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“I’m new here. May I ask, what does your master like and dislike eating?”

“I actually thought you really detested our ancestor. Turns out you just want to know how to please him,” scoffed a female servant.

The other female servant then said, “Our ancestor loves seafood such as crabs, escargots, fish, and prawns. He absolutely detests all types of starchy food made of flour.”

With a nod, An Xiaoning asked, “What does he hate most about women?”

The two servants looked at each other before saying, “Don’t think of doing anything our ancestor would hate. Otherwise, the consequences will be dire.”

They had seen through her.

However, An Xiaoning continued to pretend as if she had not been exposed and said instead, “I can’t wait to please him, why would I dig my own grave?”

“Glad you know better.”

“Okay, we’re almost done, hurry and get out of the tub.”

The two female servants were abrasive and harsh with their tone. An Xiaoning stood up, after which the servants then removed her clothes forcefully by cutting them off. Stark naked, An Xiaoning remained still while the servants proceeded to wrap a large towel around her before pushing her out of the bathroom.

Soon, Xi Bolai entered and said to the servants beside him, “Bring in the dishes.”

“Yes.”

The servants did as instructed and began feeding An Xiaoning. However, the latter refused to eat any of the food.

“There’s no poison in this. We just don’t want you to starve to death.”

“Bring it away,” An Xiaoning refuted.

“Why are you such a stubborn and obstinate woman? Must I feed you myself?” scorned Xi Bolai as he moved forward to snatch the bowl and chopsticks away.

“I don’t feel like eating.”

“You have to eat even if you don’t feel like it. Open your mouth,” Xi Bolai insisted, refusing to give in at all as he brought a spoonful of food towards her mouth.

An Xiaoning insisted on keeping her mouth shut.

Xi Bolai then slammed the crockery onto the table in a moment of pique and hollered at the servants, “Bring these away!”

The servants hurriedly proceeded to clear the food away.

The room fell silent instantly. Glaring at her coldly, Xi Bolai chastised, “Fine, since you’re unwilling to eat, you may stay hungry for all I care. I won’t pity or go easy on you just because you’re a woman. You’ll be begging me to let you eat when you’re famished.”

“You’re actually compelling a weak woman like me. What kind of a man are you?” An Xiaoning said in contempt.

“Weak woman? You? An Xiaoning, I know clearly whether or not you’re a weak woman. Quit putting on airs in front of me,” Xi Bolai scoffed.

He shifted his gaze onto the towel wrapped around An Xiaoning’s body and made to rip it off.

At this very juncture, a voice outside the door interrupted, “Master, you’ve got a call from Jin Qingyan…”

“I’m not answering.”

“Master, I’m not finished. Byron has shown up at our door with a bunch of bodyguards. He said he’s going to barge in if you refuse to show yourself.”

“Byron? What a busybody!” Xi Bolai snapped as he stood up all of a sudden.

He began walking towards the door before turning around to look at An Xiaoning. “I’ll come back to finish you in a while.”

An Xiaoning heaved a huge sigh of relief as soon as the door closed.

An Xiaoning got down from the bed, clutching onto the towel tightly as it would droop off easily every now and then.

An Xiaoning took a look around the secret chamber, only to realize that Xi Bolai’s clothes were neatly arranged in a corner, without a single trace of women’s clothing in sight.

But then again, there was no way she could put on any clothes herself now that she was in handcuffs.

Overwhelmed with a mix of emotions, An Xiaoning was at a complete loss on what to do.

It was impossible to unlock the handcuffs since the keys were with Xi Bolai.

Just what should I do? Should I just take the risk?

“I’m hungry, bring in the dishes!” she yelled at the door.

Just as she had expected, there were servants guarding the door. Upon hearing her command, they proceeded to bring in the food.

“You refused to eat even when master fed you. How dare you put on such airs? Don’t eat if you’re that high and mighty,” the female servant scorned with a humph.

