In the White Tiger Bureau, Li Lu was going over the accounts when Di Yiqiu entered.
Li Lu quickly stood up and said, “Master.”
Di Yiqiu responded with a sound of acknowledgment and sat down behind the desk with a heavy heart and empty hands. Li Lu could see that something was bothering him, but he didn’t dare ask too many questions. After a moment of contemplation, Di Yiqiu said, “Go to Xiancha Town and find Miss Ten.”
“What?” Li Lu’s scalp tightened, and he hurriedly asked, “Master, what do you want me to find her for? Last time you went to propose a marriage, you offended her greatly!”
Di Yiqiu tapped the table with his fingertips and said, “Dai Yue was cultivating the Double Snake Fruit Trees for His Majesty, but today, the seedlings died.”
Li Lu was very clever and immediately understood, “So, Master, you think that the real expert behind the Huang family’s breeding is still Miss Ten?”
Di Yiqiu glanced at him sideways with an expression that seemed to say, “What do you think?”
Li Lu’s scalp tightened even more, and now he felt tense all over. He said, “So, master, you mean…”
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Ignoring the servants of the Huang family who tried to stop him, he made his way to Huang Rang’s small courtyard. The maid couldn’t stop him, so she had to invite him into the hall to wait for tea and then inform Huang Rang.
Huang Rang was already dissatisfied with being interrupted during her practice, and when she heard that it was someone from the Celestial Court, she let out a cold laugh.
Without even changing her dress, she came to the main hall in her training attire. Li Lu had a smiling face but a troubled heart. He stood up and bowed deeply, saying, “Greetings, Miss Huang; I am Li Lu.”
This time, he was indeed very polite.
Huang Rang’s lips twitched, maintaining a half-smile that didn’t reach her eyes. She said, “So, Deputy Li, did His Highness send you? Have you suddenly remembered that you want to punish this disrespectful little girl?”
Uh… Li Lu smiled apologetically and said, “Miss Huang is joking. Our Chief… the Chief regrets his actions deeply and asks for your forgiveness. Lately, he has been restless all day and night. He specifically sent me to bring some gifts as an apology.”
After saying that, he raised his hand, and someone naturally brought in a sandalwood box.
Huang Rang didn’t open it. She smiled as she looked at Li Lu and asked, “So, His Highness is apologizing to me through this?”
The Chief was still too young. Li Lu sighed inwardly and said, “Exactly. The Chief deeply regrets his mistakes and implores the young lady to forgive him.”
Only then did Huang Rang casually open the sandalwood box, inside of which was a pearl crown. Li Lu quickly said, “This is a pearl crown personally crafted by our Chief, and it is especially gifted to Miss Huang.”
Huang Rang picked up the pearl crown. It must be said that although Di Yiqiu was also known as the “First Dog,” his craftsmanship was indeed impeccable. After examining it for a few moments, she suddenly said, “Dai Yue caused trouble?”
“Ah? Ah!” Li Lu’s heart sank. Miss Huang’s intelligence was truly extraordinary. Thinking of this, he felt even more worried for his ‘His Highness.’ He hurriedly said, “This… this…”
Huang Rang turned the pearl crown in her hand and said, “This pearl crown is exquisitely crafted.”
Li Lu quickly said, “The Chief is a well-known master craftsman. The items he personally makes are always sought-after by many. This pearl crown has never been offered to any high-ranking lady despite the high prices they have offered, which shows how precious it is. Now, it is presented to Miss Huang as a sincere apology.”
“Sincere apology?!” Huang Rang casually threw the pearl crown back into the box and coldly smiled, “If it’s a sincere apology, let His Highness come in person!”
Li Lu felt a bit embarrassed.
But fortunately, ‘His Highness’ wasn’t too surprised.
Li Lu wasted no time and immediately set off for the Capital after receiving the message. Although the journey from the capital to Xiancha Town was long, being members of the Immortal Sect meant they could cover vast distances quickly with the use of teleportation scrolls.
Thus, “His Highness the Eighty-Sixth” found himself back in Huang Rang’s small courtyard after noon.
After they took their seats as host and guest, “His Highness the Eighty-Sixth” assumed a serious demeanor, exuding an air of authority. He began, “Last time, your open insult to me was a grave offense. According to the law, the punishment could range from the exile of the entire family to the confiscation of property.” Unaware of Li Lu’s humble nature, he maintained the attitude of a high-ranking court official and added, “However, I am willing to overlook your first offense.”
Huang Rang played along, smiling, and said, “Your magnanimity is truly admirable. May I ask the reason for your visit this time?”
Di Yiqiu’s facial muscles twitched, and he continued, “I have always been lenient towards the Huang family. However, your servant, Dai Yue, has committed a serious crime this time, and I may not be able to protect her. If this matter is not resolved properly, the entire Huang family might suffer the consequences. By then, well, it won’t be just exile.”
