In the spring, the mountain was lush with vegetation and had no lack of food. These wild hares and pheasants were very plump. At noon, the officials of the Ministry of Revenue were also able to eat a sumptuous meal of game thanks to them.
In the afternoon, there wasn’t much that Yu Xiaocao needed to help with, so she walked around the Imperial Plantation like she was on a tour. Zhu Junyang was like a tour guide as he introduced her to the origin of the Imperial Plantation.
In the early days of the Great Ming Dynasty, the officials of the former dynasty either died or fled, and the farmsteads owned by those officials were returned to the imperial court. Most of the farmsteads were rewarded to meritorious officials. The former chief court eunuch, Chief Steward Cao, owned the largest plantation at that time. It had a total of over 18,000 qing . It was difficult for the emperor emeritus to reward such a large plantation to others, so it was taken under the imperial treasury as the Imperial Plantation and managed by a trusted eunuch. In the Imperial Plantation, there were also a supervisor of the tenant farmers, low-ranking officials, and so on. Therefore, the eunuch was merely in charge of overseeing and hastening their work. The work in the fields still relied on the experienced supervisor and tenant farmers.
Along the way, corn and potatoes were planted in a small number of fields, and the rest were planted with spring wheat and rice. The Imperial Plantation had fertile soil, so the crops grew very well.
In the evening, most of the corn and potatoes had been irrigated with the ‘pesticide’. Thus, Yu Xiaocao and her father went back to the general’s estate on their horse carriage. Zhu Junyang didn’t want to go back to face that disgusting woman, so he stayed at the general’s estate for dinner and dawdled for a long time before returning home.
When he returned to the estate, Princess Consort Jing had already finished washing up and was preparing to go to bed. Disregarding the hints of Meixiang and the others, Jiang Zixian chatted with her paternal aunt with a flower-like smile. But, with an anxious heart, her eyes frequently looked towards the door.
Princess Consort Jing knew that her youngest son had gone to the Imperial Plantation for work, but it was weird for him to not return when it was already so late in the evening. She looked at her absent-minded niece and sighed in her heart, ‘Perhaps I was wrong and should not have agreed to let my niece stay.’
In the past, when her son came back from Tanggu Town, he would accompany her for at least half a day. Even if her son was not good with words and barely spoke for the entire day, she could clearly feel her son’s closeness to her.
But, when her son came back yesterday and saw Jiang Zixian, he looked as if he had just swallowed a fly. He didn’t say a single word for the entire dinner and immediately left after eating. She heard that he went to the study in the outer courtyard and played chess with his lord father for most of the night. Today, he had gone out before dawn. He rushed around in a hurry as if there was a vicious dog chasing him.
She looked at the chime clock in the room, which was a rare item that her son brought back from the west. It was very convenient to check the time with this. Ay, it was almost ten o’clock. It was long past the time she usually went to rest, but her youngest son still hadn’t returned. Moreover, this tactless niece of hers was still dawdling in her room…
“Zhuxiang, is Lady Mother asleep?” Just as Princess Consort Jing was feeling regretful, her youngest son’s low voice sounded from outside the door.
Jiang Zixian, who sat on the edge of her bed, suddenly jumped up. When she saw Princess Consort Jing’s surprised and discontented gaze, she embarrassedly sat down again. She said with slight embarrassment, “Older Aunt, Brother Yang’s work is too tiring, and only came back at this time…”
“The emperor believes in him, and thus entrusted him with the important task of growing corn and potatoes. Due to the natural disasters last year, many good crops were wasted. If it fails again this year, the emperor will probably put the blame on him…” There was a slight sense of worry within Princess Consort Jing’s tone.
Jiang Zixian’s eyes shifted and said, “I think Older Brother Yang can hand over the task. Aren’t there the officials of the Ministry of Revenue? Brother Yang is born with a silver spoon in his mouth and has never done any farm work, so why does he need to take this thankless job?”
In her opinion, Zhu Junyang’s management of the Imperial Plantation’s experimental fields was just a job in which he had to deal with bumpkins. No matter how capable he was, there wouldn’t be a chance to show it. Moreover, he would become one of those lowly farmers that the nobles speak of. It was a degradation to his own status and a disgrace to the educated class!
Zhu Junyang was slightly surprised when he heard that his lady mother hadn’t gone to bed yet. However, when he entered his mother’s bedroom and saw Jiang Zixian lingering inside, Zhu Junyang fully understood the reason. In his heart, he felt even more disgusted with this woman, who would do anything to achieve her goals.
“Lady Mother, why are you sleeping so late today? Didn’t the imperial physician warn you? With your health, you can’t stay up too late and can’t be too tired.” As if Jiang Zixian, who frequently winked at him, didn’t exist, he said in a slightly complaining yet caring tone.
“I’m not tired…” Before Princess Consort Jing had finished speaking, she yawned, and tears flowed out of the corners of her eyes. She smiled sheepishly.
“Older Brother Yang, it’s all my fault. I was chatting too amiably with Aunt that didn’t I realized that it was already so late…” Jiang Zixian took this opportunity to move closer and looked at Zhu Junyang with a pair of big eyes that were like a pool of clear spring water.
Zhu Junyang’s face turned cold. He looked at Meixiang and Lanxiang, who were serving in the room, and reprimanded, “Are you two dead? Certain people are tactlessly lingering here, yet you guys don’t know to drive them out? If anything goes wrong with Lady Mother’s health, will you be able to take responsibility?”
