Chapter 139 - Prefectural City

Yu Xiaocao taught Zhenxiu Restaurant how to cook tomatoes in a few ways. By doing so, she had managed to attract many unexpected customers to the restaurant. The rarer something is, the greater its value. Naturally, the Yu Family’s tomatoes were sold at a very expensive price, almost at the level of some extremely rare fruits. The Yu Family’s small patch of tomatoes helped them earn quite a bit of wealth. 

Although it was now the regular season for produce to hit the market, the Yu Family’s vegetables excelled not only in taste but also in freshness compared to the other offerings. Consequently, even though the Yu Family’s produce was slightly more expensive than other people’s, the Yao Family and Zhenxiu Restaurant still solely bought from them.  

Of course, now that it was in season, the vegetables were much cheaper than they were at the start of spring. The days of selling vegetables at a price higher than pork were gone for now!

As the first rays of the morning sun illuminated the top of the West Mountain, the birds still in their nests started to chirp and sing. Yu Xiaocao crawled consciously out of bed to wash her face. Little Shitou huddled within the blankets and watched her enviously. 

 “If there’s anything you want, Older Sister will buy it for you in the prefectural city!” Yu Xiaocao told Little Shitou in a sisterly tone. 

Little Shitou thought for a bit and then shook his head, “There’s nothing I want, no need to spend money on snacks or toys. If there are any cheap stationery items, like brushes and paper, buy some of those for me. I feel like my calligraphy, compared to the other students in my dorm, is less elegant.”

“The students who share a room with you are either from scholarly or wealthy families. For the most part, they likely started learning and practicing at the age of three. How old were you when you got to hold a brush? It’s not shameful for you to be a little behind them!” Yu Xiaocao believed that having a competitive spirit wasn’t a bad thing but having an obsession with getting first place wasn’t good either. 

Little Shitou flipped over in the bed and remarked cheerfully, “I’m not comparing myself to other people. The teacher also said that having elegant handwriting will be very helpful for me when I take the exams in the future. I already started later than other people, so I really need to work hard to catch up vigorously. If stationary items are cheaper in the prefectural city compared to town, then please take this opportunity to get more so I have some spares in case! You don’t need to spend the family’s fund, I have more than enough pocket money to cover the cost!”

Ever since Little Shitou had gone into town to study, Xiaocao had never stopped giving him pocket money. Every week he received at least thirty to fifty copper coins as pocket money. However, the little fellow was thrifty and hated to spend it. Instead, he saved it up to buy brushes, ink, and paper. However, his second sister was too thoughtful and he was never short of those items. Thus, his little purse had over several hundred copper coins in it now. 

Yu Xiaocao walked over, pinched his small face, and grinned, “Keep the few coins you have in your purse and use it to buy some snacks! You don’t need to worry about getting stationary. After all, you have Second Sister ah! Your second sister has money now and, in the future, will have even more! Just focus on studying and you don’t need to think about the rest!”

After the osmanthus duck at Zhenxiu Restaurant became famous, the Yu Family had at least a thousand taels of income every year. Not only could they afford to send one child to school, but if they also wanted to send every child at home to school, it wouldn’t be too expensive for them. Being wealthy and prosperous was truly the way to live!

“Uncle Yu, where’s Xiaocao? Can we set out now?” The sound of Zhao Han’s voice reached both siblings’ ears.

Little Shitou gently laughed, “Second Sister, stop touching my face! Don’t make Brother Han get anxious from waiting too long!”

“I’m coming, I’m coming!” Xiaocao hurriedly grabbed her small cloth bundle that she had packed the day before and rushed quickly out of the room.

Madam Liu was in the middle of giving the dried rations to her husband when she saw Xiaocao still wearing the clothes she had on yesterday. She frowned, “Didn’t I make you a new set of clothing? Quickly change into it!”

“This set is pretty good ah! Don’t need to change…” Xiaocao looked at the clothing on her body. Although it was crafted from rough homespun, it didn’t have any dirt or patches on it. What’s the point in changing?

