Fields Of Gold / Fields of Gold Chapter 534
For the time being, Little Black decided to believe his ‘sincerity’. However, the wolf didn’t forget to bare his teeth at the youth one more time. Its meaning was very clear: ‘If you decide to play some tricks, just watch as I make you show your bare butt to everyone again!!’
With someone to help move the game, Little Black gleefully ran to the area where it had hidden its spoils and dragged out what it had caught one after another. There truly was a lot of game to be found at the hunting grounds. In a short period of time, the wolf was able to kill around a dozen prey.
Among them included a roebuck, a deer, and a roe deer. It also caught ferrets, red foxes, hazel grouses and other animals that were highly valued for their furs or delicate meat. It even had killed a giant elk that had to weigh around four to five hundred catties. Little Black was extremely strong to be able to drag over a piece of game that was even larger than it was.
When Little White got ‘the news’, it also hurried over to bring over what it had killed. Its haul was no smaller than Little Black’s and had about the same variety as its brother. However, Little White had an addition of a beautiful animal from the wild cat family——an Amur leopard.
From Ning Donghuan’s understanding of the Amur leopard, this creature had a very keen sense of smell, which helped it stalk its prey. It had four slender legs, razor sharp claws, and incredibly sharp teeth that were all used to strike its prey dead with one blow. Out of all of the animals in the kingdom, Amur leopards were considered one of the top three hunters. Let alone smaller prey, it routinely dined on larger, more dangerous animals like wild boars and black bears.
He would have never have expected that Little White, who he had determined to be a ‘proud and adorable pet’, actually had the ability to fight with an Amur leopard and even kill it without getting a single injury. Ning Donghuan’s understanding of the two wolves’ hunting ability had gone up another few notches.
By the afternoon, Ning Donghuan and his two hunting dogs had been downgraded to transporting game for the two wolves. Along with his two servants, they hauled the game on their shoulders before riding on their horses back. When he got back to the main campgrounds, he was simultaneously gratified and a bit at a loss when he saw that the pile of game in front of him was the largest of the lot. Unfortunately, more than half of the game wasn’t considered his, so he could only be happy for a short while.
Little Black and Little White appeared to blindly follow him from behind. In other people’s eyes, the procession was quite grand and impressive but Ning Donghuan knew that these two were only keeping a close eye on him. As soon as he showed a hint of trying to snatch away their game, they would start biting at his buttocks in revenge.
Therefore, as soon as Xiaocao appeared, Ning Donghuan hurriedly delivered these ‘hot potatoes’ to her, “Miss Xiaocao, this pile of game is all from the efforts of your two hunting dogs. This one is merely helping them bring them over for you. No need to thank me at all!”
The two of them sat in front of Xiaocao, one on the right and one on the left. Their azure blue eyes glittered with joy. Little Black looked especially happy as it used its paw to point at the wild boar that it had killed. The expression on its face clearly showed that it was asking for compliments. Xiaocao stood on her tiptoes and used her hands to stroke their heads before giving them each a large hug.
Out of all of the game here, she didn’t seem very interested in the largest ones – the wild boar and elk. As for the delicate looking hazel grouse, the sables and red foxes that had gleaming fur, she took a second look at those. Little Black seemed to have learned something from that first day as in the following days, it ended up killing many hazel grouses, sables, and red foxes.
Sable fur was a valuable type of pelt and was considered one of the three treasures of the northeast, along with ginseng and young deer antler. In some previous dynasties, only officials of a high enough rank were entitled to wear clothing made from sable fur to show their status. In fact, there was a saying about all of this: ‘First-ranked wears silver fox, second-ranked sable, third and fourth-ranked are allowed to wear common fox’. The meaning was very clear. Only second-ranked officials and above had the qualifications to wear sable fur. Fortunately, the current dynasty didn’t have such a custom. Otherwise, Xiaocao, who was only a sixth-ranked official, was quite a bit away from being able to wear sable fur.
