The Imperial Palace’s East Garden
Fu Gonggong handed the withered Double Snake Fruits to Huang Rang and provided relevant literature about the tree. Then he took the procurement list given by Huang Rang and went off to make the purchases.
He was genuinely anxious. After all, these precious trees were personally entrusted by the Emperor, and now they had withered under his care. What a disgrace!
If blame were to be assigned, Dai Yue would certainly bear the brunt of it, and he wouldn’t be spared either.
In the courtyard, the sunlight was just right.
Huang Rang sat on a reclining chair, perusing the literature. Dai Yue stood by, lowering her head, hesitant to speak.
After a moment, Huang Ran asked, “Dai Yue, do you ever dream?”
“Dream?” Dai Yue felt uneasy; her tone was uncertain. “I’m not sure what Miss means. If you refer to dreams during sleep, then, of course, everyone experiences them.”
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Twydt Sydt dseele yde nsdvkdwle, “R bye y ealyx sdnl. Rd vbl ealyx, vblal oyp y xyd R zkjle, cwv bl ekpyrrashle sq xu cynjtaswde. Ms okd bkp qyhsa, R oldv vs talyv zldtvbp.”
Pyk Zwl zkpvldle, qllzkdt rlarzlmle, cwv pbl eked’v eyal vs kdvlaawrv. Twydt Sydt oldv sd, “Ohldvwyzzu, R xydytle vs okd bkx shla, cwv bl pvkzz eswcvle yde plnalvzu kdhlpvktyvle lhlauvbkdt ycswv xl. Mbswtb R bye nsdnlyzle vbkdtp olzz, y xyke kd xu assx, kd lmnbydtl qsa bla qallesx, lmyttlayvle yde tsppkrle ycswv nlavykd xyvvlap, obknb pbl vbld vsze bkx.”
“Tso nswze pwnb y rlapsd cl kd uswa assx?” Pyk Zwl oyp nsdqwple, yp kv oyp sdzu y ealyx; eke vblu byhl vs vyjl kv plakswpzu?
“Rv’p vawl. Fs, kd vbl lde, vbyv ealyx zlqv xl qllzkdt xkplayczl. R vakle xu clpv vs taypr vbl xssd kd vbl oyvla, cwv kd vbl lde, R oyp zlqv lxrvu yde qwzz sq psaaso.”
Pyk Zwl nswzed’v iwkvl taypr vbl xlydkdt clbkde Twydt Sydt’p osaep yde nswze sdzu pyu, “Ykpp xwpv byhl clld shlavbkdjkdt, obknb nywple pwnb y ealyx. El yal yzz elhsvle vs Ykpp okvbswv ydu wzvlaksa xsvkhlp. Sltyaekdt vbkp xyvvla, R nswzed’v kdqsax Ykpp ewl vs vbl watldv kxrlakyz elnall. Vzlypl alpv yppwale, R yx ycpszwvlzu zsuyz vs Ykpp, yp nzlya yp vbl pwd yde xssd.”
Fllkdt vbyv Twydt Sydt oyp wdxshle, Pyk Zwl jdlzv sd vbl taswde, rskdvkdt vs vbl pju, yde pszlxdzu elnzyale, “Xhla vblpl ulyap, Ykpp byp valyvle xl okvb vbl wvxspv jkdedlpp yde tldlaspkvu. R polya, kq R lhla byhl vbl pzktbvlpv kzz kdvldvksd vsoyaep Ykpp, zlv xl ekl y xkplayczl elyvb. Rq Ykpp pwprlnvp xl, zlv xl cl jkzzle, ps vbyv usw nyd qkde rlynl sq xkde.”
“Rp kv vbyv plakswp?” Twydt Sydt nbwnjzle, tlpvwakdt qsa bla vs tlv wr. “R’x vkale. Kwpv alye vs xl.”
Pyk Zwl qlzv alzklhle vbyv Twydt Sydt eked’v czyxl bla. Fbl rknjle wr vbl cssj yde cltyd alyekdt ycswv vbl saktkdp sq vbl Pswczl Fdyjl Wawkvp.
Huang Rang closed her eyes, gradually understanding the nature of these Double Snake Fruits. They were originally venomous exotic trees guarded by the Hui Serpents. Each Double Snake Fruit seedling had to be coated with the venom of Hui Serpents to survive.
However, Hui Serpents were now extremely rare, making the Double Snake Fruits naturally scarce.
Furthermore, these Double Snake Fruits were nurtured by the venom of the Hui Serpents. They blossomed every thirty years and only bore fruit after another thirty years.
Each time they bore fruit, there were two fruits: one black and one white. The black fruit was highly poisonous, and every time a Hui Serpent consumed a black fruit, it would gain a new snake pattern, enhancing its cultivation. The white fruit, on the other hand, could neutralize any poison in the world. Whenever the Twin Serpent Fruits bore fruit, the Hui Serpents would destroy the white fruit and leave only the white fruit’s core.
