Xue Yao took a quick look at his Whitewashing Points balance. It had reached a total of 169 points, thanks to the various small additions over the past few days. Plus, he had received 115 Whitewashing Points just a couple of days ago for intervening in Second Uncle’s forced wedding proposal.
Spending 130 Whitewashing Points to open a store felt like quite a significant expense.
However, given the urgent circumstances, Xue Yao felt the need to try anything to improve his situation. He made the decision to select one of the two mysterious malls and give it a shot.
【Multidimensional Record Reference Line Mall】
Xue Yao pressed against the Rubik’s Cube, trying to get a clear view of the products inside.
The interior of the Multidimensional Record Reference Line Mall was white and filled with a misty haze.
The interior of the Interstice Mall was black, resembling an endless abyss.
He really couldn’t tell what they were selling. Why didn’t they provide any explanations?
Xue Yao could only analyze the names of the two malls.
“Multidimensional Record Reference Line Mall” sounded like a shop for taking notes, but could “multidimensional” refer to recording and playing back three-dimensional images?
“Interstice Mall” had a mysterious ring to it, with its endless interior darkness, giving off a strong aura.
So, Xue Yao chose【Interstice Mall】.
The system message appeared: 【Deducting 130 Whitewashing Points. Interstice Mall is now open. It provides an initial interstice space of one cubic meter. We wish you a pleasant experience.】
It turned out to be a storage space!
Xue Yao couldn’t quite tell if he was disappointed or pleasantly surprised. The Interstice Mall might not solve his current dilemma, but the goods he bought from the shop earlier had eye-catching packaging that didn’t fit this era. They had a free storage period of only three days and no private space, making it quite unsafe to store them. This kind of storage space was indeed necessary.
It was worth it.
Xue Yao retrieved the hidden stash of cow milk candies from under his bed and held it in his hand as he entered the mental space.
The Interstice Mall immediately prompted whether to store shop items.
After confirming, the milk candy in his hand disappeared.
Clicking on the【Interstice Mall】again, the interface displayed a package of milk candies in the inventory. The system prompted if he wished to take one out.
Xue Yao exited the interface.
It was quite convenient.
One cubic meter of space wasn’t too small. Xue Yao also stored the remaining two cartons of Want Want milk inside.
He tried to store the silver notes Consort Xi had given her earlier, but the system displayed an error message: 【The basic Interstice Mall cannot store unofficial channel products. Please upgrade the shop first.】
Xue Yao temporarily had no interest in researching the upgrade requirements and simply exited the mental space.
Shopping was indeed a stress-reliever. After his shopping spree, Xue Yao quickly grew tired and fell asleep.
He had initially thought he would only spend two or three days with the Seventh Prince, but five days had passed, and Xue Yao had yet to receive a dismissal notice from Consort Xi.
He made the most of each day, sharing milk candies with the cubs during their break times.
He wished he could shower them with love and care for the next few years, nurturing them to grow quickly and be able to withstand the challenges on their own.
On this sunny afternoon, Xue Yao sat with the Seventh Prince in the pavilion.
“Did Consort Xi promise to let me stay and take care of Your Highness?” Xue Yao asked this question every day.
The Seventh Prince repeated Consort Xi’s response, “There will be other attendants to accompany Your Highness in your studies.”
Xue Yao: “……”
It was another day of disappointment.
Xue Yao, feeling dejected, asked the Seventh Prince, “Did Your Highness really make an effort to request Consort Xi to let me stay?”
The Seventh Prince vigorously nodded.
Xue Yao was still worried. “How did Your Highness request Consort Xi?”
The Seventh Prince hopped off the stone stool and demonstrated his efforts on the spot.
He threw himself to the ground with a loud “plop” and pounded his chubby little hands together. “Want it, want it! Your son wants to see Yaoyao for many days!”
Xue Yao: “……”
Was this the attitude for requesting Consort Xi?
You’re throwing a tantrum, you chubby little dumpling!
Xue Yao quickly helped the Seventh Prince up and said in a despondent tone, “Let’s just accept our fate.”
The Seventh Prince began to squirm. “Want it, want it!”
“Listen to me,” Xue Yao earnestly looked at the Seventh Prince and advised, “I also want to grow up with Your Highness, but Consort Xi is currently misled by bad people. She’s doing this to protect Your Highness. Please don’t blame Consort Xi.”
The Seventh Prince insisted with a pout, “Want it, want it!”
Xue Yao ignored his tantrum and continued, “In the future, if the Third Prince bullies You Highness, don’t always give in. Threaten to tell your Father Emperor. Your Highness is young, and your Father Emperor will surely take Your Highness’ side, understand?”
The Seventh Prince echoed his words, “Tell Father Emperor!”
Outside the pavilion, behind the banyan tree, Consort Xi’s expression grew increasingly puzzled.
Back in Qingqiong Hall, Consort Xi changed her clothes.
Yiqiu spoke softly, “Your Highness has been observing for several days, and that little rascal, Xue Yao, seems to be truly inclined towards you and His Highness. His visit to Chuxiu Palace might be for personal reasons. Why not have a clear conversation with him?”
