Chapter 138: Throw Open the Main Gate
Translated by Gumihou
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“It’s a gift from second sister. Apparently, she made these for fun. When she noticed my interest she made this one just for me. You can see she has clearly put in extra effort on the painting and carving on it. Oh yes, according to her, when third brother knew about this, she saw him sneaking a really huge gourd into his room. She even caught him painting a beautiful woman onto it. We think it’s probably a gift for you.” Su Nuan Nuan’s hands flashed around as she spoke, framing just how much larger the other gourd was.
Duan Tingxuan’s face became all 囧囧as he stared at his wife. “Are you sure he’s planning to give that thing to me? Is he trying to ruin my life? Why would I want a gourd with a woman painted on it? Is he trying to drive a wedge between us? Humph! I knew that brat is harbouring evil intentions. He knew good and well that my status in your eyes is lower than a cat, and now he’s trying to pour oil over fires.”
“Don’t say that. I’m sure he has good intentions. It’s more difficult to paint a proper beauty than some pretty birds and flowers. If you really say this to third brother, he’ll probably expire from shock.” Su Nuan Nuan’s thrill of laughter sounded carefree, but then it was followed by. “But truly, third brother really means well. He definitely put a lot of consideration into that gourd. After all, what is a giant gourd for? Surely it’s not for you to carry wine around. You’re not Iron Crutch Li after all.”
Both husband and wife continued to chat and laugh together as they collected dew the rest of the night. By the time they were content to go back to their rooms, the moon had already gone down. In a short while, the sky began to brighten and the once silent Pushan Temple soon began to fill the chatter of human voices. Duan Tingxuan and Duan Tingye busied themselves arranging the Imperial Army and their bodyguards to safely move the bandits; while Su Nuan Nuan and Concubine Jing organized the servants maids as they got ready go down the mountain.
Everyone gathered at the courtyard and were about to depart when Duan Tingxuan made his way to the front of the group, and everyone knew that the lord heir have something to say and immediately stood at attention. All eyes were on Duan Tingxuan as they tried to guess what he had to say.
Duan Tingxuan swept his eyes over them for a moment and saw the cowardly slave women huddling together at the very back of the group. He pointed a finger at them and said, “You there, come up here.”
The women glanced at each other fearfully, but after some hesitation, made their way forward. They knelt before him and said together, “We slaves greet the lord heir.”
“Last night, your first madam pleaded me to spare your lives, and I have agreed to do so.” Duan Tingxuan naturally did not bother to mince words with servants. He was to the point and said mercilessly, “Though you may have escape the death penalty, you should be aware what kind of reaction you will get once back at the mansion. Your first madam is a compassionate person and could not bear to see you suffer. As the saying goes, ‘Assistance should be not be given half-heartedly’. Therefore, I shall give you an option. Those who are afraid to go back may leave immediately. From here on the An Ping household will have nothing to do with you and you may live however you wish. I shall not send people after you either.”
This announcement was beyond any of the slaves’ expectations. They all carefully raised their heads to look nervously at Duan Tingxuan. But, then quickly lowered their heads again. At least two of them looked like they were considering his offer, but then, the first slave who had kowtowed before Su Nuan Nuan said, “This slave sends her many thanks to the lord heir for his grace in allowing us to keep our lives. However, this one has no intention of leaving. Please allow this slave to return to the mansion. This one is ready to accept any punishment as long as this one is allowed to return.”
As she finished speaking, two more slaves spoke up together. “We too thank the lord heir for his grace in sparing our lives. We respectfully beg to be allowed to return to the mansion.”
The two slaves who had hesitated just now sighed, the resolve in their eyes hardened. It looked like they too had made up their mind.
“At least all of you have some sense of responsibility. Do not forget your first madam’s words. Since everyone has made their decision, your punishment shall be deduction of one year’s salary for failing to properly protect your master…” at this point, Duan Tingxuan paused. When he had everyone’s eyes on him, he said, “These slaves have all been punished by me. In the future, if I hear any malicious gossips about them, this lord shall find the rumour monger and cut out their tongue. Those who wish to test the resolve of your lord and first madam are welcome to do so.”
