Noble Lady Yi felt as if she had returned to the glorious days of her childbirth.
She was included in the tour list with Consort Xi. Not only her own palace maids and eunuchs but also the palace maids and eunuchs under the Imperial Kitchen no longer looked down on her.
The Imperial Kitchen now provided her with the provisions according to the regulations for a concubine. No one dared to withhold her lamp oil, ice, charcoal, and the like. She couldn’t even dream of such days.
She felt that all of this was the generous favor bestowed upon her by Consort Xi.
Old Fourth had told her that when the Emperor invited her to accompany him on the tour, it was most likely to provoke Consort Xi and was not to be taken seriously.
If Consort Xi threw a tantrum and revealed her unwillingness to have this lowly Noble Lady accompany the tour, the Emperor would surely take the opportunity to give face for Consort Xi.
But now, her name had appeared on the accompanying tour list, proving that Consort Xi had not intervened.
For this favor, Noble Lady Yi privately asked Old Fourth to support the Seventh Prince more in the future and advised him to mediate when the Third Prince caused trouble.
The Fourth Prince found this request perplexing and couldn’t agree. He had been by the Third Prince’s side for a long time and had no reason to oppose his master’s rival.
“Qingyu, we don’t need to rely on Consort Tong’s influence to gain benefits now. You should gradually distance yourself from the Third Prince. This isn’t a long-term solution,” Noble Lady worriedly said. “The Eldest Prince appears to be a gentleman, but he hasn’t ascended to that position yet. We can’t be sure if he’s genuine or not. What if he settles scores later and goes after the Third Prince and you? Besides, it’s common knowledge that the Eldest Prince dotes on his youngest brother. If you continue to side with the Third Prince, you’ll often offend Old Seventh. Who’s to say he won’t seek retribution when he grows up? The Eldest Prince’s heart leans towards his youngest brother. You won’t have an easy time.”
“Mother…” The Fourth Prince was getting a bit impatient. “You’re overthinking this. Old Seventh isn’t even four years old yet. How could he remember so much? In another four or five years, I’ll be out of the palace and starting my own household, so I won’t be causing trouble for anyone. Besides, I am his fourth brother. Even if he remembers, he shouldn’t be so petty about such matters.”
Noble Lady was still uneasy. She always felt that her son wasn’t safe when he was with the Third Prince.
She didn’t have a grand perspective, but she had a vague feeling that Consort Tong had excessive ambitions.
Those with great ambitions could rise and fall dramatically, and it might lead to trouble for her son.
Therefore, Noble Lady Yi began frequently flattering Consort Xi. She sent some valuable gifts from her residence to Qingqiong Hall.
Even though she knew Consort Xi didn’t care much about material gifts, it was the thought that counted. She hoped that in case her son faced a significant setback in the future, Consort Xi would remember this and intercede on her son’s behalf with the Eldest Prince.
Xue Yao spent most of these days in the Qingqiong Hall, eagerly awaiting the Emperor’s visit. However, the Emperor didn’t come, but the Fourth Prince’s mother frequently visited the reception hall, hoping to meet with Consort Xi.
It was unclear what she was trying to achieve. Since she was already on the tour list, there was no need to flatter so excessively.
If the Emperor were to visit and see Noble Lady Yi sitting with everyone, chatting casually, it would disrupt the drama that the blessing practitioner would foretell.
Consort Xi avoided her, but Noble Lady Yi kept coming. So, Xue Yao went to the reception hall personally to ask if there was any message she wanted to convey.
Seeing Xue Yao’s young age, Noble Lady Yi assumed he might be Old Seventh’s reader-in-waiting. She immediately pulled a small silver ingot from her sleeve and gave it to Xue Yao, offering flattering words about how much the Fourth Prince admired the Seventh Prince.
Xue Yao sensed that this woman seemed to be trying to win over Consort Xi and her son.
Recalling the novel, the Fourth Prince had been part of the Third Prince’s faction from start to finish. However, in the early stages, he had been a good-natured person who hadn’t caused any substantial harm to the Seventh Prince.
The tragic downfall of the Fourth Prince happened because during the Emperor’s expedition, as the oldest prince left in the palace, he had chosen to align with Consort Tong. He provided false testimony, claiming that he had personally opened the imperial edict, which cleared the path for the Third Prince’s ascension to the throne, removing the final obstacle.
This last alignment had brought him two years of highest glory and prosperity but also a dismal end of being confined in his fiefdom for the rest of his life.
Noble Lady Yi’s attempt to be ingratiating made Xue Yao feel uneasy.
Perhaps a mother had a natural intuition about her son’s impending danger, but sadly, the fatal mistake her son would make in the future couldn’t be salvaged by her current attempts to please.
In the future, Lu Qian’s most hated individuals were, first and foremost, Consort Tong’s older brother, who had directly caused the deaths of the Emperor and the deposed Crown Prince. Next in line were Consort Tong and the Third Prince, both of whom met grim ends. The Fourth Prince would likely find himself on the third tier of the hate list.
Betrayal from family always cuts particularly deep. Perhaps sparing his older brother’s life was Long Aotian’s last act of tenderness.
