Chapter 418 - Tit for Tat

“Yu Xiaocao, what do you have to say to this?” General Shi’s doubts did make some sense. Did his old transmigrator friend have some sort of treasure on hand? Zhu Junfan rubbed his chin and looked with great interest at the little lass who didn’t seem frantic at all.

Yu Xiaocao turned her head to look at the old general who was nearing sixty years of age. She was quite perplexed, ‘I have never seen him before ah, let alone have the opportunity to offend him. He looks like Zhang Fei [1] and an old crabby old man, so why is he targeting me? Perhaps...he’s jealous of the recognition that I’m getting?’ 

“Your Imperial Majesty...and this old general! You probably don’t know that this subject had saved a juvenile dolphin about two years ago when I was swimming in the ocean. That little dolphin is very clever and lively. After healing its wounds, it remembers me and always comes over whenever this subject goes to gather seafood on the beach or dives in the water. It always frolics around me and swims to play around.”

“This subject accidentally found out that the little dolphin can also carry a person in the water as it swims at high speed. It swims faster than a fast...fast ship. From time to time, it’ll take me along into the deeper ocean to play around. Everyone in my family and Royal Prince Yang knows about this. This is also the main reason why they are okay with this subject going out to the deep ocean alone. That day, it was Xiaobu——that is the name that this subject gave to the little dolphin——who carried me on its back as I swam in the ocean!”

Yu Xiaocao looked very calm and collected. Even though the thing she was talking about seemed a bit bizarre, the vast majority of officials at court believed what she said. However, there was also a group of people who snorted at this story, such as the nearby General Shi.

Zhu Junfan noticed that General Shi seemed to not believe a single word, so he looked at Zhu Junyang and asked, “Junyang, is everything that Yu Xiaocao said true or not?”

“In reply to Your Imperial Majesty, everything she said is true! This subject has personally seen it!!” Royal Prince Yang stepped forward a couple of steps to arrive next to Yu Xiaocao. His phoenix eyes swept a look at her and, for a second, met Xiaocao’s eyes. It was as if he was trying to say, ‘Don’t worry, this prince is here!’

Zhu Junfan faintly nodded his head and looked towards General Shi to ask, “General Shi, do you still have anything to say?”

“Your Imperial Majesty! It’s not that this subject doesn’t believe Royal Prince Yang but this story is a little too inconceivable and hard for all of us to swallow ah!” General Shi frowned until his face became a mess of wrinkles. His messy beard moved as he spoke and gestured, trembling occasionally.

Yu Xiaocao furrowed her delicately shaped eyebrows and gave General Fang a look full of doubt, “General Shi, have I offended you in the past ah? Why are you deliberating targeting me, a young maiden?”

“Impertinent! In front of the emperor, who can stand you spewing nonsense? When has this old man ever tried to deliberately target you? I am only stating the facts! The claims you are making are too inconceivable!” General Shi opened his eyes wide, such that they resembled gongs, and glared fiercely at her. The look on his face would have scared a true girl around ten into tears.

Yu Xiaocao wasn’t intimidated by his act! She wasn’t lying so what was there to be afraid of? That being said, it was clear that the situation was in her favor as the emperor seemed to be on her side. This bad tempered and stubborn old general wasn’t going to get anywhere even if he continued to make trouble.

“The facts? What facts are you talking about? Everything I said was the truth. Without proper investigation, you have no leg to stand on! Any villager in Dongshan Village knows about this. As soon as you investigate, you would find that out. Why would I try to lie to the emperor ah? The laws state that deceiving the emperor is a crime worthy of death and could even implicate nine generations of one’s family! Do you think I’m an idiot, ah? That I’ll gamble with my life to make a joke?” Yu Xiaocao no longer tried to embellish her words in an elegant way. In any case, the general was a military official. If she said things in a way that was too flowery, he might not even be able to understand!

