Chapter 261 - Provocation
Yu Hai was stuck trying to figure out how to persuade Royal Prince Yang to not go when his youngest daughter interjected, “There was heavy rain last night . The plants are thick up in the mountains . If you don’t want to get your legs wet, then I advise you to wait several days before you go hunt . ”
No one knew what the weather would be like for the next several days . Summer had just started and it was slowly starting to rain more . Perhaps in the next couple of days it would rain again . Although the young royal prince looked like he was good at hunting, there were too many uncertain elements in the mountains . It was better to avoid dangerous situations!
However, the heavens appeared to have not heard Yu Xiaocao’s prayer . For the next few days, the weather was perfect . The tide had been receding in the morning recently . Yu Xiaocao’s friends also knew that she had more free time, so they invited her to gather seafood together .
Within the group of three, Zhou Shanhu, Qian Yafang and Liu Yingzi, they had somehow added a fourth person, Zheng Xiaocui . With the addition of Yu Xiaocao, they were all around the same age and all of their families had decent situations . Although none of them were able to wear new clothing frequently, none of them wore clothing full of patches like a few years back . The group of five girls were all considered relatively good-looking in the village, so when they were together, they looked youthful and pretty as well as very pleasant .
Whenever they came to find Yu Xiaocao, Zhou Shanhu and the three others were dressed in their ordinary working clothes . The only exception was Zheng Xiaocui . She always wore her new set of clothing, which was a set made from blue cloth embroidered with yellow flowers . At the seaside, she was afraid of getting her clothing wet and dirty, so she always had the lowest yield out of all of them .
Zhou Shanhu had once tried to persuade her, “Xiaocui, when you work it’s best not to wear skirts . It’s really too inconvenient!” Zheng Xiaocui wasn’t grateful at all and held her handkerchief as she shyly replied, “My father said that girls should act like girls . . . I can still do work while wearing a dress!” As she talked, her eyes wandered towards the direction of the Yu Family’s residence .
Zheng Xiaocui was a bit older than the other four girls and was already thirteen . Her body had gradually developed and her slender figure, when clothed in aqua blue, looked quite delicate and pretty . However, she was still a daughter of a fisherman . Everyday the sea breeze blew at her, so her skin looked a bit tan and rough . If she was paler, with her pretty features, she would be as pretty as those town girls who grew up in decent families!
Yu Xiaocao hastily rushed out of the courtyard . This wasn’t the first time she had sensed Zheng Xiaocui sneakily looking at her courtyard . What was she looking at? What’s so good about her family’s courtyard?
When Zheng Xiaocui didn’t see the figure she wanted to see, she couldn’t help but reveal a disappointed expression .
“Yu Xiaocao, this prince is going into the mountains to hunt today . Whatever game you want, I’ll make sure to catch some!” Zhu Junyang’s voice sounded from the west .
Zheng Xiaocui was pleasantly surprised and craned her neck to look around . Today, Zhu Junyang was clothed entirely in black clothing embroidered with dull patterns . His trouser legs were tucked into his tall boots made of deer hide and his hair was bound tightly at the top of his head . A few loose strands casually framed his face . He looked agile and strong .
After seeing Zheng Xiaocui’s star-struck eyes, Yu Xiaocao finally understood why this girl always came by every day to spend time with her . She glanced briefly at Zhu Junyang’s handsome figure and couldn’t help from inwardly sighing——a devilishly handsome man was a calamity ah!
However, when she remembered what the young royal prince had told her the other day, Yu Xiaocao couldn’t help but admire his intuition . At that time, Zheng Xiaocui was quite a distance away from him and they didn’t have any interactions together . How did he manage to detect that this little girl’s motives weren’t pure?
Yu Xiaocao also carefully observed the other three girls, who were her good friends . She inwardly rejoiced that the one smitten with the prince wasn’t any of them . Zheng Xiaocui was only the neighbor of Older Sister Yingzi and had showed up uninvited into their little group . She didn’t have as close a relationship with her as she did with the other girls, let alone having a good friendship . However, where did this little girl get the confidence to adore Royal Prince Yang, who was a relative of the emperor himself?
