Yu Hai was afraid that his daughter, who wasn’t afraid of speaking her mind, would make an outrageous request, so he hastily interjected, “My daughter’s skills are unremarkable, so she is fortunate to have pleased your gracious self . We cannot accept your reward!”
The emperor emeritus was in an extremely good mood as he stroked his long white beard . The expression in his eyes as he looked at Yu Xiaocao seemed akin to the one that an old fox who had spotted its prey would sport . He said, “This old man’s words are always worth nine sacred tripods, if I say I want to reward you, then I have to reward you! Little girl, tell me whatever you want . There’s nothing that this old man can’t do!!”
When Yu Xiaocao saw the old man acting like a rascal again, she immediately forgot her previous interaction with him and became brave again . She pouted slightly and said, “Fifth Lord, you’re boasting a little too much!
With one glance the emperor emeritus stopped the lead imperial bodyguard from flipping out . The genial smile remained on the old man’s face as he said, “Girl, tell me exactly how I’m boasting, okay?”
Yu Xiaocao saw that Fifth Lord didn’t have any signs of being angry, so she gave her father a reassuring look before she smiled innocently, “Fifth Lord, earlier you said that you would give me whatever I wanted . If I wanted the imperial sword that would give me the power to bring down an incapable ruler or nobles and that would let me kill without question, would you have that? What about the golden medal that would allow me to avoid the death penalty three times, would you have that? What about a jade pendant that would represent the emperor himself in person, would you have that?”
“Xiaocao!! Stop joking around!!” Yu Hai almost fainted on the spot after he heard his daughter’s daring words .
The emperor emeritus, however, didn’t seem to mind at all and casually flipped his hand, “The words of children carry no harm! Little girl, did you read too many novels? Do we have an imperial sword that lets you kill without license or a gold medal that allows you to avoid the death penalty in the Great Ming Dynasty? If we did, I would definitely give it to you!!”
Yu Xiaocao noticed that her father’s lower lip had turned white out of fright, so she stopped challenging his heart’s ability to keep up with her antics . She revealed a bashful smile, “That’s right! All of the protagonists from the novels say the same thing, right? I guess all of the books are full of lies!”
“They’re not necessarily trying to trick people . In the unofficial histories, it is written that Old Matriarch She  had a dragon staff that had the power to bring down an incapable ruler or corrupt officials! Mhm, mhm! It really could switch the ruler hm…” The emperor emeritus sank into his thoughts and contemplated, ‘Should I create a controlling device for that stinky brat at home, hm?’
County Magistrate Wu apparently noticed something and cautiously said, “Fifth Lord! The unofficial histories are only unofficial, so there might not be actual truth to the stories . Then again, wasn’t the reason why an official had the power to ‘bring down an incapable ruler or corrupt officials’ because the emperor at the time of the Song Dynasty knew his offsprings’ personalities too well? So he needed some officials to supervise and spur them on? The current emperor is wise, brilliant, and well versed in all the arts . Is there a need to do more than is required?”
The magistrate’s flattery hit the spot! The emperor emeritus was quite pleased by his words . Although the stinky brat was a bit unwilling to take the throne at the time, as a ruler, he was much better than he ever was . All of the people said that he was the horseback emperor and was only fit for conquering the country . Although that stinky brat at home had his own mountain of problems, he was much better at keeping the country within his grasp than he was!
“Alright, there’s no point in talking about these trivial matters! Little girl, do you actually want this reward or not?” The emperor emeritus’s eyes shifted as he reflected on that flavor and taste of the braised pig head meat again .
Under the pointed stares of County Magistrate Wu and the lead imperial bodyguard, Yu Xiaocao didn’t dare to be flippant and obediently said, “Fifth Lord, whatever you want to reward me with is fine! I’m not picky!!”
“Haha! Glad to hear you’re not picky!!” The emperor emeritus guffawed heartily and said, “Your personality suits this old man, how about . . . I take you as my adopted granddaughter…”
“Absolutely cannot be done!”
“Fifth Lord, think it over a bit first…”
County Magistrate Wu, the head steward, and lead imperial bodyguard all spoke out to stop him at the same time .
