Chapter 13: Greed
Translated by Gumihou
By now, Duan Tingxuan himself had realised that pursuing the subject further would bring no benefit to himself or his proud, dignified image as a noble aristocrat. After all it’s just food, As long as he could eat it, there’s no need to flap his mouth about too much, especially since this wife of his kept giving him those looks. He still have to talk his way to her dining table later, might as well give his lips a rest until then.
At this moment, Su Nuan Nuan was currently entertaining some really evil thoughts, she did not want to let that rascal eat the breakfast that she had laboured over so much. The problem was, this guy seemed to have grown a brain overnight, and came with ingredients to barter for a meal. In other words, for the sake of fresh and steady supply of ingredients, she might have to endure this anger a bit longer. Though the word endure 忍 (ren) has a knife 刀 (dao) above it, as a serious foodie, for the sake of a delicious meal, she could endure 10 more such knives.
Duan Tingxuan’s expectation of an epic confrontation never came. He still kept his guard up though, from the moment he sat down; when he picked up a stick of You Tiao; when he took the first bite, felt the soft, fragrant, chewy sensation flood his mouth; when he swallowed. The memory of that unexpected flying kick from that time he ate her large dumplings stopped him from fully relaxing.
One fried bread stick down, Duan Tingxuan flexed his muscles and tensed up his limbs. He then gave Su Nuan Nuan a neutral look, and said serenely, “If you’re waiting for my guard to come down before attacking me, you can forget it.”
Su Nuan Nuan was a little surprised, it took her a while before she realized what he was talking about. When she finally got it, she sneered. “You’re over thinking things. Surely you don’t expect me to get into a fight with you over soy milk and fried bread? If you die, I’ll be buried alive next to you, it’s just not worth it.”
Although this was not in line with his imagined breakfast scene, Duan Tingxuan was not at all angry, he was actually feeling very fortunate. Immediately however, he felt upset about his lack of negative feelings. When did this lord degraded into this kind of sad existence? Isn’t it just food? What’s so great about food? Fine, fine, for the common people food was liken unto heavens, food was really very sacred and precious, there’s nothing embarrassing about desiring food.
This little marquis had unknowingly learnt the ways of Ah Q in a short amount of time. The art of skewing the world to his own logic to explain this weird obsession of his. He really had no choice, the other option would be to grow increasingly bitter about his obsession while still remaining its helpless thrall.
In short, he felt very fortunate as he ate at this bountiful table. His good mood seemed endless as he swallowed two You Bing at once, and found himself falling in love with this unexpected breakfast thing.
Perhaps, he could get the main kitchen to produce these. In the future, he need not come here and endure that cold face.
As he strolled out of Mei Yue Lou, the abacus in Duan Tingxuan’s heart began to calculate his chances of success in the next sortie. He could not resist a final look at the place, but could not see Su Nuan Nuan or even a shadow of her two maids. He felt pained at being neglected by these people and vowed to never step inside Mei Yue Lou again. Let those three horrible women starve, ba!
However, that bud of thought withered very quickly when he remembered that stir fried ham with Chinese toon dish mentioned by that hateful woman.
Hong Lian and Xiang Yun were also very surprised by Su Nuan Nuan’s lack of reaction against Duan Tingxuan’s presence. While this might by due to those several sacks of beans brought in by the the master, surely it could not appease the hate that was akin to a curse of ten thousand knives? This made them really nervous about what’s going to happen next.
At these two maid’s questioning gaze, Su Nuan Nuan lowered her head, wiped her eyes and said in a very pitiful voice, “People who live at the edge of life, though our hearts are as lofty as the heavens, our lives are thin as papers, aih! Even if we do not wish to, we must accept our fate.”
Hong Lian and Xiang Yun were shocked by Su Nuan Nuan’s extreme behaviour.
But then, she lifted her head, smacked the table and declared, “Since this rascal is determine freeload here, and I have no firm excuse to drive him away, nor can I fight him off since our martial strengths are almost at par, so a physical fight would not benefit us. Therefore, for the sake of long term benefit, I must suffer in silence. For now.”
Hong Lian and Xiang Yun’s foreheads were covered in black lines. Missy, ah, you should stop gilding your face with gold. What do you mean by‘our martial strengths are almost at par’? With the master’s true strength, one little finger is enough to destroy you.
Naturally, these were words they could never say for fear of provoking Missy, she might actually be provoked into challenging the master into a fight to prove her strength… the maids tried to imagine the scene with their minds, and found the make believe battle so exquisitely beautiful that they were afraid to look too directly at it.
Su Nuan Nuan was not at all bothered by the maid’s epic internal battle with their own imagination, instead she had taken up a brush and was busy lining up the ingredients in his pantry, all the while muttering under her breath. “Hm, that rascal will definitely come and freeload off us, well this time we’ll set a proper price for him, ba. Let’s see, what else do we need in the kitchen? Pork is all gone, I think, well, he could bring us a whole shoulder, and at least ten catty (about 5 kg) of streaky pork belly with the skin on. Hm, it should be alright to ask for a rack of ribs too, right? How about large bones for soups? The best soups are made from large bones…”
Hong Lian and Xiang Yun both felt like they had been struck by lightning. They stood behind their mistress, stunned. Though they were both loyal to their mistress, seeing that piece of paper being filled up with neat tiny words, they felt that the level of greed in their mistress was just asking for the heavens to punish her. Missy, are you asking the master to empty out the main kitchen?
As they were pondering this, Su Nuan Nuan suddenly lifted her head to look at them and said. “Oh, yes, I almost forgot. Those beans and rice your master brought in, it looks like they came from a village or something. Those are probably last year’s crops. It’s been raining quite heavily these past few days, so who knows whether the damp has gotten into the goods. Since the sun has been shining these past two days, let’s spread it out to dry. En, let’s put in in front of the courtyard entrance. That’s where the best sunlight is.”
The courtyard entrance has the best sunlight?
The two maids could only exchanged helpless looks, Missy sure was full of obscure knowledge. Neither of them had ever noticed anything special about the sunlight near the entrance. However, since Missy has spoken, as maids it was their job to obey. Thus, the two of them wordlessly left to carry out the order.
While Su Nuan Nuan was busy writing in ever smaller characters onto the increasingly crowded ingredients list for Duan Tingxuan, exposing her gluttonous nature that was akin to a snake spirit trying to swallow the world, a perfectly happy Duan Tingxuan stuffed with You Tiao, You Bing, and soy milk, was feeling very smug as he returned to his study.
Since there was no official business at the imperial palace today, he paid a casual visit to Madam Yang’s courtyard, greeted his mother properly and began to chat with her.
Madam Yang smiled. “What makes you get up so early today? Even your two wives haven’t greeted me yet.”
Duan Tingxuan smiled. “I wake up this early every day, even though the court is closed today I can’t bear to sleep in, so I thought I’d take this chance to chat with you.”
Madam Yang smiled. “I have your wives to keep me company, so there’s no need for you to drag yourself all the way here. If you wish to show filial piety, do so before your father. My child, you are very gifted, otherwise the emperor would not have bestowed his favour upon you. However you are too stubborn. You have a younger brother who’s good at schemes and acts the filial son well before your father. Sooner or later your father’s heart will feel that you are too proud and looked down on others.”
“Though you are the heir, know that your father favours your brother and may look for ways to make him the heir instead. Don’t think that this is an impossible matter.”
 Ah Q is a character from a book called The True Story of Ah Q, published in 1921