As soon as they entered Tanggu Town, Lu Hao led his team of imperial guards and parted ways with Yu Xiaocao and the others. After all, he had work on hand, and official business was still his priority.
At noon, Yu Xiaocao took the group of tired and hungry youths to the entrance of Zhenxiu Restaurant. Zhenxiu Restaurant had already opened several branches in the capital. This group of noble young masters and misses from the capital naturally knew that they wouldn’t be able to taste the delicacies in Zhenxiu Restaurant without booking several days in advance.
Although they really wanted to sit down in Zhenxiu Restaurant and have a good meal, the group of noble young masters and misses knew clearly in their hearts that it was just their wishful thinking. When they smelled the strong aroma of the roasted duck wafting out from the restaurant, the group felt that their hunger was even more unbearable.
Ning Donghuan covered his rumbling stomach that was protesting for food and looked pitifully at Yu Xiaocao, “I say, Xiaocao, you clearly know that we’re dying of hunger, but you’re deliberately tempting us with food. Can we still happily play together? You aren’t that naïve to think that there’s still vacant seats for us in Zhenxiu Restaurant at this time, right?”
Shi Donglin, Royal Princess Minglan’s younger brother, watched as customers went in and out of the entrance of Zhenxiu Restaurant, and said dispiritedly, “I took a look, and it seemed like the main hall was already full. There’s no point in asking. Wasn’t there a ‘Fulin Restaurant’ earlier? It also seems like a famous, long-established restaurant. Why don’t we just eat there and fill our stomachs first?”
Yuan Xueyan was the only one among them who knew about the relationship between Zhenxiu Restaurant and Yu Xiaocao. This was something that she had heard from her grandfather, Great Scholar Yuan. Xiaocao was considered half of a boss of Zhenxiu Restaurant, so she never had to make reservations when eating there!
Yu Xiaocao smiled playfully at Shi Donglin, who was around the same age as her younger brother, and said, “It’s okay. Maybe we’ll be very lucky and encounter a sudden cancellation? You guys wait here, while I go ask. It won’t take much time!”
Ning Donghuan still wanted to say something, but he was stopped by his refined second brother. He asked with confusion, “Second Brother, why are you stopping me? Are we just going to let Xiaocao get rebuffed? That guy with a goatee just came out with a face full of disappointment. It’s obvious that there are no tables left ah!”
Ning Donglan watched as Xiaocao entered Zhenxiu Restaurant, and then shook his head at his brainless third brother, saying, “When have you ever seen Xiaocao fight a battle unprepared? Although she said that she was going to try her luck, she had an air of confidence. Don’t worry about it. Just wait to go in and have a good meal.”
Inside Zhenxiu Restaurant, Qian Xiaoduo, who was busily greeting the customers, saw Yu Xiaocao coming in from outside. He went forward with an even warmer smile and said, “Miss Yu, you…did you just return from the capital? Quickly go upstairs. This little one will have someone bring you a basin of water so you can wash up!”
Yu Xiaocao looked strangely at Qian Xiaoduo’s beard and curiously asked, “Manager Qian, why did you suddenly grow out a beard? It makes you look several years older.”
Qian Xiaoduo touched his beard, which had just grown out a little, and chuckled, “People often say that young people can’t be trusted with important tasks. So I want to make myself look more dignified!”
After he said that, he looked outside and continued, “Are those people outside your friends from the capital? Is this a trip to the seaside? It’s not a bad idea to let the noble young masters and misses in the capital see our newly built harbor in Tanggu, as well as the ships that are coming and going! Erzhu’zi, go and invite those guests outside to the third floor. Miss Yu, do you want to head up first?”
Yu Xiaocao waved her hands at him and said, “They’re my friends so there’s no need to be so polite. I’ll call them over myself. I brought spring tea that I stir-fried—have someone brew a pot and bring it upstairs!”
Wutong took out a jar of tea leaves from her bag. Qian Xiaoduo’s eyes suddenly brightened up and he quickly took it over with both hands. As if he was holding a treasure, he went to the tea room to find the person who was most skilled in making tea. Who didn’t know that the wild camellia tea that Miss Yu made had an even more fragrant and mellow taste than top-grade Yunwu tea?
Since the current master of the Zhou Family tasted the tea, he always thought about it whenever he returned to the old residence in Tanggu Town. After serving Miss Yu’s friends, there should still be a lot of tea leaves left in the jar. Miss Yu was a generous person, so she definitely wouldn’t take back the remaining tea leaves. It seemed like he had gotten another chance to show his face in front of the old master again thanks to Miss Yu!
Yu Xiaocao didn’t care about Manager Qian’s thoughts and turned to walk out of Zhenxiu Restaurant. She beckoned her friends and showed a crafty smile as she said, “It seems like we’re really lucky today. There’s a private room on the third floor that’s vacant.”
Ning Donghuan exclaimed in surprise with an incredible expression on his face, “Really? There’s an empty spot as soon as you go ask. I clearly saw several waves of people coming out with a disappointed look. Oh…I know. Do you have a long-term reservation of a private room in Zhenxiu Restaurant so that you can come eat the delicacies at the restaurant at any time?”
Yu Xiaocao looked at him with a contemptuous gaze and said, “If I’m going to make a reservation, I would have done it in the Zhenxiu Restaurant in the capital. These two years, I can only return to Tanggu Town a limited number of times. If I made a reservation, wouldn’t it be empty most of the time and only be used less than twice a year? Do I have that much money to waste?”
Ning Donghuan pouted and grumbled, “You do have a lot of money ah! The beauty salon, pharmaceutical workshops, and wine distillery are all money-making businesses. If calculated seriously, you can be considered one of the wealthiest ladies in the capital! What’s the big deal about reserving a private room in Zhenxiu Restaurant?”
