Princess Consort Jing amusedly watched her youngest son’s anxious expression, feeling relieved. He had been displaying more and more emotions for the past two years and seemed more like a living person now. She could still remember being constantly on guard against that small, listless figure that could and would hurt someone at any moment. The entire family was very concerned for him, but it seemed like he started taking a turn for the better after he met that girl from Yu Family. Could it be...that Yu Xiaocao was Zhu Junyang’s soulmate as mentioned before by the Chief Abbot of Xiangguo Temple?
“Only when Zhu Junyang’s destined benefactor is born will he be redeemed…” The Chief Abbot of Xiangguo Temple rarely read a person’s fortune. He only gave this small advice that year because he was touched by Princess Consort Jing’s love for her child.
For the past decade, the Imperial Prince Jing’s Estate had sent out many of their guards to search for Zhu Junyang’s supposed soulmate, but they had never found her. It seemed that they had misunderstood the Chief Abbot, the ‘birth’ he had mentioned probably did not mean newly-born infants.
But…Zhu Junyang was seven years old that year she dragged her sick body and kowtowed every step she made to the Xiangguo Temple and begged the Chief Abbot to help her find a way around his fate. Coincidentally, the Yu Family’s little miss was born that year. Was there a connection?
The more Princess Consort Jing thought into it, the more she felt her guess was logical. She flipped and turned the entire night but did not sleep much. On the morning of the second day, she let Meixiang go down the mountain to summon Yu Xiaocao.
This morning, Yu Xiaocao had brewed a cup of fragrant peach blossom tea and baked a few types of sheep’s milk biscuits. She was about to dig in when Meixiang knocked on the door and entered the courtyard. The Yu Residence was busiest in the morning, filled with the fellow villagers that they employed, who conversed with each other while they skillfully and carefully harvested the vegetables.
Two horse carts were parked outside the residence. The insignia on the carts showed that they were Zhenxiu Restaurant’s purchasing carts, and one of them was headed for the prefectural city. The horse cart would have to travel for about a day before it could reach the prefectural city, but the freshness of Yu Family’s vegetables could be preserved for a longer time. Even if it were a few days after harvesting, they would still taste as fresh as when they were reaped.
When Meixiang arrived at the Yu Residence, she saw the women load vegetables onto the cart and smiled at Yu Xiaocao as she quipped, “Miss Yu, since your vegetables are so high in demand, you should consider planting more. Otherwise, those people in town will fight with each other just for the right to buy from you!”
Yu Xiaocao nodded, solemnly replying, “Mhm, we are planning to do that. We’ll plant fifty mu of early ripening vegetables in our farmstead at the outskirts of Tanggu Town at the beginning of spring next year. If they can sell, we’ll continue to increase the production volume in the following years.”
Watching the young girl who was sitting in a rocking chair leisurely sip her flower tea, Meixiang smiled as she watched the young girl who was sitting in a rocking chair leisurely sip her flower tea, “Miss Yu is indeed skilled in business—you’re capable and you have the courage. The Yu Family will never have to worry about not making a fortune.”
Yu Xiaocao smiled in response, inviting Meixiang to sit while she poured a cup of peach blossom tea for her, “Older Sister Meixiang has overpraised me. There’s still my father, how can I be given credit for such a thing?”
Meixiang politely declined her invitation and grinned, “Miss Yu, spare me these courtesies. Frankly speaking, even if others weren’t aware, wouldn’t this servant know? It’s you, Miss Yu, who makes the decisions in Yu Family!”
Yu Xiaocao immediately denied her statement. She was guessing that Meixiang’s visit today might be because Princess Consort Jing thought she was seducing her son as Royal Prince Yang had gone crazy yesterday and proposed marriage.
Yu Xiaocao touched her face. Could it be that she also had the talent of a wily fox spirit? But currently, she was at most a little fox cub, how could she possibly know the ways of seduction?
“Older Sister Meixiang, was it the princess consort who told you to come here?” Yu Xiaocao decided that since the result would be the same no matter what she did, she might as well face it head on. She had a clear conscience, so what should she be afraid of?
Meixiang secretly glanced at Yu Xiaocao who seemed to have become prettier in a pure way and smiled, “Miss Yu is indeed clever. The princess consort has not seen you for a long while, so she sent me to invite you up to the villa for a chat.”
Yu Xiaocao nodded slightly and asked for her to wait for a while. She kept the peach blossom tea that she had scented yesterday night, packed the biscuits she made that morning into a container and followed behind Meixiang up the carved stone steps to Prince Jing’s luxurious yet low profile villa.
Yu Xiaocao did not exactly feel nervous, since she still had the mood to observe and guess Meixiang’s true identity. Meixiang’s steps were still light and she showed no signs of fatigue even after traversing a length of mountain road. Did this mean that she was not simply an ordinary girl, but rather one that was exceedingly skilled in martial arts?
At the villa’s main compound, Princess Consort Jing was having breakfast with her son. When she saw Yu Xiaocao arrive with a packed box of food, she smiled and asked, “Xiaocao, have you had breakfast? If you haven’t, let’s eat together.”
Yu Xiaocao did not refuse the offer. Except for a cup of flower tea, she had not even had the chance to eat the sheep’s milk biscuits that she had baked earlier for breakfast. Moreover, she had travelled about a little over a kilometer to come to their villa. She was ravenous!
“Many thanks, Your Highness. I won’t be courteous, then!” Once she thanked Princess Consort Jing, she took a seat on her right and opened her container. Taking out the delectable biscuits, she calmly said, “Princess Consort, I baked these sheep’s milk biscuits this morning. They’re very nutritious and suitable for people with weak digestion.”
