Chapter 53 House arrest
In an instant, the gaze of everyone around them converged on Li Zhi.
Some with curiosity, some with amazement, and others with a malicious pleasure.
As the lanterns illuminated the surroundings, several concubines and royal female relatives gathered by the pond, but their fascination was fixated upon the shimmering lights that decorated the pond and the nearby banks.
And, being keenly aware of the elevated status of the three Consorts in the palace, no one dared to ogle or scrutinize them too openly.
Suddenly, Qian Yang stood tall and pointed a finger at someone, and no one was able to counter her bold accusations.
Li Zhi remained still and silent, with her eyes fixed firmly upon Qian Yang.
After months of being away, she had returned to the palace dressed plainly as an ordinary maid, with none of the luxurious garments or adornments that she had worn before as the chief maid in Zichen Hall.
Her attire was simple and unremarkable, and without the usual accessories, she appeared rather plain and unremarkable.
Clearly, her time in Yeting Palace had been a trying experience.
Unfortunately, this person’s character had not changed at all.
Her methods were clumsy, her thoughts unrefined, and she obviously blamed the Noble Consort for being forced to go to Wangxian Temple and transferred to Yeting Palace.
Her behavior now was a clear reflection of her behavior when she had recklessly charged into her quarters, with no regard for her actions.
Regarding the incident of falling into the water, Li Zhi did not believe that it was premeditated by Qian Yang.
Knowing Qian Yang’s cunningness, she probably acted on impulse to vent her anger, without giving much thought to the consequences.
However, the timing of the incident was rather tricky.
After releasing the lanterns, Li Zhi had started to make her way back when the two fell into the water just as she passed behind them.
There were not only the women of the harem but also many members of the imperial family and officials present.
Li Jing Ye was a proud man, and his anger was most likely boiling over by now, and he would undoubtedly take action.
As expected, he handed the Pure Consort over to several palace maids and eunuchs to take care of, then stood up slowly, surveyed the crowd with a stern face, and finally looked at Li Zhi, asking, “Li-niang, is what she said true?”
Li Zhi’s face remained expressionless, her eyes cold as she spoke in a detached tone, “It’s false.”
Unlike when she was implicated by the Zhong family, Li Zhi didn’t kneel or plead this time.
Li Jing Ye fixed his gaze on her for a moment, then glanced at Qian Yang before saying coldly, “I don’t believe that the Noble Consort would do such a thing either.”
This remark was almost a blatant display of favoritism towards Li zhi, causing those present to exchange puzzled glances and whisper among themselves.
As the matter concerned Pure Consort Xiao, Xiao Ling Fu refused to let it go.
He cast a glance at his daughter, wrapped in a fur-lined cloak and carefully carried onto a palanquin, then knelt down in front of Li Jing Ye with a grave expression.
“Your Majesty’s favor towards the Noble Consort is a private affair and I dare not complain.
However, the Pure Consort, who carries the dragon heir, has been unjustly implicated.
I implore Your Majesty to investigate this matter thoroughly.”
As he finished speaking, Lady Wang, Lady Wei, and several others chimed in agreement.
Pure Consort Xiao, who had already been lifted onto the palanquin, cried out in pain, “Your Majesty, someone wants to harm me!”
Li Jing Ye’s face grew even more somber, and he pointed at Qian Yang and barked, “Take her away and interrogate her thoroughly.
Also, question all the palace attendants who were present at the pond today.”
Several eunuchs swiftly complied, dragging Qian Yang away.
Li Jing Ye closed his eyes with impatience, then slowly looked towards Li Zhi, standing five steps away from him, her expression icy and unfeeling.
Meeting her cold gaze, he felt a pang of self-consciousness and humiliation.
He knew that Qian Yang must hold a grudge against her, but he also knew that Li Zhi had no reason to be jealous of the Pure Consort’s pregnancy, as she couldn’t bear a child herself.
He yearned to defend her, to speak out against the injustice of the situation, but his words caught in his throat.
