Chapter 496: Obsession Original and most updated translations are from volare. If read elsewhere, this chapter has been stolen. Please stop supporting theft.
Because of the recent explosion, tensions were sky high within the palace, but Mu Liuyue felt more panicked than anymore. When she had first married into the Eastern Palace, she would often spend long nights pacing in front of the gates, hoping to greet her husband. Later on, she lost hope in him and stopped waiting at all. But tonight she had resumed her pacing again, this time to wait for the mama she’d sent out to scour for news.
Why would the thoroughly trained, strict and impartial imperial guards suddenly turn traitor? Why did Mu Qingwu kill the young commander with his sword as soon as he discovered them, and evade all of the crown prince’s questions?
That was all because that young commander was promoted from the ranks of the Mu Clan soldiers. He had always been bossed around by Mu Liuyue during his stay in the clan household, but he still gladly followed her orders even when he was punished for insubordination. His only reasons were that he liked Eldest Young Miss Mu. Of course he was devoted to General Mu’s estate as well, but in the end he’d turned traitor on Mu Liuyue’s orders. The saying went that every hero had a weakness for a beautiful woman, a so-called femme fatale, and Mu Liuyue was his. But when even the turncoat soldiers hadn’t been able to kill Han Yunxi, Mu Liuyue could only panic. She was now waiting for the results of the explosion.
The entire palace was in an uproar over last night’s events with the exception of the deathly still Eastern Palace. Mu Liuyue hadn’t married in very long before the crown prince stopped even coming here at all. Aside from an occasional visit, he spent most of his time out of sight. Many of the palace’s original servants had been dismissed as well. This place was no different from a typical Cold Palace. These still and empty rooms had almost drove Mu Liuyue mad before the old mama finally returned!
Mu Liuyue dashed over and grabbed her. “How is it, how is it? Did that slut finally die?”
But the old mama only burst into tears. “Imperial consort! We were fooled, absolutely fooled!”
“What do you mean, ‘fooled?’ I’m asking you whether that slut Han Yunxi is dead yet!” Mu Liuyue had been turned muddleheaded by her thoughts of revenge and was equal parts impatient and furious.
“Imperial consort, it was our military depot that had exploded! Just now, His Majesty wanted to punish the Great General and Young General, so he ordered them to clear up everything within three days. Otherwise…” the old mama couldn’t even finish her sentence. Back then, the imperial consort had insisted on allying with Noble Consort Chu despite her exhortations. It was a pity that she hadn’t been able to stop her.
Now things were just great. The imperial consort was completely lost in her obsession and had been simply used by Noble Consort Chu!
“What?!” Mu Liuyue gaped. Then she grabbed the old mama’s shoulder and shook her violently. “What did you say? Repeat that!”
“Imperial consort, it was our military depot that had exploded! Not the Han Estate!”
“How could this be? Did you hear the wrong thing?!”
Mu Liuyue’s face was ashen white, afraid to believe her ears.
“There was no mistake! Imperial consort, what do we do now?” The old mama was badly scared because of the two general’s unfavorable plight, while Mu Liuyue was more concerned with the issue of Han Yunxi’s life or death. How could she guess the severity of the black market gunpowder case, much less the gravity of the current situation? Her father had so much power and influence that she couldn’t fathom how the emperor could do anything against the Mu Clan.
Not long after the black market explosion, Chu Qingge had found her to discuss ways to assassinate Han Yunxi. Chu Qingge had said that rather than scheme against a slut like Han Yunxi, it was better to dig her out from the roots with outright murder. Mu Liuyue was all too happy to comply with Chu Qingge’s thoughts and offered no end of ideas, but they were all rejected. In the end, Chu Qingge proposed using Duanmu Yao, Long Feiye’s younger martial sister. Duanmu Yao would have ways to lure the Duke of Qin away, giving them more then ample chances to kill Han Yunxi.
