Madam Zhang’s expression changed . Old Zhao was bestowed the title of a second-ranked general and his son Hunter Zhao also got the position of a fourth-ranked military official . Thus, their whole family were high-ranking officials now . If she continued to fabricate lies and ended up angering the Zhao Family, they might convict her for framing an official appointed by the imperial court, which meant that she would have to go to jail .
After all, Madam Zhang had achieved her thick skin from practice and experience . Even after her lies had been exposed, she still remained calm . She even rolled her eyes as she said, “All the money at home was given to your younger uncle as expense for the county examination!! Your grandfather and eldest uncle haven’t been able to catch any fish recently, so there’s hardly anything to eat at home now!! There’s so much shining white silver in your money box . Give me one to two hundred taels to use ah!”
Yu Xiaocao was so angry at her robber-like behavior that she ended up feeling amused, “Grandmother, you’re making such an excessive demand ah! One to two hundred taels! Are you preparing to drink bird nest and eat shark fins? We won’t even give you ten to twenty taels, let alone one to two hundred taels!!”
Madam Zhang was afraid of Xiaocao’s godfather, who was an official, so she didn’t dare to do anything to her . But, after so many years, she already had a thorough understanding of Yu Hai’s character . Thus, controlling him shouldn’t be a problem for her . She pushed Yu Xiaocao aside and rushed towards Yu Hai .
Seeing her fierce expression, Yu Hai subconsciously tilted sideways . It was unknown where she got her strength, but Madam Zhang took a few steps and rushed towards Yu Hai . She tightly clasped onto Yu Hai’s arm and forcibly shook it a few times . With the strength that she used to grab onto his arm, if it weren’t for the fact that Yu Hai had thick and rough skin, there would definitely be a bruise mark!
“Second Son, I have raised you into adulthood since you were eight or nine, and I also got a virtuous wife for you . After all these years, even if I have no merit, I should still get credit for my hard work! Yes, you have already separated from the family, but you’re still your father’s son and your younger siblings’ older brother ah! Our family is going through a difficult time right now, so you can’t just watch on the side cold-bloodedly ah!” As if she had thought of something, Madam Zhang was overwhelmed by sorrow and tears flowed down from her old face . Her face was covered with snot and tears .
All these years, Madam Zhang had placed all her hopes on her younger son . Every single coin that she had saved at home were used on her younger son . In order to ensure that he could study more conveniently, she had rented a house in town for him . Her younger son was able to eat fine grain, which the family were reluctant to eat, for nearly all his meals . No matter how stingy and frugal she was at home, she still couldn’t bear to let her younger son suffer even a little . She just hoped that he would bring honor to her and become an official .
This spring, her youngest son, Yu Bo, took part in the district examination in February and successfully passed the exam . Madam Zhang was extremely elated by this and became full of hope that her younger son would pass the examination for a county official . She, who was usually very stingy, held an all-day banquet in the village to celebrate her son passing the district examination .
However, she had gotten happy too early ah! There were three parts in the county-level examination: district examination, prefectural examination, and county examination . The district examination was just the beginning . In April, Madam Zhang personally escorted her son to the prefectural city with great hope . She encouraged him to pass all three exams in one go and return as a county official .
But the higher one’s expectation was, the greater their disappointment would be . Yu Bo failed the prefectural examination, and the entire household was filled with a tense and depressed atmosphere . Madam Zhang had even cried bitterly by herself in secret .
However, Yu Bo blamed his failure on the academy that he studied at, saying that it wasn’t good enough . For the town’s Rongxuan Academy, eighteen students participated in the county-level examination and they all passed the prefectural examination as expected . Moreover, they all placed high on the ranking . Now, they were all just waiting for the county examination! It wouldn’t be surprising even if they achieved the official rank of a county official!!
Shortly after the prefectural examination, Yu Bo came to the village to tell his mother that, if he could enter Rongxuan Academy, he would definitely obtain the official rank of a county official for his mother within two years . He didn’t have a chance in the past, but he got an amazing friend who could help him get into Rongxuan Academy . However, a small fee was required .
Madam Zhang was immediately interested in the idea! Even an illiterate fisherwoman like her had heard of the great reputation of Rongxuan Academy . Rongxuan Academy had produced quite a few first and second place scholars of the imperial examination!! If her son could enter Rongxuan Academy and be taught by a famous teacher, the day that he passed the examination would just be around the corner! Haha, she was going to be the mother of an official soon!!
However, she hesitated upon hearing the small fee that her son mentioned . For an ordinary fishing family, five hundred taels was seriously an astronomical figure . Even with Madam Zhang’s thrifty and stingy behavior and Hunter Zhao’s compensation of three hundred taels, the family’s savings was still only around four hundred taels! Even if they gave up everything they had, they still wouldn’t be able to get five hundred taels!!
Just when she was at a loss, Madam Li sneaked into her room last night and told her about the news that the watermelons grown by Yu Hai’s family could be sold for five taels each . Upon hearing this, Madam Zhang, who was driven into a corner due to money, found a new source of light—For the sake of her younger son, she must get the money for him even if she had to lose her face!!
She came to town early this morning and hid in the corner to secretly observe Yu Hai’s watermelon shop . The business of the watermelon shop was very good . There seemed to be an endless stream of customers from the morning to the afternoon . Every customer who entered the store would come out with one or two watermelons . She calculated it in her mind that, if the watermelons cost five taels each, this small melon shop could actually earn several hundreds of taels a day . With this discovery, Madam Zhang became even more confident that she could get the money from Yu Hai .
