Dai Yue was sent by Huang Rang to find Di Yiqiu. The guards knew that the chief was not present, but they had heard of Dai Yue’s name and knew about her engagement with the chief. Therefore, they treated her with respect and invited her to wait in the Huating Hall of the Black Tortoise Bureau.
Dai Yue was already feeling anxious, and at this moment, she overheard two young children talking softly outside.
The children’s voices were hushed, but Dai Yue was half-fox demon, so she sharpened her ears to listen carefully. She heard Child A say, “I heard that the lady in the Huating Hall is going to be our chief’s future wife.”
Child B disagreed, saying, “They’re not married yet, so it doesn’t really count.”
“Why wouldn’t it count? The chief is planning to propose to her soon,” Child A argued.
Listening to their debate, Dai Yue had a faint smile on her face. At least everyone knew that she was Di Yiqiu’s fiancée. She relished this identity. However, just then, Child B said something that shook Dai Yue to her core: “Don’t you know that Miss Huang Rang slept in the chief’s room last night?”
Those few words hit Dai Yue like a bolt of lightning, shattering her heart on the spot.
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— Zlpvlaeyu dktbv, Twydt Sydt pzlrv kd Pk Zkikw’p assx. Mbld vblu olal vstlvbla…
Pyk Zwl oypd’v dykhl; pbl jdlo obu Pk Zkikw oydvle vs rasrspl vs bla. Eyp kv clnywpl bl elpkale bla clywvu? Tso nswze vbyv cl rsppkczl?!
Mbl Ulzlpvkyz Uswav oyp wdela kxrlakyz awzl, yde obyv xyvvlale xspv vs vbl nswav oyp vbl olzz-clkdt sq vbl rlsrzl yde vbl pvyckzkvu sq vbl jkdtesx. Tldnl, vbl nswav plyanble qsa lmrlavp kd ytaknwzvwal lhlau ulya, pszlzu vs ldpwal qsse rasewnvksd yde vbl dyvksd’p pvyckzkvu.
Pk Zkikw’p elnkpksd vs rasrspl vs bla oyp pszlzu cyple sd hyzwkdt bla yckzkvklp kd ytaknwzvwal.
Pyk Zwl eked’v nyal kq Pk Zkikw bye svbla osxld; bso nswze pbl lmrlnv bkx vs byhl sdzu bla? Gp zsdt yp pbl nswze xyaau bkx, pbl nswze calyj qall qasx pzyhlau. Rv oyp clvvla vbyd clkdt y plahydv kd vbl Twydt qyxkzu qsa bla ldvkal zkql.
Fs, kq Pk Zkikw bye svbla osxld cu bkp pkel, pbl nswze ynnlrv kv. Jwv wdqsavwdyvlzu, vbkp osxyd oyp Twydt Sydt!
Pyk Zwl nzldnble bla qkpvp, bla dykzp ekttkdt kdvs bla ryzxp, nywpkdt czsse vs pllr swv, cwv pbl qlzv ds rykd.
Jlnywpl bla blyav oyp czllekdt.
If that person were Miss Ten, what chance would she have?
Over the years, she knew very well how her reputation had been earned.
Huang Rang was stunning, elegant, and, most importantly, she was not foolish. Even the breeding abilities that Di Yiqiu sought were actually Huang Rang’s. As for herself? She was nothing more than a servant to her!
What could she use to compete with her?
Dai Yue felt as if she had lost all sense; even her heart was beginning to ache.
She had yearned and hoped, eagerly anticipating that her happiness was within reach, but it was snatched away from her in the end. When he was pleased, he bestowed her with an empty title, and when he was dissatisfied, he could effortlessly take away the one she loved.
Must she resign herself to this fate?
She lowered her head, remaining silent for a long time.
If one wanted to live a fulfilling life, they always had to come up with some strategies.
—Ah, these words were spoken by Huang Rang when she was young.