The nobles in the capital all cared about crafting marriages that were well-matched in terms of social status . Zheng Xiaocui was only little peasant girl from Dongshan Village . Even if she caught the eye of Royal Prince Yang, she could only become his concubine . Did she think it would be easy to spend the rest of her life within the confines of a rich family? Perhaps her final ending would lead to a pile of dead bones that no one cared about!
As Yu Xiaocao thought about this, she couldn’t help but shudder a bit . If it were her, she would rather find a poor family where they couldn’t eat their fill, then be concubine of a rich man . In the future, her husband could only have her as his sole wife . If he had other ideas, she would rather peacefully divorce then share her husband with other people . Even if he was extremely outstanding and she loved him to death, she would still stand by her principles!
“What are you thinking about? This prince is talking to you ah!” Zhu Junyang lightly tapped Yu Xiaocao’s forehead with the bow in his hand, interrupting her train of thought .
Yu Xiaocao covered her head with her hand and angrily retorted, “If you need to talk, then just talk! Why do you need to hit me too? If you hit my head again, I won’t be polite to you anymore!”
Zhu Junyang looked at her slightly-built body that was as flat as a board . He tsked in disdain, “Not be polite anymore? What can you do to this prince?”
“Be careful, I might add some laxatives to your food! Let you stay on the toilet for three days and three nights!!” Yu Xiaocao revealed a slightly sinister expression on her face .
Zhu Junyang didn’t believe that she would do such a thing, “Don’t forget, we currently eat from the same plates . Don’t tell me that you want to end up poisoning the rest of the family ah?”
Yu Xiaocao rolled her eyes and replied, “Don’t forget that I’m quite proficient in medicine . I could just give my family members the antidote prior to eating the food and everything would be alright!!”
Zhu Junyang inwardly thought, ‘This prince also brings antidote pills along too . I wouldn’t be afraid of a highly toxic poison, let alone something as mild as a laxative! The prince knows your personality, all bark and no bite . Even if someone threatened you, I don’t think you would necessarily try to poison me!”
“You’re quite a bold girl eh! You even dare to poison me so obviously, who gave you the courage? Hm?” Zhu Junyang lifted his eyes slightly which made his handsome face appear even more enchanting .
“Royal . . . Royal Prince, Xiaocao is only joking around, she doesn’t have any bad intentions…” The two of them suddenly heard a timid voice interject from the side .
Yu Xiaocao turned in the direction of the voice and couldn’t suppress her surprise, ‘Zheng Xiaocui, just how badly do you want to get the Royal Prince’s attention ah?! Are you trying to plead for clemency for me? If you want to do it correctly, you first need to disguise that seductive expression in your eyes first and also conceal your wild ambitions, okay?’
Zhu Junyang’s expression immediately chilled as he looked out of the corner of his eye at the blue-clothed figure . Uneasiness bubbled up in his heart and he frowned unconsciously . Disgusting! How come he had to come across another person who could influence his feelings?
Head Steward Liu understood the hint in his master’s expression and hurriedly hollered, “Outrageous! How dare you interrupt when the prince is speaking? Guards come! Take her away from here!”
The order was only to escort her away and they were only being so lenient for the sake of Miss Yu . If it had been another person in another situation, they would have already dragged her down and started lashing with the whip! Hmph! A vulgar girl from a fisherman’s family also had the guts to cozy up to the magnificent and glorious royal prince . Who gave her the confidence?
Zheng Xiaocui was scared witless at the sight of two large and burly imperial guards coming towards her . Her knees weakened as they escorted her out . Zhou Shanhu and the other three girls now saw a noble’s fickle temperament . Earlier, the prince seemed to be doing fine, merely having a small quarrel with Xiaocao . How did he suddenly end up becoming angry?
Yu Xiaocao didn’t attempt to intercede for Zheng Xiaocui, who had ulterior motives . A person needed to take responsibility for his or her own actions . Xiaocao merely looked at Zhu Junyang in the eye with a calm expression and said, “What are you being so mean for? You’ve scared the girl out of her wits!”
