Chapter 445: What did she see? Original and most updated translations are from volare. If read elsewhere, this chapter has been stolen. Please stop supporting theft.
Baili Mingxiang never expected to see that on esteemed wangfei’s back!
It was a reddish mark shaped like a phoenix with its wings spread in flight---the winged phoenix birthmark. The color was so faint that she never would have noticed without such close range scrutiny. Baili Mingxiang was stunned by the sight as her heart began to pound!
This birthmark is too formidable!
If she remembered rightly, it was the unique mark possessed by all members of the West Qin imperial clan. When she was younger, she had seen records about it in one of the Tang Clan’s volumes on the secret history of the Great Qin’s imperial customs. Without exception, every female member of the West Qin imperial clan was born with this birthmark!
This wasn’t public knowledge, but Baili Mingxiang had happened upon the record by chance. The Tang Clan had about a dozen books on the various secrets of the Great Qin. She couldn’t recall which book this tidbit had come from, but she was certain it was true. His Highness Duke of Qin, Aunt Ru and the rest had all been carefully monitoring any news of the Seven Noble Families. They hadn’t given much thought to the West Qin imperial clan because all of its members were supposed to be dead! It was common knowledge that the last heir to the clan had been shot to death by the Nether Clan. By now, the West Qin imperial clan was supposed to be ancient history, so there was no point in investigating them anymore.
But why does esteemed wangfei have a winged phoenix birthmark on her back?
Baili Mingxiang had no time to consider how West Qin still had an imperial orphan left. She was a calm person, but ever her hands were shaking now.
This is too serious! It was impossible to fake the birthmark, which meant esteemed wangfei had to be the West Qin imperial orphan. But that means her existence is fatal to His Highness Duke of Qin!
And yet, His Highness Duke of Qin doted on this woman.
Does His Highness Duke of Qin know what the winged phoenix birthmark represents? Has he ever seen it on esteemed wangfei’s body before? Does esteemed wangfei herself realize the significance?
When Han Yunxi noticed that Baili Mingxiang wasn’t moving, she asked, “What is it? Are my burns too scary for you?”
Zhao mama turned around at the question as well, causing Baili Mingxiang to give a start and resume applying medicine. “It’s not bad. I’ve already applied medicine to everything, so I wanted them places to dry a bit.” She shot a glance at Zhao mama and saw that the woman looked scared out of her wits. It was likely Zhao mama hadn’t even noticed the faint phoenix birthmark when she covered esteemed wangfei in that quilt. Still, even if she did, she’d probably take it as an ordinary birthmark---she knew nothing of West Qin matters. Actually, Han Yunxi’s back was covered in red splotches now, so Baili Mingxiang would’ve missed the mark too without a careful look.
“You don’t need to put as much medicine in the other places, they’ll be alright,” Han Yunxi spoke up. But her words convinced Baili Mingxiang that esteemed wangfei had no idea about the birthmark on her back. Or at least, she didn’t know what it represented. Otherwise, esteemed wangfei would never have let her apply medicine so casually.
Esteemed wangfei was the eldest daughter of the first wife from the Han Estate, child to Lady Tianxin. Han Congan’s bearing didn’t fit that of any noble clan at all, but his wife was mysterious enough to be suspect. Since Lady Tianxin had died in childbirth, she never got a chance to tell esteemed wangfei about her origins. Baili Mingxiang felt ill at ease with all the thoughts in her head, feeling pressed in on all sides.
Should she tell esteemed wangfei about this secret? What would be the consequences? What about the consequences if she didn’t say a thing?
Esteemed wangfei was her lifesaver and the first---and only---person in this world to treat her with sincerity. But her status as the West Qin imperial orphan was… Baili Mingxiang grew more conflicted as she thought. She really didn’t know what to do. Moreover, she not only had to consider esteemed wangfei’s status, but His Highness Duke of Qin as well. Does he know of the secret? Should I tell him instead?
If His Highness Duke of Qin was still ignorant, then as his subordinate, she was duty-bound to tell him the truth. But once she did that, what would happen to esteemed wangfei? How would His Highness Duke of Qin treat esteemed wangfei afterwards?
If His Highness Duke of Qin was already long aware of the birthmark’s existence but still doted on esteemed wangfei like so, then what? If she told him what she found, would he silence her to get rid of all witnesses?
In the midst of Baili Mingxiang’s helplessness, Han Yunxi spoke up. “Mingxiang, go find Xu Donglin and have him call all the servants to the Sunset Cloud Pavilion. I’ll go afterwards and bring an end to the exploding stove and leaky storehouse mystery.”
Baili Mingxiang silently exhaled and told herself to calm down. It was better to take care of the matters at hand first. “Esteemed wangfei, the culprit won’t be able to escape. You should lie down and treat your wounds first,” she urged earnestly.
“It won’t kill me. Unless I take care of the spy, I’ll feel like there’s a fish bone stuck in my throat all the time. The Duke of Qin’s estate tolerates no form of betrayal!” Han Yunxi’s voice rose significantly at the last line. Physically paralyzed in a corner, Su Xiaoyu sat there unmoving. It wasn’t clear whether she’d even heard the words.
Because esteemed wangfei was insistent, Baili Mingxiang had no choice. She carefully re-dressed Han Yunxi before leaving the room. Guards couldn’t come here as they pleased, but with Lil Thing around, she could set some of her fears at rest. There was no way Su Xiaoyu was escaping. Once she left the Leisurely Cloud Pavilion, Baili Mingxiang exhaled and told herself to stay calm no matter what. She could judge the situation when His Highness Duke of Qin returned before deciding what to do about the birthmark.
