Seeing that Yu Xiaocao had other guests, Li Mengru decided to leave now . She repeatedly reminded the other girl to be careful around Royal Prince Yang . Yu Xiaocao held back her laughter and easily promised the other maiden . She personally escorted Lin Mengru out of the drooping flower gate .
Suddenly, Xiaocao’s second-rank maidservant, Yingchun, walked by with the elegant and handsome as a god Royal Prince Yang . When she saw everyone, Yingchun bent over and gave a greeting, “Young Miss, this servant is taking Royal Prince Yang to go see the mistress…”
Royal Prince Yang? Li Mengru had kept her head lowered down carefully when she heard that there was an outside man coming in . Her heart was filled with equal parts of apprehension and curiosity . She couldn't help but stealthily raise her head slightly to look at the dark, shadowy figure who was behind Yingchun . Unexpectedly, her eyes met a pair of cold and piercingly fierce eyes . It frightened her so much that her heart stopped for two beats . She quickly lowered her head to her chest as if she was a scared little rabbit .
So scary! Sure enough, the rumors were not wrong . Royal Prince Yang’s gaze was as sharp as a knife and almost frightened her to death! Although she didn’t have the time to clearly see the other person’s external appearance, her mind automatically filled in the gaps to form a picture: a very tall figure that resembled an iron tower (Author’s note: the prince is wearing a black cloak, okay?) and a piercing gaze that could kill a person instantly . Incredibly dreadful! Would Younger Sister Xiaocao be bullied by this man later on?
Zhu Junyang could sense someone feeling very apprehensive and was concerned that someone was trying to scheme against his little lass . He opened up his mind to his power and unexpectedly heard Li Mengru’s train of thoughts . He didn’t know whether he should laugh or cry at this new information——this young maiden, whose courage was smaller than a bunny’s, had actually described him in such a fearsome manner and was even worried that he would harm Xiaocao? She was thinking too much, okay? He constantly thought about how to protect her better . How could he bear to harm a single hair on his lass’s head?
When that maid came to get him, who did she say was meeting Xiaocao? The concubine-born daughter of a high-ranking official in the Ministry of Ceremonies? She dared to ruin his great and mighty reputation in front of his lass . Should he give her a lesson? Forget it! Since his lass was treating that young maiden quite well, he would let her go this one time! His little lass wouldn’t be as timid as that girl . At most, he would likely be laughed at and teased by her . In any case, it wasn’t the first time this happened, so he was indifferent to it! As long as his lass was happy, that was what mattered!
Zhu Junyang raised an eyebrow when he met the gleeful look in Yu Xiaocao’s eyes . His lips slightly curved up and he gave her a look that said, ‘this prince will be waiting for you’ . Then, he left as if nothing had happened in that brief encounter .
Li Mengru, who had been scared speechless, clenched tightly onto her handkerchief and kept her head lowered as much as possible . Her legs were tightened in fear . Only after Royal Prince Yang’s figure completely disappeared did she finally let out a long sigh of relief . She felt as if she had just taken a stroll next to the gates of hell .
Until she entered her carriage, Li Mengru still had some lingering sense of apprehension . Jiner, who was holding the gifted box, also patted her chest in relief and slowly let out a sigh as she softly said, “Young Miss, earlier Royal Prince Yang was too scary! I could feel the air freeze when I was only three steps away from him . This servant was so scared that I didn’t dare to breathe! Oh right, Young Miss! Did you get a good look at what Royal Prince Yang looks like?”
“When I raised my head, I was so frightened by the sharp look in his eyes that I immediately lowered it again . I only saw that he was wearing all black and that he is very tall! Jiner, since Royal Prince Yang is so scary, do you think Younger Sister Xiaocao will be bullied by him?” Li Mengru was sincerely worried about the young maiden she had just gotten familiar with .
Jiner replied hesitantly, “I don’t . . . think so, right? With Lady Fang there, she wouldn’t let her daughter get pushed over! Furthermore . . . from what Miss Yu was showing, it’s unlikely that she’s very scared of Royal Prince Yang . Perhaps, those rumors . . . are all exaggerations! That being said, Royal Prince Yang can’t just get angry for no reason at any time . Young Miss, don’t be so worried!”
