Fields Of Gold / Fields of Gold Chapter 536
He couldn’t let these people continue, or else his duck, which was about cooked, would fly away! Zhu Junyang had an idea and tried to change the topic, “Xiaocao, hadn’t you made a few earthen jars of grape wine before you came? I remember that you brought two jars over. Counting the days, they should be about ready to drink. Quick, bring it over so everyone can try.”
The emperor emeritus forgot about everything else the moment he heard this. Only the words, ‘grape wine’, resonated in his mind. He had tried the fruit wine that Xiaocao had made before, and especially liked her grape wine and pomegranate wine.
“Little lass, you dare dream to hide good things in front of me? Go, quick!” The white wine of this time were all grain wines which had low alcohol content, so he did not feel so satisfied drinking them. In the emperor emeritus’s point of view, it was still the Maotai
that had been specially crafted for the army from his previous life that had enough punch. The taste was mellow and sweet, while the texture was smooth and the rich aroma, long-lasting…
However, a shrimp will do if there was no fish. The grape wine that Xiaocao made had a rich texture, and it was even beneficial towards the body! He had snatched a jar from her last time, and after he finished that jar, he clearly saw that the internal injuries that he had suffered from the war previously had healed significantly, not to mention that it was not so hard for him to get by on a cold day anymore. Hearing that the little lass had stored quite a lot of grape wine, the emperor emeritus rubbed his chin, thinking that he should get a few more jars from her this time.
From the heated gazes she received, Yu Xiaocao knew that she could not hide her grape wine anymore. She fiercely glared at Zhu Junyang while no one was watching, ‘This scourge! Not only did he let me be teased, he even sold out the grape wine I just made! I haven’t even tried it myself!’ She decided to be upset at him for the next three months
The pitiful Zhu Junyang was schemed against by his closest relatives, but he could only silently swallow this loss. ‘Ai…the thoughts of a girl are too hard to guess. One moment of carelessness would land him on a landmine!’
The grape skins and pulp in the wine jars that Yu Xiaocao had brought over had not been strained out yet, so these men, who knew the process, patiently waited for her to carry out the filtration. Imperial Prince Sa curiously watched his father and older brother’s eager expressions, wondering, ‘Father said that even the good wine that was supplied to the imperial family was tasteless like plain water, isn’t this sweet grape wine for women? Why are they showing such an odd expression?’
The red wine danced in a swirling dance as it was slowly poured into a transparent, crystal glass, exuding a thick, pleasant aroma. Imperial Prince Sa held the crystal glass filled with the crystal bright and transparent wine, and lightly sniffed at it. A fresh, pleasant fruit fragrance hit his nose, making him unable to resist taking a sip of the sweet, crisp, red liquid. It flowed slowly from the glass into his mouth and infiltrated the taste buds on the tip of his tongue. The balance between sourness and sweetness was just right, the aroma was refreshing, and the texture was smooth…He did not know if it was an illusion, but a warm feeling spread among his internal organs as the liquor flowed through, invigorating him.
“Good wine! It sure is good wine!” Imperial Prince Sa praised upon recovering from his daze. He was a man who knew how to enjoy himself, and he followed his heart in everything that he did, pursuing quality in life. Aside from beautiful women, he had another great passion—wine! Over the years, he had quite often shamelessly asked for imperial wine from the Imperial palace. His collection of wine was much larger than the palace’s storage!
He had drunk a lot of fruit wine before, but they were sweet as juice, so he thought it was only suitable for women. But today, this jar of wine from Xiaocao changed his opinion. If the ordinary fruit wine was like a soft beauty, then this wine was akin to a strong yet gentle female general—there was a beautiful side, but there was also a strong side. A beauty like a delicate flower was easy to come by and could be easily replaced. However, a perfect woman was hard to come by, and when you meet one, you would definitely not marry any other women!
How could he drink other good fruit wine after he had tasted this grape wine? After Imperial Prince Sa dazedly finished his glass of grape wine and returned to his senses, he found that the two wine jars had been almost completely shared out.
He heartachingly grabbed a jar of wine and hugged it close to him. Then he pointed at his father, brother and nephew, who were all red-faced, and said, “How can you drink so recklessly? Isn’t this just wasting good wine?”
“Little Third, are you going to drink it or not? If you’re not, hand over the jar, I haven’t had enough yet!” The emperor emeritus reached out to grab the wine jar in his arms.
Imperial Prince Sa swiftly dodged him and snorted in a burst of drunken bravery, “All of you are like Zhu Bajie eating ginseng fruit—you don’t know how to appreciate the taste! It’s such a waste, such a waste…”
Before he could finish his sentence, someone slapped the back of his head “You little brat! Who are you calling Zhu Bajie? If I were Zhu Bajie, you’d be a bunch of piglets!” While he was still dazed from the beating, the emperor emeritus took advantage of this chance to snatch back the wine jar and pour himself another full glass.
Stars were still dancing in front of Imperial Prince Sa’s eyes but another slap came down on him, “Little Third, you’re really capable now, aren’t you? How dare you snatch my wine? Don’t you see, except for Xiaocao, who among us can you steal from?”
Following seniority and status, the emperor emeritus, his imperial brother, the emperor, the empress… Imperial Prince Sa really didn’t dare to stomp his foot in front of them. He was about to say something when he turned to his young nephew, Zhu Junyang, but he was glared back by his cold, sharp gaze.
