Fields Of Gold / Fields of Gold Chapter 535
After interacting with her a few times, the empress also had a good impression of Yu Xiaocao. The lass was smart, lively, and wise beyond her years. She not only was extremely talented but also had an amiable and friendly personality. This wasn’t something that every lady had.
There was one other point that the empress liked about Xiaocao. It wasn’t exhausting interacting with her as the empress didn’t have to bring out the imposing mother of the empire demeanor with the lass or have to worry about whether her bearing was appropriate or not. Everything felt very natural around the lass, as if she could relax and be herself. Thus, the empress naturally agreed with what the emperor was saying. With this little lass’s personality, the dragon-shaped jade pendant was safer in her hands than anyone else’s.
“Since the emperor is aware, then I won’t say anything more.” The empress paused for a moment before she continued, “That being said, Miss Yu is the savior of our imperial son. The value of the dragon-shaped jade pendant can’t even compare to our imperial son’s life. Emperor, we absolutely cannot allow the person scheming from behind to get away with this!!”
The empress gritted her teeth as she said this, wishing that she could tear that person into pieces right now. She was childhood sweethearts with the emperor and had been married to him for a full three years before she had Wen’er as her only child. The imperial couple had a good relationship and only had this one child between them. Furthermore, he was also the emperor’s only son. The medical ladies from the imperial physician’s compound had already told her that she had a particular body constitution and it’d be hard for her to bear a second child. If anything had happened to Wen’er, it’d be worse than taking her own life.
Zhu Junfan lightly patted her hand and promised her, “Don’t worry, even if you didn’t say anything, we would not be merciful to the people who dare to scheme against the imperial family’s descendants!”
That moron was really too idiotic. His own younger sister had just reached month six of her pregnancy and the doctors couldn’t even accurately determine whether the child was male or female, yet he was scheming for the position of an imperial uncle! The man had no brains and was clearly being used by someone who tempted him with the dream of becoming one of the most powerful officials at court!
In actuality, even if the hidden soldiers hadn’t been sent out to investigate this matter, the emperor already had a suspicion of who was behind this. Consort Yi was the only one in the imperial palace to transmit good news recently. All of the other palace concubines had been eyeing her belly as they were all afraid that she’d be lucky enough to bear a son and receive more imperial favor.
Zhu Junfan never took the little petty movements in the inner palace too seriously. On top was the empress, who he trusted to manage everything. None of the women there had the guts to scheme against the imperial heir. Consequently, as long as their little schemes didn’t hit his bottom line, he would just pretend to not notice anything.
Consort Yi was an obedient one and there was only a thin line between being obedient and being a coward. Her older brother had been spoiled by everyone in her family. Naturally, he had an elevated opinion of his own abilities yet he never used his head when making a decision. Four months ago, his younger sister’s belly hadn’t even started showing and even the imperial physicians didn’t dare to hazard a guess about the gender of the child. He, on the other hand, decided to listen to the ramblings of a traveling priest who stated that he had the fate of becoming the imperial uncle. Unfortunately, there was a barrier in his way. As long as he got rid of that problem, then his path to glory would be smooth and guaranteed.
This fellow had no learning or skills to bring to the table. The only reason why he had the title of ‘Count Mingzheng’ was because his younger sister was a titled consort in the imperial palace. Thus, he had an idle position at court. Unfortunately, this fellow had overweening ambitions but no talents to back it up. In addition, his ego was larger than his brains, so he wasn’t satisfied with his current lot. Consequently, he was easily swayed by a stranger and came up with a plan that actually required some thinking which had almost succeeded.
When Count Mingzheng found out that his younger sister was pregnant, he managed to acquire an idle job at the hunting grounds. The head steward in charge of the grounds was very courteous to him because of his relationship with Consort Yi and didn’t give any hard work to him. Thus, this gave him plenty of time to work out his scheme to perfection.
He spent a vast sum of money to hire some roaming martial arts experts and had them search for the signs of a tiger within the hunting grounds. Then, they sprinkled some powerful mind-muddling drug on some badly mangled bait for the tiger. The tiger ate the bait and fell into their hands easily. Following that, they raised the captured tiger in a special steel cage deep within the thickets.
