Chapter 32 Wind Crane: Animus
Though immensely grateful for Linglong loaning Wind Crane to her, Feng Luodi felt an innate desire to minimise her interaction with her. Some things cannot be explained rationally, just like how she had taken to Qi Jianqiu immediately, but wanted to stay away from Linglong. What is she trying to do this time, bringing up Jianqiu?
Linglong blinked her eyes, a slight smile gracing the corners of her lips. Her slender fingers tapped the teacup lightly and she poured a cup of tea for Feng Luodi.
“Why don’t you have a seat, and hear me out slowly, Miss Feng. I interact with many nobles on a daily basis, and as a result, know a great deal of secrets.”
Feng Luodi hesitated for a moment before sitting down, placing Wind Crane on the table. She took a sip of the tea. “You have my attention, Miss Linglong.”
Linglong took out another zither from the side of the room, and started testing the strings lightly. “There have been a great many gossips about you and the 7th Prince lately, Miss Feng. I was deeply impressed by your mastery of the zither that day, and asked the prince about the previously arranged marriage between the two of you afterwards. Combining with the few rumours that I’ve heard before, I’ve learnt of some information that might interest you.”
Her fingers teased another note from the zither. “The mother of the prince has been friends with Yushan Commandery Princess since young, and she had proposed for her son to wed the daughter of the Commandery Princess when news of the pregnancy reached her.”
“Hold on a second,” Feng Luodi interrupted, “who is this Yushan Commandery Princess?”
Linglong raised her eyebrow, surprised. “You don’t know? The Yushan Commandery Princess is your mother, the wife of the Chamberlain of Justice.”
A strange light flashed through Feng Luodi’s eyes, and she laughed a little. “I never knew that Mother is the Yushan Commandery Princess. I can’t believe that nobody mentioned this before!”
Linglong smiled, and continued. “The thing is, his Majesty wanted to wed the 7th Prince with the daughter of the Minister of the Right, saying that the position and status of the two are more suitable. As a result, the daughter of the Yushan Commandery Princess can only be the concubine of the Prince, and not the First Lady.”
The daughter of the Yushan Commandery Princess? Feng Luodi smiled. “That happened?”
Linglong’s eyes turned into upside-down crescents as she smiled innocently. She played a short tune on her zither, and continued. “I heard that you had first met Miss Qi coincidentally at Manchun Tang, where the two of you quickly became bosom friends. Doesn’t fate work in mysterious ways?” She played another note. “Speaking of which, the daughter of the Minister of the Right shouldn’t be so unguarded and friendly, to make friends with someone so quickly. Don’t you agree, Miss Feng?”
“Isn’t that right?” Feng Luodi rose from her seat, her face a mask of calm. Holding Wind Crane firmly in her arms, Feng Luodi bowed. “My deepest gratitude for lending Wind Crane to me, Miss Linglong. I will return in to you in a few days.”
She turned and left the hall, and had barely taken a few steps towards the door when a few figures emerged from an adjacent room in the hall. The first was Gan Qingjia, a conflicted look on his face that quickly changed to his usual flirtatious smile. He looked at Linglong.
“You must be tired, from all that talking.”
Linglong shook her head, and gently wrapped her arm around Gan Qingjia’s elbow. “I’m sorry; I almost forgot that the few of you are still in there waiting for me.”
“It’s alright.” Gan Qingjia tenderly brushed away the few strands of hair that hung above his forehead.
Behind him, Xue Yiqi stood awkwardly, while Jiang Moyin was his usual calm self. Last of all was Qi Jianqiu, her face unnaturally pale. She kept her eyes fixed on Feng Luodi.
Feng Luodi smiled politely at them, and gave a small bow. Turning, she left the hall.
Qi Jianqiu bit her lips, her face growing paler and paler by the second. Then she turned to Linglong, who was leaning intimately onto Gan Qingjia. “Where did you learn of that? From the 7th Prince? From the other nobles? Heh!” Qi Jianqiu gave her one last long look, then turned and quickly left the hall.
Linglong looked at Gan Qingjia innocently. “I only had a little chat with the 7th Prince yesterday, when he delivered Wind Crane. I didn’t mean anything else.”
Gan Qingjia smiled at her lovingly. “I know.”
Xue Yiqi looked at Jiang Moyin uncomfortably. “Second Brother, what should we do now? Miss Qi looks really angry.”
Jiang Moyin looked at Gan Qingjia and Linglong, and smiled. “Why don’t you say that Feng Luodi is angry instead?”
“Huh?” Xue Yiqi shook his head, unable to comprehend what Jiang Moyin meant. He dusted his clothes. “I’ll go check on Miss Qi, Second Brother.” Jiang Moyin nodded, and the two filed out of the hall.
By the time Qi Jianqiu reached the front door of Moonglade, she had lost sight of Feng Luodi. She glanced around the street, trying to catch a glimpse of Feng Luodi walking. Unfortunately, she wasn’t aware that Feng Luodi had came in a carriage today, or would have saw Feng Luodi getting on her carriage in the waiting area. Qi Jianqiu bowed her head in resignation, and Xue Yiqi arrived to comfort her.
“Miss Qi, why don’t I send you home first?” Xue Yiqi suggested gently.
Qi Jianqiu nodded, and the two slowly walked to where Xue Yiqi’s carriage was waiting. Out of their vision, a carriage drove past, the driver a person both of them were familiar with. However, Jiang Moyin, who was following a little behind, saw the carriage.
