As expected, once Ling Xiao looked over, half of a horsetail whisk could be seen by the door.
Ling Xiao got up and walked out.
“King Consort.” The moment he walked to the entrance, Steward Li knelt down and saluted to him.
Ling Xiao gave him a glance and said, “Stand up. What is it that you need from me?”
Xiao Lizi smiled flatteringly, “His Majesty was thinking of you this morning at the court and wanted this servant to come serve you. He also wanted this servant to bring some breakfast for you.”
After he spoke, Xiao Lizi waved his hand behind him. Not long after, two rows of eunuchs walked in, each holding an exquisite tray. They saluted to Ling Xiao then respectfully placed the trays inside Ling Xiao’s palace.
Ling Xiao observed them and then walked over to take a closer look. A table full of delicacies was spread out before him.
“This…” Ling Xiao frowned.
Xiao Lizi hurried forward to explain, “King Consort, these were all specifically ordered by the Emperor for us servants to prepare for you. He was worried about you.”
Xiao Lizi glanced at the table after he spoke and fawningly continued, “King Consort, take a closer look. The Emperor himself has never requested these dishes, yet told us servants to make them especially for you. The Emperor really has your best interest in his heart.”
While Xiao Lizi spoke, his face was full of smugness, as if the one being loved was him and not Ling Xiao. This caused the latter to give him a long disapproving look. Quickly vanishing the proud expression from his face, Xiao Lizi softly cleared his throat before approaching Ling Xiao once more, “King Consort, aside from the food, the Emperor also ordered this servant to deliver you this.”
Ling Xiao moved his gaze to the key resting in Xiao Lizi’s spread out palms.
When Xiao Lizi didn’t hear a reply, he promptly explained, “This is the key to the imperial palace’s warehouse. Until now, it had been safekept by Concubine Xian, but the Emperor ordered this servant to bring it before you today. When the Emperor did so, he said that if there is anything you want in the warehouse, it is yours for the taking. You need not ask for the Emperor’s permission.”
Finishing his explanation, Xiao Lizi handed the warehouse key to Ling Xiao.
Ling Xiao raised an eyebrow in surprise. Was the Emperor’s imperial kindness always this broad and powerful?
Did he really give the key to him just like that?
He could take whatever he wanted out of there?
Ling Xiao’s eyes turned in its sockets, then he raised the key and smiled.
Since the Emperor is so generous, why should he not accept?
Just wait for him to clean out the warehouse! And then let’s see what the Emperor would use to show off his generosity!
With an attitude clearly saying ‘hate the rich’, Ling Xiao resentfully thought on how he is going to take everything out of the warehouse. After he ate his meal, he immediately head over, to execute his plan.
He only found out how naive he was, when he got there.
Anything you could think of, filled five rooms completely. He could only keep dreaming about taking all the valuable items out of the warehouse by himself.
Ling Xiao looked all over the place until he noticed a block of bright warm jade on a table in one of the rooms. With an exquisite color and a luster glossy, even an amateur like Ling Xiao could tell that the value of this warm jade was high.
Though Ling Xiao could see how this jade was very special among the piles of treasures, what struck him as odd was how it was sitting alone on the innermost table.
Yet, he could not tell whether or not it was really very precious, since the jade merely stood on the table, unlocked or hidden away.
Giving in to the strange feeling the treasure gave him, he took a few more looks at it until finally walking over.
Xiao Lizi had received the Emperor’s order and very diligently followed behind Ling Xiao. Watching Ling Xiao touch that jade, his eyes brighten.
He walked up to Ling Xiao and bent his waist while asking, “King Consort, is this jade to your liking?”
“Hm.” Ling Xiao made a sound of agreement while immersed in his thoughts.
Xiao Lizi watched the scene and said in a fawning soft voice, “Then… why don’t you try picking it up?”
“……” Without any words, Ling Xiao just picked the jade up. As he held it, a faint and quite comfortable warmth could be felt from it.
