134 4.47 

The talk, needless to say, went very smoothly.

In fact, if it was to be neatly summarized it would look something like this-

Emperor: Blah blah blah, is that okay?

Tang Muxin: Hmm… I'm not comfortable with blah how about blah?

Emperor: That's a bit… 

Jin Bao, rises up and lays the upper half of his body on the emperor's lap: Mrrp.

Emperor: Zhen will do what Zhen can ah. 

Ye Cheng: I am also worried about blah blah.

Emperor: Well you don't have to worry about that given you are-

Jin Bao, twists onto his back and lightly tugs the emperor's robes playfully while sticking out his tongue: Krrree.

Emperor: Your worries are completely valid and Zhen will make sure that blah won't happen. 

Pan Shuchun: Hey is it possible for you to blah blah blah?

Emperor: No matter what, you guys are all commoners. Other than the dragon saintess who is unique Zhen cannot just arbitrarily help you with-

Jin Bao, batting his eyes and letting his tail curl around the emperor's wrist coquettishly: Mreeep

Emperor: Zhen is the emperor. Anyone who questions who Zhen helps can question if they want to live as well. 

Yan Huizhong: …

Oh no, someone replaced his emperor father with a tyrannical dragon loving pervert. 

Yan Huizhong glances at Da Gong squatting below the emperor's seat, swinging between furiously guzzling vinegar or calm shyness depending if the golden dragon pays attention to him or not while selling meng to the emperor. 

Yan Huizhong who felt the image was eerily familiar, quickly retracts and remakes his previous statement. 

Oh no, someone replaced his emperor father with a replicate of Da Gong. 

Feeling that this needed to stop before his emperor father bestowed the entire kingdom's treasury to everyone in a fit of overindulgence, the eighth prince coughed loudly. Both the emperor and Da Gong immediately turned to glare at him impatiently, irritated that their time with the cute dragon was interrupted. 

Yan Huizhong: …

Aiyah how scary. _(:3」∠)_ 

Seeing his son be sufficiently cowed, the emperor snorted and continued to pet, pet the dragon.

To be honest the emperor was also not a fan of Yan Huizhong. He admitted he liked the prince's capabilities and intelligence a lot however the emperor, who has gone through various trials and tribulations in the fight for the crown, naturally sensed the black-bellied nature of this child. 

All good emperors should have a bit of a black belly, but the eighth prince seriously had a lot of problems. He was gloomy and will only change his attitude for the better to people he felt were worth it. Not to mention he chose to follow the crown prince who was arrogant and clearly full of lies and bad intentions. This meant Yan Huizhong's EQ was bad and was the type who followed those who praised him and made him happy.

If he became the emperor wouldn't he set up the kingdom into ruin and corruption???

The emperor was pretty smart, and like his own father, he had his own tricks to try his best to pick his sons for the throne. And for a prince who had personally experienced his own trials and hardships, he had no qualms about digging pits for his own kids.

He favoured the most spoilt son and made him crown prince, and threw him to his brothers to see which fish would bite this fat meat. However, he wasn't as cruel and genuinely did treat the crown prince very well unlike in his own childhood where his emperor father only made a public show of love toward him but ultimately leaving him to fend for himself. 

The crown prince in fairness was naturally talented and cunning. In the emperor's mind, if nobody else could step up, the crown prince should still be groomed with the intention to take over. If the crown prince wasn't so arrogant, selfish, lazy and short-sighted he would've been almost perfect to be honest. 

Then again if most people weren't these things they'll be a lot of almost perfect people in the world ah. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

All in all, the emperor felt like the crown prince was the last resort emperor and a top-notch bait. After all, birds of the same feather will eventually flock together. 

To his pleasant surprise, none of his other sons took this bait and ate up the crown prince's bullshit. Other than a few nibbles here and there it was clear that the princes were all individualistic and were not easily fooled. Other than giving the crown prince enough face and flattering him to avoid any future troubles, everyone more or less kept to themselves, choosing to one-up others with their own skills and some minor sabotage. 

It was only the eighth prince Yan Huizhong who not only took the bait but swallowed it whole with barely any hesitation. This made the emperor have a naturally unfavourable impression of him. 

It was a bit like the feeling when you make a shitty art project, and you know it's shitty and you objectively know that by normal human aesthetic standards it's shitty but then one of your friends comes along and acts like it's such an amazing piece of work and that they wish they could've done as good as you did ooooh they love the colour scheme, it's so wild and gorgeous. Then when you call them out on it they will determinedly double down on the compliments to show how genuine they are, making you even surer of their fakery. 

