The days went by quickly. Originally, she was planning on staying in Dongshan Village until the end of the second month, but her plans were very quickly changed. On the sixteenth of the first month, an unexpected guest arrived at Dongshan Village.
“Zhu Junyang, why are you here? You didn’t even let us know in advance and just suddenly appeared ah!” Yu Xiaocao had gone up to the mountain to set snares at dawn. When she got home, she saw that there were some new horses in front of the residence. After entering the room, she discovered that Zhu Junyang was there, sitting on the kang bed like he owned it. He was snacking on the nuts she had roasted before the end of the year. There was a small plate next to him that held a tiny pile of peeled walnuts.
Zhu Junyang raised an eyebrow at her as he cracked another walnut in his hand. He carefully picked up the meat inside and placed it into the small plate next to him. Only after he finished this did he say, “This prince only wanted to give you a nice surprise, ah? What? You don’t like me here? Is it because you have Older Brother Han to accompany you now so you’ve long forgotten this prince?”
The royal prince was already feeling a bit unhappy after hearing Little Shitou mention ‘Older Brother Han’ all the time. If he had known that there was a large wolf roaming around, he would long come back to accompany the little lass in visiting her parents, celebrate the New Years in Dongshan Village, and then go back to the capital together. The little lass had been back home for over a month now. Did that fellow take advantage of when he was not here to especially woo his lass?
“Oh ho! Just who tipped over a vinegar jar in this room? The sour scent of jealousy is so thick here!” Yu Xiaocao took off her silver fox fur cloak and Wutong easily took it from her and hung it on a pear wood clothes hanger.
When he saw how red Xiaocao’s face was from getting exposed to the cold, Zhu Junyang moved to allow her space on the warmest part of the kang bed for her. After Xiaocao took off her boots and sat down, he also transferred the small quilt on his legs to cover her legs and feet. Then, he pointed at the walnuts that he had already peeled and stated in a voice held both amusement and grievance, “You truly have no conscience. Did you have so much fun at Dongshan Village that you forgot everything else in the capital? You’ve been gone for more than a month but you haven’t even written a single letter to this prince. You went into the mountains right at dawn today. Were you spending time with that fellow surnamed Zhao ah?”
Yu Xiaocao took a handful of walnuts and began to stuff them in her mouth. Her cheeks bulged with the nuts and her eyes curved up with happiness. She resembled a little squirrel snacking on nuts. When she heard his complaints, she slanted Zhu Junyang a glance and said, “Do you think Older Brother Han is as idle as you? He’s out at sea, drilling his troops. How would he have the spare time to go into the mountains to set snares to catch hares?”
“Older Brother Han eh...you seem to call him in a very intimate manner. How come I never hear you call this prince using ‘Older Brother Yang’ ah?” A burst of sour jealousy exploded in Zhu Junyang’s heart. The lass always called him using his full name and was never polite about it either.
Yu Xiaocao saw that he had stopped cracking the nuts open and hurriedly patted his hand in an attempt to remind him to continue. When she heard his jealous words, she raised her head to look him in the eye and seriously stated, “I call him ‘Older Brother Han’ because I see him as an older brother. Do you...want me to regard you as an older brother then?”
“No way!” He absolutely did not want that! Zhu Junyang noticed that the peeled nuts in the plate were disappearing at light speed and hurriedly hastened his cracking speed. He grumbled, “However, this prince is not very pleased with the way you call me.”
“Then how do you want me to call you? Junyang? Yangyang? Yang Baby??” Each suggestion was more sticky-sweet than the previous and Yu Xiaocao was delighted to discover that Zhu Junyang’s ears had turned bright red from her teasing.
Zhu Junyang pretended to cough a couple of times. He lightly cleared his throat and said, “When I was young, I once came up with a nickname for myself, it’s ‘Ruizhi’. Only the people close to me know about this…”
“Alright ah, then I’ll call you Ruizhi then!” Yu Xiaocao easily followed his suggestion and then said, “Zhu Ruizhi, the walnuts are gone, but I still want to eat more!”
