Chapter 74 – Laba
Zhang Ji He woke up dazed and bewildered.
Wasn’t he just in the study room thinking of countermeasures for dealing with the Xue Zhi Qi situation?
Somehow, he seemed to have fallen asleep.
Where was this place? Zhang Ji He rubbed his eyes and found himself sitting on a reclining chair. He was in an elegantly furnished room, which was scented with the smell of sandalwood.
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When Zhang Ji He walked to the outer room he saw a young man dressed as a scholar sitting and steeping tea. His dignified and flowing movements were enchanting to watch. If it weren’t for the situation at this moment, Zhang Ji He would not be able to help applauding him in his heart.
“Zhang-daren*, you’re awake…” The young man raised his head and glanced at Zhang Ji He, his hands still moving slowly.
[*T/N: 大人 da ren – literal translation is “big person.” It is used as a title of respect toward superiors.]
“Who are you? Why am I here…” Zhang Ji He said vigilantly.
“This humble servant is Zheng Jia. I took the liberty of inviting Zhang-daren here. Please forgive me for being so bold.” Zheng Jia handed a cup of steeped tea to Zhang Ji He. “Please help yourself [to the tea].” Zheng Jia poured a second cup for himself and took a sip.
The name Zheng Jia sounded familiar to Zhang Ji He. Wait a minute… Wasn’t Zheng Jia the crown prince’s best adviser, nicknamed Zhu Ge* junior, and the third young master of the Zheng family?
[*T/N: Zhu Ge refers to Zhu Ge Liang, who was a military leader and prime minister of Shu Han during the Three Kingdoms period. He’s considered a sage and military genius.]
Zhang Ji He took a sip of tea and concealed the panic in his heart. His son’s words flashed in his mind: a young man with a stoic face and a pretty xiaoshi by his side. That… that couldn’t have been His Royal Highness, right…?
Zhang Ji He has also heard the news of the crown prince excessively doting on a xiaoshi. If it were His Royal Highness… then everything would make sense. With the crown prince’s personality, naturally he would not be afraid of the Xue family, and only His Royal Highness could have Xue Zhi Qi killed with none the wiser…
“This one is here to help Zhang-daren today. That Madam Xue wants your son to pay with his life…” Zheng Jia really had to take his hat off to His Royal Highness.
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His Royal Highness actually came up with the plan to kill Xue Zhi Qi to alienate Xue Gui and his confidant. Of course, Zheng Jia would never be able to guess that the origin of all this was due to Xue Zhi Qi catcalling Lin Jia Bao, and bringing disaster upon himself…
Seeing that Zhang Ji He was silent, Zheng Jia continued to speak: “This one admires loyal people the most… but that would also depend on who this person is loyal to… After the incident with Xue Zhi Qi, do you still think that Xue Gui will treat you as his confidant? To a confidant that he no longer trusts, but who also knows many of his secrets… I believe Zhang-daren already knows the fate that awaits him…”
Zheng Ji He drank all the tea in the teacup. He was a smart man. Over the years, he was able to stand out from among Xue Gui’s many subordinates and become Xue Gui’s confidant. Naturally, he had his brilliance. He also understood what Zheng Jia was saying. The worst-case scenario for him would be the Zhang family falling to the bottom and him losing his life…
But to have him betray Xue Gui and the Xue family… the consequences was not something that he and his Zhang family could bear…
“I understand Zhang-daren’s apprehensions, but the Xue family is already in decline. Sooner or later, His Royal Highness will…” After a meaningful pause, Zheng Jia went on: “Think about it, Zhang-daren. I believe you can give His Royal Highness a satisfying response.”
Zhang Ji He was about to say something, but suddenly his vision became dark and he lost consciousness. When he woke up again, he found himself back in the study, as if he had just had a dream and never left.
In the blink of an eye, time passed, and it was the eighth day of the twelfth lunar month, the Laba Festival.
Laba congee* was naturally indispensible for the Laba festival.
[*T/N: Laba congee is a ceremonial rice porridge dish eaten during the Laba festival. It started out as a rice dish cooked with red beans, but has since developed into many variations, usually with nuts and dried fruit, but can also include meat and produce depending upon the region.]
A few days ago, Xuan Yuan Han Cheng assigned the task of hosting the Laba Festival and delivering Laba congee to Lin Jia Bao. And Qiu-momo would be providing assistance.
Lin Jia Bao accepted this task very happily and set about to do it very seriously. He doubled-checked with Qiu-momo all the palaces that needed Laba congee, including the crown prince’s East Palace, the crown prince’s subordinates, and all the important court ministers.
Lin Jia Bao also personally checked the ingredients for making Laba congee. The Laba congee in the palace was made more exquisitely. Lin Jia Bao remembered that back home they used to make the Laba congee with eight ingredients. But in the palace, red dates, lotus seeds, walnuts, chestnuts, pine nuts, longan, ginkgo, red beans, peanuts, etcetera were all added to the white rice… There were no less than twenty kinds of ingredients in total.
Bright and early on the day of the Laba Festival, Lin Jia Bao had the chefs cook the Laba congee in a large pot. After the Laba congee was cooked, Lin Jia Bao presided over the worshipping ceremony. Under Qiu-momo’s guidance, Lin Jia Bao successfully completely his tasks one by one.
Translations by Vanilla Muse.
The next step was to deliver the Laba congee to the various palaces. First it was to the emperor and the empress, then to the princes and the emperor’s other concubines. Then there were the servants of the crown prince’s East Palace, and finally His Royal Highness’s subordinates, as well as some of the courtiers’ families. All of this had to be delivered before noon.
When Lin Jia Bao was all done, Xuan Yuan Han Cheng just came back from morning court.
“Darling, you did a great job! Thanks for your hard work, my baby…”
“It’s not hard. I just gave the commands. It’s all thanks to Qiu-momo helping me. I also have to trouble Qiu-momo for the small family banquet in the evening. I only chose the menu…” Lin Jia Bao said humbly to Qiu-momo.
“Lin-xiaozhu is too humble. It is what this old servant should do.” Qiu-momo bowed to the crown prince and then tactfully retreated.
Xuan Yuan Han Cheng kissed Lin Jia Bao as if no one else was present. “My baby doesn’t have to worry about these things. You just need to know how to make decisions. Qiu-momo and the rest will arrange things…”
“Understood. The tasks that you assign me, I just want to do them well…” Lin Jia Bao said somewhat coquettishly.