Xianggong, Please Divorce Me!

Ch. 16: Deep In The Enemy Camp Scouting The Actual Situation

TL’ed by snowflake_obsidian

Edited by Xia

[1] 干粮; field rations, dried provisions, dried food.

[2] The text has 古怪涅 (gǔguài niè) though I believe 古怪孽 (gǔguài niè) is meant.

[3] 和禧院; harmonious auspicious, or harmonious joy courtyard

[4] 韵院; Music, beautiful sound, or charming courtyard.

[5] 时辰 is the unit of time used. I’m converting it into hours since that is what modern readers are used to.

[6] 饼; This generally is something round and somewhat flat which can be eaten.

Ch 16 – Deep in The Enemy Camp Scouting the Actual Situation

Su Tang had a crafty smile. “Don’t worry, people are always come up with a resourceful solution!  Oh, right. The manufacturing tools and materials are settled, and a qualified master has been taken care of?”

“I already finished inquiring about the former, and also found a shop assistant. Only, qualified workers are not too easy to find as the good ones are all already working in pastry shops belonging to other families. I also don’t dare collect samples, the exteriors are all repulsive, and the workmanship is still not as good as mine!” Xiao Mo hung his head as he spoke, an appearance of the assistant having disgraced the mission.

Su Tang patted his forehead, smiled and said, “It’d would be a wonder if you were able to find a good master worker in these few days.  However, we cannot persuade resources from competitors to come to our side. Everyone says that there are many officials in the capital, an abundant number. We do not have footing here and cannot rashly offend people. Moreover, the other family’s master workers are good but they are not better than your family’s young miss!”  Speaking, Su Tang had a proud expression.

Su Tang had pride in her ability to capitalize on things. It was as if she was born to be in the pastry business, quick brains, remarkably fast churning out new products, and in particular, out of the ordinary ingredients. In the prior few months at Su Ji, she introduced a round dumpling, sweet rice flour mixed with pumpkin enveloping a sesame filling. Because of the sweet scented exterior layer, non-sticky sweet rice inside, and rich sweet fragrance, it in no small measure received the partiality of numerous married women and young ladies. Even the county magistrate, who ate one every now and then, also praised it without ceasing. Just because of this new variety, Su Tang’s final days in Ping city also fiercely earned a bunch of profit.

“Oh, where are you staying now? Do you have enough spending money?”  Su Tang gave Xiao Mo 32 silver when he went to the capital.

“Enough, enough!” Xiao Mo smiled. “I’m now staying in the southern part of the capital at Mountain God Temple.”

Initially hearing this Su Tang’s eyebrows raised. “But Mountain God Temple doesn’t demand payment! Then did or did you not use a single penny of that 32! Food and drink still is on your own money!”

Ill at ease, Xiao Mo laughed and lowered his head, not daring to reply. All along he used his own money, usually just carrying some dried provisions [1] with as he busily rushed about. The prices in the capital were too high, he must economize a little for young miss. When the time comes to open the shop, the expenditures will be great!

Su Tang looked at this appearance of his, not knowing what matter was weighing in his mind. She wanted to firmly bat his head, but it softly fell in the end.  “You are still physically growing now. If you don’t eat and live a little better then you won’t grow tall.  I don’t want a little dwarf stationed in my store! Your family’s young miss has money, no need for you to economize.  You just save that little, keep nicely accumulating to be your wife’s principal source!”

These words expressed, Xiao Mo’s face burned hot.  If it were not for his deep skin color, 2 blushing red clouds would be seen on his face. He stealthily shot a quick glance at Xi Que standing on the side who exactly at that time was glowering towards him, eyes again darkened.

“Alright, you first go back. Without delay start eating better. Remember do not economize for my sake!” After Su Tang grumpy exhortation, she again spoke. “Then (this) afternoon I will go to the main east street. You wait there for me.”

After Xiao Mo left, without delay Su Tang returned to her own courtyard.  She heard Xi Que complain excessively all the way back. Irrespective of what Su Tang said, she nevertheless didn’t tell Xi Que early on.  Irrespective of marrying someone, Su Tang still didn’t stop her antics) In the end Xi Que even made use of the phrase “act first and afterwards tell others” which made Su Tang not know whether to laugh or cry.

Seeing everyone leave, Xuan Zi crawled out from the windowsill down onto a rock, brushed off the dust and pulled his clothing straightening them. Striding his small short legs, he tagged along behind them.

