Chapter 451 - Rumors

As soon as they left the General’s Residence, Li Meirou swiftly slipped into the carriage and angrily made a ruckus, “Why is it like this?! How could that lowly peasant girl be able to wear clothing personally made by Modiste Jiang? Is she even worthy?!”

Lady Li saw that her daughter’s face had almost twisted into an unrecognizable expression out of anger and hurriedly comforted her, “That lass has to go to the Imperial Plantations every day, take care of the fields, and harvest vegetables. Even if she has beautiful feathers to wear, a wild pheasant can’t morph into a phoenix! My sweet daughter is pretty and dignified with a graceful figure. It’s Modiste Jiang’s own loss that she refuses to design clothing for us!”

If Yu Xiaocao could hear Lady Li’s words, she would definitely have to ask the woman, “Lady Li, are you a transmigrator from the Republic of China ah? You’re pretty similar to Ah Q ah! You truly embody the spirit and soul of Ah Q [1] and could be considered a true disciple of his ways ah!”

“Mother, just what is Modiste Jiang thinking? Is it really like what that peasant girl said? That she inspired Modiste Jiang? Sending her two sets of clothing as thanks is one thing but why is she now sending her two sets of custom-made clothing for every season now?” Li Meirou felt very aggrieved over this whole matter. She had lusted over gaining even one piece of clothing from Exquisite Garments yet her desire never came true. That rural peasant girl, on the other hand, was now getting supplied with two sets of clothing for every season now!

Lady Li hastily comforted her daughter, “Rou’er, just think about Modiste Jiang’s family background. She’s only from a merchant family. In the four classes of our society, merchants are even lower in status than farmers. Although everyone in the capital treats her like a precious flower, she still must feel inferior and unimportant when she walks in our wealthy and noble circles. Now, a peasant farmer girl whose birth is even more lowly than hers has suddenly popped up from who knows where. Naturally, she feels more comfortable interacting with another dull sparrow!” 

Only after hearing her mother’s explanation did Li Meirou’s expression finally relax. Suddenly, she thought of something and lifted the curtain covering the window to look around before she seriously said, “Mother, we can’t say such things in public! Everyone in the capital loves Modiste Jiang’s clothing. If what we said gets transmitted to her ears, then we will likely never be able to set foot into Exquisite Garments again! We must be careful of what we say!”

“My daughter, you are very wise and think of all situations! Alright, we won’t speak anymore on this subject! In the future, we will only secretly have such discussions in our inner courtyard!’ Lady Li abruptly remembered the purpose of her visit today. Did she complete her mission or not?

“Rou’er, it looks like this Yu Xiaocao’s fame in the capital will not be in any way inferior to Jiang Siniang’s acclaim. Right now, just by relying on her ability to grow fruits and vegetables in winter, the whole capital knows of her name and her deeds. I heard that on Royal Prince Yang’s farmstead, the little tomatoes there are almost as popular as the clothing personally designed and made by Jiang Siniang herself. Wealthy and noble families now take out little tomatoes when they receive guests to show off.”

Lady Li recalled that Lady Fang was older than herself by four to five years yet the other woman looked like she had just hit thirty years of age. Her skin was so tender and smooth that it resembled a young maiden’s. If this was truly the product of that peach blossom tea, then once Yu Xiaocao came up with a method to manufacture more and put it on the market, it would definitely become a product that was even more popular than Jiang Siniang’s handmade clothing.

Other types of clothing, while inferior to the ones made by Jiang Siniang, were still acceptable to wear. However, the quality of one’s skin was a different story. It didn’t matter how beautifully one was dressed if it was paired with a face that had skin like tree bark. Beautiful clothes didn’t go very well with sallow and aging skin. However, if a person had good skin, it made them seem much younger. Even if they were wearing normal clothing they could still have a pretty and graceful presence. Wasn’t Lady Fang from today a perfect example of this? 

Although Li Meirou was unhappy about this, she had to admit that the facts were true. The small tomatoes were currently sold in tiny boxes for ten taels each. Each box only held less than a catty of the fruit. The Assistant Minister’s residence was more than able to afford this but these tomatoes had rationed sales. Every shop only sold twenty boxes of tomatoes a day.

