Chapter 469 - Feudal Princess?

The sky, that was washed by the falling snow, was now the bright mirror of high-quality black jade and the stars were glittering like diamonds. Venus was in the east shining with a silver light. Gradually the sky outside the palace walls became whiter... 

If it wasn't because the temperature was too low in the early mornings of winter and that the surrounding areas weren’t covered with unmelted snow all around, Yu Xiaocao would still be in the mood to enjoy the clean and pollution-free sky of this ancient era. She was currently dressed in a dark red official’s robe with a silvery-grey cloak wrapped on top. Around her neck was a bright scarlet red muffler made of fox fur and her hands were hidden inside her warm sleeves, which were lined with a thick layer of sable fur. Her feet were shod with a pair of leather boots. Even though these boots were lined with a thick layer of fur, they still weren’t able to stop the cold feeling from seeping up the soles of her feet.  

She wrapped herself in a thick cloak and looked into the audience hall. With her insignificant official position, there was no place for her in the audience hall. The poor her could only stand in the corridor outside the audience hall and be blown by the chilly wind. Such an experience was unforgettable enough! 

What was the matter with the two old officials inside? Were they purposely messing with her to argue about a problem that was about as big as a fart for so long?! Fortunately, within her sleeves, she had the high-quality gold and copper hand warmer that Royal Prince Yang had stuffed into her hands before he went into the audience hall. It gave off a comforting heat and it was warming straight into her heart... 

"Calling for the Agricultural Official Yu of the Ministry of Revenue to enter the hall!" Eh? The eunuch who went to court with the emperor today wasn’t the immortal-like Sir Su? Such a pity, she hadn’t seen Mister Su in such a long time. His appearance, which didn’t seem tainted by earthly matters, would be hard for her to forget.  

Maybe because it had been frozen numb, but Yu Xiaocao's brain still had time to think about all this other extraneous stuff. Dressed like a small bear, she knelt clumsily on the ground in front of the emperor on the throne. Her attempts to give the greeting of a subject to the monarch, the compliments, and flatteries in her mouth were interrupted by a series of sneezes!

Zhu Junyang looked over in concern. The lass's health wasn't good to begin with. No matter how much she ate, she didn't gain any weight. She was thin and weak. He could practically clutch her waist with one hand. She was just blown by the cold wind outside for such a long time, could she have gotten sick? His brows wrinkled and he thought about inviting the head examiner of the Imperial Physician’s courtyard after court to examine the lass.  

"Oh! Did you get a cold? It was my negligence. We shouldn't have let you wait outside the hall for so long!" Zhu Junfan's casual tone and intimate expression all showed his favoritism toward this female official. "Quick, get up. Bring a chair for Official Yu. If she gets sick, then the large greenhouses in the Imperial Plantation won't have anyone to care for them. Then, everyone in this hall will have to eat radishes and cabbage for the New Years!" 

The two elder officials, who had been deliberately holding up the time to give Yu Xiaocao a show of power, had frozen expressions on their faces upon hearing this. Why did they forget to find fault? In the winters of the previous years, besides some meat dishes and dried vegetables, such as cabbages and radishes, there were also some other dried vegetables stored away for the winter. Since the beginning of winter this year, they hadn't felt the change on the dinner table. All kinds of delicious greens and fruits had almost made them forget the miserable conditions of the past.

After the emperor's comment, they immediately realized that if the thin and just of age girl really did get sick from being frozen then they would have to go back to the previous years, bracing themselves to eat the few vegetables that they were already tired of eating. 

With this in mind, no one protested the imperial favor of Yu Xiaocao being allowed a seat in the audience hall. 

“Beloved Official Yu! We’ve heard that the Imperial Plantation’s greenhouse grounds have doubled in size again? And that the variety of vegetables has increased too?” When rewarding others, he had to be clear about what it was for. Zhou Junfan asked about the project filling his small treasury like he was a family member asking about domestic trivia.  

This matter would involve the livelihoods of all the civil and military officials. Currently, vegetables and fruits were sold in limited quantities. The amount each household could get was only enough for a few dishes. Furthermore, if they went a little later, they wouldn’t even be able to see a hint of the vegetables. Most of the officials in the audience hall had heard their wives mention that the output of the vegetables from the greenhouse was too small. The stewards in charge of purchases also had tearfully complained to them. They said that every time they lined up to rush for the purchase, it was like a tough battle. A moment of carelessness could prevent their masters from eating fresh vegetables and the pressure was too much. Increasing the supply of the greenhouses’ vegetables was something everyone in the audience hall was happy to see.  

Yu Xiaocao, who was sitting comfortably on the cushioned chair and holding a warm hand stove in her hands, could finally squeeze out a smile. "Answering your imperial majesty, the green leafy vegetables, which have shorter growing periods, have reached a planting area of 500 mu. The fruit-like vegetables with longer growing periods have also doubled. There’s more good news. In ten days, a batch of fruits and vegetables, such as cucumbers, eggplants, beans, and tomatoes will be out on the market. The volume of daily vegetable supplies should also double in size!” 

The daily supply of vegetables should be able to double? When the vegetables from the greenhouse expansion were on the market in one month, won’t they be able to buy even more vegetables? Perhaps when the New Year came, the limited purchase of vegetables will be removed and they will be able to have a happy New Year! The civil and military officials all looked at each other and saw the traces of joy in each others’ eyes.

