At the Noble Consort’s Feet Chapter 54

Chapter 54 Miao Yun

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At the Emperor’s order, the palace ladies who had been in close proximity to the Taiye Pool were subjected to a thorough interrogation. Not even the concubines were spared, specialized eunuchs and female officials were dispatched to extract every scrap of information about what they had witnessed.

Amidst a sea of contradictory claims from the concubines and palace ladies, some claiming the night was dark and the wind howled so fiercely that they could not see clearly, while others insisted they had not noticed anything amiss, only Qian Yang stood firm. With unwavering conviction, she swore that she had seen the Noble Consort with her own eyes, forcibly shoving the Pure Consort into the water, dragging the Worthy Consort down with her in the process.

After several days of fruitless interrogations, it seemed as though the truth would remain forever shrouded in mystery.

In Yanying Hall, He Yuan Shi received news of a crucial development and hastened inside, leaning in close to whisper a few cryptic words into Li Jing Ye’s ear.

With a quick glance at the assembled officials, Li Jing Ye gestured nonchalantly and remarked, “No need to stand on ceremony. As this matter concerns the Pure Consort, it would be remiss of us not to seek the counsel of Prime Minister Xiao, who happens to be with us today.”

He Yuan Shi took a step back, clearing his throat before launching into a dramatic account of the interrogation’s outcome, each detail punctuated with increasing urgency.

“It would seem that no one, apart from Qian Yang, can definitively attest to the Noble Consort’s involvement,” Li Jing Ye declared, visibly relieved. His gaze turned towards Xiao Ling Fu, silently inviting him to speak his mind.

He had no intention of blaming the incident on Li Zhi, and since Qian Yang’s testimony alone was insufficient to convict, as long as Xiao Ling Fu and Purr Consort Xiao were willing to speak up, the matter could be put to rest.

The implication of his words was so clear that Xiao Ling Fu immediately grasped the meaning.

But he still felt a twinge of reluctance. He knew his own daughter better than anyone. She had always been an obedient girl who would never make such claims without a real reason.

After hesitating for a moment, he bowed respectfully and said, “With only one person’s testimony, it is insufficient to convict the Noble Consort. Furthermore, I heard that the palace maid in question had served the Noble Consort before being demoted to Yeting Palace. Perhaps she had an old grudge with the Noble Consort and was merely taking advantage of the situation to make false accusations.”

Nobody else was aware of the old grudges between the two women, but people were always eager to speculate.

Li Jing Ye knew the truth, but he chose not to elaborate. He was quite pleased to see that Xiao Ling Fu had yielded gracefully.

Before he could even nod in agreement, Xiao Ling Fu added, “However, it’s disheartening to hear that His Majesty is rumored to be unable to distinguish right from wrong and only favors Noble Consort Zhong. It sends a chill down my spine.”

Li Jing Ye’s previously cleared expression darkened once more. “It appears that Prime Minister Xiao is still brooding over this matter.”

Xiao Ling Fu immediately bent his waist even lower and said, “I would not dare to speak againat the Noble Consort, Your Majesty. However, as they say, words can be dangerous. Your Majesty is a wise monarch who is well-respected throughout the world and can be compared to Emperor Gaozu and Emperor Taizong. There is no need to be criticized over such a minor matter. It would be best to wait for some time until this situation has passed and silence these malicious rumors.”

He always understood the Emperor’s thoughts and knew how to phrase his words to persuade him.

Indeed, after hearing Xiao Ling Fu’s words, Li Jing Ye immediately remembered the rumors Pei Ji had mentioned before. There were whispers outside the palace that he had become besotted with Li Zhi’s beauty and had lost his senses.

After pondering for a moment, he suppressed his impatience and displeasure and said, “I understand. You may go back now.”

Xiao Ling Fu understood that the Emperor had listened to him and quickly got up to leave.

The hall fell silent, and Li Jing Ye sat for a while, rubbing his forehead. He then asked, “How has Li-niang been doing these past few days?”

