'The way I see it, all you want to do is eat.'

Wei Lian moved into Yangxin Palace Hall that very night.

This was a privilege that no empress was granted before. Empresses resided in Jiaofang Hall, occupying the emperor's first and fifteenth nights of every lunar month. Normally, when an emperor desired to lavish attention on an imperial wife, he would take the litter to her chambers in the back palace. If a concubine was invited to Yangxin Palace Hall, it would only be late in the night, and she would be sent back after.

The more favoured concubines were permitted to stay until daybreak, waiting on the emperor as he dressed for court, but would also be ceremoniously taken back to her chambers after.

 Yangxin Palace Hall was the sleeping quarters for the son of heaven, the emperor living in seclusion—there was only ever one true occupant.

But from Wei Lian's manner, he actually seemed intent on making this his abode for the long term. Doubtlessly, this was by command of his Majesty.

In this dynasty, no empress nor concubine populated the harem system. There wasn't a single soul to contest with Wei Lian.

In the eyes of others, Wei Lian had lucked out big-time. With the Emperor's favour, wasn't glory, splendour, wealth, and rank all well within his reach?

Once a lowly hostage prince in the Qin Palace that despicable scum could step on, he had since soared to the summit in the span of a day. Some admired him, some envied him.

 Regardless, many courtiers spitefully thought, Being close to the sovereign is as perilous as lying with a tiger. A subject might be regally welcomed on this day, but it was hard to say if his head would be rolling out by the next.

Wei Lian was oblivious to the thoughts of outsiders, but he couldn't care less even if made aware.

Yangxin Palace Hall was warm, the meals were hearty, and the beddings were thick. Wei Lian was satisfied.

As for the Qin Emperor? What was that? No more than a tool, a foothold for his swift exaltation, letting him pass his days in bliss.

Only fools would pursue a tyrant emperor's love. Wei Lian wasn't one. He was a pragmatic man who only aspired for riches and status, and had not the slightest smidge of interest in romantic entanglements.

This also held true for the Qin Emperor, thus the two of them shook on it for their personal interests, becoming satisfactory cooperative partners.

At the moment, Wei Lian was waiting on this cooperative partner during his meal.

The dishes for the evening were served to Yangxin Palace Hall. Soon, palace maids filed in, carrying plate after plate of fragrant delicacies, setting them on the wooden table.

Propitious pastries, agate sweet and sour fish, eight treasure bird’s nest banquet, emerald mung bean roll...once brought into the palace, even these pedestrian dishes had to be gilded with names that befit the augustness of the royal family.

It was no more than an ordinary sight to Ji Yue, but for Wei Lian—having eaten steamed buns and pickled vegetables for half a month straight, and even going without a bite to eat last night—he was tempted to usurp the Qin Emperor's seat at the dining table and make a clean sweep of it all.

But he couldn't.

According to the rules, not only was Wei Lian unable to take his meal, but he even had to stand by the Qin Emperor's side, bringing the dishes to him.

Bastard. Dog. Emperor.

Wei Lian docilely bowed his head as he stood next to the Qin Emperor, striving not to let a single sliver of his gaze fall upon the sumptuous feast.

Hot steam was still curling up from the delicious soup. The dishes spread out on the table were like glittering jewels in his eyes, with an aroma that assailed his nostrils.

A palace attendant used a silver needle to test for poison, and there was also a eunuch in attendance to sample the dishes on command. Wei Lian's gaze flickered up, thinking to himself that there were many poisons that couldn't be detected by silver, and many long-acting herbs that wouldn't show immediate symptoms in the world.

Every emperor treasured their lives, but the ways of assassination were inexhaustible. If Wei Lian were so inclined, he could even administer the poison from right under their noses.

By a turn of fate, Wei Lian had once received the tutelage of a powerful man. He had learned medicine, poisons, and martial arts. He could discuss military strategies, verses of songs and poems. He was accomplished in the four artsMastery of the zither/qin (the guqin, a stringed instrument, 琴), weiqi (the strategy game of Go, 棋), shu (Chinese calligraphy, 書) and hua (Chinese painting, 畫). of zither, weiqi, calligraphy, and painting. He even had a slight understanding of divination techniques concerning the five elements and the eight trigrams.

Even his ShifuAlso 'Shizun', master/teacher. had marvelled at the astounding natural aptitude he possessed, marking him far beyond the peers of his generation.

Wei Lian also knew how to beguile hearts and garner support. Back when the Chu Emperor had sentenced a military general's entire family to death out of fear that the man's high merit would topple his regime, it was Wei Lian who crossed the sea by a trick, changing the appearances of convicts on the death row to take the fall, saving the general's entire family.

The tiger tallyA two-piece object made in the shape of a tiger, used in ancient China as proof of authority. One half of a tally could be issued to a military officer and this would be matched with the other half when verification was required. that was returned to the Chu Emperor was fake. The real tally was still in the hands of the lauded general who had defended the nation, who now answered to Wei Lian.

His Shifu had the power to peer into the mysteries only known to heaven, and had once conducted a divination on him. It read that he was destined to be of high eminence, but before coming of age, he had to hide his light under a bushel. Or else, it would spell his death.

But he was now nineteen, one year short of adulthood.

Just endure for one more year. Then, he could obtain the antidote through deceit and cast off the Emperor's shackles, faking his death and leaving the Qin Empire, roaming freely under the skies. That, or he could kill this dog-of-an-Emperor and become the ruler of the world himself.

But still, what vexed him at present was the poison coursing through his veins.

