Chapter 74 Don’t be afraid
The sky was just beginning to brighten on the horizon, and although the gate to the courtyard was open, the entire neighborhood was still cloaked in silence.
Pei Ji did not rise early as he had in the past. Instead, he lay quietly on the bed, his bloodshot eyes fixated on the woman sleeping soundly beside him.
He had not slept much at all that night.
They had been wrapped up in each other’s arms until midnight, and only when he noticed her exhaustion and drowsiness did he finally stop.
The thought of the scene he had witnessed the day before, and of having to personally escort her back to the palace come morning, filled him with an unrelenting pain.
It was as though a beast, once hidden in darkness, was slowly emerging to consume his tormented soul.
In the dim light, he reached out and traced the contours of her delicate features with gentle fingertips.
Feeling his touch, she unconsciously turned her face towards his hand and rubbed against it.
Pei Ji gazed at Li Zhi in close proximity, his eyes dimming as he leaned in to kiss and nibble on the full, rosy lips.
The disturbance woke Li Zhi from her slumber, and upon opening her eyes, she saw the handsome face so close to hers. She was briefly dazed before responding tenderly.
Pei Ji was perfect in every way, but as a young man with unbridled passion and infrequent meetings with her, he sometimes had insatiable desires.
Li Zhi could tell he was trying to restrain himself, and whenever she showed signs of fatigue, he would hasten and stop bothering her. But this only made her feel more affectionate towards him, and sometimes she would allow him to indulge in his desires.
The pleasure was certainly not lacking, but the next day her limbs would be sore and she would feel even more exhausted.
As she stirred awake from her dream, Li Zhi shifted her legs and felt a strange sensation.
Luckily, he was always so attentive that he noticed her slight furrowed brow. His hand, which was wrapped around her waist, slid down on its own and began massaging her legs with firm strokes.
The fatigue in her muscles dissipated gradually, and Li Zhi felt as comfortable as a languid cat, lying on his bare chest and releasing contented sighs.
However, Pei Ji found it increasingly difficult to hold back his desires, his body betraying him with obvious changes.
He knew she was reaching her limit, but he was unwilling to let go of this precious opportunity for intimacy. He preferred to bear the discomfort himself rather than let it slip away.
The two of them lingered together, each aware of the inevitable parting that awaited them. But neither dared to voice it, savoring the present moment in silent understanding.
The soft light outside seeped into the room, and three gentle knocks echoed in the silent air, “Miss, are you awake? I’ve brought water for washing.”
It was the familiar voice of Chun Yue.
Both of them released a deep breath, their tensed bodies relaxing almost simultaneously.
In their previous secret rendezvous, he didn’t dare to stay overnight. But even if he had, the washing water would have been prepared early and heated on the stove in the outer room. Today was the first time it was brought to them like this.
The door latch was still locked, waiting for someone to open it.
“I’ll get it.”
Li Zhi cast him a fleeting glance before sitting up, putting on her outer robe, and making her way to the door.
Chun Yue didn’t linger. She left the things and quickly retreated, pointing outside and saying, “I’ll be waiting there.”
As the door closed, Pei Ji picked up a coat and draped it over himself. He then lifted her onto his lap, handed her a cup of salt water, and gently wiped her face with a towel.
As the edge of the towel brushed against her neck, she couldn’t help but giggle and push him away, wanting to dress herself.
However, he insisted on putting on each piece of clothing for her.
While tying the belt, his big palms were still unskilled between his movements. She couldn’t help but extend her index finger and gently graze it on the back of his hand, teasingly saying, “Your technique for undressing women is much more skilled than this.”
His movements paused slightly, and his dark eyes watched her expression without a sound. Then he muttered, “I’ve only undressed you.”
This time, it was Li Zhi who was speechless.
She had undressed more than just him.
Arguing over such trivial matters seemed pointless to them. After all, Li Zhi believed that their relationship had not yet reached the level of intimacy that would warrant such arguments.
