Chapter 58 Revenge
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In the remotest part of Linde Hall, Li Zhi lifted her head and kissed the young man who held her tightly, her eyes never closing but only fixed on the lonely lamp that flickered in the distance..
As a gust of wind swept through the halls, the only light source in the room was extinguished, leaving the pair in complete darkness. The noise from the grand celebration in the main hall could no longer reach them, and they were left with nothing but the sound of their own breathing.
She gently closed her eyes, her slender arms and legs tightly entwined around his body, softly tugging at his collar.
Pei Ji’s breath became hotter, his palms supporting her waist as he walked straight into that familiar and narrow side chamber. He turned around and pressed her against the door panel, kissing her passionately all the way down while adeptly untying the ribbons on her clothes.
Amidst the grand palace banquet, in the secluded chamber with dim lighting, everything before Pei Ji’s eyes was extraordinarily familiar, causing his heart to surge and even the hand untying her ribbons to exert a bit of force.
Li Zhi raised her eyes to look at his half-concealed face in the darkness, and gently caressed his firm contours with her hand, unable to help but laugh softly.
Pei Ji’s hand froze in mid-air, his fingers still hovering over the fabric.
He knit his brows, releasing the ribbon at her chest and encircling her in one arm, while his other hand lifted her chin, his voice soft and gentle as he asked, “What happened to you today?”
Li Zhi’s laughter trailed off as she locked eyes with him, but remained silent.
She stood on her tiptoes once more, pressing her lips lightly to his before breaking away.
“I want to return to Chenghuan Palace,” she declared abruptly, not bothering to wait for his response. With a swift motion, she stepped back, tugged at her collar, swung open the door and took a half step out. Turning back, she fixed him with a knowing smile. “Will you come?”
Pei Ji’s brow furrowed deeper.
He instinctively reached out to stop her, but his fingers brushed against the fabric of her gown and failed to catch hold.
Without looking back, she vanished into the night, leaving Pei Ji standing alone in the shadows with a heavy heart.
In Xianju Palace, Worthy Consort Xu had just returned from the banquet, her face ashen as she lay on the bed, eyes half-closed in an attempt to rest.
As Ting He approached her with a steaming bowl of medicinal soup, Worthy Consort Xu listened to her cautious advice, “Your Highness, please drink more. At this rate, you might not be able to hold on much longer…”
A month ago, the female official had reassured everyone that the Worthy Consort would recover quickly with proper rest and medicine.
The palace attendants in Xianju Palace breathed a collective sigh of relief.
However, despite the daily delivery of medicinal soups, Worthy Consort Xu refused to drink even a single drop. The cold she caught after the drowning incident continued to sap her energy day by day.
Worthy Consort Xu glanced at the bowl of dark medicinal soup with reluctance and apathy, “Just pour it out.”
Ting He’s eyes turned red and she paused for a moment before rising quietly, pouring the medicine into the nearby flowerpot.
A palace maid’s voice was heard from outside, “The Pure Consort has arrived.”
Worthy Consort Xu was startled, and her half-closed eyes slowly opened. She let out a soft sigh, as if she had been expecting it. She reluctantly propped herself up and sat at the edge of the bed. “Let her in.”
The sound of footsteps drew near, and Pure Consort Xiao entered, walking to the inner room and sitting down on the couch beside her bed. Her eyes showed both doubt and concern.
Worthy Consort Xu covered her mouth and coughed twice, trying to suppress it. She then smiled and said, “You’ve come. Ask anything you like.”
Pure Consort Xiao had a question in mind, and Worthy Consort Xu knew what it was.
The Lantern Festival incident had been resolved, and Qian Yang had reportedly been executed by the Emperor. The ban on the Noble Consort had been lifted, and many in the palace were now saying that there was no pushing or shoving involved. Rather, the ground near the pool had been slippery, and when the Pure Consort had slipped, she accidentally bumped into someone, which had led to the misunderstanding that she had been pushed.
