Chapter 39: So It’s Like That
“This really is a household of thieves.” Looking at her messy kitchen, Su Nuan Nuan could not suppress the urge to sigh as she shook her head. When her watery eyes met Hong Lian and Xiang Yun, both lowered their heads in shame. They heard Su Nuan Nuan said, “It’s all fine, after all we still have plenty of ingredients. We’ll just make more. Ah, just now when elder madam came, why did the two of you went into hiding with Si Ping, ah? Were you really that frightened?”
Xiang Yun covered her lips and giggled, “It’s not that we’re frightened, it’s just elder madam’s timing is just too good, arriving just when Missy is at the most exciting bit with the Master in the courtyard. In Missy’s own words, how could this maid be able to deny knowing you? Therefore, how could we ever be willing to go out?”
Su Nuan Nuan, “…. …”
Tch, apparently they were really not afraid of the elder madam, instead they were so ashamed of their own masters that they did not wish to acknowledge them. Su Nuan Nuan felt crossed, she was starting to think that she may have treated these two maids a little too well. These two really wanted to flip the heavens, ah. But, why did they not show these kinds of of rebellious behaviour against Duan Tingxuan? Is being too easy going and lenient a wrong thing?
Tch, so they really weren’t afraid of the elder madam,
“Sometimes, it’s not necessary to tell the truth.” As she expressionlessly pour oil into the hot wok, Su Nuan Nuan slide her gaze over to Hong Lian. This maid seemed to understand the undertones of her gaze and hurriedly said, “As for that Si Ping, he really was afraid of the elder madam. Missy just think, seeing the Master act like that, elder madam would definitely be angry. However, no matter how angry she gets, there was no way she would ever raise her hand against the master, right? Therefore, the only way she could vent her anger is on Si Ping who is always at the Master’s side, isn’t it? Hiding from elder madam in the kitchen is just a way for Si Ping to protect his own hide.”
“Tcheh!” Su Nuan Nuan could not resist a sharp laugh. “So he’s not at all afraid that his master will sell him for this?”
“Unlikely,” Hong Lian grinned, “Our Master’s temper is quite mild, he treats people very well. Especially the servants, to the point that he sometimes cover up our errors from our other masters. Perhaps Missy doesn’t know, elder madam was probably urged by those two secondary wives to come and demand for a divorce. With just a few words, our master was able to protect Missy, but Si Ping’s presence would be difficult to explain, which is why he hid himself in the kitchens. The Master would only tease Si Ping for being too quick witted, how could he actually be sold? Missy should not underestimate the Master.”
“Who says I underestimate your Master? I’ve never looked down on that rascal, you understand? Don’t you dare slander me.” Su Nuan Nuan lightly knocked on Hong Lian’s head. Then, she placed the White Sugar Cake that had been prepared earlier into the hot oil. One by one they all slipped in and were fried golden brown. This was the first time Hong Lian and Xiang Yun saw her made these sweet snacks. The sweet smell was enough to make them salivate, Xiang Yun ventured, “Missy, what is this? It smells so sweet.”
“It’s called White Sugar Cake, didn’t you see me put in all those efforts earlier? First, the good glutinous rice has to be soaked, then properly washed…” without waiting for her to finish, Xiang Yun piped up, “That’s right, a few days ago, Missy had ordered me and Hong Lian to catch Si Ping and force him to grind those glutinous rice into flour, was it to make these?”
“Clever.” Su Nuan Nuan nodded with a smile, and heard Xiang Yun said, “Missy also did something to the rice flour this morning, but this servant did not managed to see. Just what mysterious technique is this? This shape is just too curious. Missy, please teach this servant, in the future when Missy wishes to eat this snack, all you have to do is order this servant to make it.”
Su Nuan Nuan gave her a look, and nodded with a small ‘tch’ sound, “Very well, I shall consider this as you being conscientious. The tough work is in the making of rice flour, once that is done the rest is easy. The rice flour has to be kneaded into dough with cold water that has been boiled. Then, stretch and twist the dough until it forms a long strand. Press the ends of two strands together and twist some more until they form a wavy circle. Fry them in the wok, then fish them out…”
“Oh, I know, once they’re out, we can eat them, right?” Xiang Yun cried out from the side, looking at the plate filled with the fried White Sugar Cake. It looked like she almost couldn’t help herself from snatching one.
Su Nuan Nuan merely rolled her eyes at her and said mildly, “Congratulations, you’ve managed to answer first. However, you’re wrong. I already told you these are called White Sugar Cakes, however, have you heard me mention white sugar even once?”
