Chapter 248 (Part 1): Unexpected Windfall
Translated by Gumihou
Edited by Onionpi
Please read this at kitchennovel dot com
They continued to chat as the boats made their way back to Jinzhou.
Back at the government office, Cang Jian was quite worried about the little marquis’ safety. Therefore, when he heard that Duan Tingxuan was back with a lot of fish and kelp with him, he was so overjoyed that he personally drove the carriage out to meet their boat. His joy halted when he spotted the long and black kelp fronds. Cang Jian scratched his head and said haltingly, “A-are these the kelp that His Excellency Zhang said could be eaten as staple food? A-aren’t these… Ghost Hair?”
“Those are not Ghost Hair.” Zhang Tianming gave his superior a brief explanation of all that had happened that day. When Cang Jian heard that these so-called Ghost Hair could be eaten after cooking, he rushed into the government office and began bidding people to bring the kelp into the kitchen. It looked like he was incredibly eager to try some boiled kelp.
While all this was happening, Su Nuan Nuan said, “What are those pile of things in the corner of the garden? Are those scallops? Have Your Excellency sent people out to look for seafood too?”
Cang Jian laughed out loud, “Madam sure knows how to joke. Where would I find the people to send out? My soldiers had been patrolling around when they stopped a few people with carts for some simple inspection. Who knows what happened, but those people just ran away when they saw my soldiers and left all their carts behind. My simple-minded men thought they might have been the ones who robbed the imperial provisions earlier and immediately brought all the carts back. It turns out that the carts only contained river mussels. I don’t have time to manage them as yet and had the soldiers keep them here for the moment. We can have them for lunch tomorrow.”
This odd little incident piqued Duan Tingxuan and Su Nuan Nuan’s interest. Duan Tingxuan said, “What about Pingzhang? Have you asked him to check the matter out?”
Cang Jian said, “His Excellency Long headed towards the granary to calculate and see exactly how much food we have left. He came back earlier with a bad headache and is now resting inside. Miss Chu is currently looking after him. He must have suffered a lot today. Aih! This humble official is too incompetent.”
“I see. I was just thinking that Pingzhang would never have allowed you to just let fresh seafood pile up in a corner so carelessly like this. Moreover, don’t you think it’s odd for people with carts of mussels to just run away like that? They must have been involved with some illegal activities. Could it be smuggling? But, is fresh seafood worth smuggling?” Duan Tingxuan smiled as he shook his head. He pulled Su Nuan Nuan by the hand and said, “Let’s go, Nuan Nuan, let’s find out what exactly we have here.”
Cang Jian quickly ordered two people to bring two lanterns over. It was getting dark and it was a bit difficult to see the corners of the garden. Duan Tingxuan cursed when he looked at the pile of mussels. “That bastard Cang Jian, how could he just leave seafood like this? Moreover, he plans to eat them tomorrow? Is he not afraid of getting a stomachache?”
Su Nuan Nuan smiled, “Clearly His Excellency Cang has been running about so much that he nearly kicked himself in the back of the head. I believe he’s not thinking clearly at the moment.” She moved closer to the pile of clams and picked one up. The river mussel in her hand was quite large, larger than the palm of her hand and oval in shape. “These mussels are bigger than normal.”
A flash of something passed through Duan Tingxuan’s eyes and he grabbed the large mussel, and with a [pu chi!] cracked it open with his bare hands.
Influenced by his excited action, Su Nuan Nuan quickly held up one of the lanterns closer to his hands. The little marquis brushed away the bits of cracked shells, revealing the plump meat beneath. Then, he gently prodded the flesh here and there. Suddenly, the flesh opened up, and a pearl the size of the tip of his middle finger appeared. From its flawless round shape, spotless white colour and brilliant lustre, anyone could tell that they were looking at a high-grade pearl.
“What an excellent specimen. As expected, who would actually smuggle river mussels? The cost of logistics alone would render the exercise pointless. Looks like they have stolen some fine Eastern Pearl Mussels from the Ussuri River . These people are too daring. It must be some kind of inside job, otherwise, how would they be able to carry away so many mussels?”
“Eastern Pearls?” Su Nuan Nuan swallowed. Wait, wait, aren’t these pearls the ones associated with the Great Qing Dynasty’s imperial family? Do the people around here also call these the Eastern Pearls? Excited now, she knelt down and picked one large mussel and made Duan Tingxuan break it for her. She then prodded the flesh eagerly. After a long time, she frowned, “How odd, why isn’t there any pearl in this one? Are these things looking down on me? Will they only yield pearls to lord heirs like you and ignore wives like me?”
“What are you talking about?” The little marquis was amused. He shook his head, “You think these are carrot seeds where you can get a plant for every seed you stick into the ground? I think His Excellency Guo mentioned that because that river is bitterly cold, the life of pearl collectors is extremely hard. It is considered lucky to get one pearl from a dozen mussels. Not to mention, the pearls are divided into different grades.” He handed the pearl over to Su Nuan Nuan with a smile. “The colour on this pearl is not bad, you keep it as a souvenir. We can probably get a few more pearls out of this pile. You can bring some back and give them to Hong Lian and Xiang Yun as part of their dowry. They are good girls who have served you well.”
What woman does not like pearls? Su Nuan Nuan stroked the pearl in her hand admiringly, but then she said, “But… these are smuggled goods. Can we really keep them? What if someone reports you to the emperor, ah? It would be bad for us if the emperor demotes you.”
The little marquis was not at all happy to hear this. With a sneer, he said, “No matter what, I am still part of the emperor’s inner circle. Do you think he’d really demote me over a few Eastern Pearls? Nuan Nuan, you look down on your husband too much.”
“Wei, wei! The higher one’s position, the more modest he should be. Don’t be arrogant just because you’re favoured by the emperor, ah.” Su Nuan Nuan said.
[Gumihou: Hahaha, how nice to get pearls from mussels and oysters. It’s like nature’s lucky draw!]
 Eastern Pearls – Are actually pearls found on the eastern side of China. Generally speaking, Eastern Pearls aren’t as valuable as Southern Pearls if only because they are freshwater pearls and therefore not as round and lustrous as sea pearls. The value of Eastern Pearls became priceless when they are made into Imperial Eastern Pearl accessories. The significance is actually geographical, as Eastern Pearls came from the Manchuria area, and therefore the origin of the Imperial Qing Family, it was decreed that only royalty could wear them. Thus, jacking up their value.
 Ussuri River – This river exists, and it does have fresh water mussels that produces pearls
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Translated by Gumihou from kitchennovel dot com.
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