Chapter 366 - Buying People

Looking at how much thinner her oldest paternal aunt had become, Yu Xiaocao whispered guiltily, “The pickled vegetables shop is doing well. We just need one person to man the shop, and from time to time, we need to import some goods from Tanggu Town. As for the braised food shop, Oldest Aunt must braise several hundred catties of meat every day. We would help her whenever we have time, but Oldest Paternal Aunt is still the one who is the most tired…” 

Zhu Junyang glanced at Yu Xiaocao. She was already thin to begin with, but now she was as thin as a toothpick. His expression was full of anger as he said, “You can just get a few more people to work in the shops. How much more would it even cost to get a few more people? Are you unwilling to spend a little extra to get more people?” 

Yu Xiaocao shook her head and said with a bitter smile, “The problem doesn’t lie in the money. As you know, in our braised food business, the most valuable item is the recipe for the braised food. Since our business is booming, it will inevitably attract people with ill intentions. Therefore, my oldest paternal aunt would rather tire herself out than hire someone.” 

Zhu Junyang looked at her as if she was an idiot, “ When did this prince say you should hire people? I’m talking about spending some money to buy a few servants. It won’t cost you a lot of money either! If you aren’t willing to spend, then I will buy some and send them to you!” 

Buy people? The expression on Yu Xiaocao’s face looked as if she had just seen a ghost; she was horrified at the idea of buying human beings. Oh, right! She wasn’t in the 21st century right now. In this era, the selling and buying of humans was legal. During times of disaster, the sales of children and women was very common... After someone was bought and a life contract was signed, they would be servants of the buyer. During this era, the servants were treated harshly. Even if their owner beat them to death, the owner bore no responsibility or suffered any consequences. 

Zhu Junyang frowned lightly as he stared at her; he didn’t understand why she had such an expression on her face. He asked, “You don’t have to worry about it. If you don’t want to give them a monthly salary after buying them, then you don’t have to. You can just provide them with three meals a day. Or could it be that you’re not even willing to part with this little amount of money?” 

Yu Xiaocao smiled embarrassedly, “Do you think of me as such a stingy person? Money isn’t the problem, it’s just...I never expected that my family would be the ones to buy people one day.” 

Zhu Junyang reprimanded her gently and said, “Look at how unconfident you are! This prince will send you a few maidservants later! In the future, when your business grows bigger, how can you manage everything by yourself? It’s better to train some helpers early on!”

“Yes, yes! Young Royal Prince is good at thoroughly examining the situation and thinking about the future. Thank you for reminding me! This little one will go to the kitchen and make a few delicious dishes to thank you…” Yu Xiaocao put on an appeasing expression on her face. 

Zhu Junyang poked her forehead lightly with his finger. He jokingly scolded her, “Naughty girl! I won’t be having my lunch here. I need to stop by the prefectural yamen!” 

“Then...this little one won’t delay Young Royal Prince any longer. When you return from the capital, this little one will free up some time and make you Buddha Jumps Over the Wall again to thank you for your favor!” Xiaocao acted like the palace eunuch in old palace dramas; she smoothed out her sleeves and bowed to him. 

Head Steward Liu’s mouth twitched at the scene. If Miss Yu was a guy, she would definitely be able to make a name for herself if she entered the palace as a eunuch. Her expression and portrayal of palace eunuchs was perfect. Could it be that she had learned these things last time when she was summoned to the palace for the young imperial prince? Miss Yu was truly odd. She was a young lady, but instead of learning from the way the palace maids and the imperial concubines acted, she learned these useless things. 

There were a lot of people present when he ate Buddha Jumps Over the Wall last time, so there wasn’t enough for everyone. This was especially true for Great Scholar Yuan, who acted like a hungry ghost. He scrambled around madly to rob people’s food, regardless of the other party’s identity. When he got back to the capital, he must visit Prime Minister Yuan and tell him that no matter how difficult their family situation was, he couldn’t treat his father so harshly! With Great Scholar Yuan, that old gluttonous foodie present, how could he have an enjoyable meal? Therefore, Zhu Junyang was very happy about how ‘tactful’ Yu Xiaocao was being. He was so happy that even his footsteps became lighter.

In the afternoon, business was so busy that they didn’t even have time to rest. When it was time for dinner, everyone was so tired from working that they had no appetite. They just boiled a pot of noodles, got some braised meat and pickled vegetables from the store, and ate a simple dinner. It had only been three months since the grand opening of their shops, but Yu Xiaocao could see that everyone had lost a lot of weight. They had to be on their feet from morning to night, performing high-intensity physical labor that even Iron Man couldn’t do! She was more resolute on her decision to buy a few people! 

“Shopkeeper Yu, is Miss Yu here?” She had just put down her bowl, when a stranger's voice could be heard from the front courtyard. Yu Hai had returned to Dongshan Village, so Yu Xiaocao could only reinvigorate herself and drag her tired body to the front courtyard. 

The man was dressed in an indigo robe and had a goatee on his shrewd face. When he saw Yu Xiaocao, he smiled and said, “Miss Yu, I wonder if you remember this humble servant? This humble servant is a steward working for the prefectural magistrate.” 

Yu Xiaocao revealed a surprised expression; no wonder this man seemed familiar. She had seen him when he handed over the shop. This man was originally the shopkeeper for a shop owned by the prefectural magistrate. If she recalled correctly, his surname was Xu. 

“So it turned out to be Shopkeeper Xu! It's already quite late, why did the prefectural magistrate send you here?” Yu Xiaocao asked politely as she secretly pondered over his motive for coming here. 