“Your Highness, please don’t be angry. These lowly servants know that we’re wrong!!” Meixiang and Lanxiang felt very aggrieved within their hearts. They had reminded Miss Jiang more than five times, but Miss Jiang kept diverging the conversation. She was a guest, so they couldn’t exceed their authority and kick her out, right?
Jiang Zixian, who stood one step away from Zhu Junyang, was dying of embarrassment. Older Brother Yang was too inconsiderate of other people’s feelings. No matter what she was still his younger cousin, why did he have to speak so unpleasantly?
Zhu Junyang still treated her like air and said to the two maidservants, “Since it’s the first offense, I will let you guys go this time. If it happens again, you two will definitely be severely punished!!”
Princess Consort Jing saw her two maidservants kneeling on the ground and shivering like frightened quails. Although her heart slightly ached, she knew that her son was just using this matter as a pretext to vent his anger in front of Jiang Zixian.
“Thank you very much, Your Royal Highness!!” Meixiang trembled with fear as she stood up. She walked to Jiang Zixian and said in a low voice, “Miss Jiang, Her Highness needs to rest now. Please come back tomorrow.”
Jiang Zixian felt as if she had been slapped in the face and it burned painfully. She didn’t have any face to continue staying here, so she hastily bid farewell to her aunt and quickly left. If it had been other people, there was no way that they could continue staying in the Prince Jing’s Estate after this incident. However, Jiang Zixian was too eager to climb up the social ladder, and thus shamelessly stayed…
Princess Consort Jing looked at her niece’s back figure and lightly sighed, “Lass Xian was such a lovely child. How did she turn out like this after growing up? Yang’er, don’t worry. In a few days, Lady Mother will find an excuse to send her back.”
“Lady Mother, why are you letting just any random cat and dog stay at home? If you’re bored, then you can have Younger Uncle Shao’s family’s Lass Yue accompany you!” Zhu Junyang expressed the dissatisfaction in his heart.
Princess Consort Jing knew that the ‘Lass Yue’ who her son mentioned was the legitimate daughter of her youngest full-blooded brother. She had just turned nine, and she was clever, sensible, and very likeable. If her son said that Lass Yue was a good person, then it must be true.
“Yang’er, do you dislike Lass Xian because she fancies you?” Princess Consort Jing teased.
With a face of disdain, Zhu Junyang said, “If she simply liked me, I wouldn’t hate her so much. She is filled with ulterior motives, yet she still feigns an ignorant and innocent appearance, which is so sickening to see!”
Princess Consort Jing wanted to put in a good word for her niece, but when she remembered her son’s special ability, she swallowed back her words. After a moment of silence, she said to her son, who was about to stand up and leave, “I heard that Lass Yu has come to the capital. Invite her to the estate someday. I’ve been eating the medicinal meals that she prescribed, but I keep feeling that it’s not as effective as the meals that I ate in Tanggu Town. If she doesn’t mind, I want to ask her to check my pulse and see if we need to change the prescription.”
As she spoke, she observed the details of her son’s expression. Sure enough, when she mentioned the little girl of the Yu Family, the expression on her son’s face softened and his gaze seemed to have become warmer. There was always one thing to overcome another. It seemed like her son had completely fallen into the hands of the lass of the Yu Family. ‘Ay! How old is that young girl this year? Eleven, right? It doesn’t seem like she understands these matters yet! My son also isn’t someone who knows how to coax women. He seriously makes me worry…’
“Lady Mother’s health is important. Tomorrow, I’ll personally go invite her over. Xiaocao is always thinking about Lady Mother, and she even asked about you today!” Zhu Junyang couldn’t help but put in some good words for Yu Xiaocao in front of his mother.
Princess Consort Jing looked at him meaningfully, and then said, “I heard that Dongshan Village was one of the major disaster areas of last year’s locust plague. I don’t know what happened to the flowers and plants in the valley. Did they also get destroyed? Yang’er, how is our mountain manor in the West Mountains? It would be nice if we can go there to avoid the heat in the summer!”
Zhu Junyang replied, “The construction of the mountain manor is almost completed. If it hadn’t been delayed due to the locust plague last year, we would have been able to move in already. A wolf pack came down the mountains last autumn. If Son hadn’t just happened to be there, I’m afraid that the Yu Family would have also been harmed… Fortunately, the dozen or so wolves have been wiped out. The wolf fur mattress that Son brought back was a present from Yu Xiaocao to show her respect to you!”
Princess Consort Jing already knew about the wolf pack incident, but she still had lingering fears when hearing about it again, “Although it’s convenient to dig wild herbs and hunt for game when living at the foot of the mountains, it’s still quite dangerous. Tell your lord father to send a group of guards to defend the mountain manor. If the Yu Family needs help, we can help them out since we’re living close by. Yang’er, was there a lot of work today? Are you tired?”
“I’m not tired. I was just accompanying them. We mostly relied on Xiaocao’s pesticide… Lady Mother, it’s getting late, so you should quickly rest. If there’s anything else you want to say, we can continue talking tomorrow.” Zhu Junyang saw Princess Consort Jing’s face appeared slightly tired, so he quickly helped her lie down and covered her with the brocade quilt.
Princess Consort Jing enjoyed her youngest son’s rare thoughtful action and said with a smile, “Good, the experimental fields in both locations have been cultivated. You should be able to stay in the capital for a few more days this time, right?”
Zhu Junyang thought about it and replied in a slightly sly manner, “If there aren’t any irrelevant people being an eyesore in front of me, then I can spend more time accompanying Lady Mother at home. If Lady Mother has someone to accompany you, there’s still some matters that I need to take care of at Tanggu Town, so Son will have to stay there until there is complete peace and quiet at the home!”
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