Although red fox fur was not as famous and valuable as silver fox fur, it was brightly colored and was often liked by young maidens. Red foxes were a commonly seen creature in the northeast of the country and the red foxes in these areas had full thick pelts with gloriously colored fur. Therefore, by the time the hunt ended, Yu Xiaocao ended up with around thirty to forty red fox pelts in her luggage and had around a dozen sable pelts as well. The young maidens who were close to her, such as He Wanning, Royal Princess Minglan, Yuan Xueyan, Yu Wanqing and Li Mengru, all got a few red fox fur pelts from her. She gave some sable pelts to the empress, Princess Consort Jing, her godmother and mother. In the end, she only had enough furs left to make two sets of clothing for herself. Naturally, this was all in the future.
After checking the amount of game that each person who had participated on the first day had caught, as the master of Little Black and Little White, Yu Xiaocao had almost placed in the top three. If they had added on the tiger that the emperor had taken away from her, she absolutely would have placed in the top three and might have even been a contender for first place. Other than giving out the first three prizes, the emperor had also taken off a dragon-shaped jade pendant and given it to Yu Xiaocao, who had been looking at him in grievance this entire time.
The dragon-shaped jade pendant had been given to the emperor during his full moon ceremony
by the emperor emeritus. Seeing the jade pendant was akin to seeing the emperor himself. Whoever had this pendant, no matter what sort of crime he or she committed, it could all be forgiven. Thus, it was equivalent to the golden token that excused being sentenced to the death penalty. The people who had taken the first three positions in the hunting competition were very envious of this prize. However, when they found out that Official Yu had risked her life to save the eldest imperial prince, they had no objections to this anymore. After all, the court only had this one prince, so his safety was absolutely more important than a mere jade pendant.
After receiving the equivalent to the ‘golden token that saved one from the death penalty’ and the ‘sword that bestowed imperial power’, Yu Xiaocao suddenly felt that the tiger pelt was no longer as important as before. Her large pair of eyes crinkled up in a joyous smile and her whole face resembled a tiny squirrel who had just stolen a hazelnut.
A few chancellors at court, who were very good at toadying up for personal gain, looked at her now in a different light. They were all wondering if there were any suitable descendants at home who could possibly become a good marriage match for little Official Yu. After all, she was heavily favored by the emperor so it might not be a bad idea to make an alliance with her. Furthermore, those officials who claimed that Yu Xiaocao was a ‘woman who usurped authority’ were once again squarely slapped in the face by the sight of this little lass gaining more favor from the emperor through her own skills and efforts.
For the next following few days, the hunt continued with enthusiasm from all participants. The younger generation all did their best to fight over the first three places. It was normally hard to come by a chance to show their faces in front of the emperor.
Unfortunately, none of them had any fate with taking first place anymore because Royal Prince Yang had entered the scene. Other than standing out the first day, he participated in all of the following days and easily snatched first place every day. All of the game he hunted, whether it was in terms of numbers or quality, easily surpassed the hauls of those in second and third place. Consequently, the legend of Royal Prince Yang dominating first place at the hunt became a sure thing.
On the very last day of the hunt, the sun had already set but Royal Prince Yang was still nowhere to be seen. The curtain of night was being pulled across the large grasslands and the stars started to twinkle naughtily in the dark blue sky. A cold night breeze began to blow and it brought along the fresh, unique smell of the grasslands with it. The bonfires had all been lit up in the camp. The emperor looked at the color of the sky and then glanced at the youths who were all waiting for the placings and rewards. There was still one person, the most spirited of them all, missing from that group of people.
“Su Ran, that fellow hasn’t come back even now. Do you think he encountered a sticky situation somewhere ah?” The emperor kept a faint smile on his face as his lips barely moved while conversing with Chief Steward Su.
Su Ran replied as if nothing had happened, “Imperial Majesty, Royal Prince Yang is a genius at martial arts. These past two years, his skills have advanced by leaps and bounds. In fact, this servant may not be able to prevail against him in a one-on-one fight. Thus, there’s no need for you to be worried.”
