At the Noble Consort’s Feet Chapter 87

Chapter 87 Direction of the wind

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At night, Pei Ji still did what he always did. After patrolling the palace, he snuck into Chenghuan Palace by climbing over the wall when all the gates were shut tight.

She had secured his promise during the day, so she waited patiently by the window under the lamp. When she saw him arrive, she smiled.

The fragrance from the incense burner drifted through the room, filling it with a pleasant scent she knew well.

Pei Ji wasted no time. He closed the window and walked towards her. Without hesitation, he pushed her onto the table and began to passionately entwine with her.

It was now early summer, and she had already dressed up. She wore a thin silk dress without any outer coat, which he easily removed from her body.

She felt the heat emanating from him as if it would melt her. Her face blushed as she felt his tender chest, her fingertips caressing him gently.

Though she sensed a hint of sadness in his eyes, he quickly distracted her. She let go of all other thoughts and focused on getting as close to him as possible.

He was young and strong, as if he had unlimited energy. He had played polo earlier in the day and then spent time with her. When he came to her at night, he showed no signs of tiredness and was still full of energy.

They went from the table to the bed, wiping themselves down with towels from the next room. Finally, when they lay down together, they were affectionate for a while, and only then did Pei Ji show signs of contentment.

Pei Ji held her with one arm and used his other hand to pull the thin blanket over them without speaking.

After resting for a while and regaining some strength, Li Zhi leaned on his shoulder and asked, “What’s going on? Did something happen?”

Pei Ji looked up at the ceiling, took Li Zhi’s hand from his chest, and pulled her towards him. Letting out a soft sigh, he said, “Something happened after we left Qingsi Hall today.”

He went on to tell her about what had happened with Li Jing Ye, the Empress Dowager, and Du Heng.

“His Majesty has been holding a grudge against Minister Du for a long time. I knew this day would come, but not so soon. What’s worse, I heard that His Majesty is now obsessed with a commoner Taoist. He even refuses to take medicine prescribed by the imperial physicians and only uses the pills made by that person!”

If the Emperor continued to behave like this, it would not only disappoint his officials but also give a chance to those with bad intentions.

“I wanted to give him advice, but—”

He stopped talking, but Li Zhi already knew he was interrupted by Li Jing Ye.

After a moment of silence, Li Zhi turned over and lay down next to him, and they both looked up at the ceiling.

“It’s better to cut them off completely than to handle it this way.”

Pei Ji was initially overwhelmed with complicated feelings due to the Minister Du incident and couldn’t express himself. However, when he heard her words, he was taken aback. After thinking for a moment, he sighed and muttered, “Yes, it would be better to handle it more cleanly.”

The Emperor was strictly taught to follow the rules by his father and officials from the Eastern Palace since childhood. If he made any mistake, he would be reprimanded by the officials.

It was normal for the Emperor to feel rebellious and resentful after becoming the ruler. That was why his father, who shared the same views as Du Heng, allowed him to be his confidant. The young Emperor, who had been suppressed for a long time, needed someone to support him, not flatterers like the Xiao family.

The rebellious thoughts were like tiny seeds, quietly taking root.

If a fragile seedling grew, it could be easily uprooted. Or it could grow rapidly into a towering tree that could not be shaken by others.

Perhaps the roots had already taken hold, but the tree was weak. No matter how much it was damaged on the surface, the roots would remain intact and unmovable.

Just like the Emperor today, he deeply resented the stubborn old ministers and wanted to get rid of them. But after being suppressed for more than twenty years, following the rules and being cautious had become instinctual.

If he had been more ruthless with Du Heng, it would have been harsh but a powerful deterrent to some who might harbor evil intentions or be easily swayed. But now, although he attacked Du Heng, it was not enough of a deterrent, and the situation was frustrating.

She looked at him with concern and thoughtfulness, feeling that she had underestimated this young man before.

He didn’t have much influence in the court, and because of his young age, he rarely spoke on important matters. Although he had military achievements and a bright future, he still seemed immature and was far from the trusted minister like his father.

However, seeing that he could detect unusual situations before and now has a thorough understanding of imperial politics and court control, she suddenly had a different view of him.

She could see this because she already knew the outcome, while he did not. This showed his keen insight, which was extraordinary.

In his dream, he stood firm against the rebel army and protected Li Jing Ye without hesitation. But was this young man with a profound heart and soul completely without any ambition?

“Good leaders arise in times of peace, but great ones are born in times of turmoil. Darling Third, if you had a choice, would you rather live in a peaceful era or in one of war and chaos?”

Pei Ji’s face stiffened, then he turned to look at Li Zhi’s eyes beside him, which were clear and smiling, but he couldn’t help feeling wary.

“I was born in Great Wei, in this era, I have no choice.”

He spoke very slowly and with complete conviction.

The Pei family had a long history in Hedong, spanning several hundred years. Many renowned ministers had emerged from this family through the generations, but they never sought to become monarchs. His ancestors, grandfathers, fathers, and even his mother, a princess of the Li clan, were all famous generals of Great Wei, who always took it upon themselves to protect the Emperor, expand the territory for the court, and defend the nation. His mother also had unbreakable blood ties with the current Emperor.

Ever since he was born, he was taught by his elders to follow his family’s tradition and become a warrior for Great Wei and a wise advisor to the Emperor.

