When the group of people arrived at Dongshan Village, the fiery sun was gradually approaching the West Mountain, which wreathed the top of the mountain in a glittering, golden halo. The vast majority of villagers had just finished eating dinner, and many elderly men and women were congregated under the old elm tree at the mouth of the village. Some were playing chess while others were chatting genially.
Among them was a fat and plump woman, who was garrulously talking to other people while drops of spittle emitted from her mouth. This person was Xiaocao’s eldest paternal aunt, Li Guihua. She had a bunch of roasted melon seeds in her pocket, and her lips flapped swiftly as the husks from the melon seeds flew away. Her beady eyes, which resembled a thief’s, furiously roved around. No one knew who she was planning to slander next.
Next to her was Madam Xiong, who used an elbow to poke at her. She pouted towards the entrance of the village and said, “Guihua, look over there! Isn’t that your younger brother-in-law and his precious little daughter? I heard that the day before yesterday they went with Hunter Zhao and his son to the prefectural city! Tsk tsk, I’ve been living for a long time and I’ve never been to the prefectural city. Your younger brother-in-law takes that silly girl Xiaocao as a treasure, ah, and takes her around everywhere!”
“Psh, what kind of treasure are you talking about?! In the end, isn’t she just something you’ll lose money on?” Ever since Li Guihua went on her latest, fruitless trip to the old Yu residence and was rewarded with nightmares for several nights, she never had the guts to go there again to cause trouble. She even spread rumors that the old residence had demons haunting it and that Yu Hai’s family was so and so...however, most of the villagers knew her personality, and very few of them took her blabberings seriously.
Madam Xiong’s eyes flickered, and she laughed until the fleshy parts of her body trembled. She then said, “Do you think your younger brother-in-law is trying to marry one of his children to the Zhao Family because he thinks their circumstances are good? Tsk tsk, even if he wants to, he shouldn’t pick that chit Xiaocao ah. She’s a sickly one and no one knows when she’ll have her next spell!”
“Who knows! Second Brother-in-law is a sworn brother with Hunter Zhao. Maybe they had something to do in the prefectural city and Xiaocao begged them to go along. Second Brother-in-law definitely wouldn’t be able to refuse her, especially since he loves to spoil her! As for thinking about marriage, whether or not they could get an agreement is not certain!” Madam Li continued to crack the melon seeds in her mouth noisily and was oblivious to the fact that there were many elders around her. She didn’t have any manners and was preoccupied with eating her snacks selfishly.
Madam Xiong curled her lip and sniggered nastily, “Your younger brother-in-law is playing a good game. That Zhao Family has to be one of the richest families in our village. Last time your younger brother-in-law managed to kill a bear in the mountains. I heard, ah, that they sold it for three hundred taels. Your younger brother-in-law had such a serious injury, and he has a very good relationship with Hunter Zhao. He must have gotten a big portion of the money!”
When Madam Li heard that the bear was sold for that much money and that her second brother-in-law probably got a slice of that pie, her expression immediately changed. She repeatedly said, “I’ll say ah! Second Brother-in-law split from the family with a lame lag and there’s no one in his family who can do proper work. Yet they’re becoming more and more prosperous with every passing day! Now I know that he collected quite a lot of money behind Mother and Father’s back! No wonder he could fix the house, re-fence the courtyards, and even buy so much cloth to make new clothes...That’s not okay, I need to tell Mother! When Hunter Zhao sold the bear, we hadn’t split the family then! They need to compensate a bit ah!”
Madam Li stuffed all of the melon seeds that she had into Madam Xiong’s hands and impatiently headed home. However, she had just mentioned the money from the bear when Madam Zhang’s face twisted and the older woman started hollering at her. In addition, she even got a lot of work assigned to her. There was absolutely no way she could find the time to sneak out to laze about for the next several days!
At this moment, at the entrance of the village, the villagers all saw Hunter Zhao and Yu Hai with a few large men wearing silks and satins that had a soldierly air about them. The villagers whispered quietly among themselves. All of the items that Yu Xiaocao bought were hanging on Zhao Han’s and Fang Zizhen’s assistant’s horses. On one hand, it was because the donkey was too small and couldn’t carry all of it. On the other hand, she was afraid that people would become envious of her due to all of the stuff she bought.
