Through the Hongwu Villa’s gates, the four cars drove upslope and stopped in front of the main door, where the housekeepers welcomed them in a local Tianjing accent while Hong Dali beamed with pride. “Young Master, you’re back. Did you have fun tonight? Old Master and Old Madam are waiting for you in the living room. Do hurry over.” They glanced over to look at the newly recruited lackeys. “The rest of you, come along. Old Master and Old Madam have asked that you come in too.”
The nine lackeys were staring at the villa with bewilderment, their mouths wide open, wondering how one’s life could be so different when they were all human beings.
The quick-witted Ling Xiaoyi was the first to react, graciously bowing to the most senior housekeeper. “I’m Young Master’s servant, Ling Xiaoyi. My greetings to you.”
The other lackeys promptly followed her lead and bowed to the senior housekeeper as well. Although they were not as bright, they at least knew to follow the leader at times like this. They were worried that they would be chased out any minute. To be a lackey for someone who tipped 5,000 yuan so easily, with so many envious of their positions, they had to be very careful not to screw things up.
The old housekeeper nodded approvingly at Ling Xiaoyi, smiling. “Miss Xiaoyi is too polite, come with me. All of you will go through special training for one week. After all, it is not easy to become the Young Master’s servants.”
Hong Dali strode arrogantly, taking the lead to enter the villa when he was sure that they were almost done talking. Tang Muxin followed closely behind. This was Hong Dali’s house, after all, and she should show proper etiquette—though she really hated to be seen with Hong Dali.
The nine lackeys split neatly into two lines, with Ling Xiaoyi leading the brood. They followed Hong Dali into the villa.
When they entered the living room, Hong Dali’s mother welcomed them with a wide smile, dotingly patting off the nonexistent dust from Hong Dali’s shoulder. “Dali, ah, you’re back so late. Did you have fun today?”
“Um, happy,” Hong Dali had lived twenty-two years on Earth but had never experienced something like this. He suddenly got teary and emotional and got a strong urge to call her “Mother,” but the word could not find its way out. It was not that he didn’t want to greet them, but that the terms “mother” and “father” were foreign to him. It was not so easy to overcome the psychological barrier.
Although he didn’t manage to voice the words, Hong Dali tried his best to keep his smile. “I had so much fun tonight, but I spent a lot too. I acquired some property as well.”
His mother comforted him even though Hong Dali had said that. “You silly boy, you can spend all you want. Your father and I are not short on money. This is nothing to us. All right, you must be tired now?” His mother turned to one of the servants. “Liu, attend to Dali and bring him to shower, then to bed. Walk slowly and don’t fall. Dali has a weak constitution.”
“I’ll go shower now, then.” Dali could feel the lump in his throat. He followed Liu quickly, worried that his tears would fall any minute if he stayed.
A mother’s love might look simple, but only the person involved would know how touched he felt.
After Hong Dali left, his mother gently pulled Tang Muxin to the sofa to sit down. “Muxin, it’s too late. Why don’t you stay here for the night? We have plenty of rooms. I’ll call your father now.”
Away from Hong Dali, Tang Muxin flaunted her intelligence, tactfully rejecting the offer. “It’s okay, Auntie, I need to prepare for a very important event for school tomorrow. It would be embarrassing if I messed it up.”
“Um, in this case, I’ll get the driver to send you home.” Hong Dali’s mother took Tang Muxin’s hand. This bright lady is already so dangerously beautiful now. In a few years, when her figure fills out, who knows how much more alluring she will be. She looked around herself, trying to find something suitable to gift Tang Muxin, but to no avail. Hong Dali’s father cleared his throat. He was definitely more experienced. “Stop looking. The jewelry you have on you is too mature for her. I have already prepared a gift for her.”
He pulled out a jade ring from his pocket, its vibrant emerald-green color almost transparent. One could almost see the refraction of light through it. It was definitely not a normal piece of jewelry. Hong Dali’s father put the ring on Tang Muxin’s slender finger and smiled. “My father prepared this ring when you were betrothed. It is called the Azure Ring. Don’t look down on it. It makes the wearer feel at peace and has the ability to balance the Qi in your body.”
In Tang Muxin’s mind, she had already decided that she would reject the marriage in the future. She felt conflicted that Hong Dali’s father had prepared such a precious gift for her. She didn’t feel comfortable accepting it, but rejecting it would disappoint him. Even so, if she accepted it, it would be tough to raise the topic in the future.
Considering the circumstances back at home, she bit her lip and accepted the gift. “I will accept the gift, then. Thank you, Uncle.” In her mind, she had already decided to set the ring aside properly instead of wearing it.
As she had accepted the gift and greeted his parents, Tang Muxin prepared to leave. Hong Dali’s mother tried to make her stay but to no avail.
After Tang Muxin had left, the nine lackeys remained in the huge living room. Hong Dali’s mother’s expression changed. It was as though her warmth and smile were wiped from her face. She exuded the aura of a vicious queen and coldly said, “Since Hong Dali has recruited you, don’t say that I didn’t warn you. Don’t blame me for being heartless if any of you dare go against him!” Just a few words from her seemed to have lowered the temperature in the living room by ten degrees. The nine lackeys went numb and shivered from the content that was conveyed to them.
As the leader, Ling Xiaoyi responded, “Yes, Old Madam, please guide us.”
Hong Dali’s mother stood up and paced up and down, observing the lackeys while folding her arms behind her. She preached coldly: “Firstly, your behavior should be worthy of your position! Our Dali will be your god. Don’t you dare head east if he asks you to head west. That means that even if the fire pit lays ahead of you and he asks you to jump, you will jump in. Do you hear me!?”
Ling Xiaoyi and the rest trembled with fear but still respectfully responded, “Yes.”
Hong Dali’s mother continued, “Secondly, our Dali’s constitution is weak. If he accidentally falls when he’s outside, I want you to be his safety net. If he has the tiniest abrasion or loses a hair, I will hold you responsible!”
Ling Xiaoyi and the others groaned inwardly. Who knew when Hong Dali would fall? They could only try their best to watch him carefully. “Yes.”
Hong Dali’s mother continued, “Thirdly, everyone can see the situation of our home. If anyone dares to do anything that is unfavorable to Dali, I want you to defend him with your life. In return, if any of you gets hurt or even dies on Dali’s behalf, I will not hesitate to reward you. Any comments?”
What Hong Dali’s mother meant was that these lackeys would become Hong Dali’s bodyguards. If the situation arose, they would even have to take the bullet for him.
Although the conditions raised were harsh. Once they thought of how filthy rich the Hong family was, even if they were to risk their life for Hong Dali, they could rest assured that the compensation would not be petty. They nodded their heads decisively. “Yes!”
Hong Dali’s mother was finally satisfied after seeing them agree. It was necessary to reward them after giving them a punch. Her expression finally softened. “My expectations may be high, but I will not mistreat any of you. After a thorough check of your backgrounds, if everything is okay, the housekeepers will provide you with basic training for three days. Thereafter, your monthly salary will be 10,000 yuan. If Dali tips you for making him happy, you may keep it. You may use the Prayer Angels as your mode of transportation. Um, you may stay in the servant building for the time being. That’s all. Have the housekeeper bring you to learn some basic etiquette.”
Hong Dali’s mother had said all she needed to say. She waved to Ling Xiaoyi. “You, follow me. I have something to ask you.”