Once he took a closer look, a vivid and lifelike tiger could be seen carved on the jade. Because the jage was white, the tiger really looked like a majestic White Tiger.
The more he looked at it, the more he liked it. He didn’t want to let go of it as he played with it.
Xiao Lizi once again said as he watched, “If it is to the King Consort liking, then why not hold onto it?”
Ling Xiao turned back to glare at him. With the way Xiao Lizi kept talking about the treasure, it gave the feeling that it was his, making Ling Xiao uncomfortable.
Ling Xiao curled his lips. He knew that in the end, he was already bearing a grudge against Xiao Lizi ever since he stood on the Emperor’s side. So no matter what Xiao Lizi said, he would always feel uncomfortable.
However, Ling Xiao really did like this jade, so he carried it with him.
Leaving the warehouse, Ling Xiao was not followed by Xiao Lizi as the latter found an excuse for the other to leave first as he himself went to Concubine Xian’s palace.
The warehouse key had always been in the hands of Concubine Xian. All which entered and all which left the warehouse were always reported to and checked by Concubine Xian.
The account of items were all left to her. Though the Emperor gave the key of the warehouse to Ling Xiao, the reserve key was still in her hands. Ling Xiao was free to take whatever he wanted from the warehouse, but Xiao Lizi would go to Concubine Xian and report to her what he took. That would allow her to keep account of the items inside the warehouse.
The Emperor said that he would not get involved with whatever he took, however, if he wanted to know what Ling Xiao took, he would only need to take a look at the account book to find out.
When the Emperor had Xiao Lizi carry out his orders, he did not decree that the matter must be hidden from Ling Xiao. But thinking that Ling Xiao might feel displeased, he had concealed it from him.
But nevertheless, Ling Xiao was a clever individual. With the experience from his past lifetime, he already knew that the account of the warehouse was taken care of by Concubine Xian.
Though the Emperor gave him the key, he did not give the account to him. If he thought about it carefully, then he would immediately know that there was bound to be a spare key.
And what was taken would without doubt be reported to Concubine Xian.
Rather than waiting for the Emperor to inform him about going to report to Concubine Xian, it was better for him to go and tell her now what he took.
With that thought, Ling Xiao headed toward Concubine Xian’s palace.
Ling Xiao had correctly guessed what the Emperor had in mind, yet what he did not realize was that the latter had already arranged for Xiao Lizi to do it for him and save him the trouble. He also didn’t know that Xiao Lizi had hid the matter from him, thinking he was doing the smart thing and avoiding making him uncomfortable.
As such, when Xiao Lizi had arrived at Concubine Xian’s palace, Ling Xiao had also arrived.
Ling Xiao and Xiao Lizi were both led to the palace hall, waiting for Concubine Xian to come out and meet them.
There, Ling Xiao saw Xiao Lizi who was respectfully standing, suddenly going pale beside him. Raising an eyebrow, Ling Xiao immediately understood that Xiao Lizi had just lied to him and the reason he gave was just an excuse.
What a bold move from Xiao Lizi. Although he didn’t groom the other himself, he had still stayed by his side for quite a good while. Leaving out how he sided with the Emperor before, he had now actually took Concubine Xian’s side and not his?
Seeing Ling Xiao smiling coldly, Xiao Lizi trembled in fear. He hurriedly lowered his head and knelt on the ground, apologizing right away, “King… King Consort, please have mercy. Xiao Lizi did not mean to lie to you… it’s the Emperor who ordered this servant to report to Concubine Xian about what you have taken from the warehouse.”
“……” Ling Xiao frowned, “The Emperor had ordered you to come here? Are you speaking the truth?”
Xiao Lizi had a bitter face as he continued to beg for forgiveness, “How could this servant dare to lie to you?”
“Hmph.” Ling Xiao coldly snorted, “Is there something you don’t dare?”
Xiao Lizi was frightened and quickly lowered his head to show his respect, “King Consort, this servant is being wrongly accused .”
