Chapter 13.3: Tiger Cub

The Crown Prince was riding wildly in the forest, feeling extremely troubled and confused.

Yesterday was his mother’s birthday but his father, the Emperor, kept on praising Prince Zhou. The Emperor kept saying that Prince Zhou reminded him of himself and even criticised the Crown Prince for being too hasty. This morning, his mother had requested for him to enter the palace and reprimanded him. His father was biased and everything Prince Zhou did was right, whereas everything he did was wrong. What could he do about it?

Unknowingly, his horse had run out of the woods. A dark-blue secluded lake lay before him with a dense mountain in the background, seeming like the light at the end of a tunnel. The Crown Prince’s heart slowly settled into a peaceful state. He dismounted and started to take a stroll by the lake. All of a sudden, he saw someone fishing leisurely by the lake. The tip of the bamboo rod jolted slightly and the person immediately pulled on the fishing rod. A ripple formed on the surface of the water as a fish appeared. 

However, the Crown Prince did not expect the tug on the rod to be so strong such that the fish would end up flying towards him. The fish hit him, wetting his clothes and left him smelling like fish.

The Crown Prince was about to get angry but saw that Chen Ji was the person that was fishing.

Chen Ji recognised the Crown Prince and froze. He suddenly remembered that he had to greet him, “Gree—”

The Crown Prince waved his hand. “There is no need for formalities.” He sat on the spot that Chen Ji had occupied earlier. “Just treat me like everyone else.” 

Chen Ji hesitated.

“I came out to distract myself, you may continue fishing.” The Crown Prince patted the grass patch beside him.

“I have finished fishing and would not wish to disrupt your peace.” Chen Ji wanted to leave. He did not know why he kept bumping into this person wherever he went. Was there anywhere in Chang’an that was still peaceful?

“Sit down.” The Crown Prince lowered his voice. Chen Ji made an mmhm sound before sitting, but secretly rolled his eyes. He arranged his rod and continued fishing.

Soon, another ripple appeared on the surface of the water. The Crown Prince shouted, “There’s a fish!”

Chen Ji shook his head. “It is not a fish.

“What do you know!” The Crown Prince grabbed the fishing rod and lifted it. There was nothing at the end of the line. Chen Ji was speechless. If he, an experienced fisherman, knew nothing, then was this esteemed prince supposed to know better?

“Even fishes in a lake can be so sneaky.” The Crown Prince shoved the fishing rod back into Chen Ji’s hands. “Continue.”

Chen Ji took his time. “I think—” we should forget it.

The Crown Prince cut him off, “Continue until you catch a fish. Haven’t you heard of perseverance?”

Day was turning to night as a sunset covered the sky. The Crown Prince refused to give up as he tried repeatedly to pull at the fishing rod. However, no fish fell prey to the rod. On the other hand, his stomach started to growl. Chen Ji glanced sideways.

“Don’t look at me. I am the Crown Prince. Even if I was hungry, my stomach would not growl in an uncivilised manner.”

Chen Ji’s face twitched. “Fine, that was me.”

The Crown Prince ordered, “Go and prepare the fish.”

“The fish is so small. What is there to prepare?” At this moment, Chen Ji really missed the Han Mansion.

“Just prepare it. Who ask you to be so lousy at fishing.” The Crown Prince had been looking forward to gorging himself.

“My fishing skills are poor? Who is the one that kept pulling on the fishing rod and scaring away all the fishes?” Chen Ji felt wronged.

“I am the Crown Prince. Why would I pull on someone else’s fishing rod without reason?”

“You…” Chen Ji forced himself to say, “Fine! You are the Crown Prince. Everything you do is right.” He stood up and lifted a small bucket. He could only accept his fate.

The Crown Prince watched as Chen Ji carried over dry twigs, creating a roasting rack. As he started the fire, the Crown Prince looked on curiously. But when Chen Ji asked if he wanted to help, he replied with, “A nobleman does not step into the kitchen.” 

“That’s right, you are the Crown Prince. The most noble of noblemen.” Chen Ji rubbed his nose as he roasted the fish. Soon, the smell of grilled fish wafted through the air. Chen Ji held the roasting stick and brought the fish close to his nose, sniffing the delicious smell. Soon, he heard two dry coughs and he sighed. What was this called? He was making wedding clothes for others to wear!

Chen Ji offered the grilled fish respectfully. “Please have it.”

The Crown Prince did not stand on ceremony as he bit into it happily. All of a sudden, he froze. He handed the grilled fish back to Chen Ji. 

Is it uncooked? Chen Ji wondered.

“As the Crown Prince of Great Tang, would I eat it by myself? Instead of enjoying by myself, we should enjoy it together. Let’s eat.”

Chen Ji was surprised. As he looked at the Crown Prince’s serious expression, he took a bite out of the grilled fish. He then stopped and looked at the Crown Prince. The Crown Prince moved closed and took a bite while the fish was still in Chen Ji’s hand. “Delicious!”

The two of them took turns taking bites, feeling extremely satisfied. After they were done, Chen Ji asked, “Your Highness, what troubles do you have?”

“Since when did I say I was troubled?” The Crown Prince refused to admit.

“You must be troubled, that's why you came out to distract yourself. As a performer, we survive from our audience enjoying our shows. We somewhat know how to sense people’s feelings.”

The Crown Prince spouted out, “I have too many younger brothers.”

Chen Ji suddenly dug a hole. The Crown Prince walked beside Chen Ji and saw him throw the fish bones in. He could not help but ask curiously, “What are you doing?”

“This fish made a contribution to our stomachs. I can't leave its bones in the wild for other animals to scavenge. I dug a hole to bury it.”

The Crown Prince shook his head. “To grief over an injury, to take pity for no reason and to feel melancholy is what women do.”

“You are the woman.” 

“Say it again!” The Crown Prince got angry.

“You are the Crown Prince and from birth, you wore comfortable clothes and ate good food, receiving love from your parents. You can even feel troubled over your younger brothers. I am an orphan and have neither parents nor siblings. When I die, I believe that there won’t be anyone to help me build a grave either. I am not even comparable to this fish.” Chen Ji intentionally made a small mound on top of the buried fish bones.

“Chen Ji, I will help you arrange a grave.” The Crown Prince had never made such a sincere promise before. Chen Ji was shocked. “Are you for real? You want to kill me just because I said one wrong sentence?”

“No.” The Crown Prince laughed, “You said that you don’t have parents or siblings and worry that you won’t have a grave after you die, right? I am saying that, on account of you sharing half a grilled fish with me today, if you die in the future, I will help you arrange a grave.”

Chen Ji made an oh sound as he remarked blandly, “I am still so young. It will be a long time before I die. If you want to repay me for the fish, you should just reward me with something.”

The Crown Prince plucked a jade pendant off his waist. “Take it.”

“I am not a robber. I don’t think half a grilled fish is worthy of such a precious jade pendant.” The truth was he already had a jade pendant.

“Then what do you want?” The Crown Prince did not know what to give him.

“Special privilege.” Chen Ji said after thinking. “I am stuck in the Han Mansion every day and it is not easy to get out. Your Highness is Prince Han’s elder brother. Could you help me get permission to leave the Han Mansion to relax once in a while?”

“Sure. I will get Prince Han to allow it.” It was such a small thing but the Crown Prince did not know why he felt a tinge of pity for Chen Ji. Everyone in the world had problems, he was simply like everyone else.

Thinking of this, the Crown Prince finally relaxed.

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