The days flew by and in a flash, it was time to harvest again. The Yu Family’s farmstead in Tanggu once again had a large bumper harvest of winter wheat and the output had increased again. On average, they had gotten around seven hundred and fifty catties of wheat per mu.
Although the yields of the commoners who had bought wheat seeds from the Imperial Plantation and Tanggu weren't as high as the Yu Family’s or Imperial Plantation’s, they still received on average six hundred catties per mu. Compared to normal wheat yields, this was about an additional fifty percent to double of what was normal. The commoners who lived in the suburbs near the capital, as well as those near Tanggu, all had joyous expressions on their faces.
The villagers near Tanggu were especially happy as they had started planting high yielding corn and wheat earlier than the ones by the capital. Their lives had been much more pleasant these past two years compared to before. They had surplus grain on hand and could even sell it out at a high price. Some people, for the sake of increasing their profits, sold all of the grain they produced and used that money to buy ordinary grain instead to eat.
Since the Yu Family’s farmstead originally only had around two thousand mu in land, they were limited in how much improved grain they could plant and harvest. Some of the merchants in the area came up with the idea to buy grain from the nearby villages. However, they soon discovered that the seeds from those people gave yields that were much lower than the ones they got from the Yu Family. Thus, they soon gave up on that idea and did their best to get connections with the Yu Family so that they would be able to buy high-yielding grain as soon as possible.
Seeds for winter wheat were reserved for the grain merchants who sold to the people in the northeast. After carefully inspecting and getting information on all of the eager merchants, Yu Hai decided to cooperate with a grain merchant surnamed Zhen. This man had a pretty good reputation in the northeast districts and didn’t cheat the people there, so the people liked him. After signing an agreement where the merchant agreed not to inflate prices on the grain, they filled two of his cargo ships with winter wheat seeds and they set off from the harbor to go to the northeast.
After a light refreshing rain, it was time to start the autumn planting on the expanded Yu Family’s farmstead in Tanggu. Once this season of corn was harvested, then they would be able to supply more than half of the commoners in the northeast with seeds to plant.
Yu Xiaocao, who was currently in the capital, wondered if she should find some time to go back to Tanggu to take a look. It didn’t seem very honest of her to throw all of the responsibility onto her father and older brother while she stayed away, acting as an idle manager.
When He Wanning, who represented everyone who was interested in whether there would be a second ‘picking peaches picnic’, heard her tentative plan, she immediately became interested, “Xiaocao, if I’m remembering correctly, you once said that your hometown is by the mountains and the sea. One can hunt in the autumn and winter and gather seafood in the summer and spring. How about you organize a ‘seaside feast’ and invite us over to see your hometown? What do you think of this idea?”
Yu Xiaocao looked at her helplessly and replied in a tone that didn’t have much hope, “Older Sister He, you forgot that when I first came to the capital, many people mocked me for being a ‘crude villager’ or ‘muddy peasant’. Not everyone is like you and is interested in how life goes in a small fishing village!”
He Wanning had a confident expression on her face as she said, “Don’t worry, I’ll help you find out what everyone else thinks. Those who want to come are welcome to come, whereas those who aren’t don’t need to! If no one else is interested, then the two of us can go. It’ll definitely be more relaxing that way!”
After He Wanning left Xiaocao’s residence, she directly went to visit her good friend, Yuan Xueyan. She enthusiastically described Yu Xiaocao’s farmstead as if she had personally been there and then slapped the table and stared at Yuan Xueyan, who showed zero reaction the entire time, with wide open eyes and asked, “Are you going to go or not?”
“When will you be able to change that rascally temperament of yours? Younger Sister Xiaocao has made it such that you look gentle and tender on the outside and no longer resemble a tomboyish urchin. But as soon as you open your mouth, that image is ruined!” Yuan Xueyan put down her book of lyrical poems and faintly glanced at He Wanning.
“Xueyan, are you still my best friend or not? This is an idea that I came up with. If you don’t agree with it, then what sort of face will I have in front of Younger Sister Xiaocao now?” He Wanning pulled at Yuan Xueyan’s hands and swayed back and forth until she started to feel dizzy.
Yuan Xueyan let out an audible sigh and took her hands out. She calmly said, “Alright ah! Since you're trying so hard right now, then I’ll agree to your proposal. As a matter of fact, I also wanted to see my grandfather and younger brother, so it’ll be the perfect timing to stop by too…”
“Then we’re all set then! I’m going to go visit Minglan and see if she’s interested or not. In actuality, I feel like just the three of us going without any extraneous people following is more relaxing and enjoyable.” He Wanning recalled that with Royal Princess Minglan’s fiery temperament, if she didn’t invite her on a fun outing, then the other girl would likely get revenge later.
Royal Princess Minglan had a similar personality to He Wanning and also wasn’t one to be patient. When she heard He Wanning’s proposal, her eyes lit up and she excitedly said, “I heard that Younger Sister Xiaocao is very skilled at swimming and she knows how to dive deep to gather seafood. She also has a dolphin friend that helped her discover the Wokou pirates early! Do you think we’d be lucky enough to see her dolphin friend?”
He Wanning also became excited at the thought. She strolled back and forth a few times as she complained, “That lass Xiaocao is truly some friend. Her hometown has so many fun things to do but she never thinks of us, her good friends! If I didn’t have a moment of impulse and blurt out a sentence, that lass would have secretly ran back to Dongshan Village by herself! That’s not okay, I need to make her pay this time! She needs to provide us with an authentic seafood feast!”
After she got in touch with her two best friends, He Wanning ran back to the Yu Residence and made sure to confirm the date that they were leaving on. Then, she went home and exhilaratingly began to pack for her trip!
