The eunuchs by the Emperor’s side were waiting in the courtyard. Xue Yao dared not venture outside.
Although he saw the blessing practioner appearing panicked, his heart remained surprisingly calm.
With the Emperor’s fiery temper, one might assume he would immediately punish the blessing practitioner. However, his restraint indicated that he was under the influence of Consort Xi.
Keep waiting patiently.
Night fell, but the Emperor still did not come out of the main hall.
This was a good sign. He was staying, which meant he had not transferred his anger to Consort Xi.
But Xue Yao couldn’t sleep the entire restless night without knowing the specific situation. Fortunately, the Emperor left early to attend the morning court.
Before long, a palace maid from Consort Xi’s chambers came to invite Xue Yao to the reception hall.
As soon as Xue Yao entered, he noticed Consort Xi’s slightly haggard expression.
The palace maid was dismissed.
“This move is truly too risky.” Consort Xi’s voice sounded extremely weary.
Xue Yao anxiously asked, “Did it work, Your Highness?”
Consort Xi furrowed her brow. “The Emperor said that after the Hungry Ghost Festival, he will wait for the blessing practitioner’s explanation. It’s a threat. The Emperor doesn’t fully believe in such precise predictions of natural disasters and casualties. Initially, he mentioned sending the blessing practitioner to the northern garrison for interrogation to uncover the mastermind behind it. The blessing practitioner couldn’t withstand the intimidation. She attempted multiple times to implicate you, but I managed to steer the conversation away. It was truly…”
Thinking back to the perilous scenes from yesterday, Consort Xi felt another wave of dizziness. She lowered her head, clutching her forehead.
It was only now that Xue Yao fully grasped what Consort Xi had endured yesterday. Just thinking about it sent shivers down his spine.
The blessing practitioner tried several times to distance herself by incriminating him, but Consort Xi forcefully diverted the discussion, leading to a full hour of questioning.
However, the outcome was favorable.
“You’ve worked hard, Your Highness!” Xue Yao stood up, and with a deep bow, he said, “Congratulations on escaping this peril, and on behalf of countless people, I thank you for saving their lives. Your Highness’ merit is immeasurable!”
Consort Xi gazed at the boy in front of her. With a slight, rainbow-like smile that carried a hint of teardrops, she replied, “Please, take a seat, my little savior. The outcome remains uncertain. I worry whether your master’s divinations will fully come to pass. Even if one more commoner dies, the Emperor might use it as a pretext to retaliate against the blessing practitioner. I could sense how angry he was yesterday, but he held back out of respect for me. If he seizes the opportunity, it could be disastrous.”
Xue Yao returned to his seat and spoke with conviction, “Your Highness, rest assured, if my divination results show even the slightest error, I will take the blame and confess. I won’t implicate you or the Seventh Prince.”
Despite her agreement to cooperate, Consort Xi remained extremely anxious. “Is there truly a living immortal like your master in this world? Honestly, I’ve only followed through with this alliance based on trust and loyalty. I never dared to ponder it deeply. Now, I’m filled with fear…”
“The Hungry Ghost Festival is just eleven days away. No matter how I guarantee it, I can’t put your mind at ease completely. You’ll have to endure for another eleven days, and then we’ll see the results.”
During the days leading up to the Hungry Ghost Festival, Xue Yao’s heart continued to pound. What if the author made any unexpected changes or the slightest error? It was truly… too frightening to contemplate.
“A’Yao, you don’t seem happy.”
After the afternoon nap, in the back garden, the Sixth Prince said these words to him with great sincerity.
Xue Yao was startled. He had believed he didn’t need to hide his emotions in front of the little princes, but this seemingly perceptive child had actually sensed his unhappiness.
“Is it because you’re tired from running?” the Sixth Prince asked earnestly. “Let’s take a break.”
“No, no, no! I’m not tired. Let’s continue playing.” Xue Yao quickly perked up.
Suddenly, the Sixth Prince grabbed his left hand and looked up at Xue Yao. “Your hand is cold, just like Mother Consort’s when she’s unhappy. Every time Father Emperor comes to talk to her, she feels better. Shall I take you to see Father Emperor and let you hear him speak?”
Xue Yao couldn’t help but laugh, thinking to himself, “My unhappiness is indeed related to your Father Emperor, but in your Mother Consort’s case, she needs the Emperor’s attention to soothe her emotions. If I were to capture Father Emperor’s attention, it would likely be the end of me.”
“I just didn’t sleep well last night.” Xue Yao felt a warm glow in his heart as he gently smoothed the little prince’s hair. “Many thanks for your concern, Your Highness.”
