Chapter 174 - Banquet

The busy Xiaocao could finally sit down and drink some water to soothe her throat. When she encountered disappointed customers, who didn’t manage to buy a watermelon, she would persuade them to make an order in advance and leave a deposit. By leaving a deposit, the patrons would have their watermelons reserved for them. In this way, they wouldn’t encounter the situation of not being able to purchase a watermelon due to arriving late. 

Many customers left a deposit for their advanced orders, so she wrote receipts for them with her slightly immature-looking Simplified Chinese characters and Arabic numbers. Her handwriting and writing style could also be used to fend off counterfeits. This was because, on the next day, a loafer in town came with a receipt to retrieve the reserved watermelons, but Yu Xiaocao was able to identify it as a fake with one glance. That guy had wanted to argue with her, but he was left speechless in front of Yu Xiaocao’s receipts, which were written in a handwriting that was ‘lacking arms and legs’. He was taken to the yamen by Li Li, who was helping out at the shop.

In fact, after word of mouth, the entire Tanggu Town knew that Tanggu Watermelon Shop had relations with the yamen. This loafer had ended up being a cannon fodder, who helped the melon shop prove its prestige. After this incident, no one dared to cause trouble for the Yu Family’s watermelon store. 

After she hung up a wooden sign that said, ‘Watermelons have been sold out. Please come earlier tomorrow’, on the shop’s door, Yu Xiaocao bent down to pick up the money chest. She used so much strength that even her face had turned red, but the money chest still sat firmly on the table. Li Li, who was beside her, saw this and couldn’t help but burst out in laughter!

“Do you know how many watermelons were sold today? There were at least a hundred or so watermelons on the two carts. Let’s just say that we sold each for three taels, then it would be over three hundred taels! Yet, you want to pick up this money box with your tiny limbs?” Li Li rolled up his sleeves to reveal his strong arms and easily lifted the box. He carried it under his arms and asked, “Tell, where are you going? I will take it over for you!”

“To the Zhenxiu Restaurant across the street. Uncle Li, after being busy for the entire afternoon, aren’t you hungry? Let’s go eat!” Yu Xiaocao reckoned that the feast should’ve started, if they went over now, then they would be just in time.

With the money chest under his arms, Li Li strode towards Zhenxiu Restaurant. Not everyone could afford to eat at Zhenxiu Restaurant whenever they wanted. Even if he didn’t eat and drink for one month, his salary still might not be enough for him to eat one decent meal at the restaurant! To have such a rare chance today, he must go all out and eat his fill.

Yu Xiaocao, together with the money chest, were taken to the room where Fang Zizhen was entertaining the wealthy and noble guests. As soon as she entered, Headmaster Yuan teased, “Oh! Our little shopkeeper has finally come! Business must be pretty good today. You definitely earned enough money for two tables of food!”

The expression of Xiaocao, who was originally immersed in the happiness of making money, suddenly changed when she heard what he said. ‘That’s right! It will cost at least one hundred taels to eat in Zhenxiu Restaurant’s private room. If they ordered all the best dishes, then even two hundred taels won’t be enough. My gosh! Then was all my hard work for today done for nothing?’ 

Seeing his goddaughter drooping her head and appearing pitiful, Fang Zizhen’s heart ached for her as he hurriedly said, “Today, my daughter’s shop has opened for business, so as her godfather, it’s my rightful duty to help her receive the guests! Youngster Zhou, today’s banquet is on me!”

Zhou Zixu had already seen Xiaocao’s moneygrubber appearance before, so he knew that she was really distressed about losing the money that she had just gotten. He hastily said with a smile, “Lord Fang, how can I let you pay? To tell everyone the truth, Xiaocao was the one who came up with the recipes for our restaurant’s most popular dishes like oyster sauce dishes, roasted chicken, and osmanthus duck. It can be said that without Xiaocao, the present Zhenxiu Restaurant wouldn’t exist. Just take these two tables of food as my token of gratitude to Xiaocao. Don’t mention anything about paying!”

