyzed the properties and dosage frequency of Ten-Thousand Snake Poison before narrowing down the suspects to a Mu household member or frequent guest. Even someone within the household would've need another to deliver them the poison.
Mu Qingwu had no other choice. "Esteemed wangfei, this official has looked into it thoroughly..." Before Mu Qingwu could finish, Han Yunxi saw his wrinkled brow and knew he'd found nothing. Yet another lead had failed.
How could this be?
Their reasoning was sound. Ten-Thousand Snake Poison had to be used within a day of creation, or else it'd change color and taste. With Mu Qingwu's cautious nature, he'd definitely notice something off. And for the poison to accumulate, it needed to be taken once every two or three days. No matter what, this poisoner had to be someone on intimate terms with the general's estate. But they'd already investigated and interrogated all the suspects without finding anything.
Did they forget a detail or overlook someone?
To find the enemy within one's ranks, there were only two methods: one was to continue investigation of the suspects in the General's estate, the other was to track down those three seldom-seen snake poisons. The latter was the purpose for Han Yunxi's visit. She took out the list of ingredients and gave them to Mu Qingwu.
"Young General, these are the other three poisons. They're rarely seen toxins, so you won't find them in most well-known pharmacies, much less common medicine shops. Perhaps the investigation will go faster with these three snake poisons."
She'd held them back before, but now she could only give them to Mu Qingwu in light of Gu Beiyue's absence. At the very least, he'd have more social connections than her and greater chances to find something. Mu Qingwu glanced at the prescription for a long while before raising his head.
His level gaze rested on Han Yunxi as he asked directly, "Qin Wangfei didn't provide these three snake poisons beforehand because...because you were afraid that father and I would show favoritism, right?"
Such a question caught Han Yunxi unawares. But Mu Qingwu was right, she really did think this way. She and Mu Liuyue had bet on a month's time that the loser would take off her outer robes and run around Xuanwu Street. The consequences were dire for both her and Mu Liuyue, but this kind of gamble only had a winner and a loser. There was no room for ties, so one of them would definitely lose.
If the investigation was completely in the Great General and Young General's hands, then father and son were capable of stalling for time until the one month passed. The results would never hurt them or make Mu Liuyue lose. No matter what, she was still General Mu's daughter. Of course Han Yunxi had to leave something for herself to do, but who knew that Gu Beiyue would be stuck in court?
Since Mu Qingwu asked her directly, there was nothing for Han Yunxi to hide. She laughed without misgivings and said, "Yes!"
And yet, the ever-modest and courteous Mu Qingwu suddenly grew solemn and serious. His clear eyes seemed to press against Han Yunxi as he spoke. "Esteemed wangfei, what kind of man do you consider me, Mu Qingwu, to be?"
Looking at Mu Qingwu's stubborn righteousness, Han Yunxi suddenly felt that she'd been treating a man of noble character with unwarranted caution. Despite this, she still felt that it was right to protect herself.
"Young General, supposing your little sister lost, would you really remain impartial enough to let her run around without her robes outside? Han Yunxi asked.
Mu Qingwu didn't hesitate at all. "I would!" he replied.
Han Yunxi's heart gave a small start. She didn't want to believe it, but Mu Qingwu's clear, shining eyes made it impossible for her to question him.
"Father and I tried to persuade her a few days ago to admit her loss and forget about this bet. But that girl won't shed tears until she sees the coffin," Mu Qingwu said mildly.
"So...you want to persuade me instead?" Han Yunxi knitted her brows.
"No, everyone has to take responsibility for their own decisions. Esteemed wangfei, this is a bet between you and Mu Liuyue, while this humble official and you are only working on the investigation. Please set your heart at ease, esteemed wangfei, because I will cooperate completely," Mu Qingwu said earnestly.
Looking at Mu Qingwu, Han Yunxi could only feel like sighing with emotion. No wonder he'd been able to command so many troops at such a young age. He was born from a distinguished noble family but filled with principles as a seldom seen open, upright young man. How many existed like him amongst Tianning's civil and military circles? Han Yunxi knew she could set aside a hundred cares now.
"Young General, I'll believe in you. First find someone to track down these three snake poisons. Actually, as I see it, anyone close to you should be investigated regardless of their positions, including your own relatives," Han Yunxi said seriously.
Hearing this, Mu Qingwu was astonished. "Relatives?"
"Yes, Young General. We've overlooked a critical detail. The poisoner could use the hands of others to do the deed, but the person being used might still be clueless up to this day!" Han Yunxi put it plainly.
 sycee () - yuanbao, a type of ingot currency used in ancient China from the Qin to Qing Dynasties. Has a very unique shape.
 Wang Xiaosi () - literally 'little fourth Wang.'
 won't shed tears until she sees the coffin () - bujian guancai bu diaolei, a saying for someone stubborn until the grave.