Sunintaurus and YeGenMo Collaboration
Si Yin stood rubbing her forehead. Standing in the middle of her chamber on Kunlun Mountain, she stared off into space, the missive she’d just received from her Fourth Brother dangling from her hand.
A special dinner celebration in honor of her father’s birthday was going to be held at the Fox Den in a few days. Her entire family would be in attendance and could she come? Bai Zhen had let her know the exact times and details. This was all fine and Si Yin was sure there would be no problem. Shifu was always most accommodating to his disciples when it involved family matters.
But none of this was what concerned Bai Qian at the moment.
For her brother’s missive held a special request. Apparently, her father had made an offhand remark the other day about having once sampled some delicious baked treat from Kunlun Mountain back in his younger days. When asked about it, her father had said they were his friend, High God Mo Yuan’s, sweet buns and that he wished he could have the chance to try them again. Would she be able to get a hold of the recipe and bring it with her to the Den? Or better yet, could she actually get her hands on Mo Yuan’s buns and bring them with her?
Of course, the best source would be Shifu himself, but he was away in the moment at some lecture in the Ninth Sky.
What could she do?
Second Senior Chang Shan must know about them!
Quickly, Si Yin made her way to the kitchen.
“Seventeen! I’m about to get dinner started.” Chang Shan didn’t bother looking up, as he pulled out bags of vegetables from a crate to be used for this evening’s stew.
“Second Senior, I need your help. Can you tell me anything about Shifu’s buns?”
The giant carrot in his hand froze midair as Chang Shan’s eyes widened, taking the same shape as his gaped mouth, before speaking in a loud singsong voice. “Oh, my! Shifu’s sweet buns! My mouth waters just at the mention of them!”
“Well, if you’ve seen him make them, what’s the secret?” Si Yin asked while holding parchment, and brush in her palms ready to jot everything down.
Second Senior nodded as if he knew the secret and said, while forcibly fisting his hands in the air repetitively, “It’s all in the kneading. Shifu has massive hands that just squeeze and knead the sweetness into his buns. I wouldn’t mind having his buns in my mouth at this very moment! Why did you have to mention them?”
“So that’s it, squeeze and knead? I want to know the details!” Si Yin frowned and wrinkled her nose, disappointed at her silly Second Senior.
Chang Shan turned his attention back to the veggies and mumbled, “Go ask Senior Die Feng. He’s been with Shifu the longest. If anyone knows, it would be number one.”
Si Yin huffed and puffed in frustration, then spun on her heels before stomping out of the kitchen. Chang Shan wasn’t of any help at all so she went in search for First Senior.
She found him easily. First Senior Die Feng was doing what he did best, which was meditating by the lotus pond. Si Yin sat directly across from him while assuming the same lotus position, and chanted in a droning voice, “Shifu’s sweet buns… Shifu’s buns… Shifu’s sweet, sweet buns…”
“Aiya! Seventeen, I’ll never achieve enlightenment with you around. Go away!” Die Feng scolded then immediately closed his eyes, but reopened them sensing she was staring at him which she was.
“Senior Die Feng, Shifu’s buns…” He interrupted her and sternly interjected, “You are a randy little Fox! Not everyone can have buns like Shifu. Do you have any clue how much he exercises to keep his buns in tiptop condition! I don’t know if they’re sweet but I’m sure they feel like steel!
“Seventeen, you should focus on your studies instead of fantasizing about Shifu’s buns all day long! I always knew you were a naughty little Fox! How would he feel if he knew you were coveting his buns! Tsk, tsk, tsk, shame on you, Seventeen!” Die Feng clicked his tongue with a firm wagging of his index finger in her face, while shaking his head in exasperation and returned to his mediation.
Si Yin scratched her head wondering what the heck exercise had to do with sweet buns. Senior Die Feng was even less helpful than Chang Shan.
So she went to seek out her other seniors.
Making her way across the grand study hall, she came across her Ninth Senior Ling Yu, who was sorting out the bamboo slats of study notes for the next day classes. Of all her seniors, he was the most studious and precise about everything. If anyone would know specific details of Shifu’s bun recipe, it could very well be him.
“Hello Seventeen,” Ling Yu said smiling as he noticed her approach. “Since when do you walk around with parchment and brush in hand? If I didn’t know any better I’d say you were going to take notes.” He shook his head laughing softly as he resumed sorting the slats.
“Ninth Senior Ling Yu, I need your help please. I’m trying to get a hold of Shifu’s sweet buns–” in her haste to sit beside him, Si Yin accidentally dropped her brush, “–recipe,” she finished as she stooped down to pick it up.
