Chapter 174: Smooth Running

Translated by Gumihou

Please read this at kitchennovel dot com

 

“Get up. I am still quite angry. Why do you have to spew such nonsenses in front of your child? However, I also know that you did not do it deliberately. That’s why I called you here. First, to reassure you; the second reason is to tell you this. From now on, you must be more careful of your words in front of Chuan’er. Don’t let the little child absorb your gloomy despair, it could really harm him in the future.”

“Yes, this one understands. This one dare not speak carelessly anymore. Madam’s words really have enlightened this lowly one. Now that this one thinks about it, Chuan’er had always been quick to laugh, but these two months, this one had never even seen him smile. This one only knew how to ‘Blame the gods and accuse others’. Now that this one had heard madam’s words, this one finally understood that all the harm came from myself. This one shall be more careful in the future.”

“Good, that is very good.” Su Nuan Nuan nodded, then she said again, “By right, after the incident with Chuan’er’s illness, I should spend less time with them. However, your lord refused to let the children stay away from my place, and those little guys like my snacks too much. In the end, I just continue to let those boys come over to my place. As you know, your lord is not someone easy to pull wool over. He’s still investigating Chuan’er’s illness on the sly.

However, since we were all too worried about Chuan’er’s illness that day, we missed the best time to pick up all loose threads connected to the person who harmed him. If something like this were to happen again, send for the lord immediately.

You know also that Madam Yun and Madam Lan definitely won’t take any chances with their sons’ lives. Even now, their boys still come to my place for snacks and tea. As for the matter of them isolating Chuan’er, I will naturally intervene and not let the cracks between the brothers grow. As long as you promise not to spew hateful words to the child, I swear that as long as Chuan’er ate at my place and did not indiscriminately take food from other people, he will be perfectly fine.

“Madam’s words are too serious, but this one understands. Many thanks for being so thorough in caring for Chuan’er’s well being.” Concubine Jiang lowered her head respectfully. When Su Nuan Nuan noticed that she did not lift her head, but continued to maintain that position, she waved her hand dismissively. “It’s fine, you can go back now. Cong’er, bring out that large plate of snacks I’ve picked out for Concubine Jiang this morning.”

“Yes.” Cong’er, who had been standing just outside the door answered. Concubine Jiang thanked Su Nuan Nuan once more and took her leave. At the door entrance, Cong’er was waiting with a large food box. Still unable to believe what had happened, she received the box.

She wondered: Had she really came out of that meeting with all her limbs still attached? First madam did not pull up old grudges, nor did she took this opportunity to snatch her child. Though she had been scolded, they were gems of wisdom coated in fine dust of rebuke. It helped her to understand Chuan’er better, and taught her many things about how to bring up her boy well, and… that’s it? Was that still a poisonous, cunning shrew? How could it be? Even if it was all fake, she could not detect even a hint of malice. Because every word spoken by Su Nuan Nuan was perfectly honest and sincere.

Somehow, she managed to make it back to her own room. The boys had already been given a holiday from school, and was only supposed to go to the classroom for a little supplementary lessons and homework review. Duan Maochuan was soon home, the moment he entered the house, his eyes zoomed in on the plate of snacks. At the sight of Su Nuan Nuan’s snacks, the little fellow actually let out a shout of happiness. His little celebration was cut short, as the boy suddenly clapped his hand over his mouth. He gave Concubine Jiang a glance from the corner of his eyes to check her reaction. When Concubine Jiang gave a little nod, the boy literally leapt at the plate of snacks.

Yang’shi was also a little shocked. She had accompanied Duan Maochuan to school early in the morning, and did not know about Concubine Jiang’s visit to Spring Breeze Court. She was about to ask more about it when they heard voices from the outside. The door flap was pushed aside and Rong’er came in with a food box in her hand. When opened, it contained a bowl of milk.

