At the Noble Consort’s Feet Chapter 108

Chapter 108 Request

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In the middle of the day, when the sun was at its peak, the unmelted snow on the ground quietly transformed into water, trickling into the dark mud. In the air warmed by the sun, an intangible sword of coldness began to form.

In the largest room of the Fufeng post station, Li Jing Ye stood by the window, facing the chilly wind. He watched the ice droplets slowly falling from the eaves, his face devoid of any emotion, while he listened to Xiao Chong’s reply, who was stooped behind him.

“…I dare not make hasty assumptions. I will start by having someone interrogate the palace maid called Qing Zi, who attends to the Noble Consort, seeking forgiveness from Your Majesty for my transgression.”

After Xiao Chong finished speaking, he stooped even lower, but his eyes couldn’t resist looking up, hoping to catch a glimpse of the Emperor’s response.

Last night, upon returning to his room, he couldn’t sleep at all. The image of Pei Ji climbing over the wall haunted his thoughts, and he was consumed by a burning curiosity to uncover the truth.

He walked back and forth in the cramped room, repeating the same path over a hundred times. The more he pondered, the stronger his conviction grew that his deductions were almost spot-on.

Although Pei Ji was not deeply acquainted with him, after years of working together, he had a clear understanding of his character– upright and always knowing the appropriate boundaries.

The Noble Consort was an imperial consort, under the authority of His Majesty. Even if Pei Ji couldn’t tolerate seeing her being verbally abused and having stones thrown at her, he shouldn’t have gone there himself. It should have been delegated to the other members of the Imperial Guards.

It was simply because everyone was in a state of unease and had no room for considering such details. Even his father didn’t take notice. If he hadn’t witnessed the act of scaling the wall, it would have likely been completely ignored.

Li Jing Ye stood by the window without glancing back, and asked in a calm tone, “Once you captured her for questioning, what did you manage to uncover?”

Upon hearing that, Xiao Chong’s facial expression froze, and he stuttered, “Reporting to Your Majesty, that palace maid has an incredibly stubborn mouth. Regardless of how we interrogated her, she persistently professed ignorance. I haven’t been able to extract any information…”

He was impatient to uncover the truth behind this matter, primarily driven by a sense of resentment and a strong feeling of injustice.

Noble Consort Zhong’s beauty was unrivaled. Even though he knew she belonged to the Emperor, there were moments when he couldn’t resist daydreaming about her. Later on, he sent someone to propose to Eldest Miss Zhong, but was rejected. It still bothered him till this day. How could he accept the thought of someone else getting the person he didn’t dare to touch?

Additionally, his father’s recent warnings made him fully grasp the seriousness of the situation.

The Great Wei Dynasty faced constant internal and external troubles, and the imperial court was in turmoil. The Pei father and son were the main pillars of support, overshadowing the Xiaos. Although suppressing the rebellion and driving away the Turkic forces were the top priorities, they had to consider the post-war circumstances. To prevent the Xiaos from being overshadowed by the Pei family, they needed to find evidence against them.

However, he hastily captured the girl named Qing Zi without extracting any useful information. If he continued like this, he would be discovered soon. It would be better to confess to the Emperor first. Even if the Emperor didn’t believe him, suspicions and doubts would surely arise…

Li Jing Ye sneered and turned around, walking past him before sitting back on the nearby couch. “Oh? You haven’t obtained any information, yet you dare to speak to me?”

Xiao Chong got startled and quickly said, “Your Majesty, forgive me. As soon as I discovered this, I rushed to report it to you, without hiding anything. But, I don’t have any real proof at the moment. If you don’t believe me, you can summon Noble Consort Zhong and General Pei to confront each other right here. You can also check if General Pei has that jade hairpin with him…”

With a loud crash, a golden-copper incense burner was forcefully smashed onto the ground beside him. The lid of the incense burner came off, and the hot charcoal inside jumped out, narrowly missing his shoe.

“Forgive me, Your Majesty!”

Xiao Chong quickly cowered and knelt down.

Li Jing Ye sat on the couch, tightly pursing his lips, glaring at him without uttering a word, only his chest rising and falling.

After a while, he shifted his gaze and shouted, “Leave!”

Xiao Chong didn’t dare say anything and quickly bowed before hurriedly leaving.

