Chapter 182 - Hospitality

Lady Fang looked in the direction of her niece’s line of sight. Sure enough, Prince Jing’s second son, Zhu Junxi, was talking to someone who appeared to be a manager. At this time, there were several people, who looked like merchants, coming out of the restaurant with a disappointed expression.

“Forget it, Godmother will treat you to a meal at Fulin Restaurant to try their specialty dishes! In your godfather’s letters, he mentioned that there are a few long-established restaurants in Tanggu Town and they each have their own specialty dishes. You can just invite us to eat at Zhenxiu Restaurant on another day.” They had only just met, but Lady Fang felt that she was kindred spirits with this little girl. Thus, she provided a way for her to get out of this awkward situation.

Yu Xiaocao smiled genuinely at her godmother, held her hand, and stepped into the main entrance of Zhenxiu Restaurant.

“This guest, I’m really sorry! All our tables for today has been reserved three days ago. We really can’t get an empty table for you, let alone a private room…” The head manager had a keen eye for people. He was absolutely certain that the dignified and noble young man in front of him had an extraordinary family background. However, integrity was very important in business. He couldn’t cancel other people’s reservations, which they got with much difficulty, for him just because he was someone of high status. Wouldn’t that be ruining their own reputation? Hence, he could only sincerely apologize.

Zhu Junxi had a slightly unpleasant expression on his face. Generally, big restaurants would have a couple private rooms reserved for the owner’s friends. Although he didn’t know the owner of Zhenxiu Restaurant, there could be an exception for everything. He was willing to pay double the price to borrow the reserved private room for a one time use, but this manager wouldn’t agree no matter what…

He took in a deep breath and was about to say something when he was interrupted by a clear voice behind him, “Uncle Manager, is Third Young Master here today?”

The head manager smiled apologetically at Zhu Junxi and then looked at Xiaocao, who was behind him. He smiled until his eyes had narrowed into a line, “Miss Xiaocao, our boss went to send a batch of vermicelli and century eggs to the capital. He just left this morning! Are you looking for our boss?”

“It’s nothing! My godmother came from afar, so I wanted to borrow Third Young Master’s reserved private room to entertain her.” Yu Xiaocao bluntly stated her intention.

The head manager quickly said, “What do you mean by borrow? Our boss has already said that Miss Xiaocao can use his private room whenever you like!”

“Then thanks a lot Uncle Manager!” Yu Xiaocao showed a sweet smile, and then walked up the stairs beside the main hall to the second floor with familiarity!

Zhu Junxi finally couldn’t help but pull a long face and angrily said, “Manager, everything should be done on a ‘first come, first served’ basis! I just talked to you in a good-natured way for a long time and was also willing to pay double the price to use the private room, but you wouldn’t agree no matter what. Yet, you readily agree to let someone use it now?”

After all, he was the second son of Imperial Prince Jing. The dignified and imposing manner within his anger caused the head manager’s heart to become stagnant for a moment. In spite of the patron’s rage, the head manager explained, “That private room is our boss’s exclusive room, so except for entertaining friends and relatives, it won’t be lent to outsiders. Miss Xiaocao has a very special relationship with our boss. She can be considered a partial owner of Zhenxiu Restaurant, so…”

“Second Young Master, we don’t have a lot of people. If you don’t mind, let’s dine together!” Xia Furong didn’t expect that the wretch could really get a table, moreover, it was a private room. Seeing that Second Young Master Zhu had encountered an obstacle with the head manager, she felt that this was a rare chance, and thus she made an invitation.

Zhu Junxi had just noticed that Lady Fang was not far behind him. He faintly glanced at Xia Furong, and his impression of her became even worse. Disregarding the custom that men and women should dine at different table after the age of seven, Xia Furong wasn’t the one who got the private room and she also wasn’t the one paying for the meal. To make the invitation without asking the host first, she was seriously too rude!

He ignored Xia Furong; instead, he bobbed a greeting towards Lady Fang and said in a graceful manner, “Lady Fang, good to see you again!”

Lady Fang was quite displeased with her niece’s nearly fawning words. She suppressed the rage within her heart and said to Second Young Master Zhu, “Your mother isn’t in good health. After sitting in a carriage for such a long time, it’s a good idea to find a place to rest! What’s wrong? Was there some change in plans with the county magistrate’s wife?”

“No, my mother said that it’s almost noon, so we shouldn’t disturb the county magistrate’s family. We decided to eat lunch here before visiting the county yamen. But…” An unpleasant expression appeared on Zhu Junxi’s face again when he thought of the fatigue on his mother’s face.

Lady Fang looked at her goddaughter and asked for her opinion, “Xiaocao, Lady Zhu and Young Master Zhu took good care of me on the way here. She wants to take a short break here, so what do you...”

Xiaocao naturally wouldn’t reject her godmother’s request. With a bright smile, she said cheerfully, “Since she is Godmother’s friend, it is only proper that I shall treat her with the utmost hospitality. I’ll go with you to invite Lady Zhu to have a meal together.”

Zhu Junxi didn’t look down on Xiaocao because of her ordinary clothes. Instead, he gave her a solemn bow and said, “Thank you very much, miss!”

Princess Consort Jing had long been bored sitting inside the carriage. From time to time, she would raise the curtain of the carriage and look in the direction of Zhenxiu Restaurant. When she saw her son coming back, she asked in a soft voice, “How is it? Still can’t book a private room?”

They were traveling incognito this time, so Second Young Master Zhu just called his royal mother ‘Mother’ in front of outsiders. He explained softly, “Mother, the Zhenxiu Restaurant in Tanggu Town, like the one in the capital, must be booked seven to eight days in advance. Fortunately, Lady Fang’s goddaughter has some face at Zhenxiu Restaurant and was able to get a private room. Lady Fang wants to invite you to dine together!”

