Lin Dan helps Chi to sit beside the door. Only then does she turn to Yan Langqing. Her eyes look very sharp. "Miss Yan, have you read the recipe book I gave you back?" Lin Dan asks.
"Of course I have." Yan Lanqing stands on the stairs leading to the second floor and looks at Lin Dan from a high position, a bit puzzled by her haughty attitude.
"Then you should be able to find that the first 60 pages of the Yans’ recipe book are worn, yellow and illegible while the rest 388 pages look white and new and the ink is clear. Why is this?"
Yan Langqing can’t stop Lin Dan even she knows it’s going to be bad for her. Lin Dan steps forward and says, "That's because the rest 388 pages are about all-new dishes developed by my father to make up for the shortage of the Yans’ recipes. My father has been working for decades, during which he invented hundreds of dishes and dozens of innovative techniques, all of which have been recorded in the Yans’ recipe book. Now, the most popular specialties of the restaurant are created by my father. Dear son of the Marquis, the Baking Deer Tendon was developed by the Marquis himself and my father. It took several months back and forth with dozens of wild deer killed. Don't you remember? "
The son of the Marquis says cautiously, "That's true."
As it is a great pleasure for the restaurant to change its signboard today, the second brother of Lin Putin invites many epicures to join in. One of them has a close personal relationship with Lin Putin and could not help shouting, "The Braised Shark Fin was developed by your father and I. It took us more than half a year to test it with several carts of shark fin before this famous dish was brought into the palace diet. Let’s talk about your father's character later, your father's cooking skills are not stolen or robbed, they are the real skills out of thousands times of practice in the kitchen!"
Lin Dan bows respectfully to the man and says gratefully, "My appreciation for your speech in a righteous manner, Uncle Liu. We should all know what my father's character is like from what he has done over the years." Then she turns to Yan Langqing, "Your father is the son of my father’s master who had been on his deathbed for several months. Many letters were sent to your father during this period who was not able to come back to attend to the master until his death. I don't want to delve into the reasons. I just want to say--my father arranged everything for the master's funeral and he also smashed a basin into pieces(a ceremonial activity at funerals in ancient China) and built a monument instead of your father. Can't you deny this?"
Yan Langqing looks at her father subconsciously who is about to refute. Lin Dan adds, "Many people were attending the funeral. I think it is easy to find several witnesses."
Yan Langqing’s father shuts up instantly. The funeral was indeed a splendid one, and many people still remember it.
Lin Dan glances at him and says slowly, "My father served the master until his death, and also managed the funeral affairs for the master. What he did was no worse than the master’s own son. How does he become a bastard who bullies his master and destroys his ancestors? In those days, you and my father together followed your father to learn cooking, even now you still accomplish nothing. But my father went all the way to the capital and established the foundation of the Yans’ cuisine. After all, was my father the one who stole your family's golden knife and recipe book and committed the scandal of deceiving teachers and destroying ancestors? Or did the teacher blame you for being unworthy of teaching the secret skills? Who knows the inside story? Just as you, the natural son of the master, did not look after your own father when he was on deathbed, who on earth can explain the hidden facts behind clearly? No one but you."
Yan Langqing’s father is in a cold sweat, he cuts a sorry figure by putting down his hand intended to wipe the sweat from his forehead. No matter how well he puts it, to attend to a dying parent is a great filial duty, so he will be fiercely criticized by others for not carrying out his duty.
Lin Dan turns to Yan Langqing and continues, "You once wanted to compete with me in cooking, saying whoever was stronger would get the golden knife and the recipe book. I thought it reasonable, so I agreed. In the end, you won, and I returned the book and the golden knife, does that mean that only the strongest can inherit the title of "successor of the chef with the golden knife"? Like that, your father and mine should have also competed, right?"
Yan Langqing’s father seems to have been touched a raw nerve, he shouts, "Compete? I am my father's own son. His things should be passed on to me. It’s none of your father’s business."
At last, someone watching aside couldn't take it anymore and refutes, "Unlike other trades, cooking needs real skills to cook on the stove without any cheat? The title of "Successor of the Imperial Chef" is not for anyone who wants it, you need to earn it! A cook thinks highly of his skills and fame, even his own son is not allowed to break these two things."
Many people nod in agreement after the words. Any chef of some repute in the capital trains seventeen or eighteen apprentices, but only one or two of them have been chosen out of careful consideration to succeed them. Why? Because real craftsmanship can only be carried forward if it is passed on to the truly gifted people.
Some things don't have to be mentioned, but once they are, doubts emerge one after another. After those refuting, everyone begins to look at Yan Langqing and her father with doubts showed in their eyes.
Lin Dan says gently, "Yes, you are the master's own son. What you say seems to be reasonable. My father is dead, it is no use saying anything. Now, can I challenge you according to Yan Langqing's logic? On behalf of my father, I will finish the competition that you failed to finish back then. You and I cook three dishes respectively in the kitchen of this restaurant. Everyone here can be a witness. Whoever wins will be the owner of the golden knife and the recipe book. Is that fair?"
The lips of Yan Langqing’s father begin to tremble with fear. Because he couldn't bear the hardship of learning to cook, he begged his mother to send him to study at his grandfather’s home when he was a child, no doubt he couldn’t cook. Instead, Yan Langqing has inherited Yan Bo's talent. If not, he would not have instigated his daughter to compete with Lin Dan.
However, he never expects Lin Dan to be so cunning that he becomes the one Lin Dan is attacking. What should he do next? Should he accept the challenge or not in full view of anyone here? He will appear to be guilty and timid by not accepting, but even more shameful by accepting the challenge and losing in the end!
