Chapter 176 - The Princess Consort
“They’re here, they’re here!” When the crowd saw the horse cart and donkey cart piled high with watermelons, they immediately became excited and automatically backed away to allow a space for the carts to move .
Li Li, whose head was dripping with sweat, finally managed to push through the people . He squeezed himself in front of the donkey cart and wiped off the perspiration that was pooled on his forehead . He exclaimed in a somewhat exaggerated manner, “My little lady ah, you’re finally here! If the watermelons didn’t get here soon, then all of the people here would rip me apart!”
Another familiar figure also managed to push his way to the front . It was the Yao Family’s steward . Yesterday, he had eaten a meal with Li Li and commented in a familiar tone, “Who would dare to cause difficulties for Lord Li?! Everyone knows that the imperial envoy highly values Lord Li!”
“Highly valued? I’ve been delegated here to sell watermelons . I’m definitely not someone highly valued ah!” Li Li made fun of himself in a way that he thought was humorous .
However, Yu Xiaocao merely raised an eyebrow in response, “Oh? I only had you help us for two days and you’re already complaining and whining? I see, I see ah! In the future, I’ll just prepare a smaller portion of food for godfather to bring the docks…”
“No! Please don’t! Other than your family’s braised food, the rest of the food available at the docks is not worth it . However, I can’t guarantee that I’ll be able to buy a portion when I line up . Without the food you send, how will I be able to eat in the future ah?! Xiaocao, my little lady, just pretend that I didn’t say anything earlier, okay? Being able to help my little lady, it is truly the blessing of three lifetimes…” Compared to Wu Yun, Li Li’s personality was a bit more lively . Thus, he was able to say some more comical things and perform more hilarious expressions without seeming out of place .
“Don’t just stand there and chat ah! Hurry up, we’re all waiting to buy watermelons!” They weren’t sure who was complaining loudly but it was obvious that the person didn’t know the power behind the melon stand . A customer next to the guy kindly whispered into his ears and explained . Immediately, the man deflated and hunkered down to avoid being spotted by Li Li’s sharp eyes .
There were a decent number of people who came with the carts and Li Li was also there to help . Thus, the two carts full of watermelon were quickly unloaded into the store . The previously empty and bare shelves were now full of round and plump watermelons .
The people, who had been waiting for a very long time in front of the store, could now finally buy some watermelon . The store, which wasn’t large in the first place, was soon squeezed full of customers .
After Steward Yao finished helping them unload the watermelons, he smiled at Xiaocao, “Do you remember the two watermelons that you gifted to us yesterday? That afternoon, two of our old master’s friends came over to visit, so he couldn’t help but show off a bit and took them out . Unexpectedly, his two friends pestered him into giving the watermelons away! In a fit of pique, our old master ordered me to line up at dawn today and told me to buy a lot . He’s planning on hosting a ‘watermelon tasting event’ at noon…”
When Yu Xiaocao heard this, she couldn’t help but laugh a bit . There was a common saying among the people: An old child, an old child!! Sure enough, when people got older, they tended to act more like children . Old Yao’s two old friends could even forcefully take their host’s watermelons . On the other hand, Old Yao, in order to show off, had to host a ‘watermelon tasting event’ . This was truly too funny!
Xiaocao personally picked out over a dozen first-rate watermelons for Steward Yao . Perhaps it was because she spent every day in close proximity with the little divine stone, but she was starting to be able to sense spiritual energy . For example, she could faintly feel the spiritual energy that was found in the little divine stone’s ‘bathing water’ . As for these watermelons, their ripeness and sweetness was dependent on the amount of spiritual energy they had absorbed from the mystic-stone water . Therefore, she could faintly tell which ones had a higher concentration of energy and would likely taste better .
After Steward Yao paid for his goods, it was as if the floodgates had opened . Following that, Yu Xiaocao could only sit next to the cash box and had no opportunities to leave . This was truly an experience of receiving so much money that her hands hurt ah!
