At the Noble Consort’s Feet Chapter 93

Chapter 93 Chance Encounter

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Minister Chen and Fan Huai’en’s case was reviewed for over half a month. Fan Huai’en still refused to confess, but under the strong pressure from Xiao Ling Fu, he finally couldn’t bear it and admitted his guilt on a certain night, leading to a quick conclusion of the case.

The two were found guilty of various crimes, including secret collaboration and corruption, with no mercy shown. Now, it was time to find new people to fill the vacant positions of Minister of War and Governor of Youzhou.

The Minister of War was an important role, and the choice for this position could only be made between two Deputy Ministers. The Emperor’s approval was needed for this matter. As for the Governor of Youzhou, the Prime Minister would recommend someone.

As Pei Yan expected, Xiao Ling Fu had already planned ahead and recommended a middle-aged general who had gained promotion by serving with Xiao Chong in a successful battle against the Tibet forces.

Perhaps it was because Xiao Ling Fu offered to support the harem and have children, which made Li Jing Ye trust him more. The selection of the new Governor went smoothly without any major obstacles and ended up being someone recommended by Xiao Ling Fu.

Pei Yan couldn’t ignore it, so on that day, he went to Yanying Hall and privately advised Li Jing Ye.

However, Li Jing Ye showed no signs of wavering after hearing Pei Yan’s advice. He simply acknowledged it coldly and waved his hand to dismiss him.

With the matter settled and no other options, Pei Yan had to return home feeling disappointed.

Towards the end of the seventh lunar month, General Zhang finally sent another letter.

In the letter, it mentioned that the Turkic forces, who had been quiet for half a year, were showing signs of getting active again. They were mobilizing troops and moving south, causing trouble in the northern border area. Considering their past minor attacks near Lulong and the well-known reputation of Hedong’s army, it was worrisome that they might target the defense lines around Lulong once more.

After quickly reading the letter, Pei Ji’s face turned serious. He immediately burned the letter to ashes and waited until nighttime to discuss it with his father.

“Based on the previous situation, it does seem more likely that they will attack Lulong. However, in the battle earlier this year, An Yi Kang faced limitations as he had military power but lacked control over provisions and funds. As a result, Lulong’s army couldn’t move freely and kept retreating when facing the Turkic invasion. This time, we should be more careful, especially urging General Zhang to be fully prepared and ready to provide support at any moment,” Pei Yan said while gently massaging his sore back.

He wasn’t sure if it was because of constant worries lately, but he felt noticeably older. Despite it still being the height of summer, the old injuries and illnesses that used to bother him mostly during autumn, winter, or rainy days suddenly resurfaced, causing him constant pain and discomfort while sitting or lying down.

Last night, even when lying in bed, he experienced unbearable pain. He was so tired that the Grand Princess had to get up and massage him for a long time with her own hands to provide some relief. Only then could he manage to fall asleep.

“Father is right, and I mentioned the same in my letter. Luckily, General Zhang is a cautious person who pays great attention to detail. He has never made any mistakes in military matters. Our Hedong Army strictly follows discipline and is always ready for battle.”

As Pei Ji spoke, he glanced at his father’s hands massaging his waist and back. Without showing any signs, he pushed the cold tea aside on the table and replaced it with warm tea.

Pei Yan’s hand paused for a moment as he looked at his son’s serious face. Silently, he picked up the hot tea and took a sip.

Pei Ji shifted his gaze away, once again pondering over the unresolved matter of whether the military power and control over provisions and funds in the northwest should be entrusted to a single Military Governor. Suddenly, a thought sparked in his mind.

“Has Fan Huai’en managed to recover the batch of iron mines he secretly withheld within the territory of Youzhou?”

He remembered that when the people sent by Huangfu Jing arrived in Youzhou, they witnessed some of the workers secretly keeping thirty percent of the transported iron ore.

