Chapter 52: Know Thyself
Translated by Gumihou
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Once he was done with his little speech, he swayed to his feet. How could Hong Lian bear to see her dear master in such a pitiful state, ah? She immediately threw herself at Duan Tingxuan’s feet, tears filling her eyes as she cried. “The master is too good for Missy and us, Missy is just joking with master. After receiving so many fresh seafood, Missy was in an excellent mood. Though it is true that there are no leftovers from Flash Cook Shrimp & Eel Noodle at lunch, we already have plans to make some for dinner. We have been waiting for master’s return before we get started so that master could have it freshly cooked…”
Su Nuan Nuan was getting angry. Is this girl really my personal maid? Or is she Duan Tingxuan’s undercover agent? How could this girl simply betray her mistress like this? Not only was Su Nuan Nuan sold off cheaply, they even tearfully piled on free gifts to the bargain. Who wants to wait until that man slut is home before starting dinner? And what’s all this about letting him have ‘freshly cooked’ things? Have these words ever passed her mouth? How could she not remember a single word of it? Where did this hussy Hong Lian got all these weird information from? Humph, more like this useless maid of hers have suffered a severe attack of delusions.
The destructive powers of these words were immeasurable. The little marquis fully revitalized sucking from the blood of this betrayal. He rushed over to Su Nuan Nuan and loudly exclaimed. “Hahahaha! Nuan Nuan, I knew you would never be so heartless, a couple one day, a hundred days grace, ah. To think I am so worthy of your consideration, ah. I’ve really wronged you. Wu! Why don’t you just move back to the inner court? I can shower you with more attention there, right?”
Hong Lian swayed in place; she rubbed her eyes. Was there something wrong with her eyes? Was the dispirited, heartbroken, mournful master an illusion? Or, was this thick faced, shameless man really her true master?
“M… master… you… you…”
Hong Lian was shocked to speechlessness, she really could not reconcile the fact that this braggart, and that pitiful man from earlier was truly the same master. She caught sight of Su Nuan Nuan’s glare, who said through gritted teeth. “Useless thing, have you no brains to think about what kind of person your master is? I’m too disappointed in you, do you really think that this kind of man really knows what true suffering and dejection is?It was only a cheap little trick and here you are, crying for him. Please don’t tell anyone that you’re my maid anymore, it’s too embarrassing for me.”
Duan Tingxuan frowned, but his voice was proud as he said, “Nuan Nuan, there’s no need for you to be so harsh. Hong Lian’s wonderful kind heartedness and benevolence is the reason why she pitied me when all hope have turned to dust. Unlike shameless you who refused to pity me even a little. By the way, are you sure my pitiful state just now really did not touch your heart even a little? I don’t believe it, I excel in everything, including acting, even the emperor and empress could not help but shed tears when I pull this trick.”
“The emperor and empress are too soft hearted.” Su Nuan Nuan stood up with a sneer. “What kind of person am I? Haven’t you just said it? I’m a shameless, black hearted woman. Think you can trick me? Dream on.”
“Well, this is quite true. Good people are easily tricked.” Duan Tingxuan nodded gravely. “It’s better to be evil, the worst kind of evil. You know what else is true? I’m hungry, really hungry. After a long day at work, it would make me the happiest man if my merciful benevolent wife welcomes me home with a good dinner.”
“Save the pity act. It’s useless against me.” Su Nuan Nuan gave the man slut a mild glare, but she did head towards the kitchen. On the way, she gave the still dazed Hong Lian a serious look and said. “Make sure you remember this lesson, you’ve eaten a loss, be sure to remember the taste. Your master spends a lot of time battling with snakes at court, this means his heart is harder than hardened steel. Even if everything around him collapses and he suffered a major loss, it would not appear on his face. If any kind of emotion actually appeared on that dog face, it’s all fake. You stupid maids better remember this and don’t be fooled.”
“Nuan Nuan, don’t be like this, you should leave me a way out.” Duan Tingxuan said with a hearty laugh, excitement and happiness brimming in his heart. Know thyself, this woman really knows him for who he is, ah. Damned, he had just received an epiphany, he did not care whether she’s a stray spirit from some dead person or a random demon who had decided to take over his wife’s body. Su Meng Nuan, you are this Lord’s woman. Forget about escaping from my hands, I’ll never let you get away this lifetime.
The Flash Cook Shrimp & Eel was rustled up quickly and, after a long day of running around and performing in front of others, he now transformed into a mystical dragon with unhinged jaws opened to devour mountains and rivers. Even Su Nuan Nuan was a bit frightened by the speed in which he swallowed his food. “Hey, slow down will you? There’s no one fighting you for it.”
“Nuan Nuan, you truly cared for me, don’t you?” Duan Tingxuan lifted his face from the depth of a huge bowl, his eyes sparkling. “I’m so moved.”
“Wei, wei, wei! Stop that, don’t you know it’s really creepy if you go too far?” Su Nuan Nuan thumped the table with her chopsticks. The flushed, bright colour on Duan Tingxuan’s face retreated like a receding wave, he gave a low laugh. “I am truly hungry. I have been working all day, I looked through several restaurants for lunch in the afternoon but couldn’t stomach anything. Did you not notice how I rushed into the kitchen the moment I arrived?”
“You rushed for the kitchen even when you’re not starving.” Su Nuan Nuan spat expressionlessly.
“Ahem, ahem…” even thick faced Duan Tingxuan had to blush at that, he could see that Su Nuan Nuan was a natural born nemesis sent from heaven to test him. He decided to focus on eating, he nodded and praised. “No wonder old madam has noting but praises for it, this noodles are too delicious.”
