Old Master Lian stood by the window, he could see the entrance from his position.
A group of people walked out of the entrance. The weather was very cold, they entered the cars very quickly, but did not drive off, remaining stationary on the snowy ground. The roof of the cars had long been covered in snow, they looked like white pillboxes.1
“Look.” Old Master Lian looked at them through a lit up window while sitting on a wheelchair, he laughed, “Don’t they look like parents waiting for their children to come out of the school after they have collected their results for their college entrance examination?”
Then he turned his head around and smiled at the crowd behind him, “Alright, the outsiders have left, let us begin.”
The family feast began.
The long dining table was seated with only a few people. The crowd looked at each other, but in the end, Ning Ning was the first to speak up, “What does everyone want to eat? I will go into the kitchen and make it.”
“You don’t have to trouble yourself.” Old Master Lian looked towards the entrance. “Look, he’s here.”
An elderly chef walked in from the entrance, holding a bowl of seafood soup in his hands. He seemed to have a little limp, by the time he got to the table, the bowl of soup in his hands had only half of its contents left, the other half had been spilled on the floor.
As he walked past Lian Yuan Yuan, his hands suddenly trembled.
“Ah!” Lian Yuan Yuan shouted loudly and jumped out of her seat, but she was still unable to dodge it, the soup was spilt on her dress. She picked a prawn off her dress and shouted with a face of disgust, “Father, why do you keep him?! His hands tremble as if he has Parkinson’s, just let him retire already!”
The cowardly old chef did not dare to speak.
“Don’t say that, he’s just old.” Old Master Lian looked at Ning Ning. “Lian Lian, go help him out.”
“Ok.” Ning Ning got up frantically and walked over.
The two of them walked into the kitchen together once they had cleaned the table. The journey to the kitchen was very desolate, not only did Old Master Lian chase off the outsiders, he had even given all the maids and cooks in the house a temporary holiday. Ning Ning took this action as ‘clearing the venue’.
After the venue was cleared, it was the actors’ turn to get on and perform on stage.
In the kitchen, the old chef fiercely poured the soup into the sink, making the water in the sink splashed about. Ning Ning stopped in her tracks and looked at the chef’s back.
He placed five of the same little bowls on the table with his back to Ning Ning, then scooped up a ladle full of seafood soup and poured it in a straight line from left to right.
Once the five little bowls were filled with seafood soup, he suddenly reached into his pocket and took out a little bottle. He used his thumb to pop the bottle open and poured the powder-like substance into one of the bowls.
He turned back abruptly after he was done and told Ning Ning, “You did not see anything.”
Ning Ning saw everything, thus she asked, “What did you put in the bowl?”
The old chef did not answer her question, he instead said to her, “Take a guess on how my leg was crippled.”
Ning Ning shook her head.
“It was from protecting a little girl. My leg was crushed under a car.” The old chef said, “Now the little girl has grown up. She loathes me, saying that I have Parkinson’s, questioning why her father still keeps me around, wanting him to chase me out.”
Ning Ning was shocked.
“I will leave this house very soon.” The old chef cracked a smile. “Before I leave, I will teach her a lesson.”
Old Master Lian’s human nature test had begun.
The old chef was acting, his (acting skill) standard was that of an extra.
But even if the other party was an extra, Ning Ning tried her best to coordinate with him. She stood by the entrance of the kitchen, not daring to walk over, she pretended to smile in a lighthearted manner. “You must be joking, right? Poison? Just because of a few words?”
“It’s for my leg.” The old chef said coldly as he pointed at his crippled leg.
The smile on Ning Ning’s face slowly faded. She looked at him with a little anxiety. “Why are you being calculative over someone who is ungrateful? These people are like farts, you should let it go, that way you can live a few extra years with a healthier mental state…”
The old chef was taken aback, “You, child, are not fastidious at all…”
“Hey, it’s not like you didn’t know that I am an uncultured person who grew up in a town, why would I be fastidious?” Ning Ning casually spread her hands out. It made her look like she was beyond fixing, the ladylike air she had presented to the old chef was completely gone and had been replaced with the air of a philistine, but this felt more intimate to the old chef instead.
The old chef was also just a common citizen. Even after he had given his leg up to save Lian Yuan Yuan’s life and was made the head chef by Old Master Lian, he was never someone from the upper class.
