Chapter 539 - Regrets

Currently, the Yu’s Braised Food Store was considered a collaboration between the two families. She provided the capital and ingredients, while her eldest paternal aunt’s family was in charge of management. At the end of the year, they split the dividends forty-sixty.

Last year, at the year’s end, Xiaocao was quite surprised by the amount of money she had received when her older cousin Liu Junping came over to split the money. She had even asked him about it as she was afraid that her eldest paternal aunt’s family had given her a larger share than they had agreed on. Now, after personally seeing the booming business, she was able to believe her older cousin’s assurances. From how well things were going, it was likely that her split of the money at the end of this year would be even more generous!

Yu Xiaocao and Liu Xiaoyan both revealed satisfied smiles when they saw the long and orderly line of people waiting to buy goods wholesale. Suddenly, within the line, they saw a familiar figure. This person had peppered white hair, an aged looking face, drooping eyes that looked a bit cruel, and deep lines around her mouth. All of this combined made her look even more harsh and mean——wasn’t this Xiaocao’s step-grandmother, Madam Zhang?

Madam Zhang hadn’t appeared in Xiaocao’s vicinity for more than two years now and Xiaocao had almost forgotten that this particular person still existed. After two years had passed, Madam Zhang looked a lot more old compared to before. Her previously straight back was now bent over and there were a lot more wrinkles on her face. Furthermore, more than half of her head of hair had already turned white.

Seeing her reminded Xiaocao of her own grandfather. Old Yu had been eating the medicinal cuisine that Xiaocao had personally prepared for him and had also been consuming mystic-stone water. His previously weak body had become healthy again. Her older brother had written a letter to her talking about the farm and the letter mentioned that their paternal grandfather’s energy in the fields were higher than some younger people’s. Perhaps it was because he had plumped up a bit, but the wrinkles on his face also seemed to recede recently. If he stood next to Madam Zhang now, despite Madam Zhang being younger than him by seven to eight years, it would look like he was standing next to his older sister!

Liu Xiaoyan lightly sighed and said, “Ever since she moved out of Dongshan Village, Madam Zhang has been buying wholesale from us so she could sell it at one of the vegetable markets to the south of the city. In the past, all she had to do was order people around. Now, for the sake of earning money for Younger Uncle’s studies and keeping their family afloat, even if it’s stormy out, she still opens up her stall to sell goods. Luckily, our braised food is quite popular. I heard Mother mention that, in her youth, Madam Zhang also wasn’t a lazy person, so her stall is doing quite well. It’s rumored that she’s already rented quite a few small stalls in the vegetable market. Other than selling braised food, she also buys vegetables from neighboring farmers to sell as well.

“What about Younger Uncle? I heard that he passed the county level examinations. So it doesn’t look like she’s labored in vain, right?” When she thought back to how it was for her family when she first transmigrated over, where everyone had been used up until they didn’t even resemble humans any more, Yu Xiaocao couldn’t feel one iota of sympathy for the old woman.

Liu Xiaoyan nodded her head, “Although Mother truly hates Madam Zhang for being so cruel, she can’t seem to bring it upon herself to also hate Younger Uncle who is related to us through Grandfather. Every few days or so, she’ll go to Younger Uncle’s academy and bring some food for him to eat. Maternal Grandfather will also give him some pocket money from time to time.

Liu Xiaoyan paused for a moment before she continued, “Ever since everyone found out about the crime that Madam Zhang committed and she moved out of Dongshan Village, it seems like Younger Uncle has also matured quite a bit. His past selfishness and desire to cut corners have all been thrown away. Now, he spends all of his time at the academy, studying his heart out. After working hard for two to three years, he finally passed the county level exams and became a county official. However, his results were lackluster as he was only in the back of the pack. Not like our Little Shitou, who was able to score high and become a granary official and receive the government’s annual stipend of grain. My mother spoke to one of the teachers at the academy and he said based off of my younger uncle’s talents, being able to pass the prefectural level exams would be the best outcome he could manage. As for passing the imperial exams, that likely can’t be done by him!”