Consort Xi pondered for a moment and shook her head. “Why would he inexplicably favor me and my son? We mustn’t be careless. Let me observe for a few more days.”
In the evening, the Fourth Prince discreetly visited Qingqiong Hall, specifically to present a hand-sewn bunny plush made by Noble Lady Yi to Old Seventh.
Noble Lady Yi had heard that the Third Prince had been causing trouble for the Seventh Prince lately. She was very concerned that her son, being too close to the Third Prince, would potentially anger Consort Xi.
So, she stayed up all night and handcrafted plush toys, hoping to strengthen the brotherly bond between her son and Old Seventh.
The Fourth Prince was aware that Old Seventh had an endless collection of plush toys and probably wouldn’t care much for such a small gift. He wanted to decline, but seeing his mother’s tired and bruised appearance, with her left index finger still wrapped in bandages, he hesitated.
She must have put in a great deal of effort into making this plush toy.
He couldn’t bear to dampen his mother’s spirits, so he personally delivered the plush toy to Qingqiong Hall.
His mother didn’t understand the dangers of the palace. He had already chosen to align with the Third Prince, and there was no turning back. What could a small favor like this do for brotherly affection?
Besides, Old Seventh would never ascend to the throne in the future. Offending him wouldn’t have significant consequences.
The Fourth Prince had analyzed the situation. The throne was undoubtedly reserved for the Eldest Prince. However, his alliance with the Third Prince didn’t pose any danger.
Because the Eldest Prince was an honorable man, a true gentleman, and he wouldn’t seek personal vendettas once he ascended to the throne.
By supporting the Third Prince, he could use this connection to gain some bribes from officials and not face retribution from the Emperor in the future. It was actually the most prudent choice.
As for trying to please the Seventh Prince, he believed it wasn’t necessary.
After all, the child was only three years old. Even if he was offended, he wouldn’t remember it as he grew up. His mother was being overly cautious and worried.
Just as he was thinking this, he reached the entrance to the palace, and a court attendant approached to greet him.
The Fourth Prince asked, “Is Old Seventh in the palace?”
The attendant bowed and replied, “Seventh Prince hasn’t returned yet.”
The Fourth Prince nodded. “Take me inside to wait.”
Arriving in the reception hall, the Fourth Prince looked at the splendid furnishings around, feeling a pang of sadness for his mother.
Consort Xi was not in the hall. A steward aunt asked on behalf of the mistress what the Fourth Prince’s business was.
The Fourth Prince took the plush toy from his pocket and explained his purpose.
The steward aunt intended to convey the message for the Fourth Prince, but considering he had personally come to the palace, she thought there might be other intentions and refrained from further questions. She instructed a palace maid to open the ice mirror for the Fourth Prince to cool down.
The Fourth Prince paced back and forth in the reception hall, occasionally glancing toward the door.
He happened to see a palace maid hurrying through the palace gate and heading towards the eastern hall.
This palace maid seemed somewhat familiar.
The Fourth Prince stared at the palace maid, feeling somewhat puzzled.
He rarely came to Qingqiong Hall intentionally to ingratiate himself, and he had no particular impression of the palace staff. However, this particular palace maid looked very familiar, as if he had seen her somewhere a long time ago.
“What’s the name of that palace maid?” The Fourth Prince pointed at the palace maid’s back to the eunuch at the door.
The eunuch turned to look and immediately replied, “In response to Your Highness, she’s called Chunfang, a first-class palace maid from our court.”
The Fourth Prince grew even more perplexed. “Chunfang?”
It rang a bell. He seemed to have seen her by Consort Tong’s side, but that had been many years ago.
Suddenly, something clicked in the Fourth Prince’s mind, and the fog in his thoughts instantly cleared.
His eyes sharpened. He hurriedly lowered his head and walked back into the room, as if he hadn’t seen anyone just now.
Seven days passed in the blink of an eye.
Xue Yao began to suspect that Consort Xi had forgotten about him.
Had Consort Xi’s mention of replacing him been just a warning? Why was there still no action taken?
This silence was becoming unbearable.
Xue Yao lived every day with a sense of suspense, fearing that at any moment, a eunuch would arrive to announce the replacement of the reader-in-waiting for the Seventh Prince.
For the past few days, he had been under the impression that he would have to leave. Xue Yao had bid farewell to the Fifth Prince and the Sixth Prince.
None of the children wanted him to go. The Fifth and Sixth Princes even insisted that he become their reader-in-waiting, but they were scared off by Old Seventh’s stern face and little growls.
The Seventh Prince was fiercely protective. “Yaoyao is your son’s!” [further translation: Yaoyao is mine!]
Xue Yao felt utterly hopeless.
He wondered if this Long Aotian cub would grow up and blame him for teaching him the self-address “your son,” given that the Seventh Prince had made himself to be the son of countless people.
One afternoon, the little princes were playing in the schoolyard as usual.
