Yu Xiaocao waited until the young girl walked far away. Only then did she sprinkle the remaining water from her water pouch onto the fodder. She placed the improved fodder into the feed trough in front of Little Gray. The little donkey licked her hand and then cheerfully started eating. The other three horses apparently could tell that the fodder in front of Little Gray was different and stretched out their necks. If they didn’t have their lead ropes pulling them back, they would have long started fighting over the food with Little Gray.
Xiaocao shook her water pouch, showing that it was completely empty. She stroked Third Young Master Zhou’s little red horse and softly said, “Just accept these less than ideal circumstances for tonight, I’ll make sure to give you guys something good to eat tomorrow!”
Little Gray somehow knew that its own food was being eyed with jealousy by the other three horses, so it rapidly inhaled all of the fodder until the trough was swept clean. Satisfied, it opened its mouth and nickered a few times. The other three horses had nothing to fight for so they had no choice but to eat what was left in their own food bins.
Zhao Han had finished moving their items into the room and came over. He noticed Xiaocao in the back courtyard and asked, “Xiaocao, do you want to rest a bit?”
“I’m not tired, let’s stroll around the vicinity!” Although riding a donkey for a long distance was hard and tiring, Xiaocao had her cheat item: mystic-stone water. Just drinking a mouthful was enough to energize her and eliminate fatigue.
The small inn was in a location where the commoners of the prefectural city lived. Nearby, there were shops that sold small goods that were almost the same price as the same goods in Tanggu Town. However, they had varieties of cloth material and designs of jewelry that could not be found in the smaller town.
At one of the shops in the vicinity, Xiaocao immediately noticed a thin cotton cloth that caught her eye. It was dyed with an elegant pattern that reminded one of tree branches. If Madam Liu had a piece of clothing made from this cloth, she would definitely look very stylish. The cloth sold in Tanggu Town were either dyed a simple color or over-the-top with bright colors and patterns that could seem garish on some people. She needed to buy more of this type of simple yet elegant material to bring back home.
Xiaocao was never extremely frugal with her own spending. In addition, the price for the cloth was not expensive, as it was about the same as those found in Tanggu Town. But, there was more variety. She asked the shopkeeper to cut her ten feet of each cloth that she liked. Behind her, Zhao Han soon found his hands full of cloth bundles.
Not far from them, there was a small silverware store. Xiaocao remembered that when her mother was doing her hair she had lamented that they didn’t have any hair ornaments. They could only use leftover scraps from sewing clothes to tie a bow onto her hair.
All girls loved to dress up, so Xiaocao stepped into the silverware store without any hesitation. Inside the store, there was a twelve to thirteen year old girl at the counter. Although she was average looking, she had a business-like demeanor.
When she saw a customer step in, the girl didn’t judge the person by the way she looked and still warmly greeted her, “Little sister, do you want some jewelry? Where are your parents?”
This was the first time that Yu Xiaocao had entered into a silverware store. Her eyes looked avidly around and were caught by the glittering and shining pieces of jewelry in the store. With her family’s current financial situation, buying gold ornaments would be a bit too ostentatious and inconsistent with Xiaocao’s desire to stay under the radar. She still needed time to implement more money-making schemes.
She smiled at the shopkeeper girl and went to the display counter that had silver ornaments. The display had a layer of dark colored cloth at the bottom, which made the silver jewelry inside seem more bright and shiny.
At this point, the shopkeeper girl saw Zhao Han, who had just entered the store. Although Zhao Han was only around twelve to thirteen years of age, he had a sturdy and tall body from practicing martial arts all year round. In the young girl’s eyes, Zhao Han had become Xiaocao’s older brother who was taking his younger sister around shopping.
The two of them were only wearing clothes made of the most ordinary type of cotton cloth, but the workmanship was very fine, especially the set on Xiaocao. It emphasized Xiaocao’s fine and slim figure, making her look like a slender and elegant flower. She really had the air of a beautiful girl born from a humble family.
