Chapter 23: On the Small Peak [Extra Long]
Ling Xiao was stunned.
A few scenes flashed through his mind rapidly. Back when he had caught Lan Wei, Mo Qi had gotten panicky and had someone send him a letter, asking him to deliver an acrostic poem to the Emperor. After taking a look at it, Ling Xiao had copied down the first character of each line.
Those characters were these four words.
Mo Qi wanted to confess her feelings to the Emperor and for Ling Xiao to deliver her letter for to him, but how could Ling Xiao be stupid to the point he would help her? He had directly burned it; however, he had forgotten about the paper that he wrote those four characters on and accidentally mixed it with the list in the iron case…
Ling Xiao finally came to a realization, and his heart fell into chaos.
This paper had been seen by the Emperor now….
He slightly raised his eyes, wanting to catch a glimpse of the Emperor’s expression, only to discover that the Emperor’s serene and deep eyes had been watching him the whole time.
Ling Xiao stiffened, then quickly lowered his gaze and knelt on the ground.
Only one thought remained in his mind, he was done for!
After all, he, as a eunuch, had the impertinence to ‘like and want’ the Emperor.
The Emperor looked away, slowly picking up the tea off the table and drinking a mouthful, “Stand up. Your body isn’t well yet, so no need to be too polite.”
Ling Xiao stood, trembling with fear. The Emperor glanced at the other seat by the table and motioned to Ling Xiao, “Come over here, sit.”
Being overwhelmed by the favor from him, Ling Xiao uneasily said, “Your… Your Majesty… you are the Master.”
Hearing his words, the Emperor swept a glance at Ling Xiao that was full of authority, shaking Ling Xiao so much that he could not say anything else. With no other alternatives, he could only directly sit next to the Emperor.
Next to him was Ling Xiao, whose body appeared refined in his white clothing, but whose face was so frightened that no trace of blush could be seen. He was completely pale and his lips formed a line. His posture was very straight due to his nervousness and his hands were on his knees as he trembled slightly.
The Emperor sized him up, recalling that this small eunuch usually served him very meticulously. His heart started to oddly throb for a moment, then gradually began to feel tenderness towards him.
“We did not intend to blame or reproach you. There’s no need for you to be so nervous. Help Us pour some tea.” The Emperor placed down the empty teacup in his hand.
Ling Xiao was surprised. This eunuch ‘liked and wanted’ the Emperor, yet the Emperor did not blame and reproach him. There was only one possible reason for that, the Emperor also had some interest in the eunuch.
Thinking about it, Ling Xiao became even more nervous.
One order, one action. Using his good hand, he picked up the end of the teapot and slowly leaned closer to the Emperor’s teacup, tremblingly pouring the tea in until it was full.
The Emperor suddenly reached out a hand to grab onto his hand, causing Ling Xiao to jump in fright.
The Emperor, feeling the coldness and trembling of that hand, looked at Ling Xiao for a moment, then placatingly patted his hand.
Ling Xiao stiffly swallowed his saliva, taking a few deep breaths to help him relax as much as possible.
Sensing Ling Xiao softening, the Emperor took back his hand and called out, “Ling Xiao.”
“Your servant is here.” Ling Xiao restrained his gaze and perked up his ears.
The Emperor leaned against the chair, saying, “Concerning the list in the case, We are very satisfied.”
Ling Xiao quietly let out a breath, then smiling got up and saluted, “It’s good that Your Majesty is satisfied. This servant did not bring dishonor to the task.”
Seeing this, the Emperor’s gaze softened, and he asked, “What do you want as a reward?”
He did not wait for Ling Xiao’s reply before he said some more, “Although We are not fond of homosexuality, seeing that you have done a meritorious deed and are considerate, We shall grant you one wish.”
Ling Xiao, who had finally loosened up, stiffened again. He had a bad premonition.
With a smile in his eyes, he shot him a glance and said, “This wish can be having Us make you into our First Consort. We can also make you our King Consort.”
TL Note: They are just gender flip titles of normal versions, but consort is pretty gender neutral in the first place so I’m using that. Consort as in Concubine. King Consort is Huang Jun, the regular version is Empress (Huang Hou) so just the last character was switched, basically a male Empress.
“……” Ling Xiao’s heart went weak and he fell with a “plop”, kneeling in front of the Emperor.