“Wrongly accused?” Ling Xiao questioned, “Then hiding from me the fact that you had come to report to Concubine Xian, had also been ordered by the Emperor?”
Why would a smart man like the Emperor, try to hide something Ling Xiao can easily find out?
Ling Xiao sneered in his mind. He looked down at the kneeling Xiao Lizi, who was shivering and not daring to talk again, and his face went colder.
“What is going on?” Suddenly, a soft woman’s voice floated in, making Ling Xiao turn his head to look over.
It was Concubine Xian, dressed in a yellow formal dress.
She looked different from how she usually is when she stands beside the Emperor. The current her had a dense layer of makeup on, a golden crest laid on her head and her clothes were embroidered with gold flowers.
The formal dress she wore gave the impression of a faith light enveloping her entire body.
Dazzled by the light, Ling Xiao had to squinted his eyes. He watched as Concubine Xian, while being supported by the arm, arrived in front of him. Using her soft, almost boneless like body to salute him.
“This lady pays her respect to the King Consort.”
Ling Xiao went silent. Mu Country’s ‘King Consort’ was equivalent to ‘Queen Consort’. His rank was a whole rank higher than that of Concubine Xian. However, as she was the one to manage the harem, she didn’t really have to salute to him.
Right now, with how ceremonious she was dressed and with the way she saluted him, it was like he was here to criticize her.
“This lady was busy for a while and hasn’t found the time to pay respects to you. For King Consort to personally come to this lady’s place, it really is this lady’s mistake. Please forgive this lady.”
“……” Ling Xiao’s lips twitched, his mood a bit complicated.
In his past lifetime, he had often watched Mo Qi and this concubine hovering around each other while he put forward plans to overthrow her behind her back. Nowadays, with his current identity, it made him feel like he was playing Mo Qi’s role…
Could it be that he too must now bicker with these concubines?
Just thinking about it scared Ling Xiao and made him shake his head. Thinking he had to make clear his goodwill, he said, “Stand up. I am not here to blame you.”
Since he did not want to drag the talk any longer than he had to, he directly fished out the jade he took from the warehouse out of his bosom. He looked at her and said rather domineeringly, “I want this jade.”
The implication of his words was that she should go note it down in the account book.
However, when she saw the jade, the first thing she expressed was shock before becoming distressed. She wanted to speak several times but nothing ever came out of her mouth, like it was too hard to mention.
Ling Xiao frowned, “What’s wrong?”
“If Concubine Xian wants to say something, just say it.” Ling Xiao said.
Concubine Xian pursed her lips, wavered for a bit before asking, “This… why did King Consort choose this item?”
“Is it too precious? I can’t take it?” Ling Xiao raised an eyebrow and guessed.
“No.” Concubine Xian shook her head, slightly smiling, “It’s the very opposite.”
While Ling Xiao was confused, Concubine Xian continued, “This jade is indeed invaluable, however, it is also a taboo in the palace. It’s said that the Emperor had obtained it in his early years, but later on, he had ordered this lady to lock it up. Once the jade has been locked up, no one was allowed to touch it. Violators… were beheaded.”
Ling Xiao’s heart jumped and he looked at her, finally becoming aware that she was secretly taking note of his expression. He slightly calmed down and quickly pressed down his panic, assuming a very indifferent appearance to look back at her.
Concubine Xian paused and continued on her explanation, “As such, ever since then, no one even dared to have any thoughts about the jade. Everyone in the palace called the jade a taboo as all who touched it, were beheaded.”
Concubine Xian sighed sorrowfully and spoke, “It has already been so many years. The Emperor probably forgot about this jade. That is why he has most likely also forgot to warn King Consort about it.”
“……” Ling Xiao looked down at the jade in his hand.
Sitting quietly in his hand with a warmth flowing out of it, which was both gentle and exquisite, Ling Xiao could feel how smooth the surface was, a clear indication that someone has often touched the jade before.
Ling Xiao truly liked this jade. He clenched his teeth and held it tightly, then raised his head to look at Concubine Xian, “I will keep this Jade. I will go back and inform the Emperor personally so you just need to record it.”
