Pre-chapter translator note:
‘You can be king again’ by Lauren Aquilina is a beautiful song I think you should listen to. The composer is a genius. You can listen to it while you read this chapter.
Btw I swear if the two girls in this story continue to look like a guy it’ll be super triggering. On a side note, footnotes don’t seem to work and I’ll fix it only later.
If you see this, YOU ARE READING ON AN AGGREGATOR SITE. Please read this series on isohungrytls.com and support our translators. Releases are a day faster on ISO, so instead of using an aggregator site for convenience, use novelupdates.com[Translated by ChickenBakuba]
Chapter 3, This guy, he’s actually a she?
The journey to the capital city was a relatively peaceful one. There was moderate wind, bright weather, with enchanting sceneries of verdant hills and limpid water. The weather was intoxicating, and could lull someone to sleep.
We chatted on the journey as we travelled. Although the journey was exhausting, it was certainly not boring.
As we neared the capital city, we decided to pause and take a quick breather. After repacking up, we continued to the capital city.1
A small brook appeared up ahead and I decided to rinse some water on my face. However, I was quickly distracted by a figure of someone resting not far away from the brook. He lay on the ground, motionless.
I slowly approached him, studying the man warily.
The man was deathly pale, a sheen of perspiration beading his forehead. He seemed to be in intense pain, but still conscious.
“Er, Sir, are you ok?”
His eyes flickered and met mine as he strained to reply me. “Snake…”
And with that, he fainted.
It was only then did I notice the blood seeping out of his ankle. Seems like he was bitten by a snake. However, there was nobody where we were currently. If he did not get immediate treatment, his life would be in mortal danger.
I stripped off his shoes and socks, then took a close look at his ankle.
Sure enough, there were two small punctures on his ankle. His ankle was somewhat bruised, but fortunately, the venom had not spread to other parts of his body yet. His fainting should have been due to the fright, not because of the venom.
I undid my headband, tying it tightly on his leg. I washed the wound with some water from my canteen and began to suck out the snake venom from the wound. When I had finally sucked out most of the venom from the snake, I squeezed the wound tightly to force out the remaining venom within it.2
Finally done. His tightly knitted brows finally loosened and relaxed. I had temporarily alleviated the danger, but it was still best to get him to a physician for medical aid.
I gargled my mouth with water from the stream, then I returned to his body.
I sized him up. This person was around sixteen or seventeen, with luxurious white clothes made from silk. His figure was slim, and his features attractive.
Although his face was still pale, it was unable to diminish the beauty of the delicate features of his face. His skin was unblemished and fair as snow. A faint blush of crimson crept on his cheeks due to her fever.
Th-Th-This…this isn’t a boy at all!
Based on my years of experience from masquerading as a man, ‘he’ was a female, no doubt!
I felt her chest. En~ Not bad. Not big, but the soft feeling is great.3
I saw her eyes flicker as her eyebrows twitched. But since we were both girls, there was nothing wrong~
But if she abruptly awoke and saw me groping her, she might say I had assaulted her. If she carried a grudge against me, that would be bad.
I quickly retracted my hands.
I clicked my tongue. I had been too preoccupied with saving her just now that I had overlooked the fact that she was female.
I moped the sweat off my brows. To only discover that she was a girl now was really stupid of me.
Because I had been raised as a boy by Ma, I was much more masculine than other girls.
As for how I looked like, I had delicate features. Although I was slim, my strength was nothing to be laughed at. As I was also quite straightforward and lively, nobody had even suspected me of being a girl all my years.
I watched the girl, curiosity bubbling forth within me. What business did she have here, to come to such a desolate area and disguise as a man?
However, there was saving to be done. I threw away my thoughts as I carried her, bridal style. I hastily made my way towards the carriage.
Weiqi gaped at me as I ran towards him with a person in my arms.
“Xiran, where’d you go? I’ve searched for you for half a day! And who’s that guy? I didn’t know you had a hobby like this!”
Weiqi winked at me, laughing evilly.
I glared at him, not bothering to explain the situation. “There’s a person we need to save. Let’s first get onto the carriage and head to the capital city. I’ll explain on the way there.”
I carried her onto board, yelling at Weiqi to quickly get the carriage moving.
I explained to Weiqi everything about how the girl and I met, but I left out the fact that she was girl.
The carriage sped along. We decided to reach the capital city first then find a tavern for her to settle down before finding a physician for her.
Within half a stick of incense, we had finally arrived at our destination — the capital city.
I brushed aside the plain curtains of the carriage, feasting my eyes on the scene before me greedily as if it would disappear if I turned away.
I realised that I had never truly understood the phrase ‘buildings as numerous as pieces of an Othello board game, 12 streets lined up like farm fields’ until now.4
This place was several scales greater than what I had expected in my mind’s eye. The building arrangement of the streets of capital city was extremely neat compared to my hometown.
Throngs of hawkers and barkers shouted out elaborate sale pitches as they hawked their wares. Customers stood by their stands, haggling over prices aggressively. Weiqi and I sat dazzled, tingles of excitement dancing up our spines as we watched a new world go by.
Despite my feverish excitement, I was still concerned about the condition of the girl beside us.
We stopped at Weiqi’s place, the place that Weiqi had planned to stay in while taking the imperial examinations.
I hauled the girl into the room and got a physician to look at her. It was only after she finished drank the prescribed medicine and fell into a deep sleep did we finally heave a sigh of relief.
It was already dusk. This entire time, we had watched over her in fear that her condition would worsen. Now that she was properly treated, we decided to get a good break in our rooms.
