If anyone else had asked such a question, Su Ran would have ignored them directly . However, since it was Xiaocao, Su Ran reminded her kindly, “Miss Yu, don’t worry . The emperor probably didn’t summon you for something bad . ”
Don’t worry? How could she feel at ease? Ever since the emperor had guessed that she had a golden finger, she had been feeling like there was a knife constantly hanging around her neck . The knife could fall down at any moment . Who knew whether the emperor would have a cramp one day and decide to kill her? Alas . . . it seemed like she needed to keep a lower profile!
That being said, when did she ever keep a low profile? When she had no money, she made braised food and sold a lot of recipes on roasted chicken and duck to other people . She was even able to produce out-of-season produce and watermelons . Not to mention, she opened a braised food shop . . . this stack after stack of accomplishments, anyone with a discerning eye would easily be able to figure out her status with just a glance .
“Your Imperial Highness, please slow down . Be careful so you don’t fall . ” It was unknown which palace servant had said that, but the voice came from behind the cluster of flowers not far away . Shortly after, Xiaocao heard footsteps heading in her direction .
Su Ran straightened up and bowed at the little figure that appeared in front of the two . He said, “This servant pays his respects to His Imperial Highness . ”
Yu Xiaocao followed after him and bent her knees to salute the young prince . Perhaps the little figure had been running too fast because the young prince continued to rush towards Xiaocao . He was about to fall on her leg . Xiaocao hurriedly stood up and leaned over to support him with her arms . She said softly, “Be careful, don’t fall!”
The young prince stabilized his footing and looked up at Xiaocao’s eyes . After he frowned for a moment, he suddenly shouted in realization, “I remember you! The last time I was sick, you made sweet medicinal candy for me . You also know how to make seafood congee . . . ”
“Your Imperial Highness is quite clever . It has been a while since it happened, yet you still remembered . Your memory is better than ordinary people’s!” Yu Xiaocao praised the young prince . Her younger brother and Little Linlin from her godmother’s household were both little boys . Thus, she had her own ways of getting along with children .
As expected, the young prince revealed a bashful but proud expression on his face . But he suddenly pursed his lips and said, “Why did you leave? The seafood congee made by the imperial chefs isn’t as good as the one you made . Are you going to leave the palace after this? Why don’t I ask my imperial father to let you work in the imperial kitchen? Is that okay with you?”
Yu Xiaocao looked at the official’s robe she was wearing and crouched down . She glanced at the young prince and had a soft smile on her face as she said, “If Your Imperial Highness wants to eat seafood congee, I can make it for you after I visit the emperor . However, I can’t work in the imperial kitchen because I have some official matters that I need to attend to . ”
“Why? You are a woman, so what kind of important task would my imperial father give you? Isn’t working in the imperial kitchen and serving me food a better job for you?” Since the young prince was born into the imperial family, he was naturally influenced by the imperial household’s honor and arrogance .
One shouldn’t look down on children just because they were young . They still comprehended many things . As long as one patiently explained everything, they will gradually begin to understand . Yu Xiaocao didn’t dare to have the slightest impatience in her tone as she softly said, “Your Imperial Highness, this humble official might be good at cooking, but that is not my best skill set . ”
“Oh? Then what are you the best at? Is it medicine? That’s not right, the official’s robe that you’re wearing is not one that an imperial physician would wear . ” The young prince's face revealed his confusion as well as contained some expectation . She was so talented at cooking, yet she said she had something that she was even more skilled in . She must be amazing!
Yu Xiaocao continued talking with a smile, “This humble servant is not the best at cooking or medicine, but farming!”
“Farming? Is that when you sprinkle the seeds into the soil, wait for them to grow into small sprouts, and then finally harvest them when they grow into wheat?” The young prince blinked his big eyes . His expression was both innocent and adorable .
“Your Imperial Highness is very smart . You even know about farming!”
Yu Xiaocao’s words made the young prince feel that he was very intelligent . But he still explained honestly, “My imperial father opened a small field in the northwest area of the imperial garden . He once took me there to farm with him . I also helped him put the seeds in the small holes in the soil! When harvesting time came around, my imperial father gave me a small sickle to reap the grain . Then, we used the wheat I cut down to grind it into flour . The flour was then used to make steamed buns . The steamed buns were tastier than the ones I’ve bought from outside!”
“Your Imperial Highness even helped with farming . You really are really capable!” Yu Xiaocao praised him and continued, “Do you know why the emperor grew wheat in the imperial garden?”
“I know! My imperial father said that there are many people in the world who don’t have enough to eat . Each year, there are children around my age who starve to death because they have no food . Some children are even sold off by their parents in exchange for food…” The young prince was indeed smart, so it was only natural that his knowledge was linked to the emperor’s teaching .
Yu Xiaocao nodded her head and said, “That’s correct! The emperor tries his best and thinks of many ways to prevent all the children in the world from starving and for all the parents in the world to be able to stay with their children . This humble official is good at farming . The emperor ignored the objections of the other officials and appointed me as an official . Now, I’m in charge of the entire Imperial Plantation . He did this in hopes that I will be able to cultivate high-yield seeds as soon as possible and distribute them to the people . Your Imperial Highness, please ponder over this question . Originally, one mu of land could produce 300 catties of grains . But after the farmers paid the rent for the fields, the remaining grain could only keep the family from starvation . If the output per mu of land is increased to 600 catties or even 1,000 catties, what do you think will happen?”
“The commoners will not only be able to have enough food to eat to their fill, but they will also have surplus leftover!” The young prince was only six or seven years old, but he followed the emperor around and learned many things from the court . He also knew a lot about farming . The emperor often sighed before the empress on this matter . The young prince remembered that and asked, “Can you grow 1,000 catties of grain per mu now?”
