It was unclear what the empress wanted her for but it must have something to do with Qi Zheng. Shen Ziqiao was really worried inside and forced herself to sleep. The next day, before the sky had lit up however, she got up already.
After eating breakfast, Shen Zikai had someone come over to tell her that Qi Zheng hadn’t come back since leaving the city. Clearly, something happened to him outside of the city.
Did something happen to him? Shen Ziqiao hid her worry. She had Hong Yu help change her outfit and then went into the palace to meet the empress.
This wasn’t her first time entering the palace. Since the last time, it had been a few years. Her memories of her palace had faded. She didn’t remember that much. Plus, the palace was a sketchy area. She wanted to stay away from it as far as she could. Who knew that she would’ve come to the palace again?
When she entered the palace the first time, nothing good happened. She barely survived death and almost offended someone she shouldn’t have.
Shen Ziqiao recalled the time when she took a risk to save the little imperial grandson. A bitter smile floated on her face.
Not long later, she arrived at the empress’ palace hall.
“First Madam Qi?” A palace maid saw Shen Ziqiao in a daze and knitted her brows, calling her.
Shen Ziqiao snapped out of her trance and curled her lips up. She entered the palace hall to see the empress waiting there for her. The maids were all dismissed.
“Your Majesty.” Shen Ziqiao got on her knees and greeted her, feeling bitter inside. Just one look and she couldn’t register that the woman who pulled her hair into a simple bun was the gorgeous and mighty empress that she saw in the past.
The empress wasn’t as radiant anymore and her face had turned pale and sallow. Not only that, she also appeared much more skinnier as if one could see her bones. Shen Ziqiao’s eyes soured up.
“Jiao Jiao, get up. Sit by my side.” A faint smile appeared on the empress’ face and she waved her over.
Shen Ziqiao didn’t hesitate. She walked over and sat besides the empress. In a low voice, “Your Majesty, you have to take care of yourself.”
The empress froze hearing this before revealing a gentle smile. Her eyes brightened. “You and Zheng’er are the same. You guys always like to tell me this.”
Seeing that the empress was still smiling when mentioning Qi Zheng, he should be fine.
“Your Majesty, nothing is absolute. It’s most important that you take care of your body.” Shen Ziqiao didn’t know how to encourage the empress. Sheng Peiyin and the others weren’t able to find any faults in the empress but as long the empress herself gets sick or discouraged, then their motive was achieved.
The empress understood Shen Ziqiao. She smiled and exclaimed, “Don’t worry. I won’t easily let them have their ways. I had you come into the palace today so that I can check on you guys.”
“You and Zheng’er had gotten married for a long time but you guys haven’t paid respects to me in the palace. Speaking of, you need to call me aunty just like how Zheng’er calls me.”
She even changed her address. Shen Ziqiao knew that the empress truly cherished Qi Zheng. “I’ve been thinking about Your Majesty.”
“You’ve been thinking about Zheng’er for the past few days, no?” The empress smiled at Shen Ziqiao. She was clearly worried for Qi Zheng but she didn’t dare to express this in front of her.
Shen Ziqiao wasn’t good at hiding her worries. She would express everything on her face. Indeed, she was worried about Qi Zheng. “Your Majesty, I am really worried for him but he must be fine.”
“How do you know?” The empress lifted her brows and asked.
“Your Majesty seems to be in a good mood. If something happened to him, why would you be happy?” Shen Ziqiao said in a small voice.
The empress froze before smiling. “He is fine but he encountered bandits on his way out of the city and suffered minor injuries.”
Shen Ziqiao suddenly lifted her head. “He’s injured?”
“His grandfather had someone tell me that he suffered minor injuries but he’s fine. He’ll be back tomorrow. I was scared that you might be worried which is why I had you entered the palace. The little imperial grandson has been thinking about you too.” The empress said. Besides having Shen Ziqiao enter the palace to tell her this piece of news, she also wanted to comfort her.
Qi Zheng always reported good news and never bad ones. What minor injuries? If he suffered minor injuries, he would’ve been back already. Why would he drag this on till tomorrow? But she didn’t dare tell the empress this. Old Lord Lu must not want the empress to be worried so he didn’t tell her the truth.
“How are there refugees and bandits?” Although the world wasn’t peaceful, everything was stable. There were no natural disasters either. Where did refugees come from?”
The empress’ face darkened. “What refugee? The Sun Family ordered these people. They wanted to get rid of Zheng’er.”
Now, Qi Zheng was the one person most useful to the empress and the crown prince because he had Duke An residence and the Shen Family behind his back.
Towards the change in the palace, Shen Ziqiao always acted like it was none of her business. What did Imperial Consort Sun and the Sun Family have to do with her? She didn’t know her either. Even if Sheng Peiyin had transformed into Ma Beirong, she didn’t feel anything intense either. But she heard that the Sun Family had tried to hurt Qi Zheng today. Shen Ziqiao felt a ball of anger surging. Her eyes were blazing with anger.
They clearly don’t want to live anymore!
“The Sun Family has the assistance of the Ma Family Henghui Bank. Even more, Imperial Consort Sun and Ma Beirong were working together, their eyes on me and the crown prince. Jiao Jiao, you need to be extremely careful lately. I’m afraid that Ma Beirong…” The empress knitted her brows.
