At the Noble Consort’s Feet Chapter 46

Chapter 46 Return

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A gathering of people had assembled outside the new house, consisting of both the Zhong family’s newly acquired servants and the palace attendants brought by Li Ling Yue. They stood facing each other, like two opposing armies ready for battle.

A loud disturbance came from within the house. Li Zhi hastened her steps and entered, only to be met with a sight that caused her to frown in consternation.

Inside the expansive room, Zhong Hao sat propped up on the bed, his complexion ashen and his expression numb. His body shook violently as if he had been afflicted by a sudden chill. He was wrapped tightly in thick blankets, and his hair was stiff with ice. But as the warmth of the room gradually thawed his frozen locks, droplets began to trickle down his scalp. He seemed frozen to the core.

Madam Yang stood by her son’s side, tears streaming down her face as she sobbed uncontrollably. Her gaze was filled with bitterness as she directed it towards the room.

Following her aunt’s gaze, Li Zhi looked towards the inner room and saw Li Ling Yue sitting calmly at her dressing table while her attendants busily combed her hair.

With her back to the door, Zhong Miao Yun was unable to restrain her emotions as she scolded Li Ling Yue, “You married my elder brother and became his wife. How could you treat him so heartlessly? My mother is also your mother-in-law, and you should serve her dutifully. How could you behave so impolitely?”

Li Ling Yue sat upright with a straight back, seemingly oblivious to her presence. Her chest rose and fell slightly, betraying her suppressed anger.

Zhong Miao Yun’s anger flared as she received no response. Just as she was about to speak, Madam Yang behind her spotted Li Zhi and hurried over, calling out, “Third Sister, you’ve arrived! Take a look at your elder brother’s condition. He spent the night outside, unable to enter his own bridal chamber, and may have frozen to death if I hadn’t found him!”

Li Zhi frowned and stepped back, avoiding Madam Yang’s attempt to take her hand. She had a sense of what had occurred.

Last night, Li Ling Yue had forbidden Zhong Hao from entering their bridal chamber, ordering him to be thrown out in the cold. When Madam Yang discovered him this morning, she was naturally upset and angry.

It was entirely in line with Li Ling Yue’s character.

She sneered and said, “If the Princess does not want to be disturbed, then Aunt can take my cousin back to the Zhong Mansion, and everything will be peaceful.”

Madam Yang was taken aback and stared at her, as if accusing her of not standing up for her own family.

Li Ling Yue glanced at her with slight surprise, not anticipating that she would speak up for her. However, that surprise soon turned into disgust.

She looked at the stiff and confused Zhong Hao with disgust and waved her hand dismissively. “Fine, get rid of him quickly. Don’t be in my sight. You don’t have to come to my residence again.”

“You!” Madam Yang’s eyes welled up with tears, unable to believe what she was hearing. For a moment, she felt as if her throat was blocked and couldn’t speak. She was filled with anger that she couldn’t express.

Zhong Miao Yun was young and impulsive, with a bold personality. Seeing the situation, she didn’t hesitate to curse, “You’re just using your Princess status as an excuse. My mother is also a first-rank lady and her status is no lower than yours. Besides, it was you who took the initiative to seduce my elder brother. If you hadn’t gotten pregnant before marriage, do you think our family would have agreed to your marriage proposal?”

This remark was like a sharp blade slicing through Li Ling Yue’s heart, exposing her deepest vulnerability to the world.

Li Ling Yue’s fiery temperament, which she had always struggled to contain, finally erupted like a volcano. Without a moment’s hesitation, she sprang to her feet and struck Zhong Miao Yun with a forceful slap.

There was a sharp “smack” as Li Ling Yue’s palm connected with Zhong Miao Yun’s face, causing her to turn to the side in shock. She then covered her reddening cheek.

Li Ling Yue’s chest heaved with anger as she delivered her biting retort. “I was born a Princess, with a birthright to all the riches and honors. But what about you? How did your mother, Duchess of Qinguo, rise to her position? Did she forget the struggles and sacrifices that brought her there?”

Zhong Miao Yun stared at Li Ling Yue with a mix of shock and fury. Unable to hold back any longer, she charged straight at Li Ling Yue.

At the sight of the escalating situation, Li Zhi’s heart sank, and she shouted, “Stop her!”

