At the Noble Consort’s Feet Chapter 88

Chapter 88 Newcomer

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After two days, Pei Ji finished his work and left for Puzhou.

Although Chen Ying Shao was in charge of casting iron bulls in Puzhou, he was not a local official, but a central official with real power in the court. Another official involved, Fan Huai’en, was the governor of Youzhou, who controlled the local administration.

The case involved a large area, especially Youzhou, which was a border area near the Turks. Without solid evidence, one must not act recklessly and startle the snake while treading on the grass.

Ten days later, they arrived at Puzhou.

Chen Ying Shao greeted them with a smile as usual and led them to several smelting sites in the city for inspection. He also detailed the progress and sent all the accounts and records in a timely manner without any delay.

Pei Ji and several supervisory officials who came with him from the Imperial Household Department, the Ministry of War, and the Imperial Censorate classified the submitted materials and carefully reviewed them according to the rules. After three to five days, they did not find any mistakes.

These things were already expected.

Chen Ying Shao was talented, that was why the court trusted him. He knew how to prepare for routine inspections and never made mistakes.

Pei Ji stayed calm and continued to follow the rules while secretly asking about the singing girls at Chen Ying Shao’s residence.

Chen Ying Shao invited Pei Ji to a banquet at his residence. He was more relaxed than before, probably because he remembered that Pei Ji was still young and hadn’t done much in the past few days.

Normally, Pei Ji wouldn’t attend such social events, but this time he agreed when he received an invitation.

After finishing his work, Pei Ji didn’t immediately go to the banquet. He went back to his lodgings, changed his clothes, wrote a letter, and then went to the banquet with Shi Quan.

Puzhou was not as big as Chang’an, so it was quiet at night with few people on the streets.

Chen Ying Shao’s mansion was the only one with lights still ablaze. Even the tightly shut gate couldn’t muffle the merry sounds of singing and playful laughter that drifted out from inside.

Shi Quan tapped his head, muttering under his breath, “Minister Chen’s life is so much easier out here than in the capital.”

Back in Chang’an, Du Heng and Pei Yan were all too familiar with Chen Ying Shao’s temperament. Despite holding him in high regard, they often critiqued and constrained him, forcing him to work hard and always remain cautious, never daring to overstep. Now, after just a few months out of Chang’an, Chen Ying Shao had completely let his guard down.

Pei Ji didn’t say a word as he hurriedly followed the servants into the mansion. He passed through the front hall and arrived in the courtyard.

The courtyard was alive with the sound of silk and bamboo, as the performers sang and danced to entertain the guests, who by now had already had a few drinks and were laughing and clapping along.

Upon seeing Pei Ji arrive, Chen Ying Shao rose to his feet and personally welcomed him, “General Pei! I didn’t think you would be able to make it tonight!”

He waited for a while, but nobody came back, so he thought they wouldn’t come. When he was in Chang’an before, he heard that the Grand Princess’s husband was a good person who didn’t go to bad places. Even if he went to Pingkang District to drink, he still kept his distance.

He thought the Young Master was strict and unyielding, but when he came back this time, he asked about the courtesans in the mansion. This young man was passionate, and he only showed his true nature in Puzhou far from the Emperor’s side.

He probably struggled to come on time. Young people were like this.

Pei Ji didn’t point out his self-assured appearance. He followed his wishes and sat on the new seat, drinking with everyone and secretly remembering the faces of the guests.

After a while, the guests became tipsy, and the music and dance stopped. A young girl in a pomegranate flower dress came over and smiled as she bowed to the crowd.

Although the girl had a pretty figure and appearance, she was not outstanding, so the guests didn’t pay attention and continued to drink and have fun.

But suddenly, the music started again and the beautiful voice of the young girl caught everyone’s attention.

The noisy place became quiet and only the music and singing could be heard.

She sang a song called “Spring Warbler Chirping” with her voice going high and low, making it sound beautiful and unforgettable.

Even Pei Ji couldn’t help but stare at her and her red dress.

After a moment, the singing gradually stopped, and the guests woke up from their trance, applauding and praising. One of them asked, “Is this girl the new singing girl that Minister Chen recently acquired, named ‘Yun-niang’?”

Chen Ying Shao had drunk quite a bit of wine, his face slightly red, and proudly nodded in agreement. “Yes, her voice is even better than the most famous singing girls in Pingkang District. When she sings even the most ordinary music, it has a unique lingering charm.”

The crowd was half agreeing and half praising. “Indeed, the song ‘Spring Warbler Chirping’ just now, while the melody is common, when Yun-niang sang it, it had a unique flavor that is unforgettable.”

Chen Ying Shao was really pleased and gestured for Yun-niang to come over. He then turned to Pei Ji and said with a smile, “Go pour some wine for General Pei.”

He noticed that Pei Ji was momentarily distracted just now, and he was sure that he was right.

Yun-niang replied and slowly walked over to Pei Ji’s side. She knelt down on the couch, held the wine pot in one hand, and tucked her sleeve with the other. She then poured wine into his cup and handed it to him while saying, “Please drink, General.”

The young woman looked at him shyly with her watery eyes.

Most of the guests at the banquet were officials in their forties or fifties. Some even had gray hair and flowing beards. But Pei Ji was different. He was young, tall, handsome, and extraordinary. He caught people’s attention, especially since Minister Chen and others treated him politely and respectfully. It showed that he had a high status.

Unlike the other guests, Pei Ji did not gather in groups of three or five, nor did he touch the hands of the maids and dancers around him. He sat upright on the couch, and he didn’t fit in with everything around him.

