The days went by, one after another, and spring slowly walked to its end. The start of summer was imminent. The Yu Family’s corn fields all had stalks of corn standing up straight like soldiers. Each leaf from the stalks of corn looked like a finely crafted sharp sword made from the finest green jasper; all so perfect that it looked like it was from the heavens. At the apex of the stalks, there was a tassel of male flowers, and they bunched around, looking like messy hair on the bodyguards.
For the past month, because Royal Prince Yang was particularly diligent and came by often, Xiaocao lessened the amount of mystic-stone water she used to avoid rousing his suspicions. Corn had always been a drought-resistant crop that feared floods. Even though there was less spring rain this year, it didn’t influence the growth of the corn at all.
Zhu Junyang looked at the corn plants that were as tall as a man and had Head Steward Liu , who accompanied him, record what the male flowers looked like and the time period that they had appeared during the growth cycle.
The Yu Family’s watermelons had been on the market for almost a month, so there wasn’t a lot left in the six mu of fields. The leftover watermelons weren’t very large, but their taste was not compromised. Zhu Junyang strolled into the watermelon fields and stooped down to pick one out of the remaining melons. He had Steward Liu hold onto it as they headed back to enjoy it.
Behind them, Yu Xiaocao, who acted as their little assistant, curled her lips. This young royal prince truly didn’t consider himself to be an outsider anymore. He picked the watermelons as if they were his own things.
“Xiaocao, can the male flowers that grow at the top of the corn plants also produce fruit?” Zhu Junyang remembered the news he had gotten from the capital. The Ministry of Revenue had followed the methods that the Yu Family had come up with to grow corn. It had been about a month and they were only now jointing. He had looked at the specimens sent over. Although they looked quite good, they still were quite inferior to the ones grown by the Yu Family. Could it really be true that the Yu Family had more talent at cultivating crops than other people?
Yu Xiaocao rolled her eyes at him and rudely replied, “Those who are ignorant are seriously too scary! People are split into men and women, flowers are the same. Since these are male flowers, how could they possibly bear fruit ah?”
Zhu Junyang lightly used the palm of his hand to slap the back of the little lass’s head. The tone of his voice didn’t have a hint of intimidation as he stated, “You’re quite a bold little thing. Who are you accusing of being ignorant now? Looks like this prince normally indulges you too much. You are truly too cheeky now! You’re lucky that I’m a magnanimous person. If it was anyone else, you would have lost your little life already!”
Steward Liu, who was standing at the side with a notebook in his hand and the watermelon in the other, looked at the faint smile on his young master’s face. He felt immensely comforted inside, ‘The heavens have eyes; they allowed my master to meet the only person who dares to joke with him, the harmonious and sweet Miss Yu.’ Throughout this past month, he had observed the two and discovered that his master could only wholeheartedly relax when he was with Miss Yu. This was the only time that his master would occasionally show the appearance and mannerisms of a seventeen year old youth.
Yu Xiaocao held her head as she angrily stared at him. She raged, “You hit my head again! If you end up causing me to become stupid and an idiot from this, I’m going to make you take responsibility! You absolutely need to take care of me for the rest of my life!!”
Be responsible for the rest of this little lass’s life? A hint of laughter appeared in the depths of Zhu Junyang’s eyes. He gave her an already peeled chestnut and guffawed, “Stop trying to falsely accuse this prince! You’ve always been a stupid idiot, how can you blame me for this? You want to make me take responsibility? This prince is not a stingy person. With your tiny stature, someone who eats as much as a kitten, this prince can afford to raise dozens of you!”
“Do you think you’re raising pigs ah? You even want dozens…” Yu Xiaocao accidentally insulted herself and she only realized it when the words came out of her mouth. Aiya, how did this happen? Did she really become stupid after getting hit by this guy?
The smile on Zhu Junyang’s face widened and he looked at her from top to bottom. He revealed an expression full of disdain, “Pigs? Your figure is so slight and small, with no meat on it, if you were a pig, you’d be a skinny piglet. I’m pretty sure no one would want to take such a skinny piglet home to raise. This prince will be merciful and tackle such a difficult job of raising such a skinny piglet. Once you become more plump, I can slaughter you for meat…”
Yu Xiaocao hopped up and down in rage as she snarled, “Eat, eat, eat! You eat until you burst open!! And you still want to eat meat. Be careful that you don’t eat so much that you become a big, fat pig and you can’t even walk anymore!!”
