Xue Yao restrained his emotions by using the method of “evenly distributing the rain and dew.”
Instead of catering separately to the Seventh Prince, he intended to equally share the food he obtained through Whitewashing Points among the three little cubs at the school.
Last night, he exchanged for a large 3kg bag of cow milk candy at the Foodmart.
He carefully unwrapped six pieces, re-packaged them in oiled paper to create his unique homemade treats, and brought them to the school.
Xue Yao used to think that the princes couldn’t eat food with unknown origins. However, during his time at the school, he noticed that other readers-in-waiting occasionally took out various snacks wrapped in oil paper to appease their young lords.
Feeding the princes carried a certain risk of responsibility. If they got an upset stomach, the consequences could be significant.
Xue Yao looked at the ingredients of the milk candy, which were all natural. He tasted one himself and found that it was not too sweet and had a rich milky flavor. He thought Seventh Prince would like it.
Ultimately, he still had a personal bias. He exchanged this food based on the Seventh Prince’s taste.
After the midday rest, the little princes began their activities once again.
The unpleasant memory of the encounter with the Third Prince at the cuju field had temporarily dampened the enthusiasm for cuju among the three little fellows, so they decided to play a different game.
They engaged in a military and combat exercise.
This was also a game devised by the Fifth Prince.
They divided the servants into two groups of soldiers, with one group portraying pursuers.
The other group followed the little princes in a simulated retreat, preparing for a surprise counterattack.
So, a group of palace maids and eunuchs dashed after the Fifth Prince, sprinting through the school’s back garden, circling around the artificial hill and pond, lap after lap.
The vigorous play left Xue Yao’s chubby ward exhausted, unable to discern where they were and what time it was.
The Fifth Prince became more engrossed in the game, eventually climbing a wider artificial hill within the flower garden, raising his arms and shouting, “Hurry up the hill! We’ll ambush at the mountaintop, and when the enemy troops pass through here, we’ll catch them off guard from the flank!”
“Certainly!” The Sixth Prince, his hair damp with sweat from the running, still eager to please his big brother, followed him up the artificial hill.
However, being young and lacking strength, his arms couldn’t support his body’s weight, preventing him from climbing up.
Fortunately, in their company was a tall reader-in-waiting of fourteen who half-dragged and half-pulled the Sixth Prince up the artificial hill.
So, at the base of the hill, there remained the three-year-old Seventh Prince and his eight-year-old reader-in-waiting, Xue Yao.
The two of them exchanged a silent, despairing glance, both seeing the hopelessness in each other’s eyes.
Xue Yao felt desperate about the solid ward’s weight.
He feared he might not be able to pull His Highness up the hill.
The Seventh Prince had no inclination to ascend the hill whatsoever.
“Hurry up and come here!” called the Fifth Prince from the hilltop with enthusiasm.
Left with no other option, Xue Yao gritted his teeth and climbed the first stone on the hill, then turned and extended his hand to the Seventh Prince.
The expression on the Seventh Prince’s chubby face transitioned from despair to resignation, but he still “cooperated,” placing his chubby hand in Xue Yao’s palm, but not budging.
The palace maids and eunuchs were about to step forward to lift the Seventh Prince onto the stones but were shouted back by the Fifth Prince.
“You all, be careful on the side, and let him train to climb on his own!” urged the Fifth Prince with a lowered voice, “Climb with all your might, Old Seventh!”
The Seventh Prince lifted his little short legs, but he couldn’t reach the slope of the stone. He squatted down, gathering his strength, preparing to leap onto the stone.
Xue Yao’s eyes lit up.
Here it comes. The Long Aotian cub is finally about to showcase his acrobatic talents!
The Seventh Prince didn’t disappoint. He kicked his legs and leaped.
An electrifying bounce.
He was two centimeters above the ground!
Then, he descended back to the ground.
Xue Yao, who could no longer hold out hope for this Long Aotian cub, turned to the Fifth Prince and suggested, “Let’s wait until His Highness is a bit older to continue practicing climbing.”
The Fifth Prince had no choice but to agree.
However, he believed that the combat exercise should rely as little as possible on external assistance. So, he still didn’t permit attendants to carry Old Seventh up the hill. After some thought, he ordered the Seventh Prince, “Seventh Brother, take your troops and go lure the enemy forces to pass through this area. We’ll launch a surprise attack from the flank and join you later!”
The Seventh Prince’s troop only consisted of Xue Yao. Xue Yao resignedly hopped down from the stones and asked the Fifth Prince, “How should we lure the enemy?”
