Chapter 435 - Invitation

“The young miss is back! The young miss is back!” When Yingchun got the news, she happily went back to the young miss’s courtyard, chirping like a cheerful bird. She ran all the way from the drooping flower gate and had a sunny smile on her face.

Wutong walked out from inside and had a stern look on her face. She hollered at Yingchun, “What are you being noisy about? No sense of etiquette! The young miss was only gone for a few days yet all of you flout the rules and etiquette! As a servant, having good etiquette and manners brings prestige to our young miss. It’s no wonder that the young miss doesn’t bring someone like you, who has her head in the clouds, out when she leaves!”

The giddiness within Yingchun’s heart was extinguished as if a bucket of cold water had been poured on her. Her cheerful steps stopped and the smile on her face slowly disappeared. Wutong was the personal maidservant of the young miss and was one of the earliest people to follow her. No one knew when she had become the maid in charge of the entire courtyard, but she was now in charge of all of the maids and senior servants in the young miss’s residence.

At first, Wutong treated the other maids amiably. However, once the young miss promoted Xichun and Hechun to fill the empty positions within the personal maidservants, Wutong changed. She became moody and prone to anger. Sometimes, the eyes she used to look at other people seemed as if they had daggers coming out of them. It always made the other maids feel a bit scared.

All of the maids and senior servants in the courtyard knew that the young miss didn’t have a lot of rules and regulations. As long as you did your work well, she was satisfied. The lower ranked maids all secretly whispered that they felt more relaxed in the presence of the young miss as they didn't have to guard their every action. Even small mistakes were waved away by her with a smile. However, in Wutong’s hands, if she wasn’t in a good mood, you might be punished lightly with a fine or heavily by getting beaten with the plank. 

Ever since the young miss went back to Tanggu with Hechun and had given the management of the Imperial Plantation’s greenhouses to Xichun, Wutong had been in a bad mood. She and Pipa had been left behind to manage the courtyard again. Everyday, she roamed around the courtyard looking for victims so she could vent her discontent. The smallest mistakes would be picked out by her and used to torture the other maids. All of the maids in the courtyard didn’t dare to say anything out loud but they cried out their grievances in secret. They were all looking forward to when the young miss got back from Tanggu because Wutong would restrain herself a lot more when the young miss was around.   

Yingchun wasn’t as lucky as Xichun and Hechun as she didn’t catch the eye of her mistress to get promoted to a first-ranked maid. She naturally didn’t dare to have an outright conflict with Wutong, so she suppressed the displeasure within her heart. Instead, when Wutong was not looking, she made a funny face at the other girl’s back as she viciously thought, ‘You’re such a two-faced person, so it’d be surprising if the master trusted you! Serves you right that the young miss left you behind to only guard a courtyard that is the size of three mu ah!’

Yu Xiaocao had just entered the inner courtyard when a group of maids surrounded her and escorted her to her own courtyard. As they walked, she asked if anything important happened recently. Wutong had a face full of smiles and had rushed in front of Pipa to take the lead. She gently smiled and said, “Ever since the fall harvest, you have become a well-known figure throughout the capital, Young Miss. Especially once the green vegetables grown in the pavilions came to market. Everyone in the capital knows that you’re able to cultivate fruits and vegetables out of season and that you can make anything become ripe during any time of the year. While you were out and about, many young maidens from good families had sent invitations to you to attend some banquets and such. If you hadn’t just left for Tanggu, I’m pretty sure you’d be very busy right now!”  

Yingchun surreptitiously curled her lip. Wutong was such a two-faced person. Earlier she had been as vicious as a female wolf when scolding her but now she was pretending to be as sweet and innocent as a white bunny rabbit. The smile on Wutong’s face was so flattering. 

“Pick only the important things to tell me!” Yu Xiaocao was not the least bit interested in interacting with these young maidens in the capital. These girls either started spouting poetry as if they were ill or had to show off their other skills in some fashion. She wasn’t good at any of this stuff. All of those people sending her invitations to parties and banquets likely wanted to see her stumble in these social settings so they could laugh at her, right? Consequently, even when she was in the capital, she had no desire to attend any of those boring parties.  

