From her mother's words, Jiang Zixian knew that they were hoping to betroth her to her older cousin, Brother Yang. The budding affections of the young maiden were soon all focused onto Zhu Junyang. One had to give the girl credit and nerve. She wasn't scared off by the notoriously temperamental and icy Zhu Junyang. In fact, she became bolder over time.
"Let go!" Zhu Junyang didn't even look at her. From the corners of his phoenix eyes, he faintly scanned over Jiang Zixian's hand holding the reins. The veiled threat within his voice was plain to all.
"I refuse!" Jiang Zixian, on the other hand, was not frightened off by his frosty tone. She puffed up her cheeks and her round eyes glittered with emotion, making her look miserable and pathetic. Yu Xiaocao, who was on the side watching all of this, felt pity rise up in her heart. The young royal prince was too cold hearted. How could he treat such a beautiful maiden in such a coarse way?
Zhu Junyang had nothing to say to Jiang Zixian. Young girls like her, who wanted to climb up the social ladder to get the lifestyle they wanted, were a dime a dozen in the capital. He had encountered way too many of them. What did it matter that she was his younger cousin? He could tell that she silently longed for the tasteful luxuries of Imperial Prince Jing's estate, envied the devotion that his lady mother received, and lusted for the rare flora in the garden...it was already merciful of him to not personally do something to a girl like her, who shamelessly threw herself at him, for the sake of their familial relations. On the outside, she pretended to be pure and kind yet her heart hid an ambitious salivating wolf. This was the evaluation Zhu Junyang had of almost all of the well-born maidens in the capital.
Zhu Junyang had run out of patience. He pulled the reins away with a gentle yet swift snap. Jiang Zixian only felt that her hand went numb and that she had lost control of herself. After stumbling back a few steps and finally getting steady, it was already too late. Royal Prince Yang had already spurred his horse forward and was speeding away.
Jiang Zixian pursed her lips and her eyes flashed. Didn't her aunt say that Older Brother Yang liked girls who were pure, pretty and cute? Was she not adorable enough?
She scanned Lady Fang and Yu Xiaocao from head to toe and then looked at the sign inscribed at the gate of the residence which said 'Zhaoyong General's Estate'. A flicker of contempt went through her eyes, 'Just a third-ranked official. Why would Old Brother Yang become friends with these people?'
She looked at Xiaocao's lively large eyes which were as clear and limpid as a pure spring. A bolt of jealousy went through her. If she had such large eyes that could speak volumes, wouldn't her older cousin treat her better?
She then looked at the clothes that Xiaocao was wearing. Jiang Zixian's almond-shaped eyes roamed quickly and then a smile blossomed onto her face, "Lady Fang, your family's servant girl is so cute and lively. I lack a maidservant just like her. Can you sell her to me?"
Jiang Zixian's father didn't have a high-ranked office as he was only a fourth-ranked official in the Ministry of Ceremonies. However, her grandfather, who was also the father of Princess Consort Jing, was the Imperial Tutor and was one of the most respected teachers of the current emperor.
Although her husband was a military official and didn't need to fawn upon the imperial tutor or other imperial teachers, it was better to avoid unnecessary trouble. Lady Fang's tone toward Jiang Zixian was quite courteous, "Forgive me, Miss Jiang. The servant girl you're referring to is the adopted daughter of my lord husband."
The scorn within Jiang Zixian's eyes deepened. Everyone in the capital knew that General Fang had adopted a little farm girl as his daughter. This little girl was able to fawn upon Zhaoyong General and make him willing to adopt her. To have such schemes at such a young age, this little girl was truly something. Thus, Jiang Zixian let go of the idea of buying the little girl to get into Royal Prince Yang's good graces.
Yu Xiaocao raised an eyebrow when she saw Jiang Zixian leaving like an arrogant peacock. No wonder the young royal prince didn't like her. She acted one way towards him yet behind his back she was like an entirely different person. Were all of the noble-born maidens in the capital like her? Two-faced?
"Cao'er, don't be angry! There are some people who love to brandish the authority of their own relatives around. Their eyes are at the top of their heads. You'll get used to it after encountering a few more. However, when you encounter people like her, you don't need to back off one bit. After all, you are the daughter of this general's estate!" Lady Fang also disdained Jiang Zixian's actions and attitude. She was only the daughter of a fourth-rank official yet she acted as if she was an imperial princess. Did she truly believe that everyone would give away to her?
After giving orders to the head steward of the general's estate to take good care of Yu Hai, Lady Fang led Yu Xiaocao through the drooping flower gate to the inner courtyard. There were winding corridors paved with small pebbles. On both sides, the pear and peach trees were blooming beautifully. The whole courtyard was filled with gorgeous flora and luminous colors. In between the flowers were decorative rocks, small pavilions, and other unique statuary.
After passing by the second section of the residence, they arrived at a hall with three rooms. In the front was a large carved screen made of red sandalwood. They circled around the screen and arrived at the back hall that led to the entrance of the main wing's courtyard. The main wing had five rooms that were richly ornamented. On either side of the courtyard were the side wings. When they saw their mistress leading a little girl inside, all of the maidservants who were clothed in red and green quickly came up to greet them.
"You must be the Young Miss. So happy that you're finally here. No wonder our mistress always misses you. When you two stand together, you truly look like mother and daughter." The maid who spoke was clothed in pink and was about eighteen to nineteen years old. This girl was most likely one of the other two head maids of Yu Xiaocao's godmother.