As he was speaking, he suddenly looked up and focussed a firm stare across the table, he said in puzzlement. “Where are the eggs? I heard from old madam that you made something called tea eggs, why aren’t there any here? Nuan Nuan, eggs aren’t that expensive, surely you don’t have to hide them, right?”
“Why would I hide anything? If I’m really determined to hide something, you won’t even see a single grain rice.” Su Nuan Nuan rolled her eyes. “I’ll make a large pot of tea eggs tomorrow, alright? It’s almost full dark , who has the time to make any now?”
“Why not now?” Duan Tingxuan urged. “Old madam said those eggs are really delicious. I’ve always liked eggs, but there are only so many ways to cook them. Fried, scrambled, boiled or poached with soy sauce, but I’ve never had tea eggs before. Old madam said that it is imbued with the fragrance of five spice, so I’m really curious about what it tasted like.”
Now it was Su Nuan Nuan who looked puzzled. “There are dozens of tea eggs in the kitchen when I left it. I knew that old madam had carried off a few… what? Are you telling me that she didn’t even leave you have a couple? Aren’t you her favourite?”
“Huhu, when it comes to tea eggs, the old madam recognise no relations. So what if I’m here favourite?” Duan Tingxuan slurped another mouthful of noodles and sighed. “Fine, we’ll forget about about today. Make some for me early tomorrow, alright? At least let me taste a few before I go to work, otherwise I’ll be working on an anxious stomach. That would be too unbearable.”
“Why is old madam like that? Is she really your real grandmother?” Su Nuan Nuan felt cross and amused at the same time. This Duan Tingxuan is quite pitiful in a way, he had spent 20 years of his life eating inferior food. Now that he had been introduced to fresh cooking techniques, he was an even more extreme foodie than Su Nuan Nuan. She did some thinking, she said. “By the time you’re up, I’ll still be sleeping. Never mind, I’ll prepare all the ingredients tonight, Hong Lian and Xiang Yun can prepare them for you tomorrow.”
“Prepare a bit more for me, I need to give some to the crown prince. I wrested a piece of land with a hot spring from him after all.”
“A land with hot spring?” Su Nuan Nuan’s eyes brightened. “How do you use it? Is there an actual hot spring on it?”
“Of course, I’ve already sent people over to set it up. In autumn, I’ll take the family there for a few days of fun.” Even as he spoke, Duan Tingxuan’s mouth never stopped eating. In a blink of an eye the bowl in front of him was empty. He held it out to Hong Lian, a wordless indication for a refill. While waiting for his noodles, he said. “I’ve already sent people after the cow’s milk you wanted, it should be here by tomorrow.” Then he slipped a hand into his shirt and withdrew an accessory box and handed it over to Su Nuan Nuan. “This is for you. See if you like it?”
Ever since Duan Tingxuan discovered the goodness of Mei Yue Low, he had gifted them with all kinds of good things, ingredients, bolts of cloth even gold and silver. However, this was the first time he personally handed over a gift. Since it was quite unprecedented, it made Su Nuan Nuan curious.
“Wei! Will a snake or a bug jump out at me the moment I open this?” Considering the amount of black water inside this rascal’s stomach, add that to the way she had been treating this noble aristocrat all this while, Su Nuan Nuan felt that it paid to be more cautious about gifts from this man.
The Little Marquis rolled his eyes, and said condescendingly. “Only you would come up with childish tricks like that. Just open it, don’t judge a noble character with your miserable heart.”
The more Duan Tingxuan spoke, the more suspicious she became. She took a deep breath and mentally braced herself. Even if a huge cockroach jumped out, she refused to be surprised. Mental preparation done, she opened the accessory box.
Inside was a beautifully decorated plum blossom hairpin, it sat quietly upon luxurious purple velvet which gave it an exquisitely elegant air. A cluster of plum blossoms form a perfect sphere made of delicate little flowers. The petals were as fine as cicada wings and were made of some unknown material that vibrated at every movement. The pistil of each flower were made from colourful stones, red, yellow, blue and green, which drew the eye to the actual petals themselves. A little tassel sprouted from flower ball ending in three luminous pearls as large as her thumb.
This pearl hairpin was clearly something unique. Even Su Nuan Nuan, a foodie who only valued eating was dazzled by the sight before her. She had visited museums in her past life and had been amazed by the ancient jewellery, especially the phoenix crowns. She had been in awe of the skill of the ancient craftsmanship as she stared at beautifully made accessories through bullet proof glass. However, this was the first time she held the evidence of their art in her hands, and realised how much she had underestimated the wisdom of the ancient people.
“This… isn’t this thing too delicate? How does one make something so fine? Are the petals made of silver? And these little shards of gems, how do they attach it? My heaves, it’s too beautiful.”
“I went to see her majesty today and just happened to drop in while the Imperial Household Department in charge of accessories was with her. Her majesty granted me one item and when I saw this one I immediately thought of you. I had to endure her majesty’s eye roll for it. She told me that I was too heavy handed and impolite. As to how it’s made, don’t ask me, that’s a question for the craftsmen for the Household Department.”
Su Nuan Nuan played with this beautiful work of art as though she could not bear to put it down. Suddenly, she looked up, and narrowed her eyes at him. “How does such a nice thing remind you of me? Concubine Jing and Madam Lan are both earth shattering beauties, this pin would suit either of them better, why not give it to them?”
Duan Tingxuan looked at her in astonishment and muttered. “Did I hear it right? Is this you praising them? You’ve never said anything like this in the past.”
“I was blinded by jealousy in the past. Now that I’ve let things go I can objective look at them and know that their beauty is quite unrivalled. It’s just too bad that they’ve been cheated into your harem.” Su Nuan Nuan curled her lips.
[Gumihou: Hump! Humph! Take him down Nuan Nuan!]