Jing Yi felt much better after talking about all this with his mother so the three of them went to open the teahouse. They didn’t need to wait long for the first guests to come in. In fact, they had barely opened the doors and went to dust off all the tables and the counter when a middle-aged woman walked in with her daughter.
Neither of them thought much and Madam Zhong just went to greet the two of them as usual while Jing Yi went into the kitchen to help prepare some things over there. Needless to say, Qiu Ling followed right behind, smiling brightly while he was ordered to move ingredients over from the storage room by the auntie in charge of cooking. When he didn’t complain at all and just made sure to look over at Jing Yi every so often to check whether his beloved was seeing his good deed, the woman couldn’t help but mutter under her breath. Qiu Ling ignored that as well and then went to stick to Jing Yi again when she shooed him off.
Meanwhile, the first floor of the teahouse was filling with more and more guests. Madam Zhong greeted all of them but her smile became strained the longer she watched. These weren’t her normal guests. Normally, the ones who came were Madams and daughters of wealthy families.
People of influential families wouldn’t set foot into the house since they felt that it was beneath them and would instead go to an establishment that had been in the capital for more years and was likely led by somebody affiliated with a Minister’s family or maybe even the royal family. These restaurants were likely to have the best chefs that money could buy but going there was even more for making connections than actually eating. That much, she had realized after being in the capital for these years.
In regards to that, she was actually happy that these people never came to her teahouse. After that run-in with Li Bo back then, she really didn’t want to have anything to do with this type of person. As for the guests right now …
Madam Zhong took another look at them and sighed. They weren’t part of that group of important people but they weren’t the usual wealthy customers either. Instead, they seemed to be of the families that were somewhere in the middle: The ones that had some possessions and maybe a small business but couldn’t be called very rich, that didn’t have any political influence whatsoever and were only hoping to advance a bit further in the future. Zhong Gang’s family was also like this.
These kinds of customers weren’t what they wanted. In fact, Zhong Gang had warned her early on that they would make a specific kind of trouble: Since it had often not been too long since they came into money, they felt entitled to getting their way. After all, families that were less well-off could be found at every corner and would normally do as asked as long as enough money was thrown at them.
Madam Zhong felt that he wasn’t wrong there. In fact, she had felt a bit like this when their family came to the capital. Zhong Gang had greeted them enthusiastically, happy to finally see his cousin again, but when it was time to meet his wife and daughter, things had been different. Mi Fan might not have said anything but she had seemed embarrassed to be affiliated with people like them. Their daughter had been even more outrageous, insulting them as soon as she saw them. Only when they put on nicer clothes the next day did the girl change her mind.
Madam Zhong never would have admitted it in front of her husband but her first impression of them hadn’t been a good one. As someone who had grown up in a small village, she had never minded things such as status much. It was enough as long as they tended to the fields and had enough to eat. She didn’t care about wearing nice dresses or having a big house. Why should she? The life over there was simple.
In comparison, she felt that the capital city was especially shallow. Just changing your outfit would make people treat you differently. And the expectations you could have of somebody if you owned more money than they were outrageous. It was not something that she liked.
Because of that, she had been happy that she didn’t have to deal with these kinds of people and was instead able to serve the Madams that came of older families who thought more about their reputation, feeling that money wasn’t everything and that making sure that their fathers, husbands, and sons wouldn’t be embarrassed by their behavior was much more important. These people were reasonable. They would at most furrow their brows at you if something went wrong but as long as you apologized and took care of your mistake, they wouldn’t make things troublesome for you.
Now though … Would she really be able to deal with these new customers? And what if her previous customers showed up as well? She could hardly turn them away, could she? But she also couldn’t tell the new customers that she didn’t have enough seats if there were obviously several of them empty. She felt like she was stuck between a rock and a hard place and didn’t have any idea how to get out of here. It really made her wonder why these women had come over.
She didn’t need to wait long to find the answer. One of the women waved at her, her expression becoming irritable when Madam Zhong needed a moment longer because she had still been bringing an order over to another table. When she finally arrived, the woman snapped at her.