“They want our salt beds” Zu An frowned.
Objectively speaking, it was completely normal to require something as collateral.
The Chu clans most valuable assets were their salt beds.
However, the Wei clan had proposed this requirement when the Chu clan was in such dire straits, with the backing of the imperial palace as well.
It was difficult for anyone not to draw the obvious connection!
Perhaps the Wei clan had realized this problem themselves, which was why they proposed such a low interest rate.
The Chu clan wouldnt have even given their proposal any consideration otherwise.
“What does Madam plan to do” Zu An asked.
Qin Wanru shook her head.
“I havent thought it through yet.
Lets discuss this with everyone else when we head back.”
She rubbed her aching forehead.
It was obvious that she had been working constantly since her husbands detainment, and hadnt gotten any proper rest.
Zu An tactfully decided not to disturb her any further and withdrew from her carriage.
He quickly shifted his attention to the case he had acquired from the Wei clan estate.
He took it out several times along the way, but he couldnt find a way to undo the seal.
After escorting Qin Wanru back to the Chu Estate, Zu An was just about to head out to meet Pei Mianman.
However, he ended up bumping into Old Mi first.
Zu An gave a start when he saw the old gardener.
Old Mi frowned.
He pulled him to the side.
“Dont call me that in the future.
I dont like drawing attention.”
“Ill keep that in mind,” Zu An replied.
“I heard that you went to the Wei clan with the Madam.” Old Mi looked at him.
His searing gaze seemed as if it could see right through him.
Fortunately, Zu An was already prepared for this, and wasnt at all flustered.
“Yeah, the Madam went to the Wei clan to borrow money.
We just came back from their estate.”
“Did you bump into that man you met last time” Old Mi asked nervously.
The Madam and their clan master had things to discuss.
I just waited for them to finish.” Zu An was really curious as to why Old Mi was so scared of that old expert.
“Thats good.” Old Mi sighed in relief.
“Did you find that case that I wanted you to look for”
Zu An shook his head.
Didnt you tell me to not look for it anymore”
Old Mi frowned.
Zu An felt a sinister chill sweep through his entire body.
Old Mi was definitely using his consciousness to probe his belongings right then.
Fortunately, hed stored the case within the Brilliant Glass Pearl.
He wouldve been exposed otherwise—the seal on the case would definitely have reacted to his consciousness.
After a brief moment, Old Mi nodded.
It seems like my memory is worsening with age, heh heh…”
He tottered away.
No matter how one looked at him, he seemed like an ordinary old gardener.
Zu An roamed around the estate as if he had business with some other people.
Only after he was convinced that he had slipped free of Old Mis suspicions did he sneak out of the Chu Estate.
He purposely made several detours along the way.
After he was sure no one was following him, he headed to the gazebo near the academy.
Zu An couldnt contain a sigh when he saw that familiar gazebo.
This was where he had first met Shang Liuyu.
He hadnt expected that he would be meeting with another woman here today.
“Did you say something” A sweet and pleasant voice drifted over.
Pei Mianman had emerged from the darkness and was walking towards him.
Zu An sighed.
“Im just glad that youre fine.
I was worried that you wouldnt be able to get away from that guy.”
Pei Mianman smiled.
“I need to thank you for lighting that fire.
If you hadnt, I might have been caught by him despite all of my preparations.”
Just the thought of that man was enough to trigger some lingering fear within her.
“I did that on a whim.
The fact that you were able to get away was all because of your own skill.” Zu An laughed.
A sudden notification popped up.
You have successfully trolled Wei Dan for 358 Rage points!
Wei Dan This was probably the name of that mysterious expert from the Wei Clan.
These Rage points probably came from his discovery that his courtyard had been set on fire.
Thanks to the efforts of the Wei clan servants, the damage had been minimal, as the fire had been put out quickly.
He probably hadnt yet realized that the cases had been swapped, either.
If he had, his anger would have been much more intense.
“Did you find what I was looking for” Pei Mianman asked anxiously.
Zu An took out a case.
“I only found this thing.”
He was curious as to what was inside the case, but he couldnt find a way to open it.
However, with her experience, he expected that Pei Mianman might recognize it, and might even have a way to open it.
“Hm” Pei Mianman took the case from him and examined it.
Zu An said, “Be careful, theres a seal.”
Pei Mianman smiled.
A small black flame appeared above her fingertip.
Then, with a tap, the flame spread out across the case in a layer.
The film of light covering the case was quickly burned away.
“Its done!” The corners of Pei Mianmans lips curved upwards.
