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The women who were in the middle of discussion stopped, and glanced at Xiao Hua who had her head lowered bashfully.
“You’re right, Miss Tao’s so good looking.”
Miss Tao was the best looking woman in their East Yuling alley. Her skin was fair and tender, her little face exquisite and her figure fine. Although she was a little widow, there were many young men in the alley who had surreptitiously made some inquiries. This was also why these women brought up the topic today; they had been asked by many people.
“I feel like scholar He is pretty good. He’s passed the imperial exam, you know?”
“Scholar He won’t do. He looks too delicate. His shoulders can’t carry anything and his hands can’t lift anything. The young man from the grocery store is pretty good.”
“I feel still feel butcher Zhang is alright. He’s got a nice property, and selling pork means he doesn’t lack for meat or money. There’s only him and his son at home, and no mother-in-law. The key is that butcher Zhang is very sturdy. Us women need a sturdy man to feel a sense of security.” It seemed like this young woman’s type was tall and sturdy men like butcher Zhang.
“Aiya, dear lady, you’re too lewd. Just because a man is sturdy doesn’t mean his good at “that”.”
Before the dear lady could respond, another young woman interrupted, “Right, right, right. You can’t just consider appearances. Only if his property, earning ability and what not is good would a woman live happily.”
“Oh? Seems like that husband of yours keeps you very satisfied.”
That woman spat back, “Tch, tch, tch, is yours back home not good? If he wasn’t, would you look like this?”
This bunch of young women all had sharp eyes. Those who lived good lives and were comfortable would have glowing looks, their faces flush and fair. In contrast, those with sallow faces and dispirited appearances were clearly not doing well at their husband’s place.
“He’s naturally good.”
“Mine back home isn’t good.” One of the young women interrupted weakly. “It’s not that he’s bad, it’s that his mom is too bothersome. She’d always be crouched outside our window eavesdropping, making us too scared to do anything. I feel like my man won’t be able to do it anymore at this rate.”
“Aiya, your mother-in-law’s bad habit hasn’t been corrected yet? Didn’t you say she corrected it after you went back to your mother’s place?”
“She stopped for a few days, but then reverted back to her old ways again.”
“This won’t do….”
The topic jumped from recommending marriage partners for Xiao Hua to scheming how to deal with that young woman’s perverted mother-in-law.
Xiao Hua was glad that they were no longer talking about her, but also almost choked on her spit at the “freshness” of their new topic.
Chun Cao who had been secretly listening on the side had run away in embarrassment. Ding Xiang was hanging the clothes out to dry, and her mouth was twitching as she listened.
It had to be said that there was a sense of liveliness surrounding these people. It seemed like this was truly living life.
Although they weren’t well off, each household had one husband and one wife. There were no concubines, no struggles and no dirty secrets. Ding Xiang, who had long since given up on ever marrying, suddenly felt that if she had a man who was so considerate, living such an average yet fulfilling life seemed to be pretty nice!
Although butcher Zhang looked thick and sturdy, he was actually quite meticulous.
Since his son had eaten at Miss Tao’s place several times, he would bring over a piece of meat every once in a while, saying it was to express his gratitude.
As a single man with a business, there were inevitably times when he couldn’t take care of his child. Sometimes his child eats a little at a family’s on the east side, then a little at a family’s on the west side, and then the day was over. Therefore, butcher Zhang often used his leftover meat for the day as a thank you gift to those families.
Butcher Zhang was sincere with his words, and would also say that not accepting the meat meant big fatty wouldn’t come eat in the future. Therefore, Xiao Hua could never avoid accepting it in the end. Actually butcher Zhang’s pork truly wasn’t that useful. Although Xiao Hua carefully planned out her spending, they still ate pretty well. After all, there were the two children to consider, so every meal would have some chicken, duck, meat or fish.
As the number of times increased, the people in the alley more or less noticed the developments. They inevitably made a few jokes every time they saw butcher Zhang, telling him to get a move on and get Miss Tao to marry in.
Zhao Da could no longer sit still at this point, and spun in panicked circles inside his residence.
Although the madam wouldn’t do so, how could this be allowed to go on? A loyal woman fears a persistent suitor. The madam was currently a widow after all!
In his haste, he immediately sent a letter over to the estate.
The letter described the situation extremely clearly, for example how many times this butcher Zhang sent meat over, how he used his son as an excuse to visit often, how many times that son of his said he wanted Xiao Hua to be his mom, and how the people in the alley acted as matchmakers for the madam….
He all but said if highness doesn’t think of something quick, the madam’s going to get married off.
The Jing Prince was currently overwhelmed with work, and had gone several days with only a couple hours of sleep. The Jin Prince’s movements were getting larger and larger, and the Jing Prince had sent almost all his spies on hand over before being able to get some clues.
On the surface, the Jin Province and Qi Province were trying to gather troops, but in reality they had already sent countless people to the capital, lying in wait. According to the Jing Prince’s intelligence, they were at least two thousand in number.
The intent behind such a large movement was self-evident.
Luckily one of his earliest planted moles was amongst the people being sent to the capital. Although he couldn’t give detailed information, he could at least provide a little bit.
Right after the Jing Prince finished dealing with everything and gave out his instructions, Zhao Da’s letter arrived.
Zhao Da sent a letter back to the estate once every two days. They mostly included what the madam was up to that day, and what the little young master and mistress was up to. There was usually more news about the children since Xiao Hua rarely went out.
