Was that a confession? It couldn't be, right? Although Yu Xiaocao had lived two lifetimes, she had never been pursued by anyone before, not to mention being forced into marriage—definitely a first! 'But are you sure that you're really serious about marrying me, and it's not just an impulsive decision, Young Royal Prince?'
"Young Royal Prince, I think we should give each other time to think this through. Besides, I'm only twelve, which is still very young. I'm still several years away from marriageable age. We should slowly discuss this matter with both of our families, don't you think?" Yu Xiaocao decided to delay the matter. Maybe the young prince would forget all about this when he went back, and the matter would be resolved by itself?
Zhu Junyang's captivating eyes stared at her for a long time. She was about to crumble under his stare when he nodded, "Although being rejected by you will hurt my pride, it won't discourage me from my desire to marry you! Since you say that you need time to think, I'll give you enough time—does tomorrow sound good?"
Before Yu Xiaocao burst in anger, Zhu Junyang hurriedly continued, "I'm kidding. I'm just trying to lighten up the mood since you and your family might be overly nervous. Don't worry, my intentions will never change. I'll wait for your reply, so don't let me down! Got it?"
It wasn't funny at all, okay? Whoever could laugh when they're facing a royal prince who proposes marriage without any warning?
After all that, Zhu Junyang was also embarrassed to stick around and dine with the Yu Family. But, before he exited the residence, he turned around to take another look at the figure standing gracefully like an orchid. Then, he left with an uncertain heart.
Once Royal Prince Yang's figure disappeared from their sights, the entire Yu Household exploded. Old Yu rubbed his chest in an effort to calm himself down, then hesitantly asked his son, "Just now… the royal prince proposed marriage? I'm not dreaming, am I? Such a noble person has his sights set on a daughter of our family?"
Yu Hai unhappily rebuked, "How is my daughter not suitable for him? The royal prince wouldn't be able to compare to Cao'er if he didn't have his title!"
Madam Liu held her youngest daughter's hand and worriedly asked, "What do you think, Cao'er? This match isn't well-suited, since our family's status differs too much from that of the Prince Jing's household. If the royal prince bullies you in the future, we won't be able to back you up."
Yu Hang, on the other hand, made a comment that pleased Xiaocao, "Youngest Sister, no one can force you if you aren't willing! If the royal prince uses his standing to pressure you, even if I will risk my life, your brother, I will go to the capital to file an imperial complaint and make sure that the emperor does you justice!"
Yu Xiaocao grumbled in her heart, 'Eldest Brother, you're so naive. The emperor? That's his older cousin! You'd expect him to help us rather than his own family? And besides, how easy do you think filing an imperial complaint would be, even more so when you're complaining about a royalty? Just the mere punishment of rolling on top of a bed full of nails will cost you half of your life!'
"Ai…" Yu Xiaocao sighed deeply, and the Yu Household immediately shut up to watch her.
"Let's eat! The dishes are already cold." Yu Xiaocao weakly fell into her seat by the dining table and tastelessly stuffed a piece of fish meat into her mouth.
Madam Liu patted her lightly, "You still have a mind for food? How will we handle this matter? Why don't you give us some ideas?"
Her daughter's ideas had led them through the past two years, so the household had eventually made a habit out of asking her for her opinions every time they encountered a problem. Everyone had already forgotten that ultimately, she was only a twelve-year-old girl.
"What else can we do? We can only pray that it was an act of impulse by the young prince. Maybe he'd have regretted this decision by the time he reached his residence. That's enough, all of you shouldn't worry yourselves over it, even if the sky falls down, tall people will hold it up for us!" Although Yu Xiaocao said this, she still could not swallow her food—it was tasteless. God, who could tell her what kind of insanity Royal Prince Yang was on about? Proposing marriage without any warning, had he been possessed by something dirty?
"But...what if he's serious?" Madam Liu was still worried. She did not think that her daughter catching the eye of the royal prince was good at all.
Seeing that everyone seemed to disapprove of this marriage, Old Yu hesitated to talk. He secretly wondered why his son and daughter-in-law were dissatisfied with the royal prince. Besides, did it matter whether you were satisfied or not? Would the royal prince allow room for rejection, considering his standing?
Yu Xiaocao also had no confidence in the matter, so she said after a moment of thought, "When he comes, you all can tell him you want to keep me until I'm eighteen years old because you can't bear for me to leave so young. If he can't wait, then he can find another? I'm still young anyway, and there's six years until I'm eighteen years old. Perhaps he'll meet his true soulmate one of those days!"
Yu Hang quickly responded, "What if he's still determined to marry you when you're eighteen?"
"Then I'll marry him! It should be true love if he's waited for me for so many years, right? Shouldn't it be worth entrusting the rest of my life?" Yu Xiaocao opened her mind to the idea. The young prince was quite good-looking and was not hard to get along with. Besides, there was really nothing bad she could say about him. If she kept him at home, he would still make a good eye-candy!
That's right, was there any option aside from marrying him? Yu Hai and Madam Liu shared worried glances with each other.
On the other side, Zhu Junyang's steps became light and quick once he left the Yu Residence. The more he thought about it, the more he felt that his decision was right! His cousin, the emperor, had once said, "There is an invisible pair of wings behind everyone's back. Only when you've found your other half, will you be able to fly freely." There were so many people in this world, and yet it was only her intentions that he could never tell. She was the only one whom he had the desire to get close to. Was she not the other half that the gods had prepared specifically for him?
