At the Noble Consort’s Feet Chapter 112

Chapter 112 moonlight

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In Fufeng’s post station, an atmosphere of stiffness and tension enveloped the place once Pei Ji, Li Zhi, and the others departed.

Outside the Emperor’s residence, Xiao Ling Fu and his son faced each other, their expressions grave and devoid of words.

Li Jing Ye leaned on He Yuan Shi, his eyes locked on the torn fragment from Pei Ji’s robe resting on the table, his silence conveying an unsettling presence.

Though a while had passed since Pei Ji and Li Zhi’s departure, their earlier conversation echoed incessantly in his ears, piercing his heart with every word, tormenting him and evoking an irresistible urge to flee.

No one had ever unveiled everything with such audacity, unfolding it all before him, leaving no shadowy corner for his concealed secrets and desires.

In the depths of his being, he had a clear awareness that their words held undeniable truth. However, paradoxically, the undeniable truth intensified his feelings of humiliation and impotence, leaving him unable to alter the course of events.

The last piece of advice from Pei Ji continued to haunt him, replaying in his thoughts, impossible to resist.

Xiao Ling Fu, the man he had personally nurtured to become his right-hand man. Despite his awareness of this person’s cunning and smooth maneuvering, throughout the years of governance, this individual had indeed resolved numerous challenging matters on his behalf.

But Pei Ji directly pointed out his inability to control this father and son…

“You can go,” he suddenly said, his words naturally addressed to the Xiao father and son.

“Your Majesty—” Xiao Chong attempted to speak further, but was swiftly restrained by Xiao Ling Fu’s gesture, his eyes hinting the message to refrain from further words.

The two shared a brief glance, offered a respectful salute, and were on the verge of departure.

“Hold on,” Li Jing Ye interjected, directing his gaze to the sword adorning Xiao Chong’s waist. “Leave your sword behind.”

Xiao Chong hesitated briefly, then unstrapped the sword from his waist. With both hands, he presented it to He Yuan Shi, who had come to collect it.    

The door shut.

The Xiao father and son turned away, their expressions grave, and began to withdraw. But just moments after departing, they were startled by a violent noise emanating from the firmly closed door—a sound as if some object had been mercilessly cleaved, its fragments scattered.

Neither of them glanced back, only briefly halting their steps before accelerating their retreat.

“Father, shouldn’t we offer some explanation to His Majesty regarding what Third Young Master Pei said earlier?”

They both comprehended the Emperor’s profound mistrust, and with each departure of someone once close, the circumstances were poised to deteriorate further.

Xiao Ling Fu remained silent, merely giving him a sidelong glance before accelerating his stride, leading them back into the room and promptly shutting the door.

“No need to explain, it’s useless.” He furrowed his brows tightly, took a seat on the couch. “We no longer need to concern ourselves with the rebels. Since Third Young Master Pei has spoken, he should keep his word. We must swiftly journey southward and enter Shu Province. As for His Majesty—”

His gaze fell upon the vacant tea cup on the table, and he proceeded to fill it slowly by lifting the tea pot.

“There is only one throne, but throughout history, countless individuals have occupied it.”

Xiao Chong was startled by this revelation and quickly suppressed his voice, “Does that mean, Father—intends to take action?”

Xiao Ling Fu cast a disapproving gaze at him, “What absurdity are you spouting? The son inheriting from the father is a matter of course, it is the way of the world. Why would there be any need for action?”

Xiao Chong widened his eyes and held back the words on his lips before asking, “So, should we call upon Immortal Ancestor Yuan?”

“No, there’s no rush. He knows what to do. We should wait for Yang Min Chi to arrive with his troops.”

Near Wannian, the twenty thousand troops of Hedong’s army had established their camp and made all necessary arrangements, with the radiant moon hanging overhead.

After much difficulty, Pei Ji finally found a brief opportunity to assemble with several military commanders. Once he had observed the conditions within the camp, he was able to spare some time to visit the tent of the Grand Princess.

