Old Yu gritted his teeth and quickly stated the intention of his visit. As he spoke, he didn’t dare to look at Xiaocao’s big eyes, which were so clear that it seemed they could see through one’s heart.
Since the two families were related by blood, it was impossible for them to completely break ties. Xiaocao was very clear about this point. Looking at Old Yu, who had come here for help for the first time, Xiaocao sighed heavily in her heart. Just like the old saying: ‘Both sides of the hand were made of flesh’. For the sake of his younger son, her grandfather was prepared to disregard his own face.
Xiaocao looked at her grandfather, who immersed himself in the field work and didn’t dare to have eye contact with her. She deliberately said in a relaxed tone, “Earlier, an uncle from the yamen came over and told me that I need to testify in court this afternoon. I’m really nervous since it’s my first time going to court. I’ll ask my godfather or godmother to accompany me at that time.”
Today, her godfather should return from the prefectural city. Her godmother took Xia Furong, who had gotten sick, to the medicine hall in town early this morning. She heard that the little lass had eaten too much red-braised pork last night and had a stomachache for the entire night. Ay! She was a girl from the capital, yet she had become so gluttonous after just eating several meals of vegetarian dishes!
After Old Yu heard Xiaocao’s reply, his tense heart felt much more relieved and he also weeded in a more relaxed manner. The vegetable garden in Xiaocao’s family’s courtyard wasn’t very big, so they finished weeding very quickly. After asking, Old Yu learned that there wasn’t any more work to do, so he got up and said goodbye.
“Grandfather, our Dongshan Village is located in a remote area. It isn’t easy for uncles from the yamen to come here, so you must serve them well. Our family has planted a vast variety of produce. I’ll go gather some for you to take back.” Despite Old Yu’s objections, Xiaocao went to the rear courtyard and picked out some cucumbers, tomatoes, string beans, eggplants, and so on. She thought about it, and then got some five-spice duck eggs and century eggs from the west room. She put them all in a basket and told Old Yu to take them back.
Old Yu looked at the muddy eggs in the basket and asked hesitantly, “How do you eat this thing?”
With a smile, Xiaocao took one of the century eggs and broke the outer mud shell. She said with a smile, “Like this, first peel the outer shell and take the century egg out. After that, cut it into pieces and mix it with minced garlic… Forget it, I’ll just go with you. Grandfather, wait for a moment. I’ll go get some vermicelli.”
With Madam Zhang’s stingy nature, they probably seldom got the chance to eat vegetables cooked with oil, let alone meat. Since she was already helping them, Yu Xiaocao decided that she might as well be a good person until the end! After all, that Yu Bo was her father’s biological younger brother ah! Not only did she get vermicelli, but she also cut off a portion of the pork belly that was hanging in the well in the backyard. She also took some oil, salt, soy sauce, and vinegar from the kitchen.
Old Yu looked at the bundles of ingredients and condiments in his granddaughter’s hands and felt too ashamed to lift up his head. Looking at the streaky pork, which weighed more than a catty, he said, “You don’t need to bring the meat. Your grandmother… Ahem! Madam Zhang has already slaughtered a chicken…”
Xiaocao smiled and said, “I heard that there were several uncle bailiffs here, so it’s always good to prepare more meat dishes! Let’s go, we still need to go to town after eating lunch!”
When they reached the Yu Family’s house, Xiaocao greeted the bailiffs with a cheery smile. The young girl originally had a very joyous face and sweet smile, so coupled with her sweetly calling them ‘uncles’, she quickly left a favorable impression on the bailiffs.
In the kitchen, Madam Zhang, Madam Li, and Zhang Quan’s wife were very busy. When Xiaocao entered the kitchen with the basket of ingredients, she ignored Madam Zhang and Madam Li and greeted Zhang Quan’s wife with a smile, “Auntie, I have long heard of your good cooking skills. I must take this chance to learn from you today ah!”