“This prince exercises every day, so it doesn’t matter how much meat I eat, I won't get fat. No need to worry!” The more he looked at Yu Xiaocao hopping up and down with a lively spirit, the better his mood became.
This private argument seemed to be going nowhere. Yu Xiaocao decided that a good woman never fought with a man. She walked into the melon fields to find a ripe watermelon. Suddenly, a dark shadow scuttled by her feet. It scared her that she let out a cry in surprise and jumped a few feet to the side.
"What’s wrong? What’s wrong?! What happened?” Zhu Junyang took giant steps forward and quickly arrived by her side. Because he was in such a rush, he had accidentally smashed a couple small watermelons that weren’t yet ripe under his feet.
“It looked like a badger!” The badger that Yu Xiaocao talked about was very similar to the badger-like creature that was written by Lu Xun . It was good at digging and lived in a cave in the mountains and fields. It liked to eat plants and vines but also ate insects and some other small animals.
Zhu Junyang searched through the melon field and spotted the nimble little creature not long after. His hand flashed quickly and the badger that was scurrying away quickly let out a short scream before it fell onto the ground, unmoving.
Wow! What sort of nifty concealed weapon did he have? Yu Xiaocao picked up her skirts and gracefully stepped over every melon before she arrived at the dead as doornail badger. The badger didn’t have any signs of a large wound on its body. Instead, it only had a mark of being hit on its head. She carefully looked around the surrounding area and finally found the so-called concealed weapon. It was an ornamental thumb ring made of turtle shell.
He was able to hit a badger so hard that it died from such a far distance. Furthermore, the turtle shell thumb ring didn’t look damaged at all. His strength and dexterity was not something a normal person could compare to. Yu Xiaocao held the turtle shell thumb ring in one hand while the other hand lifted up that badger, who had stepped into disaster just by walking by. She walked back to Zhu Junyang’s side and regarded him with eyes that glowed with admiration, “Young Royal Prince, you know martial arts? Is this the legendary inner power ah?”
Under the undisguised admiration in those brilliant gem-like eyes, Zhu Junyang felt his ears grow hot. He pretended to be calm and icy as he replied, “This prince has studied martial arts since I was young. What’s so weird about knowing martial arts? I only killed a badger, nothing to be proud of, right?”
“Hee hee! Young Royal Prince, if you’re ever unemployed in the future, then you can change professions and become a hunter. You absolutely won't starve to death!!” Yu Xiaocao picked up the fat and plump badger and waved it in front of Zhu Junyang. She revealed a row of tiny white teeth, “Today, we’ll eat this badger for lunch!” Zhu Junyang frowned as he looked at the coal black badger with a look of dislike. He curled his lips, “Such an ugly creature, and dirty to boot, is edible?”
It was as if the admiration and worship in her eyes were only a misperception. Yu Xiaocao regarded him with dislike again, “Inexperienced and ignorant! Let me tell you, a badger’s meat is very nourishing. If you eat it frequently, you can strengthen your body!”
Zhu Junyang seemed to really enjoy crossing verbal swords with Yu Xiaocao, “A stinky badger can make you this happy ah! Don’t you guys have a lot of game in the West Mountains ah? On another day, this prince will let you experience my astounding hunting efficiency. At that time, make sure you tell me what you want to eat, this prince will get it for you!”
Yu Xiaocao’s eyes immediately brightened, “Is that true? You’re not pulling my leg, right? Whatever I want to eat, you’ll get ah?”
Zhu Junyang glanced at the devious smile at the corner of Yu Xiaocao’s lips and he had a bad premonition. However, as a manly man, he couldn't go back on his words. He could only brace himself and say, “As long as the West Mountains have it, this prince will definitely be able to hunt it down!”
“I want to eat tiger meat, the paw of the black bear, leopard’s tail, shark meat...I have never eaten any of these, so I really want to try some ah!” Yu Xiaocao put on a fake-innocent expression on her face. How come it seemed like she was really asking for a spanking?
