Chapter 34: Vegetarianism, Trifling Skill
The old madame was dazed as well. She couldn’t remember how many years it’d been since she had seen her son smile. The old female servant by her side was naturally happy for her, but the two of them were calculating enough to keep their expressions controlled. On the other hand, Madame Song lost her calm. She was usually an extremely steady and staid person, but took great pleasure in good food. In modern terms, she was a regular foodie. After smelling that special fragrance from far away, she couldn’t even sit still as her stomach rumbled.
Song Jiaoyue understood his mother and knew from her fidgeting that she was hungry. He smiled slightly and had the servants prepare things as quickly as possible. He assumed that Madame Xiu, who was busy helping out, would receive the meat as well, but she lowered her head and said, “I’m sorry, but this concubine doesn’t know how to make meat dishes.”
The servants were all astonished. She made such good vegetable dishes but didn’t know how to cook meat? Judging from her exquisite looks, she didn’t seem to be from an impoverished family. Fortunately, a couple of the servants knew how to cook, so it didn’t take a lot of time to soon prepare two meat dishes. People were naturally less particular about details outside, so a total of eight dishes and one soup were soon made and placed on the table.
There were a total of three tables. As soon as the dishes hit the surface, Madame Song personally picked up a morsel from the flowery plate to taste. She then actually closed her eyes in bliss.
“Savory, and the fragrance of flowers is delicately mixed with the vegetables, this is delicious beyond compare. Madame Long, you’re certainly fortunate. You should have Madame Xiu stay with me for a few days and teach the servants in the kitchen how to make vegetarian dishes.” She was serious about her proposal, though she knew that the old madame probably wouldn’t agree so easily.
These old sisters might handle things in a calm and steady manner, but they were very protective of their food. If one of them had something good to eat, it was rare for her to share it with the other. They were very stand-offish that way. As expected, the old madame smiled and said, “It’s but a trifling skill. How could it be shown in public? If you want to eat it, I’ll have her cook some and send it over in the future to show filial respect to her elders.”
“That’s fine as well, though it’ll inconvenience Madame Xiu,” Madame Song was rather frank, not at all regarding herself as an outsider. Song Jiaoyue’s lips twitched as he listened on the side. When it came to food, this mother of his was really thick-skinned.
On the other side however, Bai Xiangxiu was extremely delighted. For one thing, she now had an excuse to come in contact with the supporting male. For another, someone had enjoyed her cooking. She couldn’t help but say hastily, “That’s all right. Actually, there’s no need for this concubine to make anything. If there’s any vegetarian dishes Madame Song wants to eat, just have someone tell this concubine. If I know how to make it, I’ll definitely cook it and have it sent over.”
These words were spoken so well. The corners of Madame Song’s lips curved up so much, they were about to poke her eyes. The old madame and Madame Song were considered bosom friends, so how would the former not understand Madame Song’s thoughts?
Seeing her smile like this reminded her of their youth, so she couldn’t help but pat her friend lightly. “You old thing, you’re getting less and less respectable as you age.”
“Aren’t you the same? You didn’t tell even me when you gained such a good daughter-in-law. So much for being polite,” Madame Song didn’t bother arguing with her old sister, but turned her attention to the food, placing some of the vegetarian dishes onto her plate. As she ate, she nearly swallowed her own tongue.
Song Jiaoyue couldn’t bear to keep looking at his mother anymore, and gave an embarrassed smile to Long Heng sitting across from him. They didn’t have many people at their table, only three men. But there was wine as well, so they ate slowly. Logically speaking, they should all be eating meat after catching some game, but the three of them all chose to try out a vegetable dish first.
Song Jiaoyue was rather introverted, so he only nodded his head after eating. The flavor wasn’t bad. His little brother was younger and the son of a concubine, so he’d never been very restrained, even as a youth. Just one taste was enough to make him marvel out loud. “Delicious, it’s even tastier than the dishes made by the monks of Long Hua Temple!”
Long Heng’s face was completely calm. She had cooked these dishes for all these people all by herself, so she must be tired. It’d be better if she cooked less in the future, even if it was for Madame Song. When he turned to glance at her, he discovered her quietly eating rice. She only occasionally took some vegetables and didn’t even touch the meat. Even if a young lady from a big family should act elegant and refined, she shouldn’t starve herself, right?
Just as he was brooding, that female cousin had already asked in his place, “Why don’t you eat from those two plates of meat? They were brought back by elder cousin.” In other words, you really aren’t giving him any face. You didn’t even touch the things your husband brought back, what’s there to dislike?
Bai Xiangxiu had the habit of abstaining from meat on the first and fifteenth of every month. Although strictly speaking she could still eat meat, she’d done her best to avoid contact with it during those two days. As time passed, her stomach and mind had become used to it. If she touched meat on those days, her body would feel uncomfortable. She’d either have an upset stomach or a stomachache.
But since Yu Xiaoshu had said those words, it seemed impossible not to eat it. Thus, she placed a piece in her bowl and finished it only after a long time had passed. Xiao Shi wrinkled her brows as she saw her eating with difficulty, and quickly brought over a cup of water.
Bai Xiangxiu’s brows knitted, although this was a new body, it still seemed to have some reaction to eating meat on the first and fifteenth. For example, right now she felt uncomfortable all over after eating just one piece of meat. She couldn’t even keep eating her rice. But she didn’t have the bad habit of tossing away half-eaten rice, so she forced herself to finish it all.
Yu Xiaomei ate cheerfully, not understanding why making her eat meat had left a sour expression on Bai Xiangxiu’s face.
After everyone had eaten such a delicious meal, they wanted to rest before continuing on their way. At this time, a soldier from the provincial government ran over, holding a little red banner. He was dressed in armor and carried a sword, and his sudden appearance frightened the females into jumping up. Long Heng took a few strides forward and furrowed his brows. “Impudence! Don’t take another step forward.” The soldier immediately knelt down, raising an official dispatch above his head as he fixed his eyes on the ground and spoke.
“Prince Li, the Guimo Forest bandits have suddenly showed up on the public roads, robbing and killing Minister Lin’s group. Not only have they stolen money and goods, they have also injured a few people. They have even taken Sir Ji 1 hostage and fled with him. Madame Lin knew you were close by and wrote this letter to ask for your help.”
Long Heng gave a cold snort as he accepted and read the letter. He then said, “You should know that this prince has only brought along his household guards today. How am I to face off against those Guimo Forest bandits? However, I trust that those people were only after money. Have Madame Lin go back and wait, there will be news very soon.”
The provincial government soldier withdrew at the words, but surveyed the troops as he left. Indeed, there weren’t many household soldiers with him, only about a dozen at most. That bandit brigand had about 30 people in his band, so how could these ten or so soldiers stand up to them? Moreover, the prince had to leave a few people to protect the family, since the roads weren’t very safe. After thinking of how to relay the message, he turned and immediately left as fast as he came.
Song Jiaoyue kept a smile in as he walked to Long Heng’s side to speak in a low voice. “From what I understand, the Guimo Forest bandits are your…” scouts arranged deep in the martial arts scene. 2 But he didn’t say it aloud before Long Heng gave a light cough. “Eh… I’ve never meddled in the affairs of martial arts scene.” Then he turned around to report the news to the old madame.
The old madame knitted her eyebrows. “How did the Lin family run into such bad luck? Those bandits really were too bold. We’ll have to watch out on the way back as well. Don’t idle about then, send someone over to have a look before others start nitpicking.”
“Yes,” Long Heng would naturally send someone over to inquire, but it’d simply be an inquiry. As for that Ji Zhangshu, how could he “rescue” him without make sure he suffered enough first?