At the Noble Consort’s Feet Chapter 111

Chapter 111 Explanation

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Outside the courtyard, Shi Quan had already organized a few individuals to drive the carriage prepared by Li Zhi earlier. Chun Yue had also brought the luggage aboard.

Over ten guards, who had been waiting alongside the horses, stood sternly by. As people emerged, they finally relaxed and were about to approach when they caught sight of Li Zhi behind Pei Ji. They all wore expressions of astonishment, exchanging puzzled glances, unsure of how to proceed.

Pei Ji walked ahead but halted upon noticing the scene. He turned around and spoke softly to Li Zhi, “I apologize for abruptly exposing you to the speculative stares of others.”

“It’s fine. I owe you my gratitude for rescuing me,” Li Zhi replied, smiling as she glanced at Pei Ji, who stood a mere two steps away.

Earlier, while in Li Jingye’s room, she was abruptly confronted with the freedom within her grasp. Overwhelmed with emotions, she hadn’t deeply pondered certain things. Now, after exiting and finding a brief respite, she slowly started to realize.

Since leaving the room moments ago, he had kept a moderate distance from her— neither too near nor too far. Their interaction lacked the familiarity of their actual relationship, yet there was no overt effort to conceal or arouse suspicion. Evidently, he aimed to shield her from the forthcoming rumors.

“Don’t worry, I can’t guarantee control over other places, but in my military, no one will criticize you. I will handle this situation,” Pei Ji said with a composed face and unwavering conviction.

At that moment, Li Zhi had never trusted him more than she did now

“I believe you, Darling Third. Thank you.”

As they whispered, Shi Quan had already escorted the Grand Princess to their location.

Moments ago, while on the road, Shi Quan hastily offered a brief explanation to the Grand Princess. She had a rough understanding that a sudden hostility had developed between her son and nephew, but the details remained unclear.

Now, with a few hastily arranged belongings in hand, they arrived at the side of the carriage. Suddenly, she caught sight of Li Zhi conversing with her son. Although his face showed no difference, as a mother, she keenly perceived the gravity and sincerity in the furrow between his brows, distinctly different from his usual serious demeanor!

“Third Sln, isn’t this—Noble Consort Zhon ?” The Grand Princess momentarily forgot her usual poised composure and simply gazed at her son in astonishment.

Faced with Pei Ji’s mother, no matter how resilient Li Zhi was in her heart, she couldn’t help but feel a tinge of guilt. She slightly nodded in acknowledgment to the Grand Princess and lowered her eyes, choosing not to say much.

“Mother,” Pei Ji didn’t hesitate for a moment. He took two steps forward and spoke in a hushed tone, “It’s an urgent matter. Let’s leave first, and later, I will explain everything to you, Mother.”

Due to her advanced age, his grandmother had been accompanied to a more distant estate earlier by several uncles. There was no cause for worry. As for the other members of the Pei family, they were mostly serving in different military divisions, so there was no need for immediate concern. Only his mother was left, and she was the one he must protect.

The Grand Princess cast another glance at Li Zhi, briefly opened her mouth, but ultimately chose to trust her son. She held back the question that had almost escaped her lips and, with the aid of her maidservant, climbed aboard the carriage.

Chun Yue also approached to assist Li Zhi in boarding the carriage.

However, Li Zhi suddenly recalled something and anxiously asked, “What about Qing Zi?”

Chun Yue gestured towards the carriage and reassured, “Miss, don’t worry. I had already entrusted Officer Shi to bring her back.” As she spoke, her eyes turned slightly teary. “Though she endured some hardship, her fingertips swelled up like steamed buns in a steamer basket.”

Previously, Li Zhi had learned from Li Jing Ye that Qing Zi had been taken away for interrogation, so she understood the severity. Now, upon hearing that Qing Zi had been retrieved, she felt a momentary relief and hurriedly boarded the carriage to see her.

The group of dozens of people swiftly departed from Fufeng’s post station.

Inside the carriage, Qing Zi sat leaning to one side, appearing disheveled, while Chun Yue held a jar of medicine, and Li Zhi gently administered the medicine to Qing Zi with her own hands, her eyes brimming with concern.