We were weary. We had been travel-worn and had busied ourselves with taking care of the girl until now. Weiqi and I were so famished that our visions had blurred. We decided to go out and have a well-deserved meal outside before ordering back food for her after we had eaten our fill.5
We exited the tavern and hit the lively streets. It was bustling with noise and activity.
The tantalising fragrance of food hit our nostrils. We did not know if it was a figment of imagination conjured by our famished, addled, minds, or if there was a hand behind the fragrance slowly drawing us in. We followed the aroma blindly, like dogs on a trail.
Before we knew it, we were standing before a modest small store.
The small store was known as ‘Massed Fragrance Pavilion’. On its exterior, it appeared like nothing much, but the interior was actually as busy as a marketplace. The moment we stepped into the store, a wave of exotic fragrances assailed our nostrils.
“Wa~ This place actually had this many people. It really looks good. I won’t be polite then.” My eyes swept over the various dishes of the other diners. My eyes shone.6
Weiqi did not hear me. He was so famished at this point he was seeing stars. He swiftly found a seat and sat himself down.
The waiter plastered a smile over his face as he spotted two new guests. A teapot in his hand, he rushed over to welcome us and told us to make ourselves comfortable while the food arrived. After pouring some diluted tea for us, he immediately handed over the menu.
“Both sirs, what would you like?”
“What do you recommend?” Weiqi and I chorused together.
“Sirs, here, we have lu, chuan, yue, su, min, zhe, xiang, hui. Whatever you fancy, we can serve for you. The menu has these: ‘Happiness and Longevity’, ‘Abundance Year after Year’, ‘Fragrance of Four Seasons’, ‘Dragon and Phoenix’, ‘Xihu Beef Soup’, ‘Red Mouth Green Dove’, ‘Jadeite Jasper’, ‘Flock of Dragons’, ‘Xihu Oriental Whitebait soup’, ‘Luohan’, ‘Azure Dragon plays Water’…we provide anything you want here. Now, what do you two want to order?”7
The waiter proudly introduced us to the various dishes of the store with a dignified air around him.
When he was done, Weiqi and I could no longer suppress the excitement in our hearts.
In one breath, we listed down a slew of dishes we thought looked tasty. We even added a bottle of Lanling wine to go with our meal, and prepared to stuff ourselves to our heart’s content.
Within a short while, the dishes were served.
I licked my lips as I watched the ‘Happiness and Longevity’ dish in front of me. As I slightly tore open the lotus leaf in the dish, I whiffed the faint scent of wine.
Weiqi filled two bowls of soup with a ladle. The soup was a concentrated brown in colour, but it was not at all greasy. The wine complimented the numerous fragrances, making us drool in anticipation.
I picked up a slice of meat with my chopsticks. It was soft and tender, delicate and juicy. It had a rich fragrance, but the fragrance was not excessively rich and the meat was not greasy. It was scrumptious. The ancient saying of people from the past held true, ‘The cooking in pot is fragrant across towns. Buddhas give up their zen and jump for the bite.’8
I finally understood the endless waves of customers streaming into the small store. The flavour of the dishes from this small store was truly awesome!
The tofu in the mapo tofu was fresh, and did not have the distinct smell of the beans. It was also slippery and left a rich aftertaste in your mouth.
The Lanling wine had also done the phrase justice, ‘The fine wine of Lanling has fragrance that of nothing you’ve seen before, the jade bowl contains amber light. It makes the guests and host drunk, forgetting where his countryside is.’9
“This store is pretty good. I wonder who made these delicious dishes. If we could just meet him, it would be brilliant.”
I chomped on my food as I talked to the waiter. Weiqi bobbed his head up and down in agreement.
The waiter laughed, and said proudly, “These are all from the head chef of the store, Lin Ziye. He is the best chef in the capital city. Don’t underestimate our Massed Fragrance Pavilion being small, its considered second to none in this capital city. A lot of our dishes are only able to be found here!
“I see. Is it possible for us to see him?”
The waiter forced an apologetic expression.
“This…sirs, you might not know about this. Although he is the store owner as well as the head chef, the people that have met him face to face can be counted on one hand. He is also not accepting apprentices. He takes on all the cooking for this store by himself, and the dishes he makes are collected by another person and served. To be honest, even the old waiters here have never seen his true face.”
My interest and admiration towards the mysterious head chef immediately multiplied after the waiter’s explanation. What a talented person. If only I could learn cooking under him.
Because we did not know if the girl had already woken up, we decided not to tarry any further. After eating our fill, we promptly ordered some dishes for takeaway and prepared to return.
….Only to find that the girl was nowhere to be seen after we returned. When we asked the workers in the tavern, they said that the girl had immediately left after coming to.
She had left a brief note in the guestroom she had rested in.
‘Thank you for rescuing me, kind Sirs. I will repay your kindness and grace twofold if we meet again.’10
I stared at the brief note, not knowing whether to laugh or cry.
Weiqi barely acknowledged the note, returning to his own room to sleep and leaving me standing alone by the window.
Eh, why would you be in such a rush to leave? You have’t even eaten, and I haven’t even asked for your name… Do you even have a place to stay?
Hey, isn’t it courtesy to inform someone when you leave~
Chapter 3, END
If you see this, YOU ARE READING ON AN AGGREGATOR SITE. Please read this series on isohungrytls.com and support our translators. Releases are a day faster on ISO, so instead of using an aggregator site for convenience, use novelupdates.com
Post-chapter translator note: