By the time lunch was ready at Imperial Prince Jing’s Estate, Zhu Junyang still hadn’t come back. Princess Consort Jing and Xiaocao both thought that Zhu Junyang would be taking lunch with the emperor in the palace. Since Wu Junling was here as a guest, the prince’s estate split the lunch table into two tables with a screen in-between. The table on the outside only sat Imperial Prince Jing and his heir.
By the time they were about half finished with lunch, Zhu Junyang hurriedly came in. As soon as he entered the residence, a servant told him that Miss Yu had come to visit. When he entered the reception pavilion, he discovered that only his father and elder brother were at the table, eating silently. He hesitated for a moment and then heard the clear and sweet voice of the little lass behind the screen. He was just about to go behind it when his father stopped him, “There are female guests inside. If you haven’t eaten yet, then sit out here and eat ah.”
Zhu Junyang rather unwillingly sat down and picked up the chopsticks that one of the servants handed to him. He slanted his ears towards the screen to attentively listen to the voices beyond the screen. He knew that his little lass never visited without a reason. He wasn’t sure whether she was here for his lady mother or for himself this time.
“Lord Father, when Xiaocao came over today, did she say what she was here for?” Zhu Junyang eavesdropped for a bit and didn’t get the answer he was looking for, so he couldn't help but ask Imperial Prince Jing, who had gotten home before him.
Normally the whole family sat together to have a scrumptious and lively meal together. His beloved wife would even from time to time personally serve him some foods that he liked to eat. Now, he had to sit on the outside and stare at these two brats. Even his appetite was affected by this. Thus, Imperial Prince Jing was in a bad mood so he replied with a bit of heat, “I, your father, also just got back. How would I know what they’re talking about?”
“Then...when Xiaocao gave her greeting to you, did she look happy or a bit worried?” Zhu Junyang was afraid that his lass had encountered some difficulties. It was hard for him to concentrate on eating.
Imperial Prince Jing glared at his youngest son and replied in a displeased manner, “Are there any people who would show a long face when giving their greetings to other people? That lass Xiaocao is very sensible. Even if she was worried about something, she wouldn’t show it on her face to make other people worried too. By asking this, aren’t you deliberately trying to make things difficult for me?”
Princess Consort Jing said in a voice full of mirth from behind the screen, “Lass Xiaocao, quickly say what you’re here to find Yang’er for. Otherwise, he’s going to have a stomachache from eating and fretting at the same time!” When Zhu Junyang found out that the little lass was here to find him, he craned his neck as if he was afraid he’d miss a single word. He could only hear the little lass giggle a bit and then her sweet voice said, “In actuality, it’s nothing important. In two days, I was going to organize an outing and I wasn’t sure if this busy person had time to participate.”
The little lass had finally taken his grumblings to heart. It wasn’t like the last time when she invited others over for an outing to pick fruit and didn’t think of him. However, he was only happy for a brief second before a frown took over his face. The little lass had finally sent him an invitation but he now had a task that the emperor assigned him and had to leave the capital for some time. The emperor was truly too much. He couldn’t give him this task earlier or later and instead had to give it on the day the little lass gave him an invitation for an outing. He didn’t know how disappointed his lass would be when she found out that he wouldn’t be able to accompany her (Author’s note: Zhu Junyang, you’re overthinking this!).
“Next month is Princess Consort Duan’s fiftieth birthday celebration. Since she loves precious pearls, the emperor wanted to give her a coronet that has large precious pearls embedded in it. However, superior grade pearls are only things that you can come across and not easily buy, so it’d be hard to find one, let alone the nine needed to make this coronet. We could only find one superior grade pearl in the internal storeroom...so, this morning at court, I received the emperor’s command to go search for superior grade pearls.” Zhu Junyang was afraid that his little lass would be unhappy about his refusal, so he explained in great detail what was going on and hoped that she could sympathize with his plight.
When Yu Xiaocao heard this, she immediately became interested. If large superior grade pearls were that easy to come across, the emperor would not have sent someone as talented as Zhu Junyang to do this task. All of the experienced pearl hunters by the ocean already had their regular customers, so even if you visited them, they would likely have none in stock. As for the merchants who bought and sold pearls, if they had a superior grade pearl on hand, wouldn’t they hide it in their treasure boxes or search for a customer who they can sell it to at a sky high price? Why would they wait for you to find them and then sell it? As for those who were able to afford superior grade pearls, they either were incredibly wealthy or powerful, so why would they be willing to step aside for you? Even if the person who came along was the envoy of the emperor, it was not like they could forcefully take it from the owner.
Therefore...Yu Xiaocao’s eyes flickered around as she asked, “Princess Consort Duan’s grand birthday celebration is next month and you’re still missing eight top-notch pearls, so time is of the essence. Do you have any ideas right now?”
Zhu Junyang’s mind was also blank at this point. As soon as he left the palace, he rushed back to the residence and didn’t have the time to convene with his advisors to come up with a working plan. However, he could hear the undertone of excitement within her voice, as if she had something to say. This lass always had odd-ball ideas floating around in her head, so perhaps she could lead him down the right direction.
“Do you have any thoughts on this? This prince has no clue where to start! It’d be difficult to find one superior grade pearl, let alone eight. The emperor is deliberately giving out this hard task to make it difficult on me!” Zhu Junyang deliberately pretended to be out of sorts and sighed ponderously.
“Third Son! As an official, since the emperor gave you instructions, just do what you need to do. What’s the point in complaining so much? The emperor gave you such an important task because he believed in your ability, so you should be doing your best to relieve his worries!” Imperial Prince Jing took into consideration that there was an outsider here and glared at his youngest son as he pompously spewed out a few words.
