The Feast

Chapter 22

> > The Feast – Chapter 22

Chapter 22: Bargaining

TRANSLATOR’S NOTE: I’m going to do my best to see if I can put out at least a chapter every two days. Admin and I have informally agreed not to trespa.s.s into each other’s territory and this is a slight violation of our agreement. However, at this point, I will be very happy to receive a scolding email from Admin…

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PS: On a side note, I’m going to keep putting the above message up, in order to make sure nasty thieving sites has more of a problem stealing our translations. At the very least, they would have to delete my messages to our lovely readers, yeah?

On wards to the story!

“You… …"

Duan Tingxuan never expected this move from Su Nuan Nuan. For a moment, he was completely speechless. He ignored Si Ping's sobbing voice next to him, "Master, we should really return, it's getting dark."

This was true, the sun was already on its way down, only half of its red face could be seen.

Duan Tingxuan desperately wanted to take this good advice and leave taking Si Ping with him, but the most hateful thing was… …just what was going on in the kitchen? What was this fragrance? How could this smell just get more and more fragrant? The prince had lost this fight. This was something he had never eaten, there was no doubt about it.

This fragrance was just too distinctive. In his twenty years of existence, he had never smelled such a fragrance that clutched at the heart and liver, making one hate the fact that they can't just swallow the pot along with whatever was in it into their stomach.

"Teach me qing gong, and you'll have a month's worth of meals." Su Nuan Nuan could see Duan Tingxuan's stinky expression, both legs fixed in place in terrible indecision, and knew that this was the crucial moment to sway things her way.

"One month? Do you think I'm a beggar you can just shoo away once fed?" Duan Tingxuan was angry.

"Then… how about two months?" Su Nuan Nuan could feel the pain in her flesh already. Letting this rascal eat her food for one month already hurt her heart, now she had to concede another month?

"For a life time." Duan Tingxuan bared his teeth. "You dare treat me like a beggar?"

"Hey! Don't be too excessive." Su Nuan Nuan was starting to get angry too. "As a person you can't be too greedy, you think I'm scared of you? The worst you can do to me is kick me out, this old lady still has her kitchen skills, no matter where I go in this world, I can survive. Three months, no more."

"Until you actually learned the skills." This woman was not afraid of getting thrown out, there's no point using divorce to threaten her. The prince finally realized this, so instead he yielded a step with a sigh.

"What do you mean?" Su Nuan Nuan did not understand his point, and instead of pondering upon it herself, she just asked for proper explanations.

"I agree to teach you kungfu, until the day you properly learn the skills, you will provide both food and drink. I will say this now, I will not tolerate rubbish food, every thing must be of top quality."

"Kungfu is something that could only be learnt after about a year or so at the very least, isn't it?" Su Nuan Nuan frowned, this condition was too harsh.

"Surely you don't mean to say that you're unwilling to provide a mere year's worth of food?" Duan Tingxuan was about to spit up blood. "Nuan Nuan, if you think about it seriously, having a dignified prince like me as a kungfu instructor, who else but you could enjoy this kind of special honour? If not for those delicious food, do you think this lord would ever be reduced to the position of an instructor? Even if you hire an instructor for yourself, you would have to provide for his food and lodging as well, wouldn't you? Not to mention tuition fees. Are you trying to tell me that this prince can't even be compared to a mere instructor?"

"Very well, very well, let's just leave it at that." Su Nuan Nuan finally relented. Even though she did not fear divorce, remaining married has its own good points as well. While nesting in this courtyard, she has endless access to good ingredients, they surely wouldn't starve while staying here. If the three of them really had to leave, three beautiful women alone in the world, it would be difficult to predict what would happen to them. Especially in this feudal society that takes advantages of the weak, as women they could be eaten up by society to the point that not even their bones would be left.

After weighing in the consequences and considering her options, Su Nuan Nuan had to acknowledge that from a certain point of view, staying at the palace was the best option. Since the rascal depended on her for certain favours, she could face him on equal grounds, this certainly beats living outside as three weak women all alone in the world. Stories that involved cheats or golden fingers as well as h.o.a.rds of beautiful male protagonists were not actually reality after all.

[Translator Gumihou: Yes, I agree with this. Hear that, Mary Sue?]

"Then, it is agreed." Duan Tingxuan could not resist getting a confirmation, seeing Su Nuan Nuan nod, he immediately recover his princely air. Rolling his eye, he sneered. "You're certainly silly, even if I did not agree to teach you qing gong, surely husband and wife sharing a meal is something that's perfectly proper in the eyes of heaven and earth?"

"That depends on my mood." Su Nuan Nuan said coldly. "If I'm happy, the variety and number of dishes would increase; however, if I'm unhappy, I'd rather have plain congee with pickles. If you're willing to share all my sweet and bitter times, you're welcome to come."

"You…" Duan Tingxuan was almost beside himself with rage.

Su Nuan Nuan's phoenix eyes flashed. "I, what, what are you trying to say?"

"It's fine, it's all fine, a good man does not b.u.t.t heads with women." The prince was clear headed enough to swallow the few derogatory words that had bubbled up in his chest: the smell from the kitchen was getting stronger and stronger, he would not allow the need to win a verbal fight destroy this opportunity to eat delicious food.

"Very well, I shall go and take a look at the bone soup. It's almost time for dinner." Having received the two wild ducks, Big Madam's mood was extremely good, she was feeling particularly magnanimous and did not bother to pick a fight. Instead, she cheerfully went off in the direction of the kitchen.