No matter how expensive or neatly he dressed, how he got rid of his country accent and learnt to speak with good articulation, Lian Yuan Yuan would still take his sacrifice for granted. She would even feel that he had found a lifelong job because of the incident, and was it not a good thing for him? This kind of thing would not have happened between two people of equal standing. Lian Yuan Yuan only felt this way because she was in a superior position and only saw him as a servant.
He looked at Ning Ning in a weird way after he sorted his feelings out. “What are you doing?”
Just as he was in a daze, Ning Ning had already walked past him and was standing in front of the kitchen table. She grabbed a huge bunch of bottles before returning back to the old chef. Amongst the things she had picked up were salt, chilli sauce, MSG… She took a teaspoon of everything and poured it into a bowl of seafood soup.
“Death is too cheap of a price for her to pay.” Ning Ning stirred the soup and handed it over to him. “Take it, I guarantee that she will spray soup from her nose. How about that? Don’t you want to see that? I think I would be able to tease her on it for twenty years.”
The old chef stared at her for a while before asking, “She is your competitor, why are you helping her?”
“I’m not helping her, I just want to ridicule her.” Ning Ning hmph-ed, she had a tsundere expression on her face. “Besides, if you were to kill someone, who would cook? I’m hungry, I feel like eating braised chicken with mushroom., can you make that for me?”
A few minutes later, the two of them returned to the feast one after another.
After they entered, the old chef shot a look at Old Master Lian, then placed the bowl of tampered soup in front of Lian Yuan Yuan without changing his expression.
—This bowl of soup was full of ingredients; including chilli oil, MSG, salt, etc.
Before Lian Yuan Yuan could have a taste of this bowl of dark cuisine, Old Master Lian spoke out, “I almost forgot, the doctor said that I cannot have seafood for the time being. Yuan Yuan, follow Old Chen into the kitchen, bring me a bottle of medicinal wine.”
“Oh.” Lian Yuan Yuan got up unwillingly.
When she returned, she not only brought back a bottle of medicinal wine, she also brought a bottle of white wine. The eldest son’s eyes sparkled when he saw the bottle of white wine. He reached out and grabbed it from Yuan Yuan, saying to Old Master Lian as he opened it, “Father, let me share a glass with you, wishing you a speedy recovery.”
Old Master Lian pushed the glass to the side and smiled at him. “If you want me to recover, you shouldn’t make me drink, ask if any of the others wants to drink it.”
Lian Yuan Yuan would never drink that bottle of tampered white wine, she immediately held her hands up. “I quit drinking, soup will do.”
She took a spoonful of soup then sprayed it out from her nose.
“Cough, cough, cough, cough, cough… What’s in this?” Lian Yuan Yuan said with tears in her eyes and snot in her nose.
The people at the dining table looked at her with disgust. The eldest son and his son immediately pushed the seafood soup in front of them away. Old Master Lian sighed, he looked at the tablecloth that was stained by Yuan Yuan and said, “Good thing the dishes have not been served. Cheng Xin, go and hurry the dishes up. Tell Old Chen that we need a change of tablecloth while you’re at it.”
“Sure.” The eldest son put the white wine down and told his son beside him, “Come on, we’ll go together.”
Ning Ning noticed that Old Master Lian’s eyebrows had twitched slightly. It looked like he did not expect that they would act as a pair, but his eyebrows quickly calmed down because the father-son pair had already returned with the dishes. The father was holding the braised chicken with mushroom., while the son was holding a new tablecloth.
The old chef also brought dishes in once they were done changing the tablecloth.
The eldest son quickly placed the braised chicken with mushroom. in front of Ning Ning.
Ning Ning looked down at the piping hot dish.
Due to a certain motive, they were dining on a long table.
There wasn’t a lazy susan on the table. If a dish was placed far from you, you would have to stand up if you wanted to take a serving (of a dish placed) on the other side of the table—which was a little unbecoming, which was why most people would only eat what was placed right in front of them.
For example, the tampered seafood soup, the tampered white wine and the tampered braised chicken with mushroom..
Starring: Ning Ning, Old Master Lian, Lian father and son, Lian Yuan Yuan.
Everyone was watching Old Master Lian, no one started eating before Old Master Lian started moving his chopsticks.
Ning Ning put a piece of mushroom into her mouth first.
