Su Nuo knew that one copper coin could buy two candies so he thought the seeds were really too expensive. When the boss heard what Su Nuo said, he smiled and said, “Do you want some candies? They’re two pieces for one copper coin.”
Su Nuo looked at the candy and gulped audibly but then shook his head. “No, I ate an apple for lunch. It was sweeter than candy.”
But, after all, he was still a child. Seeing candies he obviously couldn’t help but want them. Su Tang swept her eyes over the candy that the boss took out and said, “Give me two pieces. Also, how much do you want for these alkali noodles*?”
This grocery store sold a little of everything, whether it cost one copper coin or one-hundred, as long as it made money it would be on the shelves. So the boss didn’t feel anything off when he heard Su Tang’s questions. As he was taking out the candies he heard Su Tang’s question about the price of alkali noodles, so he answered casually, “That small bag costs ten copper coins.”
A whole bag of alkali noodles cost a tael, so it was not unreasonable to ask for ten copper coins for the small bag. Su Tang nodded, “Then give me a bag of alkali noodles.”
After counting out eleven copper coins, Su Tang asked the boss, “Is this soap? How much is it?”
The boss glanced at the thing Su Tang was pointing at and nodded. “That is soap. It’s made from acacia trees. The cost is fifteen copper coins.”
Su Tang nodded to show her understanding then gave the eleven copper coins to the boss. After that, she put the alkali noodles she bought into the bamboo basket she was carrying, thanked the boss, and then left with Su Nuo.
“Sister, eat a candy, it’s very sweet.” Su Nuo had gotten two pieces of candy and he could help lick one right away, which made him squint with happiness. Trying to share that happiness, he offered up the candy with his free hand.
When Su Tang saw her brother like this, of course she couldn’t refuse so she smiled and took a bite. The candy was sweet but she could faintly detect the tastes of corn and wheat from the bite she took, it was not as good as those exquisite sweets from modern times, but it had its own unique taste.
After that, Su Tang took Su Nuo to a grain and oil store and spent ten copper coins to buy some vegetable oil, and another eight copper coins to buy some salt.
In the blink of an eye, three fourths of the money they made today had been spent by Su Tang and Su Nuo could only watch his sister’s wanton squandering. Although he didn’t know why she bought all that stuff, he didn’t say anything.
Anyway, those things were all the results of the reward his elder sister received from the River God for her delicious cooking. Since it was money earned by his elder sister herself she could spend it however she wanted.
After buying everything she wanted and putting it all into her bamboo basket, Su Tang took her brother and walked for more than half an hour to return to Sujia Village.
When they got home, Su Tang boiled a pot of water and got ready to make a meal for the two of them. After Su Tang put away the vegetable oil, salt, and noodles in the kitchen she was ready to start cooking.
“Xiao Nuo go keep watch outside, don’t let anyone come near. I want to try making something good. If I can make it, then we will make a lot more money, alright?”
Su Tang told Su Nuo to keep watch outside before she started. It probably wasn’t necessary because Su Laochuan’s house was located on the west side of Sujia Village, fairly close to the Qing River and a little farther away from most other houses in the village.
But Su Tang knew that what she was doing was very important so she was afraid of an outsider seeing it and making trouble. That was why she asked her brother to keep an eye out for her.
When Su Nuo heard that they could make more money, he nodded immediately. “Sister, you can rest assured, I’ll keep watch and make sure no one comes over.”
When she saw the little guy outside the door watching carefully toward the village, Su Tang smiled lightly, then closed the door and began.
Today, she had seen at the grocery store that the soap made from acacia trees cost fifteen copper coins for each piece. While she did not know how to make soap out of an acacia tree, she did know another method to make soap. If she could actually make it work then she would hopefully be able to sell her soap at the town grocery store. Even if she sold her soap as low as five copper coins a piece it would still be significant income for her family.