Ning Donglan was embarrassed by his younger brother’s stupidity. He glared at him and said, “There are so many branches of Zhenxiu Restaurant in the capital. Have you ever heard of them letting outsiders reserve a private room? If it was possible, with so many rich and influential families in the capital, wouldn’t all the private rooms already be taken? Can’t you use your brain before speaking?”
With a puzzled expression, Ning Donghuan scratched the back of his head and asked in confusion, “Then how did she get a private room? Could it be that she used her beauty…Ouch!!”
Ning Donglan retrieved his fan and didn’t want to pay attention to him anymore. Ning Donghuan continued to murmur. Even when they had sat down in the private room on the third floor and was drinking the fragrant tea, he still pestered Xiaocao to ask her how she managed to get such a high-class private room.
Yuan Xueyan reminded him in an indifferent tone, “Has anyone ever seen Zhenxiu Restaurant open the third floor to outsiders?”
Indeed! Yuan Xueyan’s words enlightened everyone present. The third floor of Zhenxiu Restaurant had always been very mysterious, and it was said that it was specially used to entertain close friends and relatives. Could it be…
Ning Donghuan looked at Yu Xiaocao with bright eyes, as if he was a puppy begging for a bone, “Xiaocao, are you the illegitimate daughter of the Zhou Family…Aiya, Second Brother, why did you hit me again?”
Ning Donglan shook his head in disappointment and said, “I told you to use your brain before speaking, but it seems like that was a rather difficult request because you don’t have one at all!!”
Seeing that everyone had looked over curiously, Yu Xiaocao quickly smiled and explained, “I found a tattered recipe book by chance, and made several dishes according to the book. The third young master of the Zhou Family took a fancy to the dishes and bought several of the recipes at a high price. Third Young Master Zhou, who is generous and treats me like a friend, gave me the rights to use the private rooms on the third floor…”
Hearing this, Yu Wanqing looked at Xiaocao with admiration and exclaimed, “Older Sister Xiaocao, you’re so amazing! You’re good at everything!!”
Ning Donglan, on the other hand, had a thoughtful look on his face and said after a long time, “This Zhenxiu Restaurant was originally just a common restaurant in Tanggu Town. I heard that it barely managed to survive the competition of other famous, long-established restaurants. Later, the restaurant released oyster sauce dishes, roasted chicken, roasted duck… Only then did it gradually gain a firm foothold. Allegedly, these dishes were recipes given to them by a mysterious person. This mysterious person wouldn’t just happen to be Xiaocao, right?”
Yu Xiaocao hadn’t expected that Ning Donglan knew all these things, but the history of the establishment of Zhenxiu Restaurant wasn’t a secret. Anyone who wanted to inquire about it could find out. She replied humbly, “It just so happened that those dishes were in the book. At that time, my family was in a situation where we didn’t have enough food to eat and warm clothes to wear, so we sold the recipes in order to improve our living conditions.”
Ning Donghuan beat his chest and lamented, “Aiya! What a pity! Isn’t that the same as selling a chicken that lays golden eggs? If you still had them now, we could cooperate to open a restaurant with these signature dishes. It will definitely be better than Zhenxiu Restaurant!”
Yu Xiaocao had endless recipes in her hands, so opening a restaurant wasn’t a problem for her. However, in the past two years, she had been in the limelight enough in the capital. She didn’t want to attract more attention so as to not attract the jealousy of others and bring disaster to herself.
After the group casually washed up, they had a good meal at Zhenxiu Restaurant and a short rest before they rushed to Dongshan Village. The villagers of Dongshan Village were stunned by the sight of the group of over a dozen people, who were all dressed in brocade robes and accompanied by fine horses and myriads of servants.
Who said Yu Xiaocao couldn’t succeed because she had no roots in the capital? Look at how she was accompanied by a royal princess and noble young masters and misses. They were truly the children of wealthy and influential families. Those who boasted about being noble young misses in town were far inferior to these people!
As for their accommodation, Zhu Junyang had already thought it over for Xiaocao. The Yu Family’s old residence was built to appear spacious and grand. However, it might be too crowded to entertain over a dozen children of noble families, and dozens of servants and guards. Fortunately, Prince Jing household’s mountain manor on the West Mountains was currently vacant. After Zhu Junyang got permission from his lady mother, he had servants clean up the empty rooms in the manor to entertain the group of noble young maidens and masters.
The problem of their lodging had been resolved, and there was no need to worry about food. Those who lived on the mountain lived off the mountain, while those who lived near the sea lived off the sea. If they wanted to eat game, then they should go hunt for some in the mountains. If they wanted to eat seafood, then they should go fishing. Would they starve with Xiaocao around?
For the next several days, the young masters and maidens who had never been to the sea played like crazy. Every morning, they followed Xiaocao to set traps in the mountains. When the tide was low, they went to gather seafood at the beach with the half-grown children in the village.
The young masters, who thought that they were good at swimming, had even borrowed Yu Hai’s and Yu Hang’s sharkskin diving suits. They swam around in the sea, and then dived into the shallow water to catch some small fish and shrimps. At dusk, they went back to the mountains to retrieve the pheasants and wild hares that were caught in the traps. Then, in the evening, they filed their stomachs with the delicacies from the mountain and sea.
Sometimes the young maidens also envied Ning Donghuan and the others for being able to experience the joy of playing the water, but they could only watch and sigh because they had poor swimming skills. Although they couldn’t swim, Xiaocao knew how to swim ah! Thus, He Wanning pestered Xiaocao to teach her how to swim.Previous Chapter Next Chapter