The muscles on Zhu Junyang’s face fiercely twitched as he let out a strained smile, “I think you’ve bitten more off than you can chew, eh? You dare to instigate me, this prince, to go hunt ferocious beasts eh? What are your intentions? Furthermore, do you guys truly have sharks that live up in the West Mountains? Let alone shark, getting you some fish up there isn’t bad either!”
Yu Xiaocao made a funny face at him. She was only idly saying stuff. How could she possibly make him take such a dangerous risk?
“Yu Xiaocao, do the West Mountains really have tigers and leopards?” Men seemed to love to take risks. Zhu Junyang had missed the annual autumn imperial hunt, and he heard of one of the generals under his command taking his thunder. He felt quite uncomfortable. It was said that that fellow had been quite lucky and had come across an injured tiger. A blind cat had hit a dead mouse, yet it allowed him to win! If the West Mountains had tigers, he wanted to hunt one down and let all of those generals underneath him recognize him for his prowess!
Yu Xiaocao thought for a bit and shook her head, “I am also not sure. I heard the older generation say that they had once heard the roar of a tiger. Most of the fierce beasts live deep within the mountains and the vast majority of people don’t dare to go in there, so it’s natural that no one has seen any! However, I do know that bears live in there. My father had met one before…” He had almost lost his life from that bear!
Yu Xiaocao gripped her fists tightly when she remembered that scene again. Her father had been lying on the bed and the doctor had given him a death sentence. Everyone around them had a look of despair on their faces. She gripped her hands so tightly that the turtle shell ornamental thumb ring cut painfully into her palm.
Yu Xiaocao looked down at the object in her hand and said, “Here’s your ornamental thumb ring!” She displayed it in front of Zhu Junyang.
Zhu Junyang looked at the imprint on Yu Xiaocao’s palm and also recalled Yu Hai’s previous misfortune. At that time, Yu Xiaocao was only eight years old and must have felt very helpless and worried. He wanted to say something to comfort her yet he didn’t know what was right to say. He thought for a bit and then said, “The thumb ring is dirty now, so take it as a reward! Don’t you want to eat bear paws ah? Another day, this prince will get some for you. Do you know how to prepare it?”
“Don’t know how...however, the head chef at Zhenxiu Restaurant probably knows how! When the moment comes, let’s go eat at the restaurant and have Older Brother Yang Feng make it for us. We can also order some of their specialities and happily eat a delicious meal together!!” Ever since her godmother had finished her one-month confinement, Yu Xiaocao spent less time in town nowadays. Her godmother said that she was going to return back to the capital soon in order to prepare for Little Linlin’s hundred day ceremony.
His washing ceremony and full moon ceremony were all done in Tanggu Town. If she didn’t do his hundred days ceremony in the capital, then her godmother’s good friends, her godfather’s close friends, as well as the declining Xia Family that wanted to fawn on General Fang...would have all come over to give them their congratulations already!
Zhu Junyang’s eyes smiled as they roamed around that adorable little face. She described everything happily, as if the bear paws were already within her grasp and all she needed to decide was on how to eat them! Mhm! When he had the chance, he probably could go into the mountains to take a look. Perhaps he might really get an unexpected haul there!
Yu Xiaocao finally finished her thoughts on how to eat the bear paws. She waved the badger in her hands. The bright light from the sun made her smile seem exceptionally brilliant as she said, “Without bear paws around, let’s eat this guy first! Do you want to eat stewed badger meat or braised?”
“What’s your favorite way of preparing it?” Zhu Junyang rarely considered other people’s likes and dislikes. If he was in his usual frame of mood, he would have said ‘braised’ without a thought for other people’s feelings.
“Stewing is nutritious, whereas braising has a deeper flavor! Both have their advantages!”
“This prince wants to try both!”
“Then I’ll stew half and braise the other half…”
Under the sunlight, there were two figures slowly disappearing in the distance. One was tall, the other short; one was sturdy, the other delicate…
 Used to be Head Steward Fu, but the author changed his surname to Liu.
 Lu Xun (鲁迅) - one of the earliest and best-known modern Chinese writers.Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Sanguine’s Thoughts: Their interactions are quite funny! Also I can’t remember if it was mentioned previously, but Head Chef Wang is now in the capital so his previous apprentice is the head chef now in Tanggu Town.