When they returned to their residence, the two of them were immediately escorted to the central courtyard where the legitimate wife lived by a maidservant who was waiting for them at the inner gate . Li Mengru’s legitimate mother, older legitimate sister, and a few of her younger legitimate brothers were all waiting in the reception hall . The sight somewhat resembled a joint hearing .
Li Mengru appeared a bit wilted when she saw this and gave the proper greeting as she softly said, “Li Mengru greets Mother . ”
Lady Li had a sweet smile on her face as she waved a hand to summon this concubine-born daughter of hers who normally wasn’t very eye-catching . When Li Mengru arrived next to her, Lady Li gently said, “There’s no one that’s an outsider here, so there’s no need to be so stiff . Quickly sit down and drink a cup of hot tea to warm yourself up . ”
Li Mengru couldn’t refuse an offer from the older generation, so she sat down on a small embroidered stool next to the chaise lounge in a reserved manner . She clasped a cup of tea in her hands and slowly drank it in small sips . Hm . . . the flavor of this tea was quite inferior to the tea at Younger Sister Xiaocao’s place .
Her older legitimate sister, Li Mengqi, didn’t wait before she finished her cup of tea before she impatiently came over and asked, “Younger Sister Ru, did Official Yu invite you over for some matter? Did she receive you with a platter of fruits?”
Li Mengru handed the teacup over to Jiner, who was standing next to her and gently replied, “Official Yu wants to cooperate with me as my ability to make cosmetics caught her eye . She wants to open a store together . Besides me, she also invited Older Sister Yuan from the prime minister’s residence to also work on this business . ”
“Older Sister Yuan’s handcrafted duck egg powder is very famous throughout the capital . I would have never expected that younger sister’s dabblings in mixing cosmetics could also catch Official Yu’s attention…” Yuan Xueyan had a cold and indifferent personality . Ordinarily, she only interacted with those who were close to her, like kindred spirits . There were no more than ten people in the capital who had entered her circle of friends . When she saw that her concubine-born younger sister had the opportunity to interact with the legitimate daughter of the prime minister in a business collaboration, Li Mengqi’s voice became soured with a hint of jealousy .
Lady Li shot a faint glance of warning at her short-sighted daughter and smiled before she took over the conversation, “Mengru, were you able to get along with Miss Yu? How’s her temperament? Is she as crafty and tricky as rumored? You are one of the daughters of our residence, so there’s no need for you to cater to other people and wrong yourself!”
When she heard that her legitimate mother seemed to be defending her, the innocent and naive Li Mengru felt her heart warm . She replied in a moved manner, “Thank you, Mother, for thinking of me . Younger Sister Xiaocao is not as tricky and crafty as the rumors say . In fact, she’s the exact opposite . She has a very sweet personality and treats people with respect and courtesy . There wasn’t a hint of disdain in her demeanor when she talked with me, even though I am the daughter of a concubine . She not only took out good tea and refreshments but also presented a fruit platter of small tomatoes to me…”
A whole plate of precious and valuable small tomatoes was taken out to receive a concubine-born daughter as a guest? Lady Li’s two underage sons revealed envious, jealous, and somewhat hateful expressions . Li Haoming, who was seven, pouted and grumbled, “I’ve only eaten cherry tomatoes twice thus far, and every time I’ve only gotten three at most . Older Sister Ru was actually able to monopolize a plate of them . It makes people feel very jealous . ”
“Ming’er!” Lady Li rebuked as she glared at her younger son and said, “Noblemen must be upright and elegant . How can they only desire good food? Be careful to not let your father hear you . Otherwise, he’ll punish you by making you copy books!”
Li Mengqi loved her younger brother dearly and hurriedly changed the topic, “Only Official Yu could bear to use a plate of small tomatoes to receive guests . With her connections with Royal Prince Yang, her supply of fruits from the greenhouse pavilions will always be strong!”
Li Mengru lightly laughed and said, “Older Sister, you’re wrong in this case! The small tomatoes that were used to receive guests at the Fang Residence weren’t grown in the greenhouse pavilions . Instead, they are grown in their own greenhouse at home . Her family’s greenhouse has been split into several levels . The precious and rare flowers are all arranged on shelves or hung in the air . The entire ground has been used to grow tomatoes and strawberries!”