“Just intentionally flee in front of the enemy lines.” The Fifth Prince surveyed the surroundings and ordered, “Seventh Brother, A’Yao, you go run twenty laps around the pond over there to draw the enemy’s pursuit.”
Twen… twenty laps?
Xue Yao hadn’t grasped it yet…
Suddenly, the Seventh Prince raised three chubby little fingers. “Your Highness can only c-count to three…”
Apparently, the prospect of twenty laps had startled the Seventh Prince. He stammered in his anxiety, willing to compromise his intelligence to run fewer laps, telling his big brother that he had just started learning to count and could only reach three.
He couldn’t run twenty laps! His Highness could run a maximum of three!
The Fifth Prince nodded. “That’s alright, let A’Yao count the laps for you.”
Xue Yao had barely recovered from the shocking news of running twenty laps when the chubby cub beside him suddenly lifted his leg and flew towards the artificial hill!
Nobody in the entire group of attendants and princes had regained their senses when the Seventh Prince silently leaped, his small hands barely catching the edge of the hill, effortlessly lifting his chubby body and flipping onto the first rock!
Astonishingly, the Seventh Prince climbed onto a large rock as tall as himself!
Xue Yao’s wide eyes were filled with amazement!
This chubby cub could actually climb up!
Just a moment ago, pretending to be helpless, the Seventh Prince didn’t want to climb the hill to avoid exertion, but the Fifth Prince’s “twenty laps” forced him to reveal his true abilities.
Indeed, almost forgotten, Prince Ning was a master of playing possum.
It might have been that he was too lazy to engage in the competition. Those with communication disorder had a low sensitivity to honor and didn’t enjoy socializing.
Throughout his entire youth, the Seventh Prince had been like a docile chonky cat, lurking in the palace. Only occasionally, when pushed to a dead end by the Third Prince, would he step up and be forced to show off.
It was only in this moment that Xue Yao was certain Consort Xi hadn’t secretly swapped children.
This chubby cub was definitely the real deal.
This thought made Xue Yao’s gaze upon the Seventh Prince take on a hint of admiration.
The Seventh Prince turned his chubby face and told Xue Yao, who was standing under the stone, “Lure the enemy, Yaoyao.”
Xue Yao’s admiring gaze instantly turned into resentment.
Making him run twenty laps all by himself!
Is there no loyalty or conscience left?
The remaining two cartons of Want Want milk, I’ll share them with your two big brothers!
Luckily, the “twenty laps” was just a casual remark from the Fifth Prince. Xue Yao ran around the pond once and a half, with the attendants trailing behind him as they passed the artificial hill. The Fifth Prince immediately led his younger brothers down the hill to launch a counterattack.
After the exercise, Xue Yao took out the prepared cow milk candies and divided it among the three little princes, giving each two pieces, claiming it was a special homemade treat from his hometown.
The Fifth Prince wasn’t fond of sweets and originally intended to give them to his younger brothers. However, seeing the anticipation in Xue Yao’s expression, he decided to take a piece and try it himself.
With a single bite, the rich, creamy texture filled his mouth, a mix of milky sweetness intertwined with a refreshing fruity sweetness, not overly sugary.
The milk candy melted in the warmth of his mouth, becoming even softer, requiring minimal chewing as it gradually dissolved.
“This flavor is quite unique!” exclaimed the Fifth Prince as he examined another piece of the pastry. “It’s much better than the palace’s cow milk candy. If your relatives from your hometown open a shop in the capital, the palace could consider long-term procurement from them.”
Xue Yao smiled. “The ingredients for this pastry are not costly, but the craftsmanship is intricate, making it challenging to mass-produce. We only bring some occasionally to the capital for our own enjoyment. It’s not really suitable for commercial production.”
“That’s a pity.” The Fifth Prince observed the special pastry with bright eyes.
“Very delicious,” the Sixth Prince said as he savored the pastry, flashing a sweet smile at Xue Yao.
The Seventh Prince had already finished the two pieces of milk candy he received. Now he stared blankly at Xue Yao, his chubby face expressing the words “Is there no more?”
Upon seeing this, the Fifth Prince and the Sixth Prince both offered their remaining piece of candy to the Seventh Prince. “Does Old Seventh want to eat more?”
Xue Yao: “……”
It seemed these two big brothers were truly exceptional in doting on their youngest sibling. They were even willing to share this unfamiliar delicacy.
If only he had such affectionate siblings.
The afternoon sun bathed the children in its warmth.
The Fifth Prince sat high on a rock of the artificial hill, his face bearing a hint of future determination and valor, despite the youthful exuberance.
