The Tyrant’s Cannon Fodder Male Empress Chapter 68

Chapter 68

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The princes were questioning the identity and background of the skilled eunuch, which raised many suspicions about his true origins.

An outer palace eunuch suddenly entered to report that the Crown Princess had returned.

The Crown Princess usually served the Empress in the daytime, so her return to the Crown Prince’s hall at noon likely indicated an urgent matter with the Empress that couldn’t involve her daughter-in-law.

The Sixth Prince looked at the Fifth Prince and asked, “Should we tell our sister-in-law what he’s been up to now, or wait for Eldest Brother to return?”

The Fifth Prince hesitated for a moment, intrigued by the eunuch’s background, and said, “We’ll give you another hour to consider. Either be honest about why you’re serving in the palace, or prepare to be sent to the northern garrison for interrogation. We’ll keep this secret from our sister-in-law for now. It depends on your honesty.”

Xue Yao breathed a sigh of relief, casting a subtle glance at the eunuch in the hope that he would understand this was his last chance for survival.

The eunuch was escorted by several guards to a temporary detention room.

Upon hearing that a few young princes had arrived, the Crown Princess was overjoyed. Without removing her precious jewelry, she hurried to the reception hall and offered them her treasured imperial tribute pastries to enjoy, followed by calling for lunch.

Unfortunately, the Empress had just instructed her to observe a three-day fast, so she couldn’t partake in meat during lunch.

The Crown Princess was already accustomed to a vegetarian diet, but it was a bit of a hardship for the young princes.

The Crown Princess didn’t want to inconvenience the Crown Prince’s younger brother, especially the chubby Seventh Prince.

She knew that Lu Jinan adored this playful youngest sibling.

Three years into their marriage, she had always yearned to give her husband a plump son. However, after two miscarriages, her belly remained stubbornly empty. She could only hope that the Seventh Prince would come to the palace daily to keep her husband company.

Whether it was gifts from the Emperor and Empress or specially prepared dishes acquired from her maiden home, the Crown Princess conserved everything as bait, eagerly awaiting the Seventh Prince to come and play.

The Seventh Prince, like a chubby little dove, often hopped into the trap. After devouring his eldest brother’s pastries, he never forgot to reciprocate, saying to his sister-in-law, “Shall your grandpa tell you the story of Houyi Shooting the Suns?”

The Crown Princess replied, “No need for stories, Your Highness. In the future, you should visit your eldest brother frequently.”

Lu Jinan treated the Seventh Prince with the affection of a father.

The Crown Princess cherished watching these two brothers and fantasized about them as her own husband and son, their happiness intertwining.

As the vegetarian dishes were served, the Crown Princess greeted Seventh Prince with a hint of guilt, “These dried bean curds are stewed in crab roe sauce, Your Highness. Have a taste. They’re quite delicious.”

The Seventh Prince, gazing at the table filled with vegetarian dishes, set his chopsticks aside and solemnly informed his sister-in-law, “Old Seventh has arrived.”

“Old Seventh has arrived” was a phrase frequently uttered by the Crown Prince. When he said it to the Crown Princess, it meant, “Quickly prepare dried fruits and grilled meat.”

With Eldest Brother absent, the Seventh Prince had to personally remind his sister-in-law to replace the table full of vegetarian dishes.

“Your Highness, try these dried bean curds. They have a texture similar to beef,” the Crown Princess personally served a vegetable to the young prince, fearing he might run away.

The Fifth Prince and the Sixth Prince surmised that the Crown Princess might have encountered some trouble courtesy of the Empress. Unable to address it directly, they could only assist their sister-in-law in coaxing the Seventh Prince to eat obediently.

One brother held the Seventh Prince’s face in place while the other forcefully fed him celery!

Even with his double chin covering his chubby cheeks, the Seventh Prince still got stuffed with celery.

