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Chapter 38: Grand Concubine Yi returns 

 

Murong Wanru paused to think. “Morning. I was unconscious until the next morning. When I saw that mufei hadn’t yet returned, I sent someone out again. Then later I saw Little Sixth sleeping by the door.”

“Oh…” Han Yunxi intentionally dragged out her words for emphasis. “So, you didn’t send anyone else after that?”

Han Yunxi had been imprisoned for three whole days!

Murong Wanru was speechless. It was a long time before she spoke again. “I did, I went myself but…but I didn’t find mufei. Sister-in-law, you should know, the words of the lowly carry little weight. I couldn’t speak up for your sake. I was worried, I could only continue to look for mufei.”

While Grand Concubine Yi doted on her, she placed more importance on keeping up appearances. For this girl to use Grand Concubine Yi as an excuse really showed her amount of daring.

“So you never thought to send someone to tell Imperial Physician Gu that you couldn’t find mufei?” Han Yunxi asked again.

Murong Wanru’s eyebrows knitted together as teardrops glistened in her eyes. “Sister-in-law, I was so worried that…I forgot.”

“Oh…” Han Yunxi gave another significant pause. “So did you find mufei in the end?”

Murong Wanru shook her head. “No. Later on I heard the mama say that you’d returned, so I rushed over. Sister-in-law, I’ve wanted to see you for so long, I’ve wanted to explain, but you…you wouldn’t even see me…”

Hearing this, Han Yunxi couldn’t help but admire her expert lie-patching skills. As a result, she said sincerely, “Then why did I hear the Duke of Qin say you were at home all those days? He saw you multiple times in the flower gardens.”

At these words, Murong Wanru’s face turned ghastly in a flash. The Duke of Qin…

Had Han Yunxi told on her? Heavens, what did this woman say to the Duke of Qin? How would he see her now?

Facts proved that to defeat an expert liar, one had to tell even better lies!

“The Duke of Qin…he…I…my body isn’t so well, so, I didn’t look personally everyday, but I sent people in my stead.” How wan her excuses were now!

Gu Beiyue had figured out what was going on and kept silent. Mu Qingwu was the straightforward type who had had a good impression of Murong Wanru before, but now saw the truth for what it was. He gave a snort without any hint of politeness. “Miss Murong, you don’t need to explain anymore. We have words to say with Qin Wangfei, so please take your leave.”

This was obviously driving her away.

Murong Wanru’s tears flowed out, her ugly face was exposed. Still, she adopted a pathetic manner as if someone had blamed her unjustly. “I’m sorry. I don’t know what kind of misunderstanding came from this, but I really had sister-in-law’s best interests at heart. If sister-in-law doesn’t forgive me, then I’ll…then I’ll…” She held out the tea in both hands and fell to her knees. “Then I’ll keep kneeling here instead!”

Han Yunxi wasn’t about to stomach this, and spoke lightly. “You two, it’s getting late. If there’s anything to say, let’s find time to talk another day.”

Gu Beiyue and Mu Qingwu exchanged glances before nodding in tandem. Before leaving, Gu Beiyue heaved a sigh. Although it wasn’t as s


traightforward as Mu Qingwu’s snort, it made Murong Wanru’s entire heart stop. She didn’t know what he was thinking, but she knew it probably wasn’t good. This really wasn’t to her taste.

Those two had considerable influence with their words in the upper social circles. If they spread this around, it’d destroy Murong Wanru’s carefully crafted image! Han Yunxi ruined everything. Why didn’t she die in prison? Murong Wanru was filled with hate!

Gui mama[1] only hurried over after seeing Han Yunxi and the others walk far away. “Young miss, it’s fine if she doesn’t forgive you. What’s more worrying is whether she’ll complain to the grand imperial concubine.”

