Zhu Junyang choked on his own saliva and coughed a few times, “How could those people compare to me? What type of relationship do we have? In the future, I’m the person who will be marrying you…”
“Don’t be so sure, you still haven’t passed the tests yet! Who knows if another beautiful maiden will catch your eye and you’ll forget all about me ah!” Yu Xiaocao ruthlessly pushed aside the still bare chest that had come over to her. She was getting ready to leave the cave to eat lunch. From the previous evening until now, she only had a small piece of roe deer meat and it was only roasted plainly over a campfire. It couldn’t be considered to be very appetizing.
However, her arm was suddenly held captive by him. She raised her head to look at Zhu Junyang, who had a solemn and serious expression on his face. He reiterated, “I won’t be interested in anyone else, so stop hoping for anything else. Just wait obediently for me to marry you!” When he finished talking, he moodily put on the clothing that the servants sent over and flung his arms as he left.
Angry now? Yu Xiaocao shrugged her shoulders and followed behind him to leave the cave. Her whole family was waiting for her to eat lunch. The spread was quite splendous. There were bowls of glistening white grains of rice, a plate hand-shredded dried chicken, a plate of stir-fried common purslane, and tureen of egg drop soup. Zhuang Xiaomo had also been invited over for the meal, and Xiaolian had even somewhat shyly served him a chicken leg.
The rice that they had painstakingly stolen back yesterday night had already been divided to the other villagers. Regardless of whether they were men, women, elderly, or children, every person had been given five catties of rice and two catties of white flour. It was enough for everyone to eat for the next two days. The remaining surplus was stored in one of the outer caves. They had just divvied up grain rations to Zhuang Xiaomo and the others, so there was still enough left to use for another two days.
After they finished lunch, Zhu Junyang slept so heavily that it was almost impossible to wake him up that evening. Yu Xiaocao had used the medicines within her box and the mystic-stone water to simmer a pot of tisane that could replenish the blood and restore the body. She was planning on making sure he drank some every day for the next three days.
Who would have expected that he would disappear the next morning and even took a dozen bodyguards with him? The note he left behind said that the troops from the imperial prince’s residence had already arrived last night and that Head Steward Liu had come over to report this himself. When Head Steward Liu saw the scattered wounds all over his master’s body, he silently rebuked himself for not going along with the master. However, even if there were ten of him in that situation, he likely wouldn’t be of much help to his master. After all, his swimming abilities were too average. He was the type of person who was considered a hero on land and a useless nobody in the water.
Yu Xiaocao was quite relaxed about all of this. The young royal prince had told her that he had brought over half of the imperial prince’s troops along, which was around eight hundred soldiers. The Wokou pirates at Dongshan Village only had a hundred or so people on their side. The pirates would absolutely be slaughtered and captured with these well-trained troops fighting against them.
The pirates, who were having the time of their life at Dongshan Village, would have already left if Watanabe Hiroshi had listened to the urgings of his advisors. Over a dozen of their comrades had somehow passed away that night and even their ships had been sunk. What did that mean? It meant that there was a highly skilled enemy around them! If this enemy wanted their lives, it would be easy for this mysterious person to kill them.
Unfortunately, Watanabe Hiroshi was a very conceited individual who was very concerned with his image. They hadn’t completed their mission of sweeping away loot and even lost all of their ships. In front of General Yamaguchi, did he still have any prestige left compared to his other rivals? Although he lost the loot, he needed to make up for his lost reputation. He was determined to enter the mountain forest to attack the villagers after resting for one day. He was aiming to do the same as the other pirates in the neighboring village: slaughter every single villager and be able to vent his temper!
Such a hubristic individual wasn’t willing to listen to any of his advisors, who urged him to meet up with the general at the docks. In fact, he even heavily slapped one of his most trusted advisors for insubordination. All of the people around him felt quite helpless. They were stuck with a leader who was blinded by arrogance, so they could only go down with him.
