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h.e.l.lo, Luka here o/ Previously this novel was was known by the tentative t.i.tle Xianman Palace. As the translator working on this, I have decided to translate the t.i.tle as Palace Full of Delicacies.
C1. In Dire Straits
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The new moon, like a hook, cast a pale light as weak as the light of a firefly. It fell on the vermillion-coloured crystal tiles, making the entire imperial city seem deserted and lonely. Without warning, a flurry of footsteps sounded on the empty palace walkway, startling several birds.
A furry golden figure appeared on top of the wall. A closer look would show that it was a ginger-coloured kitten the size of one's palm. It stopped at the highest point and touched the smooth crystal tiles with the tip of its paw, as if hesitating. As the footsteps behind came closer, the kitten folded its ears back and jumped off the palace wall, which was up to three zhang high. The high wall was still too high for the little kitten; when it landed, it stumbled and rolled once, then shook its head and got up swiftly. In the blink of an eye, it had disappeared into the thick gra.s.ses.
"Search carefully and do not let it escape!" The chief imperial guard's powerful voice was loud enough to catch even the attention of a deaf person. The other imperial guards responded in unison, turning their spears around and using the ends without the spear-heads to poke about in the gra.s.s.
The night was murky, and it was quite difficult to find a palm-sized kitten on this slope, what with its tall gra.s.ses and scattered rocks. Not long after, another group of guards arrived, stabbing the gra.s.s violently with long pitchforks.
"Do not do that; the cat belongs to His Majesty!" The chief imperial guard hurried up to stop them.
"What's there to be afraid of, it's just a beast!" the latter group cried, their pitchforks hardly stopping. The sharp pitchforks glinted frighteningly under the moonlight.
"Stop!" The chief imperial guard turned his spear around, solidly blocking a pitchfork that was attempting to stab into the gra.s.s once more. Seeing this, the other imperial guards also levelled their spears, blocking the pitchforks that tossed about in the gra.s.s. The atmosphere between the two groups of guards immediately became loaded with impending aggression.
Not far away, in the wild gra.s.ses, a pair of amber-coloured eyes narrowed slightly, having clearly seen all that had happened in the night. After a brief pause, they turned and left silently.
During early spring in the capital, it was warm one moment and cold the next.
As Su Yu urged his donkey along, he supported the wooden bucket on the donkey cart, preventing the water inside from spilling. This water was seawater that he had saved up at home; if too much of it spilled, the salt.w.a.ter fish inside would die very quickly.
When he reached his usual stall location, Su Yu tied the donkey to a post and unloaded the wooden buckets and stands from his cart. He set up his chopping board and knives, then brought out a short stool from a corner of the donkey cart. Rolling up his sleeves, he sat down next to the buckets.
"Fish-bro, why are you so late today?" The speaker was a little boy of about seven or eight years of age. He wore a somewhat old cotton overcoat, and his tanned cheeks were still reddish, owing to the winter that had just pa.s.sed; when he smiled, he looked quite honest and naïve. Seeing that Su Yu had arrived, he moved aside to make some room for Su Yu to set up his stall, then took out another stool from the donkey cart, and sat next to him.
"Today I saw something good, and I forgot all about the time while bargaining with the fishmonger." Su Yu smiled, bringing out a flat bread wrapped in white cloth and handing it to him.
This child's name was Sanchuan, and he would come here to sell chicken eggs every day. Since Su Yu had to go to the harbour in the morning to stock up, and was often delayed, Sanchuan would help him occupy a s.p.a.ce to set up his stall.
"What is it?" Sanchuan peered over curiously as he chewed on his flat bread.
Smiling mysteriously, Su Yu grabbed one from the wooden bucket, covering it with both hands as he brought it up to Sanchuan. Then, without warning, he opened his hands and thrust them forward.
"Aargh!" Sanchuan shrank back, scared, and sat hard on the ground with a thump. He saw Su Yu holding something strange in his hands, a large pile of something with a strange pink tinge; it was quite the terrifying sight.
"Hahahaha…" Looking at Sanchuan, Su Yu could not help but laugh loudly. "Do not be scared, this is good to eat."
"This strange thing can be eaten? What's this?" Sanchuan sniffled, looking at Su Yu in disbelief as he got off the ground and sat back on his stool.
"Of course it can be eaten, this is called…squid…" At the mention of this strange yet familiar word, Su Yu felt a little bit forlorn. During the era he had previously lived in, squid was only sold in the coastal regions to the south. But here, they had squid even in the temperate seas.
It had been three months since Su Yu had transmigrated here. Even now, he still suspected that he might actually be dreaming, and he might wake up one day to find that he was back in his original world. Maybe he would find that he was still the head chef of Chuanxiang House, merrily cooking spicy crabs every day and feeding seafood sc.r.a.ps to the stray cats at the back door. Maybe he would still go home at night and watch television, play games…instead of living in a p.i.s.s-poor n.o.ble family in this olden-day world.
