At the Noble Consort’s Feet Chapter 103

Chapter 103 Military expedition

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He felt warm all over, like a cozy stove. Li Zhi embraced him, as if seeking warmth from a fireplace. His body relaxed completely, leaning softly against his chest. She clung to his waist, refusing to move even an inch.

“Of course, I worry about you. In the palace, apart from you, who else can I worry about?”

She spoke without any pretense, her words hitting Pei Ji’s heart and causing a warm feeling. With her soft body rubbing against him, his cheeks turned red too.

Even though he had seen her like this before, he still felt defenseless against her charm.

“Don’t be silly,” he said, holding her waist firmly. He used his arms to lift her and placed her gently on the edge of the couch, settling her on his lap.

Li Zhi smiled and playfully pushed his shoulder. She took a teapot and cup from the table, pouring a cup of warm tea and offering it to him. Her eyes sparkled as she said, “General Pei, after going through all that trouble to come here, you must be tired. Please have a sip of hot tea.”

Pei Ji raised an eyebrow, unsure of what surprise she had in store. He extended his hand to catch it.

However, Li Zhi quickly pulled back the teacup she held in her hand, and with her head held high, she said, “How can General Pei do it himself? Let me handle it.”

Pei Ji let out a light laugh, and his once gloomy and repressed mood became brighter.

“No problem,” he nodded and lowered his head, drinking from the teacup with her assistance.

Just after a couple of sips, she accidentally shook her hand.

The light brown tea overflowed from the cup, moistening the corner of his lips. It trailed along the strong lines of his face and jaw, on the verge of falling.

“Oh!” Li Zhi covered her mouth. She placed the teacup back on the table and pretended to be frightened as she looked at him. “General, please forgive me. I truly didn’t mean to.”

Pei Ji lifted his head, meeting her misty gaze. His eyes darkened involuntarily, and his throat tightened. With a serious expression, he reached out and gently raised her chin, speaking seriously but saying something unexpected, “I can let it go, but you have to clean up all the spilled tea for me.”

“Thank you, General,” she said nervously, biting her lip and trembling, “I’ll clean it up for you right away.”

She placed both hands on his shoulders and cautiously leaned in, tilting her head to gently remove the remaining water droplets from the corner of his lips.

The moment her soft and warm lips touched his skin, Pei Ji stiffened, not moving at all, allowing her to kiss along his jawline.

When her lips reached the collar of his neck, she hesitated and stopped.

She tilted her head back, looking at him with her watery eyes.

Pei Ji lowered his gaze, his throat slightly rolling, his voice hoarse as he said, “Go on.”

A mischievous glint flickered in her eyes, but her face still displayed hesitation. She nervously bit her lip and with trembling hands, reached out to untie his clothing.

As the garments loosened, there was indeed a subtle dampness on his strong muscles.

Li Zhi lowered her head and moved closer, repeating the same action as before.

Pei Ji couldn’t help but clench his teeth, though his dark eyes remained lowered, fixated on her unwaveringly. He extended his hand to support her head, gently sliding his fingers into her silky hair, applying a slight pressure.

Eventually, as her head inclined further downwards, he could no longer endure. He grasped her arm and pulled her up in one swift motion.

After a significant amount of time, the two of them finally lay side by side on the broad bed, reclining in an upward position.

Li Zhi turned to face him, pushing through her fatigue as she reached out to touch his cheek. “Are you feeling better now?”

Pei Ji was taken aback by her words, silently nodding in response. He turned his head and gently pressed his forehead against hers, their noses touching. “How do you know I’m feeling down?”

Li Zhi closed her eyes and smiled. “When you’re feeling burdened and nervous, you tend to clench your fists. But when you’re with me, you don’t seem as tense as before, and that’s when I can tell you’re not in a good mood.”

Pei Ji’s gaze softened even more as he gently kissed her eyes and let out a sigh. “Today, I had originally planned to come and say goodbye to you.”

Li Zhi opened her eyes upon hearing his words and softly responded, “Darling Third, do you want to go to the battlefield?”

“Yes,” Pei Ji decisively turned around and held her in his arms, pulling the brocade quilt tightly over them. “I intended to offer myself for the expedition and, taking advantage of the urgency of the war, persuade His Majesty to leave Daming Palace temporarily. When you leave the palace, I had planned for Shi Quan to send you to Yangzhou.”

He had always remembered to ensure her safety, even if he was eager to go to war. He wanted to make sure all her affairs were properly taken care of.

“However, today my father said he should be the one to go.” He tightened his arms around her, his voice becoming solemn. “Mother has also agreed.”

Li Zhi listened attentively and gradually understood that he was probably worried about his father. Pei Yan had recently been released from the prison of the Ministry of Justice and was already advanced in age. Facing Ashina Doubi in Hedong, it would probably be difficult for him. The battlefield was dangerous, and even commanders with hundreds of people protecting them couldn’t guarantee complete safety.

“And what about you? Did you also agree?”

“I also agreed,” Pei Ji’s voice sounded choked.

“Father is right, and even Mother has agreed. Naturally, I can’t oppose it anymore.” He slowly shared the conversation he had with the Grand Princess and Pei Yan during the late afternoon.

Li Zhi remained silent for a while and looked at him. “You have great parents.”

Pei Ji nodded, his voice husky. “They have always been good to me, my grandmother, and other relatives. They have always been kind.” He paused, suddenly recalling something and cautiously observed her expression.

He knew about her family situation. She lost both parents at a young age and had to rely on her elder sister for support. Unfortunately, she ended up with Zhong Cheng Ping and his wife who were unkind. It seemed like she hadn’t experienced a single good day. Seeing other families living harmoniously and happily probably felt cruel to her.

