Cui Nong is an extremely smart person, and she has a thorough understanding of Empress Dowager Song’s intentions.
So when the two snacks were delivered to Li Chengxuan, not only did she say that they were made by the Empress’s kitchen according to the instructions of Empress Dowager Song, but she also said that Song Jinning asked someone to make it especially for him.
“Her Highness the Empress said that this is a famous snack from Jiangnan. The wild herbs used in this snack only bloom during this season, and they are very fragrant. As for the glutinous rice inside, it is warm and sweet in taste. This snack has the ability to improve His Majesty’s health.”
Li Chengxuan snorted in disdain when he heard this.
Song Jinning definitely did not ask someone to make this for him.
He’s not a fool, he can see Song Jinning’s indifference to him on the wedding night, and the expectation that he would disappear before her eyes.
Furthermore, if Song Jinning asked someone to do this for him, the one sending it should be Song Jinning’s maidservant. How come it’s Cui Nong who is sending it to him?
It must be that Song Jinning took these snacks to Empress Dowager Song, and Empress Dowager Song asked Cui Nong to send this to him in order to improve his thinking of Song Jinning.
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Ohld vbswtb bl bye plld vbl vawvb clbkde vbl kdnkeldv, Nk Ubldtmwyd eke dsv pbso ydu kxryvkldnl sa nsdvlxrv sd bkp qynl.
Rdpvlye, bl saelale Hbsw Kkdt vs tayc nbsrpvknjp, yde vssj y ckvl sq vbl Tysgkcycy kd qasdv sq Uwk Lsdt.
Tl rywple pzktbvzu.
Mbkp oyp hlau tsse!
Fllkdt vbyv obyv dllep vs cl esdl byp clld ynbklhle, Uwk Lsdt alvkale yde vwadle cynj vs alvwad vs Fbswjydt Vyzynl.
Gp pssd yp Uwk Lsdt oyzjle swv sq vbl byzz, Hbsw Kkdt bwaakle qsaoyae vs alxshl vbl pdynjp.
Mbkp kp vbl Oxrlasa, obyv jkde sq elzknynklp byp bl dsv lyvld? Qkhkdt bkx y pdynj xyel sq okze blacp, obs yal usw zssjkdt esod sd?
Lsv lhld lyvkdt, Hbsw Kkdt qlzv vbyv Nk Ubldtmwyd oyp yttaklhle fwpv cu zssjkdt yv vblpl vos pdynjp.
What’s more, the emperor just took a bite…
Zhou Jing felt that it was really difficult for Li Chengxuan to win the trust of the Empress Dowager.
How many things does he need to do against his will?
Zhou Jing hurriedly removed the plates that were in front of Li Chengxuan.
As he looked at the plates, he slandered in his heart, tsk, what kind of plates are these? White and plain, this is the emperor!
But he changed his mind to thinking that these are foods that poor villagers would eat, nevermind, this is what the poor villagers would feed to their livestock. Even if an expensive plate was used, it would still be the same.
Turning around, he handed the plates to a eunuch who was standing on the side. Zhou Jing turned around and said to Li Chengxuan: “Your Majesty was wronged just now. Should this slave ask someone to go to the imperial kitchen to get some cakes in order for your majesty to clean his mouth?”
He held up a green tea pot and poured tea for Li Chengxuan graciously.
“Your Majesty, rinse your mouth first.”
Li Chengxuan: …
He was still holding the pair of chopsticks.
Originally he wanted Cui Nong to leave before he ate more of the Haozibaba, but Zhou Jing suddenly snatched it away.
In order to maintain his majesty, Li Chengxuan always had a cold face so that no one could see what he was thinking.
So naturally he can’t tell Zhou Jing that the Haozibaba was indeed very delicious.
Li Chengxuan put down the chopsticks in his hand and took the tea cup from Zhou Jing’s hand expressionlessly.
He drank the tea, but the Haozibaba taste still didn’t disappear.
Then he ate the cakes that the eunuch had brought from the imperial kitchen.
These were his favorite cakes, but he couldn’t help but recall the taste of the Haozibaba while he was eating.
He couldn’t help but be slightly annoyed. How did Zhou Jing know him so well that he took the Haozibaba without him saying anything?
Is the mind of an emperor something you can guess so casually?
Seeing Zhou Jing, he couldn’t help but feel disdain.
Zhou Jing: …
Zhou Jing began to tremble involuntarily.
Why does he feel that the Emperor is upset?
But why is the emperor unhappy? He did his job pretty well today.
Zhou Jing couldn’t understand.
But he couldn’t ignore Li Chengxuan’s heavy gaze. So he hurriedly bowed his head and bent over, wishing that he would just disappear.
Zhou Jing heard Li Chengxuan’s voice after a while.
“Did you make the tea today?”
“Yes.” Zhou Jing answered.
In Zhou Jing’s view, a tea’s function is to quench thirst. But in Li Chengxuan’s case, he only needs to drink once. Needless to say, he can immediately tell what kind of tea it is, even if it is soaked in rain or snow.
