Chapter 441 - Qualifications

Li Meirou sensed that Royal Princess Minglan was looking at her in a displeased manner and decided that she couldn’t lose this argument. She raised her voice to say, “Everyone who is here had ancestors who contributed to the country, which is how they ended up with their ranks. You’re only the daughter of a farmer, so how dare you compare us to you?”

Yu Xiaocao opened her eyes wide and looked at Li Meirou. It was only when the other girl started to feel uncomfortable that she finally replied, “You also said that this was all the deeds and contributions of your ancestors. So what leg do you have to stand on in being so proud and arrogant? Are you able to help the emperor in making the country better? Or are you able to improve the lives of the people? If you can’t, then are you in any position to look down on other people?”

Li Meirou was speechless. Her father, as the Right Assistant Minister of the Ministry of Appointments, was a third-ranked official. Other than He Wanning occasionally saying a remark that made everyone not know what to say, there really wasn’t anyone else in this circle who would speak to her so impolitely. At this moment, she was so incensed that her lips trembled and the rims of her eyes gradually turned red.

As one of the famed four talented girls in the capital, Wu Lingyun [1] had to interfere now. She stepped forward and said, “Older Sister Li had just had a misunderstanding with you and felt a bit upset about it. The only reason why she was a bit rude was because of the situation. Official Yu, do you need to be so overbearing?”  

Overbearing? Her? Was the other girl sure it wasn’t the other way around? One shouldn't be this obviously biased, right? Yu Xiaocao had never been the type of person to rein in her sharp tongue. That being said, it wasn’t as if she was trying to fawn over these maidens. What was the point in swallowing this humiliation for nothing? If they wanted to cause problems for her, then she wasn’t going to make their lives easy either. 

“Miss Wu, the words you’re saying are a bit too biased! From the moment I entered, have I ever personally claimed to be the daughter of the Left Assistant Minister of the Ministry of Appointments? Miss Li made a mistake, which isn't a big deal in the first place. But was there any need for her to lash out at me about my background and birth? From what Miss Wu is saying, I should take these insults, no matter how awful, and just endure it? Then, if someone wants to slap my face, I shouldn’t try to dodge and instead raise my face to meet their hands and let my dignity be trampled? Is this how the noble maidens in the capital interact with each other? If that’s the case, then I was wrong to come to this flower battle!”  

As she finished, she slowly stood up and used a sharp gaze to look at all of the maidens who were obviously enjoying the show. She flitted across Wu Lingyun’s and Li Meirou’s faces before finally looking at Royal Princess Minglan. She moved a few steps as she said with an unapologetic look on her face, “Forgive me for causing havoc at your flower banquet, Your Highness. This pot of ‘Two Qiaos’ I will leave behind as a gift of apology. Hechun…”

Hechun stepped forward with a rigid look on her face and placed the pot of flowers in her hands up front. She also took cloth covering off of the flower, revealing a pot of chrysanthemums that had flowers that were colored yellow and purple on one bloom.

Royal Princess Minglan, who was a lover of chrysanthemums, immediately forgot the words of persuasion she wanted to say as her entire attention was now on that pot of gorgeous flowers. The dark green leaves contrasted sharply with the one flower in full bloom. The flower had rows of delicate petals and, in the exact middle, there was a clear division between the bright yellow petals and gorgeous purple petals. Next to the open bloom were several delicate buds that were all half yellow and purple. They seemed like shy little sisters that hid behind their beautiful sister and regarded everyone else bashfully.

“Isn’t this...this the legendary ‘Two Qiaos’ chrysanthemum that is referenced in ‘Two Qiaos hidden deeply within the Bronze Sparrow Platform’ [2] poem and has flowers that are two colors? Miss Yu, where did you get such a valuable chrysanthemum? In fact, in order to find such a beautiful specimen, I begged my father and my older brothers to look for news about it. Yet, we’ve had no luck so far…”

The rumors weren’t wrong. Royal Princess Minglan was truly someone who loved chrysanthemums beyond comparison. When she saw this valuable ‘Two Qiaos’ species, she only had eyes for this and nothing else.

Earlier, when her background was established, for a moment, all of the maidens in the room regarded the ‘Two Qiaos’ on the table with undisguised contempt. That all happened before Royal Princess Minglan revealed the identity of this flower. Yu Xiaocao had gotten a brief overview from her godmother before she went to this party. Royal Princess Minglan had been spoiled by her father and older brothers, so she had a somewhat childish yet open personality. Consequently, Yu Xiaocao didn’t have any ill will towards her.

