At the Noble Consort’s Feet Chapter 48

Chapter 48 Sharing bitterness

<Previous Chapter<Table of Contents>Next Chapter>

The soft sheets cocooned Li Zhi’s body, but the frigid breeze that crept through the room still managed to send a shiver down her spine.

Pei Ji stood by the bed, expressionless, and turned to close the window tightly before taking two steps closer and placing a white porcelain jar on the bedside table.

Chun Yue took a quick glance at the pair before silently slipping out of the room and pulling the door shut behind her.

“Here are 90 pills, taken twice daily with water, enough for 45 days. After finishing the prescription, you can take note of your symptoms and I will relay them to the physician to prepare a new prescription.”

His expression remained cold and inscrutable, but his deep, dark eyes remained fixed on her as he spoke.

Li Zhi’s lips curved into a grateful smile as she accepted the jar from the General’s outstretched hand. After a brief examination, she placed it back down and regarded him curiously. “May I ask what brings you here, General? Today is not the seventh day of the month, and I did not expect to see you outside your usual post.”

As she spoke, her gaze was cautious, as if searching for something in his eyes.

Pei Ji avoided her gaze, his lips pursed as he explained in a low voice, “The day of duty changes every few days. Recently, I’ve been assigned to duty every ten days.” Pausing for a moment, he added, as if anticipating her doubts, “I made sure to come to deliver the medicine to the Noble Consort at the right time.”

At that moment, a fleeting blush passed across his solemn and stern face, though he quickly regained his composure.

Li Zhi raised her eyebrows, studying his peculiar expression before slowly realizing he was referring to her monthly cycle.

These two days were the only ones where Li Jing Ye would not stay overnight in Yuniu Palace. Perhaps it was when they were at the clinic, and she was questioned by the physician about it, that he quietly took note of the information.

Had it not been two days early, today would have been the second day.

She let out a teasing smile, her eyes narrowing as she spoke, “General Pei is certainly more attentive than I could ever imagine.”

Pei Ji’s face flashed with a hint of embarrassment before he regained his composure and spoke with a solemn tone, “This is no small matter, and I must think it over carefully.”

Then he reached into his sleeve, producing a small sachet which he presented to her. “I purchased this fragrance from a merchant in the Western Regions just last month. It is said to be a popular item used within the Western Regions palace. If added to the incense burner daily, it can prevent pregnancy without any harm to the body. Should you wish to conceive, simply discontinue use for a few months.”

As he spoke, his expression remained grave, though a faint blush betrayed his otherwise calm demeanor.

She accepted the sachet from him with a degree of skepticism.

Despite Great Wei’s vast lands and bountiful resources, it was difficult for her to imagine that such a convenient contraceptive was available. Not even the neighboring small kingdoms could boast such a luxury.

She gingerly sniffed at the sachet, noting the subtle aroma that gradually filled her nostrils.

“Is this truly effective?”

Pei Ji nodded firmly. “The merchant has sold this fragrance for several years, and it is said that three or five wives from Chang’an frequently visit him for this item. I have made inquiries and can confirm that it does indeed work.”

Li Zhi rested against her pillow and observed his unwavering expression, feeling herself drawn into his conviction.

He had always been a reliable man, and she was certain that he had found this remedy last month but had only brought it to her now after conducting secret inquiries, which must have been a daunting task.

The day he had lifted her into the carriage and into the Princess’s palace, Shi Quan’s face betrayed a flicker of shock. It was likely that he had revealed even more amazement when he had asked around about the efficacy of this exotic fragrance.

The thought brought a lightness to her soul, and a smile crept across her face, bringing warmth to her previously ashen complexion.

Pei Ji’s eyes gradually softened.

He lowered himself to his knees, carefully selecting a pill from the jar, and dropped it into the warm water he had poured into the teacup. After giving it a gentle shake to mix the contents, he offered it to her, saying softly, “Drink this medicine first, Your Highness.”