The Sixth Prince offered his milk candy with a gentle smile, displaying the grace and charm of a future renowned gentleman, which seemed to emanate naturally from his small stature, charming everyone unconsciously.
The Seventh Prince ate his milk candies seriously.
A quiet competent worker, that was the correct description for Prince Ning.
Xue Yao watched the three children and found himself smiling unintentionally.
He truly wished that the future conflicts would never touch these three little chicks.
Xue Yao even considered spreading his wings to protect the warmth of this young group of children in this moment.
After school, Xue Yao once again accompanied the Seventh Prince to Qingqiong Hall to request an audience with Consort Xi.
This time, Consort Xi did not refuse the meeting. Like before, he was summoned for an evening meal.
However, when Xue Yao saw Consort Xi step into the reception hall, his face paled.
It was quite apparent that Consort Xi’s mood was off.
She entered the room with a cold, indifferent demeanor, said a dispassionate “No need for excessive courtesy,” and coldly motioned for Xue Yao to take a seat.
Xue Yao had considered the possibility of having offended Consort Xi, but he hadn’t expected it to be this serious.
What could it be that had upset her so?
Could Consort Xi have found out about his discreet milk feeding of the Seventh Prince at the school?
Even so, it shouldn’t warrant such anger. A gentle reminder from the Seventh Prince’s attendant would have sufficed.
Why was she so indifferent to this extent?
The Seventh Prince, unaware of the anomaly, followed Xue Yao’s instructions and began to perform. He said to Consort Xi, “Your child will tell a story for Your Highness!”
Consort Xi was taken aback by these words and looked at her son in surprise.
This little one had never spoken to her like a normal child before.
“What story?” Consort Xi couldn’t help but reveal an expectant expression.
“Nezha Conquers the Sea,” the Seventh Prince responded fluently based on the script prearranged by Xue Yao, “It’s your child’s favorite story. May Mother Consort likes it too.”
Consort Xi became so excited that her peach blossom eyes turned slightly red as she trembled. “Good… good, Mother will listen to you.”
Xue Yao breathed a slight sigh of relief.
The Seventh Prince’s current character hadn’t been completely corrected yet. Xue Yao had anticipated this conversation and considered it a performance to cheer Consort Xi up.
He had previously promised Consort Xi that he would make the Seventh Prince into a normal child.
His early efforts to deceive Consort Xi were intended to demonstrate his reliability so that Consort Xi would heed his advice and refuse the Emperor’s invitation to the imperial tour.
This was quite challenging for an imperial concubine.
The Emperor’s favor was a rare and coveted privilege, and no concubine would willingly refuse such a unique favor. Offending the Emperor was like rejecting his favor.
After the Seventh Prince finished telling the story, Consort Xi was elated.
Xue Yao discussed the recent guidance and correction process for the Seventh Prince. Consort Xi’s attitude did indeed soften somewhat, but the look in her eyes seemed to contain both wariness and disappointment.
Xue Yao couldn’t fathom why, but he didn’t have the luxury to dwell on it. Following the pre-arranged plan, he found an opportunity to ask, “Will Your Highness also accompany the Emperor on the tour to Bashu?”
Consort Xi’s eyes filled with suspicion. “The Emperor is going on a tour to Bashu? Who told you that?”
“It was mentioned during a meal my uncle and my father had.” Xue Yao feigned innocence and smiled. “I also want to visit Bashu, but my uncle said I would be willingly falling into a net if I go with Your Highness. Your Highness, what is ‘willingly falling into a net’? Is there a place in Bashu called ‘net’?”
Consort Xi’s expression showed surprise.
Her alert and beautiful eyes fixed on Xue Yao. After a long pause, she regained her composure and asked in a low voice, “Your uncle meant to say that if I accompany His Majesty to Bashu, it’s like willingly walking into a trap. Why is that?”
Xue Yao shrugged, indicating he didn’t know.
A moment of silence followed.
Consort Xi’s gaze suddenly turned sharp. “Very well, it seems the harem is indeed full of talents. Even a child possesses such cunning.”
Xue Yao was startled, but he still managed to feign an innocent expression. “Cunning?”
Consort Xi coldly laughed. “You don’t have to pretend. Just tell me, has the Empress received news that His Majesty intends to go on an excursion? Did the Empress instruct you to threaten me, to dissuade me from accompanying him on the journey? Well, go back and tell her that I’ve decided to go!”
Xue Yao was suddenly dumbfounded.
What was Consort Xi talking about?
How could the Empress have assigned him a task? He hadn’t even met the Eldest Prince.
“Your Highness?” Xue Yao stood up anxiously. “I don’t understand what you’re saying. Have I made a mistake that angered you?”
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