The Crown Princess went out to inquire about when the Crown Prince would return to the hall, hoping to have him come back quickly to keep the Seventh Prince company.

Once the Crown Princess departed, the three young princes resumed discussing how to deal with the skilled eunuch.

Xue Yao, fearing they might escalate the situation, found an opportunity to subtly persuade the Fifth Prince, “If the eunuch has some ulterior motive, there must be someone supporting him. Why would he bother stealing this small sum? It’s possible that he wasn’t being ordered by someone else, but that he simply encountered some trouble. We should exercise patience and give him time to confess the truth.

“With his exceptional skills, he’s indeed a rare find. The Crown Prince has long desired to practice lightness technique at the Seventh Defense Formation. In my view, it might be more beneficial to have the eunuch impart some martial techniques. This way, the Crown Prince can achieve twice the results with half the effort.”

The Fifth Prince’s eyes lit up. “You’re right, his leg skills surpass those of a first-rank guard. He must possess some unique martial techniques!”

Reflecting on his own years of martial training and the fact that he had to seek instruction from a eunuch, the Fifth Prince’s expression dimmed, and he lamented, “There are no shortcuts in martial arts. It’s ultimately my own negligence in daily practice. Sigh!”

Recalling the embarrassing incident when he had fallen from an artificial hill in front of a group of attendants, the Fifth Prince felt a mixture of shame and anger. He sighed deeply and buried his face in his hands, heaving multiple sighs.

Just then, the Crown Princess returned, puzzled by the sight of the Fifth Prince burying his head in despair. “Your Highness, what’s wrong?”

The Seventh Prince seized the opportunity and tightly embraced his suffering fifth brother. He solemnly complained to the Crown Princess, “It’s really hard to swallow. Fifth Brother needs some grilled meat!”

The Fifth Prince slowly raised his face and shot a sidelong glare at his younger brother, who was craving grilled meat.

The Crown Princess was dumbfounded. The Fifth Prince had a breakdown over a simple vegetarian meal!

“Don’t listen to him, Sister-in-law,” the Sixth Prince quickly intervened, “Seventh Brother is just teasing you.”

The Crown Prince returned to the chambers in the afternoon.

Xue Yao found an opportunity to greet the Crown Prince, engaged in a few pleasantries, and then got straight to the point, “These past couple of days, I remembered an incident during my visit to Pingrong County, where I heard that several households in the village had contracted a strange illness. After a natural disaster and famine, some starving people’s bodies were left unburied in the wilderness. Local villagers believe that the malevolent spirits of the starved deceased turned into plague spirits and began harming the people in the village.”

The Crown Prince, intrigued, glanced at Xue Yao and said, “You may speak without hesitation. There’s no need to hold back.”

Xue Yao nodded. “I am concerned about the possible spread of a plague after the disaster. I hope Your Highness can seek experienced and skilled physicians to be stationed in the disaster-stricken county for a year or more, to prevent it in advance.”

Without much thought, the Crown Prince agreed, “You have thought it through. I will make arrangements tomorrow.”

Xue Yao breathed a sigh of relief.

After the Crown Prince returned to his chambers to rest, the Fifth Prince immediately called his brothers to the detention room to find the skilled eunuch.

“Have you thought it through? Eldest Brother has returned to his chambers. If you don’t confess honestly now, we’ll let him handle you!”

“What does Your Highness want this servant to confess?”

“Who sent you to be by Eldest Brother’s side?”

The eunuch’s eyes remained as calm as a still pond. “No one.”

“You’re not being honest!”

Xue Yao quickly spoke to the eunuch, “His Highness appreciates your martial skills, which is why he has given you this opportunity. You’ve entered the palace as a servant, and I’m sure you’ve endured many sacrifices and hardships. Why be stubborn at this critical moment? What good is keeping secrets when your life is at stake? Speak of your difficulties, and His Highness may be willing to forgive you.”

The eunuch let out a bitter smile, lowered his head, and still did not respond.

