Chapter 417 - Atmosphere at Court

“The emperor has arrived——”

“May the emperor live for ten thousand years…” The civil and military officials all greeted the emperor in one voice. Yu Hai and Yu Xiaocao, who were in the back behind all of them, were stunned for a second and then kowtowed half a second later.

Zhu Junfan majestically walked in and stood in front of the intricately carved dragon throne as he glanced at the direction of the Yu Family’s father and daughter pair. The corner of his mouth twitched into a smile as he lifted his right hand, “Rise my beloved officials!”

“Thank you, Your Imperial Majesty!” All of the officials came up and then respectfully stood in their places. Yu Xiaocao clumsily pulled herself up. Bowing down, kneeling, and then standing up was truly torturous. This society was too cruel for having a centralized monarchy and a culture that was heavily based on rank and status…

“If there are important affairs, bring up the memorials. If there’s nothing to be said, then retreat——” Su Ran’s voice sounded gentle and reserved and didn’t have a hint of shrillness in it. He had a very soothing voice. Yu Xiaocao was short and couldn’t see much over the heads of the officials. She wanted to clearly see the man who was sitting high up on the dais in the throne room, so she craned her neck to look. 

Su Ran easily spotted the little head that was peeking through behind the orderly ranks of the civil officials. Because the head was slightly tilted, the dangling hair ornaments in that person’s hair also swayed a few times. The little lass seemed to have sensed his eyes and naughtily grinned at him.

If Su Ran saw this, then Zhu Junfan, who was sitting next to him in a dignified manner, naturally also spotted this. He knew that his old transmigrator friend wasn’t a cowardly and timid person. How could she be intimidated by the grand and splendorous throne room? It was more likely that the little lass was taking this as a leisurely tour and enjoying the sights here.

Zhu Junfan spaced out for a bit while sitting on the throne. The official standing beneath him was reporting on the affairs of the people in Tanggu Town and the vicinity, so he only got the general gist of things. Following that, a few other officials sent up reports...Zhu Junfan occasionally took some time to glance at the little lass’s head that was still curiously looking around the room. It was as if she was watching a play that was very interesting and engrossing. For some reason, her blatant curiosity rubbed him slightly the wrong way.

Finally, none of the officials in court brought up anything else. Zhu Junfan looked at his younger cousin and raised an eyebrow, ‘Looks like you’re quite patient today ah!’

Zhu Junyang noticed the emperor’s gaze and stepped forward, “Your Imperial Majesty, the Yu Family’s father and daughter are already outside the throne room. They’re waiting in the back to be called in!”

His cousin was clearly lying through his teeth. That lass was clearly already inside the throne room. She had been craning her neck this whole time to see. At this rate, she was going to become a giraffe very soon!

Zhu Junfan silently roasted his cousin yet he acted in his usual dignified manner and announced, “Allow them in!”

Su Ran stood up straight and announced, “Bring the Yu Family inside the throne room!”

When Yu Hai heard this, his whole body trembled from head to toe. He felt like his limbs weren’t listening to his mind anymore. The highest ranked official he had seen in his life was the county magistrate. Although General Fang and Royal Prince Yang both had relatively high positions, he only interacted with them privately and had never spoken with them in such a formal situation. Even though General Fang had given him a crash course on the court etiquettes when meeting the emperor, he was incredibly nervous and he felt like his head had turned into a bunch of useless mush at this time.

It was his daughter who roused him from his induced panic. As she walked by him, she lightly pulled at his sleeve and that action calmed him down a bit. He saw that his daughter had her head properly lowered and her two hands were modestly placed on her abdomen as she went forward in small steps. She easily traversed through the officials in front of them. Her entire demeanor was calm and collected and there was a slight smile on her face. Even the hair ornaments on her head didn’t sway much as she walked forward.

