However, because the preliminary round of the imperial examinations had a direct impact on one’s path to officialdom, attempts at cheating continued without end. Among the candidates, a joke about ‘pigeon messenger’ was passed around. It was said that, in the last dynasty, there was a student whose family had trained a pigeon. Every night, that pigeon would fly into the student’s exam stall and the student would write all of the questions from the exam in tiny handwriting and have the pigeon bring the tied up note on its leg back. The family had hired an expert at answering questions and had him write all of the answers to the questions before having the bird bring it back. Because the pigeon couldn’t bring back anything too heavy, both sides of the paper had been used to write the answer. Since the hired scholar was afraid that the candidate might miss the back side, he had written ‘there is more on the back’ on the front side of the paper. Unfortunately, that candidate had copied that phrase without realizing it and had gotten caught by one of the graders...
Although no one was able to verify the authenticity of this story, it caused many of the candidates to begin to raise pigeons at home. It truly made the lives of the soldiers guarding the exam hall hard. At night, they needed to increase their precautions and they even added on some archers to their ranks. When birds flew over the area, they shot them down. It was rumored that one of them had even shot down the messenger pigeon of a young noble maiden, who was exchanging love letters with her sweetheart.
After the nine days of the metropolitan civil service exam passed, Little Shitou came out of the exam hall with an exhausted and sallow face but he was in good spirits. The only people outside waiting for him were his older brother-in-law, Zhuang Xiaomo, and his personal assistant. Little Shitou looked quite flabbergasted for a moment before it dawned on him as to what had happened.
Zhuang Xiaomo took his exam basket from him and smiled, “Today is the fifteenth and is the day that they’re adding to your second older sister’s dowry. Originally, she wanted to personally come here and wait for you to come out but she was stopped by everyone in the family. Your second older sister’s godmother had actually said: ‘How is it suitable that the female host isn’t there for her own dowry adding day?’ Furthermore, she needs to be there to receive her good friends. Quite a lot of people have arrived for this and their statuses are quite high and noble. Everyone at home is incredibly busy. When your eldest sister saw that it was about the right time, she sent me over to pick you up and also explain what was going on.”
Zhuang Xiaomo didn’t ask his younger brother-in-law how he thought the exams went. In his eyes, with Great Scholar Yuan as his teacher and his younger brother-in-law’s talents, it’d be surprising if he didn’t do well!
“Then let’s head back faster! I need to see if I can help out in any way!” Little Shitou felt a bit sad and conflicted about his second sister’s marriage that was occurring three days later. His second sister would very quickly enter someone else’s family and begin her own household. Never again would she be able to spend all of her time around him like before. When she had her own children, he was pretty certain that he would be forgotten by her!
After thinking that, he felt a bit embarrassed! He was about to become an imperial official and would be taking up a post at court, yet he was still acting like a child, clinging onto his older sister. He was even trying to strive for favor against his future nephew. Was he truly the youth that everyone admired for being talented and having boundless opportunities in the future ah?
Little Shitou went through the corner gate to enter his own courtyard. After washing up and changing into a clean set of clothing, he went out to help receive the guests.
There truly were a lot of people present today for the dowry adding ceremony. Although the empress herself hadn’t left the palace, she had sent one of her personal palace maids out to deliver a mutton-fat jade scepter carved into reishi mushroom. In the middle was a peanut carved out of jadeite. The meaning behind this scepter was ‘have a gratifying and satisfactory life and may you have heirs soon’.
The grand princess royal was quite advanced in age but personally appeared at the Yu Residence to participate. She gave an inky black jade scepter that was carved into the shape of a flower and had gold threads tied around it in the shape of the character for ‘double happiness’. The meaning behind this gift was that one hoped that the married couple would always be linked together in their hearts.
Marchioness Dingyuan and her eldest daughter-in-law each gave a set of expensive and valuable hair decorations. One was the product of Treasure Pavilion. It had bright and flashy diamonds set into it, and they sparkled enough to dazzle a person’s eyes. The other set was from Wisdom Jade Pavilion. It was made out of crystal-clear red jadeite. The color was lustrous and shiny, and it was incredibly gorgeous. It wasn’t surprising that these two sent such expensive gifts to Xiaocao’s dowry. After all, if it weren’t for Xiaocao’s help in fixing the heir and his wife’s fertility problem, then Marquis Dingyuan’s residence would not have any grandsons in the legitimate line. How else would they be able to have a bunch of little radishes running around now?
