Chapter 646: Hundred Flower Tea

Zu An frowned. His first reaction was that Cheng Xiong had set another trap for him.

However, he quickly realized that Cheng Xiong had thrown all his chips in on the meeting with the emperor. There was no way he could launch another attack so quickly.

“Please lead the way, pretty miss.” He was curious, so he decided to just see where this went.

The palace maid blushed when she heard him call her ’pretty miss’. She had never been called this before. This embroidered envoy didn’t seem as scary as his colleagues. He was a lot more friendly.

She quickly brought him to a secluded palace, within which were grown all types of beautiful flowers. It was a truly delightful scene.

Zu An was rather astounded by this sight. These flowers were clearly not native to this place. There were some flowers around his own residence as well, but they paled in comparison to the natural beauty arrayed in front of him.

Someone must have taken meticulous care in planting these flowers. He smiled at the maid. “Pretty miss, you must have a delicate touch, to have been able to cultivate these wonderful flowers.”

The maid blushed. “It was Her Highness who planted these.”

“Her Highness?” Zu An was taken aback. This was definitely not the Palace of Peace. Which highness was this?

“Is Lord Eleven fond of flowers?” a gentle voice queried him.

Zu An looked up and saw a beautiful silhouette standing within a cluster of flowering plants nearby. She held a pair of shears in hand, patiently trimming the branches and leaves. The maid bowed before slowly withdrawing.

Zu An immediately recognized her. “Greetings, Concubine Bai.” She had favored him when he first entered the palace. This gentle and graceful woman had left him with a deep impression.

Back then, she hadn’t been willing to converse extensively with a man. Why had she summoned him today?

Concubine Bai handed the shears to another maid beside her. She wiped her hands on the moist towel offered to her, then looked at Zu An. “Lord Eleven is too courteous,” she said.

She was a gentle person, and her voice was especially soothing, which evoked feelings of tenderness in all those whom she spoke to. That dumb crown prince really was quite lucky to have such a graceful flower of a concubine, in addition to his stunning wife, the crown princess.

“I heard Lord Eleven praise the flowers in the entryway. It seems you’re someone who appreciates flowers as well..” Concubine Bai’s expression softened, as though she had met a kindred spirit.

“I am indeed fond of flowers as well.” But the flowers I like are women like you.

He looked around discreetly, but did not see signs of an imminent ambush.

It wasn’t his fault for being overly suspicious. He had been scarred by all the events that had taken place over the past few days. What if this woman was in cahoots with Cheng Xiong, who suddenly jumped out to frame him for harassing her?

“Why have you brought me here today, Concubine Bai?” Zu An asked carefully. He wasn’t about to let her beauty cause him to lose his reason.

Concubine Bai laughed lightly. “You saved the crown prince and princess previously. I haven’t had a chance to thank you for that yet, so I invited you here today to do so.”

Zu An was taken aback by this unexpected statement. However, as the crown prince’s concubine, it made sense that she would wish to thank him for it.

He clasped his fist at her. “I was only doing my duty. I do not expect any more.”

Concubine Bai said, “The crown princess has already rewarded you today, if I do not do the same, others might feel that I do not care about the crown prince’s safety. Do you wish to put me in such a difficult spot, Lord Eleven?”

Her eyes swirled like sparkling gems.

Zu An secretly praised her for being so formidable. This woman has already given birth to a child, yet she still looks so lovely.

“This subordinate does not dare,” he replied quickly.

Concubine Bai continued, “Do you think my gifts will be inferior to the crown princess’, Lord Eleven? I suppose that does make sense. A concubine like me does not have much to offer.”

Zu An knew that these were just words, but something still stirred within him. Clearly, no woman within the palace is easy to deal with.

“Not at all, Concubine Bai. This subordinate is extremely grateful to you.”

Concubine Bai nodded in satisfaction. She ordered the maids and eunuchs, who were bearing gifts of pearls and jewels, to wait.

She slowly took a seat in a gazebo nearby and poured a cup of tea, gesturing for him to join her. “Lord Eleven, please have a seat.”

Zu An was taken aback. It’s not appropriate to sit this close to her, is it?