Yu Xiaocao shook her head gently, and disappointment filled the young prince’s eyes . However, Yu Xiaocao said firmly, “This humble servant is working hard in that direction! Your Imperial Highness, have you heard of the Yu Family from Tanggu Town?”
“Yes! My imperial father told me that the Yu Family has grown wheat that yields 600 catties per mu . If we can spread this across the country, then within three years, the people of the Great Ming Dynasty will have enough food and clothing . In addition, the world will stabilize! The Yu Family has really done an outstanding service to the Great Ming Dynasty!” The proud expression on the young prince’s face was quite adorable and funny . Xiaocao almost reached out her hand to squeeze his face .
“Many thanks for the praise, Your Imperial Highness! This humble servant will definitely do my utmost and strive to plant wheat that will yield 1,000 catties per mu! This humble servant will pursue this goal even until my death!” Yu Xiaocao solemnly expressed her gratitude .
The young prince looked at her in surprise and said, “So, you are a part of the Yu Family! Now that you have taken charge of the Imperial Plantation, can you guarantee that you can produce high-yield wheat that can also grow in the capital?”
“This humble servant can guarantee that I will only produce wheat with higher and higher yield rates!” Yu Xiaocao was confident in this aspect .
Su Ran waited quietly on the side . When he saw that the conversation had come to an end, he said, “Your Imperial Highness, the emperor is still waiting in Jinlan Pavilion for Official Yu . The emperor has some questions for her…”
The young prince waved his hands at Yu Xiaocao and said, “You can go visit my imperial father first to discuss your business . When you have free time, I will ask my mother to bring you to the palace to have a good chat with you!”
‘Are you only going to summon me to have a good chat with you? Young prince, your words do not reflect your true heart . Do you feel embarrassed to tell me directly that you want to eat the food I make?’ Yu Xiaocao didn’t say anything and only bid the young prince farewell . She followed Chief Steward Su Ran and soon arrived at Jinlan Pavilion .
“Little girl, you sure are brave to make me wait for so long!” Zhu Junfan looked at Yu Xiaocao with a faint smile on his face . Steam began to rise from the pot of water that was being heated on top of the clay stove . He lifted his slender hand and lightly picked up the dragon engraved Yixing clay teapot before he lightly poured the tea from the teapot into a cup…
Chief Steward Su Ran took the Yixing clay pot from the emperor . His posture when he was brewing tea was pleasing to the eye and his voice was like a clear spring as he said, “We had bumped into the young prince when we walked through the imperial garden . As a result, we were delayed for a moment . ”
“After he recovered from his illness, his body has strengthened a lot . This is all thanks to Official Yu!” Zhu Junfan picked up the Yixing clay cup with a dragon carved on it, gently blew on the tea, took a small sip, and shook his head lightly . Even the best quality Da Hong Pao didn’t taste as good as the wild tea the little girl made . Could it be due to the multi-colored stone on her wrist? His gaze couldn’t help but wander towards the multi-colored stone on Yu Xiaocao’s wrist .
Suddenly aware of his stare at her wrist, Xiaocao only made matters worse by hiding her hand behind her back . She put on a fake smile and flatteringly said, “His Imperial Highness is blessed by the gods . Even if this humble servant didn’t help, his illness would’ve still been cured . I only helped the young prince by allowing him to drink fewer bowls of bitter medicine . This humble official does not dare to take credit for the young prince’s quick recovery . ”
“Saving Wen’er from drinking all that bitter medicine is already a contribution . During the time when he was still ill, Wen’er had nagged for you more than once . He insisted on arguing with his imperial mother that all the physicians in the imperial palace cannot compare with your medical skills . ” Zhu Junfan put down the teacup in his hand . The look in his eyes was unclear .
Xiaocao laughed dryly, “His Imperial Highness is overpraising this humble official . This official doesn’t dare to compare her skills to the imperial physicians . This would mean that I will offend all the imperial physicians in the imperial medicine bureau . In the future, if this humble servant has a headache or fever, none of the imperial physicians will be willing to help me!”
Su Ran glanced at her and thought, ‘Miss Yu, you cannot be too honest . You shouldn’t have said that even if you were thinking that! Are you saying that the young prince had caused trouble for you? Moreover, you don’t have the right to ask an imperial physician to personally go to your estate to treat you since you’re only a sixth-ranked official . Unless . . . the emperor grants it . ’
Zhu Junfan motioned for Su Ran to leave and then he beckoned Xiaocao over . He pointed at the Yixing clay teapot and said, “With your medical skills, why would you need to summon a doctor to cure your fever or minor illnesses? You’re being too modest . ”
He continued to talk, preventing Xiaocao from opening her mouth and acting modest, “Ever since I drank the tea that you brewed at Dongshan Village, the tea in the palace seemed to has lost its flavor . Come, help me brew a cup of tea so I can taste your craft again . ”
Yu Xiaocao resigned to her fate and picked up the Yixing clay teapot . She opened the lid and tested the temperature of the tea inside the water with her hand . Then, she said, “For this type of tea, you can’t use water that is too hot . You should use water that is around 80 degrees . The first time you boil the water is to wash the impurities off of the tea . The tea will taste the best on the third and fourth brew . ”
She knew only a bit about how to conduct a tea ceremony . She could only wash the tea awkwardly and pour another cup of tea for the emperor . Then, she instructed him to taste the tea .
Zhu Junfan took a sip of the tea, frowned, and said, “Are you trying to fool me? I want to drink the tea that I drank in Dongshan Village!” Did she really think he asked her to come here to perform a tea ceremony? He could grab any eunuch in the imperial palace, and they could perform a tea ceremony much more professionally than her . She really was uneducated!