Chapter 474 - Gradually Proceed, Gradually Get Further Apart
After he finished the evening meal, Zhu Junyang went back to the mountain villa . Xiaocao and her mother and sister congregated on the kang bed to talk . Xiaocao told Madam Liu some things that were happening in the capital and her thoughts about them .
As they talked, she suddenly remembered the residence that was halfway up the mountain that used to be the Zhao Family’s . She asked, “Mother, I once saw Auntie Zhao when I was in the capital . She said that we can do as we see fit with their old residence . If the place stays empty for too long, it’ll likely start falling apart from disrepair . ”
Madam Liu looked as if she had thought of something and said, “The Zhao Family’s residence hasn’t stayed empty for long periods of time . Before our family’s residence was done, we spent over three months living there . Your father also goes there from time to time to take a look . He often repairs any damage and fixes the roof too . I and Xiaolian also often go up to clean up the place . Ah, right! Your Older Brother Zhao Han also enlisted in the military last year . However, he didn’t go to the northwest area of the country like his grandfather and father and instead entered the navy for training . The neighboring village recently established a company of soldiers and he was transferred there . It’s said that he did well and got promoted to a small ringleader…”
Xiaolian giggled and interjected, “Mother, his rank is called a platoon leader and he has around fifty soldiers under his command . A small ringleader makes it sound like he’s a bandit!”
“Go, go, go! You know the most, okay? You even dare to make fun of your mother! Are you itching for a beating ah?” Madam Liu glared at her older daughter . This lass’s guts seemed to be growing bigger with time and she seemed to want to tease everyone .
Xiaolian was afraid that her mother might fly into a rage due to humiliation and hurriedly placated her, “Alright, alright, alright! Whatever you say goes! A small ringleader is a small ringleader ah! Younger Sister, while you’ve been in the capital, Older Brother Zhao Han has come by a few times and even ate with us . When he saw that you weren’t around, he even especially asked about you . ”
“What do you mean he especially asked about her? He was only inquiring out of politeness . Young maidens should know when to hold their tongues . Don’t speak so much nonsense!” Madam Liu had long known what Royal Prince Yang felt towards her youngest daughter and was afraid this might be transmitted to him and cause problems . She hurriedly interrupted her older daughter’s words and then continued, “That child Zhao Han is compassionate . Every time he has a break, he always comes over to help us out . After we moved into our new home, he started to reside in the residence halfway up the mountain since it wasn’t too good for him to stay with us . Thus, that home isn’t completely empty all the time . ”
“When I visited Auntie Zhao, she complained that Older Brother Zhao refused to go to the army in the northwest and instead insisted on entering the navy . When the Wokou pirates came and attacked last time, he had been sent over with the other troops . I didn’t expect that he would be assigned to a post that is so close to us . ”
In Yu Xiaocao’s heart, Zhao Han was the one other person besides her close family members who treated her kindness and warmth when she first transmigrated over . He was like an older brother to her . Not only did he do his best to take care of her and Little Shitou but he also accepted her odd and weird quirks without question .
After thinking about it, she realized that Older Brother Zhao Han had just reached eighteen years of age . He had been born in a military family and had been trained in his family’s arts . It wasn’t surprising that he had been recognized for his talents and been promoted to a platoon leader . If she had the opportunity, she was planning on making some pastries for him and find out how he was doing . That way, when she went back to the capital, she would be able to report on his well-being to Auntie Zhao .
The next morning, Royal Prince Yang sat boldly in the middle of the Yu Family’s reception hall . In the capital, whenever he visited Xiaocao, there was always someone there with them . Whether it was Lady Fang herself or some maids and senior servants, they never had the chance to be alone . The little lass very rarely had the chance to go into the kitchen there, so he had started to miss the taste of her food .