The Sixth Prince smiled warmly.
“I wonder how Eldest Brother is doing.” The Fifth Prince, exhausted from playing, led his younger brothers to a pavilion for some rest, and couldn’t resist bringing up their eldest brother, who was under house arrest. “I heard during house arrest he can only eat vegetarian food. He hasn’t eaten meat for a month. It must be really difficult, right?”
“A whole month without meat?” The Sixth Prince showed a sympathetic look.
“Um… Um… Eat meat?” The Seventh Prince’s round face froze in shock, temporarily losing his ability to repeat words!
For the Seventh Prince, not having meat to eat was scarier than not having milk!
“I heard it from Xiao Chunzi,” the Fifth Prince said dejectedly, “During house arrest, they don’t allow the palace maids to serve meat or fish. Even the soups are vegetarian!”
“Eldest Brother is so pitiful…” The Sixth Prince’s eyes welled up with sorrow.
“Hasn’t eaten meat!” The Seventh Prince, recovering from his fright, regained his ability to repeat words.
“Can we visit the Eastern Palace to see Eldest Brother?” the Sixth Prince asked the Fifth Prince. “I want to bring him some meat.”
“Shh!” The Fifth Prince hushed him and whispered in his ear, “During house arrest, they don’t allow meat. It’s a rule! If we bring it, it might upset Father Emperor!”
The Sixth Prince lowered his head in disappointment. “Can’t we at least go to see Eldest Brother?”
“I think we can visit,” the Fifth Prince sighed, “Should we go to the Eastern Palace now?”
The Sixth Prince was delighted. “Great! I miss Eldest Brother!”
Upon hearing this, the Seventh Prince even abandoned his little puppet, raising his chubby hand in agreement. “Go see!”
Xue Yao chuckled silently, thinking that the Eldest Prince truly hadn’t spoiled this chubby cub for nothing.
The Sixth Prince suddenly had an idea. “It’s quite far to walk to the Eastern Palace from here. Old Seventh must be getting hungry. Can we bring some snacks with us? If Old Seventh can’t finish them, we can share some with Eldest Brother. It’s not meant for our Eldest Brother, but for Old Seventh. Just a small portion. Is that alright?”
Xue Yao thought to himself…
While this approach might be a bit self-deceptive, it was quite an ingenious “reasonable rule-breaking” idea from a six-year-old.
The Fifth Prince was excited by the idea but also a bit nervous, as a nine-year-old child could already understand that pushing boundaries and breaking rules might easily anger Father Emperor.
Nevertheless, the three little princes unanimously agreed on this unconventional plan.
They decided to bring some meat to their eldest brother!
However, they couldn’t openly deliver the food.
The three cubs rushed to the warm pavilion to secretly discuss their plan. No one, not even their other siblings, was allowed inside. Xue Yao was left waiting outside the door.
Before long, the Fifth Prince opened the door and instructed a palace maid to prepare a small food container filled with twenty chicken legs to be taken into the room.
The cubs’ plan was quite straightforward. Their eldest brother had around ten more days of house arrest, so if he consumed two chicken legs per day, the twenty pieces would be just right!
As for whether the chicken legs would go bad, they didn’t care!
The little princes had never experienced spoiled food and were unaware of food expiration.
Xue Yao could only smile helplessly.
The Eastern Palace was less than half a mile away from this location. The Fifth Prince and the Sixth Prince had prepared the twenty chicken legs for Old Seventh as a travel snack.
They were truly afraid that their youngest brother might go hungry!
When the food container was brought into the room, Xue Yao took a quick look—
It was a square food container about the size of a small ball, not too heavy.
Attempting to sneak in such a sizable food container, as if the eunuchs in the Eldest Prince’s palace wouldn’t notice, was truly underestimating them.
Indeed, it didn’t take long for the little princes to realize this issue.
The Fifth Prince opened the door again and had a palace maid fetch a small black cloak.
Xue Yao guessed he intended to wrap the food container with it.
It was, in a sense, an attempt to deceive the obvious.
After fiddling for a while, the three cubs finally finished their preparations.
Xue Yao saw the Fifth Prince and the Sixth Prince exit the room, appearing somewhat uneasy.
The Fifth Prince called out in a hushed tone, “Come out, Old Seventh, we’re going to see our Eldest Brother.”
After a moment of silence, Xue Yao saw the short and chubby baby emerging from the warm pavilion, looking disheveled.
