While Si Shi Wu was still on his date and Si Shi Qi and his wife were out pretending to take care of whatever was supposed to be wrong at his company, Si Jin and Si Yi already returned to the temporary headquarters of the Si clan. When they walked in, they found all the ninjas gathered in one room, each of them was holding a book while a couple more were strewn around the room.
Si Yi raised his brows and then took a closer look at the covers, realizing that all of them were cookbooks. It seemed that Si Shi Wu had given the others a task when he left. Very good!
Si Yi gave a satisfied smile. Even though they had officially made it into the first round, that didn’t say anything. For the time being, it would still be best if at least some of them managed to get further in the show to support their master. Thus, they couldn’t just rest on their laurels. They needed to make sure that they made more progress with cooking so that their chances of getting into the second round would be good as well.
Si Jin also glanced at the cookbooks and felt that he should better get back to work as well. In any case, while he had worked hard for the last four weeks, there would be less time to practice now. He had to use every minute that he got. He couldn’t disappoint Xiao Ming.
He walked over to the nearest seat, sat down, and picked up the book on the table in the middle. By now, he had already read several cookbooks, making sure that he knew the exact recipes for several hundred dishes. He didn’t think that it would be enough though.
From what Si Shi Wu had told him, he would need to come up with a possible dish that could be made from a handful of given ingredients. The more recipes he knew, the easier this kind of task would be for him. Also, there might be other tasks in the show where knowing more dishes and their method of preparation would be beneficial. If he couldn’t do these tasks, then his chances of winning the show would be zero. He couldn’t let that happen.
Thankfully, the book he had just picked up was one that he hadn’t read yet. He opened it and then started to go through the pages one by one, taking note of not only the instructions and general ingredients but also paying special attention to the ratio of the ingredients. He would have to inquire about methods of adjusting this ratio and what acceptable outcomes were of Si Shi Wu later though. He wasn’t sure about that yet.
Meanwhile, Si Yi checked up on the other ninjas, making sure that they were doing alright. He hesitated a little when it came to Si Qi but still forced himself to take a look. If he treated him differently from the others, that would only cause another type of problem. Thus, he couldn’t allow himself to let the situation between them influence anything.
When he had finished with his round, he also said down, picking up a book as well to learn some recipes. As his master’s assistant and the first ninja of the Si clan right after his master, it would be embarrassing to be thrown out of the show as the first among the batch. Even if he wasn’t the one to last the longest, he at least wanted to make it into the second half.
Some time went by and finally, Si Shi Qi also returned. Looking at all the ninjas being gathered in one room including Si Yi and their master, he very sheepishly pulled his wife in behind him.
Tao Jin also looked a little worried, especially when Si Yi glanced up at them, his gaze seeming to even penetrate her soul. She suddenly got why her husband had been so worried before. When they were sitting at dinner, she had thought this man was quite amicable but at that time, they had had the same goal. Now, she was intruding into a place where she might not be welcome and they hadn’t asked about it before.
Si Yi didn’t say anything and retracted his gaze after a moment. Tao Jin knew about them and was clearly on their side as this evening had shown. Thus, he wasn’t worried about her. He just wished Si Shi Qi would have given him a heads-up that she was coming along. This was already the second time that something like this happened today. He should really have a serious talk with him sometime soon.
Seeing that they weren’t being scolded, Si Shi Qi silently heaved a sigh of relief and then grabbed his wife’s hand, pulling her to a seat in the corner. The two of them sat down and — seeing what the others did — they also picked up a book, reading the recipes quietly.
This was the scene that Si Shi Wu came back to another hour later. He raised his brows and then nodded slowly to himself. If the others continued to work like this, they might have a chance to actually make it through several episodes.
Although he was slightly worried because no matter what, they were lacking practice. He could let them learn recipes and he could send them off to cook some more but there was a limit to how much they could improve in such a short time.
To be honest, he was especially worried about the first episode. They didn’t know the tasks and if the topic happened to be something that they hadn’t had to deal with yet, they would not only not be able to do it, they might also embarrass themselves.