Zhu Junyang winked at his father and then let out another long sigh as he somewhat helplessly said, “Wasn’t I just worried that I don't have any good ideas ah? You don’t even let me grumble a little ah!”
“I do have a somewhat immature idea right now, but I don’t know if it’ll be of much help!” After all, this was a task that the emperor had given Royal Prince Yang, who had a reputation of being omnipotent. If even he couldn’t come up with something, then making it sound like she had everything all set was a bit too much.
“Eh? What sort of idea? Quickly tell me…” Zhu Junyang couldn’t sit still in his chair anymore and wished desperately he could pull that screen away and snatch the lass over to get her thoughts on this.
“Ahem, ahem!!” Imperial Prince Jing lightly cleared his throat and gave a slight warning, “The mealtime is not the time to talk, nor is it proper to talk during bedtime. When we’re eating, it’s best not to discuss official matters. After we finish, we can talk about these things in the study!”
Imperial Prince Jing had his own concerns right now. Although the Wu Family’s lass seemed to have changed for the better, that mother of hers, as well as her previous conduct, made the prince feel wary around her. One needed to be careful in regards to the task set by the emperor. Otherwise, it was possible that some malicious people would try to interfere and cause them to fail. Recently, his youngest son had been rising prominently in court and he had made quite a few political enemies who were looking for an excuse to trip him over.
The rest of the meal closely adhered to the etiquette of ‘the mealtime is not the time to talk, nor is it proper to talk during bedtime’. However, it was obvious that everyone’s speed of eating had increased sharply. Wu Junling perceptively knew that she would not be permitted to participate in the following conversation, so she didn’t even stay to partake in the after meal tea before she said her farewells.
Princess Consort Jing watched as the young maiden left and remarked with a sigh, “That lass Ling’er has truly changed a lot compared to before from what I can tell. If she didn’t have that mother of hers, she would truly be a good girl.”
Zhu Junyang glanced at Wu Junling with the eyes of a stranger. In his eyes, she was someone who was completely irrelevant to him. Thus, did it matter that she changed or not? As long as she didn’t cling onto him stubbornly, he wouldn’t stop her from coming over to visit his lady mother and chatting a bit.
Zhu Junyang led Xiaocao to the outer study. His advisors, who had gotten the summons, were already congregating there. They had already heard of the task that the emperor had given their master and were currently enthusiastically discussing it. However, the group of them didn’t seem to come to a good idea by the time their master was done with lunch.
After the advisors greeted the prince, they discovered that behind him was a little lass. There were all sorts of rumors in the capital about their master and they had heard a lot of them. Some said that their master was a pedophile, others said that their master had bad taste to fall in love with rural countryside lass. Some said that the master had struck first to tyrannically claim Miss Yu as his own...however, rumors, after all, were just rumors. It couldn’t compare to seeing things first hand.
Was this short, delicate-looking, with a bit of childish demeanor girl in front of them the center of all of these rumors? She looked like she was only around ten years old. Did the master truly like them that young?
“Cao’er, didn’t you say earlier you had an idea in regards to the pearls? Quickly say it now for us to hear!” Not only Zhu Junyang turned to look at her expectantly but everyone else in the room, as well as Imperial Prince Jing, who had entered this meeting without an invitation, also turned around to gaze at her. The looks in other people’s eyes betrayed their hesitation and speculation.
A few of the advisors who were older men with white beards, such as Sir Shen, had obvious expressions of disdain of their faces. They had already debated this topic for almost half a day but no one here dared to say they had a good idea. How could a silly little girl come up with anything good?
One of the younger advisors of the bunch, Lu Wenxuan, held more curiosity in his eyes. If one had to choose the person who had caused the most waves in the capital recently, other than his own master, then it had to be this young maiden in front of him. She looked very sweet and delicate. The only thing that seemed out of the ordinary for her was that her skin seemed more exquisite and her eyes slightly larger than other girls. Otherwise, there wasn’t much difference between her and the other nobly-born maidens in the capital.
However, there was the saying that ‘you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover’. This young maiden had used her own abilities to obtain spectacular glory and honor for her family. Furthermore, she also made herself and her family incredibly wealthy in the process. Greenhouse grown vegetables, ‘Blossoming Beauty’ beauty and health salon, The Yu Family’s Pharmaceutical Workshop...he heard that even the master’s ‘Celestial World’ entertainment facility was also the product of this young lady’s ideas.
He recalled the daily income of the entertainment facility and thought that it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that the place was a gold-manufacturing machine. The area that was most profitable had to be the racehorse tracks that allowed betting. Every single race was filled to the brim with excited gamblers and was the most fashionable place for entertainment in the capital currently. Just what type of ideas did this young maiden have hidden in her little mind? He was quite curious about her.
In front of all of those inquiring, doubtful, and speculative gazes, Yu Xiaocao didn’t seem the least bit perturbed or intimidated at all. She explained her thoughts in a very natural confident manner, “My idea is not completely fleshed out so please remember that when listening. Right now, the temperatures outside are perfect for pearl diving. So, why don’t we set up a large pearl gathering competition? We can advertise this competition throughout the coasts where fishing villages are and use a big reward and the chance for glory to attract all of the experienced pearl divers to compete. The competition can go on until the middle of next month. As long as we’re able to gather the superior quality pearls we need before Princess Consort Duan’s birthday celebration at the end of next month, then wouldn’t you be able to finish your task without any hiccups, Ruizhi?”
Yu Xiaocao’s proposal had been thought up on the spot so it wasn’t completely perfect. However, in the advisors’ minds, it was the best idea that had come up so far and a treasure to behold. The doubts they had in their hearts had completely disappeared and they could finally see the light.Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Sanguine’s thoughts: Pearl diving time!