Chapter 9: That Giant Rat
Translated by Gumihou
“Master, I hear that Madam Lan just had a new set of palace clothes made in the latest imperial fashion. With Madam Lan’s celestial beauty, such a royal style would surely be amazing, won’t you go and take a look?”
On the small path leading towards Mei Yue Lou, Si Ping did his best to influence Duan Tingxuan’s heart. At the same time he was wiping tears in his own heart. ‘Do you think being a servant is easy? Especially for this kind of master, do you think my five silver liang a month is earned just by sitting on my bottom?’ So many of you are jealous of my position, why don’t you come and try working in my place, ah!
“Hm, then let’s go spend the night at Zi Lan’s place, ba.” Duan Tingxuan absent-mindedly agreed when he saw the corner of Mei Yue Lou’s roof appeared between the trees tops, a hand moved unconscious to stroke his stomach, as though trying to sooth the countless locusts living in there.
“Master, this one heard that Madam Yun had personally prepared duck soup in the afternoon…” If one scheme failed, Si Ping will try another, however before he had the chance to finish his words, Duan Tingxuan waved for him to stop. “Enough with the duck soup, just hearing about it makes me nauseous, alright?”
“Oh, I heard that aside from duck soup, there’s also roasted wild boar, grilled fish…” Si Ping was also looking at the far away Mei Yue Lou, and knew what was in his master’s heart.
He made the decision to try reverse psychology.
“I’m sick of it.” Duan Tingxuan finally made his way to Mei Yue Lou, which had once been quite dilapidated, but was looking quite and spotless now. The corner of his lips floated up into a strange smile. “The only thing I wish to eat now are those large dumplings stuffed with chives.”
As expected, he’s after those large dumplings.
Si Ping gave his master a resentful look, thinking, what kind of person are you? No matter what you’re a member of the Imperial family. Ah, if anyone found out that you have allowed large dumplings turned you into this…thing, what will happen to your face?
“What kind of expression is that?”
Duan Tingxuan asked unhappily, looking at his trusty servant’s unusual expression.
“This servant is displaying a frightened expression.” Si Ping said truthfully, as he remembered the bitter encounter in this very courtyard just a few days ago.
“What are you scared of? The first madam is merely a woman and not a demon, there’s nothing to be scared of.” Duan Tingxuan frowned as he made a harrumph sound.
“It’s true, first madam is not a demon, she’s a monster, a creature way scarier than a demon.” Si Ping gave his absolute honest opinion.
The little marquis was greatly disappointed by this useless servant. Hoping to ‘motivate’ Si Ping to work he aimed a kick at the servant’s buttocks. “Whatever, just, just go and investigate for your master.”
Si Ping staggered a bit, thankfully he did not fall face down on the doorway or he’d be cursed to hell; he’d just figured out that his master had knowingly came here in hopes of a free meal, was all that bluster and big talk made up to just make himself feel better?
Thankfully, the courtyard was perfectly still, not a soul in sight. Si Ping very quietly called out, but no one came to investigate, so he turned to Duan Tingxuan. “Master, it looks like no one’s around, who know where fist madam and the others went?”
As soon as he heard that Su Nuan Nuan was not around, Duan Tingxuan’s bright eyes gleamed like a yellow weasel that had just seen a bunch of goose had escaped their pen and were now swimming around a nearby river. He gave a sinister he-he laugh, and said, “Who cares where she went, let’s go. Let’s check if there are any more of those large dumplings left.”
“Master, it has been three days since those dumplings were made, even if there are any left, it would only be fit for dogs. How could there be any left?” Si Ping continued to admonish his master. The lord swaggered way towards the kitchen, saying most confidently, “Can’t you say something nicer? It’s entirely possible that they made large dumplings again yesterday, isn’t it?”
Si Ping did not dare to say any more, he only grumbled in his heart. First madam’s not you, how could she just eat large dumplings everyday? The fact that he was eventually proven right, made it even more obvious that the servant was the one with a normal brain.
Since he could not find any dumplings, Duan Tingxuan was a little disappointed, but he quickly found other foodstuff that caught his attention.
”What’s this? It looks like minced pork? Hm, this is quite delicious, this will go great with rice porridge, take this, take this.”
“Hm? What’s this snack? Let’s try some, mm mm, very good, very good. Oh there’s more than ten of them, take this, take this.”
“Uhm? This looks kind of like leftovers? What is it? How is it possible to keep so many things on cooked rice? Hmmm, it’s all cold now, the flavour’s a bit off, it should be delicious when hot, take these, take these.”
“Ah, rice balls. Hm? Why are these rice balls so fragrant? Here, take these, take these.”
Si Ping’s face was all囧囧as he watched his master plundered the kitchen for its foodstuff, there was only one thought running around his head: Lord and master, you want food, is it? Whatever is fine, right? These Chinese cabbages and shrimp soup, rice balls, pork feet, minced meat or whatever, can all be cooked by the palace kitchen, ah. Why must you come to Mei Yue Lou and steal? Once first madam make an uproar, you’ll really lose whatever stand you have, ah.
“What are you standing there for? Take all these.”
Duan Tingxuan watched a stunned Si Ping, who held out his arms for inspection, saying. “Master, this servant only has two arms.”
“It’s all fine, I have two more here!” Duan Tingxuan clapped his hands, and found that even with the addition of his two paws was not enough for the food he intended to rob. Thinking quickly, he shrugged and started filling his mouth with sesame oil dumplings stuffed with peanut and white sugar. One by one, in they go, still managing to talk around the food with Si Ping, “Once these snacks are all eaten, our arms will be quite capable of carrying more things.”
In that very second, Si Ping realised that he really did not know his master at all. He really had to admire the thickness of his master’s face, ah. Why is it that after doing all this sneaking and thieving around he still spoke with such boldness and dignity? Not a single string of shame leaked out.
“I just didn’t realise, all these years, how much good stuff I’ve missed out on. This Chinese toon (a type of vegetable) is unbelievably delicious when stir fried with eggs, the preserved ones are great too, its flavour quite unique, very unforgettable once eaten. Oh yes, preserved Chinese toon can be made into a refreshing soup with just a touch of soy sauce, just too delicious, Chinese toon can also be spread on sliced salted pork and steamed, that flavour is just…ah…”
His words were cut off by a loud shriek.
Su Nuan Nuan was badly shaken by the appearance of these two giant rats, rushed into the room forgetting herself and switching immediately into battle mode.
“And what kind of flavour is that?” she howled.
Duan Tingxuan who was still immersed in his private imagination where Chinese toon was steaming happily together with sliced salted pork, looked inquiringly at Su Nuan Nuan. Then, he saw Si Ping jumped in front his master, using his own body to protect the little marquis. There was a guarded look on his face as he faced off against Su Nuan Nuan, the little marquis was really touched by that protective stance.
But, that touching feeling quickly evaporated, because that so-called guard suddenly started yelling, “First madam, it wasn’t me! Those snacks were eaten by master, I touched nothing in your kitchen!”
Duan Tingxuan gave Si Ping a kick that sent him rolling away like a calabash (gourd shaped vegetable). Your mother! I really need to work on my people reading skills, how could I have kept such as traitor like you all these years. It was just a few snacks, you could have just taken the fall for your master. Do you think your master would have let you carry this guilt without compensation? There are servants who would die for their masters, yet here you are, betraying your master over a few snacks.