The only person here who was lower than him in rank was his young nephew, and he was a ‘Buddha’ that even he, who was his uncle, usually avoided. He had heard about the matters with the Wu Family. If it weren’t for the two servants who risked their lives to stop him, the Wu Household would have already been awash with blood. Rumors said that it was only when Chief Steward Su Ran had been called to the scene did they manage to subdue him. If his young nephew lost all his rationality, he would not care if he was his uncle and just squash him like an ant.
‘Forget it, let’s just have a drink to calm down—Huh? Where’s the wine? There’s not even a drop left?’ Imperial Prince Sa had the urge to look up at the sky and wail.
The last glass of wine had been personally poured into the empress’s glass by the emperor himself. Zhu Junfan knew that, with the mystic stone in Xiaocao’s possession, the wine she made must be extraordinary. The empress had not been feeling well lately, so drinking more of this wine would only benefit her.
Imperial Prince Sa couldn’t snatch his niece-in-law’s wine now, could he? Not to mention that she was the mother of the nation! He only had one glass of wine out of a whole two jars! Imperial Prince Sa wanted to pound his chest and stomp his feet! He turned his sorrow and anger to his appetite, and ate a whole bear paw on the table, along with half a jar of ‘Buddha jumps over the wall’. A moment’s carelessness caused him more tragedy—unable to move because he had stuffed himself full. He was then placed in a situation where he was forced to be carried back home by his guards.
The next day, the emperor, who had been relaxing outside for nearly a month, announced that he was heading back to the palace. Not only was he able to enjoy the unique grassland scenery on this trip, but he also witnessed the thrill of the hunt. As the emperor, although Zhu Junfan could not freely participate in the hunt, he went down to the Imperial Hunting Grounds and personally shot quite a few game. He had also met with the chieftains of the nearby tribes, taking the opportunity to show them the prowess of his people, especially Royal Prince Yang’s bow, which had struck fear in many of those who had claimed to be strong and brave men.
The return journey was smooth and uneventful. Shortly after returning to the capital, Yu Xiaocao heard word that a certain favorite concubine in the palace had been placed into the cold palace and soon hanged herself, killing herself and the child in her womb. Her family, the Count Mingzhen’s Household, was also confiscated of their assets and executed. Yu Xiaocao then understood that the conspiracy at the Imperial Hunting Grounds had come to an end, and those who should be punished had already paid the price.
When Yu Xiaocao delivered the grape wine to the Imperial Palace, the empress held her hands and sighed, “Concubine Yun was actually a good person. She was only implicated by her brainless brother. Ay, this Concubine Yun. Even though she was demoted and moved to a more remote palace, living a hard life is still better than a good death! Not to mention that she still had hope of a fresh start with the child in her womb. If she had been able to look past it, there was still a possibility that her rank as an imperial concubine would be restored once she gave birth to an imperial child in a few months and the emperor’s anger subsided. What a pity! Her character had preordained that she wouldn’t last long in the palace…”
Yu Xiaocao deliberately made a clueless expression, thinking in her heart, ‘Your Majesty, is it really appropriate to tell me, a young, teenage girl, the secret matters of the Imperial Palace? I’m really still a child and don’t understand anything that you said!’
The empress looked at her childlike expression and laughed, “Silly me, why did I tell you all this! By the way, if you have nothing to do today, dine with me in the palace! Wen’er has been missing you for the past few days. If you still didn’t enter the palace, he would’ve asked his imperial father for permission to leave the palace to visit you! Speaking of which, you’ve saved his life twice…”
“This official doesn’t dare…” Yu Xiaocao expressed her fear.
The empress took her little hand and chided lightheartedly, “You, when did you learn to pretend? Rarely can I find someone that I can talk to—you can’t turn into those women who always follow the opinions of others! It’s so tiring to talk to them!”
Yu Xiaocao laughed drily. Fortunately, only she and the empress were in this palace, otherwise, if word spread, she would be hated by those ladies!
“Xiazi, go see if the eldest prince has finished his homework. Tell him that Miss Yu has come, and tell him to come over to my Kunning Palace as soon as he finishes his lessons!” The empress instructed her personal maidservant, then turned back to Xiaocao and boasted, “Ever since we returned from the Imperial Hunting Grounds, Wen’er seems like he’s matured a lot. Not only is he more sensible, he’s also more attentive to his homework. He especially worked hard to improve his skills at mounted archery, so much so that even the mounted archery teacher kept praising him, saying that he’s improved very quickly!”
“His Highness did really well at the Imperial Hunting Grounds, hunting hazel grouse and hares with only a toy-like little bow. He definitely would’ve gotten more game if he wasn’t so small and weak!” Yu Xiaocao agreed.
The empress’s loving smile continued to beam as she said with obvious pride, “Right now, Wen’er is building his strength every day, saying that he’ll definitely be able to draw the lightest bow next year. He’s not even ten years old, yet he lifts rocks that weigh more than ten kilograms fifty times a day! I’m really afraid that he’ll hurt himself.”
“Oh my, His Highness is really striving to be better. Don’t his arms ache from practicing like that every day?” Yu Xiaocao let out a genuine exclamation.
The empress was slightly distressed as she said, “How could it not ache? He could barely hold his chopsticks while eating. His hands shook so much that he couldn’t pick up the food. The next day, he couldn’t even lift his hands, yet he still clenched his teeth, determined to practice! I can’t bear to look at him…”
 Maotai – a brand of baijiu, a distilled Chinese liquor