The Feast – 104 – Retreat

The Feast – 104 – Retreat

Chapter 104: Retreat

 

Translated by Gumihou

Please read this at kitchennovel dot com

 

“Oh no, no, we don’t need that many dishes. This is more than enough, I don’t want the whole family to suddenly turn up at our doorstep begging for food. As for the pineapple whatever dish, we can have it during winter. We shouldn’t be too greedy and  eat everything at once. It’s better to restrict the supply and enjoy your cooking gradually.”

“Still want to restrict supply?” Su Nuan Nuan sniggered as she lightly smacked Duan Tingxuan on the head. “When you started popping over to Mei Yue Lou to eat my food, I had a whole list of ingredients I want from you. But, Hong Lian and Feng Xian both told me I was too greedy. However, compared to you, I must admit my lost. The real greedy ghost in this house is you.”

“Yes, yes, it is I. I am incredibly greedy. As long as there are good things to eat, who cares about labels? My dear, you’re welcome to call me a greedy rat, a cunning fox, or a gluttonous snake, as long as I have good food. Hahaha!” Duan Tingxuan laughed heartily with his hands on his waist, when Su Nuan Nuan cut in with, “Why were you called out so suddenly last night?”

“Erp!”

With his hearty laughter suddenly cut off, Duan Tingxuan choked on nothing. He gave his ‘dear wife’ a bitter look, “You did that deliberately, didn’t you? Can’t you even wait until I’ve laughed to my satisfaction before throwing this wet blanket at me? I’ve just managed to forget about this, why do you have to bring it up?”

After his little rant, he set the sheaf of recipes on the table, and looked gravely at Su Nuan Nuan, “The crown prince suddenly lost consciousness yesterday. A good half an hour passed before he finally woke up. Nuan Nuan, his health might be in more danger than we’d imagined. Since this is most likely food related, I implore you, madam wife, for advice. What should we do now?”

Su Nuan Nuan was shocked, after a long time she frowned and said, “For a young man like the crown prince to suffer a heart attack, this is not good. He has to lose weight now, otherwise I really can’t predict any good outcomes.” Su Nuan Nuan really can’t help but be anxious for such an important member of this unusually loving and intimate royal family. Though he’s a fatty, and his greed for delicious food was terrible to behold, he still listened to Duan Tingxuan and stopped eating Su Nuan Nuan’s food when told off. He’s truly a good crown prince, if possible, she really did not want him to die young.

“In fact, I have some suspicion that the crown prince’s weight and King Xiangyang might be somehow related. This is all my conjecture, of course.” Duan Tingxuan said anxiously. “Nuan Nuan, you really must think of a way to help me. Royalty aside, he’d always been a good cousin to me, treated me more like a blood brother. I want him to live a good and healthy life. Heir apparent aside, he’s a good natured, even-tempered and clever man who would continue to lead this country as a wise and peace loving monarch. Therefore, no matter what, we must prevent misfortune from falling onto his head.”

“Didn’t I say there’s nothing I can do, ah? The only answer is to lose weight. Otherwise he will continue to suffer attacks like this. His heart attack will only become more serious from now on.” Su Nuan Nuan too began to worry over this.

Duan Tingxuan muttered, “I’ve spoken to the imperial physician today, he said the same thing. After reporting the matter to the emperor, he ordered me to spend at least two hours at the East Palace to encourage the crown prince to practice his martial arts. However, I must implore your help when it comes to food. See if you can somehow make vegetarian food look good and get him to eat less meat.”

“Leave it to me. There are actually a lot of delicious vegetarian food, as long as it is properly prepared, it could be incredibly tasty. Moreover, we could also make mock chicken and mock ducks.” There were not many temples or monasteries in this ancient era and while most people practised ascetism, none of them would have known the super luxurious vegetarian food that featured mock chicken and mock ducks[1]. Therefore, at Duan Tingxuan’s plea, Su Nuan Nuan immediately had a few recipes in mind. As long as she gets the seasoning and texture right, she could make vegetarian dishes taste like meat.

At his wife’s declaration, Duan Tingxuan gave Su Nuan Nuan a solemn gaze. In a serious voice, he said, “Then, I shall depend upon madam wife.”