Being under someone's control left him with an odious aftertaste. When taking the poison, Wei Lian had vigilantly scraped off a bit of powder from it, concealing it under his nails, intending to create an antidote himself. However, this was the method used by the royal family to control the shadow guards so Wei Lian wasn't optimistic about finding a cure.

Right now, he had to keep calm.

This foretold death couldn’t seriously be because he succumbed to this poison, could it?

After the silver needle detected no abnormalities, Wei Lian could tell with a glance that there were no issues with the food on the table.

When the eunuch was about to take the chopsticks to sample the food, Wei Lian suddenly spoke up, "Your Majesty, allow this subject to sample the food for you."

His tone was gentle, but his words shook the entire hall.

...Was there someone rushing to greet death?

Everyone knew of the wrath that the Qin Emperor incited. His Majesty topped the hit list in the seven lands, with assassins frequently dropping by to visit.

Food sampling was a high-risk profession. The eunuch with this title changed every few days due to the death of his predecessor.

The palace personages looked at Wei Lian like he was a fool. Such an attractive young master, they thought, yet, despite his youth, is with a mind that isn't too bright.

Only the food-sampling eunuch looked at him like he was a saviour.

...Or, better put, like he was a scapegoat.

"Oh?" Ji Yue uttered. "Are you aware that sampling the food is a test for poison?"

Wei Lian said, "This subject is aware."

"Do you have no fear of death?"

"It would be this subject's honour to die for your Majesty." Wei Lian didn't know whether or not the Qin Emperor believed his words; in any case, he himself didn't.

Ji Yue smiled faintly. As if we’d believe you.

All you want to do is eat.

Do you think that we can't see how long you've been eyeing that sweet and sour fish?

"How can we bear to let Wei Lang take this risk?" Ji Yue said. "Wei Lang, sit down and dine with us."

While Wei Lian's mouth moved to say "This subject dares not", he sat down with remarkable alacrity.

Nor did he speak of testing for poison or whatnot anymore. From the outset, his very purpose was to eat.

Otherwise, by the time the Qin Emperor was done with his meal, his own scraps would be miserably cold. Was there still any point in his plotting for a place in Yangxin Palace Hall, if so?

Seeing the directness with which he sat, a hint of interest streaked across Ji Yue's eyes, soon vanishing without a trace.

But his lips subtly hooked upwards.

There wasn't any workaround to the test for poison. The young eunuch sampled the food, quivering with trepidation. Only after he was done and found his life still intact did he then let loose a sigh of relief.

Who didn't want to live? From the emperor to the servants, all of them wanted to live well.

Wei Lian was the same.

The nobility of the Chu Empire adhered to the rule of 'no more than three'—no matter the dish, no more than three pieces were to be taken, so as to not reveal their preferences, preventing scheming men from taking advantage.

But the Qin Empire didn't have such a rule.

They didn't forget to put on a charade, using the mouths of these palace attendants to reach the ears of the ministers.

They shared a table. The Qin Emperor spoke sweet nothings to him, occasionally giving him pieces of agate sweet and sour fish. "Wei Lang, you're too skinny, eat more fish to nourish your body."

Wei Lian placed a crystal shrimp dumpling in the Qin Emperor's bowl, saying softly, "Your Majesty should also eat more."

All this was done in the presence of the palace attendants of Yangxin Palace Hall and word was spread outside, Lian Gongzi has received the favour of his Majesty.

He was just one step away from directly sitting in the Qin Emperor's lap and feeding him by hand like a seductress.

However, after deep soul searching, Wei Lian was still unable to go that far. He and the Qin Emperor were only doing this on the surface. Even though their actions seemed to carry profuse love and affection, in actuality, they were still using serving chopsticks to feed each other.

Because they both disdained each other's saliva.

Also, Wei Lian didn't dare to indiscriminately send dishes into the Qin Emperor's bowl, lest he get a stroke of bad luck.

Zhu Cui didn't lie to him. The Qin Emperor was a ridiculously picky eater. Not only did he object to onions, ginger, and garlic, but he also refused to touch anything that was sour, salty, bitter, and spicy, as well as the grease of meat and fish. If anything tasted a tad too strong or bland, he'd prefer death to swallowing it down.

Fortunately for him, he was the Qin Emperor. If he were an ordinary commoner, he'd have died of starvation by now.

The Qin Emperor had a peculiar taste. Aside from crystal shrimp dumplings, he unexpectedly liked to eat sweet pastries. Especially the soft, sweet, and creamy ones made in the shape of white rabbits.

Who would have thought that the notorious tyrant with the mercurial temper was someone whose happiness when eating pastries would make him look like a young man?

Ji Yue ate with satisfaction, whereas Wei Lian watched on with a blank expression.

Since times immemorial, all who were depicted as tyrants were, without exception, living in extravagance and dissipation, surrounded by absurd rumours of swallowing humans alive.

As for this tyrant, it was even more preposterous.

Not only did he love to eat sweet pastries, but they also had to be cute.

An utter disgrace to the infamy of tyrants across history.

Translator's Corner

Ji Yue: I want my pastries cute. Or someone will die! 

Chef: Hastily makes cute bunnies for tyrant Emperor…


1 Comment

  1. Muggelschmuggel

    But cute looking food… I always don’t want to destroy it lolol
    WL finally got smth to eat, yay.

    Thx for the ch ٩(。˃ ᵕ ˂ )و
    And thx to Luckykoi and Sno for your hard work (シ_ _)シ

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