Perhaps he was frightened when Xiaocao gave birth last time, Zhu Junyang had secretly gotten a contraceptive prescription from the imperial physician. As a result, Little Baozi had already reached the age of five, but he was still the only child in Imperial Prince Xu’s Household.
Princess Consort Jing felt very anxious ah! Why were they all like this? Her eldest daughter-in-law also couldn’t get pregnant for many years after giving birth to her first child. It was after Xiaocao helped her nourish her body that she was able to successively give birth to three sons and a daughter. Her second daughter-in-law’s mother had died early, so there weren’t any female elders to look after her. There was severe coldness in her uterus. After she got married, she had nourished her body for two years before she finally received good news and consecutively gave birth to three sons.
But, that wasn’t right ah! Her youngest daughter-in-law was a doctor herself. Even if she had hurt her body when she gave birth to Little Baozi, shouldn’t she have already recovered after recuperating for so many years? But it had already been five years. Why hadn’t there been any good news at all? Could it be that ‘doctors didn’t treat themselves’? After Princess Consort Jing privately murmured to her husband several times, she finally couldn’t resist looking for her youngest son, “Yang’er, perhaps you should get an imperial physician to check on your wife?”
Zhu Junyang, who had just led the Xishan Barrack to suppress bandits and returned victorious, was startled by her words. He repeatedly asked, “What’s wrong with Xiaocao? Where does she feel unwell? When I saw her earlier, she was playing hide-and-seek with our son. Was she trying to make our son happy while putting up a front?”
The young heir, Zhu Yunxuan, had a helpless expression on his face, ‘Lord Father, are you sure it’s not your son who’s playing with your wife to make her happy?’
The five-year-old Little Baozi had a relatively precocious temperament and gave off a sense of maturity for his young age. He had long been dismissive of ‘childish games’ like hide-and-seek, rolling iron hoops, and throwing sandbags, ok? He was now more interested in writing, mounted archery, and practicing martial arts.
He enjoyed all of these activities, but his lady mother didn’t think so. She felt that her son, who was so young, was very pitiful to be ‘forced’ by his lord father to study and practice martial arts. He was such a tiny person, yet he had to half-squat under the blazing sun for over an hour. His little face was flushed red from the sun and sweat trickled down his face. As his mother, her heart pained to see this ah! In order to not destroy the nature of a child, Yu Xiaocao used her spare time to play parent-child games with her son. However, she didn’t know that these games, which she thought were interesting, were extremely childish in her son’s eyes.
Seeing that his lord father often went out for official business for many days, Little Baozi, who loved his lady mother, reckoned that his lady mother was too lonely and thus she wanted him to accompany her. He was filial, so although he was annoyed by these childish games, he still impatiently accompanied his lady mother and tried to make her happy. Old Laizi still wore colorful attires to entertain his parents when he was over eighty years old. So what was wrong with him sacrificing a little to accompany his lady mother to play these stupid and simple games?
However, his lord father obviously didn’t understand his act of filial piety. He thought that his wife had gotten sick from exhaustion from playing with their energetic son. He felt very anxious ah! He chided his ‘ignorant’ son in his heart!
Seeing that her son’s mind had wandered elsewhere, Princess Consort Jing quickly pulled on him and asked after a moment of hesitation, “No, that’s not it. Lady Mother wanted to ask you…there’s nothing wrong with your wife’s health, right?”
“What could be wrong?” Zhu Junyang suddenly thought of his wife’s medical skills and how there weren’t anyone in the Great Ming Empire who could surpass her in making medicine. If she was ill, she would be fine after taking some medication. What exactly did his lady mother mean by talking about this?
“She’s fine ah…then…” Princess Consort Jing paused for a long time and hesitated to speak as she looked at her son. Could it be that there was something wrong with her son? Men usually had strong self-esteem and were unwilling to accept the truth. It was quite possible for him to avoid getting medical treatment.
“Lady Mother, what exactly do you want to say? Can you stop beating around the bush?” Princess Consort Jing hesitated to speak and looked at him from time to time. Zhu Junyang felt weird from his lady mother’s staring, so he couldn’t help but ask.
Princess Consort Jing told him about the worries in her heart. Zhu Junyang didn’t know if he should cry or laugh, “Lady Mother! Your son is in perfect health! You should focus your energy on Second Brother’s daughter. Second Sister-in-law doesn’t look like someone who can take care of children, so you need to stay beside her and help her out more.”
“If you are both healthy, then…why aren’t you guys giving Xuan’er, who is already five, a younger sibling?” Princess Consort Jing finally expressed the purpose of her visit.
Zhu Junyang didn’t know whether he should laugh or cry. He coaxed his lady mother, “You can rest assured! We will definitely give you another grandchild next year, okay?”
“You make it sound so easy ah! It’s not something you can control…” Princess Consort Jing grumbled as she returned to Prince Jing’s Estate. Then she complained to her husband, who had ‘retired’ and was staying at home. Imperial Prince Jing was so annoyed that he went to Duke Rongguo Estate everyday to play go and drink tea with his old friend.