Dai Yue looked around the hall and even at the vast world outside. She made a firm decision, pulling out the hairpin from her hair. The tip of the hairpin was sharp, and she tightly gripped it in her hand, hesitated for a moment, and then rolled up her sleeves.
She clenched her lips tightly and drew a deep line on her arm.
Meanwhile, at the Bao Qin Hall.
The chief walked into the room on the second floor, where twelve beautiful women usually practiced their skills in bone-picking and marrow-sucking. However, they were feeling rather uneasy now. It was not because of shyness, but rather the fear that this handsome young man in front of them might not be able to handle them.
Most of these young noblemen were frail, and the young man before them still looked somewhat naive. What if he accidentally died in their presence? This was not something to be taken lightly.
Thus, they were all exercising some restraint.
The chief sat down by the table, and the twelve young ladies stood in a row, staring at him intently. The scene was reminiscent of a pack of wolves surrounding a young lamb that had not even reached its first month.
Yet the little lamb seemed completely unaware and asked, “Why are you all standing so far away? Come closer!”
Everyone was taken aback. This fellow wasn’t afraid of death; he was truly a hero! So the twelve young ladies rushed forward, about to display their skills cultivated over many years. However, the chief caught sight of the leading lady, Bieyun.
Bieyun slightly pulled down her collar, revealing a tattoo on her shoulder. Though it was partly concealed, what kind of eyes did the chief have? He saw it at a glance and immediately furrowed his brows, asking, “What is this?”
“This?” Bieyun raised her slender index finger and adjusted the veil to reveal her skin, as smooth as creamy jade. Under the snow-white skin, a peony flower appeared, looking even more enchanting and tempting. Her voice was gentle enough to wring water: “Dear, can you see it clearly?”
Could the chief see it clearly? He was practically frowning at it—what kind of tattoo was this?!
“Rudimentary technique, vulgar taste!” The chief found it increasingly unpleasant to look at, feeling like there was a grain of sand in his eyes, causing discomfort. He immediately took out a silver needle, grabbed Bieyun’s arm, and pulled down her veil, ready to modify the tattoo on her body.
Bieyun screamed in shock, shouting repeatedly, “Sir… Sir, please don’t!”
The other women were filled with fear upon witnessing this. Their livelihoods heavily relied on their appearance. If their skin was ruined, it would be disastrous. They wanted to escape, but they knew this young man had high status and authority, and they were afraid of his wrath.
As a result, the other eleven women huddled together while Bieyun looked at them with despair, crying and begging for mercy.
In the hall, Li Lu was still concerned—these little fairies better not devour the chief. He hesitated for a while before deciding to go upstairs to check on them. However, as soon as he reached the second floor, he heard the women in the room next door begging for mercy.
Li Lu touched his nose and had no choice but to go back downstairs.
By this time, Bieyun’s cries had grown louder. She had begun screaming, “Mother, save me.” The Hall owner was completely stunned; how could she possibly go and save her? Everyone in the hall was feeling uneasy.
In the room on the second floor…
The chief finally managed to modify the peony tattoo after much effort. Bieyun couldn’t see the final result clearly and could only weep while looking helplessly at her eleven sisters.
The other women gathered around her, examining her fragrant shoulders. There, the peony that was originally slanted had been enhanced by the chief, making it even more enchanting and lively. Moreover, beneath the peony, the petals fell one by one, seemingly disappearing into her chest.
When Bieyun struggled earlier, these petals were bright purple. But as she gradually calmed down, the petals became lighter and then disappeared, one after another.
With this modification, she could remain alluring for a lifetime!
The other eleven girls’ gazes suddenly changed!
So when Bai Qingyun arrived, he heard the girls playfully complaining, “The chief is so biased, only doting on Bieyun! We want…”
Bai Qingyun touched his nose and went downstairs.
In the room, the other girls didn’t have tattoos. The chief had to draw the sketches with charcoal. He was a genuine craftsman and paid great attention to details. Even if these girls were from the Red Light District, since he had agreed, there was no room for negligence.
By the time he finished drawing the sketches of all twelve girls, it was already the early hours of the morning.
