During this period, Qi Niqun didn’t have a good time. Ever since the rumors had appeared in the capital, she was flustered and exasperated. And after she had requested help from the empress, the situation grew even bigger. The most important thing: Qi Niqun did not give birth to a son. Instead, she had given birth to a daughter again.
Secondary Consort Ji’s son was already three years old. Additionally, Secondary Consort Wei’s son was in good health. Qi Niqun grew more and more fearful. The prince had returned in triumph, and there was a rumor that the emperor wanted to bestow Zhao Weidou’s eldest daughter to the prince. As the tide rose, so would the boat; Zhao Weidou was experiencing such a phenomenon at present. Naturally, his daughter had a high status. Every day, Qi Niqun was as worried to the extreme.
As she entered the room, the wet nurse carried her daughter, Third Young Miss, Princess Roujia. Qi Niqun did not notice Qi Yunruo. She curtsied. “This concubine pays respects to Your Highness.”
“Please stand, Princess Consort. Bring Roujia over for this prince to see.”
Qi Niqun smiled faintly as she stood. But the moment she caught sight of Qi Yunruo, she widened her eyes in shock. Qi Yunruo merely met her gaze. She lowered her head and frowned deeply. Turned to the side to receive her daughter from the wet nurse. Then she approached Li Chen’s side.
The Third Young Miss had a title but not yet a name. Li Chen looked at the small infant. She seemed a lot skinnier and weaker than her sister Li Yan had been at her age. Her face also wasn’t as fair and tender as her sister’s. Li Chen received his daughter from Qi Niqun. A wave of relief washed over Qi Niqun. Li Chen said, “Currently, it’s the period when grass grows and orioles fly. This little girl has just been conferred a princess, and it’s an auspicious time to give her a name. So let’s name her Ying’er.”
Once more, Qi Niqun curtsied. “This concubine thanks Your Highness in Ying’er’s stead.”
Li Chen said to Su Ge, “Hurry and invite Princess Consort to sit.”
Li Chen already knew most of what had occurred in the prince estate while he had been away. The other people in the estate knew their place. When the princess consort was going through labor, it was Princess Consort Jing who came to help. Princess Consort Yong had also come. However, she was too young, so did not know what to do. Princess Consort Jing had been the one managing everything. Whereas, Princess Consort Qing had only shown her face on the third day, the Day of Cleanse. She did not appear during any other time. Qi Niqun’s face still appeared haggard. She shifted her gaze to Qi Yunruo, a trace of curiosity on her face.
“Currently, Little Qi is the newly-appointed adjutant of Prince Chun’s estate,” said Li Chen.
“Your Highness—” shrieked Qi Niqun. It frightened Ying’er, who had originally been looking at her father. She started to bawl. The wet nurse rushed to hold her.
Tranquil, Qi Yunruo stood at one side. Annoyance in his expression, Li Chen waved to dismiss the wet nurse. He lightly patted Ying’er’s back. Qi Niqun sneered. “What does Your Highness mean by this?”
After Ying’er’s sobs finally subsided, Li Chen had someone take the child outside. Indifferently, he said, “What does Princess Consort mean?”
Face ashen, Qi Niqun said, “How would people see Prince Chun’s estate from now on? Who in the capital doesn’t know what kind of identity Qi Yunruo has? Because of him, Your Highness’ reputation suffered in the northwest. It almost brought in big trouble. Not just anyone can take on the position of the adjutant for this prince estate. If Your Highness wants to reward him, just giving him gold, silver, and jewels is enough. Why must he be compensated with an official position?” If it were in the past, Qi Niqun would not have questioned the prince in such a tone. She had erupted too quickly. So much so that even she herself found something wrong about it. However, those sharp words had already left her lips.
The wet nurse realized something was wrong and had long since carried the child away. Li Chen’s gaze grew colder and colder.
“Your Highness has just returned after achieving a great merit, yet will be giving the imperial censors a reason to report your honored self. It’ll make others think that our Prince Chun estate is—”
“Your Highness the princess consort, His Highness’ selection of the adjutant is a matter of the forecourt,” said Qi Yunruo. “Your honored self is overstepping your authority.”
We’re sorry for MTLers or people who like using reading mode, but our translations keep getting stolen by aggregators so we’re going to bring back the copy protection. If you need to MTL please retype the gibberish parts.
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Qi Niqun turned around and walked a few steps toward the door, when Li Chen said, “Princess Consort.”
She stopped in her tracks. Turned sideways halfway to look at him.
“Princess Consort, this prince does not want to reproach you about certain things. But that does not mean this prince is unaware of them,” said Li Chen in a flat tone. “Regarding the rise of rumors in the capital, this prince sent a letter to you as soon as possible. And it told you to guard the prince estate and stay inside. To not take the initiative to do anything. But you rushed to the palace to meet with Imperial Mother. And this prince also knows what you said to your eldest brother.”