“No problem.” Su Nuan Nuan gave a creepy little hei-hei laugh and said. “We can also encourage the crown prince with a special meat dish everyday. If he eats his vegetables like a good boy, he could get five mouthfuls of my special meat dish. If he can’t finish his vegetables, you may eat the meat dish in front of him.”

“Heavens, ah! Su Nuan Nuan, you’re too…” mean, Duan Tingxuan was about to say mean, but at the sight of his wife’s smile that was not really a smile, he blinked himself into consciousness and gave her a thumbs up. “Exactly, what an excellent idea. Madam wife is cleverer than Zhuge[2] himself, this husband admires your wit and cunning. Even I could not have come up with this scheme.”

“Why do I feel like there’s something wrong with your last sentence? Are you mocking me?”

“How dare I? Nuan Nuan, please do not accuse unjustly.” Duan Tingxuan’s voice was unnaturally loud. For some reason, after his wife narrowly escaped death, he felt more and more like Dou E[3], his day was not complete unless he suffered at least one unjust blame a day.

“Whatever, I can’t be bothered to argue with you.” Su Nuan Nuan stood up, and stretched, then swung her arms for a bit, and declared, “Alright, let’s cook.”

“Are you making that Steamed Lion Head?” Duan Tingxuan’s eyes sparkled. One arm came up to wipe his mouth, to make sure there was no drool coming out. He was really concerned about losing his dignity before Su Nuan Nuan. Though he knew that he was lower than rats and foxes in her eyes, he should still try to improve his image in front of her, right?

“I definitely not making that one now. I’m going to make a braised dish, you have something to say against that?” Su Nuan Nuan sniffed coldly.

Duan Tingxuan tittered, “As long as it’s delicious, I’m happy. Who cares whether it’s a steamed or braised dish? Nuan Nuan is the best. Just say it and I, your husband, shall lend you my strength.”

“Enough, you think I don’t know your true aim? Go and sit in your study, you food thief. You’ve been spending too much time hanging out at my place, have you been neglecting your work? If you’re too free, go and flip through <<A Mirror for a Wise Ruler>>[4], isn’t that better than stealing food from the kitchens? Now that both the emperor and crown prince have suffered sudden bout of illnesses, I expect situation at the court would be even more turbulent now.”

Duan Tingxuan smiled back winsomely, “Is that what worries you? I’ve already made arrangements for the court, the only thing I can do now is wait.”

Since Duan Tingxuan said it like that, she decided not to bother with it and went on as usual. Though this Duan Tingxuan character looked like an unreliable rich young master, he actually carried a lot of responsibilities on his shoulders. Few enemies could counter this man’s wit and calmness in the face of trouble. This was why he was trusted as the left and right arm of both the emperor and crown prince.

 

Please read this at kitchennovel dot com

 

A spatter of light rain drizzled through the night and into the next day. It gradually slowed to a stop in the afternoon, bringing a bit of relief to the hot summer’s day.

Ms. Xue hurried through a tiny alley bordered by red flowers and green leaves washed clean by the rain. The sight, though simple, was so refreshing and beautiful, that cleaners and passersby actually paused to admire them. Unfortunately, Ms. Xue has no mood for such sights as she hurried along the path towards the garden gate.

“Yo~, isn’t it Ms. Xue? What’s going on? Where are you going so early in the morning? Has some master ordered a rush on their clothes?”

Behind her, a voice drawled tauntingly, causing Ms. Xue to stop, and turned to look at the speaker. It was Ms. Liang, the warehouse manager, along with two or three other followers. They were just coming out of a side lane and were all gleefully sneering at her.

This Ms. Liang had never gotten along with her. This particular hatred had developed since their youth. Ever since Ms. Xue had been banished to the laundry house, she had taken the time to jeer and shame her with her little group of followers. This time, they ambushed her at this little garden. As expected, people who had been minding their own business suddenly pricked up their ears at this challenge.