Seeing her willowy figure from the back, Duan Tingxuan could not resist the urge to snap his fan open and smiled: Hoho! What a naive woman, ah. Do you really think it is possible to learn qing gong after a year? Dream on! Duan Tingxuan learned from several masters ever since he was a child, with his abnormally high gift for martial arts coupled with gruelling training, plus daily relentless practice in order achieve his current level of mastery.

For Su Nuan Nuan, whose skeletal structure had already matured and lack of talent, without the aid of harsh training. If this woman really wanted to learn kungfu it would probably take her 10 years, no less, just to master the basics. Additionally, there is no end to learning when it comes to martial arts, doesn't this mean that he would be able to enjoy her delicious meals for a whole lifetime?

The more he thought about it, the happier the prince became. Suddenly, Si Ping's faint voice whispered. "My Lord, you should not smile too happily, if Big Madam sees this, she will be unhappy, if she's unhappy then it is likely that you are not allowed to be happy either."

That single sentence was enough to shatter his day dreams.

Duan Tingxuan thought about his wife's current stubborn personality and sighed: Looks like he can't just depend on teaching kungfu as a way to get food. Otherwise, if this woman ended up unable to learn kungfu after three to five years, she might just leave the palace by herself in a fit of overwhelming fury.

If he wanted to keep eating delicious food, he would have to put in more thought into his strategies, ah. However, there was something he had to admit, despite her being more unreasonable and shrewish in nature…this new Su Nuan Nuan was actually much cuter compared to the venomous and bossy personality from before.

As he was busy thinking about this, the fragrance that had been teasing him all evening suddenly got stronger. When he looked around a bit more, he found that he had somehow wondered into the kitchen, and was currently facing the source of the smell. There was a large pot in front of him with its cover taken off. Steam bubbled and writhed from within the pot, making it difficult to see the what was inside. The sweet smell was enough to make a person drool all the way to his feet.

"Just what is this thing?"

Duan Tingxuan's curiosity level was at its peak. He took a step forward to peer into the pot, and saw a reddish brown soup with several large bones floating inside. As he studied the soup, Su Nuan Nuan who was next to him said with a smile, "This is bone soup. Specially chosen good quality pork bones plays a big part, spine bones could be used too. Stewed together with herbs such as dang gui (chinese angelica), gouqi (wolfberry), lotus seeds, red dates, and peanuts. Too bad I don't have more ingredients at hand, if we could add things like Chinese yams, tian qi (pseudo ginseng), red sage (salvia miltiorrhiza), or other such medicinal herbs it would be delicious and nutritious, perfect for body and spirit."

"You can actually…stew large bone soups this way?"

Duan Tingxuan was surprised. He had only heard that bones are used to make high cla.s.s broths, which could then be used to enhance other dishes. He had not realized that such bone broths could be drunk as soups by itself. He saw Su Nuan Nuan place the pot cover on the side, and was just standing in there drinking in the steamy fragrance and looking like she was getting drunk with happiness.

"Once it cooled off a bit, we can skim off the oil on top and drink it. Hmph! We've been stewing this for two sichen (four hours)."

Duan Tingxuan really wanted to drink some now, but after weighing his options for a bit, he decided that he was not prepared to try and see if his specially developed kungfu skills could protect his tongue against boiling hot soup. Therefore, he could only follow Su Nuan Nuan as they left the kitchen together.

For once, husband and wife sat at the meal table peacefully. Duan Tingxuan saw Si Ping and Hong Lian busy collecting the rat traps and flattened beans, and felt his cheerful mood darken. Gritting his teeth, he said. "You are truly heartless, merely scattering beans in front of the entrance was not enough, you have to set rat traps as well, do you really hate me this much?"

"Are you expecting me still feel some sort of attraction to you?" Su Nuan Nuan gave the rascal a sideways glance. "To tell the truth, I had wanted to arrange for a line of crossbows as well, but ended up only using rat traps. You should be grateful, otherwise the moment you set foot in this place, you'll be turned into a hedgehog."

"Tch!" Duan Tingxuan sneered. "You plan to make bows and arrows using books? You may have planned for it, but do you actually have the ability to make this dream true? Even I only own three sets of strong bows and arrows, and they were gifts from the imperial palace." As he spoke, he felt very dejected, "Do you really need to hate me to this level? I did not actually do anything bad to you, ah."

"What are you trying to say?" Su Nuan Nuan continued giving the rascal with no self awareness a side long glare. "Throwing the three of us into this Mei Yue Lou, you dare say that it was not to leave us to live or die by our own ability? I almost died from starvation, you know? If it were not for King of h.e.l.l giving me this special ability, would you actually treat me so well?"

"Hmph! You coming here is actually to send divorce papers, is it not? Madam Yun suffered such a loss in my hands, would she actually let things go as it is? Since I'm about to be kicked out, what more do I need to fear? You should be grateful for my Bodhisattva heart that prevented me from harming you. Otherwise, I would not have bothered with the rat traps. Just think, what would happened if I were to put rat poison into your portion of the bone soup?"

"Rat poison? This woman, you dare think about murdering your own husband?" Duan Tingxuan jumped, and saw Su Nuan Nuan wave her hand lazily. "Relax, relax, this is just random talk, in the end I did not do it, right? In truth, for the sake of a rascal like you, telling me to waste an entire pot of bone soup, I really can't bear it, therefore in the end we just used rat traps. Oh yes, you're are here to send us divorce papers, right? Let's have a look. I heard that my Lord is well versed in both letters and martial arts, let me take a look at your handwriting skills."

"What divorce papers?" Duan Tingxuan's face did not look good. "Please don't treat this as a real thing. It's true Xu Ran Yun had said a few words in front of me, however, it had nothing to do with divorcing you. Don't try to guess the thinking of a n.o.ble woman with your common mind."


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