Li Ling Yue was caught off guard and took a few steps back. She stumbled and fell heavily onto the couch, gasping for air.

Madam Yang also felt anxious. After all, Li Ling Yue was an imperial princess, and any trouble she caused could implicate the entire Zhong family.

Li Zhi ordered the palace maid beside Li Ling Yue, “Go and summon the female officials for the Princess.” After the maid left in a hurry, she turned around and commanded that everyone, including Zhong Miao Yun, be taken out.

In any case, your body is your own. Please take care of yourself, Princess,” Li Zhi said before leaving.

Despite feeling sympathy, she could not bring herself to genuinely like Li Ling Yue. Instead, she needed more compassion for her own plight.

Li Ling Yue tightly pursed her lips and glared at her, refusing to show any signs of defeat until she was out of sight. Only then did the painful expression on her face slowly appear. She held her stomach with one hand and gasped for breath.

“Princess, the female official has arrived!” The palace maid was startled and rushed to bring the official into the room.

“Get out.” Li Ling Yue picked up the porcelain cup beside her and threw it towards the door, her face cold and covered in cold sweat. “I’m fine. Without my orders, no one is allowed to come in.”

This wasn’t the first time she felt pain in her abdomen. Ever since she found out she was pregnant more than a month ago, she often experienced symptoms such as bleeding and cramps.

She always kept it from the female officials who examined her, and whenever she encountered these symptoms, she would often find excuses to drive them away.

She had a premonition that the child in her womb was not meant to be with her, and sooner or later, she would not be able to keep it.

Her wish was fulfilled.

In the main hall, Madam Yang had already sent her son back to the neighboring Zhong mansion, and was now discussing with her daughter in anger about Li Zhi’s behavior. “Third Daughter is really unreasonable. She doesn’t give any face to her own family in front of outsiders. She became a Noble Consort, but she’s not necessarily living a good life outside, so now she’s showing off in our home!”

Zhong Miao Yun was putting a cold, damp cloth on her face with the help of a maid. She couldn’t help but let out a painful “hiss”. 

“A’Zhi is just a coward. If it were me, I wouldn’t let anyone bully my own family like this.”

Lan Ying had just arrived and immediately frowned upon hearing Zhong Miao Yun’s words. “What are you saying, Fourth Sister? Third Sister is a Noble Consort now, how can you talk about her like this?”

Before Zhong Miao Yun could speak, Li Zhi came in with a cold face and said straightforwardly, “Please, Aunt, stay in the Zhong mansion in the future. You don’t need to go to the Princess’s mansion if there is no business. It’s the same for Cousin.”

Madam Yang immediately refused, “Why should I? She is my daughter-in-law, and the child in her belly is also the descendant of my Zhong family!”

Li Zhi stared at her expressionlessly, her beautiful and brilliant face revealing a hint of oppression. “The Princess is the beloved daughter of the Empress Dowager, and even His Majesty did not dare to criticize her. If it weren’t for the sake of the Princess’s reputation, do you think my cousin could have gotten away with such a minor punishment for his mistake in the palace?”

Madam Yang was caught off guard and her mind immediately flashed back to the image of Zhong Hao being beaten and brought back home, his body dripping with blood, several months ago. Her heart trembled with fear, and she stuttered, unable to utter a word.

“If he has the audacity to take the Princess as hos wife, then he must accept the consequences of his actions. Aunt, you would do well to take care of yourself.” Li Zhi paid no heed to the increasingly unbecoming expressions on the faces of the mother and daughter, and departed with Lan Ying.

Halfway through their walk, they saw Pei Ji leading several guards swiftly walking towards them in the nearby corridor.

Li Zhi couldn’t help but stop and nod to him in greeting. “General, where are you going? Has something happened?”

Pei Ji saw her and paused in his steps. He scanned her up and down with a composed expression, as if verifying something. After ensuring that she was safe, his previously harsh expression eased a bit.

He bowed and spoke, “I’ve heard that there was a dispute between the Princess and the Duchess of Qinguo regarding the marriage proposal, and I was worried that it might escalate. That’s why I rushed here.”

Having heard the commotion, Pei Ji knew that with the hot-headed Princess and the irascible Duke of Qinguo, it was a recipe for disaster. It was a good thing that nothing significant happened, considering the situation she was in.

