However, when she thought a bit more, she realized that people would only try to snatch men who were outstanding. Ever since Zhu Junyang managed to restrain the heart devil within him, his relationships with other people as well as his charm improved rapidly, especially within these past two years. The emperor treated him with importance and gave him heavy responsibilities. Furthermore, the emperor even gave him the task to train and drill the Xishan Barracks. In addition, he was also in charge of the innovation of firearms and almost overlapped with Chief Steward Su’s tasks. In the future, it was obvious that a commanding position would be his.
He was barely twenty yet he had reached a third-ranked position at court relying on his own abilities. His prospects were endless in the future. Consequently, Zhu Junyang had become the most highly eligible bachelor out of all of the noble bachelors in the capital. Many people had come to inquire about whether or not Princess Consort Jing had chosen his future wife yet.
Recently, Princess Consort Jing, who loved peace and quiet, had been irritated beyond measure! It was reasonable to say that her son did need to marry a wife and start having descendants as he was already twenty. Furthermore, even if the position of his legitimate wife hadn’t been decided yet, there were people avidly eyeing the positions of his side consorts and other concubines.
Within a short span of time, the guests going to Imperial Prince Jing’s inner courtyard had increased suddenly. All of these matrons who came to visit were discreetly making inquiries as to whether she had a daughter-in-law in mind. When they found out from her that Royal Prince Yang already had a girl in mind, they changed the subject to ask about the position of his side consort instead. In addition, these married ladies always brought some pretty and delicate young maidens along with them to visit and praised their daughters to the skies. The young maidens were all very courteous as well and always followed whatever the princess consort said in a flattering manner. Listening to all of this hinting made Princess Consort Jing feel quite exhausted!
Princess Consort Jing especially couldn’t stand her younger concubine-born sister. In the past, when they were both still unmarried and living at home, they didn’t have a good relationship. Her illegitimate younger sister always flaunted the fact that she was favored by their father by virtue of being born to the favored concubine in the residence. Thus, she always showed off her strength in front of Princess Consort Jing. If Princess Consort Jing didn’t have a good relationship with Imperial Prince Jing, with a love more solid than gold, it was highly possible that this concubine-born younger sister of hers might have succeeded in scheming this marriage away from her!
Now, this concubine-born sister of hers decided that her older sister had something of value, so she shamelessly came over. However, she, Jiang Meijuan, was someone who held grudges! She didn’t allow her husband to help with her younger sister’s husband's official prospects. Thus, her brother-in-law still only had a fifth-ranked official’s position in court. Hmph hmph! It was already considered fortunate that she didn’t make things more difficult for them!
However, this concubine-born younger sister of hers even wanted to scheme about her youngest son’s marriage! This dream was really a bit quite far-fetched! Although the lass Ling’er’s looks, temperament and morals(?) were all acceptable and she liked the girl, she absolutely wouldn’t agree to a marriage between her and her son solely because of her meddling, loathsome mother!!
However, judging from how Yang’er treated his younger cousin, it didn’t seem like he completely rejected the maiden. At least, they were able to converse a little. Eh...in actuality, it was mostly that lass Ling’er chatting away while Yang’er listened silently. From the surface, his stern demeanor didn’t hold any hints of repudiation. Perhaps in her son’s heart, this younger cousin of his was different than the other young ladies.
Despite that observation, Princess Consort Jing wasn’t in any hurry at this point! Even if her son didn’t hold someone in his heart already, from her understanding of her son’s temperament, Yang’er may not necessarily like the lass Ling’er in that way. Ever since he received his new position at the Xishan Barracks, his schedule became more erratic and he often wasn’t home. When he did come back, he always detoured over to see that lass Xiaocao before he came back to the residence. This obviously showed that her son had little interest in Ling’er.
That lass Ling’er was thick-skinned just like her mother. Yang’er had already dropped a few obvious hints but she acted as if she didn't understand anything and put on an act as if she was a naive and innocent maiden. Who was she trying to fool? In the past, her concubine-born sister also used the same tactics to try to get closer to Imperial Prince Jing!!
