Chapter 23 Wind Crane: Puppy
The next day, with a puppy in her arms, Feng Luodi set off for Moonglade alone, strolling along the streets leisurely. She had instructed Scarlet to rest at home, seeing as how she could not be in the vicinity of furry pets due to her weak lungs, for fear of an allergic reaction. Jet was supposed to accompany her, but had been assigned other duties by the First Lady right before they left. As Feng Luodi walked, her thoughts wandered to the time she was taken by the 7th Prince, and remembered how Situ Muye had reminded her to not walk about alone.
“Haven’t seen him in such a long time. It seems like it’s a troublesome thing to thank someone in person in this era; it’s possible that we may never even meet again.” She sighed, thinking back to Jiang Moyin, who’d helped her before as well. I definitely won’t forget all these people who had helped me, even after I return to the 21st Century.
Just as she passed by Manchun Tang, where she had first met Qi Jianqiu, a peanut fell right in front of her, interrupting her reverie. Looking up, she saw two figures smiling at her from a window on the third floor. One was Qi Jianqiu, in the prim and proper dressings of a lady this time, a huge smile lighting up her face. The other was, coincidentally, the person she was thinking about, Jiang Moyin. He was dressed in white, complimenting his image of a gentle and kind young master.
Why are those two together? Feng Luodi was a little puzzled. Last I remembered, Qi Jianqiu told me that she didn’t know any of the Four Masters personally. Her gaze wandered to the two carriages parked in front, both adorned by the emblems of their households. Where could they have gone that required them to be in a carriage bearing the house emblem? Oh! It must be…
Her eyes fell on the cluster of castles and towers that were in the distance. It was the most magnificent, but also the most heartless place in the city.
A peanut sliced the air in front of her again, and she looked up to see Qi Jianqiu waving at her vigorously, beckoning her to join them. Feng Luodi smiled at the sight, and made her way into the restaurant. She was met inside by Qi Jianqiu’s handmaiden, who quickly led the way to the dining room on the third floor.
Feng Luodi, coincidentally, was wearing a white robe today as well. Embroidery of green ivy decorated the robe, complementing the collar of emerald green flecked with gold. She wore an inner shirt of dark green, and her robe was held together by a silken sash of ash grey. A simple jade hairpin held her hair together, matching the jade earrings on her ear of light beige. In her arms she held the white furry puppy, lending her an air of congeniality.
Opening the door, Feng Luodi was greeted with a smile from the two within the room.
Having just spent some time with Jiang Moyin, Qi Jianqiu noticed that the man seemed a little detached, despite being as polite as per his reputation. He had kept the same expression throughout their meeting: a light smile on his lips, warm enough to seem friendly and approachable. However, when Feng Luodi entered the room, she detected a change in his expression. His eyes lit up, and the smile on his face broadened, making him look all the more welcoming. Qi Jianqiu blinked her eyes, unsure of what she had just witnessed.
“Luodi! Come over here quickly!” Qi Jianqiu snapped out of her daze and waved happily to Feng Luodi. Feng Luodi smiled, but to her disappointment, quickly went over to Jiang Moyin instead.
“Good morning, Master Jiang. I have yet to thank you properly for your help that day, in Moonglade.” She curtsied.
“You already did, on the day itself.” His smile seemed to reach his eyes. “It is but a small act on my part.”
Now Feng Luodi took a seat between the two, with Qi Jianqiu on her left and Jiang Moyin on her right. Feeling a burning gaze from her left, she turned to see Qi Jianqiu pouting at her, her brows furrowed. “Luodi, how can you be so biased towards him? You barely glanced at me since you entered the room! Hmph! Am I not beautiful enough to warrant your attention?”
Feng Luodi rolled her eyes inwardly. Now I see how narcissistic Qi Jianqiu can get.
She took a look at the dishes and flask of wine on the table, and poured a cup of Osmanthus wine for Qi Jianqiu. “How can that be possible? I was blinded by your radiant beauty the moment I stepped into the room!”
Indeed, Qi Jianqiu looked alluring today. She was dressed in a formal gown of bright red that breathed elegance, patterns of peonies adorning the gown. A flash of white skin showed at the top of her gown, contrasting against the fabric of bright red. She wasn’t just alluring, but queenly.
“Hey! Stop making fun of me!” Qi Jianqiu stopped pouting, and couldn’t help but laugh. “You came at the right time. We were about to have lunch!”
Jiang Moyin smiled at the banter between the two.
“Anyway, why are the two of you together? I thought you didn’t know each other personally.” Feng Luodi voiced her question, wanting to confirm her suspicion that they had met in the palace. Whenever she was with Qi Jianqiu, she was at ease, and never felt the need to avoid any topics of taboo with her. Such is the wonder of fate. Some friends can know each other for decades without truly bonding, while others might feel that special connection the moment they meet. I’m lucky to have someone like Jianqiu that I can feel so comfortable with.
Jiang Moyin gestured for Qi Jianqiu to speak up, who explained quickly. “We met at the palace gates. I didn’t tell you about this before, but my sister is Concubine Yao in the palace. She summons me into the palace when she misses my company, and I was just visiting her this morning.” She gestured at Jiang Moyin. “As for Master Jiang, his duty as the Grand Tutor requires him to be in the palace to advise the Crown Prince every few days. It was by pure coincidence that we met outside the palace today, and we decided to have a meal together.” She started shaking Feng Luodi’s arm, and her voice changed into a whine. “Luodi…I haven’t had any food today yet. I had to wake up really early to go to the palace in the morning!”
