The next morning, Yujia made a checklist of things she needed to accomplish today. First, she planned to go to a physician to get checked again, just for the sake of making certain a few things, as well as for the sake of her general health. Next, she planned to do some more infiltrating into the Yang Villa— possibly by herself.
She knew that asking Yu Zixu would raise her success rate by probably quite a bit. But after everything that went down between them, the truths that he confessed to her, and Yujia's unwillingness to burden him anymore, she didn't feel like it was right to keep asking Yu Zixu for favors like this. She didn't want to feel like a bothersome responsibility to him.
A relationship was always give and take. If she kept taking without giving, the other person in the relationship would surely get annoyed at her fast.
The infiltration this time involved her return of Madam Zhang's box and letters. Yujia probably could've kept it, but her conscience was getting to her the longer she didn't return it. It made her feel like a petty thief, and someone who violated the most private parts of someone else's life. Even though she could somewhat excuse it with the fact that she did it for the sake of investigation, she still didn't feel like her actions were fully justified. Therefore, Yujia was determined to put the box back in its proper place.
To do the infiltrating without Yu Zixu would be slightly difficult, but Yujia had a plan too. She knew the normal schedule of the Yang Household's dinnertime, where Madam Zhang and her servants would surely not be in her room. This would be the perfect time to place the box back, and if Yujia was lucky and careful enough, she could do it without being noticed.
Besides this plan for today, a good night's sleep also did make her realize a point she missed yesterday.
She suddenly recalled the time when walking out of the Yu Villa, she came across Madam Zhang's personal maid fetching a large package of medicine for Madam Zhang. Back then, she definitely thought of it as suspicious.
She now knew that Madam Zhang came from a family of physicians. Yujia still couldn't quite piece together the connection between this new information and Madam Zhang's surplus purchase of medicine, but she did feel like there was some sort of connection.
Maybe today, during her infiltration, she could figure out something new. Though then again, Yujia reminded herself that she was only here to return and box and leave, at the fastest speed. She wouldn't purposefully spend time trying to figure out more clues in order to reduce the chance of being discovered.
With the events of her day decided, Yujia prepared herself and headed to go find a physician.
The meeting with the physician didn't tell much or give plenty of new insight. He only confirmed a few facts, one of them being that the poison in Yujia's blood was, for the most part, disappitated. There was a part of it that would never be gone, even after heavy medication, but this poison wouldn't be too impactful on her daily life. Yujia assumed that this poison was the poison that Madam Liu talked about consuming when carrying Yujia.
This was an interesting fact to Yujia, since it implied that the heavy poison found in Yujia's veins last time a physician checked was something that would disappear quickly over the span of a few days, which confirmed the fact that besides the fetal poison, Yujia was poisoned at a regular dose growing up as well. It also meant that Madam Liu didn't tell her the full story. Either that, or Madam Liu was missing out on some information as well.
Now that Yujia had been away from the Yang Villa for a while now, the poison was going away. Someone was poisoning Yujia during her stay at the Yang Villa, one that Madam Liu's story didn't cover.
On her way back to Lingxin, Yujia came across a fortune teller.
The old man doing the fortune telling, with a long white beard that went down to his chest, looked like a scammer. Still, though, Yujia had a few extra taels. Thinking about the last time she had her fortune read, in which it seemed fairly accurate, Yujia decided to give it a go.
Sure enough, right off the bat, the old man told her, "You have something big planned today, don't you?"
A bit startled, Yujia nodded. "Yes."
He smiled mysteriously, almost like he knew everything, and proceeded to read her fortune. He ended up telling her towards the end of the session, "Be bold, and your day will go well. Today, the elements are in your favor— you should succeed in whatever you plan to do."
Even though she knew it was silly, this brought a bit of relief to Yujia. She felt more confident about this entire infiltration thing.
Yujia went back to Lingxin, thinking over things as usual. She went on with her day, waiting for the evening to come. Then, towards the end of the day, she went back to her room after grabbing a quick bite, dressing in her set of maid robes and readying herself.