Concubine Xian stared blankly for a long time before saluted and replying, “Understood.” She lowered her head so that Ling Xiao couldn’t see her expression.
Too lazy to think about what goes in the other’s head, Ling Xiao turned around, planning to leave.
But the moment he turned around, he saw a familiar person.
Dressed in a red cotton skirt and hair neatly combed with a golden hairpin, appearing very charming, as she slowly walked forward.
The woman was Hong Ye, who had plotted against him once before.
Ling Xiao stopped. Hong Ye did the same as she was caught unprepared. Though she did not expect to see Ling Xiao, she bent her back immediately giving a beautiful salute to the man in front of her.
“I hope King Consort is well.”
“……” Looking at Hong Ye, Ling Xiao remained silent, giving no reply, as a complicated look showed in his eyes.
Though the Emperor had personally told Ling Xiao that he had been forgiven many times, that was because there really wasn’t a bottom line when it concerned him. However, the Emperor has always been strict.
In that case, how did Hong Ye escape from punishment?
This really bothered him.
Aside from that, she also stayed at Concubine Xian’s side, which was the same as the Emperor allowing Hong Ye to stay in the palace.
Just what was the Emperor thinking?
Ling Xiao pursed his lips.
“Stand up.” Ling Xiao coldly said.
Hong Ye bit her lip and stood up, then she moved aside to give way to Ling Xiao.
While Ling Xiao was very curious on what the Emperor was thinking, he also really wanted to know just what was going on with Hong Ye.
Her attitude towards him had not been terrible and he can even say she was worried about him before. In addition, he has also taught her his dancing skills, yet she just went and plotted against him. He really was interested in just how her brain worked.
Ling Xiao stared at her, like he was trying to carefully make out her expression.
Hong Ye kept her head extremely low, like she was hiding from his probing stare.
Ling Xiao thought about probing further, but seeing the way she acted, he lost the desire to ask. He gave a deep sigh then said wistfully, “Make sure you do your best.”
He turned and left after those words.
“Hong Ye, how was it? Did you send it to His Majesty this morning?”
He didn’t know if it was intentional or not, but he hadn’t left far when Concubine Xian said that, as such, he overheard it.
Ling Xiao paused for a slight moment, clenched his fist and then continued to walk away.
“King…King Consort…” A weak voice called out to him from behind. Ling Xiao knew right away that it was Xiao Lizi who had caught up.
He didn’t want to pay attention to Xiao Lizi and walked quickly, with the man jogging to follow closely.
The moment Ling Xiao got back to his palace, he shed off the calm appearance he kept on and exposed his irritated expression. He pushed the door open roughly, then walked in, puffing with anger. Those actions of his were very crude.
Those last words spoken right before he left were said louder on purpose, clearly for him to hear.
It made him believe that what Xiao Lizi had said before was really the truth!
Although Concubine Xian acted like she would not make things awkward for others, in secret, she had already started a dispute with him!
Ling Xiao angrily closed the door, rubbed his face and turned around, only to be scared by a pair of black eyes. Taking a closer look, he noticed that it was the Emperor, sitting at the table.
Ling Xiao hurriedly bent his body to salute, but the Emperor got up and interrupted him, “Don’t bother.”
“Your Majesty… How long have you been waiting here?” He asked rather nervously as he recalled his previous behavior.
Profoundly looking at the man, the Emperor replied, “How long We’ve been here isn’t important, the important part is that which you didn’t want Us to see, has been completely seen by Us.”
“……” Ling Xiao blushed with shame, his brows unconsciously twitching a bit.
The Emperor walked in front of him and rubbed those brows, finding it a novelty.
Ling Xiao went stiff, but didn’t refuse the touch. Such gentle strokes of his hand were a bit itchy, but they also stirred the bottom of his heart, causing his body to heat up.
As the Emperor noticed the change in Ling Xiao, he suddenly took his hand back and in a moment, placed it around the other’s waist, leading him to the table. He quietly asked, “Who made Our King Consort unhappy?”