Yu Hai felt a bit ashamed now. In front of such a grand occasion, his daughter must not be as calm as she seemed. As her father, he couldn’t become his daughter’s backbone and even required her to help him at such a crucial point. He was truly an incompetent father ah! With these thoughts running through his head, a burst of courage came up and he straightened his back and neck. His steps going forward had also become more steady.

The two of them didn’t make a single mistake as they properly greeted the emperor. After the emperor absolved them, the father and daughter pair stood up straight. Zhu Junfan didn’t say a word as he silently observed the reactions of the father and daughter pair in front of him. Although Yu Hai did his best to keep himself calm, he still had a hint of anxiety and frazzledness about him. This was the first time he was meeting the emperor and the first time he was in such a situation. His reactions were normal.

As for the Yu Family’s little lass, she was only putting up an act. Every movement she made was as graceful and elegant as those noble young maidens in the capital. Not a single movement was wrong or out of place. But why did her actions rub him the wrong way? Ah! It was because, within her bones, there was a certain attitude. She was neither servile nor overbearing and was extremely calm and collected. In fact, she even had a hint of excitement. ‘Little lass, don’t think that because you have your head down that we cannot see your true expression!’

The emperor had called in the Yu Family’s father and daughter inside yet hadn’t said a word. The officials all looked at each other in dismay. Just what was going through the emperor’s mind right now?  

Zhu Junfan waited until he saw that Yu Hai was about to break from the pressure. Only then did he slowly start, “We’ve heard that you were the one who first discovered the presence of the Wokou pirates near Tanggu Town. Furthermore, you also warned the authorities there, is that correct?”  

The most important person in the Great Ming Dynasty was asking him a question! Yu Hai opened his mouth and felt like there was something stuck in his throat. His heart pounded furiously as if it was going to jump out of his chest cavity. He reminded himself that he was a father and needed to bring honor to his children. He bowed and stammered, “In...in reply to Your Imperial Majesty…”

“In reply to Your Imperial Majesty! This subject has decent swimming skills and has signed a contract with the Zhou Family to help them obtain seafood. That day, this subject had unconsciously swam into the deep ocean and saw a fleet of around a hundred ships in the distance. They didn’t look like merchant ships and also didn’t look like navy ships from our Great Ming Empire. I thought it was a bit odd and secretly swam over to one of the ships. I found out that the people on the ships not only wore different clothing than us but I also couldn’t understand what they were saying. They were absolutely not people from our country.”

“This subject once heard the elders from my village talking about the fact that Tanggu Town is not too far from a neighboring country. In the past, they had experienced Wokou pirates attacking them. In addition, in the past few days, there were the remnants of a typhoon that blew past us from the direction of that country. The people from that country likely encountered a natural disaster! This subject also heard that, in the previous dynasty, many commoners here had been forced to become bandits after natural disasters struck where they lived. Thus, this subject wondered if the people in that country decided to become pirates due to the disaster and were coming to our Great Ming Dynasty to steal things from us! Thus, I swam back with all my might to warn my village chief.” 

“This subject’s godfather is in charge of the construction of the harbor and I was worried about his safety. I had my older brother ride a steed at top speed to warn him. It was this subject’s adopted father who made the prompt decision to inform the authorities. By doing so, they managed to organize all of the soldiers in the area and snatched the opportunity to protect the docks when the pirates struck!”

Yu Xiaocao was quite tired from her speech. Speaking in such a formal and flowery manner was not a strength of hers. However, if she spoke too directly, would that cause problems for her godfather and godmother? After all, she had spent quite a bit of time learning the proper etiquette and manners of a well-bred maiden from her godmother. Her godmother had spent quite a bit of effort to teach her how to become a noble maiden!

“From what you’re saying, this great effort and contribution is all thanks to your godfather, who was overseeing the construction of the harbor!” Zhu Junfan had a slight smile on his face as he looked towards the military officials to find a certain someone.

