At the Noble Consort’s Feet Chapter 95

Chapter 95 Conspiracy

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Under the raised stage, the music and dance performers were ready. The musicians started playing their drums, and the dancers followed with their graceful movements.

Over a thousand palace attendants entered from either side, holding plates and cups, and served various tasty dishes to the guests.

For a time, people shared drinks and jokes, and the Emperor’s family, officials, and guests all formed groups and raised their glasses to wish him well.

Both inside and outside the Linde Hall, an atmosphere of grandeur and joy prevailed, as if it were no different from countless palace banquets in the past.

The only thing that was not going well was the discomfort that Li Zhi felt while sitting on the couch.

As the top concubine, she sat close to the Emperor’s throne. She wasn’t sure if it was because she hadn’t been this close to Li Jing Ye for a while, but she felt that he was looking at her from time to time today.

She desperately hoped it was just an illusion, so she lifted the cup in front of her and took a sip while everyone’s attention was on the stage. Then she casually looked towards the direction of the imperial throne.

That glance happened to meet the seemingly gentle, but actually meaningful and insinuating gaze.

He was indeed looking at her, and it was not an illusion.

Her heart clenched as she gazed at his enigmatic expression. She looked away, lowered her head, and poured herself half a cup of wine. She drank it silently, not daring to look at him again.

Although she didn’t meet his eyes, she sensed that Li Jing Ye had been observing her the whole time, leaving her feeling strangely uneasy.

Luckily, several envoys from small Western countries arrived at the moment, and they went to pay their respects to Li Jing Ye and offer him a toast.

No longer wanting to remain in the main hall, Li Zhi stood up quietly and slipped away from behind the crowd while Li Jing Ye’s attention was diverted to others who came to congratulate him.

The hall was filled with noise and people, and it seemed like no one noticed her leaving, except for Li Jing Ye who spotted her.

He was still talking to some envoys, but his gaze flickered quickly over her back and his eyes showed a moment of sadness before he signaled to He Yuan Shi to follow her.

Pei Ji took a few bites of food and wine on the other side of the throne, then bowed respectfully to his mother, “Mother, it’s getting late. I must leave the table to go inspect other places.”

The Grand Princess was talking to a lady beside her and turned her head to look at her son. “So soon? It’s not even half an hour yet.”

Pei Ji lowered his eyes and explained, “Today, there are more lights in the palace than at previous banquets, so we need to be more careful to prevent any accidents. Although several eunuch are present, I still need to personally inspect each place to ensure everything is safe.”

He spoke with resolve, and the Grand Princess could only shake her head and say, “Never mind, in my opinion, now that you are working in the Ministry of War, the affairs of the Imperial Guards should be handed over to someone else sooner or later. It’s not good to run around all the time.”

Pei Ji didn’t say anything, but a lady next to him consoled the Grand Princess, “They say hard work pays off. The position of General of the Imperial Guards is not just for anyone, but for capable people like Young General Pei. He’s most trusted by His Majesty, so he needs to worry more.”

The Grand Princess smiled proudly after hearing this and waved her hand generously, “Alright, Third Son, go quickly and do your job well.”

Pei Ji nodded, stood up, hurriedly passed through the crowd, and followed the path that Li Zhi had just taken, quickly walking down the mountain path.

He hadn’t seen her in private for over a month. During this time, he was busy every day, and his mind never dared to relax. Only when it was late at night and quiet, could he secretly touch the coral jade hairpin to relieve his lovesickness.

This feeling was even more unbearable than being unable to see each other while being separated by thousands of miles. She was so close, yet he couldn’t get any closer, nor could he even look at her for more than a second.

He seemed to be getting greedier and greedier.

Finally, after so long, he could see her from a distance in the crowd. He missed her so much, especially when he saw her leaving and looking sad, he felt the urge to check on her.

He stopped walking at the end of the slope.

If he went east, he would reach Taiye Pool, and if he went south, he would reach Chenghuan Palace.

After a brief pause, he walked straight towards Taiye Pool.

