The Tyrant’s Cannon Fodder Male Empress Chapter 9

Chapter 9

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Xue Yao nervously trailed behind the two eunuchs as they made their way to Linyou Palace.

The more he contemplated, the more he felt uneasy. In the novel, Consort Tong initially competed for favor, and later schemed to aid the Third Prince, staining her hands with blood along the way.

She even went as far as supporting the rebel leader. In secret, she advised her elder brother, who was battling coastal pirates, not to entirely wipe them out, ensuring the Emperor’s continued favor for the siblings.

Consort Tong possessed a shrewdness that set her apart from the guileless Consort Xi, making her difficult to deceive.

Xue Yao lifted his eyes and assessed the two eunuchs beside him. He contemplated pretending to have left something in Consort Xi’s palace, offering a chance to seek protection from Consort Xi.

He had, after all, entangled himself with Consort Tong in an attempt to assist Consort Xi. Surely, Consort Xi would extend her protection.

Xue Yao’s pace subtly decelerated. As he was on the verge of speaking, he abruptly refrained.

His mind raced. If he sought shelter with Consort Xi out of fear and guilt, it would solidify the accusation that he had obstructed Consort Tong.

Given Consort Tong’s cunning nature, even Consort Xi found it arduous to safeguard herself. How then could she continually shield him?

Sooner or later, he would face a showdown with Consort Tong. Dodging responsibility now might offer a temporary reprieve, but it would be fleeting. It could even intensify Consort Tong’s scrutiny and perhaps her enmity.

With these reflections, Xue Yao’s hesitation dissipated. He obediently followed the eunuchs to confront Consort Tong.

Consort Tong resided in Linyou Palace, adjacent to the Yanchun Pavilion. As soon as he stepped through the palace gates, he was engulfed by the sweet scent of flowers. The view of the outer courtyard was even more impressive than that of Consort Xi’s Qingqiong Hall.

It was unclear whether this favoritism was due to her brother’s influence or her own charm.

Guided by a eunuch, Xue Yao reached the side hall to pay respects to Consort Tong. Before he could even offer greetings, the attendants swiftly moved in to search him.

Among the items discovered in Xue Yao’s search was a scented pouch, which was handed over to Consort Tong, who sat on her noble seat.

At twenty-nine years old, Consort Tong appeared youthful, with a full forehead, round almond-shaped eyes, and healthy wheat-toned skin. She wore no excessive cosmetics, yet her grace exuded nobility.

With a calm demeanor, she sniffed the pouch briefly and then handed it to a serving maid. “Examine whether the formula is identical, but do not inform Daoist Fang Qun yet.”

The scents matched, and if the formulas were entirely the same, it meant there was a spy nearby who had leaked the scented pouch’s recipe.

Regarding the scented pouch’s secret, only three individuals were knowledgeable. Among them, the most suspicious was Daoist Fang Qun, who had prepared the medicinal formula.

Xue Yao lowered his head, feeling a sense of panic. In front of this woman who had been involved in professional palace intrigue for over a decade, he felt a subtle sense of intellectual intimidation.

“Is it Xue Yao, the second young master of the Xue family?” Consort Tong spoke gently.

“Greetings, Your Highness,” Xue Yao replied with a bow.

“Lift your head and look at me.”

Nervously, Xue Yao raised his head. In that moment of eye contact, he felt as if this woman’s deep black pupils were like X-rays, capable of seeing right through him.

“Who is your master?” Consort Tong calmly inquired.

Xue Yao bowed and replied, “I serve the Third Prince as his reader-in-waiting. The Third Prince is my master, and Your Highness is also my master.”

“I am asking about the person who sent you to remind Consort Xi.”

“I don’t understand Your Highness’ meaning. Remind Consort Xi of what?”

Consort Tong smiled with satisfaction. “At your age, to be so composed, you are a promising talent.”

Xue Yao was nearly scared out of his wits but continued to feign a bewildered expression.

“I heard about your performance in Qingqiong Hall. It was an exceptional act. Even my ssy was deceived, thinking your mother truly possessed that scented pouch.”

