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Published at 9th of October 2020 11:55:58 AM
Chapter 529

Chapter 529 - Inner Focus

“Official Yu . . . how about you…” The eldest imperial prince was merely a child around seven to eight . It was only him and Xiaocao now . He looked at the gloomy forest around them and had a bit of uneasiness in his eyes as he asked hesitantly .

Although the thickets here were quite dense, it wasn’t really considered much compared to the West Mountain’s forests that were near her home . Xiaocao had even dared to run into the forests there when she was young to set traps . However, after sensing the prince’s uneasiness, she decided to play the role of the weak one here for the sake of his little ego . She stated, “This official is a bit cowardly and I rarely use the bow . I’d be quite scared by myself . Imperial Highness, just let this official accompany you!”

Zhu Hanwen immediately puffed up like a little man and thrust out his small chest, “Alright ah! Then just obediently follow me from behind and don’t run off!”

The vegetation became thicker and thicker as they went deeper into the forest . The sky was completely covered by the criss-crossing branches of the trees and the full foliage created a tightly packed canopy . Consequently, the amount of natural light in the area had dimmed considerably . From time to time, some wild hares and pheasants would dart across their feet from nearby shrubbery as they ran away in panic . The two of them would also occasionally cry out in fear .

An unknown creature flitted lightly across Xiaocao’s head, bringing about a small breeze . She screeched and hunkered down . Zhu Hanwen had also been scared into a tremble by her scream and turned around to look in her direction . Apparently it had only been a mischievous little squirrel that was holding a nut in its paws . It sat high above on a nearby tree, regarding them with blatant curiosity .

“Didn’t Imperial Father say that when you were in the countryside you often went out to hunt? Isn’t your father a hunter who can even bring down a bear?” Zhu Hanwen felt quite speechless at the moment . He didn’t understand why his imperial father insisted on him accompanying a little coward .

Yu Xiaocao also felt quite helpless and stated somewhat huffily, “Do you know of any rural countryside girls who use bows and arrows? The so-called hunting I did was setting some snares and digging pit traps ah! As for hunting bears, my father had killed one together with someone else . Ah! That’s right, he was with the current Young General Zhao at the time…”

The Zhao generals were at the border last winter and had pushed back another Tartar attack, seizing a total victory . From that battle, Young General Zhao had also received the title of ‘Battle God’ . Naturally, the eldest imperial prince knew all about this . He curled his lip and said, “If the Battle God Young General Zhao went out hunting, he’d be able to kill a tiger easily, let alone a bear . Imperial Father is truly too much, why did he have to trick me?”

“Perhaps it was because he knew that this official is cowardly and doesn’t dare to go to any dangerous areas . If you stayed with me, you wouldn’t encounter any bad situations . The emperor also did it because he has a fatherly heart ah!” Yu Xiaocao explained her thoughts .

Zhu Hanwen drooped his shoulders down in dismay and remarked unhappily, “With you dragging me down, it looks like I won’t be able to make Imperial Father see me in a different light today!”

“Don’t we also have Little Black and Little White ah? We can have them work a little harder and then won’t we end up with plenty of game ah?” Yu Xiaocao tried to comfort the prince .

“The two of them always kill their prey by biting at the throat, so everyone can easily tell that it wasn’t me who killed them . I even told my imperial father and mother that we would be able to taste the game that I personally shot tonight!” The eldest imperial prince sighed . Although there was a decent amount of game around, they were all too perceptive . Before he could even pull his bow open, they disappeared without a trace . After thinking a bit, he realized that the first pheasant he encountered was truly a stroke of luck for him and that he had only killed it because of that .

Yu Xiaocao looked at that tiny childish face that was full of worry and fell silent for a second before she proposed, “Then how about… . this official can set some snares to catch prey . After we catch some game, you can then shoot them with an arrow . How’s that?”

Zhu Hanwen blinked his large eyes twice and looked at her for a bit before he finally nodded, “Although I dislike lying, in order to not disappoint my imperial father and mother, we can only do it this way . However, are you sure you’re able to catch animals with your snares? Did you bring any rope along?”

Yu Xiaocao looked around and picked a pretty pliable and strong piece of rattan from a large tree . She used the small dagger kept in her boot to trim off the branches and leaves and set a snare in an area where small animals often appeared . After she finished crafting her snare, she stealthily added a few drops of diluted mystic-stone water to act as bait .

[Why does this divine stone have such a stupid master . Even after drinking my bathing water, you haven’t become one iota smarter!] The little divine stone used a deadpan voice to speak to her mind as it sighed .

‘Can you not use the word 'bathwater’ to describe it? Just thinking about it makes me feel nauseous!’ Yu Xiaocao was teaching the eldest imperial prince how to set snares as she quarrelled with the stone .

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The little divine stone huffed and said, [Don’t call it bathwater? Fine ah! Then let’s change it to saliva, how does that work?] Sometimes when it was releasing spiritual energy into well water, it would deliberately take its golden kitten shape and pretend to spit into the water . However, if one thought about it more carefully, how could a small stone possibly have saliva?

‘If you have anything to say, just say it! Stop using those disgusting terms to make other people feel sick!’ Yu Xiaocao continued to give pointers to the eldest imperial prince as she asked the divine stone what it wanted . This fellow had somehow been provoked by something and was often cultivating studiously inside the stone in order to return back to the astral planes sooner . She very rarely saw it these days .

[With your current level of inner focus, if you want to shoot down an animal, it wouldn’t be a hard task . Why do you have to do something so idiotic like set traps ah? Truly doing more than is required!] The little divine stone didn’t forget to insult her this time either .

What was this ‘inner focus’? Yu Xiaocao expressed her confusion, ‘How do I use this so-called inner focus? No one has taught me anything . Do you think I’m a genius and just know how to do everything?’

