“Second Older Sister, Second Older Sister!” Little Shitou’s clear, bright, and gentle voice can be heard from the courtyard. In a brief moment, the hanging screen to the door was pushed open, and a handsome young boy walked in, “Did the little nephew bother you today?”
Following the twelfth month, the fetus in Xiaocao’s stomach started to move for the first time. At that time, Xiaocao was leaning against the kang bed in her maternal family’s house as she watched her mother knit small pieces of clothing for the child in her womb. Xiaocao acknowledged that she has no talent for needlework and, up until now, the embroidered pouches she made still had crooked threading. Madam Liu complained that she was lazy and didn’t try to learn earnestly; however, she immediately started to sew hats, shoes, and socks for her unborn grandson.
Yu Xiaocao was pleasantly surprised when she felt the fetus move, and immediately shared the good news with her mother. Her brother was there at that time, and he happily and earnestly ‘taught’ his nephew to be more obedient, be more considerate of his mother, and not to cause too much of a fuss. After that, whenever he saw Xiaocao, his first question to her was to ask whether his little nephew had caused her any trouble.
Although her little brother always addresses her child as ‘little nephew’, and her mother also addressed her child as ‘little grandson’, Yu Xiaocao believed that the child in her stomach should be a girl. Why would she believe that? It was because the child in her belly had always been well-behaved. After the first time, she felt the fetus move, the fetus stayed in her belly without moving again. This caused Xiaocao to believe that what she felt before was merely an illusion.
Speaking of this, Zhu Junyang remained upset for a long time because he missed his child’s first movements. As the commanding drillmaster of the army, his unhappiness caused the soldiers under his wing to suffer. The soldiers practiced every day like dogs, causing their complaints about their commanding drillmaster to rocket towards the sky! But behind his back, the soldiers secretly discussed whether their leader had offended his wife and was punished to sleep in a separate room…
Xiaolian, who was doing needlework at the side, deliberately put on an unhappy expression and said, “Younger Brother, aren’t you acting too biased? You have more than one little nephew, besides the one in your second sister’s belly!”
“Eldest Sister, isn’t the little nephew in your belly still small? Once he starts moving around, I will also greet him every day.” Xiaolian took over half a year to recuperate her body and had smoothly become pregnant with a baby. However, the baby in her belly was two months younger than the baby in Xiaocao’s belly. The baby wasn’t even three months old yet, so it didn’t look obvious that she was pregnant.
“Did our top scholar finish his work? Come and taste the egg tarts and puddings that Yangliu had specially made for you,” Yu Xiaocao jokingly teased. She pointed her finger at snacks and pastries on the table of the kang bed. She picked up a walnut and used a small hammer to crack it open. Then, she ate the pulp inside the walnut shell. It was often said that eating walnuts during pregnancy would make the children intelligent. Although she didn’t know whether there was any scientific research backing the claim, she still persisted in eating a few walnuts every day.
Little Shitou complained, “Second Older Sister, I am no longer a child, so stop using snacks to cajole me like I’m still a little kid.” While he said that, his hand faithfully stretched toward a piece of egg tart. The egg tart was flaky and sweet, which was his favorite type of pastry.
Speaking of which, when Xiaocao was commanded to leave the capital, the date of her little brother’s metropolitan exams hadn;t been released yet. She also missed his palace examinations. It was only later that she received a letter from her family stating her little brother placed first on the metropolitan exams. He also did well on his palace exam. When the results of the examination were released, people both envied and admired the sixteen year old who had gotten the best score on the exam.
Little Shitou had his wish fulfilled, becoming the ‘top scorer of three governmental examinations’, and couldn’t wait to write a letter to his second sister, who was in Jinling. Xiaocao also sent some specialty products from Jinling as a gift for her younger brother.
After that, he also took the examination for a temporary position at the Hanlin Academy, officially starting his career. His workload every day was not heavy. He just needed to help the emperor draft some edicts and explain some religious text and so on. After hearing Imperial Prince Xu’s explanation, Xiaocao understood that the temporary position was offered to the member of the emperor’s inner ministerial circle and was a cabinet consisting of talented scholars.
Prime Minister Yuan, who was above ten thousand people and only below one person, was someone who had started out as a temporary position at the Hanlin Academy. Many people from the imperial court said that in the future, Yu Hang would be walking the same path as Prime Minister Yuan. If there were no mishaps, then his future was boundless. Families with daughters around Little Shitou’s age all revealed that they want to marry into the Yu Family.
Even though Little Shitou was only sixteen years old this year, there were many young men around his age in the countryside that had already started to look for a wife. Madam Liu discovered that her peaceful days were gone forever. Madams whom she recognized and didn't recognize, all brought their daughters to visit their residence as guests, praising their daughters incessantly. Although Madam Liu was not familiar with dealing with these scheming madams, she was not stupid.
Before Xiaocao got married, Xiaocao told her parents not to worry about her little brother’s marriage. Little Shitou’s master was well-known in the north and south, and his senior brother was the current prime minister of the empire. Furthermore, he also had her and Imperial Prince Xu backing him up. His future achievements were not going to be small. They couldn’t just casually pick his future wife, otherwise, she might hinder his achievements in the future.
Madam Liu had a weak temperament, but she never made an important decision on impulse. When her youngest daughter was still at home, she would always ask her daughter for her opinion whenever she encountered these matters. After her youngest daughter got married, she would ask her god family or her younger son for their opinion whenever she didn’t know how to make a decision.
