Chapter 90: The Imperial Family
Translated by Gumihou
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People watching this performance would know that this was probably all an act. However, as one of the lead characters, Su Nuan Nuan herself could not see it, ah. Moreover, it was all over in a blink of an eye. She could only glare at Duan Tingxuan impotently: Hey, bro, this is too much, ah. Though I don’t like to kneel, suddenly pulling me up like this is just testing one’s waist, ah. Though I’ve practised standing and kneeling with you for a few days, you can’t just pull something like this suddenly.
Her reaction was perfectly natural, and yet it attracted the interest of those major characters seated in front of her. The empress was first to smile, “Xuan’er has been saying that Nuan Nuan is so much fiercer than before, but I never believed him. However, I see now that this is true.”
F… fierce? Black lines appeared on Su Nuan Nuan’s forehead: Has the rascal been giving out false information on me? You called me a tigress, but are you not ashamed to be married to a tigress? Haven’t you heard of never airing one’s dirty laundry in public? As a man with a belly full of schemes, how can you not know this?
First madam was so pissed off that swear words nearly erupted from her mouth. Duan Tingxuan’s face also turned into 囧囧. Dear beloved aunt, we’ve just arrived and you’ve sold me out. Auntie, you can’t be like this, ah. You haven’t even tasted Nuan Nuan’s cooking and yet you’re already like this, once you’ve eaten her food wouldn’t I be stepped on endlessly?
He was thinking all this, but none of his heart’s lament showed on his face. Duan Tingxuan leisurely turned towards the two women seated on the west side, both were dressed in imperial clothes. He smiled and said, “Imperial Concubine Jing, Imperial Concubine Duan are here as well?”
Imperial Concubine Jing smiled, “We were just here to visit her majesty when we heard that a great chef will be visiting at noon. We thought we’d stay and freeload off some good food and thus stayed.”
Duan Tingxuan turned to the east side where three young men were seated. This time, his tone was not so respectful, “Crown prince, second prince, and fourth prince, may I know why you’re here? Were you visiting the empress too?”
The crown prince was a huge fatty. Su Nuan Nuan’s expert eye estimated his weight to be something above 250 pounds. Lugging this kind of weight around, is life still worth living? Curiously, the other two princes were slim, handsome beauties of the traditional kind. The emperor himself was also a heroic and wise looking middle age man bearing the image of a benign shifu. So, how did a mutation like the crown prince happened? Surely this was too much of a tragedy, right?
The crown prince was a chatty fatty who liked to tell jokes. With a heheh kind of laugh, he said, “I was here this morning to visit imperial mother. We lost ourselves chatting together and the sun had gone up high, making it too hot to walk around. And you know how I despised ending up all sweaty. That’s why I’m here, I don’t know about the other two.”
Attention was then turned towards the remaining two princes. Second prince was unperturbed by their gazes, “I intended to look up Tingxuan for some business when I overheard him speaking to a manservant about bringing some nice things he and his wife planned to bring for imperial mother to eat. So, here I am.”
“Weren’t your energies all spent on organizing your encyclopaedia? Why are you interested in food now?” Duan Tingxuan asked bluntly, not bothering with manners.
“So what if I am? Even a serious scholar needs to eat, ah. To the common people, food is the blessing of heavens. Moreover, the information I’m collecting featured both ancient and modern information. When I heard that your wife’s culinary skill is the most cutting edge of innovations, how could I miss this research opportunity? It just so happens that I lacked information on latest food trends. This the perfect opportunity to collect information. Also, I would like to invite her over to my place and display some of her skills in order for me to complete the <> chapter of my <>.”
“Surely there’s no need, ah. Moreover, my wife is still the official wife of the heir, how could you just make her go over and cook for you?”
Duan Tingxuan was not even a bit courteous with the second prince. His gaze fell upon the fourth prince, who spread out his hands carelessly, “I’m just here with second brother.” At his cousin’s fierce glare, he quickly changed the subject and gestured at the pearl hairpin in Su Nuan Nuan’s hair. “The hairpin that cousin chose for his wife really suits her, ah.”
Su Nuan Nuan’s face twitched twice, before finally turning her gaze towards the emperor. She was dumbstruck by this ridiculously affectionate royal family. Though Duan Tingxuan liked to blather on about these royal connections of his, Su Nuan Nuan had always sniffed disdainfully at his boast. What royal connections? The emperor was the emperor, a fierce and ruthless ruler of the heavens, being close to the ruler can be as perilous as riding on a tiger. The moment you fall out of favour, those royal connections might as well be dog farts.
Now that she had actually met them though, her entire conviction collapsed: Are these really the great imperial family of ancient China? The greatest and mightiest of families? Aren’t you guys just too casual? Even the An Ping Mansion isn’t half as sloppy, ah. Madam empress, ah, what’s that benevolent smile on your face? Your nephew is practically dissing your imperial sons, ah. The crown prince is your son, ah. Ah! He’s just turned his evil tongue onto the second prince, and wait, why is the fourth prince talking about my hairpin? Oh, right, he’s in charge of the Imperial Household. This Silver Plum Blossom Pin is the one Duan Tingxuan ‘bought’ using two roast ducks and four bags of Snow Soft Bean Paste Snacks, as well as a large plate of my White Sealed Meat. Imperial Concubine Jing, your son had practically confessed to embezzling, can you please not smile so cheerfully, ah.
