Han Yunxi knew the study was smelly and gave a derisive smile. "Your highness, let me invite you out. It reeks a bit here."
"It smells just as much out there," Long Feiye said coldly.
"Then let's go to the courtyard," Han Yunxi shrugged her shoulders, not at all embarrassed despite being the hostess. It wasn't as if she had invited him in.
As a doctor, she too had a slight degree of mysophobia, but every time she immersed herself in researching new poisons, she forgot all about cleanliness. Right now the study could still be considered tolerable. In a couple more days, the mess would probably grow worse than a trash heap. Of course, as soon as she finished her research, she could clean it up nice and neatly.
"You're making poisons?" Long Feiye didn't have any intention of leaving.
"Just trying some things out because I'm bored," Han Yunxi answered. Actually, all the bowls on the table contained Ten-Thousand Snake Poison. She'd taken it out of the detox system yesterday afternoon and placed them in water. It only took one day before they changed into this.
"What kind of poison is this?" Long Feiye asked again.
"Ten-Thousand Snake Poison. I collected some from the young general's blood last time and started researching since I had nothing else to do," Han Yunxi replied. It wasn't the truth, but it wasn't exactly a lie, either.
But in Long Feiye's eyes, she was lying. It seemed like this woman was busying herself with Mu Qingwu's affairs, but why was she hiding the fact from him? According to Chu Xifeng, she'd even looked for Gu Beiyue twice, but he couldn't even leave the palace. Long Feiye didn't call her out right away, but found a place to sit down and speak.
"What have you found out?"
Han Yunxi glanced over. Even amidst all the smelly medicinal ingredients, he still looked noble and clean like an immortal descended from the Heavens. Not a speck of filth could touch him. What did he mean by this? Did he actually want to have a conversation?
"I haven't found anything yet?" Han Yunxi replied in a questioning tone. She didn't give Long Feiye a chance to ask again, but queried, "Your highness said you had business...what is it?"
But who knew that Long Feiye had hardly sat down before he got back up. "Nothing."
So speaking, he walked past her without turning back and left the Leisurely Cloud Pavilion.
Just like that, he's done?
Han Yunxi was truly puzzled. She ran to the door, only to see that Long Feiye's figure had long shrank into the distance. Exactly what did he come here for?
Why was he always so baffling?
Long Feiye seemed to slow his steps, but his figure flickered before appeared in a flash before his sleeping quarters. Chu Xifeng, who had been waiting by the door, was astonished. "Your highness, didn't you get back much earlier?"
After all, he had urgent intelligence to report. With his master's personality, how could he be late? Yet seeing his complexion, Chu Xifeng guessed that he wasn't in a good mood. Long Feiye didn't say a word, but opened the door and went inside. Chu Xifeng followed behind him and missed seeing his knitted eyebrows.
Long Feiye was in a hurry to see Chu Xifeng but stopped when he saw her in the courtyard. After that, he even took a detour to her quarters. He hated these unconscious actions that came without thought, as if he was losing control of himself.
Seeing his master's footsteps still, Chu Xifeng hurried over and reported in a low voice, "Your highness, there's news."
Only now did Long Feiye recover his senses and tilted his head back, his expression cold and mysterious. "Which family?"
Long Feiye's efficiency when doing things was beyond rebuke. After getting Han Yunxi's prescription from Mu Qingwu's hands that day, he immediately found his contacts in the medical community and started his own investigation.
"Your highness, those three snake poisons are truly rare. Only three families have all three poisons, but there's about ten families with one or two types each." Chu Xifeng reported honestly, though his heart wasn't in it. He couldn't help but think that something was off with his master today, although he couldn't say what.
Long Feiye kept silent until he realized Chu Xifeng wasn't speaking. He turned around, his calm face turning frosty. "What else?"
Chu Xifeng couldn't help but shiver and speak timidly. "The three families with all three snake poisons are Northern Li Country's Li family, Western Zhou Country's imperial pharmacy, and Pill Fiend Valley. There wasn't time enough to investigate the other ten families, but your subordinate has already gotten people to look into Northern Li Country's Li family. I believe we'll get more details very soon."
After learning his lesson from Long Feiye's moods, Chu Xifeng immediately moved on to his next report. "Your highness, two more spies in the secret prison starved themselves to death. Right now we only have two more left. As your subordinate sees it, it won't be easy to get them to talk."
Long Feiye nodded. "Arrange for your lordship to interrogate them personally."
Upstairs in the Leisurely Cloud Pavilion, Han Yunxi leaned lazily against the window as she looked towards the mysterious hall in the distance, brows furrowed. The little pageboy hadn't come back with the tea leaves yet and Chen Xiang wasn't here. Bored and listless, she somehow climbed upstairs to space out by the window.
Not long later, she saw Chu Xifeng exit the building in a hurry as if he had urgent business. What was Long Feiye busy with these days? He had weight and importance in Tianning Country, enough that a single sneeze could make all of Tianning stir in response. But he very rarely went to court to discuss official business, much less visit the palace. Could it be that he was still working on the case of the Northern Li spies?
As Han Yunxi pondered, a guard came by to deliver tea leaves. Within the Hibiscus Courtyard, all the servants were Long Feiye's guards. There wasn't a single female servant. Long Feiye only left her with a single little Chen Xiang, but now that she was gone, Han Yunxi could only use Long Feiye's men.