That was not okay! She needed to find some time to remind her son in order to avoid her concubine-born sister coming up with some underhanded scheme to ‘ruin’ the reputation of Wu Junling and force her son to marry her!
Princess Consort Jing was quite annoyed by Jiang Meiyi and her daughter by now. Thus, she seized the opportunity to leave the capital when her husband had to travel for work and her son spent most of his time at the barracks. She instructed the maidservants and senior servants to pack her bags and silently left the capital to travel to the mountain villa that was halfway up the West Mountain at Dongshan Village.
It was currently midsummer, so the mountain villa was lush and full of blooming greenery. With its back against the ocean, it was truly a beautiful sanctuary for her to stay at. She was also eager to explore that hidden mountain ravine again to see if she could find any more rare and valuable flora to add to her collection. That way, she could astound the matrons in the capital again!
Thus, the next time Jiang Meiyi and her daughter came over to visit Imperial Prince Jing’s estate, they weren’t even able to pass the gates. The servants at the residence all stated, “Her Highness has left the capital to avoid the heat and none of our masters are home. Thus, we are unable to receive any honored guests at this moment!”
Jiang Meiyi was so infuriated by this that she almost ripped her handkerchief to shreds at the moment, “I see how you are, Jiang Meijuan! You’re not even giving me face ah?! If it wasn’t for my precious daughter, would I even bother coming to see and flatter you? And you act as if you’re something special eh?!”
“Mother, be careful what you say!!” Wu Junling lifted up the curtain in the carriage and stuck her head out to look around before she finally let out a sigh of relief. From her perspective, her mother sometimes caused more harm than benefit. They clearly had to rely on her aunt’s favor yet her mother continued to act arrogantly in front of her older sister and refused to back down.
Did her mother ever think about just what she had to compete with her aunt? When they were still unmarried maidens, one was born from a concubine, while the other was the daughter of the legitimate wife. Anyone with brains would try to cultivate a relationship with the legitimate daughter. Furthermore, her mother had flaunted the fact that she was favored by their father in an attempt to push down her aunt and even tried to steal her aunt’s husband. If she was Imperial Prince Jing, she would also choose the gentle and sweet legitimate daughter over the competitive and scheming concubine-born one, alright?
Then, there was her father’s career. If her mother had lowered herself a bit and begged her aunt for help, he wouldn’t have only gotten a meager position doing idle work at the Qingshui yamen. As for her own affairs, if it wasn’t for her mother causing issues, perhaps her aunt would have seen her in a better light...Argh, it looked like she needed to work a lot harder in order to smooth things over between herself and her older cousin. She absolutely wouldn’t be as brainless as her mother. In the end, her older cousin was fated to be hers alone!
Wu Junling gazed at the world outside the carriage and, through the curtains, she saw a slim and delicate little figure dressed in apricot colored qi-style attire riding on a date red horse. Suddenly, an honest-sounding voice piped up from within the crowd, “Official Yu, thank you so much for cultivating high-yield corn for us. My family has three mu of land and that land is responsible for feeding more than a dozen of us. During spring, we planted them all with corn and ended up with around four thousand catties of grain at harvest. After paying our taxes, we still have around three thousand catties of corn left. This is enough food for my entire family to eat for a year! Thank you for allowing us to not go hungry!”
Last year, they had targeted the farmers surrounding the capital by advertising corn. This spring, many families had rushed out to buy and plant the new seeds and all of them ended up with yields over a thousand catties per mu. Every family that planted the new crop had surplus grain on hand now.
The streets of the capital were filled with commoners. When they heard this person’s thoughts, they also began to exclaim, “That’s right, that’s right! With surplus grain on hand at home, we don't have to worry. It’s all thanks to Official Yu!”
“Official Yu’s good deeds can be compared to the merciful Buddha’s ah!!”
“Official Yu, here are some eggs that my family’s chickens have laid. If you don’t disdain them, please take them as a sign of my entire family’s gratitude to you!”
“Official Yu, here are some apricots from my family’s garden. Please take some to try.”
“Here's some vegetables I planted…”
Someone interrupted the last speaker, “Official Yu plants vegetables and her vegetables look and taste much better than yours. All of the wealthy and official families in town eat the vegetables she plants. Why would she need you to send some to her?”