That's right, although Su Yu was a fish-seller, his status in this world was still that of n.o.bility. The Su family's ancestors had fought alongside the emperor many generations ago, and received the rank of marquis. Although the rank had been degraded to a second-rank general by the time it had reached Su Yu's father, a n.o.ble was still a n.o.ble. Even a n.o.ble with no war accomplishments could live pretty well with just the official's salary they were given.
Unfortunately, when Su Yu transmigrated over, his father had just pa.s.sed away. Since he was young, his uncle wanted to bully him by seizing his n.o.bility rank, and his aunt controlled the family's food and drink. Since the family was bad at managing the finances these days, they scarcely had any savings, and the funeral affairs had consumed a great portion of those savings. His aunt took the chance to mistreat him; not only was he unable to live like a rich family's son, but he also was unable to eat proper meals!
Without any other option, Su Yu could only resume his former trade; taking out the one donkey they had and coming out to sell fish.
"I'd like a gra.s.s carp."
Someone had come to buy fish. Su Yu tossed the squid back into its bucket, smiling as he gave a reply. From the large basin full of fresh water, he scooped up a large, fat gra.s.s carp, asking, "Sir, is this one good?"
"Can you slaughter fish?" The person was buying fish here for the first time. Seeing that this fishmonger was fair and clean, more like a handsome, gentle scholar instead of a fishmonger, he hesitated a little.
"Fish-bro's good at slaughtering fis.h.!.+" Sanchuan said indignantly, after he saw the person's nose wrinkling.
Su Yu only smiled without any reply. After weighing it, he laid the fish, which had been knocked unconscious, on the chopping board. He rapidly slit the belly open, chopped the head off, and removed the scales, every motion as smooth as pa.s.sing clouds and swift as flowing water. He appeared to be even more practised than the old fishermen at the seaside.
"Such good skills!" the customer exclaimed, holding the fish that had been slaughtered.
Su Yu chuckled bitterly as he received the coins. Back then, he had slaughtered fish for five years before finally being promoted to a chef, and he had been so glad that he would no longer have to slaughter fish. He never would have thought that he would be starting from the bottom again. Lowering his head, he looked at these hands; because of prolonged contact with salt water and the cold weather, they had suffered injuries from the cold in several spots, losing their original fairness. If he had had enough money, he would have had started a restaurant already. Then he wouldn't have needed to sell fish here, which was a business with low investment cost and low returns.
But…As Su Yu turned to look at the bunch of squids in the bucket, the corners of his mouth turned up. Now he had a chance to acc.u.mulate some funds.
"Young bro, I'm not trying to find fault, but why did you get these!" the customer commented, shaking his head as he pointed to the squids in the bucket. "No one buys these things."
The people of the An dynasty liked to eat animals from rivers, lakes, and seas, which was why catching and selling fish were such popular jobs. But they focused mainly on more common fare like fish, prawns, or crabs, and few would eat squid, because they couldn't make it taste good no matter how they cooked it. Usually, when fishermen caught squid, they would throw it away or sell it cheaply as animal feed. When Su Yu heard the customer, he only smiled kindly, saying nothing more.
The capital was divided into east and west sides. The rich people and n.o.bles lived in the east, and the commoners lived in the west. This Xiping Street was a road in the west side; since it was narrow and seldom had horse carts pa.s.sing through, there were many stalls set up on the sides. The women of poor families were not as particular as the ladies of high-cla.s.s families, and would carry only a basket to hold their groceries.
Because Su Yu was fair-skinned and spoke with a cultured, polite manner, the grannies and aunties liked to chat with him. Plus, with those attractive knife skills, business was naturally better for him than for the other fish stalls. Often, his stock would be all sold out shortly after noon.
"Che, you should go to Chunyi House to sell yourself out, you wouldn't be worth much on Xiping Street…" a large, stout fishmonger said coldly, from not far away. Although he did not raise his tone, everyone around heard him clearly. Chunyi House was a famous male-centric brothel in the capital; though there was no explanation, it was very clear who these words were for.
Upon hearing it, Sanchuan wanted to argue with the man, but was pulled back by Su Yu. He did not live near Xiping Street, and could not go head-to-head with the ruffians and hooligans in this area; he could only smile helplessly at the last customer that came by. Su Yu had a naturally kindly appearance, and one could tell he was not a person who stirred up trouble. With that pained smile, it made the aunties' hearts ache for him.
"Fourth Uncle Yu, who are you insulting?" After receiving the fish that Su Yu had wrapped with straw, the almost forty-year-old Auntie Zhang whirled around to glare at that fishmonger, hands on her hips.
