Chapter 497: The scales tip Original and most updated translations are from volare. If read elsewhere, this chapter has been stolen. Please stop supporting theft.
Emperor Tianhui gripped Chu Qingge’s waist tightly, sniffing her along her neck as if he was addicted to her scent. His restless hands roved all over her body while Chu Qingge stared listlessly at the ceiling. Emperor Tianhui was reaching for a yard after getting an inch, but she only faced his advances by gritting her teeth. As he stripped her layer by layer to expose the plump chest buried beneath her clothes, a single tear slowly ran down her ice-cold face before she shut her eyes.
Perhaps, by closing her eyes to the reality, she could pretend the man above her was the one from her dreams instead?
What if it was him? Would I suffer less if I imagined him doing me instead?
Long Feiye… Chu Qingge almost called his name out loud, but held onto her reason at the last second. She only dared to say his name in her heart because she knew that doing anything else would cost her the entire game as well as bring him trouble.
Suddenly, a piercing pain radiating from the lower half of her body made Chu Qingge’s eyes fly open. The agony was enough to shatter her heart and ruin her beautiful fantasy. Here lay the cruel reality!
Emperor Tianhui had been desiring her for ages, now drugged, he was simply riding Chu Qingge like one would an untamed horse. Men, especially those in powerful positions like his, treated women as their playthings. No matter how much he liked them, it was but only a passing fancy. Once lust broke out, their urges were uncontrollable and they indulged themselves to the fullest. Who cares what she felt?
Emperor Tianhui had already been practicing abstinence for close to two months. Now that he was tasting meat against after his long fast, he was as ravenous as a beast. In the early morning hours before dawn, Chu Qingge was done again and again until her mental facilities were broken to pieces. When Emperor Tianhui finally fell into slumber, she was nothing more than an empty rag doll. She lay listlessly on the cold marble floor without moving a muscle, tears streaming non-stop from her eyes.
She knew that there was no more turning back now.
She lay there for awhile until the effects of the drug wore off. When Emperor Tianhui looked close to waking, she endured the pain to get dressed and called for Eunuch Luo to place him back into the bed. Eunuch Luo took the chance to open the windows as well, airing out the ambiguous scents and smell of medicine filling the room.
Then he lowered his voice and murmured, “Esteemed noble consort, this old servant has already told the morning court assembly that His Majesty is ill and won’t be attending. If Noble Consort Xue tries to visit, this old servant will block her way for you. You have to seize this chance to do what you must, this old servant can’t block the likes of the crown prince if he returns.”
Chu Qingge only nodded her head before sitting silently on the bed. As soon as Eunuch Luo left, she clutched the bedsheets and desperately wished she could suffocate Emperor Tianhui to death. But it was only a moment of impulse, she neither could, nor dare. She quietly watched over him while the words of her brother echoed in her head. The crucial point of their plot laid in her pillow talk to Emperor Tianhui. When he was starting to wake up, Chu Qingge wrapped herself in the silken sheets and curled up next to his chest, feigning sleep.
After such a wild night, Emperor Tianhui only remember hazy memories of enjoying himself, but had long forgotten the details. He saw Chu Qingge’s cold, chilly face by his side and felt fully satisfied, before boldly eating her tofu again with his hand.
Chu Qingge pretended to wake up just then and slapped his hand away. “Let go!”
Even the more favored consorts of his imperial harem, including the empress in her heydays, wouldn’t dare to refuse him like this. Emperor Tianhui’s eyes flickered with indignation before he touched her with his other hand instead. Chu Qingge slapped that away as well and huffed, “Your Majesty, that’s enough!”
“And if Zhen says it’s not?” Emperor Tianhui arched a brow to ask quietly.
“Then Your Majesty may keep going. It’s not like chenqie can escape,” Chu Qingge played lip service even as her eyes continued to look defiant. Emperor Tianhui loved nothing more than her arrogance.
