Chapter 357 - Backing

This residence with the attached shop-front was bought from him by Royal Prince Yang, but the name on the deed was the name of a member of the Yu Family. For the cold-faced royal prince to go to such great lengths to obtain a mere residence, it was enough to see the standing of the Yu Family in the royal prince’s heart. Prefectural Magistrate Ning [1] would naturally not miss the opportunity to make connections with him. 

Yu Hai was astounded that the prefectural magistrate personally came to give them his congratulations, and respectfully led Prefectural Magistrate Ning towards the main hall of the inner courtyard. Prefectural Magistrate Ning sharply noticed Royal Prince Yang sipping tea in the hall and quickly greeted him. Seeing his arrival, Royal Prince Yang’s brow twitched in surprise, but it lasted only a split-second before he reverted back to his usual cool expression and faintly nodded towards him. 

Even if he only nodded at him, Prefectural Magistrate Ning felt extremely honored. Royal Prince Yang was exceptionally known in the capital for being cold and distant, and usually acted as if nothing was of his concern. Even when he met his father, Imperial Prince Jing, Zhu Junyang would only spare him so much as a glance.  

If someone angered him, he would definitely not consider if they were related to him before he acted. When he was 12 years old, he beat the heir of Marquis Dingyuan until he was nearly dead. Marquis Dingyuan was quite influential in court at that time, so he had bemoaned about the incident to the emperor. 

When the emperor asked him why he beat the heir of Marquis Dingyuan up, he dragged, “Ask Zhang Qingfeng himself! If he says he doesn’t know, then I will beat him until he knows the reason!” Zhang Qingfeng was the name of the heir of Marquis Dingyuan. 

When the heir of Marquis Dingyuan recovered slightly, Marquis Dingyuan had asked him about how he had offended this devil. The heir of Marquis Dingyuan was afraid of being beaten again, so he honestly confessed that he had tried to scheme against Royal Prince Yang in hopes of causing an accident and disabling him from participating in the martial arts competition that the emperor was hosting... 

At 12 years old, Zhu Junyang had already displayed a great talent in martial arts, besting all the wealthy children of the capital. And all the wealthy children did not dare to fight against him for the championship, because he was tougher on himself than on his opponents, and gave his all once a fight was initiated. It was how he earned the title of ‘black-faced devil’ so young! 

Back to the scene, Prefectural Magistrate Ning respectfully sat down below Royal Prince Yang and sipped the tea that Little Shitou had served him. He peered into Royal Prince Yang’s cup and was shocked to find the royal prince drinking plain water. He hurried to bring his cup of fragrant tea to Royal Prince Yang, whispering, “This cup of Longjing tea that was plucked before the Qingming Festival [2] is still considered quite mellow, would you like to try some, Your Royal Highness?” 

Zhu Junyang glanced at the cup of tea, inwardly saying, ‘How could I not know it’s Longjing tea harvested before the Qingming Festival? The tea leaves were even extorted from me by that little lass!’ He did not know why, but the plain water he drank when he was in the Yu Family’s residence tasted better than the top quality Da Hong Pao tea [3] in the imperial palace. In the Yu Family’s residence, the only drink he would recognize was plain water. 

“I like plain water!” Since Official Ning was Imperial Prince Jing’s subordinate, out of respect for his father, Zhu Junyang graciously replied to him. 

Although it was just one half-hearted sentence, it was enough to surprise Official Ning. All along, Royal Prince Yang was aloof to even his own father, so it was indeed a great surprise to receive a reply from him! Official Ning took a mental note: Royal Prince Yang liked to drink plain water, not tea. Many years later, Zhu Junyang, who was then already an Imperial Prince, accepted Official Ning’s invitation to be a guest at his residence. Official Ning, a second-rank official at that time, served him plain water…  

“Young Royal Prince, Prefectural Magistrate Ning, please try these desserts made by this commoner girl. Please be understanding if the reception is bad!” If it had been just Royal Prince Yang, Yu Xiaocao would still act casually, but she acted demurely seeing as a seemingly dignified prefectural magistrate was around. 