Chu Qingge had also said that the imperial guard turncoats were to be used as a reserve only in case their first plan failed. There was no danger of anything going wrong and they would be sure to silence all witnesses so it wouldn’t grow into a commotion. Everything had been perfectly planned, but she never expected her big brother to rush back to the capital city not long after he left. Then His Highness Duke of Qin had backtracked and found Han Yunxi. After that, Chu Qingge frantically found her again and said that Han Yunxi had gone to the Han Estate. She suggested they blow the entire estate up!
First, that would kill Han Yunxi; then, they could frame the Han family for the gunpowder case in the black market and for privately seizing gunpowder stores of their own. Chu Qingge even told her that all the gunpowder was outside the city, so in order to get it through the lockdown gates, she’d need her Mu Clan identification token. Mu Liuyue often used this token to go in and out of the military barracks. Because both her father and brother were military men, she’d gotten used to living around the soldiers and carrying her own token around. The imperial guards were in charge of guarding the city, but it was easy enough to make them obey with her token in tow.
But, afraid that the guards would put up resistance, she’d not only handed over her identification token but other authenticating objects as well. Now it looked like Chu Qingge hadn’t delivered the goods to the Han Estate, but the military depot instead!
“Imperial consort, Noble Consort Chu had bad intentions from the beginning. She wants to frame General Mu’s estate and the Eastern Palace! We’re now guilty of the most heinous crimes, what do we do?!” the old mama sobbed as she wailed.
“What are you crying for? My father’s there to block everything! We won’t die!” After rebuking her servant, Mu Liuyue narrowed her eyes, trying her best to rein in her temper. In the end, she failed to. “Chu Qingge, you slut! I’m going to kill you!”
The old mama was badly scared by Mu Liuyue’s scream. She quickly grabbed her and cried, “Imperial consort, be careful! Currently, His Majesty knows nothing of this! If someone hears you shouting like this, it’ll all be over for us! Esteemed consort, this servant will go find the Great General right away.”
Mu Liuyue finally calmed down at that. “Hurry! When you see my father, just tell him….just tell him that I know my wrongs!” After some thought, she added, “And say that I’ve been so stricken with a guilty conscience that I wanted to hang myself and die, but you persuaded me otherwise. Say it’s inconvenient for me to leave the palace and ask him personally for punishment, so I’ll definitely kowtow when he comes!”
“Imperial consort, don’t you worry, this old servant will definitely put in some good words for you!” the old mama didn’t delay any longer and hurried off, leaving Mu Liuyue extremely depressed. When she had cleared her head enough to think things over, she felt nothing but regret!
But Chu Qingge was currently suffering through an even worse crisis. Mu Liuyue had a father and brother who loved and doted on her. They were willing to let her run rampant, but Chu Qingge’s father and brother were overweeningly ambitious and had used her as a sacrifice. Chu Qingge had just finished her bath when she heard news of the explosion. Now she dressed herself in Emperor Tianhui’s favorite sheer white lantern-styled dress. She was currently sitting on the bed and hugging her knees, her eyes listless and dim. She was very clear on her brother’s plans and knew that there was no escape tonight, but she couldn’t help but pause to imagine ‘what if.’
What if—what if His Highness Duke of Qin had liked me?
Then wouldn’t everything be different tonight? Would she be reduced to such means? Would there be less schemes and intrigues, less humiliations and missions, less envy and jealousy? Would she still be that pure and noble, uncorrupted pride of a girl?
What if…what if His Highness Duke of Qin really did like me? Would anyone dare to treat me like this?
Long Feiye, if there’s a life after this one, can you like me next time?
Finally, a court lady arrived with another secret message in tow. Chu Qingge opened it up and read the contents before burning away the paper. Then she wrapped herself in a large outer cloak and gave herself a tight hug before stepping off the bed into her shoes.
“Someone come, carry me to Xuanlong Palace.”
The gunpowder explosion at the black markets had thoroughly incensed her brother. He’d sent people after Han Yunxi to take her hostage, just so he could pressure His Highness Duke of Qin, but that scheme had utterly failed. Brother had said that there was no turning back now that things had come to this. She had to cut off the wings of the crown prince and the Mu Clan!