Although Princess Consort Jing’s body had almost fully recovered, her stomach would still feel uncomfortable occasionally, so sheep’s milk biscuits were just right for her.
Princess Consort Jing picked up a flower-shaped biscuit and took a small bite into it, carefully tasting it. Then, she nodded, "You have quite a skilled pair of hands. Not only are these biscuits delicious, their shapes are also very exquisite, making them look extremely appetizing."
"If your highness likes them, I will definitely send a portion of the new pastries to you to try when I make them in the future." Yu Xiaocao stuffed a shrimp crystal dumpling into her mouth and savored its taste. The cooks employed by Prince Jing were really skilled and made many exquisitely delicious foods.
Since Yu Xiaocao entered the compound, Zhu Junyang's captivating eyes had never left her figure. Yu Xiaocao was either mentally tough or resilient in her heart to be able to calmly savor the meal under his gaze.
“Xiaocao, have you decided on the matter I’ve mentioned yesterday? Let’s choose a date and get engaged. If you think yesterday’s proposal wasn’t proper enough, I can invite the prefectural magistrate to be our matchmaker. I’ll make sure you receive all the engagement gifts that are due…” Zhu Junyang panicked when he saw that Yu Xiaocao was completely unaffected by yesterday’s episode, as though she had forgotten all about it.
Yu Xiaocao paused in her chewing and sent a pleading look at Princess Consort Jing. ‘As his mother, shouldn’t you control your son when he loses his mind?’
Princess Consort Jing glared at her son. She had only just found out that her youngest son was actually an impatient person. Even if he wanted to bring this up, the least he should do was wait until she finished her breakfast! It was no wonder the girl rolled her eyes at him when he so hastily proposed marriage directly to her. Yang’er could not possibly have hot-headedly gone to them like this yesterday, could he? If she was Xiaocao’s family members, she would have definitely chased this dull lecher out with a bat——it was another matter altogether whether she was actually able to do so.
“Don’t bother with him, Xiaocao. Eat first!” Eating triumphed over all. You needed to wait until after the little girl finishes her meal before you could begin the ‘slaughter’, alright?
Yu Xiaocao misunderstood Princess Consort Jing’s meaning and thought that she actually disagreed with her son’s behaviour, so she sent a provocative look at Zhu Junyang.
Zhu Junyang was about to say something, but Princess Consort Jing’s gaze told him to be calm. Zhu Junyang suppressed the restlessness in his heart and, like a cow chewing on a peony, he carelessly ate a few mouthfuls without savoring the taste.
The three of them finished breakfast in silence, gargled with the gargling water that the servants presented them with, and scrupulously washed their hands at the end. With a gesture from Princess Consort Jing, all the other servants except Meixiang retreated.
“Xiaocao, Yang’er was too presumptuous yesterday and said some inappropriate things at your home. I hope you and your parents won’t take this to heart.” Princess Consort Jing first apologized for her son’s rash behaviour yesterday. She could not have the future in-laws think that they were disrespectful because they were of higher status.
Yu Xiaocao had an expression on her face that said ‘I thought so’ as she replied with a faint smile on her lips, “Rest assured, Your Highness, we’ll act as if nothing had ever happened.”
Princess Consort Jing knew that Yu Xiaocao had misunderstood her, but she continued to smile, “Yesterday, when Yang’er came back from your house, he told me of his true feelings. He said that among all the girls he’s met before, you’re the only one that he doesn’t detest.”
“It’s this commoner girl’s honor.” Yu Xiaocao’s expression was filled with humility. In her heart, her certainty of Princess Consort Jing’s true intention was wavering.
“I won’t say more of those courtesies. My youngest son has a bad temper and is quite dull; he also doesn’t know how to please girls and always displays an icy expression to keep others away from him, but as a mother, who wouldn’t want their children to find their perfect match? Don’t you think so too?” Princess Consort Jing smiled amiably, but did not leave Yu Xiaocao any space to shrink back or evade the question.
At the side, Zhu Junyang could not help feeling anxious. What was his lady mother’s intention, to speak of so many of his shortcomings to Xiaocao? Was she lying when she said she did not object this?
Yu Xiaocao discreetly licked her dry lips. Should she agree with Princess Consort Jing, or should she courteously comfort her that Zhu Junyang was not as bad as she claimed? Royal Prince Yang was dull? He kept people at arm’s length? Was the royal prince that she was familiar with fake? That thick-skinned glutton, that sarcastic youngster that loved to insult people with his poisonous wit, that royal prince who would act haughty at any moment...these depictions seemed like a wrong match for the person Princess Consort Jing was describing. Princess Consort, are you sure you know your youngest son? Or…did Royal Prince Yang have a twin with the exact same face but a totally different bearing?
As she did not respond, Princess Consort Jing could only continue, “Sigh…Many of the wealthy sons in the capital are already fathers even though they’re younger than Yang’er. As his mother, I’m more anxious than anyone else, but Yang’er is stubborn. If he doesn’t like the girl, then no one can force him to marry her. There are so many ladies in the capital of various appearances and attitudes but none have caught his eye. I also couldn’t help but speculate if he has some kind of indescribable disease, or…if he doesn’t like women?”
“Lady Mother! What are you talking about?!” Zhu Junyang could no longer stay silent at this point. He was about to become a homosexual if his mother continued to speak. Was this his biological mother? Working against him must be her profession!