As expected, Lady Fang pointed at the maid and laughingly scolded her, "You truly have a silver tongue! Everything you say makes people feel happy ah! But it is true! I, your mistress, and Cao'er have a relationship that is even better than most blood-related mothers and daughters! Cao'er, she is one of my head maids, her name is Linlang. There is also another head maid who is currently wearing green called Hupo. She has a quiet personality. Now you know all four of my personal maidservants, you can take the two that suit you the most and have them run tasks for you."
Yu Xiaocao hurriedly waved her hands, "No need, Godmother. These older sisters are all your personal maidservants. If I took them away, who would take care of you? Godmother, listen to my idea first. If it was only you around, then being short a maidservant wouldn't be an issue. However, you also have Little Linlin. If there were only two maids taking care of you and my little brother, where would they have the time? You also know what I'm like. Any two junior maidservants will do for me!"
Lady Fang wasn't convinced, "How could junior maidservants be as good as Zhenzhu, Linlang and the others?"
Sure enough, Linglong had a good grasp on how to arrange things. She smiled, "Mistress, I'll go help out Young Miss for a few days. During that time, I'll also train the junior maids so that they don't end up slighting her."
Lady Fang knew that Linglong was a very reliable person. After thinking a bit, she nodded her head, "Okay! You can go over to help and train a few maids until they are good enough. In the future, Cao'er will be spending more time in the estate! She absolutely cannot have too few people taking care of her."
When Linlang saw that Linglong had volunteered to take care of the young miss, she silently let out a sigh of relief. She smiled, "Linglong truly knows the mistress's heart best. Even things she hasn't said, Linglong can anticipate!"
In actuality, Linlang didn't take this goddaughter very seriously. In her eyes, Yu Xiaocao didn't even reach the level of her mistress's niece. At least that young lady was related by blood with the mistress. The daughter that the general adopted seemed to be petty and unsophisticated and was really not presentable to good company. What sort of profits could she make by staying next to this type of master?
Linlang wasn't the only one with thoughts like these. Many of the other junior maidservants in the estate also had the same misgivings. The personal maidservants by the mistress, other than Linglong, were all getting older. When they passed the age of twenty, they might be let go. If they were able to show their good sides to the mistress and entered her eye, they might be promoted to her personal maidservant.
However, there were also some junior maidservants who thought differently. Mistress usually treated this adopted daughter of hers with great importance. She not only sent off delicious snacks, beautiful clothes and jewelry to her on a regular basis, but she also constantly talked about her. If the young miss chose one of them, they would immediately become personal maidservants, meaning they would have to struggle for fewer years!
No matter what these young maids were thinking about, none of them had any power over any decisions. When Yu Xiaocao was picking out servants, she made sure to pay attention to the junior maidservants' eyes and expressions. She didn't pick any of those who evaded her or tried to avoid her eyes. She only chose a few who had honest and clean gazes and didn't really pay much attention to their outward appearances. However, in the end, the four maidservants she ended up picking were all beautiful and full of life!
Lady Fang was a bit worried that her adopted daughter had a simple and pure heart and only picked them by appearances. She was afraid she might have picked a few who had ulterior motives. She could tell that Royal Prince Yang treated her daughter differently than other girls. Her daughter's personality was a bit mischievous and lively. If these beautiful maids had other thoughts, she was afraid that…
Yu Xiaocao wasn't thinking that far. She watched as her four new personal maidservants all recognized her and was pleased with their looks. Who didn't like beautiful things?
At this time, the wet nurse came out of the side room holding the little master and went to Lady Fang's side. She smiled, "The little master is very close to you, Mistress. As soon as he woke up, he wanted you. If he can't see you, he won't be happy." Little Linlin saw his mother and stretched out his chubby little arms, begging for a hug.
Yu Xiaocao hadn't seen Little Linlin for more than half a year. When she saw her pleasantly plump, adorable, and cute little brother, she couldn't help but reach her arms out to try to hold the little guy. The wet nurse was a bit anxious and stopped her as she said, "Young Miss, don't be fooled by his young age, he's quite heavy. I'll hold him instead!"
Little Linlin's lips quivered when he wasn't able to go into his mother's warm arms. He was about to cry when he suddenly smelled his sister's innate body scent. He used his arm, which was about as thick as a lotus root, and held onto Xiaocao's neck and buried his face into her neck. He lightly sniffed at her and then raised his head. He pouted his tiny lips and planted a kiss on her face while also spreading his saliva on her.
Lady Fang felt very happy at the sight and grinned, "Oh ho, our Linlin still remembers his older sister. He knows that his older sister is the one closest to him other than his parents!"
The wet nurse also repeatedly nodded her head as she remarked in surprise, "That's right! The little master is only close with you, Mistress. Everyone else he treats as a stranger. He's never even kissed the Master before ah!"
Lady Fang pulled Xiaocao and her son into her arms and kissed her darling son, "Lin'er and Cao'er truly are fated to be together. If I didn't know Cao'er, then I wouldn't be able to get pregnant with Lin'er. Isn't the fact that Lin'er is close to his older sister a sign that they were fated to be together?"
When Linlang heard this, she was surprised. Something like this had also happened? It looked like the young miss's status in the mistress's heart could not be underestimated. In the future, she needed to be careful and not slight this young miss who just recently appeared. As these thoughts rolled in her head, the smile on Linlang's face became several times more sincere, "That's right, that's right! Our little master still remembers Young Miss. This must be a sign of the fated relationship between siblings, right?"
As the group of people laughed harmoniously, Little Linlin was in the middle of giving his older sister a bath with his saliva. After coating her face, he tightly wrapped his arms around her neck. No matter what anyone said, he refused to let go. Lady Fang felt a bit jealous inside and gently patted her son's fat little butt a few times.