He Yuan Shi replied, “This old servant has followed Your Majesty’s orders and sent people to inquire about her well-being every day. The Noble Consort seems to be fine and there have been no unusual incidents. Today, the Duchess of Qinguo is seeking an audience with her, and they are likely together in the Chenghuan Palace.”

“I’ll go see her.”

In Chenghuan Palace, Li Zhi sat by the table, lost in thought as she absentmindedly listened to the ceaseless prattle of Madam Yang. 

Though Li Jing Ye had ordered her confinement in the hall, he had not forbidden the presence of guests. He Yuan Shi had taken the opportunity to bring the Zhong family members for a visit, perhaps in an attempt to alleviate Li Zhi’s loneliness.

But to Li Zhi’s disappointment, only Madam Yang and Zhong Miao Yun had come.

“…Your cousin, the one who married a scholar who passed the imperial examination two years ago, I heard she’s been having a hard time at her husband’s family these past two days and cried at her parents’ house yesterday.”

Madam Yang continued her gossipy chatter, her eyes occasionally darting towards Li Zhi as if searching for a reaction.

Li Zhi set down her teacup with a steely expression, her voice cutting through the room like a blade. “Aunt need not try to provoke me. My confinement was His Majesty’s order. If you are dissatisfied, you may go and ask him directly.”

Madam Yang was talking about the recent family hardships, obviously implying that something had happened to this imperial consort, who had been imprisoned by the Emperor and implicated her family, and that she should take the initiative to seek mercy from the Emperor.

The Zhong family was ennobled and even married a royal princess. Despite being despised by others, they had become a true imperial relative and powerful clan. They naturally attended the palace banquets and witnessed everything. The entire household relied on the Noble Consort’s glory, but now seeing her in trouble, they were naturally anxious.

As Madam Yang finished her words, she wanted to say something sharp, but then realized that the woman in front of her was not the third daughter who could be scolded at will at home. Thus, she could only hold back and remain silent, with a red face.

Miao Yun, who was standing next to them, said, “A’Zhi, you are too cowardly. You were wronged and didn’t fight back. If it were me, I would never sit and wait for death, and I would actively beg the Emperor for mercy.”

Li Zhi raised her eyebrows and looked at the young and beautiful face with a hint of shrewdness. She felt a bit amused.

Although they all believed that she would not do anything as reckless as pushing someone into the water, it seemed that they thought her biggest mistake was not taking the initiative to plead with Li Jing Ye.

Li Jing Ye’s indecisiveness and selfishness had clearly caused all of this.

She closed her eyes and pondered Miao Yun’s words carefully, replaying the phrase “If it were me” in her mind.

This sentence had been uttered by Mioo Yun on the second day of the Princess of Wuyang’s wedding.

Her cousin had been spoiled by her parents since birth and, due to her beauty, had accumulated many suitors. However, this upbringing had made her haughty and discontented with her status, despite her lowly birth.

The lavish lifestyle of the palace had undoubtedly awakened her longing.

Li Zhi raised an eyebrow and looked at Miao Yun with a smile that suggested more than just amusement, but didn’t say anything else.

Just then, the maid Qing Ziwalked in and announced, “Your Highness, His Majesty has arrived.”

The three of them rose to their feet and made their way to the door to greet him.

Stepping into the hall, Li Jing Ye extended his hand to help Li Zhi up, before glancing at Madam Yang and Miao Yun standing nearby. “It’s rare for your family to visit. Is everything alright?”

Li Zhi remained silent, her gaze fixed firmly on Miao Yun.

As expected, Miao Yun was not intimidated and quickly interjected, “Thank you for your concern, Your Majesty. My family and I are doing well.”

Li Jing Ye’s gaze swept over Miao Yun’s face before shifting to Li Zhi. “Li-niang, I have something to discuss with you.”

Sensing the hint, Madam Yang quickly led Miao Yun away, leaving the couple alone.

“I’m still under house arrest. Why did Your Majesty come?” Li Zhi asked, breaking the silence.