There were many high-ranking officials in the capital, and there were even more wealthy merchant families around. Even if the stores sold a hundred boxes a day at a price that was ten times the current price, that still wasn’t enough to sate the appetites of the rich and wealthy. In the past two months, the Assistant Minister's residence was only able to snatch one box of tomatoes. There were around at least a dozen people in their family as well as her father’s most favored concubine. It was considered pretty good to get one or two tomatoes to eat. Since she was favored by both her parents, she only got an extra tomato for herself compared to her older and younger brothers.

The little tomatoes were small and delicate, with a pleasing red color that delighted the eye. They had a sweet and sour taste and were very juicy. One bite was more than enough to cause people to fall in love with them. She also heard rumors that the tomatoes not only tasted good but were also good for nourishing the body!

It was rumored that the little imperial princess didn’t have a good appetite a few days ago but didn’t want to eat medicine. Yu Xiaocao had sent in a basket of tomatoes to her and the little princess got better without taking medicine! Not only was her appetite better but her complexion had also improved and she had become more lively. Consequently,, Consort Li’s maternal family’s attitude to that lowly lass had also improved quite a bit after this happened.

She was only a stupid farmer yet there were so many nobles who treated her as if she was a treasure. This lowly brat was truly too lucky! Although Li Meirou inwardly disdained Yu Xiaocao, she knew, for the sake of her family’s connections, that she would have to play nice with her. This would help her family thrive in the future. 

Without her mother persuading her, she had already understood what she needed to do in the future. However, she still pretended to be a bit distressed, “Mother, don’t worry! In the future, I won’t try to make things difficult for her anymore. If she wants to, I will even treat her like one of my best friends.”

“I knew you were Mother’s sweet daughter! I know you feel aggrieved about all of this. How about this? I know you’ve long liked my golden bracelet that’s shaped like clouds and has jewels embedded in it. When we get back, I’ll have one of the maids find it and give it to you!” Lady Li felt very grateful that her daughter had seen the light and knew how to bend for her family’s sake.

Li Meirou immediately felt happy but she remarked in hesitation, “Isn’t that bracelet supposed to be inherited by the wives of the family and not the daughters? I think Eldest Sister-in-law also likes it very much!”

“Hmph! Give that bracelet to her? Wouldn’t she just send it back to her maternal family? Rou’er, in the future, you absolutely cannot act like your eldest sister-in-law, always thinking about sending money and goods back to your maternal family. Although our family isn’t extremely wealthy, we don’t need you, as a daughter, supplementing us. Doing this will only cause your husband’s family to resent you!” In regards to her eldest daughter-in-law, Lady Li was very displeased and looked down on her. She also blamed her husband for this as well. He had gotten drunk one night and had promised another man that they would be in-laws. Now they were in a mess. They were stuck with some poor in-laws who were always looking to get more from their residence to subsidize their expenses.

“Mother, just what are you saying?” Li Meirou blushed with embarrassment as the topic of the conversation changed to her future marriage prospects. As long as they stayed in the capital, it probably wouldn’t be hard for her to get a good marriage in the future as her father was a third-ranked official in court. Thus, being aggrieved for a bit didn’t count for much in the grand scheme of themes. However, she also knew that now wasn’t the right time to be talking about her future marriage. It was all that lowly peasant girl, Yu Xiaocao’s, fault! That farmer girl had harmed her reputation recently! 

Lady Li’s eyes flickered as she said, “I don’t know where that Yu Family’s lass got that recipe for the peach blossom tea. If we were able to get our hands on that recipe, then we would definitely make a fortune!”

Li Meirou thought for a bit and then the smile on her face deepened. She whispered quietly, “Mother, if news came out that there was a recipe that could make women become more youthful, wouldn’t people rush out and try to grab it? There are plenty of people in the capital who are more powerful than General Fang! Do you think that if this came out that tiny sixth-ranked official farmer girl would be able to hold onto her recipe for long?”

“What are you trying to say?” Lady Li looked at her daughter in a dazed manner. She had never seen such a malevolent and hateful expression on her daughter’s face before. 

“It’s quite simple! If I can’t have it, then I can’t allow that lowly peasant girl to have it either! It doesn’t matter who gets this recipe in the end. As long as it's not in the hands of that farmer girl, I’m happy!” Li Meirou snarled out her thoughts.

