Chapter 116: Brewing Trouble
Translated by Gumihou
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“You just came from the Capital? What’s the situation like there?”
Within the palace of King Xiangyang, the man himself was seated upright on a chair, dressed in rich brocade and looking very solemn and majestic. The question was directed to his trusted aide, Liu Qiang.
Liu Qiang stepped forward, bowed his head and said in a low voice, “In answer to my Lordship, the situation is… probably out of my Lordship hands.”
“What do you mean?” King Xiangyang’s hand, which had been resting on the table clenched into a fist. The anticipation he had felt for this interview was now laced with anxiety. The thing he hated most was also the thing he feared most, to lose control over a given situation. Because what he was planning was something that could potentially get him killed. To lose control meant failure and death.
“After the emperor fainted, there was no major changes to him. Two months ago, the crown prince also fainted once, but three days after that, the emperor ordered Marquis of An Ping’s heir, Duan Tingxuan to enter the palace to supervise the crown prince in martial arts practice. The report mentioned that the heir’s wife was a deft hand at cooking. With her miraculous ability, she was able to create vegetarian dishes that convinced even the crown prince to forego meat. Just before this one left the Capital, this one was able to catch sight of the crown prince from a distance, and saw that he had had indeed thinned down a bit…”
Liu Qiang trailed off at this. [Bang!] King Xiangyang slammed his fist against the table. It was clear that he was angry, “Hateful, despicable, this king has conspired for close to 20 years now… how could I allow this plan to just collapse in his hands? No, this king will never allow it.”
Liu Qiang stayed silent for some time, listening to the King’s harsh breathing, finally he asked, “My Lordship, what should we do next?”
King Xiangyang looked down without speaking. Liu Qiang dared not interrupt the man’s thoughts. After a long while, the king seemed to have collected himself and lifted his head to say coldly, “Duan Tingxuan’s wife, was it the woman who made the Birthday Cake?”
“Yes.” Liu Qiang nodded. This news travelled really quickly, even my Lordship knows about An Ping heir’s wife’s abilities.”
“How unexpected. For her to suddenly stand out after the entirety of the Duke of Ping’s house had collapsed. Didn’t I hear that the Duan family had renounced her? And here I thought she’s dead.” King Xiangyang half muttered to himself.
My Lordship, surely this is not the time to discuss this, right? Thought Liu Qiang privately, outwardly he said, “What tricks she used to worm her way back to the the Duan heir’s embrace is currently unknown. But this woman is clearly not simple. She never left the mansion, but it is said that she s a straightforward one. There is also a rumour going on about how the An Ping heir obeys her absolutely. The emperor and the empress also took a liking to her. She had thus far introduced a new cooling tea. Something called Snow Cream is also becoming very popular at the Capital. The trickiest issue is that we have no idea how she had gotten the information on those vegetarian recipes. Both the crown prince and the emperor who had never been happy without meat at every meal now ate her vegetarian food happily. The last this one heard, warm congee with salted vegetables was the breakfast of choice at the imperial palace…”[Dong!] the great fist of King Xiangyang struck the table once more. Eyes burning with killer intent, he grounded out each word bitterly, “In other words, we cannot let her stay alive.”
“My Lordship meaning is?”
“Send assassins after her.” said the king coldly.
“But, she never leaves the mansion.” Liu Qiang had no intention of making trouble, he was just stating a fact.
“Then we wait. I don’t believe that she will stay within those doors for the rest of her life. If she doesn’t come out voluntarily, find a way to lure her out. Surely there is no need for this king to teach you what to do?”
“Yes, this subordinate accepts the mission.” Liu Qiang shivered, and quickly bowed in acquiescence. But then, King Xiangyang said, “Wait, let me think over it for a moment.” he stood up and paced about the room a few times before standing still. “What was it you said? Duan Tingxuan trusted this woman?”
“Yes, this one saw it with one’s own eyes. There was even talk that the heir neglected the two legendary beauties in his harem for this woman.”
“Duan Tingxuan has always been merciless, sharp and kept his cards close to his chest. If he had really fallen for this woman, we won’t be able to bear the repercussion of her death. Moreover, he has the trust, and therefore the resources, of both the emperor and the crown prince. Her death might appease my anger, but the consequences is not worth it.”
Liu Qiang saw that the his Lordship was embarrassed about suddenly changing his opinion, and quickly covered up the awkward moment by saying, “My Lordship is wise, this one too felt that it is better to think thrice over the matter.”
King Xiangyang nodded solemnly, “That is so, find a way to capture her alive. That way, we can pin down Duan Tingxuan as well. Who knows, we might even be able to make use of him and neutralize a threat at the same time.”
“My Lordship is wise, this one will do as you say.” Liu Qiang gave his master a thumbs up, flattering the king from the bottom of his heart. He was about to straighten up when the king added, “It’s good to have as many bargaining chips as possible, if there’s an opportunity to capture the old granny, get her as well.”
Liu Qiang fell back to his knees in shock: Kidnap the old madam? Your Lordship, ah. Can you please refrain from being greedy? How could these words pass so casually from your lips? He sighed inwardly and said, “In answer to my Lordship, the old madam’s movements is restricted by her health, it might not be easy to get her.”
“It’s fine if you can’t get the old lady, go kidnap the marquis’ official wife. That woman is Duan Tingxuan’s blood mother after all, so how could he ignore the matter? Once his beloved wives and mother are with us, he will have to do all of our bidding.”
The mission parameters have increased in difficulty, however it was still slightly easier than kidnapping the venerable old madam… just by a little bit. Liu Qiang dare not try to find an excuse to get out of this mission. He knew that his Lordship was not particularly good tempered, he counted himself lucky that this master had not started killing people in a temper yet.
