Chapter 192: Meeting the Emperor (2)
Imperial Concubine Wei’s eyes turned cold. She shot a glance at her handmaid and lightly tapped her seat with a finger. When the handmaid saw that, she lowered her head and snuck out of the area.
In a moment, Eunuch Sun had brought over all the ingredients that Chu Lian needed. He placed them on top of a wooden table that had been moved into the room just for this purpose. Next to it was a specially made stove, which the imperial palace’s unique small steamers could be placed on.
A handmaid stood behind Chu Lian, apparently tasked with assisting her.
When the Chengping Emperor looked towards the center of the hall, his gaze landed upon the handmaid standing respectfully behind Chu Lian. “Imperial Concubine, for some reason, I find that handmaid behind Jinyi a little familiar to the eye…”
Imperial Concubine Wei froze for a moment. She hadn’t expected the Chengping Emperor to have such a good memory. That handmaid served in her palace.
However, her expression didn’t change one bit as she explained, “That handmaid comes from this concubine’s palace. She usually boils some soups for me and she has rather good culinary skills. This concubine was afraid that other maidservants wouldn’t put forth their best efforts, so this concubine specially called her here to help Jinyi.”
The Chengping Emperor kneaded Imperial Concubine Wei’s slender hand. “How thought of you, my beloved concubine. Jinyi, since Imperial Concubine Wei has made such a kind consideration for you, make sure you live up to her expectations.”
“Understood, Your Majesty!”
Chu Lian started preparing the ingredients before her with an unhurried and calm air. The handmaid also came forth to help her.
Although Chu Lian was suspicious that Imperial Concubine Wei was going to pull some tricks on her, they were right in front of the Emperor. Imperial Concubine Wei wouldn’t be able to do much. Thus, Chu Lian took a little more care in preparing each ingredient before her.
The corners of Imperial Concubine Wei’s lips curled up as she watched the busy Chu Lian bustling about below. Her eye blinked once quickly, and the handmaid helping Chu Lian happened to catch the wink.
Imperial Concubine Wei then put on a caring facade as she said, “What a surprise that Jinyi is so familiar with cooking. This concubine heard that you even know how to make quite a few types of confections. Why don’t you stay in the imperial kitchens and teach some of your skills to the imperial cooks when you’re done here? It can be counted as making a contribution to the imperial family.”
Without waiting for Chu Lian to reply, a woman’s voice sounded from outside the hall. “Imperial Concubine Wei, aren’t your words a little inappropriate there? No matter what, Jinyi is a noble lady. She has also been given the title of honoured lady by His Majesty. By having her stay back to teach the imperial cooks, isn’t that an insult to the face of our imperial family?”
Imperial Concubine Wei’s attention immediately locked onto the woman who walked in, dressed in imperial yellow. Her eyes were lit with a spark of anger.
Imperial Concubine Wei sneered as she said, “This sister greets Empress. It’s the first time that Empress is meeting Jinyi, but Empress is already speaking up for her. Jinyi will have to properly thank my dear sister Empress later on.”
Empress Shen’s lips twitched upwards in a smile. She first turned to the Chengping Emperor to make her greeting bow. Chu Lian had to stop whatever she was doing and give a proper greeting to the Empress.
The smile on the Emperor’s face disappeared. “Empress, why have you come here?”
“Hearing that Your Majesty summoned Jinyi, this humble one wanted to come over to have a look. See, hasn’t this humble one arrived right in time? Otherwise, the most exciting part would be over!”
“Since you’ve come, take a seat!”
Even though Imperial Concubine Wei was completely unwilling, the Empress ranked higher than her. She had to give up the seat right next to the Emperor and sit below them instead.
When the eyes of the two women met, there was an exchange of daggers in their gazes.
The Chengping Emperor rubbed at his temples and waved at Chu Lian to continue what she was doing. However, he had already lost his earlier excitement.
Imperial Concubine Wei suddenly smiled at Empress Shen with a trace of provocation. Following that, she continued watching Chu Lian.
Chu Lian calmed her heart down again. She wasn’t too frightened by imperial power in the end. Even though there were three great personages watching her cook, she treated them as normal guests and didn’t feel too pressured by them at all. She was serious about everything she did, especially when it came to food. An old woman who had taught her how to cook had once said, ‘Food tastes best when a serious person cooks it seriously.’
Thus, she completely immersed herself in the process of cooking with an extremely earnest expression. Someone working hard with all their concentration could always give a favourable impression. The annoyance that had risen in the Emperor’s heart thanks to Empress Shen’s appearance had been entirely cast away by Chu Lian’s seriousness.
He watched the hardworking Chu Lian in satisfaction, even admiring her dutifulness a little.
When Chu Lian finished preparing the dough, the handmaid had already placed two beautiful, freshly washed peaches right next to Chu Lian for her use.
Since she didn’t have any peach juice concentrate prepared, Chu Lian could only try to squeeze out the fruit juice herself and mix it into the dough. That way, the freshly steamed longevity peach buns would have the refreshingly sweet flavour of fresh peaches.
She picked up a small knife and started to peel off the skin of the peaches, intending to cut them into smaller pieces.
When Imperial Concubine Wei noticed Chu Lian’s actions, an evil smile appeared on her lips.
In the next moment, a girl’s shrill scream filled the entire Tingyu Pavilion…