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Chapter 16

Qin Zhao pushed aside the servant, personally assisting Jiang Xiurun onto the carriage. While supporting her, he whispered, “I’ve relieved your worries. How do you plan to thank me?”

Jiang Xiurun didn’t need his assistance and avoided his touch, whispering back, “You could have kept a lower profile. Why is it so widely known? It even tarnished my residence!”

Qin Zhao initially sought gratitude from the woman but unexpectedly received a rebuke. Just as he raised an eyebrow in surprise, Jiang Xiurun had already entered the carriage and rushed back to the prince’s residence.

Now residing in the prince’s residence, Jiang Xiurun couldn’t afford to freeload. Aware of the prince’s subtle stinginess behind his composed facade, she felt uneasy about eating the meals provided by the prince’s household.

After checking on her brother and ensuring his safety, she led Bai Qian back to the prince’s residence. She took the initiative to report to the Prince, offering her assistance wherever needed.

On this day of rest in the court, the prince, free from official duties, sat without the crown. He wore a simple robe, securing his thick black hair with a jade hairpin. After finishing official documents, he gazed blankly at the frozen lake outside his study.

The prince in his previous life was equally uninteresting. However, later on, he occasionally attended banquets amidst busy state affairs—at least, most of the banquets were organized by her on behalf of Qin Zhao. Yet he rarely enjoyed the taste of wine and was not inclined to engage in conversations. Occasionally, he would exchange a few words with her, but she couldn’t quite remember the content now.

In any case, Feng Liwu was such a person—eager to please but unable to find a way to do so with the Prince.

She couldn’t possibly draw a map of various territories, mark them one by one, and say, “These will all be yours in the future!” to win his favor!

Seeing Young Master Jiang arrive, Feng Liwu spoke up, “Is your elder brother settled well?”

Jiang Xiurun didn’t dare complain to the prince about her estate’s devaluation due to his involvement. Instead, she graciously thanked the prince for easing her worries. At the same time, she cautiously inquired, “Although the plot against me has been eliminated, Shen Yong is unlikely to let it go.”

Feng Liwu, watching a water bird attempt to break the ice to catch fish on the lake, calmly said, “Oh, is he so persistent? Just worried that you and Jiang Zhi will inherit the throne upon returning?”

Jiang Xiurun tensed, fearing that Qin Zhao might have revealed the truth to the prince. She replied in a low voice, “My relationship with Shen Yong was already strained when I was in Bo State.”

Feng Liwu didn’t press further. After all, it was widely known that Young Master Jiang was arrogant and unruly. If he wasn’t well-liked, it was understandable.

Afraid of further questioning, Jiang Xiurun flattered, “I heard the prince didn’t have breakfast this morning. It’s almost noon now. If you don’t eat soon, it might affect your stomach.”

Feng Liwu knew the young man had a good appetite. But he only had a bowl of soup noodles and a broken biscuit at the dock yesterday and skipped breakfast this morning. He left to see his brother.

While not as courteous as the Duke of Zhou, he still needed to maintain a certain demeanor. Thus, he invited Jiang Xiurun, who was also hungry, to join him for a meal. He told her to order anything she wanted, instructing the kitchen accordingly.

Jiang Xiurun understood that the Prince wasn’t particular about his meals, and with abundant resources in the Prince’s residence, she didn’t need to deprive herself. Therefore, she wrote a list of dishes and provided instructions to the steward on how they should be prepared, ensuring they reached the kitchen.

Those chefs, upon hearing that the Prince of Bo State had dined together with the Crown Prince last time, were now full of enthusiasm and handled the ingredients with great care.

Because of the cold weather, Jiang Xiurun ordered a pot to dispel the cold. Following the method from Bo State, thin slices of lamb were placed in the pot, floating with fragrant spices and Sichuan peppercorns. After a quick blanching, they were dipped in ginger and sesame oil before eating. The gamey taste of the lamb became mild, and the dish was both warming and delicious.