“Li-niang, in the future, there will be someone who treats you like this too.” He wanted to instinctively say that he was willing to treat her well, but he restrained himself.

Li Zhi’s face remained calm, showing no signs of feeling sad or envious because of other people’s happiness.

“I just wanted to say, no wonder you are so reliable. It turns out it’s all thanks to the Grand Princess and Lord Pei.”

A rare smile appeared on Pei Ji’s serious face, mixed with a hint of shyness.

After a while, when she was already dozing off, he suddenly whispered, “My father has been treating my mother well for over twenty years, and he has never changed.”

Li Zhi mumbled half-asleep and half-awake.

“Sleep,” Pei Ji held her hand, their fingers entwined, without saying anything more.

He would be the same way too.

The next day, Pei Ji left Chenghuan Palace early in the morning and returned to the area near Jiuxian Gate. After freshening up a bit, he headed towards Yanying Hall during the court meeting to request a battle on behalf of Pei Yan.

Everyone in the court admired and respected his request, even Xiao Ling Fu and others didn’t have any objections.

Lulong and Yiwu’s armies were both strong border forces that had been fighting against the northern barbarians for a long time. They had learned the swift and fierce style of warfare. However, once they left the border and entered the inner lands, the resistance of the provincial armies weakened significantly. After all, Great Wei had enjoyed more than ten years of peace. Even with a large standing army and regular training, they couldn’t match the battle-hardened Lulong and Yiwu’s armies.

Last night, the latest battle report arrived in Chang’an, indicating that the rebels had crossed Dingzhou and were approaching Xingzhou. If they didn’t make progress in defending against the Turks in the north to free up forces to deal with the rebels, the country might truly face a change in leadership.

Perhaps due to the rebels’ swift advances, even Li Jing Ye was feeling anxious. He also understood that, in terms of numbers and military strength, Hedong’s army was the only force in Great Wei that could match the rebels and the Turks. The Pei family was responsible for training the Hedong army. Although Pei Yan and Pei Ji currently served as officials in the capital and held the Military Governor title from afar, their influence over the Hedong army shouldn’t be underestimated.

He sat on the throne, lost in thought for a moment, and reluctantly nodded in agreement.

Afterward, there was a discussion, and eventually, they decided to send one hundred thousand troops from Henan Prefecture to rush towards Xingzhou and try their best to stop the rebels from advancing towards Chang’an.

After the court meeting ended, Pei Ji quickly finished handling important matters at the Ministry of War and hurriedly asked for leave to return home, intending to inform Pei Yan of the news.

In the Duke of Yanguo’s residence, Pei Yan had already woken up early. He retrieved a long spear that he hadn’t used in years and practiced his moves in the courtyard, performing each technique with precision.

The door of the house was open, and the Grand Princess sat beside it, instructing maidservants to pack his belongings while anxiously watching him. She was worried that he might exert too much force and strain himself.

As soon as they saw their son return, both of them turned their gaze towards him simultaneously.

Pei Ji first paid his respects, then spoke with a serious tone, saying, “His Majesty has granted approval.”

Pei Yan let out a long sigh, feeling as if a heavy burden had been lifted from his shoulders. He released his grip on the long spear in his hand, and it made a loud sound as it hit the ground.

At first, he had some worries, afraid that the Emperor would refuse his request to go to battle because of the previous incident. But now that everything was settled, he didn’t need to worry anymore.

He looked at the Grand Princess, who was standing by the door, and noticed a hint of disappointment in her eyes. Helplessly, he smiled and gently patted her shoulder, speaking in a low voice.

Pei Ji watched for a moment, then silently turned and went to his study. He picked up a pen and began writing two things.

One was a letter to Huangfu Jing, telling him to hold Pujin Crossing no matter what the rebels did. The other was for Pei Yan.

After his previous encounter with the Turks and Ashina Doubi, Pei Ji carefully analyzed their backgrounds, personalities, and preferred strategies. Now that his father was going, he listed all these details to help him understand the enemy better.

The second item was quite challenging to write. He spent a long time examining and deducing on the map until he finally finished four pieces of paper by the evening. He handed them personally to Pei Yan.

Because of the urgent situation, Pei Yan had to leave early the next day. After a heartfelt conversation between father and son, they went together to bid farewell to Madam Pei. They had a simple farewell meal with their uncles and brothers.

Madam Pei didn’t expect to send her son to the battlefield at this stage of life. Feeling a mix of emotions, she deviated from her usual practice and had a drink, earnestly advising Pei Yan about many things.

Early in the morning, Pei Ji didn’t go to his parents to say goodbye. Instead, he stood at the gate with his uncles and brothers, waiting to see his father off.

He still remembered when he was young, his father serving in Hedong while his mother sometimes stayed in Chang’an, unable to accompany him. He would wipe away his tears and personally help his father get dressed and attend to his grooming, making sure not to disturb them.

As the sky began to brighten, and the gate was about to open, Pei Yan, dressed in armor, walked side by side with the Grand Princess.

Pei Ji looked closely and indeed noticed some remaining redness in his mother’s eyes.

Pei Yan gently patted his wife’s hand, then walked forward with a serious expression. He bid farewell to his brothers and younger relatives. When he stood before his son, he paused briefly, his voice filled with gravity, “Third Son, remember what your father says, protect His Majesty.”

Pei Ji met his father’s intense and meaningful gaze, straightened his back, and calmly replied, “I understand.”

Pei Yan patted his son’s shoulder, satisfied with his response, and turned to leave.

Before mounting his horse, he turned back and smiled at the Grand Princess, “I have to leave now, please take care, Princess.”

The Grand Princess remained silent, holding onto her clothing, standing solemnly on the steps, watching his figure gradually disappear into the distance.

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