“Shifu’s sweet buns?” Ling Yu stared at her surprised. “How would you know about them? Shifu hasn’t brought out his buns at any Kunlun Mountain event, since before you arrived.”
“Oh? Uh…” She realized she couldn’t say that it was for Father’s birthday without revealing who she was “I heard, uh… Zhe Yan! Right, Zhe Yan…talk about them when he visited last. He mentioned, uh, how wonderful they were and how he really enjoyed their texture back in the day. He asked me if I could secure Shifu’s buns for him for next time.”
Si Yin desperately hoped Ling Yu believed her. Thank the heavens for Zhe Yan! He was always a useful excuse to use for whenever she found herself in a bind.
Ling Yu cocked his head to the side, an odd expression on his face as he seemed to be weighing his thoughts.
“Shifu prefers to keep his buns under wraps,” he whispered now to Si Yin. “They’re so impressive that if word got out, hoards would flock to the mountain to delight in them.”
“Under wraps?” Si Yin’s shoulders slumped in discouragement. “So you don’t know anything about how they’re made to come out?”
“Well,” Ling Yu sensed Si Yin’s disappointment, “I remember they were quite firm for buns when I tried them. I myself prefer softer, rounder morsels. There’s some secret technique he uses which I’m afraid I don’t know about. But…”
“But?” Si Yin sat up, a spark of hope in her eye.
“You never heard this from me, Seventeen, but Shifu keeps an ancient book of recipes in the archival vault. Perhaps you’ll find something in there?”
The archival vault? That was a part of the ancient school Si Yin had yet to venture in. Her little body trembled, because her Twelfth Senior told her there was a specter that haunted the vaults, and ate the souls of those unworthy to be there…unstudious souls such as herself.
“Senior Ling Yu, could you go with me because of the gho…” His pig-like snorting laughter cut her off. Then he started to snicker knowing fully why she was afraid and teased, “Do you want to know about Shifu’s buns are not? There aren’t any ghosts in the vaults…maybe a goblin or two but no ghosts. Also, stop acting like a WEAK GIRL!”
A weak girl!?
Newfound determination and willpower overcame her. If there was one thing in the world she wasn’t, that was a weak girl. She was a Nine-tailed Fox! If anything, the ghost should be terrified of her!
With this new confidence, she stormed into the vaults, (albeit with her Jade Purity fan at the ready) stomped up and down the many rows of bookcases. As she’d come to expect, there weren’t any ghosts. They had to have been afraid of her!
That was one issue down but another swiftly presented itself. Never had it crossed her mind that there would be so many documents. How in the world would she ever locate Shifu’s ancient book among the thousands of texts in the strongroom?
Hmm…a very good question indeed. How would she find this relic text?
A stroke of genius hit her. She knew precisely how to find this book! Si Yin was a firm believer of using magic only when necessary, and this was a perfect instance of it. A little Fox magic would do the trick.
She stopped and whispered, “Lead me to the most secret book with instructions, and information on buns in this vault!”
Her Fox magic created a lit pathway, guiding her to a column on the other end of the room, and up to the top of a certain shelf. She smiled, pleased with herself, and stood directly under the shelf to magically summon the book to her outstretched hands
Si Yin’s big brown eyes grew wider with delight, as she watched a large book slowly descend toward her. It gently landed in her waiting palms and opened to a center page. It was an instructional book but a different sort of one than she’d wanted. It was about buns alright, just not the buns she had in mind.
This special book wasn’t Shifu’s recipe book. No, it was the Kama Sutra!
Si Yin’s mouth hung open in shock, as she ogled the image on the page that had opened before her. It was of a naked man and woman, of course. The woman was on her hands, and knees hunched forward with the man kneeling behind her. His large hands were spread open upon the woman’s ample rump. The woman’s face was obscured because her forehead, shoulders and breasts were to the ground as her face turned away. The man’s face clearly showed him in the throes of lust.
Si Yin had a fleeting thought of admiration for the artist who illustrated the image. She could almost see in her mind the man’s hips thrusting up against the woman. With eyes glued to the page and her face flaming red hot, she read the inscription below the image…
“Kneading of the Dough”
Then she noticed the corner of rice paper poking out from underneath the page, and yanked it out. Si Yin’s shocked expression quickly changed to one of delight. Recognizing her master’s writing, she read what was a list of ingredients which even with her abysmal cooking skills, she recognized as those for some kind of batter. Below the list was a highlighted note… “The secret of this recipe is all in the preparation. In order to achieve the best results, one must not forget the most important step of…”
“No!” Si Yin flipped the paper over but there was nothing else. The edge was frayed to where the words cut off. It looked like it had been torn off.
