Chapter 324 - Preparations Before the Exam

“That’s right! Thanks to Royal Prince Yang, we were able to get the seeds for corn and potatoes. We lived up to the expectations of Royal Prince Yang and successfully grew the corn and potatoes after many setbacks. Royal Prince Yang is benevolent and let us keep some of the potatoes as a reward.” Yu Xiaocao spoke in a manner that was neither humble nor arrogant.   

Sun Jiaqi and Liu Jingui’s gaze when looking at Yu Xiaocao and her younger brother had changed. Since they were acquainted with Royal Prince Yang, who was favored by the emperor, it was no wonder that they, who were born from a peasant family, could act in such a generous manner. 

If Yu Xiaocao knew about what the two were thinking, she would definitely smile bitterly, ‘You two are thinking too much. All the ingredients of the table belong to my family.’ The potatoes, chives, and lettuces were all grown by her family. They stored the wild boar meat and chicken last year. When the Zhou Family was getting rid of the last batch of chickens at the end of autumn, the Yu Family bought a lot of them. After slaughtering them, they stored them in the cellar. If they ate sparingly, it was enough to last them until the spring.   

Under Yu Xiaocao and her younger brother’s warm attitude, Liu Jingui and Sun Jiaqi picked up their chopsticks and first tried the ‘sliced potatoes pot’. The main ingredients of this dish were potatoes and a decent portion of streaky pork. The slightly fried potatoes were crispy on the outside and tender on the inside, and with the fragrant and delicious streaky pork, it was really a new taste to the two fathers. 

Little Fatty gnawed on a chicken wing and recommended to his father, “Father, try the poached chicken made by Second Sister. It has an authentic flavor and tastes amazing!” 

Sun Jiaqi knew that his son had a picky mouth, and he was extremely picky with food. If he said that it was good, then it definitely tasted good. He looked at the so-called poached chicken. With pure white meat and slightly greasy skin, it emitted the faint fragrance of scallion oil. The plating was also very detailed with the chicken meat placed in a beautiful shape and scallions arranged like flowers around the border. Among the three elements of color, smell, and taste, color had already been achieved. 

As he picked up a piece of poached chicken, his son reminded him, “Dip it in the sauce, it will taste even better!” He did as his son said and dipped it into the sauce on the side. After that, he placed the piece of chicken in his mouth and carefully tasted it. The chicken skin had a refreshing mouthfeel, while the flesh was smooth. With a light and delicious flavor, it retained the original taste of chicken meat yet also had a distinctive flavor. Everything was just right. Even the chef of Zhenxiu Restaurant might not have such culinary skills. 

The chives were fresh and tender, while the eggs were fragrant and soft. The lettuce had a crisp mouthfeel and the potatoes were very flavorful. The poached chicken was meaty, tender and delicious. The four dishes seemed like they were cooked by an experienced chef. The two pairs of father and son ate until their mouths were covered with grease, unable to stop. Liu Jingui quietly asked his son, “Do you guys eat like this for every meal?” 

Liu Jinye replied in a low voice, “When you guys aren’t here, we generally have one meat dish and one vegetable dish, which is enough for us. Xiaocao said we shouldn’t be partial with food and should eat a well-balanced diet. She has excellent cooking skills, so she cooks different things for us to eat every day. Even Sun Runze, who doesn’t like to eat vegetables, eats half a bowl of vegetables for every meal.” 

While the father and son were whispering to each other, Sun Runze, who had a bloated tummy, thought of something and said, “Second Sister, what about the grasshopper sauce? It’s so yummy. Quickly take it out for my father to try ah!” 

Yu Xiaocao rolled her eyes at him. He made it seem as if she was a miser who was unwilling to let them eat it. She said sulkily, “Who serves grasshopper sauce to guests? Moreover, even if I take it out now, is there still room in your stomach for it? You can just eat it with corn pancakes tomorrow morning!” 

Sun Runze burped and said embarrassingly, “Then let’s eat it tomorrow morning. I’m already full up to my throat. So full ah… Yu Fan, remember to help me put more grasshopper sauce on the pancake tomorrow ah!” 

Sun Jiaqi couldn’t help but cover his face. He seriously didn’t want to admit that this shameless glutton was his son. However, based on the interactions between his son and the Yu siblings, it seemed like the kids usually had a pretty good relationship. They seemed even more harmonious than a family. 

The fathers were especially surprised at the scene of the kids fighting to wash the dishes after the meal. At home, their sons had never done the dishes before and hadn’t even been in the kitchen. What ‘gentlemen shall stay away from the kitchen’? It seemed like there was just nothing attracting them to the kitchen. For the sake of being able to eat delicious food every day, they were seriously working hard! 

After the meal, the two fathers inquired about their sons’ meals for the past few days. They noticed that the nutrition was well-balanced for every meal. Furthermore, like what their sons said, every meal was different, and there weren’t any duplicates within a week. Based on the current market price and split among four people, a month’s worth of ingredients for the meals would cost far more than the twenty taels that their sons stated. 

It was getting late. When two fathers bid their farewells, they both took out four silver ingots that were worth ten taels each. Sun Jiaqi said to Yu Xiaocao, who wanted to decline the money, “Little girl, don’t refuse so quickly. If it was in the past, we wouldn’t even give you ten taels. But, with this year’s situation, people wouldn’t be able to buy your vegetables even if they had money. Right now, people are willing to fight for a batch of fresh green vegetables even if it cost ten taels. Therefore, according to your meal today, we were the ones who gained a good bargain by giving you fifty taels a month!” 

