Chapter 51 Rising Wind: Hair of Snow
“Scarlet, do you want to get out of the house?” Feng Luodi was busy behind her desk, her fingers deftly pressing leaves of different shapes and colours into elegant bookmarks with a silver ribbon at the tip of the stems.
“Of course I do, young miss! But didn’t you say that you weren’t planning to go out today?” Scarlet was confused.
“I don’t. I’m asking if you will be kind enough to run an errand for me.” Feng Luodi finished the last piece, gathered all the bookmarks made from different leaves strewn across the table, and placed them neatly into a delicate box.
“That’s no problem at all, young miss. It’ll be my pleasure.” Scarlet walked towards the desk. “What would you require for me to deliver?”
Feng Luodi handed the box of bookmarks to her. “Send this to the Grand Tutor’s residence. I’ve heard that Brother has not been recovering well lately, and I hope that this will cheer him up. Fei is currently busy at Autumnal Ombre, and you are the only one I can send out alone.”
“That’s an easy task, young miss. Just leave it to me!” Scarlet had been much more decisive ever since she’d been working at Autumnal Ombre, and she quickly turned to leave the courtyard.
Now Jet was upset. “Young miss, I can help you as well! If Scarlet can go out alone, so can I!”
Feng Luodi looked at her bemusedly. “Calm down, Jet. I need you to do something else, can you go check if the pigeon broth I requested from the kitchen is ready. If it is, bring it to the Second Lady on my behalf, and be careful not to spill any!”
“Alright!” Jet gave a little cheer, and headed straight for the kitchen.
Feng Luodi was left alone in the courtyard. She took out her zither, and slowly fiddled the strings, a melancholic aura gathering around her like a cape she wore.
“Master Jiang, young miss sends her regards.” Scarlet bowed her head as she handed the box to Jiang Moyin respectfully. This is the Grand Tutor of our kingdom! Even if young miss is good friends with him, I cannot afford to be disrespectful at all!
Jiang Moyin smiled, and took the box from her, gesturing for Scarlet to have a seat. “What’s the matter? Is your young miss grounded again?”
“She isn’t.” Scarlet shook her head. “Recently, she’s been too tired to leave the house; she has to take care of both the First Lady and the Second Lady.”
“Oh, I see.” Jiang Moyin opened the box, and carefully took out the bookmarks stacked inside. He fingered the edge of a leaf. “These bookmarks made by your young miss are amazingly well done! Much better than her embroidery, at least.”
Scarlet couldn’t help but laugh, knowing that Feng Luodi’s embroidery was barely passable as it is. “So you were the one that she was embroidering the handkerchief for! She had spent many days on it. Her handiwork isn’t anything impressive, but she is full of innovative ideas and thoughts – like these bookmarks! I dare say, these are some of the most beautiful bookmarks I’ve seen in my life!”
Jiang Moyin tutted. “You’re too young to say that, Miss Scarlet.” He tenderly placed the bookmarks back into the box.
“Miss Scarlet, could I trouble you to send Luodi a message? I will be waiting for her at the pavilion five miles west of Chang’an tomorrow, at noon. Tell her I have a surprise prepared for her.”
“Of course, Master Jiang. I will pass the message to her right away.” Scarlet turned to leave, but stopped before she left the yard. She turned to Jiang Moyin again. “Master Jiang, are you sure you want me to tell her about the surprise? Wouldn’t it be better if she didn’t know there was a surprise in store?”
Jiang Moyin smiled confidently, the expression lighting up his pale face. “Don’t worry about it. She’ll never be able to anticipate this. So just let her know, let her try to guess.”
The next day, Feng Luodi set off from the Feng household in a carriage driven by Fei, much earlier than needed. I wonder what kind of surprise Moyin has in store for me?
Meanwhile, in the residence of the General-in-chief of the North, Situ sat behind his desk, calmly reading reports from his army in the north. A Covert Guard appeared in the room without any warning.
“General, Miss Feng was just spotted heading out of the city.”