After working for so long, the chief’s face was showing signs of fatigue, and standing for too long made his hands tremble and his feet weak. The twelve girls were satisfied and accompanied him out with contented expressions on their faces.
The Hall owner had been anxiously waiting, and now that she saw the chief alive and well, she let out a sigh of relief.
Li Lu and the others had stayed up all night. When they surrounded the chief, no one spoke—what was there to ask?
The chief waved his hand and said, “I’m tired; I’ll return first. You all can do as you please.”
No one objected to his decision. With twelve of them, even if it were an ox, it would have collapsed by now. Li Lu was considerate and suggested, “If you’re really exhausted, you can rest for another day.”
As soon as he said this, the twelve girls around the chief’s side brightened up. They chimed in, “That’s right, sir, you should rest first. Our other sisters also want…”
“No need!” Before they finished speaking, the chief immediately rejected the idea. It was his first time doing such a task for someone, and he even got paid for it in the end. Why would he stay any longer? It was a loss, hmph.
Bai Qingyun supported him, fearing that he might fall. “Master, are you alright?”
“Exhausted and fatigued, it’s truly tiring.” The chief summarized his experience, looking weary, and walked out of the Bao Qin hall, heading away.
The other girls accompanied him to the door, reluctant to part. Seeing the affectionate gazes, some of the men wanted to ask in detail, but they couldn’t bring themselves to do so.
Finally, Zhu Xiang asked, “How is our chief doing?”
The way you ask… The men turned away, pretending not to hear anything. However, their ears unconsciously perked up. The twelve girls heard the question and displayed a peculiar smile on their faces.
“Your chief…” The girls blushed, appearing shy yet content. Although nobody said anything specific, they ran away, giggling and laughing.
The big shots were all greatly shocked.
Of course, not long after, the value of the Bao Qin Hall’s twelve flowers skyrocketed. However, these twelve beauties didn’t forget the chief and were determined to make him renowned as a token of gratitude.
Thus, the entire capital was filled with the legendary tale that “The chief has a precious treasure that he always wraps around his waist to avoid harmful situations.”
As soon as the chief returned, someone informed him that Dai Yue had come.
Di Yiqiu was slightly taken aback upon hearing her name. Considering that Huang Rang had just entered the palace today, Dai Yue’s visit was likely related to the matter of the Double snake fruit trees. He hurried to the Huating Hall, and upon seeing him, Dai Yue greeted him.
Di Yiqiu asked, “Did Miss Ten send you?”
As expected, he was questioning her from the very beginning.
Suppressing her grief, Dai Yue replied, “The Miss Ten… asked the Lord Di to come over this evening.”
She dared not openly defy Huang Rang’s words.
Although Di Yiqiu was tired, upon hearing her response, he still answered, “I’ll go over shortly.”
Dai Yue lowered her head and nodded. Seeing that he had nothing else to say, she finally said, “Lord Di, about the matter with the Double snake fruit… I’m sorry, it’s all my fault.” Tears streamed down her face as she spoke.
Di Yiqiu’s brows furrowed slightly, and he said, “This matter depends on whether your Miss Ten can save you. Even I cannot go against the emperor’s decree.”
Dai Yue quickly said, “Miss Ten will surely be able to.”
Di Yiqiu looked at her with an even more scrutinizing gaze. After a long silence, he asked, “There is one thing I’ve wanted to ask you.”
Dai Yue lowered her head, her wrist hidden in her sleeve. “Lord Di, please ask.”
Di Yiqiu asked in a deep voice, “Since the early years of Chengyuan, you have bred many excellent varieties. However, this time, you made a grave mistake. Dai Yue, in these years, who has really been doing the breeding, you or your Miss Ten? You must tell the truth about this.”
He finally asked.
Tears flowed down Dai Yue’s face, and with a helpless expression, she replied, “These… are all the accomplishments of Miss Ten, of course.”
