Chapter 37 Imperial Physician
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The hour of the Pig had arrived, and darkness had fallen upon Wenquan Resort. All the lights had been snuffed out, leaving the grand halls and corridors shrouded in obscurity.
Li Jing Ye and Worthy Consort Xu lay in repose, each lost in their own thoughts, their minds wandering far from the tranquil surroundings. Despite the calming aroma that permeated the room, they remained restless, their eyes tightly shut and their breathing slow and measured.
Within the confines of the Yuniu Hall, the palace staff had long since retired, leaving the chambers in silence.
Li Zhi reclined upon her side, her delicate frame nestled in Pei Ji’s embrace. With her lustrous eyes partially shut, her body lay limp.
She was exhausted and had finally recovered after soaking in the hot springs, hoping that Pei Ji would be gentle with her. But unexpectedly, he became even more dominant than before, as if stimulated.
Fortunately, he still knew how to control himself and did not hurt her. He only made her more weak and helpless.
She frowned her willow eyebrows, and tiny beads of sweat formed on her forehead. Her nose also turned slightly red, and she looked especially delicate and pitiful under the swaying light of the two lonely lamps.
Pei Ji lowered his gaze and, taking advantage of her unawareness, intently studied her alluring and captivating face.
With one hand clasping her nape and the other encircling her waist, he couldn’t resist leaning in closer, delicately pecking her rosy-tinted nose.
Li Zhi was too weak to even open her eyes, releasing only a faint hum to express her discontentment.
Pei Ji’s hand at her waist gradually applied pressure, kneading and soothing the knots in her back, easing her discomfort and coaxing her delicate features to relax.
In the midst of their movements, the simmering heat, once tempered, began to climb again.
He momentarily hesitated before succumbing, wrapping her in his embrace once more and tenderly caressing her form, varying between gentle and firm touches.
This time, however, his approach was far from dominating. Instead, he exercised greater patience and tenderness, eliciting a sense of relief and ease from her before gently releasing her from his grasp.
After nearly an hour, Pei Ji rolled over and released a heavy breath as he hugged her tightly in his arms. After pausing for a moment, he silently got up, cradled her to the bed, and wiped her clean with a towel.
Li Zhi was lying on the bed, seemingly asleep. When Pei Ji had finished dressing himself, she slowly opened her eyes and gazed at his back. “Did General come here today to discuss about the Worthy Consort?”
Pei Ji paused and turned around, settling down on the edge of the bed, nodding in response.
Li Zhi already understood, “If I am not mistaken, the Worthy Consort has set her sights on General, hasn’t she? Was her strange behavior today because she found out about us?”
Pei Ji’s face gradually darkened, his expression turning somber. “Yes, she saw us in the woods yesterday.”
In truth, he wanted to clarify that he had no feelings for the Worthy Consort, and that his heart had already been captured by her.
Yet, as he began to voice his thoughts, his words faded into a quiet sentence, “Although she promised not to reveal our affair, it seems she has developed aspirations to compete in the harem.”
He had no position to explain his innocence to her.
Li Zhi didn’t seem to care about Pei Ji’s relationship with Worthy Consort Xu, but still asked a few more questions out of curiosity.
Pei Ji recounted in detail the conversation he had with Worthy Consort Xu the night before.
Li Zhi raised an eyebrow and chuckled softly, “She’s quite a clever one.”
Although Pei Ji didn’t outright admit it, he had tacitly confirmed that Worthy Consort Xu had some kind of admiration for him.
Li Zhi wasn’t concerned about Worthy Consort Xu exposing their secret affair, as there was no evidence, and even if she did reveal it to Li Jing Ye, he probably wouldn’t believe her. At most, he would be suspicious.
Furthermore, given Pei Ji’s status, Li Jing Ye would likely dispose of anyone who reported such a scandalous matter. Li Jing Ye was known for being suspicious and concerned about his reputation.
Li Zhi was almost certain that Worthy Consort Xu had no romantic feelings towards Li Jing Ye and would not care about him.
Little did she expect that although Worthy Consort Xu had an obvious infatuation for Pei Ji, she didn’t point the finger at her for their private affair. Instead, she took the initiative to sever ties when she realized that Pei Ji’s intentions were different, as if she wanted to break free from the shackles of the past.
It seemed that Worthy Consort Xu understood that although she was the most prominent imperial concubine, she had no backing to rely on in the end, making her the most vulnerable target. Conversely, those like Pure Consort Xiao, who had illustrious family backgrounds, were the hardest to shake.
Pei Ji’s heart felt a pang of bitterness at her nonchalant appearance.
“Regardless, we still need to be cautious in the future.”
