Yu Hang saw a golden flash out of the corner of his eyes. He looked closely and realized that it was the little yellow kitten that his youngest sister raised. When did this fellow come along? Would it trample on the melon seedlings while running around so recklessly? But, after a careful look, he saw that the little kitten very cleverly chose to run on the ridges on the fields and didn’t touch any of the vines and seedlings at all.
Ladle after ladle of water with a faint hint mystic-stone water was watered into the melon fields. The watermelon seedlings stretched it leaves in the breeze, as if it was trying its best to grow. The tiny melons seemed to have quietly grew a little when no one was looking…
They finished watering the three plots of melons fields when it was almost noon. The siblings carried the empty buckets and walked back to their house.
When they reached the foot of the West Mountains, they noticed that the normally deserted Zhao Residence was surrounded by many villagers. Uncle Zhao’s family lived far away from the village, so they rarely interacted with the villagers. His house had always been very peaceful and quiet, but today…
Did something happen? Xiaocao and her older brother looked at each other and quickly ran to the Zhao Residence. When they arrived at the stone wall of the Zhao Residence, they could hear the surrounding villagers discussing excitedly:
“Wow! Did you see? That’s an imperial decree!! It’s the imperial decree mentioned in the opera!! Unfortunately, it’s too far away to see what the imperial decree really looks like!!”
“I never expected that Old Zhao was a great general of the former dynasty! Do you know about the official who often comes to his house these days? That’s his disciple! He’s a high-ranking official of the imperial court!!”
“Didn’t you hear what the imperial decree said? The emperor cherishes and values talent, so he wants Old Zhao to go back to be an official. What was the title conferred on him again? I can’t remember.”
“Zhenguo General !! He’s bestowed the title of a great general!! Tsk tsk, Hunter Zhao’s family is going to be amazing in the future!”
“Isn’t that right! The Zhao Family is going to enjoy a happy life in the capital now!!”
“The person who announced the imperial decree doesn’t have a beard. Is he the taijian mentioned in the opera?”
“Shhh… Are you looking for death?! Those eunuchs hate being called ‘taijian ’ the most. If he heard you, you’re will be beheaded!”
Yu Xiaocao felt completely relieved after she heard that. Things were finally working out for Grandpa Zhao! Before, when she visited the Zhao Family, she often inadvertently saw Grandpa Zhao staring into the distance with a lost expression.
One with civil and military talents shall serve the imperial family. It seemed like Grandpa Zhao was unwilling to live such a dull life despite living in seclusion for thirty years! Fortunately, the current emperor was wise sovereign who appointed people based on their merits. In the future, Grandpa Zhao and his family should be able to shine and thrive in their own positions…
“Hey! That little girl? Stand right there!!” Just as Yu Xiaocao wanted to turn around and leave, a loud voice stopped her from behind.
Yu Xiaocao looked around and realized that she was the only little girl around. ‘Are they calling me? Who is it?’
“Yes! You!!” The sound of footsteps came from behind and quickly arrived in front of her. A healthy and hearty looking old man, who had a white beard and a fair and chubby face, looked at her warmly with a smile.
“Fifth… Fifth Lord?” Yu Xiaocao recognized him. He was dressed in clothing made of coarse cloth. Seeing his simple attire, she asked curiously, “Why are you here?”
“Because I want to!” With his hands clasped behind his back, the emperor emeritus looked around and saw verdant greenery everywhere. Even the air seemed fresher. He smiled and said, “This is a good place to live out one’s life in retirement!”
With imaginary black lines on her head, Yu Xiaocao thought, ‘You must be too idle. You’re choosing to wear patched clothing made of coarse cloth instead of silks and brocades. You’re not living like a member of the imperial family, but instead you’re wandering around in a barren and poor area. How in the world did you determine that this remote village was a good place to enjoy one’s life in retirement?’
“You… didn’t come with the imperial envoy who came to announce the imperial decree, right?” Seeing that he came over from the Zhao Residence, Yu Xiaocao suddenly had this thought and asked.
