Naturally, this coffee wasn’t prepared for the emperor emeritus alone. Thus, Xiaocao considerately also placed some milk and sugar on the serving tray. Whoever felt that the coffee was too bitter could easily add either to their own taste.
The emperor emeritus drank some pure coffee and ate a few pieces of sweet but not too sweet western-style pastries. He nodded his head in satisfaction. The fatigue that had settled into his bones for months had dissipated away as soon as he ate the delicious food. Other than the emperor, who had added a bit more milk and sugar to his cup and drank it down with pleasure, the rest of the people present weren’t used to this bitter drink.
However, Headmaster Yuan was able to taste the uniqueness of the coffee. There was still more than half a year before the autumnal exams started, so all of the students were studying late every day. Naturally, their energy levels couldn't keep up with this schedule. If they had access to this energizing drink, it may be of great help to them in the future. He silently remembered the properties of this drink and reminded himself to ask the little lass for ‘the secrets’ of this drink.
“Ahem ahem! We’ve done most of the ceremonies today, and it’s starting to get late…” The emperor emeritus finished the cup of coffee in front of him in one gulp and wished to drink more.
The Yu Family and Headmaster Yuan, who was the matchmaker on the female side, all thought that he was going to say his farewells next, so they hurriedly interjected, “Lunch preparations has just been finished, so you should eat before you go ah!”
The emperor emeritus nodded his head in a matter of fact manner and said, “That was precisely my thought. It’s getting late and about time to eat the noon meal. I heard that when my second son had guests over, the little lass had come up with a few more new dishes. I’m not sure whether this old lord would be able to try any today at noon.”
Imperial Prince Jing had a constipated look on his face. Why did he agree to allow his old father to become the middle matchmaker? Was there anyone else who would shamelessly cadge a meal from the female side when they were here to match the birthdates  between the prospective groom and bride?
“Will ‘Buddha Jumps Over the Wall’ be at the meal today? Every time the imperial chefs make it, I always feel like it’s missing something. The taste is never as good as when that lass Xiaocao makes it.” The emperor also had a face full of approval, showing that he had no intention of moving even one iota out of the chair.
Imperial Prince Jing let out a long sigh inside. It looked like he was truly going to be shamed to the heavens today. After all, it was impossible to not get bitten when there was a lot of lice around! He also had no intention of saying his farewells now either.
“Yes, yes, yes! When Cao’er found out that Your Imperial Majesty was going to personally come today, she made sure that all of the ingredients for the dish were ready in advance. She had woken up bright and early to begin preparing. Not only will there be ‘Buddha Jumps Over the Wall’, but she also prepared your favorite braised pig head meat, sliced pig ears in chili oil, braised pig snout...all of these have been personally made by that lass Cao’er!” Yu Hai realized that both the emperor and the emperor emeritus were quite easygoing, so he slowly relaxed as time went on. Thus, when he spoke, he wasn’t as afraid as before.
The emperor emeritus chuckled and said, “Looks like I didn’t dote on that lass for nothing. She still remembers what this old lord likes to eat the most. However, these past two years my teeth have become more loose in my mouth. Thus, it looks like the sliced pig ears will have to benefit the rest of you stinky brats instead.”
As one of the ‘stinky brats’, Imperial Prince Jing rubbed at his nose. He was almost fifty years old but was still labeled a stinky brat. It felt like he had gone back to his youth again during a time when his old father would beat him out with a broom.
Headmaster Yuan guffawed loudly, “You’re already seventy years old and your teeth have only started to loosen now? You should be pleased ah! However, Xiaocao mentioned that she wants to open a medicinal cuisine hall. You should ask if she has any recipes that can help with your teeth. If you don’t have any teeth, then eating is not as enjoyable since there will be many things you can’t eat anymore.”
“Old Yuan, you are right. Eating with no teeth is just not the same! That lass Xiaocao has all sorts of crazy ideas in her head, so I’m sure she has a solution. It’s a pity that the medical technology here is too backwards. If they were able to plant teeth, then this old lord wouldn't have to worry.” The emperor emeritus quite missed the dentists in his previous life now.
“Plant teeth? I’ve only heard of planting flowers, grass or crops before. I’ve never heard of being able to plant teeth. You’re thinking a bit too outside the box, eh?” Yuan Sinian was around the same age as the emperor emeritus. When he was younger, he had served under the emperor emeritus and consequently had a good idea of the other man’s temperament. Thus, when he spoke, he didn’t have to be too cautious around him.