Yu Xiaocao thought that she had gotten up quite early, but when she finished washing up, she realized that Royal Prince Yang had already drank through several cups of tea . She looked at Zhu Junyang’s ‘pitiful, begging’ expression on his face and became resigned to her fate of cooking in the kitchen . Inside the kitchen was a basin full of water and giant tiger prawns . She immediately ordered him in, “If you want to eat earlier, then help me peel these shrimp . ”
Zhu Junyang had a dumbfounded expression on his face as he stared at the basin full of wriggling and jumping prawns . He had eaten shrimp before but, as for peeling their shells and getting them ready, he had never even had the chance to see it being done let alone doing it himself .
Yu Xiaocao sighed and picked up a prawn . To demonstrate, she pinched the head off and removed its shell and tail before deveining it . Then, she had Zhu Junyang attempt to follow what she did . Zhu Junyang’s brows furrowed so tight that he could kill an insect when she stuffed a slippery shrimp into his hands . However, when he saw the little lass busily working in the kitchen, mixing up and kneading dough, he squatted down helplessly and started to clumsily clean the basin of prawns . He was very well aware that his lass had a crafty and odd mindset . If he summoned someone else in to take over his task, it was very unlikely that he would be able to eat some crystal shrimp dumplings for breakfast .
On this trip to Dongshan Village, Zhu Junyang had brought along Head Steward Liu and a personal bodyguard who doubled as a personal servant, Dong Dali, with him . The two of them entered the residence energetically with some prey they had hunted earlier . When Dong Dali got to the entrance of the kitchen, he suddenly stopped to a standstill and blinked his eyes in surprise . He had a flabbergasted look on his face——his valiant and godly master was actually squatting inelegantly on the floor, peeling shrimp .
Head Steward Liu had long gotten used to seeing odd happenings between his master and Miss Yu . He patted Dong Dali, who was frozen in astonishment, and reminded the other man, “Go clean up the game so we can add it to the noon meal later . Let me give you a piece of advice . Don’t look at what you’re not supposed to look at and absolutely do not say anything that you’re not supposed to say!”
By the time the crystal shrimp dumplings had finished steaming, Yu Hai and his son had already rushed here from the farmstead . On their way back, they had also caught up with Little Shitou and Qian Wen, who were on their break from school .
“Wow! Second Sister personally made these crystal shrimp dumplings! Older Brother Xiaowen, you’re lucky in food today . An invitation is not as fortuitous as a chance encounter . Stay with us and eat some dumplings, okay?” Little Shitou had grown considerably taller in the past half year and had almost caught up with Xiaocao . Although he still had somewhat of a childish air around him when he spoke, he had also added a bit of elegance to his demeanor .
Qian Wen looked at the familiar figure bustling about in the kitchen . She was no longer the painfully skinny, short little girl in his memories . She was still slender but now she seemed to have the figure of a pretty young maiden . Xiaocao seemed to have sensed his gaze and turned around to smile brilliantly at him .
She seemed to have grown more beautiful again . The features on her face had matured and her eyes were large and deep . She had pale and exquisite skin and the dimples on her cheeks were faintly discernible when she smiled at someone . He heard that she had successfully established greenhouse-grown vegetables and fruits in the capital . Her accomplishments drew lots of praise from the people there . He also heard that she was planning on building a new pharmaceutical workshop in the capital . Furthermore, she had been given the title of a feudal princess and been bestowed a fine residence in the capital . In addition, she had used the money she made in half a year to buy an estate in the capital that was recorded under Uncle Yu Hai’s name…
He had originally thought that, as long as he worked hard, he’d be able to pass the imperial examinations and shorten the gap that had grown between them . However, why did it seem like the distance between them kept growing larger and larger? The memories of that little girl, who had a starving belly and was digging up wild herbs in the bitter cold, had gradually faded away from his mind . In front of him was a young lady he was familiar with but why did it seem like they had become more distant, like strangers?
He inhaled deeply and before he could say the words of refusal on his lips, the young girl had already spoken, “Qian Wen, I made some crystal shrimp dumplings, shumai, and soup dumplings . Stay with us and eat a bit!”
“No need . ” Despite being dazzled for a split second by that incandescent smile of hers, he still refused her good intentions . “I was off traveling with a few classmates before and hadn’t gone home in awhile . I should go home first and see my family ah! You . . . when are you all going to leave for the capital?”
