Chapter 233: Mutual Revelations
Translated by Gumihou
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Long Pingzhang was stunned for a moment, but then he frowned at Su Nuan Nuan, muttering faintly, “Birds of a feather sure like to flock together. Sister-in-law, why are you like this? Can you not be like that Tingxuan and rain on other people’s parade?”
“‘Those Who Touch Cinnabar Will be Stained Red, Those Who Touch Ink Will be Stained Black ’, have you never heard of this saying?” Su Nuan Nuan laughed.
Her remark immediately attracted the resentful gaze of her husband, who muttered, “Enough with your slander, if you want to talk about Those Who Touch Cinnabar Will be Stained Red, Those Who Touch Ink Will be Stained Black, surely you yourself is that very piece of cinnabar or ink slab? How many in my household have you led astray by now?”
Clearly this was a hidden sore point on the little marquis. However, just when it looked like this pimple was about to erupt, Chu Xiu said a little bitterly from the side, “Brother A-Niu, do you really have bed companions?”
Long Pingzhang’s whole body quivered, but then he smacked his chest and loudly declared, “No, absolutely not. I don’t have a single memory of liking any woman before you, so I am certain that I have none. No need to worry about it, Xiu’er.” Then, he turned to Duan Tingxuan and said seriously, “Tingxuan, you tell me now, do I have bed companions?”
Duan Tingxuan, who was in the middle of sipping his tea, nearly choked at this question, he coughed and said crossly, “How would I know whether you have any bed companions? However, I must say that though you are not really good at poetry, you’ve always excelled at making women blush whenever we visited the pleasure quarters…”
He hadn’t finished speaking when Long Pingzhang lunged over to cover his mouth. As expected, Chu Xiu followed up her inquiry in a small voice, saying, “Brother A-Niu, to think you’re actually so well received by women.”
“That… that… I was young, and, and inexperienced! It should have been a long time since I’d been into one. Wu! The last time must have been before I graduated from school. Didn’t you hear Tingxuan? It should be about five or six years since our graduation, right? Tingxuan?”
The fellow actually gave Duan Tingxuan a warning glare. This ‘good friend’ of his snickered evilly, “Is that right? I seem to recall that just last spring, you were there once with Qing Hu…”
Suddenly, Duan Tingxuan’s danger senses pricked up. Though he was not sure where the danger was coming from, he could feel the hairs on the back of his neck rising. Just then, Su Nuan Nuan’s voice drawled, “Oh ho, looks like our lord is such a footloose and romantic fellow. I would have forgotten it all if my lord had not kindly reminded me.”
F*ck, f*ck, I just wanted to make trouble for Pingzhang and had completely forgotten about this trap. Sweat flowed down the little marquis’ head with an audible [shua!] and he immediately understood the idiom ‘Lift a Stone Only to Drop on One’s Foot’ in the most profound way.
Beside him, Long Pingzhang laughed heartily at his misfortune. “Serves you right! To think that you actually tried to harm me by making up stories, humph! Well, just say it, which pleasure house did we went to with this Qing Hu fellow?”
“No, no, we never went anywhere like that. It never happened. I was just joking, it’s all a joke. Ahahahahaha.” The little marquis immediately retracted his testimony.
However, Long Pingzhang was not satisfied by this. He sneered tauntingly, “Is that so? Since I have lost my memory, I cannot remember anything at all. However, in general, young men like us tend to visit pleasure houses in groups of three or five rather often, is that right?”
“No way, nothing like that ever happened. Before the imperial exams we might have been swayed by our seniors to visit the pleasure houses out of curiosity and boredom. However, apart from eating and listening to music, we never involved ourselves with anything nasty. Anyway, after we graduated, we can’t even remember what the operating hours for these type of places were.”
“Xiu’er, did you hear that?” Long Pingzhang was finally willing to let Duan Tingxuan off the hook in favour of clutching Xiu’er’s hands, “It’s been a long time since I’ve even set foot into a pleasure house. Even then, it was to enjoy harmless things like listening to music. You heard it, right? I have no bed companions either…”
Duan Tingxuan would really like to remind this fellow something: Just when did I ever say anything about you never having any bed companions, ah? However, after a couple of ‘heys’, he suddenly remembered the long and thorny road he had had to traverse in order to reach this field of love with Nuan Nuan. What if he accidentally reminded Nuan Nuan of those bed companions still hanging around the inner court? Isn’t this too much like kicking himself? In the end, he forced himself to swallow down the rest of his remark.