“Eat fewer snacks as breakfast is being warmed up for you in the pot ah!” Madam Liu entered the room just in time to hear her youngest daughter blatantly command Royal Prince Yang to help her peel nuts. She couldn’t help but level a glare at her daughter.
“If you place the nuts inside the congee, it’ll become nut porridge and will also taste quite good!” Yu Xiaocao craftily said as she stealthily reached a small hand towards the nuts that Zhu Junyang had peeled. She swiftly stuffed them into her mouth and truly resembled a little mischievous squirrel stealing food.
Madam Liu couldn’t control her, so she spoke to Zhu Junyang, “Royal Prince Yang, don’t spoil her! During all of last month and this month, she ate snacks instead of partaking in proper meals! Everyone else gains a few catties during the New Years. She, on the other hand, didn’t gain and instead got thinner instead!”
Yu Xiaocao hastily explained when she saw Zhu Junyang looking inquiringly at her, “Who said I got thinner? Look at my face, it’s almost as round as a steamed bun. All mothers will say this as they all feel that their children have gotten thinner. All of them try to stuff their children until they become fat little piggies.”
“Raising pigs?” Madam Liu tapped Xiaocao’s head and took the plate of nuts off the kang bed’s table. She motioned to Yingchun to place the congee, steamed buns, and side dishes on the table and said, “If the pigs in a piggery are all like you, I’m pretty sure the owners of said piggery would go out of business very soon!”
“Mother——is there truly a mother like you who scolds her daughter in this way ah? I’m such a beautiful and delicate little girl but you decide to compare me to a stinky and yucky pig. I’m angry now!” Yu Xiaocao seized the opportunity to act spoiled around her mother.
Madam Liu pursed her lips and revealed a smile, “I wasn’t the one who started the comparison. You were the one who first brought up the topic of raising pigs, so Mother will not take this fall! Finish everything on the table, otherwise, I won’t allow you to eat any more snacks today or tomorrow!”
Yu Xiaocao looked at the two steamed meat buns that were bigger than the size of her fist and the large bowl full of congee. She immediately began to pout and complained, “Mother, let’s make a deal. Let me just eat one meat bun, okay?”
“No deal! Last night, you only ate half a small bowl of noodles, so you need to eat more this morning. Do you think you’re an immortal and can live off of air ah?!” Madam Liu sternly refused her suggestion, “Eat it now while it’s hot. The meat buns were made using the meat from that roe deer you caught, so it’s very fresh and tasty!”
Yu Xiaocao’s eyes flickered and roved around. She suddenly revealed a bright smile at Zhu Junyang, who had been watching the mother and daughter pair from the side, “Ruizhi——you haven’t eaten breakfast, right? Eating together is more enjoyable!”
Madam Liu pushed away the hand that was offering a meat bun towards Zhu Junyang and sternly looked at her daughter, “Royal Prince Yang has already eaten with us, so don’t try to make him eat for you. I’ve already calculated everything. If you eat everything here, you’ll just have a slightly rounded belly but you won’t be bloated!”
Yu Xiaocao glanced at Zhu Junyang with a pathetic look on her face. However, Zhu Junyang was currently being eyed by his future mother-in-law, so he could only make a helpless gesture at the little lass. As he was sandwiched between his future mother-in-law and future wife, he could only lower his head and pretend to be busy as he continued to peel the nuts.
Yu Xiaocao became resigned to her fate and picked up a steamed meat bun and began to chew on it angrily. She paired the buns with some tasty side dishes and ended up finishing both meat buns. Following that, she poured the nuts Zhu Junyang had peeled into her bowl of congee and then added some raisins and pieces of dried hawthorn cake to it before she gulped the bowl down. Brrp——after letting out a burp, Xiaocao rubbed at her little belly and wondered if she should make a bowl of digestive soup to drink.
