At the Noble Consort’s Feet Chapter 114

Chapter 114 Weakling

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The doors were closed once again, and the Grand Princess furrowed her brow while gazing at the items laid out on the table, completely absorbed in her thoughts.

“Your Highness… Madam, what’s wrong?” Shu-niang, still unaccustomed to the new form of address, quickly tried to correct herself as the words slipped out.

The Grand Princess shook her head, picked up a bath bean, and used the water Shu-niang had brought to cleanse her hands. “It’s nothing. She has already prepared all these minor details…”

Shu-niang glanced at her and immediately grasped the meaning.

The sudden changes were unexpected, and yet Miss Zhong managed to sort everything out flawlessly, evidently having prearranged it. Recalling the previously scouted route and the servants who accompanied them on their journey south, apart from Shi Quan, it seemed highly probable that Pei Ji had organized everything beforehand.

“Ah, I always had the impression that Miss Zhong is not an ordinary individual,” the Grand Princess displayed a worrisome expression, “She treats her two maidservants extraordinarily well. I wonder what Third Son has in mind…”

Shu-niang brought the steaming soup, and the rising heat dissipated instantly.

“Third Young Master must have already made a decision. He has always been reliable, so Madam doesn’t need to be overly concerned.”

The Grand Princess remained silent. She simply took a couple of spoonfuls of the hot soup, holding onto her thoughts. Despite the lingering sadness, after a few sips, she started feeling too warm and put it aside.

She loosened the rabbit fur scarf tightly wrapped around her neck, holding it in her hands and giving it a gentle stroke. Then, she let out a chuckle and said, “If his father found out about his actions, who knows how angry he would become.”

This scarf was brought back by Pei Yan for her when they went hunting on Lishan the previous year.

Shu-niang cast a glance at the scarf and observed her expression before adding, “Third Young Master has always been a well-behaved child. From childhood to adulthood, I rarely witnessed his father scolding him. Moreover, with you by his side, would his father truly get angry?”

The Grand Princess didn’t know what had triggered her memory, yet she maintained a smile on her face. Nevertheless, her eyes slowly turned red, and a few tears trickled down, landing on the plush rabbit fur.

“He hasn’t even witnessed Third Son getting married.”

Shu-niang swiftly removed the scarf and embraced the Grand Princess, who had already crossed the age of forty, just like one would hold a child. She consoled her in a gentle voice, saying, “There, there, Your Highness, if you’re feeling sad, let’s cry for a little while, and then everything will be fine…”

In the post station at Fufeng, the atmosphere was filled with an air of tension.

Li Jing Ye shivered uncontrollably, his face turning pale as he sat on the seat, lips tightly pressed together, and a look of displeasure in his eyes as he gazed at Yang Min Chi and the others.

Only a day had gone by, and he already appeared significantly weakened, becoming even more feeble.

“Governor Yang, do not forget your own position!”

Yang Min Chi glanced at everyone in the room, but there was no hint of retreat in his eyes. Standing upright with a straight posture, he declared, “Your Majesty, I have not forgotten my identity. It is because I still remember that I am a loyal citizen of Great Wei that I had to request Your Majesty to surrender the Noble Consort. Otherwise, the hundred thousand soldiers outside might not necessarily obey my orders.”

“You!” Li Jing Ye’s hollow cheeks turned red with anger, and a sensation of dizziness surged through his mind like roaring waves. “You’re pushing it too far! We have already said that the Noble Consort is not with the army. What more do you want?”

Yang Min Chi let out a disdainful snort, wearing a face full of skepticism.

Everyone knew that the Emperor favored the Noble Consort and took her along when they fled. But now, after his arrival, he insisted that she was not with the army? His Majesty’s words were vague. Simply based on one sentence, he intended to dismiss their earlier requests. Where did that leave his reputation?

It should be known that he managed to gather those scattered troops from various places and form this disorganized relief army solely based on his earlier remark of suggesting the Emperor execute the Noble Consort to pacify the people.

In the midst of this chaotic situation, everyone was seething with anger and lacking an avenue to release their hatred. He simply provided a method for them to vent their frustrations.

Xiao Ling Fu had been observing for quite some time and only now approached slowly. He addressed Yang Min Chi, saying, “Governor Yang, please remain calm. The Noble Consort is indeed no longer with the army. Just before your relief troops arrived, General Pei Ji, the military governor of Hedong, disregarded His Majesty’s objections and took the Noble Consort away.”