Pei Yan nodded. “We have investigated and recovered it all. According to the confession of Fan Huai’en’s subordinate, they withheld twenty percent of that batch of iron ore to use as a replacement for lower-quality ore. Although they paid eighty percent, Chen Ying Shao allocated funds based on the full price. When they deliver it next time, the remaining twenty percent of ordinary iron ore will likely be passed off as high-grade ore to fetch more money. Third Son, have you thought of something?”

Pei Ji furrowed his brow as he listened, slowly saying, “I just feel that there are still some issues with that batch of ore, but I haven’t figured out the details yet.”

Something felt wrong to him. What were they really after, the money or the iron ore? If their motive was purely for wealth, why would they go through such elaborate schemes and target a project that the court was closely scrutinizing?

He had initially planned to use the Emperor’s order to investigate and clarify all these details. However, now that the case had been concluded, he couldn’t take any further actions.

Should he just let it go like this?

Pondering over it, after leaving his father’s presence, he picked up a pen and wrote another letter. He instructed someone to deliver it to Puzhou and hand it to Huangfu Jing.

In no time, it was already the eight lunar month, and the weather had turned to autumn.

Li Zhi walked with Chun Yue by the Taiye Pool for half an hour. They continued until the sun started to set, and then they turned back towards Chenghuan Palace.

In the distance, they heard the sound of a bell. They stopped and looked in the direction of Dajiao Temple across the pool. It seemed like there was smoke rising, indicating that there was a constant fire burning in the alchemical furnace, melting gold and stone. They could imagine the scene without going inside.

Buddhism and Taoism were popular in Great Wei. Whether among ordinary people or the upper class, there were quite a few believers in alchemy and the elixir path. The idle members of the imperial family were especially interested in this. While the common people struggled to make ends meet, these noble individuals had no worries about their clothes and food. Naturally, they sought something more. As they grew older, they became tired of the ordinary world and dreamt of transcending it, pursuing immortality.

No one understood the disadvantages of elixirs better than Li Zhi. Even ministers like Du Heng and Pei Yan only disagreed with him taking elixirs because they were worried that Li Jing Ye, at such a young age, had become engrossed and couldn’t break free from them.

Now, after several months have passed, she may not know how much his symptoms of fear and unease have improved, but she knew for certain that there hadn’t been any reports of pregnancy from any of the previous concubines or the newly arrived beauties in the palace.

He must be growing impatient. She heard that a few days ago, three more beauties were brought into the palace.

It was not just him. The officials in the court must be anxious as well.

Before she became the Noble Consort, Li Jing Ye wasn’t known for indulging in worldly pleasures, and his visits to the harem were infrequent. In the past six or seven years, there were two miscarriages. Back then, the court officials probably didn’t worry much about his difficulty in producing an heir.

Later, when she became the Noble Consort and Li Jing Ye spent more than half of his days in Chenghuan Palace, the court officials naturally blamed her privately for the absence of any children in the palace.

Now, things had changed, and she was no longer involved. They probably have nothing to say anymore, right?

The reason behind it all was almost crystal clear.

Li Zhi glanced at it for a moment, then slowly looked away and softly said, “Let’s go.”

At this time, most of the palaces were having their evening meals, and the court officials who were busy near Yanying Hall had already left. There weren’t many people on the road.

As they passed Qinghui Pavilion, intermittent sounds of music and singing could be heard from the music hall to the north, occasionally pausing and then continuing, as if they were practicing.

Chun Yue remembered last year when she accompanied Li Zhi to practice dancing in the music hall and couldn’t help but sigh, “Time goes by so quickly. The Qianqiu Festival is approaching again, and the imperial palace has been busy lately. Our palace is the most relaxed.”

Li Zhi smiled and glanced at her, jokingly saying, “What’s this? Are you reminiscing about the past and feeling envious of others?”

Chun yue’s round eyes widened instantly, and she quickly shook her head, saying, “No, no, why would I envy others? During the last Qianqiu Festival, I followed Miss to the music hall every day, constantly worrying and fearing that she might be resented or mistreated. Now things are better, and there’s nothing to worry about. I’m just incredibly happy.”