The scandal of the Wangxian Temple, the delicate matter of her infertility, all threatened the royal reputation.
He hesitated, then spoke softly.
“Li-niang, I trust you.
I will thoroughly investigate this matter for you.
But until then, please stay here in the Chenghuan Palace.”
It pained him to do so, but he had to confine her, for her own safety and to protect the royal name.
Li Zhi’s face remained calm, even as she heard his decree.
“I understand, Your Majesty,” she replied, turning gracefully to leave the hall.
At this moment, the female officials had hurried over and before the concubines were carried into the room, they were already anxiously checking the situation.
“The Worthy Consort is bleeding!”
Li Zhi paused as she heard the exclamation, turning around to glance at the scene.
Worthy Consort Xu, whose face had been pallid since earlier, was now unconscious on the litter, being examined by two attendants.
One of them took her pulse and gasped, “Your Majesty, the Worthy Consort seems to be showing signs of a miscarriage!”
Panic broke out once again.
Li Zhi furrowed his brow, hesitated for a moment, then quickly departed, not looking back.
Late at night, Li Zhi sat quietly on the bed, holding the bowl of medicine in her hand.
She took a deep breath and, as usual, poured the medicine into her mouth, pinching her nose to avoid the bitter taste.
Her brows furrowed in discomfort as she swallowed the unpleasant liquid.
Chun Yue, who usually hurried to offer her sweetmeats, was lost in thought with a worried expression.
Li Zhi took a sweetmeat from the table and put it in her mouth to wash away the bitterness.
She picked up a pair of scissors and trimmed the wick of the candle that was flickering on the table.
Chun Yue suddenly snapped out of her thoughts, and her expression was one of deep concern.
“Miss, aren’t you worried?” she asked, looking at Li Zhi with round eyes.
Li Zhi smiled and shook her head.
“What is there to be worried about? I’m able to stay in the palace now, and the Emperor won’t come.
I’m enjoying this peace and quiet.”
Li Jing Ye knew whether it was her doing or not.
Though indecisive and concerned with his image, he couldn’t stand any deception.
If someone had tampered with things and tried to shift all the blame onto her, he’d become suspicious.
Being confined in her quarters had its advantages, as she wouldn’t have to deal with him every day.
Chun Yue was still uneasy, biting her lip in deep thought.
“Could it be the Pure Consort herself?”
Earlier, it was Pure Conosort Xiao who claimed she was pushed into the water, and Qian Yang stepped forward to identify the culprit.
Once an eight-month pregnant woman faced danger, it wasn’t just a matter of a simple miscarriage.
It could very well result in two deaths.
Li Zhi popped another sweet into her mouth and thought carefully for a moment before shaking her head.
“The Pure Consort has always had eyes only for His Majesty.
After finally being pregnant, she wouldn’t risk herself and her child’s life.”
She recalled hearing that before she entered the palace, Li Jing Ye was not interested in sexual affairs and was mostly fair to the concubines in the harem.
There had never been any secret struggles in the palace.
Unlike her father and brothers, when Pure Consort Xiao handled palace affairs, she always demanded her own fairness and rarely blamed others.
Even in her dreams, although Pure Consort Xiao was dissatisfied with the imperial favor of the Noble Consort, she only occasionally showed it in her words.
In three years, she had never secretly harmed anyone.
How could such a person be her?
It was Worthy Consort Xu who, if not for falling into the water today, almost no one would know that she was already pregnant.
Thinking of her recent haggard appearance, and the hesitant look she had when she was about to speak but was preempted by Qian Yang, Li Zhi had a strange intuition.
As Worthy Consort Xu was carried back to Xianju Palace, she remained unconscious and showed no sign of waking.
Despite the bustling flow of palace maids coming and going both inside and outside the bedchamber, an inexplicable desolation lingered in the air.
Beyond the palace walls lay Shicui Palace, ablaze with light and bustling with the constant ebb and flow of people.
Li Jing Ye hesitated briefly before turning to follow the palace attendants who had rushed the Pure Consort and Worthy Consort back to their respective palaces.
