When he went to attend court the next day, he handed in his assignment and immediately asked for orders to go to the Xishan Barracks. He even declined the short break that the emperor gave him. He didn’t even stay in the capital for a moment, as if there was a vicious dog chasing behind him.
As a result, when Zhu Junyang’s aunt and pretty younger cousin came to visit the Prince Jing’s Estate, he was already at the Xishan Barracks and leading a group of recruits, who had just joined the army this spring, to train in the mountains. When he occasionally returned to the capital, he would either be accompanying his mother or staying beside Xiaocao. He didn’t give the ‘little green plum’ any chance to get close to him at all, lest a certain vinegar jar got flipped over.
After corn and potatoes were planted in the fields, it was time for summer. No matter if it was the Imperial Plantation or the fruit orchard, there were special personnel managing the fields. From time to time, Xiaocao would go to check on things at the scene. At other times, she just stayed at home, eating a bowl of iced fruits.
On this day, Yingtao, who was in charge of the pharmaceutical workshop, and Yangliu, who was responsible for the back kitchen of the braised food stores, came together. After they greeted the young miss, Yingtao took out the account book for this quarter and showed it to her young miss, “Young Miss, our pharmaceutical workshop is too small. We’re incapable of supplying the capital and all the surrounding counties because the medical pills and liquid are always short in supply. Should we expand the scale of the workshop?”
“Expand the scale? The workshop in the capital has only been in production for less than half a year, yet the production scale needs to be expanded again? Yingtao, aren’t you too dedicated to your work?” Yu Xiaocao couldn’t help but marvel. If this girl lived in modern times, she would definitely be a career woman.
Yingtao’s lips pursed into a smile. The affirmation from her mistress made her feel as if she had drunk an ice-cold drink during the hottest period of the summer—the coolness went to the bottom of her heart. She humbly replied, “It’s not that this servant is capable. When Young Miss was in Dongshan Village, you formulated a set of production rules and procedures. As long as the medicinal materials are ready and workers take charge of their own jobs, this servant just needs to control the ratio of the medicines, which is very easy to handle. Young Miss, you probably don’t know but many spies from other medicinal herb stores have infiltrated into our workshop. They worked for us for a long time, but all of them failed to accomplish their task. Young Miss, how can you be so wise as to come up with such an effective method of production? It’s seriously such a good way to keep a secret!”
Yu Xiaocao casually flipped through the account book. This quarter’s production volume was higher than the previous quarter. This was expected since, during the last quarter, the workers were all novices and still needed more practice. The output was a bit lower than Dongshan Village’s, but they soon caught up during this quarter.
“What’s more, the reward system that you set up—get more pay for more work done—has aroused the enthusiasm of the workers. Several managers were given some shares of the pharmaceutical workshop, so they wished that they could stay in the workshop for 24 hours a day. They’re working very hard!”
Yingtao became increasingly excited as she spoke, gesturing with her hands and feet. If the managers working under her saw like this, they would definitely be shocked. Head Manager Yingtao, who was usually very dignified and steady, actually had such a lively side. It was only in front of her young miss that Yingtao would only reveal the truest and purest side of herself.
Yu Xiaocao had Yingchun to serve a bowl of fruit shaved ice to Yingtao and Yangliu. Yingtao, who was just in high spirits, immediately stooped down and covered her stomach, sighing, “Master, this servant can’t eat cold food these few days. It’s such a torture to not be able to eat cold food in hot weather. This servant misses the fruit shaved ice made by Master. But, when I try to make it myself, I can never get the right taste.”
Yangliu took the bowl, but she didn’t immediately eat it. With her head lowered, she looked at the shaved ice in the bowl and muttered, “There’s peach, watermelon, cantaloupe, and cherries. Are there cherries in this season?”
Yingchun replied with a grin, “Older Sister Yangliu, the peaches, cherries, and strawberries are all preserved canned fruits. Young Miss said that it will taste better with the canned fruits. Young Miss also said that, when she has time, she will teach us how to make ice cream. The strawberry milk ice cream and vanilla ice cream that the young miss made last time were so delicious!”
Yangliu hesitated for a moment, and then she finally lifted her head to look at Xiaocao. She said in a soft but firm tone, “Young Miss, this servant wants to leave the braised food store!”
“What? Are you not happy working in the braised food store? Or is there someone bullying you? Tell me, I’ll support you!” Yu Xiaocao had noticed that Yangliu seemed to have some concerns on her mind, but she didn’t expect her to make such a request.
“No, no one is bullying me. The braised food store is already on track now, and the head chef in the kitchen is experienced so he doesn’t need me to guide him. Now, it doesn’t matter whether this servant is at the braised food store or not.” Yangliu felt that she had become unnecessary to the braised food store. Every day, she just symbolically wandered around the kitchen twice.
No matter if it was braising meat, or making all kinds of roasted ducks, roasted chickens, and smoked meat, her guidance wasn’t needed anymore. She had become a dispensable existence. Her job was too easy compared with Yingtao, and thus her ambitiousness gradually eroded.
