Chapter 241 - Warmth

He had a cold and haughty gaze and a pair of beautiful and slender eyes. Under his tall, sculpture-like nose, his thin lips were pursed into a line. The sharp gaze and cold expression of the youth showed an unruly incisiveness and sharpness.

However, for some unknown reason, Yu Xiaocao could clearly feel that his coldness and aloofness was just a solid shell to protect his soft heart. To be armed with indifference at all times, he must be very tired, right? For no reason at all, she actually felt a slight sense of heartache…

The faint fragrance of tea lingered in the air of the reception hall. Zhu Junyang sat uninhibitedly at the main guest seat, slowly picked up the cup of tea, pushed away the green buds floating on the surface of the tea with the cup lid, and took a sip with his ruby lips—West Lake Longjing Tea. It wasn’t a very valuable variety of tea, but it emitted a clear fragrance and had a mellow sweet taste that he had never tried before. Zhu Junyang looked down at the tea leaves in the cup. His thick and curled eyelashes were like a pair of butterfly wings, fluttering. He lowered his head and took another sip of the fragrant tea.

Yu Hai sat in a slightly restrained manner on the seat on the right of Royal Prince Yang. He had only seen and heard of such characters like princes and princess consorts in operas and storybooks. It was really a brand new experience for him to be in the same space as a royal prince. Yu Hai glanced at his younger daughter, who handled the situation with ease, and felt that, as her father, he must not disgrace her even if he couldn’t help her. With this thought, he straightened his back and put on a slightly more serious expression.

After the young royal prince came in by himself, he hadn’t said a word and just drank tea. Yu Xiaocao felt that she had several imaginary black lines on her forehead—This guy, he didn’t specially come to the Fang Estate to drink tea, did he?

Seeing that the royal prince didn’t have any intention to speak, Yu Xiaocao was getting somewhat impatient. She personally poured more tea for the young royal prince and said with a slight smile, “May I ask for the reason of Young Royal Prince’s visit?” Such an awkward-sounding dialogue nearly caused her to bite on her own tongue. Yu Xiaocao rolled her eyes in her heart——It’s so tiring to talk to these royalties!

Zhu Junyang clearly felt Yu Hai’s slightly uneasy mood. He knew that this man, who looked very simple and honest, was the little lass’s father. He looked at the fresh watermelon on the table in the reception hall. It seemed like there were dewdrops on the leaves, so he must have brought it over for his daughter as soon as he plucked it this morning. He was a father who dearly loved his daughter ah!

He knew that the Yu Family’s watermelons sold very well last year. But, he didn’t expect the watermelons to mature so early in the year. If he remembered correctly, even in the warm south, it wouldn’t be possible for watermelons to ripen so early.  

“This watermelon…” After pondering for a moment, the reticent Zhu Junyang said two words and then turned silent again.

‘What the heck! Not only did he come to drink tea, but now he also wants to eat watermelon? I didn’t encounter a fake royal prince, did I?’ Yu Xiaocao couldn’t help but roll her eyes.

With the corner of his eyes, he caught a glimpse of the little girl’s expression. Zhu Junyang suddenly felt that there was something wrong. Why couldn’t he feel that lass’s mood and thoughts?

Zhu Junyang’s ability to pry into other people’s thoughts wasn’t the ability to read minds. Instead, he was able to be able to clearly perceive the other person’s emotions such as joy, sadness, cruelty, and dislike. For example, Yu Hai’s uneasiness at the moment. The stronger the emotion, the more it affected him. At times, when all kinds of negative emotions came at him, it would be so overwhelming that he would want to find a method to vent. For a period of time, he had used violence to vent, but that only enhanced his notorious reputation.

For more than a decade, there was barely any emotion that he couldn’t sense. However, today, he actually couldn’t detect the slightest mood change in the little girl in front of him. This both surprised and disturbed him.

While he was feeling puzzled, Yu Xiaocao had already asked someone to bring a knife, quickly cut open the watermelon, put it on a tray, and carried it over to the royal prince. Her big eyes were curled into a pair of crescent moons and the dimples on the corner of her smiling lips appeared from time to time. She said with a crisp voice, “Young Royal Prince, this watermelon is one of the earliest to mature in our fields. Try a slice!”

Zhu Junyang looked at her brightly smiling face, which was like a spring flower, and inwardly wondered the true meaning behind her smile. Was the smile genuine? Could she be plotting something that he didn’t know? He suddenly realized that without the perceptive ability that he detested, there was no sense of security within his heart…

He looked at the bright red watermelon, and then looked up and stared fixedly at the little person holding the tray, as if he wanted to look into the depth of her heart.

‘Eh? Didn’t the young royal prince want to eat watermelon? Why isn’t he eating it after I cut it for him? Why is he looking at me? Is there something dirty on my face?’ Yu Xiaocao couldn’t help but free a hand and touched her clean, little face. The watermelon juice on her hand accidentally left a red mark her face.

The big pair of bright, limpid eyes in front of him blinked. It was often said that a person’s eyes were the window to their souls. This pair of eyes didn’t dodge his cold gaze. Her clear, pure eyes gradually eased his guarded heart. She was only a rural girl, who wasn’t even ten, so how many ulterior motives could she have? Was he being a little too nervous and treating everyone like an enemy?

Under the gaze of those slightly doubtful eyes, he raised his hand, picked up a slice of watermelon in his hands, and slowly put it in his mouth. A slightly cool sweetness dispersed within his mouth. The taste of this watermelon… was sweeter and more delicious than all the watermelons that he had eaten before. As if all the negative emotions had been taken away by indescribable sweetness, there was only one word in his heart—enjoyment!

