At the Noble Consort’s Feet Chapter 98

Chapter 98 Handwriting

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“Li-niang, thank you for airing my clothes for me.”

He held her gently, placing his chin on her neck. He smelled the pleasant scent while closely watching her unfold and smooth out the wrinkled clothes.

Li Zhi smiled and turned to look at him, her lips curved in a smile, and her eyebrows raised. “But why thank me for airing your clothes? Doesn’t anyone at your home do these things for you?”

Pei Ji didn’t speak, but he softly stroked her long hair.

Although he took care of many things himself, being born into a powerful family meant that there were indeed many servants to manage his clothing.

However, they were different from her.

Watching her handle her own clothes reminded him of the scene he had seen in the past, where his mother repaired his father’s clothes.

His mother was a royal princess, living a luxurious life and never having to do any household chores. But he saw more than that. He saw his mother sewing clothes for his father and cooking soup and pancakes for him. He even saw her learning massage techniques from the elders in the palace to relieve his father’s pain during the rainy and snowy seasons.

When he was young and living in the palace, he was sensitive and heard people gossiping. They said his father, who had served in the military his whole life, had to restrain himself after marrying a princess. He couldn’t enjoy himself or have any freedom.

But he knew deep down that his father chose this willingly. He saw his father, who rarely smiled, laughing happily while his mother did those things. He also saw his father trying hard to find the perfect gift for his mother when he went on official duties.

It was the warm and sweet love only found between a loving couple.

Now, as he sat by the lamp, watching her, he felt a warm and bittersweet sensation in his heart.

“Li-niang, have you thought about what you want in the future?” He pulled her closer and lightly caressed her round shoulder, asking with a hidden hope, “If we can successfully leave, how would you like to live your life?”

The clothes were neatly arranged, and Li Zhi took back her hand. She knelt beside him and, upon hearing his words, glanced at him sideways, then lowered her gaze. “In the future, I just want to live a peaceful life in Yangzhou.”

It was a straightforward statement that didn’t mention him at all.

Pei Ji smiled bitterly to himself. Although he knew her slight affection for him might not be enough for her to have other expectations, he understood her thoughts. Perhaps she also didn’t want to hold back his future success. But there was still a tinge of bitterness in his heart.

He let out a soft sigh and cautiously asked, “Li-niang, if I also went to Yangzhou, would you… be willing to be with me?”

Li Zhi’s eyes froze, and she looked up at him in surprise. After a moment, she asked, “Don’t you care about your future anymore?”

She knew he wasn’t someone lacking ambition in his career. On the contrary, he appeared composed and restrained, but deep down, he possessed the same passion and aspirations as others. Especially since he was born into a noble family, he had a much higher starting point than most people. How could he easily give up everything?

Pei Ji’s eyes shimmered, and he stayed quiet for a while before slowly sharing the recent disagreements he had with the Emperor and his worries about his father’s safety.

“He is the Son of Heaven, having complete control over everything. I… can still hold back my differing opinions for now, but if it continues like this, I might end up like my father or Minister Du. Unfortunately, I can’t…” He paused, his words becoming unclear, and continued, “So maybe after things calm down in the court, I should find a chance to request a less demanding job and be transferred to a local area.”

While speaking, he sounded disheartened and helpless. Despite being a young man in his early twenties, a time when he should be full of confidence and eager to show his talents, he felt defeated and lacked the ability to change his circumstances.

Li Zhi looked at him, her eyes gradually showing pity.

She could probably guess that his feelings of family and admiration for Li Jing Ye had dwindled due to recent events. Now, what kept him serving faithfully was his natural perseverance and sense of duty. Especially for the sake of his mother, he had to keep suppressing himself.

Nowadays, it felt so frustrating to consider giving up his career in the government. It was a difficult decision to make.

Unfortunately, the situation was much more complicated. He was not going to have a chance to leave the central court voluntarily, at least not for a while.

Li Zhi touched his face gently and spoke softly, “We can’t predict the future. It’s too early to discuss these things. Let’s wait a little longer and see how things unfold.”

