In the courtyard of the residence in town, she freed up a small area of land to plant various kinds of vegetables . With the little divine stone, the vegetables that they wanted to eat were made to mature faster, and it was alright since the other two little fellows knew nothing about farming and only thought that the vegetables planted by Yu Xiaocao grew quite fast .
Zhu Junyang stopped going to Dongshan Village once he found out that Yu Xiaocao was acting as a cook for her little brother, who was preparing to sit for the prefectural examination . He bought a house near their residence in town and brought Head Steward Liu along to visit them every day so that he could join in on the meals .
Every day, Yu Xiaocao struggled to come up with new ideas for their meals . Spring was about the time when the ingredients were lacking—the Yu Family still had vegetables, but meat was a different matter altogether . The pork, chicken and duck meat that they had stored from last year were nearly finished, but the three children loved meat, so if she made them go vegetarian, they probably would not stand it after a few days .
When the children went off to the academy, Yu Xiaocao began to loiter around in the market, looking to see if there were meat or eggs to buy, but she was only met with disappointment . The people were all afraid to waste food during the year of disasters, so everyone had quickly taken care of their livestock and poultry . Wild game was also out of the question as wildlife on the mountain had also decreased massively in number .
While she was loitering around town, she met Third Young Master Zhou, who was rushing back from the prefectural city . The elegant youngster who wore bright clothes and paraded through the streets on his horse saw her looking perturbed, and asked, “Xiaocao, are you troubled? Our families are so close; what’s stopping you from sharing your problems?”
Yu Xiaocao remembered that Zhenxiu Restaurant never seemed to be lacking in ingredients, so Third Young Master Zhou must have his ways . As such, she told him her problem .
“I might not be able to help you on other issues, but this problem isn’t even a problem to me! My Zhou Family has our own ship and we head south twice every month to stock up, so we’re never lacking in meat and eggs . You can just get them from the back kitchen whenever you want to . . . or rather, I’ll just let Qian Xiaoduo deliver meat and eggs to you twice every week . That’s a deal!”
Third Young Master Zhou knew Yu Xiaocao was too polite, so if he let her take from the restaurant herself, she’d definitely be ill-at-ease . Since he had already come this far, he might as well have someone deliver it to her .
Embarrassed, Yu Xiaocao replied, “Thank you so much . However, I must compensate you for the ingredients, otherwise…”
“Why must you regard me as an outsider? I’ll deduct the cost of the ingredients from your share of the profit, will that do?” Displeased, Third Young Master Zhou said as he glared at her . Sometimes, Yu Xiaocao was just too polite as if she did not take him for family! If he did not take her money, she would definitely not accept the ingredients . He would claim to have deducted the cost from her share of the profit, but she would not actually know if he did it or not anyway .
At the end of every year, Yu Xiaocao would pop up to get her deserved profit from her share of the dividends from her roasted poultry recipes and the factories they shared . She never counted the banknotes she was given and instead left immediately . She never took a look at the accounts, too—seemingly not even afraid of being cheated . Of course, he would never mistreat his own people!
Yu Xiaocao laughed dryly, changing the topic, “I heard you’ve been busy with the Zhenxiu Restaurant in the prefectural city . How is it going? When will it be open for business?”
“It’s set at the start of next month . . . oh, right, how are your family’s vegetables? If we could create a vegetable feast as a gimmick when the Zhenxiu Restaurant in the prefectural city opens for business, it’d definitely be a huge success!” Thinking of this, Third Young Master Zhou’s eyes lit up, staring unwaveringly at Yu Xiaocao .
Yu Xiaocao pondered over it, then smiled, “When the Zhenxiu Restaurant in the prefectural city opens for business, I should be able to harvest a little, although it won’t be a lot, or of much variety—it’ll consist mostly of green leafy vegetables…”
Zhu Junyang stared at Yu Xiaocao who stood not far away, smiling happily; and by her side, Third Young Master Zhou who had a look of joy and focused his gaze solely on her . The harmonious sight made him boil with rage . A violent urge to tear everything apart surged in him .
Head Steward Liu who stood behind him could feel his master’s emotions start to spin out of control, and he tensed up immediately . He followed his master’s cold and violent gaze and saw Yu Xiaocao . She was like a life saviour to him as he hurriedly called out, “Miss Yu, how coincidental!”
Yu Xiaocao who was busy discussing the prices of the dishes with Third Young Master Zhou turned towards the voice . Her heart trembled when she saw a cold-faced Royal Prince Yang who exuded an unapproachable aura . She remembered that Princess Consort Jing had once hinted about Royal Prince Yang to be seemingly possessed by a demon when he was in a temper—a person without sense or reason . She cursed silently in her heart, ‘Which idiot angered this bad-tempered cheetah? Nonsense aside, let's quickly calm him down!
"Young Royal Prince, how have you had free time to come out for a stroll today?" Although Yu Xiaocao was reluctant, she still slowly inched towards him with a slightly tense smile . The closer she got with Royal Prince Yang, the colder it seemed to get . Yu Xiaocao felt that her hairs were about to stand at attention .
Royal Prince Yang stared coldly at her with his bloodshot eyes, not speaking a word . Innocently, Yu Xiaocao blinked, “What’s the matter? Who offended you? I’ll help you to beat him up so you can feel better . Don’t let out your anger on innocent bystanders, ok?”
