Consort Xi turned her head and spoke softly, “It’s my foolishness, being deceived time and time again, yet still believing that there can be unexplained kindness in this harem.”
Xue Yao furrowed his brow, disregarding etiquette as he looked directly at Consort Xi. “I swear to Heavens, I have never betrayed Your Highness’ trust.”
Consort Xi, with a helpless expression, walked to the side. “How much is the vow in this harem worth? You have helped me once, so I won’t make things difficult for you. When Old Seventh finds a new reader-in-waiting, you will return to serve your master.”
Xue Yao was shocked to his core, looking at Consort Xi with disbelief. Even his usually eloquent speech failed him. “Your Highness! I am devoted to you and His Highness. His Highness’ character and habits have not yet been fully corrected. I cannot simply let go like this!”
Consort Xi’s expression was resolute.
Xue Yao became increasingly panicked. Things had happened too suddenly.
He had initially wanted to change the fate of Consort Xi and her child, and at the same time, find a way to prematurely halt the Emperor’s Road to Shu project, saving the suffering common people.
Now, before the plan had even begun, he found himself misunderstood by Consort Xi.
How could he possibly be taking orders from the Empress?!
He had no idea who had slandered him behind his back!
Xue Yao anxiously turned his head towards Seventh Prince, who sat by the table.
The Seventh Prince couldn’t understand their conversation, but as if by some unspoken connection, he stopped fiddling with his toy. Instead, he opened his wide eyes and anxiously fixed his gaze on Mother Consort and Xue Yao.
The Seventh Prince seemed to think that his own story wasn’t entertaining enough, which had displeased Mother Consort. So, he nervously suggested to Consort Xi, “How about your grandpa tells you the story of Houyi Shooting the Suns again?”
Consort Xi: “……”
Xue Yao: “……”
Oh no, the moment he used “grandpa,” the cat was out of the bag!
Why is this chubby cub suddenly adding drama to the scene?
Houyi shooting what now?
When the Seventh Prince resumed his usual storytelling, it brought a smile to Consort Xi’s face.
The palace maids in the room, who were all united in their hatred of the enemy, all began to laugh, covering their mouths with their hands.
The Seventh Prince had completely disrupted Xue Yao’s train of thought!
Consort Xi didn’t give him a chance to explain further and had the palace maids escort him out.
Back at his residence, Xue Yao spent a sleepless night, tossing and turning, his mind filled with mixed emotions.
In a fit of anger, he thought, “I don’t want to deal with the misfortunes of that mother and son. Fine, I’ll leave!”
But then, he couldn’t help but think of the chubby little face of His Highness, and he felt a pang of sorrow.
Why did Consort Xi suddenly believe he was working for the Empress?
Who was really behind all of this?
Upon careful reflection, he realized that he had offended Consort Tong earlier due to exposing the scented pouch incident.
It was highly likely that Consort Tong was sowing discord.
However, Consort Xi had already seen through Consort Tong’s true nature, so why did she still believe Consort Tong’s manipulations?
Xue Yao turned over, furrowing his brow as he gazed at the ceiling. His head was starting to throb.
Xue Yao suddenly sat up.
If Consort Tong knew about the scented pouch, it meant there might be a spy in Consort Xi’s circle.
Could it be that Consort Tong sent the spy to cause trouble?
Xue Yao wasn’t entirely sure.
Why would someone like Consort Tong, who was capable of doing great things, have a grudge against an eight-year-old like him?
He admitted he wasn’t qualified to be Consort Tong’s adversary.
Regardless of the reasons, one thing was clear now: the person sowing discord in front of Consort Xi was most likely Consort Tong’s spy.
The problem was that Consort Xi had no trust in him whatsoever, so even if he knew who the spy was, he couldn’t do anything about it.
Consort Xi wanted to replace the Seventh Prince’s reader-in-waiting, and a large group of noble offspring were waiting in line.
Considering the time it would take to go through them one by one, Xue Yao could only remain by the Seventh Prince’s side for another two or three days at most.
