Chapter 98 - Dividends

After paying for a month’s worth of tuition for Little Shitou and an additional three taels to buy the donkey cart, Xiaocao had about four taels left in her purse. She decided to take advantage of being in town to buy whatever else her family needed.

The father and daughter pair deposited the donkey cart at the entrance of the ox and horse market and paid the attendant five copper coins. Xiaocao had especially given the old man her water pouch and repeatedly instructed him to give the donkey a bowl of the special water every hour. 

The two of them then went to the town’s largest food market. At the market, the selection of vegetables and produce was as pathetic as before. The vast majority of vegetables on sale were cabbages, radishes, and sweet potatoes. It was obvious that all of them had clearly been stored in people’s cellars for a long time. There also weren’t a lot of people selling meat or chickens. 

Xiaocao first went to the general store to buy some spices, soy sauce, and vinegar. This time, she had a decent amount of money on hand, so she could weigh each seasoning separately. She bought two ounces of each spice she needed, which would last her for about ten days.

In addition, she also brought along seven to eight bamboo tubes of differing sizes which had all been made by her father. As soon as she entered the stall, she gave the shopkeeper the new containers to replace the ones she had borrowed from him last time. She then asked the shopkeeper to put a catty of soy sauce into each of the remaining large tubes

The shopkeeper had only remembered that she was the little girl who had bought seasonings previously when she returned the bamboo tubes to him. He smiled, “Little girl, did you finish using the spices so quickly? Your family must sell food to other people, right?”

“That’s right! How did you know?” Xiaocao gave him the weights of the condiments that she wanted and smiled sweetly at this honest and kind shopkeeper.

The shopkeeper grinned, “Other than selling food, what normal, average family would be willing to spend so much money to season their food? Oh ho! You’re buying more spices than last time, looks like you made some money! Congratulations ah!”

Xiaocao flashed a grin at him and said, “I sold some appetizers at the docks and managed to make a little money. I’m not sure when I’ll have enough money to be like you, Uncle Shopkeeper, and open up a store in town.”

The shopkeeper guffawed and said, “This older uncle is also only making a little money, just enough to survive that is. Don’t think that it’s all sunshine and rainbows opening up a place. When you add up the rent and money spent on goods and other things, there’s really not much leftover, right? Don’t look down at selling food. In fact, as long as you make good salted and pickled vegetables, you can still make a good amount of money. Do you see that pickled vegetable store over there? They’ve been flaming popular these past two days. In fact, my wife really loves that stall’s sweet and crispy dried radishes and spicy pickled cabbage. If she doesn’t have any with every meal, she won’t be able to finish her food…”  

“The town is truly a good place to earn money, even salted and pickled vegetables can sell out so quickly!” Yu Hai exclaimed in wonder as he left the general store.

Xiaocao smiled knowingly and said, “Father, when we make enough money one day, we can also rent a stall here in town. The store would only sell different types of braised dishes. As the only stall in town to sell braised food, we can definitely make money that way…”

Yu Hai happily replied, “When our family has more money, we should buy some more farmland. We only have three plots of dry, sandy land. The yield from the land is not enough to feed our whole family.”

“Once we open up a stall in town and make some money, we can buy more farmland then! Father, most of the land in our village is dry and sandy. If we want to buy land, we should buy plots that are closer to town. At that time, we can even move our entire family to town. That way we can avoid Eldest Aunt coming over to bother us all the time…” Xiaocao really despised Madam Li’s bad habits and small tricks. The woman also had a gossipy tongue that never stopped, and she never had anything good to say of others. 

Yu Hai frowned and quietly reprimanded her, “How could say something like that about your eldest aunt. Be careful to not let anyone else hear you, they’ll start saying that you’re a bad child.”

Xiaocao sneered slightly and grumbled inwardly, ‘Isn’t Eldest Aunt the most shameless one around here? She’s completely a troublemaker!’

Suddenly, they heard a familiar sounding voice calling out to them, “Brother Dahai, Xiaocao! You guys are also in town now? Looks like you’ve bought a lot of things ah!”

Xiaocao twisted her head around to look and saw that their neighbor, Madam Fang, was waving her hand at them. The basket in front of her had a couple plump and fat hens in it, and the basket next to it was empty. 

