The Feast – 284 – Inner Court Investigation (Part 5)

The Feast – 284 – Inner Court Investigation (Part 5)

Chapter 284: Investigate the Inner Court (Part 5)

 

Translated by Gumihou

Edited by Vinisha

Please read this at kitchennovel dot com

 

Ahh!!! The novel is almost over! There’re only a few extra chapters left. But not to worry, according to the previous poll as chosen by all my lovely readers, the next novel to be translated will be The Little Cooking Saint!

Please look forward to it~ 

 

Duan Tingxuan’s face had already turned white with anger. However, Su Nuan Nuan’s reaction was only to laugh softly. She said, “In short, you are claiming that I am the one who caused Sister Yun’s death, is that right? If that’s the case, why don’t you just say it outright without all that vague allusions to ‘Person Who Covers the Heaven with Her Hand’? Sister Yun, you’ve always been very clever. From your words, I can tell that you believed that you are the heroine of your story. A most wonderful story indeed.

Fearing the reactions of your husband and elders, all of whom had been hoodwinked into trusting a villain. A poor and frightened young woman stepped forward bravely to set things right. Aren’t you the great heroine? It is definitely better than the story of a woman who entrapped and defamed the family she had married into. Moreover, by saying that I have blinded the eyes of the entire family with my cooking, aren’t you belittling the elders too much? Would they really be so muddled by my cooking skills to the point that they could not tell right from wrong? Still dare to say that you’re not slandering the Marquis of An Ping’s Estate?”  

“Don’t you dare ‘Spit Blood upon Others’ [1].”

Xue Zhi Lan never imagined that Su Nuan Nuan would be so perceptive as to attack the weak point of her argument so quickly. Instead of agitating others, she was the one thrown into a panic instead. Now that the hole in her argument had been discovered, she could no longer escape being called a slanderer. The only thing she could do now was to turn her beautifully tearful eyes at Duan Tingxuan and sobbed out a pathetic, “My Lord!”

Before she could say more, Su Nuan Nuan’s cold laughter drifted over and she could hear the sneer in the other woman’s voice, “Are you still hoping for the Lord to speak for you? Haven’t you already condemned him as an incurable foodie under my culinary spell?”

“You…” Xue Zhi Lan glared resentfully at Su Nuan Nuan, who lowered her eyes and said solemnly, “You’ve accused me of poisoning Sister Yun, have you any evidence to back it up?”

Xue Zhi Lan laughed, “Still need to ask?” Then, she turned to Duan Tingxuan and said gravely, “The entire estate knows that there are only four people who knew that Sister Yun could not eat lotus. Feng Xian and Cui Bing would know. I have only learned of it a few days ago when Concubine Jiang unintentionally revealed it to me. Both Feng Xian and Cui Bing are loyal to Madam Yun, if they have any intention of harming Sister Yun, they would not have waited until this day to do it. As for I, sister and I are so dependent on each other that we are as the saying goes ‘Without the Lips, the Teeth Feel Cold [2]’. So how could I bear to do anything against her? What’s the purpose of me harming her? What’s more, find the opportunity to harm? As to who would wish to harm Sister Yun, surely the answer is clear?”

“Are you telling me that Wan Fang [3] is the one who harmed Ran Yun?” Duan Tingxuan finally deigned to speak, his tone heavy. Xu Ran Yun finally let out a small sigh of relief as she nodded repeatedly, “My Lord is correct, however, Concubine Jiang had always been cowardly, so how would she dare? Without anyone to instigate her, I believe that she would never have fallen into such madness. As to the person who had instigated her, who knows? My Lord may call Concubine Jiang over and question her. I’m sure that once you’ve questioned her, she will confess. If not, I’m sure that she’ll confess once you’ve punished her a few times.”

“What nonsense is this? Are you suggesting that we beat a confession out of her?” Su Nuan Nuan frowned disapprovingly, but Duan Tingxuan said, “There’s no harm asking her over. Since Lan’er has her suspicions, we might as well ask Wan Fang to come over and find out what she knows. Those with a clear conscience would not fear a little questioning.”

Su Nuan Nuan nodded, “Since the Lord has spoken. Very well, Xing’er, go to Spring Breeze Court and fetch Concubine Jiang here.”

