Arc 5: Harem Competing Strategies Chapter 5
Tao Yuan was the first one to be taken to serve in the emperor’s bedchamber, which aroused envy and jealousy among the other court ladies and courtiers, especially the children of civil officials from Ye Rong’s faction. Their sense of imbalance was even more pronounced. The court ladies and courtiers from martial families, although feeling jealous, also carried some genuine happiness for him.
In the imperial harem, it was rare to have the opportunity to be favored individually. Either one needed a strong family background or had to be exceptionally favored. If people didn’t stick together, it would be difficult for them to receive favor.
If Ye Rong received more favor, the others from his faction would think their chances of being favored were greater. If Tao Yuan received more favor, they would naturally feel that their side had more opportunities for favor. As Tao Yuan and Ye Rong were the leaders of their respective factions, they would definitely have times when they couldn’t serve in the bedchamber, and the chances would then fall on others.
Unfortunately, they didn’t know Tao Yuan’s thoughts. Even if his lover was the emperor in this lifetime, he had no intention of sharing him with anyone else. The others had nothing to do with him, so if they wanted to blame someone, they could only blame their luck.
On the third day, they only studied etiquette for half a day, and they could rest in the afternoon.
Everyone was in the courtyard, reading or chatting. Suddenly, Xu Gonggong arrived with some people and everyone quickly stood up respectfully.
Xu Gonggong walked directly to Tao Yuan’s room, and Tao Yuan and Sun Yuan also stood up promptly.
“Xu Zongguan 1,” Tao Yuan and Sun Yuan slightly bowed.
“Mu Shilang 2,” Xu Gonggong turned and took the tray from the eunuch’s hand, saying to Tao Yuan, “These are the peaches bestowed by His Majesty to Mister Mu.”
Tao Yuan immediately knelt down on one knee to express gratitude, “Thank you for His Majesty’s bestowal.”
After standing up, Tao Yuan respectfully received the tray from Xu Gonggong. Xu Gonggong took a half step forward, placed the tray in Tao Yuan’s hands, and whispered, “His Majesty asks Mister Mu to remember to return the favor. The rose pastries we had at the Empress Dowager’s last time were quite good.”
Tao Yuan paused for a moment and said, “Yes.”
Watching Xu Gonggong leave, Tao Yuan thought to himself that it was the first time he had heard of the emperor bestowing gifts and asking for something in return.
In fact, Xiao Junye was just finding an excuse to have Tao Yuan come to him voluntarily. He wanted to smell the fragrance on Tao Yuan’s body but couldn’t invite him too frequently to the bedchamber. Tao Yuan also didn’t take the initiative to bring him gifts. So Xiao Junye had Xu Gonggong remind Tao Yuan to be a bit more proactive and send him some food and drinks.
After Xu Gonggong left, the courtiers from Tao Yuan’s faction all rushed in and gathered around the table, looking at the three plump peaches. Each of these peaches was the size of two fists and exuded a tempting fruity fragrance that made people unable to help but salivate.
“It smells so good. I’ve never seen such big peaches before.”
“Of course, you haven’t. These are tribute items. Only about twenty or thirty are sent to the palace each year.”
“It really has a delicious and sweet taste. If we leave it in the room overnight, the whole room will be filled with the fragrance.”
“Now the entire room already smells amazing. If we sleep with this scent at night, we’ll even dream about eating peaches.”
“I think we’ll have even more beautiful dreams.”
“A-Yuan, you should divide this peach among everyone.” Tao Yuan gave one peach to Sun Yuan and picked up the remaining two, heading towards the small kitchen.
The people from Ye Rong’s faction stood in the courtyard, watching them happily share the peaches, feeling very uncomfortable in their hearts.
Although each person would only get a small portion of one peach, it was still a tribute item personally bestowed by the emperor. Even if they could only have a small bite, it was still something worth being happy about.
They glanced at each other and then at the silent Ye Rong, feeling a mixture of emotions. They had initially thought that after Tao Yuan had his turn in the bedchamber, it would be Ye Rong’s turn next. However, on the third day, they received the emperor’s reward for Tao Yuan instead.
