Chapter 224 - Another Encounter
At sea, the azure sky seemed endless as clouds drifted by slowly . A few seagulls circled idly in the air at sea level . On the horizon, a grandiose fleet of ships sped forward . The ship in the lead was an enormous three floor passenger ship . Although it was simply designed, it seemed quite lofty and majestic . Immense sails billowed in the wind and pushed the ship forward . At the top was a golden colored flag with a coiling dragon embroidered on it . This flag was bestowed by the emperor and seeing the flag was the same as seeing the emperor himself . All officials were required to kowtow when they saw it .
At the bow of the ship was a youth with an impressive bearing . He was dressed in simple dark purple brocade robes . Cinched around his waist was a silver colored cloth that was embroidered with cinnabar and golden threads . His hair was bound up and, under the sea breezes’ caress, a few strands of unruly pieces escaped from their confines and plastered his cheek . He had a pair of clear and powerful eyes that seemed to emit coldness . His eyes were so fierce that other people trembled at the thought of looking at them . The youth’s figure was tall and straight, as if he was a sharp sword that was about to be unsheathed .
As he saw the distant Tanggu Docks quickly getting closer, Zhu Junyang’s cold expression slightly softened . He was finally back! He had triumphantly completed his first long seafaring journey and was about to come home . His year and a half journey out at sea had given him many experiences and things to think about .
The journey to and back was not completely peaceful . They had encountered pirates trying to plunder them and sneak attacks from sudden storms . However, with the thousand or so people working hard together on the ships, they were finally safely back home . He was convinced that these hard earned experiences would become his treasures in his life . They would mold him to become a better person and become his future glory!
Although this youth was almost sixteen and had a youthful looking face, his eyes glowed with a mature and wise light . His handsome and cold face hadn’t changed in the past year and a half . However, his figure had become even more imposing, as if he was cloaked with a manner that made people understand his power .
“I, Zhu Junyang . . . am back!” The youth lightly sighed these few words .
Behind him was a white-haired man who came forward a step . He used his somewhat shrill voice to say, “Royal Prince Yang, this time our journey from the west could be considered quite smooth . We’ve succeeded in bringing back seeds of all of the crops that the emperor mentioned . I just don’t know if our Great Ming Dynasty will be able to successfully grow these plants . ”
Zhu Junyang coldly surveyed the dry land that was getting closer to him . His originally eager mood slowly calmed down . He slowly replied, “That is the concern of the Ministry of Revenue . What does it have to do with me?”
Head Steward Liu Fusheng revealed a smile that covered his entire face as the corners of his eyes lifted up until there were wrinkles, “Young Royal Prince, don’t tell me that you don’t want to personally plant the seeds that you went through so much trouble to get, see them germinate, grow leaves, blossom, and bear fruit…”
The expression on Zhu Junyang’s face darkened and became cold as he looked at Liu Fusheng, which immediately made the steward feel an immense pressure . Liu Fusheng could be considered one of the top experts within the country, yet his master’s intimidating composure caused him to drip buckets of cold sweat . He promptly kneeled on the ground and apologized, “This old servant had a slip of the tongue, please punish me Royal Prince Yang!”
The not yet sixteen Zhu Junyang, after experiencing this long sea voyage, felt that he was a man now, capable of supporting both the heaven and earth . Thus, he prohibited other people from addressing him with ‘young royal prince’ or other similar names . The last time an imperial bodyguard made that mistake, the hapless soldier was thrown into the sea to feed the sharks by a furious Royal Prince Yang . After that, the thousands of people accompanying him all knew that the name ‘young royal prince’ was a taboo that could not be touched .
Liu Fusheng’s heart raced as he secretly raised his eyes to peep at his master’s frosty expression . From the day that Royal Prince Yang was born, Liu Fusheng had been by his side . The head steward had witnessed his adorable toddler years and also watched as the cute boy slowly grew into a handsome and lofty youth . Prince Yang had learned most of his martial arts from him . After more than a decade of companionship, the two of them had established a master-disciple relationship, a true friendship, as well as a master-servant relationship . However, masters and servants still had a gap between them . Even he had a line that he couldn’t cross with the prince .