Having said that, she turned to leave, but her right hand unconsciously pressed against her left arm. Blood had already soaked through her sleeve. Di Yiqiu noticed it and couldn’t help but ask, “What happened to your hand?”
Startled, Dai Yue quickly tried to hide the bloodstains and said, “It’s… it’s nothing!”
Di Yiqiu took a few steps forward and pulled up her sleeve, revealing a crisscross of wounds on her arm.
Dai Yue became even more flustered. She pushed his hand away and said, “Lord Di, I… I’ll go back first.”
Di Yiqiu furrowed his brows and asked, “What happened?”
Dai Yue seemed to hold back for a moment and then finally sat down on the ground, burying her head and crying in pain.
Once she cried for a while, Di Yiqiu said again, “Speak.”
Sniffling, Dai Yue said, “Because I secretly accepted the imperial decree to come to the capital. Then I made this mistake in haste. The Miss Ten was infuriated, and she… she… but Lord Di, she didn’t mean to. Although she occasionally scolds and hits her servants, this kind of injury is indeed my fault…”
Her voice grew sadder as she continued.
However, after crying for so long, no one present tried to comfort her.
Feeling uneasy, Dai Yue timidly raised her head to see Di Yiqiu’s expression, which was exhausted yet serious. She felt anxious and softly asked, “Lord Di… why are you looking at me like this?”
Di Yiqiu asked, “When did the Miss Ten punish you? With what tool? How did she make these wounds?”
“Eh… eh?” Dai Yue was startled, clearly having never thought that Di Yiqiu would ask such questions. Obviously, she greatly underestimated the precision of a master artisan.
This… no comforting words? Why is he interrogating her?
Caught off guard, Dai Yue stammered, “Just before I came here, she used… her hairpin… she grabbed my hand…”
Di Yiqiu extended his hand to her, and Dai Yue looked bewildered. Di Yiqiu said, “Reenact the case; don’t you understand?”
Ah, he wanted her to act as if she were Huang Rang, to reenact the scene when Huang Rang tortured her! Dai Yue was stunned for quite some time before she grasped Di Yiqiu’s arm and pretended to be Huang Rang. She then pretended to inflict a few scratches.
Di Yiqiu shook his head and said, “That’s not right.”
“How is that not right…” Dai Yue was about to say more, but seeing his demeanor as if he were interrogating a criminal made her courage waver.
Di Yiqiu said, “Your Miss Ten’s hairpin is a double-pronged hairpin, which doesn’t match the weapon used in the incident.”
Dai Yue hurriedly said, “I remembered wrong. The Miss used… my hairpin.”
Di Yiqiu continued, “Your Miss Ten practices martial arts. Although her skills are still shallow, her foundation is solid. If she were to strike, the force wouldn’t match.”
Dai Yue was shocked, and Di Yiqiu said, “The report said that you’ve been waiting here for a whole night. The timing of the wounds doesn’t match.”
…Dai Yue felt as if someone had slapped her hard across the face, leaving her without the strength to argue.
The chief didn’t give her a chance to explain further. He said, “You should be grateful you’re in the Black Tortoise Bureau and not the White Tiger Bureau.” With that, he waved his hand and added, “Go back and tell your Miss Ten that I’ll come over later.”
As Dai Yue left the Celestial Court, she felt dejected.
However, the most despairing thing awaited her. When she was leaving, she overheard some people discussing—saying that this afternoon, the chief visited the Bao Qin hall and was with twelve girls at once…
Imperial Palace, East Garden.
Huang Rang had thoroughly studied the Double snake fruit trees. She had ordered Fu Gonggong to purchase various tree seedlings and start breeding them. Fu Gonggong was apprehensive and remained in the East Garden, not leaving at all. Instead, Huang Rang comforted him while continuing her breeding work.
As a result, Fu Gonggong watched as the courtyard went from having only one pot to ten pots and finally over two hundred pots.
Although Huang Rang had been cultivating her martial arts skills in this dream, her breeding abilities were not neglected.
She did everything effortlessly and efficiently.
As the sky darkened, Dai Yue finally returned.
