Chapter 377 - Feeling Out

Meixiang was astonished in her heart. Miss Yu was glib-tongued, but her young master liked her acting like this. Had it been someone else, they would have already been smacked to death, right? 

“Come, let’s go make peach blossom cakes!! Older Sister Meixiang, please take a seat in the front courtyard. When the peach blossom cakes are ready, you can take some back for Princess Consort Jing to have a taste. Peach blossoms can enhance one’s beauty and nourish one’s skin. It’s the most suitable for women to eat.” Meixiang was interested after hearing Yu Xiaocao’s words, so she stayed back to help in the kitchen. 

Yu Xiaocao kept only the petals of the flowers, and soaked the petals in a light-concentration of salt water for ten minutes. She heard from Meixiang that Princess Consort Jing had high-quality West Lake lotus root starch, which was bestowed by the Imperial Palace, so she told her to go back and ask for some. 

Without a food processor, Yu Xiaocao could only take out the pestle used to grind herbs and ask Royal Prince Yang to help pound the petals into a paste state. Then she mixed it with sheep milk that had been boiled with almonds. After that, she poured it into an earthenware jar and mixed it with lotus root starch. She added powdered sugar, stirred well, and boiled it over a small fire until it turned into a thick substance. While it was being cooked, it needed to be continuously stirred in a quick motion until it turned thick and smooth. Afterwards, she poured the cooked mixture into a container to let it cool down and solidify.

After solidification, she cut it into small cubes and put a few flower petals on top. It really enhanced one’s appetite to see the creamy-white peach blossom cakes decorated with pink peach blossom petals. 

After that, Yu Xiaocao made peach blossom soup, which was a dessert from the drama The Journey of Flower in her previous life. After cooking glutinous rice and sheep milk into gruel, she sprinkled some flower petals inside. Those who liked a sweet taste could add some white sugar. The two peach blossom desserts captured the hearts of all the women, and even Madam Liu couldn’t help but eat a few more pieces. 

In the end, Zhu Junyang followed Meixiang back to the manor in the West Mountain. Meixiang brought back a box full of peach blossom cakes, which caused the maidservants beside the princess consort to exclaim, “Miss Yu’s skills in making pastries are even better than the pastry chefs of Daoxiang Village Pastry Shop [1] in the capital. People will drool just by looking at these peach blossom cakes!” 

Princess Consort Jing, who was drinking the peach blossom soup and eating the soft and fragrant peach blossom cake, couldn’t help but sigh, “Which lucky brat will end up marrying this lass Xiaocao? Whoever marries her must have accumulated a great blessing from his previous life ah!” 

“Humph! Her? She’s not good at any of the ‘three morals and four virtues’, so whoever marries her will surely be angered by that mouth of hers. It would be weird if she can get married!!” Zhu Junyang suddenly felt annoyed when he heard her words, and even the flavor of the peach blossom cake in his mouth changed. Thus, he coldly made a spiteful remark. 

Princess Consort Jing could feel the change in her son’s mood. She looked around and came upon a realization within her heart—her silly son liked that lass, but he hadn’t realized it yet. This slow-witted kid. 

Princess Consort purposely argued with him, “Why wouldn’t Xiaocao be able to get married? It’s already outdated to use the standard of ‘three morals and four virtues’ to measure women. Isn’t the emperor advocating for the equality of men and women? Xiaocao looks so pretty and delicate, and with her big eyes and fair skin, she definitely won’t be too bad looking when she grows up.” 

She paused for a moment, glanced at her youngest son, and then continued, “The little girl has a kind and honest disposition. She’s innocent and cute, and has a proper sense of propriety. Moreover, she has such superb cooking skills that even the emperor emeritus can’t stop praising her! She’s also good at doing business. She had opened braised food shops one after another, and there’s also one in the capital! When coming back, I had wanted to buy two salted ducks to bring along on the trip, but I couldn’t even get in line. Ay… If we prepare the ducks and all the other ingredients tomorrow, would Xiaocao be willing to make some salted ducks for us?” 

“Will she dare to not agree if this prince asked?” Zhu Junyang replied with a snort. His mood was very complicated, but he also didn’t know what he was troubled about.   

Princess Consort Jing blinked her eyes, which were very similar to her son’s, and went on, “The lass is concerned about your identity, but you also shouldn’t go too far. Don’t always bully her with your power as the royal prince! Where were we again? Oh right, Xiaocao is not only good at cooking, but she’s also good at tending flowers and plants. My precious flowers, which were about to die, had come back to life in her hands. They look even better than when I first bought them back!” 

“Oh! That’s right!! The lass also has medical skills. She had unexpectedly saved the empress’s precious baby and left a good impression on the emperor and empress. She had also nourished my health back to normal. In the past, I would feel dizzy after walking a couple steps. Now, I can even walk several kilometers on the mountain road without feeling breathless. Your lord father thought that it was the fengshui on the West Mountain that heals people!” 

Princess Consort Jing beamed with joy as she talked about her increasingly stronger and healthier body. Her husband said that, when he had breaks, he would take her to go sightseeing and spend some alone time together as a married couple! 

“Also…” Princess Consort Jing was becoming more and more enthusiastic as she spoke. However, she was interrupted by her youngest son. 

“Lady Mother, Yu Xiaocao wouldn’t be a long-lost child of you and Lord Father, right? You’re working so hard to praise that you’re giving off the feeling of Old Wang selling melons—praising his own products!” Zhu Junyang felt even more irritated in his heart. He also felt puzzled, ‘I have already passed the age of fighting for favor ah, so why do I feel displeased when Lady Mother is praising that lass so much?’ 

Princess Consort glared fiercely at her youngest son. ‘If Xiaocao was really my child, then you, this brat, will be single forever!! He’s seriously a stinky rock who doesn’t know anything about romance!! You still don’t understand? Then I’ll hit you with something powerful!!’ 