Seeing this letter arrive, the Jing Prince’s mood improved. He was so busy that he didn’t have time to eat, and he was happiest whenever the letter from that side arrived. Eunuch Fu knew this, and immediately brought the letter over.
The Jing Prince opened it and started reading, and his expression darkened before he even finished the whole thing. It darkened extremely clearly, and contained the sort of anger felt when someone was stealing something belonging to him.
This sort of emotion was very foreign to the Jing Prince, and it was the first time he encountered this sort of situation.
Selling pork, a man selling pork wanted his woman. Don’t even think about it. Even wanting to be his children’s dad, this is truly too much to tolerate.
But the Jing Prince wasn’t an unreasonable person. After all, Xiao Hua had proclaimed herself a widow, which is what led to this situation. When Zhao Da reported the widow thing, the Jing Prince’s expression had been weird for several days. It was a sort of helpless yet tolerant expression.
He could endure being killed off, but someone wanting his widow to remarry couldn’t be endured. The Jing Prince stood up subconsciously and headed out the door, ordering Eunuch Chang to prepare horses for a journey.
Only after getting on his horse did the Jing Prince’s heated mind cool down.
What was he doing? Things were currently busy, and he couldn’t afford to be away. There might be news coming in any minute that needed his decisions…..
But he actually felt that this was pretty good, and didn’t think about stopping at all. These days he had almost gone insane due to missing her. He could only keep Zhao Da’s letters on his person, and read them over when he had free time.
Seeing her live as a commoner, seeing her do laundry and cook, seeing her pass her days happily, seeing her call herself a widow….
Did she want him to die that much? But he knew that she wasn’t like that. It was he who had made her ruthlessly angry.
He really wanted to see her quickly. Who knows if she would let him in the door….
“Big bro Zhang, I really can’t accept any more meat. You have a business and depend on this for your livelihood. You can’t gift it to me every day…..”
Butcher Zhang was very persistent. His usual attitude was persistent, even if he felt nervous in his heart.
“Miss Tao, I don’t have anything else I can thank you with. You guys also don’t have it easy, with only women taking care of two children. You also need to live, also need to eat. Our big fatty’s always eating at your place, and is almost accustomed to it by now. It’s fine if he just bummed a meal occasionally, but he’s doing it every day. Just count this as big fatty’s food expenses, count this as big bro Zhang being thick skinned….you should also know my situation back home. I don’t really have time to care for….”
Butcher Zhang was still trying to figure out how to convince Miss Tao when he realized she was completely frozen.
He followed her line of sight and saw an indescribable man dressed in black.
Why was he indescribable? It was because butcher Zhang wasn’t literate, and could only stare at this person who shouldn’t have appeared in the East Yuling alley. Why shouldn’t he have appeared here? It was just a sort of feeling.
Xiao Hua snapped out of it, and felt as if a weight was lifted off her mind. She also felt a sort of unspeakable resentment.
Why did you only show up now?
“This….” The Jing Prince paused, and really didn’t know how he should address the person. “May I ask if you have some business with my madam? Don’t you know that men and women shouldn’t get too close when giving and receiving something?1”
Butcher Zhang looked at Xiao Hua, and saw that she half lowered her head and didn’t deny it.
Thus, he forced himself to smile and say: “This….this young noble. Perhaps you’ve misunderstood. We’re all just neighbors, and since my kid is always an inconvenience here, I just wanted to express my gratitude.” Butcher Zhang weighed the pork in his hand and felt a sort of indescribable sense of inferiority in front of this person.
“Since Miss Tao isn’t willing to accept it, then I’ll take my leave first.”
After speaking, butcher Zhang left. His steps contained some panic as he fled.
Things grew quiet in front of the door. The Jing Prince saw that she wasn’t looking at him, and didn’t know what he should say.
She had gotten a little thinner, and was wearing a set of pale cotton clothing. There was a silver hairpin stuck in her hair. She was dressed plainly, yet he couldn’t get enough no matter how much he looked.
As he was dazed, he saw her walk back inside without speaking. The Jing Prince was a little frozen.
Did this imply she was ignoring him, or that she didn’t forgive him? Or perhaps it meant something else? The Jing Prince assumed that her telling everyone she was a widow was to make it easier to explain her identity, or perhaps it was because she was angry with him. Seeing her appear not to recognize him, the panic he felt when she first left returned.
It was silent in front of the door. He looked at the half open gate.
She didn’t close the gates. Did that mean she was letting him inside?
The Jing Prince had experienced many things for the first time with Xiao Hua. He could only rub his nose, firm up his face and walk into the small pavilion.
The moment he walked around the delicate screen wall, he heard his daughter’s continuous “clucking”. This was followed by the sight of his son and daughter, who were dressed in pale cotton clothing and happily chasing little chicks around in the courtyard. There were also two women on the side who were dressed equally plainly, a handkerchief wrapped around their heads. One was fetching water and one was washing vegetables. Both were smiling as they watched the children.
Ding Xiang and Chun Cao froze. They were just discussing how madam finally managed to refuse butcher Zhang’s meat. How did his highness end up coming in moments later?
They couldn’t quite react right away. Ding Xiang threw down the pail of water and Chun Cao tipped over the bucket of vegetables. The two of them wiped their hands on their aprons and hurriedly saluted.
“Gree, greetings….to your highness.” Having not had to salute for a long time, and in this sort of small pavilion dressed in these clothes, Ding Xiang and Chun Cao were both extremely awkward.
The two children noticed the commotion and looked over in curiosity.