The Pure Consort knew in her heart that someone had indeed tampered with the incident, and if it wasn’t the Noble Consort, she would have no choice but to suspect herself.
After all, on the night of the Lantern Festival, save for the Noble Consort, the only person closest to her was the Worthy Consort.
As expected, Pure Consort Xiao ordered Lan Zhao to guard outside while she hesitated for a moment before asking, “On the Lantern Festival…was it you?”
“It was me.”
Worthy Consort Xu’s pale face bloomed into a smile, and without hesitation, she gave an unequivocal answer, much like how Noble Consort Zhong denied it earlier.
Pure Consort Xiao’s breath caught in her throat, and it took her a while to regain her composure and ask, “Why did you do this? We have been in the palace for many years and have always been at peace with each other. You—”
Suddenly, she remembered something and her eyes widened, “Is it because of my father? Is it because my father had Minister Xu falsely accused and imprisoned that you sought revenge on me?”
As she spoke of her father, tears finally glistened in Worthy Consort Xu’s calm and unruffled eyes.
Her head bobbed once, then again, and her eyes, red-rimmed and sunken into her pallid cheeks, made her look wan and pitiable. “Yes, I did want to make you pay, but above all, I wanted to exact revenge on His Majesty.”
Brushing away the tears coursing down her face, her gaze grew ever colder. “He’s to blame for all of this.”
Without Li Jing Ye’s tacit approval, how could Xiao Ling Fu have so brazenly conspired with Wei Ye Qing to frame her father? Even though he had promised to let her father go free for medical treatment, he promptly broke that promise when other matters arose, causing her father to suffer a tragic end.
The Xu family had loyally served Great Wei for generations, always diligent and conscientious. Even though her father’s political achievements were middling, he had never done anything that brought disgrace upon the throne. But now, simply because he dared to speak out and stand alongside Minister Du in court, urging the Emperor to take the right course of action, he had come to such a bitter end!
So distrustful and insecure was he that he placed his faith in no one but himself. How could he expect anyone else to be unwaveringly loyal to him?
“Pure Consort,” her eyes gleamed with an unusual fervor, “I understand that you and I are not the same. You love him sincerely. But look at how he treats you, and how he treats me. Even the Noble Consort he fought so hard to win over, how does he treat her? Others may not see it, but we both know that Qian Yang and the Noble Consort have an old grudge. He knew it too, but still confined her for over a month, leaving her to be talked about and suspected by others. Is such a person deserving of your heartfelt devotion?”
Her words struck at the heart, each one piercing through like a sharp needle.
Pure Consort Xiao tightly pressed her lips together, gasping for breath. Several times she tried to speak, but no words came out.
She even remembered the words Li Zhi had whispered into her ear before the banquet began.
His Majesty, the man high above, had been the object of her admiration for many years.
He was the ruler of the people, yet loved himself more than he loved his subjects.
“I believed he wouldn’t love anyone else, but I thought he would at least have some compassion for his own blood,” Worthy Consort Xu said with a hint of venom in her eyes. “Now, looking back, I was too foolish. With so many women in the harem, how could he worry about that? Pure Consort, my family was once as prominent as the Xiao family, but now we have fallen so low. And what about you? You have given birth to his eldest son, but if one day he turns his back on you, how will he treat all of you?”
A shiver ran through Pure Consort Xiao’s body, starting from her feet and rapidly spreading upwards, causing her to tremble uncontrollably. It took her a long time to force herself to calm down and say, “No, it won’t happen. I have served His Majesty for many years, and my father is also deeply trusted…”
Even she did not believe her own words.
“Ha!” Worthy Consort Xu sneered mercilessly. “My grandfather once advocated for Emperor Xian to make His Majesty the Crown Prince, and Minister Du and Minister Pei also worked hard to stabilize the court when Emperor Xian died. Minister Pei even personally led Hedong’s army to defend the border to prevent the Turks and Tibetans from taking advantage of the situation. But what’s happening to them now?”
