Chapter 573 - Bait

The herd of horses bunched together and took off like the wind. Their long manes and tails billowed in the wind and they galloped off, one after another, sweeping off into the distance. They moved as one large group as they fled quickly. It was a moving sight that was both powerful and beautiful at the same time and also incredibly majestic.

The flawlessly white head horse stampeded off with its long hair flying gloriously in the air. It made a magnificent figure as it arced through the air like a homing pigeon and gracefully swept away like a petrel. It easily took the lead position of the herd as the group thundered away on the grassy valley.

“Zhu Junyang, you scared off all of the horses!!” Yu Xiaocao pouted and angrily glared at the offender as she cried out indignantly. 

Zhu Junyang stretched out a long arm and brought the little lass, who was full of anger, from Little Red to ride in front of him. They headed in the direction where the horses fled as he laughed, “Little lass, do you truly believe that we would easily be able to capture that head stallion today?”

“Why wouldn’t we be able to?” Yu Xiaocao rubbed at the sugar lumps in her embroidered pouch. She had her golden finger ah! She was quite sure that the horse wouldn’t be able to resist taking the bait. Even if the head stallion was smart enough to resist the lure, that didn’t mean the other wild horses in the herd would be able to.

Zhu Junyang pinched her small nose and chuckled, “For something like this, shouldn’t we go back and discuss it first? After all, taming and capturing a wild horse isn’t something that happens in a day. You need to give me some time to prepare…”

Yu Xiaocao silently digested his words. She realized that he was afraid that other people would start suspecting her if this had happened and felt a bit ashamed. Now that she thought more about this, she had been quite lucky these past few years. She hadn’t encountered any people who noticed anything and tried to investigate more into her. Otherwise, she wasn’t sure that she’d be able to keep her secret for this long.  

In the last two years, she hadn’t needed to keep a low profile. With the emperor in front and Zhu Junyang behind keeping her safe, she had become more and more blatant in her usage of her golden finger. Perhaps, during a time when she was unaware, trouble had already come knocking but had been pushed or scared away by a certain someone! After all, Royal Prince Yang’s prestige and reputation were quite effective in the capital!

“Alright then! You can go back and think of a good idea while I come up with a few different types of bait to see if we can lure that white horse over. When the moment comes, I’m sure the trap we set will be impossible for it to come out of!” As she spoke, the little lass became excited and exhilarated again. Her intuition told her that the white stallion was absolutely a superior quality animal, on par with Fierce Wind. The stud farm required such a good specimen!

The two of them galloped in the front while Little Red easily kept up with them from behind. Before long, they arrived at a set of buildings on the stud farm. These buildings had a special little courtyard built into it that had been prepared to allow them a place to rest. Although it was a simple dwelling, it was quite clean and comfy. The rooms even had a bunch of kang beds in them, and, in the winter, they would definitely keep the dwelling warm and give it a sense of home.

The hundred or so soldiers from the firearms camps that Zhu Junyang brought along had already been situated in the barracks in the back. Head Steward Liu and Hou Xiaoliang had already gone into the small courtyard residence and ordered the servants there to stow away their luggage and do some cleaning. Yu Xiaocao’s four personal maidservants were currently busying away in making the meal.  

“Young Miss, you’ve come back? There was a little horse outside that was hanging around for a long time and had just been led away by one of the trainers here. The little horse doesn’t seem to be afraid of people and it kept trying to stick its face into this servant’s pouch ah! How did it know that this servant keeps snacks in my pouch?”

As soon as Yingchun saw that her mistress had come back, she came forward and chattered away in welcome. Every time she came out with the young miss, she was always able to encounter interesting and novel things. Thus, whenever there was a trip to be had, she was always very energetic and diligent as she was afraid of being left behind. Wutong, on the other hand, carefully glanced at her young miss and discovered that nothing seemed to be amiss. Only then did she let out a quiet sigh in relief.

However, how could her tiny movement escape Zhu Junyang’s keen senses? He raised his eyebrows——his little lass’s maids were getting harder and harder to fool as time went on! However, he was confident in his ability to steal a few affections here and there away from these guardian devils.

“A little horse?” Yu Xiaocao couldn’t help but laugh as she asked, “Was it a black little horse? Not very tall but seems very smart ah?”

“That’s right ah! Young Miss, you’ve also encountered this horse before?” Yingchun looked behind Xiaocao and saw a red horse that she hadn’t seen for some time. She smiled, “Little Red? It’s been a long time! Young Miss, will Little Red be able to come back with us this time?”

Little Red also perked up her ears as if she was very interested in this topic. Although the lands here were full of lush, green grass and she could gallop to her heart's content, she still preferred to stay by her master’s side. Her master always gave her delicious foods to eat every day, not like these people, who only gave that little black thing preferential treatment. If she wanted to eat something good, she even needed to steal from him. Such a downgrade!

Yu Xiaocao stroked Little Red’s neck and fed her a soothing pill as she said, “Mhm, when we go back, Little Red will naturally come with us! The little horse you saw earlier is Little Red’s son. Isn’t he quite handsome ah?”

She had a proud and happy expression on her face. Little Red had been raised by her since she was young. If in her past life she had taken her pets to be her sons, then Little Red was her daughter now. Thus, her daughter’s son was her grandson ah! Although she was a bit young to become a grandmother, she was still quite proud of the fact that her grandson was so handsome and lively!

“Little Red’s son ah! Aiya, if I had known earlier, I wouldn't have let that horse trainer take him away. Wasn’t all of the horse fodder we brought along for his sake ah?” Yingchun exclaimed in exasperation and was a bit regretful that she hadn’t spent more time with the little fellow.

