The day before the flower war banquet, Zhu Junyang, who usually couldn’t be found, had finally appeared for some reason. The little lass looked like she had grown taller again and was now at the height of his chest. He was worried about her and reminded her, “Lass, if anyone tries to bully you, don’t keep it inside of you. Come back and tell me…” After not seeing the young royal prince for over a month, the only thought Yu Xiaocao had going through her head now was——this fellow is even more bewitching now! She didn’t dare to look deeply into that pair of alluring phoenix eyes as she was afraid that, if she wasn’t careful, she might get lost in their depths. Someone needed to take this guy down a notch because otherwise he was going to harm everyone else!
When she heard this, Xiaocao, who was somewhat lost in her thoughts, burst out into laughter. She lifted her tiny head and looked at that devilishly handsome face and said, “Why do I need to tell you? Are you going to beat them up?”
Zhu Junyang was speechless for a second and then coldly huffed, “Although I don’t hit women, these girls do have brothers you know…”
Yu Xiaocao silently gave a moment of silence to the brothers of the maidens who were planning on making things difficult for her. She then faintly smiled, “In actuality, you don’t have to go through so much trouble. We just won’t allow the families of those who are stupid enough to try to bully me to buy vegetables or fruits then. In any case, if she looks down on my background as a farmer, then she shouldn’t be eating fruits and vegetables grown by this farmer’s daughter, right? As for next year’s fruit and watermelon harvest, we also won’t sell it to them. When the canned and jarred fruits come out, we won’t sell those to them either!”
Wasn’t the reason why those people looked down upon her because they came from wealthy and powerful families? However, if they had the money but were still unable to buy popular goods, would they still believe that they were better than others?
Apparently his little lass wasn’t a little white bunny who was easily bullied by others. Instead, she was a tiny cat who hid her sharp claws until she needed them. Usually she looked quite gentle, obedient and adorable. However, whenever she was unhappy, she would reveal those claws and leave a bloody mark on you that you could never forget!
Zhu Junyang, who had been escorted to the gate of the outer courtyard, helped Xiaocao by pulling her cloak and furry little hat into place. He smiled, “Recently I haven’t spent much time with you. When winter is in full swing, I’ll have more time to spend with you. Whoever tries to bully you, remember them and tell me. I will make sure to get them all back for you!”
In actuality, for the past month or so, Xiaocao had been even more busy than Royal Prince Yang. She was the only one in charge of the vegetable stand in Tanggu and also was in the midst of managing the pharmaceutical factory’s new products. Recently, Tongren Medicine Hall came up with a few new pills for nurturing the body, which were the masterpieces of her work from the past month. So...the young royal prince didn’t have to be concerned about Xiaocao pining for him. In fact, she was too busy to even think about him!
The next day, early in the morning, Yu Xiaocao changed into the set of Qi-style clothing that Older Sister Siniang had personally designed and sewn for her. Her hair was combed into a pair of cute flower buns with two side braids that were expertly arranged on her head to make it look like she had two elegant flowers on her head. The buns were decorated throughout with hair pins encrusted with pink pearls. The remaining lower layers of hair were combed into small braids to swing at the front of her chest. It made her look younger by about two years and she looked especially adorable and unique.
When Xiaocao entered the inner courtyard of the Duke Zhenguo’s estate, countless pairs of curious eyes looked at her from head to toe. She was dressed in a simple and elegant Qi-style dress that was a light pink. Her white sleeves resembled the petals of lilies as they had two to three layers. She wore a rose red outer short coat that was dotted with clouds embroidered with gold and the collar was embroidered with icy white lotuses in full bloom. To combat the cold of the winter, the collars and cuffs of her clothing all had puffs of white fur lining it, which looked very cute. On closer look, the pleated skirt on her dress had artful layers that were colored a rosy-pink. It contrasted very elegantly with the icy white lotuses and harmonized perfectly.
One of the maidens there, who had sharp eyes, had noticed that this girl’s clothing had a tell-tale seal on it. She was incredibly surprised. This set of clothing was clearly the handicraft of Jiang’s Exquisite Garments. In fact, it had to be made by the owner of the shop herself and was a brand new style. The clothing not only broke through the previous conventions of how dresses should be styled but also showed a brand new design. It was truly a stunning piece of work.