Why did she only show up at this time? Of course, there was a reason . After their previous interactions, Madam Zhang had experienced the power of Yu Xiaocao . That brat also had a powerful and influential godfather, so she couldn’t be scolded nor beaten . Yu Hai, on the other hand, was a lot easier to handle . As long as she emphasized filial piety, there was no way that Yu Hai would refuse her request!
“Second Son ah! Xiaobo is your biological younger brother ah!! He’s waiting for this money to save his life right now, so you can’t just stand aside and do nothing ah!!” An old woman with white hair and a wrinkled face was crying sadly as she held onto the arm of the man she was complaining to . People who didn’t know the truth all looked at Yu Hai with a condemning gaze .
Unable to get away from her tight grasp, Yu Hai was so anxious that he was sweating all over his head . He stammered, “You… What are you doing? If you want to talk, then just talk! You can rest assured that I won’t refuse to help if it’s something I can do!!”
Yu Hai was no longer the person who Madam Zhang could bully and control as she pleased . In face of Madam Zhang’s bitter plea, he had left some leeway in his words .
Madam Zhang wiped her tears with her sleeve, snuffled her nose hard, and spoke in a tone as if someone owed her something, “Who doesn’t know that your family’s watermelon is selling very well in town and you earn several hundred taels in a day? Isn’t five hundred taels just a trivial matter to you?”
After hearing that, the onlookers were stunned in their hearts! All the merchants and patrons on this street were people with some money in their family . When this old lady begged the owner of the melon shop for help, they didn’t think that this peasant woman, who was dressed in worn-out clothes and appeared to have an arduous life, would request for anything extravagant .
No one had expected that she would directly demand five hundred taels . Five hundred taels wasn’t a small amount of money ah! There weren’t many stores within the vicinity that could earn more than five hundred taels monthly . For what reason would a poverty-stricken old woman directly demand for five hundred taels?
Yu Hai had also furrowed his brows, feeling troubled . The first thing he thought about was what trouble had his younger brother caused that they would need five hundred taels to settle .
“Grandmother, the first thing that you ask for when you open your mouth is five hundred taels! Don’t you know that most people wouldn’t be able to earn so much money even after working hard for all their lives? I really want to know, what exactly do you need this five hundred taels for?!!” Yu Xiaocao, who was unprepared earlier, got pushed by Madam Zhang and almost fell down . Fortunately, the agile Linglong swiftly supported her, otherwise, her skin and flesh would have to suffer!
Madam Zhang glared fiercely at the Yu Xiaocao with her ferocious wolf-like eyes, but her pupils abruptly contracted when she saw the beautiful woman behind Xiaocao . She had heard from Madam Li that Xiaocao’s godmother had come from the capital . Disregarding Xiaocao’s godmother’s attitude towards Xiaocao, in front of her godmother, she stiffly swallowed back the wicked remarks that was about to come out of her mouth .
“You don’t have to know what I need it for . Second Son, just tell me if you’re going to give me the money or not!” Madam Zhang continued to pick on the easier victim and asked him in a threatening manner .
However, Yu Hai didn’t obediently agree to her like she thought that he would have . Instead, he asked the same question, “Cao’er is right . Five hundred taels isn’t a small number . What kind of lawsuit did Xiaobo get involved in that you guys need such a large sum of money? He didn’t fall into some malicious person’s trap, did he?”
“You’re the one who’s getting sued!! My Xiaobo’s life has been blessed by the deities, so he will become a high-ranking official in the future!! This reason he didn’t perform well this time was because the teachers at his academy weren’t good enough!! After he enters Rongxuan Academy, he will surely pass the examination to become a county official in the upcoming year!! At that time, as his older brother, won’t you also benefit?” When she spoke of her younger son, Madam Zhang had a face full of pride, as if he would definitely become a county official .
Xiaocao caught the crucial details in her words and asked doubtfully, “Wait! Did you just say that Younger Uncle is going to enter Rongxuan Academy? Isn’t the entrance exam for Rongxuan Academy on the first month of every year? Hasn’t the time for the test already passed? Shitou never mentioned that there would be additional test times this year ah?”
Madam Zhang revealed a proud expression and wanted to tell them the truth, but she remembered that her son had warned her not to casually talk about this matter so as to not create unnecessary problems . She swallowed back the words that were about to come out of her mouth and vaguely said, “You guys don’t have to worry about it . As long as you take out five hundred taels, entering Rongxuan Academy won’t be a problem!”
It seemed like someone had taken advantage of the students’, who had failed the exam, desire to achieve merit and fame . But, to directly demand five hundred taels was seriously too excessive ah! Yu Xiaocao, who had already more or less guessed the truth, kindly reminded her,
“Grandmother, did someone tell you that they would let Younger Uncle study in Rongxuan Academy if you give them five hundred taels? If people can enter Rongxuan Academy just by spending money, would we even get a chance? Numerous wealthy businessmen had wanted to use their wealth to get a spot in Rongxuan Academy for their son, but none of them had succeeded . Yet you think that a mere five hundred taels would work?? Grandmother, you and Younger Uncle probably encountered a swindler, didn’t you?”
Despite Madam Zhang’s aged body, she could actually jump three feet high . With one hand on her waist and another pointing at Yu Xiaocao’s nose, she shouted while spitting, as if she was a shrew cursing on the streets, “Are there any nieces like you? It was hard for your younger uncle to get this chance to enter Rongxuan Academy, which isn’t something that just anyone can get . It’s fine if you don’t want to help, but you still have to curse him to get deceived!! Your younger uncle had treated you so well in vain . Did your conscience get eaten by a dog? I have never seen such a wicked little girl . Let’s see who will be willing to marry you, this jinx and black-hearted thing, in the future…”