Zhu Junyang looked at the oddly-shaped biscuits and the cakes that were cut into triangles, then casually picked up a biscuit that he wasn’t sure whether it was circular or oval shaped and popped it in his mouth. Although it was not much to look at, the taste was quite nice. It was fragrant and sweet, with a crunchy texture. 

“It’s about time, right?” After swallowing the biscuit and drinking a mouthful of water, Zhu Junyang asked. 

Yu Xiaocao nodded and smiled, her dimples apparent, “There’s still about half an hour. Both of you can still rest for a while…” 

Zhu Junyang nodded and said only a moment later, “Official Ning and I will unveil your shop’s plaque later…” 

Shock flashed across Prefectural Magistrate Ning’s face, but it was immediately replaced with pleasant surprise. He was about to modestly comment when he was stopped by Royal Prince Yang’s glare. Internally, Prefectural Magistrate Ning lamented, ‘The experiences of Royal Prince Yang for the past two years have made his gaze sharper than even that of Imperial Prince Jing’s gaze. No one can refute him now.’  

When a problem occurred, rather than finding the high authorities, it was better to look for the person in charge instead. Yu Xiaocao understood this reasoning, and understood that Royal Prince Yang involved Prefectural Magistrate Ning in this because he wanted to find a backing for Yuji Braised Food Store. Yu Xiaocao was confident that the braised food store’s business would definitely be successful, but if the Yu Family did not have backing in the prefectural city, a successful business could still mean trouble. If the prefectural magistrate were to personally unveil the plaque of their store, then those with ulterior motives would have to think twice before they strike. 

Yu Xiaocao looked at Royal Prince Yang, her gaze filled with gratitude, "To have the prefectural magistrate unveil our shop's plaque would be our absolute honor. Would it be convenient for you, Prefectural Magistrate Ning?" 

Since Royal Prince Yang had already agreed to help them unveil the plaque, even if Prefectural Magistrate Ning did not want to, he would still have to agree. Prefectural Magistrate Ning hurriedly replied, “Of course! It’s my pleasure to help, you don’t need to mention it!” 

Once the firecrackers were lit,  Royal Prince Yang and Prefectural Magistrate Ning appeared at the doorstep. Although the people who had surrounded the shop did not recognize the royal prince, there were only a few in the prefectural city that did not recognize the prefectural magistrate. They watched as the prefectural magistrate personally removed the red cloth on the store’s plaque, revealing the golden words, ‘The Yu’s Braised Food Shop’. After a moment of silence, the crowd erupted into applause. 

Among the crowd, whispers arose——  

“Who’s behind The Yu’s Braised Food Shop? They even managed to invite the prefectural magistrate to help them unveil the store’s plaque.” 

“I heard that this shop used to sell satin and was originally owned by the prefectural magistrate, but then it suddenly closed up shop in spring. Half a year later, they started renovations and then this braised food store was born. Could it be that the satin business was making losses so the prefectural magistrate turned it into a braised food store?” 

“I don’t think so. I heard the neighbor say that this residence with the shop attached was sold at the beginning of spring. The location of the shophouse is good, so even if the satin wasn’t bringing in money, he could still earn a lot every month if he closed the business and rented it out…” 

“Perhaps an official of higher rank than the prefectural magistrate had set their eyes on this shophouse and bought it? Look at the man unveiling the plaque with the prefectural magistrate. His aura is so different, so he mustn’t be of a normal standing. Also, the prefectural magistrate is so courteous with him; could it be that he is the true owner of this store?” 

“Regardless of the reason, this store now has the backing of the prefectural magistrate and this unknown noble. No wonder that little lass did not cower even though Cripple Wang's wife made a ruckus here yesterday and even said to have the prefectural magistrate be the judge of things…”

……  

Even as the crowd speculated, everyone was certain that this store had the prefectural magistrate’s backing and was not something any ordinary person could get their hands on. In the prefectural city, those who were interested in the Yu Family’s braised recipes secretly snuffed the idea. 

