When he realized that he had returned to Da Qi, Zhou Yun Sheng immediately thought of ways to deal with his enemies. He attached no importance to Zhao Bi Xuan and her son, one was an imperial concubine, the other was a small prince, they completely relied on his affection to survive in the harem. As long as he continued spoiling the two, they would naturally live with dignity, but if he rejected the two, they would immediately fall to the lowest rank, so he didn’t need to spend much effort dealing with them. The ones who were difficult to deal with were the Empress Dowager, the Gong Prince, and the Wen Yuan March. The three were already allied in secret, and they held a troublesome amount of influence, easily accessible military power, and a network of connections. The only thing they lacked was a pretext to justifiably push forward. He was almost certain that the former An Prince’s rebellion was part of their scheming.
Zhou Yun Sheng originally intended to slowly carve into the Wen Yuan March’s military power, which was not as simple as getting back the Hufu, he also had to win over the army. Da Qi’s largest garrison was stationed in the Northwest, there were millions of soldiers, even the other three garrisons added up together would not equal the Northwest. Plus the Northwest Army was painstakingly trained up by Zhao Xuan, calling it his private army was not an exaggeration. Looking at Meng Kang’s attitude was proof enough, they regarded Zhao Xuan as their god. The past Zhao Xuan had the title of the Northwest King, now that the current him was also his lover, his strength would be a thousand times greater than the previous. Zhou Yun Sheng had reason to believe that the Northwest was already his lover’s territory, if he tried to intervene, his claws would be chopped off.
Feeling neurotic twinges of pain on the back of his hand, Zhou Yun Sheng felt very bitter. He didn’t care about the title as Da Qi’s Emperor, but he was even more reluctant to give up the right. A free and easy life was his ideal, if his lover was backing any other prince, he could at least laugh it off, but he happened to be helping the Gong Prince Qi Jin Yu, unfortunately, he could only confront him. After finally coming back, all who owed him in the past life, he vowed to collect their debts one by one in this life.
After considering things for a few days, Zhou Yun Sheng decided to strip his lover’s attachments from Zhao Bi Xuan and the Gong Prince’s group. If they had no common interests, the man wouldn’t get mixed up in the drama from the previous life. Then whether he wanted to be the Grand General or the Northwest King, Zhou Yun Sheng could give him free reign.
While pondering, a small eunuch walked in, a letter hidden in his sleeves.
Using the convenience of yesterday’s dinner, he’d ordered the shadow guards to investigate Zhao Xuan’s circumstances. In the last life, he was wholly busy with the romantic drama with Zhao Bi Xuan, then he was busy fighting off and scheming against Qi Jin Yu, so he really didn’t know anything about Zhao Xuan’s personal affairs. Now that Zhao Xuan was his lover, he needed to check out his life, basically, he needed to find out if he had a wife and children.
Zhou Yun Sheng impatiently tore open the letter, completely ignoring the fact that he himself was sitting on a harem of three thousand beauties.
No wife, no children, not even a favored maid, Zhao Xuan’s emotional life could only be described as ‘monotonous’. He was 29 years old this year, in Da Qi, where early marriage was in style, he should have a wife and a large number of concubines, and should be tripping over the children running around him, but his side was completely empty. It’s not that the Marchioness wasn’t pressuring him, he was just very unyielding, even the Marquess couldn’t force him to do something. When he was 10 years old, he forced Old Marquess Wen Yuan to retire from his leading post, so the March now came to him for instructions before dealing with any big or small matter.
Seeing this, Zhou Yun Sheng pursed his lips, secretly pleased, then he continued reading, soon, he was all caught up with Wen Yuan March’s affairs. Since Old Marquess Wen Yuan was forced to step down, he became very dissatisfied with his first wife and eldest son, and began collecting and pampering extraordinarily beautiful concubines, naturally preferring the company of his concubines. The Marchioness gave birth to the eldest son Zhao Xuan, the second daughter Zhao Xin Ran, and the youngest son Zhao Xu, the children of concubines included the eldest daughter Zhao Bi Xuan, and the second son Zhao Ji Dong. The other concubines gave birth to more children, but they were not favored, so not worth mentioning.
