At the Noble Consort’s Feet Chapter 84

Chapter 84 Sharing food

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The Lady of Yingguo held a title that put her on par with the most esteemed consorts and princesses in the land. Unfortunately for Miao Yun, her humble beginnings and lack of genuine influence made her a target for derision. Even when she appeared before them, people could barely muster the courage to look her in the eye.

The piercing glares of those around her made Miao Yun feel exposed and ashamed. But she refused to be cowed by their scorn. With her head held high, she walked across the court and bowed before the Emperor and Empress Dowager.

Today was not the day for her to make an appearance.

Although she knew that a grand banquet would take place at the Dragon Boat Festival, no one thought to invite her. It was clear that they hoped she would remain hidden away. She refused to let them hold her back while even the lowliest palace maid enjoyed herself at the Yeting Palace.

Despite being a first-rank noblewoman, Miao Yun was often the subject of contempt and belittlement. Those who looked down on her pretended to be paragons of virtue, but it was clear that their true motivation was envy.

Determined to face her detractors head-on, Miao Yun stepped out into the open, determined not to let their opinions hold her back!

Her eyes darted around the open space in front of the throne, searching for the familiar figure of the Noble Consort. But to her disappointment, she couldn’t spot her anywhere. 

Seated high above, the Empress Dowager’s face was stone-cold, her temples visibly pulsing. She gazed straight ahead into the distance, avoiding any eye contact with Miao Yun, as if she had nothing to say to her.

The Grand Princess and Pure Consort Xiao also fell silent, unsure of how to react to Miao Yun’s sudden appearance.

After a moment of awkward silence, Li Jing Ye’s voice broke the stillness, deep and stern. “Why did you come here? I recall you weren’t feeling well. Why didn’t you stay at Zilan Hall to rest?”

Miao Yun lowered her gaze, biting her lip lightly, trying to force a gentle smile. “Thank you for your concern, Your Majesty. I am feeling much better now. As it’s Dragon Boat Festival today, and the palace is abuzz with excitement, I thought I would come and pay my respects to Your Majesty and the Empress Dowager.”

When had she ever been unwell? Li Jing Ye was clearly using it as an excuse to question her presence here. But she couldn’t call him out on it, not with so many eyes watching.

Though Li Jing Ye was clearly displeased, he didn’t want to give the other official the satisfaction of seeing him berate his own consort.

He glanced away from her, ignoring her greeting, and motioned with a wave of his hand. “Please stand,” he said coolly, then turned to call for He Yuan Shi.

He Yuan Shi quickly understood and ordered the sedan chair to be brought back and placed after Pure Consort Xiao’s.

Miao Yun bit her lip, noticing the empty seat reserved for Li Zhi in front of Pure Consort Xiao. Slowly, she made her way to her own seat.

The assembled guests exchanged silent looks, reaLi Zhing nothing was wrong but too afraid to move.

Seventeenth Miss Li, however, held up her delicately crafted small bow and let fly an arrow, which struck a round, plump pink dumpling with uncanny precision.

The arrow thudded into the ground, and the sudden noise brought the guests back to the festivities.

Amid the bustle, Li Jing Ye turned to the Empress Dowager and whispered, “Mother, I know you’re displeased. But today, it wasn’t my idea to invite her.”

Upon hearing this, the Empress Dowager seemed to remember something, took a deep breath, and her frail body trembled slightly.

Her lips quivered for a moment, and after hesitating, she finally spoke slowly, “If Your Majesty truly understands filial piety, why won’t you let Ling Yue come back? Why won’t you let the Sixth Prince return?”

As soon as the Sixth Prince was mentioned, Li Jing Ye’s expression suddenly changed. His previous warmth and sincerity vanished, leaving behind a cold, twisted look.

“Mother, don’t forget that it was the Sixth Prince who insisted on going to Youzhou. I didn’t force him.”

