Chapter 358 - Eight-year-old County Official

On the fourth day of the store’s opening, the braised food store’s dishes were restored to their original prices. After these few days of free taste-testing and half-price promotions, The Yu’s Braised Food Shop had successfully established its reputation in the city. 

The fragrance of roasted chicken had seeped into the bones, and the smoked chicken had charred skin with a crunchy texture and tender meat. The roasted duck was delicious yet not greasy, while the white-skinned salted duck was tender and delectable. The appetizing smoked sausages also held its own unique flavor. There were also all types of braised meat that burst with flavor…and among them, the braised pig’s head meat that was the most popular dish of all.

The Yu’s Braised Food Shop offered a variety of flavorsome dishes. If Zhenxiu Restaurant was the food heaven for the wealthy, then The Yu’s Braised Food Shop would be the affordable equivalent. The middle-class families in the prefectural city would head over to the braised food store once in a few days to take away a braised meat dish to satisfy their own cravings. When they had guests around, or if it was during festivities, even the poorer folk would grit their teeth and buy a braised dish home for appearance’s sake. The more prestigious families of the prefectural city would also send their manservants to queue up for the store’s limited dishes. 

‘The Yu’s’ roasted duck, roasted chicken and salted duck were cheaper, and definitely did not lose to Zhenxiu Restaurant in terms of taste and flavor. The store’s smoked poultry, rabbit and the likes were unique in flavor, and could not be found in even Zhenxiu Restaurant. Unfortunately, these dishes were sold in limited quantities—only ten of each daily. Moreover, it was based on a first come, first served basis; no reservation allowed. 

Those self-proclaimed wealthy foodies naturally would not miss these delicacies, so they sent their servants to queue since the middle of the night. They were determined to get their hands on a dish to sate their cravings. There was no shortage of wealthy people in even the small Tanggu Town, not to mention such a big place as the prefectural city. 

As the prefectural city was not lacking in wealthy people but there was a limited number of dishes, the demand was naturally higher than the supply. This situation caused people to line up in front of the store earlier and earlier, until eventually there were those that brought their blankets and camped in front of ‘The Yu’s’ closed doors just as soon as the sky turned dark. These people became a sight to see in front of the shop’s doors, and they never stopped coming even on rainy and snowy days. 

Once they had a chance to taste The Yu’s Braised Food Store’s braised dishes, those wealthy children, who thought that eating pork was undignified, would also secretly send a lesser-known servant to queue up in front of ‘The Yu’s’ doors to buy some of the limited quantity dishes along with some braised dishes like braised meat, pig’s trotters and pig’s head. Then they would enjoy them in secret. 

The sales of the Yu Family’s braised meat were so good that simply a pig a day would not suffice the demand. Between the period of time before and after the Mid-Autumn Festival, they slaughtered two pigs a day, but their braised meat would still be sold out even before the evening arrived. The Yu Family’s pig farm housed more than a hundred pigs, but they would probably run out of pigs around New Year’s. As such, Liu Hu and his son traveled to disaster-stricken villages and towns to buy and secure live pigs. They offered a reasonable price and gave hope of a long-term partnership, so many people were willing to sell their pigs to them.

The weather slowly turned colder. Time passed unknowingly for the busy Yu Family until it was suddenly the day of the announcement of the results for the college examination. After finishing his examination, Little Shitou had rushed back in time to help his family out during the braised food store’s grand opening, but once the business had stabilized, Xiaocao had rushed him back to the academy to continue his studies. Becoming a county official was not Little Shitou’s ultimate goal—it was to display his talent at the metropolitan and palace examinations! 

Once the results of the college examination was announced, there would be specialized people acting as the informant who would travel to each village and town to spread the news. After tha, the local county yamen would then carry the good news to the associated families. For this college examination, there were a total of 13 county officials in Tanggu Town. Among them, two were from Dongshan Village—Qian Wen and Yu Fan! As for Xiaocao’s younger uncle, he still did not become county official as Madam Zhang had wished because he had been eliminated from the college examination at its second stage. 

Only Yu Xiaocao’s oldest aunt’s family was left to care for the braised food store during the time before and after the announcement of the results, as Yu Hai and Xiaocao had returned to Dongshan Village to await the news. The prefectural magistrate had already sent a person to hint to them about Little Shitou’s results beforehand, but on the day of the announcement, the whole family still eagerly waited for the results. 

The person who came to share the news was the head bailiff of the county yamen. Usually, a task like this would be handled by a normal bailiff, but among the examinees, there was a person from the Yu Family. Who were the Yu Family? They were one of the few in Tanggu Town that could speak directly to Royal Prince Yang, the master of the town. So even if they were of lowly birth, the county magistrate would still have to be courteous with them. 

Aside from the fact that he was extremely capable, the reason Head Bailiff Yue could still maintain his position even after County Magistrate Wu had left was mainly because he was a meticulous person. He eagerly volunteered to relay the news to Dongshan Village. When he arrived at the village, a crowd of children immediately surrounded him, asking about the results.

Once they knew that Yu Family’s eight-year-old son Little Shitou was a county official, the crowd of children ran towards the Yu Family’s residence in order to be the first person to relay the good news. 

The Yu Family had grown in popularity in these past few years. They started a piggery this year, and no one knew what they fed their pigs, but their piglets grew exceedingly fast and were already ready for slaughter after just merely half a year. There were also rumors going on about how the Yu Family’s braised food store was booming with business in the prefectural city. How they would slaughter five or six pigs every other day to be transported over. Just by this, it was not hard to imagine how successful the sales were. Liu Shuanzhu and his family also earned a lot from the Yu Family’s business as they no longer had to worry about not being able to sell their chickens. They were also offered a price that was no less than that of Zhenxiu Restaurant’s offer. 

