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The second letter was sent later. As she read through it, Xiang Yi's expression changed. The letter informed her that Xiang Yu was in Weiping Prefecture. He had received news that the Chao Yun River embankment had cracked, and Tan Ting had gone to Weiping Prefecture on his way back to discuss embankment reinforcement with the local magistrate and influential clans.

Xiang Yu's disinterest in Tan Ting's matters was evident. He inquired about her well-being in the letter. "Elder Sister, why not return home for some time? After all the hard work you've done for the Tan family over the past three years, doesn't he allow you to visit your natal home?"

Xiang Yi couldn't help but smile wryly at those words. Her younger brother was concerned that Tan Ting's return might make her unhappy.

It left a bittersweet feeling in Xiang Yi's heart. She didn't rush to reply to the letter. Instead, she read it again from beginning to end and couldn't help but think about Tan Ting's attitude upon returning home. She could imagine that he might have felt tainted by the figurative sewage from her family, as if his noble lineage had been sullied by the dust...

Xiang Yi fell into silence. Beside her, Qiao Xing, who was embroidering a handkerchief for Xiang Yi, suddenly commented, seemingly lost in thought. "Since the Master has given his word, why doesn't Madam just go to the store room and pick out some fur? Why not select ten or eight, wrap yourself from head to toe? Everyday, Madam keeps the store room in such impeccable order, meticulously recording everything in the accounts. She's never touched a single item. Now might be a good time for Madam to go in and pick whatever she likes..."

Qiao Xing muttered in dissatisfaction. Xiang Yi found her comments amusing. The situation in Weiping Prefecture had already made her husband quite disgusted. If she were to meddle with the Tan family's store room, he would only think that everyone in the Xiang family was equally greedy.

For herself, she didn't mind his opinion. He could think whatever he wanted. However, the Xiang family shouldn't bear such a tainted reputation.

Xiang Yi declined Qiao Xing's suggestion and advised her not to bring it up again. Then, she retrieved an old notebook from the bottom of a box, lit a candle, and composed a letter to Xiang Yu based on its contents. At the end of the letter, she reminded him, "If my dear brother encounters the Master of the Tan family, do not engage in lengthy discussions, and certainly do not argue with him. Focus on the tasks at hand."

"Remember, remember."

Weiping Prefecture.

The plan to reinforce the frozen-cracked embankment was still unresolved, and Tan Ting had been here for two days. Prefect Liao Qiu looked at the diagram drawn by Tan Ting for reinforcing the embankment, looking troubled.

"Lord Tan, it's not that I am unwilling to use this method, but because we need to send people to measure it, how can we do that in such cold weather? It would take a lot of time."

He cautiously glanced at Tan Ting, "Why not just go with the simpler method of adding a couple more layers outside for stability?"

Qiu Laoye, the patriarch of the Qiu clan, was standing nearby, stroking his beard, and he nodded along.

Seeing this situation, Tan Ting put down his brush and let out a faint smile. It seemed that Prefect Liao and Patriarch Qiu didn't want to spend money or trouble themselves; they just wanted him to take care of the expenses and handle things in a straightforward but less effective manner.

Tan Ting didn't speak, instead, he picked up his tea and sat to the side.

Prefect Liao and Patriarch Qiu exchanged a glance. With a subtle nod from Patriarch Qiu, he signaled Prefect Liao not to press too hard. If the Tan family became displeased and refused to provide funds, it could become troublesome.

Prefect Liao also felt uneasy and quickly gestured for a servant to refill Tan Ting's tea.

"Lord Tan, you've been working hard for quite some time. Take a break for now."

Tan Ting stirred the tea leaves in his bowl without saying a word.

Both men found excuses to leave, and the hall was left with only Tan Ting and his aide Qin Jiao.

Qin Jiao remarked, "Prefect Liao only wants to take the easy way out..."

He lowered his voice as he continued, "In the end, it's still the Xiang family that has implicated my lord..."

He didn't specify whether he meant Xiang's family or Xiang Yi herself. Regardless of who it was, they had dragged the Tan family into this muddy water.

As Qin Jiao spoke, he tried to gauge Tan Ting's expression but couldn't discern much. He watched as his lord stood up and headed towards the sixth room of the prefectural office.

