Chapter 68: Being Filled With Love (III)
Although Concubine Ran’s attitude and appearance weren’t as good as the other two concubines, she held the most tricks up her sleeves, her schemes running deep.
There were two main reasons why she could have her current position; her father was the High Official of the Ministry of Appointments, and more importantly, she used her tricks and schemes to gain a foothold in the harem.
Of course, Ling Xiao did not believe the Emperor could not see through it all.
However, since the Emperor had turned a blind eye to matters concerning her, it means he can tolerate it.
For such a woman to suddenly pay a visit should not be anything good.
Ling Xiao waved his head, trying to reject her visit.
Yet, Xiao Lizi who had informed of her arrival just had to add on, “King Consort, before your arrival, Concubine Ran was the one who was loved most by His Majesty. Though right now, you hold His Majesty’s love, to do this to Concubine Ran who was just disregarded…”
Looking at Xiao Lizi made Ling Xiao frowned. He also felt it was a bit strange; just when had Xiao Lizi gotten on such good terms with Concubine Ran, to speak up on her behalf?
He stared at Xiao Lizi, full of curiosity.
Xiao Lizi cowered a bit from his staring, panic showing on his face. Ling Xiao’s eyes brighten at the sight and he approached him, trying to take a closer look at the other’s expression. But Xiao Lizi was aware of it and quickly lowered his head respectfully, like he was trying to apologize, when in fact, he was just doing so to hide from Ling Xiao’s line of sight.
Ling Xiao narrowed his eyes, stood up and walked until he was right in front of Xiao Lizi. He then rounded the cowering and kneeling man, eying his trembling body. His annoyed mood grew worse as he lashed out at the eunuch…
“Xiao Lizi, apart from when the Emperor is at court, you pretty much never come to my palace, right?”
Ling Xiao guessed about what the other might be thinking, and then mockingly said, “Then, what are you trying to do here today? The Emperor’s morning court will soon be over, so why is it that Steward Li is not present by the Emperor’s side to serve him, but is instead here in my palace?”
Ling Xiao did not call him ‘Xiao Lizi’ rather, he called him by his title ‘Steward Li’, which flustered the other more.
Sneering at the sight, Ling Xiao continued without giving the other a chance to explain himself, “And such a coincidence! My palace, which is usually unfrequented, received a guest the moment you showed up!”
Hearing Ling Xiao’s words, Xiao Lizi was so scared he lost all color from his face and his lips were blanch. He was trembling so hard he could no longer speak.
Ling Xiao stared at him without blinking, yet he grimly laughed in his heart.
“Ever Since I entered the palace as the King Consort, aside from the servants, there haven’t been any harem concubines visiting me in this courtyard. I thought, after all, how could the concubines not be curious to meet the King Consort? Since no one dared to come, then someone must have ordered it. I believe Steward Li doesn’t need me to say it out loud who might this person be…”
While he spoke, he saw that Xiao Lizi’s face really did turn for the worse. This confirmed even more that his guess was right. For this palace to remain so peaceful could only be because the Emperor had laid down the order. Ling Xiao’s mood turned better at the thought that the Emperor has really done a lot for him.
But when he thought of Concubine Ran outside the door and the kneeling Xiao Lizi who dared to lie to him, Ling Xiao’s anger flared up.
His face was cold as he further asked, “How much effort did you spend, Steward Li, to allow Concubine Ran to come to my palace and ask for an audience? I am very curious, you see. Just how many benefits did she promise you, for your help?”
In spite of how he tried to hide it, Xiao Lizi shuddered and could only keep kowtowing stutteringly begging for forgiveness.
His appearance was very pitiful.
Ling Xiao disdainfully looked at him, his gaze ice cold, “Back then, at the warehouse, you encouraged me to take that jade ornament. You had already known that it was considered a taboo in the Emperor’s eyes, hadn’t you? You tried to set me up, didn’t you?”
“No…I wasn’t… This servant… wronged….” Xiao Lizi repeatedly shook his head, trying to refute Ling Xiao’s words, but he didn’t dare to deny again after being stared at by the latter’s cold eyes.
The thought that Xiao Lizi, who had followed him for a good period of time, tried to kill him, made Ling Xiao sneer.
He became suspicious of that Jade ornament quite long ago. After all, even in his past lifetime, he only knew that there was such a thing, but had never seen it with his own eyes. The Emperor never spoke to Mo Qi about it and he has also never gave her the key to the warehouse. So up until now, he didn’t have the need to be on guard against it.