Xing’er accepted the order and left. Once she was gone, Su Nuan Nuan called Feng Xian and Cui Bing over to say, “Now that we have some idle time, I just recalled something. You say that there was a lot of lotus root in the chicken soup served to your mistress. As it must have been served by a servant, I wish to ask one more time. It is not done by either of you?”

Feng Xian and Cui Bing, who had trotted over to stand before Su Nuan Nuan, collapsed to the floor in fright at this question. “Madam is wise, had we maids the courage to swallow the sky, we would never dare to do such a thing. When our Madam was a little girl, a sip of lotus root powder nearly sent her to death’s door. Only the servants by her side knew of this secret and all dishes with lotus roots are henceforth discarded. After all these years, Madam had been kept safe because of this secret. Our mothers are still working hard at the Count’s estate, there’s no reason for us to seek our mistress’ death. We could never repay kindness with grievance, ah.”

Su Nuan Nuan sighed again. She gazed at the two maids and thought: Just a bit of lotus root powder nearly cost Xu Ran Yun’s life as a little girl. To protect this secret, only the people closest to her knew of this. Considering how treacherous the inner court battles of noble houses are, the fact that Xu Ran Yun was able to live this long was because her mother had made arrangements to keep this matter a secret. To think that the moment this secret was leaked out, Madam Yun actually died from it, how tragic are the lives of women living within the inner courts, ah?

As she pondered over this question, she said, “That day, aside from the two of you. Are there any other visitors?”

Feng Xian and Cui Bing shook their heads. Then they paused and said nearly in tandem, “There is, Long Yan and Cai Sang came over and sent two side dishes personally made by Madam Lan. They say that it was something they knew our Madam especially liked to eat.”

Su Nuan Nuan glanced over at Xue Zhi Lan, and was in time to see Cai Sang suddenly looked up to glance over at Feng Xian, her face pale white. However, she quickly lowered her head again without saying anything. Su Nuan Nuan decided to pretend that she did not see this odd exchange and addressed her question to Xue Zhi Lan. “Well? Sister’s relationship with Sister Yun must be very good now. Not only did you personally make dishes for her, but to have the two of your closest maids to send them over, just how close are you?”

Xue Zhi Lan was also a little surprised, she turned to Long Yan, “Did you and Cai Sang really visited her?”

Long Yan nodded, “Yes, Madam. When I went that day, Cai Sang happened to say that she wanted to get a couple of sewing patterns from Cui Bing. So we went together.”

Su Nuan Nuan smirked, “How odd. Don’t tell me that Autumn Cloud Pavilion lacked maids to the point that the two of you have to carry out trivial jobs like this?”

Xue Zhi Lan’s face grew grim, and she said, “Aside from sending the dishes, I just happened to wish to send Sister Yun two bottles of calming pills. I was afraid that the low-level maids could not differentiate the type of pills used and sent Long Yan over.”

There were actually no calming pills involved in the story. She had sent Long Yan over with the expressed purpose of investigating whether Xu Ran Yun had kept her end of the deal and sent people over to infiltrate the Su Household. However, that was not something she could admit outright, right? Whatever, Xu Ran Yun is now dead, and neither Cui Bing nor Feng Xian would reveal their mistress’ treachery. Otherwise, their sin of entrapping the Marquis Estate would be even heavier.

“I’m just amazed by your ability to lie.” Su Nuan Nuan was no longer interested in what Xue Zhi Lan had to say, but the woman actually laughed and said, “Since Madam is interested to hear testimony from all the people involved, why not call the kitchen workers over as well? After all, it’s entirely possible that they did something to the dish, don’t you think?”

The kitchen realm fell under Su Nuan Nuan’s absolute jurisdiction, and Ms. Xue was First Madam’s most devoted lackey. This was something that everyone within the estate knew. Therefore Xue Zhi Lan was attempting the ‘Character Assassination’ technique to discredit Su Nuan Nuan. After all, from her point of view, the lotus had to have been laced into the chicken soup at the kitchen or was later placed inside on the way to Autumn Rain Court.

At that point, Feng Xian hesitated, and said, “The Ginseng Chicken Soup from the kitchen was something that was sent to all the masters and mistresses. As for the afternoon soup, that was something Madam specifically asked this one to fetch. I was standing right next to Ms. Xue when she poured the soup from a large pot and watched her movements out of habit. She can’t have done anything with me there.”