Seeing this side of Qi Jianqiu for the first time, Jiang Moyin choked on his tea and spluttered noisily, trying to hold in his laughter.
Qi Jianqiu rolled her eyes at him, and turned back to look at Feng Luodi pleadingly. Familiar with Qi Jianqiu’s mannerisms, Feng Luodi sighed and reached for a pair of chopsticks, intending to fill up Qi Jianqiu’s bowl. However, she realised that the puppy was still in her arms, and decided it was best if she washed her hands before she ate. She looked around the room, wanting to find a spot to set down the furry puppy, but Jiang Moyin spoke up.
“Pass it over to me. I’ve already had some food, and it’ll be good to wash your hands before eating.” He stretched out his arms.
Surprised by his offer, Feng Luodi hesitated for a moment before handing over the puppy. “Be careful; he’s a little afraid of strangers. Don’t let him bite you.” The puppy was raised by the cook in the Feng household, and often wandered into Feng Luodi’s courtyard. That was why it was docile in Feng Luodi’s embrace, despite having a wary personality, constantly barking at the servants in the household.
Surprisingly, the puppy was quiet and obedient even in Jiang Moyin’s arms, licking Jiang Moyin’s extended palm gently. Feng Luodi blinked her eyes, unable to comprehend the situation. Jiang Moyin’s smile broadened.
At that moment, an attendant entered with a basin of warm water, and Feng Luodi got up to wash her hands. Qi Jianqiu quickly leaned over, interested in the cute puppy, wanting to pet it but wary of Feng Luodi’s warning. Suddenly, a gasp sounded from the other side of the room.
The two quickly rushed over to Feng Luodi, and saw that she had slightly scalded her hand. A small patch of skin had turned red, but it wasn’t a wound that would scar. Nonetheless, it was a little uncomfortable to see a patch of red on an otherwise flawlessly white hand.
“Why is the water so hot? What were you thinking!” Qi Jianqiu became agitated, and scolded the attendant loudly.
“I’m really sorry about this; I wasn’t careful enough.” The attendant quickly apologised. In fact, the water wasn’t hot enough to scald, but Feng Luodi’s hands were just exceptionally delicate. The attendant knew this, but he cleverly kept it to himself.
“It’s alright, Jianqiu. I’ll just wash it under some cold water.” Feng Luodi quickly left the room, and the attendant quickly followed.
There was suddenly silence in the room, both Qi Jianqiu and Jiang Moyin feeling a little responsible for what happened, as they were both preoccupied with the puppy when Feng Luodi was scalded. Suddenly, Jiang Moyin spoke up.
“She seems to care about her hands a great deal. It’s normal to be worried when you’re injured, but she seemed a lot more…distraught just now. It’s as if her hands are much more important than…” He shook his head, as if to interrupt certain thoughts. “Of course, it’s natural for a girl to care about their hands much more, isn’t it?”
“No,” Qi Jianqiu shook her head. “Now that you mention it, I realize that she has always been very careful with her hands.” She thought about it for a moment, and reorganized her thoughts. “She’s always visibly distressed whenever her hand is injured, even in the slightest bit. That is very uncharacteristic of her; you know how calm and collected she usually is. It feels as if…her hands are the most important thing to her, even more valuable than her life itself…” Qi Jianqiu’s voice trailed off at the end, as she lost herself in her thoughts again, worry apparent on her face. Jiang Moyin was silent as well, contemplating the situation.
When Feng Luodi returned to the room, she was greeted by a strange sight. Qi Jianqiu supported her head with her arms, staring at the door with a worried expression. However, her eyes were unfocused, her thoughts obviously elsewhere. On the other side of the table, Jiang Moyin looked out of the window, his hands absentmindedly stroking the puppy.
Did something happen while I was gone? Feng Luodi was perplexed by the sudden change of events.
“Cough, cough!” Now that got the attention of the two, and Qi Jianqiu quickly rushed over.
“Luodi, are you alright?”
“No worries, I’m fine” Feng Luodi took a seat at the table. “I was just worried, that’s all.” She raised her hand for Qi Jianqiu to have a look, and true enough; there was no indication that it was scalded. Reassuring her friend, Feng Luodi continued to fill Qi Jianqiu’s bowl with food.
“I’d meant to ask you: what’s this puppy for? I’ve never seen you bring a pet out before.” She looked around. “Also, where’s Jet and Scarlet?” I didn’t see them today.”
Jiang Moyin looked over with curiosity as well.
“I’m heading to Moonglade, to participate in the investigation.” Feng Luodi poured herself a cup of wine, and took a sip. This wine tastes very similar to the Osmanthus wine I had at Moonglade, both being very mild.
“You’re really obsessed with that Guqin of yours! Even joining the investigation just to find it sooner.” Qi Jianqiu exclaimed. “Speaking of which, how are you planning to get in? I heard that they’ve sealed the grounds.”
“Oh, that.” Feng Luodi grinned, and took out her badge. “I’m authorised to do so. Would the two of you like to join me today?”
Qi Jianqiu and Jiang Moyin exchanged a look, and both nodded vigorously.