However, Xiao Lizi was different. Even in times when Ling Xiao was not by the Emperor’s side, the other had always been there. The Emperor even gave him the key to pass it to Ling Xiao, so if Xiao Lizi tried to say he didn’t know about the jade, how could Ling Xiao believe it?
Ling Xiao mockingly smiled. Xiao Lizi hoped that the incident will cost Ling Xiao’s life, but he would have never guessed that not only would the Emperor not punish him, but also let him keep the jade.
He coldly snorted once more, looking down at Xiao Lizi. He squashed down his rage and asked, “Do you want to confess yourself here and now, or should we go and see the Emperor?”
The moment Ling Xiao mentioned the Emperor, Xiao Lizi was so frightened he was paralyzed on the ground, almost losing his head out of fear.
“No… King Consort… King Consort, please spare my life! You can’t let His Majesty know… this servant… this servant was also forced…”
Seeing how Xiao Lizi has started to speak the truth, Ling Xiao coldly ordered, “Explain everything from the beginning.”
“This servant… this servant was incited by Concubine Ran…” Xiao Lizi started to speak in a soft voice, “Back then, when you’ve just returned to the palace, this servant had told you to be careful of Concubine Ran, whose schemes run the deepest. But this servant did not know that someone had overheard his words and had passed them to her. So this servant was called by her.”
While he spoke, his face was very upset, seemingly regretting not clearing away the surrounding people, before speaking those words. Ling Xiao tried to listen carefully, in an attempt to identify whether the other’s expression was fake or genuine.
“Concubine Ran had threatened this servant, saying this servant had slandered her and therefore wanted to punish this servant. Although this one is His Majesty’s servant, Concubine Ran is still the Emperor’s concubine and so a master to serve. She was also the previous favorite, so this servant in a moment of fear…”
”Followed her order?” Ling Xiao finished the line for Xiao Lizi, however, the latter did not admit or deny it. He only respectfully kept his head low, asking for forgiveness.
Ling Xiao sneered at the scene, “Xiao Lizi, you weren’t such a cowardly person before.”
While he spoke, he also squatted down, then forcefully raised up Xiao Lizi’s lowered head.
“It was me who had once taught you that if you wanted to hide something, then half of your words should be the truth. But I do not recall telling you to use this method on me before.”
As he spoke, he tightened his hold on the other’s chin, causing him pain. But Xiao Lizi did not dare to cry out as tears slowly filled his eyes.
Ling Xiao unfeelingly watched the man’s expression and angrily asked, “What? Even after all this, you are still trying to hide the truth?”
Xiao Lizi trembled, “King… King Consort…”
Ling Xiao once again put force in his grip.
Xiao Lizi slightly struggled, “King Consort… mer…cy.”
“Hmph!” Ling Xiao mocked him with a smile, “You still have the audacity to beg for mercy, even without daring to tell me the truth!”
Venting, he threw Xiao Lizi aside and called out, “Servants!”
“Your servants are here.” In a short moment, An Xiang, followed by An Yong while wearing Ji Xiang and Fu Kang’s disguises, appeared.
Ling Xiao said with a dark expression, “Keep an eye on him. I will go out and meet Concubine Ran.”
Ji Xiang and Fu Kang exchanged a look and then Ji Xiang said, “Young Master, leaving only Fu Kang behind would be enough to watch over him. This servant will go out with Young Master, all right?”
Ling Xiao paused. All the people in his palace had been sent away by Xiao Lizi besides these two who keeps watching over him in secret. It would not be proper to go see Concubine Ran with no one by his side…
He thought for a bit and nodded, agreeing to Ji Xiang’s suggestion.
While Ling Xiao was leaving with Ji Xiang, Concubine Ran brought her maid along to tour his palace.
She seems to think that touring the palace is a very fresh experience as she looked around. She would even reach out her hand from time to time to rub the objects arranged on the table.
Her face held both delight and complaint.
Ling Xiao controlled himself, gave a coughed, and immediately plastered a smile on his face as he walked in.
“If Concubine Ran likes some of the items in my palace, why don’t I give them to you?”
“This lady hopes you are well King Consort.” When she heard his voice, she immediately turned around and saluted.