Xue Yao blinked and smiled. “Your Highness, do you also like this scented pouch? I can have my mother prepare a new one for you.”

Consort Tong remained silent, her eyes gradually turning ice-cold.

Xue Yao raised the corners of his mouth, offering his most sincere smile, and continued to play the fool with a forced innocence. “This scent is truly delightful!”

Consort Tong chuckled. “I’m growing fonder of you, little rascal. How old are you this year?”

“I’m almost nine years old, just three months away.”

“Indeed, heroes are made in youth.” Consort Tong carefully assessed Xue Yao. “I know your family background. Your father’s official career hasn’t been particularly smooth, has it? It seems like a lot of hopes have been placed on you and your elder brother. Your elder brother is by the side of the Eldest Prince, but you were sent to serve my Third Prince. Are you here to keep an eye on us for the Eldest Prince?

Xue Yao thought to himself that this wasn’t good.

This woman was incredibly intelligent, her thoughts twisting and turning in a thousand directions. Just listening to her left him a bit bewildered.

However, Xue Yao wasn’t a spy for the Eldest Prince. His decision to save Consort Xi was entirely impulsive, without anyone directing him from behind.

Nevertheless, letting Consort Tong believe he was associated with the Eldest Prince wasn’t a bad idea. It might at least ensure his survival.

The Eldest Prince was the legitimate heir, born to the Empress. He would have been the rightful Crown Prince if it weren’t for the controversial reform he intended to implement in cooperation with the court, which had led to a major upheaval and his eventual downfall.

Currently, the Eldest Prince’s status far surpassed that of Consort Tong, so pretending to be a mere appendage of the Eldest Prince would ensure safety.

Therefore, Xue Yao didn’t deny it, but simply played the fool with a vacant smile.

Consort Tong felt perplexed, speculating that Xue Yao might be a spy planted by the Eldest Prince by her son’s side. But why would the Eldest Prince concern himself with Consort Xi’s affairs?

Consort Xi had earned favor through her beauty, even making the Empress somewhat jealous of her.

Consort Tong’s interference was, in fact, approved by the Empress. So, why did the Eldest Prince send Xue Yao to remind Consort Xi?

Consort Tong rarely encountered situations she couldn’t comprehend.

However, this was one such situation she truly couldn’t fathom.

Xue Yao was a modern person, and most of his actions stemmed from his genuine intentions. Unlike the palace inhabitants entangled in complex interests, he didn’t have concerns that would set off a chain reaction.

He was simply motivated to save Consort Xi.

Without influential connections, Consort Tong found it hard to believe that this eight-year-old child could know the secret of the scented pouch, let alone replicate an identical formula.

It left her utterly baffled.

This child possessed a level of guile that even she couldn’t fully discern.

Unfortunately, he belonged to the Eldest Prince, and she feared she didn’t have the qualifications to vie for him.

Those unattainable individuals were often future formidable rivals. The sooner one could eliminate them, the safer it would be.

Xue Yao wasn’t sure what schemes lay beneath this woman’s smiling facade.

After a moment, the eunuch returned the scented pouch and whispered something to Consort Tong.

Consort Tong gave a slight nod and had the eunuch return the scented pouch to Xue Yao. She then spoke with a sly grin, “Lately, coastal pirates have been rampant, and His Majesty is tirelessly occupied day and night. Many wish for Consort Xi to take a few days off, not needing to dance daily, so as not to disturb His Majesty’s peace. Some even proposed preparing a soothing herbal remedy for her. Scented pouches are delightful items, and their scents won’t harm anyone.”

Her official tone was logical and convincing.

After all, the scented pouch did indeed have a calming effect, and it was suggested by “many,” not solely by Consort Tong herself.

Xue Yao was in agreement, hoping that Consort Tong, in consideration of the Eldest Prince, wouldn’t silence him.

Surprisingly, Consort Tong not only spared him but also returned the scented pouch to him. She even rewarded him with two silver coins before letting him leave the palace.

Xue Yao couldn’t believe that this formidable woman would release him so easily, but he knew he couldn’t stay by the Third Prince’s side.