Rong’er explained, “The kitchen sent this earlier. They told me they had received fresh milk that morning, they had sent a bowl to every house after warming it. However, since it’s the middle of winter, it has gotten cold again when it reached here. So, this one had warmed it up again for Little Master Chuan. But, this one is really curious, why is the kitchen suddenly so solicitous? Before this, it’s like they can’t wait for us to starve to death.”

Concubine Jiang and Yang’shi exchanged looks. Then, Yang’shi said, “No need to ask, this is definitely under first madam’s orders. Kitchen Manager Ms. Xue is first madam’s most reliable agent after all. After harming first madam and getting the cold shoulder from master, even low level servants who usually fawn upon you could not wait to ‘Throw stones down the well after you’ or stomp on you just because they could. What of the kitchen?

That place is basically first madam’s kingdom, how could they treat us well after that? This bowl of milk must have been sent over under first madam’s orders. This is her way of raising our social status to the same level as other houses.”

Concubine Jiang watched with complicated feelings as her son happily ate the snacks. She murmured half to herself, “Perhaps it is all as you’ve said. Aih! Today when she called me over to her place, she told me many things. Some of it I already know but then had somehow forgotten. When she lectured me today, it waked me up. I just… aih! I was really stupid. Had she really changed? Transformed into the goddess of Bodhisattva? I still can’t believe it. However, even if I believe that Chuan’er’s stomachache had nothing to do with her… then, then who was the one who harmed him? But, if I believed that she was the one who harmed him… no, no, I should think on this calmly. Everything that she had done and said these two days, no one could find fault with it no matter how finely one picks through it. Even if it was all pretend, surely she can’t hide her malice so well, right?”

Rong’er hesitated from the side, she opened her mouth, then closed it firmly back again. Whatever she intended to say never made it out. As for Concubine Jiang and Yang’shi, they were busy deliberating over Su Nuan Nuan’s true intention and did not notice this maid’s peculiar behaviour.

 

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29th day of the twelfth lunar month.

On this day, the government offices were sealed until the new year. Duan Tingxuan had already said his good-byes early this morning. He left his office and was about to return to An Ping mansion when he spotted the crown prince waiting for him at the corridor. He smiled, and greeted, “Your highness, you look a bit thinner than before, congratulations!”

“Tingxuan, ah. I really hate to do this to you.” the crown prince pulled Duan Tingxuan by the hand and looked up at him with gently shimmering eyes. All the fine hairs on Duan Tingxuan’s body rose up. He quickly snatched his hands away and hissed, “What are you up to? Is this your way of disgusting me so that I won’t come and train you anymore?”

“Pei! How dare you call this royal highness disgusting? There’s not a single official in this place with guts as big as yours.” the crown prince decided to switch tactics since the wobbly eyes of doom did not work on this heartless person. Pei! Do you really think that this royal highness, I, wish to run after you like a cowherd with a willow stick, ah? You think I don’t want my face as a royal person anymore?

“Right now the government offices are closed, and we’re not at court or your study, so my identity is now your cousin, is it?” Duan Tingxuan rolled his eyes. “Just say what you want to say. I want to go home.”

“Has sister-in-law made something delicious again? Yesterday the Eight Treasure Honey Food [1], Puffy Oil Cake[2], there were even several different kinds of dumplings, all are incredibly delicious. The crown princess couldn’t stop eating them. I wanted to eat more, but then she used the excuse that I am on a diet and hid them away.”

“The crown princess is a warm, gentle and virtuous woman who defies threats and violence. A lady who invites nothing but the greatest admiration and esteem.” Duan Tingxuan said sincerely. “Your highness, if you actually succeed in your diet, you must first thank the crown princess.”

“Farts[3]!” it was rare to see this refined and scholarly fatty so angry that he’d spat out foul languages. “That woman used my diet as an excuse to send half of my precious snacks to her maternal home. This morning, several younger uncles came over under false pretences for a visit. However, I know that these gluttons were just trying to get their claws on the rest of my snacks. They are all a bunch of ingrates who could not be tamed by food. Just how did I end up related to these wretches?”

