Zhao Han looked towards the direction of Yu Xiaocao for a second. Once he went to the capital, he wasn’t sure when he would see her again. He believed he would always remember that thin and weak, yet simultaneously strong figure. Even in the pits of suffering, that little girl always had a sweet smile on her face, and she always managed to bring people hope as well as create many surprises...he didn’t know whether he would be able to see her again in the future!
After they finished their meal, the old general, Zhao Zimo, left early to go back. Zhao Bufan and Yu Hai gazed at the moon together as they drank small sips of alcohol. Their eyes were hazy with drunkenness and they chatted incoherently amongst themselves. Auntie Zhao pulled Madam Liu into one of the rooms to discuss some private womanhood matters.
After Zhao Han and Yu Hang finished their conversation, he noticed Xiaocao busily putting away the bowls and chopsticks. At last, he couldn’t help himself and advanced a step to say, “Xiaocao, do you have time to talk for a bit?”
Xiaolian noticed the complicated look in Zhao Han’s eyes and grinned, “Little sister, go ahead! I’ll finish up here myself!”
Yu Xiaocao washed her hands clean, used a cotton towel to wipe them dry, and then headed towards Zhao Han.
“Tomorrow, I’ll be leaving here. Can you go on a walk with me?” Zhao Han lowered his head and looked at the delicate little girl in front of him who only reached the height of his chest. His voice was soft and gentle, as if he was afraid he might startle her.
Yu Xiaocao nodded and took the lead, walking towards the gate.
The cool and refreshing evening breeze blew merrily through the trees. The newly grown foliage rustled gently in the wind. At night, the West Mountain seemed to be a giant, black monster, and it towered over the edge of Dongshan Village. At times, it also seemed like the village’s protector, with its head lowered watching a small child…
Two figures could be seen in the gloomy light of the stars, one tall and one short, one sturdy and one weak. They slowly strolled along the rugged dirt road. Zhao Han lowered his head to look silently at the quiet Xiaocao. He ended up being the first to break the silence, “I’m about to go, do you have anything you want to say to me?”
At this moment, Yu Xiaocao’s heart was full of sorrow and reluctance. It could be said that Zhao Han was one of the first friends she had since she transmigrated over to this world. It was he who taught her how to set traps and helped her acquire her first bit of wealth. It was he who protected her and her younger brother from the strong bully, Heizi, and became their patron saint. It was he who trusted and pardoned her despite her many odd actions and idiosyncrasies, and who never doubted or questioned her!
Having a friend who supported her unconditionally, it was unlikely she would find another one in the future, right? All sorts of feelings welled up in her heart and out of all of the thousands of words in the world, only one came to mind at this moment, and that was ‘precious’.
As Zhao Han gazed at that tiny, pale, little, smiling face, that was raised up towards him and had two bright, large eyes full of regret, he had a sudden, reckless impulse to hug Xiaocao and carry her away.
However, reason prevailed in the end and prevented him from taking that crazy action. Zhao Han said with a bit of hope in his voice, “Xiaocao, come with us to the capital! Over there, you can fully use your talents and start a new career. Haven’t you always held Jiang Siniang’s Exquisite Garments as an example of women showing their talents?”
Yu Xiaocao’s large, limpid eyes seemed to speak stories to him as they looked at him. In them, he could see his eager and earnest reflection within her pupils. However, in the end, Xiaocao slowly shook her head. Then again, what sort of qualifications did he have to ask her to go with him?
Yu Xiaocao had managed to sense Zhao Han’s feelings of loss of disappointment. She softly pulled on his sleeve and said, “Brother Han, I know you don’t want to be apart from me, Shitou, and the rest of us. We also don’t want to see you go. However, in the capital, you and Uncle Zhao, and the rest of your family can become who you are all truly meant to be and achieve your dreams and aspirations. We can only silently support and bless you here.”
