The fragrance of the hot and steaming noodles made Long Feiye suspect that Xu Donglin had switched bowls. Still, Han Yunxi was standing close and urging him on so enthusiastically that he had doubts. Han Yunxi should be able to recognize her own handiwork!
For a man who made split second decisions, he was now stuck being indecisive. Han Yunxi kicked him lightly and demanded, "Are you eating it or not? If not, never expect to eat it again."
Without a choice, Long Feiye drank a mouthful of soup. It was just one sip, but his expression changed to incredulity. Han Yunxi looked at him nervously, her face filled with expectation. Long Feiye didn't speak but drank another sip before lightly licking his lips. He seemed to be analyzing the flavor. Han Yunxi was filled with anticipation as she stared at his mouth.
He looked back and prepared to speak, leaving Han Yunxi's heart hanging in mid-air. But then he stopped and continued drinking. This time, it wasn't just small sips, but big gulps! Han Yunxi was floored by the sight. She'd know Long Feiye for so long but had never seen him down soup so enthusiastically! Although it wasn't elegant, she loved it! As her face broke into a foolish grin, she felt extremely accomplished and happy. It was joy to cook a bowl of noodles for one's beloved, and happiness to see him eat it; but to see one's beloved scarf down your cooking like a wolf was even more delight! In any case, all of her happiness was filled up.
When Long Feiye finished the noodles without a speck left, Han Yunxi grinned and asked, "Tasty?"
"Very tasty!" Logn Feiye exclaimed before calling for Xu Donglin. While Han Yunxi was wondering what he was doing, he asked the guard, "Did you switch this bowl of noodles? Which chef cooked it? Zhen will reward them handsomely!"
Xu Donglin was flabbergasted. "Your Majesty...you...what are you doing?"
Han Yunxi's face of happiness instantly blackened. She cried, "Long Feiye, I'll remember this!"
Seeing Xu Donglin's reaction and hearing the shout behind her, Long Feiye realized he'd made a mistake. By the time he returned to the inner chambers, Han Yunxi had already straightened her clothes and prepared to leave.
"It really was you who made it?" Long Feiye was still doubtful.
"No it wasn't!" Han Yunxi huffed and pushed him aside to stalk out.
Long Feiye caught her. "When did you learn to cook?"
Han Yunxi pounded her fists against his chest. "I learned for three months, you bastard!"
"Did you really need to take that long?" Long Feiye blurted out.
"You!" Han Yunxi was really angry now. She was about to flip out when Long Feiye took her hands and gave her an aggressively deep kiss on the lips.
After a long time, he released her and said tenderly, "Han Yunxi, how much do you like me to be willing to study so long?"
Although she was furious a second ago, she replied, "A lot, a lot."
"It's delicious. From now on, I'll only eat the noodles you cook," Long Feiye declared sincerely.
"Really?" Han Yunxi asked earnestly.
"Mm!" Long Feiye nodded.
Han Yunxi looked at him tenderly until she burst into laughter. "Long Feiye, I won't cook anymore. You might as well forget about eating any noodles in this lifetime!"
Long Feiye gave a start, giving Han Yunxi the chance to break free and run outside, laughing so hard she couldn't stand straight. If he could screw with her, why couldn't she do the same? Long Feiye chased after her and only felt helpless and amused at her tickled state. Everyone said the inner palace was a solemn place, but how could a harem of 3,000 compare to a family of three? How could they compare to her personally cooking him a meal? How could they compare to her free and enjoyable smile now?
Although Long Feiye had been tricked and made into a laughingstock, he couldn't help smiling at the sight of Han Yunxi so amused. When she was finally spent, he beckoned with a finger and asked, "Still not coming over?"
Han Yunxi shook her head and backed away. Long Feiye arched a brow as his expression turned dangerous. Han Yunxi turned and fled, but she forgot that it was Long Feiye who taught her his lightness techniques! He very quickly moved to block her way. Although he didn't do anything against her, he said coldly, "I'll spare you if you cook another bowl."
Han Yunxi stood in place and shook her head mutely.
What else could he do? She'd already let him eat once, so she wasn't afraid to let him eat again. As expected, Long Feiye immediately relented. "Cook another bowl. I haven't eaten enough yet."
Han Yunxi turned aside and ignored him.
"I'll cook a bowl and trade with you, how's that?" Long Feiye asked seriously.
Han Yunxi couldn't stop laughing out loud. She really had to give it to him for saying such things. Actually, if he liked it so much, she could cook for him daily!
"Just wait, I'll bring over a bowl in a while," Han Yunxi agreed easily.
"I'll be your assistant," Long Feiye wouldn't just stand by and wait.
"Alright!" Han Yunxi agreed happily.
