Chapter 445 - Invite

Li Meirou still wanted to talk back, but when she turned her gaze to the flower that she brought over, she realized that it really didn’t look as lively as when she came. Lady Feng loved flowers, so if it was really harmed in any way, her aunt tearing her apart would be considered letting her off easily. 

With this thought in mind, Li Meirou felt as if she was sitting on pins and needles. She struggled for a long time inwardly and finally decided not to stay to the end of the banquet. She came up with an excuse and left the venue ahead of time. She carefully protected the pot of gorgeous camellia flowers for fear of any mishaps. 

After sending away that eyesore, Yu Xiaocao ate and drank with relish at the banquet. The cooking skills of Duke Zhenguo Estate’s chefs were pretty good. Duke Zhenguo Estate had put in a lot of effort for the sake of this flower competition. In addition to meat dishes, the vegetables were all bought from the greenhouse. For these two tables of dishes, they had to spend at least several hundreds of taels. 

During the meal, Royal Princess Minglan picked up a refreshing and crisp green vegetable and said, “In the past, when I wanted to eat some fresh greens in the winter, I would have to grow some vegetables in the hothouse like planting flowers. It would usually be hard to even have a plate of leafy greens on the table, let alone eat to one’s heart’s content. The small amount of vegetables grown in the greenhouse wouldn’t even be enough to entertain guests at banquets and New Year celebrations. Now, we can buy nearly any fresh vegetables that we want to eat. We can even eat fruits and melons in the winter!”   

“That’s right! Younger Sister Xiaocao, what exactly is your brain made out of? You actually came up with the idea of growing vegetables in a big greenhouse. You’re my savior ah!! Do you know that? I really hate eating cabbage and radish, but in the winter, other than the different kinds of meat, those two are the only two vegetables that can be eaten. The taste makes me want to vomit, but if I don’t eat it, I’ll get inflammation and ulcers in my mouth. It’s fine now because I’m saved by the greenhouse vegetables!” He Wanning took a bite of the stired-fried lettuce with oyster sauce, which had a fresh and green appearance that roused one’s appetite. 

For families of high-ranking officials like them who had money and power, they could afford to eat vegetables daily. However, at today’s banquet, there were quite a lot of young misses from families of fourth-ranked and fifth-ranked officials whose fathers and brothers worked in a post without much profit. Thus, they couldn’t eat vegetables, which were even more expensive than meat, whenever they wanted. 

In addition to sweet watermelons, the fruits served after the meal included the sweet and delicious muskmelon and little tomatoes that were about the same size of pigeon eggs. These little tomatoes were produced by genetic mutation with the help of the little divine stone’s power. They were small but had an even better taste. They also had a richer concentration of spiritual power than ordinary fruits and vegetables. 

The frequent consumption of the little tomatoes would trigger an obvious change in the human body, so in order to prevent this, they only planted a small amount of the tomatoes. Most of them were kept for their own consumption, while a small portion was sold. The price for the little tomatoes were ten taels per catty, which almost caused a fierce competition. This was because there was a purchase limit. Each household could only buy one catty per day. They would at most sell ten catties a day, so it could only be considered something novel to try out. 

For example, for Duke Zhenguo Estate’s banquet today, they either had to line up for several days without rest, or ask families, who they had a good relationship with, to help them buy the tomatoes. What? They should have had their servants go buy more in disguise? If they got discovered, they would get blacklisted by the store. Moreover, there were so many rich and influential businessmen in the capital. Would they allow one family to dominate the goods? No one dared to openly cheat in front of public eyes! 

The fruit plates were mostly filled with cut up watermelons and muskmelons. There were only enough little tomatoes for each person to eat one. The people here were all tactful and knowledgeable people, so no one dared to inwardly complain that Royal Princess Minglan was being petty. Instead, they admired her for being able to entertain guests with little tomatoes! 

It was the first time that these young ladies, who had come from humble backgrounds with fathers and brothers in low-ranking positions, had tasted such a delicious ‘fruit’. There was a slight sour taste in the sweetness. With one bite, the juice would instantly burst within their mouths. It was an incomparably satisfying feeling that caused people to savor the taste for a long time. 

He Wanning finished the little tomato in two bites, and then looked at the remaining fruit on the plate. When the little tomatoes were served at the main table, except for Yu Xiaocao, everyone had picked up a piece to carefully taste. Even Royal Princess Minglan, as the host, was unwilling to give up the little tomato, which she seldom had the chance to eat, to the guests.  

“Younger Sister, you’re not eating?” Seeing that Xiaocao had reached her hand out to get a muskmelon and slowly savored it, He Wanning looked around and asked with a smile as she pointed at the remaining tomato. 

Yu Xiaocao took in the expression in her eyes. She suppressed her laughter and thought, ‘She really is just a teenage girl who can’t resist the temptation of tasty food.’ Then she looked at the other young misses, who held the little tomato in their hands and were unwilling to eat it. ‘So who’s the ignorant country bumpkin?’ 

“If Older Sister Wanning likes it, you can have my share!” These fruits and melons were all grown by her, so would she lack these at home? This lass He Wanning had a straightforward temperament, but she wasn’t someone with ill intentions. For someone like this, if she liked someone, she would even be willing to take out her heart and give to others. But, of course, if she didn’t like someone, then she would unreservedly show it on her face.   

He Wanning was just waiting for her to say that, “Then I won’t be courteous! Heh heh…” 

“Just look at how embarrassing you’re being! Does the princess royal not feed you? You’re embarrassing yourself at other people’s house!” Yuan Xueyan knew her temper, so she jokingly scolded her. 

