Chapter 453 - Everyone Has Their Own Road to Walk

Fortunately, this year, when she planted fruit trees on the hills behind the Imperial Plantation, she had planted the most peach trees. She didn't know where Royal Prince Yang had gotten these trees. All of the trees looked to be around ten years old, and some of them even had trunks about as thick as an adult person's arm. These trees had probably just reached the age when they were about to bear fruit. She wasn't sure what method the royal prince used, whether it was power or money, to get the owners of these trees to give them to him.

With a dozen or so peach trees in the fruit orchard, in spring, when the flowers were blooming, it would be a sight to behold. In her eyes, she could already see the air filled with fluttering flowers and the ground carpeted with scattered, delicate petals. It would be a fantastical and picturesque sight that could bewitch people’s hearts. In the future, when they planted more fruit trees, they could open up the peach tree glade in the spring and allow people inside to admire their blossoms. She was planning on building a few elegant and intriguing pavilions within the peach tree forest. Scholars could rent these pavilions so they could hold a small banquet with the flower filled forest. Thus, she could also make another batch of money from this.

After thinking about it, she decided that managing a fruit tree orchard was quite worth it. The flowers during the spring could be picked and used to make flower tea. The blossoming trees themselves could also attract people who were willing to pay to admire them. Once the fruits were ripe, she could start a pick-your-own fruit business. The guests could freely walk amongst the fruit trees and eat any fruits they picked without paying while they were still in the orchard. If they wanted to bring any fruit home, they would have to pay by weight. 

In her previous life, all of these methods were used in farms producing strawberries, peaches, and grapes until they were too commonplace. In this time period, noble young maidens rarely left their homes to do anything. Wholesome places like this should prove to be very interesting and fun to them, right? Thus, Yu Xiaocao had especially consulted young maidens like Jiang Siniang and He Wanning to see if they would be interested in something like this. Both of them stated that they were very intrigued by this idea!

However, these plans of hers would have to wait until the fruit orchard had expanded to a larger size. Currently, Yu Xiaocao was huddled next to the heated wall and discussing the cosmetics business with Hechun. For now, she decided that for cleansing items they would just rely on their handmade soaps. Other than honey, milk and aloe, they could also add a bunch of other natural ingredients to their soaps. That way they could divide their soap products into four main categories: moisturizing, refreshing, whitening, and acne prevention.  

Many common ingredients in everyday life could all be incorporated into these soaps. For example, they could make soaps that contained glutinous rice and wolfberry, cow’s milk with fresh salt, evening primrose and soy milk, creamy butter and silver fungus, propolis, mint, chrysanthemum flowers... they could even use fruits and vegetables and other food items in their soaps, such as: cucumbers, luffa, tomatoes, apples, eggs…After processing all of these raw ingredients, their essences could be easily mixed and matched to create the effect they wanted. Furthermore, with the mystic-stone water on hand, these products were guaranteed to work.

Since all of these cosmetic items targeted the noble and wealthy young maidens and matrons of the capital, that meant the packaging of these products needed to be very beautiful and fit for the audience. They decided to use the highest-quality precious woods for the boxes of their products and were planning on hiring master carpenters to carve and shape these delicate boxes. The products would be split into three tiers: top-notch, superior, and common. The top-notch products were going to be packaged in boxes made of golden silk nanmu wood. Superior quality soaps were going to be packaged in boxes made of red sandalwood and the lowest tier were going to be packaged in boxes made of yellow rosewood. In terms of pricing, even the soaps in the most common tier cost at least a few dozen taels per soap. Clearly, none of these products were things commoners and peasants could afford.

When Yu Xiaocao stated the pricing she was thinking of, Hechun was stunned by the numbers. She had never thought that the handmade soap she made, which was around five taels of silver for ingredient and production costs, could actually be sold for such a high price. The common tier of soaps was priced around at least fifty taels a bar, while the superior grade soaps were around a hundred taels per bar. As for the top-tier luxury bars, their prices were set at an even higher multiple than the superior grade soaps. 