Yu Hai chuckled, “Your mother told you to change clothing, so you should go change! Wearing new clothing when you head out on a trip will give you good luck.” 

Yu Xiaocao wanted to argue more but she was pushed by her mother back into the room. Madam Liu took out a brand new, embroidered, cotton-lined coat and bottom from a chest made of rattan. The short jacket was pale blue in color with flowers embroidered at the collar and waist. It was paired with a deep blue pair of culottes that reached the ankles. Although it was technically a pair of culottes, it didn’t look any different from a regular skirt. However, it really did have pant legs, and this type of clothing would make it easier for a person to ride a horse or walk long distances. 

Although the clothes were made out of cotton cloth, the cloth was of better quality and weave. After washing and starching, it held its shape very well and made the wearer look quite stylish. This was the first time since she had transmigrated over that Yu Xiaocao was able to wear a set that was so formal. She turned a few times in front of Madam Liu, admiring herself. Her two hands went to frame her face as she beamed a smile, “Mother, am I pretty?”

“Alright, stop showing off your looks! Sit down, Mother will help you style your hair into two buns.” Madam Liu had deft and nimble hands. Before long, she finished styling Xiaocao’s hair and used a long band of ribbon to decorate, tying it into a large bow. 

With the waist of her short jacket emphasizing her slender and delicate waist, two hair buns, a tender and pale snow-white face, and a pair of large, limpid dark eyes, Xiaocao looked incredibly adorable. 

When Zhao Han, who was in the midst of harnessing up the little donkey with a horse saddle, saw the dressed up Yu Xiaocao, he almost didn’t recognize her. He looked closely at her for a bit before he joked, “Oh! Where did this beautiful girl from a humble family come from? Looks so cute and adorable!”

Yu Xiaocao opened her eyes wide and put both hands on her hips. She lightly said, “Brother Han, are you trying to flirt with me?”

Zhao Han’s face immediately turned bright red, and he couldn’t meet her gaze, “I...I was sincerely trying to compliment you!”

Madam Liu hit Xiaocao on the back and soothed Zhao Han, “Don’t pay any attention to this little girl. She likes to say weird things from time to time. I really don’t know what to do with her! Everyone should quickly head out now, otherwise you might not make it to the prefectural city before it gets dark!!”

Xiaocao’s back hurt quite a bit from the hit, so she pouted and muttered under her breath, “If you hadn’t told me to change clothes, then we would almost be at the town right now. I was only teasing Brother Han a little, but you hit me so hard. Am I really your biological daughter?”

“We picked you up from a sweet potato patch!” Madam Liu scolded huffily. After escorting her daughter and husband to the gate and helping her husband support Xiaocao onto Little Gray’s back, she repeatedly reminded them, “You two don’t have great equestrian skills. Ride a bit slower and be careful on the road!”  

The saddle on Little Gray’s back was the one that Zhao Han used when he was a kid, so it fit perfectly on the little donkey’s back. Fortunately, when Madam Liu was sewing the new clothes, Xiaocao had her change the skirt into culottes. This made it easy for her to sit astride on the saddle. The legs of the culottes were wide and spacious, so it looked like two sides of a skirt arranged around the saddle. The fabric swayed along with the donkey’s steps. 

At the beginning, Xiaocao felt a bit nervous riding on the donkey’s back. The father and son from the Zhao Family deliberately went at a slower pace to match the Yu Family’s comfort level. 

Gradually, Xiaocao got the hang of it and no longer sat stiffly in the saddle. The little donkey felt its master relax, and its steps became much more cheerful and at ease. 

After consuming lots of mystic-stone water, Little Gray’s intelligence was not any less than the two fine steeds from the Zhao Family. It didn’t need Xiaocao’s commands at all and had a fast and steady gait. It was even faster than Yu Hai’s steed, and ended up at the front of the group. 

Xiaocao didn’t feel like she was being jolted on this ride, even though they were still on the same rugged and craggy mountain roads. It was much more comfortable than sitting on the donkey cart. It sparked a thought for Xiaocao: ‘Next time I go into town, maybe I should just ride on the donkey?’