Xue Yao, observing his resolute expression in the face of death, felt deeply puzzled.

If this person had powerful backers, it was unlikely he would risk stealing a small amount of silver in the Crown Prince’s residence. If he had infiltrated the imperial palace to steal wealth, he wouldn’t willingly place his life in jeopardy.

His unwillingness to confess might be to protect someone.

Xue Yao put his mind to work and let his imagination run wild…

Could this warrior be a devoted admirer of the Crown Prince, concealing his identity to serve as a shadow guard by his side?

“Your Highness, allow me to talk to him once more in private. If he still refuses to confess, we will hand him over to the Crown Prince for judgment,” Xue Yao requested.

The Fifth Prince nodded in agreement.

Xue Yao led the eunuch to a corner of the detention room, fixing him with a perceptive gaze. He spoke firmly, “You entered the palace to protect them, didn’t you?”

The eunuch raised his eyes, and a trace of panic flickered in his lifeless black pupils.

“As I suspected,” Xue Yao pretended to understand everything.

“It’s not their concern!” The eunuch’s face, previously numb, finally displayed a flicker of human emotion.

Could it be that he truly entered the palace to protect the Crown Prince?

Xue Yao calmly fixed his eyes on the eunuch. “You entered the palace to protect them, without any harmful intentions. Why won’t you confess?”

Believing that Xue Yao had already extracted the secret from the old eunuch, the eunuch’s face gradually turned flustered and desperate.

He turned to glance at the three princes seated nearby and then whispered an explanation to Xue Yao, “She is completely unaware! I wanted to enter the palace as her guardian because guards cannot get close to concubines. I could only use the identity of a eunuch. Eunuchs and palace maids are not good people. She has never experienced such harsh treatment in her home. I only wanted to care for her by her side!”

Xue Yao: “……”

This mysterious eunuch had actually infiltrated the palace for the Emperor’s consort!

No wonder he was unwilling to confess to the princes. This eunuch seemed to be attempting to cuckold the Emperor!

“Don’t get agitated. I understand this matter has nothing to do with Her Highness,” Xue Yao continued to coax, “Did you steal in order to send these valuables to her?”

“Of course not. She would never accept such ill-gotten gains!” The eunuch looked at Xue Yao, feeling there was no longer a need to conceal anything. “Serving in the harem, one can only obey the eunuch supervisor’s orders. I was assigned to the Crown Prince’s residence two months ago. Every visit to see my lady might cause her trouble. So, I asked Senior Respected Elder Chou to help me bribe the Supervisor of the Eighth Bureau to transfer me to Zhongcui Palace, to serve her peacefully.

“To get things done, some bribes are necessary. How could they assist me otherwise? Respected Elder Chou said it would cost a total of three hundred taels of silver to manage it. I gave him that, and the deal was nearly done. But then, the Internal Affairs Supervisor discovered it and demanded his share. Respected Elder Chou asked me to raise an additional two hundred taels, but I had already used up the silver notes I brought into the palace, and now I’m short by sixty taels!”

Xue Yao felt that this mysterious master might have been deceived by the old eunuch. “Which official handled this matter for you?”

The eunuch, wary of Xue Yao ruining his good intentions, asked, “What are you planning to do?”

“Let me explain it to you this way,” Xue Yao sympathetically looked at the mysterious master, “Five hundred taels of silver could secure you a position as a sixth-ranking Deputy Supervisor, but if you only intend to transfer from the Crown Prince’s residence to Zhongcui Palace, even accounting for everything, fifty taels would be more than enough. It shouldn’t cost you five hundred taels. You’ve likely been deceived.”

Mysterious Master: “……”

“Don’t worry, tell me who took your silver, and I’ll help you recover it,” Xue Yao said calmly.

The eunuch let out a bitter smile. “If I’m going to lose my life, what use is silver to me?”

