Zhu Junyang was even more upset that he had not been thorough in his consideration—why had he not thought of sending over more ingredients? He turned to Head Steward Liu and ordered, "Go, have Wu Deshun quickly send some people to the prefectural city to purchase some ingredients—especially all kinds of meat and eggs. If they can’t be bought in the prefectural city, go to the capital city!”
Yu Xiaocao's lips twitched, mumbling, "Even if you go buy now, it would still take a long time. Are we just going to eat vegetarian dishes for lunch and dinner like a rabbit?"
"This prince will treat you to Zhenxiu Restaurant for lunch and dinner!" After eating so many meals at Yu Xiaocao's, it seemed he still had not treated her to a meal!
Yu Xiaocao fluttered her big eyes and complained, "We probably wouldn’t be able to get a table if we went now…"
Zhu Junyang lifted his chin and glared at Third Young Master Zhou, "You… what do you think?"
Zhou Zixu wiped sweat off his forehead, laughing along, "It's Zhenxiu Restaurant's utmost honor to have Royal Prince Yang dine in our restaurant. This commoner will treat lunch, so please honor us with your presence, Royal Prince Yang!"
The Zhou Family were imperial merchants, but if the Zhenxiu Restaurant was to be successful in the capital city, they would still need to get themselves a strong backing. Royal Prince Yang was currently one of the most influential people in the capital city, and also the emperor’s most trusted officials—it would be great if they could get his support, and even if they couldn’t, he must also leave a good impression on him.
Unexpectedly, Zhu Junyang did not appreciate the gesture. Instead, he proudly said, “Does this prince need to repeat myself? Lunch and dinner will be my treat! Am I unable to even afford two tables at a restaurant?”
Royal Prince Yang was indeed a member of the imperial family—he was as moody as the rumors said! Third Young Master Zhou really could not grasp his temper, so he turned his pleading gaze towards Yu Xiaocao.
Yu Xiaocao, who got his signal, spoke to Zhu Junyang, “At this moment, Zhenxiu Restaurant wouldn’t have any fresh vegetables. Why don’t we go back to harvest some to bring over? Or you could head over to Zhenxiu Restaurant first and wait for us?”
Zhu Junyang spoke without thinking, “How important are you to have this prince wait for you? Go back and harvest the vegetables! The three little fellows should be finishing their lessons; send someone to notify them to head directly to Zhenxiu Restaurant.”
Yu Xiaocao looked around him. The only servant he brought with him was Head Steward Liu, who had already been sent off, so it was only the two of them left—who was to go and notify the trio? ‘Young Royal Prince, can you harvest vegetables, or can you do errands?’
Zhu Junyang glanced at the manservant beside Third Young Master Zhou. He did not even need to speak before Third Young Master Zhou offered, “I’ll send Simo. He has met the little brother of the Yu Family and he knows the way to Rongxuan Academy. Royal Prince Yang, you should go back and rest for a little while, this commoner will make the arrangements at Zhenxiu Restaurant.”
Zhu Junyang arrogantly nodded. It seemed that only when he was around the Yu Family—or, more specifically, Yu Xiaocao—would he show his friendly and approachable side.
The three little fellows jumped for joy when they received the news—especially Sun Runze, who had always regarded it as an honor to be able to dine in Zhenxiu Restaurant. Just because one was rich, it did not guarantee them a table at Zhenxiu Restaurant, as their tables required a long waiting time. His family did not live in Tanggu Town, so naturally, his father would not spend so much time or money just for a meal in the restaurant.
Fortunately, they ate in a private room and not in the hall, or else Yu Xiaocao would definitely attract the attention of the rest of the customers by bringing her own vegetables. Even though Head Chef Wang had gone to the capital, the head of Zhenxiu Restaurant’s kitchen was his direct disciple, and his culinary skills were even better than his master’s. They were very satisfied with their meal.
The only person who was unsatisfied was Zhu Junyang. His eyes shot daggers at Third Young Master Zhou: ‘Why is this fellow so untactful? Must he unashamedly join them—does he not know that he’s annoying?’