Being only one or two years older than Lin Dan, a little shrewd but not deep, Yan Langqing immediately stands up and shouts, "Lin Dan, I am the one to accept your challenge if you want one, but you have no privilege to compete with my father."
"I already competed with you, and this time I am on behalf of my father to finish the competition undone back then. I have been taught by my father hand in hand, but merely got about half of his skills. I will willingly accept the defeat if I lose. But if I win, please take back those words insulting my father. How about that? Compete or not?"
Yan Langqing’s father can't even “toss a wok” (a basic cooking skill in China). How can he compete? Cold sweat on his forehead drips down as he watches.
Seeing his hesitation, people naturally guess that he is not good at cooking, so they begin to discuss with each other, "He can’t even beat a 12-year-old girl, but dares to compare himself with Lin Putin. If I were Yan Bo, the imperial chef, I would choose Lin Putin as my successor, not this worthless son." The direction of public opinion, which is originally very unfavorable to Lin Putin, has now completely changed. Some bystanders keep encouraging Yan Langqing’s father to accept the challenge, only want to see him make a fool of himself.
Although Lin Dan once lost to Yan Langqing, this time she is challenging for her dead father, and the purpose is also to protect his reputation, so no one can pick on her and she will be secretly praised as that "I want to have children who can carry out perfectly their filial duties like her".
The gray-bearded old man who was a judge of the competition a few days ago looks at Lin Dan, nodding with an admiring expression.
Yan Langqing’s father panics and shrinks back as he wipes his sweat. Yan Langqing turns her head and looks piteously at the son of the Marquis, as if she is asking for help. As long as the son of the Marquis who is Lin Dan's master speaks, Lin Dan will no longer embarrass her father. But the son of the Marquis, who has always responded to her requests, this time has a solemn face and keeps silent.
Lin Dan glances at the son and says with profound resignation, "For the sake of the master of my father who looks at us in heaven, I will not pester you. However, only one thing I must clarify--my father is not ungrateful and not a bastard who deceives his masters and destroys his ancestors, everything he got was gained with his own true ability. There were not hundreds but dozens of chefs who retired from the palace, but how many were really able to make a name outside the palace? Not more than five people, which I can count with my fingers. Without my father, who would have known the chefs with golden knives? Who would have known the Yans’ cuisine? The Yans’ recipe book was originally only 60 pages, but my father has enhanced it to more than 400 pages. How much effort has he put into it?"
Lin Dan looks straight at Yan Langqing and says, "I have already given back you the golden knife, and I have also given you the recipe book my father has newly written as to repay the kindness the master has shown my father for years. And I hope you will stop being so aggressive. I can quit cooking the dishes on the book, but please don't deny my father's cooking skills and personality, let alone his contributions to your Yans’ cuisine. Without him, there would be no Yans’ cuisine now praised by everyone. He didn’t let his master and your family down, and I feel no qualms upon self-examination even he was dead." She stops and helps the tearful Mrs. Chi stand up, they walk away slowly.
As soon as they walk away, people in the restaurant begin to engage in discussion. Some people say, “It was really Lin Putin who enhanced today's reputation of the Yans’ cuisine. He always claimed to be a successor of the Yans’ cuisine. It is a kind gesture rather than ingratitude, is it?” Some other people say, “Yan Langqing and her father are really not authentic. Without Lin Putin, the Yans’ cuisine has no chance to enjoy fame today? Lin Putin has rewritten the Yans’ recipe book. What a fortune is a book. It is such a shame that they take credit to themselves for all the efforts and not allow his daughter to cook dishes on the book. They are driving Lin Dan to a dead end. It is too heartless!
Before, everyone has much sympathy for Yan Langqing and her father. But now, these two people can be seen like this--one has made up lies to ruin Lin Putin's reputation while another has been mean and ruthless and cutting their means of livelihood. They are really villains. In contrast, Lin Dan and his father are really generous and liberal!
"I do not eat. Without chef Lin, what else is there to eat in this restaurant? " Many diners instantly leave, leaving the bustling hall empty.
Lin Dan helps Chi get on a hired carriage heading to the suburbs of the capital to find a cheap hostel to live. One hundred and twenty taels of silver(currencies in ancient China), it seems like a lot of money, but it costs very fast. In the absence of income, they have to economize as much as they can to ensure their future life.
"Dan, why don't you compete with Yan Shouye back then? He couldn't even toss a wok, isn’t he your opponent?" Chi wonders.
"Mum, didn't you find that the son of the Marquis was partial to Yan Langqing? We'd better leave the Yans alone for the sake of him. " Lin Dan stretches the thin quilt and lets Chi lie down for some rest. But only she knows the real reason. Letting Yan Langqing and the son alone is not the real reason. The real reason is that she only inherits the memory of Lin Dan instead of her cooking skills. What she said then was just to intimidate Yan Langqing’s father, she would never compete with him. Otherwise, she would make a fool of herself. Stopping competition made everyone think that Yan Langqing’s father was the one to be blamed upon their imagination. This is what she wants.
"You mean the son and Yan Langqing..." Chi gives a deep sigh when she remembers the beautiful face of Yan Langqing, and the careful protection provided by the son of the Marquis. She is a widow with a bereaved daughter, they have no one to rely on. They dare not to oppose the people whom the son of the Marquis likes, they have to tolerate the suffering which can’t be told to others even if they don't want to.
But they should know that the son of the Marquis also left without saying a word after they left, leaving Yan Langqing standing in the same spot in extreme embarrassment.