After the princess spoke, Yu Xiaocao glanced deliberately at the other maidens in the room and especially gave Li Meirou a provoking look before she leisurely replied, “My hometown is next to the mountain and ocean. In the mountains there, there’s a valley surrounded on all four sides by the mountains. The climate there is mild and very few humans venture into that area. My younger brother and I had coincidentally discovered this area and found that the valley had all types of rarely seen flora. This two-colored chrysanthemum had also come from that valley. From my godmother, I found out that this flower is the famous ‘Two Qiaos’ chrysanthemum. Thus, I brought it into the capital to the General’s Estate and had it raised in the greenhouse…

“The rumors that true treasures are found in the wild are true. Flowers that have been bred from the hands of humans all seem to lose some sort of liveliness. Only this flower, which came from the wild mountains, has the liveliness befitting of a treasure. After hearing Miss Yu’s story, I also want to go to that valley to take a look!” Royal Princess Minglan adored this pot of ‘Two Qiaos’ chrysanthemum and couldn’t bear to look away.

She remembered that this pot of ‘Two Qiaos’ was something that Miss Yu had brought over to attend the flower wars banquet. However, the competition hadn’t even started before this guest wanted to leave in anger. This offended guest also wanted to leave such a valuable specimen as a gift to her. If word of this came out, her reputation, as the host, would be negatively affected and people would claim she wasn’t raised well.   Royal Princess Minglan reluctantly ordered her maid, “This pot of ‘Two Qiaos’ was brought over by the young miss of Zhaoyang General’s residence to attend the flower wars party. Quickly bring it into the greenhouse before it gets damaged from the cold.”

Yu Xiaocao was about to open her mouth to say something when the princess interrupted her, “There’s a common saying: ‘an exchange of blows may lead to friendship’. It’s hard to avoid a few misunderstandings here and there between us girls. For my sake, would you two consider making up now?”

Although Li Meirou was indignant at the thought, she wasn’t brave enough to refuse Royal Princess Minglan’s suggestion. The princess’s father was a first-ranked duke and her older brothers were all in the military with illustrious deeds under their belts. In fact, Royal Princess Minglan was awarded her title as royal princess from her father’s and brother’s deeds. If she made things inharmonious at the princess’s party, then she likely wouldn’t get any future invitations to the duke’s residence...

After thinking things through, she restrained the hatred in her heart and pasted on a fake smile before she said to Yu Xiaocao, “It was just a misunderstanding. Miss Yu, please don’t take it to heart.” This was the most she could do at this point. If she really had to apologize to a peasant with dirt on her shoes, in the future, how could she hold her head up in this circle of girls?

Yu Xiaocao slightly sneered but she decided to assent to Royal Princess Minglan’s suggestion. It looked like she and Miss Li weren’t fated to get along, but it wasn’t a big deal! In any case, she would take things as they came and react accordingly.

After looking around, she saw He Wanning waving a hand towards her, so she walked to that table. That table only had He Wanning, who was dressed in fiery red, and Yuan Xueyan, who was dressed entirely in white sitting there. Thus, she also took a seat at the table. 

However, one of the maidens in the room, who she didn’t know, sourly remarked, “That table either has the daughter of a first-ranked official or the relative of the imperial family or the Royal Princess herself. Even the daughters of third-ranked officials don’t have the guts to go up there. Why should she sit there?”  

Royal Princess Minglan was in a very good mood after getting to see a ‘Two Qiaos’ chrysanthemum. When she heard this particular maiden stating a remark meant to cause trouble, she lightly gave her a glance that held a hint of warning.

Unexpectedly, Yuan Xueyan, who had been sitting at this table silently, spoke up in a cool tone, “If we’re speaking about qualifications, in this entire room full of people, other than the royal princess having her own title, only Miss Yu is personally titled as a sixth-level official. Although sixth-level officials don’t amount to much in court, many of the people here have fathers and brothers who aren’t high-ranked either. She is the person most qualified to sit at the head table here.”

