Chapter 154 - Vermicelli

“You, as a person...all other qualities are good, but you are foolishly filial! If you never set your boundaries, then be prepared to be taken advantage of!! Should you continue to go down this path, then I’m afraid that your wife and children will need to suffer more ah!” The emperor emeritus shook his head out of disappointment. To him, Yu Hai was like a piece of iron that refused to strengthen into steel.

Fang Zizhen had long understood the complex relationships within the Yu Family and looked at Yu Hai. He slightly frowned, “If my goddaughter gets mistreated, don’t blame me for not warning you! When that moment comes, I will take my daughter to the capital to live comfortably and make sure that you will never be able to see her again!!”

When Yu Hai heard this, the look on his face immediately changed. In regards to this fellow, who was constantly trying to steal his daughter, he already felt unhappy. For the past month or so, he felt like he was the stepfather in this relationship and Fang Zizhen was the true father. Whenever Fang Zizhen was around, he felt like he had to take a step back.

However, General Fang truly treated his daughter well. Clothes, jewelry, and other expensive articles for daily use were all moved into his daughter’s room as if they didn’t cost any money. His daughter’s east room had almost been stuffed to the brim. If it were not for Xiaocao making a fuss, Fang Zizhen would have given her even more.

Without someone to compare to, then there would be nothing showing his deficiencies. Now that there was a comparison, he, as the biological father, not only couldn't give his daughter everything she needed but she also had to constantly deal with the avaricious and greedy Madam Li and Madam Zhang too!

Argh, as a father, he truly wasn’t a qualified and good one ah! However, with the pressure of filial piety above him, he didn’t want to cause any trouble for his children. If he had a bad reputation for being disobedient to his parents, that would mean his children would be subject to the gossip of others as well as create a bad reputation for his youngest son, who was studying in town...this was truly like being between a rock and a hard place!

Xiaocao stepped next to her worried father’s side and secretly pulled at his callused and large hand. She comforted him, “Father, don’t worry! I won’t abandon our family and live in luxury by myself in the capital. If I want to go, then our whole family needs to go together! Father, trust me, I will definitely lead our family to live happy and prosperous lives together! We’ll make those other people be envious!”

The rims of Yu Hai’s eyes suddenly became red. Ah! He was so useless that he needed his barely nine year old daughter to comfort him. He lightly grasped his daughter’s small and chubby hand. Ever since they separated from the main family, not only did his youngest daughter gain some weight but also the rest of the family members. Compared to their original stick skinny figures, they looked a lot healthier now!

“Ah! Such a good daughter ah!! Daughters are still more considerate and loving, no wonder everyone says that daughters are their parents' warm, little winter jackets!” Fang Zizhen’s heart felt sour as he watched the father and daughter pair interact with each other. Why did the heavens not have eyes? Such a good daughter should have been born in his family. If he had such a sweet daughter, he would absolutely pamper her, give her the very best, and absolutely not allow anyone to bully her!

After they finished eating lunch, the emperor emeritus left with his group of guards and the court eunuch to visit the Zhao Family. Before he left, he said, “Tonight, I’m coming over to eat braised pig head meat and duck blood vermicelli soup!” That old fellow, Zhao Zimo, had fought with him several years in the past. Had the previous dynasty not had that imbecile on the throne, it wouldn’t have been easy for him to seize the throne! Zhao Zimo’s strategies and tactics were godly and he had long itched to exchange ideas with him!

Yu Xiaocao felt very helpless! Making bean vermicelli by hand was very complicated and difficult!! This emperor emeritus was seriously too much; he never let a person relax for even a second!

Because there had been outside visitors earlier, Madam Liu had stayed inside. She had just finished her meal when she came out and noticed the worried expression on her daughter’s face. She asked out of worry, “The vermicelli that Fifth Lord kept mentioning, is it difficult to get the ingredients for it?”

“We already have all of the ingredients at home, but the process to make it is quite complicated!” Yu Xiaocao acted spoiled and held onto Madam Liu’s arm as she softly inhaled her mother’s warm smell.