He arrived a little late due to his little legs. Two people chatted and dropped their voices. Therefore, Xuan Zi heard half, what was bits here and there. It’s just that seeing Su Tang and that fellow’s intimate enthusiasm, he rather felt there was a big matter that was far from good.

Su Tang returned to her room, searched in the trousseau for that red wood box with the “Hua Kai Fu Gui”. Turning through the clothing with the pale grey-pink embroidered plum blossom, she groped around looking for that thick piece, picked up scissors and cut away at the seam of that layer of cloth. She again physically exerted herself and ripped, one small booklet was then exposed.

Some things were recorded in the booklet, numerous and close together, pastries recipes.  And 10 silver draft banknotes were pressed in between pages …. each denomination 120, altogether 1,200.  This was her return from operating Su Ji for 5 years as well as the dowry given by her elderly father. (It) also was all her capital to open a store.

She had better be able to bear 620 in rent!

Putting away the silver drafts inside a pocket next to (her) skin, Su Tang leisurely exhaled, only feeling soaring aspirations! …. a glorious future beckoned to her, her Su Tang’s pastry shop was on the verge of being born, after that, operate everywhere in the realm!

Ah ha ha ha ha!

Su Tang was excited beyond description. When eating a meal, her mind was completely on drawing up arrangements for the store, 2 eyes shone, extremely excited spirits, rather like taking drugs.

Xuan Zi watched with a detached view point and immersed himself in eating.  This woman’s heart has secret motives!

Su Tang very quickly discovered Xuan Zi was off. She used her chopsticks to give him some food, puzzled asked, “Ah, I discovered that you look at me as if I were a grotesque demon [2].

Xuan Zi didn’t utter a sound and stuffed a piece of red-cooked pork into his mouth. His eyes drooped while munching…. done for, the enemy has discovered a suspicious point!

Su Tang saw that he completely ignored her, she bit her chopsticks and gave up. Anyhow this small brat is too big for his britches, and is not an ordinary person who can be understood!

Finishing eating, she ordered Fu Rong to take Xuan Zi back to his room for an afternoon nap. After that, Su Tang saw that it was almost time and walked to her inner room to begin changing clothes.

After a burst of rustling noises, Su Tang came out.  She was not a married woman with beautiful hair, pearl hairpin, and silk skirt, but rather a bun haired youth with a jade hairpin. Bold eyebrows added a heroic spirit and heavy powder was smeared on the face to diminish her tender and lovely look, a girdle bundled up the hillocks changing the chest into level ground.

To prepare for anything unexpected, even that cheongsam collar was tall covering up the neck.  It went without saying that Su Tang was frank, straight-forward and sprightly, changed into men’s clothing she even more had a pressing heroic spirit.

“Xiao Xi Que, your family’s young miss in this attire is handsome, spirited, confident, suave, and at ease. Ai yo, if by chance I go out today and all the families’ young ladies fancy me then what’s to be done?” Su Tang’s whole face was distressed as she spoke.

Xi Que still felt wronged. Impetuous, she pouted and said, “Then you just shouldn’t go out!”

Su Tang ignored her. Touching her own chest, she also asked, “Is this flat enough? Ah, the binding is truly uncomfortable.”

“Flat! Both baozi’s are pressed down into flat pancakes!” Xi Que said sulking. “Young miss, I just don’t know what you really want to do. A proper general’s furen does not insist on going out and showing your face in public to set up a shop. If people recognize you, not only will you be disgraced but gu ye will also be disgraced! You’re this old and still persistently acting willful, making a scene!”

Su Tang innocently spoke. “This is not me putting on an act. You see, I dress in this style because I’m merely afraid that other people will recognize me and provoke trouble! Indeed, your family’s young miss didn’t have to cover up when going out in Ping city.”

“Right, and you still suffered grievances!” Xi Que angrily turned around and straight-forwardly refused to acknowledge her.

Su Tang seeing her this way found it somewhat laughable. “I discovered that the bad temper of our family’s Xi Que has improved!”

“You’re used to it!” Xi Que retorted back.

Su Tang extended her claws and pinched Xi Que’s chubby face.  Smiling Su Tang said, “Very good! Has a personality! I like that! However, I’m going out. You take offense at your leisure. Don’t keep me company. Ha!” Speaking, she exited the door.

Xi Que arose and stood up. “Young miss, you’re not taking me with?”

Su Tang stroked her chin and glazed toward the sky. “My white lotus flower Xiao Xi Que doesn’t want to make this trip with me, wading this trickle of turbid water. Otherwise you’d have an accusation of being an accomplice. When the time comes that your family’s gu ye knows, then all your wing feathers will be plucked out. This is why you’re suffering. You, be well-behaved and stay in the house covering for me. Ha, remember to wrap the quilt on the bed around a pillow. See you later!”

