Zu An’s first thought was to teach the crown prince the way to guaranteed victory in five-in-a-row. After all, his era had already completely studied this game. As long as he went first, he would definitely win.
But after thinking about it, he still dispelled this thought in the end. Even though five-in-row was easy, the sure-win method had all sorts of variations as well. If the crown prince could remember every choice he needed to make, then he wouldn’t be known as an idiot.
He thought for a bit and then said, “With the crown prince as he is, we might have to cheat. What is he being tested on? We can give the crown prince the answers beforehand.”
The emperor replied, “The contents of the test haven’t been confirmed yet, but it will most likely be held by the Royal Academy. The academy’s staff are all stubborn and smelly, like rocks in a latrine pit. They would never agree to helping the crown prince cheat. Your idea won’t work.”
Neither side would be okay with the other side presiding over this test. Only the Royal Academy could receive the trust of both sides.
The Royal Academy had always remained neutral, even after both sides had struggled for so long. They refused to join in on this struggle, but there was no need for them to participate either. There were many outstanding cultivators who had come out of the Royal Academy. They were scattered all across the world and had great status.
Regardless of who became emperor, it wouldn’t bring them any benefits, but it wouldn’t hurt them at all either. The people in it were all fanatical researchers without any interest in authority. It was to the extent where they believed that authority would only distract them from their cultivation.
It was precisely because of their zealotry toward cultivation that both the emperor and King Qi trusted that they would act impartially.
Zu An frowned. “Then things are much trickier. Should we have someone pretend to be the crown prince and take the test in his place? Are there any miraculous transformation techniques?” This was a world of cultivation after all. There had to be a way to pass off as the crown prince.
The emperor slowly shook his head. “There is one, but it can only fool those who are unfamiliar with the crown prince. King Qi’s faction will definitely investigate closely. I don’t think it would escape their detection.”
Zu An shrugged and spread his arms. “Then there’s really nothing I can do. Your majesty is powerful and brilliant. You’ll definitely think of a solution.”
“I don’t want to hear that pompous nonsense.” The emperor paced around in the imperial study with an annoyed expression. If even he was using crude words, then that meant this matter had really left him really annoyed today. If his mood was bad, that meant even more people would become unhappy. “I’m giving you half a month to think of a solution. Otherwise, if the crown prince can’t remain the crown prince, then there’s no use for a crown prince secretary either. I’ll just throw you into the castration room.”
“???” Zu An was surprised. Motherfucker! You’re making me do everything for you? Not even a production team would order their people around like this! Even though those were his thoughts, he didn’t show any dissatisfaction on the surface as he replied, “Understood!”
Zu An felt extremely irritated when he left the imperial study and walked out of the palace. Fuck the crown prince and princess! If there’s no choice, I’m just going to leave alone! The emperor might think his seal is still in place, but he has no idea that a grandmaster already helped me get rid of it! Hmph, I’m going home and embracing my lovely Chuyan! Like I give a shit if the crown prince dies or not.
A lesser eunuch ran over to Zu An while he was thinking to himself and said, “Sir Zu, my clan’s master has invited you for a meeting.”
Zu An was stunned. This lesser eunuch looked familiar. “Who is your master?”
“My master is Concubine Bai,” the lesser eunuch replied respectfully.
Zu An gave the dusky sky a look. “It’s already getting late. I don’t think this is a good time.”
Normally speaking, subjects couldn’t walk around where they pleased in the palace. Only a few officials had this authority, and most of them were like secretaries and assistants to the emperor in his everyday life.
Zu An could go about as he wished with his status as the crown prince’s secretary, but that was limited to daytime. He had to leave the palace once night fell, or he would be committing a huge crime. If there were any subjects still inside the palace after dark, ahem, there probably wasn’t a single emperor who enjoyed being cuckolded.
“It’s related to the crown prince’s exam,” the lesser eunuch said.
“Lead the way!” After a bit of hesitation, Zu An still followed this lesser eunuch. The emperor had just given him this mission with his life on the line. Even though he would run if he had no choice, it was best not to run away if he didn’t have to. Concubine Bai was the crown prince’s concubine, so her rise and fall were tied to his. Her concern for the crown prince was real, so she might really have some ideas.