A few days before the imperial hunt started, they started to short the tiger of its food. After confirming where the eldest imperial prince had gone, he had his underlings calculate how long it would take for the drug to wear off of the tiger and then placed the drugged tiger in the vicinity of the eldest imperial prince. When the starving tiger woke up, clear-headed, it would see its prey right before its eyes and absolutely wouldn’t let this chance to eat meat go…
Although his plan seemed quite absurd on paper, it was actually quite efficacious. If it wasn’t for Yu Xiaocao using her own body to lure the tiger away and if she didn’t have her two strong and fierce wolves with her, not only would the little lass be hard pressed to escape the tiger’s jaws, but even the eldest imperial prince might have also met his end!
Although a lot of things had happened at the imperial hunt, no one had lost their life or had gotten crippled from injuries, so it was considered quite a successful event! The giant bear that Zhu Junyang had killed was also divided up appropriately to reward the accompanying powerful officials, princes and dukes. Out of the four bear paws, the emperor emeritus was given one, Imperial Prince Jing’s Estate was given one, Yu Xiaocao was allotted one, and the last one, the plumpest right front paw, was left for the emperor.
The emperor emeritus scurried over to find Xiaocao with his bear paw in hand. He now had no faith in the abilities of the imperial chefs and only trusted Xiaocao’s culinary skills. As his grandson, Zhu Junyang also came over with his bear paw in hand. This fellow knew that Xiaocao had the ability to cook bear paws, so what was wrong with adding another one to her queue? In conclusion, out of the four bear paws that had been divvied up, Xiaocao now had three of them in front of her.
But there was a problem! Whether it was Asiatic black bears or brown bears, in modern times, they were all considered protected animals. Yu Xiaocao had never seen these ingredients on the market let alone know how to cook them. If she just brazenly tried without experimenting, she was afraid that she’d end up wasting these valuable ingredients. She stared at these three bear paws without any solutions coming to her head. In the end, she had to ask the imperial chef who was the best at preparing exotic delicacies from the deep mountains to cook them instead.
Whether it was preparing the bear paws or cooking them, all of that took quite a bit of time. The next morning, the imperial chefs all became very busy. With the addition of the bear paw from the emperor, they had four bear paws that they needed to prepare. Thus, they racked their brains to figure out the best way to cook them.
They decided to use different methods to cook all four bear paws. There was ‘bear paw steamed with ginseng and young deer antler’. This dish had a golden-yellow color, preserved the original flavor of the ingredients, and was exceptionally delicious. Then there was ‘superb bear paw’, which kept the paw completely intact. It had a rich and mellow flavor with glossy shiny meat. Following that was the ‘simmered red bear paws’, which had flaky and soft palm meat that was incredibly fragrant. Finally, there was ‘ribboned bear paw’. It had a lustrous red color, concentrated fragrant flavor, soft and tender texture, and the shining appetizing juice…
When it was all done, the emperor waved a hand and proclaimed, “At noon, the whole family shall enjoy this meal together. The more the merrier!” Consequently, the high-ranking members of the imperial family all got together and enjoyed the feast. The emperor emeritus’s youngest son——the idle Imperial Prince Sa had smelled the aroma of the food and shamelessly came over to cadge a meal. If they eliminated Yu Xiaocao from this meal, then it would have become a meal reserved solely for the imperial family members.
Yu Xiaocao had complied to popular request and made a ‘Buddha jumps over the wall’ that was comprised of exotic delicacies from the deep mountains. In addition, the imperial chefs had carefully prepared a bunch of other dishes for the meal. All of these powerful people ate to their heart’s content and complimented the food endlessly. Even the empress herself, who was usually a very elegant and refined person, had eaten until she was stuffed!
The last bits of the fruit Xiaocao had brought along had also been served up at this meal as a way to cut the grease. For the people who had drunk a bit more alcohol, she had also considerately pressed some fruit juice for them. The emperor emeritus revealed a pleased expression and slapped his grandson’s——Zhu Junyang’s arm. He remarked with a bit of a lisp, “That lass Xiaocao truly agrees with this old one! She refused my offer to become an adopted granddaughter. Who knows which big bad wolf in the future will take her away once she comes of age. Quite a pity!”