Thus, it was time for her sacrifice.
It had been some time since she married into Tianning. Although Emperor Tianhui was still feeling unwell, how could he resist if she gave it her all? Brother’s letter now probably meant that Eunuch Luo was already finished with his preparations. By the time Chu Qingge’s sedan chair had arrived at the gates of Xuanlong Palace, Eunuch Luo was already waiting by the doors.
“Esteemed consort, His Majesty just came back from the imperial study. Events are progressing smoothly, and everything inside…has been taken care of as well,” Eunuch Luo said with a shady smile.
Chu Qingge found his expression offensive, but she was very calm. At this point, her heart was nothing more than stagnant water, its depths long burned into ashes. Eunuch Luo’s words told Chu Qingge that His Majesty had already started suspecting the Mu Clan. He had suddenly summoned the Mu father and son today to ask them about the imperial guards who’d turned traitor. Naturally, it was his personal eunuch, Eunuch Luo, who’d stirred up that mess. Brother had told her His Majesty suspected the Chu Clan as well, so Eunuch Luo, being a neutral party, had to disturb the waters first. Then she could sway the emperor with pillow talk and keep Emperor Tianhui from being so guarded against them.
Chu Qingge picked up the nourishing soup she’d personally prepared and walked deliberately into the palace. At that moment, Emperor Tianhui had just finished bathing as well. He was only dressed in a set of outer robes as he sat there drinking tea. It wouldn’t be long before it was time for the morning court assembly, so he was planning to just rest briefly.
When he saw Chu Qingge appear, he gave a minute start. But the sight of her half-opened outer robes revealed the sheer lantern-style dress beneath. Her cold and arrogant personality, when paired with such garments, only made her seem detached from worldly affairs, an elegant, beautiful, yet icy woman. Emperor Tianhui loved her aloofness more than anything else and had a strong desire to subjugate her inherent arrogance. Although he harbored suspicions against this woman from the Chu Clan, he couldn’t control his heart from palpitating in anticipation. After smoothing out his beard, he smiled and said, “Beloved consort, why have you woken up so early today?”
Chu Qingge saw the lust in Emperor Tianhui’s eyes and forced herself to ignore it. She offered him the soup and said lightly, “Is Your Majesty angry at chenqie’s disturbance?”
“Beloved consort made a special trip just to disturb me?” Emperor Tianhui asked with a smile.
“Something so big happened last night that the empress dowager was worried Your Majesty would be exhausted after staying up overnight. Thus, she ordered chenqie to deliver some nourishing soup,” Chu Qingge replied, neither cold nor affectionate.
Now Emperor Tianhui grew curious. “Why would the empress dowager let you come?”
Both the empress dowager and Noble Consort Xue treated Chu Qingge as their enemy. Emperor Tianhui was quite clear on that point of his harem’s politics.
“Because no one else dared to come, of course. The explosion was so loud that it most likely happened within the capital. All of them were scared that your imperial countenance would be angry and tongue lash whoever came to visit.” Chu Qingge simply said what she thought without worrying about offending anyone. But in reality, the empress dowager hadn’t asked her to come at all.
Still, these were the very words that persuaded Emperor Tianhui to believe her. Moreover, he lowered his guard. He examined Chu Qingge from head to foot before resting his gaze on her low, low cover. After taking a lengthy look, he patted the seat by his side and grinned. “Since beloved consort isn’t afraid of being scolded, come over here.”
“Your Majesty should finish drinking the soup so chenqie can give a satisfactory account for the empress dowager. It’s getting late, so Your Majesty will have to attend morning assembly soon,” Chu Qingge said as she bent down to place the soup on the table. The collar she’d set up ahead of time took this chance to dip low, exposing faint hints of the skin beneath.
Emperor Tianhui lost all self-control at the sight and abruptly pulled her into a tight embrace!
Eunucu Luo had long laced the incense with drugs. Combined with Chu Qingge’s ‘tender care,’ how could Emperor Tianhui resist her advances?