Old Marquess Wen Yuan was steadily forced into retreat by his eldest son, and the Marchioness was also impatient, repeatedly advising him to retire and pass the title to his eldest son. Old Marquess Wen Yuan never gave in, and his heart grew more sullen by the day, so after he heard about the Emperor drafting women for the harem, his eyes immediately fell on his extraordinarily beautiful eldest daughter. Ignoring her wishes, he sent her to join the harem.
The Marchioness only received the news after Zhao Bi Xuan was selected. She’d almost fainted in anger, but the imperial edict had already passed down, so, unable to intercede, she had no choice but to recognize it. During the first year, she was worried that Zhao Bi Xuan would help her concubine family suppress the main family, but seeing her immediately fall out of favor, her happiness was indescribable. However, after only one year, that foolish girl actually rose back up in favor, and was even granted the title of Hui Yi Imperial Consort and the privilege of governing the Sixth Palace, advancing towards the throne with incredible speed.
Seeing the Emperor pamper her and the Second Prince, and granting positions to Zhao Jia again and again, allowing her son to rapidly advance, the Marchioness still felt very uncomfortable, but she could only silently endure. She also repeatedly instructed her children to respect Zhao Bi Xuan’s birth mother, and to not bicker with Zhao Ji Dong.
With numerous wives and concubines, and sons of the first wife and common born sons, it was very easy for the feudal system to produce deformities in the family. The whole situation was like a pavilion built on top of a pile of rocks, just by removing one of the rocks, you could make the whole thing completely collapse. Making his lover and Zhao Bi Xuan fall out with each other, this could be considered an easy task for Zhou Yun Sheng. He had originally planned to treat Zhao Bi Xuan coldly, so the other harem women could slowly torment her. For this reason, he had even quietly given orders to withdraw her servants, making the contacts he had arranged around Zhao Bi Xuan no longer protect her.
But now that he changed his plan, he would not only pamper her, he would spoil her rotten, unscrupulously allowing her to violate or even abolish the ancestral customs. Wiping the slight smirk off his face, he rushed to Feng Yi Palace.
“What did you say, Your Majesty?” Zhao Bi Xuan almost dropped the tea-cup in her hands, her expression astonished.
“I want to establish you, but Mother Empress said that your birth class is not high enough, and vetoed it. So I was thinking of simply raising your mother’s status to second wife, that way you will officially be the Wen Yuan March’s first daughter. Then who would dare say you are not suitable for me.” Zhou Yun Sheng reached for his cup of tea and leisurely blew over it.
“Your Majesty, is this not against customs?” Da Qi allowed second wives, but only the families of merchants who didn’t understand etiquette and civilization would do such things, aristocratic families not only didn’t allow it, they severally denounced those who partook in it.
“Do you find it improper? Then I’ll just have the Marchioness record you as the first daughter.” Zhou Yun Sheng gave a lazy smile.
Don’t! Zhao Bi Xuan almost shrieked out loud. But for what reason did she leave her lover and enter the Emperor’s palace? Was it not to give her mother and younger brother a place in Wen Yuan March? Now that a good opportunity presented itself, why should she give it up? After deliberating for half-a-day, she euphemistically recounted feelings of gratitude, expressing that everything moved by the Emperor’s will.
“Recording your name is pointless, after all, your status would still be far below a true first daughter, it’s better to directly promote your mother to a second wife. What is a custom? In this Da Qi, whatever I say becomes the custom. Bring me a brush and paper, I will immediately pass down this imperial decree.” Zhou Yun Sheng stated bluntly.
Zhao Bi Xuan hurriedly sent servants to prepare the calligraphy materials and watched as he wrote an imperial edict, sealing it with the imperial seal. Then, as a small way of currying favor with him, she sent the servants out of the palace, allowing him to stay overnight for the first time in weeks.