Li Zhi peered down at the liquid swirling in the teacup, its bitter aroma wafting up to her nose. The memory of being coerced into drinking medicinal soup by Li Jing Ye resurfaced, making her throat feel constricted with discomfort.

She pouted and bit her lip, a rare moment of petulance creeping into her demeanor. Stepping back slightly, she averted her gaze and protested, “This medicine is too bitter. I don’t want to drink it.”

This behavior was quite out of character for the usually mature and alluring woman, the delicate and petulant display an intriguing departure from her usual confidence.

Pei Ji cradled the tea cup in his hands, eyes fixed on her delicate profile. For a moment, he was at a loss, his once-resolute expression softening. Finally, he spoke in a soothing voice, “The best medicine is often bitter, but don’t be afraid. Tomorrow, I shall have the palace maids prepare honeyed treats for you. For now, endure this temporary inconvenience.”

Li Zhi looked at him with a pitiful expression, “Darling Third, please feed me.”

Caught off guard by her use of the endearment, Pei Ji’s mind scattered momentarily. “But there is no spoon in the room, how shall I feed you?”

Her alluring eyes glistened with a certain ambiguity, glancing over his lips with a playful hint.

Pei Ji was taken aback by her sudden request. He tried to regain his composure, but the sight of her pouting lips and delicate features caused his face to flush red. He held the tea cup with trembling hands, unsure of how to proceed.

Li Zhi gazed at him with a calm and enigmatic smile. Her usual mature and alluring demeanor was replaced with a hint of playfulness and stubbornness.

Pei Ji’s heart skipped a beat as he struggled to decipher the meaning behind her words. Was she teasing him? Or was she serious? His voice wavered as he spoke, hoping to get a clear answer.

Li Zhi found his hesitation amusing. She knew that he was always composed and collected, but when it came to matters of the heart, he was still a novice. She took the tea cup from his trembling hands and drank the bitter medicine in one gulp.

The bitterness overwhelmed her senses, and she was about to reach for a handkerchief to wipe her lips when Pei Ji surprised her by leaning in and capturing her lips. His touch was gentle yet possessive, as if he couldn’t bear to let her go.

With his one hand holding her close to him and the other hand tangling in her luscious locks, Pei Ji deepened the kiss. His lips moved in perfect harmony with hers, and for a moment, the bitter medicine was forgotten.

Li Zhi was stunned for a moment, then she wrapped her arms around his neck and allowed him to continue kissing her.

The two bodies got closer and closer, almost sticking together.

After a long time, Pei Ji released her and let her lean against his shoulder, panting slightly.

She lifted her gaze and caught sight of his strong jawline, tracing her fingers lightly over his throat as his Adam’s apple bobbed up and down. “I’m afraid it’s inconvenient today.”

Pei Ji’s body stiffened at her words, and he couldn’t help but gaze at her, his fingers entwining with hers as he leaned in and nipped gently at her snowy white fingertips. “I know. But the medicine is bitter and I can’t ease your pain. The least I can do is taste it with you to make it better.”

Li Zhi was struck by his words, the phrase “shared sweetness and bitterness” echoing in her mind.

She had never known what it was like to “share sweetness,” but in that moment, she thought she might understand “shared bitterness” just a little better.

If anyone else had said something like that to her, she might have laughed it off, accustomed as she was to flattery and empty words. With her beauty, she had always been praised and adored by many.

She had grown accustomed to hearing sweet words from others, but had also developed a keen sense of when they were insincere. She no longer put much stock in their empty promises.

However, he was never one to act in that way.

He was a man of few words, composed and resolute. Even though she often teased him and threw him off balance, he never wavered in his ultimate conviction.

The words spoken by a person like him left her with no reason to doubt.

She became lost in thought for a moment, and her gaze toward him became more inquisitive.

“Do you treat all women with such consideration?”

