At the Noble Consort’s Feet Chapter 14

Chapter 14 Imperial Princess

<Previous Chapter<Table of Contents>Next Chapter>

Li Ling Yue was only fifteen years old, but her arrogance coupled with her acrid tongue made her seem intimidating despite her youthful appearance.

Li Zhi rose to her full height and fixed an unwavering gaze upon the princess, offering a stern reminder, “Choose your words with care, Your Highness. It’s His Majesty’s will that I reside in Chenghuan Palace.”

There were many people in the palace who did not like her, but the Empress Dowager acted with restraint. The punishment she received just now, kneeling for a while longer, was considered a warning. The concubines also feared the Emperor’s wishes and dared not directly oppose him.

Amongst all the inhabitants of the palace, only this princess had been spoiled to the point of indulgence. Her haughty and carefree personality made her an easy target for instigation, as evidenced by her use of coarse language.

Li Zhi’s gaze swept in the direction where Li Ling Yue had come from, and sure enough, she saw two palace-dressed women at the end of the road, walking away with palace servants, and pretending to glance back casually.

Li Ling Yue sneered, disdainfully looking up and down at Li Zhi before saying, “Don’t hide behind His Majesty as a shield. If it weren’t for your calculated seduction, how could he have taken you back to the palace? And if Sixth Prince hadn’t fallen for your schemes, he wouldn’t have insisted on marrying you. You… you’re nothing but a wicked witch!”

Li Zhi had just been deliberately slighted by the Empress Dowager in the Chang’an Hall, and now, hearing Li Ling Yue’s offensive words, she couldn’t help but feel her anger rise within her.

Though she had to submit to the Emperor and the Empress Dowager, she refused to tolerate anyone’s insolence towards her.

The oppressive heat of the month made everyone irritable and restless.

Li Zhi’s eyes darted towards a nearby shady spot, and a delicate smile bloomed on her lips.

As Li Ling Yue stood there in astonishment, Li Zhi took two steps forward and spoke softly, “Is the Princess here today to meet with General Pei?”

Li Ling Yue and Pei Ji were cousins and the two grew up together, so they could be regarded as childhood friends.

It was no secret in the palace that the princess was in love with the young general and had longed to marry him. However, Pei Ji was not interested in his cousin and had always maintained a respectful distance from her, even after learning of her feelings. He remained devoted to his duty as a loyal subject and never once overstepped his bounds.

However, Li Ling Yue was used to getting what she wanted, and Pei Ji’s rejection only fueled her desire to get him. Over the past year or two, she had persistently pursued him, even earning the disapproval of the Empress Dowager.

Li Zhi observed the princess’s reaction closely.

The princess hesitated for a moment and then blushed, as if someone had hit upon a sensitive topic. Her hostility and anger seemed to dissipate somewhat.

“So what? It has nothing to do with you, you wicked witch! Today, I’ll teach you a lesson on behalf of His Majesty!” 

Li Zhi didn’t flinch, still smiling softly as she whispered to Li Ling Yue in a voice only she could hear, “Why does the princess still care about my affairs? Earlier in Chang’an Hall, I overheard the Grand Princess saying that General Pei already has another woman in his heart and even received hand cream from her.”

Li Ling Yue’s eyes suddenly widened in shock, but then she quickly became angry and pushed Li Zhi hard, shouting, “You’re talking nonsense, you’re talking nonsense!”

Li Zhi’s knees were still hurting, and suddenly being pushed, she stumbled back, fell and sat on the ground, her hands were scratched by the broken stones, causing her to inhale sharply in pain.

“Miss!” Chun Yue panicked and hurried to help her up.

“Where did this ugly girl come from!” Li Ling Yue was fuming with rage, and promptly ordered her attendants to seize Chun Yue. “Today, I shall teach this demoness, the hierarchy of the palace!”

In terms of rank, the princess and the four Consorts held the prestigious title of first-rank, whereas Li Zhi had no title or position. To be blunt, she was not even on par with an ordinary palace maid.

The palace maids by Li Ling Yue’s side were too afraid to move.

The princess was used to getting her way, and no matter how grave a mistake she made, the Empress Dowager would always favor her. But the servants still had to maintain a sense of propriety.

Li Ling Yue was livid and bellowed, “What are you all standing around for? Quickly escort her to the Shangyi Bureau, and let the female officials teach her a lesson!”

The palace maids exchanged glances, hesitating and unwilling to approach.

Suddenly, a cold and low voice came from the side, “Enough.”

Pei Ji emerged from the shade of a tree, his hands clasped behind his back and his face cold. He addressed the palace attendants, “How can there be such a commotion outside the Chang’an Hall? Help the lady up.”

After Li Zhi’s departure, Pei Ji excused himself as the Princess and Empress still had matters to discuss. He walked a few steps and saw the woman not too far ahead. He recalled her helpless, frail appearance when she had knelt in the hall, and an inexplicable tightness formed in his chest. He followed her, but to his surprise, he saw the Princess push her down.

Chun Yue rushed to Li Zhi’s aid, helping her up.

Li Zhi’s legs were weak as she struggled to stand and retreated to the side.

Li Ling Yue’s heart skipped a beat as she observed Pei Ji’s distant and irate expression.

“Cousin, what brings you here?”

