Eldest Young Miss Zhuang scornfully rolled her eyes at her close friend. If she could choose again, she would rather not know this person. She was seriously too disgraceful! Even her own class had been dragged down by her!! However—she really didn’t want to admit it, but she also slightly coveted the watermelon in her heart.
Shopkeeper Feng had been doing business for many years, so she could more or less guess what her customers were thinking. Based on her observation, Miss Zhuang was slightly reserved but she couldn’t help peeping at the plate of fruit. Miss Wang, on the other hand, didn’t hide her interest in the watermelon. She looked like she wanted to eat it but was too embarrassed to accept it.
She took the tray very understandingly, smiled at the delicate and smart little girl in front of her, and said, “Thank you very much! May I ask for your surname?”
“My surname is Yu. Older sisters, if you guys like the taste, remember to come support us tomorrow ah!” Yu Xiaocao smiled sweetly at the boss lady, waved her hands, and returned to tidy up her shop.
They were going to open early in the morning tomorrow, so today, she had asked for her father’s permission to stay overnight in the store. Most of the stores on this street of Tanggu Town had a two-entrance courtyard with wing rooms behind the shop.
Shopkeeper Feng watched as the little girl went back next door, touched her own face, and said with a smile, “This little fellow, I’m almost old enough to be her mother, yet she called me ‘older sister’? Do I really look that young?”
Miss Wang asked eagerly, “Shopkeeper Feng, she’s letting us try this watermelon, right? What a generous little girl ah!”
“It’s something homegrown and won’t cost much money for her, so what’s so generous about that? But, how can a peasant family afford to rent such an expensive shop? When did farmers become so rich?” Eldest Young Miss Zhuang looked at the watermelon, which was cut into small pieces and had a toothpick stuck into them, and spoke in a slightly mean manner.
Miss Wang knew her temperament, so she automatically filtered the unpleasant parts of her words and said with a smile, “Maybe the watermelons were grown on their own plantation? But, I have never heard of a family surnamed Yu among the wealthy households in Tanggu Town!”
Shopkeeper Feng furrowed her brows, thought for a moment, and then said, “Surnamed Yu? I think the landlord of this shop that I rented is surnamed Yu. But, the person who signed the contract with me was the official that I mentioned earlier.”
“This might be her family’s store ah! Just now, I heard the little girl call that bearded man ‘godfather’! Let me try the taste of the watermelon produced in our Tanggu Town!”
Miss Wang picked up a toothpick impatiently and stuffed the red melon pulp into her mouth. The expression on her face immediately relaxed. She choked on the sweet juice and wanted to cough but was unwilling to spit out the juice in the mouth. Thus, her face turned bright red from suppressing her cough.
“Just look at you! Don’t tell others that you know me when you go out!” Eldest Young Miss Zhuang moved to the side for fear that the girl would spray her saliva on herself.
Miss Wang finally swallowed the watermelon in her mouth and coughed a few times. She couldn’t hold herself back and picked up another piece. She stuffed it into her mouth and mumbled, “So sweet! It’s really sweet!! It’s even sweeter than the watermelon that I ate at your house. If you don’t believe, then try it!!”
Eldest Young Miss Zhuang finally stopped putting up a front and picked up a toothpick delicately with her fingers arranged in the shape of an orchid . She used the handkerchief in her other hand to cover the side of her mouth, and then gently delivered the piece of watermelon into her mouth. A sweet and cool taste instantly burst inside her mouth and the watermelon juice almost flowed out along the side of her mouth. As she wiped the corner of her mouth with her handkerchief, she savored the taste of the watermelon in her mouth.
It was a kind of sweetness that was different from all other types of sweetness. Generally, something this sweet had a cloying taste. However, there was a refreshing feeling in the sweetness of this watermelon. No matter how much she ate, she wouldn’t feel sick of it. This type of sweetness was exactly what Eldest Young Miss Zhuang liked!!
After savoring the sweetness in her mouth, she looked up and saw Miss Wang eating without stopping, nearly finishing the whole plate of watermelon. Eldest Young Miss Zhuang’s heart exploded with anger, but she suppressed herself.
She took the fruit tray away from Miss Wang somewhat unyieldingly, glared at her fiercely, and said, “Like a cow chewing on peony! You’re just wasting this plate of watermelon!!”
Seeing the fruit tray gradually move away from her, Miss Wang stretched out her hands and pitifully said, “Don’t! I haven’t had enough yet!”
“How much would you have to eat until it’s enough for you? Can you even taste anything when you’re eating so fast?” Eldest Young Miss Zhuang slowly picked up a piece of watermelon from the plate and savored it carefully. Beside her, Miss Wang was drooling as she looked on with eager eyes.
There originally wasn’t many pieces of watermelon on the plate and Miss Wang had just eaten more than half of the plate, so the rest was quickly eaten by Miss Zhuang. She wiped her mouth with her handkerchief and still wanted more. She lifted her feet and walked next door unhurriedly.
“Older Sister Ah-mei, where are you going?” The tagalong, Miss Wang, followed closely behind her.
Eldest Young Miss Zhuang ignored her and arrived at the shop next door. She saw the little girl, who sent the fruit tray over earlier, directing three grown men to organize the shelves. She cleared her throat and when saw the little girl look over, she said, “Thank you for the watermelon. It tastes really good! I came to return the tray!”
“Older Sister is being too courteous! You could have just left it next door and I would have retrieved it later!!” Seeing that her eyes seemed stuck on the watermelons on the shelves, Xiaocao knew that she was very satisfied with her family’s watermelons.
Eldest Young Miss Zhuang walked into the shop like a willow tree blown by a light breeze and looked at the price on the shelves. What are ‘five taels, ‘four taels’, and ‘three taels’? Five taels per catty? Even the watermelons in the capital weren’t so expensive!! But, her watermelon did seem much better than the watermelon from the capital.