Imperial Prince Xu, whose ‘ability’ was questioned by his lady mother, tried to prove his capability with his wife throughout his entire break. Xiaocao’s whole body felt sore everyday, and she kept scolding her man for acting crazy. The filial Little Baozi saw that his mother often held her waist, and thus thought that she was ill. He thoughtfully helped massage her back and waist and seriously reminded her to rest more.
Under Imperial Prince Xu’s hard work, the good news of Princess Consort Xu’s pregnancy finally came out of Imperial Prince Xu’s Estate. At this time, the yield of winter wheat, which produced a thousand catties per mu, had finally stabilized. The common people said that this younger son of Princess Consort Xu would be born with good luck.
The current Great Ming Dynasty had truly become an empire that was strong, prosperous, and peaceful. In Jiangnan, hybrid rice with a yield of over one thousand catties per mu had been popularized. The breeding base for hybrid rice had expanded to ten thousand mu and provided seeds for most paddy fields in Jiangnan.
Old Official Wu had been promoted three ranks for his contribution to the research on hybrid rice. However, he had declined the good opportunity to work in the capital and insisted on staying at the breeding farm in Jinling to continue working in the improvement of hybrid rice. The Clerk of the Capital for Grain had once mentioned that it was not a dream for super hybrid rice to produce two thousand catties per mu. This had become a lifelong goal of Old Official Wu! Old Official Wu’s achievements were later recorded in the Annals of History, and he became known as the ‘Father of Rice’…
The seeds for high-yielding winter wheat, corn, and potatoes were widely planted in the northern regions. This was especially important in the most impoverished regions, the northwest and the northeast, where only one crop could be harvested in a year. These high-yield crops had freed the people there from the threat of starvation.
The Xishan Armory under Imperial Prince Xu’s supervision was producing more and more sophisticated weapons. No matter if it were the refined steel weapons or firearms such as muskets and cannons, the productions were increasing year by year. The armory had also improved the firearms and produced a firearm that could shoot continuously. The range and accuracy had improved significantly.
In short, the Great Ming Empire was like an enormous dragon entrenched in the east side of the world. The small neighboring nations and belligerent tribes in the north had to submit to them for fear of being swept by the tail of the soaring dragon. Fortunately, the emperor wasn’t a militant and ambitious man. He had no intention of occupying the smaller nations around the empire. Otherwise…the territory of the Great Ming Empire would expand to the max!
Princess Consort Xu and Imperial Prince Xu, who were great heroes in the eyes of the common people and imperial officials, were currently suffering from morning sickness and anxiously loitering on the side while feeling heartache for his wife, respectively.
“What’s wrong? Everything was fine when she was pregnant with Xuan’er. Why is she vomiting whenever she eats this time? The lass has already lost so much weight in just a few days!” Seeing that his wife immediately vomited as soon as she smelled the scent of scrambled eggs with shrimp, which was a dish that she usually liked, Zhu Junyang hastily ordered the maidservant to take the dish away. Then he got a cup of water and personally helped her rinse her mouth.
Yu Xiaocao vomited so much that she didn’t have the strength to speak. Her eyes were rimming with tears as she looked at her husband with a wronged expression. She was clearly very hungry, yet she puked out everything that she ate. The mystic-stone water had sustained her through the past few days, otherwise, her constitution would have gotten very bad.
Zhu Junyang was very distressed, but he didn’t know what to do. He stared at his wife’s belly and said, “How can this child be so different from its older brother? It’s torturing its mother so much. When it is born, I must teach it a lesson.”
The little fellow Zhu Yunxuan stayed by his lady mother’s side with tears in his eyes. He had never seen his lady mother suffering so much. Hearing his father’s words, he glared angrily at his mother’s belly with phoenix eyes that were very similar to his father’s, ‘Younger Brother (Younger Sister) is naughty. In the future, I must help Mother look after my younger siblings, lest they cause trouble and make things difficult for Mother.’
In the years to come, Zhu Yunxuan gave full play to his role as the eldest brother and acted very strictly to his younger siblings. The future little buns weren’t afraid of their cold-faced lord father, nor their gentle lady mother. They were only afraid of their extremely beautiful older brother who had a smile on his face all day long. This was a story for the future.
In the first trimester of her pregnancy, Xiaocao often vomited almost everything that she ate. Even if Yangliu took a break from managing the business and personally prepared delicious medicinal cuisines for her mistress, she still didn’t change this condition.
Xiaocao, who was in the early stages of her pregnancy, felt very painful and often puked out everything in her stomach. In order to ensure the nutrition of the mother’s body and the fetus, she had to force herself to eat. She would immediately vomit and then continue eating. She, who was originally very thin, was about to turn into a stick from losing so much weight.
Xiaocao’s mother, godmother, and mother-in-law were all very worried and decided to stay in Prince Xu’s Estate. This made it more convenient for them to take care of her. Knowing that she could eat some fresh fruits, the fruit orchards, greenhouses, and icehouses of the plantation all did their best to send seasonal, off-season, and refrigerated fruits to the Prince Xu’s Estate.