“Auntie Zhou, did you come to the market again to sell chicken eggs? Business is doing okay?’ Xiaocao scampered a couple steps forward and stopped by Madam Fang’s side. She smiled sweetly at the woman as she asked.

Madam Fang helped her brush away a few stray hairs from her cheek and smiled, “It’s not bad! The chicken eggs all sold out and there are only a few chickens left. Did you guys hitch a ride on Old Zhang’s ox cart to get here? How was the academy? Was Little Shitou able to enter without any problems?”

“With Brother Qian Wen guiding us, it went pretty smoothly. We don’t have enough seasonings at home, so we went to the food market to look around. Auntie Zhou, please continue with what you need to do, but will you be going back to the village on the cart too? We bought a donkey cart today!” Xiaocao was very happy and excited that they were able to buy a cheap donkey cart. She couldn’t help but tell Madam Fang the good news as soon as she could. 

Madam Fang replied with an astonished look at her face, “Wow, Xiaocao! You only worked for a few days and you managed to buy a cart? Then when we go back, Auntie Zhou will have to take advantage of you…”

Yu Hai, who was standing at the side, hastily interjected, “Madam Fang, don’t listen to her! When we were at the ox and horse market, we saw a classmate of Shitou’s who desperately needed money and was selling a sick donkey. Xiaocao thought the animal looked pitiful, so she spent three taels to buy the animal and the cart. That donkey looks pretty ill in my opinion. I don’t know if it’s savable or not!”

After finding out they had spent three taels to buy a half-dead donkey, Madam Fang wasn’t sure what she should say. Instead, she smiled and commented, “Our Xiaocao has an especially kind heart! Good things come to good people. That donkey definitely will get better…”

Right at this time, a person came up to ask Madam Fang how much she was selling her hens for. Xiaocao hurriedly said, “Auntie Zhou, do what you need to do! In the afternoon, we’ll go back home together, ok!”

After saying their goodbyes to Madam Fang, the father and daughter pair walked off. Before they had gone a few steps, they were stopped by someone. Jiang Yu, the young lad who ran the pickled vegetable store, came out of his stall with a large smile on his face and greeted them, “Benefactor, benefactor, please wait for a second!” 

Yu Hai felt perplexed inside. This young fellow didn’t look familiar at all to him. When did he help this guy? Who would have thought, Yu Hai had assumed wrongly. The person that the young man was thanking wasn’t him.

“Ah…you are the fellow that runs that pickled and salted vegetable store, right?” Xiaocao pointed her finger at the pickled vegetable shop that was in the vicinity. Inside, there were several people buying pickled vegetables. A middle-aged man, who looked very similar to Jiang Yu, was currently bustling around helping out the customers inside. 

Xiaocao grinned at the young man, “Looks like business is going well right now!”

Jiang Yu happily replied, “It’s all thanks to you, benefactor. The recipes for pickled and salted vegetables that you gave me have all been made and are on the market. Everyone likes the taste, and the new products attracted a lot of new and old customers. My father has been talking constantly about you these past few days and keeps telling me that we need to personally express our gratitude to you. Earlier when you were talking to the other person over there, I thought you looked familiar. When I got closer, I discovered that it was you. Benefactor, please come to our store to sit and chat a little…”

Yu Hai looked at his daughter, flabbergasted. When did his little girl become this family’s ‘benefactor’?

Jiang Yu was too enthusiastic and warm, so Xiaocao was unable to decline his invitation. Thus, she followed him into the pickled and salted vegetable store. Inside the shop, the unique smell of pickled and salted vegetables surrounded her. Compared to the previous time, it smelled a lot more appetizing. 

“Old Jiang, can you give me half a catty of the savory and spicy dried radish and half a catty of the sweet and spicy…what? The savory and spicy one is all sold out? When will it be back in stock? In about two days?! Then just give me half a catty of the sweet and spicy then…and then add half a catty of the spicy cabbage!” A stout-looking woman who looked about forty revealed a disappointed expression when she heard the savory and spicy dried radishes had been sold out. 

Another old man who was in his fifties shook his head and smiled, “Shopkeeper Jiang, your family’s salted and pickled vegetables now taste better and have a better flavor than when your wife was alive. Did you get the advice of someone talented?”