“Help me weigh several of the biggest watermelons. I’ll send someone to retrieve them tomorrow when you guys open for business! This is the deposit!!” Eldest Young Miss Zhuang took out a golden ingot that was worth five taels of gold  and handed it to Yu Xiaocao.
Gold ingot? Yu Xiaocao had dealt with silver and bank notes, but she had never seen this golden thing! Based on the size, it should be at least five taels, which meant that it was fifty taels of silver! To be so generous, she was definitely the young miss of a noble family!!
“This older sister, the watermelons in our shop are sold on a per unit basis. All the watermelons on this shelf are around twenty catties, and they cost five taels of silver each. With the amount of your deposit, you can buy ten watermelons of this size!! If there aren’t that many people in your family, you can just buy two of them back to eat. In the future, we will transport fresh watermelons here every day. It’s better to buy fresh ones to eat each day, and the taste will also be better!” Yu Xiaocao adhered to the true meaning of ‘customers first’ and sincerely advised Eldest Young Miss Zhuang.
Although Eldest Young Miss Zhuang had a proud temperament, she wasn’t someone who couldn’t tell good from bad. She felt slightly better about the little girl after she heard her words. She smiled faintly and said, “So it’s five taels for one ah! The price is much cheaper than the ones in the capital! It really is tasty and inexpensive!! Then I’ll order ten first. They’re not only for my family to eat. Since it won’t be considered unsightly to send them as gifts, I can also send them to friends and relatives!”
“Alright!” She was rich and imposing, and Yu Xiaocao naturally didn’t mind earning more money. So, she took the little golden ingot with a radiant smile on her face and said, “This older sister, I’ll give you a receipt for you…”
“No need, it’s not that much money! Tomorrow, you can just give the watermelons to the servant sent from the Zhuang Family!” Eldest Young Miss Zhuang didn’t really care about a mere fifty taels of silver, so it didn’t matter whether there was a receipt or not.
Miss Wang wandered around the shop a few times and was overjoyed after she heard the price. She originally thought that such a delicious watermelon would surely be expensive. She had heard from Eldest Young Miss Zhuang that the watermelon that her older brother bought from the capital cost two taels per catty! A small watermelon cost several dozens taels. She was the daughter of a merchant, but even with her entire year of allowance, she still wouldn’t be able to buy a watermelon.
She hadn’t expected that she could buy a watermelon for five taels of silver at this watermelon shop. In this way, she could buy a watermelon every month with her monthly allowance!
“I want to order one too. I’ll come to get it tomorrow myself!!” Miss Wang took out a five tael silver ingot from her embroidered purse and smiled like a little hamster who received peanuts.
Yu Xiaocao quickly wrote two receipts and handed them to the two flower-like girls. She smiled and explained to Miss Zhuang, “When we open for business tomorrow, there will be a lot of people and we’ll be very busy. I’m afraid that we’ll make a mistake at that time, so it’s better to retrieve the watermelons with a receipt!”
Eldest Young Miss Zhuang hesitated for a moment before she took the receipt with ugly handwriting, and then looked at Xiaocao with dismay. But, when she considered her age and attire, she felt that she was being too demanding. Most of girls from ordinary families in town didn’t know how to read and write. It was already pretty good that this little girl could write a few words!
Miss Wang had already picked out the biggest watermelon in the shop and giggled, “Little girl, I want this one. Help me put it away first. I’ll come get it tomorrow!”
Eldest Young Miss Zhuang was displeased with Miss Wang’s haggling again, but Yu Xiaocao continued to smile and said, “No problem! Uncle Li, remove the watermelon that this young lady selected from the shelf and put it in the corner of the shop alone. This older sister, look carefully. I’ll mark it for you, so remember to check tomorrow.”
Miss Wang looked at her watermelon with satisfaction. Seeing Yu Xiaocao tie it with a straw rope and stuff a sheet of paper with a strange symbol (Author’s note: Arabic numerals) between the rope, she nodded unceasingly.
Eldest Young Miss Zhuang was already rendered speechless by Miss Wang. Disregarding her, she walked out of the shop first and headed to her own carriage.
The next day, with the crackling of firecrackers, Yu Xiaocao’s watermelon shop had finally opened! Originally, she had wanted to set off a string of firecrackers in a low-key manner, unveil the plaque, and officially start business! But she hadn’t expected to see so many familiar faces despite not notifying anybody.
County Magistrate Wu, who was dressed in regular clothes, came with his precious son and servants carrying gifts behind them. With his hands clasped together, he bobbed a greeting towards Yu Xiaocao’s godfather and said, “Congratulations, congratulations! Official Fang, why didn’t you notify this subordinate official of your shop’s grand opening?”
Fang Zizhen guffawed, “It’s my daughter’s shop. She wanted to keep a low profile, so we didn’t notify anyone!”
Zhou Zixu had also come with gifts. He snorted in dissatisfaction, “It’s fine for others! But Xiaocao, how can you treat me like this! What’s our relationship? Even if you don’t invite others, can you not invite me to come celebrate the opening of your shop?”
The patriarch of the Yao Family had also personally come with a present, and behind him was the newly promoted head steward—an old acquaintance of Xiaocao. Had he not gained merit by purchasing vegetables from the Yu Family and gotten into his master’s good graces, there was no way he would have gotten the position of the head steward.
 orchid fingers (兰花指) - a lady's hand gesture with the tips of the thumb and the forefinger touching and the other three fingers raised; displays grace and elegance
 1 tael of gold = 10 taels of silverPrevious Chapter Next Chapter
lol I don't think it's possible for Xiaocao to keep a low profile anymore...