Fields Of Gold / Fields of Gold Chapter 523

“The scenery goes on for a thousand measures, in the north is the Xingan Mountain Range, lively things all congregate together and the mountains are linked into valleys. All in all, it is a fertile land with plenty of animals around.” From the descriptions alone, it could clearly be seen that the Imperial Hunting Grounds had natural conditions that were superior to others.

After being jostled on horseback for half a month, Yu Xiaocao finally got to experience the fascinating and beautiful allure of the wildlands outside the walls. Here, the mountains and plateaus flowed into one another and there were rolling hills everywhere the eye could see. The rivers and lakes dotted the landscape like glittering stars and the dense forests criss crossed through the grasslands. The vast ocean of prairieland was especially a glorious sight. It was said that during the spring and summer, this area was full of life and carpeted with lush green grass. During the autumn, the thick forests would become dyed in spectacular colors and the air would be filled with the sweet aroma of fruit. In winter, the land would be carpeted in silvery snow, making the trees look as if they were made of jade. Was this the main reason why the transmigrated emperor decided to hold the Autumn Hunt here?

That was right. The Imperial Family’s Autumn Hunt, which had undergone preparations for the past two years, had finally opened not long after Xiaocao and her group of friends had their grape-picking gathering. She didn’t need Zhu Junyang or He Wanning to plead for this favor as she herself had been personally picked by the emperor to come along.

For this Autumn Hunt, invitations had obviously gone out to people like Royal Prince Yang and He Wanning, who were the blood-related relatives of the emperor. Following that, the officials who had done meritorious deeds had also been granted the favor from the emperor to come along. Originally, Yu Xiaocao could barely be considered a part of those official ranks and would have been given a nondescript position in the procession. However, this time, she had to proceed along with a group of white-bearded old imperial physicians who were almost always right next to the emperor, empress, and prince.

She could clearly feel that some imperial physicians——such as Imperial Physician Wang, were regarding her with a scathing gaze. Yu Xiaocao could only express her own innocence. It wasn’t as if she was the one who clamoured for this spot and was pretending to be a medical expert. In fact, the emperor himself had said that she was very skilled at treating pediatric ailments and had ‘contributed greatly’ to this area of medicine. He was afraid that his beloved children, such as the prince, would not acclimate well to the change in surroundings and insisted on bringing her into the physician ranks.

In other people’s eyes, being next to the emperor was a very glorious thing that brought honor to one’s family. Yu Xiaocao wanted to scoff at those people! She didn’t want this kind of honor, alright? Anyone within the vicinity of the emperor was being watched by everyone around them and she had to guard every word and action she did. She felt like she was being imprisoned by chains being here and didn’t have the slightest bit of freedom. Even when she rode her horse she had to make sure that her posture was ramrod straight——it was quite tiring!

Luckily, Zhu Junyang, who was officially in charge of the emperor’s safety, would, from time to time, use his authority as an excuse to spend time next to her. He would always ask in concern whether she was tired or thirsty.

When he noticed the exhaustion on her face , Zhu Junyang spurred Fierce Wind forward and arrived next to Xiaocao. He quietly said, “We still have about half an hour to go before we’ll arrive at the temporary imperial residence. Just hold on for a little bit longer…I have some pears that some subordinates gave me. Although they are not as good as the ones grown on the Imperial Plantation, they can still quench your thirst…”

“Yang’er, are you secretly giving your little wife some good things again? Yet you didn’t leave a portion for us? Looks like I took care of you for nothing!!” The sound of the emperor’s voice could be heard from the nearby sedan. Yu Xiaocao rolled her eyes at this. The journey here was too long and monotonous so the emperor always found some time to make fun of her and Zhu Junyang. Wasn’t he starting again now?

Zhu Junyang replied in a serious manner, “In reply to Your Imperial Majesty, this subject bought the pears from a small merchant on the side of the road. I do not know the origin of these fruits, so how could I dare give them to you?”

The scope of the Autumn Hunt was quite large and there were some brave merchants and peddlers who drove ox and donkey carts along the procession to sell some local goods, articles of daily use, and other goods to the officials in the line. When the soldiers guarding the line didn’t stop them and they ended up making good profits, the number of merchants increased day by day. It got to the point when it was starting to resemble a small moving bazaar. From time to time, Zhu Junyang took advantage of his position as a guard and made sure to patrol around and take the time to look at the goods of these merchants. He would always buy some things that he felt that Xiaocao needed or things that weren’t commonly seen in the capital for her. 