And then, it was time to infiltrate.
Because the Yang Villa was a considerable distance away, and because she was going by foot, Yujia exited Lingxin prior to when she estimated for dinner to occur. She went in the same path as she went last time, through the servant's corridor.
The only difference was that this time, Yujia brought a prop. In Lingxin, she found an old basket that looked like something a servant working at the Yang Villa might use. She filled it with the cabbage that Chef Hong had complained about yesterday and never used in her cooking. When she walked into the Yang Villa, she carried this basket on her arm.
This prop was crucial to help her blend in. She walked through the servant's door in the villa easily, heading to the kitchen immediately, now that she was in.
Once in the kitchen, Yujia placed the basket on a counter and took off the cabbage, grabbing a basin of water and pretending to wash some of the cabbage. In reality, part of her gaze was focused on the people going in and out of the kitchen.
Without a clock or watch, this was the easiest way to tell when dinnertime would be for the Yang Household. Furthermore, in a hectic time like right now in the kitchens, not a single servant questioned her existence. They all had their assigned tasks to work on, and none of them had the time or effort to busy themselves with an unfamiliar face in the kitchens.
Within a few minutes of her pretend-washing, sure enough, as Yujia estimated, the head chef of the kitchen called over a few servants. She waved her hand at a few plated foods, and those servants took those dishes, carrying it to go serve the Yang Family.
It was the perfect time. Yujia ducked her head down, left the cabbage behind, and scurried after the servants.
The servants and her entered the same courtyard. With her following behind the line, no one questioned anything.
While the servants headed to the main room to serve the food, Yujia broke off from the line. She surveyed her eyes across the entire courtyard, taking advantage of the dimming sun and the fact that servants hadn't lit lanterns yet to duck to the side of the courtyard. She made her way across carefully, comforted by the idea that both of Madam Zhang's personal servants should've been serving her in the main room to sneak into Madam Zhang's bedroom.
The moment she opened the door, no one was inside, as predicted. Yet there were a few slips of colored paper carelessly tossed on the floor in front of the door, which blew aside with the slight breeze carried by the door's opening movement. Careful to restore everything back to where it was before, Yujia hastily gathered the slips of paper and placed them at the foot of the door. She closed the door behind her.
Instead of dallying around like last time, Yujia immediately went over to Madam Zhang's bed, throwing herself underneath. She tried her best to ignore the cobwebs and her fear of spiders while she drew the small box out of her sleeve. She ran her fingers across the wooden panels in the darkness, feeling the rough edge that outlined the secret compartment underneath the bed. A pull at the latch opened up the compartment, and Yujia placed the box inside. She closed it soundly.
This was when Yujia was about to crawl back out of the bed and run away.
Except— curse her luck— she heard footsteps and the sound of the door opening very slowly.
Yujia was frozen underneath the bed, not daring to move an inch.
After a brief moment of silence, the footsteps continued into the room. They walked and stopped right in front of the bed. Holding her breath, Yujia glanced over at the side, recognizing the shoes as not the footwear of maids. It belonged to none other than the madam of the household.
Cursing in her mind, Yujia squeezed her eyes shut. She thought that the fortune teller told her that things would go successfully. She thought that the "elements were on her side".
He was a scammer! A big scammer!
Yujia prayed over and over again in her mind that Madam Zhang would just leave. It was dinnertime. Dinner just began. Why was the madam leaving in the middle of the meal, a completely inappropriate behavior in this era of etiquette?
Did Yujia's logic fail her?
Yujia tried to calm her racing heartbeat with the idea that Madam Zhang would have no reason to look under the bed. What normal person did that, especially in a situation like this?
As long as Madam Zhang didn't look under the bed, Yuja would be perfectly fine—
Yujia's eyes flung open.
That was when she saw a ghostly-pale face peering back at her— Madam Zhang's face— while her body was crouched to be able to look under the bed. Madam Zhang's large eyes drilled into Yujia, her stare eerie and unmoving.
"How long are you going to stay under there?" Madam Zhang asked. And then, she smiled.