Chapter 411 - Comparison Hurts

It was a cloudy summer day with birds singing. The sky was full of rosy clouds like it was dyed with paint. It reflected upon the figures of the busily working laborers, appearing beautifully magnificent.

On the edge of the field was an elegant and handsome figure, who made the slender figure beside him appear even more petite. The two people were Zhu Junyang, who had just returned from transporting wheat kernels to the capital, and Yu Xiaocao, who was supervising the tenant farmers to grow corn on the edge of the field. 

“Look! This is the money from the imperial court for the purchase of the seeds. It’s five thousand taels in total. Put it away!” Upon his return to the capital this time, Zhu Junyang had reported the output of Tanggu’s wheat, which shocked the whole imperial court. The emperor and a group of ministers, who were concerned about the people and the country, were also elated when they heard the news. 

The high yield of corn was due to the fact that the crop itself was high-yielding and it was coupled with meticulous care. So although the officials were somewhat surprised at the results, they weren’t in complete disbelief as they were now. 

After Minister Liu heard that they had planted winter wheat over at Tanggu Town, he also planted some in the experimental fields at the Imperial Plantation in the capital. The best wheat seeds were selected, and a good amount of fertilizers had been used. They also had experienced, old farmers taking care of the crops… Even though they had done their best in all areas, the yield still didn’t exceed four hundred catties per mu. 

Minister Liu and his subordinates had also gone to check out the fields at Tanggu Town. The soil wasn’t as fertile as the soil at the Imperial Plantation, and the wheat seeds were delivered over from the capital. They had hired long-term workers to tend the fields… There wasn’t a single aspect in which they were better than that of the Imperial Plantation, but their fields achieved an output of six hundred catties per mu, which was nearly double that of the Imperial Plantation. What exactly was the reason?

It definitely wasn’t due to Royal Prince Yang. Who in the capital didn’t know that Royal Prince Yang had been detained in Prince Jing’s Estate for some unknown reason since he was young? Even if he went out, he would be followed by highly skilled martial artists. Had the emperor not forced him to take the task of growing corn, he might never have the chance to deal with farming in his life. He was the type of person who only knew about cooked rice and steamed buns, but didn’t recognize rice and wheat.

Minister Liu carefully made a conclusion and comparison. The only difference between Tanggu Town and the Imperial Plantation was that the fields in Tanggu were managed by the Yu Family. He had specially inquired the royal prince about the Yu Family’s farmstead, which was not too far from the eight hundred mu of farmlands in Tanggu. They had also reaped a high yield. The nearby plantations all ordered the improved variety seeds from the Yu Family. The price of the wheat kernels had gone up to fifty copper coins per catty. 

Minister Liu had specially compared the wheat produced by the Imperial Plantation and the grain transported from Tanggu Town. He noticed that the wheat grains from Tanggu Town’s fields were a size bigger than that of the Imperial Plantation. Moreover, they all looked like a little fatty and appeared very full. He was also surprised to see the wheat ears that Royal Prince Yang brought back. It was about the same length as an adult man’s middle finger, and it was almost twice as long as the ears of wheat produced by the Imperial Plantation. No wonder the output was so much higher.  

If they used these wheat kernels as seeds, would they be able to have a big harvest next year? To be able to reach a yield of five hundred catties per mu would also be considered a great improvement ah! There would still be people willing to buy it for a higher price, let alone fifty copper coins per catty! 

In order to make a thorough comparison, the emperor had specially ordered people to grind the wheat from the two places into flour. They were made into steamed buns for the officials in court to taste. People should be content and not make unnecessary comparisons. The steamed buns made of the Imperial Plantation’s wheat flour appeared like a humble maidservant compared with the steamed buns made of Tanggu’s wheat flour.   

The Imperial Plantation’s steamed buns were fine by themselves. They were just regular steamed buns with a decent taste. However, when compared with Tanggu’s steamed buns, the results were apparent. Tanggu’s steamed buns were white and plump, and they emitted an alluring smell. With a chewy mouthfeel, it had a sweet and delicious taste. Even though it wasn’t some special dish, people wouldn’t be able to stop after eating one.    

For the two steamer baskets of steamed buns, the officials only tried a small bite of the Imperial Plantation’s steamed buns, and completely devoured the steamed buns made of Tanggu’s wheat flour. Two military officials had even fought for the last piece of bun, and nearly got into a fist fight. 

Zhu Junfan, who sat on the imperial throne, ate half a bun and yearned for more. Since he had transmigrated here, he had always eaten the steamed buns similar to that of the ones made of the Imperial Plantation’s wheat flour. Without a flour bleaching agent, it appeared darker and had a sticky mouthfeel. It didn’t taste as good as the high gluten flour from his previous life. Today, he had finally eaten a delicious steamed bun that was white, soft, and fragrant. It was even tastier than the steamed buns he ate in his previous life.  

This must be the credit of his fellow transmigrator friend. How did she improve the wheat into this current version? Or could it be…that she had a blessed spot to plant crops as her transmigration cheat? Wasn’t it like this in all the novels? Transmigrating with a Realm, Farming in a Transmigration Void, Personal Realm: A Hundred Thousand Mu of Fertile Farmland… Zhu Junfan was immersed in his daydream as he sat on his imperial throne, and totally didn’t notice that his officials were about to get into a physical fight due to a steamed bun.

Su Ran noticed that his master’s mind had drifted far away, so he quickly coughed twice to remind him to  pay attention to the two military officials. It was too embarrassing. They weren’t beggars in the slum area, so was it really necessary for them to act this way for a steamed bun? 

By the time Zhu Junfan returned to senses, the two old generals, who were over a hundred years old together, had already begun to fight. He loudly cleared his throat, and the people around the two old generals hastily pulled them apart. Seeing that the emperor had a displeased expression on his face, the court immediately quieted down. Only the sound of the two old generals’ heavy breathing could be clearly heard.   