“Oh!” Xiang Yun’s eyes widened, “These looked really fancy already, this servant thought they’re ready to be eaten. Missy please don’t keep this one in suspense, what other steps are there? Please tell this one, this servant is dying to know.”
“Who’s keeping you in suspense? If you hadn’t stabbed your tongue in, I would have told you the whole process. Still daring to make false claims against me.” Su Nuan Nuan made a harrumph sound, and said to Hong Lian. “Go to the kitchen and fetch our large basin. Place eight of these cakes on it, and sprinkle them with a mixture of white sugar and rice flour, and it’s done. This is the reason why they’re called White Sugar Cakes, understand?”
Hong Lian smiled, “It really sounds quite troublesome to make. We already have something called white sugar cakes, but they’re not made this way.”
Su Nuan Nuan waved her hand casually, and smiled nonchalantly, “Those white sugar cakes use sugar as their stuffing, so the name is common enough. My cakes also depended on white sugar as flavouring, so they could also be called White Sugar Cakes. No matter what’s the name, the most important thing is that it’s delicious.”
“Yes, what Missy said is correct.” Hong Lian was busy with her hands dusting the White Sugar Cakes in the large basin as she spoke, “Missy look, doesn’t this look like it had snowed here? Pleasing to the eye and seductive to the nose, a very good dessert. Fortunately, these were not yet made when the Master is around, otherwise, there would be none left.”
Su Nuan Nuan was extremely angry, “Your Master is just too greedy. Since these high-grade sugar and glutinous rice are all provided by him, do you really think I would not let him have 2 or 3 pieces? However, he’s just too much. Every time he spots something edible he turns into a greedy snake, ready to gobble up everything in sight, not at all afraid of choking to death. God knows where all that pretentious aristocratic air went.”
“Whatever, let him eat. But he still has ideas about carrying off my food. While I’m fine letting that old madam eat my snacks since there aren’t many people who don’t hate me in this palace. However, those extra wives of his and those fox buddies and dog friends were just too much. Why should I tire myself out making good food for them? Hmph!”
Hong Lian wiped a forehead full of cold sweat, and said softly, “Um, Missy, this one understands the comment about the extra wives, but… the fox buddies and dog friends are…?”
“Those friends, ah. Aside from that East Palace crown prince, who else?” Su Nuan Nuan’s mouth twisted. Hong Lian stared at her in silence for a long time, before rubbing the sweat on her forehead again. “Missy, aside from the East Palace crown prince, the Master also counted a few other little marquis as his friends, as well as young officials and other aristocrats from good families. The Master would not actually associate himself with lackeys or other lower class people.”
“Really?” Su Nuan Nuan was doubtful. That rascal really has fancy friends like that? Whatever, the words were said and cannot be taken back. Even tears would have to be swallowed by this point. Thus, she planted her hands on her hips and said, “I don’t care, after all, I don’t know those people. Since I don’t know them they might as well be dogs and foxes. What young official? The higher one sits, the more bad water they have in their stomach, otherwise, how would they make it that far?”
Hong Lian nodded like a chicken pecking rice, “Yes, yes, yes, what Missy says made sense. This servant is just curious why Missy still gets so angry and shouty even though the master has given her so many things. So it’s like this, this slave actually felt that the Master has been badly mistreated.”
Su Nuan Nuan said neutrally, “He’s not mistreated.” So saying, she fished out the last few White Sugar Cakes. Xiang Yun quickly stepped forward with the large basin filled with the other cakes. Once the basin of cakes was tucked away on the shelf, she fetched a basin of water forward for Su Nuan Nuan to wash her hands in. “Your master and I, our relationship as husband and wife has already broken apart, no matter what he thinks. He and I shall never reform that broken mirror in this lifetime. With this resolve, I am able to interact with him. This is good too. As long as he provides me with ingredients and teaches me kungfu, as thanks I shall provide him with good food.”
“This way, we are of use to each other. However, he keeps trying to make me go back to the inner court. I ask you, what do I do once I’m back there? Continue fighting those secondary wives and concubines for his attention? Scheme and backstab each other to death? It’s not easy to land such a nice leisurely life, why should I voluntarily go back into that suffocating environment? You think I’m stupid?”
Sudden realization dawned on Hong Lian, and she said faintly. “So it’s like this, Missy no longer loves the Master and did not want to return, and therefore did all this to make the Master lose interest in yourself?”