Ling Xiao paused, he knows that the Emperor was asking about his anger just a moment ago.
He originally planned to disclose what had just happened with Concubine Xian, yet, he spotted some dishes of fine desserts on the table. Since the desserts were a bit messy, Ling Xiao realized they have already been moved. By the Emperor’s side was a bowl of half eaten congee, clearly he had just drank from it.
Ling Xiao immediately connected it with what he had heard from Concubine Xian just as he was leaving, his entire body went cold in moments.
He looked at the desserts and swallowed with difficulty, then asked, “Your Majesty, was this your breakfast? Who had sent it to you?”
“Concubine Xian had someone send it over. Why?” He didn’t know if it was intentional or not, but the Emperor did not mention Hong Ye.
Ling Xiao’s heart went cold and he forced a smile, “No, nothing.”
He slightly threw off the Emperor’s hold, causing the latter to narrow his eyes with displeasure as he looked at him.
But he could only see Ling Xiao staring at those desserts on the table, like a tiger whose territory was invaded and occupied, baring his fangs at them and hating that he couldn’t rip them apart.
The Emperor raised an eyebrow. As what had happened dawned on him, he found it a bit funny and his mouth rose in a curve. He teasingly propped up his face and ate a few more bites of the desserts.
With that action, Ling Xiao was no longer just staring at the desserts and had shifted his gaze to the Emperor. The complaints in those eyes weren’t something the Emperor could ignore even if he wanted to.
Besides, he wasn’t planning to ignore it. He turned his head to look at Ling Xiao, his teasing eyes that were full of love watched the scene that reminded him of a small kitten waving its small claws.
Ling Xiao was a bit surprised. The Emperor’s gaze was too straightforward, causing his heart to jump a bit and for some of his anger to diminish.
Being faced with those bright eyes, it was impossible not to detect the gentleness in them toward him. After being stared at by that penetrating gaze for too long, he felt as if his heart was cut open and laid bare for the other to see. It gave Ling Xiao a feeling of being peeked on, giving rise to a faint sense of shame.
Ling Xiao felt his anger and resent fade away as a blush was gradually making its way up on his face. When the Emperor saw that, he finally spoke, “We will give you one more chance. What is it that you wish for Us to do? Tell us, and We will listen to you.”
Intentional or otherwise, the Emperor’s gaze swept over the desserts on the table. For someone like Ling Xiao, who understood the Emperor, this kind of hinting turned his anger into delight immediately. He grinned and brazenly requested, “Your Majesty, Ling Xiao wants you to return all of these desserts back to Concubine Xian!”
“……” The Emperor raised an eyebrow and did not speak.
Ling Xiao stopped, a bit worried. Could it be he understood the Emperor’s meaning wrong? The Emperor wasn’t hinting for him to deal with the desserts on the table?
Watching Ling Xiao’s eyes dimming again, he reached out to rub his soft hair and said rather helplessly, “Very well.”
Ling Xiao was very satisfied with that and used the small kitchen in the palace to personally cook.
After the morning meal, Ling Xiao took out that jade from his bosom and placed it in front of the Emperor.
The Emperor took a glance at it. That one look caused his whole face to cool and his brows to wrinkle.
Frightened, Ling Xiao immediately knelt. He was now convinced that what Concubine Xian told him weren’t lies; the Emperor really didn’t like this jade too much.
Although he had been in contact with the Emperor day and night, reducing his fear of the other by a lot, it did not stop him from trembling all over when the Emperor released his pressuring might. He now regretted a bit for taking this jade out, his words and actions also became much more cautious.
“You want this jade?” The Emperor suddenly asked, his gaze lingering on the kneeling Ling Xiao. His serene gaze became estranged, like he was looking at a stranger. With his mind sounding an alarm, Ling Xiao felt a bit upset in his heart. But he did not dare to hide the truth from the Emperor and could only nod his head dumbly.