“Who’s trying to kill you?” Xue Yao laughed. “Not only can I help you get your silver back, but I can also have you transferred to serve Consort Hui.”

The eunuch’s eyes widened in astonishment. “Don’t play tricks on me.”

“You’re quite a strange person,” Xue Yao complained, “Blaming me, the honest one, for playing tricks on you, when it’s the person who scammed you out of your silver and did nothing who’s the real trickster!”

The eunuch remained bewildered for a while, uncertain, and asked, “What do you want me to do for you?”

Xue Yao nearly burst into laughter. This mysterious master probably had never received selfless assistance from anyone in his life. Therefore, he preferred to believe the old eunuch who had demanded five hundred taels of silver from him rather than trust Xue Yao’s inexplicable goodwill.

“If we must make an exchange, then I’ll make two requests: first, you must promise not to steal or harm others in the future, and second,” Xue Yao smiled at him, “become my friend.”

The mysterious master glanced at Xue Yao’s gentle smile, feeling uneasy. His eyes still held suspicion.

He resembled a stray dog that had been abandoned and betrayed by its owner too many times, thoroughly disillusioned with human nature, yet still couldn’t help but retain a small spark of trust.

“I’m not a good person. I developed these skills doing bad deeds,” he warned Xue Yao with his head lowered.

“What if you were given the opportunity to be a good person from now on?” Xue Yao asked, “Would you be willing to try?”

The eunuch looked up at him.

Xue Yao’s eyes was resolute and filled with trust.

The eunuch hesitated and lowered his pitch-black eyes almost imperceptibly, nodding.

After the interrogation, Xue Yao relayed the eunuch’s situation in detail to the three young princes.

If he didn’t reveal the truth, the eunuch’s life was surely at risk. By disclosing the facts, the eunuch wouldn’t stir up any trouble.

A man who entered the palace solely to protect a neglected consort, and a foolish expert deceived out of five hundred taels of silver, didn’t seem like an individual capable of great mischief.

“Does he have feelings for Consort Hui?” the Sixth Prince straightforwardly posed the question to the Fifth Prince.

The Fifth Prince answered somewhat awkwardly, “Perhaps.”

“He entered the palace as a eunuch to protect the woman he loves.”

The Fifth Prince didn’t speak.

The Seventh Prince offered a well-thought-out analysis, “Let Father Emperor marry Consort Hui to him.”

“Shh! Don’t speak out of turn!” the Sixth Prince warned the Seventh Prince.

“Father Emperor’s consorts are women who are already married to Father Emperor and cannot be wed to anyone else,” the Fifth Prince explained to the Seventh Prince, “Besides… he’s already a eunuch, so he can’t marry.”

“Why?” asked the Seventh Prince, tilting his innocent little face.

The Sixth Prince looked at Fifth Brother with embarrassment because Seventh Brother was naturally different from other children and had no understanding of such matters, making it challenging to explain.

“Because eunuchs don’t have that ‘thing,'” the Fifth Prince replied vaguely.

“Thing?” For the first time, the Seventh Prince was facing such a sensitive question.

The Fifth Prince and the Sixth Prince exchanged a glance, feeling that their chubby younger brother was growing up and couldn’t remain oblivious to everything.

So, the Fifth Prince delicately reminded him, “Do you know the difference between men and women?”

The Seventh Prince thought for a moment and replied, “Men don’t wear rouge on their faces.”

Ahem… and there are other differences…”

The Fifth Prince coughed twice to cover his embarrassment, then raised his index finger and pointed downward, hinting, “A bit lower…”

The Seventh Prince contemplated for a moment, cleared his throat, and, with a low voice, asked, “Men don’t wear rouge on their faces?”

“I didn’t mean for you to lower your voice!” The Fifth Prince was exasperated. “I meant lower down, what’s different down there!”

Xue Yao couldn’t take it anymore! She covered the chubby cub’s ears and protested to the Fifth Prince, “Your Highness, he’s still too young!”

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