The emperor emeritus laughed and seemed to be in a good mood, “I heard… I heard that Head Steward Zhang needs to go to Dongshan Village to announce the imperial decree. Considering that we were going the same way and it was a good idea to look after one another on the way, we just came together!”
“Going the same way? What did you come to Dongshan Village for?” Yu Xiaocao was holding the little golden kitten and gently stroking its fur.
With an even bigger smile on his face, the emperor emeritus narrowed his eyes and looked at her, making her feel uncomfortable. Then he said, “Of course, I came to find you ah!”
“Find me?” Why was he looking for her? Was it because he thought that it was a waste of money to spend three hundred taels to buy her braised food recipe and wanted to get a refund? But then again, this Fifth Lord wasn’t a businessman, nor did he plan on selling anything. So, spending three hundred taels to satisfy his cravings was indeed somewhat wasteful!
The emperor emeritus pretended to be mysterious as he smiled at her. He waved his hands at her and said, “Come, let’s talk as we go!” After saying that, he walked towards the direction of Xiaocao’s house.
Well! It seemed like he really made preparations before coming. He even knew her address! However, she didn’t have that much cash at home. She had asked Third Young Master Zhou to help her invest all the money that she earned from selling the recipe, as well as subsequent earnings, into the stores at the harbor.
The emperor emeritus walked slowly in the front, while Xiaocao followed him step by step, like a little minion. Yu Hang and the emperor emeritus’s attendants were behind them.
As soon as Yu Hai went out, he saw a group of people headed this way. He looked carefully and realized that his younger daughter was amongst the crowd.
“Xiaocao… what is this? Oh! Isn’t this Fifth Lord? Why has the elder come to visit?” Yu Hai had also recognized the old man who walked in front and hastily went forward to greet him.
The emperor emeritus pulled a long face and said with an irritated tone, “Is this lord that old? Little Yu ah, if an honest person doesn’t know how to speak, he will offend a lot of people! This lord is very angry!! What do you think you should do!!”
Yu Hai knew that the person in front of him had an extraordinary background. If he accidentally offended him, who knew what he would do to powerless commoners like them! Even if that person just wriggled his pinky, the results probably wasn’t something that he could withstand! Thus, for a moment, Yu Hai just stood there helplessly and didn’t know what he should say!
“Fifth Lord don’t bully my father, who’s an honest man!! Tell me, what do you want to eat? As long as we can afford the ingredients, I’ll definitely make it for you. But, first of all, I only know how to cook homemade dishes so don’t ask me to make stuff like ‘Fo Tiao Qiang ’ and ‘Bao Shen Chi Du ’. I’m just an ignorant little peasant girl, so I don’t know how to make them!” Yu Xiaocao felt that she still had some ability to handle a glutton.
Sure enough, her rude words didn’t provoke the distinguished guest from the capital, Fifth Lord. Instead, he guffawed and said, “I really like this little girl, Xiaocao!! Then I, Fifth Lord, won’t be courteous anymore—I want to eat pig head meat! I also want ‘spicy pig intestines’, ‘shredded pig tripe in chili oil’, ‘duck blood soup with vermicelli’…”
The emperor emeritus didn’t have any reservations and ordered many dishes, which all fitted into the homemade food category that Xiaocao mentioned. But the last dish, duck blood soup with vermicelli, was somewhat difficult for Xiaocao to make…
“Fifth Lord, it’s easy to get duck blood, but where am I going to get vermicelli? Is it alright to change it to ‘duck blood and tofu stew’?” At this time, Yu Xiaocao had already confirmed Fifth Lord’s identity.
He was in his fifties and had a lofty and hale figure. At first glance, it was obvious that he had served in the military before. Moreover, he could wear bright yellow, which symbolized the imperial family. Most importantly, he knew the dish, duck blood soup with vermicelli! Fifth Lord was the founding emperor of the Great Ming Dynasty and the current Emperor Emeritus! Ay! The Great Ming Dynasty was seriously too small; two transmigrators had actually met just like this.