The girl attentively recommended Xiaocao some pieces of jewelry in the case, “Little sister, this is a pair of earrings shaped like lilacs. The design is quite lively and really suits girls around your age. Do you want to try…”
She picked up the pair of silver lilac earrings and gestured towards Xiaocao’s ears. Only then did she notice that the little girl’s ears had not been pierced yet, so she smiled apologetically at Xiaocao. She placed the silver earrings down and picked up a set of jewelry decorated with pearls.
Xiaocao noticed that the pair of lilac earrings had fine workmanship. The tiny lilac flowers seemed vivid and lifelike and glimmered gently in the last rays of the setting sun. Because she had a weak constitution since she was young, Madam Liu wasn’t willing to pierce her ears. However, Xiaolian had pierced ears. This pair of lilac earrings really fit Xiaocao’s tastes, and she asked the girl about the price. They were only twenty copper coins, so she immediately bought them.
Following that, she picked out a pair of twining silver bracelets for Madam Liu as well as a Yulan magnolia  hairpin made of silver. She had heard Xiaolian mention that their mother had originally had a Yulan magnolia hairpin just like this one that was brought over as her dowry. However, when Xiaocao had fallen ill as a child, they had sold it to get the money to pay for her medicine. This silver hairpin should help soothe Madam Liu’s previous regrets!
Naturally, Xiaocao didn’t forget to buy things for herself and picked up a pair of pearl and coral bracelets. She also chose a similar style for Xiaolian, just with different colored pearls. Finally, she also bought a few headbands that were embroidered with gold thread. She wanted to gift these to the sisters of the Zhou Family as well as Qian Wu’s younger sister.
Picking out items here and there had unexpectedly racked up a bill of six taels. The young shopkeeper girl was a bit worried that this pair of ‘siblings’ didn’t bring enough money with them. After all, the clothes they were wearing were not the type that the children from rich families would wear. What sort of ordinary family would give their children five to six taels of money for buying jewelry? Even in the prefectural city, an ordinary family’s dowry for their daughter would not exceed ten taels worth of jewelry.
The young girl felt somewhat anxious but kept a smile on her face, “Altogether, it comes out to six taels and two hundred copper coins. My shop’s jewelry is all self-made, so I’ll just waive the small change. Just give me six taels in total!”
Six taels total? This is absolutely not expensive! The pair of bracelets and silver hairpin had to weigh almost two ounces total. If the shop also had to pay for a silversmith to shape these items, then the shop really wouldn’t have much profit. Fortunately, this shop made all of its own items, so it saved a bit on the wages for the smith.
Xiaocao took out her embroidered money pouch and fished out an ingot of silver worth around ten taels. She then took the smaller pieces of change and stuffed them into the pouch. Xiaolian had actually embroidered this pouch, so it had a unique sunflower design on the outside.
The shopkeeper girl was interested in the design on the pouch. After getting Xiaocao’s permission, she sketched the pattern out. The girl was the daughter of an old silversmith and had a lot of talent in creating and making silver jewelry. The jewelry she made were not only delicately pretty but also had a lot of liveliness.
The sunflower embroidered on this tiny pouch inspired her limitlessly. Not long in the future, sunflower inspired jewelry would become very popular for a period of time in the prefectural city. This tiny silver crafts shop also gradually became more famous. Thus, the jewelry that this little girl made would also become more liked by masses...
The sky had already become dark. After they left the jewelry store, Xiaocao felt bad having Zhao Han carrying all of these packages around while accompanying her to the night market. So, they went back to the inn and put the newly bought items away. Yu Hai was afraid that it wasn’t safe for the two children to wander around at night, so he also came out with them.
The night market that Zhao Han recommended was really quite lively. It was brightly lit and multitudes of people swarmed around. Shops and stalls lined both sides of the street and each booth had two lanterns hanging on the awning. Occasionally, the flame within the lanterns would flicker a bit and made the lighting in the area take on a dream-like splendor.
