Chapter 438 - Handmade Soap

“You’d be treating me like an outsider if you’re too courteous! If it wasn’t for you, I’d have already been exhausted and my inspiration would’ve run out. Don’t worry, I’ll definitely treat you well! Exquisite Garments will sponsor all of you and Lady Fang’s future clothes! I’ll personally make a set of clothes for you and Lady Fang every season, and I’ll give you 20 percent of the profits from the Qi­style attires. Don’t refuse me, or else I’ll throw these designs into the brazier!” 

If Jiang Siniang was not a determined person, she would not have come out despite all the pressure and taken over the Exquisite Garments that was about to close up operations. She also would not have been able to successfully establish her reputation along with Exquisite Garments through her skills and hard work. 

Jiang Siniang had initially planned to find the person who designed Official Yu’s clothes and subsequently buy off the drawings and designs. However, she hadn’t expected that she would connect so well with the designer, Yu Xiaocao, and they even became sisters of a different surname. 

She had always put emphasis on integrity when she did her business, and reciprocity when she interacted with others. As the older sister, she most definitely would not take her younger sister for granted. Not only did she promise to personally create Xiaocao and Lady Fang’s clothes, she had also considered Xiaocao’s designs and ideas as an important element and decided to share her profits with her at the end of the year. 

With the Yu Family’s current conditions, Xiaocao didn’t care whether she got the profits or not. However, she felt Jiang Siniang’s insistence, so she was not courteous with her, “I’ll unabashedly accept Older Sister’s gift, then.” 

Only now did Jiang Siniang’s face light up with joy as she stood up and said, “I’ll return now—I still have to sort out these drawings and write up a profit-sharing agreement, which Xiang’er will send over to you later.” 

Yu Xiaocao wanted to have her stay for lunch, but she tactfully declined under the pretense of having things to do back in Exquisite Garments. Xiaocao did not insist, and called the servants to prepare a basket containing a few watermelons and cantaloupes for her to bring home. 

Once they were in their horse carriage, Xiang’er happily put aside the watermelons and cantaloupes and said, “Mistress, Miss Yu is quite generous—even just these watermelons are worth over a hundred taels! The fruits and vegetables store owned by Imperial Prince Jing sells a medium-sized watermelon for ten taels each, and we wouldn’t necessarily be able to get one even at this price! Not to mention that they’re sold in limited numbers—fifty watermelons and thirty cantaloupes a day…” 

She paused, then tried to stifle her laughter as she gossiped, “I heard Duke Wei was holding a birthday banquet, and in order to have a plate of fruits for each table, he had his servants queue up since the middle of the night. It so happened that his rival, Imperial Prince Rong, also wanted to hold a feast. The two of them nearly fought to buy the fruits! The melons and fruits produced in the greenhouse of Royal Prince Yang’s farmstead is like a chicken that lays golden eggs.”

“Then do you know who is the one that made growing vegetables, fruits and melons possible during winter?” Jiang Siniang asked without lifting her head as she flipped through the drawings in her hand. 

“How could I not know? Who in this capital doesn’t know of Official Yu that works in agriculture under the Ministry of Revenue? Not only can she cultivate high-yielding crops, but she also made it possible to grow produce out of season! In the future, the people of the capital will be able to enjoy these delicacies! Who would’ve known that all of this is actually the result of the contribution of a smart yet gentle girl in her teens?” Xiang’er’s face was filled with envy and admiration as she said this. 

“Younger Sister Xiaocao isn’t only talented in agriculture, but she’s also gifted in culinary. It’s been said that many of the best-selling dishes of Zhenxiu Restaurant are her creations. Her medical prowess should also be praised. She’d even successfully treated the little prince’s illness!” Jiang Siniang couldn’t help but feel in awe as she thought about the girl who was only several years younger than her and yet had already possessed such capabilities. 

Xiang’er’s eyes lit up as she held her face in her hands and dazedly breathed, “Official Yu looks only about eleven or twelve years old, yet she’s so knowledgeable and proficient. Could it be that she’s a genius?” 

Jiang Siniang could not bear to move her gaze away from the pieces of designs, and she loathed that she could not immediately turn these drawings into pieces of clothing. She could imagine the sensation these extraordinary designs would cause in the capital!

She agreeably nodded to Xiang’er’s words. Simply from the words of her relative, Younger Sister Xiaocao was able to identify the many special elements of the designs and had servants make an eye-catching outfit out of it. If Younger Sister Xiaocao would only spend a little more time on her drawing skills, it would only be a matter of time before she would have to surrender the title of ‘Great Ming Dynasty’s Master of Embroidery’. 

When Jiang Siniang returned to her residence, she immediately began work on making Qi-style attires throughout the day, and she was so immersed in making the clothes that she even forgot to sleep and eat. After she left the Fang Estate, Yu Xiaocao returned to the inner courtyard. She climbed and lay lazily atop a cushioned seat that was placed next to a heated wall. By her side, Lady Fang silently listened to Hechun’s animated prattles. 

“Madam, you don’t know how amazing the young miss is! With just a few simple sentences, she was able to let Modiste Jiang sincerely treat her like her sister! This servant was also amazed when Young Miss described the Qi-style attire. Although it was only in black and white, the designs that Modiste Jiang made based on Young Miss’s descriptions were enough to make people long for it. I’m filled with pride whenever I think that the Qi-style clothing that will be the trend among those well-bred ladies of the capital all came from Young Miss!” Hechun was only a fourteen-year-old girl after all, she took it as a form of pride to be serving such a talented young miss, so her words were full of energy and filled with admiration. 