“Then…do you have some other plans in mind? Let me hear about it!” Yu Xiaocao wanted to create opportunities for the people around her so that they could discover their own specialties and do the things that they liked. Weren’t Yingtao and Hechun both very passionate with their work? When Yangliu served by her side, she liked to cook. Thus, she sent her to manage the back kitchen of the braised food shop in the capital. She hadn’t expected that this wasn’t what she wanted.
Yangliu’s character wasn’t as lively as Yingtao’s, and she usually buried everything in her heart. However, for the sake of not having a mediocre future and for her own dream, she bravely said what she thought in her heart under the encouraging gaze of Yingtao, “Young Miss, didn’t you make a lot of beautifying and nourishing pastries? When this servant was serving by your side, I learned how to make some pastries. I want to open a pastry shop comparable to that of famous pastry shops like ‘Daoxiang Village’.”
A gratified smile appeared on Yu Xiaocao’s face as she looked at Yangliu with a gaze full of appreciation and encouragement, “Good idea! I have long wanted to open a Chinese and Western fusion pastry shop, but I have been busy and there wasn’t a suitable helper. So the plan was delayed. Since you have this intention, go back and write down your ideas about the shop. After that, find some quick-witted and nimble-fingered female workers. I’ll find some time to train you guys. Let’s try to open the shop within a month.”
With the support and encouragement of her mistress, Yangliu was instantly full of confidence. When they were in Tanggu Town, she often helped her young miss to make various kinds of delicious pastries. Many of them were new to her, and they all tasted excellent. There was no need to worry about the sales.
“Okay! This servant will go back and sort out my ideas. I’ll present my plans to Young Miss tomorrow!” Yangliu stood up in a somewhat impatient manner.
Yu Xiaocao chuckled and said, “You don’t need to be in such a hurry. It’s not too late to go back after eating the shaved ice. I always thought that Yingtao was the most impatient among you guys. I didn’t expect that Yangliu, who usually appeared gentle and unhurried, is also an impatient person!”
Yingtao refuted, “Young Miss, why are you dragging this servant in when you’re talking about Yangliu? I’m no longer an ignorant person. When the managers in charge of the medicine stores in the capital sees me, they all call me ‘Head Manager Yingtao’. This servant is very composed now!”
“Is that so? May I ask, our composed Head Manager Yingtao, who was the one dancing with joy and almost jumped up from her chair earlier?” Yu Xiaocao looked at her with a teasing gaze and asked jokingly.
Yingtao giggled and said, “There’s no need for this servant to put on airs in front of Young Miss. That’s so exhausting ah!”
Xiaocao lightly poked her with her finger and said, “Oh, right, you just mentioned that you wanted to expand the scale of the pharmaceutical workshop. What are your plans?”
As soon as they started talking about work, Yingtao immediately sat down in a serious manner. She did indeed seem somewhat like a dignified boss, “Young Miss, recently, there are a lot of pharmacies from other regions that want to cooperate with us. This servant has done some research. Tongren Medicine Hall, which we are currently working with, has over a dozen branches, but it’s impossible for all the prefectures in the country to have a branch of Tongren Medicine Hall.”
She paused for a moment, and then continued, “At present, the pharmaceutical workshop in Dongshan Village is capable of supplying Tongren Medicine Hall in the Jiangnan region. The workshop in the capital can barely manage to supply the eight or nine branches of Tongren Medicine Hall in the central and northern regions. If we want to cooperate with other pharmacies, then our production quantity is far from enough!”
“Therefore, this servant thinks that we need to first increase the production of pediatric medicine. In this way, in regions without Tongren Medicine Hall, sick children won’t have to consume bitter medicine. They would be able to take the liquid medicine and syrup produced by us. Then, if we’re capable, we should expand the production of other medicinal pills and try to sell the medicine produced by our Yu Pharmaceutical all over the country!!” Yingtao’s eyes glowed very brightly and she seemed to be moved by the prospect she imagined.
While she expressed her ideas, Yu Xiaocao couldn’t help but lightly nod, ‘This lass Yingtao really does have the potential to be a career woman. Since she is so motivated, I can’t let her talents be buried.’
“Alright! Let’s do as you said. Don’t worry and boldly implement your ideas! No matter how things turn out, I’ll be there to support you guys!” Yu Xiaocao provided both of them with affirmation and encouragement, and she also praised, “Do you guys know? Your master lacks nothing but talented individuals, who are full of drive and capability, like you guys! Work hard and, when you guys reach a suitable age, I will restore your commoner status and find a good husband for you…”
“Young Miss!” Yingtao interrupted her word with a flushed face and exclaimed, “You’re also still a child barely in your teens, yet you’re already worrying about our marriage? Let’s forget the matter of returning to a commoner status! This servant holds the secret medicine formulas in my hands, so I’m afraid of being tricked and marrying someone with ulterior motives. I have already thought about it. When this servant reaches twenty, I’ll marry one of the stewards in the household and continue being your capable assistant!”
Yingtao was also a bold speaker. Although she was somewhat shy, she still clearly expressed her thoughts. She, Yangliu, Wutong, and Pipa weren’t children of the servants of the Fang Household  . They were orphans bought from outside the household, and thus they had nothing to do with the Fang Family and Lady Fang’s maternal family, the Xia Family. Lady Fang had probably also considered this point when she assigned them to serve the young miss.
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