Chapter 47 Medicine delivery
Li Jing Ye concluded his duties for the day and eagerly made his way to Yuniu Palace.
Knowing that he was coming, Li Zhi had already prepared herself and was waiting patiently in her room. When she saw him, she greeted him with a smile and was about to bow in respect, but he quickly pulled her up and led her into the inner chamber. “No need for so many formalities. It’s freezing outside, don’t catch a cold.”
“Thank you for your concern, Your Majesty,” Li Zhi replied meekly, bowing her head. She followed him to the bed and sat beside him, half-kneeling.
Li Jing Ye gripped her by the waist with one hand and picked up a cup of tea with the other. After taking a few sips, he set the cup down and pulled her into his embrace, kissing her with a gentle touch. “What happened to the fox fur I brought you from the hunt? Why haven’t you been wearing it? It’s freezing out there, you have to be careful.”
Li Zhi furrowed her brows almost imperceptibly, realizing that she had forgotten about the fox fur Li Jing Ye had brought back from the hunt. She recalled that not long after, He Yuan Shi had brought the fur to her. However, she hadn’t paid much attention to it, and she never had it remade into clothes. Now, she had no idea where it was or if she still had it.
She turned her head to the side with a slight smile and said, “Your Majesty, I have not yet decided what to do with the fox fur. It has been sitting in my cabinet all this time.”
Li Jing Ye took a step back and studied her closely before saying, “Why don’t we make the fur into a hand warmer? Your hands are always so cold, and with the addition of the silver sachet, it will keep you warm and fashionable when you go out.”
The silver sachet in question was the grape and bird patterned one that Li Jing Ye had gifted her previously. Made of pure silver, the sachet was intricately carved in the shape of a hollow sphere that could easily fit in the palm of her hand. Once lit, the incense inside would burn slowly.
Although the silver sachet was originally a royal item, Li Jing Ye could not help but think of Li Zhi when he first saw it. Without hesitation, he presented it to her as a gift.
“I’ll listen to Your Majesty,” she began to say, but he had already pulled her onto the bed and placed her gently down before she could finish.
She was just starting to unwind when a sudden cramp seized her lower abdomen, and a rush of warmth spread across her body.
“Your Majesty,” she said with a pale face and small beads of sweat on her forehead. “I’m afraid I won’t be able to attend to you today.”
Li Jing Ye stopped and, noticing her condition, quickly lifted her up and held her in his arms, rubbing her abdomen as he asked, “What happened? Has your monthly cycle arrived?”
Li Zhi leaned weakly against Li Jing Ye’s chest and nodded before calling out for Chun Yue to come.
After drinking the medicine for half a month, her menstrual cycle had become irregular. According to the calendar, it should have been three or four more days.
She looked up at him with a smile and apologized, “I’m feeling a little unwell. Your Majesty, please visit someone else’s palace.”
Li Jing Ye’s expression softened, and he spoke in a gentle voice, “It’s alright. I’ll stay here with you. You might feel cold at night, and I’ll make sure you’re warm.”
She shook her head, enduring the discomfort. “Your Majesty spends more than half of each month by my side and I am already ashamed of it. Now that I am unwell, how can I continue to keep you here?” With a soft and melancholic voice, she added, “Your Majesty is in his prime and should have more heirs to the throne.”
Li Jing Ye paused for a moment, his eyes filled with remorse as he looked at her.
The two of them were silent for a while. He slowly rose and added another layer of clothing to her. “You can sleep with the bedding to keep you warm and let your body recover.”
Li Zhi silently nodded, watching him leave. Finally, she relaxed and got up with the help of Chun Yue to clean up.
He probably won’t be staying here for the next few days.
Worthy Consort Xu welcomed Li Jing Ye into her palace near Changtang Pool with grace and elegance.
The echoes of the Empress Dowager’s words haunted Worthy Consort Xu’s thoughts after she bid farewell to Li Ling Yue at her wedding yesterday.
