Yan Qian finally saw Yan Hong leaving the Rongan Hall and pulled him into a corner.
Yan Hong’s maids and grannies wanted to follow but was glared away by her.
Yan Hong had just snapped out of it. Without looking to see who it was, he kicked out with his foot.
Yan Qian swallowed the pain and pinched his ear. “Did you eat some insane person’s meat?!”
Yan Hong shook her hand off. “Speak if you want to speak, don’t pinch me! If you keep pinching, I’ll tell grandmother!”
Yan Qian pulled Yan Hong further into the corner until she reckoned no one could hear them before saying: “All you know to do is tell grandmother. I’ve asked you to beg her for mom’s release. Did you do it yet?”
Yan Hong’s face was filled with impatience. “Grandmother doesn’t care about this matter. She told me not to bring it up again.”
“So you left it at that? You’re eating and drinking well at the Rongan Hall while concubine mom is suffering in a small worn down courtyard!”
“Would you give it a rest? What does her suffering have to do with me!?”
Yan Hong ran off after saying these words. After running some distance, he even turned back and made a face at Yan Qian. Yan Qian tried to grab him but failed.
Yan Qian resentfully stomped her foot and wiped her tears. “Yan Hong you ingrate. Mom treats you so well and takes your side in everything!”
She wiped her tears and walked back to her own courtyard.
On the way, a prepubescent little lass suddenly barged over. Yan Qian was about to cry out in pain when the little lass said quietly, “Concubine Pei wants to see you. Today during dinner time.”
Yan Qian came to visit the fifth miss again. Yan Chan was just getting a little better from her illness.
Concubine Wu had the urge to lift her up and throw her out.
Before Concubine Wu could speak, Yan Qian chose to speak first. “Concubine Wu, my concubine mom said you must help her this time. Otherwise, prepare to suffer! The! Consequences!”
Concubine Wu’s face immediately turned black as a pot.
The fifth miss Yan Chan was sick and Yan Qian went to visit her twice.
This was the news Yan Yan received.
It seemed very normal, but there was something abnormal about it. Yan Qian and Yan Chan had never been close. Yan Chan was timid and never played with Yan Qian.
Thinking of the previous irregularities, Yan Yan pretty much understood.
But what could she do even if she understood? Yan Qian was just visiting her sick little sister. Could she say anything about it? All Yan Yan could do was remain unmoved in the face of unpredictability.
Of course, since she felt disgusted about it she didn’t forget to counterattack.
Yan Yan ordered Mei Xiang to make a trip to Concubine Wu’s place. She had her ask about the sick fifth miss and sent over some normal medicine at the same time.
Concubine Wu’s reaction couldn’t be seen from her face.
She put on a grateful expression, saying that the second and third miss were both kind, visiting in succession after hearing about the fifth miss.
Yan Yan understood who these words were meant for, but it didn’t mean she believed them.
Yan Qian seemed to become well-behaved, and didn’t leave her place for several days. Things seemed to have calmed down, yet also not.
Shen Qi sent a letter over, saying he was going to bring Yan Yan out to play the next day.
No one managed Yan Yan anymore. She just ordered the maids to inform the Jinse Pavilion and left with Yan Mo the next day. This time they didn’t go to the Zhenguo Duke Estate, but rather to a restaurant called “Liu Xiang Restaurant.”1
Yan Yan had some impression of this restaurant. It seemed to be a business under her grandfather’s household. The carriage stopped outside the doors and Yan Yan got off with Yan Mo. They entered the restaurant, which was very quiet. There wasn’t anyone else. The two of them followed Shen Qi as they twisted and turned until they reached a private room.
The private room was very large, and was divided into three smaller rooms. The middle room was a reception with several chairs and tables. There were two paintings on the wall and the décor was extremely elegant. There was a hanging curtain made of crystal beads on the left. The guest room could be vaguely seen behind it. The room on the right seemed to be the dining room. There was a large circular table in the middle.
Luo Huai Yuan was seated inside drinking tea.