They spent the night at the inn. Su Nuan Nuan and Chu Xiu in one room, while Duan Tingxuan and Long Pingzhang occupying the room next door. The little marquis’ sweet fantasy of finally able to make love to Nuan Nuan and whisper sweet nothings into her ear was ruined by having a big man in his room. Not only that, what made the little marquis even gloomier was that this good friend of his had once ‘Died in the act of duty’, and he was reluctant to bully him too much. Otherwise, His Excellency Long might not have lived through the night of c*ckblocking a certain little marquis.
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The next day, they set out on their journey immediately after breakfast. Duan Tingxuan glanced back at the two extremely thick tails behind them, and sighed gustily. He might as well accept his miserable fate.
They travelled slowly, taking the time to enjoy the scenery and exploring various passing towns. Because of this, it took them half a month to reach the Shandong Province. It was the second most prosperous city in the north after the Capital. Since it was a place where merchants from the north and south converged, it was incredibly lively. Its prosperity would not lose to Suzhou, Hangzhou, Jing Ling or Yang Zhou.
Shortly after the five of them set foot into the city, a whole group of people rushed past them, all going in the same direction. Duan Tingxuan quickly fished up one of the passersby to find out what was going on. After a few questions, he found out that a famous 300-year-old restaurant Fu Sheng Xiang was on their way to An Le Lou to ‘Kick the Hall ’ and everyone wanted to be there to witness the fun.
For convenience of travel, Duan Tingxuan had bought a large, comfortable horse and carriage as well as two large horses for riding. He and Long Pingzhang had been travelling on horseback, while Su Nuan Nuan and Chu Xiu sat within the carriage, with Si Ping taking up the part of the carriage driver, of course. This was how rich people travelled in comfort during ancient times.
Attracted by the noise and bustle, Su Nuan Nuan pushed aside the beaded curtain to ask her husband what was going on. The moment he mentioned An Le Lou, she was shocked, “An Le Lou? Isn’t that one of our restaurants? Just what is going on? Well? Let’s hurry over and see what’s going on.”
Duan Tingxuan said, “It should just be a coincidence, ba? Do you think that just because we opened up a restaurant called An Le Lou at the Capital, there are no other An Le Lou in the world? We’ve just reached the city, so it’s better to find a place to rest before it gets dark.”
Su Nuan Nuan said, “No, we must go and have a look first. If this shop has nothing to do with us, we still have time to go and find a place to rest later.”
Since his wife insisted, Duan Tingxuan figured there’s no harm in complying and nodded. He grabbed another passerby to find out the location of this other An Le Lou, and around an hour later, they finally managed to catch sight of the place. However, the place was fully surrounded by people. The onlookers looked about three floors deep and everyone was craning their necks up.
Duan Tingxuan and Su Nuan Nuan also looked up, and spotted a middle-aged fatty escorted by a dozen followers. The fatty was facing off against a tall young man, his voice incredibly arrogant as he declared, “I advise you not to lightly use the phrase ‘No.1 Restaurant in The World’. If you have no ingredients to back it up, you’ll end up as the No.1 Laughing Stock. Today, I have brought some of my chefs here to give you a bit of a demonstration. Consider this as Fu Sheng Xiang of Lin Qing’s way of comparing notes with another honourable restaurant.
However, seeing as we are the host, we will, of course, give this newcomer a bit of time before facing us. Seeing as your honourable restaurant is just starting out, we will be generous, and give you five days to prepare. Five days later, we of the Fu Sheng Xiang welcome whatever pointers An Le Lou might deign to give. When the time comes, there will be a dozen or more local gentries and celebrities to guarantee a fair and impartial judgement.”
“Very well, since Fu Sheng Xiang has already laid down all the terms for this challenge, we of the An Le Lou accept it. Though there are no masters from the Capital with us for the time, I am not afraid of you. Base on the competition here, we can win with just our basic dishes.
Five days from now, An Le Lou will come and show you our strength. Master Hwang shall know why we of the An Le Lou dare to call ourselves No. 1 Restaurant in The World!”
[Gumihou: Hahaha, finally a restaurant face off! Who’s excited?]
 Those Who Touch Cinnabar Will be Stained Red, Those Who Touch Ink Will be Stained Black – People are influenced by their environment.  the actual word is 踢馆 (tī guǎn) – the direct translation of which is ‘Kick hall’ or ‘kick the hall’. Under this context, ‘hall’ meant the nameplate of a wushu martial art’s name that is usually hung in the hall. Chinese language is so fun, lol!
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Translated by Gumihou from kitchennovel dot com.
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