The Emperor raised an eyebrow, looking toward Ling Xiao.
Ling Xiao knelt on the ice-cold ground, his heart madly beating. He naturally could not accept this “reward”, but the situation was quite troublesome. Since the Emperor had seen the paper and already believed without a doubt that it described his thoughts, then if he were to speak out that it was a misunderstanding, the Emperor would lose face. If he were to say it was true, then if the Emperor someday found out it wasn’t true, his ending would still be miserable.
However, compared to that possibility in the future, Ling Xiao chose to first cross over the crisis in front of his eyes.
With these thoughts, Ling Xiao summoned up his courage and said with clenched teeth, “Your Majesty, please take back the reward!”
Hearing what he said, the warmth in the Emperor’s eyes vanished and he expressionlessly stared at Ling Xiao, “Give Us a reason.”
Ling Xiao clenched his fist and pressed his luck, “Your servant likes being the Eunuch Steward more.”
The Emperor lifted his head when he heard that. His eyes stared piercingly at ling Xiao for a long time, as if he wanted to understand him thoroughly, “Compare to being a master, you like being a servant?”
Ling Xiao nodded with his lips pursed.
The Emperor’s face went cold.
Ling Xiao hurriedly bowed his head and said, “Because this way, this servant can be by Your Majesty’s side every day.”
The Emperor stared at him blankly for a moment. Ling Xiao deliberately dipped his head very low so that the Emperor was unable to see if his expression was genuine or fake, “Your Majesty, if this servant becomes one of the consorts in your harem or your King Consort, then this servant would be unable to serve you at all times. This servant would also be unable to stay by your side all day. To this servant… that’s very painful.”
“Rather than becoming a master and wait every night… every night for the Emperor to come, this servant would rather remain as a servant, who is able to serve the Emperor. As long as this one can stay by Your Majesty’s side, this servant is perfectly content.”
So that the Emperor would be unable to pick up any hints from him, he saluted and kept his head very low. The benefits of this was that the Emperor would be unable to tell if he was being genuine or fake. The negative side was that he was also unable to look at the Emperor’s expression.
At this time, Ling Xiao was passive. He couldn’t know anything, so he couldn’t do anything. He only knew that after his words, everything was quiet. So quiet that he could only hear the “thump, thump, thump” of his heart.
Little by little, it gradually accelerated.
Suddenly, the chair creaked and the Emperor stood up.
Ling Xiao stared at the clothing in front of him from his kneeling position and quickly moved to the side, allowing the Emperor to say something.
“If that is what you wish for, then We shall grant it.” The Emperor stated while overlooking Ling Xiao.
Ling Xiao quietly let out a sigh of relief in his heart, his head lowered to press against the floor in thanks.
The Emperor left, and Ling Xiao flopped on the ground.
He finally completely understood the idiom that accompanying one’s sovereign could be like accompanying a tiger.
Not long after that, Xiao Lizi walked in carrying an imperial edict.
It was for rewarding Ling Xiao.
Besides rewarding Ling Xiao a good deal of silver, gold, jewels and silk cloth, the Emperor had even granted him the power to wear casual dress in the palace. He had also bestowed upon him a palace, using his old residence being burned as the reason.
The ability to own a palace was a privilege only masters had.
But this time, the Emperor went so far as to reward one to the Eunuch Steward Ling Xiao. Not only that, but the rewarded palace was the one closest to the Emperor’s Qin Palace, Ning Xuan Palace.
The Emperor originally already doted on Ling Xiao a lot, this was something everyone with eyes could tell. The Emperor was very fond of the Eunuch Steward Ling Xiao because when he was injured and his residence burned, he had allowed Ling Xiao to live in his palace. Even if it was just his daybed in the Qin Palace, people could still tell just how much importance the Emperor attached to him. You must know, even the three imperial concubines of the harem had not been given this rare honor.
What’s more, this time he had even directly rewarded Ling Xiao power as a master, living alone in a palace and wearing plain clothing. Besides being a servant in name, in what way did he look like one?
He had obviously already ascended to being a master.
The people of the palace now looked at Ling Xiao differently, and even Xiao Lizi started to treat Ling Xiao even more respectfully.