Grand Concubine Yi placed appearances above all else. Even if a servant of the Duke of Qin’s household received  a scolding from the empress dowager’s people, she’d take offence for half the day, much less Han Yunxi being imprisoned for so long. Murong Wanru would be implicated as well for not telling her. She stayed unmoving, a sinister gleam flashing across her eyes.

“When does mufei return?”

“Tomorrow is the Bodhisattva’s birthday, so the grand imperial concubine will definitely return today to pray to Buddha. She didn’t say what time, though. Young miss, about this matter…” Gui mama was very anxious. If Murong Wanru was punished, then none of the lesser servants would escape punishment either.

Yet, Murong Wanru was full of smiles as she straightened her back. “Since she’s coming back today, I won’t get up. I’ll wait here and admit my wrongs to mufei.”

If it was about lodging complaints, then of course she’d have to beat Han Yunxi to it. Gui mama knew how things stood as soon as she spoke. “Young miss, don’t worry. When Grand Imperial Concubine returns, that woman’s days will assuredly turn difficult. Your servant will keep watch for you.”

Han Yunxi personally sent off Gu Beiyue and Mu Qingwu at the gates. Who knew that as soon as their carriage left, a resplendent one would come to take its place? She could tell with one glance that this was Grand Concubine Yi’s carriage. Wasn’t she supposed to stay in another courtyard for awhile? Why did she return so soon?

Seeing the carriage stop, Han Yunxi prepared to turn and flee, but it was already too late. Gui mama came out from inside, dragging Han Yunxi along as she shouted, “May the grand imperial concubine be prosperous and well! Grand Imperial Concubine has finally returned!”

The old mama’s strength was far from ordinary, making it impossible for Han Yunxi to throw her off. She was just using all her efforts to struggle free when Grand Concubine Yi descended from the carriage. Seeing this scene immediately made the grand concubine irritated and severe. “What are you two doing? Dragging and hauling right at the gates, do you want us to lose face?”

Gui mama and Han Yunxi were both frightened, and let each other go. Han Yunxi secretly rolled her eyes before paying her respects. “Chenqie respectfully welcomes mufei back home.”

Gui mama kneeled on the ground with a thump and shouted, “Grand Imperial Concubine, you’ve finally returned! If you hadn’t come back, young miss would be in trouble! In dire straits!”

“Damned servant, if you have something to say then say it indoors! Do you think my Duke of Qin’s household hasn’t lost enough face?” Grand Concubine Yi scolded, shooting Han Yunxi a cold glance. There were hidden barbs in her speech and thorns in her gaze. Han Yunxi could only endure as she was. This woman was her mother-in-law and a senior member of the family, as well as an imperial concubine. She wasn’t someone one could cross.

Grand Concubine Yi was elegant and poised, her bearing generous and stately as if she never took Gui mama’s words to heart. But as soon as they were all indoors, this all changed. Her exquisitely made-up face turned horrifyingly gloomy. “Gui mama, what’s happened? I’ve only left for a few days. Don’t tell me there’s a monkey who wants to be king?”

Here was another line meant specifically for Han Yunxi. Even if Han Yunxi used her toenails to think, she could guess at Gui mama’s intentions. It looked like Murong Wanru wasn’t willing to let things go. In fact, that woman knew Grand Concubine Yi was returning ahead of time.

“Grand Imperial Concubine, hurry and look inside the guest hall. It’s so cold today but young miss has been kneeling for a long time. There’s no way to coax her into rising. She said she’d kneel until you came back so she could apologize for her wrongs.” Gui mama answered in a rush.

“What is the matter?” Grand Concubine asked, shocked as she hurried to the guest hall. Han Yunxi dearly wanted to use this chance and slip away. But where could she go? With Grand Concubine Yi’s status, she’d be summoned out even if she hid in the Hibiscus Courtyard. Even modern society had ways of pressuring people with power, much less a society under imperial rule. There was no avoiding it, so Han Yunxi did her best to tell herself to conform and face it head-on. Seeing Gui mama shoot her a look, Han Yunxi gave a cold smile and followed after them.