Pei Ji didn’t look at her, but bowed his hands and said in a deep voice, “I just paid my respects to the Empress Dowager and passed by here. The Empress Dowager is still waiting for Your Highness in the Chang’an Hall. The princess should not waste time.”

Li Ling Yue looked at Pei Ji’s distant and cold face with a trace of anger. Feeling anxious, she wanted to approach him to ask about the matter of the hand cream, but her words turned into a panicked explanation. “Cousin, I didn’t mean it just now. It was…she…she spoke first, and then I pushed her…”

She was aware that Pei Ji always carried himself with dignity and etiquette, and she feared that her previous arrogant and bullying behavior would make him repulsed.

Pei Ji maintained his reserved demeanor and kept his distance, stepping back two paces and evading the hand that reached towards his sleeve. “The Empress is still waiting for the Princess in the hall.” 

Li Ling Yue’s hand froze for a moment, and her heart was filled with grievance, but she had no outlet for it. She glared fiercely at Pei Ji, her eyes red, and then turned around to head towards Chang’an Hall.

As soon as the group had vanished from sight, Pei Ji turned around with a cold expression and faced the woman standing beside him.

Li Zhi stood beneath the shelter of a tree, her almond-shaped eyes meeting his gaze with a gentle smile playing at her lips. “General Pei,” she spoke in a warm voice, “I want to thank you for your assistance just now.”

Pei Ji sneered at her, “Don’t thank me. If it weren’t for your intentional provocation, the princess wouldn’t have lost her temper.”

Pei Ji was familiar with the princess’s temperament, and judging from her behavior earlier, she was undoubtedly egged on to bully this woman. But the princess’s bullying was intended to send her to the Shangyi Bureau for punishment. It was likely that the woman had said something that angered the princess, leading to the sudden push.

Pei Ji was not surprised. After all, she dared to flirt with him so brazenly. What wouldn’t she dare to do?

Li Zhi was taken aback and looked at him as if he wanted to speak up for the princess, and a hint of suspicion arose in her heart.

Did Pei Ji really not have any interest in Li Ling Yue?

However, she quickly dismissed this idea.

She remembered vividly that in her dream, Li Ling Yue had used some underhanded tactics to force Pei Ji to marry her.

Pei Ji had no choice but to agree to marry this obstinate princess.

Li Ling Yue had thought that she had achieved her goal, but on the night of their wedding, Pei Ji had separated from her and moved to a different residence.

From then on, no matter how much she begged for forgiveness or acted willfully and caused trouble, Pei Ji never gave in.

Two years had passed since their wedding day, yet the couple lived as if they were strangers. They resided in different places, with one in the Princess’s palace and the other in the Duke of Yanguo’s mansion. Despite being married, they were distant and indifferent to each other.

If Pei Ji truly had feelings for the Princess, how could their relationship have deteriorated to such a degree?

After some contemplation, Li Zhi suddenly burst out laughing. Unconcerned with being caught, she gazed calmly at Pei Ji and asked, “General, do you know what I said to the Princess earlier?”

Pei Ji’s brows furrowed slightly in response.

“I told her that you had already set your sights on another woman,” Li Zhi approached him, her voice soft and low, “and that you even accepted gifts from her!”

On a summer day beneath the cool shade of the trees, the woman stood three steps away, her stunning features lightly dusted with blush from the heat. Her captivating eyes gazed directly into his, and her plump, alluring lips moved as she asked, “General, am I wrong?”

Pei Ji seemed to catch a whiff of the delicate coral peony fragrance wafting through the air.

He shifted his gaze away in silence, but his adam’s apple bobbed slightly, and his fingers coiled around each other.

“It was just a misunderstanding on my mother’s part. There is nothing to it,” he replied in a stoic tone.

Li Zhi scrutinized him for a beat, but saw no sign of weakness in his resolute features.

She lowered her gaze with disappointment and remarked, “Oh, I see. I thought you came here to help me because you cared for me…”

Although she appeared casual, her words were intended to reveal that he had been on her mind for the past few days.

Pei Ji’s throat tightened at her words, and his heart began to stir with a growing sense of restlessness.

However, in the corner of his eye, he caught a glimpse of her right hand, delicately exposed from the folds of her sleeve.

That little hand had once tenderly caressed his palm and face, so gentle and soft, but now, near the base of her palm, he could see a small cut from the rough gravel on the ground, seeping blood slowly.

She frowned slightly, perhaps silently enduring the pain.

His restless heart was extinguished like a sudden dousing of cold water.

“My lady is His Majesty’s favored one, why bother getting entangled with me? If you have any needs, you should ask His Majesty for help. As for me, Pei Ji, I regard His Majesty as my lord and brother, and would never do anything that disrespects him. I hope you understand.”

Li Zhi remained silent, her expression calm and collected.

Pei Ji was momentarily unsure whether the words he had just spoken were meant for her ears or for himself.

Not far away, the palace path was bustling with the sounds of people passing by.

Li Zhi went back to the big rock under the dense shade, her head bowed, and said, “My knees still hurt, and I need to rest for a while. If the general has other duties to attend to, please go ahead.”

Pei Ji was stunned for a moment, then said, “My lady, please remember to apply medicine to your wound when you return,” before turning and departing.

<Previous Chapter<Table of Contents>Next Chapter>

Leave a comment