At the Noble Consort’s Feet Chapter 100

Chapter 100 Hesitation

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The next day, there was still no meeting at the court.

Pei Ji woke up early, dressed neatly, and hurried to Daming Palace to meet the Emperor.

As Li Jing Ye did not have to go to the court, he got up only after the sun had risen. After washing, eating, meditating, and taking the elixir, half an hour had passed. He saw that Pei Ji had been waiting outside for about two or three quarters, so he sat back on the bed and waved to He Yuan Shi to bring Pei Ji in.

Pei Ji bowed respectfully with an expressionless face, but the brotherly atmosphere was no longer as warm as before.

Li Jing Ye sat on the throne and watched silently. He did not tell Pei Ji to skip the formalities for the first time. He got up and sat down, then said calmly, “Zi Hui, if you are here for your father, you don’t need to say much. After the matter is resolved, as long as it is confirmed that he has nothing to do with it, the Ministry of Justice will release him and send him back unharmed.”

Pei Ji stood with his head down, feeling a burst of anger at the words.

He clenched his teeth and tried to sound calm. “Your Majesty, my father has served Great Wei loyally for many years. He has never been selfish and would not make a mistake in such a big matter. I trust that the Ministry of Revenue’s decision will reveal the truth. However, my father is old and his old injuries have been bothering him lately. I am worried that he cannot handle imprisonment. Please consider my mother and me, and let my father stay home after the trial.”

The hall fell silent after he spoke.

He was always respectful of the monarch-subject relationship, but now he had to humble himself and beg his cousin for mercy.

Li Jing Ye’s eyes showed a hint of affection, but it quickly disappeared and he became calm again.

“I know.” He looked away and moved the books on the desk. “Your father served our empire loyally for many years and made great contributions. I haven’t forgotten his achievements. Once the matter is cleared, I will not treat him unfairly as long as he behaves carefully in the future.”

Pei Ji understood the Emperor’s words.

The Emperor planned to wait for the investigation to finish, and then have Pei Yan retire on his own, just like Du Heng, to live out his life peacefully away from politics.

But Du Heng was already old, while Pei Yan was not even fifty yet. He should be at the peak of his career, but now he was forced to retire early…

He squeezed his fists and spoke in a low voice.

“Your Majesty, there’s one more thing I need to tell you today.”

He took a letter out of his sleeve and respectfully presented it to Li Jing Ye, his face serious and grave. “Your Majesty, I have always had my doubts about the cases of Fan Huai’en and Chen Ying Shao. Now I have found evidence of unusual activity in Lulong’s army. Based on what I have seen, it seems to be linked to Prince Rui. Your Majesty, I fear that this rebellion may not be groundless.”

Li Jing Ye’s hand trembled as he received the letter, and then he quickly looked down to read it. His expression changed abruptly.

“He is truly my beloved younger brother!” he exclaimed in anger, clutching his chest with one hand and slamming the letter onto the table with the other. Despite his neatly groomed appearance, his cheekbones were so prominent that they were marked with two unnatural red flushes. “After spending a year on the border, he failed to properly manage the Turks and instead learned their treacherous ways!”

Pei Ji lowered his head and tried to hide the glint of a strange emotion in his eyes.

This Emperor was becoming more and more unfamiliar to him every day.

“Your Majesty, Lulong’s army has always been skilled in warfare. Now they may have trained many elite soldiers and made weapons. When the inspector you sent to Youzhou arrives, they might rebel. I think we should urgently order Hedong and Yiwu’s forces to prepare for battle.”

He paused and looked at Li Jing Ye, who had calmed down and was deep in thought. “Also, Your Majesty, please allow the Noble Consort to leave. She can go back to the Zhong family or to a Taoist temple outside the city. We cannot let Prince Rui use her as an excuse to raise an army. If there is no name for the army, it will be less threatening.”

After he spoke, he couldn’t help but clench his fists, stiffen his body, and wait for Li Jing Ye’s response.

Li Jing Ye scrutinized him with narrowed eyes.

He always trusted this cousin. Even after he sent Pei Yan to prison, he still believed in Pei Ji. If he was disloyal, he wouldn’t have hurried to tell him the news.

When it came to matters of military might, he had to tread with care. Even his own flesh-and-blood younger brother stationed far beyond the borders had turned his back on him- who knew how many others would follow?

It was a stroke of luck that when the northern lands were plagued with strife, he had never let go of his hold on the purses and power of the regional military governors. 

Otherwise, they might have risen in revolt long ago.

At present, he still needed to tread warily.

And as for the Li-niang—

For a moment, his eyes flickered with a distant memory before he spoke, his tone frigid, “No, she is mine—a Noble Consort that I myself have appointed. I have no reason to release her. Even if one day I pass on, she will still be my beloved consort!”

Once upon a time, she had been Prince Rui’s beloved wife. But who on earth could hold a higher station than the Emperor? If he desired something, nothing could stand in his way— not even his own brother.