In their hearts, they couldn’t help but feel anxious for Ye Rong because it was evident that the emperor was taking an interest in Tao Yuan. They hoped that Ye Rong would put in more effort and strive to obtain the emperor’s favor as soon as possible, otherwise all the opportunities would be taken by the other side.
Ye Rong turned his head and saw a palace maid standing in the corner. Their gazes quickly met, and then they discreetly looked away.
Ye Rong stood up and said, “I’m going to pay respects to Queen Mother. Inform Xu Shiguan on my behalf that if there is anything important, someone should notify me in the Queen Mother’s palace.”
The others acknowledged and watched him leave.
Ye Rong’s maternal grandmother was the Queen Mother’s cousin, so Ye Rong occasionally went to pay his respects to her.
Since the late emperor’s passing and Xiao Junye’s ascension to the throne, the Queen Mother 3 had closed herself off and spent her days praying and reciting sutras in the palace. She neither stepped out of her own palace nor allowed people to visit her daily. The consorts and princes could only occasionally meet with her when paying respects. Among all the people, only the Yu Wang could freely enter her palace, and Ye Rong would occasionally visit her, and she would see him.
Ever since entering the palace, whenever Ye Rong went to pay respects to the Queen Mother, he would actually use it as an opportunity to secretly meet with the Yu Wang.
After paying respects to the Queen Mother, as soon as Ye Rong left the small Buddhist hall, he immediately headed to the courtyard where the Yu Wang resided. He had to make good use of his time and not linger here for too long.
“Your Highness,” Ye Rong closed the door and quickly walked towards Xiao Yuyang.
“A-Rong,” the Yu Wang also stepped forward and tightly embraced Ye Rong.
It had been a month since they last saw each other, and Xiao Yuyang had truly missed Ye Rong because he had fallen in love with him. On the other hand, Ye Rong, who was solely focused on winning over the emperor, didn’t have much desire to see him. However, since he had already entered the palace, he had to deal with him as well.
Xiao Yuyang lifted Ye Rong in his arms and placed him on the bed, passionately kissing him.
Ye Rong wanted to resolve things quickly, so he began to undress Xiao Yuyang, pretending to show that he longed for him.
Xiao Yuyang also swiftly removed all of Ye Rong’s clothes, and without uttering a word, the two entangled on the bed.
After preparing the peach-filled pastries in the small kitchen, Tao Yuan carried them to present as a “return gift” to Xiao Junye.
Xiao Junye had someone bring Tao Yuan to a side chamber to wait. Tao Yuan placed the pastries on the table and sat on the bed, absentmindedly waiting for Xiao Junye.
When Xiao Junye entered briskly, Tao Yuan stood up and greeted, “Your Majesty.”
Without saying a word, Xiao Junye approached and forcefully pushed Tao Yuan onto the bed, then began undressing him.
“Your Majesty… I, I came to bring you the pastries. Won’t Your Majesty taste them?” Tao Yuan spoke as he quickly undressed Xiao Junye.
Starting from his neck, Xiao Junye inhaled deeply and said, “You’re the most delicious treat. Right now, I only want to devour you, not any other pastries.”
Xiao Junye eagerly breathed in Tao Yuan’s scent and caressed his body. He wished to keep him by his side at all times, to be able to smell his fragrance anytime. But because of the present situation, he couldn’t even think of seeing him every day. He had to quickly consolidate his control over the court and the palace. Once he firmly secured the throne, he would be able to favor whomever he wanted.
Two days ago, when Xiao Junye invited Tao Yuan to his bed, the Empress Dowager had hinted to him during his visit that he should distribute his attention evenly. Since he had already allowed Tao Yuan to serve him in bed, it was now Ye Rong’s turn, as well as some other selected palace attendants.
Xiao Junye also acknowledged that Ye Rong was attractive, but he had no interest or fondness for him whatsoever. Moreover, Ye Rong emitted a scent that he found repulsive. Just being close to him made him uncomfortable, let alone being intimate with him.