Upon hearing that she didn’t need to spend her money, the little moneygrubber Xiaocao immediately beamed with joy. Looking at the table full of delicious food, she stood up with her cup raised in her hands, and with tea in place of wine, she toasted all the honored guest who were present, “Today is the opening of my small business. I didn’t expect so many distinguished guests to come congratulate me, so please forgive me for any oversight. Xiaocao will use tea in place of wine to toast everyone here today. Please——"

Among the people sitting in this room, even the youngest was older than Xiaocao’s father. Seeing a pure and fair little girl holding a cup with an earnest expression and talking like an adult, they all felt that it was quite interesting. With a knowing smile, they picked up their wine cups and took a sip. 

Little Shitou attentively poured wine for the guests, while Xiaocao courteously urged everyone to eat. Seeing that the two kids were able to adequately handle this situation, Old Master Yao couldn’t help but laugh, “The Yu Family is really good at teaching their children. When my grandchildren were at their age, they were still acting spoiled and crying for attention ah!”

“There’s an old saying: ‘children of poor families have to take care of their families earlier!’ Your grandchildren all grew up in a privileged and sheltered environment, so they naturally won’t have to be like us. Grandpa Yao, let me pour a cup of wine for you to thank you for the support that you have always shown us!” In her previous life, Yu Xiaocao had also engaged in some social activities, so she was able to handle this situation with ease. 

Old Master Yao happily drank the wine Xiaocao poured for him and chuckled, “It's the vegetables from your family that is good! Since eating the vegetables your family grew, the vegetables from other families can't even match the taste. In the past, I loved to eat meat and almost never touched the vegetables. Now, I can’t even eat a meal without vegetables from your family ah! Look at me right now. I’m becoming more vigorous with age. Look, it seems like all my lingering health issues from before are all gone! Haha! All better! I believe the biggest reason is the vegetables from your family…”

“What are you saying? It’s not like our vegetables are magical pills, so how can they be as miraculous as you say they are? I have learned some medical knowledge from the village doctor, and thus know that eating more vegetables is beneficial for people’s health! Your health wasn’t good in the past because you didn’t eat vegetables. Since you like to eat vegetables now, it’s natural that your health has gotten better! It doesn’t really have much to do with our family’s vegetables!” Yu Xiaocao didn’t want to let others know about the secret of their vegetables, so she hurriedly explained.  

Old Master Yao still thought it was the contribution of the Yu family’s vegetables and said, “Well, I’m willing to eat vegetables because the greens that your family grows are fresh and juicy, and also tastes great! In the end, it's still the credit of your family’s vegetables!”

At this time, Zhou Zixu laughed and said, “Old Master Yao, Xiaocao, you two should stop already. One is giving endless praises, while the other is desperately trying to be modest. Old Master, all of the vegetables used at Zhenxiu Restaurant are supplied by Xiaocao’s family. If you like them, please eat more!”

County Magistrate Wu tried the ‘stir-fried lettuce with oyster sauce’, while nodding his head and saying, “Zhenxiu Restaurant’s oyster sauce dishes tastes absolutely amazing! I may not have the chance to eat it again in the future…”

Third Young Master Zhou hurriedly replied, “Uncle Wu, our Zhenxu Restaurant’s branch restaurant in the capital has been opened for several months already. So, you don’t have to worry about not being able to eat our oyster sauce dishes. What’s more, our condiments store in the capital also sells oyster sauce. Now, many officials and noble lords have this condiment in their kitchens.”

Old Master Yao really loved the taste of green vegetables cooked with oyster sauce, so when he heard this, he immediately responded, “Are you also selling oyster sauce in Tanggu Town? Our household’s purchasing servants are too incompetent. They actually missed out on such an important item.”

“Patriarch Yao, the store next to Zhenxiu Restaurant sells condiments produced by our ‘Haitian’. Other than oyster sauce, we also have MSG and fermented bean curd. In the future, there will be more and more condiments available for purchase. If you need it, just send someone over to buy it. I will give you a twenty percent discount…” Zhou Zixu was really talented in doing business. 

County Magistrate Wu laughed as he pointed at him and said, “You ah! You won’t forget to advertise your products even when we are eating!” 

“Xiaoxu, does your products even need advertising? I’ve heard that people line up and still can’t get it!” Young Master Wu commented while gnawing on a roasted chicken wing.