Thus, the next day, Xue Yao paid a visit to Consort Xi, stating that his father disagreed with his reassignment but that he personally wished to serve the Seventh Prince. He sought Consort Xi’s intervention.

The naive Consort Xi was deeply moved and promptly advocated for Xue Yao’s case.

An imperial decree reached the Xue residence, ordering Xue Yao to transfer to Qingqiong Hall for his studies.

Master Xue turned livid with anger. This meant one of his sons was essentially rendered useless, leaving the Third Prince without proper care.

Madam Chen and Xue Qiong, the mother and son duo, couldn’t have been happier. In their view, Brother Yao had just sacrificed his future by associating with a “hybrid” prince!

They believed he might end up in some remote, desolate territory with the Seventh Prince, with no chance of a successful official career.

Master Xue was furious, convinced that Xue Yao had committed some wrongdoing to be dispatched by the Third Prince. As soon as the eunuch left, he planned to discipline Xue Yao with a thorough spanking to vent his frustration.

Madam Chen knew that this punishment couldn’t be avoided, so she put on a show, acting like a loving mother to defend Xue Yao.

“It’s your excessive indulgence that led to this trouble! You’ve allowed his temperament to run wild, and now it’s caused a major issue!” Master Xue, infuriated, pushed Madam Chen aside and berated Xue Yao, “Kneel down! No one will plead for you today!”

Madam Chen, with a choked voice, said, “I promise to discipline Yao’er more strictly in the future. Please don’t let your anger harm your health!”

At this moment, the difference between a birth mother and a stepmother became glaringly evident.

Concubine Zhou, at the same time, knelt on the ground, clutching Master Xue’s legs, shedding tears in a pitiful manner.

Madam Chen, however, was solely focused on paving the way for her own future influence over Xue Yao.

Xue Yao chose not to explain, so as not to further enrage Master Xue. He quietly knelt before him.

Master Xue raised his hand, preparing to administer a beating on Xue Yao’s back!

Xue Yao had foreseen the possibility of a punishment, so he had already discussed a plan with his personal maidservant: as soon as Master Xue enforced discipline, she would go to the main residence to seek help from Old Madam.

Thanks to his birth mother, Concubine Zhou, who desperately clung to Master Xue’s legs, time was delayed. Before Master Xue could deliver a single blow, Old Madam arrived in a flurry of tears.

“If you must punish someone, punish me! Strike me!” As soon as the Old Madam entered, she helped Yao’er to his feet. She had a chair brought over and sat down in front of Master Xue, her voice stern. “I should have died in the temple long ago. My grandson saved my life, and I’m here to endure your punishment on his behalf!”

Master Xue quickly instructed his servant to put away the paddle. He bowed and tried to console her, “Old Madam, please do not be angry. I haven’t actually done anything. It’s just to teach this naughty child a lesson.”

The Old Madam was already aware of Xue Yao being reassigned to the Seventh Prince. She huffed and said, “This isn’t a matter for Yao’er to decide. It’s solely at the discretion of the palace masters. How can we beat a child over something like this?”

Master Xue dared not argue and repeatedly agreed. After receiving a scolding, the Old Madam was finally sent back to the main residence.

As for Xue Yao, the Old Madam took him to the side rooms in the main residence for a few days, as a precaution in case Master Xue’s anger persisted and he sought an opportunity to punish him.

The food in the main residence was in a completely different league from the third courtyard, with abalone and sea cucumber served daily.

Xue Yao went along with the Old Madam happily, leaving Xue Qiong with a crooked mouth and gasping for breath as he glared at Madam Chen. He hoped to persuade his mother to keep Xue Yao there to receive the punishment he expected.

However, Madam Chen didn’t dare to intercede, as Master’s salary was meager, and the livelihood of the third branch depended on the family’s goodwill.

Now that the Old Madam favored the concubine-born child over the legitimate grandson of the third branch, Madam Chen dared not express her anger but instead watched Xue Yao leave with a gloomy expression.

After eating with the Old Madam, Xue Yao returned to his room and closed the door. He spent 130 Whitewashing Points and activated the glowing cube.

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