Situ frowned, and got out of his chair. “What’s she doing leaving the city? Get my horse now.”
The Guard hesitated. “General, Miss Feng is riding in a carriage. There is no need for you to go.”
Situ stopped. “Answer the first question.”
The Guard paused, and took a deep breath to steady himself. “From what I overheard at the Feng household, she is going to meet the Grand Tutor.”
Situ did not answer for a moment, then turned and headed back to his desk. “If she is meeting Moyin, then there will be no need to report to me about it. I’m sure you know what to do.”
“But General, don’t you…” The Guard’s words were quickly cut off when a look from Situ sent a chill deep into his bones. He carefully rephrased himself. “Your orders were to report Miss Feng’s movements in detail.”
“I shall take my leave, then.” The Guard slowly slinked backwards.
“Wait.” Situ called out just before he could leave the room. “Which direction did she head towards?”
The Guard was confused for a second. “The west of Chang’an.”
“I see. You may leave.”
“Yes, General.” The Guard turned to leave, but stopped and looked back at Situ gingerly. “General, would you like for me to prepare your steed?”
Situ looked up at him, his face expressionless.
The Guard swallowed audibly. “I understand, General.” He quickly backed out of the room and, feeling the silent laughter of the other Covert Guards in the vicinity, quickly went to ready Situ’s horse.
Five miles west of the city, a pavilion sits in the middle of a clearing. A handsome man sat in the pavilion, his hair pinned in a high braid by a wooden hairpin. He wore a robe dyed in the blue of cornflowers, the edges gilded in gold patterns matching of the golden vines that sprawled grandly over his chest. His slender hands idly plucked the strings of a zither in front of him, but his eyes were fixated on the road that led to the pavilion. An attendant sat beside him, looking in the same direction.
Finally, the long-awaited hoof beats were heard in the distance, and the rumbling sound of carriage wheels soon came after.
“Grand Tutor, Miss Feng is here.”
“I can see her.” Jiang Moyin smiled, his eyes never leaving the girl that had gotten off the carriage, walking towards the pavilion. Her face was clean, void of any makeup. Jade pendants of a pale green hung from her earlobes, her hair tied loosely in a relaxed braid. A turquoise vest hugged her torso, and a long skirt the colour of honey flowed around her ankles. Her waist was slender, her smile gentle.
They often say that there’s always a few key moments to one’s life that shapes and defines them, and to me, this moment is frozen in eternity. I will never forget her.
“I thought I was the one who had came early, Brother. I wasn’t expecting you to be here so soon.” Feng Luodi smiled as she curtsied to Jing Moyin. Fei and Jiang Moyin’s attendant quietly backed out of the pavilion, leaving the space to the two of them.
“It seems like we were both anxious to meet, then.” Jiang Moyin smiled, and gestured to the table in front of him. “Here it is: your surprise.”
Feng Luodi’s eyes had swept to the zither on the table many times since she’d entered the pavilion, and now her eyes were glued to it.
“Rising Wind! It really is Rising Wind!” Feng Luodi’s voice was shaking as she rested her hands on the Guqin, gently caressing it. “Brother!” She was at a loss for words.
“I am well aware of your love for zithers, especially the 10 Guqin. I was hoping to gather more of them for you at the same time, but this was the only Guqin I was able to get for now. The surprise is a little lacklustre, I guess.”
“Of course it isn’t!” Feng Luodi picked up the Guqin. “I am eternally grateful for your help in finding this Guqin for me, Brother.”
“This is a gift for my younger sister. Instead of being grateful to me, why don’t you play me a song instead?” Jiang Moyin was elated at seeing Feng Luodi’s excitement. “You haven’t left your household for a long while, and I miss your songs.”
“Sure!” Feng Luodi gently set Rising Wind back on the table. “What will you like for me to play?”
“I want a song like the ones you usually play. They are always different, yet beautiful.” 1
“Alright.” Feng Luodi nodded. “But I will alter the lyrics of the song.”
Beneath a crescent moon, my lady laughs
I raise my goblet, taking a swig of snow and wind
If Fate edicts, I shall stir the dust of life
You smile, and that will never change, even if we part.
