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Severing Time Space – I Don't Like Tofu

I Don't Like Tofu

The dining hall was located in the middle of the clan compound. It only had one floor, but it was the largest building present and surrounded by all the others. All members of the clan were required to eat dinner there at the same time. Wu Jian’s mother once told him this was so members of the clan could mingle with their peers and make friends. Sharing food with others was a good way to solidify relationships, or so she had said.

rThere were already a lot of people when they arrived, and most of them were sitting down with food in front of them. They spoke to the people they were next to with happy smiles. It was loud inside of this building with so many people talking at once. Wu Jian could see his father, mother, and his father’s second wife sitting at the head table alongside the three elders.

rHis father’s name was Wu Yōushì, and he was a large man with broad shoulders, a thick chest, powerful arms, and a constantly brooding expression. His father’s long hair was tied into a topknot. A hairpin was impaled through the middle. He had a powerful-looking face that made him seem stern and uncompromising, with eyebrows like swords and a pointed beard. The hanfu he wore was red and white.

rSeveral people spotted them as they walked into the dining hall. A few pointed and said something, laughing afterward. They must have been making fun of Wu Jian’s appearance. It was something people often did, and while he was able to ignore it because it happened so often, it still hurt.

rWu Meiying kept a firm grip on his hand as she led him to where his father, mother, and his father’s second wife were sitting.

r“Lord Father,” Wu Jian said. He removed his hand from Wu Meiying’s, placed the fist of his right hand into the palm of his left, and bowed.

r“Wu Jian. Were you out frollicking with Wu Meiying again? You know I do not approve of that,” his father said. His voice was deep like rumbling thunder. Wu Jian had once heard that his father had been called the Tiger of Shang in his youth because of how powerful he and his voice were.

r“Hmph. That boy is always playing with Wu Meiying. I believe that is the reason his mannerisms are so much like a girl’s,” said Wu Taohua, his father’s second wife. Her skin was pure white, but Wu Jian knew that was because she wore a lot of makeup, unlike his mother who preferred wearing no makeup. Her lips were painted bright red and her hair was styled into a bun with strands untied at the back. The headdress she wore was made of plated gold and looked like a dragon’s claw.

r“Oh, go easy on him, you two,” said Mother. “These two have been close since the moment we adopted Meiying into the clan. It is only natural that he would spend most of his time with her. Why, they were practically inseparable as babies. Remember how they would always cry whenever we tried to separate them? Besides, they are both still young. I believe we should let children be children.”

rWhile Wu Taohua wrinkled her nose like she had smelled something foul, Father sighed and offered Mother an indulgent smile. “I suppose it would not be the end of the world. However, I do wish Wu Jian would act in a manner that is more befitting his station. You understand, Wu Jian? You are the heir of the Wu Clan. That means you must be strong, you must be proud, and you must never bow to anyone who is not your father, your mother, or the emperor. We might be a small clan, but that does not mean we are not mighty.”

r“Yes, Lord Father,” Wu Jian said dutifully. He had heard all this before. His father often told him that he should act more manly, that he should be bolder because that was more befitting the heir of the Wu Clan. He didn’t really agree with his father, but he knew better than to argue.

r“Hmph. Go and eat your food, you two,” Father dismissed them.

r“Yes, Lord Father.”

r“Today’s dinner smells delicious,” Wu Meiying added as they left. His father shook his head and his mother smiled, while Wu Taohua and the three elders gave her a disapproving look.

rWu Meiying was often looked upon with mixed feelings by the rest of the Wu Clan. She was not a member of the clan by blood, which meant she was seen as less important than the sons and daughters of the clan, but she was very pretty and many of the boys in the clan were infatuated with her. Even some of the men thought she would grow up to be a beautiful young woman and had their eyes on her future development.

rThe continuation of family lines was an important tradition. However, it wasn’t enough to merely sire an heir. This was especially true for clans, even small ones like theirs.

rGreat importance was placed on a number of factors when considering marriage: appearance, pedigree, and talent. This was done because clans wanted not only to continue the family line but also to create a stronger next generation.

rA beautiful person would always be looked upon more favorably than someone who was ugly. A person with a powerful pedigree had greater status and therefore greater wealth than someone who had none. And above all that was talent. Those who had a strong talent for cultivating were the cream of the crop for marriage candidates.

rIf someone had all three, they were perfect.

rWu Meiying possessed all three traits in spades.

rThe older men in the clan were all waiting to see if Wu Meiying would be a good match for their child. Like all members of a clan, they were interested in further strengthening their position within the clan. They would gladly have their sons marry Wu Meiying if she could help them achieve greater status than they had now.

rDinner that evening was fried rice, peking duck, and stinky tofu. Wu Jian was not a fan of the tofu because of how strongly it smelled. He preferred the duck and fried rice. However, Wu Meiying loved the tofu. She said the strong smell added to its flavor. He would admit it had a very strong flavor, but he also couldn’t say he liked how it tasted either.

rThe duck, on the other hand, was very good. It was served in bite-sized slices and rolled up in a wrap with salad and hoisin sauce. The flavor of the sauce complemented the duck, and the salad wrap cleansed the pallet so he could enjoy more food without dealing with the strong after taste. He liked it a great deal along with the fried rice.

r“Mmm. My compliments to the chef. This tofu is delicious,” Wu Meiying moaned happily around a mouthful of food. Her smile was so blissful that Wu Jian was almost tempted to believe the tofu was actually good.

r“I don’t know how you can eat that,” Wu Jian said.

r“I don’t know how you can not eat it,” she shot back.

r“It smells.”

r“Yes, it smells delicious.”

rAs Wu Jian spoke with Wu Meiying, he felt a pair of eyes on him. He looked around and found Wu Yong glaring at him. Before, whenever this happened, Wu Jian would always look away out of shame and fear. He was even about to do just that. But then he remembered what Wu Meiying had said to him in the hospital. He needed to be stronger. If he didn’t become stronger, she would be taken from him, and he didn’t want that. He was more afraid of losing Wu Meiying than he was of Wu Yong.

rHe met Wu Yong’s glare even though he wanted to look away. His body trembled, but he still held the older boy’s gaze. This caused Wu Yong’s face to turn red. He leaned over to whisper into Wu Fei’s ear. The other boy looked over at him, sneered, then whispered something back to Wu Yong. Wu Jian wondered what they were talking about, but his attention was pulled away when Wu Meiying held out her chopsticks.

r“I know. Why don’t you try some of my tofu?”

r“No, thanks.”

r“Please?”

r“I insist. No, thank you.”

r“But… it would make me really happy if you ate my tofu. Please? Just try it.”

rWu Jian grimaced, but he couldn’t deny her when she looked at him with those big blue eyes that reminded him of a clear sky. He leaned over, opened his mouth, and allowed the girl to place her chopsticks holding the tofu into it. The food touched his tongue, and he couldn’t keep from grimacing.

rJust like he thought, it tasted awful.

r

Chapter end

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