In the evening, in the Black Tortoise Bureau’s study
The Chief sat at his desk, examining the revenue and expenditure accounts of the Celestial Court.
Huang Rang entered with a food box. Di Yiqiu approached the small table and opened the box, only to find… a bowl of water?
He lifted it to his nose and sniffed, confirming that it was indeed just a bowl of clear water.
“What is this?” The chief furrowed his brow.
Huang Rang, imitating his peculiar tone, replied, “This young lady isn’t in the mood to cook today. However, I didn’t want Chief to go hungry, so I prepared this carefully crafted bowl of water for you.”
The Chief felt a strange sense of familiarity in the tone and responded with a wry smile, “Well, I’ve certainly put Lady Rang in a difficult position.”
Huang Rang couldn’t be bothered to deal with him. She reached for the caterpillar on the table, diluted a spiritual pill in water, and fed it to her pet insect.
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Zhu Xiang, an Assistant Chief of the Vermilion Bird Bureau, couldn’t bear it any longer and spoke out on behalf of the Chief, “Isn’t this bullying? Just because you parted ways with Butcher Hu, does that mean you have to settle for pork that won’t shed its hair? Chief, rest assured, I’ll prepare a comforting bowl of meat soup for you to soothe your stomach.
She was a girl of action, and she immediately rolled up her sleeves to head to the kitchen.
In no time, Zhu Xiang brought a big bowl of meat soup to the chief.
“Chief, please, have some.” Zhu Xiang handed him a spoon and said, “I must say, Lady Rang’s temper is a bit too much! Chief, if you can’t stand this, consider me, Zhu Xiang! If you follow me in the future, I’ll cook for you every day without any fuss!”
She boasted shamelessly while the chief quietly took a sip of the meat soup she had made.
Then he savored it for a while.
This was… meat soup?
The chief took another sip and looked at his enthusiastic subordinate in front of him, who was in high spirits. He began to consider putting down the spoon.
Zhu Xiang hurriedly said, “Come on, even if the taste isn’t great, I can learn to improve. You don’t have to be so picky. Come on, have a few more spoonfuls. At least you need to fill your stomach. After all, you haven’t learned how to fast…”
Under her enthusiastic persuasion, the chief reluctantly drank half a bowl of the soup.
In the afternoon, the Chief of the Celestial Court was poisoned!
The court was in an uproar; even the Ministry of Justice was alarmed! Just as the eunuch Fu arrived at the palace, the eunuch Lu came to inquire. As soon as Eunuch Lu arrived, Eunuch Shou came to inquire!
For a moment, it was chaos.
Yes, the chief was poisoned.
The fifteen-year-old youth not only had a greenish complexion from vomiting but also experienced hallucinations.
Was it an assassin? Someone is incredibly audacious!
Deputy Chief Li Lu was so angry that he interrogated everyone involved, and after a thorough investigation, it was found that the Chief had only drunk half a bowl of meat soup that day.
“Zhu Xiang!” Deputy Chief Li, who usually had a good temper, was so furious that he sprayed spit all over Zhu Xiang’s face. “What have you done?!”
Zhu Xiang wore a pained expression and said after a while, “This subordinate… only cooked a bowl of meat soup.”
“Speak! How did you poison the chief? With arsenic or deadly nightshade? Where did you hide the remaining poisoned soup?!” Minister of Justice Li sternly demanded
Zhu Xiang pointed to her own study.
Minister Li, accompanied by Qiu Shengbai, went to inspect the “poison.”
They found brightly colored mushrooms in the meat soup…
Black Tortoise Bureau, Di Yiqiu Official Residence
When Huang Rang arrived, Di Yiqiu was on the verge of vomiting everything, and Qiu Shengbai was seriously preparing medicine. Eunuch Fu, Lu, Shou, and Xi were anxiously pacing around.
Huang Rang sat by the couch and supported Di Yiqiu, encouraging him to vomit.
Di Yiqiu felt his body going limp and instinctively leaned on Huang Rang’s shoulder.
Concerned, Huang Rang asked, “How did this happen?”
The chief’s voice was weak as he replied, “A massive fire…”
“What?” Huang Rang leaned in to listen, but he didn’t say anything more.
When the servant prepared the medicine, Huang Rang blew on it to cool it down and fed it to him spoon by spoon.
Everyone knew she was the niece of He Xijin and had an unusual relationship with the chief, so no one stopped her.