Fang Zizhen was in a rush to see his respected teacher, who he hadn’t seen for over thirty years. He directly followed behind Zhao Bufan to go to the Zhao Residence. Zhao Han was behind, bringing along Li Li and the other subordinate, and went to Xiaocao’s home to deliver her things.
When Madam Liu found out that the Zhao Family was welcoming guests, she warmly picked a little bit of each type of vegetable growing in the fields and gave them to Zhao Han to bring back home. Although Zhao Han’s family also had some areas to plant vegetables in, no one in his family knew how to farm, so they never had a great yield from their garden. Furthermore, none of their vegetables were as vivid and lush as the Yu Family’s produce.
Ever since Yu Hai’s branch split from the main family, they became even closer to the Zhao Family. Every few days or so, Zhao Han would deliver some game to them and even help them harvest vegetables. He also never slacked off when he helped them. Thus, from time to time, the Yu Family would also send some of their vegetables over.
After the members of the Zhao Family ate the Yu Family’s vegetables, they disliked their own green vegetables even more. Even the old man, Zhao Zimo, complimented the Yu Family’s vegetables many times. The vegetables they grew were lush and extremely tasty. It was easy to eat a couple extra bowls of rice when you had their vegetables to eat! He felt like his own body was getting stronger and stronger with every passing day. Even his old internal injuries, left by his previous military campaigns, seemed to have gotten better by a lot!
Zhao Han took the vegetables without any quibbles and even gave the bright red tomatoes to Li Li and the other guy. Li Li had gone with the general to visit other residences in the capital and had seen tomatoes before. However, all of those people kept the tomatoes in pots and used them as decorative plants only.
Li Li only found out that tomatoes could be eaten like a fruit after he had a taste of the sweet and sour tomato! That night, he also got to eat tomatoes used like a vegetable in cooked dishes. He suddenly realized then——tomatoes actually weren’t considered a fruit but a vegetable! 
After they saw Zhao Han and the other two people off, Madam Liu started to put away the things Xiaocao bought while inquiring Yu Hai and her daughter about what they ate in the prefectural city, their living conditions, etc. As for Xiaocao’s extravagant spending, Madam Liu had already gotten used to it. Luckily, Xiaocao was also very good at making money, so Madam Liu didn’t bother saying anything anymore.
Xiaocao had bought Madam Liu a bolt of simple yet elegant cotton cloth. Madam Liu liked it so much that she almost couldn’t bear to use it. However, Xiaolian and Xiaocao pestered her to try it, so she wrapped it around her body to take a look. Surely enough, the cloth suited her completely as it really showed off her gentle and sweet-tempered nature. Even Yu Hai repeatedly praised Xiaocao for having a good eye!
Xiaocao then took out the jewelry she had carried under her clothes. She first took out the pair of lilac earrings for Xiaolian and helped her put them on. The delicately fine earrings made Xiaolian’s glowing and rosy cheeks seem even more pretty.
Madam Liu smiled on the side, “Xiaocao, this set of earrings you chose are not bad. All girls should have a few things of jewelry. In the past, our family had difficulties, but in the future, we should prepare a few more sets for you two sisters!”
Which young maiden didn’t like shiny and glittery jewelry? Xiaolian absolutely loved that pair of earrings and hairpin studded with pearls. She wore the hairpin in her hair and couldn’t bear to take it off. Yu Hai and his wife gently laughed as they watched their daughter admire herself. They thought it was simultaneously a bit funny as well as a bit heart wrenching.
“Mother, I bought this for you. Quickly try it on and see if it suits you!” Xiaocao took out the silver bracelet and hairpin out. She presented them as if they were the finest treasures in the world.
Madam Liu let her daughter place the bracelet over her hands as she commented, “What’s the point in spending this money? Mother usually has a lot of work to do, so wearing a bracelet would only get in the way, right?” Although she said those words, she still felt warm inside her heart. Daughters were truly intimate with their mothers.
When she saw the silver hairpin shaped like a magnolia, her eyes suddenly became wet and hot, and her mouth trembled. When she got married, her two older brothers had also recently married too, so the family was not well off then. The magnolia silver hairpin in her dowry was also her mother’s dowry. Usually, her mother couldn’t bear to wear it. Although her mother had it for more than a couple of decades, it still looked new.
