Chapter 69 - Eating Sparrows
This place was nowhere near the marketplace! It would take them at least four hours to get there and back again.
Wen Rou could not help but think this to herself. She had no idea what Sheng Yaoshan was planning to do, but out of curiosity, she followed him.
Outside, among the long leafy branches of the willow tree, the chirping and chattering of the annoying sparrows could be heard. The weather was cold now, and there was hardly anywhere for these sparrows to take shelter, so all they could do was huddle together and make a ruckus.
Sheng Yaoshan glanced upward before looking back at her and asking, “Young Lady Wen, can sparrows be used as ingredients for a dish?”
Wen Rou surveyed the tree filled with sparrows, and after a moment’s thought she replied, “I’ve never used them before, but I suppose if I just treat them like smaller versions of chickens, it should be fine!”
The second she said this, Sheng Yaoshan sped forward and with a leap, propelled himself upward off the wall.
Both Wen Rou and Changsheng instinctively followed his actions and tilted their heads to look up.
Faster than a blink of an eye, Sheng Yaoshan was soon standing up tall at the very tip of the willow tree. His bright silver spear was in one hand, and he made a sweeping motion in the air.
The rays of the chilly noon sun reflected off the silver spear and a blinding silver light flashed before their eyes.
Reacting instantly, Wen Rou lifted her hand up to shield her eyes from that bright burst of light.
When they finally realized what was happening, Sheng Yaoshan had already landed on the ground, and the branches that fell along with him seemed to cover the ground. As for the almost-dead sparrows, they too were flapping about their wings as they laid on the ground.
“What brilliant spear skills!” Wen Rou could not help but praise in awe.
“Keke, that was but a few tricks, nothing worthy of your praise. But, are these enough for Young Lady Wen to put your cooking skills to the test?” Sheng Yaoshan turned around as he nimbly sheathed his bright silver spear and dusted off his hands.
“Hehe, I think I might need to trouble General Sheng one more time!” Wen Rou smiled brightly before running back into the kitchen. When she reappeared, she had with her a bamboo colander, and swiftly picked up all the sparrows from the ground.
“What, is this not enough?” He arched an eyebrow as he asked this.
“General Sheng, follow me!” With a grin, Wen Rou balanced the colander of sparrows on her hip and turned around.
Her long braids flew into the air, and with the wind’s gentle caress, a few strands of stray hair lightly brushed over Sheng Yaoshan’s nose, tickling him slightly.
“General Sheng, if I could trouble you to help me clean and prep these sparrows…” Next, Wen Rou set down the colander and turned round to grab some firewood. From the looks of it, she was preparing a hotpot set up.
“How can you trouble General Sheng with such menial matters? Let me!” Changsheng burst out. He had been watching them, and just as Sheng Yaoshan was rolling up his sleeves, he quickly moved to take over the job.
Even though he had never killed sparrows before, Changsheng had seen how chickens were killed, and he thought to himself, it couldn’t be that different right?
“Young Lady Wen, how do you plan on cooking these?” Changsheng had taken away Sheng Yaoshan’s job and that left him looking around for something to do. In the end, he decided to help Wen Rou with carrying the firewood.
“General Sheng, do you have any ideas?” Wen Rou asked while she tried to start a fire.
“Keke, I’ve never eaten sparrow before, but I can’t wait to try your cooking!” Sheng Yaoshan replied with a hungry expression.
“In that case… Today I’ll introduce everyone to a new and reformed dish, called Flower Sparrow!” After some thought, Wen Rou confidently replied.
“It’s called Flower Sparrow?” Both Changsheng and Sheng Yaoshan could not help but look at each other in surprise.
“Both of you have never heard of it before right? Hehe hehe.” Wen Rou’s eyes were sparkling as they swiveled about, it was clear she was delighted by their reactions.
“Whatever Young Lady Wen makes is delicious, so I’ll trust you!” Sheng Yaoshan’s reply was prompt and soon he was busy adding more firewood to the stove.
“General Sheng, you really are too kind!” Wen Rou replied with a giggle.
“I don’t know if you can recall this but, Young Lady Wen, do you remember the ‘Morning Dew Wine’ you made? It was refined and crisp. All the Xianyang dishes you cooked, the deliciousness of their flavor was threefold, not to mention the recent grilling you’ve been doing… Hehe.” As Sheng Yaoshan was talking, he felt a strong desire to gulp as his saliva began to pool in his mouth.
“So, you even know how to make a fire, General Sheng?” Wen Rou was quite surprised as she watched Sheng Yaoshan move to help her.
“I didn’t really, but after leading my brothers down South and up North, there would always be days where we would need to do things ourselves. So in no time at all, we all learned how to do things like this.” Sheng Yaoshan gave a good-humored smile as he reached over for the fire bellow pipe. Soon he was puffing away as he tried to get the flames burning stronger.