Which woman wouldn’t want a man like him? Yun-niang understood Minister Chen’s intention. She knew she had a low status and could only be sent out like an object to serve old and ugly men. It was better to serve Pei Ji, who was young and handsome. Even if it was only for a day or two, it would be a blessing.

The girl’s face turned a little red as she entertained such thoughts.

Pei Ji’s eyes shifted from her skirt with pomegranate flowers, and his hand under the table clenched tightly, fingers rubbing each other.

He paused briefly, then smiled and took the wine from the girl, drinking it all while the crowd cheered.

The girl blushed even more, adding color to her already pretty face. She lowered her head and scooted closer to him.

He put down the wine cup and didn’t resist the girl’s action. He just smiled and gazed softly at her, asking, “Is your name Yun-niang? Your accent when you sang just now sounded like you’re not from Puzhou.”

Chen Ying Shao, who was not far away, saw Pei Ji speaking kindly to Yun Niang and was pleased. He didn’t intervene further, instead, he summoned two attractive maids to serve him.

With a blush, Yun-niang nodded and replied, “General Pei is very observant. I’m from Zhuozhou and arrived in Puzhou only two months ago. Please forgive my accent, General.”

Pei Ji nodded, then looked away.

Zhuozhou was next to Youzhou. It was two months ago when he found out that Chen Ying Shao was secretly involved with someone. The clues seemed clear, but everything went too smoothly, which made him feel suspicious.

He thought quietly and didn’t talk. He drank some wine, stood up, and said, “It’s getting late. I have work tomorrow. Excuse me, everyone.”

Chen Ying Shao didn’t stop him. He walked Pei Ji to the main hall’s exit and whispered, “If you like Yun-niang…”

Pei Ji changed his demeanor and said, “I don’t take what belongs to others, Master Chen.”

Without waiting for a reply, Pei Ji left with Shi Quan.

The street was empty and silent.

Shi Quan rode his horse beside him and grumbled, “I heard that the Minister Chen in the capital didn’t have any mistresses. Why is he so bold now in Puzhou? Doesn’t he fear causing trouble?”

Pei Ji looked at him expressionlessly and said, “Before, he naturally didn’t have the courage. But now that Minister Du is in trouble and no one can control him, he can’t hold back.”

Shi Quan furrowed his brow and nodded in agreement, “Minister Du has been in charge of the government for many years and is very strict.”

Although there was no rule in the Great Wei forbidding officials from indulging in private pleasure-seeking activities, Du Heng took it very seriously. Now that he was in trouble, the matter naturally fell into the hands of Xiao Ling Fu, who wouldn’t be lenient..

“No wonder Minister Chen is so pleased with himself and even wants to send a woman to the General,” he said, secretly criticizing him. How could the general be interested in such an ordinary girl? His thoughts were clearly on the person in Chenghuan Palace.

Pei Ji didn’t say anything else, but he pictured Li Zhi in a red pomegranate flower dress walking gracefully to the tune of the “Spring Warbler Chirping”.

He instinctively touched his left sleeve, where a coral peony jade hairpin warmed by his skin was hidden.

In the Chenghuan Palace, Li Zhi finished dressing up and sat down to listen to Chun Yue’s daily report about the palace.

Gossip in the harem mostly revolved around the Emperor and the concubines. Before, Li Zhi didn’t care much for these trivial matters, but now she was more interested.

She had a feeling that something was about to happen, but she couldn’t inquire about court affairs. So she had to rely on the palace gossip to try to understand the current situation.

“It seems like His Majesty visited the newly appointed Talented Lady again today. This is the fourth day in a row. His Majesty seems to have changed.”

In the past month, Li Jing Ye, who was not very interested in the harem, suddenly started listening to the opinions of court officials and chose seven or eight young and beautiful women to enter the palace. He favored them daily. When Li Zhi occasionally strolled around Taiye Pool during the day, she saw several unfamiliar faces, either coming from the direction of Zichen Hall or heading towards it.

This was expected.

Ever since the day Li Zhi clarified things with him, he began to worry about the issue of having an heir. Now that the courtiers brought up the matter, he became even more anxious. He visited the new imperial concubines daily, and it was all in hopes of having a child.

Li Zhi didn’t give much thought to the matter of the Talented Lady. She simply asked, “You mentioned a few days ago that His Majesty has been taking medicine more frequently?”

Recently, he seemed to have stopped trying to hide the fact that he was taking elixirs. Everyone from the Empress Dowager to the ordinary palace servants and eunuchs knew about it.

Chun Yue nodded and said, “Yes, I heard from Qing Zi and the others. They were friends with the palace servants serving that young woman when they were in the Yeting Palace. They now work here and move around more often. I know you’re worried about this matter, so I sent Qing Zi to inquire quietly today.”

Chun Yue lowered her voice and whispered, “His Majesty not only takes elixirs during the day, but also at night, and even lets those women who sleep with him take them together.”

Li Zhi shook her head and muttered, “If he continues using this thing, how can he still hope to have an heir?”

Others may be unaware, but Li Zhi knew the truth.

This elixir was not a good thing. It was often concocted by individuals from the folk medicine community or Taoist practitioners, and its composition remained unclear. The claimed effectiveness was often similar to traditional remedies like the Five Stone Powder, which generated a sensation of bodily warmth that required dispersion, creating a false impression of abundant energy and physical strength.

Occasionally using it may indeed have the effect of promoting blood circulation and dispelling cold, but after a period of time, its drawbacks would began manifesting.

It should be known that at this time, the Taoists who made the elixir mostly use minerals. After taking such things for a long time, it would accumulate and cause poisoning. How could he expect to have children by relying on this?

“Miss?” Chun Yue asked, curious.

“Nothing,” she replied, focused on packing her clothes with them.

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