Zhu Junfan didn’t know if he should laugh or cry, and said, “It seems like my beloved officials favored the improved variety of wheat from Tanggu Town’s plantation. We do too! There’s such a big difference between the grain grown from the same seeds. Wht exactly is the reason?” 

The ministers immediately began to debate. Some expressed that it was due to the water and soil, while some said that it was because of the climate. There were also some who said that it was related to the people who managed the fields… At this time, Minister Liu exerted Zhuge Liang’s [1] vigorous debate skills and refuted all of the factors speculated by the officials.

The conclusion was somewhat mysterious yet irrefutable—as long as the Yu Family participated in the process in the cultivation, their results would almost always be different from others. They grew early spring vegetables and sweet watermelons. They had a good harvest of corn despite the locust plague, and they also got a high yield of wheat. Facts spoke louder than words. Those who strongly opposed the Yu Family becoming imperial officials earlier had stopped and no longer came out to voice their objections! 

Zhu Junfan smiled and said, “The Yu Family is really capable! Especially the little girl from the Yu Family! We heard that it was the twelve year old girl who suggested to plant the vegetables, watermelon, corn, as well as the winter wheat. It seems like the one who is truly capable in the Yu Family is this unassuming young girl!” 

“Your Imperial Majesty, I don’t oppose the men of the Yu Family joining the imperial court as an official, but…if Your Majesty wants to promote the little girl, I’m afraid that the people will criticize the decision…” Imperial Censor Yang jumped out again. This person was seriously inflexible and didn’t know when to stop. 

Zhu Junfan chuckled and said, “Criticism? As long as the people have enough to eat and wear, why would we be afraid of some criticism? When we were still the heir of Imperial Prince Li, we had built a shipyard and constructed large ships. Weren’t there also a lot of officials who said that we were wasting money and manpower? Those doubts were automatically disproved after we personally set sail to seek the high-yielding and stomach-filling sweet potatoes. Without those ships that we made, would we have the high-yield sweet potatoes, corn, and potatoes now?” 

“Your Imperial Majesty is wise!” The officials bowed to the emperor and were sincerely convinced by his foresight. Corn and potato had not been popularized, but they knew very well the importance of sweet potatoes. In the north, the number of people who died due to successive years of disasters was far less than that of previous years. Moreover, they were also able to quickly return to their normal lifestyles. In addition to the emperor’s benevolence in tax reduction and exemption, it was also because sweet potatoes were high-yielding and suitable for all types of soil. Therefore, the victims of the disasters wouldn’t die of starvation due to a lack of food. 

“Since ascending the throne, we have attached great importance on the livelihood of the common people. For the sake of the people being able to fill their stomachs and wear warm clothes, we have been looking for experts who can promote agriculture. Now, an extraordinary talent in farming has appeared. Do we really have to give up on her because of her gender?” Zhu Junfan asked in a very sincere manner.

The bowing court officials didn’t say anything, but Imperial Censor Yang still very tactlessly voiced his opinion, “Emperor, you can reward her father and older brother…”

“Beloved Official Yang, the girl is still young, so her father and older brother can help her with the cultivation for the next few years. But what happens when she grows up and gets married in a few years? Her father and brother occupies her position but can’t do much for the common people. Is our Great Ming Dynasty going to bestow positions to officials who hold the office and enjoy the privileges without making any contributions?” Zhu Junfan spoke in a serious tone and questioning manner. He hated those pests who held onto a position without doing any work and didn’t let others take over. However, these good-for-nothing officials still existed and there was no way to prevent them from clinging on. 

Imperial Censor Yang wanted to refute, but he didn’t know how to reply to the emperor’s words. He frowned and seemed to be lost in his thoughts. Seeing that the emperor was enraged, the other officials didn’t dare to make anymore comments. 

Zhu Junfan lightly sighed and said, “Let’s discuss this matter again after we see the father and daughter of the Yu Family. Junyang, send a hundred catties of the wheat you brought over to each official’s house. Consider it a reward!”

“Your Majesty, please don’t!!” The officials were very happy and were about to thank the emperor when Minister Liu of the Ministry of Revenue jumped out and tried to stop the emperor’s order with his life. 

Zhu Junfan was mentally tired ah. He sighed and asked, “Beloved Official Liu, what ‘high opinion’ do you have?” 

“Emperor! The wheat kernels that Royal Prince Yang brought back are all plump grains, which makes them excellent seeds ah! This official thinks that the wheat should be used as seeds and planted around the capital. Your Majesty, imagine how many people will benefit if these seeds produce a high yield and are popularized all over the country ah! This official thinks that these wheat kernels should be stored as improved variety seeds and not be eaten as food!”

The officials were still reminiscing the taste of the white, plump steamed buns. When the emperor said that he would give the grains to them, their hearts burst with joy. With one hundred catties of wheat, they could grind seventy to eighty catties of flour, right? Wouldn’t they be able to make a lot of steamed buns then? It would definitely be enough to satisfy their cravings! What was wrong with this Minister Liu? To ask the emperor to retract his imperial edict, he was seriously harming others without any self-interest! ‘Your Majesty, you stand your ground ah!!’

Zhu Junfan felt very relieved yet tired to have an official who wholeheartedly cared about the common people. In fact, Minister Liu’s words were quite reasonable. However, could he really not even reward these officials, who had helped him with a lot of worries, with a mere bag of wheat?


[1] Zhuge Liang (诸葛亮) - a statesman and strategist, prime minister of the kingdom of Shu during the Three Kingdoms period; became a symbol of resourcefulness and wisdom in Chinese folklore

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Translator: Myst