“Yes, Your Majesty did not force him,” the Empress Dowager said, with one hand propping up her forehead and the other supporting the bed. Watching the lively scene before her, she couldn’t help but think of her youngest son, who was enduring hardship in the borderland. She no longer cared about giving face to her eldest son. “Sixth Prince—he’s already twenty-two years old, and yet he’s still unmarried! Even your aunt is trying to find a suitable match for Third Son, but your own younger brother is still abandoned in the frontier, without anyone to care for him. Your Majesty, have you forgotten the Late Emperor’s teachings? You and your two brothers were supposed to love and support each other as a wise Emperor and virtuous Prince. But now, who has destroyed all of that?”

Li Jing Ye’s face darkened, and he tightly gripped the armrests of the bed, struggling to control the anger burning in his heart.

“Mother, have you been holding a grudge against me in your heart all this time?”

“Yes, I have been seeking justice for Sixth Prince and Second Prince all this time.” The Empress Dowager had also been suppressing her emotions for a long time, as if she wanted to say everything that was on her mind. “Your Majesty, now that you have ascended the throne, have you forgotten about your siblings and your roots? Without the concessions made by your brothers, and without the teachings and strong support of the senior officials, where would the peace and harmony of Great Wei be today?”

“Mother!” Li Jing Ye could no longer endure it and stood up abruptly from the bed.

The air grew thick with tension, and gradually, the onlookers noticed the subtle shift in the room. Conversations faded to a hush once more.

The mother and son were in a fraught exchange. Li Jing Ye’s voice was barely above a whisper, as he made his point with a fierce determination, “As the eldest legitimate son and the Crown Prince, the throne is rightfully mine. I implore you, Mother, to choose your words carefully from now on. I cannot guarantee that I will allow these troubles to persist.”

The Empress Dowager’s anger was palpable as she struggled to control her emotions. Her eyes darkened, and she clutched at her chest while attempting to quell the rising rage inside of her. “Ungrateful child!” 

With an abrupt motion, the Empress Dowager rose to her feet and expelled a mouthful of blood.

The Grand Princess was taken aback by the sudden turn of events and rushed to assist the Empress Dowager.

Li Jing Ye remained stoic as the room fell into chaos. “The Empress Dowager is unwell. She must be taken back to Chang’an Hall immediately to receive proper care.”

The eunuchs rushed over with a sedan chair, and several palace women helped the Empress Dowager as they quickly made their way to Chang’an Hall.

Outside the Qingsi Hall, everyone was startled by the sudden turn of events.

Pure Consort Xiao was the first to stand and bid farewell, and the others quickly followed suit.

The bustling polo field fell silent in an instant.

Li Jing Ye took a step back and collapsed onto the couch, his face showing a peculiar flush. “Yuan Shi, the medicine.”

He Yuan Shi trembled as he retrieved a porcelain bottle from his sleeve, poured a round pill into his hand, and watched as Li Jing Ye swallowed it down quickly.

His Majesty seemed to have been taking medicine frequently lately.

In the Chenghuan Palace, after He Yuan Shi had departed, Chun Yue remained standing at the door, watching for a while before finally releasing a sigh of relief and sitting down. She shook her head as she looked at the plate of lychees in front of her. “I was truly frightened! Thankfully, General Pei has left.”

As she finished speaking, the sound of Pei Ji’s footsteps could be heard coming from behind the screen.

Chun Yue was caught off guard and hastily stood up, bowing slightly to leave.

From her mistress’s earlier behavior when opening the door, it was not difficult to guess what the two of them had been doing inside. The interruption had likely caused some annoyance.

Li Zhi didn’t try to stop her, watching as Chun Yue blushed and lowered her head to gently close the door. She couldn’t help but let out a soft chuckle.

Suddenly, a warm and sturdy body pressed up against her from behind.

Pei Ji’s interrupted passion had left him feeling restless, but now that the unwelcome guest had finally departed, he didn’t hesitate to sit on the couch and pull her onto his lap, his hands firmly holding her waist as he kissed her.

His gaze locked onto her watery eyes, their intimacy almost unbearable. However, just as their lips were about to touch, she turned her face slightly, allowing his kisses to trail along her earlobe and neck instead.