He wore a sapphire blue fur coat and a black fox fur hat inlaid with sapphires. Having not seen him in a while, he seemed to have gotten fatter. His face was round and puffy but the foundations seemed to be good. His lips were red and his teeth were white. A pair of large round eyes were filled with boredom. Seeing the people come in, his eyes immediately lit up.
Yan Yan wore a misty red patterned little jacket and a long skirt with pink and white flowers. She had a pale yellow silk cloak around her, making her skin seem fair and pure.
Luo Huai Yuan hurriedly stood up and rushed forward, knocking over the teacup by his hand. Luckily his clothes were think and he wasn’t scalded.
Yan Yan couldn’t help but laugh. “Little fatty Luo, why did you get fatter?”
The chubby face turned sluggish before looking as if his father had died. Luo Huai Yuan clutched his chest, looking at Yan Yan sorrowfully. “Little sis Ah Yan, you’ve been corrupted. How did I get fatter? It’s because I’m wearing many layers, ok!?”
Shen Qi had his hands on his waist as he jeered. “I told you. You definitely got fatter.”
Seeing that he was getting overwhelmed, Luo Huai Yuan spotted Yan Mo who was clutching onto Yan Yan’s cloak. His eyes flashed as he pulled him over.
“Little Mo Mo, you say it. Did big bro Luo get fatter?”
“Hey, don’t try and get him on your side just because Ah Mo is younger. Little Ah Mo has always been obedient. He’s definitely too embarrassed to say you got fatter.” Shen Qi hurriedly said.
“Little second Shen. Is there a grudge between us?” Luo Huai Yuan feigned an angry glance at him before his expression became extremely gentle, extremely amiable and extremely harmless as he glanced at Yan Mo.
“Little Mo Mo, big bro knows you’ve always been an honest and obedient child. Come, tell them. Did big bro Luo get fatter?!”
Yan Mo blinked. He hesitated for a while before saying quietly: “It seems like a little bit.”
Luo Huai Yuan howled tragically, calling out loudly “I can’t live on”. Unfortunately he couldn’t roll around on the floor a couple of times, or it would look even more convincing.
Yan Mo looked on with pleasure. Aiya, this big bro Luo was too much fun. Every time he saw him, he was filled with amusement.
Yan Yan was already bent over from laughing. “That’s enough, you. Hurry and stop.”
The round person scurried over flatteringly, his eyes squinting from smiling. “Little sis Ah Yan——”
Yan Yan snorted and started laughing again. She choked and coughed as she went and took a seat.
“Little fatty Luo, you clown!”
She unfastened her cloak and put it on a chair next to her.
Luo Huai Yuan’s face turned serious as he cleared his throat. “En, I’ll assume you guys are complimenting me.”
After messing around, the atmosphere was very warm. The three sat together talking about their own circumstances. Yan Mo sat listening on the side.
“I wanted to bring little sis Ah Yan to play in my estate, but there’s a mix of people there and I don’t have time to clean them up at the moment. Even the times little second Shen came over, he had to put on a eunuch’s outfit to fool the people. How could I bear letting little sis Ah Yan suffer such a grievance….”
Shen Qi interrupted. “Actually, we’re all here today to eat some good stuff. Little fatty Luo has prepared for several days, saying he would broaden our horizons today.”
Shen Qi made this warm gathering sound like a foodie convention. However, he wasn’t wrong. Every time they got together, the main topic was always what little fatty Luo would make for them.
Actually Luo Huai Yuan was really wrongly accused. His goal wasn’t food, but there wasn’t a better excuse to call little sis Ah Yan out. For example, the reason Shen Qi obediently called her out this time was because Luo Huai Yuan said he would make something novel for them.
Ha! Therefore, Shen Qi couldn’t be blamed for his words.
Right as they spoke, someone knocked softly on the door. Shen Qi called out “enter”, and people brought over plates of food. Most of the plates contained vegetables, mushrooms and raw meat. The large table was filled up. Someone else brought over a black tray outlined in gold. On the tray were four little intricate pots.