Following this, a few officials in the prefectural city who were not associated with the Yu Family also came to the scene to congratulate them. When noon came, it was impossible to simply pass off the celebration in the inner courtyard with the prefectural magistrate and all the other officials around. As for Royal Prince Yang, although he was of high status, the Yu Household did not take him as a stranger. Even when they were back in their old and simple residence in Dongshan Village, he had never failed to show up during mealtimes. 

In the end, lunch was held in Zhenxiu Restaurant. Yu Xiaocao ordered a whole table full of appetizing dishes, which also included a few dishes that were sold at limited quantities every day. Secretly, the prefectural magistrate and the other officials that came to congratulate them were shocked. Although Zhenxiu Restaurant was a new restaurant that only opened up shop this spring, the degree of the business’s success was well-known throughout the entire city. They would have to book in advance and wait for a whole month before they could dine in a private room like this! 

What kind of background did the Yu Family have in order for them to be able to obtain a private room at any time, moreover, be able to order the limited dishes? So many prestigious and wealthy families in the capital city did not have this privilege in the capital’s Zhenxiu Restaurant, not to mention the prefectural magistrate. Even if you were royalty, you would still have to wait in line to be able to dine in the famous Zhenxiu Restaurant! 

The meal passed happily for both hosts and guests even though everyone had their uncertainties. The officials became especially enthusiastic and eager after they found out that the person sitting at the main seat was actually the Royal Prince Yang, who had been quite an influential person in court for the past two years. Later on, even the slightly nervous Yu Hai, who had been conversing with them, was put at the back of their minds. 

The Yu’s Braised Food Shop made an excellent impact on the prefectural city on its first day of business and got itself a strong backing at the same time. Even when it's business boomed until it nearly caught up to Zhenxiu Restaurant later on, no one dared to make a commotion. Are you kidding? Who in the prefectural city did not know that the prefectural magistrate was backing The Yu’s Braised Food Shop? Besides, the shophouse was diagonally opposite of the prefectural yamen. Making a commotion? Did you think you’ve lived for too long? 

All of the dishes were half-priced for the first three days of business! The people who had participated in the taste-test event yesterday had become the living advertisements of the braised food store: the braised food store’s meat was so fragrant, the braised food store’s vegetarian dishes tasted better than the meat, the braised food store also had roasted poultry like Zhenxiu Restaurant, the braised food store... 

Additionally, Yu Xiaocao had set up a metal stove at the entrance and stewed braised pig’s head meat and internal organs…The fragrance of the meat wafted into the air of the entire street. Almost every passer-by stopped to find the source of the smell. 

Their business boomed in these first three days. Yu Xiaocao and her oldest aunt were so busy that they had to recruit the help of Liu Junping and Liu Yaner. Liu Hu and Yu Hai were in charge of the delivery of the raw ingredients and had to travel back and forth between Dongshan Village and the prefectural city every day. 

Even with the dishes at half-price, their turnover from the first day was more than three hundred taels. If they removed the operating costs, the net profit would be around more than a hundred taels. On the second and third day, their turnover kept increasing, until they had a profit of around five hundred to six hundred taels. It had reached the point where even slaughtering two pigs a day could not suffice the demand. 

The dishes that sold the quickest were still the cheaper dishes such as the pig’s head meat and internal organs, along with the vegetarian dishes of braised dry tofu, kelp and tofu skin. They had to make several pots of those in a day to make up for the demand, and the pots they used were not the small ones used for ordinary cooking, but rather the big ones that could cater for the meal of one or two dozen people.


[1] His surname was Yan in an earlier chapter, but the author changed it to Ning.

[2] Qingming Festival (清明节) - Tomb Sweeping Day; Chinese families visit the tombs of their ancestors to clean the gravesites, pray to their ancestors, and make ritual offerings

[3] Da Hong Pao tea - type of highly-regarded oolong tea 

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Translator: Vera