[Concentrate all of your attention on the prey and tell me what you see . ] The little divine stone reminded her .

At this time, the sweet sound of a bird singing began again above her . She raised her head and followed the little divine stone’s instructions and stared unblinkingly at the bird . She was astonished to discover that that bird, which wasn’t much larger than the size of her fist, seemed to be growing bigger and closer in her eyes until it reached the size of a millstone . Furthermore, it felt like she could see every single tiny movement the animal made . The bird, when it preened itself, seemed to be moving in slow-motion . Was this the benefit of using inner focus?

[How’s that? Do you think you can shoot down the target now?] The little divine stone asked in a leisurely tone .

With such a large target that was almost within reach, only an idiot wouldn’t be able to shoot it! Yu Xiaocao didn’t say anything as she took down the bow from her back and pulled it back forcefully . She remembered the instructions Zhu Junyang had given her and aimed the arrow before letting it fly . It hit the silly bird square in the neck .  

“Wow! Official Yu, even the sages pretend to be ordinary people ah! You can even shoot down such a small and faraway target yet still claim you don’t have archery skills?” Zhu Hanwen had held his breath from the moment Yu Xiaocao pulled back her bow and arrow . He thought her hands had gotten itchy and that she only wanted to try . He truly didn’t expect her to hit the target .   

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The sound of the eldest imperial prince’s voice brought her from that mysterious world back to reality . She picked up the first prey she had ever shot down in her life and looked at the admiring eyes of Zhu Hanwen . A feeling of pride rose in her heart .

“Quickly tell me, how did you possibly learn how to shoot something so far away?” Zhu Hanwen’s eyes were full of pleading and made it impossible for someone to refuse his request .

Yu Xiaocao thought for a moment and replied, “Have you been taught the essay, ‘Ji Chang Learns Archery’ ah?”

When she saw him shake his head, she continued, “It’s one of the essays contained in ‘The Writings of Master Lie’ [1]  in the chapter ‘The Questions of Tang’ . It talks about learning archery . The first thing students need to do is to practice their eyesight and work towards a state of not blinking . Even when one’s eyes stings and burns, one cannot blink . . . look, your eyes haven’t gotten to the point of perfection yet!”  

She deliberately suddenly waved a fist in front of the eldest imperial prince’s eyes and stopped right before his face . Zhu Hanwen, who had suddenly been attacked, would naturally blink in reflex and pull back .

“The second step of training the eyes is to be able to see a small object as a very large object . Ji Chang had practiced this tirelessly over the years and was finally able to see a tiny louse as something that was larger than a carriage wheel . ” Yu Xiaocao explained the essay she had read in her past life to the eldest imperial prince .

A pensive look appeared on Zhu Hanwen’s face as he muttered, “To be able to see a tiny louse as something that was larger than a wheel? How long did he have to practice ah?”  

“If you work at it hard enough, you can grind an iron bar into a needle . As long as you continue to persevere and strive forward, there’s nothing you can't do!” The words Yu Xiaocao said today had buried a small seed within the future emperor’s heart . In the future, no matter what sort of difficulties the court encountered, he was never afraid or retreated . He ended up winning the faith, admiration and respect of his officials in the end . However, this was all later!

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Yu Xiaocao tried to use her bow a few more times . Sure enough, every arrow she sent out hit its target . The avid admiration in Zhu Hanwen’s eyes had almost become large enough to fill a lake . Unfortunately, good things couldn’t last forever . Using this ability with her archery used up a lot of energy . She only realized that there was no such thing as a free lunch in the world when the sides of her head started pounding and she felt like her head had become incredibly heavy .

She retrieved her water pouch and took a few sips of mystic-stone water . Her head felt slightly better afterwards . She raised her head to look at the color of the sky and said, “Imperial Highness, it’s getting late . We should go back and see if we caught anything in our snares and then head back earlier to avoid worrying the emperor and empress . ”

“The sun is still up high . Let’s head deeper into the forest a bit . Perhaps we can come across some good prey! Little Zhuozi, how about you first take some of this game back . That way, we won’t have the problem of having too much game to bring back later . ” Zhu Hanwen commanded the little eunuch, who had been excitedly picking up the game they had caught .

Little Zhuozi had noticed that on the entire way here, the sika deer were the largest animals they had encountered so far . Thus, there wasn’t any danger to be had in this area . Thus, he carried the dead deer on his shoulders and picked up a few strings of wild hares and pheasants to bring back where they had left the horses with a light heart . However, he didn’t know that while he was gone, his master would encounter a huge conspiracy and end up in a life or death situation .

“Look! What’s that? It looks like a giant rat but its snout and nose look a bit like a pig’s…” Zhu Hanwen quietly pointed in a direction and hinted at Xiaocao to look .

Yu Xiaocao looked in the direction that he was pointing at and saw an animal gnawing on grass . It had four thick and stout limbs and a bulky head . It had small eyes and small ears and its entire body was black and white——wasn’t this a pig badger ah?

“That’s a badger and is also sometimes called a pig badger! It has tender meat that is very delicious . Its fat can also be used in medicine and is very good at treating burn injuries . ” Yu Xiaocao gave him a brief lesson on the animal .

“Hm . . . I want to try to bring down this pig badger . ” Zhu Hanwen raised his small bow and slowly got closer to the badger . The badger hadn’t seemed to sense danger approaching and continued to dig up wild peanuts from the ground . It happily bit through the shell of a peanut and began to eat it gleefully .

[1] The Writings of Master Lie (列子 . 汤问) - Daoist text attributed to Lie Yukou, a circa 5th century BC Hundred Schools of Thought philosopher, but Chinese and Western scholars believe it was compiled around the 4th century CE .  

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