After Zheng Xiaocui was forcefully escorted away, Zhu Junyang immediately felt like the air had become a lot more fresh . He couldn’t help but warn Yu Xiaocao again, “That girl’s heart isn’t pure . You need to stop spending time with her!!”
‘Are you saying that someone who likes and adores you is someone who doesn’t have a pure heart? You can’t only blame the little girl ah, you have to look at that devilishly handsome face of yours too, right?’ Yu Xiaocao silently cursed the prince in her mind before she replied, “How bad can a girl of twelve to thirteen be? Don’t make other people more complicated than they actually are!”
‘How bad can a girl of twelve to thirteen be? Just wait until you see those supposed gently-raised maidens in the capital fighting and scheming against others! In order to gain a personal advantage, they are willing to plot against their own sisters, step on their supposedly good friends, yet still pretend to be gracious and loving to them while stabbing them in the back . Only after seeing that could you finally understand just how ‘bad’ twelve to thirteen year old girls could be!’
“Enough, let’s not talk about this anymore! This prince is going to enter the mountains…” Zhu Junyang waved the bow in his hands at Yu Xiaocao and turned to leave .
Yu Xiaocao looked up at the sky to observe the time and then advised him, “Young Royal Prince, you should eat lunch before you go! That way you won’t miss a meal . ”
Zhu Junyang hesitated for a second before he nodded his head, “Okay! I’ll go with what you say!! This prince will go to the thickets at the foot of the mountain and try my luck there . Maybe I can hunt a few pheasants or hares and add them to our lunch!”
When Yu Xiaocao saw that Head Steward Liu was following along, she thought that everything should be fine now . She had already inquired earlier about Head Steward Liu . Apparently, he was very skilled at martial arts and was similar to those giant ‘bosses’ that guarded places in the dramas of her previous life . A lot of television dramas had head eunuchs that were very good at martial arts . Perhaps they had all practiced from the Sunflower Manual ?
When they saw Zhu Junyang leave, Zhou Shanhu and the three other girls, who were terrified by the previous scene, scampered over to Yu Xiaocao and exclaimed, “That was super scary! Zheng Xiaocui didn’t say much ah, how did she end up offending His Highness so much?”
“Aren’t all nobles with high rank and power temperamental?” Liu Yingzi had a better understanding of how the world worked, so she seemed to have sensed something more . She was feeling a bit displeased with Zheng Xiaocui .
No wonder Zheng Xiaocui, who usually didn’t spend much time with her before, always stuck around her whenever she was visiting the Yu Family . She wanted to get closer to the royal prince ah! Liu Yingzi didn’t know if Uncle Zheng knew Xiaocui’s inner thoughts but she needed to tell her father when she got home and have him subtly make some inquiries .
Yu Xiaocao smiled, “Alright, let’s go gather seafood now . If we get there later, all of the good spots will get taken by other people ah!”
Qian Yafang gazed at Yu Xiaocao with eyes full of admiration, “Older Sister Xiaocao, you are too awesome ah . You’re not even the tiniest bit afraid of that stormy royal prince and you even dare to argue with him . ”
Yu Xiaocao pinched the other girl’s chubby little face and grinned, “Xiaofang, you’re wrong! I’m just a little peasant girl, how can I actually dare to argue with His Highness? I just have a better understanding of his personality since I’ve spent a little more time with him . As long as I don’t cross his bottom line, there won’t be any problems!”
Qian Yafang first nodded her head and then shook her head, “My mother told me that I’m very bad at judging other people’s expressions . In the future, I’ll stay farther away from the royal prince then!”
Zhou Shanhu also vigorously nodded her head in agreement .
 Sunflower Manual (葵花宝典) - An infamous martial arts manual written by an eunuch in Jin Yong's wuxia novel "The Smiling, Proud Wanderer" . Any man who wishes to learn from the manual must castrate himself before he starts practicing the skills .