“I can’t help but feel that mere gifts alone would make me seem too cold,” continued Concubine Bai. “They may not fully be able to express my gratitude towards you for saving the crown prince’s life. That’s why I want you to join me for a cup of Hundrd Flower Tea. Even though it isn’t something precious, it is a rare experience.”

“Concubine Bai is too polite,” replied Zu An. “What else could be more precious than such a cup of tea?”

He sat across from her. They were in the open, and there were maids and eunuchs standing around them as well, so there could be no suspicion thrown on them.

From the way she invited him to share some tea, he could tell that she most likely wished to express her good faith.

A gentle smile shone in Concubine Bai’s eyes, subtly calming all who saw it. “Please, Lord Eleven.”

As she was pouring tea, she showed a small glimpse of her small, fair wrist. It was exquisitely white, almost the color of milk. Her gentle movements somehow made her chest look slightly larger, perhaps encouraged by the fact that she had borne a child not too long ago.

Zu An did not dare look in that direction. He stared at the tea in front of him.

Unlike the green- or brown-colored teas he was used to, the tea in his cup had a slight tinge of rose. It paired extremely well with the porcelain cup, which was emerald-green.

He let out a sigh, sincerely pleased. “This tea is just like Concubine Bai. Even the finest white jade and pearls pale in comparison. Not even the first buds of roses are as beautiful.”

Zu An regretted these words the moment they came out of his mouth. He was so used to flirting with women that he had forgotten that he was in the imperial palace! She was someone of special status, and these words were highly inappropriate.

Sure enough, Concubine Bai’s expression soured slightly, and she adjusted her position, as though trying to put some distance between them. However, she noticed that his eyes remained clear and bright, and that he wasn’t the lecher that she’d imagined him to be. She sighed in relief, knowing that it was merely heartfelt praise.

A light blush colored Concubine Bai’s face, turning it the same color as the tea in his cup. “Your praise is too kind, Lord Eleven.”

Zu An chuckled awkwardly. Since it wasn’t a good time to say anything else, he decided to take a sip of the tea. When he picked up the teacup, his nostrils were filled with a unique fragrance. It did not smell artificial, but had a fresh, pleasant aroma. “What an incredible aroma!”

Concubine Bai smiled. “This tea combines the fragrance of many flowers, and carries a blend of their aromas. I’ve spent a long time researching how to prevent the fragrance from being too strong.”

“As expected, Concubine Bai is both elegant and refined,” praised Zu An. He had been afraid that the tea might have been poisonous, but with just one small sip, the aroma filling his senses was too fragrant, and he couldn’t help but drink a little bit more.

Anyway, there’s no way Concubine Bai would dare to publicly assassinate a golden-token envoy, right? If it’s an aphrodisiac… Um… I guess I have the most powerful aphrodisiacs on me, and this tea doesn’t seem to give me that sort of feeling.

Concubine Bai was pleased when she saw him take a few more sips. After all, it was human nature to appreciate the validation of others.

However, she suddenly remembered that the other party had compared the tea to her. If he keeps drinking it, doesn’t that mean…?

Her heartbeat quickened, and she quickly changed the topic. “Is it true that there was a grandmaster among the assassins who attacked the palace?”

Zu An put down his teacup. “Indeed. It was a woman, even.”

This was public knowledge, so there was no need to hide it.

A hint of admiration flashed across Concubine Bai’s eyes. “It’s rather admirable that Lord Eleven was able to protect the crown prince despite facing a grandmaster.”

Zu An felt his face heat up. “To be honest, I wouldn’t have been able to withstand even a single one of her blows. It was His Majesty who defeated her.”

Concubine Bai smiled. “You’re too humble, Lord Eleven. Facing a grandmaster’s sword and surviving is still worth being proud of. Furthermore, the maids have told me that it was your valiant efforts that helped to delay the assassins until His Majesty arrived. You’re surely the official who offered the most outstanding service.”

“You’re too kind, Concubine Bai.” Zu An felt himself getting caught up in the moment. This woman was pretty, her voice was soothing, and everything she said made him feel good about himself. It really was difficult for his mind not to wander.

“By the way, I heard that the female assassin was wounded, but managed to escape. Have you captured her yet? What if she is hiding somewhere inside the palace? I fear that people like us will be in danger,” said Concubine Bai, worry clouding her voice. “I’m not that important, but I can’t bear the thought of living on if something happened to the imperial grandchild.”

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