Chapter 433 - The Hidden Instigators

The farmstead next to the Imperial Plantation wasn’t very large and only had about six hundred mu in land. It was previously owned by an idle member of the imperial clan. Somehow, Royal Prince Yang was able to convince this person to give it to him. The vast majority of the fields had already been planted with soybeans and sorghum. It was apparent that this idle member of the imperial clan didn’t regard this farmstead with much importance. All of the people at this place, from the stewards to the tenant farmers, were all incredibly lazy. If they didn’t prep the land now, then the timing for farming would be over this year!

In actuality, it was still the middle of June right. If she got them planted now, she could harvest a batch of watermelons by September with the help of the mystic-stone water. At that time, it would be the right time in the market to sell these watermelons.

Royal Prince Yang had already switched out all of the stewards at the farmstead and recruited a bunch of new tenant farmers to tend the fields. He had already sent down his orders that every single person at this place needed to listen to Official Yu’s commands. Consequently, Yu Xiaocao had very little pressure when ordering these people around.

She first had the tenant farmers clear out a batch of land as she grafted watermelon seedlings to gourd vines. The well at this farmstead had already been altered by the little divine stone’s energy. She not only used the mystic-stone water to irrigate the grafted watermelon vines but she also instructed the tenant farmers to water all of the crops on the land with this water. Recently, the capital had been on the dryer side and it hadn’t rained for several days. Thus, her orders to irrigate all of the crops made sense to the farmers working there. 

For the following few days, Yu Xiaocao frequently ran to the Imperial Plantation to check on things. Lady Fang often complained that the emperor had given the work of an adult man to a twelve year old young girl. However, only Yu Xiaocao knew that the reason she went there so often wasn’t for the corn growing at the plantation. Instead, she was more concerned about the fruit trees on the mountains as well as the watermelon vines at Royal Prince Yang’s farmstead. 

After some precious rain fell, Yu Xiaocao once again arrived at the Imperial Plantation with the moist wind surrounding her. The people under Steward Wang, who were in charge of the everyday details of the fields, were currently reporting to her on how the corn was growing. Furthermore, they also gave her the reports that the secretary of the Ministry of Revenue wrote on the progress.  

She flipped through these reports briefly and stated in an uninterested tone, “There’s not much difference between this and the materials I provided in the past. Even the most detailed documents cannot replace walking through the fields for a personal look.”

After she talked, she strolled into the fields with a bunch of somewhat unwilling stewards and officials. Under the blazing hot sun, they arrived in the middle of one of the experimental fields. With the little divine stone as her cheat, it’d be odd if the corn didn’t grow well!

“Miss Yu, all of the fruit trees on the hills are still alive. Other than a few that don’t look quite lively, the vast majority don’t look like they’ve just been transplanted over.” Although the fruit trees on the mountain were the private property of Yu Xiaocao, Steward Wang still helped her keep an eye on them. Yu Xiaocao gladly accepted this favor from him. In the future, once the fruit orchard expanded and the canning factory and preserved fruit factory started, she was planning on giving him a few shares.

However, didn’t Steward Wang state that some of the trees weren’t growing well? That couldn’t be, right? Yu Xiaocao walked towards the fruit orchard on the hills in unhurried steps. When she got to the fruit trees that Steward Wang said were ‘not quite lively’, she couldn’t help but frown. These fruit trees had all been moved!

As the proverbs said: ‘trees die when moved, people live when moved’. Finicky and precious fruit trees were the most afraid of being transplanted casually. If she didn’t have mystic-stone water on hand, Xiaocao would have never been sure that moving these trees now, out of season, would be successful. Apparently, there were people who took advantage of when she was gone and moved all of her trees. It looked like those people who had ulterior motives could no longer wait anymore and had finally acted!

“Steward Wang, let me get this straight. The Imperial Plantations usually don’t allow outsiders to easily step in, right?” Yu Xiaocao bent over to loosen the soil near the roots of one of the trees that was looking listless. At the same time, she secretly had the little divine stone infuse the tree roots with some spiritual energy. The little divine stone angrily complained to her in her mind that all of the fruit trees on this hill had been moved. If it wasn’t for its energy keeping them alive, all of them would have dried into sticks and died.

