Not to mention, even if she was granted freedom, what kind of a family could a person like her, who was without her own roots and could be compared to common duckweed, marry into? She would only be living amongst the civilians at the lowest level of society, ridden with poverty and struggling to feed herself every day.
How could she be able to live like she was now, as a manager of a pharmaceutical workshop? Even if she was a servant of the Yu Household, she still had her own private courtyard in the workshop, and in that courtyard, she even had a few maidservants who would sweep the floor and cook. It could be said that even though her status was that of a servant, her life was no worse than the daughter of a humble family.
She would wait until she was older, then look for a humble, reliable, and most importantly, loyal, steward to marry, so that she could continue to help her mistress manage the pharmaceutical workshop. Her mistress was kind and valued her relationships, so she definitely wouldn’t mistreat her when she was older. She recalled the times before she was sold into the Fang Residence. At that time, her entire family survived only on rice bran and wild vegetables, and they never knew a life where they could eat until they were full. She was already very satisfied and grateful for her current conditions.
Wutong served at the side, looking at the frank and eloquent Yingtao and Yangliu who already had their own plans, and compared herself to them. Then, she felt more at ease. ‘Young Miss is right, one should do only what one is capable of. With my personality, I might not be able to manage a workshop filled with up to a hundred people.’
Yingtao was bold yet meticulous, and took decisive actions, so she was able to manage the pharmaceutical workshop well and even showed signs that she was able to further expand the business. Yangliu was talented in cooking and making pastries and she had the bravery to get into the profession. If she were to open a patisserie, she would definitely astound everyone. Not to mention Hechun, even if she appeared later than all of them, her talent in crafting handmade soap and cosmetics was undeniable.
There was a reason they were given great responsibilities by their mistress. Before this, she only knew to be envious of others, and got upset because she was not put at the same level of importance. She had never thought to look for the reason behind this on herself. Now that she thought about it, what could she do if the young miss gave her the opportunity? It was better for her to serve loyally by the young miss’s side and manage the matters of the courtyard. This was what she was good at!
The young miss had mentioned that she lacked a trustworthy steward who could keep an eye on the matters of the residence. In this case, she would work towards this goal. Although she wasn’t able to help the young miss in her businesses, she could still work hard to become the young miss’s trusted aide in the residence, so that the young miss could be rid of one more worry when she was working hard outside.
Wutong became more open-minded after she came to this realization, and the calculative air that she exuded also dissipated. It was as though she had been reborn.
One day, when Zhu Junyang snuck out of the Xishan Barracks and pestered Xiaocao to make ice cream for him, he noted the change in Wutong and secretly told his little lass that this maidservant could be tasked with greater responsibilities. As such, Xiaocao slowly started to entrust her with more and more matters regarding the Yu Residence.
Wutong did not disappoint. After oppressing a few pricks and subduing some managerial senior servants, she became increasingly more like a managerial servant who was able to take care of all the matters of the residence.
During the height of summer, the capital city felt as though it was being grilled with a torch blower. This summer, the temperature in the capital city hit a new high, and it was said that it was the hottest season in decades. Many of those that did short-term jobs and heavy labor to survive fainted due to the heat, and the hospitals became flooded with patients that got heat stroke until they were almost at maximum capacity.
Yu Xiaocao, who had given herself summer vacation, along with Doctor Sun of the Tongren Medicine Hall had finally perfected the formula to make Jintan cooling lozenges. They also worked overtime at the pharmaceutical workshop, immersing themselves into its production. The medicinal herbs required to make cooling lozenges were common and cheap, so the price of a pill wasn’t expensive, yet it was effective in relieving heat. Once the pill was introduced to the market, it received many praises and caused a huge sensation in the city.
Other than that, Xiaocao also gathered the maidservants that were skilled in making pastries that Yangliu had bought for her, and quickly trained them in the ways of making iced desserts (Author's Note: mainly ice cream and smoothies of different flavors), and a variety of ways to brew herbal tea. She had opened a few shops that sold iced desserts at all four sides—north, east, south and west—of the capital city.
The key to the shops were the well-sealed ice houses. They were as big as two houses and were equivalent to a large-scale cold storage. Inside, ice ponds made from nitre were placed in neat rows, while a freezer room stored the ready-made ice. The ice used to make smoothies, ice porridge and other types of cold beverages were all taken from the ice houses. The ice cream was also frozen in here.
The majority of the people who lived in the north and south of the city were normal citizens, so the frozen dessert shops there served more simple and chilled beverages like simple smoothies which sold the quickest. Meanwhile, the east and west sides of the city were the hubs of wealthy and influential families, so their main focus products were the ice cream of multifarious flavors, fancy ice porridges and luxurious smoothies.
On a hot summer’s day, ordering a bowl of ice porridge or strawberry or peach flavored ice cream in a cool iced dessert shop was definitely refreshing and would help cool the body down. It was a place for businessmen and officials that had to be out on errands to rest and escape from the scorching heat of the summer.
It was especially a favorite among the children who had tried The Yu’s Frozen Desserts before. During the evening, when the sun was not too hot, they would always pester their parents to bring them to the iced desserts shop to have some ice. The children loved the smoothies that were vibrant in color and had a great texture, as well as the ice cream that had varying flavors that they could mix and match to eat. Even adults could not resist the temptation of these iced desserts, much less children.