Upon arriving in the guest hall, the first thing they saw was Murong Wanru kneeling on the floor, her body stiff and straight as she raised a cup of tea above her head.

Aiya, Wanru, what are you doing?” Grand Concubine Yi’s voice was filled with distress as she strode forward. “Get up. If something’s happened then just speak. Who let you kneel here? What if you injure your knees like this?”

Mufei, I was wrong. I made a big mistake. I’m unworthy of you, elder brother, and sister-in-law, I…” Murong Wanru’s face was filled with her guilty conscience before she buried her head in her hands to weep, seemingly heartbroken and grieved.

Grand Concubine Yi grew even more anxious. “Now don’t cry. What if you hurt your eyes crying like that? Even if it’s something heaven-shaking, there’s still mufei here. Mufei will be your judge, so tell me what’s happened.”

Murong Wanru lifted her face, looking especially pathetic as tears flowed down her face like a river. She was about to speak when she grew choked with sobs and buried her head again. Grand Concubine Yi sucked in a breath and sat down on one side, voice stern. “Gui mama, you explain!”

Gui mama was waiting for this chance. Immediately, she reported back the details, embellishing the story along the way. “Grand Imperial Concubine, the young miss even fainted from anxiety because of this. She feared that the esteemed wangfei had suffered while in prison and lost face for our Duke of Qin’s household. She sent servants and even went to look herself, but never managed to find you. Thus, the situation was delayed.”

When Gui mama finished, Murong Wanru spoke up between her sobs. “Mufei, don’t blame sister-in-law. Everything was my fault because I didn’t find you in time.”

Grand Concubine Yi’s cool expression turned more and more ugly, her phoenix eyes overcast with violent storms. Gui mama glanced at Murong Wanru before she continued. “When esteemed wangfei returned, young miss sent people to the Hibiscus Courtyard to ask for an audience. She went multiple times but was denied every try. Today esteemed wangfei came out and young miss kneeled to serve her tea, but esteemed wangfei, she…”

Finally, Grand Concubine Yi erupted before she could finish. “Han Yunxi!”

Han Yunxi was just by one side. Faintly she spoke, “Chenqie is here.”

“Gui mama spoke the truth? You were really in prison? Did they have an arrest warrant?” Grand Concubine Yi asked in disbelief. Compared to these events, even Murong Wanru’s ‘grievance’ wasn’t that important.

Mufei, it was the empress dowager’s command to arrest her. Otherwise, who would dare touch sister-in-law?” Murong Wanru added, choked with sobs.

“What? Han Yunxi, you! You!” Grand Concubine Yi gasped for breath, one hand gripping the armrest while the other pointed at Han Yunxi. She half sat, half rose, so angry that she couldn’t speak.

Chenqie had good intentions to save a life. Just earlier, the young general came to give thanks. The justice courts even planted evidence to frame me, but the Duke of Qin had already appeared personally to have the judicial officers refer the case to the civil offices,” Han Yunxi replied boldly.

Grand Concubine Yi waved her hand in rage. “I don’t care about that much! You fell into the empress dowager’s hands and were even imprisoned in the justice courts! How am I supposed to have any face left! Right now that old woman’s probably laughing at me for being so incapable, getting a good-for-nothing daughter-in-law like you!”

Han Yunxi’s face was full of disbelief. She always knew that Grand Concubine Yi had placed heavy emphasis on saving face, but never to this extent. This was completely unreasonable! She’d rescued Mu Qingwu and penalized the likes of Princess Changping. Did this still count as losing face? Grand Concubine rose and sat, sat and rose, too busy to even attend to Murong Wanru by her side, so restless was she.

Suddenly, she stopped in front of Han Yunxi, narrowing her phoenix eyes in wrath…

-o-

[1] Gui mama (桂嬷嬷) – a mama, or elderly servant, of the household. Gui stands for cassia or sweet-scented osmanthus.


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