Earlier, while they were in the carriage, his mother remained silent after learning about his father’s situation. Despite her reddened eyes and teary gaze, not a single tear fell. Once they arrived at the military camp, she went directly into her tent and did not emerge.

At present, he had just checked on her well-being from outside the tent and was awaiting a response from inside.

However, after waiting for a while, he was greeted only by the appearance of Shu-niang, who attended to the Grand Princess.

“Shu-niang, how is my mother? Has she had anything to eat?”

Shu-niang’s eyes were tinged with redness as well. Upon hearing his question, she shook her head and replied, “No, given the circumstances, how could Her Highness possibly eat anything?”

Pei Ji’s face displayed concern, and his eyes drifted towards the tent curtain, contemplating whether to enter and see for himself.

However, Shu-niang reached out her hand to halt him. “Third Young Master, don’t go in today. I am here, Her Highness will be fine,” she said, sighing, and continued, “The Grand Princess and her husband have always shared a deep bond of love. Upon hearing this news, it is only natural that she finds it hard to accept it immediately. She needs some time alone to find solace.”

Pei Ji contemplated for a moment and nodded. “I understand. Please take care of my mother, Shu-niang. Ensure she doesn’t inflict any harm upon herself. My father would undoubtedly want to shield her from any sorrow.”

This was an affair between husband and wife. Despite being their son, he could not alleviate the anguish of losing a husband. All he could do was patiently await her acceptance.

“I understand.” Shu-niang wiped at the corner of her eye and then performed a bow before turning and entering the tent.

Pei Ji lingered outside for a moment before eventually turning around and leaving.

“The water has been prepared. General, would you like to return to your tent and rest?” Shi Quan hurriedly approached from a short distance and asked.

Pei Ji lifted his gaze towards the expansive night sky, a perpetual melancholy lingering within his heart, as if burdened by an invisible weight.

“I will return later.” He shook his head, motioning to Shi Quan. “You can go and rest. You need not concern yourself with me. Tomorrow, we must ride with greater speed. Today, take the time to rest and rejuvenate.”

Shi Quan acknowledged and departed, making his way back to the tent.

The military camp followed a strict schedule, and with the moon gracing the willow branches, all dispersed to their individual tents, leaving only the night patrol to roam around the perimeter.

Pei Ji halted in an open area, contemplating an innate inclination to proceed in a particular direction. However, as his toes started to pivot, he ceased his advance.

He shook his head, repressing the thoughts swirling within.

This was the military camp, and despite her departure from the Emperor, she was not his wife. He should not venture to her tent like this in the midst of the night.

His eyes grew even more sorrowful as he bowed his head and quietly made his way to a spot beneath the shadows of a tree. Disregarding the rigidness caused by the biting winter chill, he gathered his robe and settled himself under the tree, raising his head to gaze dreamily at the night sky.

It remained uncertain how much time had elapsed until the patrols in the vicinity became sparse, and a genuine stillness prevailed. However, just as everything descended into true tranquility, a series of gentle and unhurried footsteps abruptly reached his ears, accompanied by the delicate rustling of the frozen ground and fractured twigs beneath them.

Pei Ji swiftly turned his head, coming face to face with a pair of familiar almond-shaped eyes.

The desolate glow of the wintry moon shimmered in her eyes, instantly transforming into a gentle and enchanting charm.

“Darling Third, so you’re here.” Li Zhi bloomed with a smile as she walked closer, taking a seat beside him on the ground.

Pei Ji’s face displayed no particular expression as his gaze settled on her. Noticing her donning a cloak and arranging it beneath herself as she sat down, he averted his gaze thereafter.

Her graceful arms, hidden beneath the cloak, delicately embraced his left arm as she nestled her face against his shoulder, unable to contain her irritation. “Your clothes are so chilly. Don’t let yourself freeze any further.”

Pei Ji knitted his brows, considering extending his hand to gently push her away, but she clung to him even more firmly. “Don’t worry, there’s no one around to see us. Besides, this is your own military camp. Do you truly think you can’t manage the soldiers’ gossip?”

