Want Want milk had only three cartons remaining, and the Foodmart refreshed its stock just three times a day, making the chances of finding Want Want milk again nearly impossible.
Level 2 could be unlocked with 150 Whitewashing Points, without the need to complete the quest of “unblocking the Ren and Du meridians.”
Xue Yao had contemplated various methods to accumulate Whitewashing Points, but the most straightforward approach was to convince the Emperor to abandon constructing the Road to Shu and building a temporary palace.
This particular storyline left a deep impression on him.
Throughout history, the Road to Shu was renowned for its difficult routes, and even in the novel, this challenge was present. Nevertheless, the Great Qi Emperor, having heard of the enchanting beauty of the Bashu region, had always intended to embark on a journey to this land and construct a grand palace.
Certainly, this was not similar to modern desires for a vacation in Sichuan or property investment. The Emperor had deeper motivations.
“The Book of Han” mentioned the fertile lands and abundant river resources in regions like Bashu and Guanghan, along with the natural advantage of their rugged basin terrain that was easily defensible and difficult to attack.
The Great Qi Emperor’s intentions went beyond simple leisure. They were connected to his brother, the Prince of Pingyi, who held a fiefdom in Shu.
The court and the common people were abuzz with rumors, claiming that the Prince’s fiefdom was incredibly wealthy, while the tax revenues from Shu fell short of those from Jiangnan. It seemed the Prince of Pingyi’s personal wealth might soon exceed the National Treasury.
Naturally, this was the last thing an Emperor wished to witness. Acting on impulse, the Great Qi Emperor used the pretext of a royal tour to develop the land of Shu and construct a palace, a clear signal to his brother: “Be cautious, for with a mere wave of my hand, I can swiftly outmaneuver you.”
The real issue was that the construction of Road to Shu was indeed challenging. The resources and finances required to build the palace along this route were well within the Great Qi’s means, but manpower was a significant challenge. Transporting construction materials was a daunting task, leading to the loss of many men conscripted for the Road to Shu project.
In the novel, the suffering populace reached a breaking point, and signs of rebellion began to emerge.
The Eldest Prince penned a heartfelt letter to the Emperor, urging him to temporarily halt the construction and allow people to recuperate. This plea convinced the Emperor to temporarily suspend the work.
However, the Emperor’s orders were not revoked, and the construction of the Road to Shu and the temporary palace was only paused. It was uncertain when the project might resume, leaving people anxious and grievances simmering.
So, who would ultimately shoulder the blame for this?
The Emperor certainly wouldn’t bear it himself. In most cases, he would let his beloved beauty, the source of calamity, bear it. So, this blame fell on the Seventh Prince’s mother.
The reason Consort Xi ended up shouldering the blame was quite simple. The Emperor’s initial motivation for building the temporary palace was to take Consort Xi with him to his vast lands for an impromptu journey.
A trip to Jiangnan for leisure no longer met the royal standards. They chose to go wherever it was difficult to traverse, taking the foreign beauties who came as tributes, to admire the beauty of Bashu.
Consort Xi, who had been unlucky for generations, became a target of blame due to this incident. This also marked one of the dreadful beginnings in Seventh Prince’s life after the age of six.
Blaming the beauty for the Emperor’s decisions was well understood by the court officials, but they dared not speak against the Emperor.
Common folk didn’t fully grasp the situation but relished the gossip of rulers led astray by beauties.
As a result, everyone vented their frustration on Consort Xi, and her child fared no better.
In the novel, the multitude of accusations and humiliations stemming from this event was the primary reason that pushed the male protagonist toward darkness.
Xue Yao felt on the verge of a breakdown. Three-year-old little Lu Qian was originally a cheerful chubby baby, loving food, sleep, and toys. When happy, he would willingly make a pouty face. He displayed none of the later sinister and rebellious traits seen in the novel.
While reading the book, Xue Yao found the male protagonist’s development quite enthralling, especially his skill in concealing a blade behind his smile, pretending weakness to outsmart others, showcasing remarkable acting abilities, and slapping others with his high IQ.
But now, immersed in the situation, the thought of this chubby cub gradually turning into the ruthless and fearsome character from the later part of the story was heart-wrenching.