When Su Nuan Nuan saw the emperor’s indulgent face as the fourth prince and Duan Tingxuan began to argue over the value of the Pearl & Plum Blossom Pin, she nearly lost it: Just what are those two idiots were discussing, ah? The fourth prince was just complaining that it took two master artisans five days and nights to make this hairpin, surely two roasted duck, four plates of Snow Soft Bean Paste Snacks and a plate of White Cut Meat is too little, right? Especially since half of the White Cut Meat was eaten by the masters. At the very least, they should add two Beggar’s Chicken to make it even a little bit fair.
In response, Duan Tingxuan sneered, “Beggar’s Chicken? Fourth prince, you sure have a mouth of a lion on you. For the sake of Beggar’s Chicken, my face was nearly clawed to bits by a rooster. Even the wooden hibiscus pin I gave to Nuan Nuan was scratched to bits, you dare to covet two Beggar’s Chicken with just one silver pin? Well? At the very least you must hand over a golden pin.”
Su Nuan Nuan really couldn’t bear it anymore, the only problem was, aside from herself, everyone else was listening to this with great interest. She could only stand there like a wooden dummy as Duan Tingxuan continued to push her ‘violent shrew’ attitude as an excuse to coerce more things out of the fourth prince. Just as she was about to throw her hands up in despair, the emperor cleared his throat pointedly.
Oh my heavens, ah. Dear majesty, even you finally can’t stand it anymore? Thank you, thank you for being a reasonable person. As expected, an emperor was an emperor, this lowly one is in the wrong. I should not have criticise the great emperor as someone unreasonable. Look how peaceful and happy the common people are, clearly you are a great emperor, ah.
Su Nuan Nuan was just tearfully praising the emperor when his majesty’s eyes suddenly sharpened with interest, “Wait a moment, what’s this Beggar’s Chicken you’re talking about? And how did Tingxuan ended up nearly scratched up by a rooster? Quick, tell zhen what happened.”
Duan Tingxuan was stunned. He had just realized that his little ‘discussion’ with the fourth prince was basically entertainment for the others. He was just gathering his wits to think his way out when a [gu dong] was heard. He turned, and saw that Su Nuan Nuan, who could no longer take the royal family’s weird attitude, had finally collapsed to the ground.
“Aiya, what happened to madam heir?” Imperial Concubine Duan cried.
Duan Tingxuan immediately came over to support Su Nuan Nuan. He smiled winningly, “Su Nuan Nuan was just a little unworldly. Unfortunately, we have embarrassed ourselves in front of your majesty and your highnesses. En, I think it’s time for us to get started, it’s almost noon now. It’s time for Nuan Nuan to get things ready in the kitchen, ah.”
Nonsense, who is unworldly here? The whole lot of you put together can’t possibly as worldly as great me, you know? The problem here is that you royals are just too weird. We’re in ancient China, you know? In the whole of China’s history, there is no such family like you, alright? You are the strangest of a strange lot. You are royalties, ah. Can you please not be so warm and happy together, royal families are supposed to be cold, scheming and jealous. Also, what happened to your royal air? Your dignity? Your arrogant, lofty position at the top of the food chain? Aren’t you contradicting the very air your imperial palace imposed?
Su Nuan Nuan rubbed her aching waist as she silently cursed Duan Tingxuan. When he started talking about going to the kitchens, she nodded quickly: Better to retreat into the world she understood than to stay in this weirdly friendly royal palace. If she accidentally saw anymore weird sights, she might actually faint for real next time. Let’s get far away from here.
As expected, even the emperor had completely forgotten what she was here for in the excitement of pursuing gossip. Luckily, he nodded agreeably enough at Duan Tingxuan’s suggestion.
Su Nuan Nuan sighed with relief and was about to excuse herself when the princes all stood up. She blinked: Wait, are they leaving? Aren’t you all here to bum food off the empress? Are you really going to leave when I’m about to enter the kitchens?
“Imperial father, we shall assist the lady.”
For a moment, Su Nuan Nuan’s vision went black. Her legs felt weak, and she staggered in place.
A… assist? Have the princes assist her? Her imagination tried to conjure up images of the fat crown prince carefully measuring spring onions before cutting them. She imagined the second prince happily washing vegetables and letting worms crawling up his arms, the fourth prince setting the wok on fire as he tried to fry up a picture perfect noodle dish. Su Nuan Nuan’s eyes went fuzzy even as she trembled in fear.
“There’s no need for you to go, we don’t need food stealing assistants. Crown prince, you’re trying to get your hands on the fishballs, aren’t you? Second prince, I still remember you trying to get me to cough up rice dumplings stuffed with bacon. As for you, fourth prince, I knew you were lying when you told me that the roasted ducks had been gifted to others. Your personal eunuch already told me that you’ve swallowed both ducks all by yourself in one night and had to run around your own courtyard eight times to digest them.”
Duan Tingxuan heartlessly revealed his cousins ‘wild and greedy hearts’, causing great embarrassment and resentment among the princes as they cried out, “Imperial father, there’s only one reason why Tingxuan is so good at spotting our true intent. He’s the ultimate king of food thief. Your imperial sons plan to be at the kitchens to prevent his bad behaviour, would imperial father grant this favour.”
Are you seriously begging the emperor to grant this stupid favour? Su Nuan Nuan had to mentally swallow a huge mouthful of blood. Thus, she nearly choked when the emperor smiled, and said, “The crown prince has spoken with great justification. Very well, you shall all go, ba.”
“Imperial father is wise.”
The princes all chorused together like good choir boys. Duan Tingxuan thought about stopping them, but a glance at his wife’s ‘I can’t take it anymore’ expression caused him to abandon the idea. Ignoring the actions of the royal men, he supported Su Nuan Nuan to the door, when he heard the emperor said, “Tingxuan, you stay. Go to the study. I have something I need you to do.”
[Gumihou: Stay strong Su Nuan Nuan.]