As if she was Zhu Bajie eating a ginseng fruit, He Wanning ate the little tomato in one bite. She sighed and said, “You should also know that this thing can’t be bought even if one has money! Even if you line up in front of a fruit shop for three to five days, you still might not be able to buy one catty back! My grandmother isn’t very interested in other fruits, but she loves this little tomato. After we managed to get a catty back with much difficulty, most of them were given to my grandmother. Do you think that I can snatch food from my grandmother, who has doted on me since I was young?” 

“Who told you to put up a front and say that you don’t like eating it?” Yuan Xueyan knew the reason behind it, so while she teased her, she actually agreed with her friend’s actions in her heart. 

With a troubled expression on her face, He Wanning replied, “If I didn’t say that, my grandmother would be reluctant to eat it and she would save them for me to eat! My grandmother has doted on me for nearly fifteen years, so why can’t I pamper her once? Poor me, I have to find an excuse to leave every time my grandmother eats the little tomatoes so that she wouldn’t see my salivating expression.” 

Someone who was filial couldn’t be too bad of a person! Yu Xiaocao thought that she was someone who was worthy of making friends with. However, she wouldn’t say this in front of everyone. She just asked in a roundabout way, “What does Older Sister He usually do for fun?” 

“I just read books and practice swordsmanship. Occasionally, I will run a few laps on the racetrack in the countryside. When my older brothers go hunting, they would sometimes take me along.” He Wanning wasn’t interested in the four arts [1] and was brought up like a tomboy by her older brothers.    

Yu Xiaocao smiled and said, “I have a little red horse with good strength in its legs. On another day, if you’re interested, we can go for an outing on horseback together. There are many pheasants and wild hares in the mountains near the Imperial Plantation. My archery skills aren’t very good, but I know how to set traps. If we catch some game, we can have a barbecue at the foot of the mountain…” 

Outing? It was winter now, so it wasn’t a good idea to go on an outing in this cold weather. But the thing that piqued He Wanning’s interest wasn’t the outing. Instead it was the location of the outing—near the Imperial Plantation! What was the most famous thing about the Imperial Plantation now? Greenhouse vegetables ah! At Royal Prince Yang’s plantation next door, they had the even more famous greenhouse fruits! Inside, they had her favorite little tomatoes… 

Younger Sister Yu was considered half an owner of these greenhouses, right? If she went as a guest, wouldn’t she be treated to good food and drinks? She might even be able to back some stuff back when leaving… 

“Okay, okay! When are we going?” With that thought in mind, He Wanning was itching to leave Duke Zhenguo Estate and immediately go to the Imperial Plantation.   

Seeing He Wanning’s reaction, Royal Princess Minglan understood what she was thinking and immediately said, “Younger Sister Yu, you can’t just favor one over another and only invite her but not me.” 

“It’s my honor to be able to invite Your Highness the Royal Princess. On another day, I’ll send an invitation to invite Royal Princess, Older Sister He, and Older Sister Yuan to go on an outing! Please accept my invitation ah!” Of course, she didn’t mind making friends with some of the most famous noble young misses in the capital. Now, her godmother didn’t have to worry about her not being able to make friends. 

When she came out of Duke Zhenguo Estate and the carriage had traveled a short distance, Hechun quietly said, “Young Miss, Royal Prince Yang is in front of us. Could it be that he’s waiting for you, Young Miss?” 

Linglong shot her a look and the smile on her face slowly faded, “Where are your manners? What right do you have to speak of the master’s matters?” 

Hechun bowed her head and timidly replied, “Yes! This servant knows my mistake. Please punish me, Young Miss!!”

Yu Xiaocao looked at Linglong, nodded, and said, “Then you will be punished with no salary for three months. Go back and reflect on yourself!” 

“I understand!” Hechun inwardly scolded herself for crossing the line. Her master was kind, but that didn’t mean that servants didn’t have to abide by their duties. She had become somewhat smug after her handmade soaps were praised by the noblewomen. From now on, she must remember this lesson and live up to the trust and support of her young miss.   

“How is it? Did things go well at today’s flower banquet?” When Zhu Junyang, who was riding on Fierce Wind, saw the familiar horse carriage come over, he guided his horse to follow beside the carriage. His voice sounded through the window of the carriage. 

Yu Xiaocao lifted the curtain and looked at the devilishly handsome man dressed in dark black brocade robe. There was a profound glow within his pair of phoenix eyes, which seemed to be able to lure one’s soul, as he looked at her. The corners of his eyes were slightly slanted upwards, which enhanced his seductive charms. With his lips pursed together, it seemed like the snow had melted and spring had started. ‘So devilish ah! He’s seriously so devilishly charming ah!’ Yu Xiaocao inwardly exclaimed when she saw the young maidens and matrons on the street staring at him with blushing faces.    

“What’s wrong? Got bullied? Who is it? Tell this prince!” Zhu Junyang’s face was suddenly covered with frost, and a wave of murderous intent lingered around him. 

Yu Xiaocao shook her head and said, “You’re thinking too much. No one bullied me! The flower banquet went very well. All the flowers that everyone brought over were famous species. However, in terms of value, they naturally couldn’t compete with my ‘Elegant Lotus Crown’. I won a lot of rewards today. Since you’re here, how about I share half of them with you?”

“This prince isn’t interested in things that girls like!” Seeing that there didn’t seem to be anything wrong with the little lass’s expression, Zhu Junyang’s heart felt half relieved. As for the other half, he would see after he inquired about what had happened!


[1] four arts (琴棋书画) - zither, go, calligraphy, and painting

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Translator: Myst