Even though the eunuch had said the words ‘this servant’, Su Ran’s handsome appearance and demeanor still resembled that of a pure and lofty immortal.
Zhu Junfan gave him a look that said ‘you broke the rules just now’ and then continued to pretend to be dignified. After waiting another few minutes, although the officials and their offspring didn’t obviously show their anxiety and impatience, it wasn’t quite right to make them keep standing there in the cold wind. After all, there were quite a few older officials in the group and it wouldn’t be good for them to be exposed to the elements for too long.
Just as the emperor was about to decide to stop waiting and announce the first three places as is, in the distant thickets, there was a flicker of torches. Yu Xiaocao keenly saw the light and cheered in a trumpeting tone, “Imperial Majesty, someone has come back. It must be Royal Prince Yang and the others!”
Even though it was getting dark and late and the forest was full of danger, Xiaocao wasn’t too worried. Not only was Zhu Junyang’s skills top-notch, but he also brought along Head Steward Liu and Bodyguard Dong along, who were both top-experts at martial arts. In addition, no one else at court was possibly able to bend the bow that he used, so he was the top predator in the forest. Although she wasn’t anxious about their personal safety, she was still worried about them being out so late and for so long.
As the torches got closer, it became clear it was Zhu Junyang and his subordinates. As they got even closer, everyone could see their haul from today and they all breathed in sharply in astonishment. Although they didn’t have a lot of game on them, what they did have was more than enough to blow the rest of them out of the water. They had a giant bear that weighed around four to five hundred catties and an Amur tiger that had been killed with a single arrow in the eye. Just these two specimens alone would be enough to win first place here.
“Wow! My tiger pelt!!” Yu Xiaocao was incredibly excited. Although she knew that Zhu Junyang had promised her earlier and that he had never broken a promise, as the end date to the hunt got closer and closer, the disappointment in her heart had also increased with each passing day. Today, she had already prepared herself mentally. Even if he wasn’t able to encounter a tiger, she was not going to reveal one iota of her disappointment to him. After all, so many days had passed and there were so many people out hunting every day. None of them had even seen the shadow of a tiger, so how could he just coincidentally come across one?
As evening rolled across the sky and more time had passed without Zhu Junyang returning, Yu Xiaocao began to feel moved and remorseful. She knew that the reason why he was returning so late was to find a tiger for her. No matter what sort of outcome he had today, she needed to say the words ‘thank you’ to him.
“Why is the tiger pelt automatically yours? Everything that is under the skies here is under my jurisdiction. Technically, all of the game that has been caught at this hunt is our personal property!” Zhu Junfan deliberately expressed an opposing opinion to Xiaocao’s.
The bright smile on Xiaocao’s face immediately froze and congealed. If the emperor was really planning on snatching this tiger pelt from her, as a tiny official, what could she say?
“However…if you want to trade that dragon-shaped jade pendant for the tiger pelt, then we will have to acquiesce to your request.” Zhu Junfan regarded the little lass’s conflicted expression with a sense of wicked delight. He was in a very good mood now.
After he had given out his jade pendant, that night, the empress had tactfully hinted that giving out something that was that significant and important to a young maiden may not be the most suitable thing to do. Thirteen to fourteen year old girls were naïve and inexperienced. If she decided to flaunt this jade pendant in her hands and do something inexcusable, was that really okay?
Zhu Junfan, on the other hand, had a pretty good understanding of this little lass and consoled the empress, “The little lass is quite cowardly and knows what can and cannot be done. Fei’er, the situation that you’re worrying about will not appear. That being said, a jade pendant is dead whereas people are alive. Is it really worth it to get ourselves in a tizzle over a dead object?”
 full moon ceremony – A Chinese custom, when a baby turns one month old, a ceremony is held to celebrate her first full month of life. Both mother and baby are formally introduced to the extended family and friends. For many of them, this will be the first time they are meeting the new baby.