"My emperor, you are far too skinny. It doesn't project the proper aura of plenty. The rumbling in the peasant's stomaches grows worse whenever they cast their eyes upon your godly visage," said the court physician Lizpiz.
"I am not too skinny, I am the perfect weight," said Emperor Jin, crossing his arms over his chest. Lizpiz could see Jin's ribcage. The ribcage of an emperor had not been seen in hundreds of years. "Whatever weight I am is the perfect weight. I'm the emperor!"
"That is true, your esteemed grace, but observe," Lizpiz said, encircling Jin's once-chubby forearm with his thumb and index finger. Lizpiz shook his head and his white moustache quivered.
"I have been the court doctor for you, your father and the previous emperor that he murde - I mean, assassi - I mean, righteously dethroned. I delivered you! I know a thing or two about a healthy weight." He pointed to the carved-wood scale that he'd used. "You weigh barely more than four sacks of grain."
Jin stuck his chin out. "My diet is fine. I eat the food due to an emperor."
"You know that's not the problem," Lizpiz said, his raised eyebrow sharp enough to open a can of worms.
"I know that you are heading to an exhausted subject. I will have no more criticism of the golden wok that cooks my food! Iron woks are for peasants!"
"And people who enjoy the use of their bowels. That wok is making you sick!"
"What do you know of woks? They don't have them where you're from, you're a foreigner! Lizpiz, that's not a native name."
"At least I'm honest about my heritage, your father paid that old fisherman Jin to pretend to recognize him as a long-lost son."
Jin's lip quivered. "I will not be spoken to that way!"
"You're as stubborn as your father!" Lizpiz said. "And be sure to tell him that I said that after you've starved to death!"
Jin stood up and put on his robes. "This exam is over! If you can't find out what's wrong with me without accusing an innocent and fancy wok, then maybe I should appoint a new court physician!"
"Sounds fine! I'll soon have a reputation of being the court physician to four emperors! You and your gold-plated colon can get out of my office!"
Jin stormed out of the room. Lizpiz felt his anger subsiding and his frustration growing. He didn't really think that the problem with Jin's health was the golden wok. His request to be served meals cooked in it were rebutted by the head chef on the grounds that the golden wok was for the emperor alone, but everyone knew that gold didn't do anything to the body.
And the old tactic of enraging the emperor until he gave in to Lizpiz's demands to prove the lowly physician wrong wasn't working. Lizpiz shook his head. The younger generation. They don't know the social graces.
What could it be? He'd checked all the food, the food sources, all of the equipment except for the golden wok. The head chef had forbade it.
There was one other option. And it made a lot more sense than a stupid gold wok.
Lizpiz opened up his impressive apothecary. He began to mix ingredients in careful measures. Then he cooked them atop a small fire and molded them as they cooled until he'd produced what looked like a chunk of pork lard and handful of rice. Concealing them in his robes, he walked over to the kitchen, pretending to be looking for something to eat.
Sitting upon its own chimney over a fire was the golden wok. It looked magnificent as its surface reflected the other fires in the kitchen. Lizpiz knew that the head chef was instructed to gut anyone caught tampering with the emperor's food, even Lizpiz, so he moved quickly to replace the pork fat and rice on the table with the substitutes.
He left and prowled the halls near the kitchen, waiting for the signal.
A loud bang cracked the air. Lizpiz hurried to the kitchen, hoping that his plan had succeeded.
It had! The head chef stood over the golden wok. The explosive brick had been activated by the heat of the wok and the chemical coating on the rice grains, which were actually shards of copper. Now small bits of burning copper had pelted the head chef's face, torso and arms.
"Curse you, Lizpiz!" the head chef said, turning to glare at the physician.
"If you weren't a demon spirit, you would be screaming right now!"
"Dammit! I was never known for my acting ability as an emperor. But what's a few scratches to a demon spirit?"
"Nothing, if the pellets hadn't been made of copper," Lizpiz replied.
Bits of the head chef began to turn into green smoke and evaporate into the air.
"I'll be back! That wretch's father murdered me and I have plenty of-"
Lizpiz grabbed two nearby fans used to cool rice and uesd them to blow away the demon spirit of the murdered emperor. A small vial of a green liquid shattered on the stone floor.
The Moral: when you go out to eat, make sure that none of the kitchen staff are secret demon spirits of emperors that you've usurped.