Perhaps it was due to his excitement, or his eagerness to prove himself, but he blew a little too hard and some of the ashes inside ended up billowing up and covering his entire face.
This resulted in an uncontrollable coughing bout for poor Sheng Yaoshan.
When she noticed this, Wen Rou immediately moved to help him, and she began to gently clean his face with one of her handkerchiefs. All that separated his handsome, chiseled face from her supple, lithe fingers was that soft handkerchief, and as she concentrated on rubbing away the dirt she suddenly realized the oddity of the situation. Instantly she paused and stopped what she was doing as her face began to burn.
Sheng Yaoshan too was momentarily baffled by her reaction, and a sliver of something indiscernible filled his heart.
“Thank you very much Young Lady Wen, but I think I’d better do that.” He reached for the handkerchief and hastily gave his face a couple of swipes.
Wen Rou took this time to turn around, and as she tried to regain her composure, all she could hear was the continuous sound of someone trying to blow a fire to life.
Lo and behold, where there was just a faint flame flickering underneath the stove, it had suddenly exploded into waves of golden sparks. Those flames soon burned brighter and hotter, and not even a single trace of any black smoke was left behind.
He truly was adept at lighting a fire! It was really hard to believe that he was actually the privileged Young Sir of the Prime Minister! Wen Rou could not hold in her ardent but silent praise as she watched Sheng Yaoshan from the side.
“Young Lady Wen, it’s ready now.” He lifted his head as he said this.
“Much obliged, General Sheng.” Wen Rou thanked him with a dainty curtsy.
At that very moment, Changsheng had just about finished prepping all the sparrows, all of them had been individually washed, their intestines cleared but their feathers were still attached to their bodies.
“Young Lady Wen, is this alright?” Chang Sheng asked as he brought over the sparrows for Wen Rou to examine.
“Thank you, Uncle Sheng, I’ll take over from here!” Wen Rou happily replied as she took hold of the colander.
The fire under the stove was burning fiercely and as such, the water on top of the stove was bubbling vigorously to a boil.
One-by-one, Wen Rou gingerly placed each and every sparrow into the boiling water. With a large ladle, she began to gently but firmly stir the water.
Then, she scooped out the sparrows with a strainer, placing them all into another wooden basin. With just a few nudges and some lighting prodding, all the feathers stuck to the sparrows were soon cleared away.
Each sparrow now floated featherless in the wooden basin. The white plump flesh looked tantalizing as hot steam emitted from the water.
“Uncle Sheng, do you have lotus leaves?” Wen Rou turned around to ask him.
“Young Lady Wen, you’ve got to be joking. The courtyard is only this big, plus there is no pond, where would I get the lotus leaves from?” Changsheng shook his head as he answered.
“Young Lady Wen, wait a minute. I recall passing by a lotus pond on the way here, but seeing as it’s the middle of winter right now, I think most of them should be dry leaves by now?”, burst out Sheng Yaoshan.
“That’s no issue, in fact, it’s better if they’re dried!” Wen Rou replied with a smile.
“Hold on!” And like a big gust of wind, Sheng Yaoshan flew straight out the door. With a shrill whistle, the others soon heard the clip-clop of a horse’s hooves and instantly knew that it was definitely the owner and his red hare horse speeding away.
“They’re here, they’re here!” In barely any time, Sheng Yaoshan stumbled through the doorway, one hand clutching dry and somewhat withered lotus leaves.
At the same time, Wen Rou had just about finished mixing all the different spices and sauces that she was going to season the sparrows with. After putting in some spring onions, ginger and some garlic, she added a few drops of wine sauce and then proceeded to evenly spread it all over the sparrows.
“Sheng Yaoshan, what did you bring back this time?” Ren Yue asked under his breath as he walked to the two of them.
Liu Xian and Wen Ting were just about to follow them out when Sir Song Tao sent them a warning gaze frightening enough that they both meekly went back to revising their studies.
“Sheng Yaoshan, why are you screaming about here? What improper behavior! And why are you carrying so many dried up leaves!” Ren Yue scolded with a wrinkled brow.
“Hehe, these are for you to eat later!” Sheng Yaoshan laughed as he replied Ren Yue.
“How can these things be eaten? Stop spouting nonsense!” Ren Yue said glaringly.
“If they’re not to be eaten, then should they be used for you to wear on your head instead?”
In a heartbeat, Sheng Yaoshan chuckled as he added, “But the color isn’t quite right, it’s a bit to green.”
Because in Chinese Culture, to make someone wear a green hat means that the person is being cheated on
“You!” Ren Yue was now completely ticked off by him and made a pulling motion by his waist.
“Whip” The sound of air rushed past as a flash of silver appeared.