Zhu Junyang stared expressionlessly at Steward Liu, who had his head lowered in apology . They had been with each other for over a decade . A person would have sentiments about a small creature in that time frame, let alone a person . He couldn’t treat Steward Liu as a disposable creature . Doing so would only cause other people’s hearts to cool . If he wanted his servants’ loyalty, he needed to know when to reward and when to reprimand . This was the rule that Steward Liu had taught him himself .
“Since you know your mistake, when we get back to the capital you can punish yourself!” Zhu Junyang’s previous good mood had apparently been abruptly interrupted by this little episode . Frosty coldness, once again, appeared his eyes . The imperial bodyguard behind him glanced at Steward Liu, who was stealthily using his sleeve to wipe his cold sweat . In his opinion, the less spoken the less likely one would make a mistake, so he kept his mouth shut as he pretended to be one of the masts on the ship .
“They’re here! They’re here!” When the people on the docks saw the majestic fleet of over a hundred ships approaching them, they immediately bustled around . The entire area had been locked down by martial law under the orders of the imperial bodyguards, who were the personal guards of the emperor himself . The commander of the Yulin soldiers, who were in charge of protecting of Prince Yang, was around the same rank as the commander of the imperial bodyguards . The emperor clearly favored this young royal prince as he had assigned a portion of his own bodyguards to welcome the returning youth .
Steward Liu looked in the distance at the docks and saw the arrangements . He remarked with gratitude, “Master, the emperor sent people to welcome you! Looks like . . . they are the personal soldiers of the emperor . ”
The commander of the Yulin soldiers had spotted his ‘archenemy’, Bao Qinming, in one glance . His lips twitched as he agreed, “They truly are the personal soldiers of the emperor! That fellow, Bao Qinming, has also come along!!”
Zhu Junyang’s expression remained tranquil as if the hoard of people on the shore had nothing to do with him . He stayed silent for a bit before he abruptly asked, “My lady mother . . . is she also in Tanggu Town right now?”
Steward Liu immediately replied, “Yes, that’s right! We received a letter that said Princess Consort Jing is having a good time in Tanggu Town . At the beginning of autumn, his highness personally escorted her back to the capital . Now that it’s spring and the weather is warming, her highness has graced her presence again in Tanggu Town and is currently living in the courtyard that is normally for Magistrate Wu’s youngest son . ”
Zhu Junyang frowned, “Lady mother is being stubborn again! It gets chilly in spring and Tanggu Town is next to the ocean, which also makes it humid . This is not a good climate for her body . ”
“The letter also said that ever since she’s been in Tanggu Town, her royal highness has been spending a lot of time with Lady Fang . Lady Fang’s adopted daughter is very good at cooking medicinal cuisine and miraculously cured General Fang’s old illness . I believe Lady Fang will be birthing her child next month . Her royal highness occasionally sees that little girl and has eaten her medicinal cuisine several times . Since then, she hasn’t gotten ill at all in the past three seasons . ”
"What nonsense! The imperial physicians are taking care of lady mother’s body . How could they allow a little girl to mess around? If something happened . . . who’s going to take responsibility? Lady mother is truly too much . How could she just blindly trust a random person?” Out of the three brothers, Zhu Junyang had the closest connection with their mother . He couldn’t help but furrow his brows when heard this news and a hint of worry flashed through his cold eyes .
Steward Liu hurriedly tried to comfort him, “Master isn’t wrong for being worried! However, that little girl’s medicinal cuisine had all been approved by the accompanying imperial physician . He made sure that none of the food would cause problems for her highness’s body . Furthermore, when the food was being made, every single step was strictly observed by someone . Her highness’s constitution has truly improved after eating it . Please don’t worry, Royal Prince!”
After hearing this, Zhu Junyang’s tight expression finally relaxed a bit . He thought for a bit before he said, “From what you’re telling me, this little girl does have some skill! Why don’t we bring her along when we head back to the capital? Nourishing the body is not something that can happen in a short period of time!”