Steward Wang felt chills run through his heart. Was the problem with these fruit trees something that was caused by humans? He hurriedly stated in a serious manner, “Miss Yu, these are the experimental fields of the Imperial Plantation and the emperor places great importance on this. Even those tenant farmers were specially picked before they were sent here. Ever since the high-yielding crop corn has entered the country, the emperor has also sent his personal soldiers here to patrol the area. Thus, outsiders absolutely cannot enter here!”

“So doesn’t that mean that the culprits are the people who work here instead?” Yu Xiaocao shot a knowing gaze at the people behind Steward Wang. She slowly looked at every single person present and coldly smiled.

Someone automatically spoke up in discontent, “This isn’t even the season to transplant fruit trees, so the vast majority of these trees can’t even stay alive. It’s not unusual for a couple of trees to die here and there. Official Yu, all of us have been sent over by the emperor himself. You can’t just suspect us for no reason!”

The cold smirk on Yu Xiaocao’s face became more prominent as she slowly replied, “Steward Leng, it’s not as if you guys are the only people who are working at the Imperial Plantation. Aren’t there a few hundred tenant farmers too? You’re so eager to jump out to defend yourself. Is it because you have a guilty heart?”

“You...I, Leng Fang, have been here since the emperor emeritus was on the throne and have been helping the emperor manage the Imperial Plantation. I’ve already been here for many years yet I have to deal with the sarcasm and disdain from a little girl! I can’t take such disgrace anymore!” This steward named Leng Fang looked to be around forty to fifty years of age. His hair and beard was speckled with white hairs but the skin on his face was pale and smooth, without many wrinkles. At a glance, one could tell that he very rarely spent time out in the fields. Instead, he looked like an idle and wealthy lord who did nothing at home.

Yu Xiaocao quirked up an eyebrow and was not even the slightest bit polite as she said, “You also know you’ve been here for quite a while? You’ve spent many years here and it’s about time for you to think about retirement! The next time this official enters the palace, I will make sure to mention to the emperor that those officials who are over the age of fifty are no longer suitable due to physical health to manage the fields at the Imperial Plantation...”

“You…” Leng Fang was so angry that he turned red from head to toe. However, he also didn’t dare to say anything at this point. This girl in front of him was viewed by the emperor with great importance and would go into the palace to personally meet the emperor every month to report. What was his status? He was only a tiny little assistant official at the Imperial Plantation. If the little lass truly said what she had stated earlier to the emperor, he was afraid that he wouldn’t be able to stay much longer at the Imperial Plantation!

Steward Leng backed down but Yu Xiaocao wasn’t planning on letting this issue go, “I don’t care what your status is at the Imperial Plantation. Whether you’re a steward or a tenant farmer, I will absolutely not tolerate anyone who tries to harm any of the affairs here! This time, you guys have decided to harm my fruit trees. Doesn’t that mean next time you guys will start causing problems for the experimental fields in the Imperial Plantation?”

“Official Yu, aren’t you being a bit too unjust here? Let’s not talk about the fruit trees as we can’t even prove that people have tampered with them. Instead, let’s talk about the experimental fields. As soon as a problem shows up, all of us can’t run away either. Who would harm a project that is tied up to their own lives and livelihood?” The person who spoke up was a steward named Zhou Yang. He was on the younger side and always had a friendly and approachable air around him. Because of that, he had a good relationship with most of the people at the Imperial Plantation.

Yu Xiaocao smiled faintly and looked at him discerningly in the eye, “I know that I am very young and also a woman. Thus, there are many stewards and officials here who are quite upset that I am in charge here. If anything bad befalls the Imperial Plantation, the first person the emperor would blame would be me, the official in charge of all of the operations here. As for you guys, all you have to say is ‘we did everything according to the leader’ to wash most of your shortcomings away. Once the emperor loses faith in me, then won’t all of you, who have been making things difficult for me, still be able to keep your positions here? I can’t say for sure, but I bet there are already people who have thought of this and have come up with methods to get rid of me, the person you don’t like.” 

