Yu Xiaocao’s clothing chest had so much clothing in it that she could wear new pieces every day until the next year and still have more to use. As for her small jewelry box that was used to hold beautiful pieces that weren’t very expensive, it was also almost filled to the brim. Once, Zhou Shanhu came over to play and saw her box, which Xiaocao had forgotten to tidy up. The other little girl was so envious that drool almost came out of her mouth.
Since all of these were given to her by her godfather, she couldn’t just give them away. In addition, she wasn’t a true little girl, she didn’t really like to wear them. The box full of hair pins, bracelets, earrings, and other jewelry could only sit there and gather dust.
When Third Young Master Zhou saw Fang Zizhen leave the courtyard, he let out a deep sigh of relief. He scuttled over to the kitchen door and was about to say something when Yu Xiaocao ordered him to do work, “Go! Go to the west room and take a few mud-covered eggs from the kang bed and bring them over…”
Zhou Zixu obediently followed her orders and came back with six to seven century eggs in his arms. From the size of the eggs, one could tell that some were made from chicken eggs and others from duck eggs. Yu Xiaocao glared at him and then scolded, “You’re stupid! These are obviously two different types of century eggs. Go back and grab six of each!”
“You said to bring some mud-covered eggs over but didn’t tell me what type of eggs you wanted…” Zhou Zixu complained as he felt wronged. However, he didn’t dare to resist and returned to grab the rest of the eggs.
“Gently strike these eggs on the ground and peel off the mud shells. Be careful not to dirty the insides of the century eggs!” Yu Xiaocao thought that he didn’t look reliable and couldn’t help but warn him repeatedly.
Zhou Zixu’s eyes lit up and he looked at the mud-covered eggs in his hands with interest. He carefully pinched off a bit of mud, revealing the inner shell. He picked one up, carefully looked at it and asked Yu Xiaocao, “Is this ingredient needed for the ‘century eggs and lean meat congee’ that Lord Fang was talking about? Why does it need to be coated in mud? Why don’t century eggs need to be cooked before eating? Why…”
Yu Xiaocao was being driven crazy by his questions and gave him a fierce look, “Why do you have all of these questions? Are you Ten Thousand Questions  ah?”
Zhou Zixu didn’t understand her reference and hollowly chuckled a bit, “I don’t have that many, just a few questions, that’s all! Xiaocao, what is the vermicelli in ‘pork stewed with vermicelli’? Is it like century eggs, a new food ingredient that you’ve come up with?”
Yu Xiaocao took out a bunch of vermicelli that wasn’t homogenous in thickness from a kitchen cupboard and soaked it in some warm water. Zhou Zixu rushed over and squatted down to pick up one strand to investigate. When Xiaocao turned around, she didn’t notice him there and almost tripped right over him. If Zhou Zixu wasn’t there as a sacrificial cushion, then she likely would have fallen straight into the water basin.
“You little good-for-nothing, get out of here! If you continue to hinder me making food, then you can go to the docks and eat instead!!” Yu Xiaocao exploded as she put one hand on her hip while she held a large cleaver in the other. The combination made a ferocious sight that made Third Young Master Zhou tremble in fear.
Zhou Zixu hastily shrunk next to the corner of the stove and pitifully hugged his knees as he squatted down. He placed a piece of firewood into the clay stove and carefully said, “I...I can help you watch the fire, isn’t that okay?”
Yu Xiaocao cut pieces of streaky pork as she glanced at him out of the corner of her eyes. She stated somewhat in disbelief, “Eldest Young Master Zhou , do you know how to control the flame in the kitchen?”
"I’m not Eldest Young Master Zhou, I’m Third…” Zhou Zixu seemed like an abused young married woman. He raised his head to look at her expression and then hurriedly placed a whole bunch of firewood into the stove, “How could burning firewood be hard? Don’t you just add wood to it?”
By adding several sticks of firewood in at once, he almost smothered the flame that was burning. The kitchen immediately seemed as if it had caught on fire as thick smoke billowed out of the room. The smoke choked the two people in the kitchen as they coughed endlessly.
Xiaolian, who had just gotten back from the docks, immediately saw the thick smoke when she entered into the courtyard and thought that the kitchen had caught on fire. She ran toward the room in large strides and discovered the disaster that Third Young Master Zhou had caused.