"Reporting to wangfei, this was delivered by the little pageboy from the kitchens," the guard stood respectfully by the door, arms laden with tea. He didn't dare enter.
"Help me bring it to the study," Han Yunxi yelled from upstairs.
But the guard only replied, "To reply esteemed wangfei, His Highness Duke of Qin has orders for no one to step inside Leisurely Cloud Pavilion."
Surprised, Han Yunxi thought she heard wrongly. "What?"
"To reply esteemed wangfei, His Highness Duke of Qin has orders for no one to step inside Leisurely Cloud Pavilion."
Now Han Yunxi understood and blurted out angrily, "Why?"
How could the guard know? This was a recent order issued down from Chu Xifeng. It wasn't just Chu Xifeng, but many others who saw his highness sitting on the roof of his living quarters the other day. Nobody knew the reason why.
"Your subordinate doesn't know. I must trouble esteemed wangfei to come retrieve her items personally," the guard said, leaving the things by the door before leaving.
Han Yunxi rolled her eyes. Long Feiye, you miser!
With no other choice, she could only come downstairs and get the tea leaves. They weren't heavy, but there were many of them, forcing her to make three trips to carry them all. The pageboy from the kitchens was reliable and brought her most of every variety of leaves, clearly separated by category. Red tea, green tea, white tea, and black tea were further divided by place of production and individual strains. There were about 50 tins altogether.
Different strains of tea could vary based on soil type, watering conditions, climate, and degree of drying. Variations in time and preservation methods, as well as the composition of the tea leaves themselves, also affected the flavor of the tea. Of course, only a senior expert in tea could taste these differences. Han Yunxi liked tea, but she wasn't skilled enough to tell by a sip.
But she had the detoxification system! Its built-in pharmacy was capable of distinguishing all sorts of medicines and the proportions of their makeup. Chinese medicine were called herbs in the past, and included flora (roots, stems, leaves, fruit), fauna (internal organs, skins, bones, etc.) and minerals in its makeup. Tea leaves counted as a type of plant medicine as well.
Han Yunxi took a sample from each of the 50 tea types and steeped 50 cups of tea water before placing each and every one in her detox system for analysis. Then she went to sleep.
Her consciousness was most relaxed when she was sleeping and the least likely time to be disturbed. This was prime time for the detox system to reach maximum efficiency with its work. Perhaps she'd given it a heavy workload, because Han Yunxi didn't wake up until early morning the next day.
And the results?
Han Yunxi was very disappointed. She didn't expect that both the tea leaves and the tea water were incompatible agents to Ten-Thousand Snake Poison. In other words, it'd be impossible to add the Ten-Thousand Snake Poison to any of these leaves or the tea itself. As soon as it was added, either the poison would show itself directly by ruining the tea, or its poison potency would be affected. Those who drank it wouldn't reveal Ten-Thousand Snake Poison when tested for toxins.
Han Yunxi sat amongst the tea leaves in her study, her pretty brows scrunched tightly together. Was she wrong again? The poison wasn't added to the tea leaves? If not water or tea, where else could it have gone? She'd interviewed Mu Qingwu before. Besides his usual three meals, he didn't eat anything special or snack. All he drank was water and tea. Of course, when she went to examine the general's estate the first time, she had inspected Mu Qingwu's things first, including all the tea leaves in the household. There was nothing peculiar about them.
After a long sleep, her head felt heavy. Just looking at the mess on the table made Han Yunxi unhappy. Exactly where had she gone wrong? Which detail did she overlook? Counting today, there were only 14 days left until a month. There wasn't any news from Mu Qingwu's side recently, either. These thoughts made Han Yunxi's brows crinkle even further. Her gaze grew heavy as she stared for a long time at the table, her entire body turning solemn and serious. The expression on her face warned others not to get near.
That's right, she was...in a bad mood!
She didn't know how much time had passed before she stood up and walked away. Han Yunxi decided to get some fresh air by going to the Han Family to visit Han Yunyi...
In the Han Family's Cloud Water Pavilion, little Chen Xiang was currently doing handiwork with Seventh Madame in the courtyard. Whether or not Han Congan was here, it was Lady Xu who oversaw the household finances. The stipends she gave to various courtyards were limited, especially Seventh Madame's share. A part of her stipend was always embezzled away, so she had no choice but to do some handiwork to add to her allowance.
Even though Seventh Madame was favored by Han Congan's, she endured without complaining. She always yielded to everyone else. In fact, Han Congan knew that Lady Xu was unfair, but had no choice before the power and influence of Lady Xu's family. Thus, Seventh Madame could only suffer through it all.
Maybe the reason Han Congan liked her was because she never fought for anything.
"Seventh Madame, just you wait. When esteemed wangfei gives our young master his rightful status, you'll be in charge of this house. Fortunes rise and fall with the times, so I'll definitely help you find ways to settle things with Lady Xu!"
Chen Xiang was very earnest with her words, but Seventh Madame's face only looked terrified. "Hush...Chen Xiang, what are you saying? Speak softer!"
Little Chen Xiang looked helplessly towards the skies. She felt like falling apart! These few days, she'd tried to urge Seventh Madame and give her confidence, but Seventh Madame was still careful and timid, afraid to displease Lady Xu even in her speech and get in trouble. Chen Xiang dropped her hands and sighed deeply before standing up.
"Seventh Madame, the storehouse key is already in my Mistress's hands. What are you still afraid of? That day when my Mistress settled accounts with eldest young master, didn't you see it all with your own eyes?"