After taking the medicine,Di Yiqiu finally fell asleep.
Qiu Shengbai packed up his medical kit and, after a while, suddenly said, “The former empress didn’t die of illness.”
Huang Rang was slightly taken aback, and Qiu Shengbai added, “She died in a large fire.”
“Oh,” Huang Rang responded, but she didn’t ask any further questions. She sat by the couch, watching over Di Yiqiu.
Life can be so challenging, and everyone has their own nightmares.
The young man in the bed had gone without food for three days, and now with this meal, he couldn’t handle it. His face was pale, and he looked extremely haggard.
Huang Rang sighed and began to regret her actions. She wondered why she had been so petty with him…
White Tiger Bureau.
Zhu Xiang had been tied up and was hanging on a torture frame.
“Apply severe torture!” Eunuch Fu was furious. “Make her reveal the mastermind behind this!”
Deputy Chief Li wanted to say something but hesitated. There was no other way, so they had to administer a couple of lashes.
Then he advised the four eunuchs, “The torture chamber is filthy. I suggest the four of you step outside and have some tea. We will inform you of the results once the interrogation is completed.”
Eunuchs Fu, Lu, Shou, and Xi grumbled as they left.
Once they were gone, Zhu Xiang cried out in misery, “Deputy Chief Li! I didn’t poison anyone! I won’t dare to cook ever again…”
Li Lu was furious and couldn’t help but scoff, “You deserve it! I’ve told you countless times that the kitchen isn’t suitable for you!”
Zhu Xiang mournfully replied, “But I’ve cooked for you a few times, and you seemed to have enjoyed the meals…”
Deputy Chief Li retorted, “Just because I’m still alive doesn’t mean I’ve enjoyed the meals!” He grabbed her hair and gave her a few hard lashes with the whip, producing a loud sound as it struck the torture frame. Zhu Xiang cried out in pain.
There was no other option. They could only appease the four eunuchs and the Ministry of Justice and wait for the Chief to wake up!
Inside the official residence.
Following the doctor’s orders, Huang Rang fed Di Yiqiu another dose of medicine.
With nothing better to do, she walked around the bedroom.
The room looked almost the same as she remembered it from the dream, with minimal changes over the past hundred years.
There were coat racks, a round table with chairs, boxes against the wall, and a small partition that held a bathtub.
However, when Huang Rang stepped into the small partition, she discovered that it wasn’t just a bathtub; there were several boxes piled up inside.
The boxes appeared heavy, as if they contained some secret.
What could possibly require these boxes, and why were they secretly stored in a small partition in his own bedroom?
Huang Rang’s curiosity got the better of her. Could this person be involved in bribery?
Was it filled with gold or precious jewels?
She hesitated to open the boxes several times, considering that it might not be right to snoop on someone’s belongings.
But finally, she snorted in annoyance—after all, hadn’t Di Yiqiu sneakily gone through her room as well?
Two wrongs make a right! With this thought, she confidently reached out and opened one of the boxes!
Inside were not gold and jewelry.
Huang Rang reached in and flipped through.
It was dresses!
These were clearly women’s garments, finely embroidered and adorned with pearls and jade, exquisitely beautiful.
This… Huang Rang ran her fingers slowly over the soft and sometimes rigid fabrics, feeling her heart race.
Could it be that these were meant for me?
Her cheeks reddened, as if it required any guessing.
This guy must have realized he offended me and is apologizing to me with these clothes!
Hmph! Huang Rang examined each item one by one, feeling quite pleased.
There was a slight noise from the outer room, so she hurriedly closed the box and quietly came out.
It was Qiu Shengbai who entered. He rechecked Di Yiqiu’s pulse, sighed with relief after a while, and said, “It seems he’s fine now. Later, I’ll send someone with the medicine again.”
Huang Rang agreed with a red face, feeling elated.
Qiu Shengbai glanced at her, also puzzled. What was she so happy about? Truly, a woman’s heart is a deep ocean.
The following morning, the chief finally regained consciousness.
“Are you thirsty?” Huang Rang gently brought a glass of water, and when the Chief saw her face and the glass in her hand, he hesitated.
However, Huang Rang didn’t wait for his answer. She fed him the water with tenderness. Afterward, she brought hot water and even personally wrung a towel to wash his face and hands.
“Are you… not angry anymore?” the chief asked softly.