This was a serious problem. Not just for their master but also for the Si clan in general because it would cause problems with the jobs they did outside of the clan. For some, it wouldn’t matter much as they either weren’t that well-known or could just play it down. But for others, it would be more troublesome and might ruin their careers.
He had thought of the possible implications before but since everyone had agreed that they had to take part in the show and their master had even ordered them to, he had kept that thought to himself. Now though, he was wondering if he should bring it up after all. Thinking of that, he went to sit down close to Si Yi.
The other ninjas glanced over and then lowered the book, closing it halfway but keeping a finger between the pages to make sure that he didn’t forget which recipe he had been on as if he expected to be able to get right back to it. “How did things go with Mister Yu’s granddaughter?”
The other ninjas also lowered their books, this time even including their master. Knowing that there was a person who might want to get together with Xiao Ming, he would naturally be happy if he knew that she was getting along with one of the others so she couldn’t try anything.
Si Shi Wu smiled wryly when that was the first thing that the others cared about. It also took the opportunity away to speak about his own concerns. Well, there would be time for that later on. “Not bad. From what she let shine through, she isn’t necessarily looking for somebody to date right now. Not just in regard to me but in general. I also mentioned to her that Xiao Ming likely wouldn’t be an option for her considering his sexual orientation. She seemed to be alright knowing that. So I think that in the future, we might not need to worry.”
Si Jin furrowed his brows when he heard that. Even after five years of watching the channel, he hadn’t been completely sure whether Xiao Ming was actually into men. Clearly, that was a matter that he rather kept silent. To have that be spoken about … he didn’t like it one bit. He did understand that Si Shi Wu had done this for him though and things had already been done now. He couldn’t caution him anymore.
Si Yi wasn’t as bothered by technicalities and just nodded grimly. “Well, this is already quite good. Will you meet up again?”
Si Shi Wu nodded as well. “I suppose so. Although it is unlikely that this will be an ongoing issue. I guess that it would be less dating than just meeting up with a friend. But I can keep an eye on her that way so we shouldn’t have to worry.”
“Well, her grandfather will probably be the bigger obstacle from what you told us. Will he just let things be?”
Si Shi Wu smiled and leaned back, feeling that he had done good work today. “We talked about that as well and considering that she isn’t looking for anything right now, I offered that we could pretend to get to know each other better for some time and not tell him that we’ve already decided that this likely won’t work out. So he shouldn’t have a reason to suggest other men to her for a while.”
The other ninjas heaved a collective sigh of relief. With that, one of their biggest worries was definitely off the table. Now that that was taken care of, there were other matters to arrange though.
Si Shi Qi cleared his throat and then looked at the others one by one. “You’ve probably already gotten the information but I’ve made a plan for each of us to go out to eat with master over the next few weeks so that he can get some more experience. The same will naturally apply to us as well.
“I’ve been thinking about it since then and I think that you should also organize something for yourself to keep yourself occupied with. Something that will make sure that we appear with other people as well and not make my sister any more suspicious than she already is. From what happened today at the dinner, I don’t think that she will give up that easily.”
The ninjas couldn’t help but glance at the woman sitting next to Si Shi Qi with a faint smile, feeling that if anybody was making somebody look suspicious here, it was clearly him.
Si Yi hadn’t cared too much when she came in so he still wouldn’t care about it when the others were giving her looks. In any case, Tao Jin had done well today. In fact, she had done better than her husband. If the Si clan accepted women, he might have been tempted to throw her husband out and take her in instead. Well, not that one evening would be able to show them the true extent of her abilities. In any case, Si Shi Qi’s current suggestion wasn’t bad. “What kind of thing would you recommend for that?”
Si Shi Qi faintly furrowed his brows. “Well, the most important is to go out with people from outside. I think Si Shi Jiu should have some family close by, right?”
Si Shi Jiu nodded. “Yes. I’ll arrange to meet up with them.”
“Great. As for the others: Specifics aren’t important. Invite whoever you can think of. Relatives, friends, colleagues, or former fellow students of yours, even if you only know some kind of ex-lover here, still ask them out to catch up as long as it gets you seen with people other than us. If you’re single, you can even use the opportunity to go on some dates.