Moreover, this chubby cub had innate thought processes that were already unusual, making him prone to numbness and cruelty. With further influence, there was no hope of treatment or correction, as far as Xue Yao could tell.
Hence, the best-case scenario was to nip the issue in the bud.
The construction of the Road to Shu ultimately came to nothing but resulted in the toil and casualties of tens of thousands of common people.
If Xue Yao could have dissuaded the Emperor’s thoughts from the very beginning, not only would the Seventh Prince’s path to maturity have been much smoother, but it could have indirectly prevented the disaster that befell tens of thousands of common people.
In doing so, there might be an influx of tens of thousands of Whitewashing Points.
Tens of thousands of Whitewashing Points!
With this substantial sum of Whitewashing Points, he’d have enough to unlock all the basic shops!
The Rubik’s Cube in the mental space didn’t just offer the Foodmart.
The Rubik’s Cube had a total of nine grids, each corresponding to resources like food, fabrics, herbs, crop seeds, timber, steel, books, and more.
Each of these nine resource types had both Level 2 and Level 3.
Similar to the Foodmart, the secondary level could alter the refresh frequency, and the ultimate level allowed for unrestricted resource search.
With such reserves, even if Xue Yao didn’t thrive in the palace, the valuable herbs and fabrics he could exchange from the Rubik’s Cube could be sold to civilian merchants.
This way, even if he couldn’t make it in the palace, he could buy a house in Jiangnan, engage in a small business, and avoid the future misfortune of having his ear chopped and buttocks poked by the chubby cub.
Just thinking about it brought pure delight!
However, reality was cruel. His Whitewashing Points balance dwindled to a mere 36 points. Even when he was ravenous, he couldn’t bring himself to exchange for a slice of cake.
Poverty fueled Xue Yao’s ambitions.
He desperately wanted to seize this opportunity, but the execution seemed too difficult.
The Emperor was as stubborn as ever, and even though the mid-phase of the Road to Shu project had already stirred up public anger, it would take the heartfelt plea of his eldest son to soften his stance. What could Xue Yao possibly do to persuade him?
An eight-year-old cannon fodder without the protagonist’s halo couldn’t afford to act recklessly.
Xue Yao planned to start with Consort Xi, hoping that she could dissuade the Emperor from his foolish intentions.
However, the Emperor’s primary focus remained on intimidating his brother, so the idea of Road to Shu construction might not be easily erased.
At the very least, he needed Consort Xi to outright refuse the “travel plan” from the beginning, and thus ensuring that the Seventh Prince would enjoy a peaceful and unburdened childhood.
One day, after returning to the Xue residence, Concubine Zhou brought a food box to Xue Yao’s bedroom. She joyfully opened it and presented a plate of fresh shrimp dumplings, urging Xue Yao to eat while they were still warm.
“Where did these come from?” Xue Yao asked in surprise.
His biological mother was relatively timid and usually didn’t dare to dine at the main table. Eating mostly leftovers, her life wasn’t necessarily better than the servants in the Xue household. So, how had she managed to acquire such a delicacy today?
“It’s a gift from the Old Madam.” Concubine Zhou beamed, looking at Xue Yao. “I’ve been waiting by the main hall’s entrance all day to intercept the gift the Old Madam sent! Madam’s maidservant is still waiting in the guest hall. She couldn’t notify Madam in time, and I managed to grab the items!”
Concubine Zhou resembled a young girl who had stumbled upon a great treasure, eagerly picking up the chopsticks and offering a shrimp dumpling to Xue Yao.
Xue Yao’s heart trembled slightly. He gazed blankly at the triumphant expression on Concubine Zhou’s face.
On such a scorching day, Concubine Zhou had waited outside the main hall just to sneak a bite of food from Madam Chen to give her son a taste.
Did all mothers have this kind of simple joy?
However, at this moment, Concubine Zhou didn’t display the demeanor of a loving mother. Instead, she appeared like a young child awaiting praise from an elder as she held the shrimp dumpling, waiting for Xue Yao to open his mouth.
Perhaps knowing that she had allowed her son to suffer because of her status as a concubine, Concubine Zhou typically refrained from bothering Xue Yao.