“You!” Royal Prince Yang squeezed out a word and the surrounding air seemed to freeze . Head Steward Liu secretly prepared himself while he cried on the inside, ‘The master teaches the disciple but dies of hunger . Ever since Master turned 15 years old, I've never been able to best him . In a moment, when Master’s temper flares up, I need to do my best to restrain him even if it takes all of my strength . Hopefully Miss Yu will be able to successfully douse the fire!’
“Me?” Yu Xiaocao’s eyes widened as she pointed to herself, confused, “What did I do? . . . You mean . . . I offended you? When? How did I not know?”
Zhu Junyang still stared frostily at her, making Yu Xiaocao feel as though she had been targeted by a starving leopard . She was in imminent danger and unable to escape . Inwardly, she laughed bitterly, making the decision to act cute after a bit of thought .
Yu Xiaocao’s big eyes brightened, then she hit the back of her left hand twice with her right hand, saying, “You don’t have eyes and offended the young royal prince! You deserve to be hit . . . ”
“Alright, I’ve already ‘beat up’ the person who offended you, is it ok now?” Yu Xiaocao blinkingly watched Royal Prince Yang as the mischievous dimples at the edge of her lips flickered .
Head Steward Liu wiped his face, ‘Miss Yu, do you think you are coaxing a 3-year-old child? Who are you trying to fool?’
Zhu Junyang’s gaze traveled slowly from Yu Xiaocao’s try-hard cute face to her left hand that was hit . The fair and tender skin on the back of her hand now had a spot of red, and it was such an eyesore to look at . He could not help but furrow his eyebrows as the red in his eyes slowly faded, although his gaze stayed on the little hand that had turned red from a few hits .
“What? Is the punishment unsatisfactory? I’ll hit a few more times until your anger dissipates!” Yu Xiaocao was slightly relieved when she felt the oppressive aura around her start to lift . She raised her right hand and aimed towards her left hand . She actually did not hit hard—her skin was just too fair and tender, so even a light touch would cause it to redden, although it would also fade quickly .
A large hand caught her right hand and prevented it from hitting her left hand . Following the big hand, she raised her gaze to see Royal Prince Yang’s creased brows, seemingly displeased . Finally, he showed expression, albeit, one of displeasure, but it was enough to feel as though they had gone from the South Pole to the warm town in spring .
“Since when was it your role to teach a lesson to the people that offended me?” The irritated beast in Zhu Junyang’s heart seemed to have settled into hibernation after he saw the red patch on the small hand . He looked at Yu Xiaocao and wanted to hit someone, but at the same time he was also afraid of not being able to control his strength and seriously injuring someone . He felt so ambivalent and irritated .
Head Steward Liu finally put his heart back into his stomach . As long as his master spoke normally, it meant that he had his senses back . He was filled with gratitude towards Yu Xiaocao: Miss Yu was indeed a professional at dousing fires—she successfully extinguished a fire again .
Yu Xiaocao’s face crumpled in fear, “Then . . . you’ll do it yourself? But please be gentle, I’m scared of pain . . . if my hand is swollen, I won’t be able to cook delicious meals for you . ”
Zhu Junyang glanced at the ignorant Third Young Master Zhou who had moved over and his irritation flared . He dropped Yu Xiaocao’s hand, unpleasantly saying, “When did I say I wanted to hit you? There are many forms of punishment, I’ll have to think about how to punish you…”
Yu Xiaocao’s courage increased when she noticed that the danger was eradicated, “Before you punish this commoner girl, can I be informed of the offense I have committed, so that I can die with a clear conscience?”
Zhu Junyang huffed coldly, “Even until now, you still don’t know your offense--that’s one more fault…”
Third Young Master Zhou could finally speak up, “Royal Prince Yang, Xiaocao is still young and there will definitely be areas where she will not be so thorough, please have mercy…”
“Hmph! Someone is pleading for you—another fault!” Zhu Junyang was even more infuriated . ‘I’m the one talking here, so what business is it of yours? Go back to wherever you came from!’
Third Young Master Zhou still wanted to say something but he was stopped by Head Steward Liu . Head Steward Liu could faintly feel that his master’s temper this time had something to do with Miss Yu and this fellow . He would not be able to guess the outcome if he allowed Third Young Master Zhou to continue interfering!
Head Steward Liu hurriedly changed the topic while smiling broadly, “Miss Yu, you’re going somewhere?”
Yu Xiaocao felt absolutely no pressure when she spoke to Head Steward Liu . She smilingly replied, “The ingredients left at home aren't enough . Third Young Master Zhou said that he could give me some from Zhenxiu Restaurant . I was just about to head over to the restaurant to get some ingredients . ”
“Why didn’t you tell me if there aren't enough ingredients? What kind of ingredients can’t I get for you, until you have to beg for them from a restaurant?” Zhu Junyang got even more displeased and grumbled cholericly .
Yu Xiaocao maintained her smile, “Young Royal Prince, poultry, meat and eggs are a bit hard to buy in Tanggu Town, and it would take too long if I sourced from other places . Zhenxiu Restaurant will restock their ingredients every month, so it’s just as though they’re helping me to buy ingredients at the same time . It’s also because my family has been in a partnership with Zhenxiu Restaurant for many years, otherwise I wouldn’t trouble Third Young Master Zhou . ”