The Yu Family members were not cheapskates, so naturally, they would not be stingy with the people who relayed the good news. 

A fellow villager, Li Yangfan’s son, Li Xiaogui ran breathlessly into Yu Family’s courtyard and, without waiting for his panting to subside, shouted to the eagerly awaiting Yu Household, "Uncle Dahai, Little Shitou made it! Little Shitou is a county official!" 

As soon as Old Yu heard the news, he burst into tears. 'Thank the ancestors for their protection! A descendant of the Yu Family has finally yielded good results! Shitou’s nominal age is only nine years old but he's studying in the most reputable academy in town and has already become a county official—his bright future most definitely won't stop here! After so many generations of farmers, we finally have a scholar in our family!'

Madam Liu and Xiaolian embraced each other tightly, crying tears of joy. They were so grateful that they had divided the family back then, or else with Madam Zhang's stinginess, she would definitely not be willing to pay for Little Shitou's education. How would Little Shitou be able to become a county official, then? 

Yu Hai was so elated he had no words, and could only laugh foolishly. It took only a while before the Yu Family’s courtyard was filled with fellow villagers who came to congratulate them. After he calmed down from his excitement, Yu Hang took out sunflower seeds, peanuts and candy to serve their guests. 

Yu Xiaocao took out a small pouch containing several pieces of silver which were worth one tael each, and placed the pouch in Li Xiaogui’s hands as a thanks for relaying the news. When he left the Yu Family’s residence, those children who were a little slower than him scrutinized the light pouch and jealously asked him to reveal the content of the pouch so they would know just how much the Yu Family had rewarded him. In their opinion, such a small pouch could barely hold a few copper coins—was it worth the effort to fight for such a measly amount? 

But the children lost their composure once they witnessed Li Xiaogui pour out shining silver pieces that looked like peanuts from the pouch. Silver! Yu Family’s reward for relaying the good news was actually silver! A tael of silver was equivalent to a thousand copper coins ah! The children could only hate their parents for giving them a pair of short legs, which allowed Li Xiaogui to overtake them! For a moment, they were overwhelmed with envy. 

At this time, Head Bailiff Yue got down from his horse in front of the Yu Residence. Yu Hai, who had already regained his composure, greeted him and invited him inside for tea. Head Bailiff Yue only laughed, “I will be forward and call you Brother Dahai! Brother Dahai, I’ve come to congratulate you. You’ve got a good son there, becoming a county official at such a young age—with high distinction, too! He’s become our Tanggu Town’s youngest granary student!” 

Granary students were the top scorers of the college examination, and even in the whole of the prefectural city, there were only about thirty of them. Once one became a granary student, they could receive six pecks of rice monthly and four taels annually from the government. For a poor family, the help given to granary students could easily ensure that the entire family would not have to suffer from famine. 

Although this measly sustenance was not much to the Yu Household,  the title of ‘granary student’ was regarded as an honor to the entire family—something they could take pride in. 

Whenever the Yu Family sent away one crowd of congratulators, they quickly welcomed another, and they did not stop coming even after dark. At noon, the Yu Family had prepared a grand meal for Head Bailiff Yue, and then they proceeded to stuff a fat pouch filled with ten taels in his hands. Head Bailiff Yue’s original intentions was only to forge good connections with the Yu Family, but this errand had unexpectedly earned him a small fortune, too. 

The neighboring Qian Residence was also bustling with life. Two county officials in one village—this was a situation never before seen in Dongshan Village. The last time someone came to relay the good news was eighteen years ago, when the village head’s youngest son became a county official. It was also the first time in history that a person from Dongshan Village became a county official. Back then, it was considered good enough if the villagers did not die of starvation. How could they afford the extra expenses for their children’s education? Now, they actually had two county officials in the village! All of Dongshan Village felt so proud they could boast about it for a long time to come. 

Some families were happy, while others were not. While Old Yu was laughing jubilantly among his old friends, Madam Zhang was dismal and depressed. 

Madam Zhao, however, was not disheartened. Her father had to sit through the examinations time and time again until he finally managed to become county official when he was nearly forty years old. Last year was a year of disasters, which had led to the academy her husband was attending letting them off for quite a long while. Thus, the delay of his success was completely understandable, considering that their family was also not of an educated background. Since he did not become a county official this year, all he would have to do was try again two years later! Madam Zhao gently consoled the dispirited Yu Bo until he picked himself up and continued to study hard. 

Madam Zhang felt extremely gloomy. Her son had been studying for more than a decade, and yet he still could not compare to Little Shitou, who had only attended a little more than two years of lessons. This had caused her fixation to waver. Back then, the fortune-teller had said that someone of the Yu Family would eventually become a high-ranking official, and since among all of Yu Family, only her son was studying at that time, she naturally thought that he would become the high-ranking official that was mentioned. Now that she looked back on it, perhaps it was not as she thought! 

Discontentment filled Madam Zhang's heart. She witnessed the hard work her son had poured into his studies, especially the past six months, when the light in his room was barely snuffed. He had pulled all-nighters until he became thin, and he nearly collapsed in the examination courtyard.

And what was that brat Little Shitou doing? Every time he returned home from the academy, he would follow Xiaocao, that wretch, and run around in the wild and the hills. They would catch some fish and trap rabbits, never settling down for even a moment. God was not fair, why was it him who had become a county official instead of her son? Was it possible that since the two of them were of the same surname, that the examiner had confused the two of them? Or…that little brat was blocking her son's fate of becoming an official?

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Myst's Thoughts

(Ignores the old woman) Yay! Congrats to Little Shitou!!

Translator: Vera