Chapter 111: All Eyes on You

 

Translated by Gumihou

Please read this at kitchennovel dot com

 

Duan Tingxuan immediately grinned apologetically at Su Nuan Nuan, who sniffed and said, “Whatever, stop with your nonsense. Has old madam sent you here just to complain? You go stand next to the wheelbarrow and steady the cake frame. The servants should be able to push with more confidence with you there to steady the thing.”

The cake frame stood tall in its wheelbarrow and was covered in cloth. Unable to see inside, Duan Tingxuan pursed his lips and said, “So, the reason why you asked me to come is to literally provide support, ah. Surely anyone can do this, right? Why must you ask me specifically?”

Su Nuan Nuan snorted, “What nonsense is this? Who else has a more stable stance than my lord? I’ve asked you to go, just go. Do you want old madam to keep sticking out her neck and watching for our arrival and become a long neck goose?”

Sudden realization dawned on Duan Tingxuan’s face, and he smiled broadly, “Oho, so, you have now realized how stable my stance is? Could it be that my dear wife have trained her horse stance enough to understand what a strong stance is like?”

This was just provoking talk, Su Nuan Nuan had only been doing the horse stance for a little over two months. She also did the breathing exercises every night, but never saw any improvement. To hear this now, humph, this rascal actually dared to bring this issue up this moment… she narrowed her phoenix eyes at him and snarled, “You’re right, I have almost forgotten this. What say we talk about this and check our accounts, hey? I’ve already been doing the horse stance for over two months now…”

The little marquis’ cheeky grin disappeared, he quickly about faced and said seriously, “Let’s not talk about this now, priority must be on getting this to the north court. We don’t want old madam to turn into a long neck goose, right? Right.” he then practically leapt to stand next to the wheel barrow. He placed one hand against the cake frame and another twitched to lift up the cloth, muttering, “Let’s have a quick look first, I wonder what this Birthday Cake thing looks like?”

“Don’t you dare, or we’ll be stuck here all day!”

Su Nuan Nuan was perfectly aware that if the little marquis’ wild appetite was unleashed, it would be difficult to suppress. Duan Tingxuan’s hand twitched, but he finally let go of the cloth and pouted, “Whatever, whatever, I won’t look. I’ll get to see it later.”

With that, the group of people and the wheelbarrow of cake was speedily sent over to north court. The little marquis stood on the edge of the wheelbarrow like the captain of a ship as he held the frame in place. As the wind picked up his floating hair and sleeves, he looked kind of ‘heroic’. Well, about as heroic as a character in a comedy sketch. He would rather not be a player in this act, ah… but, it’s all too late now. He could only hypnotise himself by saying over and over again: Not embarrassing, not embarrassing at all. This is all for grandmother. I am being a filial son, no one can make fun of me over this… they better not! Or, no, better yet, let them make fun of me, so I can beat them up with justice! So what if he is put on display like this? As long as he didn’t feel embarrassed, then he won’t be embarrassed, ah!

It soon turned out that the little marquis had over thought things. While it was true that eyes were all fixed in his direction, the people were more interested in the tall, cloth covered thing next to him. Everyone was curious about the Birthday Cake , who wants to spare an eye to look at him, ah?

“Old madam, there are so many people that there’s barely any standing room at the reception hall. Why don’t we got to the courtyard and see what this Cake looks like?”

Madam Yang proposed with a smile. Her resentment against Su Nuan Nuan had lessened a lot: Though the unforgettable sight her son being chased around Mei Yue Lou was something that pissed her off every time she thought about it… Well, to be honest, ever since that woman moved back to the inner court, not a single unsightly news reached her ears. The only interesting thing she did was blacken the branch house’s reputation a little. Since this also satisfied her own resentment, Madam Yang found herself looking upon this daughter-in-law with a little more favour.

Even her husband, the old marquis, never brought up the branch house matter to her. Perhaps, he too, understood that the unsavoury business conducted by his second son and daughter-in-law had been resolved nicely without his intervention and was secretly pleased by it. Additionally, the steady assault in the form of gourmet food, and snacks soon wore down the rest of her defences and her disgust against Su Nuan Nuan had practically disappeared by now.