Upon hearing this, Yang Min Chi was momentarily taken aback. He carefully contemplated the words and finally grasped why His Majesty was hesitant to speak directly—the Noble Consort had been taken away by a court official who appeared to be His Majesty’s cousin!

Even an average man would find it unbearable to endure such a disgraceful humiliation, let alone the Emperor.

With this realization, Yang Min Chi surprisingly developed a sense of sympathy and mockery towards the young Emperor whom he had only encountered a few times. The woman he had boldly snatched from his own younger brother, ultimately turned out to be as unattainable as the empire itself.

This Emperor was undeniably a weakling!

“So what?” He let out a cold laugh and glared menacingly at Xiao Ling Fu. “I only need to ensure that my over sixty thousand subordinates are content. Only when they are content, will they obey.”

Xiao Ling Fu responded, “The soldiers are all wholeheartedly dedicated to Great Wei. His Majesty is well aware of this loyalty. Even though the Noble Consort is no longer present, there are still others.”

While speaking, he exchanged a meaningful glance with Xiao Chong, who stood guard at the entrance.

Xiao Chong understood the situation instantly and gestured, commanding his Golden Shield Guards to bring in four individuals. To everyone’s surprise, it was Zhong Cheng Ping, Madam Yang, and the siblings Zhong Hao and Zhong Miao Yun.

Those people had their mouths stuffed and their hands tied, appearing disheveled. They no longer retained their previous composure. Upon entering the room, they anxiously glanced around. Once they encountered Yang Min Chi’s menacing stare, they couldn’t resist struggling.

Xiao Chong lifted his leg and kicked Zhong Hao’s shin, causing him to collapse onto the ground with a pained cry.

“Be still!”

“Who is this?” Yang Min Chi scrutinized them before finally fixing his gaze on the young and beautiful face of Miao Yun.

Xiao Ling Fu stepped forward and pointed at Zhong Cheng Ping and his wife. “These are the uncle and aunt of Noble Consort Zhong, the Duke and Duchess of Qinguo, personally appointed by His Majesty. And this individual is the cousin of the Noble Consort, the son of the Duke of Qinguo.”

“Regarding this woman,” he redirected his gaze to Miao Yun, a derisive smile appearing on his face, “she is the Noble Consort’s cousin, the daughter of the Duke of Qinguo, personally appointed by His Majesty as the Lady of Yingguo.”

“Lady of Yingguo?” Yang Min Chi was momentarily surprised but then remembered the rumors he had heard a few months ago. “So, this is the Miss Zhong who became a ‘lady’ before her marriage. It seems her beauty is truly exceptional.”

He fearlessly stared at Miao Yun, his gaze continuously roaming over her, filling her with fear. She instinctively raised her head, pleading with teary eyes as she looked at Li Jing Ye on the throne.

Li Jing Ye’s pale face briefly displayed a complicated mixture of disgust and hatred. He appeared unwilling to lay eyes on a face that bore a slight resemblance to Li Zhi. “That’s enough, I’m tired. Yang Min Chi, tomorrow, I will start my journey south. Take care of things as you deem necessary.”

Yang Min Chi, showing reverence to the Emperor, ceased his overbearing behavior upon encountering the Zhong family. He promptly paid his respects and instructed his subordinates to escort the individuals to the military camp.

“This Miss Zhong is incredibly beautiful. It’s no wonder both His Majesty and the Rebel Prince wanted her.”

Xiao Ling Fu walked with his hands behind his back and, with a smile that appeared mocking yet indifferent, said, “Certainly, this individual bears some resemblance to the Noble Consort, but in terms of beauty, she is not even half as stunning as the Noble Consort.”

Yang Min Chi widened his eyes in surprise and asked, “Not even half as beautiful?”

One of the subordinates who was guarding the prisoners couldn’t help but caress Miao Yun and greedily said, “Even if it’s just half, it’s still remarkable. Brothers, we have been traveling outside for so many years, but we have never encountered such a stunning woman!”

Miao Yun, startled and infuriated by the touch, attempted to dodge but was unable to utter a word. She was then forcefully dragged back by the rope.

“Yang Min Chi, our brothers haven’t seen a woman for a long time. Finally, we come across one, and she’s…” The man smirked, hinting at something to Yang Min Chi.

Yang Min Chi felt a flicker of curiosity within him and glanced at the composed Xiao Ling Fu beside him. He couldn’t help but emit a dark smile and said, “Since everything has been entrusted to us for disposal, there’s no need for so many concerns. Let’s keep this young lady for now. Once we’ve dealt with the others, we’ll handle her properly.”

