Chapter 87: Life is Like a Field of Snow
Translated by Gumihou
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Though she had no idea what Xue Zhi Lan was thinking, Su Nuan Nuan could faintly guess the reason for this weird attitude. Or, perhaps it was as that fox Duan Tingxuan guessed, this Madam Lan was not weak at all, and that deferential attitude was all an act. With Su Nuan Nuan and Xu Ran Yun butting heads over Ms. Xue, she must have decided to throw her lot with the first madam. Otherwise, there’s really no reason for her to warm at this point.
As she was pondering over this, Xue Zhi Lan also started to feel awkward. Though her face did not show her feelings, she gave off a little laugh, “How could I…”
Before she could finish, a laughter cut her off from a distance, “That’s right, how could Lan’er even think about showing her skill in front of Nuan Nuan. This is such a rare chance, we should all try and get her to make something for us.”
The three women turned to see Duan Tingxuan come striding in. The man was dressed in light green men’s long gown made of silk. He looked especially graceful with his good looks and confident air, like a tall bamboo in a sea of flowers.
After waving their greetings to the lord, Xue Zhi Lan smiled at Su Nuan Nuan, “This shade of green is rather difficult to wear. However, our lord look especially good in it. The heavens do love him, is it something madam made for him?”
Su Nuan Nuan shook her head, “Most likely made by Concubine Jiang. Didn’t someone say her feminine arts are exceptional? As for me, cooking just about covered all I can do. How can you expect to make clothes? Even having three heads and six arms won’t help me.”
Concubine Jing lowered her head to cover her smile as Xue Zhi Lan laughed, “How nice, though Concubine Jiang is good with her hands, only the lord could receive such wonderfully made clothes.” At that, she turned towards Concubine Jing. “Sister, I thought that you have a good pair of eyes, why do I never see you praise our lord? If our lord goes to your place more often, I’d bask in some reflected glory too, don’t you think so?”
Concubine Jing smiled wordlessly. Su Nuan Nuan could see that Duan Tingxuan’s presence brought her no pleasure. It was more like having an unwanted friend dropping by without a warning. Looks like this slag male was right, this woman really have no good feelings for men. Even an outstanding specimen like Duan Tingxuan could not move her. Heaven, ah, she’s not a lesbian, right? I live so close to her, would I be in danger, ah?
After considering matter for a bit, she dismissed this as pointless fears. Clearly her relationship with Concubine Jing was a pure kind of friendship. As she pondered over this, Duan Tingxuan finally reached them. He glanced at the two vases with bright eyes and laughed, “Looks like Jing’er is practising her practice flower arranging again? The empress really liked the last arrangement you sent over. How about you give me this pair? The empress will surely be happy to receive them. If the empress rewards me, I’ll be sure to split it evenly with you.”
Concubine Jing smiled, “The lord really knows how to tease this one. This one could show her filial piety this way. How could this one expect to expect rewards? Also, these flowers are not arrange by this one alone. One is done by first madam, I find that it has a fresher appearance than my own. If my lord wished to take them, my lord must ask first madam for it.”
Duan Tingxuan looked at Su Nuan Nuan with some surprise. He laughed, “You are certainly multi-talented. Well? Surely you’re not going to begrudge me a vase of flowers?”
Su Nuan Nuan laughed, “Are you going to leave it alone if I begrudge it? Enough with your nonsense. The flowers are arranged by me, yes. However, the vase and flowers belong to Sister Jing. Take it if you want, but you must send her a few nice vases as compensation. Also, make another hot house at Mei Yue Lou. Sister Jing and I already talked about it, she wants flowers, I want vegetables, the benefits are clear.”
Duan Tingxuan nearly choked on his own saliva. Didn’t Su Nuan Nuan used to hate Jing’er the most? When did they get so close? Also, sister? Wu! I know, this was like that famous saying ‘Birds of a Feather Flocks Together’. They must have bonded over the fact that they despised me.
For a short moment, the little marquis felt that life was as lonely as a scarecrow in the middle of a field of snow. Luckily, when he looked away from the two ladies, he caught Xue Zhi Lan gazing yearningly at him. His heart stabilized a bit at the sight. He thought bitterly: Clearly Lan’er has feelings for me, but I still wanted to embarrass myself at Nuan Nuan’s feet. Turns out I am no different from other men, a miserable wretch.
Whatever, let’s just go ahead and be a miserable wretch, ba.
With this resolved, the little marquis heaved a long sigh. It’s not like he could really fight against this, even if the fault was not on his head he knew that there was no way he could persuade them otherwise. Since he knew there was no point to it, why should he waste his time? A little smile curved his lips.
With the vases of flowers put away, the little group made their way to Autumn Cloud Pavilion. Xue Zhi Lan naturally refused to let go of this opportunity to ingratiate herself. Duan Tingxuan was also concerned about allowing Su Nuan Nuan to just wonder into Concubine Jing’s place. That would be too unreasonable. They all made their way towards a small seating area, and after some light chat, Xue Zhi Lan bade the people to bring forth the dishes.
Naturally, Su Nuan Nuan wouldn’t really enter the kitchen here. For the official wife to cook for a second wife and concubine was too unreasonable, something against heaven’s law or something. Having Duan Tingxuan pester her to cook was one thing, it’s quite another to make her cook for those with much lower social status. Finally, everyone ate whatever was sent over by the kitchens. Since the kitchen hands knew that Duan Tingxuan was there, the food was prepared with extra care. The four of them were unexpectedly confronted with an extremely full table.
Xue Zhi Lan bade a maid to bring in a jar of wine, which Su Nuan Nuan had no intention of drinking. However, when she heard that it was chrysanthemum wine, she graciously accepted a cup. Then, she spent her time picking through the food with a frown. Duan Tingxuan said, “Who’s in charge of the kitchen now? Why is the food here getting worse each day? It’s still somewhat edible two days ago.”
Xue Zhi Lan’s heart skipped a beat and she flicked a glance at Su Nuan Nuan. Concubine Jing spoked up, “I too feel that the flavour has worsen. The lotus root soup I had two days ago was not quite as mushy or overcooked, perhaps there’s some unexpected changes at the kitchen?”
Concubine Jing never did like to participate in the political games of the inner mansions. Moreover, as a brothel bride and concubine, she had nothing to back her up aside from her looks, which was why Xu Ran Yun and Xue Zhi Lan never did bother her much as they did not see her as a threat. Even if Duan Tingxuan paid her more attention, she was still a mere brothel girl. Thus, her comments were something straight from the heart, and was meant to be treated as nothing more that idle chit chat. She might not even be aware of the Ms. Xue and Xu Ran Yun kitchen drama.
On the other hand, Xue Zhi Lan could not be more sensitive about this matter. She kept a subtle eye at Su Nuan Nuan, who only commented, “How could the food not get worse? The original kitchen head, Ms. Xue, was modest, studious and interested in self improvement. She learns whatever recipes I gave her with only a couple of hints to guide her. Even old madam praised her Flash Cook Eel & Shrimp Noodle, though it was not quite like my own, she could recreate whatever I taught her up to 3 quarters close in taste. Here I was, thinking I could catch a break from kitchen work when would you believe it? That Madam Yun suddenly transferred her to the laundry house. With such a sudden change in staff, what could they do but make all the old dishes from before? And made them badly too.”
[Gumihou: Ouch, ouch. Who else felt the burn?]