Pei Ji carefully looked into her eyes and felt reassured that she genuinely didn’t mean to use her words as an excuse to reject him. He relaxed and realized that he hadn’t taken her away from the palace yet, so talking about the future seemed premature.

“Alright.” He smiled slightly, picked her up from the bed, and brought her closer to the inner room. He found some medicine from her vanity, unbuttoned her outer garment, and gently applied it to the red mark he had left earlier.

“Does it still hurt?” He gazed at the small, bruised mark, a mix of red and purple, with a hint of pain in his eyes. He tried to be as gentle as possible, both in his touch and his actions.

“It just looks scary, but it stopped hurting a while ago.” Li Zhi looked down and watched as he applied the ointment. She felt the coolness of the medicine and then the itchiness from his fingers rubbing gently. Unable to hold back, she laughed and said, “Don’t be so gentle, I can’t handle it.”

Pei Ji noticed that she seemed to be in a very cheerful mood, and he also became more relaxed.

After finishing applying the medicine, Li Zhi adjusted her clothes and took out a letter she had prepared from under the pillow. She handed it to him and said, “Darling Third, I want to send a letter to my elder sister, letting her know that I might leave Chang’an soon.”

Pei Ji took the letter, carefully secured it, and nodded. “Don’t worry, I’ll arrange for someone from Shi Quan to deliver the letter to her discreetly.”

He thought for a moment and added, “Wei Peng is serving in the army in Hedong, and your elder sister is with him. They shouldn’t be affected. Don’t worry, as long as I’m here, I’ll do my best to protect both of them.”


In the following days, the palace lost the lively atmosphere of the Qianqiu Festival.

After the festival, there should have been two days of rest, but the officials from the Imperial Censorate had to obey Li Jing Ye’s orders and urgently investigate the more than ten officials detained by Xiao Chong.

Because Li Jing Ye had made it clear that there could be no leniency, everyone in the court felt a sense of danger, fearing any involvement in this matter.

The Imperial Censorate worked tirelessly day and night, and every day the Chief Censor personally went to Yanying Hall to report the progress of the investigations to Li Jing Ye in great detail.

After a few days, it indeed implicated seven or eight officials, most of whom had some connections, big or small, with the Du family.

In reality, most of these individuals simply advocated for the Crown Prince’s succession and didn’t have any intentions of rebellion. However, Li Jing Ye showed no mercy and directly ordered the Chief Censor to arrest them, charging them with treason.

The incident on the Qianqiu Festival day had turned into a massive purge within the court, causing a significant stir.

After waiting for more than ten days, the investigations were finally coming to an end, and people could finally breathe a sigh of relief.

On this day, Li Jing Ye once again skipped court and remained in Yanying Hall to handle political affairs.

Early in the morning, the Chief Censor had already delivered the well-arranged physical evidence and testimonies to the Emperor for him to personally examine, waiting for the Emperor’s final decision.

Li Jing Ye postponed all other matters, setting aside a significant portion of the day to carefully read through the details of this case.

A long list was placed on the desk, ranging from Li Ling Yue’s demotion to commoner status to the dismissal and exile of a seventh-rank Commander of the Thousand Bull Guards. Everyone involved in the matter would face the harshest punishment.

“Your Majesty, it’s time to take your medicine,” He Yuan Shi entered with a teacup and pills, “Your Majesty has been reading for over an hour. It’s time to take a break.”

Li Jing Ye made a sound of agreement and took the teacup, quickly swallowing the pills, but his gaze suddenly fell upon the pile of thick letters and pieces of evidence.

Due to the recent search, the pile of items had become somewhat disorganized. Among them, a thin sheet of plain paper revealed a corner with a neatly written character “远” (yuan) on it.

His heart stirred, and he squinted as he pulled out that inconspicuous piece of paper.