There was a missing section to the paper!
A frantic Si Yin flipped through all the pages of the book. And while she got more than enough detailed instructions on how to cook certain things up, unfortunately, none had to do with actual food recipes. Shoving the rice paper into her pocket, she returned the Kama Sutra to its original spot…memorizing its location for possible future consultation…for study purposes of course.
At least I have the list of ingredients now. But where is the torn off part? Why was it removed like that?
“Ouch!!! Seventeen!! Watch where you’re going!”
Rushing out of the vault in both fear and excitement as she was, Si Yin hadn’t paid attention to where she’s going, and collided smack into her Sixteenth Senior Zi Lan.
Zi Lan stood glowering at her, rubbing the sore spot on his chest where her forehead had struck him.
“Aiya! Zi Lan, you big doofus! Are you wearing battle armor under your robes now!” She held her forehead with a grimace.
“What were you doing in the archival vault, Seventeen?” Zi Lan’s eyes narrowed at her in suspicion. “Found a new spot to stash some wine, have you? I thought you were chicken of the ghost in there.”
“I was looking for Shifu’s secret bun recipe…” her voice trailed off sheepishly.
“Shifu’s what?!” Zi Lan gave an indignant snort. “Shifu has secret buns?!”
Since she and Zi Lan had arrived at Kunlun Mountain the very same day, if not almost the very same minute, Mo Yuan’s buns were as unfamiliar to Zi Lan as they were to her.
“You dropped something,” Zi Lan said and before she could react, he’d already swooped down to grab the rice paper that had fallen out of her pocket, when they’d collided.
“What’s this?” Zi Lan frowned as he quickly read it.
“Give it back!” Si Yin cried jumping up. Zi Lan, being taller, merely lifted it above his head so she couldn’t reach it.
Of all her seniors, Zi Lan was the nosiest, but he was also her best friend who always kept her on her toes. As disciples on Kunlun, they would often compete against each other to see who was best at what. Who had the better sword hand, who could finish a test faster, who read fortunes more accurately… But when it came down to food and beverages, though Si Yin could out drink him, (and any other of her seniors for that matter) he at least could cook up a meal without setting the mountain on fire… A fact he never failed to rub in any chance he got.
“Is this a list of ingredients for the secret buns?” Zi Lan asked her, laughing at her attempts to jump and snatch the paper away. “Huh, what would you know about baking, Seventeen? Before having met you, I’d never have believed it was possible to set water on fire.” He was, of course, referring to the “Great Steamed Rice Incident” as that day was now known in Kunlun Mountain history.
It had happened her very first month there.
Si Yin had been assigned kitchen duty for the very first (and very last) time that fateful day; she’d had to prepare the steamed rice for dinner.
It had taken Shifu and the three most senior disciples an hour to put out all the flames, and restore the kitchen.
Hmm, Si Yin suddenly had a clever thought. Maybe if she flattered Zi Lan just right, he could be of help.
“Zi Lan, have you ever made buns and if so, what technique did you use?”
She kept the triumphant smile from her face when she saw his eyes light up. Gotcha!
Zi Lan’s mouth broke into a wide smile. He simply couldn’t resist boasting to her about any, and everything he could do better than her. “Ahhh, Si Yin…in order to get the right consistency and texture when baking buns…” And here he winked.
“…you have to slap them just right.”
Si Yin blinked. “Slap them?”
“Uh huh,” Zi Lan chuckled, warming to the subject. “You see,” he raised his hand and cupped his palm, “you have to shape your hand just so. Then when the mounds are laid before you, you slap your palm on them multiple times until their texture softens. Then you flatten your palms and rub them lightly to ease them back into shape. The trick is to apply the right amount of pressure with your fingertips when you touch them– too little; they remain soft, too hard; they toughen so much you have to really bite hard to be able to sink your teeth into them.”
Si Yin groaned. “Thanks for the advice, Zi Lan, but I’m afraid I already know how to knead to dough…uh, need to know, the exact technique for this specific recipe. And the part that explains it seems to have been torn off from the paper.”
Zi Lan stroked his chin looking pensive. “Hmm, maybe Shifu wanted to keep the recipe secret for a reason? Though I don’t see why…”
She was beginning to despair. Maybe all this had been a lost cause from the get-go. Should I just bring some of Shifu’s wine for Father’s birthday?
“Si Yin, if Shifu wanted to keep a document private, where would he put it?” Zi Lan asked her with a mysterious grin as he handed her back the paper.
She tilted her head in confusion as Zi Lan now walked off, his shoulders shaking with silent laughter.
The corridor leading to Mo Yuan’s chambers was deserted. At this time of day, all the disciples were busy at their assigned tasks…except for her.