Without answering, Li Jing Ye sat down beside her and took her hand, lifting her chin with gentle fingers. He examined her face closely for a moment before speaking with a hint of regret, “It’s good that you haven’t lost weight.”

Li Zhi averted her gaze from his grasp, her head turning aside, and her eyes drifted towards the intricate bird and flower patterns adorning the screen beside her. “What does Your Majesty want to say to me?”

Judging by his appearance, it was clear that he did not come to release her.

As expected, he began by divulging the findings from the recent investigation before exhaling a weary sigh. “Qian Yang’s testimony holds little weight, and I shall dispatch someone to address the situation and restore your innocence. However, I must address the slew of rumors circulating within and outside the palace that harm your reputation. Many officials harbor their own doubts concerning my abilities as well…”

Li Zhi did not listen to him finish speaking. She slowly got up from the couch, pushed open the window beside her, letting the cold air rush into the room.

“I understand, Your Majesty. There’s no need for you to explain.”

She had expected nothing less from him, and her heart remained unflappable. If she could take advantage of the situation to gradually distance herself, it would be even more to her advantage.

Li Jing Ye fell silent, his eyes fixed on her slender figure standing by the window. The sunlight shining through the screen cast a hazy outline of her body, and he couldn’t help but feel a sense of emptiness in his heart.

He stood up abruptly, eager to embrace her, but hesitated and stopped after taking two steps. He looked at her for a moment before saying, “I’ll come to see you again,” then turned around and left the room in haste.

He Yuan Shi saw him coming out and rushed to his side, offering a helping hand to guide him down the steps.

Li Jing Ye’s mind was still in a daze, and he walked forward slowly, waving his hand in a vague gesture of farewell.

The weather was still chilly, and the empty palace road was occasionally crossed by passing eunuchs and maidservants. They all moved aside to make way for him when they saw him approaching.

As he neared Guangshun Gate, Li Jing Ye suddenly caught sight of a familiar figure in the distance.

It was Zhong Miao Yun, adorned in a stunning dress with a cherry blossom hairpin and a golden flower adorning her forehead. Her charming face bore a striking resemblance to Li Zhi’s, exuding a hint of coquettishness. It was evident that she had only just left not long ago.

She seemed to intentionally wait at the Guangshun Gate. When she saw him approaching, she walked towards him with a joyful face, bowed and greeted him with a blushing face, calling him “Your Majesty.”

Seeing her coming, Li Jing Ye restrained his expression and softly asked, “Why haven’t you left yet? Where is your mother?”

Miao Yun cautiously glanced at him and then said, “My mother left first. I stayed behind to wait for Your Majesty because I have something to say…”

Her voice trailed off, and her eyes turned red.

“Your Majesty, A’Zhi – the Noble Consort – would never do such a thing. She must have been wronged by someone. Your Majesty, please don’t believe their words!”

Li Jing Ye lowered his gaze and looked at her tearful face. He felt as if her face was slowly merging with the one in his heart.

He couldn’t help but reach out and gently wipe away the tears from the corner of her eyes.

Miao Yun delicately grasped the edge of his sleeve.

Standing intimately close, the pair made He Yuan Shi, who lingered behind them, tremble in apprehension, wary of a passing minister.

Yet, in a fleeting moment, Li Jing Ye restrained his emotions and withdrew his sleeve, stepping back and saying, “You may leave. I have a plan of my own.”

Without a second glance at her, he walked towards Yanying Hall in the east.

In Chenghuan Palace, Qing Zi returned in a hasty sprint and darted into the inner room. She stared at Li Zhi, her eyes wide and her voice urgent as she said, “I saw it with my own eyes! Fourth Miss truly waited near the Guangshun Gate and spoke two sentences with His Majesty, but Madam Yang was nowhere in sight!”

Li Zhi and Chun Yue exchanged a knowing look, both realizing the significance of what was said.