Wutong’s eyes flickered and she smiled, “The best modiste in the capital, Jiang Siniang, who is also the owner of Exquisite Garments, also sent an invitation asking to see you. Young Miss, are you interested in meeting her?”

Many years ago in the capital, Jiang Siniang had endured lots of criticism from naysayers similar to Xiaocao. However, she used her own abilities to suppress all of these people. Her Exquisite Garments boutique not only became famous in the capital but she also opened several branch stores in the nearby prefectures. The stores did very well with the public and was in no way inferior to the popularity of Zhenxiu Restaurant and the Yu’s Braised Food Shops and Fruit Shops.  

The clothing that Jiang Siniang designed was not only bold in their usage of color but they also harmonized very well. Even bright reds and greens, when used together, could become an impeccable work of elegant art in her hands. Furthermore, all of her clothing was beautiful and flattering to the female form. People often offered grand sums of money to have one of her stores make a piece of clothing for them. All of the ladies and maidens in the capital desperately wanted to have a piece of clothing personally made by Jiang Siniang. It would allow them to have immense status and boasting power in their circles. 

Unfortunately, for the past few years, Jiang Siniang only took five custom orders each season. Furthermore, not just anyone could be lucky enough to get a custom order slot. From her words, it all depended on fate. Those who caught her eye, even if they didn't have a single penny, she was still willing to design and sew a custom piece of clothing for them. Those who didn’t, even if they offered a thousand taels of gold, she would still refuse to make one for them. Even the imperial concubines in the imperial palace had to comply with her rules. After all, the emperor himself had given her a handwritten document personally written by him that stated ‘the epitome of a talented woman’!

In Wutong’s eyes, the fact that such an incredible woman, who had legendary designing and crafting skills, wanted to see the young miss was an incredible honor! If those other young maidens in the capital found out, then wouldn’t they be incredibly jealous? In fact, even the lady of the residence didn't have a custom crafted piece of clothing from Jiang Siniang. 

Jiang Siniang? Yu Xiaocao paused in her motion of taking off her cloak. Was that the Jiang maiden who had refused an offer of marriage from the son of the prime minister on the grounds that she wanted to focus on her career? The two of them had never interacted before, so why would she want to see her suddenly?

“Also, Royal Princess Minglan is hosting a ‘flower war banquet’ in the middle of this month and sent you an invitation to you. Do you want to see if…” The other young maidens were one thing but Royal Princess Minglan was the treasure of her family. She was actually paternal cousins with Royal Prince Yang.

“Flower war banquet? What does a ‘flower war’ mean?” Yu Xiaocao did actually recognize Royal Princess Minglan’s name. It was said that this princess had learned how to ride and shoot arrows since she was young with her older brother. The average person was not her match. She had a bit of an arrogant and headstrong personality but also wasn’t a person who looked down on those who were lower ranked than her or someone who deliberately made things difficult either.

Wutong took the cloak from her young miss and handed it over to Yingchun. She hurriedly explained, “It’s actually quite simple. It’s just that every invited person must bring along a pot of flowers. Whoever brings the most valuable specimen is the winner.”

“Oh? Does the winner get a prize for this?” Yu Xiaocao was more interested in this. When it came to rare and expensive plants, her godmother and Princess Consort Jing both had plenty that she had given to them. These were the flowers that were found in that mountain ravine. The last time they had to take refuge there, the princess consort even brought her personal maidservants around to stroll around the valley. When they left, she was able to bring back another bunch of rare flora. 

Wutong smiled, “Every person who participates not only has to bring a pot of flowers but also needs to bring a forfeit item. The winner can take all of the forfeit items from everyone else home!”  