“Young Miss, does Little Red’s son have a name yet? Will he also be coming back with us to the capital?” Yingchun helped her master to wash up while she chirped away incessantly like a skylark.

“The little fellow looks like Fierce Wind and is black from head to toe. I think the name ‘Black Whirlwind’ will fit him quite well! What do you think?” As the ‘grandmother’ in this relationship, choosing a name for the horse was naturally her duty.

Zhu Junyang, whose opinion had just been asked, had always thought that her naming conventions for things were quite dull. She gave names like ‘Little Red’, ‘Little Black’, and ‘Little White’...in the future, this little colt was destined to become one of the best horses in the empire. He was truly afraid that, in a moment of hot-headedness, she would also give him a ‘simple and common’ name to this horse.

As soon as he heard ‘Black Whirlwind’ being proposed as a name, he immediately nodded his head in agreement. Out of all of the names that the little lass had come up with, this had to be the best one yet! However, he would have never expected that the lass had gotten this name by purloining it from someone’s book [1] !

“Mhm, this name is very suitable and quite fitting!” Zhu Junyang gave his evaluation.

The little lass huffed arrogantly and said, “Obviously. When have I ever chosen a name that’s not fitting?”

Zhu Junyang glanced in the direction of Little Red and stated, “Eh? Is that so ah?”

Yu Xiaocao immediately scowled and glared at him angrily. She used her foot to kick at a certain someone’s ankle and then huffily left to go eat. Earlier, when they were galloping their horses on the plain, she had lost track of time accidentally. By the time they got back, it was mid-afternoon and her stomach was rumbling in hunger. On the way back, she had even secretly eaten a piece of rock candy from the pouch she used to feed the horses. This maltose candy was actually made by her and she used malt and mystic-stone water as the raw ingredients. Naturally, it was very tasty!

“Master, what do you plan on doing with the three people in the guest courtyard?” After they finished eating their late noon meal, Commander Liu seriously asked Zhu Junyang for his opinion.

Zhu Junyang raised his eyes and looked at him while he blandly asked, “What is it? Something is off?”

Commander Liu had a slightly angry expression on his face as he growled out, “Master, you told me to carefully observe these three people, so I sent Li Zhan, who is good at disguising himself and making discreet inquiries, to keep an eye on them. I didn’t expect to find out that those three people aren’t actually citizens of the Great Ming Empire and instead are from the Tuha’erhanbu tribe! The other two call the one who looks like the master ‘Great King’. The other two are named Ajige and Dela Citeng, and they seem to be his trusted aides. Master, for these three people to enter our Central Plains, they must have ulterior motives! In addition, it must not be for a small reason!! This subordinate asks permission to bring a few people over so we can take them for prisoners!”  

Tuha’erhanbu tribe’s Great King Yelu Rong? The rulers of the Khitan tribes always had the surname of ‘Xiao’. Since he had introduced himself as ‘Xiao Rong’, it meant that he wasn’t trying to deceive them. As for Ajige and Dela Citeng, one of them was the current Wise Teacher of the State while the other was a famous general who was well known to be good at fighting. With them here, that basically made it obvious what Yelu Rong’s identity was!

Although the Tuha’erhanbu tribe was a more subdued tribe, Zhu Junyang still knew them like the back of his own hand as he had once led troops as a high-ranking military official. There were only two reasons why the Great King of the Tuha’erhanbu tribe would sneak into their borders, which was a very dangerous thing for him to do. He was either pretending to be injured in order to get closer to his objective, or they had an internal incident in the tribe, leading him to secretly flee into the Great Ming borders.

When they had encountered these three men, if he, Zhu Junyang, hadn’t lifted a hand to help them, it was likely those three would be dead now. As the Great King, Yelu Rong absolutely wouldn’t risk his own life to that extent in order to finish a mission. Thus, it was very likely that there was internal strife in his own tribe!

“No need to hurry! Commander Liu, take a few people to secretly leave the border and make some inquiries on what is happening with that tribe. If it truly is what this prince suspects, then the Tuha’erhanbu tribe will soon make their own moves next!” Zhu Junyang smiled craftily like a fox, which made chills run down Commander Liu’s body.

Like that, Xiao Rong and his two advisors were left by themselves in the guest courtyard. Every day, the guest courtyard was always sent delicious foods and drinks for them to enjoy. Furthermore, they even had a highly skilled doctor tending to their wounds. The servants in the courtyard were also extremely polite and treated them with utmost courtesy. Xiao Rong had already come up with the idea to become allies with the Great Ming. The only thing he was missing was the chance to broadcast his good will to Zhu Junyang. However, by the time their wounds were completely healed, he still hadn't had the opportunity to meet up with the prince.

Every time they asked the servants in the guest courtyard about their master’s whereabouts, the servants always said the same excuse, ‘The master is currently trapping a wild horse herd for the farm,’ to diplomatically hint that their master was too busy to see them.

In actuality, this wasn’t a complete lie. Zhu Junyang had been spending most of his days with his subordinates coming up with a special method to catch these wild horses. Furthermore, they had come up with a perfect strategy. Naturally, this strategy relied heavily on Xiaocao’s special ‘bait’.

The so-called ‘bait’ was merely a cake that was made with a special oat and bean mixture that had some mystic-stone water added to it. In order to fool other people, Xiaocao also especially added a few uncommon herbs to this ‘bait’. Furthermore, her finished ‘bait’ was tested on the horses at the stud farm.


[1] Black Whirlwind is the nickname of Li Kui, a character in Water Margin, as he has dark skin and berserk behaviour in fights. 

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Myst.2's Thoughts

Sanguine’s thoughts: Wonder what’s going on with Yelu Rong...

Translator: Sanguine