His Highness, with his small body, was wrapped in a thick black cloak that trailed far behind, as if Long Aotian had chosen the wrong cloak size for a grand entrance…
“This…” Xue Yao exclaimed in frustration, “On such a scorching day, how could you dress His Highness like this?”
He approached the chubby cub, intending to lift the dragging hem of the cloak to prevent him from tripping. However, what he saw next was an even more absurd sight—
Under the cloak, on the Seventh Prince’s back, there was a cubic object the size of a food container!
The Fifth Prince had evidently tied the food container to his younger brother’s back and disguised it with the cloak.
Was this something an older brother should do?
Xue Yao gazed at the chubby cub, who was already round, with a conspicuous square protrusion on his back…
He was filled with righteous indignation, wanting to put an end to this absurd and insane disguise but unintentionally burst into laughter at the comical appearance of the chubby cub!
“Hahahahahaha, Your Highness, hahahaha, you… hahaha, you can’t dress like this!” Silly Yaoyao laughed so hard that he was gasping for breath!
The Seventh Prince raised his chubby face and looked at Xue Yao with an expression that clearly conveyed he wasn’t a willing participant.
The Fifth and Sixth Princes had told him that being smaller in stature made it less likely for people to notice things hidden on his back.
Xue Yao couldn’t control his laughter.
This disguise was so conspicuous. Anyone could spot it from a mile away!
Under the cloak on the chubby cub’s back, it looked as if he was hiding a mini refrigerator!
However, the Fifth Prince believed that the Seventh Prince’s disguise was absolutely flawless. Brimming with confidence, he led his brothers on the journey.
In the early autumn heat, the Seventh Prince, wrapped in a cloak and carrying twenty chicken legs, was being carried by a palace maid and was almost melting.
Several times, the Seventh Prince couldn’t resist reaching for the cloak’s fastening around his neck, only to be sternly stopped by the Fifth Prince.
After a challenging journey, the Seventh Prince was eager to free himself. As soon as he set foot on the ground in the Eastern Palace, he sprinted to find his eldest brother.
The palace eunuch on guard was taken aback by the long cloak trailing behind the little prince, and by the time he regained his composure, it was too late to intervene.
Seizing the opportunity, the Fifth Prince and the Sixth Prince caught up and, with their youngest brother, dashed into the main hall!
The palace eunuch hastily followed, shouting.
The three cubs paid no attention and continued their mad sprint.
It was only as they pushed open the door and crossed the threshold that they heard the reminder from the palace eunuch behind them, “Your Highnesses, please slow down. Consort Tong is in the hall. Your Highnesses, wait for us to announce…”
By the time the words were spoken, it was too late. The three cubs stepped into the hall, facing not only their Eldest Prince but also a surprised Consort Tong!
The little princes were astonished!
They couldn’t fathom why Consort Tong was here!
In case the chicken legs were discovered, Consort Tong would surely inform Father Emperor!
“Why have you come?” The Eldest Prince was seated beside a coffee table, furrowing his brows. “Don’t be foolish. Go back immediately. If Father Emperor finds out, he’ll make you copy books as punishment!”
Consort Tong greeted them with a face full of affection, “Your dear brothers have missed you. His Majesty won’t hold it against you. Since you’re all here, take a seat and rest.”
Consort Tong was about to instruct a palace maid to serve some cool tea when her attention was suddenly drawn to the Seventh Prince, who was wrapped in a black cloak.
“Old Seventh… on such a scorching day, why are you wearing this cloak?” Consort Tong immediately approached, intending to personally remove the cloak from the little prince.
“No!” The Fifth Prince hastily blocked Consort Tong, preventing her from removing the cloak from the Seventh Prince!
The Sixth Prince also joined in, blocking Consort Tong’s path!
The Seventh Prince, with his chubby face, felt utterly disheartened. He had thought that upon entering the room and meeting his eldest brother, he could finally take off the cloak and discard the food container, but it turned out differently…
“What’s going on?” Consort Tong was puzzled. “Why did you wrap Old Seventh in such a thick cloak?”
The Fifth Prince answered with his head held high, “Old Seventh thinks this cloak looks majestic!”
Consort Tong couldn’t help but laugh and sighed, staring at the Seventh Prince, who was sweating profusely a few steps away. “Isn’t it too hot?”
The Seventh Prince was no longer interested in answering such nonsense. He turned to look out the window at the free-spirited birds perched on the branches.
Grace and composure were his goals.
“Take it off quickly!” The Eldest Prince couldn’t bear to see his beloved little brother suffering and stood up to walk over. “What if he gets too stuffy!”
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