After entering the twelfth month, the preparations for the end of the year became more and more important. The New Years was the most important traditional holiday of the year. Even if a family was poor, when the new year arrived, they still made some good food for the family's improvement.
The end of the year was also the busiest time for the Yu's Braised Food Shop. After entering the twelfth month, the four burners on top of the stove in the store were kept burning day and night. Three to four pigs and about twenty pig's heads were being braised every day. Yu Caifeng and Xiaomei’s mother both wished they could work during the time they spent sleeping. When the pickled food shop wasn't busy, Huang Xiaomei would also come by to help.
In the braised food shop, Liu Junping and his sister worked tirelessly. One was in charge of weighing the braised food, and the other was in charge of manning the cash register. Their movements were very quick but there was still a long line in the store. From time to time, people with impatient tempers raised their voices to urge them on faster.
Liu Hu, who was originally the manager of the shop, went back to the countryside to collect pigs again. The Yu Family's pig farm in Dongshan Village, with the exception of the pigs left behind for breeding, only had one or two left for their family to eat during the New Years. Now the braised pork sold by the shop was all obtained from pigs from the countryside.
Liu Hu and Huang Dachui went together. Every day they would leave before dawn and come back when the moon and stars were out at night. Only in this way could they supply enough meat to keep up with the amount of braised foods sold every day. The staff in the shop couldn't handle the booming business so they sent a message to Dongshan Village asking for help.
Yu Xiaocao gave Yingtao full authority on the matter of making the medicinal pills and liquids. After getting the message, she and Xiaolian, along with Yangliu, rushed to the prefectural city to help in spite of the cold. Yu Xiaocao took over the task of making roasted ducks, roasted chickens, and other poultry-based foods. Liu Yaner could finally concentrate on being the ‘salesman’ of the shop. Xiaolian was competent at both weighing food and collecting money, so she was also sent to the shop to help.
Liu Junping finally had free time and was able to run more meat stalls in town to buy more pig heads and pig offal. Although more than ten or twenty-some sets of braised pig heads and braised pig offals were prepared every day, these cheap yet delicious pig parts were also the first to be sold out. The number of workers in the shop who were in charge of cleaning up the pig's heads and offal also doubled. Pig's heads and offal were hard to prepare and these seasonal workers were usually busy all day long.
At the request of customers, Yu Xiaocao doubled the number of limited foods sold each, such as the roasted chicken and duck. Wealthier families sent their servants out to line up in front of the braised food store before dawn regardless of the weather in order to be able to buy roasted chicken and duck to entertain guests so they would have better reputations. When Liu Yaner opened the shop in the morning, she was scared by the snowmen standing in front of the door.
On the tenth day of the twelfth month, around noon, there was still a long line in front of the doors of The Yu's Braised Food Shop. Most of them were ordinary people in ordinary clothes, and many of them were villagers from nearby villages. At the start of the twelfth month, people from nearby villages often came into the prefectural city to buy New Year's products. Now their first choice was to buy a few catties of braised food from the Yu’s Braised Food Shop to take home.
The Yu's Braised Food Shop had rich and delicious food at a fair price. In particular, the price of pig's intestines wasn't much more expensive than buying raw pork. Ordinary people could easily afford it. In the past, the villagers who had difficulties at home would grit their teeth and buy a half a catty of pork meat to satisfy their children's hunger during the New Year's. Now, they switched to buying braised pig’s head meat or intestines that were rich and fatty.
The dishes with limited sales were sold out as soon as they opened every day. This was still the case when they implemented the rule that everyone could only buy two. If they had let the customers buy all they wanted, it was likely that one person would buy all the limited dishes in the shop for that day. Even with these rules in place, there were still many families who sent several servants to line up at one time. These families did not lack money and had plenty of servants. It was better to prepare more roasted chickens and ducks so that when they had guests over, they would have face.
Yu Xiaocao asked Yangliu to go to the back kitchen to help her Oldest Aunt. She took the balance from the pickled food shop and began to help to weigh the braised food. As a result, sales were much faster. There was light snow outside, and the scene of those who were waiting in line to buy braised foods made Yu Xiaocao feel sympathy for those customers.
At this time, a carriage passed by the doors. The guard beside the carriage was a big man. With bright eyes, he glanced at the long line in front of the shop, seeming to be even more on guard.
"Stop, stop, stop!" A familiar voice came from inside, "So fragrant! This is the smell of braised pig's head meat! This smells more authentic than the work of an Imperial Chef; it's clearly the work of that lass from the Yu Family! Dequan, go and see where the fragrance is coming from."
The white-haired old man without a beard, who was around fifty years of age and was beside the carriage, jumped off his horse. His action was nimbler than that of a young man. The old man walked by the group and went straight to the doors of The Yu's Braised Food Shop. "Line up, line up! You're not a local right? You must line up first if you want to buy braised foods," shouted some people in the back who were unhappy.
The old man ignored them and looked up at the sign above the door and then glanced inside the shop. His eyes first stopped on Yu Xiaolian who was collecting money. A moment later, he turned to Yu Xiaocao, who was smiling and weighing braised pig's head meat for an old woman.
He didn't alert the people in the shop and turned around, going back to the side of the carriage. He bent his body and bowed to the person opposite him. In a slightly shrill voice, he said, "Master, you guessed right. It's a shop opened by Miss Yu. Both sisters are busy in the shop!"