Zhang Quan’s wife was an observant person. When she saw the weird expression on Madam Zhang’s face and Xiaocao ignoring them, she knew that there was definitely something going on. However, she wasn’t someone who liked to dig into other people’s private matters. With a smile on her pale and chubby face, she said, “Just listen to what you’re saying. Why would you need to learn cooking from this Auntie? Your mother has much better cooking skills than me… Oh, what’s this? It looks very novel!”
Xiaocao peeled the century eggs and cut all of them into four pieces. Then, she poured a sauce, which consisted of minced garlic, sesame oil, and soy sauce, on top of them. She had brought over around ten century eggs, so it was enough to fill up an entire plate. She took a piece and held it in front of Zhang Quan’s wife’s mouth. With an expression that looked as if she wanted to be praised, she said, “Taste this century eggs salad that I made and let me know what you think.”
Zhang Quan’s wife was too embarrassed to open her mouth, so she gently shook her head and said, “I came to help, so I can’t steal food right in front of the host…”
“How is this considered stealing food? Even the head chef of Zhenxiu Restaurant needs someone to taste his food! Auntie, quickly try it and give me some feedback.”
After hearing her words, Zhang Quan’s wife finally opened her mouth and ate the piece of century egg. The soft century egg had a chewy mouthfeel when eaten. The yolk inside wasn’t completely solidified and emitted a faint fragrance. With the rich flavor of the seasoning, it tasted really delicious. Zhang Quan’s wife praised it repeatedly after tasting it.
Xiaocao deliberately showed a proud expression. If it hadn’t been for the oil in her hands, Zhang Quan’s wife would have hugged her fondly. Seeing the soft tofu on the kitchen table, Yu Xiaocao rinse the tofu under water, cut up the remaining two century eggs, and put them on top of the tofu. After that, she poured a sauce on top and completed the dish ‘century eggs and tofu’.
Zhang Quan’s wife made the dish ‘chicken stewed with mushroom’ and some wheat flatbread. It was the last stock of wheat flour that the Yu Family had, so it caused Madam Zhang to have a burst of heartache.
On the other stove, Xiaocao made ‘pork stewed with vermicelli’, which was a dish the northerners liked to eat. She also cooked several vegetable dishes with oyster sauce. Since the Zhou Family’s factories started production, Xiaocao, as a shareholder, had never lacked condiments such as oyster sauce and MSG. She could also get an unlimited amount of vermicelli and century eggs whenever she wanted. It was said that the money would be deducted from the dividend, but Third Young Master Zhou had always been generous towards her, so he wouldn’t really care about such a trivial matter.
The bailiffs were very satisfied with this meal and repeated praised that the food was delicious. In particular, Head Bailiff Yue, who had eaten at Zhenxiu Restaurant before, had even said, “I didn’t expect that there would be such an excellent chef in this remote village! This culinary skill is almost as good as the head chef of Zhenxiu Restaurant! It’s nearly impossible to eat the dishes ‘century eggs and tofu’ and ‘pork stewed with vermicelli’ outside of Zhenxiu Restaurant. I never expected that your Yu Family has such connections and are able to buy vermicelli and century eggs, which aren’t available on the market…”
Yu Bo, who was beside them, hastily said, “What connections would my family have? It’s just that my second brother has a good relationship with the owner of Zhenxiu Restaurant, so he’s able to get these vermicelli and century eggs. In order to entertain our honored guest, we have cooked all of them.”
“Your second brother indeed has some connections. Zhenxiu Restaurant’s oyster sauce dishes is a secret recipe, yet he also got to learn it? Your second brother’s relationship with the owner of Zhenxiu Restaurant must be really close ah!” Head Bailiff Yue put aside his contempt in his heart and revealed a trace of smile on his face.
Seeing that the bailiffs were eating happily, Yu Bo become even more enthusiastic. People often said: ‘It’s easy to see the King of Hell, but it’s difficult to please the little goblins.’ These bailiffs often used their status to act like a tyrant. Today, it was thanks to his younger niece that they were able to please these fellows. In the afternoon, they wouldn’t cause too much trouble for them at court.