Zhu Junfan felt like his younger cousin was becoming less and less cute as time went on. No matter how much he tried to tease the youth, the prince always kept the same stoic expression on his face. Not interesting at all!

“Imperial Father, I’m thirsty and want to eat some fruit! Feudal Princess Jinan, I heard that you brought along quite a few good things along in your luggage carriage. Can you let this prince go take a look?” The young imperial prince was sitting in the same carriage as the emperor. He was a bit bored from sitting inside and wanted to go out to get some fresh air. 

The empress looked at her son’s eyes that were full of expectation and smiled, “Wen’er has been stuck in this carriage the entire time. Even I, as an adult, feel a bit irritable from sitting for so long, let alone him, right? Your Imperial Majesty, let him go out and relax a bit. With Royal Prince Yang guarding him, we don’t need to be worried about his safety.”

Although Zhu Junfan was a bit strict with his heir, he wasn’t strict beyond reason. He rubbed his son’s little face and nodded, “You need to listen to Royal Prince Yang and Feudal Princess Jinan. You’re not allowed to be stubborn and willful…”

“This son will remember Imperial Father’s words!” The little fellow was indeed quite eager. As soon as the emperor gave his permission, he yelped in glee and jumped off the carriage.

Zhu Junfan’s forehead slightly creased into a frown. Before he could say anything, the empress interjected, “Imperial Majesty, Wen’er is still only a child of around seven to eight. You’ve often said that we should preserve our son’s childhood for as long as possible and not try to break his spirit. Normally, you’ve often told me that Wen’er seems a bit old for his age. Today, this is the first time in a long while since he’s shown such a spirited and childish air around him. I hope you can forgive him for this.”

“We weren’t going to admonish him for this. In fact, we were only worried that our son jumped out of the carriage without waiting for it to stop. It’s a bit dangerous to do that. Do you think you are his biological mother while I am merely his stepfather ah?” In private, Zhu Junfan often stopped using the imperial forms of address with the empress and spoke to her as if they were a normal married couple. He felt that using those old-fashioned forms of address was too stifling and made it seem like they weren’t a family.

The empress glared coquettishly at him and stated, “Just what are you saying! Stop blabbering! Right now we’re in public, so be careful that other people don’t hear you!”

She had long gotten used to Zhu Junfan cracking undignified jokes from time to time. She wasn’t sure how other emperors interacted with their empresses but the emperor always treated her in a way that showed how much he loved and cared about her. Sometimes he would even give her some small tokens. It made it such that she never regretted marrying into the imperial family and entering the deep inner palace…

At this time, the imperial prince that they were talking about was currently riding his little pony with Zhu Junyang and Yu Xiaocao accompanying him. He was regarding all of the peddlers and merchants with great interest. Sometimes he would ask them what one thing was and then pick up something else a moment later to ask about that.

The small merchants and peddlers were very courteous to them. Even if they only asked about their wares and never bought anything, the merchants never revealed a hint of resentment. After all, the people in this entourage, even a small insignificant maidservant, weren’t people that these commoners could ever afford to offend.  

As for Yu Xiaocao, she was behind the two and had bought quite a bit of good medicinal herbs. The Imperial Hunting Grounds were located on the south side of the Xingan Mountain Range and had a lot of unique products. The locals often went out to gather medicinal plants and would come back with rare species. How could Xiaocao, who was excited by all of this newness, possibly go home empty handed? 

“Korean pine nuts, tasty delicious pine nuts…” Maybe it was because he noticed that the eldest imperial prince and Xiaocao looked like half-grown children, but the uncle selling nuts enthusiastically called out to them.

In her past life, Yu Xiaocao loved snacking on pine nuts the most. However, because Korean pines   were slowly decreasing in number during that time, the amount of Korean pine nuts that were produced had also decreased, so she never had the chance to try any then. She arrived in front of the nut peddler and picked up a plump pine nut and asked, “Can I taste this ah?”

“Honored customer, feel free to try as many as you like! The pine nuts I have here are fat and very tasty. I guarantee that you can’t stop from eating just one!” The older uncle grinned until his eyes closed into a line.