What a farce! If the emperor emeritus adopted a granddaughter, then the lowest rank she would receive would be a royal princess . It was unfathomable that a little girl who was born in the rural countryside could go across the wide social gulf in one step to become a royal princess just by cooking two dishes that the emperor emeritus liked to eat . If this story came out, wouldn’t the people denounce the imperial family?
Yu Xiaocao had already pretty much guessed Fifth Lord’s true identity, so how could she have the courage to become his adopted granddaughter? She hastily replied, “Fifth Lord, this commoner does not dare to climb the ladder! How about you reward me with some money instead, a tangible benefit . Heh heh!”
At this moment, Third Young Master Zhou had come in from the outside just in time to see Yu Xiaocao’s shameless expression as she asked for a reward . It was quite funny but he also thought she was quite cute like this .
The emperor emeritus didn’t know why everyone made such a big fuss about him adopting a granddaughter . Why did they all think it was a bad idea? Argh! The same problem! When he was the emperor, he could no longer come and go as he pleased, or live a leisurely life . Now that he wasn’t the emperor, why didn’t he have freedom either?!
He held onto his temper and looked at his attire . He casually took off a mutton-fat jade pendant from his waistband and held it in front of Yu Xiaocao . He made a face and said, “This is for you, take it and amuse yourself with it!”
“Thank you very much, Fifth Lord! This commoner will definitely treat this jade pendant as a family heirloom . It will only be passed through the male descendants of my family who will remember your grace for all eternity!!” Wow! Wow! She hit the jackpot! It was an authentic mutton-fat jade pendant, ah! In modern times, such a piece of jade would be invaluable!!
The emperor emeritus was tickled by her reaction, and the dark expression on his face brightened as he grinned, “Little girl, you know what’s good! This is a genuine mutton-fat jade piece, so it is definitely worth becoming a family heirloom!! Okay, little girl! So this recipe of yours for the braised pig head meat, is it a secret recipe that can’t be given to outsiders?”
“Fifth Lord, if you don’t think this commoner girl’s braised food is too crude, then I will gladly offer the recipe to you!” There was not a recipe out there in the world that was more valuable than this type of mutton-fat jade pendant! That being said, if a high ranking official took a liking to your recipe, one had to weigh the consequences if one wanted to conceal it .
“However . . . in the future, can this commoner girl still sell braised food?” Yu Xiaocao didn’t want to renounce her business at the docks . Although they didn’t make a lot of money from selling braised food, the business had still helped her family past their most difficult time .
The emperor emeritus smiled, “Keep selling your braised food! This old man won’t be using your recipe to make money in the future!”
Yu Xiaocao picked up a brush and then remembered she didn’t know how to write traditional characters . Luckily, the previous owner of this body was originally illiterate . She awkwardly held the writing brush and looked imploringly at Third Young Master Zhou as she laughed dryly .
Zhou Zixu understood without needing to hear anything and took the brush from her . He dipped the brush into ink and glanced at Xiaocao . At once, Xiaocao told him the ingredients needed for braised pig head meat as well as the instructions . She made sure to dictate all of the details for him . Although Zhou Zixu’s handwriting was a bit youthful, his writing still had a strength of character, so it was obvious that he had spent some time practicing his writing .
All of the young masters of the Zhou Family started classes at three and learned how to write at age five . Although Third Young Master Zhou was still quite young, he had already spent eight to nine years practicing his calligraphy! It was clear that his efforts were not in vain!
When the emperor emeritus received the braised meat recipe, he was so happy that he grinned until his eyes disappeared into his face . He commanded the head steward to carefully store it and then looked him in the eye, “I won’t be taking this recipe for free! Steward Liu, take out three hundred taels, we will be buying this recipe with that money!”
Yu Hai felt like his heart had gone for a ride on a tiny boat in the rough seas today . It had been going up and down his throat the whole day . At any time, he felt like they could be condemned to eternal damnation . The final outcome, however, had truly stunned him silly .
His reckless, younger daughter must have had a god protecting and blessing her . Her earlier brazen and audacious requests didn’t offend these nobles but instead she received expensive rewards beyond his imagination . In addition, they also made a lot of money from selling their braised food recipe . Could it be possible that his daughter had really been transformed by the God of Fortune’s magic?
