Chapter 277: Untitled
Translator: Atlas Studios Editor: Atlas Studios
That man gave her a side-glance, dawdled down the stool and then slowly climbed down the table. “We will end here today.”
The restless crowd let out a collective sigh of liberation.
“As usual, those who aren’t married, get out.” That man ambled into the kitchen as he continued, “Otherwise… I’ll make you vomit it out.”
Meng Fuyao, who was sipping her tea, spurted it out. Zhangsun Wuji smiled as he gently patted her back. Meng Fuyao turned back with teary eyes and said, “Why is this dude so grumpy…”
Even though this grumpy man looked tough on the exterior, his dishes were indeed unrivaled. Meng Fuyao sat in the cabin, smelling the seductive, ambrosial aroma as she sighed. “How fragrant!”
“He just started the fire,” a customer beside her commented unnecessarily.
“It’s done! It’s done!” Meng Fuyao exclaimed excitedly with sparkling eyes after a moment.
“He just put in some condiments.” Another customer acted as a wet blanket.
After a while more, Meng Fuyao climbed onto the stool and looked around. The customers below shushed her uniformly. “Calm down, he only just put the fish in the pot!”
Meng Fuyao, thoroughly and utterly tortured by the mouth-watering scent, was writhing restlessly in her seat, seriously considering the idea of deploying 3,000 here to help the chef cook. Suddenly, the curtain at the end of the cabin flung open, and a pleasant-looking girl brought out the dishes, serving to every customer. With a melodious voice, she announced, “First dish, Mandarin Duck1 Fish.”
Meng Fuyao heard the name and pouted. “How lame!”
But the aroma, the presentation, and the taste were its complete opposite—absolutely refined. The meat of the fish was soft, flaky, and tender. A translucent, light yellow skin gently wrapped around it. The pale yellow fish contrasted beautifully with the white jade plate, surrounded by that savory, hearty and warm broth. That broth looked plain and clear yet, the aroma it was giving off made one want to dig right into it.
Meng Fuyao pounced forward and skillfully manipulated her chopsticks, accurately splitting the fish into halves. “Half each!”
The girl made her way over and reminded them with a smile. “No splitting of food, please share it.”
Meng Fuyao looked around and noticed that the surrounding couples were eating with their heads to heads. ‘Urgh, such public display of affection. No wonder he requested for couples only,’ Meng Fuyao thought, slightly disgusted.
“This dish has two main tastes. The head and the tail have a light, fragrant taste to it while the middle has a flavorful bite.” The chef appeared at the cabin’s entrance with a ladle in his hand. “Couples must sit facing each other as you eat. When you two initially met, it was probably a bland, boring meeting. But as the two of you get to know each other and spend happy, memorable times with one another, the two of you who had nothing to do with each other, are now being bound by love and fate. The two of you now walk down the same path, through both tough and happy times.”
He glanced at Meng Fuyao in disgust. “If you don’t understand my rules, don’t eat my food lest you defile my meaningful delicacies.”
Meng Fuyao mumbled under her breathe, “What’s with all these dumb rules!”
Zhangsun Wuji, however, had already started eating. They each occupied one end of the table. He smiled. ” These are great rules, great rules. ”
Meng Fuyao was annoyed but could not resist the temptation of the delicacies. She could only dig in, albeit a little unwillingly. The more she ate, the more the sweet, fresh taste of seafood came through, lingering on the tip of her tongue. Really, how did this guy make this fish taste this fresh and this juicy! As they chomp their way to the center of the fish, the tip of their noses almost touched. Suddenly, with a ‘ding,’ she felt that there was something odd beneath her chopsticks. Meng Fuyao picked it up and noticed it was a white, pearl-like fishball.
“Yay, we managed to find the Double Happiness Fishball!” The surrounding couples cheered.
The chef yelled, “Whoever picked it up, bite half of it and give it to the other party!”
Meng Fuyao exploded. In a fit of rage, she quit listening to the chef. “What a miser, can’t you afford two fishballs?”
“Fishballs?” The chef looked at her with contempt. He crossed his arms and looked up at the sky silently. Meng Fuyao glared at him and gritted her teeth. The lady at the next table smiled. “Miss, you may not have known this, but this is no ordinary fishball. This fishball was made from the ‘Fish of Seven Treasures’ from the golden river. As it often traverses large distances, the meat is tangy and bouncy, perfect for making fishballs. However, as the golden river is too far away, only one in a million survive the journey. It is already a feat that they can serve one fishball per table. Even this one single fishball costs 100 tales.”
Meng Fuyao rubbed her nose in chagrin. “Country bumpkin seethed the chef.”
Meng Bumpkin had no choice but to push the fishball across the table. She swallowed her saliva and told Zhangsun Wuji, “You can have it.”
Despite her sacrifice, the chef refused to let it go, yelling, “Share! Share! Are y’all posing as a couple?”
“So what if we are?” Meng Fuyao leaped up and rolled up her sleeves. “What can you do to me?”
The chef didn’t respond but pointed to a sign near the cabin door. Meng Fuyao then saw that it wrote: “Those that impersonate couples, please strip and swim back to shore nude.”
“Ahh… Why did you not remind me?” Meng Fuyao poked Zhangsun Wuji. The boat was smack in the middle of the wide river. To swim back would be too pitiful.
“It’s alright.” Zhangsun Wuji smiled. “I feel that no matter what happens, I won’t lose out.” He picked up the fishball and asked, “Why do you have to entertain him? Just eat the fishball, and the problem resolves itself.” He bit off half of the fishball gently, and conveniently fed the other half to Meng Fuyao, who had opened her mouth to lecture him.