Feng Liwu had never eaten hot pot like this before and hesitated at the sight of plates of raw meat. Jiang Xiurun rolled up her sleeves and personally blanched the meat for the prince, also using lotus leaves to wrap minced meat for him to eat.

No one had ever taught Feng Liwu how to enjoy a meal properly. Although he frequently attended banquets in the past, the dishes were often cold by the time they reached the table, diminishing their taste.

Now, in his own residence, guided by someone who appreciated good food, he experienced the unfamiliar and novel sensation of enjoying the delicious flavors on his palate.

Jiang Xiurun, determined to inherit the role of the “dog’s leg” and caring meticulously for her new master, blanched each piece of meat to perfection, tender and juicy, nourishing Feng Liwu’s damaged tongue.

(T/N: a metaphor for a person who works as an accomplice for his master.)

When they finally set down their chopsticks, it was the first time in Feng Liwu’s life that he felt a sense of not having had enough.

Jiang Xiurun, initially reluctant to eat heartily in front of the Crown Prince, had been hungry since last night, and the spicy lamb pot was irresistible. As a result, she found herself on the verge of burping.

Quickly, she instructed the steward to bring a hot stir-fried buckwheat tea to cleanse their palates.

Feng Liwu naturally followed suit and drank the buckwheat tea, something he had never tried before, finding it refreshing.

For a while, during the afternoon meal, there was silence. Both individuals held their tea, gazing absentmindedly at the fluctuating Sichuan peppercorns in the pot, enveloped in the rising steam.

As their vitality gradually returned, Feng Liwu finally lazily spoke, “You don’t need to worry about Shen Yong’s interference. From now on, you can temporarily reside in the Crown Prince Mansion and take on the role of tutor to the Crown Prince.”

The Crown Prince’s Tutor, as the name suggests, is the master who educates the Crown Prince. Although not as prestigious as the Crown Prince’s Grand Tutor, being able to become the mentor of the adult Crown Prince signifies an immensely prestigious future.

Jiang Herun was originally not a person from the Qi Dynasty and, according to that reason, should not hold a formal government position. However, unlike the Grand Tutor, the stipend is not provided by the court for the Crown Prince’s Tutor. Whether it’s teaching the Crown Prince or engaging in activities like playing cuju, it falls under the responsibilities of the Crown Prince’s tutor, and the funds come directly from the Crown Prince’s estate.

(T/N: Jiang Herun is the name that Jiang Xiurun uses when she fakes her identity.)

(T/N: Cuju, or Ts’u-chü, is an ancient Chinese ball game that is the earliest known recorded game similar to football. It is a competitive game that involves both teams trying to kick a ball through an opening into a central hoop without the use of hands while ensuring the ball does not touch the ground. This is similar to how hackey-sack is played today. Descriptions of the game date back to the Han dynasty, with a Chinese military work from the 3rd–2nd century BC describing it as an exercise. It was also played in other Asian countries, like KoreaJapan, and Vietnam.)

However, in doing so, the reputation is much more pleasant to the ears compared to being a mere retainer or assistant.

Jiang Xiurun is not an ungrateful person and naturally wants to express gratitude for the Crown Prince’s favor.

Now that Qin Zhao knows her secret and observes her actions today, it’s inevitable that he will bother her in the future. If she can find refuge with the Crown Prince, Qin Zhao might hesitate to trouble her in the Crown Prince’s presence. Thinking of this, she breathed a slight sigh of relief.

At this moment, Feng Liwu’s tone changed again, saying, “Your abacus counting technique is extraordinary; naturally, it should be put to use. Liang State has had frequent business dealings with our country before, but Liang merchants are cunning. I need you to check the accounts for any discrepancies.”

Jiang Xiurun naturally and promptly accepted the task.

Since she has been promoted to the Crown Prince’s Tutor, young master Jiang will no longer stay in the side courtyard. Feng Liwu specially arranged the East Garden for Jiang Xiurun’s residence. Aside from her personal maid, Bai Qian, Feng Liwu also assigned a pageboy and guards to her, ensuring the dignity of the envoy from Bo State.

