The Tyrant’s Cannon Fodder Male Empress Chapter 31

Chapter 31

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“Your call.” Xue Yao sneered, showing no weakness. “Go ahead and bring Old Madam here. You just sneaked into my room and broke the lock, and now you’re falsely accusing me of hiding something unsightly.”

The food he exchanged was all stored in the Interstice Mall, with no remaining packaging bags in the chest.

In fact, packaging bags could also be stored in the Interstice Mall, but with only one cubic meter of storage space, Xue Yao had a bit of a tidiness compulsion and couldn’t stand disorder. So, he secretly burned the unnecessary packaging bags.

There wasn’t much packaging waste, as the Fifth Prince didn’t have a sweet tooth, and the Sixth Prince had a small appetite. Only the chubby cub ate a bit more on regular days, so at most, there were five to six small packaging bags to deal with in a day.

Xue Qiong stared at him, wanting to intimidate Xue Yao with tough words but backed down at the thought of going to find the Old Madam.

The Old Madam, in her advanced years, had witnessed much in life. After a few interactions, she could easily see Xue Qiong’s inclination to take advantage.

The elderly woman despised youngsters like Xue Qiong. In his presence, she deliberately maintained the airs of a senior, not offering a warm disposition to him, yet harboring genuine affection for Xue Yao.

Xue Yao could carry the weight of Old Madam’s favoritism.

Xue Yao practically grew up like an orphan in his past life, thriving in the presence of even a little kindness. He was always eager to reciprocate any goodness shown to him.

Even if he feigned innocence and naivety, his goodness, filial devotion, and gratitude were all genuine.

In addition, he had a sweet tongue, knew how to speak well, and could save face for others. Even the Old Master, who seldom got close to the younger generation, grew fonder of him.

Especially last time when Xue Yao “accidentally” hinted at matters in the country estate to the Old Master, the Old Master instinctively began to regard Xue Yao as a little lucky star. Just seeing him improved his mood.

In the Xue residence, the two most prominent figures favored Xue Yao. Xue Qiong dared not disturb the Old Madam, however, he was unwilling to let things be.

Madam Chen suspected that Xue Yao had some strange magic or sorcery affecting him, as his personality and mindset seemed to have changed. She secretly instructed the servants to closely watch Xue Yao.

Xue Qiong was the most active in keeping an eye on things. Over the past two weeks, he often smelled a strange burnt odor in the courtyard and followed the scent — it was coming from Xue Yao’s room.

He observed for half a month and finally discovered that in the quiet of the night, there would occasionally be a flash of firelight in Xue Yao’s room, and the odd smell would seep through the window cracks.

He wanted to sneak a peek at what Xue Yao was up to, but the doors and windows were tightly closed.

Xue Qiong’s servant devised a plan by carefully carving a hole in the wooden window frame of Xue Yao’s room and then affixing a small nail at the top of the extracted wood.

In the middle of the night, while attempting to spy, he used a string to pull out the nail, removing the piece of wood, allowing him to peer through the hole and see what Xue Yao was doing.

Such discreet actions were challenging to be noticed by others.

Two nights ago, Xue Qiong and his attendants saw Xue Yao burning something strange in a copper basin. They genuinely believed what his mother had said — that Xue Yao was involved in some sort of dark sorcery.

No wonder the Old Madam favored him so much! He must be under the influence of evil!

“You must be hiding something unsavory!” Xue Qiong was worried that Xue Yao might move incriminating items, so he shouted loudly towards the door, “Summon Madam! Bring Concubine Zhou too, call anyone who can come. Let everyone see what this kid has been secretly practicing in his room!”

Shortly after, a crowd of servants from the third courtyard arrived and surrounded Xue Yao’s bedroom, making it impassable.

“Madam, I saw it with my own eyes. Xue Yao was burning many bizarre things in the copper basin, and Xiao Douzi saw it too!” Xue Qiong pointed at a chest under the bed. “There are many mysterious things hidden inside that chest!”

Practicing dark sorcery was not only forbidden within the palace but also a matter that could cost lives in grand estates.

Xue Yao stared coldly at Xue Qiong and Madam Chen, without saying a word, challenging them to dare to search.

Madam Chen observed Xue Yao for a while and said in a calm tone, “He’s just a child. What dark sorcery could he possess? Yao’er, open the chest and let your brother take a look. He’s concerned you might be influenced by outsiders and drag shame upon the household.”

Although Concubine Zhou didn’t understand the situation, she was afraid that her son might have evidence that could fall into the hands of this mother-son. She quickly stepped in to stop them. “On what basis do you want to search Yao’er’s possessions? If someone in the house has been affected by a curse and is pointing fingers at Yao’er, or if someone has lost their belongings and suspects Yao’er, you should provide some evidence. As the son of the master, searching his private belongings in front of so many people is utterly disgraceful! If you want to make a fuss, do it in front of the Old Madam. Let the whole household watch you search Yao’er’s personal belongings!”