The conversation between the two men fell upon Miao Yun’s ears, filling her with immense dread and leaving her body cold. The instinct to survive compelled her to desire an escape, but she was still being dragged into the military camp where tens of thousands of people had gathered.

Before her was a dense crowd of people, each face twisted with either greed or anger, their eyes locked onto her with intense gazes. Countless voices erupted in a crescendo of shouts and screams.

Instinctively, she turned her head to look at her parents and elder brother, but they were already knocked down, unable to get up. Three menacing men brandished their swords, poised to strike as the uproar of the crowd surrounded them.

“Kill them!”

“Damn that Zhong family!”

“Kill! Kill! Kill!”

The enraged voices surged from all sides like a tidal wave, overwhelming Miao Yun and leaving her gasping for breath.

The icy silver light on the large blade sparkled brilliantly under the sun, stabbing into her eyes. It momentarily made her feel as if she had been transported back to the unforgettable Zhongqiu Banquet.

On that day, Daming Palace was adorned in golden splendor, radiating a brilliance that rivaled daylight. The guests within were jubilant, utterly captivated as they gazed upon the Noble Consort’s ethereal beauty, watching her dance gracefully on the elevated stage.

Back then, she looked up at the figure on the stage, yearning for a life of endless glory and being the center of attention. She had no idea how much the world would change in the future.

Unfortunately, there was no time for regrets, and she had no interest in regretting either.

All of these were her own decisions. Now that she had reached a dead end, there was nothing else to hold onto.

Amidst the enraged cries, she suddenly broke free from her bindings and sprinted forward, crashing headlong into a multitude of razor-sharp blades in the gaze of countless onlookers.

Bl❀❀d spurted out, staining the cracked and frozen ground, releasing a warm mist into the chilly winter air.

In the military camp on the eastern bank of the Puzhou River, a brief clash had just subsided. Pei Ji gathered with Zhang Jian, Huangfu Jing, and the others in the tent, near the sand table, to discuss their deployment.

Upon hearing the news of the Zhong family’s demise at the hands of the marauding soldiers, the group fell into a brief silence before launching into a heated discussion.

Deep down, they all knew that the Zhong family members were anything but righteous, but their deaths at the hands of the marauding soldiers were excessive. Amidst the chaos, people needed an outlet for their anger, and with limited constraints, if the situation wasn’t brought under control, such incidents would only become more frequent.

Thankfully, due to the recent arrival of reinforcements, Huangfu Jing had managed to turn the tide of the battle that was once almost overwhelming. Over the past three days, the Hedong forces had fought back valiantly despite being outnumbered, catching the rebel army off guard. As a result, their opponent had grown visibly more cautious, no longer willing to launch reckless assaults.

Amidst the group’s discussion about how to face the enemy’s impending attack the next day, Pei Ji suddenly turned his gaze toward the map suspended on the shelf, deep in thought.

“General?” Zhang Jian called out, following the direction of his gaze. The others joined in, stopping in their tracks to see what had captured his interest.

“Today, was it only Cao Si Liang and his men who launched the assault?”

Huangfu Jing hesitated for a moment before nodding and saying, “Yes, those who launched the attack today were all from Yiwu’s army.”

Pei Ji furrowed his brow, walked closer to the map, and examined the area near Puzhou intently. Then, out of the blue, he remarked, “The Eastern Province.”

“What does the general mean?”

“The rebel army’s advancement toward Chang’an in the west has been halted, and they realize they can’t sustain such losses. They are likely to shift their focus and aim for Luoyang, the Eastern Capital.”

Luoyang, a prosperous and bustling city, served as the second capital after Chang’an. It boasted palaces and abundant food resources, making it an ideal base for the rebel army. Furthermore, the recent troop relocations had almost completely cleared the scattered soldiers near Henan Prefecture, leaving the defenses weakened. Observing the obstacles they encountered in their westward march, the rebel army would most likely alter their course and move eastward in secrecy. With only Cao Siliang’s men present in the area, it remained uncertain whether An Yi Kang had already led Prince Rui to retreat quietly.

Everyone was shocked.

The rebel army already had more soldiers, and if they were allowed to catch their breath, capturing them all would become even more challenging.

After thinking for a while, Pei Ji promptly declared, “Send someone to get close to their camp and check if it’s vacant or not. If it’s not vacant, stick to the original plan.”

“What should we do if it’s empty?”

Pei Ji took a couple of steps inside the tent, eventually resting his gaze on the flickering candle flame. “If it’s empty, it means they have indeed slipped away unnoticed. We must promptly dispatch people to intercept them.”

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