With a complicated feeling in his heart, Ling Xiao accepted this imperial edict and the rewards as Xiao Lizi quickly saluted and congratulated him.
Ling Xiao absent-mindedly twitched his mouth.
Xiao Lizi waved everyone else away and stepped forward, saying, “Steward, the Emperor thinks about you a lot.”
“He had just told this servant to deliver a bowl of swallow’s nest congee to you every day, so you can supplement your body.”
Ling Xiao stared blankly as Xiao Lizi sneakily approached him and said, “Steward, you are no different from a master these days.”
“How brazen!” Ling Xiao heard him and berated, “A loose tongue may cause a lot of troubles, do you not understand?”
Xiao Lizi quieted and did not dare to say another word as he bowed his head in salutation, but his face showed he was not convinced.
Ling Xiao cast him a glance and lightly smiled, “What? Still unconvinced? What else do you want to say?”
Xiao Lizi raised his eyes, as if he was determining if Ling Xiao would get angry, and said, “Steward, although you said a loose tongue may cause a lot of trouble, you also know that this is a special honor everyone is well aware of. You have long stopped being a simple Steward. Everyone looks at you as they would a master, whether we speak of it or not makes no difference.”
Ling Xiao raised an eyebrow, “What you said seems very reasonable.”
Xiao Lizi bowed his head immodestly, “Everything was taught by Steward.”
Ling Xiao rolled his eyes.
“However…” Xiao Lizi suddenly took a turn with the topic and Ling Xiao looked at him while he said with a face of worry, “Steward, all three Imperial Highnesses know about the reward the Emperor bestowed on you.”
Ling Xiao raised an eyebrow as Xiao Lizi continued, “Steward, our court assemble does have the conventions for a male concubine. The Emperor has a special inclination towards you in the eyes of the three Imperial Highnesses. Since you do not have a title yet, you have to be careful.”
Ling Xiao was somewhat agitated when he heard him say it, his gaze dark as he looked at Xiao Lizi and said, “Xiao Lizi, do you think this is a matter you can deal with?”
Startled, Xiao Lizi quickly knelt in front of Ling Xiao. However, Ling Xiao was now distraught with anxiety and had no energy to deal with Xiao Lizi, so he just waved his head and let him retreat.
He slightly organized his things a bit and immediately moved out from the Emperor’s Qin Palace.
His Steward clothing were all thoroughly burned, nor did he have any that were about to be made. As a result, he could only wear the informal clothing the Emperor rewarded him and go to the new palace.
The new palace was quiet, secluded and elegant. There was even a zither arranged there along with flutes and other musical instruments on the wall. By the window was also a desk which included the four treasures of the study (ink brush, ink stick, paper and inkstone). Further in was the bedroom.
With his mind loaded deeply with worry, Ling Xiao waved his hand for the other people to leave and let himself fall onto the bed.
He felt that the matter was getting more and more complicated now.
That wouldn’t do, he needed to quickly kill Mo Qi and avenge himself, then leave.
He couldn’t be a eunuch for the rest of his life, and especially not a male consort for the Emperor to roll in the bedsheets with.
Ling Xiao turned over in the bed, gazing at the eunuchs and maids ahead that were keeping watch, before quietly crawling out the window.
Hiding on the left and right, Ling Xiao arrived at the Imperial Garden where he had hurriedly hidden Lan Wei before.
He had been unconscious for a day and a night without even knowing how Lan Wei was.
However, when he arrived, there wasn’t any trace of Lan Wei there.
Ling Xiao was puzzled, but even after looking around the area, he still did not see Lan Wei.
He thought it over, the Emperor had been very calm and didn’t look like he had caught Lan Wei.
Then, if Lan Wei wasn’t in the Emperor’s hands, where would he be?
Ling Xiao pursed his lips. Lan Wei had been missing for the past two days yet the palace remained as calm as it was before without anyone coming out and causing trouble. So that meant the matter about Lan Wei entering the Emperor’s palace shouldn’t be known and that someone had rescued him.
Otherwise, if they were not able to rescue Lan Wei, they should be extremely worried by now.
What caused Ling Xiao to be suspicious the whole time was how it was calm even outside the palace. Since the Prime Minister’s sole son went missing for two days, there should be some noise, if not aid from the Prime Minister by sending men out to find him.
