Chapter 71: Prince Li, Is She Doing Well?!
Yu Se thought a bit before smiling. “Your servant asked Madame Xiu what the difference was between monks and ordinary people. She said, ‘They speak not of human matters when meeting with humans, and are humans with no matters in the human world.’ Young master, won’t you say these words are ingeniously clever?”
Song Jiaoyue’s eyes brightened as he spoke. “Anything else?”
Yu Se thought a bit and said, “There is, there is; she even told a story to your servant.”
“What kind of story?” Song Jiaoyue rose until he was sitting up on the bed, smiling as he listened to her talk about Bai Xiangxiu. He was growing more and more attracted to her inner self. There were plenty of beautiful women in this world, but few who were both beautiful and talented. Those who were talented as well as interesting were as rare as a golden toad.
It just so happened that Bai Xiangxiu was this kind of woman, because the story she told Yu Se and Bai He was none other than, the women at the bottom of the mountain are tigers! 1
Song Jiaoyue couldn’t stop laughing upon hearing it, gasping, “She… where did she hear this from, it really… really is…”
When he thought of the little monks at the Buddhist ceremony who knew nothing but pretended they did, he felt even more strongly that this story was both justified and amusing.
Yu Se spoke up as well. “Compared to her, your servant’s stories aren’t that interesting anymore.”
“Is that so?” Now that Song Jiaoyue had heard and laughed his share, he waved a hand. “Why don’t you go sleep as well?”
“Young master, do you not need anyone to serve you tonight, either?” Yu Se’s face flushed. It wasn’t that she wanted to spend time with him, but that she worried he’d hurt his youthful body if he persisted in this way.
Song Jiaoyue adopted a stern look and said, “Withdraw!” With her in the estate, how could he be in the mood to frolic with other women? She was that very same tiger at the base of the mountain. By now, she’d already burrowed into his heart.
Meanwhile, a certain Prince Li who was still painfully oblivious of his feelings was wearing down the floor in his room as he paced. It’d been two days since he’d started this strange behavior. He couldn’t seem to get her out of his mind. The only times when he stopped thinking about her was when he had to go to court. Ｏtherwise, he could only think about being at her side.
But she wasn’t here.
Ye-mama came everyday to report the situation at the Song estate to Old Madame. She always came back with praise, such as how much Madame Song liked her, or how the people by Song Jiaoyue’s side appreciated and admired her, or how she was doing her utmost for the Song family, or how she hadn’t lost any face for the prince’s estate.
Long Heng didn’t care about any of this. It was fine even if she raised a row and turned the Song estate upside down. As long as she could come back earlier! But today Ye-mama had actually come back and said that she was doing quite well at the Song estate, and that Old Madame and the prince had no need to worry.
Long Heng creased his brows. Did this ‘quite well’ mean that she didn’t want to come back? Coincidentally, the old madame was feeling well enough to attend the vegetarian banquet, but he immediately jumped at the chance to represent her, “Then I’ll go instead!”
“What?” Old Madame nearly dropped the teacup in her hand. Fortunately, the old female servant on the side managed to lend her a quick hand to straighten the cup before its contents could burn anyone. She coughed lightly twice before peering at her son. Though her lips twitched, she managed to contain her smile. A man with such a volatile aura as him wanted to attend a vegetarian banquet. Wouldn’t all the jaws in the capital drop at the news?
“Why are you so surprised? I’m going in your place, so they can’t say anything.” Long Heng didn’t think he was losing any face, mostly because his overarching goal made him ignore everything else.
The old madame adopted a stern countenance. “Heng’er, no matter how bad Miss Lin is, she’ll be an official wife once she steps past the door. Madame Bai will always be a concubine. You have to remember, a concubine is a servant, while a wife is the real…”
Before she finished, Long Heng snorted and stood up, his face going red with fury. “If she’s going to be someone’s official wife, she has to act like one. With her shameful ways… forget it, you should take care of recuperating first. Don’t get angry over trifles.”
