His imperial uncle, Imperial Prince Jing, was quite capable and had no greedy ambitions. His eldest son had a steady character, while his second son was radical. His third son had the most unpredictable temperament, but he was the most capable among the three brothers. Had it not been for Junyang’s instability, he would have long put that kid in an important position and let him handle important matters. There was no way that he would let him constantly run off to Dongshan Village.
While he was deep in his thoughts, Su Ran, who seemed to have seen through his thoughts, thoroughly recounted what had happened earlier in front of Qianqing Palace.
Zhu Junfan raised his brows. To be able to pull his younger cousin back from the verge of tyranny, that lass was really quite capable. There was a lid for every pot. The heavens must have specially prepared that young girl from the Yu Family for that kid Junyang. Otherwise, she wouldn’t have transmigrated back thousands of years to meet him.
As his older cousin, Zhu Junfan was finally at ease to know that a girl who could control that kid had appeared. On second thought, it was fortunate that he didn’t make the wrong decision of ‘killing in order to obtain the treasure’. Otherwise, that kid Junyang would probably go on a rampage and destroy Qianqing Palace.
Zhu Junyang, who was riding on a horse and following the General Estate’s carriage, leaned over and looked into the carriage through the window. He finally couldn’t help but ask, “Xiaocao, why were you so nervous in the imperial study? Did the emperor force you to do something?”
Regarding her secret, it was already quite dangerous to have the emperor know about it, so there was no way that she would dare to disclose it to another person. Since ancient times, a person’s heart was the hardest to predict. Royal Prince Yang took great care of her and her family, but who could guarantee that he wouldn’t be interested in such a tempting treasure?
“No…nothing! It’s just that the emperor thinks too highly of me. He wants me to cultivate wheat and rice grains that produce a thousand catties per mu. I might have been a little dazed due to the pressure. Young Royal Prince, I didn’t act improperly in front of the emperor earlier, did I?” In order to avoid the earlier topic, Yu Xiaocao pretended to be at a loss. Zhu Junyang couldn’t use his mind reading ability on her anyway, so it was harmless to tell a little lie.
Zhu Junyang looked seriously at the little lass. Since she didn’t want to tell the truth, he wouldn’t force her. He was willing to be a protector, who silently guarded her for a lifetime. It was just that he didn’t know what the emperor’s intentions were.
For the two people on either side of the carriage, one was in an unsettled state, while a myriad of thoughts went through the other’s mind. For a moment, they fell into a silence and only the crisp sounds of the horses’ hooves and the wheels rolling over the road could be heard…
Zhu Junyang escorted her to the main entrance of the General’s Estate and looked at the doorkeeper, who hastily opened the side door to welcome the young miss’s return. An idea came up in his mind, so he said in a soft voice, “You’re now someone who has to deal with official matters. In the future, the supervisor of the Imperial Plantation and lower ranked officials of the Ministry of Revenue will come ask for advice from time to time. Even Minister Liu might also come to disturb you. Therefore, it will be inconvenient for you to stay at the General’s Estate. This prince has a small and exquisite house nearby. If you need to, feel free to use it…”
Yu Xiaocao considered it carefully, and then declined the offer, “My father will go back to Tanggu Town in a couple of days. There are a lot of matters that he needs to take care of at our farmstead. Since the emperor is paying close attention to our farmstead, we must manage it properly. My father was granted the position of a seventh-ranked official, so he should naturally take responsibility for his duties. In this way, I’ll be the only one staying in the capital. My godparents would definitely be worried and not let me move out. At best…I can ask my godmother to let me reside in a separate courtyard with a side door.”
Zhu Junyang didn’t force her anymore. The little lass was only twelve, which was an age when the children of other families would be acting like a spoiled child in front of their parents. If she really lived in a house alone, he wouldn’t feel at ease, let alone others.
As the two of them talked at the door, a head peeked out from the side entrance. With a closer look, it turned out to be one of Yu Xiaocao’s maidservants, Xichun. Yu Xiaocao wasn’t very good at coming up with names, so her godmother helped her name the head maidservants in the courtyard.
Yingtao was in charge of the pharmaceutical workshop in Dongshan Village, while Yangliu was responsible for the braised food shop in the capital. The other two girls, Wutong and Pipa, had more ideas in their heads and were less loyal than the others. Thus, they were only responsible for serving her daily life. However, she was now granted a position of a government official and was responsible for managing the Imperial Plantation. So, she needed to urgently train some capable assistants.
For the names of the second-ranked maidservants, she had plagiarized the names of several of the young misses of the Jia Family in Dreams of the Red Chamber like Tanchun, Xichun, Yingchun, and Hechun. The name ‘Yuanchun’ was too eye-catching so she didn’t use it. Her godmother praised that the names were artistic and well-named. Anyway, Dreams of the Red Chamber didn’t exist in this era and that Cao Xueqin  wasn’t even born yet. Why should she feel shameful about it? Thus, she shamelessly accepted the compliment.
Among the four ‘chun’, there were two who were capable. For example, Xixhun who was currently in front of her. With a clever and flexible mind, she never did things sloppily. She was also capable of working independently. Most importantly, this girl was absolutely loyal to her, and she also somewhat idolized her. Since she was bestowed a position of an official, this girl always looked at her with little stars in her eyes. The girl obeyed everything that she said like it was an imperial edict. Moreover, she always completed her assigned tasks in a strict manner.