She had always been a vigilant person and had never let herself think that the ancient people were stupid or inferior. It was impossible for her to constantly take things out of her space and sell them directly like she did today today. If she did it once or twice, it could be explained away as her having a lucky encounter and finding a good thing on the mountain. But she and her brother couldn’t always just have ‘good luck’. If they weren’t careful, it would only be creating trouble for themselves.
Now that she was alone in the kitchen, if you ignored the four-legged Divine Beast that is, Su Tang began making soap. First she put a little of the space’s spring water into the pot and then started preparing the noodles.
“Little Four, weigh this for me.” Su Tang looked at the orange cat.
You could say that saponification** was not a very complicated process, after all there were only a few materials involved, but it could not be done casually and using exact proportions was very important to success.
But Su Tang did not have any proper measurement tools so, as a result, the orange cat, the Divine Beast and eternal guardian of the space, was put to work by Su Tang. When the orange cat saw Su Tang wanted him to weigh something, his fur bristled, “I am a Divine Beast, not a scale…”
“Is this the correct amount?” Su Tang did not bother looking at the speech bubbles appearing over the head of the angry Divine Beast at all, she only looked at the noodles in her hand while trying to ensure the spring water was heated to the right temperature.
The orange cat’s fur was bristling, but he still answered. “It is.”
Su Sugar put the noodles into the water and then began to heat the vegetable oil. “Tell me when the temperature is high enough!”
The orange cat turned its furry butt toward Su Tang, “…”
Su Tang saw that it had turned around and raised an eyebrow, was it throwing a temper tantrum?
She decided to ignore it and continue to stare at the vegetable oil inside the pot of water. When the orange cat saw that she did not try to coax him at all, more angry speech bubbles appeared over its head. “I won’t tell you when the temperature is high enough.”
Su Tang just gave it an indifferent glance, then she smiled and picked up the bowl, and then poured the carefully weighed solution into the vegetable oil little by little. As she poured, she stirred it carefully with her chopsticks. As the solution mixed with the vegetable oil, the saponification process slowly began and the mixture became a viscous semi-solid.
“It’s done.” Su Tang looked at the soap in the bowl and her eyes narrowed into two smiling crescents, showcasing that she was in a very good mood.
When the orange cat saw that she had finished, it snorted and then pounced on Su Tang’s arm and disappeared into the space.
This little tsudere. Su Tang touched the small kitten head on her wrist to comfort it. Then she turned her head and threw the soap into the space to give it time to properly solidify.
When Su Tang finished, she came out and saw that the little guy was still staring outside from the door. Even though he was young, he knew to see his promises. Su Tang felt a pang in her heart when she saw it, even though Su Nuo had not received the proper care when he was a child, he still grew up with a good heart.
When Su Nuo heard his sister coming out he hurriedly turned and looked at her, “Sister, are you done?”
Su Tang touched his head. “Mm, do you want to go fishing now?”
At first, the little guy’s eyes lit up but then he trembled and shook his head. “Can we not go?”
In the past, Su Nuo and his friends would go up the mountain and pick wild vegetables, or go to the edge of the Qing River and catch small fish, but now because of the recent incident where he was thrown into the Qing River, it had obviously left a shadow in his heart, so the little guy didn’t want to go to the river anymore.
Su Tang didn’t feel any need to force him. After all, he was still young, and he was probably harboring a lot of things in his heart right now. Although Su Nuo hadn’t really fully understood what was going on, he had probably understood that his stepmother and his grandfather were throwing him into the river to die.
Su Nuo had long been a sensible child, so after that, he didn’t mention his old family again at all. Even if he was a child, he knew that he never got any good treatment from them for as long as he could remember, so his heart had been broken a long time ago. He had long stopped holding out any hope for his old family, which was part of the reason why his heart was now so burdened.
*calling them specifically ‘alkali’ noodles feels like a mouthful but it’s an important distinction for the plot (since she’s using that type of noodle to make her soap) so I left it that way.
**saponification is a process that creates soap btw