Chapter 446: The Seven Noble Families’ Nether Clan Original and most updated translations are from volare. If read elsewhere, this chapter has been stolen. Please stop supporting theft.
Amidst the commotion, Han Yunxi raised her hand to call for silence. But someone couldn’t help asking in curiosity, “Esteemed wangfei, just who is this spy?”
Han Yunxi’s previously even tone turned icy as she ordered, “There were only a few people who went to the storehouse in the past few days. Someone come, bring them all to me!”
The estate guards brought over six servants, among them three who stocked the storeroom, two pageboys, and….Steward Luo! Everyone was shocked to see him among the suspected, but Steward Luo’s expression was placid as he stood tall and straight of back.
“These six were the only ones who used the storehouse in the past few days according to the register.”
Han Yunxi strode out of the pavilion and looked at the six servants with a severe and frosty expression. “His Highness and this wangfei will never allow the existence of traitors here. Just who was it that broke the roof tile? Either confess, or…” Before she finished, she shot a glance at Xu Donglin, who tossed out a plank covered in nails!
The plank was only about the size of a stool, but it was covered with needles that glittered with wicked points. All of the servants knew that this nail plank was an extremely horrific punishment tool. Anyone who sat on it would be pierced by the needles with unbearable pain. Though it wasn’t fatal, it left the sufferer in agony for days before they died from blood loss.
Here was a fate worse than death.
Steward Luo remained unmoved at the sight, but the two little pageboys and three servant girls went pale with fright as they trembled. If the real culprit couldn’t be found, then all of them would be ill-pressed to escape punishment. Very soon, the servant girls all fell to their knees to beg for mercy.
“Esteemed wangfei, it wasn’t me! Spare me!”
“Esteemed wangfei, I didn’t do a thing! I’ve been wronged, ah!”
Su Xiaoyu wasn’t as calm as before anymore. She creased her brows as if she suddenly remembered something, but Han Yunxi spoke up to say, “There will be severe punishment for those who refuse to admit their crimes and leniency…for those who confess!”
Su Xiaoyu’s heart thumped from hearing those very words. She had the faint sense that Han Yunxi was doing all this on purpose! Back at the study, she’d said those same words—not to truly offer her clemency, but to make sure she heard them. Han Yunxi had long planned out her way of uncovering the sabotager via these storehouse servants! As expected, Han Yunxi’s words stirred one of the pageboys into falling on his knees as he kowtowed repeatedly against the ground.
“Esteemed wangfei, have mercy! This one was threatened and had no other choice! Esteemed wangfei, have mercy, ah!”
So it was him! One of Steward Luo’s charges!
Seeing this, Su Xiaoyu’s face blanched, never expected the person she handpicked to be so weak in the face of threats. Steward Luo turned furious and slapped the boy. “Wang Laifu,1 you worthless wretch. I haven’t treated you poorly, yet you had the gall for something like this!”
Wang Laifu allowed Steward Luo to rain curses on him as he pleaded for mercy, but in the end, he still didn’t say who had threatened him.
“Who threatened you? And who was the one that sabotaged the charcoal?” Han Yunxi asked loudly.
When faced with certain death, Wang Laifu’s courage grew. He began to haggle for terms. “Esteemed wangfei, spare this one from death and interrogation first. Then this one will speak!”
With such daring, it’s no wonder he thought of betrayal!
Han Yunxi’s eyes flashed coldly before she accepted. “Fine, I’ll spare you from death and interrogation. Now speak!”
How could Wang Laifu know there were worse things in life than death or interrogation? Without hesitation, he turned to look at Su Xiaoyu. Everyone else followed his gaze.
Everyone gave a start, never expecting such a young child—one saved by esteemed wangfei herself—to do something so horrific! What a pretender! What acting! Han Yunxi was still calm. She’d long known in her heart, but she wanted everyone else to accept her verdict as well. Su Xiaoyu finally revealed her true face as she gave Han Yunxi a cold, wicked grin. She was about to speak when Zhao mama cut in sternly.
“Su Xiaoyu, you despicable girl! Was your conscience eaten by the dogs?”
Zhao mama had borne no sons or daughters of her own, so she’d treated Su Xiaoyu with the same affection as a blood-related granddaughter! She was even thinking of how to prepare a dowry for the little girl once she grew older so she could marry out in grand style. But instead, she’d turned out to be a spy who’d hurt esteemed wangfei. Zhao mama was so angry that she wanted to hit the child, but Su Xiaoyu grabbed at her first. Fortunately, Xu Donglin had been on guard and caught Su Xiaoyu’s hand just as two more guards appeared to restrain her.
The chaos in the courtyard quickly subsided. Wang Laifu remained kneeling on the ground, while Su Xiaoyu’s hands were held fast. Silence settled upon the scene. Han Yunxi walked over to the girl who didn’t even reach up to her waist. She purposely bent down and asked coldly, “Have you any words to say?”
Su Xiaoyu remained silent as she stared at Han Yunxi’s eyes, a flash of regret passing through her heart. It’s a pity. It’s really a pity that I didn’t meet Han Yunxi sooner. If I had met her instead of Chu Tianyin, maybe I’d even be able to follow her and learn poisons.
Somewhere along the way, she’d ended up admiring this woman.
Seeing Su Xiaoyu’s silence, Han Yunxi then asked, “Who sent you here? Just what did you want to do?”
