Northern Li’s snowstorms stopped in late spring. After summer arrived, Jin Zi ordered the soldiers to help the refugees rebuild their homes and used his own name to buy a large number of livestock from the Wintercrow and southern Northern Li merchants. These animals were given to the victims in the severe areas of the disasters. Unlike the southlands, which required massive reconstruction, the grasslands had a much easier time recovering after the war. As long as the weather got warmer, the meadows would grow back naturally. All of the herdsmen lived right on the plains, so order would be established on the steppe once the livestock recovered.
Human construction was only needed for a rough, stone-based city, a common sight in the northern grasslands. Thus, despite its classification as a disaster region, it wasn’t strange that Northern Li was managing fairly well. Long Feiye had seized this chance to handsomely reward Jin Zi while supervising re-construction efforts in the western and central regions. Han Yunxi was long familiar with the situation in Northern Li and was most curious about where Jin Zi got all the money to buy baby livestock! From what she knew, Jin Zi not only bought a large number of baby livestock, but also adult animals. He gifted a pair to each of the households hardest hit by the disasters. Paired adult animals fetched the highest prices because herdsmen only needed to raise them for a month before they started birthing new young.
“Long Feiye, Jin Zi already borrowed a huge sum of silver from Musi last time. Where is he getting so much money?” Han Yunxi asked. Jin Zi’s current salary wasn’t even enough to support himself.
Long Feiye had long investigated it. “He’s using Mu Linger’s gold card. Kangan Private Bank has records. Combined with the donations from last time, he’s spent over 100 million taels.”
Han Yunxi finally remembered that Mu Linger had returned Jin Zi’s money, which was much more than just 100 million taels. After playing the good man multiple times, Jin Zi probably had lots left over.
“He’s quite generous,” Han Yunxi grinned.
As long as they had an origin for Jin Zi’s funds, thn Long Feiye wouldn’t interfere. He was only afraid of Jin Zi getting involved with those Wintercrow Country slave traders. That was why his reward for Jin Zi not only included money but a raise in salary as well.
The re-construction efforts of Northern Li and tax reforms in Jiangnan were both going smoothly, so Long Feiye was less busy than usual. After court adjourned, he always came to keep Han Yunxi and Rui’er company before heading for the imperial study to correct official records. Today he was especially early, so Rui’er was still napping on the bed. Ever since his son stopping fearing him, the family of three were the essence of “overcrowded” when they slept. Little Rui’er always slept on the outside, but he ended up on the inside by the time he woke up. Only his parents knew what happened in between.
Long Feiye left a light kiss on Rui’er’s forehead before pecking Han Yunxi on the lips. Ever since he could start kissing his son, he stopped kissing Han Yunxi’s forehead in favor of her mouth. When Rui’er was awake, he would simply kiss and leave. Otherwise, he’d never let Han Yunxi go so easily if the child was away or asleep. After all, his son clung to him even at bedtime without a single exception.
If this was the past, he would go to the Grand Tutor Gu Beiyue’s bed or be willing to sleep alone with just Zhao mama watching. But ever since returning from Celestial Fragrance Teahouse, this had never happened. That meant Long Feiye had no chances to ask for a daughter while in the palace.
Months passed like this. Long Feiye realized that not being able to touch his son wasn’t as worse as a son who stuck to him every single night. Seeing him asleep now, Long Feiye didn’t stop kissing Han Yunxi. He even pushed past her lips and gave her an exceedingly passionate deep kiss first thing in the morning. It wasn’t until their lips started turning numb that he finally released her. Han Yunxi looked askance at him as he glanced at Rui’er with a smile. Then he suddenly resumed kissing and even pushed Han Yunxi down.
She began to panic. What time was it? Rui’er could wake up any moment! She pushed against Long Feiye, but he was taking a gamble and not letting her go. As he continued to bully her, he kept one eye on little Rui’er. It was so annoying that Han Yunxi could positively kick him.
Abruptly, Rui’er turned over. Han Yunxi panicked, but Long Feiye was even more flustered. He let go and stood up to straighten his clothes at the same time Rui’er shifted.
But Rui’er had just turned over and didn’t wake. Han Yunxi was startled by Long Feiye’s nervous actions, but she suddenly chortled and laughed out loud.
So it turns out Long Feiye’s afraid of Rui’er suddenly waking up! She had never seen him so tense or forced to a corner in this lifetime! She suddenly couldn’t stop laughing, waking Rui’er up. He crawled out of the covers and sat up, his tender face filled with muddled ignorance.
Rui’er looked between his parents in confusion. What had happened?
Long Feiye’s current expression was indescribable. At any rate, he only glared coldly at Han Yunxi, who remained fearless. The icier he looked, the harder she laughed. Truly, she guffawed until her stomach hurt.
The lost Rui’er crawled over and reached out a hand to his imperial father, avoiding his cackling mother. “Imperial father, hold me! Carry, carry!”
Long Feiye’s expression instantly warmed as he scooped Rui’er up and sat him on a shoulder.