When she saluted, she slightly raised her eyes to look at him. When she saw that the one behind him wasn’t Xiao Lizi, but Ji Xiang, she frowned but immediately buried it away and assumed an appearance of innocence. She respectfully and obediently waited for Ling Xiao to allow her to raise.
However, her minor actions did not bypass Ling Xiao’s sight and he slightly smiled. Intending to embarrass her, he did not allow her to get up, but rather, he went around her and sat down.
Concubine Ran followed his movement and turned around, but she did not get up, continuing to kneel in front of Ling Xiao.
Ling Xiao raised the teacup on the table and drank it, while also sizing her up from the corner of his eye.
She was dressed in a red cotton dress, her makeup exquisite, while her posture enchanting, she was very charming.
If it were the old Ling Xiao, who had yet to enter the palace, such a woman would receive a few more glances from him and he might have even complimented her. However, the current Ling Xiao, no matter his previous lifetime or his current one, wouldn’t be in the mood to admire the Emperor’s women.
He silently repeated the words ‘The Emperor’s women’ in his heart, making him suddenly feel a bit unwell. But the smile on his face remained unchanged.
After kneeling for quite some time, Concubine Ran took the initiative to ask “King Consort?” when she saw Ling Xiao still hasn’t responded.
“Hm?” Ling Xiao gave a fake smile as he replied, pretending to still wear a puzzled appearance, “Is there something Concubine Ran wishes to ask this King Consort? I wonder, for what reason did Concubine Ran come to my palace today?”
Did those words mean he wanted her to reply while still kneeling?
Concubine Ran’s face twisted, a burst of anger surge in her chest, that almost made her unable to keep down. Yet, remembering how the man in front of her is the Emperor’s current favorite, she clenched her teeth and resisted with great difficulty.
She asked with false courtesy, “Would this lady be permitted to stand while speaking?”
“You would not.” Ling Xiao smiled and refused.
Concubine Ran was so surprised she raised her head to look at him. It looks like she had never thought Ling Xiao would so straightforwardly refuse her.
Ling Xiao sneered in his mind at the sight, lifting the teacup that was on the table and berated, “Who allowed you to raise your head?”
“……” Concubine Ran quickly lowered her head, her face even more ugly.
After seeing her movements, Ling Xiao languidly said, “It seems that Concubine Ran has some complaints toward this King Consort. Since that is so, then you may leave.”
“!” Concubine Ran trembled, her face twisted.
She finally came here with the help of Steward Li, how could she leave just like that!
Many thoughts ran around in her head. First, she had to make Ling Xiao stay, so she took a deep breath and smiled, saying, “What is King Consort talking about? How could this lady dare to have any complaints toward you?”
“How could you dare? Heh…” Ling Xiao sneered, his eyes full of disdain as he looked down at the kneeling Concubine Ran, “Concubine Ran has great courage! Are there any things you don’t dare to do?”
“King Consort is laying it down too heavily, this lady is doing her best for both you and His Majesty. Your words are accusing this lady unjustly.”
“Heh…” Ling Xiao mockingly smiled and shook his head, “Concubine Ran, must you make this King Consort say it clearly? How you used drugs on the Emperor, how you threatened Xiao Lizi, how you planned to set up this King Consort. Do you think this one knows nothing about it?”
Alarm rang in her mind and her body went rigid. After stopping for a few seconds, she finally stiffly returned, “This lady does not understand what King Consort is talking about.”
Ling Xiao got up then walked in front of her and squatted down, mockingly asking, “Concubine Ran, you are a smart person, who can play some tricks. But only fools would be deceived by such small ploys. Take a look! Does this King Consort looks like a fool to you?!”
With that said, he added another line, “If you were unable to hide the matter from this King Consort, then do you think you managed to hide it from the Emperor?”
“……” Concubine Ran’s body went stiff again, her face turning deathly white in that moment.
Ling Xiao profoundly stated, “You best behave.”
Now that Ling Xiao was done speaking, he planned to leave with Ji Xiang in tow by passing by Concubine Ran, when she suddenly got up and shouted at him.
Her expression and tone held none of the respect from before, rather, it turned menacing.
“Ling Xiao! How dare you threaten and slander this one with your evil intentions!”
Ling Xiao turned back, his eyes so cold that it made Concubine Ran tremble a bit and retreat at the sight. But she once again gathered her courage, “This one is still the Emperor’s concubine! You, who has no proof, dares to slander this one! This one will report it to the Emperor!”