Zhou Zixu expressed his innocence and bewilderment: ‘Royal Prince Yang doesn’t seem to like me; when did I offend him?
In the room, Zhou Zixu asked about the three kids, who were going to sit for the prefectural examination, “Including the rest time in between, it’ll take about half a month to complete all three stages of the prefectural examination. Have you all thought through where you will stay?”
Sun Runze was eating a roasted chicken drumstick and his mouth was covered in a layer of oil. He swallowed his food and replied, “Of course we’ll stay in my house! My house is near the prefectural yamen, so it’s very convenient!”
Liu Jinye, unwilling to be outdone, said, “My family has a residence that’s opposite the examination courtyard—staying at my place will be even more convenient!”
Yu Xiaocao had already decided beforehand that she would see her brother off to his examination in the prefectural city, but she was reluctant to stay in the homes of other people. However, it was more inconvenient if she stayed in an inn, as it would be too noisy, and she also would not be able to cook for her little brother.
Third Young Master Zhou could sense her hesitation, so he said, “If you don’t want to stay in their houses, I also have a residence in the prefectural city. However, it’s further away from the examination courtyard—about half an hour’s walking distance.”
He had not even finished his sentence before Royal Prince Yang glared at him. In his heart, Zhu Junyang mumbled: ‘He definitely has evil intentions to contribute without reason! This guy always sticks close to Yu Xiaocao—he must have an ulterior motive. Xiaocao is as pure as a piece of white paper, so he must prevent her from being tainted by others!’
“What’s there to hesitate? You’re not lacking in money—just buy a house near the examination courtyard! If you’re reluctant to spend the money, I’ll sponsor part of it!” Zhu Junyang did not want Xiaocao to have any affiliation with Third Young Master Zhou.
Yu Xiaocao thought about it with her head lowered: ‘It’s not a bad idea to buy one if there’s a suitable house. There will always be students who will sit for the prefectural examination every year, so if the house is near to the examination courtyard, she won’t worry about being unable to rent it out. However, who would sell a house with such a good location?’
After she expressed her concerns, Zhu Junyang took on everything as he said, “Don’t worry and just leave this matter to this prince. I guarantee that I’ll find a suitable one for you before the prefectural examination.”
He wasn’t saying this blindly. He knew that Jinwei Prefectural City’s prefectural magistrate had a few residences and shophouses in the prefectural city. There was one shophouse near the examination courtyard. It was a shop in the front, while there was a small three-sectioned compound at the back. Xiaocao should be very satisfied with it.
He was not at all worried that the owner would not sell the shophouse. The prefectural magistrate worked under his father, Imperial Prince Jing, when he was younger. It was only with this connection that he managed to become the prefectural magistrate. His term as the prefectural magistrate was almost up, and his promotion depended completely on Prince Jing’s mood. Zhu Junyang also would not take advantage of the prefectural magistrate—he would pay whatever the cost of the shophouse.
Although she was doubtful of Royal Prince Yang’s words, Yu XIaocao stayed silent. If she could not buy a suitable residence, she would just shamelessly live in Third Young Master Zhou’s residence. He did not stay there often anyway.
Zhu Junyang could tell that Xiaocao doubted him. In a fit of anger, he rushed to the prefectural city the following day and explained his purpose to Prefectural Magistrate Yan. Prefectural Magistrate Yan knew that his term was up in less than a year, and although the location of the shophouse near the prefectural examination courtyard was excellent, it was still not as important as his own future. Without hesitation, he immediately sold the shophouse to Royal Prince Yang at a very low price.
Pleased with his actions, Zhu Junyang wrote a letter to his father once he got back to Tanggu Town and put in a good word for Prefectural Magistrate Yan. A year later, Prefectural Magistrate Yan became the mayor of the capital city. Although he was still a fourth-rank official, could the officials in the capital city be compared to those outside? As mayor, he controlled the government of the capital and the areas around it. He was considered to be quite a high authority!