“The Seventh has an exceptional memory. He remembers every bit of kindness shown to him,” Xue Yao subtly hinted, essentially conveying, “Long Aotian is a grudge-holder. You should guide your son back to the right path and help him distance himself from the Third Prince.”
Noble Lady Yi had visited for several consecutive days but hadn’t been able to meet Consort Xi in person. Finally, she sensibly stopped coming for a few days.
On the third day in the afternoon, the Emperor, having finished his paperwork, finally arrived at the Qingqiong Hall.
The well-trained palace maids promptly carried the little prince to the main hall, placing him on the Consort’s chair to play with a small puppet.
Following the plan, Consort Xi, with tears of longing in her eyes, skillfully used her beauty as a shield to make the Emperor forget past grievances. She embraced him and engaged in affectionate conversation.
Later, the Emperor raised his chubby son high, satisfying his fatherly cravings.
“Old Seventh, have you been reciting any new poems with your reader-in-waiting recently?” the Emperor asked in a feigned stern manner.
The Seventh Prince didn’t even lift his head. He remained focused on playing with the small puppet in his hand. Absentmindedly, he replied, “Studying etiquette.”
This was possibly the most self-assured chubby child in front of the Emperor.
But the Emperor understood his little son’s personality. When he had a toy in his hand, he usually didn’t like to interact with people. Responding to a question was already a significant show of respect in his father’s presence.
The Emperor chuckled self-deprecatingly and bent down to look at the Seventh Prince’s face, extending his neck. “What kind of etiquette have you been learning?”
“Gentlemanly conduct,” the Seventh Prince replied succinctly, showing that he wasn’t inclined to engage in idle conversation with the Emperor.
Concerned that her son might be too engrossed in playing and not attentive enough to cooperate, Consort Xi hastily placed the Seventh Prince in front of the Emperor, taking the small puppet from him. “Answer your Father Emperor’s question properly!”
Only then did the Seventh Prince look up with a bewildered expression, glancing at Father Emperor and Mother Consort.
The Emperor found the cub’s innocent and adorable demeanor amusing and didn’t get upset. He suppressed his laughter and continued to ask him, “Oh? So, Old Seventh, you already possess the air of a gentleman now?”
After a moment of contemplation, the Seventh Prince nodded confidently.
Your grandpa is indeed quite the gentleman!
The Emperor nodded and asked in a serious tone, “Well, what are the behaviors that a gentleman should exhibit?”
“Grace and composure,” the Seventh Prince stated and, without hesitation, scratched his slightly itchy little bottom with composure.
“Hahaha…” The Emperor burst into laughter at the sight of the little one’s “graceful bottom scratch.”
Seeing that the atmosphere was pleasant, Consort Xi quickly joined in the laughter and asked her son what else he had learned recently.
The Seventh Prince promptly recited all the things his lecturer, Fifth Brother, and Sixth Brother had said. Consort Xi took this opportunity to adjust the butterfly hairpin in her hair.
The Seventh Prince caught the signal Mother Consort sent and immediately recited the blessing practitioner’s prophecy word for word.
The Emperor’s laughter didn’t stop abruptly but gradually faded. His face showed a hint of anger, and when he looked down at the Seventh Prince again, there was no trace of amusement left.
“Who said that?”
Consort Xi, feigning shock, bent down to lift the Seventh Prince and scolded, “Who allowed you to talk nonsense? You’re being disobedient again!”
The Seventh Prince looked at Consort Xi with a puzzled expression.
The Emperor raised his hand, gesturing for Consort Xi to step aside, and then sternly questioned his son, “Those words just now, who did you hear them from?”
“Blessing practitioner.” The Seventh Prince, though confused about why Mother Consort suddenly scolded him for being disobedient, still answered Father Emperor according to the blessing practitioner’s request.
Consequently, the blessing practitioner was summoned into the main hall.
Xue Yao was hiding in the side chamber, peering through a crack in the window.
Seeing the blessing practitioner accompanying the palace maids to meet the Emperor, a heavy burden lifted from his heart.
The most challenging checkpoint in the plan had likely been passed smoothly— the chubby cub hadn’t caused any disruptions. He would deserve a box of treats later in the evening!
The following moments continued to drag on, seemingly endless.
Two hours later, the little prince was carried out by palace maids and taken to the eastern hall to rest.
Xue Yao didn’t dare to venture outside to inquire about the situation, so he had no choice but to wait patiently.
After the blessing practitioner entered the hall, half an hour passed in complete silence. She wasn’t brought out for punishment or sent away with everything intact.
What could the Emperor be discussing with this sorceress?
Xue Yao started to worry that the answers he had prepared for the blessing practitioner might not have been thorough enough.
In theory, the Emperor shouldn’t be too angry, because the explanation that the blessing practitioner had discussed with him suggested delaying the construction schedule by five to eight years.
It wasn’t as if they were stopping the construction altogether, and there was no suspicion of conspiring with feudal princes or going against the Emperor’s will.
Another half an hour passed. Finally, the blessing practitioner emerged from the hall, her face as pale as a ghost.
As the door closed behind her, the blessing practitioner seemed to stand frozen for a moment, like a wooden doll. With the urging of a palace maid, she took stiff steps and then stumbled and fell, only to be helped up by another palace maid. She was then led to a private room to drink water and recover from the shock.
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