She didn’t know whether to laugh or cry as she took out half of the firewood from the stove and blew air into the fire. The fire slowly grew and heated up again. However, the thick smoke in the kitchen lingered and it would be a while before the air cleared.
Yu Xiaocao felt tears and mucus streaming down her face from the smoke. She kicked at the main offender and scowled, “This is your doing!! You wanted to choke me to death with smoke!”
Xiaolian hurriedly pulled her furious younger sister back and laughed as she reprimanded her sister, “Younger Sister, you’re too much! Third Young Master Zhou is our guest, how can you order him to mind the fire? He’s used to a life of servants giving him food and picking out clothing, so how could he possibly know how to do this?”
Yu Xiaocao used the back of her hand to rub her eyes. Both of her eyes were as red as a rabbit’s as she glared fiercely at Third Young Master Zhou, who was still coughing endlessly, “Who told him to add wood to the fire? He was the one who had nothing better to do so he had to cause trouble!”
Zhou Zixu had a wronged expression on his face as he lamented, “Wasn’t I just trying to help you?” “Help me? I think the more you tried to help, the more trouble you caused! Psh, go rest somewhere out of the way ah!” Yu Xiaocao glanced at him with eyes filled with disdain.
After a decent amount of time passed, the smoke finally dissipated from the kitchen. Yu Xiaocao swiftly finished four dishes and one soup. All of them had generous portions. Among them included Fang Zizhen’s requested ‘pork stewed with vermicelli’ and ‘century eggs and lean meat congee’. She also made stir-fried pork liver, ‘three earthy treasures’, and sliced up century eggs seasoned with garlic paste and aromatic vinegar.
Zhou Zixu rapidly inhaled large gulps of the century egg and lean meat congee. He couldn’t stop eating. The unique taste of the century eggs with the savory flavor of the meat brought out the best in both ingredients. The congee was thick and viscous, and it wet the throat easily. It was simply so delicious that anyone would want some!
Fang Zizhen regarded his table manners with obvious disdain. He was a young master of a rich family but acted as if he was a refugee who hadn’t eaten a meal in eight hundred years. ‘Stinky boy! The century egg and lean meat congee was something I ordered, so if he wants to fight with me, he can’t win!’
Fang Zizhen devoured bowl after bowl of congee, as if he was trying to win a competition. A whole basin of century egg and lean meat congee, other than a few small bowls for the other people at the table, had pretty much been finished by Fang Zizhen and Zhou Zixu.
After drinking three bowls of congee, Zhou Zixu rubbed at his bulging belly and then extended his evil claw of a hand towards the pork stewed with vermicelli. He picked up a strand of vermicelli and lifted his chopsticks high. To his chagrin, he discovered that the other end of the vermicelli was still in the serving dish. He looked around him out of embarrassment and then stood up to raise his chopsticks even higher before he was able to place the vermicelli in his bowl.
After that, Zhou Zixu noticed that everyone at the table was staring at him. He sheepishly scratched at his head and explained, “The vermicelli was too long so I couldn’t put it into my bowl easily…”
Since he had eaten vermicelli before, Fang Zizhen believed he had experience with this. He picked up two strands of vermicelli and twirled them around his chopsticks. Thus, he was easily able to transfer the long vermicelli into his bowl. The older man even momentarily glanced at Zhou Zixu with eyes full of satisfaction.
Pork stewed with vermicelli was a very typical northern cuisine dish. There was even a popular saying about it: ‘Pork stewed with vermicelli, even gluttonous wild wolves will howl for it!’ From that, it could be seen that this dish was very tasty!! The translucent yet snappy vermicelli had been imbued with the savory flavor of meat. No one could possibly resist such a delicious dish. Even Third Young Master Zhou couldn’t stop from eating more!
Everyone ate the meal joyfully. Although a lot of food had been prepared, almost all of it had been devoured. Fang Zizhen and Third Young Master Zhou acted as if they were competing against each other. They both ate so much that their stomachs were distended. Yu Xiaocao boiled some wild hawthorn berries in mystic-stone water and had them drink it to aid with digestion to avoid getting sick.
Fang Zizhen rubbed at his somewhat protruding belly and contently said, “My daughter’s food is seriously too delicious. I can’t stop eating. Last time, when I returned to the capital, your godmother told me I had gotten fatter.”