She paused for a second as she turned her head around to look at the dark shadows of Dongshan Village. A light sigh came out of her before she continued, “I am not the same as you! My godfather had previously tried to persuade me to go to the capital and accompany my godmother. He said he wanted to give me a good life there. However, Dongshan Village is my home, my parents, brothers and sister are all here. I can’t give them up and live a luxurious life on my own. If there’s a day that I leave Dongshan Village, it will have to be by my own skills and achievements, so I can bring the entire family over. That way, we can all enjoy a comfortable life together. Do you understand what I’m trying to say?”
Zhao Han’s mother was a nobly born miss from a wealthy family in the previous dynasty. From childhood, she had been instructed in the three injunctions and four virtues. Thus, Zhao Han had always seen women as weak, delicate, sweet-tempered people who relied on their husbands completely. In front of Xiaocao, who constantly strove for improvement, he suddenly realized that women, too, could be independent and strong. They could also, for the sake of their families, work to support the sky as well…
Under the dim starlight, Yu Xiaocao’s confident little face seemed to emit a slight fluorescence. It illuminated the dark mountain forests and also lit a light that couldn’t be extinguished within Zhao Han’s heart.
“Okay! I respect your decision! Then I hope, in the not-so-far future, that we will meet again in the capital. I still believe, that in the capital, you will be able to develop much more rapidly!” Zhao Han drew back his gaze and buried the disappointment he felt deep within his heart. He didn’t know when they would be able to meet again.
Yu Xiaocao revealed a brilliant smile that seemed to be brighter than the full moon. The sound of her voice seemed to echo endlessly within the forest thickets, “We absolutely will! Let’s clap our hands together and make an oath: meet again at the capital!”
A sturdy and stiff palm crisply hit against a fair and soft palm, causing a sharp and clear sound to appear. That noise seemed extremely loud within the night and startled a bunch of birds that were resting in nearby shrubbery.
The news that the Zhao Family had become an important general’s family and was going to the capital to take post had long traveled throughout Dongshan Village. When they left, Fang Zizhen summoned a squadron of men and horses to take them. There were even six horse carts that came over. In order to show how much he esteemed the Zhao Family, the emperor had granted them a mansion with lands. Other than some precious and personal items, they didn’t need to bring much with them. However, this ostentatious display was the subject of many conversations for the Dongshan Villagers for a long time.
On the day the Zhao Family left, the whole village came out to see them off. The village chief, who represented Dongshan Village, stammered as he expressed his thoughts and sincerity. Those who had dealings with the Zhao Family also came up to say a few words and give them a few local specialties in hope that they wouldn’t disdain these gifts.
What a joke! The Zhao Family was now a hot commodity in the emperor’s eyes and highly ranked to boot. If they could have some relation with a high-ranking official, even if it was merely saying a few words, then in the future they could still brag for a long time. Those who didn’t have much contact with the Zhao Family or perhaps had a few problems, could only timidly stand at the side, watching the rest enviously.
As for the Yu Family, who were the ones closest to the Zhao’s, they were merely helping them put away their luggage on the carts. The thoughts they wanted to say were already said the previous night.
Madam Li watched with envy as Madam Liu helped the Zhao Family’s daughter-in-law to carry a suitcase. She slowly came up to try to exploit an opportunity, “Second Sister-in-law, the suitcase is probably very heavy. Let me help you…”
“No need, there’s not much in the suitcase. I’ll carry it myself!” Zhao Bufan’s wife didn’t have a good impression of Madam Li. However, for the sake of Madam Liu’s face, she didn’t treat the other woman rudely and only politely refused her helping hand.
Madam Li pulled back her hands in embarrassment and continued to try to worm her way into the Zhao Family’s good graces, “Zhao Family’s daughter-in-law, in the future you can live comfortably in a large house in the capital. You’ll probably even have servant girls and senior servants to help around. Tsk tsk, feels like you’ve fallen into a honey pot. I’ve long said that you had a face full of good fortune!”