Han Yunxi remained lying on the low couch, her pupils much dimmer and more pensive than before. Although her burns had been timely treated and the pain vastly reduced after applying the medicine, they still hurt. The sensation of burning, taut muscles gradually spread from her injuries to cover her entire back. Right now, the most important thing she needed to do was lie still for couple more days until the pain subsided before she moved. But the agony still couldn’t compare to the pain in her heart, or how much she’d been wounded inside.
After resting for a bit, Han Yunxi endured the pain to get up. The poisons she’d prepared to test with the wet charcoal were almost done, so she wanted to continue her experiments! This was the first time since the explosion that she’d felt such a need to uncover the truth. Still, as she passed by Su Xiaoyu, Han Yunxi stopped to ask, “Little Yu’er, were you just being careless? Confess and I’ll be lenient, refuse to admit and there’ll be severe punishment.”
Su Xiaoyu was caught off guard by her words. She never thought Han Yunxi would be asking her things like that right now. The one thing she feared after the failed explosion was Han Yunxi failing to find a culprit and summarily executing her with Zhao mama as the most likely suspects. But now it seemed like she’d overestimated Han Yunxi’s resolve.
This woman isn’t suited to be ruthless as all!
Su Xiaoyu looked up without hesitation and asked back, “Esteemed wangfei, you don’t trust me? You’re doubting me?”
Both conditions for confessing and denying had to be a sham. She wouldn’t fall for things like that. If Han Yunxi wasn’t planning to judge the culprit today, she’d take full advantage of her soft-headed tendencies.
Cold laughter flickered through Han Yunxi’s eyes. She’d asked the question on purpose but had no intentions of really forgiving the suspect. Once they were guilty, she’d never let them off! Enduring the pain, she walked to the study table and resumed her work. Soon enough, her poison was finished.
Meanwhile, all of the Duke of Qin’s servants---young and old, male and female---had gathered in the Sunset Pavilion located in the gardens. When Han Yunxi arrived with Zhao mama and Su Xiaoyu, there was a hubbub of voices discussing the latest news. But everyone fell silent at the sight of their esteemed wangfei.
Baili Mingxiang and Xu Donglin quickly helped Han Yunxi put the charcoal, charcoal ashes, and poison on the stone table within the pavilion.
“Recently there was an exploding stove in Leisurely Cloud Pavilion, then a leaky roof in the storehouse. Moreover, esteemed wangfei was injured by burns today. Are all these things accidents or premeditate events? Does the Duke of Qin’s estate have spies---and if so, how many? Today, this wangfei will give everyone a clear answer!” Han Yunxi’s voice wasn’t very loud, but it shook the hearts of all present. She had the aura and air of a true mistress of the house.
Her words sent an uproar through the crowd. Nobody knew anything beyond the exploding stove, nor expected for the peaceful estate to hide such dangers. Su Xiaoyu stood on one side with a scornful look in her eyes. Sure, Han Yunxi had told everyone else about what happened, probably with the intention to discourage any would-be traitors. But unless she had ample evidence, it’d be close to impossible to win over the crowd. Instead, she’d make a laughingstock of herself.
As everyone settled down, Han Yunxi pointed at the items on the table and began to explain what how the mixture of charcoal and poison could solve the mystery. Any charcoal harboring explosive substances would create a reaction with the poison to form a brand new toxin. The servants were stunned by the explanation, especially since Han Yunxi’s detailed lecture helped them understand everything. They silently mused that there was no need for esteemed wangfei to take such pains. If any servant was suspect, they’d face nothing but death. It was all too common for large households to beat their servants to death, much less a place like the Duke of Qin’s estate. Still, esteemed wangfei’s minute methods earned both their acceptance and deep respect.
Su Xiaoyu was listening carefully as well, never expecting Han Yunxi to think up a way to use poisons like that. She really admired the woman’s efforts, and watched as Han Yunxi poured poison onto a charcoal sample. Her large, wide eyes held an icy coldness that didn’t fit her age as a child. Soon enough, the charcoal emitted a noxious odor upon contact with the poison.
Han Yunxi picked up the porcelain sample bottle and remarked, “There are explosive substances in this charcoal.”
After that, she did the same treatment with the damp charcoal, but elicited no reaction at all! Even without Han Yunxi’s explanation, everyone understood. Only the charcoal used in Leisurely Cloud Pavilion on the day of the explosion had explosive substances. The rest---even Leisurely Cloud Pavilion’s unused store of charcoal---weren’t explosive at all. Without a doubt, someone had tampered with the stove charcoal that day.
“I think no amount of coincidences can explain away this. The fact that the roof leaked and soaked the rest of the charcoal was no accident, either.” Han Yunxi’s tone was calm and even, but it sent an inexplicable sense of dread through her gathered listeners.
Xu Donglin stepped forward and said coldly, “A craftsman determined that the storehouse roof tile was broken on purpose by a person inside the building. In other words, someone wanted to soak the charcoal on purpose.”
His words made the crowd even more uneasy. They never expected a series of clues like this to prove that there really was a spy in the well guarded Duke of Qin’s compound!
Su Xiaoyu’s eyes were still flashing with cold laughter. So what if Han Yunxi’s found all this out? How can she prove that I have anything to do with the case?
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