The crown prince beat his chest and stamped his feet bitterly. Duan Tingxuan wordlessly stared at this display. Finally he muttered, “Really? I remembered that we sent quite a few dumplings and various other dishes to Marquis of Chang Ping’s place.” The Marquis of Chang Ping household was the crown princess’ maternal family. A most noble and ancient family, fairly well known with family members that contributed a lot to the country. Influence-wise, they were not particularly strong, but most people have a good impression of them. Thus far, the An Ping household had a fairly good relationship with them.

“What? Those greedy bastards.” the crown prince was so angry that the fat on his body started to tremble.

Duan Tingxuan laughed, “Your highness, surely you haven’t stopped me here just to complain about the house of Chang Ping, have you?”

“Of course not,” the crown prince cleared his throat, a serious expression descended upon his face. “Tingxuan, ah. Ever since I started to form sensible thoughts, new year had always been celebrated at the East Palace. Every year is the same. That is… you know the saying ‘It’s lonely at the top’? I’m sure you understand that I’ve always been interested in the lives of my precious subjects. I would like to spend one new year outside the palace, but, you know my royal parents. They would never let me get too far from the palace, therefore…”

“Therefore, may this subject assume that you wish to come to my house? Celebrate new year at my place?” Duan Tingxuan’s eyes widened. He couldn’t quite believe his ears. He knew that this cousin of his loved eating, but to be so gluttonous to this level? Isn’t it a bit… excessive? Did he still remember that he’s the crown prince, ah? What about your status, ah?

“Clearly Tingxuan knows me best.”

The crown prince was nearly bursting with joy as he slapped Duan Tingxuan on the shoulder.

In contrast, a pitying expression pulled Duan Tingxuan’s face down, in a gentle voice, he said, “But, your highness. Even if their royal majesties allow you to come, what’s the point? Myself and my wife will be there to monitor your diet closely and not let you eat much, ah. Your highness managed to lose this bit of weight after so much effort, you must not repeat last time’s mistake, right? Otherwise, all your hard work would have been for nothing. Also, my wife has grown a lot of vegetables at the Mei Yue Lou hothouse, if you really come over, the moment you fall into her hands… tell me, could really endure a whole day of radish strips and bak choy?

Of course, we are more than happy to receive your royal presence. It would certainly save me the need to travel all the way to the East Palace to supervise your exercise on New Year’s Day. After all, who doesn’t want to spend this time comfortably at home, enjoying food personally cooked by one’s wife; and playing with one’s daughters and helping one’s sons with their homework, right?”

The crown prince’s face started twitching, he suddenly had to resist the urge to beat up this black-bellied cousin of his. After a long time, he snapped his sleeves and shouted, “Whatever! I won’t be going to the An Ping mansion for new year. But you’re not allowed to come to my East Palace either. You just stay home and gorge yourself. Yes, gorge yourself and play with your snotty brats. Let neither of us disturb the other on this precious new year’s day.”

With that, he stormed off in a huff. Duan Tingxuan blinked. He tipped his head this way and that. Then, he muttered to himself, “Gorge myself? Why are we talking about gorging? Is he talking about gorging on food? Didn’t he hear what I just said? How unfortunate.”

 

 

[Gumihou: Ahaha, a glutton is whining about other gluttons going after their food. This is so hilarious.]

 

[1] 八宝蜜食 Eight Treasure Honey Food – Unsure what this is…

 

[2] 泡儿油糕 Puffy Oil Cake – A type of dough snack made with lard, sesame seeds, rose water, sugar and deep fried. At least this one has a recipe…

 

[3] He literally said ‘Fart’ – which basically meant ‘Nonsense!’, possibly it is close to the word ‘Pei!’ which I could only link to cats going ‘Fssshh!’

 

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Translated by Gumihou from kitchennovel dot com.

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