Steward Liu bowed and explained, “That little girl lives in Dongshan Village and her parents don’t want her to leave them at such a young age . The princess consort has a benevolent heart and can’t bear to separate them . That being said, the little girl is also the adopted daughter of General Fang . For the sake of the general and his wife’s dignity, it’s not really a good idea to force them, right?”
Dongshan Village? When he heard this name, Zhu Junyang frowned again . He didn’t have any good memories of that village . His most humiliating and difficult situation had occurred at Dongshan Village . Images of being surrounded by seawater, struggling in desperation, choking on water, and being rescued in a half-conscious state once again appeared in front of his bewitching eyes . . . He had previously thought that he had long forgotten those memories but they were crystal clear again .
“Oh right! Master, you’ve previously met this little girl!” Steward Liu surreptitiously raised his eyes to glance at the young royal prince before he continued, “It could be said that she’s considered one of your life-saving benefactors!”
‘A benefactor who had saved my life? It truly was her!’ Zhu Junyang wasn’t quite sure how he felt about this . That ultra skinny and small little girl, who unexpectedly had a pair of lively eyes, not only saved his life but also helped his mother recover from her illness . . . He vaguely remembered that before he left on his journey, he had given that little girl a bag of silver in gratitude . Cough cough . . . apparently, now he was the one being rude and impetuous .
As he was lost in his thoughts, the fleet of ships had almost reached shore . The imperial ships had precedence, so all of the other ships in the area avoided them . Consequently, other than this fleet of ships, there were no other vessels to be seen at the docks .
After they docked the ship at the wharf, Zhu Junyang took the lead in getting off . After floating in the ocean for more than a year, he truly didn’t want to spend another second on the boat . The feeling of having his feet planted firmly on the ground truly felt too good!
Commander Bao quickly welcomed them as he and the hundreds of men under him bowed to Royal Prince Yang . The sight of that power was truly spectacular .
Yu Xiaocao watched all of the proceedings from afar as she sighed in her heart, ‘This society is rigidly bound by class! Having power is truly a good thing! Look at this guy’s battle array, everyone’s eyes are on him ah!’
Although martial law was currently imposed on the docks, the soldiers hadn’t driven away any of the peddlers in the area . After undergoing a strict interrogation, the Yu Family’s noodles and braised food stand was allowed to continue doing business . It was obvious that such an enormous fleet of ships would take a long time to unload . If the docks didn’t have anyone selling food, then those dockworkers would have to work on an empty stomach .
During all of this, a little break occurred . Commander Bao of the imperial bodyguards had been enticed by the smell of Xiaocao’s braised food and ordered a bowl of zhajiang noodles and a plate of braised pig head meat . He ate with great relish . Commander Bao was good friends with the emperor emeritus’s personal bodyguards, so he had long heard his good friends waxing eloquently about the Yu Family’s famous braised food . The emperor emeritus always had to eat their food every time he visited Tanggu Town . It was a meal that none of his friends could ever forget .
Commander Bao was from a prominent general’s family and had tried every delicacy there was to be had . How could a crude eatery, selling food for one copper coin a portion, be so amazing to catch the emperor emeritus’s discerning eye as well as be engraved in his good friends’ memories? Thus, when he received this mission, he decided that he needed to try the braised food from the docks while he was there . He needed to find out if his friends were just exaggerating .
A hundred words could not describe one bite . The pig’s head meat was soft and flavorful, fatty without being greasy, and delicious without being overwhelming! To a manly soldier, who loved to drink lots of alcohol and eat lots of meat, this braised meat paired with a mouthful of noodles was truly to his liking! Originally, Commander Bao wasn’t very hungry . However, he shoved down two large bowls of noodles and a giant plate of braised meat before he finally had to leave with a bulging stomach . He decided right then and there that before he had to leave this town, he needed to pack a large to-go bag of this braised food . His grandfather would definitely love it!