Ren Baqian waited in the imperial kitchen for some time before he was brought back to the beast park.
The message was passed down to him. "Go back and prepare, return after four days."
Ren Baqian thought of bringing cooked food back but remembering how much the imperial kitchen's staff already disliked him, decided otherwise.
It was better for him to pick up some culinary skills when he went back to Earth. With his current skill level, he would probably embarrass himself.
Although two days were insufficient to turn an amateur into a master chef, he already had some basic knowledge of a few rudimentary dishes. Putting some effort in to learn a few more over two days would definitely benefit him quite bit.
Moreover, the different types of spices available on Earth should allow him to whip up a dish that can sufficiently satisfy the empress. Even though she lived in the palace, the food she ate was seasoned with a limited amount of flavors.
Even if she was not fully satisfied, things would probably be fine as long as the food was not completely unpalatable.
By the time he returned to the beast park, the odd-job workers had all collapsed onto the tables.
After all, they rarely got to drink, so their capacity for liquor was not amazing.
Caretaker Shi was the only one left drinking at the caretaker's table.
"They are done. Gone back to rest. How was it? What did Her Majesty summon you for?" Caretaker Shi had sobered up quite a bit waiting for him.
"The past few days have been hot so Her Majesty didn't have much appetite. I went over to make her some shaved ice dessert," Ren Baqian replied, amused. He was grateful to Caretaker Shi for waiting for him. Ren Baqian could see that the man was genuinely concerned about him.
"What's shaved ice?" Caretaker asked curiously.
"It's fruit juice added to ice." Ren Baqian replied. He had a sudden burst of inspiration. Opening a couple shaved ice shops in this hot place would definitely be a raging success.
However, Ren Baqian was not well-acquainted with this world. There were still many things he did not understand about it. He would likely run into lots of trouble if he were to run the business by himself. Besides, he had too many matters to deal with in his hands. Running the shop itself was not that important to him so he would rather collaborate with someone else and save himself a load of trouble.
Caretaker Shi who was right in front of him was an excellent choice. Even though he looked slightly deformed, he was an honest-to-goodness, straightforward person. He had also treated Ren Baqian well these past few days, and working together would help to strengthen their friendship.
His considerations ended here as he told Caretaker Shi, "Caretaker Shi, please wait here for a moment, I'll go whip up some good stuff."
Caretaker Shi laughed upon hearing this. "Alright, I'm interested to see what else you can make."
Ren Baqian went to the ice cellar and knocked off a piece. He placed in a bowl and brought it to the kitchen to make shaved ice. A short while later, he returned to Caretaker Shi with his creation.
"Try it." Ren Baqian gave Caretaker Shi a bowl.
"Isn't this just ice." Caretaker Shi smiled. Even though he had never seen ice prior to Ren Baqian's arrival, he had become extremely familiar with it over the past few days. Nowadays he would even place a basin of ice by his bed to make sleeping more comfortable.
"Give it a try." Ren Baqian laughed.
Caretaker Shi looked at it suspiciously before stirring the ice twice with a spoon. "Is this ice inside?"
"This is shaved ice, try it."
Caretaker Shi followed Ren Baqian and put one scoop of it into his mouth. The refreshing ice mixed amazingly well with the acidity and sweetness of the fruit. This wonderful experience penetrated his very soul.
"H-how cold!" Caretaker Shi exclaimed as he swallowed the shaved ice. He felt as if his throat was about to freeze over.
He slowly took his next small scoop, exclaiming, "How satisfying, eating something like this on a hot day is truly living it up."
"Caretaker Shi, are you interested in starting a business?" Ren Baqian asked happily.
"A business? I'm just an old, crude man, what kind of business can I run?" Caretaker Shi held the bowl, looking up at Ren Baqian as he ate. He did not seem particularly interested.
Caretaker Shi was well aware of his condition. He did not have much money and was not exactly skilled in many things. All he could do was live off his meagre salary
"This!" Ren Baqian pointed to the bowl.