A real friend will shit on the art project with you okay? 

This sort of cheap son, who wasn't even good at saying sweet words and gaining followers like the crown prince was really quite a waste ah. Intelligence is good and all, but without the proper emotional capabilities, it's really just a waste. It was more annoying than having a complete idiot of a son really.

And did the emperor feel bad about how the eighth prince lived in the beginning? A little ah. But palace life was a cold one. One couldn't live by being the Virgin Mary here. 

Everyone is dealt with cards and if there are no hardships and sufferings to go through there's nothing to temper yourself with. The emperor was raised on survival of the fittest where it was considered good enough if your emperor father didn't purposely pit you or scheme against you. And after years of fighting his own brothers and concubine mothers. His sympathy and familial feelings for his own blood were naturally low. 

The eighth prince may share similarities with himself but that only makes the repulsion bigger to the emperor. Some people are like this. There are people who enjoy the presence of people with similar personalities to themselves and there are others who dislike it. 

For example, stingy people may like to be friends with other stingy people because they can save together and they understand each other's need to avoid spending too much. Alternatively, stingy people may not like other stingy people and prefer generous people. This attraction and repulsion generally are attributed to various other traits, habits and lifestyles of each individual. 

In this case, the emperor has an arrogance and a slight small-mindedness against people who have been in situations like himself. After all, he has been pitted by his father, his mother didn't help him either and his brothers constantly tried to attack, humiliate and even assassinate him with varying degrees of success. Even the servants had bullied him when he was younger.

However, he pushed through all that, worked hard, tempered his character, learned to network, to flatter and to threaten, and finally overturned heaven's odds to stand at the top. In the emperor's mind, if he could do this can't other people also do the same? At the very least the conditions he set for his sons were all much better than his own, his sons who share his blood should also be able to persevere and do well in their goals.

And while a lot of them came out crazy and strange it was undeniable that they were talented and well praised in certain fields. The crown prince was impatient, impulsive and arrogant but he had the charisma and a decent grasp of leadership and intelligence. The second prince also had some followers- though they were near tears at this point due to his laziness and lack of ambition- and was incredibly popular toward the literati and scholarly people as a man above materialism. 

The third prince was quiet and thoughtful. He was low-key and slowly amassed a following that nearly rivalled the crown prince's. Though the emperor knew he was quite callous and also arrogant, the child was like a stick of bamboo that could bend and sway against the storms that hit him.

The fourth prince has mainly kept to himself and has not accomplished much but at the same time, his backing on his mother's side is very strong as she is the daughter of the current prime minister. Such a timid person with such a trump card who has somehow never gotten into any troubles during his years in the palace is eye-catching in itself. It is unknown how deep these still waters were. The emperor actually has some expectations for this one. 

The fifth prince was a lecherous playboy but also had charisma and was generous and was loved by the commoners- they were commoners from the red light district but still-! 

The sixth prince was a crybaby but if you ignore that he was neither hot nor cold. He also was a very talented painter. Really leaning into the stereotype of sensitive artists but oh well. 

The seventh prince was crazy and a violent dragon loving maniac who believes if he submerged himself in the water long enough during a full moon he can talk to the undead dragon spirits in his mind…. But he was annoyingly the most naturally talented prince there was with his natural affinity to martial arts and memory that remembers anything it sees. 

The ninth prince was a bit on the young and immature side, but he had a very sweet mouth so both the empress and himself couldn't help but dote on him. 

But what about the eighth prince? He only had above average intelligence and fighting skills. He only had schemes and plots in his heart but had no charm and always was bitter and insecure. When he had no power he poorly hid in the shadows like some sort of criminal and when he gained power by hugging the crown prince's thigh he was smug and offended people left and right. If the emperor knew what cannon fodder was he would paint the characters on his forehead. 

Yan Huizhong sensed the dislike coming off his emperor father and a flash of resentment passed his eyes. Inwardly he felt deeply wronged. After all his physical condition was already so bad but his emperor father didn't even bat an eye (the emperor already knew from Euncuh Shi), he didn't even look at him for more than a moment (too entranced by how cute the dragon was) and even blindly acquiesced to Tang Muxin's demands when he, as his own son, wouldn't even dare dream of arguing back for fear of being scolded (again, too in love with the cuteness of the dragon). 

