At the small market at the docks, there was only one simple shop selling medicinal herbs. There were very few kinds of herbs in the shop, and the quality of the herbs were not very good. Of course, the price was also quite cheap. Fortunately, huangdan powder wasn’t a rare medicinal herb. Yu Xiaocao bought twenty copper coins worth of huangdan powder at the pharmacy that seemed like it would be blown down by a gust of wind. After that, she also bought some soda ash at a nearby general store.
After thinking about it, Yu Xiaocao asked Fang Zizhen, who had been following her and asking all sorts of questions, “Uncle Fang, do you have any black tea? It doesn’t have to be really good quality; average quality will do!”
Fang Zizhen creased his brows and thought about it. Then he shook his head and replied, “I’m a rough man, so I don’t know anything about tea. Isn’t drinking wine more pleasurable than drinking tea?”
Yu Xiaocao hung her head in slight disappointment. She had thought that she could save some money since the price of tea wasn’t low after all!
Seeing her look like a frozen eggplant that had withered, Fang Zizhen felt slightly bad and said, “I’ll help ask Little Zhang for you later. That fellow seems like someone who likes to pose as a culture lover. If he doesn’t have it, he will still be able to find it for you. Xiaocao, do you like to drink black tea? Next time, if the emperor rewards me with tea, I definitely won’t reject it!”
Yu Xiaocao was amused by him. She chuckled and said, “The black tea isn’t for me to drink. I need to use it to make century eggs. With black tea, the century eggs will taste even better!”
“It’s used to make century eggs? Okay, okay! Uncle will definitely get it for you!! Ah-li, go ask Little Zhang if he can get some black tea? The sooner, the better!!” Fang Zizhen seemed even more anxious than Xiaocao. After giving his order, he asked Xiaocao, “How long does it take to make century eggs? Will I be able to eat it tonight?”
Yu Xiaocao looked at him with a radiant smile, slowly shook her head, and said, “Uncle Fang, you should forget about eating century eggs tonight. It takes at least twenty days or so to complete the entire process of making century eggs. If the weather is cold, I’m afraid that it might take even longer!”
Fang Zizhen looked disappointed and sighed softly, “It takes more than twenty days ah! It’s alright. I, your uncle, am in charge of supervising the progress of the harbor construction, so I probably won’t leave within the next two or three years! There are plenty of opportunities in the future! Did you get all the ingredients? Go, let’s go back to Dongshan Village!”
“Uncle Fang, aren’t you here to supervise the progress of the construction? What time is it right now? Aren’t you leaving too early?” Yu Xiaocao was in a good mood after buying all the ingredients, and joked with Fang Zizhen.
Fang Zizhen chortled and said, “I’m not the supervisor, who needs to sit at the docks every day. Moreover, isn’t there Li Li and Wu Yun? The disciples will handle all the work! Those two brats aren’t my disciples, but I watched them grow up. They should be able to handle doing some trivial matters for me!”
With Fang Zizhen riding on a tall and big horse and Yu Xiaocao driving the little donkey cart, they traveled slowly and leisurely on the road back to the village. Fang Zizhen was a complete chatterbox, who had one question after another, and thus they weren’t lonely on the way back.
When they returned to Dongshan Village, Fang Zizhen didn’t rush back to his master’s house, but instead, followed Xiaocao and her sister back to the Yu Family’s old residence first.
Under the old elm tree, as if she was afraid that others would hear her, Madam Xiong moved closer and whispered into Madam Li’s ears, “Guihua, your second brother-in-law is seriously amazing! First, he fawned over the third young master of the Zhou Family and became the sole vegetables supplier for Zhenxiu Restaurant. This time he’s currying favor with some government official! Based on the color and pattern of his official’s gown, he’s probably not some low-ranking official. I wonder who has the higher rank between him and the county magistrate?!”
