Chapter 201: I’ll Wait For You
She naturally knew of his past. Ever since she’d realized that she didn’t dislike this person barging into her life, and in fact didn’t want to reject him, she’d tried to learn more about his past. She knew that he’d been forced into the army and that he’d grown up in his grandfather’s house.
But, just because his grandfather owned a restaurant didn’t mean that Pang Xiao knew how to cook. This tall, strapping man was normally domineering and high-handed. Anyone would believe that he knew how to scheme and kill, but it was tough to imagine what he’d look like in the kitchen.
Pang Xiao tugged the girl to the rear kitchen. Qin Yining had just neared the door when she smelled a particularly fragrant smell.
“Is that beef?”
“Mm. It’s a hot day, so I chilled the beef tendon after cooking it. You can try my cold noodles in a moment.”
The two entered the kitchen to see a ceramic bowl placed on the cutting board. A lump of dough was resting within it. Pang Xiao washed his hands with a ladle of water and lifted the wooden cover of a great iron pot to fill it with water. He flashed a smile at the girl. “Just a moment. The fire’s already lit, we can eat shortly.”
He put the dough on the cutting board and made it stretchy and elastic with a few powerful kneads. The prince rolled the dough into a cylindrical shape. He shook his arms and thwacked the dough onto the cutting board. One large cylinder became two, two became four, four became eight…
Qin Yining stood at the kitchen door, watching the man’’s adroit movements. Thin noodles had emerged from the lump of dough in the end and the water in the pot was at a boil. Pang Xiao pinched off the ends and evenly placed the noodles into the pot. The frothing water calmed down as the noodles entered it.
Pang Xiao stirred the pot with a long spoon and then turned his attention to preparing two basins of cold water. He washed cucumbers and pears, adroitly turning them into thin strips. He fished out the chilled, seasoned beef and cut it into thin slices, then chopped a few more pieces of watermelon.
From her position at the door, Qin Yining noted that the prince’s movements were well-rehearsed and skillful. His knife work was top class, an obvious sign that he used to cook a lot. He really did have a few hints of a master chef in the making.
The noodles were ready before long, to which Pang Xiao dunked them in cold water and split the portion into two nearby rough, but clean ceramic bowls. He hauled up a clay pot that had been lowered into the well this morning to be chilled, revealing pre-made soup to go with the cold noodles. He plucked out the spring onion and ginger chunks floating in the soup and poured the liquid over the noodles.
Cucumber and pear strips were placed on top, and triangular watermelon and sliced beef rounded out the side dishes. Coriander and sesame were the finishing touches, and a wide smile flashed on the prince’s face as he placed the bowls on the table outside the kitchen.
“Come, come. Come try my food.” Pang Xiao merrily offered a pair of chopsticks to the Qin fourth miss.
The girl had long been stunned by the prince’s deft actions, the delicious smell, and plating of the bowl of cold noodles. The thin noodles were of uniform thickness and tasty aromas of beef soup wafted towards the nose. The soup itself was translucent, with the jade green of cucumber strips, snow-white pear strips, red watermelon chunks, and beef equally distributed between meat and tendon forming a perfect, tantalizing picture.
Qin Yining tried a mouthful of soup. It was coolly refreshing with none of the gaminess of meat. Instead, there was a fortifying fragrance of vegetables, fruit, and seasoned beef.
She then tried a mouthful of noodles. They were chewy without being undercooked. The thin noodles had completely absorbed the flavors of the dish. When paired with a mouthful of cucumber and pear, and another of watermelon, then washing it all down with another mouthful of soup — the bites completely vanquished the summer heat and humidity. She unconsciously drained half a bowl of noodles as she marveled at its tastiness.
Pang Xiao was holding a larger bowl and shoveling noodles in with a pair of chopsticks, but he kept an eye on his girl all the while. Although she was eating very daintily, her curved eyebrows were evidence of her happiness, which in turn brought him joy as well.
Qin Yining had spent recent days fretting over matters of home. That combined with the scorching summer days had effectively killed most of her usual appetite. This was the most she’d eaten in a while, but the bowl was too large for her to finish.
When the prince saw her half-eaten bowl, he put down his own. “What’s wrong? Do you not like it?”
“No, it’s delicious. I like it a lot, I just can’t eat anymore.” Qin Yining looked at Pang Xiao with sparkling eyes. “I didn’t know you could cook so well!”
“This is nothing. We’re short on time, so I could only throw together a quick bowl of noodles for you. Next time, when we have more free time and more ingredients, I’ll make you something really good.” He picked up Qin Yining’s bowl in a smooth motion and slurped down the rest of the noodles.
She lowered the hand that she’d raised to stop him with. “Those are my leftovers…”
Pang Xiao put down the bowl with a smile. “I don’t see a problem. Do you like watermelon? It’s been chilling in the well all day and it’s still cool.”
He rose to pick up a knife and chopped the watermelon into smaller pieces. He looked back to see Qin Yining, her beauty a living painting. He made a few more slices and handed her bite-sized bits.
“Many thanks.” Qin Yining bit into one of the chunks she was offered. Given the lack of water this summer, the watermelons were small, concentrating the sweetness.