Su Tang finished speaking. Already taking advantage that nobody was paying attention, she, quick as a flash, went out, just leaving Xi Que who was drumming her cheek, still angry. She was angry for a long time, walked to the side of the bed, furiously took the pillow, squeezed it and wrapped the quilt around! She inwardly prayed to herself that the general would come back a little late!

Ah ah ah! Stinky young miss! Still saying you don’t want me to be an accomplice!

Su Tang earlier yesterday asked timid innocent Shao Yao and was already clear on the layout of the generals’ manor.

The general’s manor has 3 large courtyards. She and Song Shi An live in the He Xi courtyard [3], lao taitai in Fu Rui courtyard in the northeast corner, and the 4 young ladies are left in Yun courtyard [4] on the west side.

Apart from these there are still a few places with small storied buildings and small courtyards, which are methodically situated. It’s usually empty here other than when guests come. The manor has one south facing main door, east and west have a side entrance at the same place but all have a young lad guarding those. There’s no door without a young male servant watching it, however the roads by those places aren’t suitable for walking.  Going out and coming in are all inconvenient, for this reason those were set aside a long time.

Shao Yao is a servant girl who lao taitai brought with from the clan residence. She was 8 years-old when she arrived and now has been in the manor 6 years, so she knows everything like the palm of her hand.  Seeing her diligence and inward elegance, lao taitai soon afterwards intentionally allocated Shao Yao to Su Tang’s courtyard as a personal maid servant. Anyway, because Shao Yao is simple and says little, she is also just right to avert suspicion as being an informant.

Contrary to what one might expect, Su Tang quite likes this maid servant, apart from the relatively odd indescribable fear she always has when looking at Su Tang.

At this moment, Su Tang was walking toward that discarded small door on the north side, using the path that according to Shao Yao would avoid being noticed by ears and eyes. The reason high noon was chosen to leave home was simply that the summer heat didn’t vanish at that time, so servants always would take a short lazy nap and also make it convenient for her to go out.

She proceeded all the way without any interference, up until walking past a rock garden and hearing the faint music of traditional Chinese instruments coming through from a place not far away.  Su Tang’s eyes looked at the unique flourishing courtyard there.  She suppressed a twitch of her mouth…..why is it that hard to make up disparities between people. You are all preoccupied with enjoyment while this old mother must still be occupied with making money!

Eh wrong, I have to pursue my youthful ideals!

Exiting the door and avoiding the pathway, Su Tang got onto the main street. With a straight back she began to play her role as big brother gongzi. Why didn’t she earlier ask Xiao Mo about the main east street which is not far from here, only an hour’s walk by foot [5].  She barely went a few steps and caught sight ahead, a person squatting under a large fig tree gnawing on a flat cake in his hand while peering at the gate of the general’s manor.

He temporarily was at a loss seeing Su Tang, after that the entire face then was pleasantly surprised, “Young ….”

“Shush!” Su Tang hastily interrupted. “Now I’m your family’s gongzi!”

Xiao Mo looked up and down, revealing a row of even regular white teeth. “Gongzi is really handsome!”

“Naturally without a doubt.” Su Tang was not without pride in herself. “Oh right, why are you here? Furthermore, why are you eating this dried cookie [6]!”

After the one question, it was obvious that he mustn’t respond.  Xiao Mo smiled saying, “I’m afraid young, eh, I’m afraid that gongzi doesn’t know the way therefore I waited here. The people are numerous and the roads are also numerous here, unlike Ping city.”

Su Tang’s heart was warm and the) again sour. She didn’t know the way. In the beginning when Xiao Mo came to the capital, he also didn’t recognize anything and even more fumbled around little by little.  Now she had someone to lead the way, but at that time Xiao Mo had no one to lead him!

“Let’s go. After finishing handling matters, I must return a little early, unlike the freedom I had when in Ping city.” Su Tang spoke and departed from the large fig tree with Xiao Mo.

And yet at this time, a small head stretched out from the wall’s side corner. Xuan Zi saw the 2 people leave. He extended a little hand and scratched his forehead, turned his head around. After his eyes looked at the 2 threatening guardian lions at the entrance of the general’s manor, it seemed like he made up his mind. Striding his small short legs, again he followed to catch up.

Deputy General Liu said, go deep into the enemy’s camp and search out what is true and what is false! I’m a scout now on the front lines!

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