However, Third Young Master Zhou saw a business opportunity within the century eggs and vermicelli. His bright eyes stared at Yu Xiaocao as he opined, “Xiaocao, I think we can open another factory together to produce vermicelli and century eggs…”
Yu Xiaocao calmly nodded her head, “I was just about to ask you about this idea! Since you got to it before me, then let’s discuss the details of our cooperation then!” Third Young Master was never a stingy person, so he slapped the table and proposed, “Let’s go with what we’ve done before, you supply the recipe and I’ll handle everything else! We’ll split the income 30-70!”
Yu Xiaocao gave him a thumbs up and agreed, “That’s the Third Young Master I know, so heroic! Such daring!! I will also include a few more recipes for you…”
When Fang Zizhen heard that Third Young Master Zhou was only given Xiaocao thirty percent of the profits, he immediately became resentful. He wanted to reject the offer yet his daughter had acted faster than he did and sealed the deal. From his perspective, without Xiaocao’s recipe, Third Young Master Zhou’s factory couldn’t even open. Why should he get the lion’s share of money and only give his daughter thirty percent instead?
Fang Zizhen wasn’t thinking of all of the costs associated with building the factory, recruiting workers, buying raw ingredients, shipping products...which step didn’t require capital? After subtracting all of manufacturing costs, Third Young Master Zhou’s share of the income wasn’t any more or less than Xiaocao’s. Compared to the hard work that Third Young Master Zhou had to do, Yu Xiaocao only had to shake her bum around at home and earn money. Getting a smaller share was only natural.
However, Fang Zizhen wasn’t thinking of this. He personally believed that his daughter was getting the short end of the stick. When he heard that Xiaocao was going to add some recipes for free, he couldn’t restrain himself anymore, “You’re giving more recipes for free? The Zhou Family doesn’t care about that piddling bit of money! Daughter, have you truly thought of it? Just how much money can the Zhou Family make from your recipes? He’s not going to be too stingy to give you a bit more money?”
“Godfather…” Yu Xiaocao was just about to talk when Third Young Master Zhou interrupted her. He nodded his head with a serious expression on his face, “Lord Fang is right! Xiaocao, you can’t always let me have my way just because we have a good relationship! Your recipes, I’ll buy them at three hundred taels each. Lord Fang, how’s that…”
Fang Zizhen stroked his beard and managed to say with difficulty, “Although it’s on the lower side, we can still accept it right now! Daughter, don’t recklessly spend the money from these recipes. There are two stores in town that caught your godfather’s eyes. They’re on the same street as Zhenxiu Restaurant. I originally wanted to buy them for you but I was afraid you’d get mad at me and not take them! If we use your own money to buy them, would you agree now?”
They were on the same street as Zhenxiu Restaurant? That was a busy and flourishing section of town ah! It was said that the stores on that street couldn’t be bought with money alone. In addition, one store could easily be sold for thousands of taels. How many recipes did she have to sell before she could buy the two that her godfather mentioned?!
Third Young Master Zhou noticed Xiaocao’s hesitation and also started persuading her, “I know you think the stores are expensive, but they are expensive for a reason! Do you know how much they charge for rent for the store next to us? On the lower end, one year’s rent is around three hundred taels. After two to three years, you’ll be able to make back your money! My eldest brother once tried to find the store’s owner and, despite offering a huge sum, he ended up coming back empty-handed. I believe only Lord Fang could convince the owner to sell, anyone else would also fail.”
In fact, those two stores were bought by Lord Wu under his wife’s name when he took his position as the magistrate. He was going to leave his position soon. With his family’s background, after leaving office, he would definitely have to go back to the capital to climb the ladder. In the end, Tanggu Town was just too far from the capital and it wasn’t easy to supervise properties from a long distance. He had originally planned on emptying the stores and renting them out. The magistrate didn’t expect to have his subordinate come back to inform him that the lord imperial envoy apparently wanted to buy them.
 Ten Thousand Questions (十万个为什么) - title of a book for children
 She’s actually saying this sarcastically to emphasize that he a noble young master who doesn’t know how to do housework.Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Sanguine’s Thoughts: It’s always easier to make more money once you already have money. Now that Xiaocao has a decent income and money on hand, she can start diversifying!