Yu Xiaocao's words were interrupted by coughs. The two elderly officials, who had been deliberately quarreling to hold up the time, were stared at with reproach by everyone else. Their hearts were also full of remorse. The vegetables in the greenhouse in the plantation needed caring for now. If Official Yu got sick, then wouldn’t it affect the vegetable supply plan?

Official Zhang, who was informed of government affairs, said, "Official Yu, your job is related to the livelihood of the capital's citizens, take good care of yourself! Your Imperial Majesty, this subject asks for an Imperial Doctor to take Official Yu's pulse. Even a robust and strong military official wouldn't be able to stand in the cold outside for so long ah!"

"Eh...Many thanks for your concern, Official Zhang. I have some understanding of medicine myself, so there's no need to bother the Imperial Physicians to come!" There were some old people in the Imperial Hospital that didn't like her. She didn’t want to be messed around by those old guys and be prescribed some bitter medicine. 

"Doctors don't cure themselves. Since everyone cares so much about you, then how about... letting Imperial Physician Wang come check on you?" Zhu Junfan, who seemed to see through to her mind, said this with a smile. 

Imperial Physician Wang? When she was examining the little prince, she had realized that the medical skill of this physician was just barely passable, but his character wasn't good! She cured the little prince using a folk recipe and the old guy bore a grudge against her for stealing the limelight. If he were to check her pulse,  then even if she wasn't sick, he would say she was sick. No way! 

"Thank you for your great kindness, Your Imperial Majesty! However, it's freezing right now. To let the civil and military officials delay getting off the court because of this official’s minor matter, especially when there are elderly officials old enough to be this subject's grandfather, this official wouldn't be able to bear it. It's better to deal with business first and deal with other matters after court!" Yu Xiaocao still had confidence in her own body. Sneezing a couple of times and coughing a few coughs was nothing at all. It could all be solved by drinking a cup of mystic-stone water mixed with brown sugar when she got home!

The emperor stopped teasing her and nodded, "It must be hard on beloved subject to be so reasonable and fair. We just wanted to give a definitive answer. Can you keep up with the supply of vegetables until the New Year?"

Yu Xiaocao pondered for a moment before saying, "If we want to provide food for the tens of thousands of citizens in the capital, then this official doesn't have that confidence. After all, this is the first trial. No matter the planting area or the yield, it's not enough. However, the off-season vegetables are precious to begin with. The price is relatively high and only a few can afford it. Once the second batch of vegetables is on the market, the vegetable supply needs of most people who can afford them should be able to be met!"

Upon hearing this, the civil and military officials were overjoyed. It seems that everyone's worries about the rush to buy vegetables for the New Year shouldn't be a problem anymore! 

"Good, good good! If Beloved Official Yu's greenhouse vegetable technology can be popularized, it will be good for the country! The people of the Great Ming Dynasty are not far from the days of eating vegetables in the winter! My dear subjects, tell us, should such contributions be rewarded?" Zhu Junfan looked around the audience hall at the officials who had a joyful look and rhetorically asked.

Reward? So all of this prepping was because the emperor wanted to reward Official Yu again! No wonder, the emperor had a share of the profits of the greenhouses too. Since winter hit, Royal Prince Yang's vegetable and fruit shops had been thriving. Money was flowing like water into the emperor's personal treasury. The palace treasury, which had been emptied in earlier years, finally had some savings now. This was all due to the contributions of Official Yu!

Since the founding of the Great Ming Dynasty, the emperor emeritus has fought in the north and south, crusading the world, leaving behind a heavily damaged national treasury for the emperor, who had been only twenty-five years old when he ascended the throne. Fortunately, the emperor was diligent and benevolent, worrying about the imperial court and the citizens every day. All the money in his persona; treasury was subsidized into the national treasury, leaving behind an empty shelf.

In recent years, natural calamities and man-made disasters coupled with unstable borders had left the national and palace treasury empty. Now, thanks to Official Yu, the palace treasury had finally improved. It was no wonder that the emperor was finding ways to reward her. Thinking of the information coming from the palace, it seemed that the empress also contributed to the flower tea shop opening next year. Official Yu was really the goose that laid the golden eggs to the emperor! Of course, he had to give a carrot to hang in front of her so she can continue to contribute to the country!

However, how to reward and what to reward? That was the big problem again. A girl in her early teens was already a sixth-ranked official. If promoted, then there would be many more dissatisfied people. What's more, the official post wasn't offered long ago. If she was promoted so quickly, then what would those old fellows who had been in the same position for decades think?

Just when the officials were struggling, the emperor opened his mouth again, "You've only been appointed as an official for less than half a year. If you were to be immediately promoted, it would be too fast! How about this, we will award you the title of feudal princess. Oh right, we heard that you were looking for a house in the capital? We have a residence where the Grand Tutor of the former dynasty lived. We will grant it to you too!" 

What? The officials didn't care about the so-called empty title of a feudal princess. However, wasn't that former Grand Tutor's residence already awarded to Royal Prince Yang yesterday as a reward for pacifying the rebels? Your Imperial Majesty, do you have selective amnesia? Is it appropriate to give the residence to someone when it's already been awarded to someone else? 

Some of the people present scented something out of the ordinary! The relationship between Royal Prince Yang and Official Yu started in Tanggu Town's Dongshan Village. The cold and aloof Royal Prince Yang seemed to have a deep connection with Little Official Yu. Allegedly, he went to Count Zhongqin's estate once he got off court yesterday, and he also took some good furs along that had people looking enviously. Did this mean...

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Translator: Elaine