Chapter 269 - Competition

Little Shitou confidently replied, “Second Sister, don’t worry! The headmaster also said that I have a gift for studying. He even said that although we can’t guarantee I’ll get a placement on the entry exams next year, I’ll definitely pass! Second Sister, just wait for when you’ll become the older sister of a scholar who has passed the county level exams ah!”

Little Shitou, who was only seven years old, already had his own plans. He knew that his family had bought a decent amount of arable land in town and they were renting them to some tenant farmers. Judging from the speed of his second sister’s current ability to earn money, in the future, they would definitely be buying more farmland and creating more businesses. He was currently young and was studying to be a scholar, so he wasn’t able to help out much. However, if he managed to pass the county level exams, then everything would be different. All of the farmland and other industries his family had wouldn’t be subject to taxes anymore, so they could save a whole lot of money!

He didn’t do this to pursue fame, to become the person who placed first in the exams. He also didn’t care about becoming someone who had placed first in all three exams either. He only wanted to pass the county level examinations earlier, so he could help his family out. In the future, once he had his feet firmly planted on the ground, he could work harder to get a better result at the exams.

One roasted chicken and one osmanthus duck was more than enough to feed four half-grown children. Little Shitou had also invited over a few more friends to enjoy the meal. Yu Xiaocao felt immensely gratified as she watched the little rascal, who had been just a brat running around in the mud when she first transmigrated over and had now matured into a fine little scholar, interact joyfully with his group of friends.

The children ate exuberantly and praised the food without end. One of Yu Fan’s best friends, Zhao Datong, was born in a salt merchant’s family, so he was very familiar with money. He asked Little Shitou in a low voice, “Yu Fan, did your family reserve this roasted chicken and duck days in advance? My father thinks it’s inconvenient, so he only occasionally reserves one. I don’t necessarily get to eat it every month!”  

Little Shitou thought for a bit and decided that he should be magnanimous to his friends. He explained, “My family’s relationship with Zhenxiu Restaurant’s Third Young Master Zhou is decent, so we never have to make reservations to buy their roasted chicken!”

Little Fatty Sun yelped in a voice full of envy and jealousy, “What? You guys are that awesome?? Then in the future, if we want to eat roasted chicken, can’t we just beg you or Second Sister to help buy some?”

Little Shitou somewhat hesitantly replied, “Occasionally is fine. But, after all, Zhenxiu Restaurant’s roasted chicken and osmanthus duck is too popular right now. They also only have a fixed number that’s available every day and all of that is reserved in advance. If we buy too  many, I’m afraid we would end up disturbing their sales.”

Liu Jinye was older than the rest of them by two years, so he naturally was a bit more steady. When he heard that, he nodded his head, “Yu Fan is right! We can only occasionally take advantage of this. Otherwise, the mutual regard they have for your family will be wiped away!”

“Heehee! You guys don’t need to say this, I know this already! As long as I can eat some every ten days to half a month, I will be perfectly content. If I eat it too often, my mother will see that I’ve gained weight again when I go back for break and she’ll punish me to jog outside. So tiring!!” Sun Runze’s mother disliked the fact that he was fat and was always thinking up ways for him to lose weight. This made him feel quite helpless!

Situ Qing was on the younger side so he didn’t know how to conceal his curiosity. He gnawed on a chicken wing as he asked inquisitively, “Yu Fan, aren’t your family members farmers? How did they end up having a relationship with the Zhou Family’s Third Young Master?”

All of the other kids were also curious. However, they were afraid that by asking they might end up upsetting Yu Fan, so they endured it and didn’t ask. When they heard the question, all of them stopped eating the chicken and duck meat in their hands and the whole group of them turned their inquisitive eyes over to look at Yu Fan.

Second Sister had often told him that one’s status and position in life can be changed through one’s own hard work. Although he had been born in a poor family, he absolutely couldn’t look down on himself. The environment was only a place for a person to mature and grow. Even though his family was currently farmers, he firmly believed that through his and their own hard work, they could become the envy and goals of others in the future! Historically, weren’t there examples of scholars born from humble families getting first place in the imperial examinations? And weren’t there a decent amount too?

