Chapter 23 – An Imperial Decree
July 7th, Qi Qiao Festival
The Royal Snack Kitchen was very busy. In addition to making cakes for the empress, they also needed to make a great amount of qiao guo*, to be sent to other palaces as gifts from the empress in celebration of the holiday.
[*T/N: 巧果 qiao guo – there is no English equivalent translation that I can think of. It’s a fried dough snack.]
The way to make qiao guo is: first put white sugar into the pot and melt it into a syrup, then mix in flour and sesame, combine well and then spread it out onto a flat surface to cool. After cooling, use a knife to cut it into squares, fold it and twist it into spindle shapes, and then deep fry until golden. It was not difficult to do, but the amount of work to be done was relatively large. Lin Jia Bao and the rest were busy from early morning till now.
“An Zhu, stop what you’re doing for now. Come with me to deliver the bird’s nest cake to the empress niang niang first.” Lin momo handed over a food box to An Zhu.
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“Yes. I’m coming, momo.” Lin Jia Bao put down the things in his hands and then went to wash his hands.
“Lin momo, how about you take me too?” Yu Long asked Lin momo. Today was the Qi Qiao Festival. She purposely wore the delicate embroidered pouch that she spent a long time embroidering, and wanted to show her face in front of the empress.
“No need. It’s fine with just An Zhu and me. The three of you pay attention to making the qiao guo.” Lin momo ignored her request. How could she not know Yu Long’s intentions?
Yu Long watched Lin momo and An Zhu leave, feeling indignant in her heart.
When Lin momo took An Zhu to the main hall of Yong Shou Palace, she saw Zhou momo waiting right outside the hall.
“Lin momo, you two are here. Both the empress niang niang and the crown prince are here, they’re waiting for your desserts.” Zhou momo gave Lin momo a meaningful glance.
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“This must be An Zhu. I heard from Lin momo that your skills are quite good.” Zhou momo said to An Zhu with a beaming smile. She was really satisfied with his appearance, and thought to herself that she should be able to report back on her mission with this.
“Greetings, Zhou momo.” Lin Jia Bao stepped forward to say hello to Zhou momo, and smiled shyly at her praise.
Lin momo walked in front. Suddenly she bent over cradling her stomach. “Oww, why does my stomach hurt so much all of a sudden…?”
Lin Jia Bao nervously supported Lin momo. “Momo, what’s wrong?”
“Ooh, my stomach suddenly feels uncomfortable, oww… An Zhu, ah, you and Zhou momo go in, ba. It’s too lacking in manners to go see the empress niang niang and crown prince like this.” Lin momo said to An Zhu.
“Lin momo, what will you do? Is it really bad?” Lin Jia Bao asked, not assured.
“It’s nothing. I’ll be fine after going to the restroom. Just go.” Lin momo said.
“Yes.” Lin Jia Bao carried the food box into the main hall with Zhou momo.
In the main hall, the empress and the crown prince were sitting and talking, when the empress spotted An Zhu coming in with the snacks. Lin Jia Bao stepped forward and knelt down to salute. “An Zhu of Royal Snack Kitchen, kowtows to empress niang niang and Your Royal Highness.”
“Rise.” The empress looked at him carefully. It was indeed as Zhou momo had said; he really was a child with a pleasing face.
The empress saw the magpie-shaped pastries on the plate. “What kind of dessert is this? The shape is very seasonal.”
[T/N: Magpies are associated with the Qi Qiao Festival. It is said that a flock of magpies fly together to form a bridge that reunites the two lovers, cowherd and weaver girl.]
“Replying to Your Majesty*, this is bird’s nest cake. It is made of maltose, crushed bird’s nest, sugar, and cake flour, and it tastes sweet. Today is the Qi Qiao Festival, so we specifically used the magpie mold.” Lin Jia Bao replied carefully.
[*T/N: The text and the characters often refer to her as 皇后娘娘 huang hou niang niang, which translates to “empress” (皇后 huang hou) and “suffix for empress / imperial concubine” (娘娘 niang niang), which I’ve been translating as “empress niang niang” in dialogue and “the empress” in text, but I decided to change it up to “Her/Your Majesty,” because “Your Majesty” matches more with “Your Royal Highness” (in reference to XYHC).]
The empress saw that he answered in an orderly manner, did not panic, and was not timid. She liked him a little more.
Xuan Yuan Han Cheng looked at Lin Jia Bao’s cute little face. “How long have you been in the palace? How do you feel about the palace? Are you used to it yet?”
“Replying to Your Royal Highness, An Zhu has been in the palace for more than a year. I am already accustomed to life in the palace. The palace is very good, and I have learned how to make snacks from Lin momo.”
Xuan Yuan Han Cheng asked again, “Where are you from? Where does your family live? Who else is in your family? Do you have any siblings?”
Translations by Vanilla Muse.
“An Zhu is from Pei County in Xu Province. My family is in Lin Jia Village, not far from Pei County. In my family there is my father and mother, I also have an older brother and two older sisters, and one younger brother and one younger sister.” Lin Jia Bao answered truthfully.
Everything that Lin Jia Bao just said, Xuan Yuan Han Cheng already knew. He watched his treasure speaking each word with his little mouth, and a passionate fire lit up in his heart.
“Your family is prosperous in children. Very good.” Xuan Yuan Han Cheng put emphasis on the words ‘prosperous in children,’ speaking with ulterior motive.
The empress listened to the crown prince’s words, and nodded in satisfaction. “Your mother is very blessed.”
“Ha ha, you are also a blessed person. Take this, a reward for you.” Xuan Yuan Han Cheng gave a ruyi scepter jade pendant to Lin Jia Bao.
[T/N: The ruyi scepter is a symbol of power and good fortune. 如意 ru yi also means “as you wish” or “as you desire”]
Lin Jia Bao looked at the ruyi scepter jade pendant and froze.
“His Royal Highness is rewarding you. Quickly give thanks.” Zhou momo tugged on An Zhu.
“My thanks to Your Royal Highness!” Lin Jia Bao received the jade pendant and smiled sweetly. This was the first time he received a reward alone.