But, she wasn’t sure whether the emperor emeritus knew about her origin. Would she be able to fool him? Yu Xiaocao feigned a distressed expression and muttered, “Fifth Lord, all the other dishes are easy to make. But this ‘duck blood soup with vermicelli’… what is a vermicelli? Where can I buy it?”
“Don’t act dumb and try to gloss over it! You, this little lass, are still too young to scheme against me! Even if others don’t know what a vermicelli is, can you not know? I don’t care. I’m definitely going to eat the ‘duck blood soup with vermicelli’!!” The emperor emeritus strode into the Yu Family’s courtyard in an imposing manner, and then sat candidly on the recliner in front of the house
It seemed like she couldn’t avoid it. Seeing that the emperor emeritus didn’t intend to perform the scene of ‘fellows from the same hometown meeting each other’, Yu Xiaocao naturally wouldn’t mention it either. She furrowed her little face and said, “Fifth Lord! I only know that vermicelli is made with sweet potato flour, but I have never made it before. I don’t know how to make it ah…”
The emperor emeritus swayed leisurely in the recliner with his eyes narrowed, yet he didn’t overlook nor spare her as he said, “Stop pretending! You know how to make roasted chicken and osmanthus duck, but you don’t know how to make vermicelli? Who are you kidding? If you keep wasting time, I’m going to punish your father with the crime of disrespect and send him to prison. Humph!”
Xiaocao felt really helpless when facing the emperor emeritus, who was like an unreasonable old urchin. After looking at her startled father and confused mother, she summoned her courage and said, “Fifth Lord! Please don’t frighten honest people like us. My parents are timid and get easily scared!”
After a pause, she said, “I reckon you won’t be able to eat the vermicelli today! The process of making vermicelli is too complicated, so it’s impossible to make right now. Also, pig head meat, intestines, and tripe were all taken to the docks to be sold. If you want to eat them, you’ll have to wait until the evening!”
“Alright! I, Fifth Lord, am not an unreasonable person either. Let’s just have a casual lunch, and I will wait to eat the big feast in the evening!” The emperor emeritus crossed his legs comfortably on the recliner, and then suddenly said, “Why didn’t you make a rocking chair? It’s so comfortable to rock in a rocking chair while basking in the warm sun.”
A big feast tonight? The emperor emeritus wasn’t going back to town tonight? How could Dongshan Village possibly accommodate ‘this great Buddha’? Yu Xiaocao looked towards the lead imperial guard, who was beside the emperor emeritus, ‘Shouldn’t you guys dissuade him?’
The lead imperial guard pretended not to see Xiaocao’s gaze and stood close behind the emperor emeritus with an icy expression on his face. In fact, he was actually having a mental breakdown inside: If he could choose, he would rather have his master obediently stay in the capital. That was the safest place within the entire Great Ming Dynasty.
But his master liked to run around. There were still supporters of the former dynasty remaining, so it was really dangerous outside ah! Yet he wanted to spend a night at this little mountain village? His master must think that he was still idle and wanted to give him some problems to solve! Unfortunately, Head Steward Liu had stayed in the capital. If he was here, he might be able to persuade him. As for them, the imperial guards, they could only stand to the side!
Yu Xiaocao hid in the kitchen with a miserable expression. Madam Liu pulled on her hand and asked about the identities of the people in the yard in a low voice. Xiaocao was afraid of scaring her parents and didn’t dare to reveal Fifth Lord’s true identity. She just said that he was an esteemed guest from the capital, who even the county magistrate had to be polite to.
 Zhenguo General (镇国将军) - Zhengguo = Defender of the Nation
 Taijian (太监) also means eunuch, but it has a negative connotation, so people usually refer to them as gonggong (公公), which sounds more polite
 Fo Tiao Qiang (佛跳墙) - literally 'Buddha Jumps Over the Wall'; a stew that consists of numerous ingredients like chicken, duck, abalones, scallops and more prepared in a huge jar and usually requires 1-2 days to prepare
 Bao Shen Chi Du (鲍参翅肚) - a thick soup of abalone, sea cucumber, shark fin, and fish maw (which is also literally what it's called)Previous Chapter Next Chapter