Yu Fan calmly smiled at them, “My father is good at hunting and fishing. In the past, whenever he caught some good game or high quality seafood, he would always sell it to Zhenxiu Restaurant. Gradually, they got to know each other. Afterwards, my family’s out-of-season vegetables also supplied their whole restaurant. Perhaps they make an exception for my family due to these previous favors ah?”

Little Shitou had long known that many of Zhenxiu Restaurant’s specialty dishes were made with the contribution of his second sister. However, the reason why Second Sister knew how to craft these dishes was too mysterious and profound. He didn’t want too many people to find out and cause trouble later on.

His explanation didn’t arouse any of his friends’ suspicions. After all, at the start of spring, only Zhenxiu Restaurant was able to advertise their stunningly expensive green vegetable dishes. For people living in ancient times, after eating a whole winter’s worth of radishes, cabbages, and meat dishes, they all wanted something fresh. Each plate of green vegetables cost at least a couple taels, yet, if you arrived there late, they would be all sold out. Perhaps it was because of their previous relationship that the Yu Family only sold their vegetables to Zhenxiu Restaurant and no others, right?

At this moment, Yu Xiaocao wasn’t even aware that her younger brother was thinking up ways to cover for her. She was currently sitting inside one of the private rooms at Zhenxiu Restaurant. Other than the young royal prince, there was also Third Young Master Zhou in the room, who was looking eagerly at her.

The situation was simple. After she left Rongxuan Academy, it was already close to noon. Yu Xiaocao took the young royal prince and his servant on a stroll and ended up at Zhenxiu Restaurant. Fortunately, Third Young Master Zhou had managed to snatch a moment of leisure time today and was resting in the private room drinking tea. When he heard Yu Xiaocao had come over, he was pleased beyond expectation. He had something he wanted to discuss with Yu Xiaocao!

After inviting Yu Xiaocao and her group into the private room, Third Young Master Zhou suddenly discovered that the capital’s current hot topic, Royal Prince Yang, was there too. Why was Royal Prince Yang currently a hot topic? There were several reasons. First of all, the court gossips all said that Royal Prince Yang had lived up to expectations by bringing back the high-yielding crops that were drought resistant: corn and potatoes. The emperor himself had rewarded the youth. Secondly, he had brought back exquisite items that had never been seen before. For example, a desk clock that could accurately tell the time, beautiful enamelware, delicate ivory carvings...and they were all being sold at Treasure Pavillion, which was under his name. The shop was blazingly popular. Thirdly, Royal Prince Yang had managed to procure some ripe watermelons out of season from a place no one knew. These watermelons set off a frenzy of buying at the capital. In short, everyone in the capital was talking about Royal Prince Yang, the man of the moment. 

After they greeted each other, the three people took their seats. Yu Xiaocao started off the conversation, “I was still under the impression, Third Young Master Zhou, that you were currently in the capital busy beyond compare! How do you have the time to come back to Tanggu Town ah?”

“In the last few years, the imperial family hasn’t carried out any large construction projects. Thus, their requirements for lumber has not been high. The Zhou Family has their own lumber operation, so there’s no need to worry about it. Furthermore, our dried seafood quota has been fulfilled for the next couple of months. The second branch store of Zhenxiu Restaurant in the capital has also formally opened…” Third Young Master Zhou had something to ask of her, so he described everything very clearly.

Zhu Junyang felt quite surprised inside. He raised his eyes to look at the future head of the Zhou Family and thought, ‘What is this fellow trying to do in telling all of this to Yu Xiaocao?’ However, he couldn’t feel any malice or ill-will coming off of Zhou Zixu. He lowered his eyes again and stared at the cup in front of him before he curtly ordered, “Tea!”

Yu Xiaocao tacitly understood his request and lifted up the tea cup and placed it near his mouth. Zhu Junyang leisurely blew on foam in the cup and then lightly drank a sip. He nodded his head as a hint to Yu Xiaocao.

Zhou Zixu watched as Xiaocao helped Royal Prince Yang drink tea in a practiced manner. Only when she placed the cup down did he stare at her with astonishment. This little lass, who was never polite when she spoke to him, had suddenly become so obedient? Was this the same Yu Xiaocao whose temper blew all the time? Perhaps...Royal Prince Yang used his power to suppress her?