However, when Xiaocao was five, she had been very ill. Madam Zhang used the excuse that the family didn’t have much money at home after paying for her third son’s schooling fees and refused to give them money to have Xiaocao see the doctor. Helpless, she could only use that silver hairpin from her dowry to pay for her daughter’s doctor visit and medicine. Every time she thought of that silver hairpin, she felt a bit wistful but never regretful. A silver hairpin was only an object, no matter how expensive it was, it could never be as precious as her daughter’s life!
Now a new magnolia silver hairpin had appeared in front of her. In fact, it was her sensible daughter who bought it for her. The hole in her heart had apparently been crammed full. With a daughter like this, what more could she ask for? She once again rejoiced that she had used her hairpin to save her daughter’s life!
Xiaocao saw her mother hold back tears in her eyes as she looked at the hairpin in her hands. Her mother was lost in her thoughts, so she quietly interrupted her, “Mother! I missed you these past few days while I was in the prefectural city! Was everything okay at home? Did anyone from over there come over and make things difficult for you?”
Madam Liu carefully stored the silver hairpin and lightly blinked away the tears in her eyes. She smiled sweetly and said, “You have such a sweet little mouth, as if you have honey smeared all over it! Everything at home was fine...that’s right, Third Young Master Zhou sent Xiaoduo over today with the watermelon seeds. How should we plant them? We can’t delay farming season!!”
“We won’t! Watermelons like warm weather, so if we wait a few days it won’t cause any trouble! We should start up the kang bed in the west room. Watermelon seeds need to be soaked to promote germination. It’s still a bit cold in the mornings and evenings here, so we need the kang to be going to keep the temperature warm.” Yu Xiaocao had a good idea on how to grow watermelon. In her previous life, before her parents passed away, they had also grown two mu full of watermelon. At the time, she was in middle school, so she was already doing a lot of work around the family farm.
The whole family sat on the kang bed and was putting all of the things they bought away. Madam Liu came off the bed to make dinner. The Yu Family had already gotten used to eating three meals a day, so their last meal of the day was usually a bit later than the other villagers’. Yu Hai and his daughter had gnawed on some dried rations during noon. Madam Liu felt bad for them, so she especially made a couple more dishes for dinner.
Right after they finished their meal, they heard someone knocking on their gate. Xiaolian bolted out to open the door and welcomed in Madam Mao, who was holding a basket full of duck eggs.
Madam Mao entered the main room with her face wreathed with smiles. She sat cross-legged on the kang bed and pushed the basket full of duck eggs towards Madam Liu and said, “I’m here to thank your daughter Xiaocao! Today, Zhenxiu Restaurant’s Little Brother Qian came by and reserved fifty ducks from us for tomorrow. If it wasn’t for their relationship with your family, then they would not have bought so many ducks from us and also not need us to slaughter and clean them. You guys wouldn’t know this, but before, whenever someone ordered a duck from us, we always needed to slaughter and clean them. Duck feathers are very hard to pluck, so how long would it take us to pluck fifty ducks?”
Madam Liu was an honest person, so she spoke truthfully, “We cannot claim credit for this! Today Xiaoduo was helping us in the back courtyard and saw your son, Wuzi, herding the ducks through our bamboo fence. He said that your family did a good job raising the ducks and wanted to know who you were. I merely said a few words about your family, that’s all. I absolutely can’t take this gift from you.”
“If it wasn’t for your daughter Xiaocao’s talents, how could Zhenxiu Restaurant need so many ducks? If it wasn’t for Little Brother Qian coming by to buy produce from you, how could they find out that my family raised ducks? In the end, we are the ones taking advantage of you! It’s only a few duck eggs, that’s all. No need to be so courteous!” Madam Mao pulled on Madam Liu’s hand a couple of times and was extremely warm to her.
 Tomato - technically, in botanical terms, tomatoes are fruits...but we use them more in vegetable like applications.Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Sanguine’s Thoughts: Hahaha, I didn’t realize that Madam Li didn’t know about the ‘windfall’ from Yu Hai’s injury before. Still so shameless… Also, I like that the people around Xiaocao also benefit from her abilities! Everyone’s winning!