Seeing his sincere repentance, Huang Rang decided to treat him with tenderness. She sighed. “I should never have quarreled with you in the first place.”
The Chief breathed a sigh of relief and said, “Since you realize your mistake, that’s for the best.”
Realize my mistake? Isn’t it you who should realize your mistake and apologize to me? Huang Rang was surprised but didn’t forget the important matter.
“After you were poisoned, officials from the Ministry of Justice and the eunuchs from the palace came. I heard they arrested one of the assistant chiefs for poisoning and locked her up in the White Tiger Bureau. They are currently interrogating her.”
Upon hearing this,Di Yiqiu immediately got up. Huang Rang was concerned about him getting cold again and draped a cloak over him.
He walked out quickly, reached the door, then turned back to instruct Huang Rang, “As for those boxes of dresses in the back, have someone inform Liuxian. Just tell them that I’ve already reviewed them. Let them send someone to retrieve them.”
“Uh… huh?” Huang Rang was puzzled.
“What do you mean?”
The chief’s voice was still weak as he explained, “I just wanted to understand the fashion trends in the capital during these years. I borrowed them for reference.”
Huang Rang, with a smile on her face, walked up to him and kicked him out.
—Go drink mushroom soup for the rest of your life, you bastard!
White Tiger Bureau.
Zhu Xiang had been hanging overnight and received two lashes.
Fortunately, everyone knew about her cooking skills, so they didn’t go too far.
So, when the chief arrived, she was still in one piece.
The Chief sent away the officials from the Ministry of Justice, dealt with the eunuchs, and then ordered her release.
However, from that day on, Assistant Chief Zhu Xiang’s cooking skills became famous far and wide.
The chief personally ordered that she be deprived of the right to approach the kitchen.
The next morning, Huang Rang was getting ready to leave early when she opened her door and saw someone standing outside. It was none other than the Chief.
Huang Rang was baffled. “What are you here for?”
The chief’s eye circles were still a bit purple. He walked in and casually handed a small box to Huang Rang. She opened it, and inside were a stack of land deeds.
Huang Rang was puzzled. “What does this mean?”
The Chief explained, “I’ve already reclaimed all the land under my name.”
“So what?” Huang Rang asked.
The chief casually said, “These are my mother’s dowries. When my mother passed away,they were left to me. They can be renamed. I’ve already had them transferred to your name. The fief can’t be renamed, but I’ve also established a lease.”
Huang Rang finally understood, “You mean… all of this is mine now?”
The Chief hadn’t fully realized that he was transferring his assets; he just said, “More or less.”
Huang Rang was overjoyed, couldn’t stop smiling, and jumped up to hug him. She planted a kiss on his cheek.
The chief wiped off the kiss with disgust and said, “Stop it. There’s more.” He then led Huang Rang out of the dormitory. The area in front was originally a place where scholars hung their clothes.
Now, it was neatly arranged with over twenty sets of dresses. The garments were fluttering and flowing, exquisitely beautiful.
Huang Rang asked, “These… these dresses? Didn’t you return them to Liuxian?”
The Chief said, “These are drafts drawn by me personally. While the clothes from Liuxian are beautiful, they are somewhat common and lack a soul. I tried to enhance their charm. For instance, in this one, look at the embroidery. It’s different from Liuxian.”
He started to talk extensively about embroidery and gem-setting techniques.
It was incredibly boring.
Huang Rang endured it for nearly half an hour before asking, “Why did you make so many of these?”
“Oh,” the Chief said, “today is your 23rd birthday, so I made 23 sets. Starting from when you were one year old, one set each year The designs were complex, so it took a while. I didn’t make one last year.”
Huang Rang stood before him and suddenly realized that today was the third day of the third month.
It was her birthday.
In her entire life, inside or outside of her dreams, she hadn’t celebrated her birthday more than a few times.
A person born without expectations: how could they celebrate their own birthday?
But today, within the intricate and beautiful dresses, each one was embroidered with a wish: “Wishing Ah Rang a long, prosperous life and everlasting youth.”
Over the years, she had received twenty-three years’ worth of birthday gifts.
(T/N: Butcher Hu came from the story “Fan Jin passed the national examination” in the Chinese textbook “The Scholars”. This butcher’s profession is not only related to eating and drinking; he is also a walking foodie. Every move, word, and deed exudes the aroma of wine and meat.)