Once out of the study, Liu Qiang raised his head to the star studded sky, and sighed gustily, before turning his brain over to pondering how he could pull off this ridiculous mission.
[Gumihou: *pats Liu Qiang* that’s what you get when you serve an unreasonable master]
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“Time sure passed quickly. It felt like I’d just blinked, and it’s autumn already.”
At Spring Breeze Court, Concubine Jing and Concubine Lin were chatting together with Su Nuan Nuan under her grapevine pergola.
“It’s still hot even though it’s autumn.” Su Nuan Nuan flapped her round fan crossly, causing Concubine Lin to laugh, “It’s still early autumn yet, moreover, we might still experience the occasional Indian summer. It might still be hot for another 10 days.”
“10 days… that’s almost half a month,” Su Nuan Nuan sighed dramatically. Concubine Jing laughed, “This summer we have sister’s Snow Cream to help us get through the heat, it’s already much more bearable than other years.”
Su Nuan Nuan rolled her eyes, “Easy for you to say, do you know just how tiring it is to make Snow Cream?”
Concubine Jing said, “Since it’s so tiring, why don’t you just let the kitchen maids make it? You can save on ingredients expenses too.”
Su Nuan Nuan sank down her chair, “Don’t bring it up anymore. Your master and second master have money in their eyes. Aren’t they planning some big business venture at the Capital soon? Both of them refused to let me give out the recipe, not even to Ms. Xu, leaving me to do it all by myself. How infuriating, if not because of money, I would have refused to do anything this tiring.”
Concubine Jing and Concubine Lin couldn’t help laughing. Finally, Concubine Jing said, “Sister is right, but aren’t you too have fallen in lust with money? Otherwise, why would you bother what master and second master say?”
Having her secrets burst out like that made Su Nuan Nuan even more resentful, “You’re not allowed to speak the truth, this is Spring Breeze Court’s rules, how dare you disobey it? Zhao Cai!”
At the call, the large cat yowled, and leapt into Su Nuan Nuan’s arms. Then she quickly threw Zhao Cai into Concubine Jing’s lap and said, “Heat her up, heat her up, otherwise I’ll throw you away.”
“Zhao Cai seems to have gotten fatter.” Concubine Jing gently stroked Zhao Cai. It was clear that she loved animals. Even Shi Yurou’s Persian cat would let her cuddle it, whenever it was nearby.
“Hasn’t he? But luckily he seems to be even more agile than before. Otherwise, he’d have died under your lord’s evil hands. The man’s a true foodie, if anyone dares to snatch his food, well! He might give face to old madam and elder madam, and he doesn’t seemed to beat people up, but Zhao Cai is a cat, ah. Everyday he’s here, my Spring Breeze Court becomes chaotic. Man and cat just seems to rub each other wrong.”
Concubine Jing smiled, “Madam sure knows how to complain. Just the other day I heard Madam Lan and Madam Yun talking about getting a cat. They thought that the lord’s daily visit was due to Zhao Cai on top of your cooking.”
Su Nuan Nuan said, “Let them raise the cats, I shall recruit those cats when the time comes. Let your lord battle it out alone with my battalion of cats, we can all take bets to see which side would win. However, the branch house’ Persian cat is a useless thing, it dare not breath deeply at the sight of Zhao Cai. That waste of space would be useless against your lord.”
They were still chatting and laughing together when Duan Xinqi entered. Concubine Lin got up and said, “Why are you so late? Did you really need all that time to change your clothes?”
“Oh no, on the way here, I encountered Madam Hua, who pulled me over to talk nonsense.” Duan Xinqi’s cheeks were pink. The rest of the ladies immediately knew what the ‘nonsense’ was about. Su Nuan Nuan said, “Our second miss’ prospects is quite good, I heard there are quite a few families who sent representatives over to old madam and elder madam. What about yourself? Has anyone caught your eye?”
Duan Xinqi’s cheeks reddened, and she stamped her feet, “Sister-in-law is making fun of me again. I shall not speak to you anymore.” She then flounced over to pick up Zhao Cai from Concubine Jing and sat by herself with a huff.
At this point, Concubine Lin spoke up gratefully, “Thanks to madam for your guide, this child finally managed to have this day. I had always worried over which household she might be married into. Just some time ago, the marquis told me that there were quite a few families sending in inquiries. Among them, there were two that really stood out…”
Before she could finish speaking, Duan Xinqi shrieked wordlessly from her corner, and Concubine Lin laughed, “Alright, alright, we’ll stop talking about it. Now, let me ask you. Just what did Madam Hua wants anyway?”
“She said she’s here to see Madam Min, said something about lighting lanterns.” Duan Xinqi said casually. Suddenly, she sat up, “That’s right, sister-in-law, concubine mothers, have you heard? There had been some unrest in the suburbs and quite a few villages plundered by horse bandits. But see, I’ve been thinking, why would horse bandits attack towns at the edge of the Capital?”
Su Nuan Nuan said, “Your brother spoke to me about this before. Be at ease, they won’t be able to rampage about soon. The Judicial Office have been working with the Ministry of Justice on this case. The emperor have also moved some of the Imperial Army over as support. Their speciality is suppressing horseback opponents. Humph! Humph! In my opinion, they’re lucky they haven’t set foot into the Capital, anyone who tries to take our Capital would be captured like turtles in a jar.”
Concubine Jing said, “The Capital had been too peaceful lately. Just a rash of banditry turned into big news. It was still quite ways away from the new year, so why would these thieves and bandits just not hold themselves back?”
[Gumihou: Ooooh, looks like we’re going into a different arc now. I’m so excited!]
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Translated by Gumihou from kitchennovel dot com.
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