Liu Jingui chimed in, “Brother Sun is right! Miss Yu works so hard to cook three meals a day for these two kids. If we make you guys suffer losses, how can we continue to bother you in the future? If you don’t accept it, then Ye’er won’t come to bother you anymore!” Sun Jiaqi also nodded in agreement. 

Little Fatty had a terrified look on his face, “No! Second Sister save me! I’m used to your cooking now, so if you tell me to go back to eat the pig’s feed at the cafeteria, I will die ah!!” 

Sun Jiaqi patted his son and scolded, “It’s the first month of the year. Why are you talking about death?”

Sun Runze stuck his tongue out at his father, and then immediately pretended to be pitiful in front of Yu Xiaocao, “Second Sister, take pity on me and just take it… My father doesn’t lack the money anyways!” 

Only a fool wouldn’t take the money that was forced into one’s hands! Yu Xiaocao also felt the nutritional meals that she made every day were certainly worth the fifty taels. At Zhenxiu Restaurant, fifty taels wasn’t even enough for a meal! Under Sun Runze’s imploring and Liu Jinye’s earnest gaze, Yu Xiaocao ‘reluctantly’ accepted the eighty taels of silver. In addition to the ten taels that they each gave her at the beginning, it was a total of one hundred taels for the monthly food expense. She didn’t dare think about it in the past, but now, she reckoned it was considered acceptable… 

An alluring aroma always drifted out from the Yu Residence, so not only were their neighbors constantly asking about what they were eating, but recently there were also a lot of strangers appearing nearby. With their inquiring appearance, it seemed like they had bad intentions. 

With the two siblings being the only ones in the Yu Residence, they were like kids frolicking in the market with golden bricks in their hands, and thus caused certain people to have malicious thoughts. After being warned by the little divine stone, Yu Xiaocao sent a letter to ask her father to bring Big Gray along the next time he delivered ingredients to them. 

Most of the people with bad intentions were frightened when they saw the majestic Big Gray wandering around the entrance several times. There were also certain scheming fellows who immediately reported to the yamen that a vicious beast had entered Tanggu Town. They wanted to use the power of the local authorities to get rid of the gray wolf raised by the Yu Family. 

After receiving the report, the bailiffs hastily rushed over and instantly realized that it was just the pet that Royal Prince Yang entrusted the Yu Family to raise. It was just a false alarm. After that, the head bailiff informed the neighbors of the Yu Family that Big Gray was a pet wolf that had been raised by people since it was a pup. If people didn’t provoke it, then it wouldn’t bite people. In recent days, the Yu Family were being harassed, so they specially brought Big Gray over from Dongshan Village to guard their house. 

After this, most of the people with ulterior motives had withdrawn their intentions. However, there were also some people who didn’t give up and felt that a pet wolf wasn’t very threatening. In the middle of the night, they climbed over the walls and entered the Yu Residence… 

The Yu Family’s neighbors were awakened by a scream in the middle of the night. When they got dressed and came out to check on the situation, they saw a figure rushing out of the Yu Residence while holding his butt and fleeing in a desperate manner. Behind him was Big Gray, who was guarding the house. Anyone could tell that that person had gone for wool and came back shorn. He wanted to take advantage of the fact that the two siblings were the only ones in the house and go in to get some benefits, but he ended up being bitten by the wolf raised by Royal Prince Yang.

Most importantly, he got bitten in vain. Who would dare ask the royal prince to pay the medical fees and compensation? It would be strange if that person didn’t get arrested as a thief and get punished! With Big Gray around, the siblings could finally sleep peacefully. 

The days passed by, and it was getting closer to the district examination in late February. Little Shitou and the other two kids studied even more diligently day after day. Fortunately, Yu Xiaocao was there to prepare different meals for the three children every day. Otherwise, the three little guys would be getting thinner every day like their classmates, who were studying in the academy. Because they got proper nutrition from their meals, the three children had a ruddy complexion and were full of spirit. That fellow Sun Runze had even gained weight. At the academy, the teachers always used him as an example to encourage the other examinees to also prepare for the exam with full enthusiasm. 

As the date of the district examination approached, the studying atmosphere in the academy became more and more tense. For the sake of their own future, to bring glory to the academy, and to bring honor to their families, all the examinees, who were preparing for the district examination, did their utmost to study. 

Yu Xiaocao, on the other hand, instilled the idea of having a proper balance between work and rest. When studying, one had to alternate between tension and relaxation. Like a rubber band, if one was too tense, one could easily break. Thus, during breaks, Yu Xiaocao would bring the three kids to experience life in Dongshan Village. 

At times, they would go catch birds in the mountains. Before the winter, there were a lot of locusts on the mountains. So, even when there was a sharp decrease in the number of other animals, there were still many birds in the winter. Using the method of setting snares to catch birds from the textbooks in her previous life, she brought the kids to experience the sense of achievement of catching birds. The millets that were used as bait were mixed with mystic-stone water, so they had a good harvest every time. They collected all the birds and brought them back to town as food. 

Sometimes she would bring them to collect seafood at the beach. The seafood that they collected at the beach was also taken back to town and made into delicious seafood dishes for them to eat. 

Sometimes she would also take them to the docks to see dockworkers doing hard labor and help Yu Xiaolian with her business. This helped increase their real-life working experience and experience the hardships of the common people… 

Thanks to Yu Xiaocao, they were able to spend their breaks in a pleasant and meaningful way. With broadened horizons, they were able to write more in-depth essays and the teachers frequently praised them. Not only did going out to play not delay their studies, but it also effectively improved the quality of their writings. The three little fellows were full of anticipation for their breaks.

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Myst's Thoughts

corn pancakes

Translator: Myst