As Tao Yuan noticed that Xiao Junye began undressing himself, he couldn’t help but remind him, “Your Majesty, it’s still daytime…”
“It’s fine. I just want to finish what we didn’t complete that night,” Xiao Junye said, fascinated as he gazed at Tao Yuan’s body. He had been too preoccupied with smelling his fragrance the previous night and hadn’t realized how tempting his body truly was.
Tao Yuan thought to himself, is there still a need to make up for this kind of thing? Before he could say anything, Xiao Junye had already spread his legs and pressed himself onto him.
Tao Yuan endured the pain of being stretched and let out a soft moan. Before he could even fully open his mouth, Xiao Junye kissed him, invading his mouth with his tongue.
“Mmm…” Tao Yuan, overwhelmed by the dual stimulation, experienced a mixture of discomfort and pleasure. The intense sensation overwhelmed his mind, causing him to quickly lost his mind.
Tao Yuan didn’t know how much time had passed, but when he regained his senses, he felt a dry, hoarse throat and a lingering, stinging pain below.
Xiao Junye lifted Tao Yuan up, holding him tightly in his arms, and kissed his slightly parted lips, continuing to invade his mouth.
Xiao Junye initially thought that the fragrance emanating from Tao Yuan’s body would bring him comfort. However, after kissing him, he discovered that having his tongue inside Tao Yuan’s mouth brought even greater pleasure.
Tao Yuan felt weak all over, leaning softly against Xiao Junye’s body. His tongue and lips were numb from being sucked, and he could only wait for Xiao Junye to finish kissing before being released.
Tao Yuan sat up and began to dress. Xiao Junye, who had already put on his inner robe, pressed himself against Tao Yuan again, starting from his face and sniffing downward.
“Your Majesty…” Tao Yuan reached out to push him away, but Xiao Junye caught his hand and said, “It’s time for me to send you back, but…” He kissed the corner of Tao Yuan’s mouth and said, “You should voluntarily bring me a batch of pastries every two or three days.”
“…Yes.” Tao Yuan understood that when he mentioned pastries, Xiao Junye was actually referring to himself.
As Tao Yuan stood up to leave, Xiao Junye noticed his unsteady gait and called him back, instructing Xugonggong to arrange for a sedan chair to send him back.
Watching Tao Yuan depart, Xiao Junye walked to the table and looked at the exquisite pastries. He picked one up with his chopsticks, bit into it, and as the thick juice flowed out, he savored the mouthful of sweet peach fragrance. Although it had cooled down, it was still incredibly delicious.
Perhaps it was due to just finishing their intimate activities, Xiao Junye felt a bit hungry. He quickly devoured all the pastries, one after another, in one bite. While eating, he couldn’t help but think that although the pastries were delicious, his own body was even more appetizing.
After finishing the pastries, Xiao Junye stretched his body, feeling completely relaxed. He thought to himself that Mu Xi was indeed his miraculous medicine. He had never felt this comfortable before.
Tao Yuan leaned back in the sedan chair, feeling something about to flow out from his body. He clenched his legs tightly and thought about taking a bath as soon as he returned.
Ye Rong, on the other hand, had returned to the Exquisite Palace over an hour ago. As he was engaging in a secret affair, he couldn’t stay too long or show any sign of suspicion. So after returning to the Exquisite Palace, he spent some time conversing with others in the courtyard, acting completely normal.
On the other hand, Tao Yuan was there to deliver pastries to the Emperor. Even if others noticed something amiss, they could only feel jealous and couldn’t say anything. In the imperial harem, whether it was the beautiful attendants, palace maids, or court officials, the Emperor could sleep with whomever he pleased. Only the Emperor had the privilege to do so within the palace.
Therefore, if Ye Rong and Yu Wang were caught having an affair in the palace, they would be punished. But Yu Wang and Ye Rong were daring because they had their own support and believed that the Emperor would never find out, which was why they took the risk. Due to the late emperor’s favoritism, Yu Wang had accumulated significant power. Currently, there were more of Yu Wang’s people in the palace than the Emperor’s.
Although the Emperor had gradually replaced important positions in the palace with his trusted aides since ascending the throne, it would still take a long time to completely replace everyone. It was easy to change the visible figures but not those hidden in the shadows. Moreover, there was also the Queen Mother, who had controlled the harem for many years and desired to see Yu Wang become the Emperor.