In the dream, Zhong Miao Yun had designs on Li Jing Ye. But Li Zhi was genuinely in love with Li Jing Ye and refused to let her cousin succeed. The two had quarreled, but the matter remained unresolved.

She thought to herself, if it were her in this situation, she might not even bother trying to stop it, would she?

For some reason, she suddenly felt overwhelmed with sadness.

It was nothing more than a deep abyss, yet because it was adorned with jewels and gold, it was placed on a pedestal and coveted by countless people.

Everyone longed to enter it.

Time passed quickly and it was already the second month of the lunar year, the weather gradually warming. Pei Ji, who had been sent to the border, finally returned to Chang’an with hundreds of meritorious soldiers and the Prince Rui, Li Jing Hui.

Upon arriving in Chang’an, they each went back to their residences to rest before going to the palace to pay their respects to the Emperor.

Li Jing Ye had already gathered more than ten important officials in Yanying Hall, waiting for their arrival. Upon seeing the two of them, everyone showered them with praise.

Li Jing Ye sat on the imperial throne with a smile on his face. Although he barely cast a glance at his younger brother, his gaze lingered on Pei Ji, revealing a genuine sense of admiration.

Meanwhile, Li Jing Hui kept his head bowed the entire time. After receiving his reward and being informed of the upcoming palace banquet, he quickly made his exit and headed to the Empress Dowager’s residence.

With one less person present, the awkward atmosphere in the hall finally dissipated.

This was the first time that Pei Ji sat in the front row with Xiao Ling Fu. After a detailed account of the battle situation by Li Jing Ye’s instruction, he was once again praised by everyone.

Even the usually humble Pei Yan couldn’t help but praise him a few words.

However, Pei Ji’s heart concealed more than just the joy of victory.

When the crowd dispersed, he did not follow suit and remained in place, waiting for Li Jing Ye to question him.

His Majesty was suspicious and specifically sent him to keep a close eye on the situation in Youzhou. Now that he had returned, Li Jing Ye would certainly ask him privately.

Sure enough, when there was no one in the hall, Li Jing Ye asked him a few more questions, especially about Prince Rui.

Pei Ji hesitated for a moment, recalling the wordless exchange between the two brothers earlier. He ultimately decided not to voice his doubts, instead telling Li Jing Ye about the spy caught in the army who was promptly beheaded by An Yi Kang.

After pondering for a moment, Li Jing Ye calmly said, “I understand, you’ve done well.” A smile then crept across his face. “You don’t need to be busy these days. Take the time to rest. The soldiers you brought back have all contributed greatly, and I will personally commend them at the banquet.”

Pei Ji thanked him on behalf of the soldiers before expressing his plan to return to his post at the Imperial Guards, explaining that he had been away for more than two months. He did not want to neglect his duties and would return to his post the next day.

Shi Quan had already informed him of everything that had happened recently while they were in the mansion.

At this moment, Pei Ji was eager to return to the Imperial Guards, not only to fulfill his duty but also to satisfy his own selfishness.

His heart yearned to see her.

This desire weighed heavily on him, causing him to feel empty and unable to meet the eyes of Li Jing Ye.

His heart was conflicted with both longing and guilt, confusion and an uncontainable resentment towards the Emperor, but also towards himself.

Li Jing Ye was momentarily taken aback and observed him for a moment before recalling his dutiful nature. He let out a helpless chuckle and said, “Never mind, I know you are always conscientious and diligent in your duties. We’ll leave it for tomorrow. I trust in your ability to handle it. Though, your aunt may have some choice words for me.”

“Thank you, Your Majesty. My mother has always taught me to prioritize my duties and not to complain about Your Majesty.” He quietly clenched his fists, attempting to contain the turbulent emotions within, and slowly withdrew from the hall.

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1 thought on “At the Noble Consort’s Feet Chapter 54”

  1. the female protag is so refreshing, I usually avoid novels with ntr but this is done so well. Love her coolheadness and decisiveness, its so very rare in cn novels. She is very admirable, go girlboss!!


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