Madam Chen’s face turned ashen. “Do you truly think that by bringing the Old Madam into this, I would dare not search?”

She turned and fixed a stern gaze on Xue Qiong. “Did you indeed see your brother hiding something unusual?”

“I saw it with my own eyes!”

“Very well.” Madam Chen turned and instructed a servant, “Summon the Old Madam and have her witness the chest being searched. If we don’t find anything out of the ordinary, then both Xue Qiong and I will accept punishment.”

The servant was about to go, but Concubine Zhou, in her fear, hurriedly blocked the servant’s path and shouldered the blame herself, “Most of the items in that chest are things I gave to Yao’er, and some are trinkets from my family…”

“Silence!” Madam Chen, sensing her guilt, became more convinced that there was something amiss in the chest. She immediately ordered the servant to fetch the Old Madam as a witness.

Today, she would expose the dark practices of this despicable mother and son!

“Madam!” Concubine Zhou’s legs went weak in fear.

“Let her go. Bring the Old Madam here.” Xue Yao remained expressionless. However, upon seeing the tears in Concubine Zhou’s eyes, he softened and whispered, “Don’t be afraid, everything will be fine.”

So, the Old Madam, who had been listening to songs, was brought to the side courtyard.

After hearing the details of the situation, the Old Madam launched a scathing tirade against Madam Chen for stirring up trouble and casting aspersions.

Despite receiving a scolding, Madam Chen didn’t back down. She claimed that there were too many strange occurrences in the courtyard recently, and an unusual odor often emanated from Yao’er’s room. People were on edge, and today, even if it offended the Old Madam, she wanted to seek peace of mind. She said that if she wronged Yao’er, she was willing to accept punishment alongside her son.

In truth, the Old Madam didn’t want to search through Xue Yao’s belongings. Such matters were unsettling to discuss, as no one knew what might be hidden in that chest, fearing it might contain some strange creature.

Nevertheless, Xue Yao remained silent and walked to the bedside, bending down to drag the wooden chest out in full view of everyone. He then opened the chest.

The two-foot-square wooden chest was almost empty, except for several neatly arranged silver ingots in the upper right corner. On top of one of the silver bills lay a few small cloth dolls, and next to them were wooden miniature toys. There were no other items.

It was all crystal clear, with no traces of dark sorcery.

Xue Yao began to pick out the items one by one and explained, “I serve as the Seventh Prince’s reader-in-waiting, and the little prince loves these little toys. They were prepared for him. When he gets tired of them, I replace them.”

He pointed at the two silver ingots. “These two are rewards from Grandmother a few days ago.”

Xue Yao then indicated the silver bill. “This bill was a reward from Consort Xi a long time ago. I was planning to use it to buy candy at the sweet shop, but the shopkeeper said he couldn’t provide change, so he asked me to exchange it for smaller silver coins. I didn’t bother to exchange it, so it has been lying there unused.”

Madam Chen’s face turned pale, her eyes darting around amidst the small toys. She couldn’t accept this and glanced back at the chest, as if hoping to find some hidden compartment.

Meanwhile, Xue Qiong hadn’t realized his mistake yet. He took one look at the silver bill, with a denomination of fifty taels, and exclaimed in shock!

“Fifty taels! Where did you get fifty taels of silver? I’ve been by the Eldest Prince’s side for so many years and haven’t received rewards of more than five taels of silver. How could Consort Xi possibly reward you with so much silver?” 

Xue Yao calmly looked up at Xue Qiong and answered, “I just accompanied the Seventh Prince to Yangxin Hall to meet the Emperor today. How come I didn’t see you accompanying the Eldest Prince?”

“Nonsense!” Xue Qiong retorted anxiously. “Can your three-year-old master even be compared to our Eldest Prince? I’m in the study room grinding ink and preparing paper for His Highness. I still have much to learn, and it’s far from my place to be with the Eldest Prince!”

Before Xue Yao could respond, Madam Chen slapped Xue Qiong’s mouth, silencing his incoherent rambling.

Xue Qiong’s words was evidently insulting the Seventh Prince, and insulting the Seventh Prince meant insulting Consort Xi, who was the most favored consort. A few words spoken to the Emperor’s ear could ruin Master Xue’s entire life!

Xue Yao smiled faintly. “Why can’t Big Brother accompany the Eldest Prince? The Seventh Prince can’t be without me at any moment, and Consort Xi treats me very well. I haven’t even claimed many of the rewards.”