“Let’s go with that.”

Old Madam Fang was so pleased that she was ready to be agreeable to any suggestions: Ever since this granddaughter-in-law came back from the brink of death, she had unexpectedly became such a warm and loving person. After having lived so many years, this was the happiest birthday in her memory. She gripped her dragon headed cane and was personally escorted by the second and fourth princes as well as Madam Yang to the courtyard. The entire place was filled with guests, the women milled around the porch while the male guests hung about the wide limestone path. All eyes were fixed upon the tall cake stand on the wheelbarrow as they whispered fervent speculations to each other.

Under the direction of Captain Duan, the servants carefully pushed the wheelbarrow into place and slowly moved the cake stand down. It turned out that the stand was also fixed with wheels on all four corners, which made it easy to wheel it to the centre of the courtyard. Old Madam Fang smiled at the second prince, and said, “It’s alright now. Tell them to leave it there and get Tingxuan to remove the cloth. I really want to see what kind of curious thing Nuan Nuan had made this time.”

Jiang Changning nodded and went off to inform Duan Tingxuan. At the little marquis’ direction, the servants removed the bamboo pole that held up the cloth, and slowly, the entire seven tiers of Cake was slowly revealed. The crowd held their breath, and then sigh together at the sight. It was like watching Mt. Lushan[1] at dawn when sunlight slowly revealed the splendour of the mountain.

Old Madam Fang and Madam Yang were stunned too. The fact that the cake was seven tiers tall was incredible enough, at the top of the highest tier was a sculpture of the God of Longevity[2] holding a peach in his hand. The god was dressed in cheerful red with a benign smile on his face. In one hand was a dragon headed staff, and the other a large immortal peach. The peach was so realistic and delicious looking that just the sight of it made the audience drooled.

The cakes below that did not have an amazing sculpture on it, but the flourishing pattern of cherry blossom branches that blooming down the tiers did not lose in terms of elegance or beauty. The cake at the bottom most tier was the largest, one person could not hope to encircle their arms around it. On the surface of the cake was a painting of beautiful white cranes with elegant black wings and neck. The playful cranes were surrounded by drawings of pine trees, abstract white clouds and flowering trees. This paradise like art was clearly an illustration of the Longevity Cranes meant to convey good luck and long life.

Someone began to clap, and soon the courtyard was flooded with applause and cheers. Old Madam Fang trembled as she approached the large cake, too emotionally moved by it. It took a long time for her to master her emotions enough to look at Su Nuan Nuan and said, “Good child, did you really made all this just this morning? But… but how could it be? Even if you have three more heads and three pairs of arms…?”

“Old madam, this granddaughter-in-law acknowledges your praise, but surely you don’t have to so surprised? Only Nezha[3] has three heads and three pairs of arms, not I.” Su Nuan Nuan said cheerfully. Everyone laughed at this.

The crown prince sighed, “It certainly is stunning. Well, if it’s not because of having extra arms or heads, how did you make this amazing thing in just one morning? As the person in charge of the Imperial Household Department, fourth brother, you should find out if your craftsmen and artisans have such a skill.”

Su Nuan Nuan said, “Though it’s all put together this morning, preparations work started three days ago. If old madam don’t believe me, you may ask our lord. I’m sure his shoulder is still sore from spending half a day making Cream. Thanks to him, we managed to get 20 to 30 jins of Cream, otherwise we would not be able to make this so well. Just one of him is worth several strong workers.”

Old Madam Fang laughed out loud, “Well now, I know Tingxuan had always been a filial child, there’s no need for you to flatter him on my behalf.”

 

[Gumihou: Huhuhu, Duan Tingxuan is certainly a high quality kitchen appliance, ne?]

 

[1] Mt. Lushan – A real mountain in Liujing, famous as a summer holiday spot

[2] God of Longevity – 老壽星

[3] Nezha – A protection deity. There’s even a film about him!

 

 

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Translated by Gumihou from kitchennovel dot com.

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