However, the appetite of the child in Xiaocao’s belly constantly changed. Today, she might be able to eat a few bites of an apple, but on the next day, she would vomit after just eating a couple bites. However, she would be able to eat a few pieces of grapes… It was unknown how the news spread to the outside, but when others heard this, they all said that this was only possible because Princess Consort Xu owned many businesses so they were able to get many different types of fruits. Had it been other families, they wouldn’t be able to do anything about it.
This torture lasted for three months before all the symptoms came to end abrupt end. Yu Xiaocao’s appetite gradually improved. With Yangliu and the kitchen maids of Prince Xu’s Estate, their mistress soon regained all the flesh that she had lost.
Yu Xiaocao felt that the child in her belly would surely be a picky eater. Today, it learned to eat spicy food. There was a layer of chili pepper on top of the Sichuan poached fish in chili sauce. Her mouth was numb from the spiciness, but she still ate with relish. The chili pepper in the spicy chicken bites were crisp and fragrant. She could eat half a plate of the chili pepper. Princess Consort Jing happily said, “Sourness for sons and spiciness for daughters; it must be a delicate little royal princess this time. With a boy and a girl, we’ll have the character ‘good’.
But, on another day, she would like sour food. She could eat an entire plate of extremely sour green plums without a change on her face. She ate two or three lemons, which were shipped back from the southern coast, in succession without even blinking her eyes. Her mother and mother-in-law were afraid that she would eat too much of the sour food, and thus took turns to keep an eye on her.
At times, she would be very interested in food with a very strong smell. For example, she would find the foul-smelling stinky tofu and durians, which had an extraordinary scent, to be very delicious.
When she was five to six months into her pregnancy, her tummy inflated like a balloon and was much bigger than the average pregnant woman. But, with their prior experience of her first pregnancy, no one paid too much attention to it. However, they had prepared the delivery room and invited the midwife to the estate before the seventh month, for fear that they would be caught off guard like when the heir was born.
However, this child was not as impatient as his (her) older brother. It stayed in its mother’s womb for more than nine months. By the time that Yu Xiaocao was about to give birth, her belly was so big that her skin nearly appeared transparent, which made others worry that it might explode at any time. Her swollen legs looked like radishes. When one poked on it, a deep pit would appear. She couldn’t fit in her own shoes, so she had to totter around in her man’s shoes. She didn’t like to wear the shoes that the sewing department made for her.
When she was seven months into her pregnancy, Imperial Prince Xu had requested for a break and stayed around his wife everyday. Especially when she strolled around in his big shoes. He was afraid that she would trip on the shoes, so he carefully supported Xiaocao like how Li Lianying served the empress dowager.
When Xiaocao got cramps in her legs in the middle of the night and teared up due to the pain, he would get up and gently massage her to relieve the symptoms. Her belly was too big, and she often needed to use the bathroom at night, so he would carry her over. Every day, he personally helped her soak her feet and massage her lower legs. He completely followed through with the role of a perfect husband.
The director of the Imperial Hospital had warned them that there might be more than one baby and that they should prepare all the necessary supplies. Therefore, they weren’t taken by surprise when the boy-girl twins were born.
However, the delivery didn’t go as smoothly as the last time for Xiaocao. It took six to eight hours for the two little fellows to finally arrive in this world. Since they were full-term babies, Little Mantou and Little Guozi weighed about the same as their older brother when he was just born. One weighed 3.2 kg and the other was 3.1 kg. Their thunderous cries were enough to prove that the two little fellows were in good health.
After the two little fellows grew older, those who didn’t know would often mix up their genders. The reason was simple. Little Mantou, the baby boy, looked 80% similar to his mother. He had cute, round almond-shaped eyes and thick, long eyelashes, just like Xiaocao. The baby girl, on the other hand, had inherited her father’s phoenix eyes. In particular, her dashing eyebrows caused others to mistake her gender.
It was apparent that Zhu Junyang favored their second son, who resembled his wife. When he had time, he would carry him in his arms and be unwilling to let go. Princess Consort Jing, on the other hand, preferred her young granddaughter. She often imagined what her youngest son’s facial features would look like if it was on a girl. Her young granddaughter had satisfied her imagination——she looked exactly the same as when she dressed her youngest son up as a girl when he was an infant.
When Yu Xiaocao gave birth, she almost had a massive blood loss, which hurt her vitality. Thus, her husband forced her to have a two-month post-natal confinement period. Zhu Junyang had also been frightened by his wife’s dangerous childbirth process, and secretly decided that they wouldn’t have any more children. He secretly took the ‘sterilization pill’ made by his wife.
According to the Annals of History, Imperial Prince Xu and Princess Consort Xu had two sons and one daughter. They lived past the age of one hundred, and passed away in their sleep on the same day…
(Author’s note: As the title says, this isn’t the ending ah! Haha!)
 The character for 'good' (好) is made up of the characters 女 (girl/daughter) and 子 (boy/son).
 Li Lianying (李莲英) - a highly influential eunuch during the regency of Empress Dowager Cixi (late Qing Dynasty)
Not yet the ending but we're getting closer to the ending...