Liu Huifang jumped off of the donkey cart and jogged over to pull on Xiaocao’s hand. The smile on her face was sincere and pretty, “A few days ago, I saw Little Black in the forest so I knew you were going to be back soon. The capital is truly good at nourishing people. Look at how tender and fair your skin is. I always thought I had a pretty good complexion in the village, but when I stand next to you, I look like a piece of charcoal instead!”
“No worries, as long as my older brother doesn’t care, what does it matter then?” Sometime, while she was gone, Yu Hang and Older Sister Huifang had ended up seeing eye to eye. When her mother had someone help her write a letter, she had specifically mentioned this detail.
Uncle Shuanzhu was good friends with her father and their whole family was of good moral character. Older Sister Huifang had an open personality and was very hard working. She also had a good relationship with her. Thus, in Yu Xiaocao’s mind, she was more than happy to have Huifang become her older sister-in-law in the future. From the letter her family sent her, she could tell that everyone else also liked her quite a bit. If it wasn’t for the fact that the two of them were still quite young, Madam Liu would have gone over to Huifang’s family to negotiate for a betrothal. She needed to strike early in order to obtain such a good girl for her son.
Liu Huifang’s cheeks immediately turned bright red after being teased by her good friend. She glared at her and grumbled, “If you’re only going to speak nonsense, I’m going to ignore you!”
“Why do you think I’m speaking nonsense? Aren’t people supposed to stick to the truth at this time of year? Sigh, my future older sister-in-law is so hard to get along with, as the younger sister-in-law, it looks like I’ll have a difficult time in the future.” Yu Xiaocao shook her head and sighed but her eyes glinted with a spark of mischief.
Liu Huifang revealed an embarrassed expression and raised a hand to lightly slap Xiaocao’s shoulder. She was halfway there when another hand stopped her. She raised her head and met a pair of eyes that were full of warning. Liu Huifang looked at Xiaocao in a flabbergasted manner and asked, “Who is she ah?”
Wutong hurriedly took her hand out of Qiushi’s hand and smiled, “Miss Liu, this is a misunderstanding! Qiushi is in charge of our young miss’s safety and was only trying to protect her. Qiushi, Miss Liu is only playing around with our young miss, so there’s no need to be too nervous! Dongshan Village’s people have either watched our young miss grow up or were friends with her during childhood. No one will harm her. You two, ah, can just relax a bit!” Now, Wutong was no longer like she was before when she viewed everyone around her as beneath her. She now treated her young miss’s friends in a polite and friendly manner.
Qiushi looked at her master. When she saw Xiaocao lightly nod in agreement with Wutong’s words, she released Liu Huifang’s hand and simply said, “Please forgive me!”
Liu Huifang looked at Chunhua, who was behind Qiushi and Xiaocao. The other girl was standing straight and seemed quite fierce. She lightly elbowed Xiaocao and grinned, “Oh ho! Looks like becoming a royal princess does have some changes in customs. You now have female bodyguards protecting you!”
Xiaocao winked at her and said, “No matter how powerful this royal princess is, my older sister-in-law will still be able to outrank me. An older sister-in-law is like a second mother. I currently need to fawn over you, that way you’ll treat me better in the future.”
“Speaking nonsense again!” Liu Huifang lightly pinched her small arm. This time, the two bodyguard maids didn’t try to stop her.
“Alright ah! Don’t be embarrassed and come back home with me. I have things I want to give you!” Like she did in the past, Yu Xiaocao linked her arms with Older Sister Huifang and the two of them laughed and chatted as they headed towards the Yu Family’s residence. She had stayed a few days in the prefectural city and Tanggu Town, so it was likely the luggage carts had already gotten to her home.
Liu Shuanzhu cheerfully watched as Xiaocao ‘took’ his daughter away. After saying a greeting to Madam Liu, he drove the donkey cart home. His wife had seen her daughter and husband leave together but, when only her husband returned, she asked, “Where’s Huifang ah?”