Qi Niqun’s stomach dropped. However, she stared at Qi Yunruo with an extremely hateful gaze. She said, “Does Your Highness think this concubine acted wrongly? Isn’t it because of him that your honored self’s reputation suffered a blow?”
Qi Niqun clenched her teeth. After she had given birth to her second daughter, everything started to change. The empress treated her with indifference. The emperor seemed to have the intention to bestow the prince another secondary consort with a noble background. Consort Ji and Consort Wei, two women with sons, always had eyes full of arrogance. Qi Niqun had hoped to inspire the prince’s pity once he returned, and then give birth to another child. However, reality was the complete opposite. She herself did not know how this conversation took this turn—
Qi Yunruo. It was Qi Yunruo! Qi Niqun recalled that ever since she caught sight of Qi Yunruo in this room, she grew unable to calm her emotions. The prince brought him out of the capital for one year, and in that year, it was enough for many things to happen…
Li Chen said, “Princess Consort should return first. This prince will visit you once free.”
Qi Yunruo glanced at Qi Yunruo, cold as ice. “Yes.”
The emperor gave Consort Wei’s son the name of “Mu.” As Li Chen was visiting his second son, he bestowed Consort Wei many things. Li Chen had yet to visit his other consorts or concubines.
Ever since Qi Niqun had left, Qi Yunruo moved out of Li Chen’s inner chamber, temporarily using a side room. On his second day of office, Li Chen brought him to the outer study to meet with his aides and advisors.
Li Yue had returned to the south. Currently, there was only the old fellow Ouyang, the dismissed-from-office Li Xiuqi, and the banned-from-imperial-examinations Cao Manjin present. Li Xiuqi and Cao Manjin rose to their feet to salute him. “Greetings to Sir Qi.” Old Ouyang slowly stood. Qi Yunruo hurried to say, “Mister needs not be so polite. May everyone sit.”
Presently, there was a seat for Qi Yunruo in the outer study. Qi Yunruo had heard of these three gentlemen before. Cao Manjin, who had a bad reputation, was over thirty years old. He had small eyes he wasn’t handsome. However, his voice was very pleasant to listen to. When reciting poems, his voice was clear and his words well enunciated.
Rumors had it that Li Xiuqi was removed from office for presenting a petition to impeach influential officials. He was also over thirty. His family in his hometown had more than ten members and relied on him as the breadwinner. Li Chen paid these three gentlemen a yearly salary of 10 kg of silver each. Food and clothing were provided by the prince estate. It seemed Li Xiuqi’s clothes weren’t as fine as Cao Manjin’s.
Old Ouyang had a head full of gray hair. He had a leisurely expression and wore long clothes made of rough cloth. A wooden hairpin kept his hair up. Among the four people, Qi Yunruo, who wore a neat set of official robes, was the most conspicuous one, whether it was by appearance or age. He gave off a very humble impression, not daring to show off the might of an official in front of these three older gentlemen.
After Li Chen had finished relaying what had occured in the northwest to those necessary, he didn’t need to show up at the Ministry of Revenue for the time being. As such, he stayed at the outer study longer and went there more often. “Gentlemen have now met Little Qi.” All of a sudden, Li Chen felt something was off. However, he could not figure out what it was. He only furrowed his brows for a moment, before saying, “From now on, Little Qi will be the adjutant of our estate, and can represent this prince.”
Qi Yunruo cupped his hands and bowed. “If this subordinate does anything incorrect, may these gentlemen feel free to teach me.”
Old Ouyang touched his beard and smiled. “Sir Qi Little Qi is already so promising at a young age.”
Li Chen frowned. He finally realized what was causing him unease. Yet, he did not voice it. Cao Manjin rose to his feet and returned Qi Yunruo’s greeting, saying, “Sir Qi is being too modest. From now on, may Sir take good care of us.”
Li Xiuqi also stood. He gave off a strong aura of a scholar. His manner of speaking also reflected that. “Sir Qi is too polite.”
Qi Yunruo would not remain long in the study. He said to Li Chen, “Your Highness, today Su Ge and I will be managing the ledger of the estate. I will return first.”
Li Chen nodded. Qi Yunruo saluted to him, then nodded to the three gentlemen, before leaving.
Every month, the account of the inner courtyard must be reported in the main ledger. The moment Qi Yunruo glanced at the complicated numbers of the main ledger, a headache came in. Feng Yuan grew many degrees more polite toward him, no longer as casual as before. Presently, Su Ge, Feng Yuan, and Qi Yunruo were in his side room, verifying the accounts one after the other. Then Su Ge handed a key to him.