The paper contained only a few brief sentences:

“To achieve something significant, it’s important to establish a solid foundation and proceed slowly for long-term success. On the day of Qianqiu, when the whole country celebrates together and the atmosphere is joyful, it’s most suitable for taking action discreetly.”

No wonder those people chose to gather by the Qujiang Pool during Qianqiu Festival.

Li Jing Ye’s face suddenly darkened.

He placed the paper on the desk and used a paperweight to keep it in place, suppressing his anger as he commanded, “Go and summon the Chief Censor.”

He Yuan Shi didn’t need to read the content of the paper. With just a quick glance at the handwriting, he knew something significant was about to happen. The handwriting wasn’t exceptional, but it was neat and strong. Through those few characters, one could sense the person’s meticulousness. Among all the courtiers, only Minister Pei could write such words!

He didn’t dare to waste time and hurriedly urged the person by the door to go to the Chief Censorate and fetch someone.

The Chief Censor had sent these items early, expecting that the Emperor would summon him. He had been waiting for a while, so when they arrived, it only took a short moment.

Li Jing Ye didn’t talk about anything else. After the Chief Censor finished bowing, without telling him to stand up, Li Jing Ye directly took out the paper and gave it a little shake, asking in a cold tone, “Tell me, what is this?”

The Chief Censor looked up and immediately started sweating profusely.

It was a sealed letter, but he hadn’t included it in the list of evidence. In his reports and messages, he never mentioned this matter. The reason was simple: he didn’t believe it had anything to do with Minister Pei.

Many people in the court knew about Minister Pei’s character. Although he was upright and uncompromising like Minister Du, he showed more caution in his actions, knowing when to be flexible. That was why he rarely made enemies. Even the members of the Chief Censorate, who were known for their strong words and claiming not to recognize any family connections, greatly admired him.

Seeing Minister Du’s downfall causing such a big uproar in the court, if the Pei family was also involved, the consequences would be even worse.

The letter didn’t have a name on it, and when it was interrogated initially, he personally handled it, and a servant received the letter, so naturally, they couldn’t say who it was from. Besides the handwriting, there was no proof that the letter came from Pei Yan. Also, there were no testimonies from others involved mentioning Pei Yan.

After thinking about it, he quietly took the letter out from the evidence and stored it separately. This action was also driven by personal reasons.

If there was one less chief advisor among the three, many matters would then be decided solely by Prime Minister Xiao. Among the Chief Censorate officials, only Wei Ye Qing was close to him. If Minister Pei was gone, the Chief Censorate would probably face significant changes.

Unexpectedly, the item he had taken out silently ended up back among the pile of evidence, completely unnoticed. But His Majesty happened to notice it among the over one hundred items!

“Your Majesty, I think this item’s origin is unclear, and it’s not strong enough as solid evidence…”

Li Jing Ye chuckled coldly, “Not enough as solid evidence? Have you even properly interrogated Minister Pei? Or… are you deliberately protecting him?”

“Your Majesty, please forgive me! I wouldn’t dare!” The Chief Censorate fell to the ground, sweating profusely.

Li Jing Ye slammed a pile of official documents in front of him, his eyes burning with anger. He shouted, “I had no idea that my two chief advisors had such a strong following in the court. One has dozens, even hundreds of people pleading for him, and the other… even the Chief Censorate, who supervises officials, holds him in high regard. My orders have become useless! Tell me, are you serving the Li family or the Du and Pei families with the salary you receive?”

“Your Majesty, forgive me, it was my mistake! However, this letter cannot be considered solid evidence. According to the law, it shouldn’t be trusted…”

Before he could finish speaking, a teacup was thrown, shattering in the middle of the hall, cutting him off.

“Get out! Take the time to reflect on your actions. The Chief Censorate can no longer tolerate you. Go and stay in the prison of the Ministry of Justice for a while.” Li Jing Ye’s temple throbbed, and his whole body displayed the weakness and powerlessness that comes after intense anger. He leaned back on the couch, “Send Pei Yan there as well… This case will be handled by the Office of the Three Chief Judicial Officials.”

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