“What a bunch of nonsense! Do you have any proof? This is only your own personal suspicions and nothing else!” Leng Fang angrily rebutted.

“Whether or not my guess is right or wrong, I’m sure the perpetrators know for sure! Looks like I, this official, have been too benevolent. I thought that everyone here at the Imperial Plantation had been here for a good amount of years and held fondness for their positions. Thus, when the emperor gave me the power to change out any people I wanted, I couldn’t bear to move any of you away. However, the facts tell me that my decision then was wrong!”

Yu Xiaocao sighed and then spoke to Steward Wang, “Steward Wang, you’re now in charge of this situation! Please find the people who are responsible for harming the trees here in three days. Otherwise...I will have to take drastic measures and send up a report to the emperor. Then I will change everyone here for new people!”

When she mentioned that the emperor had given her the power to swap people out of the Imperial Plantation as she pleased, everyone present, except for Steward Wang, immediately started to panic. The emperor had placed great importance on the experimental fields at the Imperial Plantation, so naturally, whatever they needed was given to them quickly. Thus, the treatment of the people working here was naturally much better compared to other places. Even the lower ranked stewards at the Imperial Plantation got treated about as well as the eunuch stewards in the Imperial Palace. Furthermore, they could sometimes get a few other side benefits from working here.

No one wanted to be stripped of position here and have to leave such a flourishing site. When Steward Wang was just about to start investigating, there were already plenty of people volunteering up information to him and telling him exactly what they knew.

In actuality. Steward Zhou was trying to privately give Yu Xiaocao a lesson by having his trusted subordinates re-transplant all of these fruit saplings. Although he wasn’t very old, he was a proud man and had usually done very well for himself due to his connections here at the Imperial Plantation. However, once Yu Xiaocao started taking over, everyone had to listen to her. As soon as she arrived, she had ordered all of the stewards to start working in the fields along with the tenant farmers to do hard labor.

In private, all of the stewards complained and moaned about this. Whenever they got together as a group, they all grumbled and wailed that this little lass didn’t know her proper place in life. When Yu Xiaocao transferred some tenant farmers to the hills to help transplant fruit trees, they found out that these fruit trees were privately owned by the little lass.

She was blatantly using the Imperial Plantation’s resources for her own private gain and profits. Wasn’t this lass being too bold about this? Zhou Yang was speechless by this misuse. Once he saw that the fruit trees were thriving, he felt even more unhappy about this. He came up with a method to create a stumbling block for her and have her eat a silent loss. One night, he brought along a few trusted subordinates and had them pull the trees up before putting them back into the ground.

Originally, he had thought he had accounted for everything. In any case, this wasn’t the right season for transplanting fruit trees, so no one could guarantee whether these trees would live or die after transplanting. Even if they died, there wasn’t any leeway to suspect anyone of wrongdoing. That being said, the lass was using the hills of the Imperial Plantation for her own private affairs. Even if she ate a loss, she wouldn’t dare to bring this problem up. However, he would have never expected that she had already reported her idea to the emperor and was now going to send up a report about people sabotaging the trees.

Those who were able to act as stewards at the Imperial Plantation were naturally shrewd and not stupid. Zhou Yang’s private affairs naturally didn’t escape the eyes of those people. However, they also wanted to teach this little lass a lesson so they turned a blind eye to this. Unfortunately, how could they know that the lass would rather slaughter a hundred innocents instead of letting go of a single thief? For the sake of their own affairs, they needed to sacrifice Zhou Yang first in order to keep their own skins! 

Once Zhou Yang had been pointed out by the rest, he was sure that he was doomed to leave the Imperial Plantation. He didn’t know what sort of punishment was in store for him as well. However, who would have expected that Yu Xiaocao would decide to do something completely outside of their expectations. Instead of driving him out and punishing him, she actually put him in charge of the fruit orchard on the hills. She was following this saying: ‘using work to make up for your past mistakes!’

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Myst's Thoughts

Sanguine’s Thoughts: Well that was easily done for Xiaocao. Easier when you have power in your hands to get things done. 

Translator: Sanguine