After the wife of the heir gave birth to the eldest grandson, she became pregnant three more times during the following four years and had even given birth to a set of dragon-phoenix twins. Marquis Dingyuan’s Household now could lift their heads proudly in society. Marchioness Dingyuan became a lot more energetic after helping to take care of her grandsons and granddaughters, and her complexion had improved boundlessly compared to before. She also started to become interested in preserving her own health and had reserved medicinal cuisine from Medicinal Cuisine House. Every day, she would get a delivery of food for her to eat. In her own words, she needed to keep herself healthy as her daughter-in-law had five young children to take care of and it was too much to handle for one person. She needed to stay alive to watch all of her grandchildren grow up and marry their own spouses. Then, she might even live long enough to see her great grandchildren!
Marchioness Dingyuan had long wanted to find an opportunity to thank the great benefactor of Marquis Dingyuan’s Household. However, Xiaocao had been linked to Royal Prince Yang for a long time and Royal Prince Yang had achieved great military merits and ended up being promoted to Imperial Prince Xu. In order to avoid other people maliciously gossiping about their estate trying to climb the latter, other than occasionally encountering her at social events, she did her best to not get too close. Now, she finally had her opportunity at Xiaocao’s wedding to show just how much she appreciated the young maiden.
Marchioness Dingyuan’s daughter, Xiaocao’s close friend, He Wanning, had also arrived. She had just finished her confinement month and looked a lot more curvy compared to before. In addition, she seemed to have added on an aura of maternal gentleness to herself. He Wanning also gave a set of hair ornaments to Xiaocao’s dowry and it was inlaid with sparkling pink crystals that added life to the jewelry. It was also a product of Treasure Pavilion.
Although crystal wasn’t an expensive material in the modern world, it was a material imported by international ships in this time period. The rarer something was, the greater its value. Furthermore, crystal was transparent and clear with bright and beautiful colors. Young maidens loved pink crystals the most. A single pink crystal hairpin from Treasure Pavilion cost around a thousand or so taels and was something that everyone clamored for. Thus, a complete set of hair ornaments made out of it was even more precious.
Xiaocao’s other close friend, Yuan Xueyan, had just discovered she was pregnant and there was a superstition in ancient times that a pregnant woman should not see a bride. Thus, she couldn't personally come. She also gave a set of exquisite jewelry made out rubies that was worth a thousand taels.
Yuan Xueyan had gotten herself married off last spring and the groom was actually Duke Rongguo’s Second Young Master, Ning Donglan. This event caused both Xiaocao and He Wanning’s eyes to pop out of their heads. When did these two begin to see each other in a different light? How come there wasn’t any hint of this before?
When the two of them interrogated Yuan Xueyan, she unexpectedly replied, “Since women cannot escape the fate of being married, as long as I found someone I didn’t hate, marrying anyone is about the same. I have a colder personality while Ning Donglan makes other people feel warm. Spending the rest of our lives together shouldn’t be an issue.”
Xiaocao had once poured out her worries to Zhu Junyang about this and had especially spent some time observing the newly married couple. The newlyweds were respectful to each other and treated each other like honored guests. They seemed to be getting along well. From Xiaocao’s reckoning, she would have thought that with Older Sister Yuan’s personality, it would take a bit more time before they were comfortable with each other. However, Ning Donglan had always been smooth when he wanted to and always did things well. As long as he wanted to do something, there was nothing he couldn’t achieve, let alone conquer an iceberg, right? She would have never expected that they would be anticipating a future baby so soon. It was likely after having a child that the two of them would have nothing wrong with their relationship, right?
Following that, more and more of her friends arrived to add to her dowry. Royal Princess Minglan, Yu Wanqing, and the two sisters, Li Mengru and Li Mengqi, had all shown up. In addition, there were some relatives of the Fang Family who brought along their daughters to take the opportunity to show their faces to the future Princess Consort Xu. Furthermore, more noble young maidens from the capital, who usually were mere acquaintances with her, had also arrived to add to her dowry.