Gnawing on her lower lip, Si Yin tiptoed to the door and pressed her ear to it. Silence. As she’d figured, Die Feng had already finished tidying up, what little there would have been to do in Shifu’s room.
With a trembling hand on the doorknob, she drew a deep breath to steel herself. Then she opened the door swiftly and slipped in, the door closing behind her with a deep thud. Si Yin squinted as her eyes took a moment to adjust to the dim interior.
She was familiar with the layout of Mo Yuan’s chambers, as disciples were always free to come to see their Shifu here, when they had questions about their lessons or wished to talk to him about matters. They also each had their turns assigned the duty of tidying his room. It was the most sought out chore on the roster, since there was hardly ever anything to do other than clear away a teapot and cup, straighten some papers and dust a little.
Straighten some papers…
Everything was always kept in the same place in Mo Yuan’s chamber, so Si Yin directly headed for the pile of documents she knew he kept in a drawer near his study table. Since she was looking for a torn piece of paper, she figured that would be the best place to start.
Opening the drawer, she began to rifle through the sheets looking for any odd bit with a torn edge. The stack was so thick! Pages upon pages of what appeared to be old lecture notes. Her back was getting sore from being hunched over for so long so she knelt instead, completely absorbed in her search while losing track of time, and her surroundings as the shuffling and crinkling of paper filled her ears.
Her heart just about burst through her rib cage as she let loose a high pitch squeak, and fell onto her rump when a large, warm hand came down on her shoulder.
“Shifu!” her panicked eyes bulged as she looked up. “You’re back! Uh… I can explain!”
A frowning Mo Yuan cleared his throat and stepped away, clasping his hands behind his back. “Yes, Shìqī, please do. I would very much like an explanation. I cannot get you to study your current lecture notes, and yet I come here to find you quite engrossed on these old ones.”
“Shifu, I’ve done wrong.” Si Yin sat back on her heels looking most contrite. “I… I…found this recipe for your famous sweet buns, but the part that explains how to prepare them is torn off.” She withdrew the now wrinkled paper from her pocket and held it out. “I wanted to make them for a surprise, and I thought I could find the missing part here because…” she squeezed her eyes closed in embarrassment.
“…because you were told they were secret?” A now amused looking Mo Yuan asked as he took the paper from her.
Mo Yuan took his time studying what was the list of ingredients. “And where exactly did you find this, Shìqī?”
Her eyes flew open. “Hun? Oh, uh…in a book…uh…a book of directions on how to, uh, spice things up, I mean cook things up. No! A book of recipes! Kind of…” She groaned, squeezing her eyes closed again. Even to her, what she just said sounded off the wall.
“Hmm, I see,” Mo Yuan replied calmly. “Well, I’m here now, Shiqī. If you’d like to know how to make ready my sweet buns…”
Si Yin’s face went beet red and she gasped as her eyes flew open once again. “Just how to prepare them, Shifu!”
“Oh? What did you think I meant, Seventeen?”
Flustered, she started to stammer as he reached down and handed her back the paper.
Mo Yuan then turned away to gaze out his chamber window.
“Did you want to know how to work them out or simply how to heat them up?” he asked.
“I just happen to have a little free time at the moment. I could show you all you would need to know about preparing my buns, but I would need your help with the…kneading of the dough.”
Another squeak followed by the sound of running footsteps out of his chamber door had Mo Yuan bursting out into a deep belly laugh.
Racing into her chamber, Si Yin slammed the door shut and slumped down the heavy wood frame to the floor.
Her cheeks felt as if they were on fire under her palms as she held her face.
All she’d wanted was to get a hold of some of Shifu’s sweet buns. How did things take such a turn?! And she couldn’t have been sure as she’d run out, but had she in fact heard him laughing? For sure she would receive some kind of punishment for having been snooping around in his chambers. Ugh…another 30,000 copies of “True Classic of Simplicity and Vacuity”…or…oh, no…would he make her copy out 30,000 of the recipe?
It took several long moments before the smell of something warm, and sweet caught her attention. Peering over at her bedside table, she saw small wisps of steam rising from a large plate.
Standing up, she went to investigate what turned out to be a plate of hot, and steaming buns with a note tucked underneath. With butterflies in her stomach, she pulled out the note and read it…
The next time you want to know about my sweet buns, best wait till you can come to me directly. When I’d returned from the lecture I’d heard about your search, so I went to the archival vault to retrieve the recipe. Only to find one of your Seniors had played a prank on you and placed part of it in a “particular” book.
So remember, Shìqī, I will always tell you all my secrets whenever you knead the dough.