Yu Xiaocao only smiled, “That’s because Older Sister Jiang is amazing. She’s capable of sublimating and refining my thoughts and words into something better. She is the true talent in the world of fashion!” 

Hechun agreed with this statement, but she still felt that her own young miss was better, “Modiste Jiang also said that, if it weren’t for Young Miss that gave her a spark of inspiration, she would never be able to design outfits that are so unique and beautiful. Young Miss had made a great contribution to her!” 

Linglong, who was usually solemn and serious, also chipped in, “To have Modiste Jiang’s sincere friendship, our young miss is definitely the first among the capital’s young ladies!” 

Hechun nodded her head almost as if she were kowtowing, and her face blossomed with a smile, “Madam, take a guess at what Modiste Jiang had promised to Young Miss!” 

“What did she promise? Make a set of clothes for our Cao’er?” Lady Fang did not have a single thing to say against her own daughter, “Cao’er, you’re growing—it’s about time you have a few sets of apparels and accessories that you can wear out!”

Hechun’s smile deepened, “In the future, Young Miss can wear the clothes that Modiste Jiang personally makes for you when you go out. With a set of clothes from Modiste Jiang every season, you’d definitely be the envy of those arrogant young ladies!” 

“A set of outfits every season? For every year?” Lady Fang was astounded. It should be known that it was enough bragging rights for a year if any one of the young ladies competing managed to get their hands on even just one set of Modiste Jiang’s creations. Moreover, this was getting a set of clothes every season! 

“It’s not only for Young Miss. Madam, you, also get a set of clothes every season, made personally by Modiste Jiang! Modiste Jiang also said that the first set of Qi-style clothing would be made according to your measurements. You’d be the first noblewomen in the entire capital to own a Qi-style attire!” Once the words escaped Hechun’s mouth, all the maidservants in the room immediately exclaimed and congratulated their mistress. 

Lady Fang could not believe what she was hearing. It was good enough that Jiang Siniang connected well with her daughter and even offered to make clothes for her, but she didn’t expect her daughter to weigh so much in Jiang Siniang’s heart until Jiang Siniang’s favor extended even to her, and promised to make clothes for her, too. Everyone in the capital knew that Modiste Jiang of Exquisite Garments would not simply make clothes for anyone—how lucky she was! 

“Cao’er, since Modiste Jiang treats us so well, we should reciprocate and return the favor!” Lady Fang thought about what she could possibly give back to Jiang Siniang. 

Without much thought, Yu Xiaocao said, “At the most, I’ll sponsor Jiang Family’s fruits and vegetables for this winter!” 

But Hechun responded hesitantly, “Young Miss, Modiste Jiang only promised to make clothes for both you and the madam because you gave her the designs of the Qi-style attire. If you also provide her with fruits and vegetables, isn’t it a little…” 

Lady Fang pondered about it, and then nodded, “Hechun is right, if there are too many benefits between friends, the friendship would no longer be pure. However, some harmless little gifts should still be alright. Don’t you like making pastries? You can occasionally send her some so she can try.” 

Xiaocao laughed when she noticed that Hechun seemed like she wanted to say something, “If you have something to say, just say it! It’s not like someone is covering your mouth, why make such an odd face?” 

Hechun tittered, “Young Miss, we actually have something new that can be sent as gifts to one’s BFF!” She’d heard the term ‘BFF’ from Young Miss before. From now on, Jiang Siniang would be considered as her young miss’s BFF, right?

Xiaocao’s eyes lit up as she said, “You mean, the handmade soaps?”

Hechun nodded fiercely, “Yes, yes! I followed the instructions that you gave and tried for a long time before I finally made aloe soap and honey-milk soap! I’m only waiting for you to return and check the results!” 

“Go bring it over for me to see!” Yu Xiaocao was excited. 

Speaking of handmade soaps, the idea only came by when she was washing her face one morning and complained about the rough soap, “This soap is expensive but it’s not particularly useful. It can’t keep moisture, nor can it whiten the skin—it’s not worth buying!”

Hechun always wanted to look pretty. On normal days, she liked to make some cosmetics like rouge and face powder. Once she heard her young miss complain about the soap that cost five taels each, the Hechun who idolized Xiaocao began to pester her, asking about the kind of soap that would be able to moisturize and whiten the skin. Thus, Xiaocao told her two ways to easily make soap. Although the person speaking was careless, the listener had the intention. Hechun remembered the instructions and secretly tried them out. Xiaocao had not expected that she would be able to successfully craft them after only a month’s work. 

The other maidservants in the room snickered when Hechun brought back two pieces of oddly shaped handmade soap. The aloe soap was only a green lump that looked like squished vegetable balls. The color of the honey-milk soap was neither yellow nor white and it looked like expired cheese. Could these actually be used?

Wutong felt that she had stolen her limelight earlier, so she was eager to deride her, “Hechun, this is the ‘handmade soap’ that you mentioned? Are you sure it’s not a failed product that you brought out to fool Young Miss? Who would dare to use such a thing like this?”

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Myst's Thoughts

Translator: Vera