“I have no suitable conversation topics to have with you ancient people. The two of us have a very big generation gap between us. In a bit, I’ll have a nice chat with that lass Xiaocao!” The emperor emeritus had long guessed that Xiaocao was also a transmigrator. However, he wasn’t quite sure just what she used to do in her past life.
She knew many medicinal cuisine recipes, so perhaps she had been born in a traditional medical doctor family or was a nutritionist instead? She was also quite skilled at making foods, so maybe she was a chef in her past life? But the lass was also very proficient at planting crops...it really made it difficult for one to guess just what she did in her past life. However, he didn’t think too much of this. As long as he was able to eat the foods he loved in his past life, he was more than satisfied.
The guests and the hosts all had a merry time during the noon meal. The emperor emeritus drank quite a few cups of the Yu’s Distillery’s new high alcohol-content drinks. Furthermore, he had pulled his grandson, the emperor, into his drinking shenanigans and completely forgot just what he was here for today. Imperial Prince Jing sat at the side and watched the two of them with worry——was it too late to swap out matchmakers by this point?
Not long after the presentation of the betrothal gifts, the matchmakers needed to come back to the female’s residence and ask about the prospective bride’s name and her eight characters. Then, it would be used with the prospective groom’s to divine whether they were compatible. This was the second of the ‘six rites’——birthdate horoscopes. Birthdate horoscopes also required the man’s side to bring gifts and it usually was a pair of wild geese. Imperial Prince Jing was anxious about this step, so he also tagged along. On the way there, he prayed that his old father and the emperor wouldn’t act as ridiculous as before and cause him to lose more face.
Fortunately, Headmaster Yuan was much more qualified for his role of a matchmaker and still remembered his duties. He took care of the exchange of birthdate data between the two families. Some people would take the prospective bride’s data back home and place it on the censer in the family’s ancestral hall. If three days passed by peacefully, that meant the two were fated to have a harmonious relationship. If something bad happened in three days, then it was likely they would return the woman’s birthdate and decline the marriage.
However, Zhu Junyang had long become familiar with the little lass’s birthdate data, even more so than his own. Imperial Prince Jing’s Estate had also sent their birthdates to Huguo Temple and had the head priest there divine a reading. The results showed that, in every way, the little lass would bring fortune to the prince’s estate and be a lucky charm for them. Thus, the comparison of their birthdates today and the presentation of the bridewealth were mostly just for show.
Under the reminder of Su Ran, the emperor took out the betrothal card and handed it to the matchmaker for the female side. The so-called betrothal card was made using red colored paper and had both the prospective groom’s and bride’s names and birthdates written on top. By receiving the betrothal card, the Yu Family was stating that they were agreeing to this marriage.
The two juniors had a good relationship, so the two families regarded this marriage with a pleased eye. Naturally, Yu Hai was still a bit anxious about this. After all, Imperial Prince Jing’s Household was truly too grand and noble. If, in the future, his daughter was wronged by them, and he wanted to get justice for her, that would be very hard for him to do.
With the Yu Family’s current reputation and status in Tanggu, no matter who his daughter married in that area, as the maternal family, they would be able to arrogantly become her supporters from behind. However, in the capital, it was different. One could randomly throw a stick into the streets and end up hitting someone from the imperial family. Thus, the Yu Family’s status was nothing to be remarked upon.
In other people’s eyes, the fact that a daughter from the Yu Family was able to marry into Imperial Prince Jing’s Household was a grand and glorious thing. Clearly, it was their immense fortune. Yu Hai, on the other hand, could only silently pray that Royal Prince Yang would stay true to his words and give his youngest daughter the happy life that she deserved.
Since Xiaocao was still young, Zhu Junyang insisted on waiting until the little lass turned eighteen before marrying her. Thus, they only finished up to the giving of betrothal gifts and bride price in the ‘six rites’. As for the three remaining rites, that would have to be done two years later.
Just the first three rites required almost two months to finish in order to show just how much Imperial Prince Jing’s Estate regarded the female side. Now, the entire capital knew that Royal Prince Yang had been earmarked by Xiaocao.