“Young miss, are you alright? You look really pale.” Scarlet asked, concerned.
Feng Luodi waved her hand dismissively. “I’m fine.”
Then, she turned to Scarlet again. “What do you think of Miss Qi?”
“Oh? Miss Qi?” Scarlet scratched her chin, and furrowed her brow in concentration. “It depends on what we’re talking about, I guess. She is very pretty, and even though she shows a different side to the people she’s familiar to, both personalities are very enjoyable. She feels like the kind of person that doesn’t have any flaws. Why do you ask, young miss?”
Feng Luodi merely smiled, and looked at Wind Crane nestled in her lap.
They reached the Feng household quickly, and they saw Fu Bo waiting for them at the front door. Seeing Feng Luodi alight from the carriage, Fu Bo’s anxious expression softened somewhat.
“Fu Bo, is something wrong?” That was the first time Feng Luodi had seen Fu Bo looking so anxious, and it unnerved her.
“The First Lady has vomited blood, young miss. The physician said that her condition is not looking good.”
“How did this happen?” Feng Luodi quickly passed Wind Crane to Scarlet, and hurriedly followed Fu Bo into the household. “Mother was still walking around a few days ago, even dining with us in the antechamber.”
“About that…” Fu Bo hesitated. “There’s something that the Master and First Lady has been keeping from you.”
“What’s that?” Along the way, they had seen a few handmaidens leaving the First Lady’s courtyard, bloodied cloth in their hands. Feng Luodi’s chest tightened even further.
“Actually, the First Lady had went into the palace a few days ago, and she caught a cold when she returned in the evening. She had seemed fine these few days, but according to the physician, the cold had triggered the dormant symptoms stemming from her years of being ill.”
“Why was Mother in the palace?” Feng Luodi stood outside the courtyard, and hesitated. She could hear her father’s shouting from here.
“The First Lady has always been on friendly terms with Concubine Shu, and the marriage between you and the 7th Prince had originally been confirmed. However, the First Lady went to the palace and told Concubine Shu that the engagement was to be called off. Even though the betrothal gift hasn’t been given, and the engagement was not yet official, but she had indeed spurned the royal family in this matter. They might have treated her unkindly.” Fu Bo did not hide the truth from her.
“What!” Feng Luodi’s eyes turned red. “I didn’t even know that we were already engaged! I thought she had only meant for me to consider the prince, and I rejected her immediately!” She remembered something else. “Did Father receive worse treatment in court because of this? Was that why he insisted that I’d taken the carriage from now on? So that I wouldn’t have to be treated like them?”
Fu Bo sighed, and kept silent.
The two of them entered the room, and saw the Chamberlain standing by the bed, his hands curled tightly into fists. The Second Lady sat in the corner with tears in her eyes, and the First Lady lying in bed, her face deathly pale and her eyes unfocused. The physician sat by the side of the first lady, two fingers placed lightly on her wrist to read her pulse.
“Doctor, how is she?”
“The Lady’s physique has always been weak, and had to rest often, not able to walk about too much. However, coupled with her lack of proper rest and anxiety, the cold has done too much damage to her body.” The physician wiped his forehead. “My apologies, but I am not skilled enough to cure her. She needs someone who is very good with acupuncture, someone fast and knowledgeable, to be able to suppress her condition from worsening.”
“But you already are the best physician in Chang’an city, sir.” The Second Lady’s voice was hoarse.
“What about the Royal Physician?” Feng Luodi quickly asked the Chamberlain. “Father, aren’t you a 2nd Rank Official? The physicians in the Royal Infirmary can treat the families of the officials, can’t they?”
The Chamberlain was quiet, and it was the Second Lady who spoke up instead.
“The doctors in the Royal Infirmary only treat the members of the royal family, or the families of the 1st Rank Officials. The others would have to be approved by the Emperor himself.” The eyes of the Second Lady were red as well. “We had already sent a request to the Royal Infirmary, but it was rejected.”
“What kind of rule is this! Are the families of the 2nd Rank Officials not humans too?” Feng Luodi was enraged, but was quickly stopped by the Chamberlain.
“Luodi, do not be disrespectful. This is a rule set by the First Emperor.”
Feng Luodi bit her lip, trying to hold her tears back in, unable to look at the First Lady. She thought for a moment, and dashed out of the room. Jianqiu is the daughter of the Minister of the Right, who is a 1st Rank Official. I will beg her if I have to; whatever it takes to help Mother, I will do it.
She had barely ran a few steps out of the household when she heard a familiar voice call out to her.
She raised her head to look in the direction of the voice, and her tears fell uncontrollably. Through her blurred vision, she saw Jiang Moyin walking quickly towards her, and a person dressed in uniform beside him. It is the uniform of the Royal Infirmary!
“Luodi.” Jiang Moyin steadied her. “Are you alright?”
Feng Luodi shook her head, her voice hoarse. “I’m fine. Is this person a Royal Physician?”
Jiang Moyin examined her carefully and nodded. “Yes. This is Physician Zhou, here to look at your mother.”
Feng Luodi quickly grabbed the physician’s arm, too frantic to think about how Jiang Moyin knew about her mother’s illness, and dragged him towards the First Lady’s room.
“I’m sorry, she’s just too worried.” Jiang Moyin quickly apologised to the physician, who nodded understandingly.