The young maidens who had arrived at the gathering early all looked at this strange little face that had skin as transparent and luminous as jade. They were all trying to guess who she was. Which family’s young miss was fortunate enough to catch the eye of Modiste Jiang and be able to show off her new work in this type of setting?
“Oh ho! Which family are you from, little sister? You don’t look familiar to me. Is this the first time you’re attending a gathering with us fellow sisters ah?” Royal Princess Minglan couldn’t help but smile and stand up when she saw this unfamiliar, adorable little girl. She was previously sitting next to He Wanning, who was a beauty and had a personality that complimented with hers.
Lady Fang was a bit worried about her daughter attending such a party, so she had Linglong accompany Xiaocao. The maid quietly reminded her and Yu Xiaocao hurriedly placed her delicate white hands on her abdomen and bowed a greeting. She used a dulcet voice as sweet as a skylark to reply, “I am Yu Xiaocao. Greetings to Royal Princess Minglan and the other older sisters here.”
Yu Xiaocao? Who was that? When the unfamiliar little girl said her name, everyone had a confused look on their faces. There was only one official that was surnamed ‘Yu’  in the capital. He had just taken up a position last year at the Ministry of Appointments and was the Left Assistant Minister, Yu Yonghe. It was said that his younger daughter was around ten years old. Was this little girl in front of them his daughter? The daughter of the Right Assistant Minister at the Ministry of Appointments, Li Meirou, smiled as she walked over. She intimately pulled on Xiaocao’s hand and used a familiar tone of voice to address her, “So it’s the little sister from the Yu Family ah! I have long wanted to meet you and wished to invite you to my family as a guest. However, your honored mother always said that your health wasn’t good, so you couldn’t leave the residence. From what I see today, you must be feeling better, right?”
Xiaocao had a more weak and delicate looking body. The Qi-style clothing cinched in at the waist, which made her seem even more dainty and ethereal. In addition, with her slightly bony chin and a large pair of eyes that seemed to overwhelm her face, it made her egg-shaped face seem even smaller. Luckily, her pale skin had a rosy glow to it. Otherwise, it would really look like she had just recovered from a great illness!
“Young Miss, she is Miss Li, the daughter of the Right Assistant Minister at the Ministry of Appointments.” Although Linglong was a bit perplexed at the other girl’s enthusiasm, she didn’t forget her status and made sure to remind her young miss.
This...type of attitude didn’t seem quite right! Why was she pretending to be on familiar terms with her? Was this some type of trap? Despite her doubts, Yu Xiaocao didn’t show any of her confusion on her face and instead revealed a sweet smile as she politely replied, “Many thanks, Miss Li, for your kind thoughts.”
“It’s what I should do!” Li Meirou pulled on Xiaocao’s tiny hand and waved gracefully at the group of young maidens as she said, “Come, Older Sister will introduce you to a few good sisters to let you become familiar with them.”
Everyone who she met in the warm room had revealed a kind smile at her. Although they were not as warm in attitude to her as the young miss from the assistant minister’s family, they also weren't cold.
“Younger Sister Yu, is the set of clothing you’re wearing from Exquisite Garments? I didn’t expect that you, as a newcomer to the capital, would be able to catch the eye of Modiste Jiang and get a set of customly designed clothing from her. Is there a story behind all of this?” The person who spoke up was He Wanning. She was around fourteen to fifteen years of age and was wearing a set of clothing in fiery-red. The color made her face look even more lively and her personality was similar to the color of her clothing, bold and unrestrained. There wasn’t anything she was afraid to mention.
Today, Yu Xiaocao had also set a mission for herself to promote the new Qi-style attire. She naturally wouldn’t let this perfect opportunity go by, “The set of clothing I’m wearing was made by Older Sister Jiang and she had drawn inspiration from a different culture. This style really shows a woman’s gentle and delicate side. I’m certain that, before long, this style of clothing will also be displayed in all of the Exquisite Garment Stores.”
“You’re familiar with Modiste Jiang, ah?” One of the girls sitting in the room asked in a tone full of jealousy.