Imperial Prince Sa had somewhat of a loose tongue. He hiccupped and interjected, “Then isn’t…that easily fixed ah? Our family has nothing more than sons to go around. We have plenty of youngsters around the lass’s age. If you think it’s a pity that she’ll marry someone else, then have one of our kids marry her instead!! It wouldn’t be considered a disgrace for her to marry into the imperial family!!”
Zhu Junyang saw that his third uncle was blabbering more and more nonsense. If he didn’t butt in now, then that uncle of his might take his lass away to become his daughter-in-law instead. Before he had the chance to open his mouth, Imperial Prince Jing, whose face had already turned completely red from drinking too much alcohol, slapped the table and spoke to Imperial Prince Sa, “Third Younger Brother! Don’t you understand the concept of following seniority? As your second older brother, I haven’t even had the chance to voice my opinion, so why do you get to state yours first?”
Following that, he narrowed his eyes and glared at his own son as he scolded, “Stinky brat! Your lady mother has had strands of her hair turn white fretting over your future marriage! You’re already twenty and don’t have a wife yet. So useless!!”
He paused for a bit and then pointed at Xiaocao before speaking to his son, “Your lady mother quite likes this lass. Your mother has never liked another young maiden as much as she likes this one! Her appearance is decent and she also knows how to cook. Furthermore, she can help your mother nourish and heal her body…as your father, I command you to take this lass into your own residence!”
What the! His father was being quite blatant about his intentions. He wanted his son to marry a wife not for his son’s sake but for his princess consort’s sake? Imperial Prince Jing was quite righteous about all of this. As long as his wife was happy, he wouldn’t just be willing to choose a wife for his son, he would even be willing to sacrifice his grandson’s marriage as well!
Zhu Junfan watched with avid interest from the side. The little lass very rarely showed such an abashed and embarrassed expression on her face, as if she didn’t know what to do. A sense of evil pleasure rose within his heart.
Just as his younger cousin was about to open his mouth to say something, Zhu Junfan suddenly butted in, “Imperial Uncle, the lass Xiaocao is still quite young and has a childish air about her! Junyang may not necessarily like her that way!”
“He dares to not like her!!” Imperial Prince Jing was clearly quite drunk now. The man, who was usually in control of himself, was now being quite impolite. He forcefully slapped the table, causing the plates and bowls to jump up and down, “What does he have? His face resembles a woman’s and he has a cruddy personality. If he wasn’t lucky enough to be born into the imperial family, who would want to marry him?”
Zhu Junyang was speechless at this. Apparently, in his lord father’s eyes, he had become a pitiful person who wasn’t able to find someone willing to be his wife! Sigh, with a father who was solely preoccupied with his mother, what did he expect? For the sake of a beauty’s smile, this man was even willing to sacrifice his son’s future happiness in marriage. He was really too much!
He claimed that he looked like a woman? And that no one would want him? Only his biological father could say something like that. If anyone else tried, just see what would happen! His little lass really quite liked this face of his and had often been entranced by his looks on end. Hmph! It didn’t matter what other people thought. He didn’t care as long as his lass liked him!
His unhelpful father started talking again, “Although the lass is on the younger side, this brat isn’t in any hurry to get engaged. Waiting a few more years for the lass to reach her age of majority wouldn’t be a problem. Yang’er, your lady mother and I will wait patiently for two years, so please shape up a bit. Don’t let your lady mother, myself, and your imperial grandfather be disappointed! Do your best!”
When he noticed the extremely awkward expression on the little lass’s face, Zhu Junyang’s protective instincts for his future wife rose up, “Imperial Grandfather, Lord Father, Imperial Uncle, is it really appropriate to be talking about this in front of the person in question? Look at her. She’s so embarrassed that she’s about to become one with the table!”
The emperor emeritus chuckled in amusement when he saw the bright red cheeks on Xiaocao’s face, “Lass, what are you embarrassed about? You’re almost fourteen. In the previous dynasty, you’d be almost ready to get married at this age. It’s time for you to also think about the most important event in your life, marriage! From what I see, it looks like your family cares a lot about your opinion. As long as the person who catches your eye isn’t too bad, I’m sure your family will allow you to marry him. Speaking of that, my grandson is not bad, how about…you consider him ah?”