Quickly following, he asked, "Is my lord going to the workshop?"

The prefectural office mimicked the imperial six ministries and had six departments. The workshop was responsible for matters related to bridges, waterways, and other similar affairs.

Tan Ting walked briskly ahead.

"The river was constructed during Xiang Zhiyuan's tenure. I remember that the imperial court had issued regulations by that time, stating that construction projects must be meticulously documented. The workshop should have records of the construction details."

If they could find detailed records, there would be no need to send people to measure.

However, just as Tan Ting reached the workshop's entrance, Prefect Liao and Patriarch Qiu hurried over.

"Lord Tan, are you planning to check the records of the river construction?"

Before Tan Ting could respond, Prefect Liao immediately spoke, "The workshop had a fire some time ago, and the records of the construction were lost."

Patriarch Qiu chimed in, "There's no way to find them now."

"Such a coincidence?" Tan Ting furrowed his brows and glanced at the two men.

Prefect Liao tried to console him with a forced smile, "You see, if we use the old method, the cost is higher, but we can start working on it tomorrow."

Tan Ting looked at him in silence and gave him a faint glance. It seemed that Prefect Liao didn't know that the new method Tan Ting had brought out was a modification of the new universal method recently established by the Ministry of Works. It not only saved costs but also yielded better results in reinforcing the embankment.

Embankment projects weren't ordinary works; once they collapsed, it could affect hundreds of square miles of farmland and the livelihoods of the people. There was no room for any reduction in quality.

He stopped talking and stood with his hands behind his back in the corridor. Snowflakes occasionally fell from the sky, and the melted snow on the eaves formed translucent icicles, hanging delicately.

With no old records to refer to and the current weather making it impossible for people to measure accurately, and coupled with Prefect Liao's desire for convenience, Tan Ting's frown deepened.

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Just at that moment, a servant came running with a sealed letter in his hand.

"Esteemed gentlemen, someone sent this over, saying it's about the embankment reinforcement."

This announcement surprised everyone present.

As they opened the letter, the first page contained a diagram illustrating the method of reinforcing the embankment, and the method used in the diagram was precisely the one Tan Ting had proposed.

The second page caused everyone's expressions to change.

The second page provided detailed measurements for the embankment along the river in that area. It then matched these measurements to the proposed method in the diagram, providing a solution for the embankment reinforcement.

Prefect Liao was astonished, and Patriarch Qiu's face looked peculiar.

Only Tan Ting's expression relaxed quite a bit. He asked the servant, "Who delivered this letter?"

The servant, however, didn't recognize the sender. He said that it was a young man in a blue robe with a bamboo hairpin in his hair. He appeared to be around fifteen or sixteen years old and left after delivering the letter.

Tan Ting didn't know who the sender was, but with the measurements in the letter, everything became clear.

Prefect Liao hesitated and said, "Can we really trust these measurements?"

Tan Ting sent someone to verify directly. "Just a few points need to be verified, and then we'll know if it's accurate."

The verification process was swift. Within an hour, they received a response.

The measurements in the letter were indeed accurate, and not only that, but the improved method based on the diagram also reduced costs further.

With this, the funds required could be covered by the prefectural office itself.

Prefect Liao looked embarrassed, and seeing the situation, Patriarch Qiu found an excuse and returned to his residence.

Tan Ting didn't engage in further conversation. After setting the work schedule with Prefect Liao, he directly presented the silver coins.

"The embankment matter concerns the welfare of the people. Tan will do his best in this matter. Prefect Liao, please take care of the rest," he said.

Prefect Liao was unsure where to put his hands and feet. He feared problems but also didn't want to spend too much money. He intended to push the responsibility onto the Tan family, yet this Tan family scion turned out to be insightful, presenting a better plan that resolved the issue without significant expenses. When it came to even this small matter, he, as the prefect, was utterly incapable.

His face flushed with embarrassment. He was about to say something to salvage the situation when he looked up and saw that the young master of the Tan family had already left.


After leaving the Weiping Prefectural Office, Tan Ting and his group returned to the Tan family's residence in Qinglong, Ningnan Prefecture. However, the road back was blocked due to consecutive days of snowfall.