The Fifth Prince took the lead in climbing an artificial hill, when suddenly, a red cuju ball came flying and hit the Fifth Prince’s forehead with a resounding “thud.”
The Fifth Prince nearly tumbled down but was saved by attendants who rushed to his side.
“Old Fifth, why haven’t you been to the cuju field these days?” The Third Prince’s cold laughter echoed from nearby. “Didn’t you promise to have a match with Big Brother?”
The laughter and playfulness of the little princes instantly faded into silence.
The Seventh Prince didn’t hesitate to hide behind the Sixth Prince!
The Sixth Prince turned into a little stump again, staring up at the Third Prince with a blank expression.
The Fifth Prince, with a downcast look, climbed down from the artificial hill, nodding as he greeted, “Third Brother.”
The Third Prince glanced around and grinned. “All of us brothers are here, perfect! Let’s have a match.”
“We haven’t practiced in a while,” the Sixth Prince protested quietly, feeling that it was unfair for him to play against the older Third Brother.
The Third Prince slowly turned his eyes to the Sixth Prince and smirked. “That’s perfect then. Today, Third Brother will teach you.”
“I don’t want to learn from you…” The Sixth Prince, picking at his little hand, was on the verge of tears.
“What?” The Third Prince threatened with a stern look, bending down to ask him, “Say it again.”
The tearful Sixth Prince sought help from the Fifth Prince.
The Fifth Prince, with sweat on his forehead, quietly diverted attention, “They’re still small, and they can’t play properly. How about I practice with Third Brother?”
“Shh!” The Third Prince impatiently turned around, placing his index finger on his lips, signaling the Fifth Prince to hush. He then turned back to the Sixth Prince and asked, “What did you just say? Say it again.”
The Sixth Prince dared not speak.
The Third Prince sneered, his mouth curling in disdain. He raised his chin and cast a sidelong glance at Old Seventh, who was cowering behind the Sixth Prince. “Why is it that every time we meet, you don’t greet Third Brother? Do you even know proper manners? Come out, Old Seventh.”
His voice turned low. The last words rumbled like thunder, nearly making Seventh Prince curl up into a ball.
The Third Prince pushed aside the Sixth Prince and reached out to grab Old Seventh.
“Your Highness!” Xue Yao suddenly darted out and, just like last time, stood in front of the Third Prince, offering a bright smile. “Long time no see, Your Highness. How have you been lately…”
The Third Prince raised an eyebrow, raised his hand to wave him off, indicating that he was causing a disturbance.
Xue Yao, undeterred, put on a brave face and continued to interfere with the Third Prince’s actions. “Has His Majesty assigned you the study of the Four Books? If you need to transcribe texts as punishment, please feel free to instruct…”
“Who said Father Emperor ordered me to transcribe texts?” The Third Prince’s anger was indeed piqued by this impertinent reader-in-waiting who was causing a scene and embarrassing him.
He playfully patted Xue Yao’s cheek with his hand. “It seems you’ve spent too much time with this fool. Now you’ve become one yourself!”
Xue Yao silently prayed for Consort Tong’s people to arrive and take this troublemaker away, not wanting the Seventh Prince to be further frightened. He continued to provoke the Third Prince, squeezing out a smile.”Your Highness is right, I was a fool to begin with!”
The Third Prince squinted, sensing that Xue Yao seemed to be attempting to stall for time, which surprised him.
The reader-in-waiting who had once led the bullying of Old Seventh was now trying to protect him!
The Third Prince’s face contorted with anger. “Have you lost your mind? Get out of my way now, or I’ll beat you to death today!”
Xue Yao didn’t back down and continued to feign confusion, trying to buy more time. “It’s been many days since we last met, and I couldn’t help but want to catch up with Your Highness. If I’ve misspoken…”
With a sharp “smack,” the Third Prince raised his hand and delivered a resounding slap to Xue Yao’s face.
Caught off guard, Xue Yao stumbled a few steps to the side, his vision spinning.
“You’re not allowed to hit people!” the Sixth Prince spoke in trembling tones, filled with fear.
The Fifth Prince also took a couple of steps forward, nervously trying to intervene.
However, the Third Prince paid no attention to their protests and raised his hand again, aiming it at Xue Yao.
Just as the palm was about to land, a chubby little ball suddenly shot out from under their eyelids, moving so swiftly that nobody had time to react. It collided right into the Third Prince’s arms like a cannonball!
Gasps and cries of astonishment filled the air.
The Third Prince was knocked over, his legs flailing in the air. Grimacing and baffled, he angrily shouted, “You… you, you audacious barbaric mongrel!”
Despite the pain in his bottom, he swiftly got back on his feet and reached for the chubby boy who was usually timid.
But before he could grab the Seventh Prince, he heard a woman’s voice behind him, cold and unyielding.
“Who did Your Highness call a barbaric mongrel?”
The Third Prince hadn’t even turned around when he saw the attendants surrounding him quickly bowing and saluting the woman behind him. “Consort Xi, may you be well…”
The Third Prince’s face turned ashen in an instant.
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