“I’m just trying to show my appreciation and gratitude to Official Yu ah!”
A voice as clear as spring cut through the clamour of the crowd and everyone quickly calmed down, “Fellow countrymen, I, Xiaocao, appreciate all of your kindness and warm thoughts! It is my duty to cultivate high-yielding crops, so I feel a bit ashamed to receive your gratitude! With everyone’s support here, I will continue to do my best and cultivate more crops that are high-yielding!”
As soon as she finished speaking, the sounds of gratitude, admiration, and opinions hit the air again. A youthful and somewhat lofty voice cut through the chatter of the crowd, “Official Yu, I heard that last year’s wheat harvest was a bumper crop and the yield was more than three times higher than regular wheat. Would you happen to know if this high-yield winter wheat will be sold this autumn to us commoners?”
Yu Xiaocao glanced at this youth who was dressed entirely in plain farmer’s attire that was dotted with patches all over it. She smiled and said, “The seeds for winter wheat will naturally be sold to the commoners in the capital. However, anyone who has bought seeds from the government must sell it back to the court’s officials come spring and no one is allowed to sell it privately. The price will be at ten copper coins a catty. Anyone who is caught breaking the rules will no longer be allowed to buy any more high-yielding seeds in the future. In addition, their whole village will also be blacklisted as well!”
Essentially, they were using the tactic of ‘guilty by association’. If anyone in the village wanted to privately sell the high-yielding wheat crop for their own profit, then that entire village would be blacklisted in the future. By doing this, every family in the village would be keeping an eye out on their neighbors. It’d be very hard for someone to sell things sneakily with everyone watching everyone else!
In fact, this restriction wasn’t actually that restrictive. The new winter wheat could produce seven to eight hundred catties per mu. When sold at a price of ten copper coins a catty, a farmer could make six to seven taels per mu. An adult man may not necessarily be able to make that much money by doing hard labor for a whole year!
The winter wheat that was harvested this past spring would be able to supply ten thousand mu of farmland in addition to the new ten thousand mu farmstead that had been constructed by the court. Thus, all of the farmers in the area of the capital would benefit! When the common people heard this news, they transmitted it quickly and soon almost all of the suburbs knew about this.
“Ling’er, what are you looking at right now? You seem so concentrated.” Jiang Meiyi glanced briefly outside and only saw the backside of a young maiden riding a red horse.
“Mother, have you heard of Yu Xiaocao?” Wu Junling had a somewhat dark expression on her face and she clenched the handkerchief in her hands tightly. Her usually bright large eyes had a shadowy veil dimming them.
Jiang Meiyi frowned slightly and thought for a bit before she replied, “Yu Xiaocao? This name seems quite unfamiliar ah? Why are you bringing her up? What’s the point?”
Wu Junling watched as that slight figure disappeared in the street before she finally lowered the carriage curtain. She smiled slightly and said, “Mother, you haven’t heard of Yu Xiaocao? Then, have you heard of the imperial court’s only female official?”
“Uh...are you talking about that lass who relied on her ability to plant crops and caught the emperor’s eye? The one who is a sixth-ranked small official at the Ministry of Revenue and is in charge of their fields? Argh! What was the emperor thinking when he elevated a rural country brat into an official?” Jiang Meiyi thought about her own husband, who had cautiously worked in the backwards countryside for more than a decade. He only received a fifth-level sinecure position in the capital now. Yet, a little farming girl, who hadn’t reached the age of majority, was actually an official around one rank lower than her husband? For what?
Wu Junling glanced at her mother helplessly and spoke in a cajoling tone, “Mother, we’re no longer in that small place, Huainan. We’re currently under the emperor’s foot. Can you think a little bit more before you speak? The emperor’s commands are all-important and holy, so do you think you’re allowed to criticize him? I beg you, Mother. If you can't help me or Father, then at least don’t cause any trouble for us, okay?”Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Sanguine’s thoughts: This Wu Junling is definitely smarter than Li Meirou...but it seems like her mother is a bit more dumb.