Thankfully, Xiao Chong took Qing Zi away in the early morning, but he couldn’t get any information. Concerned about drawing attention if they took too long, he didn’t waste any more effort and went straight to inform Li Jing Ye. This spared Qing Zi a great deal of hardship.

However, she had been quite frightened after all, and now she appeared languid, with a pale face and red eyes, filled with a heavy sense of oppression.

The carriage traveled rapidly, causing the vehicle to constantly jolt and sway. Li Zhi’s hand was unsteady, and she was afraid of causing Qing Zi any discomfort. Therefore, she firmly gripped Qing Zi’s wrist with one hand to keep it steady while using her other hand to meticulously apply the ointment.

Qing Zi quietly observed for quite some time. Initially, her eyes were only red, but suddenly tears welled up and silently cascaded down onto her garment.

Li Zhi hurriedly raised her head and inquired, “What’s the matter? Did I exert too much force on your hand? If it’s painful, speak up, and I’ll apply a lighter touch.”

Qing Zi, tears welling up, shook her head continuously. “Miss’ touch is not heavy. Compared to the pain I endured earlier, it feels as light as a feather.”

She hastily used her free hand to wipe away the tears, unintentionally smearing a bit of the ointment on her cheek. “I…I was worried that Miss would abandon me earlier, but now I’m no longer afraid…”

When she was interrogated earlier, she experienced considerable hardship. It was only then that she learned what Miss had kept hidden from her. While waiting, she was afraid of being left behind, with no one to care about her life or death.

She had always been aware that Miss was closer to Chun Yue, their relationship as mistress and servant having developed over many years. It was unlike her own position as a recent addition. However, it was the first time she experienced genuine fear because of it.

Fortunately, someone eventually came to take her away from that gloomy tent. Sitting in the carriage a while ago, hearing her mistress ask, “Where is Qing Zi?” had already eased her mind. And now, with Miss personally applying ointment to her, she couldn’t hold back the flood of emotions within her.

Noticing Qing Zi’s disheveled and excited appearance, Li Zhi couldn’t suppress a light sigh. She meticulously reapplied the ointment on Qing Zi’s other hand, which had been wiped away, and wiped off the smudges on her face before speaking in a gentle voice, “Qing Zi, I promised to take you with me, so I haven’t left you behind. Today’s events also affected you because of my involvement. I owe you an apology.”

She paused, instructing Chun Yue to put away the medicine, and then said, “I haven’t asked you yet. Now that you know about my situation, are you still willing to accompany me? If you don’t want to, once we find a place to settle, I’ll give you some money and allow you to leave.”

Qing Zi was momentarily taken aback but quickly shook her head forcefully. “No, I will follow Miss.”

She already knew about the profound relationship between her miss and the young general. If she were someone else who was uninformed, she might have believed the gossip circulating outside, depicting Miss as a shameless troublemaker bringing calamity upon the nation.

However, after being with her for a long time, she knew what kind of person her mistress was. She treated people with warmth, unlike other nobles who only acted kindly toward servants due to their aristocratic upbringing. Her mistress truly didn’t see them as inferior servants.

Moreover, she could clearly see that she had a challenging time in the palace for over a year. The Emperor’s excessive favoritism burdened her like a mountain, restricting her movements. She was exposed like a live target, allowing others to criticize her. It was only when the Emperor stopped visiting Chenghuan Palace that she began to feel some sense of ease.

She probably didn’t want to enter the palace or become a Noble Consort, did she?

“On that day in Chenghuan Palace, Miss said that no one is born inferior, and serving others in the palace is simply a means of earning a livelihood.” She sniffled and finally voiced the words she had been holding in. She wanted to wipe her tears but noticed the fresh ointment, so she had to leave it. “No one else has ever said such things except you… Even if I had known about today’s events, I would never reveal them.”

With a gentle smile, Li Zhi gazed at her and fetched a thick cloak, placing it on her shoulders. She also tucked a wrist warmer beneath her clothes and spoke softly, “From now on, I won’t bring up the idea of letting you leave. You mustn’t have any regrets.”

Chun Yue beamed, her plump face glowing with delight. “Our Young Miss is incredibly wealthy. You won’t regret it.”