Hechun now regarded her young miss with feelings of worship. Her young miss was truly someone suited for doing business as she had both vision and boldness. If she was the one setting the prices, then she would have thought that selling the soaps for double what it cost to make them would have already been a grand thing. Her young miss, on the other hand, had priced them at ten times to a hundred times over the ingredient and production costs.  

If Yu Xiaocao could hear her thoughts, then she would have scolded the maid, ‘What do you know? Do you think a price could just be set willy-nilly? If these products are not efficacious, let's not even talk about selling them for a hundred to two hundred taels, even if we sold them at one tael a bar, there would still be no one willing to buy them! The three tiers of soaps are created for a reason. There is an obvious difference in the efficacy between the tiers.’

In fact, she was only planning on making around twenty bars per month of the top quality tier of soaps. These twenty bars of soap would all be personally made by her and she was going to use mystic-stone water for the entire process. Naturally, the effect of these soaps was very good. As for the superior quality soaps, she was only planning on adding a dozen or so drops of mystic-stone water to each bar. The common tier soaps had even less of the mystic-stone water added. However, even if the soap only had a little bit of mystic-stone water in it, the effects of these soaps were still very good.

Furthermore, Yu Xiaocao was planning on visiting Miss Yuan at the prime minister’s residence soon to see if she wanted to be added as a collaborator to this cosmetics store. She also sent an invitation out to the concubine-born daughter of the official from the Ministry of Ceremonies to inquire if she wanted to teach her methods of making cosmetics to Hechun in return for ten percent of the profits. She heard that this young lady was not very favored at home and didn’t have an easy life. A tenth of the profits could help her alter her life considerably! In the future, when she got married, the amount of dowry she brought with her also determined how her husband’s family would treat her. Yu Xiaocao was sure that as long as this girl wasn’t stupid she wouldn’t refuse this offer.

Yu Xiaocao was in the midst of discussing the cosmetics store operations with Hechun when Wutong suddenly came into the room. The maid shot a glance full of jealousy at Hechun and the smile on her face seemed a bit stiff as she said, “Young Miss, Yingtao is back and is waiting outside to give her greetings to you!”

Wutong was considered to be one of the maids who had been the longest with the young miss. At that time, after the young miss finished selecting her four personal maidservants, Yingtao and Yangliu ended up with good futures. Both were now managers of either stores or manufacturing facilities. Furthermore, they had shown their loyalty to the young miss so it wasn’t unusual that the young miss rewarded them.

However, Xichun and Hechun, who came along later, didn’t have qualifications that beat her nor were they more talented in any way. Why was one of them put in charge of the greenhouse operations at the Imperial Plantation and the other on the cusp of becoming a manager at the cosmetics shop? Just what sort of qualities did they have that made the young miss regard them with such importance?

The more she thought, the more Wutong felt resentful about all of this! Why did the young miss never see her good parts when she always carefully carried out her duties and didn’t make a single mistake?

Pipa, who had also been left at Yu Xiaocao’s side, was in charge of managing the young miss’s wardrobe and jewelry and was a lot more calm in the face of things. At first, she also thought things were not fair, especially after Wutong aired her grievances. However, she had gone to the Imperial Plantation with the young miss and had seen Xichun with her pant legs rolled up laboring hard in the fields with the tenant farmers. The other maid looked incredibly busy. The sight made her understand that if she was the one in Xichun’s shoes, she wouldn’t be able to do as good as a job as the other girl. 

As for Hechun, that lass had always liked coming up with new recipes and methods to make beautifying cosmetics. Furthermore, that maid had the talent to match. When the young miss had explained the process of making milk and honey infused soaps and aloe vera soaps, she didn’t hide it from either Wutong or herself. Pipa wasn’t sure if the other maid understood anything but she herself couldn’t make heads or tails of even the simplest instructions. On the other hand, Hechun was able to make these two soaps. Although her first batch was on the more ugly side, the effects of these new soaps were obvious.

Pipa lowered her head to look at her hands that had obviously become more smooth recently. Every time Hechun finished making a bar of soap, she always took it out and offered it to the people in the courtyard to use first. Wutong had a heart full of indignation and would often not only refuse to use the soap but also say a few scathing words that she didn’t want to use experimental products for fear that they would harm her skin. Pipa, on the other hand, readily accepted the milk and honey soap bar. After using it for half a month, her face and hands were no longer dry as before and it looked like her skin complexion had also brightened.