The watermelons displayed on the shelves quickly sold out . Eldest Maternal Aunt, Madam Han, continuously moved watermelons from the rear courtyard onto the shelves . After one shelf became empty, she would swiftly replenish it with more watermelons . There was more work than she could handle by herself, so Grandmother Yao also helped out .
The two men, Yu Hai and Li Li, quickly drove the two carts back to Dongshan Village . They planned on hauling another two carts full of watermelon to the store that afternoon so they would have more to sell the next day .
The wealthy and rich people in town usually interacted closely with each other . Many families that bought watermelons yesterday had also invited friends and family over to taste them . Every single person who tasted the Yu Family’s watermelons immediately became fans of the fruit . Because they weren’t able to eat enough at their relatives’ or friends’ homes to satisfy their cravings, they all either sent servants over or came themselves to stand in line . Thus, the frenetic scene of people scrambling to buy watermelon once again occurred at the Yu Family’s watermelon stand .
“Eh? What sort of store is over there; it’s so lively!” A subdued yet luxurious horse carriage stopped not far from ‘Tanggu’s Watermelon Shop’ . A pair of pale, delicate hands lightly opened the carriage’s window curtains and the person peered over .
Next to the horse cart was a handsome young man riding a large horse . He glanced at the melon store and bent over to softly speak to the person in the carriage, “Mother, that should be a watermelon stand…”
The person who the handsome youth called ‘mother’ was a matron who had once been beautiful . Her face was full of pallor and seemed quite thin . Every movement she made seemed to be weak and lacking but she still had a hint of innate grace . The matron lightly coughed twice and took the proffered cup from a maid . She moistened her throat and replied in a gentle and delicate voice, “Watermelon stand? Aren’t watermelons only available in the summer? Are you telling me that the watermelons in Tanggu Town ripen earlier than the ones in the capital?”
The good-looking young man also seemed a bit perplexed, “I’m not sure! We’ve just reached the end of spring, so how can there be watermelons for sale? Little Zhuozi, our farm also planted watermelons, right?”
The person called ‘Little Zhuozi’ was a youth who looked somewhat gentle and reserved . When he heard his master asking him a question, he bowed while on horseback, “This servant went to the farm a few days ago . The watermelons on the farm aren’t bigger than the size of a fist and are probably around a month away from becoming ripe!”
The matron became interested in the watermelon stand and gently yet firmly declared, “Xiaoer , go buy a watermelon and bring it over . Let’s try it and see how it tastes . ”
“Mother, watermelon is a cold type of food . Recently you haven’t been feeling well, so let’s not buy any watermelons now, okay?” The handsome youth frowned deeply and replied in a worried tone .
The beautiful lady’s long and large eyes faintly glanced at him . Her willow-shaped eyebrows knitted briefly as she worriedly said, “Ah . . . most of my body’s issues stem from too much stress and worry . It’s not like you don’t know this! You even said that you’re accompanying me out here to help me relax . It’s with great difficulty that I even have an appetite to eat some fruit, yet you have all kinds of excuses to not buy any . . . aiyo, my chest hurts…”
Here we go again! A helpless expression appeared on the handsome youth’s face . Although his mother was almost forty, she still had the personality and temper of a young maiden . She always needed to have someone compliment and protect her . However, she wasn’t grateful at all and always complained that this or that hurt all the time . . . Ah! This was all caused by his father spoiling her!! Who in the capital didn’t know that his imperial highness, Prince Jing, was one hundred percent a wife-pampering maniac?
“Mother! Before you left, what did you promise Father? You had personally promised that you would always listen to my ideas regarding food and lodgings! We’ve only traveled out of the capital for a couple of days, so how could you forget about this?” The handsome youth, Zhu Junxi, was the second son of Prince Jing, and was currently unhappily trying to persuade his mother .
Princess Consort Jing’s large eyes flickered . She decided to continue her shameless behavior and covered her chest with her hands . Cries of pain and annoyance poured out of her as she continued to complain, “Didn’t you promise your father that you would go with what I said when it was right and reasonable to avoid making me angry ah? I currently don’t have much of an appetite and want to eat some fruit . That’s not unreasonable!”