The humid and scorching breath mingled together as she smiled and shrugged, plucking a lychee from the plate.

Her slender fingers deftly peeled off the red and green rind, revealing the juicy and pristine white fruit within.

Earlier in Qingsi Hall, she had found herself disinterested in even the sweetest of lychees, but upon returning to Chenghuan Palace, the sight of them alone made her mouth water.

As she twisted the lychee’s pulp between her fingers, the scorching lips that had been hovering close to her ear suddenly captured hers, stealing the fruit’s sweetness away.

His teeth punctured the smooth fruit flesh, causing the sweet nectar to burst out and fill his mouth before gradually slipping down his throat.

The fruit’s flesh was consumed after a brief tussle, leaving only a gleaming black seed.

Pei Ji slowly backed away and watched as she spat out the seed into an empty dish, his eyes dimming slightly.

“Do you enjoy eating this?”

Li Zhi picked up another fruit and shook her head, “I wouldn’t say it’s my favorite, but since it was brought here, I simply had to taste something fresh.”

Pei Ji’s expression darkened as he stared at her delicate fingers for a moment before silently taking the fruit and carefully peeling it for her.

One by one, the lychees in the dish were peeled, revealing their white and juicy flesh.

Knowing that he might be a little uneasy about this being a gift from Li Jing Ye, Li Zhi picked up another lychee and put it directly into his mouth, not wanting to spoil the mood by mentioning it.

“Transported from a thousand miles away in Lingnan, we cannot let it go to waste.”

He swallowed the lychee in silence and finally smiled back at her dark eyes.

“This delicacy costs a lot of effort and money, but it is offered every year without fail.” He spoke with a clear disapproval, but he couldn’t quite tell if it was directed at the tradition itself or at the person who established it.

It was simply inappropriate.

He ate two more lychees, trying to dispel the uneasy feeling that had arisen in his heart.

Li Zhi brought the remaining lychees outside and gave them to Chun Yue and several palace maids.

Upon closing the door behind her, Li Zhi was immediately pinned against it by Pei Ji. He began to undress her while showering her with kisses.

Pei Ji had been trying to suppress the growing restlessness inside him while they shared the lychees, but it was futile. He couldn’t wait any longer.

After waiting for so long, he finally received confirmation that she felt the same way he did. His body was trembling with excitement, as though he had won ten battles.

However, Li Zhi pushed him away after a moment, not allowing him to continue as he had before. She looked deeply into his eyes while holding her arms up against his chest.

“What’s wrong?”

Pei Ji struggled to keep his emotions under control while he waited patiently for her to speak her mind.

“Darling Third, I haven’t finished what I was saying earlier. Could you listen to me first, please?”

Beads of sweat dotted Pei Ji’s forehead as he stood on edge, like a taut arrow waiting to be released. Despite her earnest gaze, he resisted the urge to break down and instead drew her towards the bed. With a determined grip, he wrapped his arms tightly around her, and demanded, “Speak.”

The frosty expression on his face made it clear that without an explanation, he was not one to be easily appeased.

Li Zhi leaned in and grasped his broad shoulders. She turned around to face him and straddled his lap, cupping his face with her hands. “I admit that seeing the future with you and watching you with other ladies has stirred some jealousy within me. I am grateful for your kindness towards me, but the gap between us is too great to cross. Besides, I had already decided to spend the rest of my life alone. You are young, ambitious, and full of potential, so it is unnecessary to waste your energy on me. That was not my original intention when I first approached you.”

“Li-niang!” Pei Ji was suddenly startled, his whole body tensing up quickly, as if he had just flown up to the clouds and was now in a state of panic. “What do you mean by this? Are you pushing me away?”

If she was going to leave him because of this, he would rather not have asked the question, still thinking it was just his own enthusiasm.

Li Zhi gently touched his lips with her index finger to calm him down. “No, don’t worry. That’s not what I meant. I just want to talk to you and make things clear. Darling Third, if one day you decide to marry and start a family like a normal man, please let me know. I don’t want to hold you back from your future. We had a good time together, and when the time comes, we can part ways amicably.”

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