Li Zhi let out a light laugh, facing the gentle evening breeze and looking towards the distant sunset. She softly said, “Yes, now we have peacefulness.”

However, she didn’t know how long this tranquility would last. If it stretched out for too long, it would undoubtedly become a painful way to pass the time for her. If it arrived too quickly, she feared she wouldn’t be prepared for it.

Many things now differed greatly from what she had seen in her dreams. These unexpected situations made her feel somewhat uneasy.

Luckily, amid numerous uncertainties, there was always Pei Ji whom she could rely on.

Her thoughts gradually settled. As they passed the Left Treasury, Li Zhi was about to continue heading west when Chun Yue suddenly pulled at her sleeve, gesturing for her to look south.

On the southern palace road, several eunuchs were hastily carrying a sedan chair, and sitting on it was the long-unseen Miao Yun.

She seemed to have grown thinner, her complexion was pale, and her expression held a mixture of resentment and anger. Upon closer inspection, traces of moisture could be seen at the corners of her eyes.

The two sisters stood at a distance of more than ten feet, gazing at each other.

Miao Yun almost instinctively sat up straight, putting on a proud expression. She looked ahead with her head held high, as if trying to prove something. Without stopping, she made the sedan chair pass by Li Zhi.

Li Zhi remained calm, standing in place and waiting for Miao Yun to pass by. Afterward, she glanced back in the direction Miao Yun had come from before continuing towards Chenghuan Palace.

Chun Yue quietly pulled Li Zhi and whispered, “Miss, Fourth Miss is secretly watching you.”

Li Zhi glanced to her right and indeed caught Miao Yun’s turned head, peering at her. As soon as their eyes met, it felt as if their thoughts had been discovered, and Li Zhi quickly looked away.

“She still has that high-spirited nature and refuses to be defeated.” Li Zhi slowly withdrew her gaze and shook her head softly.

Chun Yue said, “I heard that although His Majesty doesn’t visit Zilan Hall frequently anymore, he continues to bestow rewards. What could she be unhappy about? Earlier, I don’t know who she was arguing with, but her expression was just like it used to be back at home.”

Li Zhi turned her head and looked at the palace road to the south. “Where else could she come from? The south leads to Guangshun Gate. Naturally, she went to see her family.”

Outside the Guangshun Gate lay the Women of High Rank Court, where the Empress used to meet her female relatives. Since there was no Empress in the palace now, it had become the place for lower-ranked concubines to meet their families.

Although Miao Yun held a high position as a first-rank lady, being an external concubine, she couldn’t directly bring her family into Zilan Hall. So, she could only go to the Women of High Rank Court.

It seemed like Madam Yang wouldn’t have a pleasant expression towards her.

With Li Jing Ye’s decree forbidding Zhong Hao from taking concubines and Li Ling Yue unable to bear him a child, it was almost impossible for Zhong Hao to have a future. All of this was because of Miao Yun.

Because of her selfishness, she disregarded the consequences and angered Li Ling Yue. While Li Ling Yue was also at fault, Madam Yang dared not criticize her and could only direct all her resentment towards her own daughter.

The daughter who was once cherished and grew up with affection had now become a burden to her brother, leading to the loss of understanding from her family.

Chun Yue nodded in agreement. “Yes, Madam Yang probably despises Fourth Miss now. She used to blame Miss for not speaking up for her family in the palace, but now everything seems to have gone downhill for her.”

“Miao Yun was jealous of my life. I wonder if she regrets it now.”

The current Miao Yun held a high position as a first-rank Lady of a Country and had successfully entered Daming Palace, becoming the Emperor’s “new favorite” — or at least that was how others see it. As a result, she had become the target of gossip, ridicule, and criticism from others.

This situation mirrored what Miao Yun used to long for, the life she envied. However, she didn’t appear satisfied or joyful.

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