“The Yu Family’s lass, Xiaocao, is back and called our daughter to her home. She said she has some gifts to give our daughter.” Liu Shuanzhu unhitched the animals from the cart and took out some fodder from their shelter for them.
Shuanzhu’s wife was currently taking out the laundry and her hands faltered for a moment and a slightly worried look appeared on her face. Liu Shuanzhu noticed that his wife was sighing repeatedly and asked, “Wife, what’s wrong? Is that brat Tiedan causing you problems? Just watch me discipline him! Tiedan’er, come out for your father!!”
“Our son is currently practicing his calligraphy, why are you hollering about?” Shuanzhu’s wife rolled her eyes at him and continued, “Tiedan’er is very sweet and obedient. He works very hard at school and even the teacher there said that at the start of spring, he can try taking the entrance exam to Rongxuan Academy.”
“The teacher really said that? This boy is truly giving me some face! If he can enter Rongxuan Academy, I can’t guarantee anything else but he will definitely be able to become a county-level official. At that time, our family will also have a county-official then!” Liu Shuanzhu broadly smiled and revealed a joyous expression on his face.
“Father, what did you call me for?” Tiedan’er came out of his own room and was still holding a writing brush with ink on it.
Liu Shuanzhu patted his son’s shoulder and the smile on his face broadened as he proclaimed, “Nothing at all! Continue to work hard! I don’t know if your Older Brother Shitou will come back for the New Years, but if he does you can ask him for some tips for the examination. That way you can work hard to pass the entrance examination to Rongxuan Academy and give our Old Liu Family some glory.”
Tiedan’s round little face revealed a smile and he said, “Older Brother Shitou will definitely come back because he goes wherever Older Sister Xiaocao goes. Since Older Sister Xiaocao came back for the New Years, Older Brother Shitou will not let this opportunity go. Father, don’t worry, I will definitely work hard and test into Rongxuan Academy!”
“Good son! Go ah and you can continue working on your calligraphy!” Liu Shuanzhu thought that his son’s nimble brain resembled his own. However, his family’s situation wasn’t good enough when he was young to allow him to study. Otherwise, he might be a county official right now!
In the blink of an eye, he noticed that his wife’s expression was still a bit worried and he inquired in puzzlement, “Since it wasn’t our son that made you unhappy, then why do you have such a long look on your face ah? What’s going on ah?”
“I’m worried about our daughter!” Shuanzhu’s wife glared at her husband. He was a good man but he was a bit too thick sometimes!
Liu Shuanzhu was even more perplexed now and asked in a puzzled tone, “Our daughter? What’s up with our daughter? If it wasn’t for her coming up with the idea to raise chickens, do you think our family would be doing so well now? Our daughter is so hard-working, what is there for you to be worried about?”
“I’m talking about Huifang and Xiaosha’s thing!” Shuanzhu’s wife threw the piece of clothing in her hands into the wooden basin next to her and glared at her husband with an exasperated look.
At that time, the Yu Family’s braised food shop’s roasted chicken, smoked chicken, and air-dried chicken were very popular in the prefectural city. The Yu Family was honest and would rather spend more time on the road to help their fellow villagers do well. The Liu Family now raised the largest number of chickens in the village, so they sent a bunch of chickens every few days to the prefecture city. Yu Hang often came over to help settle the bill. As time passed on, he and Huifang became familiar with each other. The two families began to work even more closely together as business partners and the two of them naturally began to develop feelings for each other.
Liu Shuanzhu scratched the back of his head and frowned, “What’s wrong with our daughter and Xiaosha? Did Xiaosha do something to make our daughter unhappy? I’ll go and scold him now and let him know that our daughter isn’t someone he can just bully because he wants to!” As he finished, he turned around to head out the gate.
“You come back right now!!” Shuanzhu’s wife felt quite helpless at this turn of events. If her husband could accurately guess what she was thinking, then the sun would start rising from the west, “I was trying to say…Xiaocao is a royal princess now and has the same status as the daughter of an imperial prince. Furthermore, for the past two years, the Yu Family’s business has continued to expand and become more prosperous. I won’t even mention their other businesses but just from the greenhouse grown vegetables alone, I’m pretty sure they’d make at least ten thousand taels in one winter, and that’s estimating low, right? Although our family is one of the most prosperous in the village now, the gap between our two families is still too large right?”
