Zhao mama had to help the head chef ask the emperor where the noodles he awarded them were. But once she saw the mess in the empress’s bowl, she immediately understood...everything!
Zhao mama was not only an old hand at the palace, but an experienced cook of twenty to thirty years. If she didn’t know the whole story already, she would never have figured out what the lumpy mass in the bowl was made of.
“Zhao mama, speak. What is this?” Han Yunxi asked. If someone can tell these are noodles, I’ll eat them up to the last bite.
Long Feiye also regarded Zhao mama coldly. Zhao mama knitted her brows at the sight and remained silent.
“Think it over carefully!” Han Yunxi added.
“Yes!” Zhao mama put on an air of careful scrutiny. She picked up the bowl and gave it an experimental sniff. “Mm, how delicious! There must be chicken soup in this, from an old hen too.”
Han Yunxi pursed her lips into a forced smile. Even without her saying it, she had smelled the chicken when Long Feiye carried it over.
“Zhao mama, then do you think this is crushed chicken or…” Han Yunxi gave Long Feiye a long look as she trailed off, but he remained unmoved. Instead, it was Zhao mama who had caught every one of the empress’s meaningful looks.
If she said these were noodles, how fake it would be! She could only take it step by step and hoped she could satisfy the empress completely once she identified the dish without revealing that she had already been to the kitchens.
After feigning more careful study, Zhao mama ventured cautiously, “This, shouldn’t be crushed chicken.”
“Then what is it?” Han Yunxi continued to press.
“Esteemed Empress, will you allow this old servant to scoop a spoonful and see?” Zhao mama asked.
A flicker went past Han Yunxi’s eyes before she conceded. “That’s not a bad idea. The emperor and I made a bet, so you have to look carefully.”
“This, this…” Zhao mama grew fearful. “This old servant fears I am incompetent.”
“Zhao mama, what are you afraid of with your years of kitchen experience?” Han Yunxi asked as she personally doled out a spoonful for her. “Here, take a clear look!”
Zhao mama took it and looked at the contents from left to right. Before she could speak, Han Yunxi said, “What are you just looking for? Try a taste.”
Zhao mama was so frightened that she fell to her knees. “Esteemed Empress, spare this old servant! These are the noodles that the emperor personally cooked for you! Even if this old servant had a hundred heads, I wouldn’t dare to try a single bite!”
Han Yunxi’s mention of “a bet” was to probe Zhao mama. As an old palace hand who’d served masters for so long, she dared to sing her own tune before the noodles! Zhao mama clearly knew she and Long Feiye had bet on eating noodles, so she should’ve thought of the noodles when faced with this mass in the bowl. But she still played the clueless card!
“So you knew these were noodles!” Han Yunxi chuckled.
Zhao mama wanted to cry. She didn’t know how to answer. When had she ever played the fool in front of the empress, if only for the emperor’s sake? If not for him behind her, she wouldn’t dare to say a lie even with a hundred heads to spare! As soon as the empress asked her what was in the bowl, Zhao mama knew she wanted to rescind the bet and refuse to eat it.
“Zhao mama, tell me, how did you know these were noodles?” Han Yunxi asked.
Zhao mama finally had enough and admitted, “Esteemed Empress, this is the emperor’s first time cooking. After making such fragrant noodles, Esteemed Empress should cherish the dish. This kind of luck isn’t given to just anyone!”
Han Yunxi gave a start. Was Zhao mama scolding her?
Long Feiye remained silent, but his lips had quirked up into a satisfied grin.
After a spell of silence, Han Yunxi rose and fell to her knees in a respectful bow. “May Your Majesty mete punishment, chenqie knows her wrongs.”
Long Feiye creased his brows. What kind of play was his empress putting on now?
“If you ‘gnaw’ your wrongs, that’s good. Eat up,” he intoned.
Han Yunxi stood up with a face full of disappointment, then sat by Long Feiye while taking his arm. Zhao mama didn’t even excuse herself before silently slipping away and shutting the door behind her. If Xu Donglin and Chu Xifeng were here, she’d definitely find them for a bed. She could guarantee that the emperor couldn’t bear to have the empress eat that bowl of muck. That was because the empress was preparing to use the fatal tool of all woman: acting spoiled!
Han Yunxi was being a coquette as she hugged Long Feiye’s arm and leaned against him pitifully. “Your Majesty, chenqie knows her wrongs. Won’t you spare chenqie?”
“Where did you go wrong?” Long Feiye sat unmoving, but his smile had long betrayed him.
“Chenqie should have known my limits instead of daring to bet with the emperor,” Han Yunxi replied.
Long Feiye chuckled and asked, “Wasn it Zhen who found you for a bet?”
That was true. Long Feiye had casually asked Han Yunxi if she wanted to bet, and she had happily agreed with a yes. Then Tang Li and the rest had overheard them and joined in.
“That’s why chenqie was extremely wrong. Chenqie didn’t know the difference between Heaven and Earth and wantonly challenged the emperor’s wisdom. Chenqie shouldn’t have bet with Your Majesty and just directly admit defeat,” Han Yunxi continued.