Li Zhi nodded thoughtfully in agreement.
For now, Worthy Consort Xu may not pose any harm to them, but who knew what could happen in the future. With incriminating evidence in the hands of others, they had to be even more vigilant.
They could not be the aggressors, but they had to do their best to protect themselves.
After some careful consideration, she fixed her calm gaze on him and spoke in a low voice, “If there is no pressing matter in the future, it’s best if we don’t meet again.”
Pei Ji’s eyes flickered slightly, and his heart gradually sank.
He had already anticipated her response before arriving at the Yuniu Palace.
From the very beginning, he knew she had ulterior motives when she approached him. Even after they had become intimate, she had always maintained a cool and collected demeanor. Now that their secret affair was exposed, the most sensible decision was to cut off all ties and not give others any ammunition to use against them.
Nevertheless, hearing her speak so decisively still left him feeling a bit crestfallen.
He pursed his lips and looked away, his voice somewhat husky as he replied, “I had the same idea.”
Li Zhi nodded, but suddenly seemed to recall something important. She gently grasped the fingers of his right hand, which lay on the bed, and looked up at him, saying, “General, about the matter you promised me before—”
Pei Ji quickly shot her a glance and withdrew his hand from hers, his expression stern as he replied, “If I made a promise, I won’t go back on my word.”
With that, he didn’t linger any longer and abruptly got up, extinguishing the only two candles in the room.
The room suddenly went dark, and Li Zhi couldn’t see anything for a moment. She only heard his deliberately light footsteps gradually moving away until he had left. She closed her eyes and fell into a deep sleep.
As the first rays of dawn began to filter through the windows, Li Jing Ye arose from his bed and started to dress. He was leaving Changtang Palace and heading towards the capital.
Despite retiring early to bed the night before, he had been unable to sleep. His mind was filled with worries and uncertainties that kept him tossing and turning for hours. Now, sitting on his carriage, he still felt groggy and lethargic. He reached up and gently massaged his forehead, hoping to shake off the sleepiness.
As the imperial carriage passed through Yuehua Gate, Li Jing Ye caught sight of Pei Ji who was walking away from Shaoyang Courtyard.
Li Jing Ye took a long look at his cousin, who stood up straight and elegant as a pine tree. Suddenly, he remembered something and asked Pei Ji to come closer. With a curious expression, Li Jing Ye scrutinized Pei Ji from head to toe and then whispered, “Zi Hui, how did you feel after drinking the deer blood wine that day?”
Pei Ji was taken aback by the sudden question. After thinking for a moment, he replied, “I felt a bit restless that night, but nothing unusual after that. Your Majesty, is something bothering you?”
Li Jing Ye paused for a moment and looked at him closely through the faint dawn light. Seeing that he looked energetic, he shook his head and said, “No, I just remembered that you were using it for the first time and you are also unmarried, so I asked casually.”
Pei Ji quickly glanced at the faint blue color under Li Jing Ye’s eyes and said, “Thank you for your concern, Your Majesty. I didn’t pay attention before, but now that you’ve reminded me, I’ll go back and ask a physician to take my pulse. It’s better to be careful when using something for the first time.”
Li Jing Ye listened and immediately understood what he meant, nodding and saying, “You’re right. In that case, go quickly. There is no important court meeting today, so I allow you to leave the palace first.”
Pei Ji responded and withdrew.
In the afternoon, after finishing the accumulated government affairs of the past two days, Li Jing Ye dismissed the court officials and returned to Feishuang Hall to take a nap.
He Yuan Shi followed his orders, avoiding the attention of others, and brought Imperial Physician Zhang, who was responsible for examining the Emperor’s pulse, into the hall. Standing behind the screen, he whispered, “Your Majesty, Imperial Physician Zhang is here.”
Li Jing Ye made a sound with his eyes closed and extended his left hand to rest on the edge of the couch.
Imperial Physician Zhang then approached and examined his pulse carefully with two fingers, followed by a series of observations and questions.
Li Jing Ye rubbed his forehead and sat up, answering each of Imperial Physician Zhang’s questions. Finally, he showed a trace of worry and asked, “How is my body doing?”
He was only twenty-six years old, in the prime of his youth, and although he often felt tired, he had never felt weak before.
Yesterday’s sudden fatigue made him really worried.
After being an Emperor for six years, his thoughts had become heavier, and he began to worry about his health and lifespan.