If this was in the past, Ms. Xue would have retaliated fiercely with a few choice words of her own and ridicule Ms. Liang. If only to sooth the fire in her heart. However, her mood was exceptionally good today, and therefore she calmly replied, “Which eye of yours saw me carrying clothes? Let me tell you now, from today onwards, I am back as the kitchen manager. In fact, I’ve been informed not to even bother collecting my things at the laundry section. Feng Xian guniang told me to hurry over to the kitchen to make sure that lunch is properly prepared for the masters.”

Ms. Liang was stunned. Not only her, the people around them were surprised too. How could they not know about Ms. Xue’s situation? They’d heard that first madam even made a great fuss over it, but was unable to get her transferred back in the end. Thus, they thought that Ms. Xue had clung onto the wrong thigh and would never return to her original position again. However, fate worked in mysterious ways and this first madam had, without a single word or action, once again rose from the ashes and successfully rescued Ms. Xue from the laundry section. Wait a moment, Feng Xian guniang? Feng Xian personally asked her to return to the kitchens? Could it be that even without first madam making a single move, Madam Yun had taken the initiative to lower her head? Just what is going on?

The servants began to whisper among themselves, Ms. Liang never thought that she would suffer such a big face slap. Her cheeks flushed and she glared at Ms. Xue, “Humph! Don’t be too proud of yourself, that place is a hot seat. You’ve been kicked out once, you think you can’t be kicked out a second time?”

“This, well, there’s no need for little sister to be so concerned about me.” Ms. Xue smiled, not bothering to kick this drowning dog in front of her. Instead, she turned and calmly continued on her way. Feeling the numerous eyes on her, her chest rose proudly: I am one of first madam’s people, I shall be as magnanimous as her. I shall not drag first madam’s name through the mud by behaving badly.

As she pondered over this, her steps quickly brought her out of the garden and she was soon approaching Spring Breeze Court. A few more steps later, she spotted someone coming round one of the fake stone mountains. A closer looked told her that it was the little marquis. Ms. Xue quickened her steps and nearly ran forward to give her greetings. Duan Tingxuan spotted her and paused, his eyes looking her up and down before smiling, “First madam says that you’re not bad, are you on the way back to kitchens?”

“Yes, thanks to master, Feng Xian guniang bade this one to return to the kitchens. Please accept this one’s humble thanks.” though Feng Xian made it sound like the master had pleaded for Madam Yun to allow Ms. Xue to return to the kitchens, what kind of idiot did they think she was to believe that lie? What nonsense, would a master, this master especially, beg Madam Yun on behalf of a lowly kitchen worker like her? Surely this is just looking down the lord heir, right? If the lord heir found out how you’ve smeared his reputation like this, you ladies only have yourself to blame.

However, no matter what, Duan Tingxuan must have had a hand in her getting her job back. Which was why she was determined to properly thank him. Duan Tingxuan grinned, “What does it have to do with me? You should thank your first madam. If she hasn’t bent my ear daily for your sake, would I even know who you are? Alright now, you’re here to see first madam, right? Well, go on, go on. I’ll give you a heads up first, you have a good thing waiting for you there.”

 

[Gumihou: Who else is excited for the birthday banquet?]

 

 

[1] Mock meats – Soybean based products that’s supposed to imitate meat. Personally, I find this offensive, if I want meat, I’ll eat proper meat. If I want to go vegetarian, for the love of God, Heavens and Earthly beings, give me something like vegetables or squash that still looked like the original thing. I’m perfectly fine with vegan dishes, they are delicious, but vegetables that has been mashed, mixed with flour and deep fried is just..

[2] Zhuge Liang – Very famous for his intelligence

[3] Dou E – from the Chinese play <<The Injustice to Dou E>> it’s also known as <<Snow in Midsummer>>

The story follows a child bride turned widow, Dou E, who is wrongly convicted of crimes by a corrupt court official for actions perpetrated by a rejected suitor, Zhang the mule. After her execution, three prophesied phenomena occur to prove her innocence, including blood raining from the sky, snow in June and a three-year drought… Here’s the wiki link

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Injustice_to_Dou_E

[4] <<A Mirror for the Wise Ruler>> or <<Comprehensive Mirror for Aid in Government??

A vast chronological general history, written by Sima Guang (1019-1089) covering the period 403 BC to 959 AD, 294 scrolls worth of writing.

 

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Translated by Gumihou from kitchennovel dot com.

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