Once he saw Ling Xiao’s confirmation, the Emperor moved his sight back to the jade, his gaze deep and complicated. Even with Ling Xiao’s comprehension of the other, he was still unable to make out his mood.
But the silence and the terrifying aura of the Emperor told Ling Xiao that it was best he did not disturb the other right now, otherwise, things would become much worse.
This jade, just as Concubine Xian said, was a taboo in front of the Emperor. As long as it appeared, it was like a switch turned on in the Emperor’s body, causing him to become estranged and elusive.
“We had placed this jade in the warehouse and ordered to behead whoever dares to touch it.”
Ling Xiao trembled when he heard that. He clenched his teeth and kept his eyes down. He knelt low to show his complete respect so that the Emperor could see his loyalty. He could do nothing more than to wait for the other’s ruling.
If the Emperor decided to behead him, he could still use the Death Exemption Golden Plate…
Ling Xiao had already thought of the worst possible outcome.
“We had not informed you ahead of time about this jade, so it was Our negligence.” The Emperor suddenly switched back to his usual self, throwing Ling Xiao off, as he heard him continue, “However, We have also promised you that you can take anything you like out of the warehouse.”
The Emperor sighed heavily after that, then said with a rather helpless tone, “Forget it, stand up and hold onto it.”
He still seemed to be discontented with just saying that, so he once again spoke as if complaining, “There are countless treasures in the warehouse, yet out of all the things, you just had to pick that one.”
Ling Xiao stared blankly. Not only was he really amazed at the Emperor complaining in front of him, just what did his words mean?
Ling Xiao got up and really wanted to question the Emperor, but the other had already called for Xiao Lizi to come in.
Ling Xiao was not in the mood to deal with Xiao Lizi and just spared him a glance. Xiao Lizi saluted to the Emperor with a pale face.
The Emperor did not look like he was going to probe into the matters between these two and merely said rather tiredly, “Return the desserts to Concubine Xian and have her register what the King Consort took in the account book.”
”Understood!” Xiao Lizi was a bit surprised, as he raised his eyes to look at Ling Xiao. He was a bit incredulous about the matter he had reported to the Emperor previously, because Ling Xiao too didn’t hide it from the Emperor. But since the Emperor had already passed down his order, he did not tarry. He quickly saluted and carried the desserts out.
Immediately after that, without giving Ling Xiao another glance, the Emperor left the palace.
Ling Xiao sat motionlessly on the chair, absentmindedly staring at the jade in his hand.
Ever since the incident, the Emperor never visited Ling Xiao’s palace again, yet, Ling Xiao did not hear any news about him going to other palaces.
He spent the nights in the neighbored palace to Ling Xia’s, in his own room.
But just based on those two orders the Emperor has passed down, leaving aside how Concubine Xian’s desserts were returned, the fact that he gave Ling Xiao the Jade Emperor was enough to make his name famous in the palace.
Causing the whole harem to go abuzz.
That jade, the order the Emperor placed down before still rang in their ears. For that jade, just how many eunuchs and maids had died because they’d accidentally touched it?
And among the current three members of the harem, Concubine Li, Concubine Ran, and Concubine Xian, just who would dare to touch it?
Yet, Ling Xiao who had just been given the title of consort, not only did he touch it, the Emperor even had given it to him. That kind of special privilege made it clear to all just who the Emperor loved the most!
Even if the Emperor had not spent the night at any other palace nor called people to serve him, just that bit served as proof for Ling Xiao’s position in the Emperor’s heart.
In a moment, Ling Xiao became the target which people tried to curry favor with.
Naturally, he also became someone that a portion of the people detested, and wanted to get rid of quickly…
On this day, Ling Xiao woke up early. Just as he was sighing, thinking about how long the Emperor hadn’t come to visit him, his palace met a very special visitor.
In Chinese, ‘Huang Hou’ is Empress, while ‘Huang Fei’ is Queen Consort, which is a rank lower than Empress. Not sure which dynasty system this novel uses, but it’s usually Empress > Consort > Concubines.