Is the dragon really more important than his own son?? (Emperor: Yes. Totally. No need to even think about it. Y'all suck anyway.) 

Depressed Yan Huizhong still couldn't let his emperor father lose any more face. After all, this is still the emperor! The emperor's face was the country's face! And that face shouldn't be openly making kissy fish faces! Even if it is at a dragon!

If this wasn't worse, Ye Cheng was there! Ahhhh, how fucking embarrassing! His emperor father is so wise and regal most of the time, but why was he so cringey now???

"Emperor father," Yan Huizhong forced himself to ignore his father's dislike and continue on with a thick face, "Don't you think it isn't good for you to stay out for so long?"

The emperor sneered, "Zhen can do as he pleases- also the empress is covering for Zhen."

Yan Huizhong: Ah, that explains it. (¬_¬)

"Still," Yan Huizhong tried to desperately think up an excuse to get the emperor to leave, however, he was quickly stopped at a sudden tug on his robes.

"Huizhong," Ye Cheng hisses, eyes more than faintly worried, "That's the emperor, show some respect."

Yan Huizhong: '…' Oh right, he hasn't told Ye Cheng his identity yet. 

"Yes… person," The emperor raises his eyebrows. As a man who has experienced much drama he more or less understood and was completely amused at the situation. "Show Zhen some respect."

Yan Huizhing: '…' How did he never realise emperor father was such an asshole?

Jia Hyson still in the emperor's lap perks his ears up. 'Oh damn, how did he hear Ye Cheng?'

Bebe helpfully answered for him, 'Dragon's blessing. Randomly raised a lot of his stats. According to the [World Encyclopedia], the last emperor had great eyesight, amazing grip strength and could hold his breath for a long time.'

Jia Hyson: '…' This dragon blessing was really casual huh.

Finally seeing his usually gloomy son getting so flustered and so easily bullied by himself, the emperor, after a few rounds of teasing him, felt the child was not too bad after all. 

Since most of the negotiations were done, the atmosphere was much more easygoing. The emperor felt like he already lost a lot of his dignity anyway so he relaxed and became very casual, which was a very refreshing experience for him. Petting the dragon, sipping tea and listening to the young people chat about their travels and dreams about opening a shop, the emperor felt a little bittersweet. Looking at the eighth prince who was actually smiling and even occasionally joking with the rather lively group, the emperor fell into some contemplation.

He has been a decent emperor and to be a good one you must sacrifice your fatherhood to a large extent. Maybe, just this once he might try his hand in being a good father for one of his sons. 

A few weeks later Tang Muxin and the group formally entered the palace in a big hurrah.

The emperor even personally called out carriages for them to show how much he valued their visit. Nobody doubted the emperor's sincerity and the entire capital was abuzz at the news.

Yan Huizhong who was still disabled and couldn't leave his wheelchair despite his well-nourished body, could only watch them all leave earlier in the morning with clenched fists. 

Even though he knew it was for the best, that there was no way for him to join as he was still crippled and far too recognisable… it was still frustrating being once again faced with how useless he was. 

But it's okay. Soon he will have his revenge toward the person responsible for this.

Stepping down from the carriage ride, most of the group fell into silence at the view, a little intimidated.

The palace was indeed a palace. Jia Hyson was quite impressed. 

After all, he's only been to these places when they were just historical monuments that were hundred if not thousands of years old. While it still held a great deal of majesty, it really couldn't compare to the real thing in its prime. 

Jia Hyson was not the most avid lover of history and was even the type of ungrateful history scum who would get bored midway through cultural tours that he forced himself to go to whenever he visited new places in order to enlighten himself and also because it reminds him of his mother's love for that sort of thing. Like it was always amazing at first and had the whole 'wow, ancient people were amazing' but after a while of looking at old buildings and listening to the guide talk about the ancient plumbing systems, it was all he could do not to whip out his phone and see if anything on his reading list updated. 

However, this was different ah. The whole palace had a life that will disappear with a thousand years. As such, subconsciously Jia Hyson felt more respectful and appreciative of it. 

Humans were just like this. They won't really appreciate something until it's gone. Once it was gone they will regret bitterly. If they were ever given an opportunity to see it again then they will value it tenfold. 

Even though Jia Hyson didn't really care for history it still made him a little emotional. 

Ah, he was really glad to be a system host. 