Madam Liu stroked her daughter’s lustrous and black hair. Her younger daughter’s body was becoming healthier every day, and she hadn’t even gotten a cold since they split from the family. Her previously dry, messy, and yellowing hair had also become glossy and dark after receiving more nutrition. As for her face, it used to be wan and sallow but now there was plump flesh to be pinched. Madam Liu felt deep satisfaction within her heart! If she had known earlier that her children would all become like this, she would have fought harder for them despite the risk of being labeled ‘unfilial’. 

She rubbed at her younger daughter’s rosy and tender face and softly said, “It doesn’t matter, Mother will help you!”

“And there’s also us!” Yu Hang and Xiaolian, who had just finished cleaning and putting away the plates and chopsticks, came in and grinned at the rare sight of their younger sister acting spoiled. It was only in times like this that their younger sister actually seemed like a nine year old child.

Many hands make light work! With her whole family there, Yu Xiaocao felt energy surge her body. She waved a fist in the air in excitement and loudly exclaimed, “Okay!! Let’s work together then!!”

“Xiaolian, scrub the large pot on the stove until it’s completely clean, then boil a whole potful of water in it!”

“Older Brother, go to the cellar and bring up a bag of sweet potato powder!”

“Mother, help me wash the large basin clean...then prepare a bolt of gauze for me!”

“Father, can you drill some evenly-spaced holes in the bottom of this wooden basin?”

Yu Xiaocao ordered everyone around in succession. Although they were all busy, everyone felt happiness bloom within their hearts. Having the whole family work together towards one goal, it really felt amazing!

Xiaocao instructed her brother to pour the sweet potato powder into the large basin and added water until it became viscous and sticky. After that, she used the gauze cloth to filter out any impurities. By the time she finished with that, the water on the stove had started boiling.

They poured the hot water into another pot and dumped the filtered sweet potato powder into it. A rolling pin that was as thick as a person’s wrist was used to agitate the contents. Naturally, this job fell to Yu Hai, who had already finished drilling holes into the small wooden basin. As he stirred, more filtered sweet potato powder was added.

The pot was then put on the stove at a low heat, and they had to use a lot of force to knead the sweet potato mixture. Kneading was exhausting work and required a lot of strength and endurance. Yu Hai naturally wouldn’t let his wife and children do this type of work, so he followed his younger daughter’s instructions and kneaded with a lot of effort.

After the kneading was done, Xiaocao had her mother stand next to the stove. Then, she grabbed the wooden basin with its newly drilled holes and poured the kneaded sweet potato powder into it. Madam Liu stood on a stool and pounded the wooden basin with a lot of force. The sweet potato mixture slowly went through the holes. Due to gravity, the strands of sweet potato dough became long and slender. When they fell into the boiling water, they immediately became cooked.

Xiaolian then took a long wooden dowel and stirred the pot full of vermicelli incessantly. At exactly the right time, Xiaocao used a sieve in her hand to fish out the cooked vermicelli. The scalding hot vermicelli was then put into a large vat full of cold water. The quality of the cold water directly influenced the taste of the vermicelli. Thus, the vat was not only filled with spring water from the mountains but also had a few drops of mystic-stone water mixed in.

Once the vermicelli cooled down, Yu Hang carefully fished it all up. At this time, the vermicelli was still a bit sticky and required Yu Hang to separate each strand by hand. This work was quite laborious and tiring.

Because pounding the sweet potato dough through the holes also required a lot of endurance, before long, Madam Liu’s arms became very sore and she couldn’t bring them up again. Yu Hai felt bad for his wife and hastily took over the task for her.

Madam Liu couldn’t stay idle, so she went to take the cooled vermicelli and hang them from bamboo poles and lay them flat on wooden planks to dry. They couldn’t let the vermicelli dry in the sun as that would ruin the final product. In addition, while they were drying in the air, they also needed to sprinkle water on top to prevent them from sticking to each other. Thus, not only did they have to sprinkle water on top but also continuously separate the strands by hand.

After repeating this process over several times, they could finally take the wooden planks away and set up the bamboo poles. The vermicelli could then hang from the poles and air dry. During the drying process, it required someone to flip the vermicelli over until they were completely dry.