“Thank you for your kind words.” The other woman replied neutrally. She then turned and pulled on Madam Liu’s hand and repeatedly reminded her that, if she had the opportunity to go to the capital, she needed to remember to visit them too.
Madam Liu held back her tears as she nodded. Although she didn’t believe that she would ever have the chance to go to the capital in this lifetime, she still gently promised the other woman. Madam Li watched the two women, who seemed as close as two sisters, with pure envy and jealousy. Her eyes flickered around, as if she was suddenly plotting something.
Under the earnest stares of their fellow villagers, the Zhao Family finally set out on their journey. Their house by the mountains was sturdily built and, before they left, they gave it to Yu Hai and his family, which made many villagers feel envious and jealous.
Fang Zizhen took a squadron of men and horses with him to personally escort the Zhao’s. He sat steadily on a high horse and looked into the crowd for that familiar little girl. He suddenly hollered out in a loud voice, “Daughter! How about you take this opportunity to come with godfather to the capital and see your godmother? Your godmother has long wished to meet you in person…”
This one shout made Yu Xiaocao and the rest of the Yu Family immediately become subject to the stares of everyone else around them.
The fact that General Fang Zizhen was here as an imperial envoy and was in charge of supervising the construction of the port was news that had long spread throughout Dongshan Village. For the past month or so, this lord imperial envoy frequently appeared at Dongshan Village. General Fang was General Zhao’s disciple, so it wasn’t surprising that he came over frequently. However, this high-ranking imperial envoy seemed to go to the Yu Family’s Residence even more often, and it caused many in the village to not understand the situation. In fact, he had even tactfully declined several invitations from the village chief to visit his home! So just what did this Yu Family have that made Official Fang treat them with such importance?
Other than the Zhao Family and the few who had a good relationship with the Yu Family, no one else knew that Fang Zizhen had taken Xiaocao as his adopted daughter. In addition, the few outsiders who were aware also weren’t chatterboxes and knew how to hold their tongues. Without the Yu Family’s permission, they absolutely would not broadcast this information. Thus, the true relationship between Fang Zizhen and the Yu Family was not known at Dongshan Village for a whole month.
The fact that he shouted wasn’t important, but it caused all of the villagers to look at the Yu Family with complicated feelings within their hearts. Ever since Yu Hai split from the main family, it seemed like everything was going his way. Not only did his leg, which the doctor had previously recommended amputation for, recover fully, but his life seemed to get better and better with each passing day.
First, they came out with the one copper coin per portion of braised food that was extremely popular at the docks. It was rumored that now their income from selling food was around one hundred copper coins a day. Furthermore, they could now produce vegetables a whole month earlier than other people as well as become the sole provider of Zhenxiu Restaurant. Yet, previously, no one knew that Yu Hai was an expert in farming and planting. The income just from selling vegetables was also not a small sum. They also heard that the master of Zhenxiu Restaurant also had a good relationship with the Yu Family!
Now, it seemed as if Yu Hai had obtained eight generations worth of fortune from his previous life as his youngest daughter had somehow caught the lord imperial envoy’s eyes and was now his adopted daughter. This was such a large fortune ah!
The youngest daughter of the Yu Family had almost lost her life several times in her childhood due to illness, but no one expected that after calamity would come good fortune. Now, her body was healthy, she also had the talent with cooking braised food, and she had been taken as an adopted daughter by an official...the villagers all looked at her with fiery excitement in their eyes. Those who had male descendants around Xiaocao’s age all started to make plans in their mind.
Yu Xiaocao endured the pressure of everyone’s stares and pouted at her godfather, “Godfather, I won’t go with you this time. Please help take good care of godmother in my stead!”
Fang Zizhen had long predicted she would reply this way and grinned craftily at her. He was afraid that, when he left, his goddaughter might get bullied by others, so he did this to give her some support.Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Sanguine’s Thoughts: Ahahahaha, Zhao Han, I don’t think you know how you truly feel. It’s okay, someday you’ll understand.