Chapter 118: Sudden Change
Translated by Gumihou
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“Exactly! I never thought the old madam would actually be so interested, and here I thought it was just a passing fancy.” Su Nuan Nuan picked up a piece of Fishy Eggplant and ate it quickly. If she doesn’t move fast enough, the food would all be eaten by Duan Tingxuan.
“A passing fancy?” the little marquis looked up curiously, and heard his wife said, “Nothing, basically it means a temporary obsession.”
Duan Tingxuan did not question further, instead he smiled and said, “The old madam has always enjoyed a little excitement. Unfortunately, she tires more easily now, but it’s good to let her enjoy herself as much as she can.”
“Whatever, I’m fine with that, but what about the situation around the Capital? I heard there had been some bandit action recently, well? Have they all been caught?” this was something that Su Nuan Nuan had been worrying about. If public security is not guaranteed, she really did not want to march over to Pushan Temple with a big troupe of important nobles and aristocrats. After all, the womenfolk of the Marquis of An Ping were like fat sheep to lawless men. In fact, they were the tender, slow roasted kinds, speckled with seasoning spices and dripping with fragrant oil. Anyone with a lick of bad intention would not be able to resist this lure.
“No problem, we’ve caught over a hundred of them by now. Apparently, Chong Country had been suffering from war and famine, which explains the sudden influx of banditry, majority of them were running for their lives.” Duan Tingxuan quickly snapped up the last few pieces of Fishy Eggplant and swallowed them down. “In order to do this, the Judicial Office, as well as Ministry of Justice even the Home Guard had been mobilized non-stop this past two months. At first, I’d suspect that this might be a diversion for something bigger, diverting our resources for one thing while aiming for something else. However, thus far the bandit actions had all but disappeared, and nothing more had happened. Maybe it was just me being overly worried.”
“A careful boatmaster sails for a thousand years. As an Imperial Councillor, it’s your job to be cautious.” Su Nuan Nuan lowered her bowl. “Since it’s like this, then I shall set my heart at ease. Everyone has been looking forward to this trip so much, I really hate to throw cold water all over it.”
“What’s all this about throwing cold water? For the women folk of an important household to collectively leave their home with only servants with them, what ambitious bandit or criminal wouldn’t be tempted? Of course, I’ll be going with you as well.”
Su Nuan Nuan smiled brilliantly, “True, with your martial skill, what need do I have to worry? The ones I should be worrying for are the monks of Pushan Temple. If those ambitious bandits actually appeared with their swords, wouldn’t the grounds of the temple be washed with blood? That’s right, surely Pushan Temple don’t actually own the entire hill the temple is standing on, right?”
“Though they might act like it does, it’s just wishful thinking. In history, how many countries where its entire citizens dedicated wholly to a religion of some kind ended up in poverty due to their unwillingness to earn a living? The current emperor is wise and far-sighted, instead of fostering a country of professional beggars, he encouraged everyone to go into business.” Duan Tingxuan seemed to have finished speaking, and was now stretching his spine and smacking his lips in satisfaction before saying, “What’s today’s steamed fish? The taste is not bad.”
Su Nuan Nuan glared at him, “You’re doing this deliberately, aren’t you? You know good and well that fish belongs to Zhao Cai and you still snatched a piece. Isn’t it just a normal barracuda? What’s so interesting about it? How like you to just snatch fishes from cats.”
As she finished speaking, there was a ‘Miao-oo’ from Zhao Cai. Duan Tingxuan picked out a piece of fish bone and flicked it at Zhao Cai, hitting him right in the middle of the forehead. Sniggering, he said, “I’ve only eaten one piece of your fish, and here you are meowing so pitifully. How many of my things have you eaten? You think just because your Missy helps you to conceal it from me, this lord won’t know? You’re only alive thanks to this lord’s benevolence.