This Auntie Zhang was famous for being quite vigorous and hot-tempered, and no one in this entire street dared to provoke her. Fourth Uncle Yu could not help but tuck his head in a bit when he heard her. Then he felt that it was embarra.s.sing to be so afraid of a woman, and straightened his neck, saying, "Whoever replies is the one getting insulted!" After saying it, he regretted it so much that he wanted to bite his tongue off.
"Fine, you dare insult me, Zhang Cuihua, without even finding out what I used to do when I was younger!" Auntie Zhang got into it at once. No one had dared to argue with her for a long time, so she was going to argue to her heart's content this time.
The street was soon filled with onlookers. Fourth Uncle Yu was unable to retort, so angry that he was about to faint. Without any change in expression, Su Yu silently packed up his things, leaving with his donkey cart.
Around the corner, there was a shop that bought old wooden items. Su Yu unloaded the large wooden basin and the two large wooden buckets, leaving only the smaller bucket containing the squids.
The old carpenter looked at them for a long while before replying, "Ten coins each."
"It's fine if the buckets sell for ten coins each, but this basin was carved from a single piece of wood, so it's at least eighty coins," Su Yu replied, frowning.
"This is put together from two pieces, so thirty coins at most." The old carpenter frowned too.
"Then I'm not selling it." Su Yu bent down, as if he was about to take the basin away. This wooden basin was indeed carved from good material, and he was only selling it because he didn't have enough money.
The old carpenter did not want to give on it, and had no choice but to loosen his hold. After some bargaining, the wooden basin was sold for fifty-five coins. Su Yu counted the seventy-five coins he had just gained; added to the two hundred and thirteen coins he had earned from selling fish earlier, these were all the a.s.sets he owned.
Putting the two and a half strings of coins away, Su Yu led his donkey back to a mansion in a corner of the east side. This was a three-courtyard mansion, its grey bricks and tiles extremely old. Only the two stone lions by the front door retained some of their former glory.
"Hoh, our second young master is back, where's today's portion?" The moment he went in through the side door, he saw a large, broad-shouldered woman leaning against the pillar, holding her hand out to ask for money.
"Mother said yesterday that there was no need to keep taking that medicine," Su Yu replied, his expression cold. Not bothering to look at the woman, he left to secure the donkey.
This body belonged to the son of a concubine. However, the official wife had no sons, so she raised him as her own. Three months ago, his father died, and his mother was so angered by his uncle's family that she fell ill. In order to provide for her medicine, Su Yu gave two salt.w.a.ter fish to his aunt every day as payment for the medicine.
Upon hearing his words, his aunt's brows stood up the other way round, and she snickered, "Since your mother isn't taking the medicine, I'll sell the donkey tomorrow and save you from going out and disgracing yourself every day."
About the gong and shou
Friendly readers: In Qianhe's works, the gong usually appears first
Gong: Where am I?
Little Bird: Aren't you the one at the start!
Gong: … (sharpening claws~)
[Friendly reminder that the author's notes are by the original author; I am only translating]
A breakdown of the names that have appeared:
Su Yu = 苏誉 (誉yu, meaning praise; reputation)
Sanchuan = 三川, "three rivers"
Fourth Uncle Yu = 于老四 (quite loosely translated; 老四 can refer to the fourth oldest in a group of people, so let's a.s.sume he's the fourth child of the Yu family)
Zhang Cuihua = 张翠花 (翠cui meaning 'jade-green', 花hua meaning 'flower')
Little Bird: Referring to original author, 绿野千鹤 (the second part means 'thousand cranes', and cranes are a type of bird, so I'm a.s.suming this refers to the author)
Gong: *ahem* I believe we all know what this term means.
: The original text describes the kitten as 金色, which literally means 'gold-coloured'. Now we all know that cats do not come in such a colour in real life; hence the closest I could think of is ginger-coloured (it looks kind of gold-y to me…).
: One zhang 丈 is about 3.33 metres. Three zhang would be about 9.99 metres, in other words, about 10 metres tall.
: In British n.o.bility, there are five ranks: duke, marquis, earl, viscount and baron. In Chinese n.o.bility, there were also five ranks, namely 公gong、侯hou、伯bo、子zi、男nan. Therefore, when translated into English, the Chinese term is subst.i.tuted with a British term of corresponding position. Su Yu's ancestors received the rank of 侯, the second highest; hence it was translated as 'marquis', which is also the second highest.
: The father of the person whose body he transmigrated into.
: In other words, prost.i.tution.
: The three courtyards mentioned here would be: the outer courtyard (the area you'll encounter upon opening the main door), the inner courtyard (usually the largest and in the centre of the mansion), and the third courtyard (in the back; after pa.s.sing through this third courtyard, you'll reach the living quarters allocated to the family's women). Search 三进宅院 for reference.
If you are seeing this text, you are NOT reading it on the original site. Head on down to lovelysweetdream 959085286 dot wordpress dot com to read the original!