Before Watanabe Hiroshi could gather all of his remaining men, the troops from the imperial prince’s estate descended like a bunch of avenging gods and gave them no chance to fight back. The Wokou pirates dropped their weapons in an attempt to flee in panic when they saw their opponent’s superior numbers and massively better training. However, Dongshan Village had long been surrounded by the soldiers from the estate. No matter how the pirates tried to run, they couldn’t escape from the troops.
Before an hour had passed, the battle had ended. The pirates in the village had either been killed on site or captured. Zhu Junyang remembered the grisly sight of the neighboring village. If his lass hadn’t been playing in the ocean when she did and discovered the Wokou pirates approaching, then those people who were dead, hanging on the tree, might also…
Zhu Junyang didn’t dare to think further down that line. He had almost lost his little lass. The more he thought, the more resolute he became to take an eye for an eye. No matter how the pirates begged for mercy, not a single one of them was left alive. All of them had been unceremoniously hung from the old elm tree at the mouth of the village!
The two bodyguards who came with him had already gotten a good understanding of the situation at the neighboring village. Once the battle at Dongshan Village ended, the imperial prince’s troops immediately headed out to the other village. The pirates, who had already gathered all of the loot they wanted, were now trapped by the soldiers on the beach and not a single one was able to flee. The pirates on the ships could tell that things were not going well and were about to make a run for it. However, the archers in the troops shot fire arrows at the ships. After the rain of arrows fell, all of the ships burst into flames. Not a single ship out of the four in the water had a good outcome.
In the past three days, Yu Xiaocao’s godfather was unexpectedly unable to come by to check up on her. This meant that the situation at the docks wasn’t going too well. Zhu Junyang led the eight hundred soldiers under his command and rushed to the docks majestically.
The dozens of ships worth of pirates under General Yamaguchi’s command were all warriors from his own clan who had undergone strict training. They were brave and not afraid of death. Furthermore, they had the advantage in numbers. The most important fact was that they were good at battles on the water and knew when to attack and retreat. If their opponents had a tight defense and the situation wasn’t optimistic, the pirates would just flee into the water! Consequently, the county’s soldiers and troops sent from the town and prefectural city weren't able to gain an advantage over the Wokou pirates. Thus, the whole situation had fallen into a stalemate.
General Yamaguchi wasn’t an arrogant idiot like Watanabe Hiroshi. When he saw that the imperial prince’s private troops, who were all well-trained, were coming over from the direction of Dongshan Village, he knew that things had turned against him. The Tanggu Docks were heavily guarded and they weren’t able to crack such a tough nut in a short period of time. Thus, he sounded the order to retreat.
The dozens of pirate ships headed to the deep ocean to flee. The ships from the prefectural city caught up to them as they ran and, after a tempestuous battle at sea, ten pirate ships were lost. The rest had finally managed to escape from the prefectural city’s ships and sped off. By the time Zhu Junyang and his private troops got to the docks, they could only watch the pirate ships disappear into the horizon.
“Looks like you know how to run fast!” Zhu Junyang cursed towards the deep ocean and then walked towards General Fang, who looked quite downtrodden and exhausted.
Fang Zizhen rubbed at his tired face and bowed toward Royal Prince Yang before he hastily asked, “How’s Dongshan Village right now? Are my daughter and the others doing alright?”
“The villagers from Dongshan Village fled at the right time and all of them are safe deep within the West Mountains. Unfortunately, the neighboring village wasn’t as lucky. Almost all of the villagers there were massacred!” Zhu Junyang couldn’t help but sigh at the thought.
Commander Sun came over with one of his assistants and greeted Royal Prince Yang, “Royal Prince, you came at just the right time! Those Wokou pirates are too cunning. They always made a ton of feints and never committed, which made it very tiring for us to defend. Luckily they saw that the winds weren’t behind them and finally left. If this battle with them was prolonged, we wouldn’t have enough men here in the county to fight. Otherwise, we wouldn't have begged for immediate help from everyone in our vicinity.”