The county magistrate was the highest-ranking official that Madam Xiong had seen! If the short-sighted her found out that Fang Zizhen’s title of Zhaoyong General was several levels higher than the county magistrate’s rank, then she probably wouldn’t even dare to speak!
Li Guihua smirked and spat a thick phlegm on the ground and said, “I didn’t notice in the past, but this second brother-in-law is really a money-grubber. What’s that saying again? Separate… separate…something…pay…something…”
“Isn’t it ‘curry favor with those in power’?” Madam Xiong inwardly ridiculed Li Guihua for being uncultured.
“Yes! That’s the phrase!! What abilities does that second brother-in-law of mine have? He’s not even worthy of holding other people’s shoes! How did he even manage to get in their favor?! Just watch! Do you think that it’s really that easy cling onto an official? He will probably get annoyed one day and chop all their heads off!” Madam Li said sourly.
Madam Xiong suddenly thought of something and said, “Guihua, didn’t you say that your family’s Heizi is filial and wanted to go to the docks to earn some money for you to spend. Didn’t Xiaocao just return from the docks. Why don’t you go ask about it?”
“Ask them? What will they know?? Have you not seen my son’s figure before? He’s full of strength, so there’s no way he can’t find a job. I heard that the dockworkers earn quite a lot now. They can earn dozens of copper coins every day with a problem!” Madam Li beamed with joy and had a smug expression on her face.
Madam Xiong’s mouth twitched and thought, ‘Your son’s figure? With a body of fat, he pants like a cow after walking a few steps. What would he be able to do?’
While the two spoke ill of others in a seemingly compatible manner, Xiaocao and the others had already arrived home. Yu Hai was stunned by the official’s robe on Fang Zizhen and didn’t recognize him for a moment. He murmured in his heart, ‘Why did they bring an official here?’
Fang Zizhen greeted him first, “Younger Brother Yu, what’s wrong? You don’t recognize this older brother just after a night? It’s me, Bufan’s older martial brother!”
Yu Hai looked like he had a sudden realization, “So it’s General Fang! Quick, come inside the house to sit!!”
“No need, I want to see how century eggs are made!” Fang Zizhen stood in the courtyard and saw all kinds of vegetables growing vigorously in the yard. The yard was clean and tidy, and all the items were arranged in an orderly way. He inwardly nodded his head.
“Century eggs? Oh, that’s a novel food our family’s Xiaocao is preparing to make. I wonder what the finished product will be like!” Yu Hai looked at his younger daughter with a hint of a smile in his eyes, and his heart was full of pride.
Yu Hang brought out a stool from inside the house and placed it beside General Fang. He said softly and politely, “General Fang, please sit!”
“Is this your eldest son? Sure enough, he’s a fine-looking boy! Younger Brother Yu, I really envy you for having these wonderful children!” Fang Zizhen patted Yu Hang’s shoulder, and then lifted his official’s robe and sat down. His tone was filled with sorrow.
Yu Hai laughed and said, “General Fang, you’re flattering me! With a father like you, the general, your children will surely have good prospects…”
“Father…” Yu Xiaocao blinked at her father. Based on what she heard from Wu Yun and General Fang’s conversations, she had learned that General Fang didn’t have any children. So she was afraid that her father would poke at his sore spot.
Fang Zizhen was even more satisfied with this clever little girl. He waved his hand and said, “There’s nothing that can’t be said. I fought in wars when I was young and ended up with an unmentionable disease. I’m afraid that it will be very difficult for me to have any children in this lifetime. Brother Yu, to tell you the truth, I really like your younger daughter. I want to become nominal relatives with you and adopt Xiaocao as my daughter. Would Brother Yu be willing to agree?”
Although the kind Yu Hai didn’t really want to share his daughter with someone else, he pitied Fang Zizhen for being childless. Moreover, the other party solemnly declared that he wasn’t trying to take his daughter away from him. He hesitated for a long time, but still ended up agreeing. Hence, Yu Xiaocao now had a third-ranked general as her godfather.
