Chapter 434: An accident, or premeditated? Original and most updated translations are from volare. If read elsewhere, this chapter has been stolen. Please stop supporting theft.
Baili Mingxiang’s entire body became as taut as a drawn bow, but she still didn’t utter a sound. Han Yunxi was extremely light with her movements as she carefully applied medicine and gauze. Compared to her usual professionalism, there was a pronounced crease between her brows. Without a doubt, the accident had left her severely perturbed.
After binding up all the injuries, Zhao mama approached in order to help Baili Mingxiang change. Han Yunxi stopped her and used a pair of scissors to cut off Baili Mingxiang’s clothes instead so she could take them off without disturbing the burns. At the sight of Baili Mingxiang’s smooth back, Su Xiaoyu simply rolled her eyes and looked away.
Meddling slut! She mentally cursed. If it wasn’t for Baili Mingxiang’s interference, she would be seeing Han Yunxi’s back by now. Then she’d be able to verify whether the woman had a phoenix-shaped birthmark like the woman her master’s clan was looking for. She’d taken such a big risk, but it was all for naught! Despite leaving no evidence behind, the sudden explosion of the stove would definitely attract suspicion. Now it would be more difficult for her to make a move.
Su Xiaoyu grew more depressed the more she thought about it. Her gaze turned venomous as she wished she could burn Baili Mingxiang again! No, it’d be better if I’d just burn her to death outright! Compared to Su Xiaoyu’s poisonous glare, Zhao mama’s eyes were filled with pity and compassion. Baili Mingxiang hadn’t uttered a word of complaint through her entire ordeal. After living for so long, this was the first time she’d met such a brave young woman.
Once things had been settled, Han Yunxi exhaled and said, “Thank you.”
“Esteemed wangfei is exaggerating too much. That was this servant’s duty,” Baili Mingxiang replied hastily.
Han Yunxi expected her to say as much, but she kept her gratitude in her heart. She bade Zhao mama to take good care of Baili Mingxiang and prepared to leave when the injured woman spoke up. “Esteemed wangfei, Mingxiang has one request. I don’t know if…”
Su Xiaoyu silently broke into a cold smile. She just knew Baili Mingxiang couldn’t be so simple. Since she’s done so much, wouldn’t she seize this chance to make requests?
“Whatever you need, just say it,” Han Yunxi was rather puzzled. Baili Mingxiang wasn’t the type of girl to ask for favors.
“It’s just a little private affair,” Baili Mingxiang seemed a bit uncomfortable. Immediately, Han Yunxi dismissed Zhao mama and Su Xiaoyu and personally shut the doors.
“If there’s anything troubling you, tell me it outright.”
Baili Mingxiang dropped her voice to a whisper. “Esteemed wangfei, today’s events didn’t seem like an accident. I’ve used that stove multiple times, but it doesn’t make sense that it exploded. It’s possible that someone tampered with it!”
Han Yunxi was stunned. She already harbored doubts from the stove exploding out of the blue and was planning to investigate the matter herself. However, she was more shocked by Baili Mingxiang’s attitude. Just then, the woman had said she had a request and had Zhao mama and Su Xiaoyu sent away. Could it be that…
“You suspect…” Han Yunxi couldn’t believe it.
Baili Mingxiang was resolute. “If it really was premeditated, the culprit has to be either Zhao mama or Su Xiaoyu!”
Han Yunxi’s heart shook with the possibility. Of those two, one was a loyal mama who had served Long Feiye for years, while the other was a child less than 10 years old. It was really hard to suspect either of them.
“Esteemed wangfei, think it over carefully,” Baili Mingxiang grew serious as she spoke.
Han Yunxi sat by the edge of the bed and lost herself in deep thought. The stove had always been working fine. Baili Mingxiang had used the same charcoal as always for today’s fire too, so it didn’t seem like an accident. If that was the case, only Zhao mama or Su Xiaoyu would be the likely suspects, simply because there was no one else at the Leisurely Cloud Pavilion. Moreover, they’d used the stove so many times that it couldn’t have been sabotaged ahead of time.
Han Yunxi had always considered the Duke of Qin’s estate to be the safest place for her ever since Murong Wanru was married off and Grand Concubine Yi had retired to pray. From then on, she’d hardly taken precautions against anything in the household. But what happened today was so sudden that the prospects of intentional sabotage left her heart cold!
Seeing Han Yunxi’s serious expression, Baili Mingxiang sighed. “I only hope that it truly was an accident. However, this servant believes it would still be better to be careful.”
Han Yunxi glanced at the feeble Baili Mingxiang with admiration. Here is a woman who could hide needles in silk, a beautiful and intelligent soul with an unusually calm and steady mind. Leaving aside the fact that she was a cultured daughter of a rich and powerful family, even normal servant girls would be hard-pressed to maintain their cool in this situation. Most of them would be crying and calling for their parents because of this. How would they ever have presence of mind to consider so many different aspects?
“Take good care of yourself, I’ll perform a thorough investigation. If it really was premeditated, I’ll return the favor with thanks!” Han Yunxi said coldly as a ruthless light flashed past her eyes.
By the time she left the room, a few guards were already looking around the courtyard. Steward Luo had arrived as well, while Zhao mama and Su Xiaoyu stood aside, watching everything from the sidelines. Han Yunxi gave them both some tasks to do so they were sent out of the way. When she approached Steward Luo, he fell to his knees.
“This servant was thoughtless and inattentive in his work, may madame mete punishment!”