One imperial edict for one night in the bed chamber, you really know how to make yourself look like a cheap whore. Zhou Yun Sheng inwardly sneered, but his expression was rather regretful, using busyness with governmental affairs as an excuse to decline, promising to return at a later date.
The Emperor had just given her mother the status of a Marchioness, granting her the highest title. From now on, her mother was on equal footing and status with Zhao Xuan’s mother, so naturally, Zhao Bi Xuan didn’t doubt his feelings. She wrung her handkerchief and stood at the palace doorway, putting on a reluctant to part expression. As soon as he disappeared around the corner, she brushed the hair off her temples, smiling arrogantly.
Until this moment, she had never felt that entering the palace was a good thing. Because she was favored, Zhao Xuan gained a huge advantage, rising from an obscure noble to the newly established Duke Yu Gou. Outside she was overjoyed, but inside she was bitter. Why did her favor from the Emperor not benefit her true family, instead benefiting Li-shi’s (Marquess Wen Yuan’s wife) children, who had bullied her from childhood? How were they worthy?
After the imperial edict was sent to the Wen Yuan March, Old Marquess Wen Yuan and the concubine were ecstatic, the Marchioness fainted in anger, and her young daughter and son almost broke out in tears. The only one who didn’t react was Zhao Xuan, after housing the court eunuch who delivered the decree, he went to the military training ground, apparently indifferent.
“That slut, what malicious wind has she been blowing in front of the Emperor to convince him to ignore customs. He actually promoted that unwanted family to a dignified Marquess’ second wife! This is it, I’ll become the joke of the entire capital, how can I have the face to leave the house?!” Li-shi was leaning against the bedside, crying bitterly.
The 15 year old second daughter, Zhao Xin Ran, was busily hugging her in comfort, finally, she let out a gloomy smile, “Mother, what do you see when you look at me?”
Li-shi seemed to think of something and wiped away her tears, fixing her gaze on her daughter, then she gloomily commented in her heart: My daughter’s skin is whiter than snow, her lips red like fire, a pair of slightly upturned red Phoenix eyes, bright and charming. Although she doesn’t have Zhao Bi Xuan’s allure, she can also be considered a one in a million beauty.
“What are you thinking?” Li-shi asked uncertainly.
“If she can get into the palace and become favored, why can’t I? It’s all just influencing with pillow talk, she can do it and so can I. Think mother, if she can manipulate the Emperor to promote that old bitch to second wife, what if she urges His Majesty to pass on the Marquess Wen Yuan title to Zhao Ji Dong next? If we don’t defend against this early, we might as well admit defeat.” Zhao Xin Ran grumbled through gritted teeth.
“That title is Xu-er’s, how dare she covet it! Well, that old bitch really gave birth to a young bitch!” Li-shi raged as if the Marquess Wen Yuan title was already going to be snatched away. The eldest son was Duke Yu Gou, the other title should naturally go to the youngest son, how could it be given to a concubine’s child.
Li-shi and her daughter strategized, planning to destroy Zhao Bi Xuan’s pet status, only then would she have no chance to manipulate the Emperor. In the past, drafts were held once a year, but because of Zhao Bi Xuan’s pet status, the drafts were abolished, and the Emperor’s harem has not had a new opening for two years already. If they wanted to squeeze into the palace, it would not be easy.
Zhou Yun Sheng knew Zhao family’s thinking like the back of his palm, so not a few days after he gave Hui Yi Imperial Consort a special favor, he requested to accompany her back to her parents’ home. To prevent dissatisfaction in the harem, they also brought along several other high status concubines.
On the day of the parental visit, the streets from the palace to Zhao residence were sealed with layers upon layers of blockades, the bystanders who wanted to see what the liveliness was about had no chance, they could only listen to the distant imperial carriages and the uniformed footsteps pass by. Everyone sighed for Hui Yi Imperial Consort’s favor, her status was now similar to a Fairy.