“Dolphins can get close to people and also play with you? A bunch of crazy nonsense! Your Imperial Majesty, this official hopes that you will heavily punish this lass who is misleading the public with her rumors!” General Shi was infuriated that a little lass was schooling him, an old man. How could he possibly endure this?

“Why do you have to say that I need to be punished? Because I’m telling the truth?? Old General, don’t try to use your status as an old man against others and try to threaten the court with your previous contributions to force the emperor to make a decision! The emperor himself will give this subject justice and determine what is right or wrong!!’ Yu Xiaocao gave the crabby old man a fierce glower. ‘You want to proclaim me guilty? Your words don’t mean anything!’ 

General Shi was furious but an inkling of alarm appeared in his heart. Using his might as a general to threaten the emperor was a crime that wasn’t insignificant! He had underestimated this little girl. Although she looked like a naive, rural country brat, he didn’t expect her to have such a crafty and cunning mind!

“Don’t speak nonsense! When has this old man ever tried to force the emperor? Your Imperial Majesty, please believe this old official ah!” General Shi cried out his grievances.

Zhu Junfan looked at General Shi in an amicable manner and gently asked, “Beloved Official Shi, have you been to the ocean before?” 

“This old official has never been!” General Shi was a bit perplexed that the emperor would suddenly change the subject and ask him about something unrelated. Regardless, he obediently replied.

“Then have you seen the creatures that are named dolphins before?” Zhu Junfan continued to ask a follow up question.

“This old official has not seen them before…” General Shi’s confusion increased but he continued to honestly respond.

Zhu Junfan smiled, “In the past, when we were at the shipyard, we had gone out to sea for a period of time. While testing out ships, we had once come across a pod of dolphins in the water and they chased and swam around the ship, jumping and playing excitedly. Dolphins are a type of gentle and clever sea creatures. If you train them, they can do quite a few complicated maneuvers and tricks. We have also heard of stories from old fishermen who said that dolphins had saved people in the past. Thus, the things that Miss Yu is saying aren't completely out of line or unbelievable.”

General Shi noticed that the emperor was clearly on the side of the Yu Family’s lass, so he felt a bit upset. He still needed to persevere to the end, “Your Imperial Majesty, stories, after all, are just stories!”

“Your Imperial Majesty, Old General, I’m not making up stories here! Animals are very sensitive. If you treat them well and have good intentions, they will be gentle back. If you have bad intentions towards them, then they will treat you accordingly. That year, during the locust disaster, all of the herbivores in the mountain had nearly died out. Thus, the carnivores were on the edge of starvation. My younger brother and I went into the mountains to gather firewood and encountered a very thin and skinny gray wolf…”

All of the officials in the throne room seemed to be very interested in this story and turned slightly to hear better. Yu Xiaocao paused for a second and then continued, “However, it didn’t hurt me or my younger brother and instead brought us to a cave in the mountains. It took out two little wolf pups that were about to starve to death! It placed the two wolf pups in front of me and my younger brother and gave us a look before it staggered away!”

“And then?” Zhu Junfan stared at her intently, seemingly interested in what happened next.

“And then? We saw that the wolf pups looked quite pitiful, so we brought them back home to raise. Later on, our family was attacked by a pack of starving wolves. That gray wolf appeared again and not only helped us fight off that pack of wolves but also saved my father’s life ah! I knew that the gray wolf was thanking us for helping it raise its pups, which was why it came over to help!” Yu Xiaocao simply sketched the story out for everyone. Zhu Junfan gave her a disapproving look as he felt her story telling skills were not that great. Such an interesting and thrilling story was told in such a boring and lifeless manner.

“Are you certain that you’re not making this all up? You encountered a starving wolf and it didn’t rush over to kill you to become its dinner, who would believe that?” General Shi persisted in his own views. He truly believed that Yu Xiaocao was full of lies and not worthy to be trusted.

