Jiang Moxi stopped and looked at the bird in Wang Qing’s hand. Wang Qing pulled one of Jiang Moxi’s hands and put his own bird in it. “This one is also for you.” Seeing this, Nizi also took her red bird out of her pocket. “Brother Moxi, mine is also for you.” Jiang Moxi looked motionlessly at the two extra birds in his hands, his fingers slowly tightening.
“Let’s go back inside, it’s cold outside.” Wang Qing pulled Jiang Moxi’s arm and walked quickly towards the house, as if Jiang Moxi was normal. Jiang Moxi hugged the three little birds and also sped up his pace. While flushed, Nizi smiled and followed them closely. Seeing this scene Jiang Kangchen turned his head around trying not to cry. In the Wu family, both adults and children bullied his son, beating and scolding him as they called him a fool. Jiang Kangning put his arm around his brother’s shoulders and whispered, “Brother, Xie’er will be fine.”
“… Mmm!” Shao Yunan who was wrapped in Wang Shijing’s arms did not make a sound to not disturb the pair of brothers. He will do his best to ‘cure’ that miserable child.
This was the fifth year since the new Emperor ascended the throne. Just like in the previous years, after a lukewarm New Year’s Eve dinner with his few concubines, Emperor Yongming rested in Jingyou Palace, where the monarch’s descendants lived. But this year the Yongming Emperor’s mood was slightly different from that of previous years.
The Yongming Emperor looked as if he had just been bathed, with his long half-dry hair scattered behind him. On the small table in front of him were dishes cooked by the Empress himself, as well as a cup of goat’s milk wine. The Yongming Emperor was very poor and the tea and wine sold so well that the poor emperor took the majority of the wine and tea, as well as Lord An’s portion to sell. But he still ordered the Empress to keep a small share for him. Emperor Yongming felt sorry for his Empress, but his Empress did not feel sorry toward his Majesty.
The interior of the Jingyou Palace was originally luxuriously decorated, but after Dai Qiyou moved in, many of the exotic treasures were taken to Emperor Yongming’s private treasury as a reward for his ministers. Nowadays, the interior of the Jingyou Palace was really simple. Today, there were also only six dishes on the table, but they were all made by the Empress according to the recipes written by Shao Yunan, that were brought back by Eunuch An.
Dai Qiyou can lead troops to fight, march, play the zither, and paint, but his cooking skills were very ordinary. He was only good at roasting meat and highly skilled in leading troops to fight all year round. According to Shao Yunan’s recipe, the six dishes made by Dai Qiyou were only average compared to Shao Yunan’s craftsmanship, but Emperor Yongming was still very satisfied.
No one could count how many times Emperor Yongming’s exclusive favor to Dai Qiyou caused discontent among the officials. The Emperor could compromise on everything, but this was the only thing he was never willing to compromise on. He and Dai Qiyou grew up together and fell in love when they were young. Dai Qiyou also went through life and death experiences with him, eventually almost losing his life, but not being able to keep the baby.
In order to inherit the throne, Dai Qiyou advised Emperor Yongming to select concubines, but Emperor Yongming was not willing. In his heart, only the child of Dai Qiyou was worthy of inheriting the throne. Therefore, Emperor Yongming has always ordered the Imperial Medical Center to take good care of the Empress’ health. If that was not possible, he would choose a few women with low background to enter the palace and give the children they bear to the Empress for upbringing. His Wife (Empress), could only be Dai Qiyou.
After tasting each dish, Emperor Yongming put down his chopsticks and picked up a glass of wine. “Empress’ skill is getting better and better.” Dai Qiyou laughed. “You are comforting me again. I know my craft well. I have wronged the emperor.”
“That’s not true. The Empress has to be in charge of the inner palace and was able to share my worries and work. Now you are also in charge of those businesses, so it’s not easy for you to cook these few dishes for me personally. I love whatever you cook.”
The Emperor Yongming reached out to hold Dai Qiyou’s hand, which had been cold for years and pressed it to his face. “I can leave anyone, but I can’t leave you. Earning money is important, but the Empress’ health is more important.”
Dai Qiyou tenderly touched the Yongming Emperor’s face and said, “I said I would accompany you for a long, long time. I also pay attention to my health. Eunuch An and Jiang Kangchen have done a good job, so all I need to do is act as a backer, which still needs your help. Since the inner palace is empty, there is also nothing to do.”
Emperor Yongming asked, “Is eating the solid yuan paste effective?” Dai Qiyou said, “I haven’t eaten it for a long time yet, so I can’t say for sure. I have to eat it for at least two or three months to see the effect. But certainly it brings no harm. Since Shao Yunan said you can also eat it, Your Majesty should not be lazy.”
Emperor Yongming sighed. “I hope that this Guyuan paste is really effective. Do you still have abdominal pain?”
“I haven’t had any abdominal pain recently.” Withdrawing his hand, Dai Qiyou said with a gentle smile on his face. “Your Majesty, eat quickly, the food is getting cold.” Emperor Yongming picked up his chopsticks again and Empress Dai Qiyou also picked up his chopsticks to eat together with the Emperor. Emperor Yongming drank two cups of the goat’s milk wine and sighed. “This Shao Yunan is really a mystery man, I hope he can really relieve my urgent need for money.”
Dai Qiyou said, “Since he is a mysterious person, Your Majesty should protect him well. As for why he is so different, Your Majesty should not care too much. That person has died once, so he must have had a strange encounter. He just needs to be loyal to Your Majesty. No need for him to enter the court, as long as he is loyal to Your Majesty. Looking at the momentum, I am afraid he earned a lot of money from this year’s sale of wine and tea. The restaurant and snack store business was also very good after opening. But if you want your treasury to be full, you can’t avoid the Ministry of Finance. Your Majesty has to make plans early.”
Emperor Yongming ate a mouthful of food and said, “Wait for me to get rid of those greedy guys first. I have been preparing for many years, so wait for next year’s examination. The people I arranged to fill the six ministries already have some results. This year’s wine and tea business is also fully in the hands of the Empress, so next year after I completely take over the six ministries, I will start in accordance with Jiang Kangning’s plan to promote the new tea business. I will then send the Ministry of Household to intervene. But Shao Yunan and the wine and tea business will still be in the Empress’ hand and I will not allow anyone to intervene. If Jiang Kangning does a good job, I intend to transfer him to the capital, what does the Empress think?”
Dai Qiyou pondered, “Jiang Kangning is an ambitious person, but isn’t corrupt. You can clearly see it from his treatment of Shao Yunan and his husband’s family. His ambition is certainly not only limited to that of a small county magistrate. His transfer to the capital can also help Your Majesty to share your worries. But you should be careful with the candidate to replace the Yongxiu County magistrate. Eunuch An said that Shao Yunan’s family does not want to enter the capital, he prefers staying in the village and spending his days leisurely. Once Jiang Kangning leaves, their family will be without their most direct support, so it’s better to be careful.”
Emperor Yongming nodded and said, “I also thought of it. The candidate should be chosen from master Weng’s students.” Then Emperor Yongming seriously said, “If he can take care of your health, I will make him a marquis, so even a new magistrate of Yongxiu County would need to respect him.” Dai Qiyou smiled, “Your Majesty is not afraid of people talking about you.”
Emperor Yongming said in a confused tone, “As long as I can keep my Empress healthy, I’m not afraid of their complaints. But if that pair of husbands turn out to be of great use to me in the future, I still have to order them to enter the capital.”
Dai Qiyou laughed out loud, this man loved him so much, even if he lost his body and life for him, he would never regret it.
Edited by: Jaisland