Midnight had arrived!
The mountain gale was extremely chilly, so the servant girl shivered in her dress as she waited by the pavilion. Around her was nothing but swaying weeds and grass. Time passed, but Duanmu Yao didn’t show up. Without Han Yunxi’s orders, the servant girl didn’t dare to leave, either.
“I don’t think she’s coming,” Lady Tang murmured.
Han Yunxi only watched the dim path before them, still confident. “She will, for certain. Even if we suspected the wrong person, she’d still show up.”
“How are you so sure?” Lady Tang didn’t understand. If not for her trust in Han Yunxi, she would have left long ago.
“Lady Tang, have you ever liked someone?” Han Yunxi asked.
“If I didn’t, would I have married that man?” Lady Tang grinned.
“Liking someone means wanting to know all about them! Everything!” Han Yunxi emphasized. Her words stirred the long slumbering girlish heart of Lady Tang, and the woman sighed with emotion.
“So that’s why Duanmu Yao will definitely come!” Han Yunxi said earnestly.
Lady Tang looked at her clear, bright eyes, and suddenly wanted to ask this remarkable woman how much she liked Long Feiye. How much did Han Yunxi truly know about him? But in the end, she kept quiet. Those were things between the couple themselves.
After a while, she asked, “Yunxi, what if you loved someone? Could you ignore everything about him if you do?”
Han Yunxi shook her head. “Lady Tang, love is selfish. Loving someone makes you want to become their everything. Whatever he’s gone through before then would cease to matter, wouldn’t it?”
Lady Tang stared at Han Yunxi and suddenly didn’t know what to say. She only nodded and liked her all the better. What a candid and straightforward woman! Love was selfish and possessive, to be enjoyed for oneself. But how many people were willing to admit that? If Zijin or Aunt Ru heard those words, they’d probably try to drive Han Yunxi from Feiye no matter what! How could Feiye’s “everything” ever be summed up by one woman? Even if she was a remarkable one, she couldn’t be everything that Feiye was! His duties were too great and too important to neglect.
“Yunxi, love is sacrificing yourself for others too,” Lady Tang remarked lightly.
“No. At least, I wouldn’t!” Han Yunxi insisted stubbornly.
Lady Tang was about to coax her some more when soft noises came from the grass nearby. They immediately grew alert and soon saw a familiar figure emerge from the darkness: Duanmu Yao!
Han Yunxi’s bet had succeeded once again. Duanmu Yao really came!
She walked step by step towards the pavilion, her faint torchlight illuminating her ashen white face. Her internal injuries clearly hadn’t healed. She’d written multiple letters to her master to insist on having her senior brother heal her, but he told her that her senior brother had been injured too and was unable to help. He even recommended other experts in the jianghu to do the job instead.
But she only persisted in waiting. She could afford to tarry until her senior brother’s own injuries were healed!
A complicated look flickered past Duanmu Yao’s eyes as she spotted the servant girl, but she stayed silent.
“This must be Princess Duan?” the servant girl asked respectfully.
“You weren’t the one who made the appointment with this princess! Where’s Tang Yiru?” Duanmu Yao asked loftily.
What a familiar manner of address! Lady Tang grew tense at her words, but Han Yunxi silenced her with a look before she could speak. Duanmu Yao was still on guard despite her injuries. It would be hard for any surrounding noise to escape her.
“Princess Duan, my mistress is temporarily inconvenienced, so she can’t come in person. I’m here to deliver the goods,” the servant girl replied.
“Then where is it?” Duanmu Yao grew impatient.
“My mistress said that the debt from before has yet to be cleared. That must be done first,” the servant answered.
Hearing this, Han Yunxi grew nervous as well. The snake she was trying to lure wasn’t the traitor herself, but Duanmu Yao! She wanted to hear the girl verify the suspect’s identity with her own lips! Thus, what Duanmu Yao said next would be of monumental importance. Here was the critical moment!
“The debt from before? Does this princess owe her anything?” Duanmu Yao asked coldly.
Lady Tang subconsciously clutched Han Yunxi’s hand and gave her a questioning look, as if to ask her, is it really Yiru? Why would she do something like this?
Han Yunxi replied with her own look of utmost certainty. Now Lady Tang was really anxious. She almost crushed Han Yunxi’s fingers in her grip, but Han Yunxi bore the pain and continued waiting. She wanted Duanmu Yao to admit the truth with her own lips so Lady Tang could hear it personally. She wasn’t expecting Aunt Ru to admit guilt to her or Long Feiye. She only wanted the woman to kowtow to Grandma Kong and confess her sins before Kong Xi’s grave!
“Just the debt regarding the last matter. Princess Duan couldn’t have forgotten it so soon, right?” the servant girl probed further.
Duanmu Yao broke into a cold laugh. “It should be this princess asking her to pay up for it instead! She wounded me quite seriously. There’s no need to discuss other terms. Hand over the info and we’ll cancel all debts.”
“Princess Duan, what’s with that injury? We all know if you hadn’t gotten hurt, you wouldn’t need to go find the Duke of Qin for treatment,” the servant girl mocked.
Here comes the truth! Han Yunxi was now gripping Lady Tang’s hands as well. The two women strained their ears to listen, afraid to miss a single word.
Unexpectedly, Duanmu Yao lost her temper. “What are you talking about?”