“I also want to have such a considerate and talented daughter ah! It’s a pity that the lass had already been adopted by Fang Zizhen and his wife. I heard that Lady Fang is planning on bringing the lass to the capital in two years. She wants to keep the lass by her side and help her find a good husband. Xiaocao is such a clever and cute girl, and she’s also very skilled. There must be a lot of humble and talented gentlemen who will discover her beauty. It might be a fierce competition ah! Would the General Estate’s threshold be stomped flat by all those people?” 

“The lass is only eleven or twelve years old, yet Lady Fang is already making arrangements for her. Isn’t it a little too early? Besides, what good match can a little farmer girl, like her, find in the capital?” Zhu Junyang felt a flickering flame within his heart, and it was getting bigger and bigger. Feeling increasingly irritated, he had the urge to throw things and beat someone up!! 

Princess Consort Jing smiled and said, “She’s the general’s goddaughter, and also has some face in front of the emperor and empress. The emperor emeritus also speaks highly of her… With the most important people in the palace backing her, do you really think she can’t find a good husband? Last year, when she cured the young imperial prince’s illness, there were already people asking me about her!” 

“Who? Who’s that sicko?? Xiaocao was only around the age of ten last year. She’s still a child!! Is that guy a pedophile?” Zhu Junyang nearly smacked the table and jumped up. His eyes were spewing with anger, as if he wanted to go harshly beat up that disgusting guy.   

Princess Consort Jing glared at him and said, “What are you saying! It was the Senior Grand Secretary’s daughter-in-law who asked about Xiaocao. She has a younger son who’s around the same age as Xiaocao. At a young age, he has already shown his talent in the Imperial Academy. In the future, he may be able to join the Grand Secretariat like his grandfather!!” 

Zhu Junyang seldom interacted with the other noble young masters in the capital. With his brows creased together, he thought for a long time before he vaguely remembered the appearance of the outstanding grandson of the Senior Grand Secretary. He looked so weak that he could barely withstand a gust of wind, and he was also as pale as a ghost. With a dull temperament, he appeared like an old scholar. With Xiaocao’s eccentric personality, she would definitely suffocate to death if she had to be with him! 

“Lady Mother, Xiaocao is still so young, so you mustn’t rashly promise to help them. It’s impossible to judge people by their appearance. Since you like Xiaocao so much, if she isn’t happy in the future, you will definitely regret it! It’s fine to wait a few more years!” Zhu Junyang strongly opposed his mother trying to be a matchmaker for Xiaocao. 

“She’s not that young anymore! After the age of ten, young girls mature quickly and look different each year! She will unknowingly grow into a beautiful young maiden!! I think that the Senior Grand Secretary’s younger grandson is very good. He’s warm and friendly, and he doesn’t have that high and mighty sense of superiority. He’s a rarely found good match for young girls…” 

“How is he a good match!! I can push that weakling down with merely one finger, and he can be easily blown away by slightly stronger wind. Xiaocao is frequently stirring up trouble, so she should find someone who is strong and skilled in martial arts. That way, there will be someone following behind and helping her take care of all the troubles!” Zhu Junyang interrupted his lady mother’s words, and his eyebrows were creased so tightly that it could kill a fly. 

Princess Consort Jing secretly laughed in her heart, but pretended to agree as she nodded and said, “You’re right! What kind of man is he, if he can’t protect his woman?”

Before Zhu Junyang could breathe a sigh of relief, she continued, “I have a person in mind. Yang’er, what do you think about the youngest son of the Nine Gates Infantry Commander? He’s about four to five years older than Xiaocao. He’s tall and handsome, and even the emperor emeritus praised him for being highly skilled in martial arts! I heard that the kid is planning to participate and win first place in next year’s imperial military examination!!” 

“Him? He’s just a loser under my hands!! If he wants to be next year’s martial arts champion, he will first need to ask if I am willing to let him!!” Zhu Junyang pondered if he should sign up for next year’s military examination and take that fellow down a peg or two. This prince hadn’t been in the capital in recent years, and now just any random cat or dog was trying to lord over others!! Did they forget how this prince had beaten them until they cried for their parents?

“What’s more, I heard that when the son of the Nine Gates Infantry Commander was fifteen, he had taken in several bed-servants. He also has a concubine. That girl Xiaocao is like an innocent little rabbit. If she married into such a family, won’t she be torn apart by those tigers and wolves?” To sum it up in one sentence, ‘I don’t agree!!!’ 

Zhu Junyang didn’t want to continue listening to his mother talking about how good all those noble young masters in the capital were. He stood up and warned her sternly, “Anyway, Lady Mother, don’t join in and cause trouble! If someone asks you to be a matchmaker, just pretend to be ill and ignore them! That way, we can prevent that lass from living unhappily, and thus resent you in the future!!” 

After he said that, he quickly left without waiting for Princess Consort Jing’s reply. Zhu Junyang, who had arrived at his own courtyard, tortured the imperial bodyguards around him for the entire afternoon in the martial arts field. He drilled those guys until they cried for their parents, but it still didn’t clear up his gloomy mood.   

He thought of the bright and lovely young girl under the beautiful peach blossom tree. Her smile was even brighter than the sunshine, and her voice was even clearer than the mountain spring… How could he allow her beauty to be tainted by those vulgar men?

If she got married, then she wouldn’t be allowed to casually meet non-related men. When he was swallowed by his dark inner demons, there would no longer be a holy golden light to lead him out of the boundless darkness. When he got shackled down by the grim coldness, there wouldn’t be a smile that was as warm as the sun to warm up the deepest part of his heart…


[1] The author called the pastry shop 'Daohua Village Pastry Shop' in an eariler.

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