“Stop it!” Pure Consort Xiao interrupted her, standing up suddenly. Her chest heaved rapidly, and she stared at Worthy Consort Xu for a long time before finally stumbling and turning away.
Worthy Consort Xu held her chest, waiting for Pure Consort Xiao’s back to disappear before covering her mouth and nose with a handkerchief and coughing violently.
The pristine white silk was marred by drops of crimson, a ghastly sight that made one’s stomach churn.
Ting He rushed in from outside, her face contorted with worry as she saw the state of her mistress. “Your Highness, why are you coughing up blood?”
Worthy Consort Xu struggled to take a deep breath, her chest constricted by the damp gauze that prevented air from flowing in and out freely.
With a sense of urgency, she pushed Ting He and ordered, “Go, fetch His Majesty at once.”
Ting He hesitated, unsure of what to do. “Your Highness, perhaps I should call for a female official instead?”
Worthy Consort Xu’s expression turned frosty as she forcefully pushed her teacup off the table, its contents splattering onto the floor. “No, go and get him now! Tell him that I have urgent matters to discuss with him.”
Ting He helped Worthy Consort Xu to lie down, her eyes brimming with tears as she called for a palace maid before scurrying away to fetch the Emperor.
She took off her ornate attire worn at the banquet and bathed in the chamber of Chenghuan Palace. Afterward, she changed into her favorite light and thin chest-wrapped long dress, not even bothering to put on her outer garments, and returned to the inner chamber with bare shoulders.
She dismissed Chun Yue to rest and stayed alone in the room, pushing open the window next to the bed and sitting by the dressing table, slowly combing her long hair in front of the bronze mirror.
Tonight, she felt particularly restless, despite having just been released from confinement. Although she knew that Li Jing Ye might come to Chenghuan Palace, she took the initiative to invite Pei Ji to come.
Just moments ago, she revealed her disdain and disgust towards Li Jing Hui without reservation, as if a gate inside her body was opened, and she was itching to break the current situation.
The malice in her heart seemed uncontrollable. Even though she knew that the time was not yet ripe, she still had an unstoppable urge.
However, she was unsure if Pei Ji would come or not.
Would he really, as he once said, take all the blame and bear it alone, no matter what?
Li Zhi stared at herself in the mirror, feeling a sense of confusion.
Outside the open window, a familiar figure quietly approached.
He stood outside the window for a moment, his expression revealing complexity and concern that he couldn’t hide. In the end, he turned and entered the room, closing the window tightly.
Li Zhi smiled slowly and met his gaze through the copper mirror. “Are you afraid? If you regret it, you still have time to leave.”
Tonight, no one could guarantee that Li Jing Ye wouldn’t come.
Pei Ji stood in place, clenched his fists, and after a moment, he walked towards her without saying a word, approaching her with one hand grabbing her bare shoulder, and the other hand tearing apart her only thin and light dress.
He had answered her words with actions.
She turned her face and deeply kissed him. After a long time, she said with unsteady breath, “Today, I met the Prince Rui.”
Pei Ji’s movements suddenly stopped.
“I told him that I don’t want to marry him at all,” she giggled again, with a layer of water in her almond eyes. “I don’t want to marry anyone, and no one can control me…”
Pei Ji’s whole body stiffened, his gaze tightly fixed on the strange woman in the bronze mirror, his heart alternately cold and hot.
After a long time, he suddenly became aggressive, forcibly clasping her hand behind her back, and twisting her face to force her to look at the picture in the mirror.
Two gazes intertwined in the mirror.
At this point, how could he not understand? She approached him with such careful consideration, seduced him, not only to ask him to protect her, but also to retaliate against the Emperor and Prince Rui.
It turned out that she not only had no feelings for them, but also harbored deep hatred.
He gradually closed his eyes.
But what about him? Who was he in all of this?
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