Chapter 23 Blood-like Sunset Part 3
The group of children continued to constantly yell over each other. They all argued over Helian Rongchuan and Yan Changqing trying to decide who was more powerful. Even though Yan Changqing kept a straight face, he didn’t have the heart to break away from the chubby little paws that were tightly clasping his legs. He couldn’t leave but he didn’t want to stay. It made things a bit difficult.
Helian Rongchuan was about to say, “Okay, it’s time for you guys to disperse” to relieve him, but he heard a milky, childish voice suddenly pop out from the group of the chirping little dumplings: “Oh! How about we have these two immortal elder brothers help us get the elm money.”
When these children heard that, they exploded and excitedly shook the arms of Yan Changqing and Helian Rongchuan. They raised their heads one by one, and said eagerly: ” Big brother, help us!”
“Big brother is the most powerful, so he must be able to pick a lot!”
“Big brother is the best!”
Helen Rongchuan hugged the little one hanging by his thigh, the most violent chubby little girl, and rubbed her head with a big hand. He said, “I can help you, but this big brother has injuries on his body. Can you let him go?”
The little chubby girl looked at him with interest. Children don’t know how to read faces. She was a bit reluctant to let go of this very powerful-looking older brother. She pouted and said pitifully,
“Oh, then… let this older brother accompany us to pick up the elm money below. Okay?”
Helian Rongchuan smiled and hugged the little chubby girl, and said to Yan Changqing: “Is this big brother willing?”
Yan Changqing: “…”
Helian Rongchuan raised the corners of his mouth and gave a light jump and landed on the big elm tree. He shouted downwards: “Children, come pick the elm money.”
After an incense’s time, the noise under the big elm tree gradually stopped. Every child’s small bamboo basket was stuffed with bright yellow and green elm money. Yan Changqing bent down, picked up the last bunch of elm money and put it into the little chubby girl’s small bamboo basket, dusted off his hands, and was about to leave, but was stopped by the crying village woman.
This village woman was the mother of Ah Mao and that little chubby girl. She also slung a large basket on her arm that was covered with a blue floral cloth. The exposed corner revealed a pile of tender yellow elm money. She rubbed her hands with embarrassment and blushed earnestly.:
“The two nobles saved my Ah Mao’s life. I am uncouth and I don’t know how to thank you. Why don’t you two come to my house for lunch as a thank you?”
Before Yan Changqing could say “no need”, he was hugged by Ah Mao and the chubby girl. The larger one hung onto his arm, while the smaller one hugged his leg. The two had very similar blushing little faces that looked up imploringly at him. Helian Rongchuan had never seen Yan Changqing so helplessly entangled by little dolls. Clutching his stomach, he laughed:
“I didn’t know that Master Yan would be so popular with the little dolls. Hahaha, I think if you don’t agree, this little one will not let go.”
Before the village woman’s enthusiastic invitation, and the two chubby dolls’ forceful act of coquettishness, Yan Changqing was dragged into the farmhouse of Ah Mao’s family.
Although it was a hut built with thatch and bamboo mixed with mud and stone, the room was quite clean. The floor was swept with a broom, and there were still thin broom marks. The little chubby girl sat down beside Yan Changqing, seemingly afraid of Yan Changqing’s cold face, but she kept peeking at him not so subtly.
Helian Rongchuan liked this clever little girl very much. He hugged her and said, “Hey, chubby girl, what are you looking at?”
The little chubby girl was only three or four years old. Asked this, she was a little shy and lowered her head. She pointed her little finger at Yan Changqing, and said with a grin in her voice: “I’m looking at that big brother.”
“Aren’t I your big brother, why don’t you look at me?” Helian Rongchuan grabbed the little chubby girl’s tender little face and asked casually, while his eyes looked over at Yan Changqing, who was sitting coldly by the side and drinking tea.