Zhu Junyang could tell that the future head of the Zhou Family had an inquisitive look in his eyes. He continued to sit silently and played the mysterious guest.

Yu Xiaocao laughed hollowly and pretended to not see Third Young Master’s astonishment. She stated, “Third Young Master, you don’t need to report to me about your Zhou Family’s industries. It has very little bearing to me!”

Third Young Master Zhou nodded, “The Zhou Family’s industries aren’t related to you, but you have quite a stake in Zhenxiu Restaurant. The Zhenxiu Restaurant in the capital has encountered some difficulties, so I need you to help me.”

Yu Xiaocao was now the one who was surprised, “The capital’s Zhenxiu Restaurant? The furthest I’ve been is the prefectural city. I don’t know anything about how the capital works, so I can’t really do much. Third Young Master, you’re looking for the wrong person, okay?”  

Zhu Junyang raised his head again to look at Third Young Master Zhou in the eye. What was the point of finding a little rural village girl for help when there was a problem with the Zhenxiu Restaurant in the capital? If he needed to find someone, then he should find someone like himself, someone with the status to act as a patron ah!

“I will just say it bluntly then!” Third Young Master Zhou looked at Royal Prince Yang and clenched his jaw, “Our osmanthus duck has met a rival! One of the capital’s long standing restaurants, ‘Defeng', has come out with a new duck called, ‘furnace roasted duck’. It has skin that is glossy and crisp, exquisite white meat, tastes astoundingly delicious, and is flavorful without being greasy. Furthermore, they have also copied our ‘starvation marketing’ strategy and limit their daily sales quota. Their price is a bit more expensive than our osmanthus duck, yet their supply does not meet the demand. They have taken away quite a few customers from Zhenxiu Restaurant and the sales volume of our osmanthus duck keeps dropping!”

Apparently they had met a business rival ah! She remembered that in her previous life the people selling ‘Peking Duck’ claimed that it had been around for a millennium. Was this when it first started? This ‘furnace roasted duck’ was likely the predecessor to ‘Peking Duck’.

She was very good at making roast duck ah! In her previous life, at her braised food shop, she had also especially learned how to make ‘fruit-scented roast duck’. This wasn’t hard to make. All it required was an oven, accurate heat control, and a special blend of spices. Fruit-scented roast duck was considered a type of roast duck that was cooked by hanging in an oven and had its pros and cons over furnace roasted duck. 

Roasting duck by hanging in the oven created a product that had less fat under the skin, so the skin was crispy and the meat tender. Furthermore, it had a fruity smell. On the other hand, furnace roasted duck had more fat and moisture in the end product, so the meat was even more tender. The duck that came out of a furnace seemed like a steamed roll: flexible and soft. She not only knew how to make fruit-scented roasted duck but also knew how to make floral-scented flaky roasted duck and vegetal crispy roasted duck. She was not convinced that the products from more than a millennium of food experimentation in her previous life couldn’t beat a recently new furnace roasted duck in popularity.

Third Young Master Zhou lowered his head and fidgeted in his chair as Yu Xiaocao pondered. He shifted forward a bit and said, “Xiaocao, do you have any new recipes that could compete with this new roast duck? We can go with what we did with the osmanthus duck recipe. I will give you dividends for the next twenty years from the sales. How’s that?”

Judging by the current sales volume of the osmanthus duck, she was currently earning two to three thousand taels a month. That meant in one year, she would get thirty thousand taels from the sales. If it was roasted duck, the sales wouldn’t be much lower than this. Third Young Master Zhou had a lot of sincerity and had extended the terms of the contract by an additional ten years. The profits to be earned from an additional ten years weren’t a small number ah!

“I know a recipe for fruit-scented roast duck. The first thing we need is to build a giant fireplace and the heat in that oven must be homogeneous.” As she talked, she drew and wrote the specifications of this fireplace that she needed on a piece of paper.

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Myst's Thoughts

so many ducks

Sanguine’s Thoughts: Yuuuuum, more duck recipes! I personally love Peking duck, so good!

Translator: Sanguine