“What’s going on? Was there a problem with the stove?” Han Yunxi asked, her sable brows furrowed.
“To reply madame, there were no flaws in the design of the stove. It’s very possible that the charcoal was to blame instead,” Xu Donglin spoke up.
Han Yunxi’s heart clenched. If the stove itself isn’t to blame, then this really is looking less and less like an accident. “What is wrong with the charcoal?” she asked next.
There were two types of charcoal, white and black. The Duke of Qin’s estate only used the most costly, expensive white charcoal, which lasted longer and burned with less smoke, fumes, and residue. Regular families made do with the much lower-quality black charcoal. When the incident had happened, there had been a series of cracks and booms before sparks flew into the air. They weren’t the usual sparks found in a burning fire, but ones from an explosion!
In other words, normal charcoal would never explode out of the blue. It was highly possible that some explosive material had been hidden within the charcoal!
Xu Donglin looked troubled at her question. “Although the circumstances are unclear, we couldn’t find any explosives in the residue left behind. This subordinate went to check on the remaining charcoal and charcoal reserves around the estate, but found nothing amiss.”
Strange! Though over half of the charcoal had been reduced to ashes by now, they still should’ve found something suspicious in the residue if it had been tampered with. Nobody had touched the accident site either, so why couldn’t they find anything?
“So the only thing you can verify now was that the charcoal was faulty?” Han Yunxi asked as she personally inspected the half-burnt pile. There really was nothing odd about it at a glance.
Xu Donglin nodded and lowered his voice. “Esteemed wangfei, either no one noticed that the charcoal was mixed with other things before being delivered to the estate, or…” Xu Donglin’s voice grew even softer at this point, “Or somebody sabotaged the pile and added things in it intentionally.”
Han Yunxi’s eyes flashed with thinly veiled irritation. In the end, there’s still no verdict as to whether this was an accident or intentional. We don’t have any evidence or clues to go on right now. She lost herself in thought for awhile before saying, “Don’t spread any news of this. Steward Luo, buy another load of charcoal and have a look. And also, find a charcoal expert to take a look at this pile.”
Steward Luo rejoiced when esteemed wangfei didn’t punish him. If news of this were to spread to the Duke of Qin, everyone present would suffer disaster. Afraid to delay, he quickly rose to his feet to do as asked. Xu Donglin and the other guards began to tidy up the courtyard. Han Yunxi was about to leave when she backtracked and picked up both a piece of unburnt charcoal and some of the ashy residue.
“Esteemed wangfei, this…” Xu Donglin murmured when he noticed.
“This is the only clue we have. I’m going to take some for a closer look,” Han Yunxi said before turning to leave.
Unfortunately, charcoal wasn’t poison, or else Han Yunxi could have easily analyzed the samples with her detox system and see if it contained anything fishy. Not everything could be seen with the naked eye, after all..
News of the incident quickly reached the ears of Long Feiye, who was currently at Pill Fiend Valley. He didn’t care a whit about Baili Mingxiang’s condition, but simply told Chu Xifeng, “Spread orders to investigate the incident slowly. Change out all the staff at the estate first! Have Baili Yuanlong be in charge of moving the new help over.”
This is akin to a complete blood transfusion of the Duke of Qin’s estate!
But with Long Feiye’s personality, such actions were only normal. Without any evidence or proof, it was difficult to draw conclusions or make inquiries. He couldn’t figure out just who the culprit might be either, or whether everything was just an accident. Under these circumstances, it was better to replace everyone—a drastic measure like taking away firewood from under the cauldron–to deal with the emergency.
Chu Xifeng’s mouth twitched. He silently cheered that he was part of the Hidden Pavilion’s covert force instead of the guards in charge of the estate. Otherwise, he’d be screwed right now! In His Highness Duke of Qin’s eyes, there was nobody he could trust beyond his personally trained guards and the deathly loyal Baili Clan. Chu Xifeng’s next thought went to Zhao mama, who had served His Highness for years. Despite her long service, His Highness Duke of Qin had kept plenty of things from the old woman.
Aye, Zhao mama will be so sad when she hears this order! Moreover, all the other servants who’ve served for years at the estate—how sad will they feel to know they’ve been suspected? Chu Xifeng personally felt that an accident seemed more likely when the household was full of hand-picked help. Still, if this was premeditated, his first suspect would have to be Su Xiaoyu. Despite the fact that Su Xiaoyu was a child and he’d investigated her background, she had the shortest tenure ta the Duke of Qin’s estate.
It’s easy to bribe a child, isn’t it? Moreover, few people would suspect someone so young. Chu Xifeng had thought of many things, but he didn’t dare waste words with the Duke of Qin. Without ample proof, any suspicions would be useless. What his master wanted was 100 percent safety. It didn’t matter how many hearts he wounded in the process.
When the orders reached the Duke of Qin’s estate, Xu Donglin was the first to go find Han Yunxi.
“Esteemed wangfei, please keep my aunt here! My aunt and Zhao mama entered the palace at the same time, later on she left with Grand Concubine Yi to serve at the Duke of Qin’s estate. She’s been loyal and conscientious towards both Grand Concubine Yi and His Highness Duke of Qin for all her life. She would never betray them! Moreover, she doesn’t know much about the estate’s affairs at all, nor has she ever come to Leisurely Cloud Pavilion. She has to be innocent!”
Han Yunxi looked completely baffled. She had no idea what was going on.