“The emperor has already sent troops over and I’m pretty sure they’ll arrive within the next few days.” Zhu Junyang was quite satisfied with the speed of his family’s private troops. He exchanged a few other words with Commander Sun yet his heart was still thinking about his little lass who was hiding in the mountains. Thus, he very quickly took his troops and left the docks.
Fang Zizhen also said his farewells to Commander Sun so he could go to Dongshan Village to take a look. He was originally responsible for overseeing the construction of the harbor at Tanggu and it wasn’t his job to repel the pirates and defend the town. However, as a general, he couldn’t stop himself from butting in when there was war on the horizon. Thus, he stood out at the first moment to help fight against the pirates. Commander Sun promised him that he would bring up his bravery and deeds to the imperial court later on.
Fang Zizhen clearly didn’t care about any of this and waved a hand at the other man. He mounted his horse and rode behind the royal prince as he inquired about his goddaughter’s circumstances. When he found out that his little lass had helped to sink four to five pirate ships and even saved the prince’s life, he guffawed loudly. He stroked the whiskers on his cheeks and proudly announced, “This is truly an example of how an excellent father has an excellent daughter ah! My daughter is truly a woman beyond comparison and is not less than any man!”
Zhu Junyang silently roasted the older man in his heart, ‘What do you mean about your daughter? Her surname is Yu not Fang and she’s not even blood-related to you. What’s the point of you being proud about this?’
The eight hundred men from the imperial prince’s private army were now stationed in the remains of Dongshan Village. The first thing that Zhu Junyang did when he got back was to bring some people along to destroy the Yu Family’s old residence. The bastard pirates had slept in these rooms and he couldn’t bear for his little lass to live in such a place anymore! If the lass objected to this decision, she could go find him! He was more than willing to take out money to have them rebuild a bigger and better residence for her family.
Fang Zizhen was quite perplexed when the prince destroyed the residence. After finding out the details, he, as her godfather, also raised his hands up in support. So what if they didn’t have a place to live in for now? Not a problem, he had a large residence in town for them. Not only could it easily handle the whole Yu Family, but it could also easily handle her Oldest Aunt’s family too. There was plenty of room for everyone!
When the Dongshan villagers descended the mountain and saw the ruined remains of their homes, they all started to wail inconsolably. Many of the older folks revealed dumbfounded expressions as they had no idea what the future would hold. Most of the families here were fine and had enough money on hand to rebuild their homes. However, there was a portion of families who didn't have a lot of resources and were so poor that they were happy just having enough food to fill their stomachs. Where would they get the money to rebuild their house?
Yu Xiaocao felt very sympathetic towards these people and wanted to help them in some way. However, she was also afraid that once she opened her mouth, more things would come tumbling towards them. While she hesitated, Zhu Junyang proclaimed, “Tanggu is under my feudal jurisdiction, so you are all technically under my governance. We cannot stop disasters in their tracks and can only endure and survive through hard times. Every family who had their homes ruined will get thirty taels from me!”
He had decided on the amount of money to give to these villagers after consulting with the Yu and Liu Families. Xiaocao’s Oldest Aunt had a house made out of bricks and tile and it was one of the only homes, other than the Yu Family’s and village chief’s, to be constructed this way. They spent no more than twenty taels to build their residence. In the countryside, people crafted their own mud bricks to build a house and only needed to invite some people over and pay them in food for their help. Houses made of straw were even more simple as rice straw was an even cheaper construction material. A five-room house made of rice straw didn’t require spending more than ten taels to build.
When the Dongshan villagers heard his announcement, all of them were deeply grateful. Under the lead of the village chief, they all kowtowed and proclaimed their thanks to the prince.
Zhu Junyang lightly waved a hand and had them stand up. He then glanced at Yu Xiaocao with a proud look in his eyes.
At this time, Yu Xiaocao was currently puffing up her cheeks in anger as she sulked moodily. Her family’s residence was perfectly fine just a day ago. How could it become destroyed and become a pile of ruins in just one day?Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Sanguine’s Thoughts: The villagers are right to be sad but at least they’re not dead like the other village (or raped and then killed).