After dropping this shocking bomb, Duan Tingxuan left the stunned maids and servants to process this threat as he made his way towards Su Nuan Nuan. With a smile, he said, “Though it can’t be completely eliminated, the waves of rumours should be suppressed by my threat. Surely my wife is satisfied with this husband’s plan?”
“Very satisfied. Extremely satisfied. My lord is definitely worthy of the title of little marquis. The way you threaten people is certainly awe inspiring, there probably aren’t many people who would risk their tongues for the sake of a gossip, no matter how delicious. This is already the best end we can achieve.” Su Nuan Nuan raised her thumb in admiration, and heard her husband coughed a little. In a low voice, he said, “I did this not merely for your praises, but… that Flat Stone Cake… don’t you think you should make some for me later?”
“Oh, so it’s for the sake of food?” Su Nuan Nuan’s admiration, which had been flowing like the Huang He River, immediately dried up. This was probably obvious through her tone of voice, which was why Duan Tingxuan immediately blushed and tried to salvage whatever dignity he had left by speaking loudly, “What do you know? You really think I’m nothing but a glutton? You look down me too much. You’ve said it yourself, this Stone Cake whatever is so easy and convenient to make it could be made by a campfire. If that is so, then it has great military merit. An army marches on its stomach, you know? Good food is one of the things that can greatly increase the moral of an army, don’t you know?”
“Are your intentions really that righteous? You’re sure it’s not just a high minded excuse to stuff your face?” Su Nuan Nuan’s eyes narrowed suspiciously at him.
Duan Tingxuan’s voice deepened seriously as he brushed his sleeves and sniffed, “How could a small minded person like you understand a nobleman’s intentions? Humph! Whatever, just make some when we get home. I want to conduct a full, on-site investigation on this Flat Stone Cake on its possibility as army provisions.”
“Sure, sure, sure, I’ll make them for you when we get home. When are we leaving anyway? Old madam and second miss must be anxiously waiting for us back at the mansion.” Su Nuan Nuan sniggered to herself. But, to be honest, Duan Tingxuan’s performance yesterday was not bad, therefore she would be gracious and overlook his attempt to abuse his official authority for private interest.
After being held back a night at the temple and enduring a life and death situation, the servants of An Ping house could finally return home. The procession of carriages reached the Capital. The carriages continued on and passed the tall vermilion gates of the An Ping mansion main entrance. The first carriage was about to turn west for the corner gate when Duan Tingxuan called a halt to the entire parade. The carriage driver was puzzled, but he halted, causing the rest to halt too. The lord heir leapt off his horse and called to the gatekeeper, “Open the gates. Welcome the lord heir’s wife to the mansion.”
The two gatekeepers blinked uncertainly at their master. They have no idea what kind of medicine their lord had been taking, but the Marquis of An Ping household status was high enough that aside from receiving imperial edicts, formal official visits from princes, dukes and aristocrats, the main gates would not be opened. As for marquess and the little marquess, they were welcomed into the An Ping house via the main gates only once, that was when the wedding palanquin came in with all the pomp and ceremony of a grand wedding celebration.
“What are you waiting for? Your first madam have assisted greatly in the capture of a great number of mountain bandits, thereby contributed greatly to the imperial household. She is more than qualified to be welcomed at the main gate.”
Seeing the two gatekeepers standing there like a pair of silly ganders, he decided to toss them an explanation for his sudden decision. The gatekeepers blinked and, though they still felt that this was all very odd, the orders had come directly from the lord heir. So, even if someone wanted to punish them, no crime could be lay on their heads. Moreover, this lord heir isn’t someone easily bullied, and if half the tales they heard about the first madam is true, she wasn’t someone to make an enemy of either.
The tall vermilion gates was slowly pushed open. By this point, even Su Nuan Nuan was in shock. She stuck her head through the carriage window and called out, “What madness is this? Have you captured so many bandits that you could only fit us all through the main gate? You want the marquis house to be the laughing stock of the Capital?”