When several large boxes of bamboo slips were delivered to her room, her adept abacus skills displayed at the bright dock were proven useful.

In the following days, she immersed herself in checking the accounts without raising her head or opening her eyes.

The accounts were not particularly complicated, but Jiang Xiurun understood that Feng Liwu wasn’t stingy with money. It wasn’t about fearing Liang merchants taking advantage, but rather, he wanted to find fault, specifically targeting Liu Pei to take action against the Liang State.

In her previous life, these two individuals were always friendly, even before Liu Pei returned to Liang State.

But in this life, due to her statement about the Liang State’s canal construction being malicious, Feng Liwu developed early suspicions toward the Liang State.

So whether it’s the refined iron case or the current audit of accounts, it implies that her adoptive grandfather might have a difficult time returning to his country smoothly and ascending the throne, as in her previous life.

She wondered what impact this would have on the fate of Bo State… Jiang Xiurun couldn’t help but sigh at her inadvertent involvement.

And amid the daily dizzying calculations, the only solace was the three meals a day.

Feng Liwu seemed to realize that he had wasted his time before, missing out on worldly delicacies. So whenever asked about his food preferences in the mansion, he would wave his hand and say, “Go ask young master Jiang.”

Jiang Xiurun didn’t hesitate to come up with various menu options.

Perhaps finding dining alone dull, the Crown Prince would occasionally join her for meals when he had time.

However, Jiang Xiurun felt that Feng Liwu enjoyed hearing her explain the origins of the food, which is why he dined with her.

She admired this aspect of the Great Qi Crown Prince—making the most of everything and avoiding any waste!

However, Qin Zhao, observing this, had a somewhat subtle expression on his face.

In private, he had once warned Jiang Xiurun that not revealing her secret didn’t mean she could act recklessly, attempting to seduce the Crown Prince.

Jiang Xiurun solemnly stated that as long as he didn’t expose her maidenhood, in the eyes of the Crown Prince, she was like a young master. After all, when did the Crown Prince ever show an interest in men?

Perhaps even a peerless beauty would not be as tempting to the Crown Prince as a plate of thinly sliced lamb!

Upon hearing this, Qin Zhao’s expression softened. Seizing the opportunity, he cornered her in the backyard and invited Jiang Xiurun to join him for horseback riding and hunting to relax.

How could Jiang Xiurun agree? However, she now had a handle in Qin Zhao’s hands, so she couldn’t be too confrontational. She could only excuse herself by claiming that the tasks assigned by the Crown Prince were too numerous to handle at the moment, promising to consider them later.

Although Qin Zhao had encountered some resistance, watching Jiang Xiurun’s indifferent demeanor sparked a sense of itchiness in his heart. He couldn’t help but wonder why he hadn’t noticed earlier that she was a woman. That delicate appearance, even with a serious expression, was attractive!

Upon closer inspection, he couldn’t resist the urge to touch her cheek.

“Tutor Jiang…”

At that moment, Feng Liwu’s calm voice interrupted Jiang Xiurun’s predicament.

Looking up, both of them saw Feng Liwu standing on a nearby loft, gazing down at them with lowered eyes.

Jiang Xiurun quickly pushed aside Qin Zhao’s burly figure and walked briskly towards the loft. If one looked closely, they could sense a light and joyful atmosphere in her agile steps.

Unable to do anything, Qin Zhao could only leave in embarrassment.

Once on the loft, Feng Liwu expressionlessly scrutinized Jiang Xiurun from top to bottom.

Jiang Xiurun could only bow and ask what orders the Crown Prince had.

Seated at the table, Feng Liwu watched Jiang Xiurun kneeling before him. Thinking about Qin Zhao cornering her earlier, he felt a slight curiosity.

Qin Zhao had never shown interest in men before, having slept with quite a few girls from the brothel. What made this Young Master Jiang so irresistible that Qin Zhao couldn’t help but seek her out in the garden?

With these thoughts, he remembered Qin Zhao’s attempt to touch her face earlier and couldn’t help raising his hand to touch Jiang Xiurun’s cheek.




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