"Lady Mother, I want to marry Yu Xiaocao!" Zhu Junyang rushed back to his mountain villa. He did not feel hungry, seemingly even forgetting that he had not even had lunch as his heart had never felt so fulfilled.
Princess Consort Jing, who had eaten her fill and was strolling in the gardens, raised her brow at his declaration, 'Oh! He finally understood his feelings after going out for such a short while? Could it be… this fellow was triggered by me and ran off to confess his feelings? He didn't get chased out by them? Er… How did Xiaocao react? Was she elated? Perturbed? Scared? Or…' Princess Consort thought heartlessly.
"Lady Mother? I've thought it through—all the noble young misses in the capital only make me annoyed. If they're not aloof and boring, then they're deceitful. Otherwise, they're stupid like pigs… You're right, I'm already of age and should consider marriage. If I really have to find someone to stay by my side, Yu Xiaocao isn't so bad!" Zhu Junyang did not seem to have grasped the true meaning of 'liking someone', but rather only had a muddled understanding of it.
Princess Consort Jing did not continue the topic, keeping silent. When she felt her son slowly losing his composure, she spoke, "And you visited the Yu Family just now?"
"Yes!" Suddenly, Zhu Junyang did not feel so sure of himself anymore, for fear that his lady mother might oppose his decision to be with Yu Xiaocao, "Hadn't you listed many of Xiaocao's good traits? I've thought about it—rather than letting her be taken by others, why not strike first and tie her down?"
"How did the Yu Family react?" That little lass Xiaocao was a good child. Although Princess Consort Jing had not had much opportunity to interact with her parents, she heard that they were honest folk. She just did not know if they had any worrying relatives, but with the Prince Jing Household's reputation, even difficult relatives should know to back down, right?
"Um… Yu Xiaocao's parents didn't say anything (Author's note: That's because you hadn't given them a chance to.). Yu Xiaocao made a few requests, but I think they're really nothing!" In Zhu Junyang's point of view, Xiaocao's biggest worry was the difference between their status and his parents' opposition, but his lady mother was not like the common folk who only looked at a person's birth… right?
Princess Consort Jing's brow rose even higher. 'Yu Xiaocao dared to personally make demands with Yang'er? What kind of reaction is this? As a girl, shouldn't she be shy and hide away from discussions about her marriage?'
"Lady Mother, you disapprove?" Zhu Junyang had misunderstood his mother's silence.
Princess Consort Jing smiled and asked, "Tell me, what requests did that girl make?"
"It's actually nothing. Her biggest worry is that her standing isn't high enough, so she's afraid that I'll have a bunch of bed-servants and concubines and they'll fight with her for my favor, but she's overthinking it. With my condition…if I'd never met her, I'd probably never marry in this lifetime."
Suddenly, Zhu Junyang recalled that dream he had not so long ago—he turned into a murderer so uncontrollable he died in a storm of arrows surrounded by the imperial guards and Jin Wu Guards. He still remembered the dream with clarity even though a few months had passed.
He seldom lost control for the past two years. In those few times when he was about to lose control of himself, he was prevented from it by Yu Xiaocao, either wittingly or not. Head Steward Liu had also hinted to him about his tendency to become 'warmer' when he was around Yu Xiaocao—or rather, Yu Xiaocao was the sun in his heart, warming the cold and dark devil within him.
"Are you sure that Yu Xiaocao isn't eying your status and title? Would she have ulterior motives like those young misses from the prestigious families in the capital?" The more Princess Consort Jing said, the more upset she felt. Her poor Yang'er…
"She's not!" Zhu Junyang confidently said. Even though he could not perceive any of her emotions, he was sure in his heart that Yu Xiaocao was not a conniving person. Not only did she not approach him because of his identity, she also showed signs of withdrawing from him. However, he would never let her have the opportunity to push him away. His older cousin, the emperor, had said, "One must fight for their own chances, and hold them tight!"
"Let me think about it…" Princess Consort Jing was extremely careful and considerate of the marriage of her poor youngest son. Every mother hoped that their children could find the perfect match for themselves, and she was the same.
Zhu Junyang misunderstood his mother's meaning. Furrowing his brows, he thought, 'Didn't Lady Mother quite like Xiaocao? It seems like he was too confident in this matter! It couldn't be that Lady Mother also minded her family background?'
"Lady Mother? What more do you have to think about? You couldn't possibly want me to live alone for the rest of my life, right?" Zhu Junyang's lips thinned into a line and his expression turned into a sort of stubborn childishness.
Princess Consort Jing was angry and amused at the same time. He had not even married this wife and she, as his mother, was already being put to the side! She pretended to be angry and huffed, "You've really grown up, Yang'er! You're even threatening your own mother now! Those peasant women were right when they said, 'When the little magpie grows up and gets a wife, he forgets his mother…'"
"I didn't mean it that way! I just have a feeling that I'll really be forever alone if I let Yu Xiaocao slip away…" Zhu Junyang was a little anxious, but he could not let his lady mother have a grudge against Xiaocao… 'Ay! Women are so troublesome and so hard to deal with!'