Pan Shuchun and Tang Muxin also felt the same way. They even felt like they've truly entered ancient China now that they've stepped into the palace still brimming with vitality. It wasn't that they weren't moved before, it was just that even in modern times there were many places that kept the life of ancient China and its old streets alive such as various old marketplaces and rural farming villages. The difference was not too big, to be honest. 

And the two unfortunate transmigrator ladies really never got to enjoy the life of being rich little misses properly either, so they also never got the ancient noble family experience. Therefore while their heart had long accepted their change in lifestyle, their hearts still underwent great fluctuations seeing as they entered a place they've only seen in imperial dramas. 

"Fuck me," Pan Shuchun felt a bit excited and self-conscious. "I feel like I'm ruining the historical cultural vibe with my clothes right now." Like going to a dress-up party in jeans, she felt a bit out of place. 

Everyone: …Now you realize? 

She was wearing an attractive modern white waistcoat with a minimalistic blue geometric stitching design coupled with a light azure based dress underneath. It was simple yet eye-catching and was brought two levels higher with her necklace strung up with large blue ice jade! 

This was ice jade! Even though it wasn't considered the best level of jade due to its slightly whitish colouration giving the impression of it being 'icy' it was considered the second-highest rank. And because of its ice jade, the rare deep blue colour of the jade itself did not overpower the outfit but instead complimented it incredibly well while still being the focal point. There were many women of varying statuses that couldn't help but stare at the outfit, particularly the necklace with heated eyes. 

Bebe: 'It's really nice of you host to sacrifice yourself for the sake of fashion.'

Jia Hyson who had 'voluntarily' contributed greatly to the cause of fashion: '…I don't want to talk about it.' 

Who knew that once Pan Shuchun realised that, depending on his diet, he could produce different types of jade with varying quality she would lose any mental resistance toward his 'special homemade dragon jade' and instead became very enthusiastic about it much to Jia Hyson's horror. There was even a poop chart!

A! Poop! Chart!

As for how Pan Shuchun managed to get so much ice blue jade in such a limited amount of time?

….He really doesn't want to talk about it okay? _:(´ཀ`」∠):_

Tang Muxin didn't feel the same need to flaunt and preen like Pan Shuchun however she recognised that as the dragon priestess and a future businesswoman she needed to make a distinct and powerful impression. Under Pan Shuchun's guidance, they chose a very bold style for her.

While Pan Shuchun's colour scheme was the classic chinese porcelain of blue and white, Tang Muxin had picked one of the most outrageous styles Pan Shuchun had on hand that she hadn't dared to sell yet.

Gothic and punk style hanfu.

A long skirt of shiny gold silk fabric that shimmered iridescently with every movement due to the fact that it was covered with crushed up gold powder and some of Jin Bao's scales which seemed to have started popping out of his body recently like baby teeth instead of moulting as normal reptiles would have. Over the top of this skirt which was really a national treasure in itself, was a black leather waist skirt with the hem studded with a pattern of alternating golden spiked studs and yellow jade carved with simplistic dragon designs. 

Instead of the usual fabric sash and decorative braid with a jade ornament to tie the skirts together, there was a proper black modern leather belt and chains of pure bright yellow and green jades. Each chain was probably enough to feed a farming family for a lifetime. 

The upper garment of Tang Muxin's outfit was no less outrageous. Because it was clearly inspired by the men's clothing. Not just any men's but the cloth and leather armour of the Tang dynasty. Black lamellar armour covered her chest and shoulders, each segment of the armour shaped like the scales of a snake, with the edges of each scale faintly outlined in gold dust. 

The shirt under the armour was from billowy and light silk, also an inky black that only highlighted the golden arm guards on her wrist. 

Not only that, smokey makeup was lightly applied onto her face which was used as a foil to better show off the cyberpunk style bright yellow designs painted on her face. Tang Muxin really looked incomprehensibly unworldly and fierce.

In short, super cool! 

Ye Cheng was also very handsome in his matching outfit with Pan Shuchun. Even though his skin was tan and dark due to his work and past living environment, it just served to make him look healthy and brimming with a sunny vitality. 

Coupled with his blue and white porcelain style robes and modern waistcoat, as well as the stunning ice blue jades decorating his body, it gave him a more serene and calming atmosphere. Like a calm powerful ocean basking under the hot fiery sun. Even the most colourist noble had to do a double-take and secretly admit how well he looked. And given this was in the time period which was practically the birthplace of colourism, that really spoke volumes on how handsome he looked right now.