“Oh?” In the face of the threat, Huang Rang remained composed and even appeared slightly amused. She calmly sipped her tea and asked, “I wonder what grave crime Dai Yue has committed to warrant such severity?”
“It is indeed a grave offense.” Huang Rang took another sip of tea, sighing lightly. “Ah, if His Majesty himself summoned her, her crime would indeed be deserving of capital punishment.”
“Hmm, you speak the truth,” His Highness the Eighty-Sixth replied. “If you can rectify the situation promptly, there might still be hope for the Huang family. Otherwise, don’t blame me for acting without leniency.”
—Damn, how dare he play games with me?! He might as well drink my bathwater!
Huang Rang nodded solemnly and said, “You are right, and I understand. At this point, please present the breeding contract as evidence. If it proves that the Huang family deserves punishment or extermination, then there is nothing more to say.”
“What… what contract?” Di Yiqiu hesitated.
Huang Rang was surprised and said, “Of course, it’s the breeding contract signed between His Majesty or the court and the Huang family. I won’t hide it from you, but for the past few years, most of the Huang family’s transactions have been handled by me. Each transaction has a legally binding contract. Since the court wanted the Huang family to cultivate rare tree species, there must be evidence, right?”
“This…” The esteemed Chief was at a loss.
Seeing his confusion, Huang Rang’s expression turned serious as she asked, “Could it be that His Highness the Eighty-Sixth made a secret agreement with the servant, Dai Yue, and conducted unauthorized dealings with the Huang family? Is that why the evidence is being concealed?”
Her tone softened again. “Your Highness, Dai Yue is a servant and not permitted to engage in private cultivation. This is a well-known rule. If you don’t abide by the rules and now things have gone awry, causing such a negative impact on the Huang family’s reputation, how can this be resolved?”
The esteemed Chief touched his nose, looking as if he had just drunk five bowls of bathwater. He then changed his demeanor and smiled gently, saying, “Miss, you are not only beautiful but also exceptionally intelligent. I truly admire you.”
Huang Rang smiled sweetly and gently and said, “I’m flattered. I fear that one day His Highness the Eighty-Sixth might suddenly want to marry another lady and then ‘coincidentally’ propose to me. That wouldn’t be good.”
…This woman surely holds a grudge! The esteemed Chief grumbled inwardly but maintained his smile, saying, “I apologize for my oversight.”
Now that he realizes his mistake? Huang Rang shifted her posture and said, “You’re too kind. His Highness the Eighty-Sixth comes from a noble background; how could he apologize to someone as insignificant as me?”
The esteemed Chief looked around and, seeing no one else present, let out a sigh of relief. “I wonder how Miss would like me to apologize to you and extinguish this flame in your heart?”
This is truly demeaning. But since no one else can see it, he can just pretend it didn’t happen.
Huang Rang took another slow sip of tea. You dog! Do you submit or not? Huh? Do you submit or not?
She spoke softly: “How dare I accept such an apology? I know the honorable Chief is skilled in handicrafts and can weave flower strings with ice silk and coral pearls. I saw one of your creations and was quite taken with it. So, I thought of asking His Highness for a reward.”
This is just too easy.
His Highness the Eighty-Sixth hurriedly said, “It’s just a small effort!”
Huang Rang smiled sweetly and gently. “Since it’s just a small effort, then please have His Highness weave five hundred strings.” She added thoughtfully, “After all, there are many girls in the Huang family, and if there aren’t enough ropes, they might not be evenly distributed.” Since you enjoy weaving so much, just weave enough!
Five… five hundred strings…
But when you have to ask for help, what can you do? His Highness the Eighty-Sixth gritted his teeth and reluctantly said, “Fine!”
——A true man can bend and stretch!
That night, Huang Rang followed Di Yiqiu into the capital.
Evidently, the esteemed Chief didn’t have enough horse carriages for swift travel at this moment, so he used teleportation scrolls provided by the Yuhu Immortal Sect. Although fast, they were costly.
Huang Rang wasn’t accustomed to using the scroll. When a bright light flashed, her vision turned white, and she felt dizzy and unsteady on her feet. She leaned on the esteemed Chief’s arm, feeling its strength support her like a mountain.
Once she regained her balance, she let go and couldn’t help but think, “This dog can really make you feel safe.”
Outside the teleportation array, four people from the Vermillion Bird Bureau, judging by their emblems, were waiting. They all bowed to Di Yiqiu, “Esteemed Chief.”
Di Yiqiu nodded, released his arm, and said, “Dai Yue has been placed in a palace garden. I’ll take Miss there.”
However, Huang Rang had other plans. She left the Vermillion Bird Bureau and headed towards the Black Tortoise Bureau.
