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Chapter 24: Tofu over Jade

 

It was a long while before Fan Xian managed to calm down, the cold sweat clinging his clothes tightly to his body.

 

He extracted the long and thin dagger from the assassin’s arm. The rasping noises of blade separating from flesh and bone was horrifying, making him hesitates for a while before removing the intricate but deadly hidden crossbow from the casing in the assassin’s sleeve.

 



Although the thin, long dagger was coated black to hide its reflective surface, Fan Xian knew that Teacher Fei Jie’s personally concocted black coating was not only poisonous, but had sometimes included a medicine which increases the sensation of pain in humans. He carefully inserted the slim dagger into the hard rubber scabbard and, with one last look of the assassin’s corpse in the bed and Old Ha’s legs under the bed, he turned around and left.

 

The blind Five-Bamboo was standing quietly at the corner of the stairs as he pushed open the door. His voice travelled over, “If the carriage did not come, what would have happened?”

 

Fan Xian lowered his head and was silent for a long while. Having finally overcome the fear from having killed a person for the first time, he raised his head and smiled triumphantly. “I would have kept still like him and waited for you to come.”

 

They climbed down the back wall once more. The training of climbing the cliff outside Danzhou port finally paid off today. Fan Xian’s two legs touched the floor and he slowly walked away. He knew that Five-Bamboo would leave him immediately but, if he was in danger, he would appear again.

 

The passersby were bustling all around as he strolled along the market. He remained silent, his right hand dangling beside his thighs slightly quivering.

 

He walked with heavy footsteps to a corner of the market and stopped in front of a stall. This was a tofu selling stall; the one managing the stall was a twenty-something lady. She had a gentle and beautiful face; her hands were smooth and white. An apron was wrapped around her waist.

 

“Dong-er Onee-chan.” Fan Xian smiled gently and greeted her. This was the Eldest Servant girl he had chased out of the Manor. When he was still at a tender age, Fan Xian would often lie on her bosom and sleep. They were really close. After Dong-er left the Manor, she opened a tofu stand in the market, which was why Fan Xian would often buy the tofu here back home.

 

When Dong-er saw that it was him, a warm smile brightened her face. Leading him in, she asked “Young master, why’re you here?”

 

They sat on the small stools. As more and more people came to buy the tofu, Dong-er awkwardly glanced at him.

 

Fan Xian nodded, allowing her to return to taking care of her business. He turned around towards the inside of the stall and discovered the cot. A girl of two to three years old was sitting in the cot. Her cheeks were rosy and her clumsy soft hands were stretched out in front of her, playing the small bell attached to the side of the bed.

 

Fan Xian reached out and hugged the little brat out of the cot, playing with her. When Dong-er turned around saw this, she hurriedly came over and took her in her bosom, lamenting, “Don’t get your clothes dirty. When you return, the other servant girls will have to wash them.”

 

“Dong-er Onee, when I was about the same age as your daughter, didn’t you also hug me everyday like that?” Fan Xian chuckled.

 

Dong-er laughed. “Young master, how could you compare yourself to us servants?” It was curious – Dong-er was chased out the Manor mercilessly by Fan Xian after having tasted the dishes before Fan Xian had. However, from the tone, she did not seem to despise this young boy.

 

Fan Xian scratched his head and did not know what to say. Dong-er seemed to know he was in a bad mood so she cooed at her daughter, “Call him Young master, Young… Mas… ter…”

 

“Call me little Uncle.” Fan Xian insisted.

 

……

 

……

 

He sat at the tofu stand for a long while, looking at the Dong-er cut, steam and wrapping the tofu, he played with the little girl beside him, getting her to call him little Uncle. A long long while later, Fan Xian finally managed to melt the ice in his heart. Standing up, he bid farewell to Dong-er.

 

Dong-er was slightly troubled. “You’ve came all the way here, and I don’t even have anything good to eat here.”

 

Fan Xian laughed. “Dong-er Onee, do you really think I lack good food?”

 

“That’s true.” Dong-er covered her face and laughed, the shyness of a typical young * (The * here is in the word 少*妇, which could then be taken to mean widow/newlywed/other statuses of marriage, so I have no idea what to put here ~MCM) woman. She suddenly said, “Young master, thanks for buying all these things for the little girl.”

 

Fan Xian smiled and shook his head. “It’s fine as long as you don’t blame me for chasing you out of the manor.”

 

Dong-er smiled and did not say anything. She trusted the small young boy in front of her. Although she still could not understand why he was furious during the meal that day, she knew that whatever happened was not intentional. Moreover, ever since she left the manor, the young master would sneak his own money over. After she married, her family of three still lived pretty comfortable lives. Setting up the tofu stand was largely because she knew it would be more convenient for a child like the young master to visit her.

 

Fan Xian waved goodbye to the tofu-selling Dong-er. As he left the market, he turned around and looked at the gentle and kind lady who was carrying Xiao Ni (name of her daughter I think ~MCM) while cutting tofu in the water. The slightly arcing body remained slim and supple; there was no trace of the toll of all these years, just as it was ten years ago when she was carrying him.

 

Fan Xian intentionally found an excuse to chase Dong-er out of the Manor because she was his personal servant girl. If anything were to happen to him, she would also be in trouble.

 

In Fan Xian’s “early years”, he adored his own personal servant girl. He would slouch on her body, even fantasizing what he would do to her when he was older – however, he forgot the most crucial thing. As he slowly grew bigger, Dong-er was also getting older day by day. This year, he was twelve and Dong-er was already twenty-something.

 

This was exactly like the story of the Bao Yu and Qin Wen (Dream of the Red Chamber ~MCM). This was utterly futile.

 

“You were old when I was born

I was not when you were born

You were old when I was born

You regret that I was late born

I regret that you were early born

I was not when you were born,

You were old when I was born,

I wished to have been born together

We could enjoy our time together” (Directly translated from http://baike.baidu.com/view/5933451.htm ~MCM)

 

He fantasized about how much Dong-er loved him while he hummed a tune back to the manor in an attempt to make himself forget that about the two pairs of dead milky eyes on the assassin and Old Ha.

 

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………

 

Because he had just taken a full course of “Cat-button” poison stir-fried with bamboo shoots and had just snapped a person’s neck, Fan Xian’s appetite had become really bad. At dinner, he simply ate a little and went back to his bedchamber.

 

By the middle of the night, he was slightly hungry. Carrying an oil lamp, he walked silently into the kitchen himself, careful not to alarm any of the servants.

 

When he was in the kitchen, he washed one of the fishes thoroughly. The vegetable knife in his hand was like a bird in flight, in a flash, the belly was removed and descaled. He used the technique forced upon him from Five-Bamboo to chop the ginger into shreds. The vegetable knife touched the top of the board without making a sound. After that, he followed up with a little vinegar in the dish with the ginger shreds.

 

With a large flame, he steamed the fish belly over boiling water.

 

Squatting beside the stove and looking in, he observed the rising vapors of steam. Fan Xian suddenly had a very interesting thought: Teacher Fei Jie and Five-Bamboo were teaching him skills on how to kill and avoid being killed because of his mother. However, on a broader perspective, it also taught him how to become a good doctor as well as a master chef.


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