"Haha! When did that girl open a shop in Jinwei Prefectural City? And she didn't even tell me, the Fifth Lord, a word. Fortunately, we didn't go on the small backroads or I would've gone to Dongshan Village for nothing." A strong hand came out from the inside of the carriage. On his thumb was a crystal clear jade ring.
The carriage's curtain was lifted and an old man with a chubby round face came out. He had white hair yet a childlike complexion and a long beard. He was wearing fine clothing and had an extraordinary presence.
The white haired old man without a beard held an oiled-paper umbrella above the old man wearing fine clothes. The old man wearing fine clothes strolled up to the braised food shop and shouted at Yu Xiaocao, who was engrossed in serving customers, "Lass, give me half a pig's head, and a pair of pig's ears. Slice the pig ears and mix them with red oil..."
The people in line behind him didn't yell at him to line up as they had at the other old man after they saw his extraordinary presence.
Yu Xiaocao heard the sound and found it familiar. She almost threw her balance when she lifted her head up. Oh my goodness, how did this Big Buddha come to this prefectural city? She opened her mouth, looked at the emperor emeritus's clothes and the people around him, and swallowed the title ‘Emperor Emeritus’ forcefully. She squeezed out a smile and asked "Fifth... Fifth Lord, why are you not in the capital at this time?"
"Argh...." The emperor emeritus sighed with a look of helplessness as he held his stomach. "I didn't want to run around in the cold either! The gluttonous insects in my stomach are making trouble, so I didn't have any other ideas!"
Dequan, who was beside him, quietly reminded, "Master, it's cold outside. Why don't you greet Miss Xiaocao inside?"
"Speaking out of turn! My body and bones are still fine! In the old days, in order to win an ambush, I waited in the snow for three full days. I caught the enemy by surprise and gained a complete victory——achoo!" Before he finished speaking, the emperor emeritus let out a big sneeze.
Yu Xiaocao quickly put down the balance in her hands, came out of the shop, and invited the old man into the yard.
"Fifth Lord, warm up on the kang bed first in the guest room. I'll cook you a bowl of ginger soup." Yu Xiaocao originally wanted to invite them into the living room, but the conditions of the courtyard were limited. There wasn’t a heated wall in the living room, so it was as cold as outside. Without any other options, she had to invite them into the guest room.
The kang bed in the guest room was so hot that the emperor emeritus took off his shoes and sat down with a comfortable sigh. He spoke to Dequan, who was waiting on him at the side, "Dequan, we can't refuse to be old. Even with a brazier in the carriage, people will still get sick. Aigh...You should take off your shoes and warm up by the kang bed."
"This servant doesn't dare..." Dequan was an old eunuch who had served the emperor emeritus for decades. He was very considerate in his daily services but he had a more old-fashioned personality.
The emperor emeritus cut him off with a glance, smiled, and said, "Why do you not dare? Do you have foot odor and are afraid of suffocating me?"
Dequan responded to the emperor emeritus's joke in a flat voice, "Those with diseases or a strong body odor can't enter the Imperial Palace to serve!"
"Hold it! It's been decades, how could I still not know you? Come, this is an order! If you also get a cold, who will serve me? I'm not used to being served by other people!" After the emperor emeritus abdicated, he became more and more easy-going. In his eyes, social statuses were just a fart!
Dequan was deeply moved. Seeing the emperor emeritus's firm manner, he solemnly thanked his master. He took off his shoes and sat down at the far end of the Kang. The emperor emeritus threw over a blanket for him to cover his legs with.
Dequan was so devoted that he developed rheumatism in the legs in his earlier years. These two days, the stubborn old eunuch wasn't willing to ride in the carriage with him and rode on a horse in the snow and wind, so it must've been hard.
After covering his legs with the blanket, Dequan felt the kindness of his master in his heart again. At that time, after the collapse of the previous dynasty, he was sent to the palace to wait for a chance to kill the emperor emeritus who was still the emperor at the time. However, the master never treated him as a slave and instead treated him as an equal, with respect all the time. Even if the master guessed that he had ulterior motives, he was still valued...With time, even a stone heart would be warmed! He betrayed his former master and followed his current master wholeheartedly. It had been thirty years...He had never regretted his decision and even felt glad at the choice he had made!
"Cough cough cough...." The emperor emeritus coughed, interrupting Dequan's recollections. He hurried off the kang bed and poured a cup of warm water from the teapot, serving his master the drink.
Dequan looked at his master's face and said worriedly, "Master, we didn't bring an imperial physician with us on this trip. This servant will go inquire where the most famous doctor is in the prefectural city!"
The emperor emeritus waved a hand and shook his head, "No! Didn't we buy Tongren Medicine Hall's medicinal pills? I'll take a cold and cough pill and be fine! It's just a small cold, it won't beat this old man yet!"
Yu Xiaocao finished cooking the ginger soup and had added a drop of mystic-stone water before bringing it over. Seeing the pills in Dequan's hands, she hesitated for a moment and said, "Fifth Lord, can you let this ordinary girl take your pulse? Medicine is three parts poison. Although this pill is good, it can't be casually taken!"
"Haha....cough cough cough.” The emperor emeritus coughed for a while. He looked at Yu Xiaocao and said with a smile, "I almost forgot that the legendary Doctor Yu is still here!"Previous Chapter Next Chapter