The road by Taiye Pool was also well-lit, but it was much quieter compared to the noise in Linde Hall. He didn’t go too far before he found her in the pavilion.

Her dress was a simple lotus color. She looked slender and graceful under the light and moon. He remembered last year when she deliberately tempted him in the same pavilion. His heart felt warm, but when he was about to approach her, he saw someone had already walked in and was talking to her.

It was He Yuan Shi.

He stopped walking, feeling a chill. He stood by the road for a while, then quietly hid in the shadow behind the light.

In the pavilion, the fresh breeze from the nearby water helped clear Li Zhi’s mind after drinking.

Feeling better, she heard Chunyue’s reminder, “Miss, Chief Eunuch He has arrived.”

She stopped herself from frowning, put on a calm smile, and turned to face He Yuan Shi, who had just entered the pavilion. “Why didn’t Chief Eunuch He stay with His Majesty? Does he have something to tell me?”

He Yuan Shi smiled politely and said, “I am here on His Majesty’s orders. Please wait here for a moment, Your Highness. His Majesty has not seen you for a long time and has something to say.”

As he spoke, Li Jing Ye saw a little eunuch leaving the pavilion in a hurry, probably to inform Li Jing Ye.

“I understand. Thank you, Chief Eunuch He.”

He Yuan Shi conveyed the message and then respectfully left the pavilion to stand guard outside.

Li Zhi turned around and sat on a stone bench facing Taiye Pool. Her smile disappeared, and she quickly thought about what Li Jing Ye wanted from her.

He had not come to Chenghuan Palace for four months and had not called her over. Usually, he sent eunuchs to deliver things. Today, he wanted to see her suddenly. What for?

When she remembered the look he gave her earlier, she felt worried. Did he find out about her and Pei Ji?

However, in a moment, she dismissed the thought.

She had not seen Pei Ji for a month, and there was no evidence left behind during that time. If Li Jing Ye had known earlier, he would not have waited until now.

With this in mind, she breathed a sigh of relief and regained her composure.

Although this place was close to Linde Hall, Li Jing Ye was probably delayed by the crowd and only arrived later on his sedan chair.

Li Zhi fixed her dress, stood up from the stone bench, walked down the stairs, and bowed to the Emperor. “Your Majesty–“

Before she finished, the Emperor stepped down from the sedan and came closer, holding her arms to help her up.

“Li-niang.” He called her softly, not letting go of her arms, but pulling her closer, looking at her carefully under the light of the lamp and the moon.

She looked down, and he lifted her chin gently.

Li Zhi resisted the urge to dodge, looked up at him with her bright eyes, and asked softly, “What does Your Majesty want to tell me?”

Seeing him up close, she noticed that Li Jing Ye’s face was not only pale but also a little gray.

His eyes flickered, and his fingers that were holding her chin couldn’t help but grope around. “Li-niang, will you come back to me? Please?”

Li Zhi heard his words and squeezed her fingertips tightly. She slowly turned her face away and back to him, trying to stay calm as she asked, “What do you mean, Your Majesty?”

“Li-niang, I’ve been thinking for a while.” Li Jing Ye hugged her from behind, kissed her hair, and sighed, “I know I’ve wronged you. I wanted to give you what you wanted, a quiet life in the palace without any distractions. But I’ve realized recently that I can’t do it. Even though there are many women in the palace, none of them are like you. Without you, I always feel like something is missing in my heart, and I don’t know how to fill it.”

Li Zhi closed her eyes and didn’t say anything, resisting the urge to push him away.

“I was wrong in the past. I didn’t take good care of you, and you suffered for it. But don’t worry, it won’t happen again. I’ll protect you and cherish you, and won’t let anything harm you. Li-niang, come back to me. Let’s be like we were before.”

Li Zhi kept her eyes closed and endured the warm kiss he left on her neck. She asked softly, “Does Your Majesty forget that I cannot bear children?”

Li Jing Ye’s body tensed for a moment, then he hugged her tighter. His voice was filled with guilt and pain as he said, “I’m sorry, Li-niang. I didn’t mean to hurt you. I just want you by my side. I love you.”