Not every family could afford to build a greenhouse in their own residences as it easily cost over a thousand taels to craft one . It was a large amount of money for an estate like the official from the Ministry of Ceremonies . Lady Li also wasn’t someone who loved flowers as much as the flower fanatics, so she naturally wouldn’t bear to spend that large amount to build a greenhouse .
Li Mengqi remarked enviously, “Naturally it’s more convenient to eat these fruits if you plant your own ah! Official Yu is talented at this so I’m sure the tomatoes she plants at home taste even better than the ones on the market!” “Older Sister Ru, did you finish an entire plate of cherry tomatoes?” Li Haoming was still obsessed over the fact that a concubine-born older sister of his was able to monopolize a whole plate of cherry tomatoes .
Li Mengru lowered her head and chuckled, “How could I? After all, I was there as her guest, so I needed to show a bit of restraint . I only ate a few of the small tomatoes on the plate . However, when I was in the greenhouse, I ate quite a few tomatoes that I had picked myself . ”
Li Haoyu, who had been silent this entire time, finally opened his mouth when he heard this, “Official Yu also invited Older Sister Ru to pick tomatoes in the greenhouse? Are the tomatoes you pick yourself more tasty? I heard that, on Royal Prince Yang’s farmstead, they have opened a business allowing guests to personally pick their own fruits . The entrance fee alone is a hundred taels but you can eat as much as you want while you are in the greenhouse . However, if you want to bring any of the fruits home that you picked, you need to pay more money . There are no restrictions on the amount of watermelons or cantaloupes by weight but every person can only buy at most five catties of the small tomatoes . ”
“Every person can buy five catties of tomatoes? Then doesn’t that mean that if we want to eat small tomatoes we can directly go to the farmstead instead of waiting in the wind and snow to buy it at the fruit stands?” Li Mengqi’s eyes lit up as she started to consider begging her father on some day to bring them to Royal Prince Yang’s farmstead to open their horizons .
Li Haoyu gave her a look and continued, “If you want to enter the greenhouse, every person needs to pay a hundred taels each as an entrance fee . Furthermore, the prices of the fruits at the farmstead are much higher than the prices set at the fruit stands . This type of expense isn’t something that every family can afford to do!”
One visit there for one person would cost at least a hundred or so taels . With her father’s official salary and her mother’s income from her dowry shops, if their whole family went once, it was likely that they would have financial difficulties for the next few months . Li Mengqi wilted down and slumped her shoulders .
Li Mengru noticed that her older legitimate sister and two legitimate younger brothers all seemed to be somewhat downcast . She hurriedly looked back at Jiner and said, “Mother, Younger Sister Xiaocao said that we got along well, so she not only treated me very well but also gave me a present to bring back!”
Jiner was a bit unwilling to take out the small tomatoes and strawberries that Miss Yu had given her young miss . Usually, when the family was lucky enough to buy some tomatoes, she never saw the madam or the eldest young miss thinking of her young miss . Why was Young Miss being generous in light of her own poverty?
Although her heart was reluctant, Jiner didn’t dare to reveal a single thought . She took out the two small and exquisite wicker baskets . The baskets had lids on them that prevented any of the people in the reception hall from seeing their contents . Li Haoming was very curious about this and stretched his neck forward in anticipation to see the present that Official Yu gave .
Lady Li revealed a happy expression on her face and said, “Miss Yu is truly too polite!”
Li Mengru placed the two small baskets on the small table in front of the lounge and then took off the covers, revealing the bright red small tomatoes and plump strawberries .
“Wow! A basket full of tomatoes . It must weigh around two catties ah? Official Yu is really generous!” Li Haoming exclaimed in pleasure .
“There are strawberries available in this season? No wonder the rumors all say that Official Yu can disregard the seasons and grow any fruit or vegetables at any time of the year!” Li Haoyu was also very surprised by this .
Lady Li stared at the sweet and attractive strawberries and small tomatoes while her heart made a few fast calculations . Hereafter, she needed to treat this concubine-born daughter better . Perhaps through her, they would be able to make a connection with Miss Yu…