Su Xiaoyu still remained silent. There was no way that she’d betray her master.
Han Yunxi waited a bit longer before rising to her feet. Coldly she commanded, “Someone come, string this damned girl on that tree and starve her to death!”
Su Xiaoyu grit her teeth as she stared at Han Yunxi, still refusing to say a word. Meanwhile, Han Yunxi tossed a bottle of poison at Wang Laifu, who caught it in confusion until he opened it to see its contents. Then he banged his head against the ground as he begged, “Esteemed wangfei, have mercy, ah! Esteemed wangfei, you said you wouldn’t kill me! Esteemed wangfei…”
“Those who betray the Duke of Qin’s estate can escape execution, but they’ll definitely live a life worse than death! All of you, look closely! This wangfei will never beat someone without cause, much less treat them unjustly. But once this wangfei finds the guilty culprit, this will be their end!” Immediately afterwards, she order, “Xu Donglin, feed him the pills!”
Frightened, Wang Laifu attempted to flee, but a servant like him was no match for specialized guards. Xu Donglin quickly forced the entire bottle of poison down Wang Laifu’s throat. Once he released the boy, Wang Laifu spat out a mouthful of black blood before all the skin on his face began to fester. Bit by bit, piece by piece, his face rotted and broke away.
“This wangfei promised not to kill him, but it won’t be my fault if he can’t take it and begs for death instead,” Han Yunxi finished as she turned to leave. By now, half of Wang Laifu’s face was covered in ulcers that were quickly spreading down to his neck. It was a terrifying, disgusting sight that sent a wave of veneration rushing through the gathered servants’ hearts.
That’s right, veneration. A deep respect mixed with fear. Every word and action of their mistress was different from any masters they’d had before. She earned the acceptance and respect of all her servants even as her intelligence, shrewd mind, and cruel methods gained their deepset dread. They held fear against His Highness Duke of Qin as well, of course, but with esteemed wangfei it was both terror and reverence.
Su Xiaoyu stared at Wang Laifu for awhile before involuntarily looking away. She had always been bold and ruthless herself, but Wang Laifu’s end made her heart quaver. When she saw Han Yunxi’s retreating form, then swept her eyes across the frightened servants and various guards, her face gradually paled. Finally, she realized that she’d made a grave mistake.
This woman wasn’t soft-hearted at all, but brutal and astute. She used the case to move the hearts of all the people at the estate. It would probably be impossible to bribe or threaten any servants here in the future. Soon enough, Xu Donglin hung Su Xiaoyu off the tallest tree in the Duke of Qin’s estate. The crowd dispersed, leaving her and a writhing Wang Laifu at her feet, crying out in agony. Su Xiaoyu didn’t dare to look down, afraid that she’d be the next Wang Laifu.
It was only after everyone else left that she finally raised her head and viciously spat out a weapon concealed in her mouth. The object flew high into the air before exploding in a bright white light in the sky. Naturally, the guards on duty saw this, but didn’t move to stop it. Esteemed wangfei had clearly hung up the damned girl to attract the real master behind the scenes. Despite that, both her and the guards were grossly mistaken.
Currently, a scout stationed near the Duke of Qin’s estate had seen the signal in the sky. After waiting a few moments, he quickly rushed to report to Chu Tianyin.
“To report to master, Su Xiaoyu has sent out a white flare signal!”
Chu Tianyin could guess that Su Xiaoyu was in trouble, but he never expected her to deliver a white flare! He creased his brows and asked, “You saw it clearly?”
“This subordinate saw it extremely clearly. It’s one of our signs for sure, a white flare!” the scout replied.
Chu Tianyin seemed greatly shaken by the news as he fell heavily into his chair. He repeatedly shook his head and muttered, “How could this be? How could…”
He had made ample preparations before slipping Su Xiaoyu into the Duke of Qin’s estate. Different letters sent with different colors of paper would signify different things. Moreover, she was to find a way to relay her intel even if she was sentenced to death. A white flare meant that everything had been a futile effort, that Su Xiaoyu had seen Han Yunxi’s back but didn’t find the winged phoenix birthmark. In other words, Han Yunxi wasn’t the person the Chu Clan wanted!
His Chu Clan was none other than a member of the Seven Noble Families—the Nether Clan! The very same clan who killed West Qin’s last heir while the baby was still in his swaddling clothes! Many other clans had witnessed the assassination with their own eyes, but only the Shadow Clan amongst them knew the truth. The boy baby that was murdered wasn’t royalty at all, but a replacement for the true heir!
The last surviving member of the West Qin imperial clan had been a girl. For the sake of protecting her, the noble consort had sent the baby away and adopted a boy in her place. And for the sake of protecting that very same girl, the Nether Clan had put on a farce to fool the East Qin imperial clan and the rest of the Seven Noble Families into thinking that they’d betrayed their masters and shot the heir to death.
The royal daughter had been sent amongst the civilians and had disappeared during the turmoil and chaos of the war. The Nether Clan had kept searching for her and her descendents over the next 100 years, but never found a trace. They only got wind of a clue by chance when a wet nurse mentioned that the eldest daughter of the Han Clan had a winged phoenix birthmark on her back. Then they’d followed the hint to here.
Every female member of the West Qin imperial clan were born with a winged phoenix birthmark!
This was their first lead after 100 years, yet the white flare had eliminated Han Yunxi as a possibility! How could he and and his father accept such news?