He had encountered the Yu Family on his way back and had already found out that they were going to travel to the capital to celebrate the New Years soon .
“We’ll still be here for a few more days ah! My mother said that she still has a few things to pack!” Yu Xiaocao paused and then took out a few steamer baskets from the kitchen and placed them in his hands, “Since it’s like that, I won’t insist that you stay and eat with us . Take these with you when you go back and have Uncle Qian and Auntie Qian try them . Also, tell Xiaowu and Yafang to come by and play when they have time!”
Qian Wen didn’t refuse this offer and silently left the courtyard with the steamer baskets in hand . Little Shitou stuffed a piping hot steamed dumpling into his mouth and grimaced when he got scalded, “Second Sister, I’ve missed your cooking so much ah! Your steamed dumplings are too delicious and they look very appetizing too! If you open up a breakfast stand, I’m sure the business would be booming!”
Yu Hai lightly slapped the back of his son’s head and rebuked, “Do you think your older sister is the same as you? Idle with nothing to do? She’s in charge of the Imperial Plantation, with several thousand mu of fields to manage and harvest . How could she do other things when the emperor gave her such an important task?”
Litlte Shitou hadn’t swallowed the food in his mouth so he almost choked when his father hit him . He covered the back of his head with a hand and made a sullen face . He then complained to Xiaocao, “Second Sister, just look how biased Father is! You’re the only biological child in his eyes . The rest of us were just picked up from the side of the road . Father, if you hit me until I become stupid, who will become the top scorer in the imperial examinations in the future and bring honor to our ancestors ah?”
“Are you that certain that you’ll be able to become top scorer in the imperial examinations in the future? Don’t get too large for your pants and make a promise that you can’t keep . Otherwise, you’ll end up losing the entire Yu Family’s dignity . ” Yu Hai felt like he needed to knock this youngster’s confidence down a notch so that he wouldn’t end up with a conceited sense of self .
“Father, are you sure you’re my real father ah? My self confidence has just been trampled into the ground . Second Sister, I need to eat delicious food to soothe my ego!” Little Shitou acted like an elegant little scholar when he was at the academy and all of the teachers there praised him for being accomplished despite his young age . However, whenever he was in front of Xiaocao, he would momentarily revert to his original personality——a young and childish little monkey who liked to act spoiled!
Yu Xiaocao advised her father, “Father, in the future, please don’t hit Shitou when he’s eating food . What if he ends up choking on it and loses his life?”
Yu Hai watched as Little Shitou coughed until his face turned bright red and felt somewhat regretful . Luckily, his son rapidly recovered and was back to normal . After hearing his younger daughter’s advice, he also thought that it was quite dangerous earlier . Thus, he deeply engraved his younger daughter’s words within his mind .
“Xiaocao, go look in the pot and see if the corn porridge is done yet!” Yu Hai and Little Shitou heard a familiar voice and turned to look towards it . They almost burst out into laughter . Royal Prince Yang, who was dressed quite grandly, had just stood up from behind the stove with his entire face and body covered in grime . He looked quite messy and out of sorts . It was quite a hilarious sight .
Yu Hai let out a few fake coughs to disguise the smile on his face and pretended to scold his daughter, “Cao’er, how could you have Royal Prince Yang manage the cooking fire? Where’s your mother and older sister?”
“Why can’t he manage the cooking fire? He ordered a bunch of hard to make breakfast foods, so he shouldn't think he’d get out of this for free . Don’t spoil him just because he’s a royal prince . After all, I’m a feudal princess now but didn’t I also make food as soon as I got back home?” Yu Xiaocao had also spotted the streaks of soot of Zhu Junyang’s forehead . The fact that the devilishly handsome Royal Prince Yang had ‘fallen’ into dirt added a bit of adorableness to his image . This side of Royal Prince Yang had a breath of liveliness to him and was quite to her taste!
Royal Prince Yang cleared his throat and earnestly said, “Xiaocao is right . This prince is also experiencing how the common people live! The emperor himself has said that only by knowing the pain and difficulties of the commoners can we truly rule them…”