“This…” Qi Yunruo received the key, heart leaping.
“This is the Princess Consort’s copy,” said Su Ge. Right before Li Chen had left the capital, he gave his copy to Qi Niqun, allowing her to attend her duties more easily. But once he had returned, he took back both copies of the key.
Qi Yunruo drew his brows together. Worry filled his expression.
Smiling, Su Ge said, “In the future, once the princess consort’s personal storehouse is repaired, we will arrange another storehouse for money for her. Afterward, all of her expenses would fall under the main ledger. She would no longer use the money from the treasury.”
Qi Yunruo nodded. Stored away the key with much care.
“The dowry of Her Highness the princess consort will be managed by her people. Secondary Consort Ji’s stores will also not be managed by us. However, Secondary Consort Wei’s hamlet garners no profit and requires money from the estate to sustain itself. It’s a unique case.” Su Ge handed him some other papers. “This is the interest gained by our prince estate, the income from the fiefs, stores, et cetera. Sir, take a look.”
Qi Yunruo received the ledger. Read through it quickly.
“This the is income and expenditure of the prince estate for the past few months. Please find the time to look at it.”
“These are the gift lists for the imperial clan of the recent new year…”
…Qi Yunruo returned to his inner chamber spent. Lying in bed, he did not want to get up. The main ledger of the estate was leaps and bounds more complicated than calculating the monthly salaries of the inner courtyard and allocating the new clothes and jewelry every season. Perhaps the income and expenditure of one thing in the forecourt was more than the expenses of the inner courtyard for one month; there were limits set on the inner courtyard.
What Qi Yunruo needed to do was turn over old accounts and check them against the established amounts according to the rules. As he had read them, he recalled how he had calculated and managed the accounts of the inner courtyard in the past, using much energy to do so. But right now, he needed to quickly learn the background information of the civil and military officials in and out of the capital who Li Chen needed to pay mind to. The marriages and funerals of the nobility, the fluctuations in the positions of the officials, et cetera. In Qi Yunruo’s head were things like when the main consort of a marquis had died, or when the illegitimate daughter of a duke estate became his second main consort. And when the elder brother of this young miss from the illegitimate line became an official…
Come night, Qi Yunruo lay in bed alone, candlelight flickering outside the curtains. He used his hands as a pillow, mind wandering the universe. Recently, he found it hard to sleep well. For one year, he had woken up together with the prince. The living conditions of the outside proved simple and crude, whereas those of the prince estate were exquisite and luxurious. However, the loneliness in his heart grew all the more intense.
In the inner chamber of Ink Lotus Courtyard, which was not too far from Qi Yunruo’s side room, Li Chen leaned against a chair in front of a desk reading a book. Before him was a sheet of paper. On it were numerous pairs of characters.
Little Qi needed to leave the forecourt and work outside the estate. Li Chen recalled he did not have a courtesy name, in possession of only a regular one. There was a saying, “receiving a courtesy name was a right of passage.” His Imperial Father had bestowed him a courtesy name when he was fifteen and established his own estate. Today, Little Qi had been in the outer study. After Li Chen had called him “Little Qi,” he felt something was off. He thought about it for a whole night, thought about it more than once, but couldn’t choose a courtesy name for him in the end.
He crossed each of the names he had written one by one, and in the end he was left with one. He read it silently several times. “Yuze.” Circled it. The highest excellence was that of water, and as water did, it would gather in a pool. Previously, Little Qi’s surname had been Shui…
It wasn’t only Qi Yunruo who found that their relationship grew constrained and more distant; even Li Chen felt that way as soon as they had returned to the estate. In the capital, rumors that he would take Zhao Weidu’s daughter as a secondary consort floated about. In order to avoid this, he hoped that Zhao Weidu would marry off his daughter soon… Then there were others who did not want the relationship between Zhao Weidu and Li Chen to grow any closer.
The cup of Li Chen’s heart was filled to the brim with love for the youth. Their first meeting had left behind a deep impression for him. As they went through life and death together at the northwest, two years’ time was enough for Li Chen to fall deeply in love with him, for him to surpass the importance of anyone else. But the more Li Chen loved Little Qi, the more freedom he gave him. And the further he went.
Li Chen found himself strange, not knowing what he was thinking of.
Hahaha serves you right, princess consort!
This chapter, we delve a bit into Li Chen’s thoughts again. We will see more of this in the coming chapters.
For those of you interested in advanced chapters, please read this post carefully! There are still four advanced chapters left this month!
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Oh and before I forget, I’ve started a new het novel on my blog. It’s another historical novel, with romance and politics, and written by the wonderful Butterfly’s Shadow Beneath The Moon. Check it out here if you’re interested (;