When Shopkeeper Xu stepped to the side, Yu Xiaocao noticed that there were two men and two women standing behind him. Yu Xiaocao appeared even more confused as she looked at Shopkeeper Xu with a puzzled expression. 

Shopkeeper Xu finally revealed his motive for coming here as he deepened his smile and said, “This afternoon, the royal prince came to my master’s estate to inquire about the most well-known trafficker matron in the city. He said he wanted to buy a few people! This family of four was personally chosen by Royal Prince Yang for you. The older two are a couple, and they have two children. The husband is thirty-three years old and the wife is thirty-one years old. Their older daughter is fifteen years old and the younger son is thirteen years old. Royal Prince Yang has already investigated their histories; they have a clean background. They’re used to hard labor and can endure hardships. Try to use them first, and if you feel that they’re unsuitable, then you can just sell them off. He will pick a few useful ones from Prince Jing’s Estate…”

For Royal Prince Yang to treat the Yu Family with such kindness by personally helping them pick out a few people, it seemed that the Yu Family held an important place in Royal Prince Yang’s eyes. The prefectural magistrate told him they must have a good relationship with the Yu Family, and they mustn’t slight them. 

While Shopkeeper Xu was speaking, Yu Xiaocao had been observing the family standing behind him. Although the man wasn’t tall, he looked like an honest man with good strength. The woman also had an honest expression on her face as she stood there with her head down and hands slightly shaking. The little girl had a nice appearance. Her eyes were crystal clear, but her hands were rough. At first glance, it seemed like she was accustomed to hard work and labor. The thirteen year old boy was almost the same height as his father, he also appeared honest and simple.

“Can you tell me why you would sell yourselves?” Selling themselves meant that they would be second class citizens for their entire life. They had to obey other people’s commands. In addition, their grandchildren and future generations could not participate in the imperial examinations. This was equivalent to burying the future of their future generations… 

The man stepped forward and replied, “My name is Huang Dachui. We lived in Linda Village, which is more than fifty kilometers south of the prefectural city. Originally, our family had ten mu of poor land, so we were able to barely make ends meet. But this spring, a steward working for Old Master Wang in our village had taken a fancy to my daughter and asked her to be his concubine. We were unwilling, so he found a group of local ruffians to destroy our house. The ruffians had beat my father until he was seriously hurt, and my mother became bedridden from anger. Last year was a disaster year, and my family endured until spring with much difficulty. But who would’ve thought we would encounter such trouble! In order to treat my parent’s illness, I sold all the land that my family owned. However, my father and mother still didn’t make it. After taking care of my parents’ funeral, I took my family to the prefectural city to rely on some relatives and to avoid the steward from the Wang Family. When we arrived here, we found out that our relatives’ family had moved away. The steward from the Wang Family brought a group of people and chased after us...we didn’t have any choice, so we decided to sell ourselves…” 

Huang Dachui was ashamed that he was unable to protect his family and also for making this decision. 

“Father! It’s all Daughter’s fault for causing the downfall of the whole family. Daughter is willing to be Steward Wang’s concubine…” The girl’s delicate and pretty face was filled with tears. The rims of her eyes were red, and her fists were clenched tightly. 

“Shut up! How many times have I told you not to mention this matter again! None of Steward Wang’s concubines had a good ending! If a father sold off his daughter to save his life, is he still considered to be a human?” Huang Dachui frowned and appeared mournful. 

The young girl looked at her younger brother who was slightly taller than her and cried, “But if we sell ourselves, then Younger Brother can’t continue studying. Younger Brother’s teacher said that he is very talented. If he continued studying hard, then he might even be able to receive a high rank in the imperial examination! I don’t want to ruin my brother’s future because of my selfishness!” 

“Sister! Don’t talk about it anymore. Haven’t we discussed this before? Do you think I’ll be able to feel at ease if I used your life to exchange for my future? I don’t want that kind of future!” No wonder the young boy’s hands were less calloused, and his skin was much fairer than his family’s. It turned out that he had been studying for a few years! 

Yu Xiaocao carefully observed the family for a while and realized that the people the Young Royal Prince had selected were quite reliable. She was finally able to cut in their conversation, “Why don’t you...discuss the matter again as a family and then give me a definite answer?” 

Huang Dachui’s son looked at her firmly and said, “There’s no need for further discussion. We have been bought by your family and we have already signed the slave contract. In the future, our family will be your servants. You can use us as you please!” 

Shopkeeper Xu hurriedly delivered the slave contract to her and said, “The seller said that these people haven’t been trained yet. They don’t know how to properly speak or do things according to the rules, how about...let me send them back and find a few people that are more suitable for you?” 

Yu Xiaocao took the contracts and shook her head gently, “There’s no need! They are good enough! Listen, my family doesn’t have many rules, but we need people with good character, capable of working, and listens well! If you work honestly, then we definitely won’t maltreat you. If you steal or act dishonestly, then I can only apologize and ask you to return from where you came from!”

The four people listened and promised that they would work hard. Shopkeeper Xu’s mission was completed, so he left first. 

“Huang Dachui, I want you to follow my father first and get used to the process. In the future, I will leave the job of transporting things from Dongshan Village to you! Dachui’s wife, I want you to follow my oldest paternal aunt and help her out with her chores. Huang Xiaomei, you can follow me and work at the pickled vegetables shop!” 

“...Young…Young Miss, what about me?” Huang Xiaohu asked softly. 

Yu Xiaocao glanced at him and said, “My younger brother had just passed the county-level exams this year. He doesn’t have a book boy. In two days, I will bring you to Tanggu Town. But, I don’t know if Rongxuan Academy allows their students to bring their own book boy.

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Translator: Vi