Ren Yue had drawn the sword by his waist, and with a single shake it had taken its form as a soft sword, and its target was Sheng Yaoshan’s shoulder.
Sheng Yaoshan tried to hide his smile as he steadied his legs and with just an inch of movement from his shoulder, his left hand shot out.
After a second glance, he noticed that Ren Yue’s soft sword had not moved. It just so happened that Sheng Yaoshan’s left fingers were deftly holding it in place.
“There’s a lady here, you shouldn’t randomly loosen your belt here, it’s not proper!” Sheng Yaoshan sneakily said this as he pushed back against the soft sword in his hand.
Ren Yue's soft sword is a soft sword belt
Ren Yue smoothly sheathed his soft sword and tightened it around his waist. With a chilly look at Sheng Yaoshan, he left without another word.
“Young Lady Wen, here are the lotus leaves you wanted!” Sheng Yaoshan saw that Ren Yue was walking away and a wave of happiness filled his heart, giving him a spring in his step as he entered the kitchens.
Wen Rou took the lotus leaves from him, and quickly put them into a pot of boiling water. Instantly, the lotus leaves softened from the hot air and after a quick rinse with lukewarm water, she nimbly wrapped each and every one of the seasoned sparrows.
“Young Lady Wen, you’re…” Sheng Yaoshan was completely bewildered.
“Uncle Sheng, can you help me find a shovel? Let’s go dig a hole in the courtyard!” Wen Rou smiling headed toward the courtyard with the neatly wrapped lotus leaf sparrows in her hands.
With the help of Uncle Sheng, in no time a hole of about half a meter’s depth was soon ready.
Wen Rou placed the entire colander of lotus leaf sparrows into the hole.
“Young Lady Wen, are you going to bury them? Aren’t we supposed to eat them?” Sheng Yaoshan was utterly confused by Wen Rou’s actions.
“Hehe, General Sheng, could I trouble you to light another fire?!” Wen Rou laughingly asked him as she covered the hole.
Sheng Yaoshan’s face fell as he poked about the fire on top of the covered hole watching the flames burn, still, his heart could not help but be filled with resentment.
After an entire morning’s work, not only did the sparrows end up buried, he had completely wasted his time lighting that fire! Now it looked like they would have nothing to eat, and if he had known this earlier, he definitely would have eaten a couple more pieces of grilled bread, at least that way he would have been full!
“Uncle Sheng, let’s eat the Roujiamo I brought as the main dish for lunch!” Wen Rou suggested gently.
“Roujiamo?!” Hearing this made Sheng Yaoshan’s eyes light up, and the originally dazed man seemed to regain some vitality.
“It’s lunchtime!” About an hour later, Wen Rou’s sweet voice pierced through the still air.
“Wait, it’s done already?” Sheng Yaoshan had been waiting diligently by the fire, so all his eyes had seen were the flames and nothing else.
All this time, Wen Rou had sped in and out of the kitchen and the foyer, preparing bowls and chopsticks for lunch. She also had to juggle plating the Roujiamo, grilled bread, and some meat skewers.
Soon, Sir Song Tao led the way as he, Ren Yue, Wen Ting, Liu Xian, and Shui Mo all walked out from the study and sat around the table.
“This is it? I thought that after spending about an entire morning at work, that you would at least come up with something fancy!” Sir Song Tao scoffed with slight disdain as he looked at the table.
Looking at the table that was entirely covered by various dishes, Ren Yue slowly counted through them all, taking note of which ones he could eat later.
It was obvious that Liu Xian could no longer hold on anymore and he kept reaching out as he tried to sneak some flatbread into his own mouth.
This little chubby guy, it really was no surprise that in his eyes, looking at delectable dining was much more attractive than studying or revising.
“Everyone please hold on, there’s still one more dish we need to welcome!” Wen Rou shouted from the courtyard.
“There’s still one more dish? Could it be the one with those dried lotus leaves?” Ren Yue was suddenly reminded of the scraggly lotus leaves Sheng Yaoshan had brought back and unconsciously he smacked his lips, in doing so he had the faintest feeling of embarrassment.
“Brother, can you come and help me?!” Wen Rou called out to Wen Ting.
Even though Wen Ting was unsure why, but he knew he owed it to his sister to help her out so he put out the fire and using the iron shovel, he began to dig downwards from the stove.
The soot-black and muddied eggs were soon successfully dug out from there and in the open air one could still see wisps of steam evaporating from the eggs.
“Brother be careful, it’s still hot! Can you help me bring them inside?” Wen Rou hastily instructed over her shoulder.
At the same time, everyone at the table was staring with goggling eyes at the basket of muddy eggs in the center.
Wait, what was this?
We’re supposed to eat mud?
Could this really be eaten?
~~ End of Chapter ~~
T/N: Oooh what did she make? Comment if you've had earth-baked chicken or spring poultry type dishes before!