‘This little vinegar jar!’ Zhu Junyang touched her head dotingly. She was really a sweet little burden. However, suspicion was the worst thing to have between couples. He didn’t want to give his lass any chance to think about nonsense, so he decided to be frank, “Don’t I have the ability to read one’s thoughts? However, it seems like my ability doesn’t work on Wu Junling. It was really weird, so I looked at her a few more times.”
Yu Xiaocao felt even more sour, “You can’t read her thoughts? Wasn’t the reason you chose me because you couldn’t perceive my thoughts so there was no pressure and burden in our interaction? Now that there’s another special existence, does that mean it’s time for me, this rural girl, to be laid-off and go into retirement?”
Zhu Junyang didn’t understand what ‘laid-off’ meant, but he knew the meaning of retirement. With a stern expression, he stared fixedly at the little lass. Zhu Junyang said in a deep voice, “You have already declared this prince to be guilty before you even know the full story? Is this how you think of me? Am I this unreliable in your heart?”
In face of Zhu Junyang’s sudden anger, Yu Xiaocao was stunned for a moment. Then she bit her lower lip aggrievedly and didn’t speak. Since Zhu Junyang expressed that he wanted to pursue her, she had been hesitant. There was a huge gap between their identities. On the surface, she pretended that she didn’t care, but would there really be anyone who didn’t care at all?
She had always thought that she was the only unique person around him, and this was also the only advantage that she felt she had compared with the other noble maidens in the capital. However, this advantage suddenly disappeared. How could she not feel sad about it? It turned out that proud and awkward youth, who gave her warmth, had quietly entered her heart. She cared, so she was afraid…
Zhu Junyang sighed softly. He reached out his hand to move a wisp of mischievous hair behind her ear, and then said in a soothing voice, “Lass, don’t think about unnecessary things. She’s different from you. When this prince is together with you, it feels like the air is filled with a refreshing scent. Even my breathing has become smoother and my entire body feels relaxed and comfortable. Your aura is transparent and clean. When I’m with you, I would never have to be on guard and try to find out your intentions. She appears pure and cute, but she gives me a somewhat suppressed feeling, like dark clouds shrouded above a mountain before rainfall.”
Zhu Junyang’s five senses were more sensitive than ordinary people. Even if he couldn’t read the other party’s mind, he could still intuitively feel it. He paused for a moment, and then said, “Besides, it’s not that I can’t see her heart, but instead there seems to be something blocking me. She either has some treasure that can restrain my ability, or she’s so defensive and heavy guarded that my power isn’t strong enough to see through her yet.”
Xiaocao’s expression became increasingly solemn because of his guess. She thought about it and said, “Based on your younger cousin’s age, it probably isn’t the latter. Could it be that…she has some sort of special item with a defensive function?”
“It doesn’t matter whether she has a special item or not. The important thing is that there’s no longer any misunderstanding between us, and you aren’t angry at me!” In Zhu Junyang’s eyes, Wu Junling was just an unimportant relative, and they just needed to maintain a decent relationship on the surface.
Yu Xiaocao was a little embarrassed as she kicked a small stone and mumbled, “Was it a simple misunderstanding? Even if you’re not interested in your younger cousin, who can guarantee that she’s not interested in you? Based on my woman’s intuition, she definitely likes you!”
“Oh? What makes you think that she likes this prince?” Seeing that the lass wasn’t sulky anymore, Zhu Junyang wanted to tease her.
Yu Xiaocao rolled her eyes at him, snorted, and replied in a matter-of-fact way, “When she looks at you, there are hooks in her eyes, which exude deep affection and bashfulness. The only thing that’s missing from her face is that she didn’t write out, ‘Older Cousin, I like you. Quickly come flirt with me!’ Also, the most important thing is that you have a face that attracts the attention of bees and butterflies. There’s no sense of security at all!!”
“So it turns out that, in Xiaocao’s heart, this prince is so handsome that you have no sense of security? This won’t do. Tomorrow, I’ll request an edict from the emperor to send me to the Xishan Barracks for training. I’ll make myself tanner and uglier. That way, you won’t doubt me anymore, right? But, you’re not allowed to abandon this prince at that time.” The emperor had long wanted him to take charge of the Xishan Barracks. He also wanted to set up a military experimental base to study firearms, cannons, and so on. Zhu Junyang reckoned that a decision would be made regarding this matter when he returned to the capital to report his work. Thus, he mentioned this to the lass in advance.
Yu Xiaocao hesitated and looked at his pale and charming face. When she imagined him getting tanned and looking like Judge Bao  , she couldn’t bear to look at his face anymore. She suppressed her laughter and said, “Actually, you don’t have to get purposely all dirty and unkempt. As long as you maintain your black-faced killer style and ignore all those young girls and female cousins, I believe that, with time, they will learn that it’s impossible and withdraw.”
“They? Where did ‘they’ come from? Isn’t it just Wu Junling, or do you have some imaginary rivals? It’s fine to be jealous, so why find so many excuses? This prince likes to see you being jealous, okay?”
