Everyone paid more attention to this matter after Eunuch Li’s entreaties. For the sake of tampening down greed, the emperor had told the empress that all donations needed clear receipts no matter the quantity given. The numbers had to be clearly recorded as to their origins and eventual use. Because of this, the emperor had specially formed a team of people from the six ministries to make a supervisory committee in charge of managing donations. They would send out timely records of the expenses to the public.
If Lord Chen passed on the red envelopes’ matter to the empress, what was he supposed to say? Suppose he made her unhappy? He could even lose his job. However, if he didn’t report to the empress, how was he supposed to record the matter of the empty red envelopes? Once the zeroes were down and the records made public with the other donation amounts, it would only be trouble for the empress!
If all of the empress’s red envelopes ended up being empty, that was easy enough to understand. But only eight out of the 30 she sent out had nothing in them whatsoever. Those madams were all from families of high standing. No body would mind a big red envelope, but an empty one was simply humiliation. How much gossip and idle talk would come out of this?
Lord Chen was stuck between a rock and a hard place. Eunuch Li only reminded him, “Lord Chen, no matter how bold those madams may be, they wouldn’t dare report the empty envelopes. As this old servant sees it, perhaps the empress means…”
“Perhaps she means to threaten then?” Lord Chen asked hastily.
Eunuch Li’s smile was full of disdain. “Lord Chen, how is someone with such poor insight supposed to help the emperor and empress with their matters?”
Lord Chen was truly lost. He dug out a bag of silver and stuffed it in Eunuch Li’s hands. “Eunuch Li, please give me more pointers, more pointers.”
Eunuch Li accepted the silver and smiled until his eyes were slits. He stopped being stingy and said, “Lord Chen, these empty envelopes of the empress are simply there to scope out the path! Did you see what kind of people were included in the eight madams? Would Esteemed Empress simply try to test their mettle with a bunch of empty red envelopes?”
“So that’s it!” Lord Chen exclaimed.
If Han Yunxi knew the two men thought she was so complicated, what would she feel?
“Lord Chen, this must be a personal affair between the empress and the right madams. Now say, which side do you stand on?” Eunuch Li asked.
“This humble official sides with Esteemed Empress and has no second motives. May the Heavens be my witness!” Lord Chen declared promptly.
Eunuch Li drew closer and lowered his voice. “Lord Chen, this old servant wholeheartedly serves my master. Since this is the case, if we do nothing and pay out of our own pockets…”
Lord Chen didn’t hesitate and agreed. “This official understands!”
Eunuch Li added, “Lord Chen, think it over carefully. If anything goes wrong, you’ll have to assume all responsibility!”
“This humble official understands. Eunuch Li doesn’t need to worry!” Lord Chen said, relieved to be solving a thorny problem.
Admiring his guts, Eunuch Li replied, “Don’t worry, Lord Chen. If this old servant has a chance to see the emperor and empress, I will definitely put in some good words for you!”
Lord Chen hastily cupped his hands to express his gratitude.
“That’s right, there seems to be two envelopes missing,” Eunuch Li added quickly.
“Two were sent to the Baili Estate, but His Excellency Baili passed away last night. Things must be chaotic at that household right now!” Lord Chen sighed helplessly.
At noon the next day, the Ministry of Revenue organized its list of all the auction details at the birthday banquet as well as the red envelopes donated by the high-ranking ladies and madams into a clear accounts which they then posted publicly. The eight empty red envelopes were included in the list, with Lord Chen making up the lost sum inside them so they matched the rest.
Han Yunxi received the news as soon as it went public. Currently, she was waiting for Long Feiye inside the palace. After he had gone to the imperial study yesterday, he sent someone to send his condolences while instructing the justice courts to their jobs properly without showing any favoritism. Of course, this was all a show for certain people. Long Feiye was still busying himself in the study now. Even if he wasn’t occupied, he couldn’t rush over to the Baili Estate right now.
He could only wait until night fell and the Baili Estate was empty. For both him and the Baili Estate, this day was a tremendous test.
Han Yunxi looked over the accounts list that a servant had given her before handing it over to Mu Linger and Zhao mama.
“Big sis, this Lord Chen sure is something. He used money from his own pockets to fill in the empty envelopes!” Mu Linger smiled.
“Esteemed Empress, if that’s the case than then the people we arranged…” Zhao mama was rather put out.
Why did Lord Chen decide to act of his own accord? After all, Esteemed Empress long had preparations in place for the empty red envelopes. By doing this, Lord Chen ended the disputes once and for more. How boring!
Han Yunxi was too heavy-hearted on account of the Baili Clan and still worried for Long Feiye. She only hoped the clan could pass through this day and not disappoint him further. She had long lost interest in tussling with those idle madams and waved a hand. “Forget about it. It shouldn’t have happened in the first place. Zhao mama, go ask Xu Donglin what the emperor’s busying himself with now!”
