Hui'er shook her head, keeping her silence and peeling Yujia's hands off.
"It's no use," Qingxia sighed with a soft laugh, "She's too ashamed to speak, isn't she?"
Yujia's eyes flitted quickly between the two, trying to piece together her suspicions yet not getting a proper answer. She didn't know if she wanted to trust Qingxia's story. She didn't know if Yang Qingxia was going to lie about it. It would be better to get an explanation from Hui'er, but it seemed like at this point, she would have to listen to what the First Miss had to say.
Yang Qingxia began, speaking slowly, her breath calming down. "Seven years ago, I went on a trip to Hangzhou, along with Father. You might remember, right, Fourth Miss? After all, you were eleven at the time, so you were old enough, even if you were not brought along for the trip."
Remember? How was Yujia supposed to remember? Seven years ago, she was nearly finishing high school in the modern world.
"At Hangzhou, although there were many nice sights to see, we stumbled on a woman selling servants by accident. That was where I saw your Hui'er, your Huiyu, standing in the middle of the servants, looking terrified. So, I helped her. I bought her, despite the fact that our household didn't need more servants."
Yujia took another sideway glance at Hui'er. She didn't seem to object to anything that Yang Qingxia said.
"Huiyu was a good servant. She was young, but fast at learning. I could already tell that she was much smarter than any of the servants here. Quickly enough, she became a personal servant of mine, more like a friend or a younger sister than a maid. I shared everything I had with her— silks and fabrics, desserts and delicacies, all the newest good on the market… things were well. They were the days where we had no worry for a thing in the world."
She tucked a strand of hair behind her ear.
"Then, three years later, I received an offer to be married to Huang family's young master, and because our families have always been on good terms, we were married. Yet— yet—"
At this part, she started choking up, her eyes narrowing and her voice catching.
"How was I supposed to know that the Huang family's wonderful, talented, wealthy young master was ill? He fell ill weeks before the marriage, but because the Huang family wanted descendants, they purposely covered up the fact to get me to marry him. Not even a month in the marriage, he died."
After hearing that, emotions of pity began to sprout within Yujia. Yang Qingxia was involved in so much deception at such a young age that it was certainly tragic. Pitiful.
"Once a woman is married, they no longer belong to their own family. But— mother always treasured me, and she argued that since the marriage lasted for such a brief time, I should have the right to return to the Yang family. She gave me a decision between returning to the Yang family or staying with the Huang family, and I chose the Yang."
She paused, as if reminiscing the past.
"It was as if the marriage had never happened. Everything reverted back to normal. But then… I began to notice that my monthly moon cycle did not come on time. I waited a month, and it still had not come. And then, one morning, I woke up feeling nauseous at the sheer sight or smell of food."
Was this what Yujia thought that it was? Yang Qingxia straightened herself, closing her eyes.
"I heard stories about these things before, but I wanted to make certain of what I was suspecting. I snuck out of the villa and visited a doctor, who, upon feeling my pulse, confirmed my suspicions. I bore a dead man's child."
Her eyes flung open. She took a closer step at Hui'er's direction, smiling with a hint of a bitter emotion.
"It didn't take long for people to find out. I hadn't told a single person besides my most trusted maid at the time, the Huiyu that you call your Hui'er. But as time went on, certain things could not be concealed. People noticed my stomach. They noticed my vomiting. They noticed my weight gain. Rumors spread."
Yang Qingxia spun back to Yujia, her eyes widening as her story continued.
"You should've seen how people looked at me. You should've heard the whispers. Those expressions they cast at me— some of pity, some of revulsion. And the words exchanged behind my back that they thought I couldn't hear. I hated them. I hated them all. I couldn't stand any of it."
She placed her hand over her flat stomach, as if envisioning the child she once had.
"But despite all of that, I endured it. I thought that even if my own mother looked at me with repulse, and if the whole world turned their backs on me, I would still have my child. After all, he would be of my blood. He would not leave me. Yet—"
Immediately, her calm demeanor vanished, replaced by one of fury as she whipped around and grabbed Hui'er by the shoulder. Yujia could see a complex mixture of emotions held in her eyes as she stared at Hui'er's, holding onto the girl to make sure that she could not avoid her. Her voice came out in a low growl.
"Li Huiyu. The one who ruined it all. I trusted her. I confided in her. I believed that she would be one of the only ones who would not abandon me." Yang Qingxia tightened her grip around Hui'er's arms, directing her words to Hui'er, not Yujia. "Though perhaps my trust was one-sided. During my times where I was at my weakest, where were you? Slipping pills into my cup? Lacing poison in my food?
She let go of Hui'er and turned back to Yujia.
"Those weeks and weeks of being drugged led to my child dying in my wound. You should've seen what he looked like when he came out, a bloody, red mess. He had a face, but the features were not given enough time to develop. His limbs were thin. So thin."
A few tears begin to spot at the corners of her eyes.
"And there it was, a life I carried for so long, faded, vanished, destroyed in a matter of seconds. At that time, I did not know of Huiyu's actions. I thought that perhaps it was just fate. Fate took away my child, and no matter how hard I fought to get him back, he would be gone for good. So, I lived like that. For a whole two months, I lived in blindness, not knowing the true reason for his death."
Yujia took a look at Hui'er, who instead of avoiding the gaze of either of them like she did before, stared blankly forward while Yang Qingxia continued on, directing her words back at Hui'er.
"Was it guilt that caught on to you? Was that the final reason for why you decided to tell me that all along, my child would've been born healthily if it weren't for the poison you silently fed me? How did you think that I would respond? Did you think that I was supposed to gratefully accept the truth and thank you for it? Did you think that this was all something that we can put in the past, forgotten and forgiven?"
She extended her arm, pointing a long, thin finger at Hui'er. Tears were no longer present on her face, the anguish and sorrow replaced by pure malice.
"You killed my child. You killed him. You took his life away from me. You stole him from me."
Yang Qingxia took a step closer again. Hui'er took a step back. Qingxia took another step forward. And Hui'er retreated another step back.
"And now, you ask me to be over with it? When the blood of my child stains your hands? How can you demand these things of me, Li Huiyu? How can you?"
The hatred in her gaze vanished, taken over by grief once more. Her words became choked, her eyes turning a blurry red.
"Give— me— my child— back. Give him back to me. Give him back, and perhaps I'll forgive you. Give him back, and perhaps I'll let go of the past."
Finally, a phrase came out of Hui'er's mouth, the first thing she had said since they entered the room.
"Yes." Yang Qingxia smiled bitterly, her cheeks stained wet. "And I know that too, don't I?"
She paused to collect herself, wiping her tears from her cheeks while she straightened her posture. The emotions vanished in a matter of seconds, replaced by a mask of blank coldness, the only sign of anything that happened before being the hint of red in her eyes.
"So, Li Huiyu, I believe that our relationship is already over. You chose to break it the moment you began to poison me. There is no longer any reason to make up for the past, be it persuading your Fourth Miss to make me little desserts or convincing me that you're still the same girl I knew so many years back."
Qingxia looked over at Yujia. "Fourth Miss. Do you see now? This is the reason for why, as long as Li Huiyu is your maid, I will never accept anything from you. I cannot allow her to have a chance of hurting me more than I already have been."
Yujia could only vacantly stare back at Qingxia. The two looked at each other for a few moments in pure silence.
And then, Yujia spun around, pushing the doors to the room open and running out.
Yujia grabbed Hui'er by her shoulders. "Hui'er, what is she saying? Tell me. What exactly happened?"