“I don’t care if you want to believe me or not. As long as the emperor believes me, that’s what matters! Your Imperial Majesty, those two wolf pups have already grown up to become adult wolves and they’re taller than me. They now guard my family’s residence. This time, when the Wokou pirates attacked, my whole village along with Princess Consort Jing fled into the West Mountains to hide. Those two wolf pups went out to hunt every day and caught a lot of game for us to add to our meals!” Yu Xiaocao rolled her eyes at the old man.

“Are you certain you’re talking about wolves and not dogs?” General Shi snorted disdainfully.

“Our family’s wolves have been hand raised since they were young, so they’re even more obedient than dogs! My family also has a small roe deer that knows how to go to the restroom on its own! It’s up to you if you want to believe me or not! I’m too lazy to argue more with you…” Yu Xiaocao twisted her head around to let the old man only see the back of her head.

“You...Your Imperial Majesty, just listen, there’s nothing believable that the little lass is saying…” 

“Old General Shi, don’t get too emotional! Whether or not she’s telling the truth can be easily found out when the emperor sends people over to investigate at Dongshan Village!” Royal Prince Yang was getting annoyed with this old man who was always bullying his little lass and couldn’t stay silent anymore.   

Zhu Junfan also nodded his head, “Beloved Official Shi, the lass from the Yu Family also said that everyone in Dongshan Village knows about this. If you don’t believe her, you can go there yourself to take a look. Wouldn’t you be able to find the truth then? You can claim that the little lass is lying but can you say that the whole village is also lying too?”

“Your Imperial Majesty is wise and brilliant!” Yu Xiaocao proudly glanced at General Shi with a hint of amusement in her eyes as she expertly flattered the emperor.  

“Since there are people who have doubts about your contribution to the Wokou pirate disaster, then we will shelve this issue for now. We have also heard that your Yu Family’s farmstead planted wheat that harvested up to six hundred catties per mu. Is this true?” Zhu Junfan finally remembered what he had summoned the Yu Family’s father and daughter for, so he waved a hand at General Shi to dismiss him and started to ask about their wheat.

Yu Xiaocao retreated one step and gently pulled at her father’s sleeve, hinting that he should be the one to take this honor.

Yu Hai let out a quiet sigh and stepped forward, “In reply to Your Imperial Majesty, this is a true fact!”

Zhu Junfan sat up straight on his throne and inquired in a voice that had a hint of eagerness, “Tell us, just how did you manage to cultivate wheat to have such a high output?”

Yu Hai thought for a bit and then replied, “In reply to Your Imperial Majesty, this subject’s daughter had carefully picked through the wheat kernels to only select the plump and big ones. When planting, we made sure to be very careful and the tenant farmers all worked very hard. In addition, the past year has had good favorable weather, so…”  

“That is not the whole truth!!” Minister Liu hurriedly jumped out and interrupted Yu Hai to explain, “The experimental fields at the Imperial Plantations all have one person in charge of each mu. In addition, we also pick through the seeds very carefully to select the very best. The capital’s climate is pretty much the same as Tanggu Town’s. However, whenever we harvest, our fields have never reached around four hundred catties per mu! Brother Yu, don’t hide it anymore and tell us the entire truth about your process ah!” 

Yu Hai revealed a somewhat awkward expression and carefully thought before he finally replied, “As Minister Liu said, there doesn’t seem much difference between how this commoner’s farmstead planted and tilled the winter wheat! Ah! This commoner finally recalled something. When we were done selecting the seeds and before we started planting, we had sprayed the seeds with a special pesticide that this commoner’s daughter had mixed up. Perhaps that is the reason…”


[1] Zhang Fei (张飞) - general of Shu and blood-brother of Liu Bei in Romance of the Three Kingdoms, famous as fearsome fighter and lover of wine

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Myst's Thoughts

Sanguine’s Thoughts: Court scenes always seem to have a lot of arguing back and forth.

Translator: Sanguine