While contemplating that Li Jing Ye had not visited her palace for a long time, Worthy Consort Xu pondered over the possibility of bearing a child. She had intended to ask the Empress Dowager to intervene after a few days, but Li Jing Ye arrived unexpectedly today.
After contemplating for a moment, Worthy Consort Xu entered the room and knelt down before Li Jing Ye without hesitation.
Li Jing Ye was taken aback and asked, “Worthy Consort, what brings you to kneel before me?”
Worthy Consort Xu, who had always held herself with dignity and grace, surprised everyone with her sudden act of submission before Li Jing Ye.
Worthy Consort Xu bowed her head and said, “Your Majesty, I beg your forgiveness for not informing you earlier about the matter. I have already apologized to the Empress Dowager, but I did not want to disturb you. Now that you are here, I apologize to you first.”
Li Jing Ye sat down slowly and observed Worthy Consort Xu for a moment. He spoke in a gentle tone, “It’s alright. As long as you have recognized your mistake, that is enough. You have been in the palace for a long time, and now you are responsible for managing the harem. As long as you fulfill your duties, I will not mistreat you.”
A hint of disdain flashed in Worthy Consort Xu’s eyes as she lowered her gaze, but she quickly lowered her head even further and thanked the Emperor before rising slowly.
They exchanged a few words, but it felt as though they had returned to their previous relationship of distance and reserve, both with their own thoughts.
Worthy Consort Xu disrobed and shed her usual plain appearance, revealing a peaceful face with a hint of rosy red. She spoke eagerly, “Your Majesty, I beseech you to grant me a child.”
After much consideration, she realized that it was better to be proactive and confess her intentions to the Emperor rather than risk his suspicion and lose his favor, as Pure Consort Xiao had during her pregnancy.
As the Emperor lacked heirs, he had no reason to deny her request.
As she anticipated, the Emperor took a moment to contemplate before gradually relaxing his expression and leaning closer to her. He then murmured “alright.”
Feeling relieved, Worthy Consort Xu followed the Emperor’s lead and laid back.
Unlike Empress Xiao, she harbored no romantic feelings for the Emperor.
She understood that to hold her ground in the palace and restore her family’s standing, she needed more than just the Emperor’s fleeting affection – she needed real power.
Like Du Heng, she knew that even if the Emperor did not favor her, she must be careful not to easily shake his confidence.
Li Jing Ye stayed in Worthy Consort Xu’s palace for three days in a row, which quickly put an end to the rumors that she was not favored by the Emperor.
Pure Consort Xiao was growing more and more anxious. She had planned for Lady Wang and Lady Wei to receive some favor while Li Zhi was unable to serve, but she was surprised to find that Worthy Consort Xu had beaten them to it.
At night, Chun Yue rummaged through the boxes and cabinets in the Yuniu Palace, looking for the fox fur. As she did so, she told Li Zhi about what she had heard, “… It was Qing Zi who said that Lady Wei had been lingering near the Yuehua Gate for two days, waiting for His Majesty to pass by so she could say a few words to him. But Worthy Consort Xu was even more cunning. In the evening, she personally delivered food to the back palace, ate with His Majesty, and then returned to Changtang Palace with him, leaving no chance for Lady Wei.”
Li Zhi sat by the couch, using a small pair of wooden tongs to peel the walnuts she had saved from the summer and autumn.
She nodded thoughtfully as she listened to Chun Yue’s words, her mind turning to the intentions of Worthy Consort Xu.
Although she knew that Li Jing Ye was intentionally distancing himself from Du Heng, Worthy Consort Xu continued to make every effort to please the Empress Dowager and the Du family. It seemed that she was not really competing with the other concubines for Li Jing Ye’s favor.
Recalling Pei Ji’s words, she felt more and more that Worthy Consort Xu was fighting for power for her family. She was making every effort to win Li Jing Ye’s favor, likely in order to become pregnant as soon as possible.