It was already late night, but the two of them still headed for the kitchens. Once their forms disappeared, Zhao mama and Xu Donglin emerged from the surroundings with the servants. All of them exchanged looks of disbelief. If the two masters headed to the kitchens now, would it still be standing by tomorrow morning?
And yet the scene within the kitchens was very heartwarming. Han Yunxi showed Long Feiye her ready-made soup and explained how it was made while telling him to wash the vegetables and crack the eggs. Husband and wife chatted as they worked.
Long Feiye asked, "How did you make those sour pastries in the past?"
Judging by her previous cooking skills, it was impossible. Han Yunxi chuckled, not expecting Long Feiye to still remember them. "I had the chefs make them," she said, "And I tossed in ten pieces of tamarind in the process."
What could Long Feiye do beyond smiling? Han Yunxi recalled the time Long Feiye ordered an entire table of vinegar dishes and couldn't help laughing. Meanwhile, Long Feiye used too much force and knocked over an egg. Han Yunxi went to help him clean up before giving him a new one.
As the soup began bubbling, Han Yunxi was about to lift the lid when Long Feiye grabbed her hand and said, "I'll do it."
As the lumps of flour boiled in the soup with the poached eggs and vegetables, husband and wife stood in front of the stove to wait. It was no big deal if it was one person going to court and cooking in the kitchens. For two people, it was rarer—at least there was no equal like it in history. Holding hands while standing shoulder to shoulder, one could be king of the world yet also be able to cook a soup of noodle soup. This was the serenity after accomplishing great things, a peace known by its other name of "family."
Once the meal was cooked, Long Feiye drank the soup while Han Yunxi ate the flour lumps. Both of them ended up warm and full. After tonight, the court developed another unspoken rule: the kitchen chefs were not to make or serve noodles. Gradually, this became a rule of the Great Qin Dynasty: the empress would cook the emperor a hand-made bowl of noodles. Because of this, the future Qin empresses had to learn the skill of making noodles.
Of course, this is all in the future.
As autumn approached, it was traditional to host a great Autumn Hunt. However, Long Feiye turned his back on custom in favor of touring the north. Nobody understood his intentions. It was already autumn, so wouldn't this trip expose him to the bitter colds of the north? The Ministry of Personnel wanted to arrange for a few northern officials to receive the emperor, but Long Feiye stopped them and said he was traveling in secret. Thus, he and Han Yunxi left the palace with no one's knowledge beyond the shadow guards and a few of his most trusted officials. Meanwhile, Gu Beiyue had asked for leave ten days earlier to head south to Jiangnan and accompany Qin Min during her delivery. Long Feiye didn't bother him about his plans, so he had no idea of their final destination.
The couple brought Rui'er with them—but instead of heading north, they went to Jiangnan. During the autumn, Jiangnan had none of the north's chill. Its autumn breeze was relaxing and temperatures warm, making it one of the best times of the year. Down south, Long Feiye planned to personally investigate the situation of the old established families while spending the winter with Han Yunxi at the Plum Blossom Sea. Their path from Yunning was plotted out as a circle so they could meet winter just as they passed through the estate of plum blossom trees.
The carriage sped past the outskirts and headed towards the lively county towns. It was still Uncle Gao driving the carriage with a team of shadow guards accompanying them. Xu Donglin was already waiting ahead for them in town while making living arrangements.
To avoid unwanted eyes and ears, Long Feiye had changed their carriage. It looked unassuming on the outside, like that of a merchant, but the inside was completely different. Even if it isn't luxurious, Long Feiye's tastes insisted on it being comfortable and spacious.
This time south, Long Feiye labeled a map with specific stops of various towns, salt, and mining locations to investigate in secret. Currently, Han Yunxi was studying the map. She said, "How convenient. This Ning Salt Farm is close to Ning Prefecture. They're practically neighbors?"
Long Feiye raised his eyes from emergency missives and asked, "It is in Ning Prefecture. What's the matter?"
Han Yunxi grinned. "Qin Min and Gu Beiyue are in Ning Prefecture! How lucky. Have Xu Donglin check where they're living in the prefecture. No, no, we have to investigate in secret. Let's give them both a surprise!"
Long Feiye had no objections to Han Yunxi's suggestion in these things and went with her suggestion.
Two days later, Xu Dongling reported back, "Esteemed Empress, Grand Tutor Gu and the rest are living in the southern Ning Prefecture on Quliu Alley. Lady Qin is nursing the child but likes quiet, so even the local officials don't dare to disturb her."
"Let's take a detour and delay our trip a few times. We're in no rush!" Han Yunxi instructed.
Xu Donglin didn't even need to verify with his master before following her orders.Previous Chapter Next Chapter
ironically i finished this chapter right after i said i'd take the rest of the week...okay, enjoy!