When they arrived at the Hundred Flowers Garden, the eunuch bowed before leaving.
Concubine Bai’s personal maid Xin Rui emerged from inside. “Sir Zu, this way, please!” She bowed slightly and invited him in.
Zu An couldn’t help but ask, “Why didn’t I see you at first? I almost thought the eunuch was trying to harm me.” Even though it had never happened to him, he had seen more than enough examples of that. He hadn’t watched those dramas for nothing.
Xin Rui covered her mouth and laughed in a bashful manner. “Sir Zu must be joking. Who would be brazen enough to harm someone in the palace?”
The servant really is a reflection of the master, Zu An thought to himself. Concubine Bai’s personality was gentle and soft; Xin Rui’s nature was similar, and perhaps even a bit more bashful. The crown princess was rather tough, and Rong Mo was similarly like a hot pepper.
While Zu An was thinking random thoughts, he was soon brought into the main hall. Xin Rui gestured toward the inside. “Sir Zu, please come in.”
Zu An nodded and walked inside. He’d had a good opinion of Concubine Bai the last time they met, and he also wanted to try that tea again. He wondered if he would have a chance to drink it again today.
He saw a beautiful figure seated at the other end of the table. Her posture was dignified, and her delicate body’s lines were incredibly charming. He quickly shook his head. Stop, don’t think that before I end up with some weird fetish!
But when he got closer and saw her, he was stunned. It wasn’t that she was ugly; rather, even though she was gentle, graceful, and poised, she wasn’t Concubine Bai at all. The woman also looked at him in shock.
Both of them said at the same time, “Why are you here?”
“Crown princess, why are you here?” Zu An repeated in confusion.
The crown princess harrumphed in annoyance. “I was the one who asked first.” She thought, This kid really doesn’t follow the rules! I need to properly discipline him later... Sigh, forget it. It’s normal for talented people to have a bit of pride. I don’t have too many people to use right now, so I shouldn’t chase him away.
Zu An wrinkled his nose. This woman was always so domineering. I’ll peel away your outer shell one day; let’s see if it’s still hard or soft inside. “Concubine Bai invited me and said that she had something to say about the crown prince’s matter.”
The crown princess frowned. “That’s what she said to me too.”
She suddenly got up and began to walk out. After being in the palace for so long, she was naturally sensitive toward these matters. It was already dark outside, and there was no third person present. Being in the same room as another man would start a huge scandal.
But Xin Rui just happened to walk in with a cup of tea right when the crown princess reached the entrance. She asked, “Huh? Crown princess, why are you suddenly leaving?”
The crown princess harrumphed. “What is Concubine Bai trying to do? Why isn’t she here yet?!”
She was the crown princess. When had she ever waited for a concubine? However, Concubine Bai had sent someone to pass on the message that there was a solution to the crown prince’s test. That was why she had endured and came over.
But that woman had invited a man here! Even though she was already familiar with Zu An, interacting in private like this still left her a bit uncomfortable.
Xin Rui explained, “Crown princess, please feel at ease. My master is currently preparing something and will come out soon. She told me to bring this Hundred Flower Tea to the two of you as an apology.”
The crown princess subconsciously licked her lips when she heard the words ‘Hundred Flower Tea’. She naturally knew of Concubine Bai’s unique tea. She had drunk it a few times before and absolutely adored the flavor.
But because of her conflicting relationship with Concubine Bai, they didn’t get along with each other. She was also stubborn as well, so she naturally couldn’t lower her pride to ask for any. As such, she could only secretly long for it.
It would be a waste to not drink it, since she’s offering… Pah! I’m here because of the crown prince’s test, not for drinking her shoddy tea!
“Fine then, I will wait half a stick of incense’s worth of time for her. I will immediately leave if she is still not here by then.” The crown princess sat down again and gracefully sipped on the fragrant tea. She sighed inwardly in praise. She really didn’t know how Concubine Bai made such a delicious tea! She’d had some maids try to imitate it in private, but it was always sickeningly sweet, and drinking it just didn’t feel right. It lacked the natural simplicity and elegance of this Hundred Flower Tea.
A while later, she subconsciously tugged on her collar. She looked at Zu An and asked, “Do you feel as though it’s a bit hot today?”Previous Chapter Next Chapter