“Of course only you are allowed to enter through the main gate. You’re the heir’s wife after all.” Duan Tingxuan remained unmoved. He opened the carriage door, and then gallantly escorted Su Nuan Nuan down the steps. This was seen by all the commoners passing by the main gates. As soon as the shock wore off, the people realized they had just witnessed the juiciest of topic to gossip over.
“There’s nothing odd about it. I just want you to grandly enter the main gate with me just the once.” Duan Tingxuan explained in a soft voice as he held onto Su Nuan Nuan’s hand and lead her up the steps of the main gate. This was the only reason he dared to give voice, the other one must remained forever buried in his heart. He knew that this current wife of his was no longer the original Su Nuan Nuan. Much as he love and respect this Nuan Nuan, he could not give her a proper wedding ceremony or make the three bows with her in front of a great audience. The only thing he could do was to enter the main gate with her in order to appease the regret in his heart.
Su Nuan Nuan could more or less guess what was going on in Duan Tingxuan’s heart. And, though she felt touched by the gesture, she wished she could tell this little marquis that grand ceremonies were nothing to a true foodie like her. However, this felt like she was belittling Duan Tingxuan’s effort, so in the end she said nothing: Whatever, they were only married in name after all. If it made Duan Tingxuan felt better after doing this kind of thing, just let him do it, ba.
In fact, Su Nuan Nuan really wanted to bring Concubine Jing with them through the gate, but that Duan Tingxuan would probably kick up a fuss. Concubine Jing was intelligent enough to know this too. Therefore, Su Nuan Nuan turned back to look at her, like a pond fish sensing great calamity, Concubine Jing quickly shrank back into the carriage. Even the threat of death would not drag her out. Thus, in this way she managed to ‘win’ the right to enter through the corner gate and escape a fate worse than death.
News of the lord heir and his wife entering through the main gate began to circulate through the mansion. The senior madams as well as the lord marquis were gathered at old madam’s north court waiting for news. When the servants ran in with news of Su Nuan Nuan’s arrival, a surprise cheer went up. Old Madam Fang even wanted to lead her son and the other women out to personally welcome them back. She was eventually persuaded by the lord marquis and Madam Yang that it was better to wait for them here. No matter what, it was not good for such senior madam to personally welcome a junior member of the family, no matter what the reason.
As soon as they sat down, a second servant ran in to announce that the lord heir had called for the main gate to be opened. They were further shocked when they heard that he had escorted the first madam in, the entire hall was pin-drop silent. Suddenly, Old Marquis Duan Ni’s face turned black and he slapped the table and shouted, “That is just nonsense!”
Madam Yang was shaken too. She wanted to say something in her son’s defence, but did not know the words to phrase it. Liu Min was secretly delighted. She had just been fretting over how she and Shi Yurou had been shown up by Su Nuan Nuan and fearing that she might provoke Duan Ni’s wrath. Who would have thought that this Duan Tingxuan would be so obliging as to commit such a stupid misstep like this.
That main gate was like the An Ping house’ face, how could it be randomly used by just anyone, let alone a mere wife who had already married into the family? When she married as a secondary wife, she never had the privilege of entering through the main gate.
Author White Pear Flower: Though both Nuan Nuans came in through the main gate, this Nuan Nuan is completely different from the original goods Su Meng Nuan, ah. Because it is difficult to write about feelings, it’s rare that I cry over my own writings. But this time, I really shed tears over Duan Tingxuan’s thoughts as he escorted Nuan Nuan in.[Gumihou: Was anyone else touched Duan Tingxuan’s action?]  Iron Crutch Li – A Chinese mythological figure and one of the Eight Immortals in the Taoist pantheon  Like pond fish sensing calamity – Chinese idiom for ‘spider senses’ I guess
Translated by Gumihou from kitchennovel dot com.
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Note from Gumihou: Looks like this chapter is fixed. We’re going to try the next chapter now.
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