Chapter 211 - A Transformation

The raging demand for the Yu Family’s starch jelly was more than they could supply. Even the passengers on the ships would also come over to join in on the fun and buy a bowl of takeout to taste. Naturally, one bowl was not enough to satisfy the desires of a whole family. Thus, they would send their servants to buy some more. However, the Yu Family’s starch jelly was too popular. Oftentimes, by the time the servants arrived for the second portion, they had to go back empty handed. There were even some people who waited in line for a long time in order to just have a taste of the starch jelly!

The few baskets of red algae that Yu Xiaocao had brought over had very quickly been simmered away into starch jelly, and there were still people clamoring for more. Furthermore, starch jelly was not the type of food that filled people up, so after eating one bowl the person would soon get hungry again. Thus, the dockworkers all came back during their next break to consume another bowl to satisfy their desires and cool themselves down.

Xiaocao’s cold noodles were also quite popular, especially during the time when one pot of starch jelly was sold out and the other was still simmering on the stove. The workers who couldn’t wait could only settle for the other option and order a bowl of cold noodles to eat. However, they didn’t expect the cold noodles to also be incredibly delicious, so they were all pleasantly surprised. All of the remaining flour in the noodle stand, whether it was made of coarse grains or wheat, had all been used up by the time evening arrived.

By the time it was suppertime, the Yu Family’s stand had nothing left to sell to the workers who came by. After sending off the groups of disappointed workers, Xiaocao and her family cleaned up the stand in preparation to go home.

At this time, a tanned youth who wasn’t very tall but was very muscular stopped by quickly. He flashed a smile that revealed a row of white teeth, “Second Uncle, Xiaocao, are you guys cleaning up already? Do you need my help with anything?”

It took Xiaocao a moment before she recognized the brawny and tan young man in front of her. Apparently it was her paternal cousin, who she technically didn't have blood relations with, Heizi. Although Yu Hai had pretty much stopped having any encounter with the main branch, he was still quite friendly to Heizi, who had little to do with their complicated relationship, “Heizi ah! You must be hungry right? There’s still some starch jelly in the bucket that your younger sister, Xiaocao, left for me. Take some to eat!” 

It could be said that Yu Heizi had undergone an astounding transformation in these past few months. Not only did he manage to endure through backbreaking hard labor, but he also officially became a regular worker under Brother Six. Regular workers received a monthly salary. In addition, they also got two days of paid leave every month and bonuses when they did well. Becoming part of the regular staff meant that one no longer had to fear not having a job to feed oneself.  

Heizi, who had worked hard the past few months, had long transformed his body full of fat into a ball of muscle. Although he was on the shorter side, he now looked a lot more brawny and strong. In fact, within his group of coworkers, there were a few who had inquired whether he had already married or had a fiancée yet. If not, they wanted to introduce their own daughters to see if they could be matched with this competent and slick young fellow. Heizi carefully inspected a few families and ended up choosing a girl who had average looks but was kind and hardworking. Then, he had his parents propose the marriage to the girl’s family.

Originally, Madam Li had wanted to match her son with a girl whose family had decent circumstances in town. The first person that came to mind was her maternal niece. Her second older brother had a general goods store in town. Right after her niece was born, her second brother had an unexpected accident and harmed his core, so he was unable to father any more children. Although he technically adopted a son from his elder brother’s family to carry on the line, at least half of her second brother’s fat inheritance had to be given to her niece. Madam Li was planning on using marriage ties to get wealth!

However, Heizi knew what his older female cousin, who was older than him by a year, was truly like. Everyone said that nieces resembled their maternal aunts, and it was true for his cousin. She was just like his mother: happy to partake but not prepared to do any work. In addition, she was as fat as a plump pig. Her face was so fat that it resembled a corpse’s face that had been swollen from sitting out for several days. Furthermore, his older cousin had been spoiled by his second uncle to the skies. She had an arrogant and willful temper beyond imagination. In fact, she even dared to shout at and order her own father around.  

If Heizi had not changed, then it was likely that he would have listened to his mother’s plans and obediently agreed to this marriage for the sake of getting his hands on his second uncle’s assets. However, the few months he spent at the docks not only toughened his body but also changed his values. The kind and honest dock workers had morphed Heizi’s way of thinking.

Now, he had the ability to make a living. Although he was currently a lowly regular worker, his monthly salary was decent, a tael. One tael was more than enough to sustain a family of four without any issues. In the future, if he continued to work hard and do well, he might be promoted and earn two taels a month. If Brother Six appreciated his work even more, he could then be promoted to a foreman. The monthly salary for a foreman was five taels. Currently, he had already saved up five to six taels in his private purse after working for a few months. What was the point in sacrificing his future happiness for the sake of money now?

Heizi had revamped his thinking in these past few months. He needed to marry a wife who was like his second paternal aunt, a woman who was kind and capable. She needed to be able to manage both the inner courtyard and outside matters. In fact, he had looked closely at his second paternal uncle’s family. They had all become rich through their own efforts and were doing better every day. As for his own family, his father wasn’t very competent and his mother was a lazy bum who was of no use. Furthermore, his grandmother held all of the money tightly within her own hands. Thus, the whole family was unable to eat their fill on even coarse grain.

Therefore, when he was considering his colleague’s daughters, he chose a maiden whose family was the poorest out of all of them. This young woman’s mother had died from an illness two years ago, and the family had sold their few plots of land in an effort to raise money to treat her before she passed. Now, the entire household was reliant on Heizi’s colleague’s salary to survive.  

This girl was the oldest in the family. After her mother passed away, she became the person in charge of farming and taking care of her four younger siblings. It was obvious that this girl was very hard working as she was able to manage the household very well even as a young preteen. Her younger siblings always wore clean clothing that were patched perfectly. At a glance, he could tell that this girl knew how to live her life well! He naturally had to choose a wife like her!  