If their younger uncle could pass the prefectural level exams, he would get a grain stipend every year from the government and could also decrease the amount of taxes his family had to pay. Should Madam Zhang continue to do business for a few more years and save some money, they could probably buy some land to farm. Even if she couldn’t tend the land herself, she could still get an income from renting it out to others. That way, wouldn’t her grandfather no longer have to worry about his youngest son anymore?

At this time, Madam Zhang had spotted Xiaocao and the expression on her face immediately changed and she looked away from Xiaocao to avoid her eyes. She scurried her thin and scrawny body to hide behind another person in line.

The news that Xiaocao had been entitled a royal princess had also spread to the prefectural city. Her eldest paternal aunt and uncle thought that it was a great honor, so they not only bought the longest string of fireworks that could be found but also promoted three days of twenty percent off of all of their goods at the stores. The previous prefectural magistrate of Jinwei prefecture had already finished his term of service there and moved back to the capital. Now, the Yu’s Braised Food Store had an even larger backer. Other than Royal Prince Yang, they also had a royal princess that the emperor himself had titled backing them. This was also the reason why no one ever tried to cause trouble for this business even though it became more and more popular with every passing day. 

At that time, Madam Zhang had been in the crowd waiting to buy goods wholesale. When she saw the proud and joyful expression on Xiaocao’s eldest paternal aunt’s face, she felt so regretful that her face turned green. If she had treated Xiaocao’s family better in the past and hadn’t been so biased, she might be the one in front basking in the glory. Perhaps, she could still be with the old man and become the noble matriarch of the family. In fact, she might have been able to head to the capital and live in a large compound with a group of maidservants and underlings catering to her every whim, living a life of luxury and glory…

Unfortunately, it was too late for regrets. Ever since the news that she had murdered Xiaocao’s biological grandmother came to light, the Yu Family became estranged from her and regarded her with loathing. Madam Zhang avoided Xiaocao’s line of sight as she was afraid the now royal princess would recall her crimes and send people to pull her into prison.

She was already an old woman, so spending time in jail or even getting the capital punishment wasn’t a big deal. However, she was anxious about her youngest son’s prospects and whether he’d be affected by her issues. Even if the Yu Family remembered familial ties and let her youngest son go, without her around providing for the family, how could her son be able to study without any worries?

Madam Zhang made the decision to keep her distance away from the Yu Family when she spotted them in the future. If she couldn’t avoid them, then she would keep her head lowered with a smile on her face. As long as they didn’t pursue her past crimes against her, she was even willing to kneel in front of them and beg for forgiveness and mercy.

She still had a petty person’s way of looking at things. Before she had appeared again, Xiaocao had pretty much forgotten to think about her. That being said, Madam Zhang was an old woman in her sixties doing hard labor every day in order to keep herself and her youngest son’s family afloat. In Xiaocao’s eyes, having to work so hard in life at such an advanced age was already the best punishment and torture for her.

Xiaocao stayed in the prefectural city for two days and, during that time, she gave the recipes for Jiangsu style crystal pork trotters, pork trotter sausages, and sweet and spicy Hezhou black duck as well as numbing and spicy Hezhou black duck to her eldest paternal aunt and her older cousin, Xiaoyan. There were about twenty or so days until the New Years, so it’d be good to have new products on the market to increase the sales even further.

After leaving the prefectural city, she spent two days at Tanggu Town. Tanggu’s greenhouse grown vegetables and fruits had been entirely dominated by the Yu Family. In the past two years, the Yu Family had expanded their farmstead to over three thousand mu and they were now the largest privately owned farmstead in the Tanggu area. Two thousand mu were currently planted with high-yielding winter wheat and the remaining a thousand mu had greenhouse pavilions on them since the start of autumn. All of the nearby vegetable merchants in the vicinity  as well as the restaurants all got their supplies of vegetables and fruits from the Yu Family.

The prices of these greenhouse grown vegetables and fruits were all at least ten times as much as they were during the regular growing season. Thus, it was obvious that they were making quite a big profit from all of this. Naturally, there were other people who wanted to reproduce their success and use greenhouses too. However, only the imperial court’s Ministry of Works had the technology to manufacture the plastic film used in these greenhouses and they didn’t produce very much. Not just anyone could get their hands on it!