“Be my guest.” Ling Xiao scoffed.
“You!” Concubine Ran’s anger spiked and she angrily stated, “Don’t think that just because the Emperor loves you, you can disregard the laws and morals! This harem is not yours to rule, it has Concubine Xian to manage!”
“For how long do you think the Emperor would love you? Besides the three concubines in the harem, there’s also the beauty, Hong Ye, under Concubine Xian’s hands. We can all crush you!”
“Not only is Hong Ye beautiful, but she is also skilled with her hands. The Emperor’s care towards her is not less than his attitude towards you. I believe that her entering the harem is just a matter of time. Just wait for her to come! Then your good days would be over!”
Ling Xiao’s eyes turned gloomy. Hong Ye’s matter was already something he was worried about. Listening to Concubine Ran’s words just now caused him to burn with anger, even though he knew she was just trying to instigate a reaction from him.
Seeing Ling Xiao’s expression turn worse, Concubine Ran knew she had reached her purpose. Although she had to use an extreme way to get it, since she had her father’s protection, she could still live peacefully.
The more she thought about her backing, the more she felt secured. Like a prideful peacock, with her head up and her chest forwards, she walked by Ling Xiao while holding onto the arm of her maid.
“Wait.” Ling Xiao’s deeper voice stopped her.
Concubine Ran arrogantly turned around, a proud expression on her face, “Is there any other matter the King Consort wishes to discuss? This lady is very busy.”
“Ha!” Ling Xiao was angered to the point he laughed.
He darkly stared at her, his cruel gaze like a hunting lion, freezing her to the spot.
Ling Xiao’s spotlessly white and orderly teeth were displayed as he darkly smiled, yet in Concubine Ran’s eyes, they appeared like fangs that dripped with saliva, ready to pounce forward and tear her throat open at any moment.
She involuntarily drew back.
The Ling Xiao she sees right now gave her the same oppressive feeling as the one she would only get from the Emperor. A suffocating one.
“Ji Xiang, don’t you think that if Concubine Ran goes back just like that, we would be seen as bad hosts who can’t treat our guests well? Let’s leave her some memories. This King Consort thinks her face is pretty nice, destroy it.”
Flustered, Concubine Ran’s mind went into shock at his words. However, more than shock was disbelief. She was one of the Emperor’s imperial concubines. Even if he wanted to punish her, it would still have to depend on what the Emperor has to say! How could Ling Xiao dare to punish her without the Emperor’s approval?!
She was in so much shock she couldn’t even retort. She could only retreat as she watched Ji Xiang walk towards her while holding the knife, her mouth constantly repeating, “Impossible! You wouldn’t dare! It won’t happen!” But she completely lost confidence in her words.
She pulled the maid she had brought with her to take the blow, but she was not fast enough against Ji Xiang’s quick hands.
A stab of pain came from her face and she could feel the sharp blade cutting open her tender skin, then her warm blood flowing down from it.
Just how important a beautiful appearance was in the cruel harem? No one was more clear about it than Concubine Ran.
Now that she could feel the pain as her appearance was destroyed, she lost control and screamed.
Ling Xiao frowned and covered his ears. He used a complaining face to look at Ji Xiang, as if he was blaming her for provoking Concubine Ran too much.
But with Ling Xiao’s face slowly returning to normal, Ji Xiang knew that he was actually very satisfied with how she treated Concubine Ran.
“Alright, Ji Xiang, what are you still looking at me for? Throw out this crazy woman.” Ling Xiao coldly commanded her.
Ji Xiang accepted the order.
Ling Xiao turned, but then seem to have remembered something and turned back to say to her, “That’s right, Ji Xiang, those things that that crazy woman touched just now, send them all to Concubine Ran’s place and smash it.”
“……” Ji Xiang paused, her heart aching a bit as she looked at those items.
Those were all personally chosen by the Emperor and set up here, every single one were invaluable.
Ji Xiang looked at Ling Xiao and wanted to tell him how these items were innocent. But he had already turned and went back to his courtyard.
Ji Xiang had no other choice, she could only find people to move these items. One item after another were moved to Concubine Ran’s palace and smashed in front of the provoked Concubine Ran.
This matter quickly spread out.
And in a quarter of a time, the Emperor had arrived at Ling Xiao’s palace.