The little chubby girl was frightened by Helian Rongchuan’s deliberate frown of pretending to be offended. Tears burst into her eyes and her small mouth flattened honestly. She said, “Because that big brother looks handsome.”
Helian Rongchuan’s hands lightly pinched the chubby girl by the cheeks, teasing her: “So I don’t look handsome?”
The little chubby girl glanced at Helian Rongchuan with tears in her eyes.
In fact, Helian Rongchuan did look very handsome. With a straight brow bone, a straight nose, and healthy wheat-coloured skin, whether from profile or front, his facial contours were deep and beautiful. There was even a little wild and unruly side to him that had a very masculine charm. It’s just that this kind of look was not appreciated by a three or four-year-old female doll, especially on Helian Rongchuan who was painfully pinching her face. Thus, in the heart of the little chubby girl, Helian Rongchuan’s image had dropped a bit.
In the eyes of this babe, it was Yan Changqing’s handsome, youthful face that made it easier to get drawn in.
Although that face was cold now and seemed a little unhappy, when she was picking up the elm money, this elder brother was still very gentle to her.
So the little chubby girl sucked back the nasty mucus plugging up her nose, then while crying loudly announced to Helian Rongchuan: “Huh, you are a big ugly monster. That elder brother is a beautiful fairy!”
Yan Changqing made a choking noise and put down his tea cup with a calm expression.
Ah Mao’s Mother on the other side had already prepared the food. As soon as the bamboo steamer was opened, there were four large bowls of steamed elm money wrapped in cornmeal and flour. The emerald green shallots and garlic on the side of the table were freshly picked from the vegetable garden. She neatly washed these ingredients with spring water, chopped them up, and mixed them with vinegar and her own freshly ground sesame oil. A fresh, spicy, hot smell wafted out.
Helian Rongchuan looked off to the side. There seemed to be waves floating in his dark brown eyes. He rubbed the corners of his eyes, and saw that Ah Mao had already placed a large bowl of steamed elm money in front of Yan Changqing as if offering a treasure and said, “Big brother, eat first!”
Helian Rongchuan curled his lips: “shameless.”
Ah Mao’s Mother had already brought a few more bowls over. She was a little embarrassed: “There is nothing to entertain the guests with at home, only the freshly picked elm money.” Seeing Yan Changqing not moving his chopsticks, her face turned redder and her voice became quieter: “This benefactor, do you not like …”
Yan Changqing picked up the chopsticks, nodded politely and smiled: “How can I dislike it? I have never seen food like this. I was just a little curious.”
His smile made Ah Mao’s Mother’s face turn inexplicably red. She said: “Benefactor looks like a high-ranking official. Of course, he never would have seen the food of our poor family. But this steaming elm money is my best dish. People who have eaten it say it is more delicious than fish and meat!”
Helian Rongchuan said while eating it with relish, “That is not an exaggeration. I have searched through many cooks, but no one else seems to know how to make this dish.”
Ah Mao’s mother’s eyes lit up: “Has this noble person eaten this kind of food before?”
Helian Rongchuan with his mouth full said vaguely: “When I was a child.”
Ah Mao’s Mother was inexplicably proud. She said: “That must be different from our Xixia Village. You humble noblemen may not know this, but this old elm tree in our village is full of blessings. After eating elm money from this tree one would achieve success!”
Helian Rongchuan raised his eyebrows slightly, and said: “And how would one achieve success?”
Ah Mao’s Mother pretended to lower her voice mysteriously, and said: “Benefactor might not know this, but thirteen years ago, our village had a seven or eight-year-old boy, just as big as my Ah Mao.”
Ah Mao’s Mother patted Ah Mao, who came to listen to the story with curiosity, and continued:
“That little boy was very miserable. He had no father and no mother and was extremely poor. He would run around on bare feet begging for food from different households. But the kid also had a backbone. Every spring when the elm money grew out, he would be too embarrassed to go freeload for food. So he would climb this old elm tree every day to pick elm money to eat. You have seen how big the old elm tree is and he would pick it bare every year. Can you guess what happened in the end?”