An Xiaoning kicked her foot against the female servant, who was caught off guard and fell onto the bed immediately.

“Are you out of your mind?” the servant exclaimed as she stood up.

“I want to get dressed, bring me some clothes.”

“I’ll go out first.”

An Xiaoning signalled with a look in her eyes. “Bring me your master’s clothing and put them on for me. My hands may be restricted by handcuffs, but my legs are free to move about. I’ll kick you to death if you dare to walk out of here. Hurry,” An Xiaoning threatened, stopping the servant in her tracks.

“Somebody…” Before the servant could even finish, An Xiaoning threw a knee straight into her gut, causing her to fall to the ground immediately in pain. Before the servant could even react, An Xiaoning continued to stomp her foot onto the former’s face.

“I told you to help me get dressed, did my words fall on deaf ears?”

“I’ll do just that, please move your foot…”

An Xiaoning moved her foot away and glared at the female servant sternly. Thinking that there was no way An Xiaoning could escape anyway, the servant proceeded to dress An Xiaoning in Xi Bolai’s T-shirt and shorts. The T-shirt appeared to be oversized for An Xiaoning and hung loosely on her petite frame.

Just as the female servant was about to leave the chamber after getting An Xiaoning dressed, the latter threw another kick against her. The impact was so great that the servant flew back and hit her head against the wall, causing her to pass out instantly.

Standing in front of the door of the chamber, An Xiaoning continuously pressed her face against the sensor in a bid to open the door.

She finally succeeded after multiple attempts and made her way out of the secret chamber, only to find that there was not a single soul in sight. However, she was not too surprised to see that, seeing as no one had come forth to rescue the servant or even responded to her shrieks and cries.

The door of the secret chamber closed automatically just as An Xiaoning exited.

One look and she could tell it was Xi Bolai’s study.

An Xiaoning tiptoed towards the entrance and peeked through the peephole to see that there were two bodyguards keeping watch by the door.

Thus, she decided to find another route.

She sneaked in between two bookshelves before yelling, “Somebody, come here quick!”

The door opened and in came the two bodyguards, who hurriedly zoomed towards the secret chamber. Once they had entered the chamber, An Xiaoning quickly took the chance to escape.

She did not know how far she could run, but she was well aware that it would be no easy feat to get out of this place.

Sure enough, she was surrounded by the bodyguards at the stairwell who came swarming towards her. They then brought her back to the secret chamber again.

The servant who passed out earlier was no longer in the secret chamber.

An Xiaoning tried to struggle and break free with all her might, but to no avail.

——

It was noon when Mei Yangyang arrived at the clothing store along Dongpo Road. The crowd was rather sparse at the time. Zhang Li and Xu Jingwen were sitting around and taking a break since they had just finished lunch.

Zhang Li stood up immediately upon seeing Mei Yangyang and greeted, “You’re back, Yangyang.”

“Yes, it’s been hard on you guys for the past few months.” After taking a look at the clothing on display in the store, a frown creased Mei Yangyang’s forehead as she questioned, “Didn’t I already pick out the clothes to be sold during our video conference call? Why did you bring in these stocks instead?”

“Here’s what happened, Jingwen thought these clothes were pretty…”

Before Zhang Li could even finish, Mei Yangyang reached out to tug a piece of skirt off its hanger. “Have a feel of the material. Just because it’s visually appealing doesn’t mean we can compromise on quality. Do you guys own this store? How could you make decisions on your own without asking for permission?” she chided.

Xu Jingwen rose from her seat and said, “Hey, Sis Yangyang, what matters is that these clothes are selling and we’re making profits. Besides, the customers love them anyway.”

“The customers may like these clothes, but they won’t return again if the material is of inferior quality. We are focusing on building a strong customer base with many returning customers.” Mei Yangyang was already in low spirits to begin with. However, her mood worsened upon seeing the mess they had created in the store within just months of her absence.