She understood his concerns and had faith that he had already devised a plan to address them.

As anticipated, Pei Ji refrained from pushing her away.

After a prolonged silence, he let out a gentle sigh of resignation, slowly enveloping her in his embrace and securing the cloak more snugly around her. In a voice tinged with hoarseness, he uttered, “I merely wish to spare you any further distress. Tomorrow, when you and Mother depart, I will ensure that all matters pertaining to you in the military camp are resolved beforehand.”

Her position carried great sensitivity, particularly given the imminent danger posed by the rebel forces ahead. The upcoming march would be exceptionally challenging, and it would be unsuitable for her to stay in the military camp. It was imperative for her to follow the prearranged route, avoiding the rebel forces, and head south towards Yangzhou for temporary respite shelter.

As for his mother, who was in her old age, it was no longer feasible for her to journey through the turbulent northern regions to reach the ancestral home of the Pei family. Hence, she had no alternative but to temporarily travel to Yangzhou with Li Zhi.

Although he had previously conveyed this to Li Zhi, he couldn’t resist explaining once again. “Please believe me, I have already talked to my mother. I was at fault in the past, and the blame lies solely with me. She has always been kind-hearted, and even if she doesn’t harbor affection for you, she would never intentionally trouble you.”

Pausing briefly, his voice growing increasingly parched, he added, “She has only recently discovered the news about Father and is quite heartbroken. It would be a great comfort to her if you could show understanding and make allowances during the journey.”

Li Zhi nodded without any hesitation.

She was his mother, and he had already done so much for her. Now, he simply requested her to be considerate towards the Grand Princess. It was entirely justified.

Nevertheless, observing his meticulousness and his preparedness for every possible scenario, her heart grew even more tender, unable to suppress the surge of compassion.

“Darling Third, what about you?” She reached out and gently touched his icy cheek, bathed in the moonlight. “You have been considering so much for others, but what about yourself? You mention that the Grand Princess is saddened and requires empathy. Aren’t you also going through a difficult time?”

He had only just learned about his father’s tragic fate and had recently severed ties with his cousin, with whom he had shared more than twenty years of companionship. How could he not feel heartache? However, from the beginning to the end, he had immersed himself in constant busyness, always preoccupied with the affairs of others, neglecting his own emotions.

Li Zhi thought that the self-proclaimed coldness of her heart had most likely vanished in his presence.

With their impending separation on the horizon, she had pondered and fretted endlessly. Thus, she took advantage of the moment when there was no one around to pay him a visit.

Pei Ji remained wordless, his eyes shimmering, fixated on her captivating almond-shaped eyes. Within his typically serene and profound gaze, a glimmer of moisture slowly emerged.

Burdened by the weight of incessant pressure in the past few days, her gentleness had finally created a hairline fracture in his perpetually tense state of mind.

Li Zhi caressed his cheek and opened her arms, drawing him towards her chest. She covered his head with her oversized cloak, patting his back softly, one stroke at a time.

Pei Ji initially felt stiffness throughout his body, as if he was unfamiliar with letting himself unwind. However, after a moment, he gradually extended his hand to embrace her waist, burying his head deep in her chest, quietly releasing the long-restrained emotions.

His shoulders would occasionally twitch soundlessly.

It had been more than ten years since tears had last fallen, yet today they welled up and flowed freely..

Thankfully, he wasn’t alone..

It remained uncertain how much time had elapsed until he gradually regained his composure. He discreetly wiped the corners of his eyes under the concealment of the cloak before slowly straightening his posture and said with a serious tone, “If this continues, I’m afraid I’ll suffocate.”

Li Zhi couldn’t help but emit a soft laugh in response, “I can’t bear to see you feeling suffocated.”

Beneath the moonlight, her eyes gleamed with the brilliance of the moon, clear and tender, as if possessing a peculiar power to comfort the soul.

Pei Ji watched silently, unable to resist cradling her cheeks and leaning down to kiss the gentle moonlight within her almond-shaped eyes.

“Li-niang, thank you. I’m feeling much better now.”

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