“That’s right, it’s just like that.” Su Nuan Nuan wiped her hands on her handkerchief. She smiled at Hong Lian and Xiang Yun. “I know the two of you hoped that I would be returned. It’s just too bad that the official wife’s position is just an empty title. A man’s affections are of no consequence. Ever since my near death, I’ve seen the light. In this world, the most important thing is to live life however you want to. Therefore, please don’t speak good things for your master anymore. Even if you tell me that he’s become the deity Er Lang is no use.”
Hong Lian nodded, “This servant understands. This servant and Xiang Yun are maids that have followed you from your parents’ house and will follow Missy till the end. However, Missy, please forgive this one for being presumptuous. This one wishes to remind Missy of the Master’s temperament, it won’t be easy to make him give up.”
Duan Tingxuan’s character, as his former wife how could she not know? Did she even need Hong Lian’s reminder? Therefore this statement from her maid was really curious. Su Nuan Nuan had some suspicion that these maids of her have probably realised that she had undergone a complete change. However, it’s a matter of neither party saying anything and the two of them have simply taken her for their master. In fact, they must have felt that she was better than their previous master. This was good. Some things need not be said to be understood, as long as everyone was of one mind it was enough.
When things that should be said have all been spoken, Su Nuan Nuan pointed at the plate of White Sugar Cakes and said to Hong Lian. “Whatever, you send this to the old madam at the North Courtyard. Since we received so many cloth from her, it’s only proper that we should thank the old lady. These White Sugar Cakes are flaky on the outside and soft on the inside. Filled with the fragrance and softness of glutinous rice, a perfect snack for older people. Only one warning, remember to tell her that glutinous rice is not easy to digest and that old madam should not eat too many of them.”
Hong Lian smiled, “If Missy wishes to show your filial responsibility, why not visit her yourself? Why send this servant instead?”
Su Nuan Nuan gave her a glare and said coolly. “Have you already forgotten my words from before? For me to personally go? What happens if old madam became too happy over my snacks and force me back into the inner court? Isn’t that just lifting a rock to smash my own feet? I’ve already ordered you to go, why all these questions?”
Hong Lian did not know whether to laugh or to cry. “Surely Missy thinks too badly of the old madam? How could she do such a thing?”
“Better to be safe than sorry, only the careful will survive to finish the journey.” Su Nuan Nuan was resolute in her feelings. That old woman was that black-bellied Duan Tingxuan’s grandmother after all. It would be best to guard against her. The apple couldn’t fall too far from the tree.
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“Master, what did elder madam say?:
When he finally managed to leave Madam Yang’s courtyard, Duan Tingxuan found Si Ping sneaking about. All the grievances he had suffered ever since his mother’s sudden appearance finally has an outlet. He aimed a reckless kick towards Si Ping’s bottom, snapping angrily. “Where have you died off to?”
“From Master’s words, it seems that Master wishes to know where this servant has died off to? This small one knew that Master had not been able to eat to his heart’s content, and have thus begged the first madam for two large trays of edibles from her. They are now safely in Master’s study.”
Si Ping’s ability to flatter was spot on. After hearing about the good things to eat, the little marquis’s temper instantly calmed down, his heart filled with good cheer, he was about to head over to his study when he paused. The smile on his face vanished. After a moment, he suddenly turned and made his way towards the west, where Xu Ran Yun’s Autumn Rain courtyard was.
“My Lord, are you not going to the study to eat?” Si Ping was shocked. This was the first time he saw his Master steeled his heart against first madam’s cooking.
“Keep the food safe. I will eat them later. I must first go to Xu Ran Yun’s place. You return to the study and inform Shuang Xi, then you can go home.”
Hearing Duan Tingxuan’s words, Si Ping understood. Looks like elder madam’s visit to Mei Yue Lou was no coincidence, ah. In fact, based on her character, it was almost a sure thing that Xu Ran Yun was involved. This time she would definitely suffer a loss. Though it was unknown how the master had placated elder madam, he would have had to eat some humble pie. This grudge, if not Madam Yun, who else should suffer for it?
Author’s Note: Phew! After such a large fight, things finally started to calm down a little. Hope you guys will continue to support this silly couple…and also continue to send in a little more monthly tickets…my income all depends on everyone’s help. Good bye for now!!!
 White Sugar Cake – Basically a twisty Chinese donut, lol!
 Deity Er Lang
Translated by Gumihou at kitchennovel dot com
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