She remained silent, biting her lip and patiently waiting for Pei Ji to assist her in dressing before sitting beside him. She picked up the wooden comb that Chun Yue had brought and began tying her hair into a simple bun.
Pei Ji took the handkerchief and his own clothes and went to wash up on the side.
Li Zhi inserted a golden hairpin into her hair and watched Pei Ji with curiosity.
Despite being a Grand Princess and the daughter of a Prime Minister, Pei Ji’s behavior was no different from that of a common soldier who had spent years in military camps.
Without his exceptional appearance, dignified bearing, and aloof temperament, no one would have suspected his distinguished background.
He was truly a unique anomaly among the Wei nobility.
Pei Ji noticed her gaze and turned his head towards her. “Is something wrong?
Li Zhi smiled and stood up, walking over to him. She turned this way and that, asking, “Do I look presentable?”
Pei Ji smiled back, “You look perfect.”
To him, she was always beautiful, no matter what.
With a sigh of relief, Li Zhi stepped closer to him, making small adjustments to his hair.
As he held her hand, he leaned in to give it a gentle kiss, his voice softening, “I’ve already asked Shi Quan to find a way to take care of your household registration for you.”
He knew it wouldn’t be easy.
Although he held a high position and was a member of the imperial family, the matter of household registration had to be handled discreetly. The officials in charge of such affairs were often low-ranking and needed to be approached with caution. Li Zhi’s uncle, Zhong Cheng Ping, was one such official.
However, he couldn’t bring himself to tell her.
“Just be patient, there will be news soon.”
Li Zhi nodded with a smile, looking at him, “Alright, I’ll wait. You don’t have to worry.”
The two looked at each other in silence and didn’t speak again.
If even the household registration was so difficult to deal with, how much harder would it be to leave in the future?
Pei Ji didn’t have a clear plan or idea, but he couldn’t sit back and watch. The beast was about to be unleashed, and he had to do something to alleviate his growing desire.
After a while, Chun Yue brought in some warm congee and freshly made snacks for breakfast.
This was the first time the two had shared a meal together, and both of them were a bit dazed, eating at a slower pace than usual.
However, just a moment later, Chun Yue rushed in with a worried expression on her face. “Miss, something has happened!”
Pei Ji stood up immediately, and Li Zhi’s smile faded as she asked, “What is it?”
Chun Yue closed the door behind her and explained, “Just now, someone from the mansion came looking for Fourth Miss. They said she didn’t come back last night, and they thought she might be staying here. They searched everywhere, but she wasn’t found. Then, they woke up Madam, who felt something was wrong and brought those people here to ask. That’s when they found out… a while ago, when the mansion’s gate was opened, someone from the palace sent a head to the Princess’s mansion.”
Chun Yue’s face turned pale as she spoke.
Li Zhi’s expression became serious. She suppressed her discomfort and asked, “Whose head is it? And what does it have to do with Fourth Miss and the Princess?”
Chun Yue shook her head and replied, “Those people couldn’t identify whose head it was. They only know that the Princess grabbed the head and rushed into our mansion with a knife, accusing Madam and the others of being jealous of her. Fortunately, a female attendant… Later, when Fourth Miss disappeared, they came here to look for her… Madam thinks it might be the head of that Fusang monk…”
Li Zhi’s body stiffened as she felt a sudden chill run down her spine, causing her to shiver involuntarily.
The memory of Lan Ying’s warning about Li Ling Yue and Xuan Guang flooded her mind.
Li Jing Ye— only yesterday, he had left her presence looking calm and collected. She had never imagined that he would commit murder so quickly and even send the victim’s head to his own younger sister.
Though she was unaware of the details of Li Ling Yue and Xuan Guang’s relationship, the sheer brutality of the act was enough to stir up fear and anger in Li Ling Yue’s heart.
Once again, she was reminded of the depth of his depravity. Even his own flesh and blood were not safe from his merciless wrath.