At the Wen Yuan March, Zhou Yun Sheng was greeted by many people, seeing that the hour was still early, he followed Zhao Bi Xuan on a tour of her childhood boudoir. When she was small, Zhao Bi Xuan never received Li-shi’s care, so her living quarters were crude and unkempt, quite shabby. But since she became favored, the small courtyard was expanded and renovated several times under Old Wen Yuan March’s orders, so it was already completely incomparable to the past. Not to mention sumptuous, it was also fresh and elegant, particularly charming and interesting. Seeing the now completely transformed boudoir, Zhao Bi Xuan’s heart was filled with a little more resentment and forlornness, she unexpectedly didn’t feel the slightest bit grateful.
“You’re finally back home for a visit, go bond with your mother, I will take a short nap in your rooms.” Zhou Yun Sheng noticed Zhao Bi Xuan’s absent-mindedness and flicked his generous sleeves.
This was exactly what Zhao Bi Xuan wanted, after thanking him for his favor, she hurriedly left to find Fang-shi (her concubine mother). She needed to discuss with Fang-shi how to seek the best benefits for her brother. Zhao Xuan had relied on her favored status to reach the highest official position, but her brother was still a title-less civilian. Zhao Xuan received the title of Duke Yu Gou, shouldn’t this Marquess Wen Yuan title go to her younger brother? Honorable Hui Yi Imperial Consort’s brother, how could any common noble be able to oppress him?
Seeing her quick gait, Zhou Yun Sheng shook his head and sneered, then sent the eunuchs and palace maids away before lying down on the couch by the window, casually picking up some travel notes to browse. The incense burner ignited with snowdrop bush incense, the smell more and more sweet. After smelling it for a long time, his throat unexpectedly started to feel dry, and his whole body started heating up, it felt like something was building up with nowhere to expel. Zhou Yun Sheng threw away the travel notes, then supported his forehead on his hand and smiled. Li-shi and Zhao Xin Ran reacted exactly as he’d predicted.
He peeled off his outer jacket and pulled open his lapel, then took off his bun crown and shouted, “Come, bring me a cup of herbal tea.”
A young girl gracefully walked in holding a tea tray, she knelt at the side of the couch and slightly raised her head, revealing a splendid peach face. She expected to see a stunned expression on the Emperor’s face, but she was the one who gasped in admiration. The man in front of her seemed to be 7 ft. 3 in tall, not only was his figure tall as bamboo, his jade face was brilliant like spring flowers, his eyes vast and limpid like autumn waters, and he was handsome like the Ninth Heaven gods. His black, silk-like hair was draped over his shoulders, his lapel was wide open, revealing a smooth white chest. By glancing down, there was a glimpse of tightly packed and gracefully lined abdominal muscles. He had one leg hanging off the couch, his other leg raised onto the couch’s back, his deep dark eyes, because of stirring emotions, had a layer of glittering mist, his languid and free posture a fatal sex appeal.
Zhao Xin Ran found herself breathless, after just a brief look her face flushed deep red, and she quickly lowered her head to conceal her embarrassment. Zhao Bi Xuan served such a fairy-like person, how was she worthy?! Jealousy filled Zhao Xin Ran’s heart, hearing the Emperor’s breathing growing heavier, she clenched her teeth and untied her belt, climbing onto the couch. This aphrodisiac left no evidence, and the person under its control felt supreme pleasure, the only aftereffect being a fuzzy memory.
Because of this, she only needed to put on a humiliated appearance afterwards for her plan to succeed. In order to not embarrass the newly promoted Duke Yu Gou, the Emperor had no choice but to accept her.
She was very pleased with herself, but didn’t expect to be kicked away by the Emperor before she could even settle onto the couch. He hoarsely commanded, “Come in guards, drag her away, bring me Zhao Xuan!”
Several guards hurriedly rushed in and carried her away, then rushed to find Duke Yu Gou.
