Chapter 194 (Part 1): Sudden Change

 

Translated by Gumihou

Please read this at kitchennovel dot com

 

A stone path winds up the mountain,

White clouds part to reveal a village

The carriage stops ‘neath a beloved maple tree,

Red leaves shone with frost on a February night

Su Nuan Nuan held up the rock close to her eye and examined it left to right, front and back. There was a doubtful look on her face as she muttered, “What could it mean? Could it be that Lord Long had left more clues at Mt Yuelu [1]?”

“Mt. Yuelu? Why do you say that?” Duan Tingxuan asked excitedly, he was surprised by his wife’s familiarity with this poem, enough to even suggest a clue he never thought of before.

“The poem describes a scene at Mt. Yuelu, don’t you know?” Su Nuan Nuan tilted her head as she studied her husband, “Surely a candidate who came in third in the Han Lin examination should at least know this much about this famous poem?

Duan Tingxuan looked like he really did not know, but then, he had some vague recollection that something like this was once discussed before… he sighed and shook his head. “Unlikely.” Though he could not tell what the secret behind this message could be, he was sure that Long Pingzhang would not have left clues at Mt. Yuelu, because, “Pingzhang had never been to Mt. Yuelu in his life, so why would he leave clues there?”

“It’s possible that he did not leave any clues, but he might have found out something or someone important hidden at Mt. Yuelu.” Su Nuan Nuan placed the white rock onto the table. We should try and think outside the box when it comes to solving mysteries and not restrict our minds.”

“Putting it this way, what you said made sense.” Duan Tingxuan looked serious again. “I shall speak to Dong Lou about this and get him to send two people to scout out the area and find out if there is anything of importance there.”

He glanced out the window again and muttered, “Where is that Dong Lou? He should be back by now, surely? It’s getting dark.”

“So what if it’s getting dark? That has nothing to do with us, surely? You’ll be meeting at the underground secret room anyway, so what’s your rush?” Su Nuan Nuan stood up and stretched. “Alright, it’s about time for me to get started on dinner in the kitchen too. I’ve left some snacks for you in the sideboard, eat some to take the edge off before dinner. We’ll eat when the rest of the family are here.”

With that, Su Nuan Nuan left, leaving Duan Tingxuan alone to stare at his white rock. After churning over the matter in his mind for a long time, no answer came. Finally, he put the rocks away. A little less than an hour later, Su Nuan Nuan came back. After washing her face, she entered the little house’s kitchen.

She scooped two carps from the water jar and skilfully gutted and scaled them. The little marquis spotted a plate of tofu by the stove and knew that his wife was about to make her favourite Stewed Fish with Tofu and quickly volunteered himself to cut up the tofu. Once that was done, he immediately took advantage of the moment to show off, “My dear wife, look, though I have no skill in cooking, I am still capable of reaching the standards of an assistant, right?”

“En, still capable.” Su Nuan Nuan did not even bother to look up at him. She merely pointed at the stove and said, we’ll be having stewed Grass Carp today. I’ll trouble dear husband to start the fire for me.”

“At once!”

The little marquis gladly skipped off to fulfil her orders. As the fire started under his hands, Chang San’s wife came back in time to catch this ridiculously domestic scene. She could not help sighing, “Just what is your status? For you to be suffering these crude jobs, even my heart couldn’t bear it.”

“What suffering? I feel that this kind of life is not bad. After having a busy day, the wife comes back to cook a delicious dinner and I, as the husband, assist her. Once dinner is done, we all happily sit down to eat it together and talked about our day or discuss about nothing in general. This kind of regular commoner’s life can be incredibly warm and sweet.”

Duan Tingxuan said all this with a smile. As his voice faded, Chang San’s wife gave Su Nuan Nuan a profound look and said, “What a great blessing, ah. You must feel lucky to have someone treasure you so much in his heart. I can’t say that your cousin will ever say such a thing out loud.”

Su Nuan Nuan laughed, “Please, surely sister-in-law knows this one well enough to realise that he has plenty of people in that generous heart of his? It’s not like I’m the only one there.”

Duan Tingxuan was still kindling the fire when he heard this. He quickly raised his hands and said, “You’ve really wronged me this time. In the past I dare not say but ever since… that is, my heart only has you, and you alone, ah. In fact, it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that my love for you is unwavering and unswerving.”

Chang San’s wife smiled, “This must be words from the heart. Otherwise, with cousin’s status and pride, how could he say this so smoothly? It’s so sincere I dare not laugh.”

“What’s funny about absolute loyalty and dedication?” Duan Tingxuan said seriously with a touch of disapproval. Then he sighed, “I can only hate myself for understanding the truth too late. Fate really loves to make fun of people, revealing the most important parts of my life to me when… well, I can’t complain either. It allows me to understand what true love is. Once I’ve understood this feeling, I can only say that Heaven has treated me quite well.” He nearly said ‘…when it was nearly too late’ otherwise he might arouse unwanted curiosity in Chang San’s wife on Su Nuan Nuan taking over as a spirit in Su Meng Nuan’s body.

Sure enough, Chang San’s wife frowned and said, “While this sounds plausible, but for some reason it doesn’t seem to make sense?”

“He’s just talking nonsense again, ignore him.” Su Nuan Nuan said, she looked up when Chang San’s wife pulled some meat and vegetables out of the pantry to wash. “What is sister-in-law making? I’m stewing Fish with Tofu, surely that’s enough to eat?”

“Nevertheless, we should at least have two main dishes on the table. You stew the fish while I roast this pork. I guarantee you it won’t go to waste.” She showed the cut of pork to Su Nuan Nuan. “Look, I managed to get my hands on this excellent streaky pork belly, it’s most delicious roasted.”

She had just finished speaking when Chang San entered with a yell, “Ugh, after hurrying and rushing about all day, I’m finally home. What’s for dinner? I’m hungry.”

 

[Gumihou: Yes, let’s ignore the nonsense speaking man]

 

[1] Mt. Yuelu – A real mountain at Changsha, Hunan. Very popular for its scenic spots. If this C-19 ever disappeared, that’s one of the top three places I’d love to visit. Wuhan is actually on my list too…

 

https://www.chinahighlights.com/changsha/attraction/mountain-yuelu.htm

 

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Translated by Gumihou from kitchennovel dot com.

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