The entire Double Snake Fruit tree could only be grown from the core of the white fruit. Once the Hui Serpent had offspring, the old Hui Serpent would give the white fruit core to the young Hui Serpent and drive it away from the nest.
As Huang Rang listened to Dai Yue, she suddenly remembered another incident—when Di Yiqiu mentioned a past event at the White Bone Cliff.
Miao Yunzhi traveled to the capital, and the Emperor sought advice from him in search of immortality. Miao Yunzhi mocked the emperor and said, “Mortal beings have a predetermined lifespan, while exotic beasts can live for thousands of years. It is said that there are vipers with boundless longevity in the world. Your Majesty wants to seek immortality; why not take the blood of a viper to reshape your body and extend your life?”
This seemingly innocuous remark caused a hundred years of calamity.
Now, the question was whether the Double Snake Fruits had any connection to that incident.
Feeling uneasy, Huang Rang couldn’t hold back any longer and said, “Go to the Celestial Court and ask the Chief to come over when he’s available.”
Dai Yue put down the book, mentioning Di Yiqius name, feeling somewhat uneasy. Di Yiqiu had originally set a marriage date for her. However, in this situation, the marriage might now be in jeopardy.
She responded, “I will go immediately,” and left the East Garden.
Di Yiqiu ordered Bai Qingyun to take Huang Rang into the palace. He returned to his bedroom and prepared to change into his official robe. The bed was tidy, as if no one had slept in it. But just thinking about the woman who had slept here last night, the Chief found himself not particularly disgusted.
However, when he recalled being pushed against the wall by her earlier, he felt an obstruction in his throat.
Even though he had been stripped of his noble status by the royal family, he was born with a sense of nobility. In his life, most of the people he encountered were attendants and subordinates. Among them were countless women, but they all behaved obediently in front of him. Even the noblewomen strictly adhered to the rules of propriety.
Who would dare act so frivolously in front of him?
Moreover, the Chief was skilled in forging, which he had learned on his own before seeking out famous masters. Later, when he failed to gain support from the immortal sects, he knew that the imperial power was weak. He noticed his exceptional talent for craftsmanship and sought out renowned masters.
He had spent most of his life at the Foundry Bureau.
There were no women there. Later, he finally met Zhu Xiang, who also forged iron. Di Yiqiu had never thought that there was any difference between men and women. So he didn’t accommodate women or try to please them.
Naturally, he had no women.
Then he met Huang Rang.
At first glance, he didn’t feel much except that she was more beautiful. But as the Chief, who had been forging for many years, could see through appearances,
He was polite to Huang Rang because of her breeding skills. The court suffered every year from a lack of good breeds, incurring significant expenses. The Chief
The Celestial Court was always good at calculations.
—If he could marry a talented earth spirit who excelled in breeding, wouldn’t he save on these expenses?
Of course, whether he liked her or not was not a big deal.
What was the difference between women around the world? If he married her, he would treat her well. No matter how beautiful a woman might be, what could compare to a fascinating craft? So, whether he liked her or not didn’t matter.
So he went to Xiancha Town and later found out that this skill came from Dai Yue. He immediately turned to ask Dai Yue to be his concubine, and he didn’t care at all about offending Huang Rang.
Now, it seemed that Dai Yue’s breeding ability couldn’t be compared to Huang Rang’s. The Chief no longer had any intention of marrying Dai Yue. He didn’t feel guilty, as his approach to people was similar to that of forging, distinguishing between form and function.
But since yesterday, he has started to feel uneasy.
As a master craftsman, it wasn’t a big deal to be lost in thought. However, becoming tongue-tied and preoccupied with thoughts was quite unusual.
Over the night, he seemed to suddenly realize that not all women were the same.
Perhaps Huang Rang was right, and he really hadn’t seen enough women. But as a master craftsman, how could he allow himself to be ignorant? Moreover, to be ridiculed?
After lunch, the Chief called the two deputy chiefs and four junior deputies to his study.
Li Lu, Bao Wu, Bai Qingyun, Tan Qi, Zhu Xiang, and Zong Zifu quickly arrived and stood respectfully, waiting for their superior’s instructions. Di Yiqiu sat behind the desk, tapping his fingers on the tabletop bone joints for a while before saying, “Go out for lunch.”
This is great news… Li Lu and the others exchanged glances. After all, Di Yiqiu was not one to socialize. Even when he ate, he mostly dined at the canteen. When had he ever invited guests?
Li Lu had to ask, “May I ask, Master, are we going to Tai Bai Lou or Shi Mo Fang for lunch?”
Di Yiqiu didn’t drink alcohol, as he always believed that it would affect the dexterity and stability of his hands. Naturally, Li Lu suggested two places with excellent dishes. However, to their surprise, Di Yiqiu said, “We’re going to Bao Qin Hall.”
