Around noon, Zhu Junyang came back triumphantly with two hares and a pheasant in his hands. In the nearby thickets, there were many people who went there to pick up firewood, gather wild plants, so there wasn’t a lot of game around. By coming back with such a haul in such a short period of time, it showed that the young royal prince’s hunting skills were quite good.
For lunch, Yu Xiaocao made ‘salt and pepper rabbit meat’, ‘spicy wild pheasant’, ‘steamed egg with seafood’, ‘roasted garlic scallops’, ‘savory sandworms’, ‘sauteed eggplants with minced meat’, and ‘oyster tofu soup’. There were a total of six dishes and one soup, and the meal contained both seafood and wild game dishes. Everyone ate the food with great relish.
After finishing the meal, Zhu Junyang picked up his bow and arrows in preparation to enter the mountain.
Since the West Mountain was giant, the Yu Family was afraid that he wasn’t familiar with the terrain and might get lost. Furthermore, it was possible that he might accidentally step into the wrong area and meet something dangerous. Thus, they had the experienced hunter, Yu Hai, act as his guide.
Yu Xiaocao still didn’t feel comfortable with the arrangements, so she found an excuse to leave the house. She secretly followed them from behind as they entered the mountain.
Today, Zhu Junyang only brought Head Steward Liu along with him. As their guide, Yu Hai decided to bring the older adult and the youth on a loop around the outskirts of the West Mountains so they could hunt some wild deer, roe deer and other animals in order to satisfy the prince’s desires. However, Zhu Junyang had already guessed what the other man was thinking about. After encountering some smaller game, he didn’t stay put. His purpose today was to hunt some ferocious beasts in the mountains.
Yu Xiaocao, who was following the three of them from behind, started to find it was harder and harder for her to keep up as they went further within the mountainous trails. Right now the plants and weeds around her were waist high and she had to use a lot of energy for each step she took. As she watched the gap between them get wider and wider, fear settled into her heart that she would get lost behind.
“Father, Young Royal Prince, wait for me!!” Just as the three figures in front were about to disappear, Yu Xiaocao finally couldn't hold back and shouted towards them. Deep within the mountains there were trees all around, covering the sky and the ground. If she wasn’t careful, she would quickly get lost in the thickets. Yu Xiaocao was still a little girl who was quite inexperienced in this setting. If she was lost by the others, it would be hard for her to find her way back on her own.
The road in front of them was becoming steeper and steeper and the forest around them was thick. Head Steward Liu stayed alert this entire time in order to observe their surroundings. He absolutely could not allow his master to encounter a mishap. Suddenly, his ears moved. He stopped moving in order to listen more closely to the sound. He quietly talked to Royal Prince Yang, who was in front of him, “Master, do you hear that…”
Zhu Junyang thought that Head Steward Liu had heard a wild beast and immediately stopped and held his breath to listen…
“Young Royal Prince——Wait for me——”
The thick forest muffled echoes in the area and the sound of the little girl’s voice was only carried into the three people’s ears by the wind. Yu Hai’s expression immediately changed and he hurriedly rushed back as he stated, “It sounds like Cao’er’s voice. That girl, she’s always been interested in hunting since she was a wee child. She must have secretly followed us!!”
Zhu Junyang also looked more solemn. He did his best to figure out the direction of where the sound was coming from and walked in the direction.
“Father...Young Royal Prince——Where did you guys go ah…” Yu Xiaocao was starting to get angry after shouting all this time. She didn’t know whether her father or the young royal prince could hear her. She lowered her head to carefully look at the footprints the men left behind but she didn’t realize yet that the more she walked, the further away she got from them.
Yu Xiaocao found a wide open space and sat down on a rock. She retrieved a small porcelain bottle from her chest pocket and dripped a drop of mystic-stone water into her mouth. Her throat immediately felt better and her exhausted body started to fill with strength again.