Yu Xiaocao replied in a humble manner, “I’ve only seen her a few times, that’s all…”
“You already call her as an ‘older sister’, so it must not have only been a few times. Miss Yu, you’re not telling the entire story! Quickly tell us, just how did you become familiar with Modiste Jiang?” He Wanning circled around Xiaocao and inspected her clothing carefully from head to toe. This wasn’t considered to be a rude gesture in the noble maiden circles. If any of them had gotten a customly designed set of clothing from Exquisite Garments, then everyone would have to look at them closely.
Yu Xiaocao hesitated for a moment before she simply outlined the reason why Jiang Siniang had asked to see her. He Wanning frowned slightly, “Are you saying that Modiste Jiang saw that you were wearing a different style of clothing once and ran after you to ask about it?”
Li Meirou also had an expression of disbelief on her face as she said, “Younger Sister Yu, hasn’t the wife of the Left Assistant Minister always said that you had a weak constitution and rarely went out? It’s a bit coincidental that Jiang Siniang would randomly see you outside once wearing clothing that interested her, right?”
Yu Xiaocao revealed a perplexed expression and asked, “The wife of the Left Assistant Minister? I have never met her, so how could she know what my body is like? I am quite healthy and I can easily ride a horse every day for an hour without any problems.”
Li Meirou had a shocked expression on her face and used the handkerchief in her hand to cover her mouth, “Eh? You’re not the young miss of the Left Assistant Minister of the Ministry of Appointments?”
“I’m not.” Yu Xiaocao blinked her large eyes. Her clear and limpid eyes reflected all of the awkward expressions on the young women’s faces in the room.
Li Meirou stated in a somewhat angry and flabbergasted manner, “Didn’t you say you were surnamed Yu ah? Out of all of the officials in the capital, other than the new Left Assistant Minister of the Ministry of Appointments, there isn’t another family surnamed Yu, right? Just who are you? Why are you trying to pretend to be a young miss and fool everyone?”
Apparently everyone had mistaken her for someone else! Yu Xiaocao finally understood why everyone had been treating her so well from the start. As long as it wasn’t some sinister plot, then she was fine! The tight knot she had in her chest was now relaxed.
In front of the bewildered other young ladies, Yu Xiaocao was very calm. She faintly smiled and said, “Miss Li, I believe we’ve had a misunderstanding! I am truly surnamed Yu, it’s the Yu from ‘may you have abundance year after year’.”
One of Royal Princess Minglan’s maids next to her quietly whispered a few words into her ear. She looked at Linglong, who was next to Xiaocao, and nodded her head. She had a reserved smile on her face as she said, “So you are the young miss from Zhaoyang General’s estate. I was rude earlier and had mistaken you for someone else.”
The young miss from Zhaoyang General’s estate? Wasn’t that the girl who was now a newly appointed agricultural official at the Ministry of Revenue? It was true. That agricultural official was also surnamed Yu and had the first name of Xiaocao. In fact, many of the noble maidens had privately made fun of her name, stating that it was such a crude and inelegant name. It made it obvious that she came from a peasant farming family.
Many of the young maidens in the warm room stopped smiling now and they had a look of slight disdain in their eyes. Li Meirou was even more flustered and unhappy. This Yu Xiaocao was too vile! She had misled her and had her embarrass herself in front of all of these noble maidens.
“What is wrong with you? How come you didn’t state your identity clearly? Were you afraid of your own status and decided to pretend to be someone else?” Li Meirou babbled incoherently as she was afraid the other girls would start to misunderstand and think that she was friends with a crude and lowly girl from a peasant farmer’s family.
Yu Xiaocao lost her smile and gave her a cursory glance. She stated in a neutral tone of voice, “Miss Li, am I right in assuming that you always reference the fact that you’re the daughter of the Right Assistant Minister of the Ministry of Appointments when you’re greeting someone? What’s wrong with my birth? If we go back a few generations, no one should be laughing at anyone else!”
After they heard this, they had to admit that her reasoning was sound. Even the person sitting on that regal and golden throne was the descendant of a poor peasant in his grandfather’s generation. In fact, even Duke Zhenguo and many other generals had all come from peasant stock. They weren’t any more noble than regular farmers either.
 ‘Yu’ - The characters used for the Yu in this last name (于) is different than the one used for Xiaocao's last name (余). They are homonyms though, hence the confusion.