In the beginning, Madam Li didn’t want to go along with his choice. However, Heizi said something that made her change her mind: “Mother, I’m marrying a wife, not an uppity lady! You know Older Cousin too. Do you think you can order her around to do work? Do you think she’ll take care of you when you get old? She even dares to verbally abuse Second Maternal Uncle and Second Maternal Aunt, do you think you’ll be able to endure her bad temper?”

Madam Li thought for a bit and decided that he was right! Her niece just had that type of rotten personality. In the future, if they lived together, who would be the person serving who? Her son truly had a filial heart and knew how to find a wife to take care of her!

Madam Li, you’re truly thinking too much. Your son is not like his second paternal uncle, a man who has unquestioning filial piety. Don’t take his past behavior to heart, he knows how to take care of his wife. Furthermore, the woman who he wants to marry isn’t someone as easy to bully as weak Madam Liu. She knows what work needs to be properly done, but she’ll also say what needs to be said. Your son will mostly stand on his wife’s side, so don’t think you’ll be able to take advantage of this mother-in-law daughter-in-law relationship!

But this is all stuff reserved for the future. Currently, the docks had two shifts, day and night shift. Yu Heizi was currently on the day shift, and he was about to leave work at this time when he saw his second uncle and his cousins cleaning up the food stand. Thus, he came over to see if there was any work he could help with.

After helping Xiaocao carry the basket full of utensils onto the donkey cart, Heizi couldn’t resist his second uncle’s kindness and gobbled down the bowl of refreshing and cooling starch jelly. He had heard of his second uncle selling starch jelly earlier from one of his coworkers. However, he was afraid that other people might accuse him of cadging a meal from them due to their familial relationship, so he normally asked someone to buy him a portion of braised food whenever Xiaolian was selling some. Otherwise, he chose to resist the temptation of the braised food and never came up personally to buy some.  

Today was the same. Although his coworkers all praised the starch jelly to high heaven, he resisted the temptation to come over. Only when he saw that his second uncle’s family was cleaning up did he finally come by. However, he didn’t expect his second uncle to especially save a portion and so he managed to score a taste. 

After he finished the starch jelly, Heizi was about to take out some money when he was stopped by Yu Hai, who told him that there was no point in being so petty between family members. It was only a bowl of starch jelly, if he continued to insist, then his second uncle would become angry...His uncle even said that in the future, if he was hungry, he should come over to the stand to have a bowl of starch jelly or cold noodles to cool down. There was no point in treating his family members like strangers. In the future, his two younger cousins needed him to support them!

This whole conversation made it awkward for Heizi to bring up the subject of money again. Thus, later on, Heizi always came by when he had the time to help wait tables or scrub bowls. Furthermore, whenever Xiaocao gave him a bowl of starch jelly or noodles, he also never brought up the subject of paying again. All he could do was to help them out whenever he was able to!

After he finished loading Second Uncle’s donkey cart, Heizi went back to the village with his second uncle’s family. At the mouth of the village were a bunch of children, who had finished eating dinner, playing. When they saw the Yu sisters come back, they all formed a circle around them and started spewing questions, “Xiaocao, Shanhu told us that you’re looking to harvest some seaweed, is that true?”

“Xiaolian, seaweed looks a lot like grass, can we really sell it to you guys for money? Shanhu’s not tricking us, right?”

“Xiaocao, I picked up a full basket of seaweed today. Don’t tell us that you’re not taking it ah!”

“That’s right, that’s right! In order to gather seaweed, I even forgot to cut some ragweed and was scolded by my mother! Don’t let me labor in vain…”

Xiaocao felt like her head was about to explode from the noise. She was finally able to find a gap in the chatter, and she promised, “Don’t worry, I was the one who had Shanhu tell all of you. You absolutely won’t be working in vain! All of you should bring the seaweed over to where my family buys seafood. Let me go home and rest for a moment. After that, I’ll weigh the seaweed and pay you guys!”

The group of kids, who had all been waiting for the two sisters at the entrance of the village, scattered back home after hearing Xiaocao’s words. They ran as if they were afraid that the Yu Family might stop buying seaweed if they came back too late.

Yu Hai doted on his daughter, so he had her sit on the side as he himself went up to receive all of the seaweed. No wonder there was a saying: ‘Many hands make light work.’ Although each child only had a dozen or so catties worth of red algae in his or her basket, there were a lot of children! After tallying all of the seaweed, they ended up with three to four hundred catties of algae in the end. They almost didn’t have enough baskets at home to carry all of this seaweed.

Zhou Shanhu swung the string of copper coins in her hand contently. Today, even her older sister, who was sewing her dowry, had come out to gather red algae! Their haul was quite large. They managed to earn forty-some copper coins! Her family was doing better due to their prosperous chicken sales, so forty copper coins wasn’t worth too much. However, this was the money that she earned herself. Furthermore, her mother had told her that this money was for her alone to keep. Now, she had her own private purse! In the future, she needed to gather more seaweed so she could save some more money!

Madam Liu stood in the center of the courtyard and looked worriedly at the baskets full of seaweed. From her experience, she knew that whenever her daughter came up with a new idea, the first three days they would be swamped before the craze slowly died down. Their business today had gone quite well, but they only managed to use twenty to thirty catties worth of seaweed. Now, they had a few hundred catties of seaweed sitting in their yard. The weather had been very hot lately, so if this bunch of seaweed went bad, what were they supposed to do?!

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Myst's Thoughts

Sanguine’s Thoughts: Sometimes the author goes off on a tangent and it’s a bit awkward...especially if she fast forwards through a conversation!

Translator: Sanguine