Since Zhu Junyang took on the duty of providing the ingredients, and the location in the prefectural city was also set, Yu Xiaocao’s only duty everyday was to feel comfortable, and ensure that the three little ones and the young prince were satisfied with their meals.
Time passed quickly. Unknowingly, the prefectural examination was only three days away. It was about time that they left for the prefectural city. Originally, Yu Hai was worried about the brother and sister duo heading to the prefectural city by themselves. Even though Yu Xiaocao was capable, she was still just a child. But it was currently the busiest time in the fields. A portion of the vegetables that they planted was ready to be harvested. Moreover, the few dozen mu of melon fields also needed to be cared for. They could not afford any mishaps. During this time, he was so busy he could not help but wish there were two of him to do all the work.
The prefectural examination was an important matter for his son and the entire family. No matter how busy he was, he must still make time to send his children to the prefectural city and see to it that they had settled in comfortably—only then would he be able to rest his worries.
Although, before they set off, Royal Prince Yang told him that he was also heading towards the prefectural city and that he could accompany Yu Xiaocao and her brother. Yu Hai was quite reassured to know that Royal Prince Yang was following them, so he only reminded them of the important details before readily putting them in Royal Prince Yang’s care.
It was not because he was trusting, but that Royal Prince Yang still depended on his daughter to cultivate corn—how could he dare to let anything happen to her?
The horse carriage that they took was also prepared by Royal Prince Yang. It was the kind of comfortable big carriage pulled by three horses that was extremely suitable for long distance travel. It felt spacious even if Yu Xiaocao and her brother were to roll around in it.
Before they set off, Qian Wen, who had agreed to travel with the siblings, was both stunned and disappointed when he saw the glamourous horse carriage. No matter how hard he tried, he still could not catch up to her footsteps. Was the distance between him and her ever increasing?
Horse hooves clacked against the ground, and the carriage started to move. Inside the carriage, only Little Shitou blabbered non-stop.
Just as they exited the village, they were stopped by someone. Yu Xiaocao lifted the curtain only to see the Madam Zhang who she hated the most. The coachman was obviously a person trained in martial arts as he pointed the whip in his hand at Madam Zhang and shouted, “Stop! I won’t be courteous to you if you come any closer!”
Royal Prince Yang said with slight annoyance, “What’s the matter? Just ignore irrelevant people! Hurry up!”
Madam Zhang quickly pointed towards her youngest son, who stood behind her, saying, “This commoner greets Your Highness, Royal Prince Yang. I’ve heard that this carriage is headed towards the prefectural city. This is Yu Xiaocao and Little Shitou’s younger uncle. He’s also headed towards the prefectural city to sit for the examination. Can you please bring us along out of convenience?”
Madam Zhang was going all out for her youngest son; she knew that Royal Prince Yang was not easy to talk to, but still shamelessly made a request. If they could not make it onto this carriage, they would still need to walk to town to catch a ride. The horse carriage from town to the prefectural city was not as comfortable as the royal prince’s, not to mention it was bumpy and extremely slow. Even the Yu Family’s horse carriage was better—at least they used rubber tires!
Royal Prince Yang was aware of how Madam Zhang treated Yu Hai’s family, especially when she refused to give them money to pay for Xiaocao’s treatment when she was sick. Every time he recalled this matter, he could not help but want to kill Madam Zhang with a slap. But there was no legitimate reason now! No matter what, she was still the biological mother of Xiaocao’s younger uncle. Yu Bo would definitely not dare to do anything against him if he killed her, but what if he directed his hatred towards Xiaocao’s family? Although he was confident that he could protect Xiaocao, he could not always be in Dongshan Village. Thus, he could not take this risk!
As he was inwardly grumbling and about ready to sternly refuse her, Zhu Junyang noticed Yu Xiaocao waving at him. Nudging his horse towards her, he bent down to listen to Xiaocao whisper two sentences to him. Then, he pointed at Yu Bo, “He can get on the carriage, but you can’t!”Previous Chapter Next Chapter