After Yu Xiaocao solemnly served him tea and acknowledged him as her godfather, she began her attempt to make century eggs. Fang Zizhen watched with interest beside her.
Yu Xiaocao first mixed salt, white lime, loess, and plant ash into a mud-like matter. Then, she added an appropriate amount of black tea and huangdan powder into the mud-like matter. After that, she wrapped the fresh duck eggs with the mud-like matter and covered each of them evenly in battered straw and rice husk. After she wrapped each of them securely with an oiled paper, she placed all of them on top of the warm kang bed. As it turned out, for the watermelon breeding, they had also heated up the kang bed in the west room, which was unoccupied. In the warm environment, the production time of the century eggs would be shortened.
There was extra of the mud-like matter leftover, so Xiaocao got several chicken eggs from the kitchen. Century eggs made with chicken eggs were bright and transparent, like a fine yellow jade. It tasted cool and refreshing, and it was fragrant but not greasy. In her past life, Xiaocao really liked eating the ones with a sweet filling, which had an even softer and smoother mouthfeel.
“That’s it?” Fang Zizhen, who had also followed Xiaocao and personally made several century eggs, didn’t think that it was very difficult.
“That’s right! It’s just that easy. It should be ready to eat in twenty or so days!” Xiaocao nodded. After she said that, she stood up and went to help prepare lunch in the kitchen. With this great lord here, they definitely couldn’t just casually make two dishes.
Fang Zizhen also realized that his visit was too abrupt and felt rather embarrassed. So he stood up and said, “Don’t prepare my meal. This morning, I told my master that I will return for lunch! Brother Yu, I will come have a good drink with you in the evening!”
Yu Hai graciously urged him to stay, “General Fang, it’s already noon. How can we just let you leave without eating? Everything at home is ready-made, so it all very easy to make…”
Fang Zizhen interjected, “Brother Yu, why are you still calling me ‘General Fang’? You’re treating me like an outsider. I’m several years older than you, so you can just call me ‘Older Brother Fang’!”
Yu Hai rubbed his hands and chuckled, “Fang… Older Brother Fang…”
“Alright! I can’t let my master wait, or else I will be punished to stand on a stake! Tonight, I’ll come over with Xiaofan. The three of us needs to have a good drink! Daughter, when the construction at the docks are completed, Godfather will take you to visit our residence in the capital. Your godmother will definitely be happy to have a goddaughter like you!”
The capital? If she had a chance, Xiaocao long wanted to visit the capital! In her previous life, she had stayed in a small county town and devoted herself to raising her younger siblings. Had she not visited her younger siblings, who had worked and settled in a big city, it would probably be very difficult for her to walk out of the small county town during that lifetime. Thus, it was even more unlikely for her to have a chance to visit the capital.
In this lifetime, she hoped she would be able to make up for the regrets she had in her previous life. She wanted to visit the capital and have the opportunity to look at the elegant demeanor of the imperial city. Of course, if that fellow transmigrator wasn’t in the capital, she would anticipate it even more.
In the evening, Yu Xiaocao took her new godfather’s likings into consideration and made ‘soy-braised pork’ with the perfect ratio of fatty and lean meat. It was fragrant and soft, and just melted within one’s mouth. She also used the bighead carp within the vat to make the colorful and pungent ‘steamed fish head with chili pepper’, which had a tender texture. After picking out the bones, the rest of the fish was battered into paste and used to make ‘fish balls soup’. There was also stir-fried lettuce with oyster sauce, scrambled eggs with tomatoes, eggplant with minced garlic…
Fang Zizhen felt that he had never been so happy before as he ate the food personally cooked by his goddaughter, drank the wine that the emperor awarded to him, and chatted with two like-minded brothers. He looked at his dear daughter who was busy like a bee and felt a sense of satisfaction of ‘everything was well with a daughter’.Previous Chapter Next Chapter