“Your Majesty,” He Yuan Shi cautiously approached, “Should we summon General Pei and Noble Consort Zhong?”

The response came in the form of the desk on the couch suddenly being overturned.

On the desk, there were originally two plates of snacks and a teacup. But now, the spilled tea soaked the cushion on the couch, and the snacks were scattered everywhere, creating a scene of disorder.

He Yuan Shi’s eyes flickered as he chose to remain silent for the time being.

The air in the room became heavy, suppressing people’s breath.

Before long, a voice filled with some joy came from outside, “Your Majesty, news has arrived. Hedong’s army has traveled day and night to come for reinforcement. They are arriving earlier than expected and will be here tonight. Additionally, Yang Min Chi, the Governor of Shangzhou has gathered sixty thousand troops to protect Your Majesty’s journey. They are approaching and will arrive soon.”

These were two incredibly good news. Initially, they were in a state of panic, weak and outnumbered. Once the rebels attacked from Pujin Crossing, they would have no choice but to flee in a pitiful manner. But now, not only were the sixty thousand troops from Hedong about to arrive, there were also another sixty thousand troops from Shannan East Province.

Even though the troops stationed in Shannan East Province hadn’t seen real battle for many years and had mostly been engaged in farming and land development for the past decade, among the forces gathered by Yang Min Chi, there were many refugees and former deserters, which proved to be a great help.

However, Li Jing Ye didn’t feel the slightest trace of joy.

He sat on the couch with a gloomy expression, unmoving, as if he hadn’t heard the words just now.

The people outside seemed to sense that something was wrong in the room. The initial joy they had when they arrived diminished significantly, and their voices became more cautious, “Governor Yang also sent a memorial and specifically urged that it be presented to Your Majesty as soon as possible.”

Li Jing Ye took a deep breath, his gaze sweeping over the chaotic scene in the room, and silently closed his eyes.

He Yuan Shi hurriedly stepped forward and placed the overturned table back onto the couch, gathering the broken pieces and cups aside.

Li Jing Ye then opened his eyes and spoke coldly, “Bring it inside.”

The person entered, carefully avoiding a small puddle on the floor without showing any expression. They placed the memorial they held on the table and immediately retreated.

Li Jing Ye tightly pressed his lips together, rubbing his forehead. He slowly picked up the memorial to read, but after a moment, his expression became even grimmer.

“Yang Min Chi! How audacious!” He slammed his palm on the table, causing the recently placed tea cup to topple and roll onto the cushion of the couch. “A mere provincial governor dares to make such a demand!”

Upon hearing his words, He Yuan Shi quickly glanced at the table, his eyes widening in astonishment.

Yang Min Chi, a mere underground state magistrate with a fourth-ranked official position, may not even have the chance to see the Emperor in a year. Now, relying on his so-called 60,000 reinforcement troops, many of whom were likely to be incompetent, he dared to demand that the Emperor order the execution of the Noble Consort. Otherwise, he refused to welcome the Emperor to Shannan East Province!

“Your Majesty, please calm down…” he knelt on the ground, softly advising, “Now that the rebel’s proclamation has spread throughout the realm, the soldiers hold grievances, which is somewhat understandable. I wonder how Your Majesty intends to handle this?”

The person just now mentioned that Yang Min Chi was almost here. This matter could not be delayed. A prompt decision must be made whether to consider their demands or not.

Judging from His Majesty’s reaction, it was unlikely that he would agree.

After all, she was the Noble Consort. Even though she had been cold for so long, he understood that she still held a place in the Emperor’s heart.

However, for some reason, Li Jing Ye’s furious expression suddenly froze. The hand that was slamming on the table slowly tightened into a fist.

He stared at a charcoal basin in the corner, lost in his own thoughts. His eyes displayed a mix of fear, anger, and pain, with various emotions intertwining chaotically like tangled threads.

“Your Majesty…” He Yuan Shi spoke again as a reminder.

Li Jing Ye’s hunched figure on the couch slowly straightened, and his voice carried a hint of desolation and hoarseness.

“Send Zi Hui to assist the troops from Hedong. Go immediately, the sooner the better.”

He Yuan Shi was taken aback, relying on years of experience serving the Emperor. He gradually understood the Emperor’s intentions.