“I will take great care to weigh the matter of waging war and decide on my course. For now, you may leave,” he said, panting heavily as he closed his eyes and pressed his hand against his forehead, before giving a wave to indicate the other person could leave.

Pei Ji wasn’t surprised at all when the plan failed.

He bowed respectfully and slowly left the grand and magnificent Zichen Hall. He took a deep look back before turning and leaving.

The northern troops were always more courageous than those in the central regions. As war approached, it was important to seize the initiative and quickly suppress the rebellion with the least amount of damage.

However, the Emperor hesitated, and this delay would only escalate the situation. In the past, the Emperor’s hesitation was a stoke of luck, but this time it might not end well.

Pei Ji had done everything he could, and it was now a waiting game.

Pei Ji had a feeling that the other side was ready to strike and would ignite many fires.

Li Jing Hui stared at a letter he just received, lost in thought.

Ling Yue was imprisoned and demoted to a commoner. He worried about how she was doing, and his mother was in Daming Palace, feeling heartbroken. He wondered how they would react when they heard from him.

He felt guilty and hesitant, unsure about his actions over the past year.

An Yi Kang watched Li Jing Hui’s expression closely, his light brown eyes showing a hint of sarcasm and cynicism.

“Are you regretting your decision, Your Highness?”

Li Jing Hui didn’t answer, his fingers turning white as he clutched the letter.

An Yi Kang walked over to him, his large body blocking most of the sunlight and casting a thick shadow on him. “The Princess is in trouble. If you give up now, it will be a waste of her sacrifice. Moreover, the imperial censor from Chang’an will arrive in a few days. If you stop now, will there still be time?”

Months ago, the Princess of Wuyang secretly sent a letter to him, asking him to persuade Prince Rui to reply to her letter, making her think that he had ascended to the throne but was helpless due to the lack of support in court and being far away on the frontier.

As a result, he instigated the princess to secretly gather officials for him in Chang’an.

Prince Rui probably thought that this move was really meant to recruit officials and achieve his goal in a smoother way. But he knew that it was just a way of using the same trick against him.

He had always known that Prince Rui had followed him to Youzhou mostly out of impulse. Over the past year, he had often had thoughts of hesitation and regret. Only by cutting off his retreat completely could he have no worries.

The Princess of Wuyang was stubborn and had a simple mind, making her an easy target to exploit. But if the Emperor found out, she would be severely punished, even to the point of being killed. This could become an excuse for Prince Rui to rebel.

Moreover, if the Princess of Wuyang was caught, it would attract attention to Youzhou. Anyone found there will be accused of rebelling. Even if Prince Rui wanted to change his mind, it would be too late.

Unexpectedly, the Princess of Wuyang was discovered earlier than expected. The weapons were only just finished, and there was little time to prepare.

Luckily, he had trained his soldiers for years, so they were well-coordinated and unlikely to make any major mistakes.

They also had another source of support.

“Even if you manage to cover up everything completely, just like last time, without arousing suspicion from the Imperial Censorate, what about the hundreds of thousands of people in the north? Ashina Duobi has been watching for a long time. If you break your promise to him, he won’t back down.”

Li Jing Hui’s eyes grew cold and he crumpled the letter in his hand.

He secretly joined forces with Ashina Duobi after listening to An Yi Kang’s advice, agreeing to let them take some of the border’s food and wealth when Turkic resources became scarce. In exchange, Ashina Duobi would raise an army to hold back the nearby armies Hedong and Yiwu when he raised his own army, so that he would not have any worries behind him.

He knew this was a risky move.

Once he took this step, there was no turning back. He had no way to retreat now.

“I understand.” He gritted his teeth and asked, “Has the proclamation been written?”

An Yi Kang smiled and laid out the proclamation in front of him, which included his grievances about his lost wife, the princess’s conflicts with her sibling, and the wrongful deaths of several officials.

With so many reasons, the proclamation was written with a righteous and imposing manner, which stirred the hearts of people throughout the world.

After reading it, Li Jing Hui stood up and shouted, “Everything is ready. Two days from now will be the day I raise my army!”

Li Zhi prepared to sleep early after taking a bath, feeling exhausted from her monthly period. Although her medicine helped alleviate the pain, she still felt weak and sore.

Moreover, she couldn’t help but worry about Pei Yan’s situation today.

Chun Yue noticed her fatigue and had already prepared the medicine. Li Zhi drank it and rinsed her mouth before Chun Yue left the room.

Suddenly, before the lights went out, she heard footsteps and someone calling out, “Your Highness, His Majesty is here!”

Li Zhi felt nervous and quickly put on her clothes to welcome him.

As Li Jing Ye entered the room, he seemed a bit lost, his gaze wandering around the palace he had not visited for several months.

“Why did you come to see me, Your Majesty?” Li Zhi smiled faintly, maintaining a dignified distance from him.

Li Jing Ye walked closer and looked at her intently. He reached out and pinched her chin, making her lift her head to meet his gaze.

“Today, Zi Hui advised me to release you from the palace. What do you think, Li-niang?”

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