Zhou Jing has served Li Chengxuan for seven or eight years, and he knows that he is picky in this matter. So even though he is now the head eunuch, he still makes tea for Li Chengxuan from time to time.
For example, the tea Li Chengxuan just drank now was made by him.
Zhou Jing is not worried about what will happen to this bowl of tea because he is used to making tea.
He still has this confidence.
So when the emperor asked him these words, does this mean he likes the tea? The taste of the wild herbs just now that made the emperor aggrieved, did the tea successfully remove it?
The more Zhou Jing thought about it, the more he was convinced that this was the reason. So his body no longer trembled, and he no longer bowed his head.
As he was about to stand up to receive the award, he heard Li Chengxuan’s moodless voice again.
“The water when you made this tea boiled too much. Because of this, you will be punished to kneel in the imperial kitchen.”
Zhou Jing: …
What kind of tongue does his master have that he can actually taste boiling water?
Is there such a person in the world?
Zhou Jing had doubts, but even if he had ten lifetimes worth of courage, he would not dare to ask.
He had to lower his head again, bow down, and answer respectfully, “Yes.”
He didn’t get the expected award, but at least he didn’t get any more punishments.
This punishment will enable him to master the skill of boiling, so he can make better tea in the future?
Full of doubts, Zhou Jing turned and went out of the hall to go to the imperial kitchen.
Song Jinning listened as Empress Dowager Song talked about madiao1马吊 (mǎdiào)- a late imperial Chinese trick-taking gambling card game, also known as the game of paper tiger..
When the previous emperor was alive, there were dozens of concubines in the harem. Even if everyone took turns to serve everyday, it would take months for everyone to have successfully served the emperor.
What’s more, there are things such as favor and illness, so most of the concubines fail to even meet the Emperor.
Since these people are still masters, they don’t do anything because they have maidservants at their disposal. Idle every day, they need something to do to pass the time.
That’s why madiao became a very popular sport in the palace.
First of all, it is mostly effortless which is suitable for concubines who don’t want to work; secondly, there are four people sitting around a table, and they can gossip while they are playing.
Empress Dowager Song loved this sport when she was a concubine.
It was only after the death of the previous emperor that she ignored madiao. This was because she had to sit down and listen to politics everyday.
Now that she is free, she can finally do madiao again.
A maidservant held a red sandalwood box and placed it on the table.
Song Jinning looked up and saw that the box had four chouti’s2抽屉 (chōutì)- Lit. Drawer. I don’t know how a drawer is used in madiao since in wikipedia there is no mention of a chouti but my guess is that is where all the cards were placed in the sandalwood box..
The maidservant stretched out her hand to open the uppermost chouti, and carefully took out the de ma diaopai3的马吊牌 (De mǎ diàopái)- Cards placed inside.
It was a qingyisepai4清一色牌 (qīngyīsèpái)- First Card? I don’t know what this is..
Song Jinning understood that this qingyisepai was the one that was pulled out from the chouti.
Empress Dowager Song was smiling and talking to Consort Dowager Hui and Concubine Dowager Rong who were sitting on the chairs: “Aijia was worried before. There are only a few sisters in the palace which makes it hard to play madiao. Now, at last, we have a paidazi5牌搭子 (pái dā zi)- Card dealer. I guess the paidazi is the one who gives out the cards..”
Song Jinning: Very good, she is the paidazi.
No wonder Empress Dowager Song suddenly asked her if she could play madiao. It turned out that it was because she wanted to play. .
Although Song Jinning replied modestly and said she only knew a little bit, she was actually very good at playing madiao.
Don’t ask her, it’s in her blood to play madiao.
At that moment, she sat down calmly at the table and began to sort out the cards.
Empress Dowager Song didn’t make a big bet.
In fact, money is not a problem. With the status of the four women sitting on the table, what is money? But playing too much and betting too much can affect their relationship.
After two rounds, Song Jinning figured out the levels of the women present.
Concubine Dowager Rong is the best; followed by Consort Dowager Hui; and lastly, Empress Dowager Song.
But it is obvious that Empress Dowager Song is the person who is the most enthusiastic about madiao.
The corners of Song Jinning’s lips were slightly curved.
Empress Dowager Song is a bit interesting.
Song Jinning didn’t know whether it was intentional or unintentional that Consort Dowager Hui and Concubine Dowager Rong always made her play head to head with Empress Dowager Song.
Are they expecting her and Empress Dowager Song to have some kind of rift?
But Song Jinning was very cautious.
She would neither play well, nor would she deliberately lose to please Empress Dowager Song. After all, if success is too smooth, then there will be less fun.
Therefore she usually waits for Empress Dowager Song to throw out a card, and then wait a bit before throwing another card back.
A card is a card, so when Empress Dowager Song gets it, she will be very fulfilled in her heart..
Of course, Song Jinning wouldn’t lose blindly. She will still be competitive when it comes to games and money.
She doesn’t want to win the money of the three women, but she wasn’t willing to lose money either.
T/N: Sorry for the countless pinyin in this chapter. To be honest, I don’t know much about madiao except for the fact that it was a game in ancient china. I had a really hard time translating this chapter since I did not know how the game is played and what not. Sorry T_T