“Shhh—be quiet. Don’t let those imperial bodyguards hear you!” Most of the villagers of Dongshan Village could recognize Royal Prince Yang. In a low voice, they proudly explained to the people around them, “This noble man is His Highness the Royal Prince. He is a true member of the imperial family. If you offend him, you will be executed!”
When the villager, who came from another village, heard this, he quickly shrunk his head and hid in the crowd. He didn’t dare to say another word. A villager, who had a decent relationship with the Yu Family, asked Yu Jiang in a low voice, “Jiang’zi, I heard that your family harvested the corn in advance. Will it affect the yield? Will the royal prince be angry at Dahai’s family because of this?”
Yu Jiang looked anxiously at the guards in front of the courtyard. He shook his head and worriedly said, “I don’t know either! The royal prince has always thought highly of my second brother’s family. The corn grew very well before the disaster, moreover, it wasn’t a human error. So, there shouldn’t be any major problems, right?”
Zhu Junyang walked into the courtyard and was shocked by the glistening yellow and dazzling corn cobs. The Yu Family’s yard was originally very large. The place where they used to grow vegetables had been cleared up and filled with corn cobs for drying. The corn kernels were all plump, and they were bigger and brighter than the kernels that he brought back from abroad.
The Yu Family were currently sitting around a table with smiles on their faces as they happily chatted and rubbed off the corn kernels. Yu Xiaocao was also among them, and her smile was as dazzling as the summer sun. With her small snow-white hands, she was holding corn cob without any kernels and another corn cob. She rubbed them against each other, and the golden kernels fell into the basket in front of her.
It seemed as if the heavy boulder that Zhu Junyang had within his heart when he came over had completely disappeared now. He turned his gaze from the dazzling little girl to the corn drying in the yard. He noticed several small animals frolicking around the corn, chasing locusts that occasionally landed on top. There were many dead locusts in the gaps between the corn cobs. Were they all killed by these cats or dogs? Not only were the members of the Yu Family capable, but they also raised outstanding little animals. Wait, wasn’t that a roe deer? Weren’t roe deer herbivores? Why was it chasing after locusts like a cat or dog?
“Eh? Young Royal Prince, you returned from the capital?” Yu Xiaocao looked up and saw Zhu Junyang strolling in the courtyard, so she greeted him warmly. The rest of the Yu Family also quickly came forward to welcome the royal prince.
Zhu Junyang said, “Don’t stand on ceremony,” and told them to continue doing what they needed to do. He had Yu Xiaocao stay behind and casually asked, “When did you start raising two more puppies? They look like a mixture of wolves and dogs…”
Yu Xiaocao naturally wouldn’t tell him that Little Black and Little White were purebred wolves. She shrugged her shoulders and said, “I found them in the forest a few days ago. At that time, the two little fellows had just opened their eyes and looked very pitiful. They are also living beings, so I took them home to raise.”
Zhu Junyang looked at her and expressionlessly said, “It seems like this prince’s worries are unnecessary! When there’s a natural disaster, other people would want to kill all their pets, for fear of wasting food. You, on the other hand, bring animals home. Are you afraid that you have too much food at home and don’t have anywhere to throw them?”
Yu Xiaocao, who had long been used to his cold face, replied with a grin, “How much can two little puppies eat? The little fellows learned to catch locusts to eat by themselves. They even knew that they should pick locusts with seeds in their stomach. They’re so smart! Young Royal Prince, how’s the situation in the capital?”
Zhu Junyang thought of the corn leaves that had been bitten and filled with holes in the experimental fields. He sighed and said, “The locust plague isn’t that serious in the capital, but it’s still a disaster! The corn is at the important stage of grouting. The drought and locust plague will definitely reduce the yield… Your family’s corn wasn’t affected by the swarm of locusts?”
Yu Xiaocao improved the explanation that her father gave to the village head and told Royal Prince Yang, “When my father was getting water from the mountains to water the fields, he encountered a fortune teller, who claimed to be a half-immortal. He predicted that there would be a disaster in two days, but he didn’t say what kind of disaster it would be. We saw that the corn was almost ready to be harvested, so if there really was a disaster, we would have all worked in vain. With the mindset that it was better to believe it was true, we worked day and night and reaped all the corn. Fortunately, we usually took good care of them. After a few days of drying, it seems that there isn’t a very serious drop in the output of corn!”
Zhu Junyang didn’t ask about the so-called half-immortal. Looking at her with approval, he slowly nodded and said, “You guys did the right thing! A slight reduction in output is better than no harvest at all! What about the potatoes? Were they also quickly harvested?”
“Yes, they are reaped! They’re all in the east wing-room!” Yu Xiaocao led the way to the east wing-room. The windows in the Yu Residence were all made of glass. There were many windows in each room, so it wasn’t dim inside after opening the door.
Zhu Junyang saw a pile of potatoes inside, and the smallest was about the size of an adult’s fist. A trace of emotion appeared on his originally expressionless face, “This prince remembers that we only planted one mu of potatoes, right? There can be such a big harvest in one mu of land?”
Yu Xiaocao snickered unceasingly in her heart and thought, ‘Is this considered a lot? We also secretly stored a lot in the cellar of the west courtyard!’ However, she appeared serious as she nodded and said, “Yes! Potatoes are quite productive. There were at least five to six thousand catties in one mu of land.”