Xue Zhi Lan, “Though you were there to see the chicken soup being poured, did you not notice anything odd when your mistress drank the soup?”

Feng Xian said, “Though I was there to see her ladle out the soup into the bowl. I just covered the bowl myself and did not think much of it as I brought it over here. When we investigate the soup later, we found that the lotus was very finely ground. When Madam was drinking the soup, she treated them as dregs and even complained that there was a lot of dregs in the soup as well as medicinal dregs. We did not think much of it, but then, quite suddenly, Madam was… she no longer…” at this, she burst into tears again.

Xue Zhi Lan never imagined that further questioning would only make matters worse for her. When she first heard about the matter, she thought that Concubine Jiang must have colluded with the people from the kitchen. After all, they were all First Madam’s people, as long as she could cast suspicion on them, it would be the same as casting suspicion on Su Nuan Nuan. However, after hearing Feng Xian’s explanation, it was clear that the lotus could not have come from the kitchen. Unless the maid had been bought off… however, the maid had been with Xu Ran Yun’s body ever since her death. Later, after making a big ruckus before Count’s Heir Xu, they had been kept under the surveillance of the Xu family’s female servants. There was absolutely no opportunity for the Marquis’ Estate’s side to bribe them.

Unable to believe that her entire plan was going to be thwarted just like that, Xue Zhi Lan became a little flustered and she raised her voice to say, “You might have been there to watch the bowl of soup, but what about on your way back to the Pavilion? Did you encounter anyone on the way?”

“No one.” Feng Xian shook her head, but then she frowned and said. “Well, I did encounter a few other maids and servants on the way. However, aside from greeting them, I did not stop. The food box never left my hands and the lid was never touched. Therefore, I dare swear to heaven that there is no way for anyone to do anything to the soup along the way.”

Xue Zhi Lan’s wavering confidence collapsed, her face turned white.

If there were no tricks done at the kitchen and the soup was never tempered with on the way… the fact that her maids were at the Pavilion at a time when they had no business to be there. Wouldn’t this plate of dog faeces fall onto her own head? However, after frantically thinking about it, her heart calmed down again: My conscience is clear, I know I never did it. Someone must want to frame me, but what do I need to fear? The biggest loss this time is that I am unable to dirty Su Nuan Nuan’s reputation. My future might be quite bleak after this fiasco, but it is still not too bad.

She was just pondering over this matter when the doorkeeper called out, “Concubine Jiang has arrived.”

“Let her come in.” Su Nuan Nuan called out. Not long after, Concubine Jiang came in dressed in all white. Her head was hung low and after a greeting to Duan Tingxuan, Su Nuan Nuan and Xue Zhi Lan, she said in a small voice, “May this maid inquire as the reason for being called?”

Su Nuan Nuan briefly explained Xue Zhi Lan’s suspicion on her in connection with Xu Ran Yun’s death. Sure enough, when she finished, Concubine Jiang suddenly looked up, her face flushed with anger as she turned on Xue Zhi Lan and pointed a trembling finger at her. Chest heaving, she screeched, “Madam Lan, you… how dare you ‘Spit Blood upon Others? Though Madam Yun is prejudiced against me, in my heart of hearts, I still consider her my mistress. How could I ever conceive the thought to harm a mistress? It’s all you, after revealing this awful secret to you, how I regretted my evil impulse to expose my mistress’ weakness. However, I believed that you are a warm and gentle person who could never hurt a fly. I had thought that… that… surely there’s no harm telling you of all people. But then… then who would have known, not three days later Madam Yun was suddenly harmed…”

“You be quiet!”

Concubine Jiang was still wailing when Xue Zhi Lan cut her off. Her own chest heaving with emotion, she pointed at Concubine Jiang, “Excellent performance. And here I was, trying to imagine why you’d reveal your mistress’ secret weakness to me of all people. To think it was all to entrap me and throw this basin of faeces on to my head, wasn’t it?”

 

Author White Pear Flower: To be honest, Xue Zhi Lan is right, ah. Hahaha, however, it’s all too late now…

 

[Gumihou: …. ∑(゚ロ゚〃)]

 

[1] Spit Blood upon Others – Slander others, which is ironic, coming from Xue Zhi Lan…

[2] Without the Lips, the Teeth Feel Cold – intimately interdependent

[3] Wan Fang – Concubine Jiang’s given name.

 

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