She knew she couldn’t provide anything substantial to support her son, and being overly affectionate would only make Madam Chen despise this concubine-born child even more. Thus, her deep reservoir of motherly love remained hidden.
Her son was the only family she had left in her heart, but she couldn’t openly display the usual affection between a mother and child because she was just a concubine.
It was the first time Xue Yao had directly faced Concubine Zhou’s hidden maternal love. His heart was filled with a mix of emotions.
In his previous life, the word “maternal love” had no place in his life until he faced a plane crash.
Xue Yao’s previous life was filled with melodrama. His biological mother gave birth to him out of wedlock and later parted ways with his father, both of them unwilling to accept him as a burden.
Xue Yao was raised with difficulty as both his paternal and maternal grandfathers pushed responsibility back and forth. Later, he showed great determination, earned a full scholarship to study in the United States, only to face a plane crash while returning home during a break.
In his past life, he had seldom experienced family affection, to the extent that even after his reincarnation, he didn’t sink into despondency due to missing his relatives.
However, this didn’t mean he didn’t understand the significance of family bonds.
In fact, those who have long lived in the shadows tend to be more sensitive to the light.
Xue Yao had a habit of eating at various classmates’ homes since elementary school, often sneaking in for a meal.
He had watched his classmates’ parents urging their children to do homework, slicing apples and peeling oranges, and coaxing them to take another bite of vegetables.
These scenes often brought a silly smile to young Xue Yao’s face.
The child who felt unloved was the most longing for a taste of that warmth.
At this very moment, Concubine Zhou’s genuine maternal love was all wrapped around him.
Happiness arrived more suddenly than a windfall of ten thousand Whitewashing Points. Xue Yao found himself somewhat overwhelmed. He lowered his head and eagerly bit into the shrimp dumpling offered by Concubine Zhou, but in his haste, he accidentally bit into the chopstick’s end.
“Mmm!” Xue Yao clutched his front tooth!
Concubine Zhou was both amused by the child’s comical expression and concerned. She asked Xue Yao to open his mouth so she could check his tooth.
Fortunately, he was fine. She advised him to eat more slowly and continued to feed him shrimp dumplings.
“You should eat too.” Xue Yao nudged the chopsticks toward Concubine Zhou’s mouth.
“People from our Jiangnan region aren’t fond of eating noodles,” Concubine Zhou made an excuse, trying to avoid indulging in the delicious treat. There were only eight dumplings in total, and she couldn’t bear to eat one.
Xue Yao found this excuse quite amusing.
Coincidentally, in his previous life, he was also from Jiangsu, not far from Suzhou, where Concubine Zhou came from. Their culinary habits weren’t significantly different. They both enjoyed dumplings and other foods. It was just that Nanjing had a preference for savory flavors, while Suzhou leaned towards sweetness.
“Since we’re in the capital, we should adapt to local customs. Even if you don’t like it, you should give it a try,” Xue Yao insisted, firmly presenting the chopsticks to her.
Concubine Zhou tactfully avoided the topic, pretending to be displeased. “I can’t get used to this taste. I can’t stand it!”
“Alright, then let’s both refrain from eating it.” Xue Yao put on a cold expression, snatched the chopsticks, and tossed the shrimp dumplings back into the plate. He picked up the dish and started to walk out. “I’ll give it to Madam and Big Brother to enjoy. They, being northerners, like this.”
“Yao’er!” Concubine Zhou was taken aback.
Xue Yao turned his head, raising his chin playfully. “What’s wrong? Does Mother want to eat them?”
Concubine Zhou shivered. The word “Mother” that had briefly escaped from Xue Yao almost pierced her eardrums, creating a buzzing noise in her head.
Concubines didn’t have theor own children. The child she gave birth to should call Madam Chen “Mother.”
“Why are you recklessly calling me that?” Concubine Zhou’s eyes turned red.
With a mix of fear, trembling courage, and overwhelming joy, she stammered while scolding Xue Yao, “Is it appropriate to call me ‘Mother’ so casually? If Madam hears it…”
“I’ll only call you that in private.” Xue Yao placed the dumplings back on the table, raising his eyebrows at Concubine Zhou. “I would never make a mistake in front of others, right, Mother?”
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