With the whole family working on this, they were busy for a whole afternoon to make twenty or so catties of sweet potato vermicelli.

The reason why Xiaocao knew how to vermicelli was because in her previous life, there was a woman who married into her village who was from a family that knew how to make sweet potato vermicelli. For a time, the woman had made handmade vermicelli to sell in town. Xiaocao, as Lin Xiaowan in her previous life, had helped that woman make them, and thus that was how she became so familiar with the whole process.

Although this was the first time she had independently completed the process, the vermicelli all turned out okay. However, the finished product wasn’t uniform in thickness. Making vermicelli was a process that required skill and practice. The more she made them, the better they would turn out!

Nevertheless, the work required to make vermicelli was quite tiring and exhausting. Especially Yu Hai’s task—he had to hold up a rather heavy wooden basin and constantly pound it to let the sweet potato mixture come out. After all that work, his arms didn’t feel like his own anymore. They were so sore that he couldn’t raise them up again. Xiaocao used the multi-colored stone to massage his arms for a long time, and only then did they recover a bit.

As the night slowly crept over the sky, the emperor emeritus finally came back with Zhao Zimo’s entire family. He walked in, immensely pleased. From the look of the expression on his face, it was obvious that his discussion that afternoon had been very fruitful. Many strategies and tactics of war had been lost throughout the years as they were transferred through generations. With the Zhao Family’s arts explained to him, a lot of things he used to have trouble understanding suddenly became clear to him.

Although it had been a long time since they had last been on the battlefield, the emperor emeritus and Zhao Zimo were soldiers to their bones. While the two were discussing strategies with each other, they had some people retrieve some sand from the beaches to make a sandbox. Using the sandbox, the two dueled each other for an entire afternoon and didn’t permit others to bother them. Both won and lost, and both gained a new understanding and enlightenment of the art of war. The two old men enjoyed themselves immensely.

Once they finished, the emperor emeritus especially invited Zhao Zimo and his family to Yu Xiaocao’s home to try some delicacies. He even mysteriously hinted to Zhao Zimo, “Today, that little girl Xiaocao has created a whole new dish. I guarantee that you’ve never eaten it before. If you don’t go, you’ll never be able to eat it again when you return to the capital!”

It was easy for him to flap his lips and say that, as just a single sentence of his had caused the whole Yu Family to be busy for an entire afternoon. He had already started boasting, but wasn’t even a bit afraid that Xiaocao wouldn’t be able to figure it out!  

Zhao Han sneered on the side and inwardly thought, ‘With my family’s good relationship with Xiaocao’s family, how could I possibly not be able to eat it? Every time she makes something delicious, she always sends some to us.’

However, then he thought, ‘Today, Grandfather received a position from court. Within a few days, he’ll need to go to the capital and claim his post. Father has also been given a general of the fourth rank position, and it’s rumored that the tribes in the northwest have not been very peaceful lately. Grandfather is getting old, so if Father wants to continue the Zhao’s family traditions, then he absolutely cannot avoid going to the battlefield!’

At his age, his father had already fought on the battlefield with his grandfather. Zhao Han was certain that he would also be going to the border to gain experience. Every man had a dream that he wanted to pursue in his heart. As someone who had learned martial arts at a young age, he was no exception. One of his longtime dreams was to go on the battlefield to kill the enemies of his country, so he should be happy right now.

However, when the thought of not being able to try Xiaocao’s foods for a long time in the future, as well as not being able to see her hit him...Zhao Han immediately became gloomy.

“Haha! Zhao Family youngster, how come you suddenly look so sad? Don’t worry! Today, you’ll all enjoy the reflected glory from me, Fifth Lord. All of us can be the first ones to try a new delicacy. Come, come! I can’t wait anymore!!” The emperor emeritus took the lead and swiftly walked down the mountain road. He wasn’t even afraid that he might twist his ankle!

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Myst's Thoughts

Sanguine’s Thoughts: I felt a little bit annoyed at the emperor emeritus in this chapter...causing so much work for the Yu Family. Maybe I’m biased too? 

Translator: Sanguine