“How’s the taste?” The little face that was filled with anticipation for praises and compliments appeared vividly in front of him. It seemed as if he would be condemned as a sinner if he didn’t say a word of compliment.

After finishing the slice of watermelon in his hand, Zhu Junyang took another piece and gave a rare compliment, “It’s pretty good!”

“Right! Isn’t it?!” Yu Xiaocao’s big eyes narrowed into a line like a cat that was satisfied with its owner’s caressing, “I told you! Ordinary watermelons can’t compare to the taste of the watermelons grown by our family. With just the size alone, it’s already more superior than all the other watermelons in the Great Ming Dynasty…”

Hearing this, Yu Hai knew that his daughter’s little love for boasting was acting up again. However, they were in front of the royal prince, so they needed to be cautious and not offend the lord. He quickly said, “Daughter, shouldn’t we be a little more humble?”

The strong father-daughter affection came directly at Zhu Junyang. He looked at the slightly dull rural man. His heart was obviously full of timidity, but he was willing to take the risk of offending him to help his daughter. Compared to those officials who sold their daughters to seek honor, this was such a pure fatherly love ah!  

The shackles in Zhu Junyang’s heart seemed to have loosened a bit. There were positive aspects of the people in the countryside. Their simplicity, pureness, and kindness were things that had long been forgotten by those so-called nobles who had experienced officialdom for a long time. Due to this, his body and mind gradually relaxed at this time.  

“Your daughter is right! Your family’s watermelon is grown very well! I’ll be returning to the capital in a few days, so load a cart for me to bring back as gifts!” Zhu Junyang said in a very matter-of-course manner.

‘Load a cart? Is he paying?’ Even without using his perceptive ability, Zhu Junyang could easily read the little girl’s thoughts based on her obvious expression. ‘Who is this prince? Would I not be able to afford a cart of watermelons? Even if I just randomly took out one of the small items brought back from the west, it will be worth more than a cart of watermelons! What does she take this prince as? Those tyrants who doesn’t pay after taking something?’ Zhu Junyang was so angry that he become amused!

“Royal Prince, may I dare ask, around many days will it be before you return to the capital?” Using their watermelons as gifts? It was such an honor to be valued by the royal prince. Yu Hai felt excited with just the thought of those nobles in the capital eating his family’s watermelons and knowing that the Yu Family of Tanggu Town produced delicious watermelons. However, they wouldn’t be able to harvest a lot of watermelons in the next two days. If the royal prince wanted them tomorrow, where would he find a cart of watermelon for him?

Zhu Junyang didn’t want to think too deeply about Yu Hai’s contradictory moods of excitement and distress, and said, “We will set out five days later! Is there something that you’re troubled about?”

“No, there isn’t!” Yu Hai finally felt relieved, “Five days later, the watermelons in the fields should be mostly ripened. There shouldn’t be any problem with loading a cart!”

‘Money, what about the money? Shouldn’t you leave a deposit?’ Yu Xiaocao blinked her big, bright eyes and looked expectantly at the young royal prince.

The corner of Zhu Junyang’s mouth twitched a few times. Was money all this little lass thought about? She just hadn’t stretched out her hands and directly asked for money! He took off the embroidered pouch tied around his waist and threw it directly onto the tray in Xiaocao’s hands.

Yu Xiaocao stared at the exquisite embroidered pouch. It was shriveled up and didn’t seem like there was a lot of money inside. As a royal prince, this guy shouldn’t be too poor, right? Inside—could it be golden ingots? Wasn’t that how it usually was in all the novels? Those high-ranking officials and noble lords all used golden ingots. A piece of gold was worth ten pieces of silver. It should be enough for the deposit, right?

What was with this little lass’s gaze? Did she think that he gave too little money? How expensive would a cart of watermelons be? At most, a thousand taels of silver. Inside his embroidered pouch was a high-quality mutton fat jade pendant, which was worth at least five thousand taels of silver! Such ignorance!

‘Aiya! This young prince is so poor!! But it doesn’t matter. When I visit the princess consort in a few days, I can conveniently mention this matter and ask her to increase her youngest son’s allowance. Aiya, I’m so kind and righteous! Doing good deeds without leaving a name…’

Thinking about the young royal prince’s rich mother, Yu Xiaocao stopped worrying about whether there was enough money for the deposit. Seeing that the young prince had stopped after eating a few more slices of watermelon, she instructed a maidservant, who worked in the outer courtyard, to bring the watermelons to the bodyguards, so that they could have a taste. Since the watermelon had already been cut open, it would be a waste to just let them sit on the table. The imperial guards had been working very hard too!

The young girl was quite good at conducting herself! It should be noted that people also treated the imperial guards of the Prince Jing’s Estate in a courteous manner and flattered them. Their status was even higher than those low-ranking officials in the capital!

“The corn kernels… have you planted them yet?” Zhu Junyang finally remembered the reason for his visit and asked.

Corn kernels? It wouldn’t be that he regretted giving her the seeds and wanted them back, right? Yu Xiaocao looked at the young royal prince with a stunned expression.

Zhu Junyang sullenly said, “What’s with your expression? There’s no way that I, this prince, will take back something that I have given away. The ministers of the Ministry of Revenue don’t know how to grow corn. I’m here to ask if you have planted them already, and the method of sowing!!”

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Myst's Thoughts

lol our cute little money-grubber Xiaocao

Translator: Myst