Helian Rongchuan smiled: “What? Is it possible that the elm tree turned into a monster and ate the kid? I can’t guess.”
Ah Mao’s Mother looked envious and said, “It was far more strange than that! One day, this little boy was picking elm money from the tree to eat, when suddenly, a large group of officials came by the village. Each one was dressed better than the other. Carrying sabres, they knelt at the elm tree and called out “Your Highness” to the little boy. It turned out that the little boy was actually the second prince of the DongYun Kingdom on the other side of the mountain! Won’t you call that a miracle? That sad little boy suddenly became a nobleman. It must be the old elm tree that looked at the child with pity and blessed him!”
The little chubby girl did not agree, and said with her cheeks full of food:
“That’s not necessarily true. Maybe the old elm tree felt embarrassed to see people after being picked bald every year, so he thought of a way to send the little boy away!”
Ah Mao for the first time did not bicker with his sister. He desperately put a big mouthful of steamed elm money in his mouth. His cheeks moved round and round like a hamster’s, and said vaguely: “Then I have to eat more, so I can become a prince overnight!”
Ah Mao’s Mother smiled and rubbed the heads of two little children: “Good, good, eat more. East family’s girl, West family’s doll, took back the elm money to their home. You eat one, I eat one, eat it in one’s belly and enter the royal family, enter the royal family!” (doesn’t sound as good but it’s basically a song to encourage them to eat more to enter royal family)
After dinner, the two warriors thanked the village woman for her kindness and walked out. After a short walk, they returned to the ground of the big elm tree. Yan Changqing glanced at Helian Rongchuan and stopped.
Helian Rongchuan: “I know what you want to ask.”
Yan Changqing looked at Helian Rongchuan quietly. He suddenly discovered that the reason why he couldn’t see through Helian Rongchuan, even when standing right in front of him, was because he had never understood him.
Whether it was as a friend or as an enemy.
“So you used to be a native of Yan Country?”
Helian Rongchuan said nonchalantly: “That’s right, but not anymore.”
He has a bad problem and couldn’t stand it seriously. He leaned lazily on the rough trunk of the big elm tree. He raised his chin, and said,
“What the village woman said just now was nothing more than a mysterious legend. I happen to know another version. Master Yan, would you like to hear it?”
The golden sunlight poured down from the green branches and leaves. Helian Rongchuan squinted his eyes and continued:
“For example, in those rumours, they won’t tell you why that boy suddenly became the prince of Dongyun.”
“In reality he was not blessed by the old elm tree. His mother was at the foot of the mountain one day and kindly saved a man who had been hunted down. Although she was not that good-looking, she had a very good heart. Not only did she use all her money to heal the man’s injury, but she also committed herself to him. She became pregnant with his child.”
“Unfortunately, after the man recovered, he disappeared. The woman knowing that the man was not an ordinary person, climbed over the high Xixia Mountain and came to Dongyun in search of him. Can you guess what happened? The woman stood at the gate of the palace of the white jade hall and the golden horse for a whole day and night, but she only received an indifferent eye-roll when he finally came out.”
“Only then did that woman find out that the man she loved with all her heart was actually Dongyun Kingdom’s crown prince. The crown prince had a castle full of wives and concubines and didn’t need her, a plain-looking village woman. The prince also had some gold and silver jewelry, but was not willing to gift it to his saviour or his unborn son.”
“So this bitter fated woman had to grit her teeth and return to this small village. Her tears had run dry, and the little boy was born too. They were just an orphan and a widow, unable to make ends meet. In order to survive, this woman thought of a wonderful idea.”
Helian Rongchuan paused, a faint smile on his lips: “Hasn’t Master Yan been looking for the temper snow stones that I robbed? It’s a coincidence but the survival plan that the woman thought of was closely related to the location of the twenty ships of temper snow stones.”