Chapter 11: The Three Stooges
Translated by Prosperousfood dot com
Edited by Gumihou
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Si Ping rolled his eyes, “You are the one with the fever. Haven’t you noticed master’s mood these past few days? You can thank the first madam for that. Don’t you underestimate her. I must say, the first madam now is nothing like the annoying troublemaker from before. Have you forgotten that time she stirred up trouble in the big kitchen?”
“After her brush with death, some kind of strange sense seemed to have been knocked into her head. Her brain powers have tripled. You know what kind of person Madam Yun is, how much allowance was really released to Mei Yue Lou? An ordinary person would have starved to death a long time ago, but that first madam, along with two of her maids are actually living quite well there.”
“This… how can this be true? Just what is going on, ah? Was she possessed by a spirit?” Shuang Xi’s eyes were nearly pin pricks by the shocking news. It was then that Duan Tingxuan’s gloomy voice rang out, “What are you two muttering about out there? Get your asses in here!”
Si Ping and Shuang Xi rushed in, nearly climbing over each other at the entrance trying to get through the door first, smiles already firmly pasted on their lips. “How may we serve master?”
Duan Tingxuan had no real task for them, he had called them in because he suspected Si Ping was busily gossiping about his ‘utter defeat’ with Shuang Xi right in front of the study. He narrowed his eyes at their eager faces, humph, clearly his suspicion had been correct. He was tempted to just silence these two ‘trusted aides’ by kicking them to death, however, his rational side still managed to win, somehow.
Well, in the end, it was true that he was pretty much helpless against Su Nuan Nuan’s dirty tactics. These two idiots might not have the brightest mind in the world, but they might still have some small tricks or cunning ideas that he could use.
He pressed down his temper in order to make use of their feeble minds, narrowing his eyes, he tapped a finger steadily against the table and said, “So, Shuang Xi, you have the gist of this issue, haven’t you? Well? Any ideas how this lord of yours could free load off Mei Yue Lou honourably?”
Shuang Xi nearly collapsed to the ground, he stared at his master with tearful eyes, “Master, you’re first madam’s husband, ah. It’s perfectly natural for you to dine at Mei Yue Lou, surely there’s no need to call it ‘free loading’, ba? As the wife, it’s the first madam’s duty to serve master, right?”
Duan Tingxuan rolled his eyes, “Nonsense, you think I don’t know any of this? Only… ahem, in the past, well, I was the first one who ignored her. No matter what she did, there was no way that she was going to admit her wrong. Naturally, she’ll blame me and hate me for the inattention. On top of that, she had somehow gotten a lot cleverer. However, since I still don’t really know her actual temperament yet, I cannot simply move her back to the inner court, and must find the best excuse to get her food, understand?”
“What? Master wish to move first madam back to the inner court?” Shuang Xi looked at his master with 囧囧 expression. Hey, weren’t you the one who said that first madam will be left in Mei Yue Lou to die? You even said that if she was lucky enough to not die, you’ll divorce her? Otherwise, how could Madam Yun be so bold in her bullying?
How… how could things change so much in just a few days? To think that master was seriously thinking about shifting first madam back to inner court? How odd, don’t tell me the first madam actually made heavenly cuisine? Could it really be so delicious?
“I’m still thinking about it, nothing has been settled yet.” Duan Tingxuan waved his hand in a jerky motion.
Si Ping, who had the most experience with his master’s odd mood swings, realized that Duan Tingxuan was very close to losing his temper. He quickly thought back to the conversation between himself and Shuang Xi and rushed forward to whisper, “Master, ah, there might be a way. However, master must promise to not reveal that any of this information came from this one. Otherwise, this one dare not speak it.”
“En, speak.” a dark light glittered in Duan Tingxuan’s eyes, his hands picked up a Qilin paper weight and began to play with it: No matter what the idea was, as long as he could access Mei Yue Lou’s food, he’ll consider it a good plan.