The influential officials in the capital naturally envied the imperial family’s dominance over the greenhouse growing market. However, only those who were stupid would try to compete with the imperial family. There were those who were more shrewd and flexible and tried to reproduce their success in the more faraway Zhou Prefecture. However, without Xiaocao’s mystic-stone water on hand as well as a lack of experience in farming, their vegetables and fruits had poor outputs and didn’t look very good. They weren’t even going to necessarily make up for the amount of money they poured in. When these people failed, the other wealthy and noble families, who had started to get ideas, also decided to let this go. Thus, the greenhouse growing market was still dominated by only one family.

Right now, they were right in the middle of a very popular time for the vegetables and fruits. Other than Yu Xiaolian, who was back at Dongshan Village managing the pharmaceutical workshop, the rest of the family were all busy working on the farmstead. Even Old Yu, who seemed to be more youthful now, was also in the fields picking and weighing vegetables like a busy bee. Even though the family had hired enough workers to keep up with everything, Old Yu couldn’t stay idle and had a lot of energy in his body. When the family saw him happily working every day, they allowed him to continue to keep up his spirits.

“Father, Mother! Your Cao’er is back ah!!” Yu Xiaocao hollered loudly from the distance when she saw her parents going over the account books in front of the granary.

Yu Hai and his wife thought that they were imagining things when they first heard their younger daughter’s voice. Zhuang Xiaomo keenly spotted in the distance that there was a small figure riding on a red horse. He revealed a smile and hurriedly spoke to Yu Hai and Madam Liu, “Uncle Yu, Auntie, Xiaocao is back! You two should quickly go greet her. I’m not in a hurry right now!”

Ever since the Wokou pirate disaster, Zhuang Xiaomo had moved to Dongshan Village. As the years went by, he slowly grew up and became more certain that he wanted to marry the hardworking Xiaolian. However, as he saw the Yu Family’s fortunes go up and up, he started to feel a bit of pressure.

Uncle Yu and Auntie Yu treated him like their own son and often sent him food. In fact, most of his clothes and shoes were personally made by Auntie Yu. However, he had just reached the age of seventeen and knew in his heart that using his sincere character alone was not enough to marry Yu Xiaolian. He also needed to make sure that his situation was better to ensure that her living situation would be smooth and steady in the future.

Consequently, when Xiaoaco came back last year to establish the greenhouse grown vegetables business and mentioned the booming vegetable and fruit stalls in the capital, Zhuang Xiaomo had an idea. He decided to also start a stall that only sold the expensive greenhouse grown vegetables and fruits in Tanggu.

He didn’t have a lot of money on hand and had originally planned on renting a stall in the regular food market for this. As he started on his plans, Uncle Yu found out and enthusiastically supported his idea. However, Uncle Yu advised him against renting a stall at the regular market. After listening to Uncle Yu’s reasoning, Zhuang Xiaomo was enlightened. The vast majority of people who went to shop at the regular marketplace were the commoners, but whom among them could afford the expensive out-of-season fruits and vegetables?

In the end, Uncle Yu gave him some ‘business capital’ and he rented two stores in the western rich area of Tanggu Town to open Tanggu’s first specialty vegetable and fruit stores. Naturally, this money was a loan and he gradually paid it back through the money he had earned.

Last autumn, Zhuang Xiaomo’s vegetable and fruit stores made a bunch of money. The Yu Family’s greenhouse business only gave him wholesale pricing on their goods and introduced him to a few old customers. Tanggu never lacked for the rich and wealthy. Thus, Zhuang Xiaomo’s vegetable and fruit stores exploded in popularity.

In order to make it easier on himself to stock the stores, he bought a donkey cart. Every day, before the sun rose, he would drive the cart to bring the goods over. He spent the morning busily selling his stock. Sometimes, when business was especially good, he would have to go get another set of goods to replenish for the afternoon. He was quite busy every day.

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Myst.2's Thoughts

food pic

Sanguine’s thoughts: Wow, Yu Bo actually passed the exams. About time.

Translator: Sanguine