“It’s my mistake, and I’m to blame,” he whispered, tracing her ear and jawline with his fingers. “I couldn’t bear to lose you, but I made you drink those potions. Now, no one in the palace can bear a child, and it’s as if the heavens are punishing me for my actions.”

He eased his embrace and turned her around, their foreheads touching as if in a promise.

“I’ll call for a female official to examine you, and use the most precious herbs to treat you. You’re still young, and I’ll wait patiently for you to recover.”

Li Zhi’s familiar face was so close, filling the void in his heart.

He held her waist tightly, whispering, “No one can compare to you, and I only want to be with you…”

He leaned in and kissed her passionately on her lips.

Pei Ji watched quietly from the shadows of the trees, feeling angry and wanting to rescue Li Zhi from the Emperor’s arms.

He squeezed his hand tightly and pressed it against the tree, feeling pain from the rough bark.

The pain kept him calm and stopped him from acting on impulse.

Just as he was about to lose his grip on his sanity and recklessly charge out, he suddenly caught a glimpse of the hill where the Linde Hall was located.

Seven or eight figures rushed by on the slope, too far away to see their faces clearly, but he could tell from their attire that they were the Left and Right Golden Shield Guards.

The Left and Right Golden Shield Guards were responsible for patrolling and guarding the area around Chang’an. They were in charge of enforcing curfews, opening and closing the gates of markets and neighborhoods, and maintaining public order. Their sudden appearance in the palace meant something had happened outside.

The Emperor should be called away soon, and Pei Ji only needed to wait a little longer.

It had been a long time since Li Jing Ye had been so intimate with Li Zhi. She felt strange and a layer of resistance rose unconsciously on her body.

People were always greedy. In the past, she had to deal with him and accept his intimacy, but she could still persuade herself to get used to it. However, once she got rid of him and enjoyed the taste of freedom, she could never persuade herself to go back to the past situation.

Taking advantage of his confusion, she suddenly pushed him away, turned around, and walked to the edge of the pond, coldly saying, “Your Majesty called those concubines into the palace only to give birth to a son, but after just a few months, you are already tired of them. It turns out that your feelings towards me can be exchanged with the loneliness and sadness of others.”

Her words were almost accusing him of being too cold to the women in the palace.

Li Jing Ye’s face froze for a moment, then he softened his voice and said, “Li-niang, I know you are kind-hearted. Don’t worry, as long as they don’t make mistakes, I won’t treat them unfairly.”

Li Zhi couldn’t help but sneer.

She knew that he was not lying. As long as she did not touch his taboo, he would always be tolerant of the women in the harem and would never be harsh on them materially.

But what did it matter? They hadn’t done anything wrong, why should they be confined to this palace city just because of his whim? For example, she didn’t want to be restrained here at all.

“Your Majesty is mistaken,” she stared coldly at him, “I am not kind-hearted at all.”

“What’s wrong with you, Li-niang?” Li Jing Ye frowned at her, feeling something was off. He reached out to pull her, but stopped when he saw her cold and calm expression.

“Your Majesty doesn’t understand me at all. I am not kind-hearted. I am cold, selfish, and indifferent to emotions. I am only good at disguising myself. In the past, you thought I was a gentle and kind person, but which concubine in the palace isn’t gentle and knows their place?” Her gaze was sharp and unyielding. “Your Majesty, ask yourself, do you really like me as a person?”

“I…” Li Jing Ye was initially shocked and angry, but when she asked such a straightforward question, he suddenly felt confused and couldn’t answer for a while.

Li Zhi sneered. “Your Majesty only likes this skin deep appearance of mine. I don’t need this kind of affection.”

The majestic Emperor had never been rejected so openly before. He was truly angry this time and was about to rebuke her, but he heard two eunuchs rushing in from a distance, shouting, “Your Majesty, the Golden Shield Guards just reported that the Princess of Wuyang secretly gathered more than ten officials tonight and plotted to support Prince Rui!”

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