He almost blurted out the details of how he had found Miss Lin under another man’s body that day. Who knew if they’d even done the deed before. If news of that day spread, she probably wouldn’t be able to marry again. Plus, he had to leave himself a backup for any circumstances. He only wanted to comply with the imperial decree so far as to bring this person into his house as an ornament. If he was forced, he didn’t mind spreading this incident around until everyone knew.
Old Madame sensed that her son was keeping something from her, the critical point that made him unwilling to marry Miss Lin. It must have been something he found out while going to rescue her. But, she really couldn’t interrogate it out of him if he didn’t wish to say. Forget it, since marrying Miss Lin made him so indignant, why not follow along with his wishes!
He could like whoever he wanted. Large households had their share of enemy husbands and wives. But a proper son had to come from the official wife’s belly. In this situation… well,
Old Madame didn’t say anything. Her son was still smooth and evasive when it came to handling matters, so she didn’t need to worry about this point.
Going over to the Song estate, Bai Xiangxiu was currently overseeing the collection of vegetables as well as directing the cooks in the kitchen. Though the dishes were supposed to be delivered at noon, cooking a hundred of them required at least two working kitchens. Disregarding the pounding headache she had when she woke up, she began walking between the two kitchens as soon as she woke up in the morning. Sometimes she could sit in the center room and rest a bit, but she’d be called over after only drinking two sips of tea. Bai Xiangxiu had always been scrupulous in her work, so anytime someone asked her a question, she would go see them personally.
“Madame Xiu, you should slow down in case you fall.” There were so many hands in the kitchens that she was almost knocked over by a young pageboy carrying firewood.
Yu Se’s face was drained of color in her shock. Her master would worry himself to death if she fell. She had been instructed that morning to help out Madame Xiu in the kitchens, but never expected her to be such a diligent, hardworking mistress who personally oversaw every issue.
“It’s fine, it’s fine. The taste of this dish isn’t quite right. You can’t put too much salt with the vegetables, but you can’t put too little, either. There’s too little salt in this one.” Bai Xiangxiu waved at Yu Se to signal her not to worry. One of her hands rested in Xiao Shi’s palm, while the other pointed at the dish she’d just sniffed.
“Yes, Madame Xiu. I’ll cook another plate for your inspection before I put it in the big pot.” The cook nodded.
“It’s good to be prudent,” Bai Xiangxiu nodded as she praised the cook’s meticulous attitude. It made his old face turn red. Why did it have to feel so good being praised by a beauty?
After finishing up here, Bai Xiangxiu walked quickly to the monks’ kitchen. Everyone here was a great master, each and every one of them calm and composed. When Bai Xiangxiu entered, some of them even greeted her with Buddhist greetings. Even though they were busy with cooking, they still had time to think about such things. They were truly living up to their name as monks.
“Great Master, do you need help on this side?” Could they really make it in time if they were so calm?
“There’s no harm, we don’t need any help. Patron, go ahead and busy yourself!” A great master laughed as he saw the visitor out. Monks couldn’t get too used to dealings with women, after all.
“Yes, yes. You keep busy then, Great Masters. Just let me know if there’s anything you need.” Bai Xiangxiu made a Buddhist gesture as well as she left. It was such a busy day!
Some of the people liked her fussing, while some others only felt dejected. In this case, the depressed party was none other than the Song kitchens’ Steward Fang. Nothing of this sort had ever happened since he assumed the position of kitchen steward. Everyone treated him with the utmost respect.
But ever since this Bai Xiangxiu had arrived, he’d become a bystander. For some reason, everyone went to ask Madame Xiu instead of him when they had questions, even if it was about the firewood. It seemed as if they were treating her as the mistress. She was only here to help, so did she really think she was the boss here?
He smiled stiffly and walked over, “Madame Xiu, see here. You’re not very familiar with these kitchens, so why not rest inside? I can take care of everything.”
- Reference to a Chinese pop song in which the old monk warns a young monk that women at the foot of the mountain were tigers. The young monk found it curious how the ‘tigers’ were all very cute, until the old monk told him that these kind of tigers were the scariest. That was when the young monk realized one of the tigers had barged into his heart. ↩