Pang Xiao sat on a stool across from the fourth miss with his legs apart, chomping into the watermelon and looking at her. His cheeks bulged with fruit, but he still insisted on smiling at her. The girl was mysteriously in a lighthearted mood, eating two more pieces than she would’ve because of her good spirits.
After the meal, the prince drew a basin of water for her to wash her hands. He splashed the water on his face when she was done. Off to the side, Qin Yining looked at his motions and suddenly had the disorienting feeling that they were just an ordinary family.
Pang Xiao wiped off his face, carelessly slicking back his wet hair with a smile. “My dear Yi, what do you think about my cooking skills?”
She nodded seriously with approval. “Your cooking skills are quite wonderful. You’re better than the chefs at the manor! I’m so much worse compared to you. To be honest, the best I can manage now is grilled meat. I used to make that a lot and learned a bit of how to cook it after returning to the manor, so it’s the only food I make that’s barely edible.”
Pang Xiao chuckled. “No worries, it doesn’t matter if you don't know how to cook. I’ll cook for you in the future.”
Infected by his smile, a ‘yes’ almost escaped Qin Yining. She immediately caught the undertones of his offer and blushed furiously. This man was willing to take a risk to come see her and never put on the airs of a prince with her. He was tremendously attentive and even ate her leftovers as well as use water she’d already used. They were so like a family. Perhaps the rest of my life really is with him…
Her thoughts took another turn. Outsiders thought that she’d already given her chastity to him and they had indeed kissed and hugged. It really did look like she could only be his. Even if she disregarded all this, it would be difficult to pay him back for saving her life so many times.
The more Qin Yining thought about this, the more her blush crept until her neck and ears were bright red as well.
Pang Xiao cracked a smile and wrapped his arms around the girl. “What’s going on with our darling Yi? Have you been cooked through and through? Why are you all red?”
Qin Yining burst out laughing and pounded him with a fist. “What are you talking about? I’m not a shrimp.”
“Are you not? Let me have a taste.” The prince pretended to go in for a bite. Qin Yining pushed him away with a chuckle.
“Stop playing around. Don’t we have business to discuss?”
“There’s no rush. Since I know who owns the shops, the transaction will be easy. It was so difficult for us to meet up and I don’t know when our next meeting is. I can’t come see you all the time. The tenser the war becomes, the more difficult it is for me to visit. Let me hug you for a bit longer, alright?”
What’s he talking about! He has absolutely no sense of shame!
“What’s all this? We’re not married yet!”
“So does this mean that I can do whatever I want once we’re married?” Pang Xiao looked at her with sparkling eyes.
Qin Yining blinked, stunned, and forgot to struggle. She responded after a long beat, “Who — who said they’re marrying you!”
“Tsk tsk, our darling Yi is such a villain. You’ve eaten my noodles and taken advantage of me. Are you trying to pretend all of that didn’t happen?”
“When did I take advantage of you?!” Qin Yining widened her eyes.
“And you say you didn’t? You bit a hole in my tongue! Now you want to forget it all and pretend you don’t know me? My reputation is ruined because of you. Whatever will I do if you don’t take responsibility for all this?”
Qin Yining pushed at his chest with both hands, looking wordlessly at his ever-so-close face. This man really was something else when he put on that shameless act.
“Your men really ought to see how you get when you act so shamelessly.” This was all she could settle for in the end.
Pang Xiao laughed heartily. “Do you take all soldiers to be coarse, brusque men? They owe their mothers and wives a great amount given their long years away from home. Us northern men are honest folk who love our family. We might act like miniature tigers outside, but we turn into cats when facing our mothers and wives. Each fears his wife more than the man before. I’m actually not that bad.”
Qin Yining was flabbergasted. “Does the Valiant Tigers specialize in raising men afraid of their wives? You’re actually not that bad — do they have to kneel on soy beans when they go home?”
Pang Xiao only lowered his head to look at her smilingly.
Qin Yining blinked before suddenly realizing what she’d said. She exclaimed softly in embarrassment and buried her face in her hands.
“So darling Yi finally views me as your man?” A happy laugh rumbled out of Pang Xiao.
His laughter sounded right by her ear, making her heart tremble as well. His voice was low and resonant, but her only reaction to that was a beet red face. She wanted to dig a hole and curl up in it, but the upward tug of her lips belied her mortification.
“Silly girl, just remember that I might scheme and plot against anyone in this world but you. I’m a man. Each word out of me is a nail cast in iron. I said I’ll marry you, and I will. Don’t worry about anything that lies between us, whether enmity between our nations or grudges between our families. If I can’t settle even these little things, what face would I have to ask for your hand in marriage? Just wait peacefully for me, understand? Our good days are to come.” Pang Xiao dropped a reverent kiss on her forehead.
Qin Yining laid quietly against his shoulder and nodded docilely. “I understand.”
He kissed the top of her head again. “Trust me and wait for me.”
“Alright, I’ll wait for you.”
I’ll wait for you no matter what the future brings. I won’t maneuver or plot, I won’t think about the animosity between our countries and families. I’ll just trust you.
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