Instead of growing angry, he actually laughed out loud. “Well, well, well, Zhen will let you off for today.” Despite this, he didn’t move his hands from her body, but held her all the more tightly. Chu Qingge struggled a few times before giving up.
“Your Majesty, do you know what time it is now?”
At her reminder, Emperor Tianhui finally recalled the morning assembly. “What’s the hour now? Zhen hasn’t gone to morning assembly yet!” He was about to get up when a wave of dizziness flashed past his eyes. Damn it, Imperial Physician Gu told me multiple times not to have sex because it’d waste my vitality. Why couldn’t I control myself?
“Your Majesty, are you alright? Do you feel tired?” Chu Qingge asked hastily.
Emperor Tianhui would never admit to his own exhaustion. Although he was feeling inwardly anxious, he still managed to rise to a sitting position. “What hour is it?”
“Exactly noon, Your Majesty. This morning chenqie tried to wake you up, but you insisted on telling Eunuch Luo to dismiss the court assembly. Chenqie knows that it had to have been an important meeting considering what happened last night, but….” As she spoke, Chu Qingge lightly rested her hand against Emperor Tianhui’s heart and shyly bowed her head.
Emperor Tianhui lifted her by the chin and smiled. “But what?”
“Your Majesty!” Chu Qingge gave him a look of reproach. Emperor Tianhui was quite pleased before a complicated look flickered past his eyes.
“Beloved consort, you know that something important happened last night?”
“The explosion was so loud that something must have gone off in the capital city, right?” Chu Qingge asked honestly.
“Regarding that...what does beloved consort think of the matter?” Emperor Tianhui probed.
“Someone was secretly storing gunpowder, of course. As chenqie sees it, it’s likely 80 percent related to those crossbow archers and their assassination attempt on Qin Wangfei. Perhaps they wanted to cause a row and escape during the chaos.”
Chu Qingge’s words matched the crown prince’s claims completely, greatly surprising Emperor Tianhui. He was sure she’d stand up for the Chu Clan!
“Secretly storing gunpowder? Heheh, is it really that easy to transfer such goods into the capital city?” Emperor Tianhui gave a cold snort.
Chu Qingge didn’t object to his views. “Wouldn’t it be simple if the gunpowder was already in the military’s hands?”
Emperor Tianhui assumed that Chu Qingge would seize the chance to stomp on Great General Mu, but she only crept to his ear and whispered, “Your Majesty, chenqie will tell you a secret. Chenqie has come in contact with gunpowder before her marriage as well. Actually, the military’s security measures weren’t very strict at all!”
Now Emperor Tianhui was completely surprised. Isn’t this woman afraid that I’ll suspect the Chu Clan after she tells me such things? Or has the Chu Clan done nothing worthy of suspicion at all? As he stared into the beauty’s fluttering gaze, Emperor Tianhui recalled how the crown prince and Mu Qingwu hadn’t provided him with a single shred of reliable evidence in the past few days. Instead, they’d been making oblique charges in front of his face against the Chu Clan.
“Beloved consort, in your view, which military power could have transferred that exploding shipment of gunpowder?” Emperor Tianhui asked her next.
“Your Majesty, a person can eat indiscriminately, but not speak irresponsibly! Chenqie dares not speculate on such weighty matters…” Having said as much, she added, “In any case, it doesn’t leave out my Chu Clan, Tianning’s Mu Clan, or Nothern Li’s Yuwen[1. Yuwen (宇文) - a two character surname historically used to refer to a branch of the Xianbei nomadic people. Apparently the clan name of Northern Li’s military forces.] Clan.”
Emperor Tianhui surveyed her for a long while before suddenly drawing her close. “Noble Consort Chu, what if the gunpowder came from your Chu Clan? Your Chu Clan members are experts in archery and those crossbow archers all possessed consummate skills. Is this simply all a coincidence?”