Before this, he never considered himself as a particularly picky eater, though he had to admit that he was rather tired of the same old luxury food served day after day, he had even lived a camp life before and had eaten the plain fare of the common soldier without any problem. However, how was it that he could not stay away from this woman’s cooking? Could it be that she had somehow cursed him?
While he was busily thinking, Si Ping continued to whisper, “Master, when first madam was sent to Mei Yue Lou, the allowance and other supplies under Madam Yun was… ahem, ah, they became… a little inconsistent. This one was thinking, though first madam looked like she was feasting well, there really wasn’t much in Mei Yue Lou’s kitchen. When we first entered the kitchen, master was focused on looking for cooked dishes, this one took a quick peek at the rice jar and flour bags. There really wasn’t much rice or flour left. Not much fish or meat either. If master wishes to free load, why not bring some ingredients from the kitchen and, if first madam accepts the ingredients, I don’t see how she could refuse to serve you, right?”
Duan Tingxuan mulled it over, and his frown cleared as a smile bloomed across his face, “Well, well, you dogs still have some use after all. It’s my mistake in the first place, snatching their limited food without compensation. Why, how could I forget a basic courtesy like this?”
Si Ping immediately smiled, “Well, how could anyone blame master? Your mind is filled with important matters of the empire. It’s not surprising that insignificant things like household matters actually slips master’s mind.”
Unfortunately, this attempt to flatter his master did not work. Duan Tingxuan sighed long and loud, shaking his head as he said, “What insignificant household matters? There are some who believe that a clear headed official should keep the matters house and state separate. However, if one could not even govern one’s house, how could one govern an entire country?”
Si Ping and Shuang Xi quickly agreed with this remark, when Duan Tingxuan said, “Si Ping, what you said just now. That Ran Yun had been careless with first madam’s monthly allowance and allocation, is this true?”
Si Ping howled bitterly in his heart, this was what he was afraid the master would pick up. However, there was no way for him to deny it, while he did not want to betray Madam Yun, he really did not want the master to hound his old mother for cabbage dumplings any more. Right now, their little house reeked of leeks and even the chickens were getting sick of eating dumplings, alright?
Just the smell of leek would turn his stomach, you know?
“Wu, master, that is… Madam Yun has her hands full looking after household matters, large and small. It’s entirely possible that she had … overlooked something.” Si Ping did his best to salvage the situation, only to see Duan Tingxuan wave dismissively at him. In a rather cool voice, he said, “Can a person who looks after the household matters carefully really overlook something like this? I don’t hear news about her forgetting old madam or elder madam’s portion allowance.”
When Si Ping no longer tried to defend Madam Yun, he became even more impatient, “It’s fine, there’s no need for you to speak good words for Madam Yun. We’ve been married for a few years now, how could I not understand her character? It’s human nature to flatter those in power and bully the weak, this is partly my fault as well. It’s possible that Ran Yun did this because she thought itwas what I wanted.”
Si Ping heaved a loud sigh, whatever, as long as master understands this point.
However, how was he to know that Duan Tingxuan was shaking his head privately, thinking, no matter what, I never did have any intention of starving the people in Mei Yue Lou to death. As a clever woman, how could Ran Yun not know this? I used to believe that she has a good mind and sharp senses, to think that her thinking was merely average level.
Duan Tingxuan was a little disappointed with Xu Ran Yun, but not completely so. Duan Tingxuan was a rather passionate type, though the seed of love for this particular wife was suffering through a rather chilly snowstorm, he still like her quite well. After dawdling about in the study for a while, evening soon fell. He had every intention of visiting Su Ran Yun, but when vision of the duck soup appeared in his mind, a bitter, oily taste smeared his tongue.
Finally, after some hesitation, he visited Xue Zi Lan. He comforted himself by saying, though he could not enjoy delicious food, he could still feast his eyes on Xue Zi Lan’s gorgeous, city crushing looks.