After eating lunch, Yu Hai, who found out that this daughter was summoned to court this afternoon, quickly loaded the two carts of watermelons and followed his daughter and the bailiffs to town. On the road to town, there were also Madam Zhang and her son, as well as Old Yu, who followed them because he was worried.
They had specially loaded fewer watermelon on the Yu Family’s horse carriage so that the bailiffs could sit on it. Xiaocao skillfully sat on the shaft of the donkey cart. When the bailiffs came, they had walked until their feet hurt. Since they were able to get a free ride on a horse carriage on their way back, their originally frustrated feelings had gotten slightly better. So, they didn’t make things difficult for them.
When they arrived in town, Xiaocao, Madam Zhang, and Yu Bo were taken directly to the yamen. Yu Hai, who was worried about his daughter, didn’t have time to care about his carts of watermelon and rushed to Fang Zizhen’s residence in town.
It just so happened that he ran into Fang Zizhen, who had just returned from the prefectural city and hadn’t even had time to dismount from his horse, in front of the entrance of the Fang Estate. This guy was even more of a fool for his daughter than Yu Hai. As soon as he heard that his precious daughter was summoned to court, he promptly turned his horse around and dashed towards the yamen. He was afraid that his daughter would be frightened by the guys in the yamen if he got there too late.
The gatekeeper of Fang Estate saw that his master had directly rushed to the yamen without even getting off his horse, so he hastily reported it to the head steward. The head steward naturally knew how important Miss Yu was in his master’s heart, but he still needed to inform the madam of the master’s return.
At this time, Lady Fang was in her sick niece’s room. When she heard that her daughter was taken to the yamen by bailiffs, she immediately left behind her niece, who had just taken her medication, changed into the attire of a third-rank noble madam, and went to the yamen in a carriage. When she thought about how scared the delicate and weak Xiaocao might be in front of the cruel and harsh bailiffs of the yamen, Lady Fang repeated urged the coachman to drive faster.
On the other hand, Yu Xiaocao, the object of her parents’ worries, was currently curiously looking around the county yamen like it was some tourist attraction. There was a row of bailiffs standing on each side of the court hall with a wooden rod in their hands, while a wooden desk was placed right across from the entrance. On top of the wooden desk, there was a judge’s gavel and a bamboo tube with several wooden sticks inside. Behind the wooden desk, the four grand and imposing characters of ‘be honest and upright’ were written and hung on top.
Head Bailiff Yue saw that the little girl had no fear in her big, round eyes, but she had an obvious look of curiosity instead. He couldn’t help but cough and remind her to kneel down in a low voice. Xiaocao finally noticed that Madam Zhang and her son had already kneeled down in front of the court hall and were trembling in fear.
She scratched her nose, knelt down reluctantly, and muttered, “Wicked ways of the old society…”
Before transmigrating, except for being punished to kneel by her mom for misbehaving when she was a child, Xiaocao had never really kneel in front of anyone before. Ever since she had transmigrated, her poor, little knees had to suffer. During the New Year, she had to kneel in front of her elders for New Year greetings. When acknowledging her godparents, she had to kneel down and kowtow. When she accidentally offended the young royal prince, she had to kneel and apologize. She also had to kneel down when she carelessly said the wrong thing in front of Fifth Lord… Ay! She touched her own poor, little knees. Would this cause calluses?
Just as she was complaining, she got startled by the shouting of ‘the court trial shall begin—‘. When County Magistrate Wu came out from the rear hall, he saw a small, thin figure widening her eyes in shock and sitting on her own legs. She looked just like a frightened little squirrel. He almost didn’t maintain his dignified appearance and laughed out loud, but he looked at Xiaocao with a gaze that was filled with smiles.
With her big, round eyes, Yu Xiaocao stared at County Magistrate Wu, who was dressed in an official’s robe, as he walked out of the rear hall in big strides. His appearance really gave off the feeling of someone who sang Chinese opera. She blinked her eyes, shifted into a more comfortable sitting position, and waited for the show to begin… uh, no, for the trial to begin.Previous Chapter Next Chapter