Ren Baqian was summoned to the palace when it was almost nighttime. Once he entered the palace, he saw the empress, who was wearing a red dress, standing in front of a table with a painting displayed on it.
"Your humble servant is here to see Your Majesty." Ren Baqian paid his respects.
The empress turned around, looked at Ren Baqian and nodded her head, "I haven't seen you for a few days, you look even better now."
"To handle things for Your Majesty, I must look presentable otherwise Your Majesty will lose face," Ren Baqian explained.
"Well said and also well done in the task assigned to you," the empress praised.
"As long as Your Majesty doesn't blame me for acting recklessly."
"If you were afraid, you would have already begged for forgiveness," the empress curled her lips.
"Your humble servant is thinking of completing the tasks given by Your Majesty and has no time for other matters. Even if Your Majesty were to blame me, I would still complete the job first," Ren Baqian quickly replied.
The empress once again shifted her gaze from the painting to Ren Baqian, "If you are speaking the truth, I will be very happy."
"It is sincerely true, your humble servant dares not hide anything from Your Majesty, one means one and two means two."
The empress was noncommittal. She would really be a fool if she was to believe everything Ren Baqian said.
Ren Baqian naturally understood this. After all, saying more flattering words to show his loyalty was very beneficial towards him. It only involved saying a few words and did not cost anything.
If only he had previously been as smart and in quick-witted in doing his work as he was now, he would not be in such a miserable stage.
The empress returned to her couch, stretched her palm out and Hong Luan immediately poured a glass of wine and placed it in the empress's hands.
This was not the first time Ren Baqian had encountered such a scene. He had always been very curious to know how Qing Yuan and Hong Luan were able to know what the empress needed at any moment.
Furthermore, from the expression of the empress, the two were able to satisfy her needs every time.
It was unlikely that they were the roundworms in her stomach.
However, this ability was the goal that he would like to achieve.
"Although no one complained against you for these two days, I estimate that it will come after some time. Tell me what can I do? Though you have done well, they are still our guests who send me gifts. If they go out with many complaints, it will be hard to justify. Could you please tell me, what should I do?"
"I do not want to punish you, after all you are doing work for me and it suits me."
"Can you tell me what shall I do?"
Ren Baqian who was standing beneath the empress, listened to her words and came to a conclusion. There was only one option for him: he was willing to be punished.
Although the empress might just say so and not really punish him. Or, she might be trying to sound him out. If he was punished, the empress would feel embarrassed as he was working for her, but eventually he would be the scapegoat. Since when did the emperor of Dayao do such a thing?
The impression Dayao's people gave to others was one of being uncivilized and overbearing.
And they never had scruples about other people's thoughts.
Ren Baqian lifted up his head to face the empress and said, "You will not care how others scrutinize your imperial orders especially with regards to those small fry. Why must Your Majesty give them an explanation?"
Upon hearing Ren Baqian's reply, a smile appeared on the empress and then she broke into wanton laughter. Her red lips were on fire, and she gave Ren Baqian the feeling of a ball of flame spreading without restrain.
She drank the wine in one gulp and laughed heartily, "Hong Luan, give Storyteller Ren a glass of wine."
Ren Baqian received the wine and the smell told him that the liquor was quite strong. He raised the glass and made a toast with both hands. "Thanks for bestowing the wine, Your Majesty."
After speaking, he drank the wine in one gulp. He felt the fire as the heat flowed into his stomach.
"Well said, I do not care about what the other people think about my imperial orders," the empress complimented him.
"Your Majesty is well versed in literature and martial arts, whatever you do is carefully considered and there is naturally no need to care about what others think or say." Ren Baqian knew his words would go right to the heart of the empress, so he was taking the opportunity to strike while the iron was hot.
The empress laughed heartily and poured another glass of wine down her throat.
"In four days' time, it will be the Great Hunt. You will inform the rest and each participant can bring one follower. Announce the name list two days later."
Ren Baqian was slightly stunned by this announcement. Great Hunt? He had never heard about it before.
"At that time, you better perform well and not cause me throw my face."
"That's it, you can go."
" Yes, Your Majesty." Ren Baqian kept musing about this as he left the palace.
What is this Great Hunt about?
Furthermore, I am expected by the empress to participate in it.
It seems like I should find someone and ask about it.
Ren Baqian went directly to the best park to look for Caretaker Shi and saw him at the doorway exercising with a stone dumbbell [which was in the form of an old padlock].
No wonder Caretaker Shi was muscular. It was something he did not notice before, but Caretaker Shi was training his muscles every day.
Sure enough, the muscles were developed by training and did not come naturally.
Caretaker Shi saw Ren Baqian, put the stone dumbbell aside and laughed, "I am getting old and not as strong as before. It would have taken very little effort if it was ten years ago."
Consequently, his body perspired profusely, and he was a little breathless.
Sometimes, Ren Baqian looked at these aboriginals and felt he should train his body too. But, even if he trained to be very muscular, it would not be enough to even block a single blow.
It might be a better idea to learn some martial arts from this world when opportunities arise.
In any case, it would not be to the extent that he lacks the strength to truss up a chicken.
"What about the air cooler?" Ren Baqian asked.
"We managed to make 30 pieces these few days and already sold more than 20 piece. There are still a few left and we reckon that they will be sold out tomorrow." Caretaker Shi mentioned it excitedly.
Ren Baqian nodded. They have sold more than 40 units, and he estimated that it was almost time for imitation goods to appear.
However, lately there were so many nobles coming here. If they knew about this thing, they should not be so stingy as not to buy one, and it should sell for quite a while.
This air-cooler should be able to generate a profit of 1200 taels of silver.
"Caretaker Shi, I have something to ask you, what is the Great Hunt?" Ren Baqian changed the subject to autumn hunting.
"It is a day which is coming soon," The caretaker immediately answered Ren Baqian.
"It is a local tradition. This day every year, to go hunting with sword and arrows on the mountains. The more and bigger the preys, the better the coming year will be. If a saber-toothed tiger is caught, the hunter will be received with great favor by the young ladies in the strongholds."
"This is also held in Lan City?"
"Mainly in the strongholds. However, Her Majesty will hold this event once a year. The children of the esteemed families will participate to flaunt their status. Some with enmity will challenge each other at this time."
"During the past few Great Hunts, did those who came to celebrate her Majesty's birthday also participate in the hunt?"
"Naturally, our young aboriginals are not like those weaklings, and we got to make them understand that," Caretaker Shi said as a matter of fact.
Ren Baqian had just realized this event was useful in projecting the image of Dayao by displaying the bravery of the young generation to other countries. They would retain a sense of fear and respect and, upon going back, would tell others; hence, spreading the reputation of Dayao.
Thereafter, Ren Baqian's face turned green with fear.
By participating in the hunt, he would accompany those gangs who dismantled houses with their bare hands and those nobles whom he tortured until half-dead to the mountains. This was as good as digging a big trap for himself.