Before long, news that the newly titled Official Yu had a recipe to allow women to become more youthful spread throughout the capital. For a period of time, the currents in the capital became murky and stormy. Lady Fang had subsequently become more busy as more people came to call on her to inquire about the news.

When Royal Prince Yang got word of this, he suspected that there was the stink of a conspiracy. He was quite busy with his official affairs recently, so he couldn’t personally deal with this right now. Instead, he sent over two bodyguards who were skilled at martial arts to Yu Xiaocao and repeatedly reminded the little lass that she needed to take them out with her when she went to the Imperial Plantation. He still wasn’t satisfied with this, so then he gave her two maids who were skilled at martial arts to protect her at all times. Finally, even Head Steward Liu was sent over by him to guard Yu Xiaocao. He gave the excuse that the steward was there to help her manage the farmstead for him while he wasn't there. In actuality, it was obvious that Head Steward Liu was only there to keep a close eye on her and the people targeting her.

Yu Xiaocao didn’t fuss at these protective measures and accepted them without any questions. The rumors swirling in the capital became more outlandish with each passing day. They now claimed that Yu Xiaocao had the ability to reverse time which was why she was able to grow fruits and vegetables out of season. This ability could even be used to restore the youth of older people! If it was merely the ability to beautify people and make them look youthful, then only the people obsessed with beauty would be interested. However, reversing time and giving back youth was a whole other matter and scores of people were now interested. Rulers of every generation all hoped to obtain long youthful lives, so why wouldn’t the rich and powerful covet it too?

In a flash, Yu Xiaocao had become the most delicious piece of meat in the world and everyone stared at her wherever she went. Luckily, she had the best bodyguards from Imperial Prince Jing’s Estate following her and also Royal Prince Yang’s Head Steward Liu, who no one truly understood. These protective methods caused a lot of people to not act on their desires.

However, these rumors had also entered the Imperial Palace. Some of the favored concubines in the palace had whispered their desire to obtain this recipe at the emperor's pillow. Even the empress herself was very interested in these rumors.

“Your Imperial Majesty, do you really think there is some type of medicine or prescription in this world that can make a person regain their youth?” The empress quietly asked this question while she was gazing at her reflection in the mirror. The woman shown in the mirror was not as lively or youthful as she was in the years past.

Zhu Junfan guffawed in amusement and replied, “You ah, you’re the mother of the empire ah! How come you also want to believe these baseless rumors? If there really was a medication that can restore the youth of the old, do you think any of the emperors in dynasties past would let this go? Have you heard of anyone in any previous dynasty becoming immortal and youthful forever? That being said, why do you need to use a medication to restore your youth? Look at that face of yours, Fei’er, you look like you're still around eighteen years old. If you become even younger, then we will have another imperial daughter in this palace!” 

The empress felt her heart burst with happiness when she heard the sweet words from the emperor. However, she restrained the corner of her lips from lifting up as she replied in a scolding tone, “What are you saying? If other people hear this, they'll think we’re a joke!”

Although she still looked young, she was almost thirty this year. Compared to those newer concubines entering the palace, who were around seventeen to eighteen years old, she was definitely not as youthful or tender. However, the emperor wasn't the type of person who lusted after new women all the time. He had been on the throne for seven to eight years by now, and the palace didn't even have more than four to five new concubines currently. Compared to the previous dynasties, where they had thousands and thousands of women in the palace, how could those few count? 

She had known the emperor since she was young and was childhood sweethearts with him. No matter how much the other concubines were favored, none of them could overtake her. Even if her complexion was not as beautiful as it was when she first married the emperor, or her voice as beautiful, the emperor had never slighted her a bit and still treated her well. She should be very pleased with all this! Thus, she often told herself that as the high and mighty empress, was there any point in her trying to compete with those concubines?


[1] Ah Q - main character from 'The True Story of Ah Q'. Ah Q is known for deluding himself, being blinded by self-interests, and being an overall self-absorbed person

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Myst's Thoughts

Sanguine’s Thoughts: Lol there are a lot of ‘Ah Q’ like people in this story. Cough Madam Zhang cough. I got a new insult to use!

Translator: Sanguine