Chu Qingge flared up at his insinuation. “If Your Majesty already had your own ideas, why ask chenqie’s opinion in the first place? You might as well hang chenqie on the racks and interrogate me through torture instead of waiting for that incompetent Mu Qingwu to harass the people when he can’t even catch his culprits!”
“You’re saying Mu Qingwu is incompetent?” Emperor Tianhui couldn’t believe it.
Chu Qingge was bold enough to retort, “Well, isn’t he? The imperial guards under his personal leadership turned traitor, so doesn’t that mark him as useless? Chenqie couldn’t believe my ears when I first heard the news, but it turned out to be true.”
Emperor Tianhui hadn’t believed it either, but what stirred his suspicions more was the fact that Mu Qingwu had killed the traitorous young commander in a supposed fit of impulse. His actions seemed like he was silencing a potential witness. He looked over at Chu Qingge and stopped asking questions, but the scales in his heart were already tipping to one side. Still, he kept his thoughts to himself. Ever since the explosion had broken out, he hadn’t shared his stance on the matter, choosing to watch and wait from the sidelines as he examined both sides.
Since this matter concerned the safety of the capital city and his own position on the throne, he had to be extra cautious with everything. There was already a three-day deadline in place. He’d like to see how General Mu’s estate would explain away the explosion to him! As he stared at Chu Qingge’s alluring figure, he felt the urge rise to take her again, but he didn’t have the energy. After taking liberties with her a while longer, he dismissed her from his quarters. She left the gates of Xuanlong Palace just in time to see Noble Consort Xue at the gates.
“Heheh, so it was Noble Consort Chu! Coming out like this in broad daylight, and here I thought something major had happened…” Noble Consort Xue trailed off, her words extremely provoking. Without a doubt, she was mocking Chu Qingge for her shameless behavior in daylight. Chu Qingge had just finished her act in front of Emperor Tianhui, so her body was sore and her heart bitter. The dressing down from Noble Consort Xue only made her aggrieved enough to cry, but she fixed Noble Consort Xue with a supercilious look, unwilling to concede defeat. Then she turned and left.
Noble Consort Xue shot Eunuch Luo a probing look. As if suddenly realizing something, she sprinted back towards the empress dowager’s palace. It was likely Chu Qingge’s fault that His Majesty hadn’t appeared at court this morning. For the emperor to favor Chu Qingge at this critical juncture was a massive blow against the crown prince’s forces! Emperor Tianhui’s awakened sex life soon sent the imperial harem into a new wave of struggles, but his health was worse than anyone had imagined. He rested for a long time before taking a draught of medicine to recover his strength.
As soon as he reached his imperial study, he ignored all the memorials sent in that morning and ordered, “Pass on Zhen’s words and summon the Duke of Qin to the palace. Qin Wangfei should come along as well.”
Emperor Tianhui would always sound out different sides, so he would never forget to consult His Highness Duke of Qin. He wanted to listen to Long Feiye’s views on the black market gunpowder cause and the crossbow archer assassins, as well as the sudden explosion in the military depot. The assassins had targeted the Duke of Qin’s own wangfei, but the man hadn’t taken any action since rescuing her from the brothel. Could he be planning something in secret?
Emperor Tianhui’s words were passed on to the Duke of Qin’s estate, interrupting Long Feiye halfway through his recovery process. He was about to leave when Chu Xifeng timidly brought up, “Your Highness, His Majesty summoned esteemed wangfei, too.”
Long Feiye’s steps paused, causing both Zhao mama and Baili Mingxiang to fret. They didn’t know that His Highness Duke of Qin was injured, either, much less any details regarding esteemed wangfei. Neither of them dared to go to the Han Estate on their own, so all they knew was that their two masters had a huge falling-out this time. Everyone was waiting nervously for His Highness Duke of Qin to speak, but in the end, he simply stood there saying nothing.
Finally, it was Chu Xifeng who spoke up. “Your Highness, how about this subordinate go to the Han Estate and bring esteemed wangfei here?”
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