With no way to turn the situation around, Xue Yao lay back in bed, closing his eyes.
Let’s take it one step at a time.
Completing all that needed to be done and gaining Consort Xi’s trust as an outsider was indeed a challenging task.
If the Seventh Prince’s future was destined to be filled with hardships, then it was fate.
On the second-to-last or third day by the Seventh Prince’s side, Xue Yao seemed to have a thousand words to say.
He wanted to tell the chubby cub: No matter how many bad people you encounter in the future, never forget that Sixth Brother, Fifth Brother, Consort Xi and Eldest Brother love the Seventh Prince. If there comes a day when you have to shield your heart from the storms, remember to open it again. The dark clouds will eventually disperse, and sunshine will once again shine on your chubby face. Don’t lock your heart forever, okay, chubby little dumpling?
But what were these words, seemingly trivial and meaningless, worth saying?
He realized he couldn’t help much at all.
In the future, when the young Lu Qian endured mockery and humiliation, “Silly Yaoyao” might not even have the chance to hold him or pinch his chubby cheeks.
Xue Yao didn’t consider himself overly kind or warm-hearted, but at this point, he just couldn’t bear to let go.
Perhaps children were the ones who most tugged at the heartstrings.
He really didn’t want this little fellow, who loved eating and sleeping and enjoyed being pinched, to turn into the beastly, cold, and ruthless Prince Ning from the novel.
The Seventh Prince sat obediently on the chair, exchanging a silent gaze with Xue Yao.
“Does Your Highness want some milk?” The Seventh Prince couldn’t wait any longer and asked on behalf of Xue Yao.
“……” Xue Yao’s emotions were thrown into disarray by the sadness.
“Your Highness might not have delicious milk in the future.” Xue Yao, trying to make the best of a bad situation, attempted to use the chubby cub to help convince Consort Xi.
“Her Highness won’t allow me to serve as Your Highness’ reader-in-waiting anymore. In a few days, I won’t be able to see Your Highness.”
The Seventh Prince seemed to understand. He began nibbling on his little fist, appearing flustered.
Xue Yao gently removed his little hand and sternly instructed, “Your Highness, you called yourself ‘grandpa’ in front of Her Highness yesterday. Didn’t we agree to use ‘son,’ ‘child,’ and ‘I’?”
The Seventh Prince stared at Xue Yao with urgency, making a pitiful request, “Your Highness can still see Yaoyao in a few days, in a few more days, and many more days…”
Xue Yao’s stern expression suddenly crumbled. He affectionately pinched the Seventh Prince’s chubby face in a dejected manner. “I also want to be with Your Highness for many, many days, but Her Highness won’t allow it. Will Your Highness ask Her Highness to let me stay?”
The Seventh Prince nodded emphatically.
Xue Yao said, “In the future, Your Highness should refer to yourself as ‘son’ or ‘child’ in front of Her Highness, not as ‘grandpa.'”
The Seventh Prince solemnly agreed and, overcompensating, before the afternoon nap, told a palace maid, “Your son would like to have a peach.”
The palace maid was nearly frightened to her knees. His Highness referred to himself as “your son” to a servant…
The Seventh Prince’s method of communication, once puzzling, had evolved into something rather astonishing, all thanks to the strict guidance of the reader-in-waiting Yaoyao.
On the verge of insanity, Xue Yao repeatedly told the chubby cub that he should refrain from using “your son” with anyone other than Father Emperor and consorts.
The Seventh Prince’s major blind spot was his self-perception. To him, the self-reference was just a title. The various forms of address were already confusing, as most people referred to the Seventh Prince as “Your Highness,” so he mostly called himself that.
Now, due to a mistake made in front of Her Highness, Silly Yaoyao was barely holding it together. The Seventh Prince’s awareness was all over the place.
