“I’m done.” Pei Yan raised his eyes to look at her, “What did you want to say just now”
“Umm, I wanted to apologise to you.” Tao Ti bowed her head guiltily and said, “I’ve just returned from the Gates of Hell, and have also figured out some things.
Even if I was unwilling to accept this marriage, I shouldn’t have used such an impulsive method to resolve it.
Since Your Highness has promised to give me a letter of annulment, I will behave from now on and never give Your Highness any more trouble… you can just treat me as if I don’t exist.”
Pei Yan looked surprised; his gaze fell upon her soft and graceful profile, and his inky black pupils seemed to be searching for something.
After a period of contemplation, he said softly, “You are my crown princess, how can I treat you as if you do not exist.”
These words, when coming out of his mouth, seemed as if a gentle filter had been applied to them; Tao Ti felt a tingling in her ears.
Just as she was about to respond, Pei Yan suddenly began to cough.
“Cough cough cough…”
Tao Ti was startled and looked at him anxiously, “Your Highness, are you alright”
He hurriedly took out a handkerchief from his sleeve to cover his lips.
The pale face flushed with an unhealthy crimson from the coughing.
“I… cough… I’m fine.”
Seeing his thin body shaking violently, Tao Ti hastily added some warm water to his cup.
“Drink some water.”
“Many thanks.” Pei Yan picked up the cup of tea and took two sips; his coughing gradually came to a stop.
He smiled apologetically at her with some shame, “Did I scare you”
“No, no, I am not so easily frightened.” Tao Ti shook her little head in a way that made her look like a rattle drum.
“My body has always been like this, I hope you won’t mind…” Pei Yan’s voice was light; his lush eyelashes hung low, casting a shadow beneath his defined browbones.
The gentler a person, the more sensitive they would be, right
Tao Ti said, “Not at all.
It’s not like you chose to have to sickly body.
Don’t feel inferior because of this.
Even though we’ve only met not long ago, I think you are a very good person.”
He, was a very good person
Pei Yan’s dark eyes narrowed slightly; his thin lips curved into a warm and harmless smile.
“It’s good that you don’t mind.”
The two sat in silence for a moment.
Just as Tao Ti was wondering what to say to break the silence, her stomach growled inopportunely.
Pei Yan was momentarily stunned when he heard her stomach growl.
When he recovered, he asked softly, “Hungry”
Tao Ti hugged her stomach, too embarrassed to raise her head, and gave a soft “mm”.
“I’ve been negligent.” After saying this, Peri Yan raised his voice and directed it towards the door, “Attendants, bring some food in.”
Before long, the palace maids delivered some dishes.
The prince was in poor health, so his diet was very light.
A piping hot bowl of wolfberry japonica rice congee that had been boiled very thick, crisp and refreshing slices of magnolia slices made with winter bamboo shoots; rouge goose breast with an enticing colour and lustre, served with sweet sauce eight treasure pickles, sweet sauce shredded vegetables and sweet sauce radish4.
The dessert was the subtly sweet and delicious sweet osmanthus glutinous rice balls5, as well as an exquisite pastry platter6 of mung bean cake, pea flour cake and white sugar sponge cake, and two kinds of candied fruits.
After smelling the aroma of the food, Tao Ti was instantly unbearably hungry.
But with so many palace maids present, she was too embarrassed to stuff her face, so she could only sit reservedly at the table and stare eagerly at the dishes.
Pei Yan could tell that she was ill at ease, and ordered the palace maids in a low voice, “You may all leave.”
After the palace maids withdrew, he turned his face towards Tao Ti and said warmly, “There is no one else now, you can eat if you are hungry.”
Tao Ti relaxed at once, blinking at him with bright eyes, “Thank you.
Then, I won’t hold back.”
Pei Yan was somewhat taken aback at her sincere smile, then lowered his eyes slowly and gave a careless “Mm” in reply.
They were dishes made by the imperial kitchens after all, and all tasted pretty good.
The wolfberry japonica rice congee and magnolia slices made with winter bamboo shoots were prepared the way they should be, doing justice to the dishes’ true taste.
The various sweet sauce side dishes were also pickled deliciously.
The more outstanding dish was the rouge goose breast.
The fragrant, mellow wine and honey were in perfect harmony in the goose meat, making the goose meet incomparably tender and soft.
When one took a bite, the plump meat juices bloomed on one’s tongue, sweet and salty, leaving an endless aftertaste.
Tao Ti tasted this dish once at a restaurant on Shantang Street in Suzhou.