In front of Princess Consort Jing’s shameless acts, her two personal maidservants, Meixiang and Lanxiang, both lowered their heads and continued to do their regular tasks . They had seen this kind of scene occur many times before . The princess consort was constantly pampered by the prince and also had three sons to protect her . Every time she wanted her way, she would always shamelessly act sick . Both the old and young masters loved her dearly, so she always won in the end .
Zhu Junxi silently sighed and attempted to struggle one last time . He softly tried to persuade her, “Mother, do you still remember why you’ve traveled to Tanggu? If you eat watermelon, which is a cold food, and end up becoming sicker, then when Third Younger Brother comes home, he’ll blame himself!”
Why did Princess Consort Jing appear in a small town like Tanggu? She had ample reasons——her third son, Zhu Junyang, had already been out at sea for more than half a year . Since he left, there hadn’t been a message sent home . She constantly thought and worried about him until she became ill . Thus, she absolutely had to come over here to inquire about any news .
The seas were full of danger . Rough winds and water would often appear at a moment's notice . In fact, had her third son’s luck not been good enough, then he might have drowned in the ocean during the previous test voyage . How could she not be worried after he had been gone for over half a year? Tanggu was the town that had the closest harbor to the open ocean . Coming here was like becoming slightly closer to her youngest son . By doing that, her fretful heart could finally calm down a bit .
Prince Jing had also seen his beloved wife slowly wasting away day by day due to missing her son . That was the reason why he allowed his second son to bring her out and relieve her worries . Had he not been busy recently, he would have personally accompanied her too .
When the topic of her youngest son came out, Princess Consort Jing’s eyes immediately dimmed . Earlier, she had been mostly faking her distress, but now she was truly upset . All of her worry and anxiety over her youngest son poured into her heart and almost made it hard for her to breathe .
Her youngest son had long been interested in traveling by ship . Since he was young, he had always stuck around his older cousin——the current emperor——and looked avidly at the models of ships slowly being created by his cousin’s hands . The little guy, who was only around three to four years of age at the time, had set down an ambitious goal that day——that when he became older, he would become an adventurer of the distant seas and bring back rare and strange objects from far away lands back home to relieve his mother’s boredom!
She had previously dismissed it as a child’s dreams and never expected that, ten years later, that her youngest son truly went on a long journey in the seas to find distant, unknown lands . However, he had been gone for more than half a year . How could she, as his mother, not be constantly worried about him?
“Princess Consort, are you feeling ill again? Lanxiang, where are Her Highness’s pills? Quickly take out one and help Her Highness take it!” Meixiang could sense that her mistress wasn’t feeling well and hurriedly poured a glass of lukewarm water . She then took out a lengxiang pill and helped her mistress take it .
Zhu Junxi could tell that he had said the wrong thing and caused his mother to become anxious again . He quickly dismounted, lifted the carriage’s curtain, and asked with concern, “Mother, please don’t worry . The crew on the ship are all experienced sailors who have previously sailed with the emperor . I believe Third Younger Brother will soon come home safe and sound . ”
After she took her medicine, Princess Consort Jing felt a little better . She smiled weakly at her son, “It’s the old illness again . I’m fine, don’t worry . ”
When Zhu Junxi saw that his mother’s complexion had improved a little, he relaxed slightly . He commented with a bit of blame in his voice, “With the parents here, one shouldn’t travel far away! Third Younger Brother is truly too impudent . He knew Mother has problems with her heart yet he still persisted on leaving…”
“Don’t talk anymore!” Not a hint of a smile could be seen on Princess Consort Jing’s beautiful face . Her weak and delicate eyes immediately became more spirited, “Xiaoer, stop thinking those thoughts! Prince Jing’s family absolutely cannot have the tragedy of brothers fighting and scheming in the dark!”
 Xiaoer (小二) - She’s literally calling him ‘little two’ since he is her second child .