They stopped in a nearby town to rest and inquire about the route. They noticed some individuals dressed like scholars drinking tea and chatting in a tea house.

As they dismounted, a young man turned his head to look in their direction. Tan Ting suddenly felt that this person looked somewhat familiar, but what caught his attention even more was the young man's attire.

The young man was wearing a light-blue robe that had been washed so much that it appeared white. He had a bamboo hairpin in his hair, and his appearance was that of someone around fifteen or sixteen years old.

Tan Ting couldn't help but approach him. "Excuse me, young sir. Have you delivered a letter to Weiping Prefectural Office before?"

The young man held a cup of tea and heard Tan Ting's question. He let out a nonchalant chuckle before casually nodding.

To others, his attitude might have come across as somewhat arrogant. However, Tan Ting had received a letter from him that had resolved the embankment issue. He wasn't angry, just curious.

"I wonder, young sir, what might be your surname and name, and how did you come to know about the embankment matter?" Tan Ting asked, not wanting to offend but genuinely curious.

Upon hearing the question, the young man let out a laugh and then finished his cup of tea before turning his head to face Tan Ting seriously.

"Just so you know, I go by the name Xiang, with the single character 'Yu' as my given name. The measurements for the embankment came from my family's father's handbooks."

Xiang Yu.

Tan Ting froze in place, taken aback by the revelation.

The young man before him was none other than his wife's younger brother.

He finally looked at Xiang Yu more closely.

He vaguely remembered that three years ago, when Xiang Yu had come to the Tan family to deliver the marriage proposal, he was still a child with an unimposing stature. But now, he had grown to a height that matched his line of sight. The young man's handsome face indeed bore the resemblance of the Xiang family, but compared to his wife, Xiang Yu's eyes were colder and more piercing.

How could he not recognize someone with such a close relationship... Tan Ting felt awkward for a moment.

"Why is Yu Ge here?" Tan Ting asked, addressing him respectfully.

The Tan family's ancestral home wasn't in this location. He guessed that perhaps Xiang Yi had arranged for her younger siblings to move to the Tan family's residence for easier care. However, he had just returned and was unaware of this arrangement. So he called out to Xiang Yu, "It's getting late today. You should come back home with me."

As the words fell, Xiang Yu was on the verge of bursting into laughter. He realized that this Tan gentleman was completely unaware of anything concerning the Xiang family. He probably didn't want to know either.

"In response to Lord Tan, I don't reside in your Tan family's house, so there's no need for you to worry about me," Xiang Yu replied, not bothering to glance at his "brother-in-law" any further. He was concerned that he might be tempted to argue with the person before him, going against his sister's instructions in her letter.


Suppressing his anger, he gave a casual salute and turned to leave the tea house. Mounting his horse, he departed without hesitation.

In the blink of an eye, Xiang Yu's figure disappeared from Tan Ting's view, as if he feared that staying even a moment longer would associate him with the Tan family.

Tan Ting stood still in front of the tea shed.

Qin Jiao couldn't believe it. "Why is this young master from the Xiang family so impolite? How could he treat you like this? Does he not understand manners?"

He was about to complain more when Tan Ting raised his hand to stop him. "This matter was originally my fault. Let's not discuss it further."

As the sky gradually darkened, Tan Ting instructed Zheng Ji to inquire about the return route. None of the scholars were willing to share the information, so they had to ask the innkeeper before getting proper directions.

On the way back, the wind blew fiercely, and snow fell heavily. By the time they reached home, it was pitch dark outside.

Upon returning to the main courtyard, Tan Ting saw his wife standing there. Lanterns swayed in the corridor, casting dim light around.

She stood with her back to him, instructing the servants to retrieve broken branches from the trees that had been blown down by the wind, preventing them from injuring anyone. She hadn't noticed his arrival until Tan Ting walked up behind her.

One of the maidservants suddenly spotted him, and her surprise caused his wife to turn around. However, as she laid eyes on him, she instinctively took two steps back, creating distance between them.

Tan Ting was taken aback, hearing her slightly distant voice. "Lord Tan has returned."

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