Zhou Zixu modestly said, “I have to thank everyone’s support and continual patronage for that.”

Everyone at the table happily chatted as they ate to their hearts’ content. They especially enjoyed the plate of watermelon that was served after the meal. Under the skillful hands of the chef, the watermelons had turned into an exquisite piece of art, which made people reluctant to eat them. The fresh sweetness of the watermelons received unanimous praise from everyone. 

After the banquet, Xiaocao fetched the watermelons that she had saved for the honored guest and gave them two each to take home. Although Xiaocao was unprepared for today’s banquet, both the host and guests had thoroughly enjoyed themselves. 

Xiaocao had to return to Dongshan Village in the afternoon, so Fang Zizhen stayed behind to take care of the melon shop. Fang Zizhen and his two subordinates hadn’t gone to the docks for many days due to the matters of the watermelon shop. Knowing that this wouldn’t work out in the long run, Xiaocao reckoned that she should hire someone to watch the watermelon shop. 

Who should they hire? First of all, this person had to have a good character, quick wits, and be able to manage a store. When Xiaocao got home, she discussed this with her parents and felt that her eldest maternal aunt was the most suitable for this job. 

Eldest Maternal Aunt was honest and kind. When the Yu Family was going through their hardest times, she had privately taken out her hard-earned money to support them. Madam Han also had experience with doing business at the docks. The watermelon shop couldn’t always be as busy as today’s grand opening day, so once business had stabilized, she should be able to manage the store alone. 

After entrusting someone to send a letter over, Madam Han came over that afternoon with Xiaocao’s maternal grandmother and two maternal uncles. 

“This child, you should have told us earlier if you needed help! You ah, what should Mother say to you? You’re always doing everything on your own.” Xiaocao’s maternal grandmother lovingly scolded Madam Liu as she lightly poked her forehead. 

With her head bowed, Madam Liu said with a smile, “We’re just a little more busy these past two days because the watermelons has ripened. As a married daughter, how can I keep inconveniencing my maiden family?”

“We’re all one family, so how is it considered troubling one another?” Madam Han nimbly helped load the cart, and planned on going to town with the cart that was transporting the watermelons. She had even brought extra clothing in preparation for a long-term stay in the shop!

Xiaocao’s eldest maternal uncle was discussing the matter of selling watermelons with Yu Hai and Xiaocao, “I don’t think you guys can manage with just these two carts, so let’s just forget about the matter of lending us the donkey cart. I don’t want to hold up your business!”

Yu Xiaocao interjected, “Eldest Maternal Uncle, you don’t have to worry about this! Third Young Master Zhou said that his family has an extra horse carriage that they don’t normally use. So, I borrowed it from him.”

“This child, you’re troubling Young Master Zhou again!” Yu Hai exclaimed as he shook his head helplessly.

Yu Xiaocao made a funny face at him and said, “He willingly lent it to me! Besides, his carriage was just idling at home, so lending it to me is considered putting it to good use! Eldest Maternal Uncle, you can use the Zhou Family’s carriage since it can carry more goods!”

“If there is a carriage, then things will be a lot easier! I have talked it over with your second maternal uncle. Watermelons are very valuable, so it’s enough that only your shop sells them in town. We are preparing to go to the prefectural city, which has even more noble and wealthy families. So, we should be able to sell them!” Liu Pei was more daring than his second brother.

Yu Xiaocao expressed her support, “Eldest Uncle, when are you guys planning on going? My godfather will go to the prefectural city tomorrow to take care of some matters. If possible, you guys can join him on the journey tomorrow. With my godfather’s support, you guys can avoid meeting hooligans, local tyrants, and so on…”

The prefectural city was different from the small town of Tanggu, which had more simple and honest people and customs. It was indeed rare to see watermelons during this time of the year, so it would inevitably attract envious eyes. However, with the support of this great lord, Fang Zizhen, the Liu brothers definitely wouldn’t suffer any difficulties!  

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Myst's Thoughts

Sanguine’s Thoughts: We got another helper on the crew, Elaine! 

Myst: Give Elaine a warm welcome!

Translator: Elaine