Before long, Yu Hai’s equestrian skills also improved, and the speed of the group gradually increased. The Zhao father and son pair were amazed that the Yu Family’s donkey, no matter what the speed or distance, was able to keep up with the three horses. 

Because the little donkey was more capable than they expected, the four of them arrived at the prefectural city two hours earlier than they had predicted.

The prefectural city was a city and thus was livelier and larger compared to Tanggu Town. Its streets were wide and smooth, with shops boarding both sides. The sun was slowly setting towards the horizon, and its lingering glow illuminated green tiled roofs, red colored walls, and the spaces between buildings. There was a three-story building crafted from red bricks with a green-tiled roof, a shop sign fluttering high in the wind, and the sounds of horse carriages surrounded them...all of this showed that the prefectural city was prosperous and flourishing. 

Yu Xiaocao held the reins of the little donkey as stood on the road, watching the stream of people around her bustling busily. There were some who were elegant, some who were fresh, some who were sincere, and some who were experienced. Her ears were filled with the sounds of peddlers bawling their wares punctuated by the occasional high-pitched neigh of a horse. It was the scene of a golden age, flourishing beyond her dreams...

Zhao Bufan had previously visited the prefectural city, so he was already used to the sight of all of the people. He softly consulted the Yu father and daughter pair for their opinions, “Brother Dahai, should we find a place to lodge first, or should we walk around first?” 

Yu Hai looked at his daughter and asked, “Cao’er, what do you want to do?” 

“How about we first find a place to stay first. We should feed Little Gray and the horses, and also freshen ourselves up. It won’t be too late to look around after doing that!” In any case, they were going to stay at the prefectural city for two nights, so they had all of tomorrow to walk around. They didn’t need to try to fit everything in tonight.

Zhao Han immediately expressed his approval, “Xiaocao, I know a night market in the area. It’s pretty exciting at night with a lot of snacks from different provinces and you can even find some good deals too. You will probably like it!”

“Okay, okay! We’ll go stroll around the night market tonight and eat some snacks!” In her previous life, Yu Xiaocao had started working to support her family when she was fifteen to sixteen years of age. She was always busy and had very little time to do things like walk around a night market and taste snacks. In this life, she still needed to make money; however, she could also take the time to have some fun and enjoy the scenes of life.  

The group of four found a clean inn to live in that was near the night market that Zhao Han had mentioned. The prefectural city was considered a large city, so the expenses there were naturally higher. Although this small inn was located at a relatively remote area, it cost a hundred and fifty copper coins a night. In total, for four people, it came out to six hundred copper coins a night, which didn’t include food and drink expenses. For two nights, more than a tael would be spent! 

Yu Xiaocao first went to the back courtyard and made sure to take good care of Little Gray and the three horses. On the way to the city, in order to conserve the animals’ strength, Xiaocao had fed them almost all of the mystic-stone water that was kept in her personal water pouch. 

The inn provided fodder for the animals. The three horses had a decent appetite. They had only had some water during the whole journey, so they had long been hungry.   When the fodder came out, all of them ate it with delight. However, the little donkey had been raised by Xiaocao, so it was much pickier. It impatiently stomped its hooves and disdained the provided fodder as below its status. 

This little inn was run by a family. The person in charge of feeding the animals was a young girl about the same age as Xiaocao. When she noticed that the gray donkey didn’t want to eat, she asked Xiaocao, “Is this donkey not feeling well? How come it doesn’t want to eat food ah?”

Yu Xiaocao smiled, “My family’s Little Gray has been spoiled rotten by me. It doesn’t like eating food that’s given to it by outsiders. Little sister, give the fodder to me, I’ll feed my donkey.”

The little girl also had to go into the kitchen to light the fire. When she heard what Xiaocao said, she placed the fodder from her basket into Xiaocao’s hands and said, “Then I’ll have to inconvenience you, guest!” 

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Myst's Thoughts

double buns hair and something similar to what Xiaocao is wearing

Sanguine’s Thoughts: Xiaocao’s first trip to the prefectural city! What do you guys think she’ll do?

Translator: Sanguine