"This? Shaved ice? You want me to sell this?" Caretaker Shi asked in surprise.
"Yup, are you interested?" Ren Baqian chuckled.
"I am, but you can do this by yourself. Why do you need me? I do not know much." Caretaker Shi put the bowl down and rubbed the back of his own head.
"I'm a stranger to this land, so doing business here might be an issue. I'd rather collaborate with Caretaker Shi and make money together. If you have any good deals in the future just remember to rope me in."
"If we sell this at an affordable price I'm sure it'll be pretty popular. Are you really willing to share a part of this idea?"
"In doing business, having a win-win situation for both sides is the most important thing." Ren Baqian appropriated Papa Chen's saying word for word. At this point, he realized just how well-reasoned this saying was.
Earth had so many things that he could bring over: food, entertainment, tools. How many of these could he monetize alone?
He might as well work together with others. They'll act as the shop's front, settling all the issues while he stayed at the back to count their earnings.
There were many benefits to such an arrangement.
Firstly, Ren Baqian would not need to show his face to handle matters, and he would still be able to earn quite a bit.
Secondly, he would be able to establish strong ties with a large number of partners. These would preferably be Her Majesty and the big shots within the palace.
He would be much safer this way, since others would not dare offend him.
Even if someone did come after him, he would have the backing of these big shots.
He would meanwhile be able to do as he pleased. This was what it meant to enjoy life.
Caretaker Shi gave a thumbs up when he heard Ren Baqian's reply. "Brother Ren is truly a straightforward person. It'd be too pretentious of me to say anything more. It shall be as you say. Let's get down to business."
Ren Baqian swiftly poured two bowls of wine, and they did a toast to seal the deal.
From now on it would be easier for him to integrate into this society.
After downing his bowl of wine, Ren Baqian asked, "Brother Shi, do you have any ideas on how to run this business?"
"How…" Caretaker Shi stared blankly at Ren Baqian. "Look for a shop space and let my wife do the sales. You'll provide the ice and my wife will sell. Then, we'll split the profits 50-50."
Ren Baqian smacked himself on the forehead. He knew that this was going to be the reply.
He could not help but query, "Brother Shi, how many bowls would you be able to sell in a day this way?
"Selling a few hundred bowls a day should be achievable? This city is quite populated." Caretaker Shi fiddled around with his fingers, oblivious to the flaws in his plan.
"This city is huge, we can't possibly expect people to cross half the city just to buy a bowl of shaved ice. We probably wouldn't earn much even if Sister-in-law worked herself half to death."
Caretaker Shi could hear that Ren Baqian had other intentions. He asked, "What does Brother Ren suggest then?"
"Let me first ask, how long does this hot weather last each year?"
"At least half a year or so?" Caretaker Shi answered after some thought.
"That's great. We'll open ten shops throughout the city so that everyone can conveniently find a shop. The demand for shaved ice should remain consistently high, so all the shops will have consistently good business. I'm sure we can get five times the profit of a single shop this way, if not ten."
"This sounds reasonable, but is there enough ice? Her Majesty's need is of the highest priority."
"Making ice is easy, I'll teach you. Let us first hire enough people to simultaneously open 10 shops. Once the business is stable, we'll expand to other cities. Profits will be split 50-50 between the two of us."
"Sss! Brother Ren, say no more. Anything I get to enjoy in the future will be shared with you." Caretaker Shi declared with a bang of his fist.
The two of them celebrated deep into the night. Upon returning home, Ren Baqian stepped on something soft.
Illuminating the place with his lantern, he realized that the two small chaps had shat all over the floor.
Ren Baqian's face scrunched up in disbelief. He scanned the room and found them huddled in a corner, sound asleep. The sight of the two little chaps asleep removed all feelings of anger he had towards them. He could not bear to pick them up and give them a good beating.