The Queen Mother supported Yu Wang because his mother was her own niece. Naturally, she wanted Yu Wang to ascend the throne for the benefit of her maternal family. She couldn’t possibly be unaware of Yu Wang and Ye Rong’s affair in her palace, but she turned a blind eye to it and even deliberately created opportunities for them to spend time together.
Under the gaze of Ye Rong and the others, Tao Yuan walked back to his room with unsteady steps. He had a tired complexion, flushed cheeks, and anyone could tell why he looked that way. The palace attendants and court officials were not allowed to wander around in the palace. Leaving the Chuxiu Palace required notifying the female officials and court officials in charge. Only people like Tao Yuan and Ye Rong were allowed to visit the Empress Dowager at any time, as long as they informed someone. Other people, even if they went personally, might not be granted permission to leave the Chuxiu Palace.
Two hours ago, Tao Yuan left with the pastries, and now he returned in such a state. They didn’t need to guess what he had been doing.
The people who were still talking to Sun Yuan in their room immediately stood up when they saw Tao Yuan’s return and said, “A-Xi, you’re back.”
Sun Yuan also stood up and, seeing Tao Yuan’s exhausted appearance, immediately asked the others to go back to their own rooms and closed the door.
Tao Yuan lay down on the bed and said to Sun Yuan, “A-Yuan, have a palace maid prepare hot water for me. I want to take a bath.”
“Alright,” Sun Yuan turned around and immediately left the room.
Tao Yuan held onto his own body. Because the sensations from their previous activities hadn’t completely faded, he couldn’t help but tremble as he lay down.
Not long after, Sun Yuan returned to the room. He opened the wardrobe to take out Tao Yuan’s clothes and said to him, “The palace maids are already heating the water. You can go and bathe immediately.”
Tao Yuan slowly stood up and walked over, taking the clothes from Sun Yuan’s hand. He walked weakly towards the exit.
Usually, they bathed in the large bathing area, divided by wooden partitions, with each tub in its own separate space.
Since there weren’t many attendants, they could share one wooden tub between the two of them.
Tao Yuan approached the usual one they used with Sun Yuan. After lifting the curtain and entering, he placed his clothes aside, then undressed himself, standing outside the wooden tub to rinse off a bit before finally stepping inside and soaking in the water.
Tao Yuan let out a long breath, sighing in contentment. He had originally thought that Xiao Junye, despite appearing robust, had been poisoned for many years. He didn’t expect him to be so intense in that aspect, which made it a bit overwhelming for Tao Yuan.
With his eyes closed, Tao Yuan slowly relaxed his body, enjoying the warm sensation of being surrounded by hot water.
He soaked for a while before finally getting up. If the water hadn’t started to cool down, he would have wanted to soak a bit longer.
Tao Yuan put on his inner garments, wore an outer robe, loosely fastened it with a belt, and then lifted the curtain to walk out.
As Ye Rong was about to enter the adjacent room, he saw Tao Yuan coming out and paused, looking at him.
Tao Yuan also paused for a moment, then continued to lower his head and adjust his collar.
Ye Rong quickly scanned his slightly open collar and caught sight of the red marks below his clavicle. A flicker of darkness passed through his eyes.
After straightening his clothes, Tao Yuan glanced at him and continued walking outside.
Ye Rong lifted the curtain and entered the room. He clenched his fist tightly before starting to undress. Although he had engaged in a secret affair with Prince Yu today, there were no visible marks on his body. To be cautious, he had specifically instructed Prince Yu not to leave any marks on him.
He had just seen the red marks on Tao Yuan’s chest, which were signs of intense kissing. He could imagine how passionate the Emperor’s and Tao Yuan’s encounters must have been.
Ye Rong couldn’t understand why his protagonist halo didn’t work on the Emperor. He reached up and touched his own face, feeling even more puzzled about why Tao Yuan could attract the Emperor while he couldn’t.
Tao Yuan lay on the bed, feeling refreshed and comfortable with a clean sensation on his body.