“Wife, are you trying to say that when our daughter marries into their family, they’ll look down on her? Don’t worry about that, Brother Dahai and his wife aren’t the type of people to do that! That being said, we’ve watched Xiaosha grow up under our eyes and we can definitely vouch for his personal character!!”
Liu Shuanzhu thought that his wife was thinking too much. Madam Liu was very satisfied with their daughter and even told them that after the New Years, they should make things official between their two children. If they decided that this was too early for their daughter, they could wait another two years before they got engaged.
“But…the social gap between our two families is really too big. I heard that Xiaocao not only was titled a royal princess but that the emperor and empress treat her very well, almost as if she was their own daughter. The eldest imperial prince even calls her ‘older sister’…” Shuanzhu’s wife was quite anxious about this.
Liu Shuanzhu also frowned at this and said, “That lass Xiaocao is a fortunate one indeed. However, Xiaocao is still Xiaocao, Xiaosha is still Xiaosha…Brother Dahai also said that if Little Shitou passes the imperial court’s examinations and becomes an official at court, Tanggu’s farmstead and the businesses at Dongshan Village would be inherited by Xiaosha. Their roots are in Dongshan Village and the eldest son should keep an eye on their ancestral home. With that, Huifang will also be close to us and we can help her when needed. What’s there to be worried about then? That being said, that lass Xiaocao isn’t one of those people with her head up high and eyes to the sky. Today, when she saw our daughter, she was very intimate and friendly with her just like before!”
“But I still feel a bit anxious within my heart.” Regardless, Shuanzhu’s wife felt a bit better after hearing her husband’s analysis of the issue. He was right! The Yu Family was famous in the village for being honest and trustworthy. Furthermore, the head of the Yu Family had pretty much grown up with her husband like true brothers. The Yu Family’s wife had a good-natured personality and was very satisfied with her daughter. In addition, Xiaosha was a hard worker and had a trustworthy personality. What did she have to be worried about now?
“Mother, once Older Brother passes the exams and becomes an official, he can give support to Older Sister!” The Liu Family’s youngest daughter had originally been sitting in the courtyard, shelling peanuts obediently. When she heard her father and mother talking, she childishly interjected her opinion.
Liu Shuanzhu strode over to his daughter and picked her up, lifting her high. He laughed joyously, “Our Xiaoya’er is right! When your older brother becomes an official, then we’ll also find you an official to be your husband!”
Shuanzhu’s wife rescued her daughter from her husband and glared at him, “What nonsense are you saying now ah? Are you not afraid you’ll lead our daughter down a crooked road?”
Xiaoya’er pinched up a shelled peanut and delivered it into her father’s mouth as she mumbled, “I don’t want to be the wife of an official ah.”
Liu Shuanzhu chewed on the peanut and guffawed, “Then what type of man does our Ya’er want to marry?”
Xiaoya’er puffed up her bun-like face and frowned for a bit before she stated in a conflicted tone, “I want to find someone who is hardworking, just like…Older Xiaocao! Someone who can do anything! If Older Sister Xiaocao was a man, Ya’er would definitely marry her!”
“Alright! In the future, Father will make sure to find you a hardworking man!!” Liu Shuanzhu had been tickled by his youngest daughter’s somewhat childish thoughts on the matter. His wife could only shake her head repeatedly. This child truly knew no shame and was willing to say anything out loud.
While the two of them were at home teasing their children, their oldest daughter was already sitting on the kang bed in Xiaocao’s maiden room. Huifang’s eyes were wide open in astonishment as she looked at the beautiful and delicate wooden boxes on the bed. She couldn’t help but remark in surprise, “This set of ‘Blossoming Beauty’ skincare products…is for me?”Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Sanguine’s thoughts: Haha, I like Ya’er’s thoughts on marriage. The vinegar pot, Junyang, would not be happy though.