Zhao Xuan hurried over after receiving the order. As soon as he opened the door, he was greeted with the sight of the Emperor reclining on a soft couch, hooking a finger to call him over, his normally majestic eyes covered in mist, slowly scattering to reveal twinkling starlight, dazzling. Zhao Xuan’s breath stopped, he immediately walked over and kowtowed, his face directly opposite the Emperor’s bare feet. Its graceful shape, pink toes, and the faintly visible light blue veins hidden under jade skin resembled the most exquisite work of art, making others want to worship and tease it.
His eyes tightly glued to this pair of jade feet, Zhao Xuan hoarsely questioned, “For what reason has Your Majesty summoned this small official?”
Naturally to have you put out this fire, otherwise, why would I let myself be contaminated by this aphrodisiac incense? Zhou Yun Sheng’s red eyes darkened, he reached out and grabbed the other man’s lapel, dragged him onto the soft couch, and pressed him down with a kiss.
Prior to this, Zhao Xuan had never had intimate contact with a man, he didn’t know that a man’s lips could actually be so soft and sweet, there was also a slightly sweet flavor overflowing from between his teeth, like swallowing countless red poppy flowers. But no matter how delicious and alluring this man was, he couldn’t touch him, because he was Da Qi’s Emperor, he couldn’t bear the consequences.
Zhao Xuan intended to push the other man away, but found that his strong, able to strangle a tiger, arm unexpectedly had no power.
Zhou Yun Sheng took advantage of his confusion to pull open his lapel, his tongue persistently trying to pry open his tightly clenched teeth. He liked kissing while they made love, during those times, it was a combination of spirit and flesh, the feeling of their souls intertwining was often more intoxicating than the pleasure of climax. But now, he clearly felt his lover’s resistance, no caresses, no embraces, no kisses, he was lying straight on the couch, like a piece of wood, even his expression was as cold as always.
Zhou Yun Sheng slowly stopped, his arms propped on both sides of the other man’s cheeks, his burning breath spaying his face. He didn’t expect his usually nymphomaniac lover to one day become a Liuxia Hui. But for what did he call him here? To make love to a piece of wood? He was not that hungry yet.
“Get out!” Angered from the humiliation, he kicked the other man away, his voice hoarse, “Go back and ask your younger sister what foolish thing she’s done! For Bi Xuan’s sake, I won’t retaliate today, but your family has to behave from now on!”
Zhao Xuan backed out from the room, when the door closed, he turned around, his sweat drenched back revealing the fierce struggle that took place in his heart. If he hadn’t used his internal force to suppress his body’s natural reaction with all his might, he feared that he would’ve fallen into madness. He nodded slightly at the rushing over Liu He and walked away, his gait seemed neither too fast nor too slow, but in reality, his heart was being assaulted by wave after stormy wave. What was a Butterfly Fragrance? Today, he personally experienced it, without needing to close his eyes, he could clearly see the Emperor’s passionate expression and beautiful face floating in front of him, forever lingering.
The Emperor had leaned over him, a waterfall of black, silk-like hair cascading down, numbing both his cheeks. When he’d stretched out his satiny tongue and tried to pry open his lips, he had almost turned him over and pressed him down, so he could use all the techniques he could think of on him, to make him pass out from exhaustion.
But he was the Emperor, he couldn’t touch him, or it would provoke endless trouble. Zhao Xuan glanced at the place suddenly bouncing up after withdrawing his internal force, his heart burning with a raging fire, he felt even more irritated and restless.
Zhao Xin Ran was escorted back by the guards, and was now weeping in bed. Li-shi felt very angry and anxious, comforting her daughter while rubbing her own tight chest. The slipped drugs didn’t work and the Emperor unexpectedly kicked her out, although she didn’t lose her life, the humiliation was great. Now, they could only hope the Emperor handled things quietly for the sake of Zhao Bi Xuan and Zhao Xuan’s dignity, or her daughter’s future would be destroyed.
Hearing the maidservant’s announcement, Li-shi quickly called out, nervously asking, “Xuan-er, what did the Emperor say?”