Long Feiye laughed out loud before his arm went habitually around her shoulder.
“Your Majesty, chenqie really knows her wrongs. Won’t Your Majesty spare chenqie this once?” Han Yunxi quickly begged.
Long Feiye only smiled without a word.
Han Yunxi began to act charming as she wrapped her arms around his neck and buried her head next to him. “Feiye…”
Even the cleverest pleas couldn’t compare to her intimate croon of “Feiye.” Long Feiye turned towards her and gently kissed her hair. Besides smiling, he did nothing else. His emotions now could be described as pure, simply happiness.
“Let’s not eat it, alright? ...can’t I?” Han Yunxi was getting desperate. “Stop smiling and say something!”
“Can’t you give me a word?”
Han Yunxi was already holding Long Feiye’s face in her hands, but he still refused to speak. She couldn’t keep up the act anymore and glared at him before planting a kiss.
Long Feiye laughed out loud and placed a hand behind her head before giving her an aggressive kiss! The two of them nearly fell off the reclining couch. Right in the outer hall of the inner palace, Long Feiye taught Han Yunxi a lesson on the spot.
After their vigorous exercise, Han Yunxi only wanted to curl up and sleep, having long forgotten the matter of the bowl of “noodles.” But Long Feiye only asked her tenderly, “Why don’t we warm up the noodles so you can have a taste?”
“That’s no good,” Han Yunxi muttered back.
“Just one taste. Be good, it’s my first time cooking,” Long Feiye was serious.
Han Yunxi lifted her head from his chest and challenged, “Didn’t you refuse to eat my very first bowl of noodles too?”
“The one I made smells better than yours,” Long Feiye was all sincerity.
“Just because it smells good doesn’t mean it tastes good!” Han Yunxi retorted hotly.
“Just try one bite. Just one!” Long Feiye maintained his earnesty.
Han Yunxi could tell that Long Feiye wasn’t haggling on the point of the bet, but had genuine confidence in his “noodles.” But where did he get such self-confidence? Leaving aside the rest, the faint scent of chicken had such a strong aftertaste of meat that she was convinced he hadn’t added any seasoning!
“You try it first! Just a bite!” Han Yunxi replied.
Without a choice, Long Feiye could only ask someone to reheat the bowl of muck. As Han Yunxi watched with anticipation, Long Feiye took a bite of his own noodles. It was only a single mouthful, but he immediately spat it back up and even downed a big glass of water to clear his palate.
After all these years, Han Yunxi finally saw Long Feiye’s face wearing an expression of disdain towards himself! He silently went to dump out the entire bowl.
When he first proposed the bet, he didn’t know what to gamble until he recalled the noodles Han Yunxi had made him once upon a time. Although he didn’t understand cooking, he figured he had to make something that tasted better than hers. His original plan was to seize this chance to laugh at her and urge her to learn some cooking skills.
By the time Long Feiye returned, Han Yunxi was in a great mood. She hugged him and chuckled, “Long Feiye, you see? Between you and me, we have our likes and dislikes, wants and rejections. We’ve never forced ourselves, right?”
If he didn’t like to eat her noodles, he wouldn’t. That was the same with her. Between partners, there was no need to “force” anything in the name of love.
Long Feiye gentle patted Han Yunxi’s back and intoned, “Sounds reasonable. However, you still went back on your debt this time. I’m collecting receipts.”
“Do you have to be so sharp all the time?” Han Yunxi rebuffed helplessly.
The two of them were afraid to wake Rui’er with their noise, so they didn’t return to the inner palace but snuggled together for a nap in the outer hall. Just like that, Han Yunxi evaded a trial.
However, the chefs in the kitchen were suffering bitterly beyond words! Long Feiye had only left with a single bowl of noodles, leaving a huge mass left in the pot. Even with a bowl for each of them, there were still leftovers. These noodles had absolutely no flavoring and were purely flour mixed with chicken that was cooked into a paste. The taste was unimaginable! But as something conferred from the emperor, they couldn’t spit out a single bite and could only force it down!
Looking at the leftover noodles in the pot, the chefs exchanged looks. None of them wanted to finish it off, but the head chef still split the pile between them in the end. The next day, only Zhao mama was left to man the kitchens, because the rest of the chefs all wanted to throw up as soon as they saw noodles or old hens. Of course, this is another story.
The day had yet to end. Long Feiye was preparing for morning court when he heard a piece of bad news.
Baili Yuanlong was dead!
Han Yunxi was just preparing to help Long Feiye change when Xu Donglin reported from outside their door.
“What?” Long Feiye froze at the words.
Han Yunxi could only gape as she held the court robes in her hands. It took some time for Long Feiye to recover, so she quickly asked, “What happened? Was it an assassin?”
“To reply Your Majesty and Esteemed Empress, the cause of death is uncertain. They said he spat up more blood when he returned from the palace last night,” Xu Donglin replied honestly.Previous Chapter Next Chapter
with the shenanigans done, it's back to good ol' fashioned politicking in the pgc-verse!