“Princess Duan should know exactly what this servant girl means. There’s nobody else here, so let’s get to the point. If Princess Duan wants the map, then agree to something for my mistress,” the servant replied.
Duanmu Yao’s tone was cold. “This princess has no idea what you mean. It’s not easy to wash away Tang Yiru’s debt for hurting me! Go back and tell her that this princess will only give her one chance. Give me the map and I’ll forget about everything that’s happened in the past. Otherwise, I’ll pay her back double for wounding my dantian!”
Hearing this, Lady Tang grew puzzled, while Han Yunxi was stunned. Why are things turning out like this?
The servant wouldn’t give up. “Princess Duan, you clearly got injured on purpose. My mistress was only implicit in your playacting, so how could you---”
“What kind of nonsense are you spewing?” Duanmu Yao cut her off. “You… Are you really Tang Yiru’s servant girl?”
Alarmed, the servant girl grew speechless.
“Where’s my thing? You didn’t bring it, did you?” Duanmu Yao pressed closer, her gaze growing sinister.
Knowing the situation was turning black, Han Yunxi quickly sent a few hidden needles flying into the air. The sound alerted Duanmu Yao, who decided to leave.
“Tell Tang Yiru that she better hand over that map like a good girl. Otherwise, she’ll have to shoulder the consequences!” she tossed out a warning, then turned to depart.
Scared to death, the servant girl choked as she collapsed onto a stone stool and turned stiff. Lady Tang and Han Yunxi rose to their feet while exchanging glances. The former was knitting her brows. After a long period of silence, she finally spoke.
“Yunxi, how could you… How could you suspect Yiru!? She does have a bad temper and no tolerance at all, but she would never betray the Tang Clan or sell out Feiye! I’m willing to bet my life on it!”
Han Yunxi simply stood dazed. She didn’t hear what Lady Tang had said at all. She couldn’t believe the results of this ploy. Something must have gone wrong...
“Yunxi, say something!” Seeing her expression, Lady Tang grew anxious. “You still think it’s Yiru? You heard it yourself, didn’t you? Aye, I’ll just pretend none of this ever happened. You better tell that servant girl to keep her lips sealed as well. If Yiru finds out about this...there’ll be even more chaos in the Tang Clan.”
Han Yunxi only shook her head. She couldn’t figure out where the problem came from. This servant girl was one of Long Feiye’s agents, long planted in Aunt Ru’s household. She was definitely trustworthy. Could it be that Duanmu Yao discovered something amiss and acted in this way on purpose?
But, she’d shown up in person. What could she have guessed when the servant girl’s words didn’t reveal a thing?
“Yunxi, let’s go back. We’ll talk once we return!” Lady Tang tugged at her.
“Your ladyship, you go back first. I want some peace and quiet,” Han Yunxi murmured.
“You still suspect Yiru?” Now Lady Tang grew incensed. “Yunxi, I know you don’t like her, but you can’t simply frame her on unfounded charges. Why do you even find her suspicious?”
How was Han Yunxi supposed to explain herself? The failed probe just then had yielded ironclad truths.
“I was too paranoid. Lady Tang, please forgive me for this incident,” Han Yunxi muttered back.
Lady Tang exhaled. “I know you were just impulsive. Come on, let’s go back first.”
Back on the peak, Lady Tang gave her a few more parting words before taking her leave. Once she vanished, Long Feiye appeared.
“Was I wrong?” Han Yunxi asked.
“Perhaps,” Long Feiye answered.
“But…” Han Yunxi couldn’t believe that she’d made a mistake. Aside from her own intuition, she had plenty of basis to suspect Aunt Ru.
“It’s also possible that Kong Xi’s incident...caused us to startle the snake in the grass,” Long Feiye looked at Han Yunxi with a complicated gaze.
Once the snake knew they were onto her, it’d be much harder to ferret out the truth. Nevertheless, they had no choice but to press Kong Xi, or else they never would have exposed a possible thread. Otherwise, the child would have simply admitted his guilt and made an end of the case right there.
Finally, Long Feiye made a decision. “For now, it’s inadvisable to continue.”
Although Han Yunxi was reluctant to admit it, she agreed with his thoughts. Continuing the investigation would only put the other party further on guard. Perhaps letting it sit for a while would make their work a little easier.
Long Feiye escorted Han Yunxi back to her room and stood by the door. He didn’t step inside. For their days in the Tang Clan, she’d been living in his exclusive courtyard while he went to visit Tang Li every night. It was rare for him to follow her back here this late. Han Yunxi looked at him before slowly shutting the door. There was an indescribable feeling in her chest, as if she and he belonged to two different worlds. They were together during the daytime, yet always separated at night.
Before the door shut completely, she stopped and asked, “Aren’t you leaving yet?”
“Don’t worry,” Long Feiye said simply. “Your lordship trusts your judgment. She won’t escape.”
“Mhm!” Han Yunxi trusted his promises, too. “We’ll beat her at her own game.” Tomorrow she’d have to tell Chu Xifeng to put on an act so the traitor would think she was safe. Let her gloat for a while. She can pay everything back with interest later!
“Close the door,” Long Feiye intoned.
“You leave first,” Han Yunxi said with a playful smile.
“Be good, close the door first.” Long Feiye’s tone softened.
“You leave first!” Han Yunxi insisted.Previous Chapter Next Chapter