Head Steward Liu, who followed behind his master, was so stunned that he couldn’t close his mouth. A harvest of over five thousand catties in one mu of land? It was even more high yielding than sweet potatoes? Moreover, they were planted in sandy land that wasn’t very fertile. If they were planted in fertile land, wouldn’t the yield be even higher? If the emperor found out, he would definitely be very pleased, right? Over the years, the emperor had always been searching for high-yielding crops so that the people could fill their stomachs and live a prosperous and contented life. With the high-yielding potatoes and corn drying in the yard, the emperor’s wish should have been fulfilled.
Zhu Junyang bent down and picked up a palm-sized potato. He carefully examined it, and then asked, “Do you know the methods of eating potatoes? Do we just cook it like sweet potatoes?”
Yu Xiaocao thought about it and answered in a vague manner, “I think so? But potatoes don’t have much taste. It has a very plain flavor, so it’s better to dip it in salt or sugar. However, during times of disasters, it’s enough to satisfy our hunger. Also, unlike sweet potatoes, eating too much won't cause heartburn.”
“How do you know? Did you secretly taste it?” Zhu Junyang gently glanced at her with his charming phoenix eyes, but there wasn’t any sense of blame at all.
Yu Xiaocao laughed hollowly and said, “While digging out the potatoes, quite a few of them were damaged. We were afraid that they would go bad, so we tried making a few dishes with the potatoes. It tasted quite good. Young Royal Prince, should I prepare a potato feast for you for lunch?”
“At least you still have a heart!” Zhu Junyang looked at the room full of potatoes with a faint trace of a smile in his eyes. He looked at Yu Xiaocao and said, “This prince will make the decision and give one-tenth of the potatoes in this room to your family. It’s up to you how you want to eat them! You don’t need to sneak around!”
“May Young Royal Prince live for ten thousand years——” As soon as Yu Xiaocao shouted, her mouth was covered by Head Steward Liu, who came out from nowhere. The expression on Royal Prince Yang’s face also abruptly changed.
In a flustered and exasperated manner, Head Steward Liu cried in a low voice, “Do you want to kill our Royal Prince? How can you casually say words such as ‘long live’? If someone heard it and wants to accuse our master of treason, would you be able to take responsibility?”
Yu Xiaocao remembered now that ‘long live’ could only be used for the emperor during ancient times. It wasn’t a synonym for cheering like in her previous life. She also realized the severity of this matter. Her eyes were red, and tears welled up in her eyes, “Young Royal Prince, I didn’t do it on purpose. I was so happy that I didn’t know what I was saying! What should I do? I’m just an ordinary commoner, so it doesn’t matter if I die. But will this cause trouble for Young Royal Prince?”
Zhu Junyang looked outside. Yu Xiaocao’s voice wasn’t very loud earlier. Based on the response of the members of the Yu Family, who were rubbing off corn kernels in the yard, it seemed like they didn’t notice the incident here. The entrance of the courtyard was far away, and the imperial bodyguards guarding outside were all his trusted subordinates. He signaled Head Steward Liu with his eyes, telling him to check around the area to see if there was anyone else around.
Head Steward Liu glared at Yu Xiaocao like he wanted to eat her, and then he took his order and left.
Zhu Junyang looked at Yu Xiaocao, who was so scared that all color had drained from her face. He unconsciously softened the expression on his face, and his words of reproach also turned into comfort, “This prince believes that it was unintentional. In the future, you must be more careful when speaking. Not everyone is as forgiving as this prince! If you said such treacherous words in the capital, all your family’s properties will be confiscated, and your entire family will be beheaded!”
With tears flowing down her face, Yu Xiaocao nodded, sniffled her nose, and said, “I understand! In the future, I won’t mention that phrase again!”
Zhu Junyang seldom saw her being as obedient as a rabbit. Usually, when he said one word, she would readily refute him with several words. When faced with a pitiful and obedient Yu Xiaocao, the cold-faced Young Royal Prince was actually in the mood to joke with her, “It’s not that you can’t mention it, but it depends on who you are addressing. If you see the emperor, you can still say that phrase.”
Yu Xiaocao’s tears hadn’t dried up, but she started arguing with him again, “I’m just an ordinary commoner, so how can I have the chance to see the emperor? You’re the most honorable person who I have ever met… No, I think I have cooked for the emperor emeritus when he traveled incognito in the past!”
Zhu Junyang remembered his imperial grandfather, who would mention delicious food in every three words, and didn’t know what to say. Last time, when he returned to the capital, his imperial grandfather had specially visited him to ask for the pig head meat and pig ear ribbons made by the little lass of the Yu Family. He also said that the ones made by the capital’s Zhenxiu Restaurant wasn’t authentic, and only the ones made by Yu Xiaocao suited his taste.
When he heard that he didn’t bring any back because of the hot weather, his foodie imperial grandfather clamored about going to Dongshan Village. He said that he hadn’t eaten the meals of a peasant family cooked by the little lass of the Yu Family in a long time and really missed it. In the end, he finally stopped after his older cousin, the emperor, tried his best to persuade him and made a promise to ‘find an opportunity to bring the little lass of the Yu Family to the capital to cook a table of delicious dishes for him’.
Imperial Grandfather was getting old, so the emperor was afraid that his body couldn’t withstand him travelling all over the country. Thus, he didn’t want him to get exhausted from running around and had him stay and relax in the imperial palace.
However, his imperial grandfather insisted, “Life lies in movement!” He could never stay still for a moment, which caused all his imperial children and grandchildren to be worried all the time. He heard that a few days ago, if the emperor hadn’t noticed in time, his imperial grandfather would have ran to the borders to do some military drills with General Zhao.Previous Chapter Next Chapter
I see some foreshadowing...