ARC 1 – The Way to become an Empress Part 35

“Why?! Why would you even protect her?! Why even you?! Xi Jiu!!” Li Zhen Zhen shouted. Won’t people come in to check if she’s being this loud?

…Never mind that. Why did Xi Jiu… protect me?

“Your Majesty, this servant is not protecting Imperial Consort Ye, but is protecting Your Majesty. If Imperial Consort Ye leaves the Empress’ palace with her face swollen, it won’t end up good on Your Majesty’s side. This servant is worried about the Empress. Please reconsider your actions.” Xi Jiu explained, kowtowing.

Li Zhen Zhen calmed down a little with that. “As expected, only Xi Jiu cares about me.” She’s back to her smiling mode now.

“I’ll let you go for now. But do remember, when the time comes, you’ll be reduced to nothing.” She threatened.

I finally found my gall to reply. “Don’t you think the Emperor won’t find out about this? Do you think I won’t go report or tattle to him?” I said, my hand still on my left cheek.

“Ha! Even if it’s for his ‘most beloved’, he can’t easily do anything he likes. He may be the Emperor, but he won’t even be in that position without connections to other families. My Li family is proudly second only to the Royal Family. But even at that, considering the current power reign, it’s undoubtedly my Li family that’s above all!” Li Zhen Zhen snorted.

“As long as I prevent those things from happening, I’ll definitely win.” Muttered Li Zhen Zhen to herself.

…It is true that the Li family is formidable as of late. Their power and influence is growing, not only in  the Royal Capital, but also in far-flung villages and soldier camps.

…With this, will Li Zhen Zhen’s plan easily succeed?

…No. I believe in Ji Zhen Tian. Even though I never mentioned Li Zhen Zhen’s rebellion plot to him, I’m sure he’s already known about this and is preparing counterattack. Though I never asked the system of that, since I know it won’t answer, but I have this feeling. Is this what you call… trust?

No, it’s perhaps only logic. I sent Xi Jiu here at Li Zhen Zhen’s palace as a spy, and now he seems to be her closest aide at the moment. Everything Li Zhen Zhen does, he probably knows.

Then, is it him I have my trust on? …Perhaps, the answer is also no. It’s probably my gut-feel, or my analysis of Xi Jiu’s personality, or maybe due to my knowledge of the plot and characters, that I know Xi Jiu is a loyal subordinate. He pledged his loyalty to the Emperor, though indirectly to him and only in front of me. Still, he swore his life to protect Ji Zhen Tian. With his character, he definitely won’t turn his back on him, no matter what. That’s what he did to Li Zhen Zhen in the previous lifetime. Though their time together was short, but Xi Jiu treated Li Zhen Zhen as if she was still the Empress, unlike those who came to the cold palace to ridicule her. Xi Jiu would indirectly fend off those people, protecting Li Zhen Zhen.

As I was thinking all that, Li Zhen Zhen turned away from me and went back to her original seat. Over there, she once again lazily sipped her tea as she did when I first came in.

“How long is Sister Ye going to sit there in a daze?”

With Li Zhen Zhen’s question, I snapped back to reality. I didn’t reply to Li Zhen Zhen and merely looked at her, my face blank.

“Xi Jiu, send her out. I’m tired. Make sure to come back to me immediately. I’ll be waiting in my inner chambers.” Li Zhen Zhen said, her eyes upturned seductive.

I saw Xi Jiu clench his fist for an instant, but Li Zhen Zhen probably didn’t as after she said those words, she immediately turned around and left the hall.

It seems, I was right. He seemed… very reluctant. Xi Jiu… was only doing all this, for the Emperor. To fulfil his duty, to fulfil his pledge.

This has proven how loyal Xi Jiu is. Though he didn’t say anything, but the actions that slip from him scream who his loyalty belongs to. Even though during the time I was here until now he had several slip-ups, but perhaps, Li Zhen Zhen hasn’t noticed at all, even those from before, with only the two of them around. Perhaps, she’s still living in her past life of Xi Jiu protecting her. She, believes in him that much.

…I actually feel kind of sorry to her.

“Imperial Consort Ye, I shall escort you out.” I snapped back once again to reality when Xi Jiu said so.

“Okay.” I stood up from my seat as I replied so.

When we were walking out in silence, Xi Jiu finally broke it.

“Was that true? Did you… General Li Ming… also…?” Xi Jiu asked in broken sentences, but I do understand what he’s trying to ask.

I didn’t answer him directly, instead, I asked him a question in return.

“What do you think?”

With that question, Xi Jiu halted his steps. I did too, a few steps ahead of him, and looked back, gauging his reaction.

Xi Jiu seemed to be in deep thought for awhile, then he responded, “Please excuse this servant for his rudeness to Imperial Consort Ye. This servant has no rights to question Imperial Consort’s behaviors based on mere rumors and conjectures.”

“…No worries.” Was my only reply. Then I attempted to go, but Xi Jiu seemed rooted to his spot.

“Didn’t your mistress tell you to be in a hurry and go to her, Sir Xi Jiu?” I asked when he was drowning in his thoughts. That seemed to wake him up, as he looked me in the eyes and said,

“It’s not what you think, Miss Ye! It is, but…” then he paused. “This servant once again apologizes for his impudence. But, Imperial Consort, this servant is staying true to his pledge. I will not betray the Emperor, and I will not let Imperial Consort Ye down. Please don’t worry. Believe in me.” He said in a voice that surely cannot be heard by anyone other than the two of us, but still full of conviction.

“…I believe in you.”

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