She looked distraught along the way, but when she entered the courtyard, she had to gather herself.
“Miss,” she approached Huang Rang, respectfully saying, “The message has been delivered. Lord Di said… he will come later.”
Huang Rang nodded and instructed her, “Move these pots to a shaded place.”
Dai Yue hurriedly went forward to move the flower pots, and Huang Rang noticed the bloodstains on her sleeve. “What happened to your hand?” she asked.
“It’s… it’s nothing,” Dai Yue panicked. “I accidentally fell when I was coming back.”
Huang Rang didn’t delve into it further because Di Yiqiu had promised to come today. She intended to prepare dinner.
Although she and Di Yiqiu weren’t close, she even felt uncomfortable calling him a friend. However, in this dream, she had nothing, and he was the only man busy around her. So she felt an inexplicable sense of familiarity.
Now that she had finally entered the dream again, she naturally felt a bit different about him.
There was a dedicated small kitchen in the East Garden, and Fu Gonggong didn’t dare neglect Huang Rang, so there were enough ingredients available.
Huang Rang quickly looked at the ingredients and soon decided on the dishes for this dinner.
Having taken care of Xie Hongchen for a hundred years, she was already skilled in these matters.
She quickly prepared four small dishes and a sweet soup. As long as that guy wasn’t too picky, he would be quite satisfied with this meal. Huang Rang pondered to herself.
However, that night, Di Yiqiu didn’t come.
Huang Rang waited for a while, then started eating alone. She remained calm and composed because such things had often happened on the Qilu Terrace before. She had learned how to handle it calmly.
When even disappointment became numb, what room was there for anger?
Rascal, don’t come then; consider yourself missing out!
Dai Yue stood by the side, and for some reason, she felt an inexplicable pleasure seeing Di Yiqiu’s broken promise. So, she intentionally spoke, “Miss, today I went to the Celestial Court, and people said… people said…”
Huang Rang asked, “What did they say?”
Dai Yue said, “They said that Lord Di was in the Bao Qin hall.. and was with over a dozen girls… Perhaps he’s exhausted, so he couldn’t come.”
As she spoke, she stole glances at Huang Rang’s expression, hoping to see her pain and disappointment. However, Huang Rang took a bite of the dish, sighed after a long time, and said, “I underestimated him, it seems.”
Of course, the chief had planned to come. However, just as he was about to leave, Xi gonggong hurriedly arrived, saying, “Chief, His Majesty has ordered you to bring the elite of the White Tiger Bureau and immediately follow us!”
Di Yiqiu furrowed his brow and asked, “What happened?”
Xi gonggong hurriedly said, “The spies have reported that the vipers have returned to their nests!”
Di Yiqiu clenched his hands for a while before saying, “Bring Bao Wu and the others with you to count the men and horses. We’ll leave the city!”
After speaking, he suddenly turned around and called out to Bai Qingyun, “Send a message to Miss Ten. Tell her I have something to attend to, and I won’t come today. I’ll visit her once I return to the city.”
Bai Qingyun understood and quickly responded, but he couldn’t help but remind him, “Chief, the vipers are highly venomous, please be careful.”
Di Yiqiu nodded and, accompanied by Bao Wu and the others, left the Celestial Court.
Imperial Palace, East Garden.
Huang Rang was nearly done with her meal when someone outside said, “Bai Qingyun greets Miss Ten.”
“Deputy Chief Bai?” Huang Rang was surprised. “What brings you here at this time?”
Bai Qingyun bowed and said, “Miss, Chief has received an imperial order to leave the city on official business. He specially sent me to inform you. He said the matter came up suddenly, and he will visit you after he returns to the city.”
“Ah?” Huang Rang was greatly surprised.
During the hundred years at the Qilu Terrace, she had become accustomed to Xie Hongchen not responding. If he didn’t come, he just didn’t come. Why would he send someone to inform her?
She had waited countless days and nights, getting used to it.
But now, in this dream, Huang Rang received a response.