Pei Ji silently massaged her waist, abdomen, and back. As he saw her gradually relax her stiff body, he shook his head and replied, “I haven’t been this intimate with anyone else.”

Li Zhi thought for a moment and asked, “What about the Princess? She admires you so deeply. You must have treated her well before, right?”

Pei Ji paused, his sharp gaze scrutinizing her features for any hint of subtext behind her words.

But she remained unfazed, calmly picking up a clean teacup and rinsing her mouth with the warm water as if discussing the weather.

His expression darkened at the mention of the princess, and he helped her lie down on the bed covers before speaking with a furrowed brow. “It’s only childhood memories. She was a Princess and my cousin, so I had to pay more attention to her. But after I went to Hedong, I only saw her a few times a year. There was nothing else between us. She’s just obsessed.”

The night was getting late, and her delicate features showed a hint of exhaustion from the day’s activities.

He reached out to gently push back the strands of hair falling on her forehead, intending to leave and let her rest. But she suddenly caught his robes in her grasp.

She reclined on the bed, her bright eyes gleaming with a soft light. “It’s snowing heavily outside. Apply some hand ointment before you go.”

His hands were rougher than usual, made even more so by the cold and dryness of winter. A few swollen, reddened patches peeked out between the knuckles, hinting at the onset of frostbite. Clearly, he’d never given them much thought before.

In Chang’an, there was no other noble youth quite like him.

Standing by the bed in silence, Pei Ji watched her as she sat up halfway, retrieved his hand cream from the wooden box at the head of the bed, and began to apply it to his hands with slow, deliberate strokes.

Unable to resist any longer, he leaned down and pressed his lips to hers in a passionate kiss, his hands smoothing over her back and pulling her close.

The still air was filled with the faint crackling of the candles, casting a warm, amber glow over the room.

He held her tightly for a long moment before reluctantly pulling away, studying her face in silence before turning to extinguish the candle and slip out the window

The following day marked the beginning of the twelfth lunar month, with the New Year fast approaching.

Having resided at Wenquan Resort for over two months after leaving Daming Palace, and with numerous court meetings and ceremonial events slated to unfold during and after the festive season, Li Jing Ye finally gave the order to relocate back to Daming Palace in ten days’ time.

The Imperial Guards, officials from the Inner Court, as well as those from the Six Ministries and Twenty-four Departments, were all back in full swing. For several days on end, the palace was bustling with activity as the maids and eunuchs, braving the bitter cold and snow, scrambled about to take stock of all the palace items.

However, on the eighth day of the twelfth lunar month, news from Youzhou suddenly arrived, revealing that Ashina Duobi, who had been amassing his forces for a long time, had finally led 80,000 cavalry to launch an aggressive attack on the Great Wei border!

Despite the fact that everyone, from the Emperor to the officials, had long anticipated this war, the news still sent shock waves throughout the palace.

The issue of whether military and political power over the border regions should be vested in a single military governor remained unresolved, even after much debate. Although An Yi Kang had control over Lulong’s army, the power over the grain and finances still lay in the hands of local officials. In such a critical moment, anxiety and apprehension naturally ensued.

Li Jing Ye was filled with anxiety and didn’t wait another day. On the ninth day of the first lunar month, he took his entourage and returned to  Daming Palace.

Along the way, he was busy discussing matters with the officials and didn’t even have time to greet the Empress Dowager, let alone summon any of the concubines.

Consequently, Li Zhi was left to her own devices.

She and Chun Yue were snuggled together in the spacious carriage, clutching warm hand stoves for comfort. She watched as Chun Yue embroidered a new sachet for her, while pondering about the impending war in her mind.

If her memory served her right, Pei Ji was promoted for his role in this war. He succeeded his father, Pei Yan, as the military governor of Hedong and became the youngest military governor among the officials.

If you enjoy this novel, support the Translator ginevre on her ko-fi account :))

<Previous Chapter<Table of Contents>Next Chapter>

Leave a comment