Although this seemed normal, he had a strange desire in his heart that he couldn’t explain, which made him question his bottom line.

As a young man full of energy and strength, who wouldn’t want to conquer mountains and rivers and become famous? Especially since the person he wanted was currently under the control of the most powerful authority, making it difficult for him to get close to her.

However, these were all secrets he kept deep in his heart, and he knew the situation of the Pei clan and his own position.    

He couldn’t make a move.

Li Zhi looked at him quietly, understanding his thoughts gradually.

He was determined, although he didn’t have the ability yet, he would have it in the future. However, his position remained unshaken, showing how resolute he was. For him, the final decision was just a moment away. No matter what he chose, he would go forward without hesitation.

But, what did his future choice have to do with her? As long as she didn’t hold him back, anything was fine. For now, he was with her.

She suddenly felt an unprecedented sense of peace and satisfaction.

The following day, Pei Ji woke up before sunrise and quietly dressed and groomed himself. He leaned over to give a sleepy Li Zhi a tender kiss on the cheek and informed her of his two-day trip to Puzhou.

Li Zhi looked half-asleep and it was unclear if she heard him or not.

Helpless, Pei Ji gently nibbled on her lower lip, which woke her up a bit. He repeated his words to her.

Li Zhi’s watery eyes looked sad and she gave him a gentle push, saying in a soft voice, “I understand. You should leave now, or you’ll be late for the morning court.”

Although Pei Ji felt an overwhelming love for her, he knew she was right. He pulled up the thin blanket that had slipped down to her waist, gazed at her with affection, and then turned to leave.

Quietly exiting the palace, he made his way to Yanying Hall where he saw that most of the court officials, including Pei Yan, had already arrived.

Pei Yan’s serious expression was now tinged with worry and the empty spot beside him, which should have belonged to Du Heng, seemed especially conspicuous.

“Third Son, why are you so late today?” His father furrowed his brow and spoke with impatience, indicating that he was bothered by something.

Pei Ji knew that his father wanted to talk with him, so he did not go to his usual seat. Instead, he walked up to his father’s side, bowed apologetically, and said, “Yesterday, I was delayed during my patrol, and I overslept today, but fortunately, I’m not too late.”

Pei Yan made a sound of acknowledgement and took him aside. In a hushed voice, he asked, “Did you hear about what happened with Minister Du in the palace yesterday? What exactly happened?”

Pei Ji lowered his eyes and repeated what the eunuchs had said, and briefly mentioned his attempt to persuade the Emperor in Zichen Hall. He asked, “Father, are you going to mention this matter to His Majesty today?”

Pei Yan frowned and nodded, “Yes. When the news came out yesterday, many officials were concerned. Although His Majesty has not given any orders for punishment, no one knows what happened. Today, I will bring it up on behalf of everyone.”

Although they understood that the Emperor was unlikely to listen, since there was no punishment, it meant that no major offense was committed. Regardless, Xiao Ling Fu would not plead for Minister Du. Only he, as the Deputy Prime Minister, could convey the public attitude to the Emperor’s ears.

“Third Son, you have already spoken about it yesterday, so don’t get involved anymore. Go to Puzhou as soon as possible and leave the rest to me.”

Pei Ji understood what was meant and nodded in agreement.

Shortly thereafter, everyone entered the hall, taking their seats under the steps as usual, and proceeded with the customary ceremony of discussing matters.

After the matters were discussed, the customary question was asked if anyone else had anything to say.

Pei Yan had been preparing to speak and was about to stand up from his seat, but Xiao Ling Fu preempted him by saying, “Your Majesty, I have something to say.”

“Minister Xiao, you may speak.”

“Your Majesty has been on the throne for over six years now, and the country has been peaceful and prosperous under your reign. However, in regards to your offspring, the harem is lacking in numbers, and only the Pure Consort has given birth to the Eldest Prince. I suggest that to ensure the stability of the country, Your Majesty should expand the talents in the harem and have more offspring as soon as possible.”

This speech not only surprised the court officials, but also caught Pei Ji’s attention.

When they heard his opening remarks, everyone thought he was going to ask the Emperor to appoint the Crown Prince soon. The EldestPrince was the son of the Pure Consort, so appointing him as the Crown Prince would benefit him the most. But surprisingly, he didn’t suggest appointing the Eldest Prince. Instead, he advised the Emperor to expand the harem.

Could he really be so selfless?

Pei Ji didn’t believe it and felt something was wrong.

Li Jing Ye was also surprised. After thinking for a moment, he said, “I understand what Minister Xiao means. I’ve been focusing solely on politics, but I’ve neglected the importance of having a stable lineage for our country. From now on, I’ll have to consider both.”

After he finished speaking, he asked if anyone else had anything to say.

Pei Yan stood up and said, “Your Majesty, I—”

But he was interrupted before he could finish.

Li Jing Ye ignored everyone and told them they could leave.

He got up and left without waiting for a response.

Pei Yan was embarrassed and stayed still, while others whispered in surprise.

Only Xiao Ling Fu remained calm and left after a glance at Pei Yan.

Pei Ji silently helped his father up from the couch.

“Third Son, I’m afraid the direction of the wind in the court will change soon.”

With the many followers of the Du family in attendance, they may not be willing to accept being ignored by the Emperor.

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