Di Yiqiu had no choice but to follow her, saying, “The Double Snake Fruit is urgently demanded by His Majesty. We can’t delay.”
Unconvinced, Huang Rang mumbled, “Even if it’s urgent, it can’t be that urgent.”
“His Majesty’s command cannot be disobeyed. If you’re negligent like this, it’s clearly disrespecting the court.” The esteemed Chief intended to intimidate her again.
Huang Rang finally spoke her mind: “I can’t stand your damn teleportation scroll.”
After saying that, she covered her mouth and hurried a few steps away, holding onto a tree pole as she started to vomit.
The esteemed Chief: “…”
Well, it seemed that even if she entered the palace tonight, she wouldn’t be able to accomplish anything.
The esteemed Chief waited for her to finish, intending to lead her to a guest room. However, Huang Rang walked ahead on her own, her head still spinning and her steps unsteady. She had indeed neglected her martial arts for many years.
She yawned, feeling annoyed and disgusted, her head throbbing. She arrived in front of a bedroom and pushed the door open without hesitation. The furniture and bed inside looked familiar. There was also a partitioned area with a bath bucket—Huang Rang knew this place too well.
She walked a few steps in, sat down on the bed, and said, “After I check the seedlings, I will make a list of the tree species that need to be replenished. I haven’t seen the Double Snake Fruit before, so I’ll need information about it from the archives.”
Di Yiqiu naturally bent down to help her remove her shoes and socks, saying, “You don’t need to worry about these matters; the palace’s Fu Gonggong will take care of them.”
Huang Rang hummed in agreement, feeling a cool sensation on her feet. She looked down and saw that Di Yiqiu had already taken off both her embroidered shoes and neatly placed them by the bed. Her left foot’s sock was also removed as he held her right foot, untying the sock’s strings.
Huang Rang widened her eyes, realizing suddenly that this was Di Yiqiu’s bedroom! She had gotten too used to the habits of the dream world!
However, Di Yiqiu seemed even more shocked. Holding her sock, he looked at her face and then at her foot. The esteemed Chief, who was so dignified, was now flustered. Huang Rang lifted her leg and delivered a sneaky kick, making him fall backward.
—He was so stunned that he couldn’t even react; otherwise, it wouldn’t have come to this.
Di Yiqiu almost fled out the door, while Huang Rang, disregarding her bare feet, jumped off the bed. She ran a few steps to the door and slammed it shut with a bang, almost squashing the esteemed Chief’s nose.
He stood outside the door for a long time, finding it hard to believe—how could he have taken off her shoes and socks for her? And more terrifyingly, if Huang Rang hadn’t stopped him, he might have even taken off her clothes and hung them up.
Doing such lowly things, it was as if he had unknowingly become subservient in front of her?
The esteemed Chief walked to the study, lowering his head to see that he was still clutching one of Huang Rang’s socks.
The esteemed Chief swore to the heavens that he had no peculiar fetishes. However, that sock made of dense white satin with two ribbons tied around it smelled alluring when held in his hand. Coupled with the memory of the delicate foot that had almost been transparent kicking him in the chest earlier, the esteemed Chief found himself somewhat distracted.
—It was truly puzzling.
He sat behind the desk, attempting to focus on handling some official documents to distract himself from the awkward situation. However, the letters and papers suddenly became unbearably dull.
He picked up a book and read through it for a while, but the words on the pages meant nothing to him as his mind was filled with the warmth of the foot that had kicked him.
After a while, he simply tossed the documents aside and decided to lie down in the study for the night.
However, no matter how much he turned and tossed, the esteemed Chief couldn’t find any sleep. He wondered whether the beauty in the room was asleep or not. He picked up a page of the talisman blueprint and turned it over, his mind lingering on the beauty’s allure, and absentmindedly doodled with a charcoal pencil.
In the end, he glanced at the white silk stockings at the corner of the table and spent the night sleepless.
Huang Rang sat on the familiar bed and felt quite content.
This place was not as magnificent as the few days she had seen outside the dream world; at least the curtains around the bed were not as elaborate. However, the furnishings here were extremely simple, almost unchanged from a hundred years earlier.
It gave her a sense of dislocation.
Huang Rang lay down on the bed, which was quite clean with neatly arranged pillows and bedding. There were no other items around, but after experiencing those few days in the dream world, she didn’t mind at all.
She pulled the blanket over herself and closed her eyes.
—There’s really nothing to be embarrassed about, right? After all, outside the dream world, the esteemed Chief not only took off her socks but also helped her put on pants. He even fetched her five buckets… Oh well, forget about it. Seriously, forget it.
Huang Rang stretched her limbs and arranged herself into a sprawling position. Due to her dizziness, she fell asleep shortly after.
The sound of the water clock echoed in the room, and the candlelight flickered. Surprisingly, she slept quite soundly throughout the night.