Li Zhi’s icy gaze softened, and she regarded him with a suggestive look. She smiled and spoke, “General, your attention is welcomed as the Princess’s cousin. Although there is no need to worry at the moment, you can go and check on the Princess if you remain concerned. We will soon depart for Lishan.”

Pei Ji sensed the irony in her words and felt somewhat irritated by it. He knew that she had not been affected by the incident earlier, and he was relieved, but he didn’t understand why she had to be so sarcastic.

He had no romantic involvement with Ling Yue, and she knew that very well, but he still felt compelled to mention it.

Upon reflection, he acknowledged that he had been overly concerned, and that her earlier words were not directed at him.

He bowed his head and spoke in a deep, resolute tone, “As long as the Noble Consort is present, I believe there will be no issues. I don’t need to check again. The carriage is ready to go and we can depart at any moment. We are only waiting for the Noble Consort to say goodbye to her family.”

Li Zhi inhaled deeply and cast a glance at the already brightening sky. “Allow me to have a word with my older sister first, and then we may depart.”

She felt no particular fondness for the Zhong family, but Lan Ying was a different matter entirely. Even though they had talked for hours the night before, it seemed like they had barely scratched the surface.

The two sisters returned to the room. Li Zhi instructed Qing Zi to distribute the items that Li Jing Ye had prepared to everyone, while she and Chun Yue took out a few small and expensive jade items and gave them to Lan Ying.

Lan Ying understood her intention, and accepted it without hesitation. She held her hand and reminded her repeatedly, “Third Sister, you are in the palace, you must be very careful in your actions.” Worry gradually appeared between her eyebrows, and she lowered her voice, “Especially that General Pei from earlier, you must stay alert.”

Li Zhi’s face turned serious, and she nodded heavily. “Elder Sister, rest assured, I won’t believe any of those men.”

The two sisters said goodbye and left each other with reluctance.

The carriage and horses were prepared outside the mansion, and Pei Ji was seen sitting on his horse when Li Zhi approached. He looked at her with a gloomy expression.

Li Zhi naturally noticed his gaze.

Both of them avoided eye contact and made no indication of acknowledging each other’s presence.

Although there were countless pairs of eyes outside the palace, things were much more relaxed. Returning to the strictly regulated palace now, there was some sadness in her heart.

However, it was not yet time and she had to endure and persevere through it all, for there would always be a way out.

She recited in her heart, took a deep breath, and put on a gentle and decent smile as she stepped onto the carriage amidst countless gazes.

Pei Ji watched in silence as he turned his horse’s head, waving his big hand to signal the start of their journey.

One hundred Imperial Guards responded, escorting the procession as it made its way towards the city gates at a leisurely pace.

The procession intentionally moved slowly on their way back, as there was no need to rush for any auspicious hour. By the time they arrived at the Wenquan Resort, it was already past noon.

Li Jing Ye was riding in his carriage towards them when he saw her, so she stepped back to the side of the road and bowed to him.

Li Jing Ye appeared to be in a very good mood. When he approached, he personally got off the carriage and helped her up. He then turned to Pei Ji, who was leaving with the imperial guards, and said, “Thank you, Zi Hui,” before taking her with him to Yuniu Palace.

She leaned against him tenderly and asked, “Why did Your Majesty come at this time? Were you thinking about Princess’s wedding and came to ask about me?”

Li Jing Ye embraced her tightly, his hand lifting her chin to study her enchanting face. He was so taken by her beauty that he couldn’t help but lightly caress her lips.

The restlessness that had been brewing within him last night was suddenly alleviated to a large extent when he embraced her.

Like a spring, she slowly soaked into his heart and filled the void, providing him with temporary solace.

He had never taken notice of her before when she was present in the palace every day. It was only when she was absent last night that he realized he had grown somewhat anxious about her.

“Li-niang,” he said with a soft gaze, “You were not there last night, and I found myself missing you.”

Li Zhi couldn’t help but recall the scene from last night when she was entangled with Pei Ji. Her gaze flickered as she slowly leaned into his embrace, wearing a gentle smile. “Your Majesty, don’t try to deceive me. I was only gone for one night. You often rest in other palaces too. How could you possibly miss me?”

Li Jing Ye didn’t say anything more. He just held her closer and gently stroked her back with his other hand.

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