Madam Liu noticed that her youngest daughter was now sprawled on the kang bed and glared at her in amusement, “The weather is nice today. You can rest for a bit and then take Royal Prince Yang for a stroll in the village, which will help you digest your food. At noon, I’ll make your favorite seafood feast. There will be braised prawns, salt and pepper small yellow croakers, steamed scallops in broth, stir-fried calamari…”
In her previous life, Yu Xiaocao didn’t have much opportunity to eat seafood. After transmigrating over, she obtained a deep fondness for eating seafood and her mother also cooked seafood very well. When she heard that there would be a seafood feast, her eyes began to shine with excitement and the saliva pooled in her mouth. In order to make some room in her stomach to eat seafood later, Xiaocao pulled Zhu Junyang along and walked several round trips from the mountain villa to her family’s residence. She originally wanted to stroll around the village too, but after encountering too many curious and inquisitive looks from the villagers, she changed the plan.
Since Royal Prince Yang was visiting his feudal lands, it was natural for the officials of the Tanggu area to come see him. He also checked the taxation records while he was here. After the Yu Family’s greenhouse growing business began, it also stimulated the growth of other commerce in Tanggu Town. Consequently, the amount of taxes received also increased by almost two times compared to the previous year.
Yu Xiaocao had already told him her idea of transforming the lands around Tanggu into a seed-breeding business and obtained Zhu Junyang’s complete favor. As for her proposal in opening up fallow land, he also decided to adopt it. Zhu Junyang directly expropriated farmland from the scholars and landlords who owned them in the nearby area by telling them they would get decreased taxes. This won the approval of everyone involved. Some merchant families thought that this could be quite a profitable endeavor for them and even took out all of their farmsteads to see if the prince wanted them. Naturally, the ones that were too far from the Yu Family’s farmstead were summarily rejected.
After the summer harvest and when it was time to plant corn, the Yu Family farmstead had expanded considerably. They now had twenty thousand mu of top-notch farming land alone, and the average and more poor quality land was also around the same number. With a forty thousand mu farmstead, they naturally could increase the amount of crops they harvested every year.
There were some officials at court who regarded this with pure envy and did their best to complain voraciously to the emperor about Yu Xiaocao. They claimed that she wasn’t doing her duties to the court properly and was abusing her power to enrichen her family members. Consequently, those who were close to Xiaocao defended her just as adamantly. They stated that everything she was doing to help the imperial court in advancing the production of high-yield crops as quickly as she could. Thus, the debates at court stormed for a period of time and the court officials argued furiously over Xiaocao’s conduct and actions.
However, Yu Xiaocao didn’t take any of the political squabbles to heart. Prior to expanding her base of agricultural operations at Tanggu Town, she had reported to the emperor and gotten his full permission to go ahead. The earlier they could push out more high-yield corn and winter wheat to the people, the earlier that the emperor’s people would be able to throw off the shackles of poverty and starvation and walk in the direction of health and happiness.
As long as her ‘big boss’ was on her side, it didn’t matter to her what other people claimed. She wasn't in this for the sake of obtaining a false reputation. In fact, weren’t those people accusing her of misconduct only doing so because they were jealous of her ability to make money? She planned on making even more money so that their jealousy could eat them alive!
Yu Hai currently had a bunch of experienced tenant farmers working under him. Although the operations in Tanggu Town were quite massive now, Xiaocao didn’t actually need to personally handle much there. Her responsibility was to make sure that all of the seeds they were going to use were appropriately infused with spiritual energy in advance.
This was quite an easy process but it was very necessary. Yu Xiaocao had the little divine stone take its golden kitten form and had it run a few times in the granaries that held their seeds. She instructed it to play around, spit some saliva, or pee a bit——the little divine stone vehemently opposed the last suggestion she had. It claimed that it was a cultured and refined divine stone, so how could it do something so uncouth and crude?
In short, the breeding base for high-yield seeds were now in the capable hands of Yu Hai as the head of the management. With Yu Hang helping and some other stewards working on things, the work on the expanded farmstead was going in good order. In addition, they had Royal Prince Yang as their backer, so they naturally had no issues getting the green light to continue and everything seemed to be going smoothly…Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Sanguine’s hearts: I think Xiaocao’s attitude to those court officials can be summed up as ‘haters gonna hate’ haha.