Inside the carriage, the previously heavy atmosphere was finally dispelled. The three of them huddled together, experiencing the jolting of the carriage. It was as if they had suddenly released all the weight from their bodies, feeling relaxed and comfortable.

The atmosphere in the other carriage ahead was far from pleasant.

Once the Grand Princess boarded the carriage, her face displayed an unusual expression, and her heart was filled with uncertainty as she occasionally furrowed her brows and sighed.

“Shu-niang, do you think the sudden conflict between Third Son and His Majesty might have something to do with Noble Consort Zhong?” Her worried and doubtful eyes briefly glanced in the direction of the carriage occupied by Li Zhi.

Shu-niang was also caught up in uncertainty, but upon hearing this, she regained her composure and said, “If Your Highness has doubts, you can inquire with Third Young Master later. Speculating here will only unsettle your mind.”

The Grand Princess furrowed her brows and sighed, realizing the accuracy of her words. As she was about to speak, the moving carriage suddenly decelerated, followed by a loud thud. Pei Ji mounted the carriage from his horse, pulling back the curtain and entering the compartment. He shouted instructions to the outside, “Continue, at a faster pace!”

The carriage’s speed increased once more.

“Third Son, you’re here!” The Grand Princess was brimming with questions, but he halted her.

“Mother, please allow me to explain step by step.” Pei Ji had already sorted through today’s events in his mind and carefully planned his words. He narrated the recent incidents in the room, deliberately skimming over his connection with Li Zhi.

After enduring and suppressing her emotions, the Grand Princess finally asked the question she was most eager to know, “Third Son, what’s going on between you and Noble Consort Zhong?”

Pei Ji cast his eyes downward, maintaining silence for a moment, then said, “Mother, I offended her.”

“What?” The Grand Princess was astonished, finding it difficult to believe that her usually composed and respectful son could commit such an act. However, observing his demeanor, she realized he wasn’t joking. Suspicion gave way to apprehension. “How could you…”

“It was during last year’s Zhongqiu Festival banquet.” He lifted his head, meeting his mother’s gaze filled with astonishment. “Mother, do you recall? The Princess of Wuyang drugged me, and I couldn’t restrain myself, offending the Noble Consort who was resting in the side hall. Mother, I have wronged her.”

“You… sigh, how could something like this occur? Sigh…” the Grand Princess recollected the circumstances from back then and found herself at a loss for words. She couldn’t shake off the uncomfortable feeling in her heart.

She had hardly spoken a few words with Noble Consort Zhong and had no knowledge of her character. However, she had heard numerous rumors from outside and witnessed the Empress Dowager’s cold attitude towards her. Naturally, she couldn’t harbor much goodwill. But upon hearing her son confess that he had offended someone, she couldn’t help but feel a sense of guilt. To make matters worse, her son couldn’t be blamed for the incident. It was an unfortunate consequence resulting from Ling Yue’s drugging.

Speaking of Ling Yue, she suddenly inquired, “I wonder how Ling Yue is faring now. Amidst the turmoil of war, given her temperament…”

After being stripped of her noble status and banished to the southern frontier, Li Ling Yue departed from Chang’an not long ago.

Pei Ji paused and said, “Half a month ago, she encountered bandits on her journey and was captured in the mountains. We have no information about her current situation.”

As soon as those words left his lips, the Grand Princess lapsed into silence.

Even though Li Ling Yue had committed numerous acts that the Grand Princess found objectionable, at this moment, she had no other thoughts and simply felt sorry for her.

“Mother, one by one, His Majesty’s close relatives have departed. Now, there’s no room for us.”

The Grand Princess remained silent, wrestling within her heart.

She naturally understood that things had reached a point where there was no turning back. However, her son’s entanglement with the Emperor’s concubine left her with a sense of guilt.

“There’s one more thing I haven’t told you, Mother,” Pei Ji’s eyes briefly reflected anguish as he finally spoke about the truth he least wanted to face. “Although the reinforcements from Hedong have returned, the war with the Turks is still ongoing. Today, news arrived that Ashina Duobi has withdrawn, but Father—”

“What happened to your father?” the Grand Princess abruptly looked up, her eyes widened as she gazed at her son, filled with alarm.

“Father has succumbed to exhaustion and suffered another injury. His life is likely not to last much longer…”

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