Moon, polish our memories
Drunk in the dust of life, the years make me sleep
In this life, I raise my goblet with you by my side
In the next, I will remember this: songs, chess, you, and me.
The song ended, and Jiang Moyin clapped. “The song is beautiful. But Luodi, tell me something.”
“Why are your songs always so sad?”
“Are they?” Feng Luodi smiled. “Maybe it’s because the lyrics are a little melancholic, and they influence the song as well.”
Jiang Moyin placed a hand onto Rising Wind.
“What’s wrong?” Feng Luodi stared at Jiang Moyin, looking as innocent as a baby.
Jiang Moyin did not speak for a long while. Then, he smiled. “Nothing. May I play a song for you now? The one you had just played.”
“You can remember it after hearing it once?” Feng Luodi’s eyes widened in disbelief.
Jiang Moyin adjusted the Guqin, and placed his hands on the strings. “Of course. I can remember everything I read, and everything I hear.”
“Now I’m jealous.” Feng Luodi balled her hands into fists. Just imagine if I had this ability back in the 21st Century! All of the exams would just be in a walk in the park for me!
Jiang Moyin’s skill in playing the zither was comparable to Feng Luodi, and his performance was moving as well. Brother is not only good in music, but an expert in the other arts as well. He is knowledgeable, well versed everything from astronomical studies to governmental policies. No wonder the Heir relies so heavily on him. Feng Luodi supported her head with her hands, looking admirably at Jiang Moyin. How lucky am I, to have him as my elder brother!
“How is it?” The song ended, and Jiang Moyin looked amusedly at Feng Luodi. Feng Luodi quickly came back to her senses and withdrew her burning stare, giving him a thumbs-up.
“Amazing!” Her face crumpled, and she slumped onto the table. “Brother, you’re way too talented for your own good, you know? The zither is the only thing I’m good at, but I am barely as good as you!”
“Who said that you can only play the zither?” Jiang Moyin smiled, and took out a handkerchief with a cluster of bamboo embroidered on it. “You are good at sewing as well, not to mention these beautiful bookmarks that you’d made.”
Feng Luodi pouted. “The bookmarks are well done, but they are merely small craftworks. As for the sewing, stop making fun of me, Brother!”
Jiang Moyin kept the handkerchief, and laughed at Feng Luodi’s expression. “Come on now, I think I’m allowed to tease you every once in a while, or is it even a little too much to ask?”
“No! It’s unacceptable! I demand compensation!”
“Fine, fine.” Jiang Moyin stood up. “Why don’t we have some fish for lunch, fresh from the rivers in the area?”
“Really?” Feng Luodi’s eyes were shimmering. Her taste buds have been groomed immaculately by Qi Jianqiu’s constant culinary stimulation.
Jiang Moyin held out his hand. “Let’s go fishing.”
Feng Luodi pushed herself up using the table, and smiled. “Let’s go! Jianqiu is going to be so jealous of us!
Jiang Moyin quietly retracted her hand. “We could give some of the fish to her. You’ll never know, she might just get some inspiration from this!”
“Sounds great! I’ll entrust it to you, then!”
Dusk had fallen, and the setting sun had cast half the sky in a wash of brilliant red. Situ looked on from an alley as a carriage stopped outside the Feng household. Jiang Moyin dismounted from his steed, and lifted the veil of the carriage. Feng Luodi stepped out smiling brilliantly, Rising Wind hugged tightly to her chest. The two exchanged a few sentences outside the household, and Jiang Moyin left with his attendant. Feng Luodi watched until they disappeared from sight, then turned and entered the household. From the moment she had gotten off the carriage, her mouth had been curled upwards in a brilliant smile.
“Let’s go back.” Situ tugged the reins of his horse to head back to his residence, and his attendant followed.
- The song is 发如雪 (literally Hair Of Snow) by Jay Chou.
Original Song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aaM7qG2ycjk
Guqin version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YKvd-Fx-Zfs ↩