Meng Fuyao: “…”
Zhangsun Wuji savored the food, nodded, and went back to sipping his tea. “Hm, great taste,” he commented. Suddenly, he stretched his hand over and gently patted the back of her neck. With much commiseration, he asked, “Did you choke?” He tried to help her breath again as he continued, “Don’t be too agitated.”
Teary-eyed Meng Fuyao: “…”
When the second dish was served, Meng Fuyao crawled out from her internal struggle as her eyes focused on the dish—away from Zhangsun Wuji. The name of this dish: Peach Blossoms.
Indeed, the dish lived up to its name. In its clear broth, there were bits and pieces of light pink snail meat floating peacefully it in, like peach blossoms making their way down the stream. The aroma was strong yet not sickening, refreshing like the peach blossoms as the wind caresses the trees.
“From this dish onwards, your relationship as a married couple will be put to the test. This is the Golden River’s famous peach snail; an extremely tough ingredient that demands high levels of skills from the chef. If done well, it will be fresh and succulent. But if not well prepared, it will be fishy and hard to swallow. The two extremes resemble the love life of a married couple—a loving marriage or one filled with hatred or complaints. This dish will tell me which couples you all belong to.”
Meng Fuyao was deep in thought trying to figure out the connection between the test and the snail meat, but it was quickly broken by the chef. “To all the husbands here,” the chef asked, “How many of your wife’s ten fingerprints are spiraled? How many are loops?”
Meng Fuyao slammed down her palm on the table, her anger was fueled once more. What a detailed, tough question! Who would be that free to count the number of spirals on his wife’s fingers? Putting the husband aside, even she herself didn’t even have any inkling to the answer.
As expected, a good half of the people couldn’t answer the question. Without an ounce of civility, the chef threatened them to hand over the fees for the meal. The wives were provided a small boat to sail back to the shore while the husbands were forced to strip and swim back to shore in this cold, freezing water of the early autumn.
The corners of Meng Fuyao’s mouth twitched. She was glad that the women got boats but pitied Zhangsun Wuji ever so slightly. But then, a lecherous intent crept into her head. ‘Oh ho, the Crown Prince is going to strip. The crown prince is going to swim completely naked. The world’s best benefit! To be able to lust after a certain someone’s toned body for free…’
The sound of the water splashing continued. This question was too odd to be able to answer. The girl who had been serving the dishes bit her lips with a smile as her gaze carefully measured every aspect of Zhangsun Wuji.
‘How shameless! Waiting to see his naked body!’ Meng Fuyao thought with anger.
The chef sat on the stool that was currently on the table. Looking down at Zhangsun Wuji, he questioned, “You?”
Zhangsun Wuji continued sipping his tea leisurely, looking down quietly.
“If you can’t answer, head out and in ten steps, jump into the water,” the chef said as he climbed down the chair with disappointment. He plodded back to the kitchen and yawned lazily. “I guess I won’t be cooking the next dish today.”
“Seven spirals, three loops.”
He casually and abruptly replied, and then, continued sipping his cup of tea.
Shocked, Meng Fuyao immediately lifted up her hands to double-check. After a while, she put down her hands and continued her dazed state.
With a teasing smile, Zhangsun Wuji glanced over. And then, he leaned in and whispered, “Not just the fingers. From the moment I’ve known you, every part of you, including your changes in size, I know them all.”
After a moment, the realization that a certain someone had seen her from head to toe finally hit. She threw out a vicious punch…
“The third dish!” The chef clapped his hands, ignoring the killing intent coming from Meng Fuyao—the ‘only loving couple that managed to pass the treacherous test.’
“My esteemed guests, please head over to the cabin below to enjoy the third dish individually,” the chef announced.
He made his way to the inner cabin first. Meng Fuyao and Zhangsun Wuji exchanged a glance and quickly followed him. That person made many turns before finally stopping in front of one of the doors.
That space available in the boat was very narrow. The area near the door was dark, and vaguely, one could see something flash by, and a fishy smell followed.
That person suddenly turned and pounced over.
Quick and agile, he pounced over to their feet.
Both Meng Fuyao and Zhangsun Wuji did not bother to move when he leaped over. The two could be considered as elites, and they were clear on the fact that someone rushing over did not necessarily mean that he would attack. On the other hand, someone who harbored the intent to attack might not rush over. Whether a person attacked, only their killing intent would tell.
This person not only did not have any killing intent, he barely knew of any martial arts.
He leaped over, and his initial grouchy and unfriendly attitude had now done a 180. Sincerely and politely, he looked up and greeted the two. “I have disgraced myself in front of the Crown Prince and King of Han. Please forgive me!”
Meng Fuyao mumbled, “Haughtiness to humility, huh…”
Meanwhile, Zhangsun Wuji took a step back. “We dare not accept your bow without knowing your identity.”
Meng Fuyao muttered again, “One who is unaccountably solicitous is hiding evil intentions.”
That person stood up and lowered his head. “Xuanji’s Feng Wu, greetings to the Crown Prince and the King of Han.”
Meng Fuyao uttered under her breath once more, “Feng Wu? Psh, I’ll be Liu Wu!”
Zhangsun Wuji pinched her back, and she immediately retaliated in the same way. The two continued pinching each other as they smiled. “Ah… Prince Feng Wu… Nice to meet you.”
The two did not bother to ask why a prince was cooking on a commoner’s boat, nor were they curious as to why he would hide his identity yet expose it to them. After exchanging their greetings, Meng Fuyao patted her stomach. “Ah… I’m so full.”
“Then, let’s head back. Tie Cheng and the boat lady are still waiting for us,” Zhangsun Wuji responded. The two turned to leave.