“Bao… Bao Qin Hall…” Now, not only Li Lu but everyone else wore strange expressions.
After a while, Bai Qingyun sympathetically reminded him, “Master, Bao Qin Hall…is…”
Before he could finish, Di Yiqiu interjected, “But there are many young ladies there, right?”
Ah? Bai Qingyun had to steel himself and say, “Indeed.” Then he quickly defended his superior, saying, “We’re afraid that such a disreputable place might disturb the master’s refined tastes.”
The others nodded repeatedly; of course, no one would tell the truth.
—Everyone knew that the Chief handled government affairs during the day and immersed himself in forging at night. Since he hadn’t married yet, if he encountered something shocking, it wouldn’t be good.
But upon hearing this,Di Yiqiu said, “No, today I want to visit this place.”
!! Li Lu and the others couldn’t help but look out the window—had the sun risen in the west today? The Chief had suddenly had a breakthrough.
Next to them, Zhu Xiang weakly asked, “Why would the master go to such a place?”
She hit the nail on the head with her question. The others all looked at Di Yiqiu.
The Chief looked solemn as he said, “To gain insight into women.”
Alright… Alright. He had really grown up… But if you want to go, can’t you go discreetly? Why did you have to take us along…
Li Lu gritted his teeth and said, “We…are willing to accompany you.” Then he turned to Bai Qingyun and ordered, “Go to Bao Qin Hall immediately and make proper arrangements!”
Bai Qingyun understood immediately. He quickly stood up and left. Only Zhu Xiang looked helpless and said softly, “But why do I have to go with you to gain insight into women? If I had that time, I could undress myself and have all the insights I need!”
Of course, no one paid her any attention.
—Did you all forget that I’m also a woman! Zhu Xiang felt desperate.
In the afternoon, Bao Qin Hall announced that it was closed to the public due to the arrival of an esteemed guest.
The identity of the esteemed guest wasn’t disclosed to the public.
However, not long after, a carriage from the Celestial Court arrived outside the hall. Chief Di Yiqiu arrived with his capable subordinates, ready to broaden their horizons together. Li Lu and Bao Wu accompanied him on both sides, and even Bao Wu was deeply moved: “Our Chief has really grown up. Back when I first met him, he was only this tall…” He gestured a height below his thigh and continued, “Now, he can lead us here.”
Li Lu immediately glared at him and said, “Deputy Bao!”
Bao Wu stopped talking.
The two deputy chiefs and four junior deputies were hesitant to follow their superior to such a place.
Everyone sat down at the table, and the host came to serve them. The wine and dishes were all first-class.
But it didn’t escape the Chief’s scrutiny. He asked, “Why aren’t there any young ladies?”
Wow, very direct!
Although this was the host’s first time receiving such an esteemed guest, she liked this straightforward approach! Besides, this guest was so handsome; one of the girls tonight would be lucky. She smiled and said, “Since the Chief has come, how could I dare to be negligent? Today’s guest is none other than the renowned master craftsman in the court. Whether you catch his eye or not will depend on your abilities, girls!”
As she finished speaking, many girls suddenly appeared on the second floor. Bao Qin Hall was different from the typical red-light district; its atmosphere was elegant. Though the girls’ attire was refreshing, each one had her own unique charm, and they weren’t overly made-up.
Everyone went downstairs and stood in a row in the hall.
Di Yiqiu personally came over, and the host didn’t hold back either; all the girls in the building were present.
With a beaming smile, the host said, “Today, we’ll see who’s the most fortunate. Chief, you should choose someone you like first.”
The girls all had almond-shaped eyes filled with spring-like charm. After observing for a while, the Chief pointed his finger and said, “This one!”
“Alright!” The host was about to invite the chosen girl forward, but Di Yiqiu suddenly added, “Also her, and her…and her…” Oh my goodness, he picked twelve of them in one breath.
The host was a little stunned, so she looked at Bai Qingyun.
Bai Qingyun was also surprised—what…what…this was quite impressive.
He coughed lightly and reminded him, “Chief, will this…be too many?”
Di Yiqiu’s expression remained serious as he said, “I came here to broaden my horizons. A mere dozen girls are still too few.”
The host saw how direct he was, so there was no need for politeness anymore. She said, “The guest rooms are upstairs. Why don’t Chief take them upstairs and…broaden your horizons?”
“Alright.” The Chief nodded and led the twelve girls upstairs.
The next time he saw that woman, he would not be mocked again. Hmph.
It was strange; he had never cared about others’ opinions before. But now he hoped to be “well-informed” and gain that woman’s respect.
Li Lu, Bao Wu, and the others exchanged glances, and the hall fell silent.
After a while, Bao Wu murmured, “Our Chief really is…showing off his prowess like a young calf shaking its tail.”