After a day of lessons, the Seventh Prince alternated between calling himself “your son” and “your grandpa” when addressing his two older brothers. It left the Sixth Prince and the Fifth Prince switching roles, sometimes treating themselves as Old Seventh’s father and other times as his grandson.
The little princes didn’t mind much. They had given up on Old Seventh’s communication skills a long time ago. If they could understand, that was good enough. They just went along with it.
On this particular day, after finishing their lessons, the Seventh Prince, for the first time, held onto Xue Yao and wouldn’t let go, insisting that he accompany him back to Qingqiong Hall.
Perhaps the cub understood the significance of parting, like not being able to have certain treats again.
The specific thoughts couldn’t be probed, but regardless, Xue Yao was deeply moved. He escorted the Seventh Prince all the way to the exterior of Qingqiong Hall, but Seventh Prince still didn’t release his grip.
The cub had quite a grip. Xue Yao’s fingers were turning red.
Flashing this kind of closeness in front of Consort Xi would only make her more repulsed.
Xue Yao assured the Seventh Prince that they would meet again tomorrow, and only then did the Seventh Prince release his hold.
Consort Xi observed all of this.
Yiqiu couldn’t help but speak up, “It’s the first time I’ve seen His Highness so close to an attendant.”
Consort Xi watched indifferently at the two children outside the palace gates.
Yiqiu added, “I mentioned before that this boy is quite odd. His behavior in front of Your Highness was clearly an act. The first time I saw him come to apologize, I sensed he was a clever little rascal. I initially advised against keeping him by the Seventh Prince’s side, but now…”
She watched Consort Xi’s expression, hesitant to continue.
“Go on,” Consort Xi calmly commanded her to express her thoughts.
“Now, I think he has a genuine intention to align with Your Highness. Setting aside the scented pouch incident, I’ve noticed the change in the young lord since he returned from school in recent days. It’s quite distinct. His Highness is more willing to socialize with others, not always playing by himself, which indicates that he’s putting his utmost effort into his role as an attendant.”
Consort Xi slowly closed her eyes and took a deep breath.
Yiqiu waited for Consort Xi to contemplate for a moment and then suggested, “How about letting Chunfang keep an eye on him for a few more days to see if she can find out who he’s meeting and what he’s doing in the Chuxiu Palace?”
Consort Xi remained silent.
Yiqiu thought that Consort Xi might be feeling wary of trusting outsiders after being “bitten by a snake” once. She was about to drop the idea, but Consort Xi suddenly spoke up.
“Don’t send Chunfang. Get me a suitable set of palace attire. I want to personally watch him for a few days. I only trust my own eyes now.”
Yiqiu was taken aback. “This… this might be… Your Highness, perhaps it’s better to let this servant…”
“Go prepare it.” Consort Xi’s expression was resolute. “I only believe in my own eyes now.”
Yiqiu nodded in agreement. “Yes.”
After returning to his residence, Xue Yao still felt uneasy.
Xue Yao hoped to be able to appease Consort Xi through the Seventh Prince and persuade her to keep him by their side.
However, this hope appeared increasingly elusive, and the more he thought about it, the more despair he felt.
To ease his mind, Xue Yao entered the mental space and engaged in retail therapy, going on a virtual shopping spree.
However, the virtual store could only refresh three times in total, and the available products quickly ran out.
Bored and listless, he approached the two outermost blocks on the Rubik’s Cube, illuminating one with a touch of his hand.
It was rather strange. The Rubik’s Cube had a total of nine cubes on its bottom layer. After activating seven of them, the system would prompt【Do you want to spend 130 Whitewashing Points to unlock?】, and he could see the common goods displayed inside the cubes.
However, the final two cubes within the Rubik’s Cube had no sample display, making it impossible to tell what products they offered.
The names of these two store cubes were strange as well. One was called “Interstice Mall,” and the other was named “Multidimensional Record Reference Line Mall.”
When Xue Yao was feeling down, he was prone to impulsive spending. His curiosity now tempted him to spend 130 Whitewashing Points to unlock one of these stores and see what they had to offer.
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