The Yu’s Frozen Desserts Store on the western side of the capital was the largest branch in the city. The shop was a part of Princess Consort Jing’s dowry shops. When Xiaocao was in a hurry for her search for a shophouse, Zhu Junyang had told his lady mother about her pressing issue. Princess Consort Jing then shut down the original satin shop that was doing quite well and offered her the shophouse. But, of course, Xiaocao wouldn’t be taking her shop for free. Instead, she took it as Princess Consort Jing using her shop space to buy shares, and split with her half of the profits.
The structure of this shop was similar to Zhenxiu Restaurant and it had three stories in total. The cold storage was placed in the inner courtyard, while the first floor was the front of the shop and the main hall. It was renovated to look simple yet elegant, and the tables were all simple, rectangular tables made for pairs and groups of four, six and eight people. Intricate wooden carvings were hung on the snow-white walls and elegance exuded from the simplicity of the design.
The second and third floors consisted only of private rooms, all decorated either lavishly, elegantly, simply or fancily. Ice basins were placed in every private room and it felt as though an air-conditioner was placed in the room. It was a different kind of pleasure that was felt, to be in a cool room during a hot summer’s day.
At this moment, in the ‘Tall Mountain Flowing River’ private room on the third floor, a special customer had ordered three scoops of ice cream—herbal, strawberry and milk flavored respectively. Using a small, wooden spoon, he dug into the ice cream and sighed in praise, “Xiaocao, that little lass, she really doesn’t let go of any opportunity to make a profit. She actually made ice cream! Not to mention, the taste is actually quite good!”
“Your Imperial Majesty, your digestion has not been good lately, so you should eat less of these cold foods.” Although Su Ran was advising others to eat less, he did not follow his own advice at all. A big bowl of ice porridge was placed in front of him. It had peach flavored shaved ice at the bottom while a large amount of honey beans were layered on top, making the dish extremely flavorful and extravagant.
That was right, this mysterious customer was the emperor who had come out in plain clothes. Zhu Junfan dug into the strawberry flavored ice cream and savored the smooth texture of the cold ice cream melting in his mouth. Then, he shot a side-glance at Su Ran, “Chief Steward Su, since when have you become an old mother? So naggy, it really makes people feel fed up! We don’t have digestive problems; it’s just the summer heat! The weather is too hot, having some ice would help cool down the body and work up an appetite. It’s such a pleasure…”
Seeing the emperor enjoying himself, Su Ran shouted out of the room, “Waiter, bring me another set of ice cream. Three scoops of it!”
Downstairs, Yangliu stopped a sweaty Yu Xiaocao the moment she stepped into the shop. Yangliu personally managed this iced desserts shop at the western side of the city that was the largest among all the branches. She also personally made the desserts while a few other servants watched and learned from the side while assisting her.
Yangliu, who was panic-stricken, seemed to have found her pillar of strength once she saw her mistress, and said, “Young Miss, there are two customers on the third floor. I think it’s the one from the imperial palace.”
Yu Xiaocao had her describe the appearance of the two customers. Yangliu thought about it, then said, “The two of them looked to be in their late twenties, and they look extremely handsome! One of them looked very dignified, while the other was ethereal, a little like a wise and virtuous person…”
Yu Xiaocao confirmed the identity of these two customers after hearing Yangliu's description, and she couldn't help but scrunch up her brows, thinking, 'It's such a hot day, why is the emperor parading around outside instead of hiding in his palace? Even more so, he's eating ice! Who would be responsible if he got a stomach ache? This cannot do, I must personally make a special ice cream with added secret ingredients for him.’
She was currently making a sundae. It had snow-white sweet cream flavored ice cream drizzled with strawberry, nectarine and blueberry syrup. The most important part was, the ice cream was made using mystic-stone water. Not only did it improve the texture of the ice cream, but it was also now beneficial to the body instead of being harmful!
Just as she finished crafting it, a waiter from upstairs hopped over, “Head Manager, the esteemed customers on the third floor ordered another set of three scoops of ice cream.”
Yu Xiaocao replied in place of Yangliu, “Alright, we got it! You can head up first; we’ll send it up immediately!”
The waiter was a clever one. Although he had never met the owner before, he could somewhat take a guess from the way Head Manager Yangliu treated Xiaocao, and smiled, “Yes, it’s been hard on you!”
“Not bad! Yangliu, you have quite an eye for people. You should train these girls, soon, they’ll become our dessert shop’s core patissieres. And this waiter, he’s clever and seems genuine.” The frozen dessert shops were established in a flurry, and during those days, Yangliu was at the shop almost every hour of the day. She had lost a few pounds during that period of time.
Yangliu smiled sweetly when she heard her mistress’s praise, “This is because Young Miss has taught me well. You’ve said before, our customers are the Jade Emperor, so we need to treat them with the same respect we give to the gods. This servant only passed on this concept to all our staff in the shop.”
“Well done! No matter what, our customers are our ‘parents’ that feed and clothe us, so we must not slight them in any way. We must let them feel as though they are returning to the comforts of their own homes. Alright, I’ll serve these sundaes to our esteemed customers!” Yu Xiaocao patted Yangliu’s shoulder and exited the production room.
Behind her, Wutong carried the tray and followed her up the stairs to the third floor. Seeing the waiter gesture to the private room labelled ‘Tall Mountain Flowing River’, Yu Xiaocao knocked on the door and said, “Esteemed customers, I’ve come to serve you the iced desserts you’ve ordered!”Previous Chapter Next Chapter