The so-called ‘four talented girls of the capital’ only had male relatives that were lowly ranked. In fact, the highest ranked among them was only a fifth-ranked official. Compared to Yu Xiaocao’s sixth-level official title, it wasn’t that much higher. In this room full of young maidens who were the daughters of second-ranked and third-ranked officials, they were only here because of their fame as ‘talented girls’. Otherwise, if they relied on their status as daughters of fifth-ranked officials or lower, they didn’t have the qualifications to be invited to a party held by Royal Princess Minglan as there were plenty of girls of their status on the capital’s streets. After hearing the ‘icy beauty’ Yuan Xueyan speak up, these four girls all blushed in embarrassment and lowered their heads.

The other girls in the room, who had originally wanted to cause problems, also reined themselves in when they saw Royal Princess Minglan and the other ‘two beauties of the capital’, who were unspoken heads of this circle, speak up for Yu Xiaocao.

“Many thanks, Miss Yuan, for helping me. Let me take this cup of tea in place of wine to toast you a cup.” Yu Xiaocao held up her cup of tea and took a big drink from it.

Yuan Xueyan’s lips slightly curved up in what could be considered a smile and also took a gentle sip from her cup. After placing down her teacup, she lightly said, “Yu Fan is the last disciple of my grandfather, so our two families are actually connected in this way. My grandfather always praises your younger brother and states that his scholarly abilities are similar to my father’s when he was young. Not everyone can understand the struggles of a talented young man who is born in humble circumstances.”

Although her voice wasn’t loud, it was enough that everyone in the room could hear her words clearly. Someone who was praised by Great Scholar Yuan to be similar to his most talented son likely was truly a talented youth! Yu Xiaocao didn’t look much older than ten to eleven, which meant that her younger brother was even younger. However, he had been taken in by Great Scholar Yuan as his last disciple. His future career and connections was not something to be taken for granted.

The vast majority of the young maidens here silently rejoiced that they didn’t blatantly reveal their disgust and contempt towards Yu Xiaocao. The interpersonal relationships between the young maidens in the capital were actually miniaturized versions between the officials and wealthy nobles. If they couldn’t help their fathers and brothers, then, at the very least, they shouldn’t be causing trouble for them.

 Yu Xiaocao could easily tell that the looks that were on her had now held less contempt and more kindness now. She gratefully nodded her head towards Yuan Xueyan and said, “Headmaster Yuan’s takes good care of my younger brother, so I am very grateful towards him. I will definitely come and visit him on another day…” 

“Miss Yu is being too polite! Before the end of the year, Grandfather came back to the capital from Tanggu Town. He is very fond of your culinary talents and often talks about the snacks that you make. If he found out that you, Miss Yu, was coming over to visit, he would definitely be extremely happy.” Yuan Xueyan also felt a bit helpless at her foodie grandfather’s gluttonous actions. In the past, her grandfather would be more restrained for the sake of his reputation. However, now he was acting more and more like an unruly urchin. For the sake of eating good food, he had done many things that made other people laugh. However, because of his status, no one actually showed their ridicule.

The smile on Yu Xiaocao’s face became a few fractions more sincere when she thought of Headmaster Yuan’s true personality. Even her attitude towards Yuan Xueyan became more intimate. 

He Wanning had finally finished inspecting the set of clothing Xiaocao was wearing. She raised her eyes to look at the other girl's face and noticed the younger girl’s smooth and perfect skin. She felt her own skin on her face and sighed, “It’s truly nice to be young. Younger Sister Yu’s face has skin that looks as smooth and glossy as a freshly peeled boiled egg. It’s glowing with health and full of moisture. With my personality, I can’t stand spending the entire day cooped up at home, so I have to go out to ride my horse or practice archery...under the insults of the sun and wind, my skin is so dry that it seems like tree bark now…”


[1] Wu Lingyun - Her name is also Wu Lingfu in other chapters.

[2] Two Qiaos hidden deeply within the Bronze Sparrow Platform - Three Kingdom's era, there were two sisters (Da Qiao, Xiao Qiao) that were well-known beauties. They were married to Sun Ce and Zhou Yu. Allegedly, Warlord Caocao wanted to take them from their husbands and lock them into his Bronze Sparrow Platform. His son, Cao Zhi, had composed a poem about this.

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Myst.2's Thoughts

Sanguine’s Thoughts: Lololol, Xiaocao’s food gives her another ally. It’s hard having a foodie grandpa!

Translator: Sanguine