Having one sheep come along was no different than having two sheep. Since she already had three extraneous people tagging along with her to Tanggu, there was no real difference if she added a few more. Thus, she sent out invitations to Yu Wanqing and Li Mengru and her sister. After thinking a bit, she also went to Imperial Prince Jing’s estate to visit to find out if that fellow Zhu Junyang had time to spare. This was to avoid her petty man from becoming jealous and sulky that she invited other people but not him.
When she entered the prince’s estate, she found out that Zhu Junyang had been summoned by the emperor to enter the palace and it sounded like the emperor had some sort of task in mind for him. See, it wasn’t that she didn’t want to bring him along; it was that he was unfortunate enough to have other duties stopping him from coming. She spent some time chatting idly with Princess Consort Jing and ended up being invited over for lunch. At the table, she encountered Wu Junling, who had come to pay her respects to Princess Consort Jing.
Perhaps it was related to the fact that Wu Junling now burned incense and spent her days in Buddhist prayer, but her personality seemed to have changed tremendously compared to before. In the past, she was charmingly beautiful but was like a delicate pretty flower vase without a soul. She had no inner substance and every movement she made was tainted slightly with a tacky secular element.
Now, it was obvious that her soul and mind had calmed down. She no longer seemed to be frivolous and had completely removed all hints of fickleness and impatience from her demeanor. She was graceful and peaceful. With that added onto her natural good looks, it even made Xiaocao, who once didn’t see eye to eye with her, unable to feel disgusted by her.
Wu Junling was only a bit startled after she saw Xiaocao sitting closely to Princess Consort Jing in an intimate manner. Apparently, she didn’t expect to see Xiaocao there. After that, she smiled faintly at her while she absentmindedly stroked the Buddhist prayer beads on her left wrist. This bracelet was only obtained after her mother kowtowed at Huguo Temple for ninety-one consecutive days and moved Grandmaster Yuanhui by her sincerity. Only then was he willing to create this prayer bracelet for Wu Junling. Ever since she started wearing it, the nightmares and ghosts that plagued her previously never appeared again.
When Grandmaster Yuanhui gave these prayer beads to her, he gave her a piece of advice, “Chasing stubbornly after your desires may not lead to your desired outcome. You need to open your heart and see that the world is much more vast than you previously thought. One cannot force fate or destiny!”
After being frightened by her older cousin, Wu Junling didn't have any desire to get closer to that alluring and devilishly handsome face again. Ever since she got back from Huguo Temple, she stayed in her own courtyard and set up a small Buddhist shrine there. Every day she would burn incense and chant scriptures as she sincerely prayed there. It felt like her entire body had lightened up and relaxed more.
Yu Xiaocao was a bit flabbergasted by the complete change in Wu Junling. The little white lotus, who once tried to grasp Zhu Junyang, had unexpectedly mended her ways. It was truly inconceivable. Xiaocao returned the other girl’s smile with a tranquil smile of her own and continued to chat with Princess Consort Jing on the previous topic of conversation.
“I don’t know whether that mountain ravine has any other precious and beautiful camellias. Xiaocao, when you go, help me keep an eye out...however, I doubt your ability to appreciate flowers, so don’t just bring any old plant back to fool me!” From the tone of Princess Consort Jing’s voice to the expression on her face, Wu Junling realized that aunt regarded Yu Xiaocao quite highly. In fact, the degree of how much her aunt liked the other girl frightened her. It made her realize that her aunt had always been courteous to her, but never that intimate.
Yu Xiaocao smiled bashfully at the princess consort’s comments. She knew she wasn’t an elegant person and she was never truly interested in the different types of flora. Other than the difference in colors or species, she never paid much attention to them. As for identifying what sort of subspecies or shapes, she was out of her knowledge sphere——she had no clue where to start.
She glanced at Meixiang, who was standing behind Princess Consort Jing muffling her laughter, and said, “Isn’t there an easy solution to this? Older Sister Meixiang’s knowledge of camellias were taught by Your Highness. If you simply let me borrow her for a few days, wouldn’t that solve the problem?”
“You lass, I knew you were trying to come up with some idea to steal my maidservant away from me! Alright ah, in order to make that lady surnamed Feng truly accept her defeat at the next flower admiring banquet, then I will lend my precious maidservant to you temporarily.” For the past few years, Princess Consort Jing had roundly defeated Lady Feng using her improved collection of camellias, so she was in quite a good mood about it!
Yu Xiaocao teased, “Don’t worry, Your Highness, I’ll return her to you with nary a hair out of place!”
Meixiang pretended to be astonished and stated, “Then this servant won’t even dare to brush my hair every morning. If I’m not careful and lose a hair, then Miss Yu will find it very hard to report back to Her Highness ah!”
Yu Xiaocao also revealed an alarmed expression and then frowned to remark in a concerned manner, “Then what should be done? Your Highness, how about...I send my most capable personal maidservant——Wutong, to compensate you?”
Wutong, who had just been mentioned, also began to play in this act and put on a distressed expression on her face, “Young Miss, please don’t send this servant away to another person. In the future, this servant will eat half a bowl less rice. I swear I’m easy to provide for!”
Princess Consort Jing couldn’t take it anymore and covered her mouth with a handkerchief as laughter spilled out of her, “No need to compensate me, no need! I can still afford to send out a maid!”
“Your Highness, in the future, this servant will also eat a half bowl less rice at each meal. Please don’t send me to serve Miss Yu.” Meixiang also copied Wutong’s expression and phrases, which made Princess Consort Jing laugh harder in amusement.
Wu Junling couldn’t help but feel envious when she saw them interact with their servants in such a relaxed and teasing manner. However, it was only envy and nothing else. She had engraved the words that the grandmaster in charge of the temple had told her: ‘It is useless to force anything. Everything has its own karma and fate.’Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Sanguine’s thoughts: Glad Wu Junling learned her lesson.