Shopkeeper Jiang was weighing the requested pickled vegetables as he smiled and replied, “Of course, that's what happened! We actually did have a really great person give us some tips. Elder Uncle Lu, you know that my wife had died suddenly and unexpectedly. So all of her recipes went with her to the grave. My son and daughter had only learned some basic and simple pickling methods from her. You, of all people, should know that my store, had it not been for you old clients still helping us out, would have long gone out of business by now.”

At this point, he couldn’t help but shake his head due to his heavy emotions. The other old man sighed for a bit and then Shopkeeper Jiang continued, “A few days ago, my son had gotten the help of a talented individual. That person gave him a few pickling recipes and when we made them we found out that the vegetables were even more delicious than the ones my deceased wife had made…make sure to hold on tight to these pickled beans and spicy cabbage! If you think they taste good, please come back again!”

The old man chuckled gently, “Even if you didn’t say anything I would still come back! My old wife, after eating a whole winter’s worth of cabbage and radish, doesn’t have a good appetite right now. When she ate the spicy cabbage I bought two days ago, she even ate an extra two bowls of food. Now, she can’t even eat a meal without having some of your spicy cabbage on the table!”

A young matron at the side interjected in agreement, “Isn’t that so! My youngest at home has almost turned your sweet and crispy dried radish into a snack. If I don’t give it, he throws a tantrum! Luckily, your family’s pickled vegetables are cheap and are of good quality, otherwise I wouldn’t be able to afford his habit!” She then urged the shopkeeper to weigh out a catty of the sweet and crispy radish for her.

Shopkeeper Jiang humbly smiled and said, “It’s not good to eat too much pickled vegetables. It’s better that he eats more of his regular meals. After a couple of months, the newly grown vegetables will hit the market. Make sure your child eats more green vegetables…”

“Father! It really was our benefactor! I invited her back!” Jiang Yu walked in joyfully with a large grin on his face.

Shopkeeper Jiang saw Yu Hai behind his son and rushed out, forgetting that his hands were still sticky from vegetable pickling juice. He grabbed Yu Hai’s hand and repeatedly said, “Benefactor! I finally had the chance to meet you! You are truly the savior of our little store!”

An awkward expression crossed Yu Hai’s face as he stared blankly at his hand that was now covered in pickling juice. Jiang Yu promptly pulled his father away and bashfully smiled in embarrassment, “Father, you’re thanking the wrong person. The person who taught me the recipes is the little girl behind him. You’re thanking our benefactor’s father.”

Shopkeeper Jiang laughed hollowly as he said, “It’s all the same, all the same! Ah...good brother, you have a daughter who has the heart and kindness of a Bodhisattva!”

Yu Hai modestly replied, “You’re too kind, too kind! She’s always liked experimenting with cooking since she was young, so she has a bit of talent in this area.”

Xiaocao rolled her eyes in her heart and silently said, ‘Father, are you trying to be modest here? Why does it seem like you’re actually boasting right now?’

Jiang Yu took out the most recent account books and spread them open for Xiaocao to look at. He enthusiastically said, “Benefactor, although the recipes you taught me use more spices and condiments than other recipes, but the flavor of the products are very good. Even though we spend a little more to make them, we can still set a slightly higher price and customers will still buy them. Over the past few days, the best sellers were the savory and spicy dried radish and spicy cabbage. A lot of people also really like the pickled beans…”

The youth was afraid that Xiaocao couldn’t read, so he chattered constantly to describe the sales. Xiaocao glanced at the books. Although it was written in the traditional style, she could recognize the vast majority of the characters. It was obvious at a glance how many catties of pickled and salted vegetables they sold as well as the profit they made. 

In just a few days, a tiny pickled and salted vegetable store actually had an income of forty-five taels and a profit of twenty taels. It made her want to sigh in sorrow——it was much easier to make money in town!

Right now there weren’t any other people in the store, so Shopkeeper Jiang took out five taels and said, “Benefactor! At that time we had come to an agreement that we would split our profits 20-80. These are your dividends from the past few days, please kindly accept them, benefactor.”

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Myst's Thoughts

Sanguine’s thoughts: Does anyone else feel like Xiaocao is collecting animals like a Pokemon master?

Myst: So the little divine stone is pikachu? xD

Translator: Sanguine