Moreover, didn’t I let you have half of that roasted intestines earlier? As a cat of Spring Breeze Court, you must learn to be charitable and magnanimous, and do meritorious deed to gain your master’s favour. It is a sin to forget who your master is. As an intelligent cat, you must respect the customs of this house.”
“How can someone be so shameless?” Su Nuan Nuan covered her face with her hands while the surrounding maids did their best not to laugh.
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“Look Missy, the Pushan Temple just ahead. It certainly looks very majestic. The temple is actually built halfway up a mountain.”
Xiang Yun pushed aside the carriage curtains and looked out, causing Su Nuan Nuan to automatically stretch up her neck to look as well. The only thing she saw were mountain ranges, but upon a closer look she saw, built halfway up the tallest mountain, was an impressive series of building structures. That was when she heard the tolling of bells, the sound added to the mystical feel of the entire atmosphere.
So, that was the Pushan Temple.
“I guess we’ll have to be on foot after this. The carriages definitely won’t be able to go up the mountains.” Su Nuan Nuan alighted from the carriage, followed nimbly by Zhao Cai. The large calico cat was wearing a brocade vest, its four paws sheathed in cute little brocade boots. Zhao Cai strode forward confidently, like a well pampered young master. He looked especially eye catching among the group of people.
Several dozen porters came over with sedan chairs. Duan Tingxuan was in the middle of sorting out sedan chairs for the ladies when rapid hoof beats was heard. He turned, and saw four riders rushing over to him.
The riders slowed as they neared the group, and one of them leapt of their horse, and hurried over to Duan Tingxuan to whisper in his ear. Somehow, the normally unflappable little marquis suddenly paled.
“Grandmother, we have reached the Pushan Temple, with the abbot and martial monks here you will be safe. Your grandson must rush back to the Capital for urgent business, please pray with a tranquil heart at the temple. Wait until I’m back to escort you home. If I’m not back by nightfall, just stay the night at the temple.”
Old Madam Fang asked anxiously, clasping the hand of her grandson. From Duan Tingxuan’s expression, the old madam could tell that something serious must have happened. No matter what it was, it can’t be anything good.
“Nothing much, it looks like a few of the bandits had gotten into their heads to go after the crown prince, they’ve all been killed.” said Duan Tingxuan soothingly as he patted the old madam’s hand. Then, he turned, and was about to leave when he saw Su Nuan Nuan, Xu Ran Yun, Xue Zhi Lan and the rest coming over. He went over to grasp Su Nuan Nuan’s hands and said in a low voice, “Nuan Nuan, something has happened with the crown prince, I must return to deal with the matter. Please look after old madam, elder madam and the rest of this group. Wait for me at the temple, understand?”
“I understand, go now.” though they were not real husband and wife, they were more than mere acquaintances. Now that their fate were intertwined, Su Nuan Nuan knew that she must be Duan Tingxuan’s pillar of strength right now.
As expected, her solemn expression did not disappoint Duan Tingxuan. Though her looks were not as devastatingly gorgeous as Xu Ran Yun, Xue Zhi Lan or some of the other women in his harem, some how this four simple words from her eased the little marquis’ mind like nothing else. He nodded and looked deep into his wife’s eyes once more. Suddenly, he stepped forward and enveloped her in a tight hug, he whispered into her ear, “Then, I shall leave everyone to you.”
The embrace was incredibly short. So short that Su Nuan Nuan was unable to properly react and Duan Tingxuan was already rapidly striding away. Her gaze followed as the man leapt easily onto a horse. Under the bright sunlight, his figure looked incredibly nimble as he caught up the reins and turned the horse’s head. The other riders gather round the main character and, just like an expensive movie set, red cloaks flared from their backs with the wind, creating an incredible scene as they all rode away and disappeared from view.
“Old madam, elder madam, there’s no need to worry. As long as our lord is the one to act, whatever it is would be resolved easily enough.” Su Nuan Nuan shook herself from the half daydream she had fallen into, and proceeded to reassure her elders with a smile.