“They can take away everyone’s forfeits?” Yu Xiaocao stroked her chin and her eyes crinkled up into a smile. She looked like a little fox who had thought up a sly trick. The noble misses of the capital all cared about their reputations, so they absolutely wouldn’t bring forfeit items along that were cheap. Then...didn’t that mean that she could make a small fortune from this?

After changing into a set of clothing suitable for the indoors, Yu Xiaocao headed out of the courtyard, “Let’s go, I need to greet Godmother! It’s been a few days since I last saw Little Linlin and I quite miss him!”

Wutong followed along and said, “Young Miss and the little master are truly siblings. The young master always keeps asking, ‘Where has Older Sister gone?’ and ‘When will Older Sister come back?’. He even has no desire to eat his most favorite egg tarts anymore!”

Xiaocao’s courtyard was very close to the main courtyard. As they talked, they already arrived at the gate to the main courtyard. Linglong grinned as she welcomed her inside, “Young Miss, the mistress and young master were just talking about how much they missed you. The young master especially does. When he found out that you came back, he wanted to go to your courtyard to wait for you and only the mistress kept him back.”

“Older Sister!” The curtains to the door had just been lifted when a little pudgy ball rolled out and held onto Xiaocao’s leg. The little fellow raised his plump little face and pouted his lips as he unhappily whined, “Older Sister, you didn’t bring Linlin out to play. Naughty, naughty!”

Yu Xiaocao bent down to try to pick up the little fellow and almost stumbled over. Fang Haolin had gotten plumper again and she almost couldn’t hold him anymore. When Wutong saw this, she took the little master into her arms. The little fatty didn’t like this change and his hands waved as he exclaimed, “I don’t want you, I want my older sister!”

Xiaocao carried the little fatty into the inner room while Linglong and Wutong carefully escorted her from the side as they were afraid their two masters might fall over. Lady Fang saw this spectacle and burst into laughter, “Look at you two siblings. One gets thinner as time passes while the other gets fatter. Right now it looks like a skinny monkey is carrying a fat little piggy.”

“Linlin is not a fat little piggy. Linlin is Sun Wukong and I have a golden cudgel to kill monsters!” When Xiaocao was at the residence, the ‘Journey to the West’ had become Fang Haolin’s usual bedtime story.

Although the little fellow was young, he worshiped heroes. For example, the Monkey King was now his idol. He even begged his father to get him a round stick and claimed that it was the golden cudgel that Sun Wukong used. He brandished it constantly at the flora in the garden, claiming that he was ‘destroying monsters’. It was so bad that Lady Fang didn't dare to bring out her precious flowers out anymore. She was afraid that the little brat might destroy them!

Lady Fang picked the little fellow up and sat on the chaise lounge. She gently slapped his bottom. If everything went the way the little boy wanted, then every piece of furniture or decoration in these rooms would have long been broken by him. She patted at an open area on the lounge and had her daughter sit down before she asked, “Was your trip this time smooth? Is everything going well over there in Tanggu?”

“Royal Prince Yang’s bodyguards escorted me the entire way, so it’d be more surprising if it wasn’t smooth. A hundred or so mu of land next to the farmstead have also been bought by Royal Prince Yang and the greenhouse pavilions have also been built there. The artisans in charge of building the pavilions as well as the workers in charge of taking care of the plants were all highly skilled workers from his lands in the capital. I only had to provide a bit of advice here and there, so there wasn’t much for me to do!” Yu Xiaocao picked out a small piece of cantaloupe and delivered it into Little Linlin’s wide-open mouth. She also picked a slice of watermelon for herself and happily dug into it.  

“Mommy is biased. How come Older Sister is allowed to eat watermelon but Linlin isn’t?” The temperatures at the start of winter tended to be very cold and watermelon was considered a cold-natured food. Little Linlin had only recently become stronger in the past half year, so Lady Fang didn’t dare to feed him a lot of watermelon. However, it seemed like the little fellow was unhappy about this.

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Myst's Thoughts

Sanguine’s Thoughts: I’m sure we all know people like Wutong in our lives...

Translator: Sanguine