The night market not only had people selling all sorts of trinkets and gadgets, but also many stalls of snacks that ranged from the northern to southern provinces. There were sticky rice cakes, wontons, stuffed glutinous rice balls, flaky pastries, rice noodles...the three of them ate snacks down the whole street until all of their bellies were about to burst. All three of them exclaimed and rubbed their tummies in discomfort.
Only when the night market was about to close did Xiaocao reluctantly leave. She commented wistfully, “Although the food here has an authentic flavor, I believe I could make food that is a hundred times tastier if I lived nearby.”
“Eh? What sort of ideas do you have? Tell us. If it’s feasible, we can also sell them at the docks!” Zhao Han had also tried Xiaocao’s food and believed in her culinary talents completely.
Xiaocao smiled somewhat reminiscently, “I want to create skewer hotpot. Anything can be put on bamboo skewers, such as meat, vegetables, eggs, seafood...I also want to simmer a pot of spicy and savory soup to go with it...that being said, I’m starting to feel hungry again!” Yu Hai looked at his daughter, who seemed to have stars whirling around in her eyes, gently patted her head, and chuckled, “There are already people at the docks measuring up the area. Before long, they will start doing construction. Third Young Master had said that in the future the docks will become the largest port in the north. There will absolutely be much more people there than before. In the future, we can have a shop there selling braised food as well as the skewers in soup that you were talking about!”
“How about...you first make some, and I can help you try them. If they are truly as delicious as you say, you absolutely can make money off of them!” Zhao Han felt the gluttonous monster inside him rear its head when he heard Xiaocao’s descriptions. Who knew how long it would take for the port to finish construction, so didn’t that mean he had to wait an unknown period of time to satisfy his cravings for skewer hotpot? The best scenario would be for Xiaocao to first make some, so he could eat to his heart’s content.
“Not a problem! Tomorrow, let’s buy some spices and seasonings in the city. When we get back home, I’ll make some for you to try!” The materials to make food skewers could be found anywhere. For example: Chinese cabbage, green vegetables, romaine lettuce, tofu, mushrooms and other such vegetables were quite cheap. As long as one simmered a tasty soup, you could boil whatever you wanted in it. What a treat!
The three people started to walk back towards the inn as they continued to discuss skewers simmered in soup. Suddenly, someone blocked their way. This person had a tall and imposing figure, which showed that he had done martial arts since he was young. He stared at Zhao Han for a good while before he asked somewhat emotionally, “Excuse me, younger brother, are you surnamed Zhao?”
Zhao Han stopped smiling and pursed his brows. He replied cautiously, “You, do you recognize me?”
“No, no! Little brother, you look very similar to my teacher, and my respected teacher’s surname was Zhao…” When the large man didn’t hear him refute, he became even more excited. His fierce looking eyes started to hold back tears.
Zhao Han actually didn’t look much like his father and took after his grandfather instead. The Zhao Family all seemed to have a natural talent for martial arts. Even though Zhao Han was only a preteen, a group of five to six ordinary men wouldn’t be his opponent.
Zhao Han carefully sized up the large man in front of him and apparently made a decision. He stowed away his suspicious nature and asked in a low voice, “Excuse me, but are you surnamed ‘Fang’? The ‘Fang’ from the word for house?”
“Yes, yes! I am your martial uncle, Fang Zizhen ah! Ah, esteemed teacher...is your grandfather’s health still okay? Where have you all been living in hiding, I’ve been looking for you all for over twenty years…” The large man couldn’t restrain himself and clasped Zhao Han’s shoulder. A smile that almost split his face open blossomed wide. Zhao Han naturally knew of Fang Zizhen. His grandfather had adopted an orphan and treated him like a son, teaching him everything he knew. He was taught the Zhao Family’s familial martial arts. It was said that before Fang Zizhen went missing, his martial arts abilities were on par with his grandfather’s. If there wasn’t that bitter and desperate battle, it was likely that Martial Uncle Fang would even exceed his grandfather’s abilities.
 Yulan magnolia - flowering tree that was regarded as a symbol of purity in the Tang Dynasty. Currently the official city flower of Shanghai.Previous Chapter Next Chapter