Zhao mama left but returned shortly. “Esteemed Empress, someone from the Xiao Clan just came to the imperial study. It was Junwang Ding and Great General Xiao that arrived together. Xu Donglin says the emperor might be preoccupied for a while.”
Han Yunxi had no choice but to keep waiting.
Soon enough, Gu Beiyue arrived from the Baili Estate. She quickly asked him, “What’s the situation? Baili Qiyu didn’t even come to court today! The emperor sent someone to offer condolences, what was Baili Qiyu’s reaction?”
Seeing the empress so panicked, Gu Beiyue smiled helplessly. She was worried over the emperor, not the Baili Clan.
“Esteemed Empress, His Excellency Baili was already in poor health. The shock last night caused him to spit up too much blood. When he heard that Xiao An had been made Junwang, the blood and qi surged to his brain and killed him.” Gu Beiyue sighed heavily with regret.
Han Yunxi sat back without a word.
Gu Beiyue went on, “Baili Yuanlong has four sons. Baili Qiyu may not be the eldest, but he was born of the official wife and has the highest rank in the army. He should be calling the shots in the Baili Clan now. When the emperor sent his condolences, he was respectful but…”
“But what?” Han Yunxi asked.
After all, Baili Qiyu’s attitude would determine both Long Feiye’s mood and the Baili Clan’s future fate!
“This subordinate went asking around, but Baili Qiyu’s attitude is still unclear. He wants to see Baili Lixiang,” Gu Beiyue replied.
Baili Lixiang! Baili Lixiang! Han Yunxi was incensed. “Does the Baili Clan have no more men with backbone?”
“Master, please calm your anger. All of His Excellency Baili’s other sons are reckless. It’s better for Baili Qiyu to find Baili Lixiang for these matters than the other sons!” Gu Beiyue sighed with feeling.
Han Yunxi thought it over before anxiously requesting, “Take me to the imperial prisons as soon as possible!”
Although Gu Beiyue hadn’t gone into detail, Han Yunxi could tell that Baili Lixiang would play a big role in the Baili Clan’s future fate. If she couldn’t guess Baili Qiyu’s intentions, they could at least probe Baili Lixiang. If needed, Han Yunxi didn’t mind wiping the record clear and talking to the woman openly.
Gu Beiyue took the lead in making all arrangements and making sure the prisons were cleared before letting Han Yunxi go. She walked to the door of the cell and saw Baili Lixiang kneeling on the ground, sobbing with her head buried in her hands. Without a doubt, she had received news of her father’s death. The prison cell was quiet except for the sounds of wretched sobbing. Han Yunxi looked closer and saw that there was quite a deep cut on her forehead that was still bleeding.
She and Gu Beiyue stood there for a while, but Baili Lixiang didn’t even notice. In the end, she spoke up. “What, you wanted to commit suicide after causing your father’s death?”
Baili Lixiang’s head whipped up in surprise. But she quickly recovered and screamed, “Han Yunxi, it was you! You killed my father, you’re the true murderer!”
Han Yunxi knelt down without a word to regard her coldly. Baili Lixiang threw herself at the bars, teeth bared and clawing at her, but she was too far to reach Han Yunxi. Han Yunxi continued to stare at her coldly until Baili Lixiang broke down into tears.
Abruptly, Han Yunxi snapped, “Have you cried enough, Baili Lixiang? If you want the nine familial exterminations for the Baili Clan, then keep sobbing! Nobody can save you all now!”
Han Yunxi wasn’t here to explain herself. After coming to this point, she was convinced that the things that needed the most explanation often didn’t need to be laid out at all. She wasn’t here to make peace, but to threaten and curse her out! If Baili Lixiang was done crying, she was going to yell at her!
Seeing Baili Lixiang’s shocked expression, Han Yunxi went on in a frigid tone, “Looks like you’ve cried enough. Then I’ll tell you now, it’s impossible for you to shoulder all the guilt for the matters at the birthday banquet. Don’t think the justice court is made up of idiots, much less expect compassion from the Xiao Clan despite working with them! And also, your father’s death won’t affect the justice courts’ decisions a whit.”
Baili Lixiang gave a start before she went insane and shook the jail cell bars. “My father had no idea about this! Nor did my little brother! It was all my fault! My own idea! It was me! Me…”
“Fine! Even if it was all you, then I’ll tell you this now: the punishment for the crime is the nine familial exterminations up to three generations!” Han Yunxi roared.
Now Baili Lixiang collapsed as if...as if she’d never stand again. Only now did she come to her senses.
She looked at Han Yunxi and asked, “Then why did you come?”Previous Chapter Next Chapter
long time no see again, i've been working on fanfic prompts and original novels...
will try to update here once a week!