“I understand, Your Majesty,” he replied in a trembling voice, concealing a sigh that was about to escape his lips, and hurriedly left.

In the afternoon, after enjoying some light snacks, Li Zhi rested on the bed, reclining halfway.

She had planned to take a walk outside but remembered the resentment many soldiers harbored towards her. So she abandoned the idea, not wanting to trouble herself or others.

Just as she was dozing off, there came a knock on the door. Chun Yue’s voice drifted from outside, “Miss, are you asleep?”

Li Zhi rubbed her drowsy eyes, partially propping herself up and said, “You may come in.”

Chun Yue knew it was her usual nap time, and she wouldn’t disturb her without a reason. Her presence now meant there was something to discuss.

Indeed, after Chun Yue entered and securely closed the door, she quickly approached the bed, crouching down next to Li Zhi’s ear and whispered, “Miss, I just saw Junior Officer Shi. He informed me that the reinforcements from Hedong have arrived earlier than expected. His Majesty ordered General Pei to go and receive them, and he has already left. Tonight’s affairs are entrusted to Junior Officer Shi. He will handle everything for us.”

Li Zhi couldn’t help but frown upon hearing that Pei Ji hadn’t left yet. She felt a strange sense of unease and a faint tinge of disappointment.

She had initially hoped to bid him farewell later in the night, but now it seemed unlikely.

Well, maybe it was better this way to avoid feeling sorrowful afterwards.

“I understand.” As she gradually regained her senses, Li Zhi sat up properly. “What about Qing Zi? Have you found her?”

Mentioning Qing Zi, Chun Yue’s eyes briefly showed concern. “No, after I returned, I asked a few people again. They all said they haven’t seen her since early morning when she left. I don’t know where she went.”

The slight unease in Li Zhi’s heart inexplicably grew wider.

She took a deep breath and forced a smile. “Perhaps she left with someone else. Anyway, keep an eye out. If you see her, call her over quickly.”

After arriving in Fufeng, several palace maids and servants quietly escaped in pairs. It seemed that the Imperial Guards, under Pei Ji’s guidance, turned a blind eye to most of them, as long as they weren’t crucial individuals, allowing them an escape route.

But Qing Zi had already mentioned that there was no one left at home. Her words were merely meant to console herself.

The two of them were feeling somewhat restless when they heard a tumultuous sound of footsteps outside the room, indicating the presence of three to five people.

“Is Noble Consort Zhong here?” He Yuan Shi’s voice came from outside the door. “His Majesty has requested the Noble Consort to come over.”

As soon as the words fell, silence descended in the room.

Li Zhi and Chun Yue exchanged glances, unsure why Li Jing Ye suddenly wanted her to go there.

At this time, it made her immediately recall the moment in her dream when the white silk had twisted towards her.

“I wonder why His Majesty is summoning me now?” 

He Yuan Shi’s voice outside the room seemed to pause, and he didn’t give a direct answer. “This humble servant does not dare to speculate on His Majesty’s intentions. The Noble Consort will know once you go.”

Li Zhi remained silent, her face turning pale.

“Noble Consort Zhong?” He Yuan Shi called again.

Li Zhi clenched her teeth, suppressing the uneasy feeling in her heart. Slowly, she stood up and said, “I will come. Chief Eunuch, please wait. Let me change my clothes.”

She tightened her loose garments from her afternoon rest, then put on a thicker overcoat. Lowering her voice, she whispered to Chun Yue, “Once I go with them, you must quickly go and find Official Shi. I’m afraid—”

She didn’t explicitly mention the words “there might be danger,” but Chun Yue understood. Tears welled up in her eyes, and she quickly nodded, holding her hand tightly, refusing to let her go.

“Don’t be afraid.” Li Zhi pinched her round cheeks, whether to comfort her or to comfort herself, she wasn’t sure. “I’ll be fine.”

Saying so, she straightened her back, looked at herself in the bronze mirror, and tried to make her face appear normal. Then she turned and opened the door, stepping out of the room amidst the gazes of several palace attendants, whether pitying or disgusted. “Chief Eunuch, thank you for waiting. Let’s go.”

He Yuan Shi looked at her, her beauty reminiscent of when she first entered the palace, and a hint of sigh and sympathy flashed in his eyes.

“Noble Consort, please follow me.”

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