“Father——Young Royal Prince...where did you guys go? It’s Xiaocao ah…” Yu Xiaocao clumsily climbed up a crooked tree and sat at the bottom of the forked branches. She cupped her hands around her mouth like a megaphone and started to shout loudly again.
Zhu Junyang had followed the sound of her voice over and looked around. He didn’t see Xiaocao anywhere. He turned around, raised his head, and was almost hit in the forehead by a pair of grubby, muddy, deer-skin boots. Luckily, his reactions were quite agile and he managed to avoid getting stamped by stepping back.
“You also know how to climb trees? Looks like you’re quite skilled ah!!” Zhu Junyang raised his head to look at Yu Xiaocao, who was sitting astride on the tree. Her hair had been tangled with stray branches and there was even a dried leaf sticking on her temples. He didn’t know whether the moisture on her face was from sweat or tears but she looked like a dirty little kitten. There were some holes in her clothing that had recently been ripped open. If he didn’t look more closely, he would have thought she was a little beggar!
“Young Royal Prince!” Yu Xiaocao almost wanted to cry tears of joy, “That’s great!! I finally found all of you!”
Zhu Junyang watched as the little lass clumsily climbed down the tree. She slowly scampered down. Because her boots were covered with mud, she didn’t have a good footing on the bark. She could only hug the tree tightly as she slowly slid down.
Zhu Junyang couldn’t stand watching her struggle anymore and sprung forward. He grasped the little lass’s collar and jumped back as the little lass screamed to high heaven.
The sudden weightless feeling made Yu Xiaocao think that she was about to fall down. She yelped mournfully as she gritted her teeth in preparation of the pain that was about to hit her bottom. Even when she was steady on the ground, with Royal Prince Yang supporting her up, she continued to holler shrilly with her eyes closed.
Zhu Junyang used his other hand to pick at his ear. He felt like his ears were about to explode from the little lass’s screams. He lifted Yu Xiaocao’s hand and then lightly let go. The little lass’s legs wobbled and she fell bottom first into the underbrush. Only then did she stop ravaging his eardrums with her voice.
‘Eh? It doesn’t hurt? How come I don’t feel any pain after falling off the tree? Is it because the grass is too thick or is it because I have too much fat on my butt?’ Yu Xiaocao rubbed at her butt and looked up the tree again.
“Cao’er?! Why did you follow us?” Yu Hai had heard Xiaocao’s desperate screeches earlier and thought she had encountered danger. He bolted over, panting, and carefully inspected her from head to toe. He only relaxed after he discovered that she had no injuries.
“I...I was afraid you guys might get into trouble, so I followed along…” Yu Xiaocao could tell that her father was getting angry very quickly, so she lowered her head and pulled at the grass as she stammered out a reply.
Zhu Junyang let out a cold sneer, “You were afraid for us? So you followed along? With that tiny stature of yours, if we encounter a wild beast, can you help us beat it off? Or can you protect us with your body? Hmph! This prince knows now, you probably planned on sending yourself into the jaws of the beast and give us an opportunity to run away right? You’re so tiny, you’re not even enough to get stuck between the teeth of a wild beast ah!”
Yu Xiaocao couldn’t explain that she had the little divine stone, so she kept her head down as she obediently listened to him lecture.
Yu Hai noticed that they were already in an area in the mountains where very few people tread. If he told his youngest daughter to head back on her own, she could get lost and then end up in a very bad situation. However, he couldn’t, for the sake of his youngest daughter, ruin the royal prince’s hunting mood. He braced himself as he said, “Your Highness, my daughter isn’t sensible and caused trouble for you...what do you think about letting my daughter follow along with us…”
Earlier on the way here, they traversed hills and threaded through the forest. The trail was quite hard to walk on. Zhu Junyang eyed the little lass who looked quite disheveled. He didn’t know how that lass managed to go this far. When he thought about how the girl might end up breaking a leg or encountering some dangerous beasts on the way back, Zhu Junyang wished he could pick her up and give her a spanking.