Xue Qiong was too concerned about the fifty taels of silver to pay attention to the mockery. He was desperate to get the money and temporarily forgot that the Old Madam was watching. He resorted to being stubborn. “You don’t even know how to show filial respect to the Old Master and Old Madam with the money your master rewarded. With so much money, you’re hoarding it all for yourself? I will definitely inform the Old Master and Old Madam about it!”

“Nonsense!” The Old Madam, who had been silent, couldn’t bear it anymore. “Why should Yao’er hand over the rewards he received to others? There are items in there that I gave him, so are you implying that you’ve been using them all along?

Xue Qiong was startled by the accusation and quickly lowered his head, unable to say anything.

Just as Madam Chen was about to explain, Concubine Zhou added, “Yao’er cherishes the Old Madam’s rewards. Qiong’er only helps himself to the food that you usually send to the courtyard.”

The Old Madam gave a piercing glare. Madam Chen’s face turned instantly pale.

New and old grievances were counted together — slandering Xue Yao and usurping his rewards.

Madam Chen was punished and sent to the ancestral hall, where she had to recite scriptures and fast for half a month.

Xue Qiong received his due punishment and was given twenty strokes with the paddle, which would probably confine him to bed for a month.

Now, the mother and son had to calm down for quite some time.

Xue Yao felt relieved that he had chosen to open the Interstice Mall earlier. Otherwise, his wooden chest would have contained a bottle of Want Want milk, three bottles of Mengniu yogurt, half a pound of milk candy, and a pound of Hershey’s chocolate.

This time, he intentionally escalated the situation because he noticed that Xue Qiong wasn’t prepared for it. There were no signs of the lock on the chest being tampered with. Otherwise, if they had planted something in the chest to frame him, he would have a hard time defending himself.

It was fortunate that Concubine Zhou, being timid and feeling guilty, wanted to take the blame for him. This made Madam Chen insist that there were unsavory things hidden in the chest, essentially shooting herself in the foot.

In the dead of night, one could hear Xue Qiong sobbing in pain next door.

Xue Yao enjoyed his yogurt and chocolate while listening.

Apart from their scholarly exams, the princes also had to be assessed on their martial skills every month.

The martial training grounds were quite a distance from Yangxin Hall. The Emperor didn’t have time to personally inspect them, so it was left to Eldest Prince to assess his younger brothers.

This bunch of royal offspring from the Great Qi dynasty were all skilled in martial arts, even the seemingly inept Third Prince showed no fear during the equestrian archery test.

Early in the morning, the princes all gathered.

The older princes and readers-in-waiting were dressed in splendid riding attire. However, one striking youth of around fifteen or sixteen stood out as an anomaly.

He wore a graceful, moon-white straight robe and languidly waved a folding fan. He sat alone in a corner, without even a single attendant behind him.

This youth bore a striking resemblance to the Emperor in terms of facial features and yet seemed unfamiliar.

Xue Yao speculated that this youth was likely the “Hermit God” Second Prince.

Several older princes were warming up, preparing for the archery competition that would follow. However, this youth in the green garment continued to fan himself leisurely, revealing only a pair of fox-like smiling eyes from behind the fan.

As the Eldest Prince and the Fourth Prince walked by, the youth in green suddenly extended his arm, opened the folding fan, and blocked their path.

The Eldest Prince looked down without any expression and found a piece of talisman paper lying horizontally on the fan, with two words written vertically – “Tortoise Brother.”

The Eldest Prince remained impassive, disregarding the talisman paper and cast a sidelong glance toward the Second Prince, who had passed the note to him.

He released Father Emperor’s pigeon yesterday, and today, on the day of the competition, he still had not changed his attire. This younger brother was truly unruly!

Just as the dynamic education was about to begin, the Fourth Prince stepped in to mediate. He picked up the talisman paper from the fan and gazed at the symbol for a moment. Then, he turned to the enigmatic Second Prince and asked, “What’s the meaning behind the words ‘Tortoise Brother’? Do we need to interpret them separately?”

The Eldest Prince gave a single cold glance and provided a matter-of-fact response, “He wants his elder brother to have exclusive glory. This is his way of wishing me victory.”

The Second Prince’s eyes lit up upon hearing this.

Once again, he shared a telepathic connection with his big brother!

The Fourth Prince exclaimed, “Big Brother truly possesses swift wits!”

The Second Prince, upon hearing this, lowered his arm, raised his fan, hiding his fox-like smiling eyes behind it. He chuckled so hard that his shoulders trembled!

Xue Yao, who was observing from a distance, was shocked.

Initially, he thought this “Hermit God” was a refined and transcendent figure, but now it seemed he had an uncontrollable brother complex…

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