Duan Mengyao and Eunuch Shi's most powerful guard disguised as their bodyguards were also not let off. They wore all black with streaks of a more bronzed gold, it was designed in a similar style to Tang Muxin's own ancient punk style. Bold, intimidating, and handsome as hell.

Even Da Gong was strutting around with gold glitter on his feathers and an intricately carved golden necklace. 

As for Jia Hyson? He felt his entrance needed to be no less eye-catching so he sat on the shoulders of Duan Mengyao who was the tallest person there, raising his body up and twisting around to show off his awe-inspiring beauty at the gawkers. 

Lead by Eunuch Shi who was dressed normally, they walked through the palace which was unexpectedly a much longer journey than expected. Like damn, they knew it was going to be big, but actually walking through it was such a trek. 

"Fuck me, oh my god, kill me, just let me die," Pan Shuchun who was the unhealthiest of all of them groans through her increasingly loud panting, "The dramas really fucking lied to me. How come they never made anyone sweaty ah? My makeup may start running soon." 

"Your health is so bad?" Duan Mengyao glances at her with a faint frown of disapproval, "You need to exercise more." He states bluntly.

Pan Shuchun shoots him a glare but finds to her horror, Tang Muxin nodding in agreement. "If you want, you can join me in some of my daily exercises?" The super-assassin, spy, doctor suggests considerately.

Pan Shuchun thinks about Tang Muxin's training regime and pales. "No… no need for that ahaha. Very kind though." With Tang Muxin's superhuman training Pan Shuchun deeply felt that she would either become a muscle woman or a dead one. Either way was not acceptable to her ah.

Duan Mengyao gives Tang Muxin a doting look filled with affection. Aiyah, such a kindhearted woman. He wanted to say he was willing to exercise with her every single morning if she wished for it.

Pan Shuchun: …The only thing worse than eating the dog food of couples was eating the low-calorie, low-fat dog food of annoying sporty couples. If there were tandem bicycles they would probably be riding them together everywhere.

Ye Cheng pats her shoulder. Feeling comforted, she turns to the other with a grateful smile. "At least you get me ah." 

"Yup," Ye Cheng grins back, "You're a beginner, you should take on my workout first."

Pan Shuchun: …. 

Before she knew it, all her friends seemed to be the ancient version of jocks. _:(´ཀ`」∠):_

As a pureblooded student of the arts, she worries deeply for herself.

As they walk through, many eyes with various intentions were watching them in the shadows as they pass. 

The crown prince clasps his hands behind his back and paced around his room. Two shadow guards were kneeling on the floor.

"So it's true? The dragon is real?" 

"Yes, this servant couldn't believe his eyes," One of the guards spoke up, excitement in his voice. "But it was like one of the golden statues brought to life! Really unmistakable my prince."

"Tsk," The crown prince was filled with regret. Why didn't he think to investigate the rumours? If he did he could have established a relationship with a real dragon already! He knew he wasn't the smartest but he wasn't braindead! Ahhh fuck! He was sure one of his other brothers must have gotten to them first!

In the second prince's room, there was also a prince filled with regret.

"Ah! Ah! Ahhhh!" The second prince groans. "If I could have written a poem about the dragon, or even painted its portrait wouldn't I be the first person in this century to do so? Such a waste! Why didn't I look further into the rumours?"

Not only that, if he made friends wouldn't he be able to win his father's praise and gain protection under the dragon saintess? But now he missed the best opportunity to do so!

So frustrating!

In the third prince's room, a similar situation was occurring. 

"Am I an idiot?!" 

The third prince screamed into a vase after dismissing all the servants. "Fuck! Why didn't I investigate?! Why did no one tell me to investigate?! This is so awful! One of my other brothers, if not most of the competent ones must have already established a connection with that saintess! I'm going to be a fool now trying to gain favour so late in the game! Kill me!"

The fourth prince…

"This is unacceptable! Didn't anyone even consider for one moment to go check-"

The fifth…

"WHHHYYYY AM I SUCH A FOOL???? Wuwuwuwuwu…"

In short, the world's consciousness was really thorough in preventing anyone from further investigating Jin Bao's identity until Jia Hyson gave the green light. This was the power of plot armour.

Bebe: 'Aren't you worried that readers are going to complain about this?'

Jia Hyson: 'Peh we already established a reason for the OP luck anyway ah. We did what we could. I feel like we're going to get more haters about having a gay couple anyway.'

Bebe: 'Sad but true.'

Next chapter