She stared at the father-son pair as she chewed on the mushroom. The eldest son had it thought out. After he placed the braised chicken with mushroom. in front of Ning Ning, he did not look at her again. He had been talking and joking with the Old Master all along, but his son was not as subtle as him. The latter had his sights fixed on Ning Ning, seeming like he was waiting for her to make a fool of herself.
Before Ning Ning could make a fool of herself, a woman screamed.
“Don’t drink that!!”
The eldest son was flabbergasted. He turned his head and looked at Lian Yuan Yuan. “What are you doing?”
Lian Yuan Yuan was still holding the wine glass she had grabbed from him, looking at him with a complicated expression. “You can’t drink this, it has been poisoned.”
The eldest son was shocked. “What did you say?”
“I’m sorry, Brother.” She suddenly covered her mouth and cried. “Although you are full of yourself and have always treated me like a fool, but this fool cannot bear to see you die… You are my brother after all, Big Bro!”
Eldest son, “…”
Ning Ning sat by and watched her performance. Her acting skills were so pompous that Old Master Lian could not bear to watch, he coughed. “Enough.”
Lian Yuan Yuan, “Father…”
Old Master Lian, “You have already cried for fifteen minutes, but you have not shed a single tear. You’ve wasted the lines your brain trust has prepared for you.”
Lian Yuan Yuan, “…”
“Father.” The eldest son had now realised that something was amiss, he asked in a low voice, “What is going on?”
“It was but a small test.” Old Master Lian smiled, completely unconcerned. “I had Old Chen gave every one of you a poisoned item, let you personally deliver it to the dining table, put it in front of a certain relative in front of you—to see if you would just sit by and watch the other person eat it up, or if you would stop the other person before they can do so.”
The expression on the eldest son’s face immediately turned bad. Lian Yuan Yuan, on the other hand, was delighted.
“You are all a bunch of heartless people, especially you.” Lian Yuan Yuan glared at Ning Ning. “There might be a little rift between me and my brother, but you? We have not even spoken, yet you want to watch me die just so you can have a bigger share of the inheritance?”
The old chef got close to Old Master’s ear and whispered a few words to him.
Old Master Lian let out another sigh. “Get out.”
“Hear that?” Lian Yuan Yuan had a victorious look, she told Ning Ning, “He told you to get out!”
“No.” Old Master Lian looked at her. “You get out.”
Lian Yuan Yuan looked at him with shock, “Father!”
“And you two,” Old Master Lian kept his eyes on her as he told his eldest son, “get out too.”
Although the eldest son was reluctant, he did not lose his cool like Lian Yuan Yuan did. He immediately stood up and left, dragging the hysteric Lian Yuan Yuan along with him on his way out.
“Let go of me, let go of me!” Lian Yuan Yuan struggled along the way.
“Enough, you have already lost.” The eldest son said.
“Nonsense!” Lian Yuan Yuan looked at him furiously. “How did I lose? It was only me, I was the only one who stopped you from taking the poison, the two of you did not do so!”
“Do you not understand?” The eldest son said coldly, “Who do you think are the outsiders in this family?”
He answered his own question before Lian Yuan Yuan could, “It’s us.”
He looked at the firmly shut door with a complicated expression. They had been chased out, but the old chef remained inside.
“Even the chef knew about this, Lawyer Huang must have known as well, there might be other people who are in the know, who are those people? They are all outsiders.” The eldest son murmured, “The old man would rather believe in them, he would rather discuss plans with them to make things difficult for us, who exactly are the outsiders here?”
Lian Yuan Yuan was taken aback by his words. She followed his line of sight to the door.
The firmly shut door was like Old Master Lian’s heart, outsiders could go in, but “family” like them could not.
“…So the two of us both lost to the illegitimate granddaughter.” The eldest son said while gritting his teeth, “While we were trying to curry favour with the old man, she has gotten the chef’s favour. ”
“But, but he is only a chef…” Lian Yuan Yuan stuttered.
“But the old man trusts him.” The eldest son could not help but laugh. “He would rather trust the chef, the lawyer and the family doctor over his own sons and daughters. So what is the use of getting his favour? It would have been better to curry favour with those ‘outsiders’… I never thought that the illegitimate granddaughter would be the first one to find that out. Didn’t you see how the old man chased us out immediately after the chef had whispered to him?”
Lian Yuan Yuan was dazed for a moment, then said with a twisted expression, “No! I have not lost!”She looked at the door coldly and thought: She is about to die anyway, I have not lost!
1Example image of pillbox: