“Let’s have a lobster fishing competition then! I’ll use the lobsters we catch to make lobster broiled with minced garlic. There’s a lot of seafood that I like to eat and my favorite is crabs. At this time of year, the crabs are fat and full of flavor. It’s a pity I have a little one inside me, so I can’t eat too many.”
Yu Xiaocao rubbed at her small belly and silently spoke to her unborn child, ‘Sweetie, for your sake, your mother has made many sacrifices. In the future, you must be a filial child to me ah!’
Ever since she found out she was pregnant, her husband had abruptly transformed into an old nagging nanny. She wasn’t allowed to eat many things or do many things. He was very strict with her. Crabs were a cold-natured food, so Xiaocao, who was pregnant, wasn’t allowed to eat much and could only pathetically watch as other people ate the in-season delectable and fat crabs. She wasn’t even allowed to eat her favorite crab roe soup dumplings, so she thought that she lived quite a pitiful life now.
Although they were said to be deep sea fishing, it was mostly an excuse to pass the time. Since they were on a fast moving ship, how stupid would the fish and other sea creatures have to be to get caught ah? Consequently, by the time it was lunch, the group of them had nothing to show for their efforts. Although Xiaocao was quite hungry, she had no appetite as she saw that they had caught no seafood to add to her table. The little divine stone sighed and then changed into a swimsuit. Despite the fact that other people tried to stop it, it jumped off the ship and into the water.
“Uh...Younger Sister Xiaocao, does this younger adopted brother of yours have good swimming skills? Will he be alright ah? Should we have the ship stop for a bit and wait for him?” Zhao Han asked with a bit of worry.
Ever since the little divine stone decided to stay in its human youth form, Xiaocao proclaimed to everyone else that it was her adopted younger brother. She also said that ‘he’ was her savior. If it weren’t for the fact that he had appeared in the nick of time and prevented the traitor from the previous dynasty from killing her, she might not have lasted long enough for Imperial Prince Xu to save her. Thus, everyone around her treated this youth named ‘Yuan Zi’ with great respect and gratitude. Wutong was especially deferential to this youth and almost was at the point where she was burning incense to him every day.
As someone who loved the crow because he loved the house, Zhao Han was worried about the little divine stone because it was the savior of Xiaocao.
Yu Xiaocao held onto the deck rails and stared out into the sea. Her expression, however, belied that she wasn’t the least bit worried. In fact, she had a somewhat excited look instead. Oh ho, when the little divine stone decided to go out, he absolutely wouldn't come back empty-handed. Her mouth was in luck today. Giant lobster, crab, sea fish...once they were cleaned, they were just waiting to be sent to her table!
Ever since she discovered she was pregnant with her baby, Yu Xiaocao felt like she had become incredibly picky. In the past, even if she encountered a dish she wasn’t fond of, she was able to stomach a few bites. Now, she didn’t even want a whiff of the not favored dish. If someone tried to use the excuse that it would be good for her body and unborn child to eat the food, she would even throw a temper tantrum. At the same time, if she craved something and wasn’t able to eat it, she immediately lost her appetite. Even if her stomach flipped and she was weak from hunger, she wouldn’t even move her chopsticks one iota.
She also refused to admit that she was the one being picky and difficult. In fact, she complained to her husband and claimed that the reason why she was so picky now was all related to the baby inside her tummy and that it was the baby’s fault. The poor little fellow had already been used as a scapegoat for his mother before he (she) was even born.
And just who was the little divine stone? He didn’t have her wait for long before he came back with a basket full of top-notch seafood. Other than a giant lobster that was more than a foot long, he also brought back the best quality sea cucumber, abalone, and other types of tasty seafood that were appropriate for pregnant women to eat.
Both Zhao Han and Su Ran were stupefied by the incredibly varied haul the youth came back with in so little time. However, they only thought that he had good swimming skills and had taken advantage of the good conditions in the sea. Even if someone else had other doubts, they wouldn’t investigate much given that this youth had the identity of the younger adopted brother of the princess consort.
Although they had missed lunchtime, Yu Xiaocao was very pleased with this table full of seafood. She ate with great relish. There was lobster broiled with minced garlic, steamed turbot in a light broth, sea cucumber bone soup, abalone cooked in oyster broth, salted egg and crab meat rice, broiled cod steaks…
After inquiring a bit, Zhu Junyang found out that, other than the crab meat, the rest of the seafood was safe for pregnant women to eat without limits. Thus, he allowed her to eat until her belly turned round.
However, Yu Xiaocao’s tastes changed constantly. After eating seafood for a few days in a row, she suddenly wanted to eat fresh vegetables. It was already the winter season, and the ships were traveling from south to the north. Not all of the prefectures along the way had shops that were supplied with greenhouse grown vegetables. Consequently, the fact that Xiaocao was keen on eating vegetables became a big headache for everyone else on the ship. It was harder to find fresh vegetables in winter than seafood, alright?
Fortunately, the child within Xiaocao’s womb wasn’t picky about what type of vegetable she ate (she insisted that it was the baby that was picky, so everyone could only hold their noses and assent). The relatively in-season spinach, Chinese chives, daikon, cabbage, and potatoes were all eaten by her with relish as long as they were cooked properly.
With the Jinwei Navy’s ships, which had the best ships in the Great Ming Dynasty, it ordinarily should have only taken them seven to eight days to arrive at Tanggu Harbor. However, it took them half a month for them to complete the journey despite the speed of the ships. There was nothing they could do. After all, in order to satisfy Yu Xiaocao’s incredibly hard to please palate, they needed to supply the ships with a vast variety of foodstuffs every time they went to shore. This was to avoid being out at sea and having nothing to satisfy the little ancestor that was Yu Xiaocao.
Just as the men were about to become exhausted from figuring out the food situation, the Tanggu Harbor could be seen in the distance. Zhu Junyang, Su Ran, and Zhao Han all let out a sigh of relief in their hearts.
Perhaps it was because the Jinwei Navy was known to be tough fighters with excellent warships on their side, their journey to the north had been very smooth other than the fact that they had to deal with a certain person’s changing appetites. When the warships reached shore, Liuzi got the news immediately and brought a few of his capable subordinates along to welcome them. He personally helped Xiaoaco and the others to transport their luggage to land.
Among the people there was Yu Heizi, who could be technically considered to be Xiaocao’s older paternal cousin. Ever since Madam Zhang had left to go to the prefectural city with her youngest son, her eldest son’s family, who had been ‘abandoned’, were left to their own devices. Madam Li was greedy and lazy, so she always tried to find ways to slack off at work. Yu Dashan, on the other hand, was slow and incompetent. Thus, the family now relied entirely on Yu Heizi to support them.
At the port, Brother Six had taken decent care of him because of his relationship with Xiaocao. In addition, because Heizi was willing to work hard and was also on the clever side, he had slowly moved up the ranks and became Brother Six’s right hand man. Thus, his monthly salary was considered quite good. He had bought a house close to the harbor and had gone through an intermediary to find a wife. Although she was only average in the looks department, she was a hardworking and capable partner to him.
As for his parents, they weren’t too old and were still rather healthy. Thus, he gave them five taels a month as a living allowance. Madam Li had originally wanted to move in with her son and daughter-in-law, hoping to take her son’s entire salary into her hands. Yu Heizi, on the other hand, wasn’t someone who took filial piety to the extreme. He knew just what type of personality his own mother had, so he gave her an ultimatum: she could either continue to make a fuss about this until they no longer were on speaking terms with each other and he would no longer deal with her, or she could quietly live in Dongshan Village and get the five taels a month from him as a sign of his filial piety.
Madam Li only had one son and was truly afraid that her son would break off all relations with her and refuse to support her. That being said, in Dongshan Village, there were many people who worked from dawn to dusk and weren’t able to make five taels a month. Thus, she finally agreed to his conditions.
With a capable wife handling the household, Yu Heizi was able to work without any worries at the harbor. Thus, his life was going rather well at this point. On this particular morning, Yu Heizi, who was now in control of many affairs at the port, had found out that the great imperial envoy’s ship was about to dock at Tanggu. Consequently, he immediately reported this to Brother Six.
After Yu Heizi saw the light and turned his life around, he had become pretty close to his second uncle’s entire family. On the major holidays, he would always bring a present along to pay them a visit. Thus, he naturally knew that his second uncle’s youngest daughter had become an official at the imperial court and even had a higher position than his second uncle. Then, she got married to Imperial Prince Xu and was appointed as an imperial envoy to complete her task at Jinling. The emperor had even personally sent the navy over to escort her back, which clearly showed just how much importance the emperor viewed her with.
When Brother Six got the news, he naturally wouldn’t dare to slight the imperial envoy. Even if the entire Tanggu area wasn’t the fiefdom of Imperial Prince Xu, just the fact that Princess Consort Xu had arrived meant that they couldn’t treat her poorly due to her status. Although she had been born in an ordinary family, she had the skills to make her an important official at court. That being said, the reason why he was able to do so well at the port and monopolize the freight transport business was because Princess Consort Xu had given him a few pointers all those years ago. She was coming back triumphantly, so he absolutely could not slight her. Furthermore, he could use this as an opportunity to show his face to the high and mighty Princess Consort Xu. There were only advantages to this and no disadvantages.
“Eh? Brother Six? Older Brother Heizi? Foreman Sun? How come you are all here?” When Xiaocao had disembarked from the ship like a pampered queen, with her husband on one side and Wutong on the other, she immediately felt a sense of intimacy seeing all of these familiar faces.
When Brother Six heard the way the princess consort had addressed him, cold sweat immediately appeared on his body. He immediately stated in a frightened manner, “Your Excellency...Your Highnesses, this lowly one, Liuzi, greets you all with respect!”
“This lowly one, Yu Heizi, greets Your Highnesses...”
“This lowly one, Sun Youwei…”
Zhu Junyang noticed that his wife was starting to pout unhappily and hurriedly addressed the kneeling group of people in front of them, “Alright ah, you’re all excused from kneeling!”
Afterwards, he asked his wife in an amicable manner, “Are you hungry? Should we first go to Zhenxiu Restaurant to have the noon meal and go back to the villa for the evening meal later?”
The Tanggu Harbor had been growing faster than the town itself in recent years. In terms of restaurants, it already had four to five big ones open. Naturally, Zhenxiu Restaurant was the one who beat them all in terms of taste, presentation, and atmosphere.
“Okay! We’ll eat Zhenxiu Restaurant’s roasted chicken and duck for lunch!” Although Jinling also had a branch of Zhenxiu Restaurant, it had altered the flavors of its roasted duck and chicken to suit the taste buds of the southerners. Consequently, when she was in Jinling, Xiaocao ate more braised duck in brown sauce and osmanthus duck. She only tried their roasted chicken and duck once before deciding to not eat it again. After being gone for more than half a year, she had really missed the tastes of northern style roasted duck and chicken!
Yu Xiaocao went forward a few steps before turning her head around to address the still respectful Liuzi and Yu Heizi, “Come along with us. I want to hear about what has happened at the harbor.”
The group walked on the streets to Zhenxiu Restaurant after disembarking from the ship. When she saw the vastly different harbor that was now bustling and glorious and compared it to her memories of the old docks that were simple and crude, Xiaocao couldn’t help but fall into contemplation.
At that time, in order to use the braised food recipes she brought over from her past life to supplement her family’s income, she procured the cheap ingredients, pig’s head meat and pig offal, and sold them at the docks at one copper coin a portion. The men who relied on the docks for a living had become her primary customers. During that time, she would call them using ‘older brother’ and ‘uncle’. If she still reverted back to her old ways of interacting with them, they would only become scared and frightened by her current status. They respected her now but were afraid of becoming too close. After her status in life had changed, it was inevitable that she would end up losing many things, including the warm feelings she had with her fellow citizens in the past.
Liuzi and Yu Heizi described all of the changes and events at the harbor in great detail with some anecdotal stories thrown in. Yu Xiaocao listened with great interest. Before she knew it, they had arrived at Zhenxiu Restaurant.
The current manager of Zhenxiu Restaurant was informed in advance about their arrival, so he waited deferentially for them outside the main entrance. Under the envious gazes of the other managers of the nearby restaurants, he respectfully greeted Imperial Prince Xu, Princess Consort Xu, and Chief Steward Su.
 Yuan Zi (袁梓) - The name that the little divine stone goes by is a homonym for 'Little Glutinous Dumpling' in Chinese.Previous Chapter Next Chapter