He looked around the area. They were surrounded by a thick forest and the mountain was loftily high. Who knew what type of ferocious beasts lurked in the area. They absolutely could not allow the little lass to stay here by herself. But they had already walked all this way, so they couldn’t just leave empty-handed. Apparently, they could only bring this fellow along and hope that she didn't impede their way!
“You better keep up because if you don’t, this prince won’t wait for you!!” Zhu Junyang leveled a fierce glare at the little girl and then turned around to continue deeper into the mountain forest.
At this time, Head Steward Liu discovered that his master’s walking speed had decreased a lot compared to before. He looked back at Yu Xiaocao, who was doing her best to keep up with everyone. When did his master ever think of others? Was the sun about to rise from the west?!
With a useless tail behind them. Zhu Junyang had a premonition that his chances of hunting a ferocious beast had dwindled considerably. He no longer rushed forward and instead did his best to shoot at any animals that appeared. Yu Xiaocao soon found out that the young royal prince’s archery skills weren’t just good; they were astoundingly good. He almost never missed what he shot at and every arrow hit a vital spot. He never needed to shoot a second arrow to fell a beast.
Red deer, wild goats, roe deer, hazel grouse...the most impressive one was that Zhu Junyang managed to kill a giant wild boar that weighed over three hundred pounds by accurately shooting it in the head. A wild animal that was usually quite vicious didn’t even make much noise before it was killed instantly by Zhu Junyang.
Yu Xiaocao looked at her father, who was carrying the red deer and wild goat on his back while his waist was strung with pheasants, badgers, and other small game. Head Steward Liu had easily crafted a sledge out of branches and was pulling along the wild boar, roe deer and other game. Even she was holding two wild hares. Despite all that, the young royal prince continued deeper into the thicket enthusiastically.
“Young Royal Prince, if we continue to hunt through the afternoon, we won’t be able to bring all of the game back! How about we go back home now and you can come back another day?” Yu Xiaocao heavily sat down on a nearby rock. She really didn’t want to get back up. Although the mystic-stone water had replenished her energy, she was still very tired, okay?
Zhu Junyang attentively observed their nearby terrain and environment and then turned back to look her in the eye, “You truly came over to be a deadweight! If you’re tired, then just stand here and watch over the game. This prince will head deeper in to take a look. If I’m lucky, I might encounter a black bear. Didn’t you say you wanted to try the taste of bear paws eh?”
Yu Xiaocao looked at the pile of game that emitted the smell of blood. She was absolutely sure that all of this was the perfect bait to attract a carnivore. If she was in charge of watching over the game, did he want her to become the snack of a wild beast? ‘Young Royal Prince ah, just what type of enmity do you have against me?’
‘Little Glutinous Dumpling, are you there?’ Yu Xiaocao lightly called at the little divine stone in her mind. It was currently in the multi-colored stone on her wrist.
A tiny, golden colored kitten appeared behind her and jumped onto her shoulder. It arrogantly asked, [What do you need this divine stone for ah? It wouldn’t be that you want this divine stone to help you go hunting eh?]
Yu Xiaocao suddenly thought that the little divine stone was quite similar to Zhu Junyang. Both liked to look down at everyone from their high statues, with their noses in the air. When they talked, they also made people feel like they immediately deserved a spanking. But the part that they most resembled each other was this: they were both annoying, but at the crucial point, they never disappointed her!
‘Little Glutinous Dumpling, help draw a ferocious beast over. The best kind would be one that’s not a fully grown adult and is easy to take care of! Either a tiger or bear would work. If there aren’t any, then a wolf would do too!’
[Tsk tsk! You take this divine stone to be bait for you? What advantage does this divine stone get out of this ah? If there are no advantages, this divine stone refuses to help!!] The little divine stone was feeling arrogant again. Every time she asked it to help her, it always acted as if it was very reluctant and made Yu Xiaocao quite unhappy.Previous Chapter Next Chapter