“Imperial father, what’s imperial mother laughing about?” Rui’er asked in curiosity.
After his first birthday, Rui’er had developed quickly in all sorts of areas and grew rapidly as well. His language skills were progressing well and he could speak consecutive phrases smoothly. He also understood most of what the adults were talking about.
“She’s laughing at imperial father,” Long Feiye was honest.
“Why?” Rui’er was curious. During this time he had grown to want answers for all sorts of questions and would never stop asking.
“Because imperial father is laughable,” Long Feiye had to face the facts.
“Why laughable?” Rui’er asked next.
“Because your imperial mother thinks it’s funny.” Long Feiye replied.
“Why is it funny?” Rui’er was all serious.
“Because imperial father’s off to approve memorials now. Does Rui’er want to come?” Long Feiye asked.
“Why are you going to approve memorials?” Rui’er asked next.
That’s right, Long Feiye had already starting giving random answers. He said, “Because all of the courtiers are waiting.”
“Why are they waiting?” Rui’er kept going, still ignorant to the fact that his father was fooling around.
“Because they like to wait.” As Long Feiye spoke, he took Rui’er away with him—but not before shooting Han Yunxi an ugly look from the door. Han Yunxi had stopped laughing but couldn’t help starting again at the act.
When father and son had both gone, Han Yunxi finally crawled to her feet. Her face was stiff from all the laughter. She thought for awhile and realized there was a perfect idiom to describe Long Feiye’s actions just then: the fear of an adulterer caught in bed!
Zhao mama had been waiting outside until she saw the little master and emperor leave. She immediately went to deliver the breakfast personally prepared for the young boy. With her in charge of Rui’er’s three meals, Han Yunxi rarely had to worry.
Now that Rui’er had followed Long Feiye to the imperial study, she had more than half the day free. Every time Rui’er would sit on top of Long Feiye’s expansive ebony wood table and flip through his memorials while asking his father to teach him how to read. Long Feiye was busy and had his eunuchs do it, but Rui’er wasn’t willing. In the end he had to summon Gu Beiyue to win over Rui’er. Sometimes Rui’er would flip through confidential texts that only Gu Beiyue had clearance to. None of the eunuchs dared to read them.
Han Yunxi cleaned herself up, ate a casual breakfast, and went to the kitchen. She had spent two whole months under the tutelage of the head chef to learn how to hand-roll noodles. Then she spent a third month to make her noodles look halfway decent. These days she was studying how to make soup. If it was an ordinary bowl of egg noodles, she would have mastered it ages ago, but she wanted to cook balls of flour—the Chinese equivalent of filling-less gnocchi. For that, the first step was to learn how to make noodles well while the second depended on cooking up a good broth.
She was in excellent spirits today as she entered the kitchens with a smile. “Good morning, everyone!”
All of the chefs knelt down to pay their respects at her greeting. Each and every one of their faces was greener than the last. The head chef could only sigh internally. She’s here again!
The second chef was complaining internally, She’s going to pull noodles again!
The third chef only mused, I have to get to the bathroom first this time.
In any case, the ten or so chefs wore only respectful expressions despite their hidden sighs. They would rather eat the emperor’s attempt at noodles than drink the empress’s personally brewed soup!
“All of you rise. Stay on the sidelines. I’m in a good mood today, so I’ll invite you all to drink soup!” Han Yunxi smiled.
“Thanks to Esteemed Empress for her grace!” the group chorused while backing away towards the ways. Their expressions were all in sync and equally...grief-stricken! Yesterday the empress had already prepared an ingredients list for them to wash and ready ahead of time. Their morning’s work was spent preparing these items and putting them on the table. Thus, everyone knew exactly what kind of soup the empress was planing today.
Han Yunxi lifted the gauze cover on the table and saw all of her ingredients ready and lined up in order. They included old hen meat, chicken bones, chicken innards, pigeon, pork bones, lobster meat, rock sugar, white peppercorns, longan meat, ginger, and wolfberries. Although there was a wide variety of ingredients, the basics were still four components: chicken, lobster, pork, and condiments.
These chefs had followed Zhao mama for years and knew the flavor of the emperor’s order of old hen with lobster soup in the past. Thus, the empress’s recipe made them quake.
Han Yunxi quickly boiled the water and tossed in the ingredients. She knew the flavor of old hen and lobster soup better than anyone else. It was engraved in her memory, so she was quite confident about today’s combination. Long Feiye had Zhao mama stew her old hen soups until the meat was completely tender. This time she was using the flavor of lobster to make the soup while the other ingredients were there to remove its fishy taste. Combined with the freshness of chicken, the combinations wouldn’t clash but mutually benefit instead. She had taste-tested herself multiple times before settling on this combo.
Most importantly, as long as she succeeded with her soup, she could finish things once and for all. In modern times a broth like this would be a treasured stock that could be used for hot pot flavorings or to make anything especially delicious!
Would Han Yunxi succeed this time?Previous Chapter Next Chapter