As a renowned imperial physician, Imperial Physician Zhang had been responsible for diagnosing the Emperor’s pulse for several years, and knew his condition better than anyone. After asking some questions and examining his pulse once again, he breathed a secret sigh of relief and answered in a low voice, “Your Majesty’s body is healthy and sound, there is nothing to worry about. However, due to the Empress Dowager’s prolonged illness, Your Majesty has been restless for many days, which has caused some physical weakness. Deer blood is a sacred substance that can nourish and replenish your vital energy. If you drink half a cup, it will certainly benefit Your Majesty. But if you drink two full cups, it will be a bit excessive, especially since Your Majesty also indulges in hunting and playing polo, which has resulted in signs of physical exhaustion.”
Li Jing Ye inquired, “What should I do in this situation?”
“Your Majesty need not worry, simply rest well and conserve your energy. Avoid over-exertion and excessive tonics, and in a few days, you will be back to your normal self,” the physician replied.
Upon hearing this, Li Jing Ye felt a sense of relief.
However, the memory of Xiao Chong’s insistence on drinking from the other day came to mind, and Li Jing Ye couldn’t help but feel a hint of doubt.
After seeing the doctor out, He Yuan Shi noticed the Emperor deep in thought and decided not to disturb him. He quietly added more tea to his cup before stepping aside.
Just as he was about to leave, Li Jing Ye picked up the teacup and took a sip. “Prepare my carriage. I shall go visit the Pure Consort,” he said.
After drinking the pregnancy medicine of the day, Pure Consort Xiao ate a preserved fruit to mask the taste. It was made from one of the sixteen famous broth recipes.
Lan Zhao, her personal handmaiden, brought over several newly-made snacks and said, “Your Highness, these were just sent over by the imperial kitchen.”
Pure Consort Xiao’s face was melancholic as she looked at the exquisitely delicious snacks in the plate, with no appetite whatsoever.
She was already afraid of losing her figure after pregnancy, but after being scolded by the Emperor that day, she reluctantly convinced herself to eat more, following the advice of the female officials.
However, the abnormal behavior of Worthy Consort Xu and the subtle change in the Emperor’s attitude towards her yesterday made her even more uncertain, and her already poor appetite due to morning sickness became even worse.
As she was hesitating whether to ask Lan Zhao to take the pastry away, she heard a commotion outside, followed by someone calling out “Your Majesty”.
She hurriedly asked Lan Zhao to put down the pastry, got up and prepared to greet the Emperor with a bow.
Li Jing Ye walked into the room with a gentle smile on his face, waving his hand to signal that Pure Consort Xiao need not bow to him. He then took her by the hand and led her to sit down beside him on the bed.
Pure Consort Xiao couldn’t help but feel a twinge of surprise in her heart at his unexpected visit. “Your Majesty, may I ask why you have come to see me at this hour?”
Li Jing Ye reached out and caressed her pregnant belly with a tender expression on his face. “I just finished handling state affairs and realized that I have not asked about your well-being in the past few days. Therefore, I have come to check on you.”
As he spoke, he turned his attention to the plate of delicacies on the table. “Why haven’t you eaten any of these?” he asked, “Do you not like them?”
Pure Consort Xiao shook her head and replied, “No, Your Majesty. I was just about to have some when you arrived.”
She was aware that he wanted her to eat more and maintain a healthy pregnancy, so she picked up a piece of the snack and put it in her mouth. However, as she chewed on the soft and savory treat, she suddenly felt a sharp pang of nausea rise up in her throat, making her regret her decision to eat.
She quickly turned her face to the side, covering it with her sleeve, and retched a couple of times, spitting out some vomit into the copper basin that Lan Zhao had swiftly presented to her.
Li Jing Ye’s brows furrowed unconsciously, but he soon regained his composure. He ordered warm water to be brought in and personally handed it over to her.
Pure Consort Xiao’s face was full of shame, and she couldn’t muster the courage to look up. After she rinsed her mouth and wiped away the tears, she apologized in a soft voice, “My behavior has offended Your Majesty.”
Li Jing Ye looked at her with a sigh and reached out to help her sit on the edge of the bed, saying in a gentle voice. “It’s understandable. You are carrying our child. If you can’t eat, take a break and then eat more when you feel better. Tomorrow, we will ask the female officials to come and see if they can find a way to relieve your morning sickness.”
Pure Consort Xiao’s heart melted, and her eyes were filled with gratitude.
“Thank you, Your Majesty. Your kindness is beyond words.”
Li Jing Ye’s eyes flickered with a moment of hesitation.
He gently stroked the hand that Pure Consort Xiao was holding tightly and spoke in a soft voice, “I have noticed that your condition has been very difficult lately. You need not worry about the affairs of the palace for the time being. We have the Worthy Consort who will handle everything. Your only task now is to rest and take care of yourself.”
Pure Consort Xiao’s face froze in an instant.
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