“The Emperor said that he’ll spare you this once for the sake of Zhao Bi Xuan.” Zhao Xuan pulled over a stool and sat down, his expression even more gloomy. Now that the heat wave taking over his body had receded, he could finally calm down and carefully recall the man’s every move. In the end, who was he thinking of when he pulled him into bed? Zhao Bi Xuan? And when he noticed that he was touching a male he kicked him away? He said that he’d forgive for the sake of Zhao Bi Xuan’s honor, so for Zhao Bi Xuan, he actually wanted to keep himself chaste? Zhao Xuan didn’t understand why he was so bothered by this, but the more he thought about it, the more irritated he felt. Coming out from his muddled thoughts, he noticed that Zhao Xin Ran was wearing a very light and seductive red dress, and his expression darkened further.
“Come, help the 2nd Miss pack up and clean up, then send her to Zhou Village.” Wen Yuan March had a manor in Zhou Village, it took at least three days and three nights to go back and forth from the capital, not far, but also not close, if she went there, she didn’t know when she could return.
Zhao Xin Ran forgot her weeping, giving him a pleading expression.
“Xuan-er, why are you doing this? Didn’t the Emperor say that he’ll forget it, why do you want to send Zhao Xin Ran away? I won’t allow it!” Li-shi stubbornly used her body to block her daughter, but the servant women still methodically brought over hot water and fetched clothes, helping Zhao Xin Ran organize her appearance while more maidservants dragged her luggage to the courtyard.
“The Emperor’s mouth said he doesn’t mind, but his heart will inevitably feel uneasy. If we don’t treat this seriously, he will secretly engrave my shortcoming on his heart. Mother, if you want the Emperor to always hold a grudge against me, we can let sister stay.” Before his voice faded away, Zhao Xuan had already flung out his sleeves and left.
Li-shi thought about it for a long time, but in the end, she could only reluctantly send her crying and protesting daughter away. If they waited until the Emperor and Zhao Bi Xuan returned to the palace to send her off, she feared that her old fool of a husband would rush over to personally break her daughter’s legs when he heard the news.
Zhao Bi Xuan, in order to protect her mother and younger brother, arranged many spies in Wen Yuan March, so as soon as Zhao Xin Ran left, the causes and effects for her departure were reported to her. The formerly lowly common daughter was now the darling of the Emperor, the Sixth Palace’s Imperial Consort, the Lady, she no longer needed to suppress her displeasure, so during the family dinner, she gave Zhou Yun Sheng a charming smile and said, “Your Majesty, my younger sister has reached a marriageable age this year, she ought to be betrothed. Would you help her find a husband?”
“Oh, does my dear concubine have a suitable candidate in mind?” Zhou Yun Sheng meticulously filled her bowl with food, his smile extremely gentle and pampering.
Li-shi’s heart instantly froze, she looked at the woman in the head seat with frightened and slightly pleading eyes.
Zhao Xuan frowned and kept silent, but he was inwardly tormented by the Emperor’s romantic gestures. He couldn’t stop thinking, after he left, how did the man find relief? He didn’t casually pull a random maid into his bed, right? Or did he call Zhao Bi Xuan over to vent? Thinking of this, his long and narrow phoenix eyes lightly glanced at the fawning Zhao Bi Xuan, his heart suddenly filling with hostility.
Zhao Bi Xuan was completely unaware of the danger, she laughed softly, “For the time being, I haven’t thought of a suitable candidate. I wish to remain in the capital for a while to look for one, then discuss with the Emperor.”
Zhou Yun Sheng nodded in consent, and Old Marquess Wen Yuan expressed his enthusiastic thanks while Li-shi showered her in flattery.
Zhao Bi Xuan brushed the hair off her temples and drawled, “It’s for my younger sister, there’s no need to be polite.” Then she didn’t say anything more. She only needed to let Li-shi know – Currently, her daughter’s marriage and her youngest son’s future were in her hands, so don’t move against her, and even more, don’t get in the way of her mother’s promotion. Now, the one who was in charge was obvious at a glance.
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