Yu Xiaocao didn’t have a single hint of wanting to pull glory onto herself as she modestly replied, “In reply to Your Imperial Majesty, the successful defense of the docks was from the joint efforts of Commander Sun and General Fang. Furthermore, the soldiers of the county and docks were brave and heroic. The common people and all of the soldiers worked together to produce this outcome. This is not the credit of one person alone!”

Fang Zizhen looked at his daughter with admiration as his back became straight. He had a proud look at his face. He felt like all of his colleagues knew that the person who was in front of the emperor, the little girl with the calm demeanor who was under the eyes of all of the officials in the room, was his daughter! With such a daughter, he was proud and full of glory!

Zhu Junfan revealed a faint smile and slightly nodded his head as he praised, “However, you cannot discount your own efforts ah! If you weren't there to give the timely warning, then when those pirates attacked the docks, it was likely it’d be a pyrrhic victory even if we won! Now, the county’s soldiers had fully defeated the pirates and the damage to the docks were kept to a minimum. This is definitely related to your efforts!”  

“Thank you for your compliments, this subject is ashamed and dares not to accept the honor!” In fact, Yu Xiaocao was quite pleased to receive the emperor’s compliments under the eyes of all of these court officials. Since the emperor himself had admitted that she had done a good job, didn’t that mean that he wanted to give her some type of reward? The rewards from the emperor had to be expensive and good right? Sparkling gold and beautiful jade, the more the better. ‘Just bury me in riches ah…’

“Your Imperial Majesty, this subject is a bit confused about something!” General Shi, who didn't have a good relationship with Fang Zizhen, suddenly stepped forward and interjected as he looked at Yu Xiaocao from the corner of his eye. 

Zhu Junfan knew that General Shi was a great general who had previously fought with his imperial grandfather. At that time, he had actually fought against the previous dynasty’s General Zhao and General Fang when they were still master and disciple. On the battlefield, he had lost more than he won against those two, so he had never forgiven them for that.

After the previous dynasty was overthrown, General Fang had been given the title of ‘Zhaoyang General’ by his imperial grandfather after his wounds had healed. Although it wasn’t a position with a lot of power, it was still a court appointed position that got an official salary. This never sat well with General Shi. So many of his soldiers had died under the hands of Fang Zizhen, and he had vowed to personally take revenge for those men with his own hands.

However, these two enemies were now colleagues under the same court. How could he not be sullen about this? Thus, from time to time, he would jump out to provoke Fang Zizhen. It was rumored that, in private, the two of them had fought numerous times and each were victorious or defeated at different times. Luckily, both of them knew how to restrain themselves for the greater picture and had never ended up fighting to the death. Whether it was the emperor emeritus or the current emperor, both of them turned a blind eye to this. 

Weren’t they supposed to reward the people who were good at farming at Tanggu Town today? How come Fang Zizhen, that bastard, was also being pointed out for a reward now? If this went on, wouldn’t that fellow, Fang Zizhen, be promoted to the ranks of nobility? That was not okay! He absolutely could not allow that fellow to get something good! General Shi fiercely glowered at Fang Zizhen.

“Beloved Official Shi, what are you confused about?” Zhu Junfan felt a bit powerless. Someone else was trying to raise issues now!

General Shi seriously looked at Yu Xiaocao and said, “Little girl, you say that you’re good at swimming and can swim deep in the ocean. This, I believe! However, you are also claiming that you can swim faster than the ships, fast enough to get to land before them. Furthermore, you also had enough time to warn the docks. This is something that I and other people find hard to believe!” 

There were quite a decent number of officials in the court who had decent swimming skills. However, were any of them willing to claim that they could swim faster than a ship and at a speed that was much faster? No one was willing to say that! This was something impossible that no one could believe. Just how brave was this little lass? She was so gutsy that she was willing to come up with such an absurd lie to fool the emperor, did she not know that deceiving the monarch was a crime worthy of death?

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Myst's Thoughts

Sanguine’s Thoughts: Emperor, you keep bringing up sticky situations yourself...

Translator: Sanguine