“Other than that, anything that is beneficial for your performance in ‘Golden Spoon’ would naturally be preferable. Si Shi Wu should have better ideas of what that might be.”
The others turned to him and he thought for a bit. “What to do … Naturally, eating at different restaurants will be beneficial in regard to acquiring more experience in terms of tasting dishes of different quality. It would be even better if you could speak with one of the chefs there and get a few pointers.
“Then, there might be local cooking courses that you can sign up for on short notice. This would give you more practical experience in preparing dishes and also make our story on how we came to do the same dish in the casting more credible.
“You could also go and visit any of the local markets to test your knowledge on ingredients. You should know all of them and be able to tell whether they are ripe. Pay attention to looks, smell, and touch.
“In a similar vein, focusing on a specific type of ingredient or dish could also be useful. There might be a wine tasting sometime soon or maybe you could focus on baked products and have a look at a company related to that.
“Other than those things, I guess that everything even remotely related to food and cooking might be alright in terms of making our identities more credible. For example, you could visit an exhibition, go browse the cookbook section at a bookstore, or anything else you can think of. I guess there are even sightseeing tours that focus on food? Anyway, just choose something that is related somehow.”
Si Shi Qi felt like this was already quite a lot so he just nodded. “Yes, just make sure you take somebody unrelated along if possible.”
Si Yi nodded as well and then looked at the others one by one. “This is something that goes for all of you. I don’t care who you take along but you have to make an effort. I do expect all of you to get at least into the second episode.”
The others hurriedly promised while Tao Jin looked at her husband, wondering if she could also do something. She had talked with the producer before the show and they had decided to turn her attendance into more of a publicity stunt than letting her actually taking part. This was what her own agent said was better as well and she knew that she should trust him.
In any case, she also wasn’t that good of a cook so it would’ve been strange if she really made the cut for the first episode. From what she knew, she hadn’t even been considered by Mister Yu and young master Xiao. Well, she wasn’t surprised at that.
Even though the two had tasted her dish, they had found quite a few things to criticize. With all those great chefs around, it was really difficult for her to stand out. Even if she managed to make it past the casting, she would be thrown out in the first episode. That wouldn’t be good for her or the Si clan. And yet, she was still willing to do more.
She thought for a moment and then spoke up herself. “Is there anything that I can help with?”
Si Yi looked at her, glad to see her so proactive. “Well, I would say the best you can do is to support your husband in this. Since you already mentioned today at the dinner that you want to spend time with him, I would suggest you make true on that. Just do some couple things and after that, just accompanying him to whatever he can arrange for himself would be a good idea. If you can get work around here yourself, that might also be good as it would give you a legitimate reason to stay here and you also wouldn’t need to have everything rest just for this matter.”
Tao Jin smiled when she realized that he was also making sure that she wouldn’t be impacted in her job and hurriedly nodded. “I’ll try to see what I can do.”
Si Shi Qi looked from his wife to Si Yi and then back again, wondering if it was about time to say something.
Si Yi didn’t bother about him though and instead turned back to the others. “Speaking of which … if you can get your partners involved, that is alright. In fact, your partners are a good choice. For those of them that already know about the clan, I would suggest making them acquainted with each other if you can. That way, there will be another relationship that is more easily explained.”
The others agreed once again and Si Yi finally motioned back to the cookbooks. “I guess that we have decided on the most important things with this. For now, just continue with what you were doing. If something else comes up, we will decide then.
“Ah, one last thing: Si Er, you keep an eye on the matters over at ‘Golden Spoon’. Make sure that we are up to date in case there is something decided whether that be in regard to the show in general, us as contestants, or young master Xiao.”
“Already on it! Do you want to know what the tasks will be beforehand?”
The others turned to him, staring at him unbelieving. If he already knew the tasks … naturally, they would want to know that!
Before anybody else could say anything, Si Jin already spoke up though. “No.” He was willing to have Si Er look up some things if it meant knowing beforehand whether they were chosen for the next episode for example. But he wouldn’t allow himself or the others to cheat. No, when it came to this date with Xiao Ming, he wanted to win it honestly.