They knew that Ma Beirong was Sheng Peiyin and that she was enemies with Shen Ziqiao. Now, she was known as Imperial Consort Ma who dominated the harem. Obviously, she wouldn’t let Shen Ziqiao who had been resenting her go.
Shen Ziqiao’s gaze darkened. She had been waiting for Sheng Peiyin to make a move on her.
“Your Majesty, don’t worry. I will be careful for sure.” Shen Ziqiao said in a low voice. “There are many ways to deal with Imperial Consort Sun and Sheng Peiyin, and to let them fall out as well. As long as the Ma Family doesn’t join hands with the Sun Family anymore…”
The empress knew obviously. She had been doing so. “When Zheng’er comes back, make him stay at home and heal.”
Shen Ziqiao understood. Since the empress didn’t want her talking about Sun and Ma Family, she’d pretend to be ignorant as well. She’d let the empress deal with them on her own.
However, though she could ignore the palace matters, she would never watch and do nothing about the matters outside.
Next, the empress didn’t talk about those things anymore. Instead, she asked about Shen Ziqiao and her situation at the Qi Family.
“...Xiao Gu is narrow-minded and ruthless. You don’t have to be nice to her. Though you should still act respectful on the surface. She doesn’t dare to do anything else to you.” The empress resented Xiao Gu. If it weren’t for her, her sister wouldn’t have died.
Shen Ziqiao smiled and nodded.
After a while, a palace maid reported saying that there was a female official requesting her presence for the crown prince’s upcoming marriage.
“Your Majesty, I’ll be taking my leave then.” Shen Ziqiao tactfully got up.
The empress didn’t keep her. She rewarded her a lot of things before letting her leave.
She walked outside the palace hall to see a gorgeous imperial consort walking over in large fanfare as a group of maids escorted her.
As they walked closer and closer, Shen Ziqiao finally saw the imperial consort’s appearance. She had exquisite brows and walked gracefully over. She had never seen this concubine before but she had a vague feeling who she saw.
She walked to the side. Glancing at the imperial consort, it seemed like she was here to visit the empress.
“Who is the person ahead? Why aren’t you on your knees when you see Imperial Consort Xian?” The palace maid walking ahead watched as Shen Ziqiao ducked to the side so she shouted at her.
Shen Ziqiao kept her head down and greeted. “Paying respects to Imperial ConsortXian.”
This person wasn’t anyone else but Ma Beirong who received endless spotlight in the harem.
Ma Beirong was naturally Sheng Peiyin.
Seeing that her nemesis was on her knees in front of her, Sheng Peiyin was delighted. She lifted her brows and stood in front of Shen Ziqiao arrogantly. She didn’t let her get up either. “I was wondering who this is. It’s First Madam Qi, ah!”
Shen Ziqiao curled her lips up. “Your Highness.”
“I heard that First Madam Qi is brazen and presumptuous before even getting married. I’ve heard rumors but I never saw you until now. Seeing you kneeling down in front of me, you’ve done a better job than a servant.” Sheng Peiyin’s voice was different from the past. It became sharper. When she said this, she even purposely raised her volume. Her voice was ear-piercing and sharp to the ears. The maids laughed at Shen Ziqiao.
They were laughing at how Shen Ziqiao was worse than a servant.
Shen Ziqiao smiled faintly. “Imperial Consort Ma used to be at Tianxuan Mountain yet, you’re still able to hear things about me. I...admire you quite much.”
That Spiritual Master Zhou really told the emperor that Ma Beirong had grown up in Tianxuan Mountain as a child and only arrived in the capital not too long ago.
Sheng Peiyin’s face darkened a bit. “Your attitude is just like how the rumors claimed you to be.”
“Imperial Consort Xian reminds me of an old friend.” Shen Ziqiao smiled.
“Oh, who?” Sheng Peiyin looked down at Shen Ziqiao.
Shen Ziqiao said slowly, “She’s just a lowly woman. How can she compare to you?”
“Presumptuous!” Sheng Peiyin suddenly shouted. “How dare you humiliate me?”
“I’m not sure how I humiliated you.” Shen Ziqiao asked faintly.
Sheng Peiyin hmphed. “Slap her! Slap her harshly!”
A maid walked over to slap her when Shen Ziqiao glared at her and threw her hand to the side.
“Shen Ziqiao, you dare!” Sheng Peiyin didn’t expect for Shen Ziqiao to behave atrociously like this. She lifted her hand to slap her.
“Imperial Consort Xian!” Shen Ziqiao grabbed her hands and moved closer to Sheng Peiyin, saying in a low voice, “We’ve never met before, yet you knew who I was at first glance. Don’t you find that strange? I think the emperor must be really curious. Don’t think that you’re really mighty just because you’re an imperial concubine. Sheng Peiyin, you’re just an ant that can be squashed in people’s hands.”
Sheng Peiyin’s expression changed and she glared harshly at Shen Ziqiao.
Shen Ziqiao sneered. “Don’t force me. You know. You and I...have the same thing. You can change the future but so can I.”
Didn’t she always think she could be reborn? Then continue the misunderstanding.
Sheng Peiyin was so furious that she couldn’t form any words.
Shen Ziqiao smiled and let her go. Under the palace maids’ gazes, she said faintly, “If Imperial Consort Xian has no other orders, I’ll be taking my leave.”