These fresh pine nuts had a very special nutty fragrance and eating one spread the aroma throughout one’s mouth. As expected, these pine nuts were much more delicious than the ones she had bought off of the internet in her past life. Yu Xiaocao bought out the merchant’s entire stock of Korean pine nuts and also bought some hickory nuts and hazelnuts.

The hazelnuts and hickory nuts she bought were still in their shells so it was a bit difficult to eat them. However, didn’t she have Zhu Junyang by her side who was skilled at everything and was thus her own personal ‘nutcracker’ ah? Nuts that took her forever to crack open only took a little pressure from his hand to pop open, revealing the delicious nut meat inside. Thus, Zhu Junyang was in charge of cracking the nuts while Xiaocao and the eldest imperial prince ate them. It was a perfect pairing.

Other than nuts, there were also merchants selling fur pelts. However, compared to the fur pelts that Royal Prince Yang brought back last year, these pelts were of much inferior quality. Yu Xiaocao only glanced at the offerings and then quickly lost interest in the fur merchants.

At this time, Yu Xiaocao’s personal luggage carriage had arrived before them. Xiaocao invited the eldest imperial prince to sit in her carriage for a bit.

Zhu Hanwen wasn’t very interested in sitting down again but when he found out that Xiaocao was planning on squeezing fresh fruit juice for him and was even going to add ice, he was immediately hooked. He had heard from his friends that the Yu’s Frozen Dessert and Pastry Shop made the best snacks that were suited for the summer. He knew that his imperial father had gone out a few times incognito to eat at the frozen desert store. He had once begged his imperial father to bring him along so he could try but his father had given the excuse that ‘little children are not allowed to eat ice’ to refuse his request!

He naturally knew that the frozen dessert and pastry store was owned by Feudal Princess Jinan. The store’s iced drinks and desserts all came from her hands. Now, on the road, they were limited by their circumstances so he couldn’t eat any frozen desserts. However, he was able to drink some fresh-pressed fruit juice that was iced with no problems!

Zhu Hanwen entered Xiaocao’s personal carriage and Zhu Junyang used the excuse of guarding the eldest imperial prince to also shamelessly enter as well. Zhu Hanwen disdained the other prince’s actions inwardly, ‘No wonder Imperial Father always says that Royal Prince Yang sticks to Feudal Princess Jinan like glue. He acts as if he has to keep the wolves, other men, from her at all times. It’s truly as Imperial Father says. I’m only a seven to eight year old child, yet he doesn’t feel comfortable letting the two of us sit in one carriage. He’s truly too much!’

Zhu Junyang: ‘This prince isn’t sticking to other people’s wives, so what’s wrong with me sticking around my future little wife ah? Is there anything wrong with that ah? Little brat, wait until you get older and you start understanding things!’

The outside of Yu Xiaocao’s carriage looked quite normal but the inside was very spacious and had also incorporated many design elements that she had proposed. Zhu Junyang had helped her acquire many of the more exotic items contained in her carriage. For example, she was currently holding a hand-held juicer in her hands and this instrument was something that she had described. Zhu Junyang had written out what she wanted and had hired a foreign artisan to create her equipment.

This time, Xiaocao had brought along Wutong and Yingchun as her two personal maidservants. She also took the two maidservants that Zhu Junyang had given to her who knew some martial arts to act as bodyguards for her. She had Wutong bring out a few snow pears and bunches of grapes from the back storage, clean them with water, and then cut the snow pears into small chunks. 

Zhu Hanwen curiously watched as Xiaocao stuffed the chunks of snow pears into that odd contraption made of wood. After she cranked something that faintly resembled a hand, pure snow pear juice slowly flowed out of another opening into a transparent glass cup.

“Wow! That’s so interesting. May this prince try as well?” Zhu Hanwen, after all, had a child’s heart and was eager to try after watching this happen. 

Yu Xiaocao used a damp handkerchief to wipe his hands clean and then slowly let him try. The principle behind the juice maker was quite simple. By using an inward spiral, it could crush the flesh of the fruit and press out juice. The raw juice would then flow through a filtering area and pure juice would flow out in the end. Using it was also quite easy, so Zhu Hanwen quickly became familiar with it and started to play with relish. 

[1] The author probably mixed up this tree with another tree that is endangered.

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