The size of one’s stomach determined the amount of food one could eat! Pipa believed that even if the young miss handed the management of the cosmetic stores to her, she wouldn’t be able to do well. It was still better for her to obediently stay by the young miss’s side and spend her time working wholeheartedly for her. Would the young miss treat her poorly for this?

Since even Pipa had noticed Wutong’s little petty actions, she was sure that the young miss was also aware of the other maid’s activities. The higher one climbed, the harder one fell! Recently, the young miss had treated her better compared to the past and had distanced herself from Wutong. Pipa tried to remind Wutong once out of the kindness of her own heart but the other girl was not grateful at all and instead lashed out at her. Forget about it! Everyone had their own fate. As long as she did her duties properly, that was all that mattered!

“It’s still quite a bit of time before the year’s end, so why did Yingtao return now? Invite her in ah!” Yu Xiaocao waved a hand at Wutong and gave her an order without even raising her head 

Wutong felt quite discontent by this treatment. When she turned to leave, she shot an angry glare at Hechun. Hechun expressed her innocence. What was going on now? When did she end up offending this little angry ball again?   Yingtao noticed that Wutong had an upset expression on her face when she exited the room, so she asked casually, “What’s wrong? Who made you angry?”

“I now see clearly. Everyone in this courtyard can step on me whenever they like! Even Pipa’s status in the young miss’s heart is higher than mine!! Yingtao, how could that girl Hechun be so well regarded by the young miss even though she’s younger than us by two to three years? The young miss is preparing her to manage the cosmetics shop! The profits from that place will be even higher than your pharmaceutical workshop ah!” Wutong grumbled this all out in a quiet voice and her voice had an undertone of discontent.

Yingtao glanced at the other maid and sighed within her heart. How come Wutong still hadn’t made any progress yet? She never reflected on her own thoughts and actions and always bit off more than she could chew. She thought highly of herself but had little ability. Despite that, she always considered herself to be more important than other people. In reality, as a maidservant, everything depended on your master. If the master approved of you, then you had status. If you couldn’t, then shouldn’t think of ways to show your reliability and talents to them?

Yingtao smiled faintly and said, “Don’t judge the young miss by her age. She has a good eye for appointing people to the right positions! Since the young miss has decided to promote Hechun to the management of that store, that means that Hechun must have some abilities that make her stand out! Wutong, you need to make an effort to learn more while staying next to the young miss. Once you become proficient in a particular field, only then can you assume responsibility for bigger projects. Don’t you think that makes sense?”

In actuality, she was trying to help Wutong with these words. However, in Wutong’s ears, all she heard was that Yingtao was looking down on her and was making fun of her. A sliver of hate arose in her heart towards the other maid, ‘What do you have to be so proud of? Aren’t you just helping the young miss manage the pharmaceutical workshop? You’re still just a servant under the orders of the master. What are you all arrogant about?’

Yingtao, after managing the workshop for the past two years, had interacted quite a bit with all sorts of people and naturally acquired the ability to read others. From the slight sneer at the corner of Wutong’s lisps, she knew that the other maid didn’t understand her true intentions. Forget about it, ungrateful dogs only knew how to bite those who tried to help. If Wutong didn’t change her attitude in the future, then it would be very hard for her to advance!

Yingtao decided to ignore her and lifted the thick door covering over the doorsill. She stepped into the room. Because the room had a heated wall, it felt as warm as spring inside. Pipa took the hat she had taken off and placed it on a shelf. Yingtao thanked the other maid with a smile. Now wasn’t the time for her to exchange pleasantries. She had come over to discuss an important matter with the young miss! 

“Yingtao, quickly come over closer to the heated wall. The weather suddenly changed today and we have a cold spell. You must be freezing, right?” Yu Xiaocao waved a hand at Yingtao and motioned to her to sit. Hechun perceptively brought over a small embroidered stool and placed it next to the young miss’s low couch.

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Myst's Thoughts

Sanguine’s Thoughts: There are plenty of people like Wutong in the world...

Translator: Sanguine