It already tasted very good then, but the one in front of her now was made with a wine that was mellower and more refined, so the flavour was also richer.
Tao Ti ate one mouthful after another happily.
She saw that Pei Yan had stopped eating after only having half a bowl of congee.
Adhering to the creed that “it’s disgraceful to waste food “, she took the initiative to assume the responsibility of sweeping the plates cleans——
So, in the next thirty minutes, Pei Yan watched the petite maiden polish off all the dishes on the table.
He couldn’t help but think of the consorts, concubines, and noblewomen he had met at various banquets in the past.
They always ate very little, and could nibble on a small piece of pastry for an hour… Could it be that this was the true appetites of noblewomen when they were in private
Seeing Tao Ti set down her chopsticks with an expression of satisfaction, Pei Yan handed a clean handkerchief to her.
“Are you full”
“Mm, I’m full.” Tao Ti took the handkerchief and swept a glance at his bowl reflexively.
His bowl of wolfberry japonica congee was only half-finished.
She asked, “Your Highness, you do not like congee”
“I can’t eat too much at night, it could easily lead to indigestion.”
Realisation suddenly dawned on Tao Ti—oh yeah, he was in ill health, so his digestive system wouldn’t be as good as a healthy person’s. Besides, when one was ill, one would naturally not have a good appetite.
In that moment, Tao Ti grew even more sympathetic towards Pei Yan, thinking that if she had the chance, she would cook a few dishes that could stimulate the appetite for him to try, to see if she could improve his appetite.
When the palace maids came to clean up the remnants and dishes, and saw the entire table of food had been wiped clean, they couldn’t help but grumble inwardly, Didn’t this crown princess not want to live earlier Why has her appetite suddenly become so good To think that she can actually even eat, what a heartless person!
After taking a bath and changing, Tao Ti walked around the screen and went back to the inner room.
Pei Yan had already taken off his wedding robes and was sitting quietly on the edge of the bed.
He was dressed in thin, bold red nightclothes.
His head of inky hair hung down like a waterfall; it seemed like he had exhausted himself, and his head was leaning against the bedpost.
The peerlessly handsome was shrouded with a faint layer of fatigue; with his eyes were closed, he looked like an impossibly beautiful jade mountain.
Tao Ti was afraid of disturbing this beautiful picture.
She was about to tiptoe closer when Pei Yan abruptly opened his eyes.
Tao Ti’s back stiffened, and she smiled awkwardly, “Yes… Are you feeling tired How about going to bed soon”
His eyes were enshrouded with a layer of hazy, watery light; he gave a light nod.
“It’s late, it’s time to rest.”
Tao Ti’s heart began beating wildly from his gaze.
Did he mean to sleep together with her
4 All the sweet sauce dishes are side dishes of vegetables (usually picked) with different condiments, with the main one being Sweet Bean Sauce (甜麪醬 tian mian jiang), a thick, dark brown condiment and seasoning made from wheat flour, sugar, salt, and sometimes fermented soybeans.
As the name suggests, the sauce is sweet, though it’s also salty and adds umami to dishes.
However, its name is also misleading.
Despite the word “bean” in its common English translation, the primary ingredient in it is wheat, and not soybeans.
Some brands are not made with any soybeans at all, and use only wheat flour.
5 sweet osmanthus glutinous rice balls: 桂花酒釀丸子 Guihua jiunian wanzi; a Chinese dessert commonly found in the Zhejiang region.
It consists of mini chewy glutinous rice balls, subtly sweet (and “boozy”) soup with jiuniang (fermented glutinous rice) and dried osmanthus flower.
6 Traditional Chinese desserts are very different from Western ones, and though the word ‘cake’ is used, they are nothing like Western-style cakes.
They range from being dense, paste-like confections, steamed “cakes”, or even jelly-like desserts, usually made with flours made with beans, pulses and grains (e.g.
rice and glutinous rice).
In this platter, there’s:
mung bean cake (綠豆糕; lü dou gao): a dense, paste-like confection, made with mung bean paste pressed into intricate moulds
Pea flour cake (豌豆黃; Wan dou huang): a dense, paste-like confection, made with yellow split peas paste pressed into intricate moulds
white sugar sponge cake (白糖糕; bai tang gao): a white steamed cake made with rice flour, sugar, and yeast with a soft, spongey, and chewy consistency.
The taste is sweet, and sometimes has a slightly sour taste due to the fermentation of the batter prior to cooking.