Just as he was about to close his eyes and get a good sleep, Sun Yuan opened the food box on the table and took out something, saying, “Have something to eat before you sleep. Otherwise, you might wake up hungry in the middle of the night and have trouble falling back asleep.”
Tao Yuan thought about it and agreed. It was better to eat and sleep well than to wake up hungry in the middle of the night. So he sat up again.
After Sun Yuan had helped Tao Yuan put away the dishes and utensils, they both sat down. Sun Yuan then closed the door and returned to the table, whispering to Tao Yuan, “The Emperor favored you again? And during daylight.”
Although Tao Yuan had lived for several lifetimes, he still felt a bit embarrassed discussing such matters. He whispered back, “Whether it’s daytime or nighttime, I don’t have the right to refuse. After all, he is the Emperor.”
“But what if…” Sun Yuan lowered his voice even further and said, “What if you get pregnant before the grand wedding?”
Tao Yuan’s hand paused for a moment, and he said, “If I get pregnant, then so be it. There’s less than a month left until the grand wedding. Once inside the palace and favored by the Emperor, I can’t leave anymore. It would actually be a good thing if I can conceive earlier.”
Sun Yuan thought for a moment and nodded, saying, “That’s true. It’s not like it’s outside the palace. Since you’ve entered the palace and become the Emperor’s person, it’s natural to conceive as soon as possible. Once you become the Empress, if you can have an heir right away, your position as Empress will be even more secure.”
After finishing his meal, Tao Yuan rinsed his mouth and sat for a while before lying down on the bed, quickly falling asleep.
From that point on, according to Xiao Junye’s instructions, Tao Yuan visited him every two or three days, bringing him snacks and then being pressed on the bed for at least half an hour before being allowed to leave. Sometimes, he would be taken to the Emperor’s chambers at night and made love to until he fell asleep.
Tao Yuan felt that Xiao Junye, with such great energy, didn’t seem like someone who had been severely poisoned and had only a few years to live.
Xiao Junye himself hadn’t expected to have such good stamina, but whenever he entered Tao Yuan’s body, he felt an inexhaustible strength.
After each encounter with Tao Yuan, Xiao Junye felt incredibly satisfied, becoming more and more infatuated with Tao Yuan’s body. Although the Empress Dowager kept reminding him to favor others as well, he had no interest in those people and found the thought tiresome.
In the imperial garden, the lotus pond was in full bloom, with pink and green colors complementing each other, creating a beautiful sight.
The Empress Dowager was in a good mood and took these court concubines to the lotus platform to admire the flowers.
Tao Yuan was well aware that the Empress Dowager’s excuse for rewarding the lotus flowers was actually to give others an opportunity to perform in front of Xiao Junye.
Every time he was taken to the Emperor’s chambers, the other concubines would turn green with envy. However, since the Emperor didn’t choose them, they couldn’t leave the Crown Prince’s Palace at will to coincidentally encounter the Emperor. They also didn’t have Tao Yuan’s excellent culinary skills, or else they could have sent some snacks to the Emperor and at least had a chance to appear in front of him.
Now, the Empress Dowager had created an opportunity for them, and they were naturally overjoyed, determined to perform well and strive for the Emperor’s favor. If they could earn an opportunity for a night in the Emperor’s chambers, it would be even better.
3/4 chapter. This chapter uurgh, SHAME SHAME SHAME, still I WANT MORE HAHAHAHA! Please note again: To avoid confusion Empress Dowager will be used for Xiao Junye’s Side and Queen Mother for the Yu Wang’s side. As far as Im concerned they are different people.
And the last chapter will be release together with tomorrow’s chapter!
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If there are any mistakes/error, feel free to comment it down below.
- 许总管 = Mr. Xu
- 穆 = Mu; 侍郎 Shilang, an ancient official title
- 这位太皇太后，在先皇去世，萧竣晔登基之后，就紧闭宫门，每日在宫中拜佛念经。It is yet another question of mine. If the empress dowager was the mother of Xiao Junye, then maybe this Empress Dowager is the grandmother of Xiao Junye or another concubine. Might recheck later. Also to avoid confusion Empress Dowager will be used for Xiao Junye’s Side and Queen mother for the Yu Wang’s side