She reached out a hand to open the case.
“Be careful!” Zu An quickly stopped her.
This was something that Old Mi had been desperately searching for.
He was worried that it might contain some hidden mechanism.
Pei Mianman nodded.
She placed the case on the ground, and the two of them stepped back a few meters.
Pei Mianman sent a wave of gentle energy towards the case with a wave of her hand.
The case was thrown open, as if by an invisible hand.
The two of them waited for a while.
When they saw that no hidden mechanisms had been triggered, they quickly rushed over to the case.
The case was padded with a layer of soft material.
In the center of the case lay an object, wrapped in expensive brocade and tied with red string.
Pei Mianmans heart sank.
From the size of the package, there was no way it could be the tile she was looking for.
Zu An undid the red string out of curiosity, and slowly unraveled the brocade.
He was stunned.
“What is this thing”
Undoing the brocade had revealed a dark object, which resembled a sun-dried earthworm.
When he recalled how serious Old Mi had been about acquiring this item, Zu An brought the case up to his nose and took a whiff.
“Is this some kind of miraculous medicine”
There was a hint of a medicinal odor, but it was extremely strange.
It wasnt the same medicinal odor that he was familiar with from Ji Xiaoxis place.
At this comment, Pei Mianman suddenly grew interested.
She moved closer to him to examine it.
“I dont think it is.
I dont sense the slightest ki fluctuation.
It doesnt seem like a treasure at all.”
“This thing is definitely extremely important,” Zu An said decisively.
If it werent, Old Mi wouldnt have been constantly obsessed over it.
“Where did you find it” Pei Mianman asked out of curiosity.
“There was a hidden compartment underneath his bed.
It was quite well-hidden, so it must be pretty important,” said Zu An.
“Hidden underneath his bed…” Pei Mianmans brows drew together in a confused frown.
A sudden thought struck her, and her face turned completely red.
She threw the case away as if it were boiling hot.
“Hey, hey, hey! Be careful!” Panicked, Zu An rushed to catch it.
He couldnt help but ask her, “What are you doing”
Pei Mianman turned around and snorted.
Her face was still red.
“That thing is what you men consider your treasure.”
He rarely saw her this embarrassed, which only stoked his curiosity further.
“Do you know what it is”
He brought it closer to his eyes while saying this.
Pei Mianman was mortified as she saw him bring it all the way up to his nose again.
She couldnt hold herself back any longer and said, “Wait, stop! Thats… thats a eunuchs… the source of a eunuchs distress…”
“Source of distress” Zu An didnt seem to understand her at first.
He was just about to probe further, but realization struck him.
He too tossed the case away as if it were burning his fingers.
“God damn it!”
He felt his stomach churn as he recalled how he had been turning it over and over in amusement, and how hed even taken a strong sniff of it.
He ran over to the bushes and threw up.
His behavior improved Pei Mianmans mood dramatically.
She even patted his back gently.
Zu An was almost lost for words.
“Sis, couldnt you have told me that a little sooner!”
“I only just realized it as well!” Pei Mianmans face turned red.
“Besides, youre the man here.
Why didnt you recognize it first”
Zu Ans face darkened further.
“Im used to seeing soaring eagles! Why would I recognize this dried-up earthworm”
He felt more and more grossed out.
Pei Mianman roared with laughter.
“Its probably because some court eunuchs are castrated at a young age.
They preserve their members with all sorts of medicines to prevent it from decaying.
After drying it out, I believe that only… that much of it is left over.”
Zu An was speechless for a moment.
Even though he knew that eunuchs existed, it was still a rather distant concept to him.
How could he have known
Pei Mianman suddenly grew anxious.
“Eunuchs always care a lot… about these treasures.
When they are buried, these things need to be buried together with them, to symbolize that their bodies are whole.
Only then can they be complete in the next life.
These things are usually preserved carefully within the palace, and cant be removed by anyone.
Eunuch Wei must hold special status in the palace.
The emperor likely showed him favor and allowed him to keep this himself.
“This means that youve stolen his treasure.
Once he finds out, he won\'t let this rest until you are dead.
Should we find a chance to return it”
This thing was completely useless to anyone else, but it was a sore spot for all eunuchs.
It was enough to drive them completely mad! The risks of keeping it were completely disproportionate to the benefits.
“Dont worry, I did something to make sure that the theft isnt immediately discovered.” Zu An had a strange expression on his face.
After putting these clues together, a sudden revelation came to him.
Many things that were beyond his understanding before seemed to make much more sense now.