Chapter 157: Return Gifts
Long Heng learned something that night. When a woman is angry and fussy, just do “that”, and she’d swiftly only make two sounds, and then silence would once again reign.
Bai Xiangxiu was utterly defeated by the male lead’s shamelessness. Not only was he shameless, but also utterly wicked to use that method to settle her heart’s grievances. Truth be told, it was a good method. By the time they reached the second half, she was already too tired to be angry. Her mind went blank after a while, and then finally she capitulated to the male lead’s tyranny and was left incapable of moving.
The next day Long Heng woke up very early in the morning and arranged for many gifts to be delivered to her as penance for his wanton behavior the night before. Of course, he also instructed the servants not to speak of what happened last night, otherwise Old Madame would definitely reproach him. After all, Bai Xiangxiu was now a pregnant woman. And so Bai Xiangxiu stayed in bed the whole day. She was too lazy to get up.
Old Madame didn’t complain, just taking it as the behavior of a pregnant woman. But because the weather had been too chilly yesterday, Old Madame had come down with a cold, and so Bai Xiangxiu had to take charge of things when the dowager empress’ funeral procession passed before the doorstep of the manor. In fact, Old Madame had given instructions to let her rest lest she harm her body over these matters.
But Bai Xiangxiu knew she had to make an appearance, even if it was cursory at best. She needn’t work in the tent outside, but she certainly had to put out some vegetarian dishes for the mourners to eat. This was this world’s custom, because once the procession exited the imperial city it would have a long ways to go. It would be around noon by the time it reached them.
The procession was so long that several food tents were set up along the way so that the attendants could eat something and proceed quickly. It was a type of situation she was good at, and she didn’t even really have to appear personally. The servants could bring over what she’d prepared.
Long Heng was the only person the manor could send to attend the funeral. With Old Madame sick, there was no other female hostess available. Long Heng’s horse, draped with white flowers, marched along step by step with the procession. He knew the manor had prepared a food tent, but he had no idea Bai Xiangxiu had been the one who’d taken charge of it.
He brought Prince Rong and Song Jiaoyue over to the tent. The tent was divided into two sections: one for the female mourners to rest and eat, and the other for the men. In terms of female mourners, there were two dowager consorts and the wife of a high official, as well as Madame Song already there. The Song family wasn’t on this street, so they hadn’t prepared a food tent.
The food tent was also a mourning tent, so white cloth and white flowers were hung outside. They had been weeping the entire way and had grown tired, so they were especially weary after entering the tent. Bai Xiangxiu was behind the tent, doling out the chrysanthemum tea she had prepared for the guests.
When Long Heng saw the tea, he immediately realized that Bai Xiangxiu was in charge back there. These strange teas were her favorites to make. And only she would have fresh chrysanthemum petals in the middle of winter to put into tea. She was really a strange woman. Why did she like flowers and grass so much?
They had just sat down to drink the steaming tea when the simple fare was brought out. None of the dishes were cold, each piping hot. And it was all made so plainly, with no sumptuous garnishes added. After all, this was someone’s funeral, so it couldn’t be too showy. The most important thing about food was taste, and everyone knew that there was no mistress of the household in the Prince Li Manor before, so it was impressive enough already that this household’s preparations had reached this level.
Everyone tried a few bites to give Long Heng face, because not many had the stomach to properly eat the prepared food at a time like this. But everyone could tell something was off just after one bite. Even though it was “hot food”, it was still extremely refreshing and cooling.
“This is…” Song Jiaoyue was taken aback. He never expected she would actually make it herself. Didn’t everyone say she was sick? He had no inkling it was false news, that she was actually pregnant. It was tradition then that when a woman was pregnant, the news could not be spread for the first few months for fear of miscarriage. So the manor had spread word that Bai Xiangxiu had fallen ill, not that she was pregnant. Not expecting that he would have the chance to eat her food again, Song Jiaoyue didn’t care how much or how little it was appropriate for him to eat in this situation. He managed to sneak quite a lot of food on the sly.
Prince Rong was a very nonchalant person. He never paid attention to what other people thought, so he minded his own business and kept on eating, nodding as he chewed. “Prince Li, introduce your chef to me one day, haha…”
Long Heng looked at the prince of royal blood. He was a very laidback man, carefree and content, always leaving a great impression on people. However, Long Heng was almost dead certain that it was just a facade the prince put on. How many in the imperial family were genuinely carefree and content?
“Prince Rong, if you like them, I will have the preparation methods delivered to the Rong Manor chef.” Long Heng’s mouth twitched. There was no way he’d be giving Bai Xiangxiu up to another man!
Song Jiaoyue turned his head and coughed lightly, then resumed eating. To be able to eat this food was cause enough for contentment. Madame Song held a very similar opinion in the other tent, eating while praising Long Heng’s concubine’s cooking. Of course, she had only said a few words, not aware that she was actually building up Bai Xiangxiu’s good name.
The mourning tent would stay up until the next morning, not coming down until the mourners had all returned. There would be a lot of people eating in the prince’s manor’s tent today, because word had spread of the simple but refreshing dishes. As a result, a lot of people were drawn to the tent. Bai Xiangxiu couldn’t just stop, so she had to continue preparing food herself until the mourners finally stopped coming after midnight.
She was so dead tired that when she got back to the manor, she plopped down on the bed and slept without even removing her clothes. Xiaoshi and the others felt sorry for her, but they too were exhausted, and so each went off one after another to seek their beds.
Bai Xiangxiu had instructed for them not to tell Old Madame, so the latter never heard about the whole ordeal. As for those outside, they wouldn’t make things difficult for her for the sake of some plates of food, plus she had been doing this on behalf of Old Madame. They only knew the person who made the food had been dispatched by Old Madame, but they didn’t know that person to be one of the prince’s concubines, so there was no great disturbance. But the next day was different. When the mourners returned, they had to go back to each of the mourning tents they had eaten at to present a return gift. This was an illustration of the saying that no meal was ever free. Those tending the mourning tent also had to prepare a small gift for guests to take on their way out as an expression of the host’s goodwill.
Bai Xiangxiu had prepared a gift of small potted landscapes and fresh flowers that could freshen the air and relieve stress. She had painstakingly worked to prepare them. Fortunately, her preparations were complete by the time they’d arrived, which was a big help. These gifts were highly popular with the guests, mainly because everyone’s hearts were already heavy after the memorial ceremony. Simply carrying those plants home lifted their spirits considerably.