Chun Yue’s weeping broke the silence, “Rumors abound about Master Xuan Guang’s kindness. He has gifted many Fusang students and preached to the people by Qujiang River without discrimination of rank or wealth.”
Clenching her lips, Li Zhi grasped the edge of the desk, her whole body trembling with fear and apprehension.
Pei Ji’s face remained calm as he silently rubbed her back.
He too was taken aback, but having witnessed countless bloodshed and gore, he was more composed than her.
“Xuang Guang is a disciple of the Heavenly Master. There have been rumors circulating in the mansion lately about him and the Princess being involved in…” Li Zhi turned to explain to him, then suddenly recalled something and asked Chun Yue, “Where is Miao Yun?”
Chun Yue shook her head and wiped away her tears.
A sense of unease crept into Li Zhi’s heart.
As a princess, having a love affair or two was not uncommon, but Xuan Guang’s status as a Buddhist and a well-known disciple gave it a different meaning to the common people.
Buddhists have strict precepts that even ordinary monks dared not violate, let alone a disciple who was a spiritual guide to many people.
However, nobody would willingly reveal this to Li Jing Ye for fear of retaliation. It was only those who wished ill upon the princess and wanted to punish the Zhong family that would do so.
Miao Yun was a member of the Zhong family and held even more secretive thoughts towards the Emperor. Her sudden disappearance at this time was quite suspicious.
“They are siblings from the same mother…” She softly shook her head, recalling the earlier situation where he forced Li Ling Yue to marry Zhong Hao, and gradually regained her composure.
“Chun Yue,” she straightened her back and spoke in a low voice, “go inform Elder Sister and Colonel Wei that they needn’t return to the mansion to see Uncle and Aunt today. Stick to the plan and leave the city as soon as possible.”
Regardless of Li Ling Yue’s relationship with Xuan Guang, her fiery temperament would already have her harboring deep hatred towards the Zhong family. If their uncle and aunt acted unkindly, it would be bad if Lan Ying was implicated.
Chun Yue wiped away her tears and got up in a hurry.
The room was left with only the two of them, and Pei Ji held her shoulder gently as he whispered, “There’s no need to be afraid.”
Li Zhi took a moment to calm down, slowly releasing her grip on the corner of the desk and regaining her composure. “Let’s go back to the palace now.”
Pei Ji’s eyes dimmed as he stood up slowly. “I’ll go out first. There’s something I need to discuss with Wei Peng.”
He took two steps towards the door, but then turned back and leaned down to passionately kiss her.
“Don’t be afraid,” he whispered.
Li Zhi nodded, still catching her breath as she watched him leave the room.
Li Jing Ye woke up from his sleep as the time for the morning court approached. He felt dizzy and his mind was blank.
He felt a warm body next to him and turned his head to see a young girl waking up with a frown on her face. He was briefly taken aback, then looked away without any expression, ignoring her presence.
Memories of the previous night slowly came to his mind.
He had taken the pill and felt a sense of comfort and relief. The anxiety and pain he had felt before were gone. Today, he only felt a slight dizziness in his head.
The effects of the elixir were immediate, and it seemed much better than the medicine prescribed by Imperial Physician Zhang.
Miao Yun struggled to sit up with the brocade quilt and looked at him, biting her lip and calling out, “Your Majesty.”
“Yuan Shi,” Li Jing Ye said as if he hadn’t heard anything, and opened his arms to be dressed by the eunuchs. “Ask Master Yuan to send more pills.”
“Yes,” He Yuan Shi handed him the mouthwash, ignoring Miao Yun.
The Emperor ignored her, and as a palace servant, she had no choice but to accept it.
The meal was being prepared, but Li Jing Ye glanced at the sky and waved his hand. “It’s too late to eat now, let’s go straight to court.”
With that, he led his entourage out of Zichen Hall.
Miao Yun looked around the empty room, feeling embarrassed as she slowly got out of bed and began to put on her clothes one by one.
Third Sister was returning soon, and Miao Yun knew she couldn’t appear so unkempt in front of her.
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