The loyalists of the noble families like the Du and Pei families were becoming increasingly dissatisfied with Xiao Ling Fu. Now that Pure Consort Xiao was pregnant, the officials had become more cautious and repeatedly reminded Li Jing Ye not to favor this Pure Consort too much, as having more children should be his priority.
Although no one around her knew much about court affairs, the gossip among the palace maids and the things she had heard at the wedding a few days ago had made her aware of the situation.
If it were her, she would probably choose to align with the Empress Dowager’s faction.
Firstly, Li Jing Ye was emotionally distant, and no matter what kind of affection, it was believed that he could not sustain it for long. How could Worthy Consort Xu have feelings for a vacillating Li Jing Ye when she could decisively cut off her ambiguous feelings for Pei Ji over the years?
Secondly, once she had a child, with the clean lineage and high social status of the Xu family, she will surely gain the support of most of the elderly ministers. Even if Li Jing Ye intended to suppress her, he would not act recklessly.
Therefore, Worthy Consort Xu was unlikely to have any interest in focusing her attention on a powerless and unimportant imperial concubine like her. She could rest assured for the time being.
After a moment of contemplation, Li Zhi let out a sigh of relief and picked up half a walnut kernel, popping it into her mouth.
The slightly dry, astringent taste with a hint of oil spread from her tongue. Although the walnuts were not as easy to crack open as they were in later generations, the taste was just right. Despite this, the small plate of walnuts in front of her was of excellent quality and high value.
Li Zhi had only taken a few sips of tea when Chun Yue exclaimed in delight, “Found it! Look, Miss, it was hidden at the bottom of the box!”
Glancing over, Li Zhi saw that she held a fiery red fox fur in her hand. She nodded and said, “Send it to the Weaving Bureau tomorrow and have them make a hand warmer.”
With a gesture, she motioned for her to come closer and pushed the plate of shelled walnuts over to her.
Chun Yue had grown accustomed to this routine and didn’t refuse. After folding the fox fur neatly, she sat down and picked up a walnut, thanking Li Zhi with a smile.
The two chatted for a while longer. Suddenly, as if remembering something, Chun Yue looked at Li Zhi’s slightly pale face and said softly, “Miss, when will the medicine that was prescribed be delivered? It’s painful every month, and I can’t bear to see you suffer.”
Li Zhi had been suffering from abdominal pain for two days straight and had been unable to do anything but rest on the bed. Even the hot soup sent by the female official at the command of Li Jing Ye had been of no use until today, when she was finally beginning to feel better.
She cast a fleeting glance at the flickering candle, recalling Pei Ji’s words from the other night. “It should be within these two days.”
It was very difficult for him to meet her in secret, but luckily, Li Jing Ye was at Changtang Palace in the past two nights. He was on duty at night, and if he saw the imperial carriage passing by from the Zhongyang Gate tower, he should come.
Chun Yue pondered for a moment before speaking, “Today is the first day of twelfth lunar month, and General Pei is on duty every seventh day. I don’t know if we should wait until then for him to send the medicine.”
Li Zhi smiled as she rubbed the sore spots on her body. “It’s not a magic medicine that will make the pain go away instantly,” she said. “Physician Zhang said that it would take months or even years of regular use to see any effects. A few days’ delay won’t make much difference.”
Though she felt anxious, Chun Yue realized that Li Zhi was right. After eating two more walnuts, she helped Li Zhi up and assisted her in washing and changing clothes before settling her onto the warmed bed.
Just as she was about to put out the light, a familiar knocking sound came from the window frame next to the bed.
Chun Yue and Li Zhi exchanged a glance and asked in a hushed voice, “Who is it?”
The familiar, deep voice drifted through the crack.
Before Li Zhi could speak, Chun Yue stepped forward to open the window and asked, “Is the General here to deliver the medicine?”
The icy wind surged in as Pei Ji nodded stoically, dusted the snow off his clothing, scanned his surroundings, and then clambered inside.
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