After they sent off the noble guests, Zhou Zixu pointedly stared at Yu Xiaocao with an inscrutable expression on his face . He looked at her for so long that she thought that she might have something weird on her face, so she even used her sleeve to roughly wipe it . When she saw nothing came off, she asked him in puzzlement, “Third Young Master, what are you looking at?”
“It feels like the longer I know you, the less I can understand your thoughts! Sometimes, you give off a feeling that you’re just a little sister next door who’s good at cooking . Other times, in situations where other people wouldn’t know what to do, you seem to have no trouble! Tell me the truth, did your family pick you up from the side of the road? Are you actually a maiden from a noble family who had gotten lost among the people?” Zhou Zixu felt like his head was going to explode, so he couldn’t help but ask her .
Yu Xiaocao opened her clear and limpid eyes widely and glared at him for a second . She replied somewhat unhappily, “You’re the one who was picked up from the side of the road! I’m a true blooded maiden from the Yu Family . If you don’t believe me, my father is right there, you can ask him!”
Yu Hai’s eyes, which were very similar to his daughter’s, were also opened wide as he spoke in a low and muffled voice, “My Cao’er is related to me and her mother by blood and bone!! How could she possibly be a child we picked up from the side of the street? Young Master Zhou really likes to make jokes!!”
Zhou Zixu also realized that he was being a bit rude and smiled, “Apologies, I didn’t think before I spoke! However, Uncle Yu, do you think your Yu Family is the descendant of some previous noble family that had lost its luck? Or possibly descendants of an imperial cook?”
Yu Hai shook his head and stated with certainty, “All eight generations of our Yu Family were poor peasants, and we have all relied on fishing to make a living . There is no way we could have any relation to a noble family! As for my Cao’er’s culinary talents, I can only say that she has a natural gift for it . She came up with most of the recipes by herself!!”
Zhou Zixu thought that this was inconceivable . For a little fisherman’s girl, who wasn’t even nine years old, being able to eat her fill would already be considered quite good . How could she possibly come up with a braised food recipe that required such a complicated ratio of spices? Yu Xiaocao saw Third Young Master Zhou looking over at her again with an assessing gaze that seemed to be full of disbelief . She shrugged casually and said, “If I said that all of these recipes came to me in a dream, would you believe me?”
Zhou Zixu unexpectedly nodded his head and firmly asserted, “Of course I’d believe you . Why wouldn’t I believe you?”
Yu Xiaocao was stunned for a moment before a bright smile bloomed on her face, “Then doesn’t that answer your question? Perhaps the God of Food or the God of Cooking in heaven saw that I, Yu Xiaocao, had an astounding culinary talent . Thus they were intrigued and liked it, and decided to give me some pointers in my dreams!”
Zhou Zixu raised an eyebrow . In his heart, Yu Xiaocao had just become even more mysterious .
Alright, might as well get back to business, “Xiaocao, Zhenxiu Restaurant would also like to buy your braised pig head recipe from you! In the future, other than your family, don’t tell anyone else! Here, I’m giving you a banknote worth three hundred taels, so make sure you take care of it!”
“I already sold the recipe once, so how could I sell the recipe to another? Luckily, that noble person only bought the recipe for his own use and didn’t restrict me from selling it to other people! If you think it’s useful, then just take it!”
Yu Xiaocao was not necessarily a person who was overly greedy for money . From her perspective, it didn’t matter how much money she had, none of it was equal to having a close friend stepping forward bravely in a moment of crisis . As for Third Young Master Zhou, at the present time, he was worth being friends with!
The admiration Third Young Master Zhou had for Yu Xiaocao increased significantly . From his standpoint, the thing the Yu Family lacked the most was money . Their business at the docks was good but it was still a small scale business . In one day, they only made around a hundred or so copper coins .
In order to earn three hundred taels, they would need to sell braised food at the docks for a few years, and even then they might not make that much . However, Yu Xiaocao had refused his offer like it was not a big deal, almost as if he was offering her three copper coins instead . Where else would he find a friend who was as generous and shrewd as her?
 Old Matriarch She (佘老太君) - matriarch of the Yang Clan, a loyal and courageous family during the Song Dynasty who risked everything to protect their country; when most of the men in the family ended up getting killed, she led the women of the Yang Family into battle to defend their country