At this time, news of war came back from the northwest border of the empire. When the Great Ming Dynasty was first established, the emperor emeritus dealt with war at all of the borders. Thus, at that time, he had kept an iron grasp on the northern and northwestern borders. After the Jianwen Emperor  ascended the throne, he slowly relaxed their grip on the borders as the country needed to recover from years of warfare and slowly build up the commoner base. The Turpans at the northwestern borders and the Qinghai Mongols all secretly began to amass possible and often skirmished with the Great Ming soldiers at the borders.
After the old and young Zhao generals were stationed at the northwest, they managed to obtain a few victories in a row. The two foreign states had eaten a few losses, so they became quiet for a few more years. Now, they could no longer wait anymore and wanted to bite off a large piece of territory from the Great Ming Dynasty. Under ordinary circumstances, with the two Zhao generals there, who were very experienced at warfare, these two invaders would only be dancing clowns in front of them.
However, the foreign invaders had somehow managed to send in a spy into the armies stationed at the northwestern border. Furthermore, this spy had managed to hide himself from everyone and had become the right hand man of one of the assistant generals. When the spy received some hinting from his old masters, he somehow managed to poison all of the high-ranking generals and officers within the Great Ming’s northwestern army. Although this poison wasn’t enough to immediately kill these people, it was enough to cause some damage to the Zhao Family’s two generals.
Seizing this situation, the Turpans and Mongols struck using a pincer attack. The northwestern army, now without any competent leaders, immediately suffered a huge loss. In a short period of time, about a month, the Turpans managed to conquer Kurpal City and the northwestern army had no choice but to retreat. Following that, the Turpans struck further into the empire and the Great Ming Empire lost a few other cities. By the time the emperor received this news eight hundred kilometers away, the situation had already turned urgent and the Great Ming’s army had already retreated to Jiayuguan City.
This was the first time since the Great Ming Dynasty was established that they had suffered such a loss at the borders. The emperor was furious and immediately sent out Royal Prince Yang after appointing him Great General Zhengxi. He brought with him the soldiers from Xishan Barracks and a hundred thousand people from the Yulin Army to reinforce the northwestern army.
As the proverb said, ‘Before an army moves, one must first consider the supply train’. If this had happened five years earlier, the emperor naturally wouldn’t have dared to send all of these men out to war. However, now that Yu Xiaocao was here and the empire’s storehouses were now filled with grain from the past few bumper years, the commoners had plenty and the national treasury was full. Even if the war lasted for three to five years, the emperor wouldn’t have to worry about running out of supplies and money.
The task of preparing and transporting the supplies had fallen upon Minister Liu and Yu Xiaocao from the Ministry of Revenue. Since the northern parts of the country had been given high-yielding seeds first, they now had a large supply of grain stored there. Thus, getting enough food to supply an army a hundred thousand strong was merely a small appetizer. As for the official in charge of transporting the grain, that had fallen onto Count Zhongqin, Fang Zizhen.
The reasoning for this appointment was simple. The Fang Family was now related in marriage to Great General Zhengxi and they also had a master-disciple relationship with General Zhao in the northwest army. Thus, Fang Zizhen wouldn't try doing any tricks in delaying help to those two people.
When Xiaocao found out that Grandfather Zhao and Uncle Zhao had both been poisoned, she immediately went to work. She stayed up the entire night to craft a few bottles filled with detoxifying pills that had been enhanced with mystic-stone water. Furthermore, she was worried that her fiancé might get injured in the upcoming war. Thus, she personally made some pills and balms to treat internal and external injuries.
The little divine stone had helped her by teaching her a few elementary methods of concocting medicines that it had learned in its other dimension. Although Xiaocao could only use ordinary ingredients, ordinary medicine furnaces and fires to make these pills, the medicines she made were all at least ten times more effective than the other pills made in this world. With the addition of mystic-stone water in these medicines, their efficacy was naturally quite good.
For example, it didn't matter how severe an external injury was as long as it wasn’t a fatal strike. As long as that person used a pill to treat external injuries, the bleeding would immediately stop and the person could bounce around like normal in two days. As for the pills used to treat internal injuries, it wouldn’t be too far-fetched to claim that it could bring the dead back to life. As long as one breath remained in that person, taking a pill could help them preserve their life.
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Sanguine’s thoughts: They’re finally engaged!