Therefore, she withstood all the pressure from the matrons in regards to her youngest son’s marriage and responded to them according to Lady Fang’s words.
“Fan’er’s marriage will be arranged by his master…”
“Fan’er told me not to worry about his marriage…”
“My Cao’er said that she will personally help pick out her younger brother’s wife…”
“I’m someone from an uninfluential and small background, so I won’t hinder my son. He always had his ideas. As his mother, my duty is to prepare the betrothal gift and the wedding ceremony...”
After this, people started to gossip about how ‘small-minded and petty’ she was, but people gradually stopped bothering her about her youngest son’s marriage. She didn’t care what other people said about her as long as it didn’t affect her children’s future.
In fact, Little Shitou didn’t have high standards about his marriage. As long as his future wife was pleasant to the eye, had a good temper, and was clever… and wouldn’t hinder him, then she would be good enough for him. But if she could be similar like his second sister, who had a good temperament, was efficient, witty, and competent, then it would be even better. He didn’t mind if his future wife didn’t have the talent as his second sister had in business and money-making; as long as she was dependable and was able to take care of the residence in his absence so that he would not have any worries while he served the emperor in the imperial court, that was all he needed.
Following the twelfth month, all the families were busy preparing for the festival. In Prince Xu’s Estate, Imperial Prince Xu has specially commanded the stewards that, if they could make the decisions themselves, to do it themselves. If they couldn’t, then they should report to him and that under no circumstance were they allowed to disturb the princess consort who was caring for her unborn child.
The matters related to the outer courtyard were all taken care of by the head steward of the outer courtyard. Meixiang and Wutong were in charge of the inner courtyard matters. Xiaocao was able to spend her simple life comfortably and peacefully. Her two best friends, He Wanning and Yuan Xueyanm came to visit her and were both envious of how carefree and leisurely she is.
After marriage, a woman had her father-in-law and mother-in-law watching over her, as well as numerous aunts and sisters-in-law. As a result, there were more matters to attend to and they weren’t as carefree as the time when they were not married. After Xiaocao got married, she didn’t have her in-laws watching over her shoulder nor did she have aunts and sisters-in-law to please. The two of them were jealous that she was able to live such a comfortable life.
“Don’t be too avaricious and insatiable. Lu Hao and Ning Donglan are not the eldest sons of the family, so you naturally aren’t the eldest daughter-in-law of the family. Compared to those who are in charge of preparing the food and clothing for the entire household, the two of you are already very blessed, alright?” Yu Xiaocao glanced at the two women who were commenting how envious they were of her as she ate the cold grapes that were sent from the plantation.
He Wanning nibbled at a fragrant and sweet pear as she laughed mischievously, “I’m just shocked by how comfortably you’re living. You might not know, although I have two older sisters-in-law, my mother-in-law was afraid that I would have complaints, so she forced me to manage the household. I don’t have the talent to manage an entire house! Do you think my mother-in-law is trying to torture me on purpose? As a matter of fact, I came here under the pretext of visiting you to take this opportunity to avoid work. My husband has also participated in the training exercise, so he won’t be home until the beginning of the new year. Tell me, should I head back and tell my mother-in-law that I’m worried about you living home alone, so I’ll be moving in with you to keep you company?”
“No!” Yu Xiaocao rolled her eyes at her as she teased Yuan Xueyan’s six month old daughter. The young child has inherited her parents’ good looks. Her adorable appearance made it impossible for people not to love her dearly.
Before Yuan Xueyan married, she appeared cold and indifferent, completely different from other people. After she married Ning Donglan, the two treated each other with mutual respect, but Xiaocao couldn’t help feeling like something was missing between the couple. But after the birth of their daughter, Yuan Xueyan’s motherly nature caused her to bloom brilliantly. She appeared to be more approachable. Her relationship with her husband also started to warm up all thanks to her daughter.
“Since you like Chan’er that much, why don’t you become in-laws by marriage?” He Wanning had a straightforward temperament. Her habit of speaking her mind had not changed, so it could be seen that she also lived comfortably in her husband’s family. Her mother-in-law and sisters-in-law weren’t purposely making her life difficult, so her temperament never changed.
Now it was Yuan Xueyan’s turn to roll her eyes at her, “Don’t let Ning Donglan hear what you had just said, otherwise, he will fight you as if his life depends on it!”
Everyone in the capital knew that Ning Donglan loved his daughter dearly. As soon as she was born, he visited every jewelry shop in the capital to buy custom made jewelry and pendants for his daughter. Even though he was a man, he visited numerous clothing stores, ordering enough clothes for his daughter to wear until the age of ten.
When he was home, he refused to let his daughter leave his hand. Even if his daughter is asleep, he will still hold onto her. The little child was now so used to being held, that she started crying if she’s not constantly held, even when she fell asleep. As soon as she was placed on the bed, she would cry until her voice was hoarse. Yuan Xueyan was so angry that she had a huge quarrel with him. She solemnly warned him that if he tries to spoil their daughter anymore, she would take her daughter back to her maternal family. This caused Ning Donglan to finally stop.
These were all rumors that she heard of after she returned to the capital. She rubbed her five month pregnant belly and softly said, “I think the child in my belly should be a little girl. She’s so obedient. If she doesn’t occasionally move around to remind me of her presence, then I would’ve long forgotten that I’m a pregnant woman.”Previous Chapter Next Chapter