“I don’t know why, but, my heart throbs really quickly now.” Old Madam Fang held Su Nuan Nuan’s hand and lamented, “Aih! This is all my fault, I’m already this old, what’s the purpose of running around like this? To think that I’ve now become part of Xuan’er’s worry… surely the crown prince would be alright? He’s the empress’ only son.”
“What’s all this nonsense? Old madam is just over thinking things.” Su Nuan Nuan’s smile was like a blooming flower. In Old Madam Fang’s eyes, the smile appeared very confident and reassuring. She nodded and, at the sight of Pushan Temple’s monks and helpers coming over, calmed down enough to greet them with a smile.
Pushan Temple was certainly magnificent. Once they have settled in their rooms, the family went with Old Madam Fang on a tour of the grounds. Halfway through, old madam declared that she was tired. Unsurprising, since they had had a long journey that day. Though most of the time was spent sitting in carriage or being carried up in a litter, those with poor constitution will tire out more easily. Moreover, with the added worry in their heart about Duan Tingxuan’s sudden departure, who would not be tired?
Madam Yang and Liu Mei escorted Old Madam Fang back to the guest room to rest. Xu Ran Yun and Xue Zhi Lan followed them, after all, opportunities to get close to their seniors like this was rare, so naturally they would not let it slip by.
Su Nuan Nuan had no such interest. Instead, she called Concubine Jing over and together they sat under a large tree in the courtyard. Su Nuan Nuan began to speak in a low voice, “I heard there are quite a few other families who wanted to come with us to this temple, how come I don’t see a single shadow of them?”
Concubine Jing, “I expect it’s merely polite nothings, no one actually mentioned that they will travel with us. Sister, you’ve always been rather casual when it came to this kind of social niceties, why bring this up now?”
Su Nuan Nuan looked gloomy, “Before leaving, the lord entrusted the family to me. I thought it’s better to be safe than sorry. No, we must send scouts down to see what’s going on. The Marquis of An Ping’s old madam is already here. Therefore, anyone who wishes to curry favour should be here by now. The fact that no one is here is just too strange.”
As the person in charge of household, when Concubine Jing heard this she, too, looked worried. She called her maid, Zhu Xiu, over and ordered, “Go to the front hall, get the house manager to send some fleet footed servant boys down the mountain to investigate. If they see anything unusual or not right, and immediately report to us.”
Zhu Xiu answered shortly and rushed off. Concubine Jing said, “Don’t worry, sister. The house of Marquis of An Ping has quite the prestige within the Capital, I don’t believe just anyone would dare act rashly against us.”
She haven’t finished speaking when Su Nuan Nuan said darkly, “They’ve already made an attempt at the crown prince, can you dare to claim our An Ping household has more prestige than the crown prince? Moreover, before leaving, the lord told us to wait at the temple for his arrival. If he didn’t come by nightfall, we must stay within the temple. We can’t go back to the Capital on our own. I have a feeling that he might have some suspicions on what is really going on.”
Concubine Jing sighed, she knew Su Nuan Nuan was probably right. Only, she really couldn’t quite believe that anyone would be so daring as to raise a hand against the house of Marquis of An Ping. She lowered her voice further and said, “Sister, let’s keep this between ourselves. No one else must know it. Otherwise, who knows how the servants would react. Also, there’s no need to overly worry the senior madams.”
Su Nuan Nuan smiled at this, “Be at ease, you don’t have to remind me. Moreover, this is only a suspicion of mine. I really can’t think why anyone would target the weak and old like this, but, there’s no harm in being careful. It’s best that we’re wrong of course, but it’s better for us to be prepared for a danger that will never come than to be caught unprepared.”
[Gumihou: Huhuhu, how many of you already guessed this far?]
 Fishy Eggplant – Chef Wang Gang has a youtube with English subtitles
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Translated by Gumihou from kitchennovel dot com.
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