Zhu Junyang escorted Yu Xiaocao to the entrance of the Fang Estate and knocked on the side door. The doorkeeper yawned as he opened the door. Seeing that it was Royal Prince Yang and his young miss, he quickly smiled and had someone lead the horse to the stable in the back. He attentively said, “Young Miss, you’re finally back. Master and Madam have been talking about you for several days. Royal Prince Yang, please come inside. This servant will go invite the master out…”
“No need. It’s quite late now, so I won’t disturb them. I’ll come over to play go with General Fang on another day. Xiaocao, rest earlier. I’ll go back now!” Zhu Junyang looked at Xiaocao affectionately with his phoenix eyes. His smile was even more dazzling than the bright moon in the sky.
After watching the back view of the handsome Zhu Junyang leave, Yu Xiaocao turned around and met the playful eyes of Lady Fang. She was slightly embarrassed as she said, “Godmother, why did you come out?”
“Well, isn’t it because of your younger brother? When he heard from the maid that his older sister had come back, he was too impatient to wait and pestered me about coming out to welcome his older sister. Who knew that we’ll see the scene ‘Eighteen Li to Send-off’  . Ay, a grown girl can’t be kept at home. If we try to make her stay, we’ll become enemies ah!” Lady Fang sighed.
“Godmother…who teases their own daughter like you?” Yu Xiaocao protested with a flushed face. She picked up Little Linlin, who had rushed over, and walked to the inner courtyard without looking back.
The mother and daughter chatted for a while, and then went to rest in their respective rooms. When Royal Prince Yang returned to the Prince Jing’s Estate, he was called over by his lady mother.
“I heard that you came back last night, and then went out early in the morning. Did you go see the lass, Xiaocao?” She had worked hard to raise this son of hers for twenty years, but as his mother, she wasn’t even as important as a little lass in his heart. Princess Consort Jing’s heart was like an unripe plum—extremely sour.
Zhu Junyang sensed his mother’s thoughts, so he quickly explained, “This morning, Lu Hao came to find me and said that he wanted to go on an outing in the suburbs. I didn’t expect to meet Xiaocao and her friends at Sanli Pavilion outside the city. Thus, we went to the Imperial Plantation together. Lady Mother, Son had gone out to play and made Mother worry about me.”
“Humph, lip service! Didn’t you just go meet your little lover? You must have had fun with Xiaocao today, right?” Princess Consort Jing also knew that he had gone out with Lu Hao. Since he was a child, her son didn’t have many close friends. Lu Hao was one of them. Recently, her son had been busy with work and wasn’t often in the capital. It was understandable that he wanted to relax when he returned. Besides, Xiaocao was a daughter-in-law who she liked. So why was she being so unreasonable?
“Lady Mother, Xiaocao knows that you like to eat plums, so she specially picked several early-ripening plums. Do you want to have a taste?” Zhu Junyang was relieved to see that his lady mother wasn’t targeting Xiaocao. Since ancient times, the most difficult thing to deal with was the relationship between mother-in-law and daughter-in-law. Fortunately, his lady mother had a rather close relationship with Xiaocao. In the future, when the lass married him, there wouldn’t be that many problems. How could he bear to let his little lass suffer grievance?
“Plum? Isn’t there at least half a month more before they ripen?” When Princess Consort Jing was in poor health, she had a poor appetite and her digestive system wasn’t very good. Imperial Prince Jing had heard that plums could promote peristalsis and improve one’s appetite, so he searched for different types of plums. Since then, Princess Consort Jing had also fallen in love with fruits that had a sweet and sour taste.
Zhu Junyang explained, “The fruits facing the sun are exposed to more sunlight, so they ripen earlier. Why don’t you have a taste?”
He opened the small basket that he was holding and removed the cover inside, revealing the dark purple colored fruit inside. The plump and dainty plums exuded a faint fragrance, and one couldn’t help but like them with one glance.
Princess Consort Jing picked up one and put it in her mouth. When she took a small bite, the purplish-red juice flowed into her mouth along her lips, and a sweet taste seeped into her heart. She swallowed the bite of plum in her mouth and said with satisfaction, “I didn’t expect that Xiaocao could grow fruit trees so well. This plum is twice as big as the lemon plums that I used to eat. It’s also much sweeter and doesn’t have an acrid taste. It’s the first time that Lady Mother has eaten such a delicious plum.”
“Son also brought back white peaches, honey peaches, yellow peaches, and blood peaches. Xiaocao personally picked them for you. They’re very fresh!” Zhu Junyang constantly tried to help the lass Xiaocao leave a good impression in front of Princess Consort Jing.
Princess Consort Jing didn’t eat a lot for dinner. She ate two plums and a peach before she was advised to stop by her son. The mother and son chatted for a while, and then Princess Consort Jing suddenly thought of something and said, “That’s right, in the evening, I received news that your aunt’s family arrived in the capital today. They will rest tomorrow, and then come visit us the day after. I heard your aunt’s daughter, Ling’er, looks like a little fairy. When that lass was a child, she was very pretty and lovely. Before she left the capital, you really liked playing with her. You often made her cry and didn’t know how to act more tenderly towards girls. Are you free the day after tomorrow? Let’s meet your aunt and your little green plum  together.”
“Tomorrow, I need to go report my work. I don’t know if the emperor has any other arrangements. So let’s talk about it the day after tomorrow!” Zhu Junyang didn’t like the three words ‘little green plum’, so he automatically ignored it.
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