That evening, when she saw how many good objects she obtained, Yu Xiaocao deliberately revealed a greedy expression and repeatedly said, “I’m rich, I’m rich! If I could get married a few more times, then wouldn’t I become the richest woman in the whole capital? ...OW!!”
Before she could finish her thought, her head had been knocked by two fists. When she turned ahead to look at the offenders, she saw her mother and godmother both looking at her with a complicated expression on their faces.
Madam Liu sighed, “Older Sister Xia, just look at her. She’s about to become a married woman but still speaks thoughtlessly. If she was marrying an ordinary person it’d be one thing, but she's marrying into Imperial Prince Xu’s Residence. I really can’t help but worry over her!!”
Lady Fang sent a look at the young maiden who was rubbing her head with an embarrassed expression and comforted the other woman, “I think you’re thinking too much about this! For one, Imperial Prince Xu truly treats our daughter with sincerity. Furthermore, don’t you know our daughter’s personality? She only speaks like this in front of people close to her as that is when she relaxes. When she is out and about, when has she ever committed a faux pas? However, Lass, you need to keep your tongue in cheek for the next couple of days in order to avoid bringing bad fortune along! How could you possibly blab about getting married more than once?”
Her last two sentences were said in a much more serious tone, so Xiaocao obediently lowered her head to show her regret. Xiaolian and her eldest sister-in-law, Liu Huifang, thought that she looked a bit pitiful, so they hurriedly spoke up in her defense.
Madam Liu once again warned her a few times and then looked at the entire room full of items to add to the dowry with worry, “These past few days we’ve fretted about the dowry until half of our hairs have turned white. We just barely managed to stuff all of her items into a hundred and twenty chests. Now we have so many more dowry items, so what are we supposed to do ah?”
Lady Fang also frowned out of worry as she looked at the items piled up in the room. She sighed and said, “It looks like that having too many good connections is also a burden ah! It’s one thing that her friends have added to the dowry. But the empress, grand princess royal, Duchess Ronguo, Marchioness Dingyuan, the wife of the prime minister...these all need to be put into one chest...it looks like that we need to redo a dozen or so chests in order to contain everything!”
“Then what are we to do? We racked our brains to get down to a hundred and twenty chests, stuffing as much as we could into each one. How are we supposed to find this much space to add all of this?” Other people fretted over the fact that they didn’t have enough dowry. Apparently having too much dowry was also a worrisome thing!
Yu Xiaocao, on the other hand, acted as if this problem had nothing to do with her and casually said, “If we can’t fit it all, then leave some behind ah! It’s not as if we’re counting on the dowry to bring down the gates! Who doesn’t know that I am the equivalent of the God of Wealth now? Marrying me is the same as marrying a giant mountain of gold...OW!! Mother, you hit me again! If you end up breaking me, what are you going to say to Imperial Prince Xu?”
“Is there anyone else as shameless as you to brag so much ah? Mother is worrying for whose sake, ah? For you, right? Imperial Prince Xu sent over such a big amount of betrothal gifts to us, so if we send over a smaller dowry, how would the people outside gossip about us?!” Madam Liu had taken great offence to the malicious rumors about the Yu Family clinging onto Imperial Prince Xu’s legs for their own gain. In just what way was her daughter not a good match for him? The fact that she didn’t disdain him for being too old or for having such a weird personality was a good thing! If it weren’t for the fact that he was very sincere towards Xiaocao, she wouldn't be happy that her daughter was marrying him!
“Those wagging tongues live in other people’s mouths, so who cares what they want to say ah? In my opinion, you should leave the shops and residences for my eldest brother and youngest brother. One of them will be inheriting the family’s business while the other will be entering officialdom, so don’t both of them need more assets?” Yu Xiaocao had always been opposed to her parents splitting their assets into four fractions and giving one fraction to herself as a dowry. Her eldest brother and youngest brother were the family's future. Her parents had painstakingly worked to gain their wealth, so they should be giving them to her brothers and future grandsons.Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Sanguine's thoughts: Other people would beg to have their daughters marry Zhu Junyang hahahaha. Goes to show just how much the Yu Family loves Xiaocao. Poor Zhu Junyang is being wronged though!