At this time, the young maidservant dashed over at full speed with excitement in her eyes. Before she had even caught her breath, she eagerly said, “Young Miss, Minister Liu of the Ministry of Revenue has been waiting at the estate’s study for a long time.”
Yu Xiaocao knew in her heart that he must have come for her ‘potion’ which was good for the growth of crops. She glanced at the lass Xichun and noticed that she was currently staring admiringly at the official’s gown that she was wearing.
Zhu Junyang reached out to help fix the crooked jade hairpin on Xiaocao’s head, and softly said, “Minister Liu is seriously such a workaholic. It’s already this late yet he’s still staying at another person’s house with no intention of leaving. You should go and send him away. This prince will take you to the Imperial Plantation tomorrow morning. Go to rest earlier. Have your maidservant burn some calming incense for you and brew a cup of soothing tea.”
Yu Xiaocao’s heart warmed up because of Royal Prince Yang’s concern. She nodded her head obediently like a gentle kitten, waved goodbye to him, and then followed Xichun to the study in the outer courtyard.
Minister Liu had already drunk the nth cup of tea in the study, and his intention was very obvious. The faster he could get the pesticide and spray it on the corn seedlings, the sooner he could feel at ease. Today was the first day that the eighteen grain shops in the capital started selling corn seeds, and it was extremely popular. He heard that the villages around the capital had been notified in advance, so under the leadership of the village heads, the villagers were rushing to the capital. He reckoned that the stores around the grain shops would have decent business in the next few days.
He had hurried over to the General’s Estate in order to share the news with Miss Yu. He hadn’t expected that she got summoned by the emperor right after lunch. It seemed like the emperor shared the same view as him. The current priority was to increase the output of crops so that the common people wouldn’t have to starve.
Minister Liu sighed when he thought about the problem of people’s livelihood. In the past two years, the north had been suffering from drought and locust plague. Fortunately, the emperor made a timely decision to send Royal Prince Yang to transfer grain from the south to the north via waterway so as to avoid widespread starvation. The emperor had racked his brain in order to ensure that the people wouldn’t starve! If these high yield crops could be popularized and every family had surplus food, they wouldn’t be thrown into chaos in times of disaster.
The sun was slowly moving closer to the west. Miss Yu had been in the palace for the entire afternoon, so it was apparent how much importance the emperor placed on her. Those officials, who discriminated against Miss Yu because she was a girl and tried to stop the emperor, should have realized their mistakes now, right? Miss Yu didn’t get the position of an official to be an ornament, but instead she was an official who worked diligently. She was much more capable than those fellows who held a position but didn’t do any work.
From now on, he could finally take his hands off the matters of the Imperial Plantation with ease. In the past two years, he was seriously exhausted from running back and forth between the Ministry of Revenue and the Imperial Plantation. He believed that the Imperial Plantation’s experimental fields would thrive under the management of Miss Yu!
Just as Minister Liu held up his eighth cup of tea and felt too full to stomach it, he heard some movement outside of the study. A moment later, Yu Xiaocao, who dressed in a red official’s gown, came in from outside and she was followed by a young maidservant who couldn’t hide her excitement.
“Official Liu, you must have waited for a long time!” Minister Liu was a second-ranked official, so he had a much higher status than her who was just a low sixth-ranked official. As a lower ranked official, she should show proper respect to the higher ranked official.
Minister Liu didn’t wait for her to finish her bow and stretched out his hands to stop her, saying, “Yu… Official Yu, please don’t be so courteous. Quickly have a seat!”
After staying in the imperial study for the entire afternoon and suffering a fright, Yu Xiaocao really did need to sit down for a rest. She politely asked Minister Liu to sit down and had someone get a new pot of tea before she sat down.
“Miss… Official Yu, may I know how much of the pesticide you have on hand…” Minister Liu almost called her ‘Miss Yu’, but when he saw the small official’s gown on her body, he quickly changed his words.
Xiaocao smiled and said, “Official Liu, you’re a higher ranking official and an elder to me, so you should just call me ‘Xiaocao’. It sounds more cordial. When you say ‘Official Yu’, I almost thought that you were calling my father!”
Originally, with Minister Liu’s rigid temperament, he wouldn’t easily change his way of speech. However, the young girl in front of him was about the same age as his granddaughter. She also spoke and behaved in a very amiable and lively manner. Thus, people couldn’t help but to feel a sense of affinity towards her. He smiled and said, “Then I’ll call you ‘Miss Xiaocao’.”
As long as he didn’t insist on calling her Official Yu, it didn’t matter what he called her. Yu Xiaocao picked up her cup of tea to moisten her throat, and then said, “Xiaocao really admires Official Liu’s dedication to the people. But, I didn’t bring a lot of the potion with me this time. I just have some samples for the emperor and officials to look at.”
Seeing Minister Liu’s eager and anxious expression, she quickly continued, “But, after seeing the emperor last time, I started to work on gathering the ingredients for the medicine. I almost have all of them now. It’s getting late now, so it’s a little late to leave the city. I’ll work overtime tonight to make more potions so that tomorrow’s work won’t be delayed.”
Since Yu Xiaocao said that, Minister Liu could only suppress the anxiety in his heart. He nodded and said, “Then I will have to trouble Miss Xiaocao tonight! This old man will come over early tomorrow morning!”
 Cao Xueqin (曹雪芹) - author of Dreams of the Red ChamberPrevious Chapter Next Chapter