One was on the verge of childbirth, while the other had just suffered a miscarriage.
His steps led him towards the brightly-lit Shicui Palace.
Within the halls of Xianju Palace, only the two attendants who had brought Worthy Consort Xu back were present, casting an eerie silence over the once-bustling chambers.
The other palace maids couldn’t help but shiver in the chill that ran down their spines.
Worthy Consort Xu had always been diligent in managing palace affairs, but her recent state of melancholy had been further exacerbated by the recent passing of her father.
Now that she had suffered a miscarriage, the situation was utterly heartbreaking, especially given that she couldn’t even count on the Emperor’s sympathy and comfort in this time of need.
Two attendants carefully examined Worthy Consort Xu’s pulse by the bedside, while a palace maid helped her change into dry clothes.
One of the attendants took a silver needle from the medicine box, heated it on the fire, and began to perform acupuncture, while the other wrote a prescription and handed it to a female official to prepare the medicine.
Under the brocade quilt, thin streams of fresh blood slowly seeped out from beneath Worthy Consort Xu’s body, staining her light-colored dress, which was a gruesome sight to behold.
The two attendants worked diligently, occasionally checking the condition of the brocade quilt until the bleeding gradually subsided, at which point they finally let out a sigh of relief.
After administering the medicine, everyone stayed by Worthy Consort Xu’s side all night, anxiously awaiting any signs of improvement.
Finally, in the early morning of the next day, Worthy Consort Xu slowly opened her eyes.
The palace maid who had been kneeling by the bed all night heard Worthy Consort Xu stirring and looked up, tears streaming down her face as she exclaimed, “Your Highness, you’ve finally awakened!”
Worthy Consort Xu’s pale face was momentarily confused, but she struggled to turn her body and asked, “What about the Pure Consort? How is she doing?”
As Ting He surveyed the surroundings, she realized that everyone else in the room had fallen asleep.
She quickly lowered her voice and whispered, “Your Highness, I went to check on the Pure Consort before dawn.
She has just given birth to a son.
Although the baby’s crying was weak, both mother and child are safe.”
Worthy Consort Xu’s clear eyes showed a hint of disappointment, but she remained silent.
She gazed blankly at the ceiling for a few moments before inquiring, “And what about Noble Consort Zhong? What punishment did His Majesty bestow upon her?”
Tinghe replied, “Noble Consort Zhong has been placed under house arrest in Chenghuan Palace.”
A cynical smile spread across Worthy Consort Xu’s lips as she remarked, “As heartless as ever.”
Ever since she learned of her pregnancy, Worthy Consort Xu had been plotting in secret.
She had planned to make it appear as though she had accidentally tripped and pushed the Pure Consort down the stairs or into the pond on this day when the palace was particularly crowded.
By doing so, she would have eliminated her rival without anyone suspecting her intentions.
The simplest methods were often the most effective and inconspicuous.
Already carrying the Emperor’s child, she had proactively confessed her guilt.
His suspicions would surely fade away, for now.
But Qian Yang suddenly accused Li Zhi of wrongdoing.
People believed in whispers and rumors, and even those who knew about the animosity between Qian Yang and the Noble Consort, would still begin to wonder if there was some truth to her claim.
If she took the blame again, people would suspect she and the Noble Consort had conspired to harm the Pure Consort.
“What about me?” She lowered her gaze, one hand lightly resting on her stomach.
A sharp pain jolted through her body.
Ting He remained silent for a moment before quietly informing her, “The child is gone.”
Everything is now clean.”
Worthy Consort Xu smiled slightly, a sense of relief washing over her.
But two tears escaped from the corners of her eyes, betraying her true emotions.
She couldn’t hurt him directly, so she would make him suffer the same pain she felt from losing their child.
Such a selfish and indifferent person like him, perhaps only the loss of his offspring can cause him pain.
It was a pity that it didn’t happen.
Thankfully, she had a miscarriage.
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