There should have been some rumors within the court.
But those two days were very tranquil.
There was only one kind of explanation for this situation. Lan Wei had told the Prime Minister a “reason” before leaving, saying he would be gone for a period of time. As such, the Prime Minister did not know Lan Wei was missing.
Only this would explain those two days of tranquility clearly.
However, there wasn’t anyone to help in the palace, nor was there anyone looking for Lan Wei. Yet, he disappeared within the palace…
Besides himself running away, Ling Xiao could not think of anything else.
If he really had ran away by himself, then given how weak he was, he could only go back to one place—the Prime Minister’s Household.
Ling Xiao felt that it was necessary for him to confirm it, so he walked toward Chu Xiu Palace.
When he arrived at Chu Xiu Palace, he immediately found Elder Lin.
When Elder Lin saw Ling Xiao in his informal clothing, she was slightly stunned before bowing her head in salutation. The frankness that used to be on her face becoming slightly more deferring.
Ling Xiao stared blankly for a moment before smiling. This really was the enticement of power.
They used to look down on him arrogantly, but now that he had power, they had no choice but to be humble like this in front of him.
Ling Xiao lightly laughed as he looked at the Elder Lin who was now a bit lower-ranked than him.
“Elder Lin, how have you been the past few days?”
Elder Lin lowered her gaze, “Thank you, Steward Ling, for your concern, this servant is very well.”
“Actually, the reason why I came was because I heard a rumor and wanted to ask Elder Lin about it. Rumor is that the Prime Minister’s son, Lan Wei is missing?” Ling Xiao lightly stroked his bandaged hand and probingly asked.
Hearing what he said, Elder Lin’s body paused for a second before replying speedily, “Young Master Lan Wei has been in the household the entire time.”
Ling Xiao raised an eyebrow at what she said and said some nonsense, “But some were talking around how Young Master Lan Wei wanted to elope with Mo Qi…”
“Nonsense!” Elder Lin seemed quite nervous as she interrupted him, “That is a bunch of nonsense of course! Our Young Master Lan Wei is innocent, he is at home right now. It’s just that he is a bit ill and lost consciousness, so he’s resting in bed. If Steward Ling does not believe me, you can confirm it yourself.”
Ling Xiao raised an eyebrow. Lan Wei really had gone back, except he was still unconscious.
Perhaps it was because he was unconscious that the Prime Minister did not know Lan Wei had been tormented by him, which would explain why he didn’t come come looking for trouble with Ling Xiao and why Elder Lin had an obedient appearance without any hatred or anger.
Ling Xiao went deep into his thoughts, before opening his mouth to ask Elder Lin some more.
But Elder Lin took the initiative to speak, “Steward Ling, this servant still have other matters to attend to, so I shall be excused first. There are still many matters this servant needs to arrange in this Chu Xiu Palace.”
With those words, Elder Lin slipped from Ling Xiao and left. Her pace was hasty and rapid, and Ling Xiao sneered at her back view.
The matter he wanted to confirm was already confirmed, so he did not bother calling Elder Lin back.
Ling Xiao thought that and turned around to leave. He needed to plan on how to handle the Prime Minister’s Household after Lan Wei woke up.
But, just when he turned around, Ling Xiao saw an interesting scene.
Mo Qi, wearing a somewhat worn pink clothing, was being ganged up on and beaten by a group of maids. Her face was purple all over, covered with scars and bruises, old and new. Her body was battered and exhausted, but the lead maid still viciously jeered at her.
Mo Qi had a face full of tears and looked very pitiful, but no one sympathized or cherished her.
Ling Xiao was greatly delighted and couldn’t help but sit by the column of the corridor, enjoying the scene. Seeing his enemy Mo Qi taking a beating and getting insulted, he felt very refreshed.
After watching for a while, Ling Xiao discovered that the number of maids ganging up on Mo Qi was steadily lessening. As the maids departed, he saw one person within the courtyard.
With combed hair, delicate makeup, and wearing a golden hairpin, it was the Palace Woman He from back then who was now He Baolin (Lady who Could Comfort a Multitude He).
Raws is 5, but I couldn’t keep it to five in English when translating that line orz
Imperial Highness -> Niang Niang, I assume you know this version. Way to respectfully call concubines and the married ladies of high families.