The Grand Xi had pot-style dishes. Eating hot pot in the winter was warm and comfortable. But normally those pots would be much bigger, not like these small delicate ones on the table.
Hot soup was poured inside the pots and there were red coals burning underneath them. Another person brought over a tray of things and placed it on the side table. Everyone took their leave.
“Are we eating pot today? But why are these pots so small?” Shen Qi asked first.
Luo Huai Yuan nodded. “Normally when eating hot pot, everyone eats from one pot. Today, we each get our own. Furthermore, the method of eating is different. I’ve specially made some sauces that you can try later. You’ve definitely never seen anything like it.”
If it were anyone else saying “never seen anything like it”, Shen Qi and Yan Yan would definitely ignore them. Based on their status, what haven’t they seen before? But Luo Huai Yuan was different. They had seen too many “never seen anything like it” things from him.
The group each took their seats. Yan Yan and Yan Mo sat together. Luo Huai Yuan sat on Yan Yan’s other side without being asked, saying nice sounding things like he had to take care of little sis Ah Yan. Shen Qi could only take the seat next to Luo Huai Yuan.
In front of everyone was a small pot. The soup inside the pot was soon brought to boil and steam billowed upwards. The milk-white soup boiled fiercely, and there seemed to be fish meat inside, as well as other indiscernible ingredients. The steam diffused an extremely fragrant aroma, making their mouths water before they moved their chopsticks.
Luo Huai Yuan got up and went to the side table. He took a few small porcelain bowls. “I’ll make some dipping sauce for you to try first.”
He quickly mixed a few bowls of sauce. The first layer was a golden yellow viscous paste. Garlic paste, ground peanuts and chives were added. Some red oil was added to three of the bowls while clear oil was added to one of them.
“Why is there garlic?” Yan Yan frowned.
Luo Huai Yuan was initially excited, but hearing this he hurriedly asked: “Little sis Ah Yan doesn’t eat garlic?”
“The mouth will smell bad after eating.” Yan Yan covered her nose and mouth as though she was afraid she couldn’t get far enough away.
People born into wealth like Yan Yan and Shen Qi mostly didn’t eat garlic. This was because they would smell bad after eating.
Luo Huai Yuan only thought of this problem now. His face was bitter, “But, it’s extremely delicious.”
Shen Qi was defenseless against “extremely delicious” things.
“I’m fine with it. It’s fine if manly men are a little smelly. My mom calls my dad smelly every day. My dad says only smelly men are real men.”
After speaking, he chuckled as though being “smelly” made him feel very proud of himself.
Yan Yan’s expression was hesitant, seemingly still a little unable to accept it.
Luo Huai Yuan thought how many girls weren’t willing to eat garlic in the modern world either because the mouth wouldn’t be fresh afterwards. But sesame paste and garlic paste was the most classic combination for a hot pot dipping sauce. For the sake of this sesame paste, he had put in quite some effort. “Little sis Ah Yan doesn’t like eating it” immediately reduced a large portion of his excitement.
“If little sis Ah Yan is afraid of the smell afterwards, don’t worry about it. I have a method of getting rid of it.”
Seeing the extremely cute little consort who was covering her mouth and nose, Luo Huai Yuan let out a sigh. Ai, it’s really hard to be a husband. It’s necessary to coax and amuse. But isn’t it quite blissful? Especially this sort of sweet and helpless mood, which lingers in the mind.
If Yan Yan knew what Luo Huai Yuan was thinking, she definitely wouldn’t trust him like this. Her asking this meant she still trusted him more. If it were anyone else, Yan Yan wouldn’t ask this at all. Not liking it meant not liking it. She wasn’t someone who would make herself suffer.
Of course Luo Huai Yuan noticed this point and squinted from happiness.
“This golden yellow paste was specially made by me. It becomes delicious when combined with garlic paste.”
Yan Mo was automatically overlooked on the side. Little Ah Mo looked at the bowl of dipping sauce in front of him hesitantly. He was also afraid of his mouth smelling. What should he do?
He then looked at the others. Forget it, just let it smell if it smells. He was also a man, albeit one that was a little smaller.