“Lady Fang’s goddaughter? When did she get a goddaughter? Why wasn’t there any news about it? A lot of people thought that she would adopt her maternal niece as her daughter! It seems like someone’s plans are going to fall through!” Don’t underestimate a woman’s heart for gossip. Although Princess Consort Jing seldom went out, she had still heard a little about it.

With the help of Meixiang and Lanxiang, Princess Consort Jing got off the carriage and smiled gracefully at Lady Fang. She saw the thin little girl beside Lady Fang and said softly, “Lady Fang, is this your goddaughter? She is a bright and decent-looking young girl!”

“Thank you so much, Madam, for your praise! It’s inconvenient to talk here. Let’s continue talking in the private room on the second floor!” There was a trace of revere in Lady Fang’s attitude.

Xiaocao had sensitively perceived it. Her godmother, who was the wife of a third-ranked general, also had to act courteous towards her. It seemed like the status of this noble madam was certainly impressive. She showed a natural sense of nobility and grace. Could she be related to the imperial family? What was the matter with all these nobilities? Why were they all coming to a poor, remote place like Tanggu Town?

Since they were all women, Zhu Junxi knew the etiquette and didn’t follow them to the private room. Instead, he took the imperial bodyguards, who were disguised as servants, to dine at a famous, old restaurant nearby. Xia Furong had wanted to take this opportunity to get closer to Second Young Master Zhu, but her plans had failed again.

With an extra honored guest, Xiaocao certainly wouldn’t let her godmother lose face in front of the honored guest. When ordering, she almost ordered all the most famous dishes in Zhenxiu Restaurant! There were several dishes that even someone of Princess Consort Jing’s status hadn’t heard of.

Princess Consort Jing smiled at Lady Fang and said, “This child of yours is really too sincere! She ordered so much food, but we won’t be able to finish all of them ah!”

Yu Xiaocao stood up and personally poured a cup of herbal tea for the princess consort and her godmother. She had added a few drops of mystic-stone water inside the tea, which would help eliminate fatigue. Hearing her words, she smiled and said, “You and my godmother have come from afar, so of course, I shall treat you guys to a meal to welcome your arrival!”

The little girl didn’t have a tall stature and was very young, but her cleverness was apparent in all aspects, which was a quality that the princess consort admired. She said with a smile, “Is this considered me being benefited from my association with your godmother?”

“Of course not! My godmother said that you have taken good care of her all the way from the capital! I want to express my gratitude to you with this table of food and drinks!” Yu Xiaocao’s attitude was neither humble nor arrogant, and her speech was courteous and thoughtful. This caused Lady Fang and Princess Consort Jing to have an even better impression of her.

Princess Consort Jing had even started to joke with her, “Oh! So it’s a meal to welcome and thank me at the same time. You want to get rid of me with just one meal? No, that won’t do. There should be at least two meals!”

“Don’t mention two meals, as long as you’re willing to come, Zhenxiu Restaurant will welcome your arrival at any time! Here, try this ‘century eggs with tofu’. It’s a new dish at Zhenxiu Restaurant.” Yu Xiaocao used a communal spoon to ladle a spoonful of the dish into Princess Consort Jing and Lady Fang’s respective bowls.

Princess Jing smiled and said, “Alright, you sit down and eat! Just let the maidservants serve us—Mhm! This tofu has a fine and smooth mouthfeel… What is this? Century eggs? This combination has a rather unique taste. Sure enough, this is Zhenxiu Restaurant. They can make such an interesting and novel dish with a simple ingredient like tofu!”

After eating two bites of the century eggs with tofu, Princess Consort Jing took another look at her favorite osmanthus duck. Meixiang, who was behind her, immediately picked up a piece of duck meat and put it into her bowl.

“I have a weak spleen and stomach. For a slightly greasy dish like roasted duck, I can only eat one piece. But this osmanthus duck is fatty but not greasy, and it’s also fragrant and delicious. So I can eat a few pieces.” Princess Consort Jing had refined table manners, but she ate with gusto.

Yu Xiaocao introduced ‘duck blood soup with vermicelli’ to the two of them. They were very interested in the vermicelli inside and unknowingly finished a bowl full of the dish.

Vermicelli produced at the Zhou Family’s factory didn’t have varying thickness like the ones made by Yu Xiaocao, a non-professional. After rigorous training, the workers had become professional at making vermicelli. The vermicelli were uniform in thickness, and were bright and translucent. When eaten, they were soft, smooth, refreshing, and very chewy.

The vermicelli and century eggs had just been put into production. It couldn’t be seen in any other places except for Zhenxiu Restaurant, let alone eating it. One of the most important reasons that Princess Consort Jing had eaten with great relish was that she was able to eat something novel!

Everyone thoroughly enjoyed themselves during this meal. After the county magistrate’s wife received the message, she personally came to pick Princess Consort Jing up with her entourage.

At this time, the watermelons in the watermelon shop had already been sold out. Xiaocao’s maternal grandmother and eldest maternal aunt, who had also eaten the ‘take-out’ that Xiaocao ordered from Zhenxiu Restaurant, were wiping the shelves in the store!

Since Lady Fang was unwilling to stay in the town, Yu Xiaocao sat in her godmother’s carriage and introduced the scenery along the way while giving directions to the coachman.

Eldest Maternal Aunt had come to help in the shop, so she would stay in the store from now on. Seeing that her help wasn’t needed and because she worried about her husband and the chickens and ducks at home, Xiaocao’s grandmother had directly returned to her village from the town. 

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Myst's Thoughts

Seems like Xiaocao scored again, while Xia Furong's plans got foiled again  

Translator: Myst