TOMAS Chapter 54

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Chapter 54 Abysmal: Part of the Plan?

“Physician Zhou, what’s going on with her? Why is she unconscious?” Situ gaze burned a hole in the physician’s robes.

Physician Zhou placed Feng Luodi’s hand back under the covers and shook his head. “I am confused about Miss Feng’s condition as well. With a stable pulse and good complexion,she has all the signs of a healthy person. However, as much as she appears to be sleeping, she is indeed in a coma. It is my first time being confronted with such symptoms.”

“Is there any way to wake her up from her coma?” Situ frowned. Why is this woman so mysterious? There’s definitely more to her than meets the eye…

Physician Zhou shook his head again. “I do not dare to treat her blindly, without a certain diagnosis of her condition. If I am not mistaken, Miss Feng is in an unconscious state that will not harm her body. Just take care of her physical needs, and she will wake up on her own accord. However, I dare not testify to how long she will need before she wakes up from her coma; she may recover in anything from a couple of hours to a few days.”

Situ had no choice to give the issue a rest. At least she isn’t in danger. “Physician Zhou, you may return to the palace. I will summon you again when she wakes.”

“Yes, your Grace. I will take my leave.”

When the room was empty again, Situ sat down beside the bed, his eyes trained on her face. Her face was delicate with a hint of melancholy between her eyebrows. She wasn’t a great beauty by any standards, but there were something about her almond-shaped eyes that allured him, alert and dynamic, playful yet confident. Situ sighed, and turned to leave the room.

Back in the spiritual realm, Feng Luodi soon fell asleep while waiting to be returned to her body. The next thing she knew, it was already morning in Chang’an. She opened her eyes and stared at the filigreed ceiling, blinking confusedly. “This doesn’t look like my bedroom.”

Did I transmigrate into another world?! Feng Luodi shot up from the bed, glancing around the room wildly. Such a foreign room! Feng Luodi started to panic. “Shouldn’t I be in my cell?”

“Don’t tell me you actually want to stay in that wretched place?” A familiar voice sounded from the entrance of the room.

Feng Luodi’s heart quickly calmed down. She turned to Situ, relief apparent in her voice. “Thank god! I almost thought that I had…” Her voice trailed off at the end, and she flopped backwards onto the bed with a thud.

Situ looked at her bemusedly, at a loss for words. This woman…is she testing my self-control?

Feng Luodi stayed in that position for a while, before she pulled the blanket up to her chin and glared at Situ. “This is a girl’s room. Should you really be here uninvited?”

Situ raised an eyebrow. “Well, aren’t you fully clothed?”

Feng Luodi’s eyes narrowed, and Situ quietly slinked out through the door. When Feng Luodi was done changing her clothes, Situ entered again.

“Do you want breakfast?”

Feng Luodi shook her head. “I’m not hungry.” She was about to ask more when Situ quickly interrupted.

“What brought about this coma? You seem perfectly healthy to me.”

“I wasn’t in a coma!” Feng Luodi replied without thinking, but quickly realised how she sounded and backpedalled. “Yes I was in a coma, but that’s besides the point. Where am I? Wasn’t I supposed to be arrested? Am I allowed to leave just like that?”

Situ stared at her for a moment, but decided to let his question slide. “This is my residence, and you’re in the room beside mine.” He paused for a moment, and cocked his head as if deep in thought. “Well, now you are.”

“What do you mean?” Feng Luodi was confused. She walked to the door, and looked into the courtyard. A few constables stood in the courtyard, where they were arguing with the head steward of the household. She turned back to Situ. “What is going on here?”

Situ spoke calmly. “I’ve made an official request to the Emperor today morning to convert my residence into a temporary jailhouse. The constables from the yamen are here to ensure that you stay within the courtyard until the investigation is complete.”

“What? The Emperor had actually agreed to that?”

Situ nodded, and kept quiet. Feng Luodi hesitated, but asked again. “Isn’t that going to bring you a lot of trouble? I’m sure you already have many enemies who were jealous of your achievements, wouldn’t this give them an excuse to attack you?”

“Nothing more than I can handle.” Situ sat down on a chair in the room. “My enemies will continue to attack me, regardless of whether I did this.”

Feng Luodi puffed her cheeks and went back into the room. She sat down on the bed and looked at Situ. “But why did you arrange to put me in your courtyard, beside your bedroom? I am a girl!”

“Are you?” Situ raised an eyebrow at her.

Feng Luodi huffed out loud. This man! How can he go from being so considerate to being so confusingly annoying in the blink of an eye?

“Right, before I forget.” Situ poured himself a cup of tea. “Your Father has been impeached in court today morning. They had tried to demote him on the grounds of him not being able to educate his daughter well.”

“What! Why are you only telling me this now!” Feng Luodi resisted the urge to splash Situ’s tea onto his face. She took a deep breath. “Has this even happened in our kingdom before? The indictment of a child affecting their parents?”

“Of course. Many cases, in fact.” Situ sipped his tea.

“Then I better get out there and find the evidence to clear my name. I cannot afford to implicate my father in this.” Feng Luodi stood up hastily, but stopped before she reached the door. “Argh, how am I going to leave while I’m still under arrest!” She sat down by the bed again, her face scrunched up in frustration.

In contrast, Situ looked as if in good spirits. “I’m afraid you’ll have to stay here for a bit.”

“Why do you look so elated about this?” Feng Luodi glared at him.

Situ did not deny her accusation. “Why are you so anxious to crack this case? Didn’t you suspect that you were the one implicated because they were trying to impeach your father? Don’t worry, he’ll hold his own.”

Feng Luodi tugged at her long hair, her face a painting of frustration. “It’s only a guess. I’m afraid this will be too much for Father, he’s just too simple minded for the likes of people like these!”

Situ almost burst out in laughter; no official holding a position in the capital can be described as ‘simple-minded.’ Not wanting to see Feng Luodi upset, Situ relented. “Don’t worry about it. I’ve already set my men on the case.”

“Your men?” Feng Luodi was surprised. She hadn’t expect so much help from Situ. “But don’t you only have a few Household Defenders? Will you be able to spare the manpower?”

Situ smiled, but did not reply. Something clicked in Feng Luodi’s head, and her hands flew to her mouth. She spoke gingerly. “Do the Covert Guards really exist?”

Situ smiled, much more relaxed now upon seeing a healthy Feng Luodi. “Moyin and Miss Qi should be on the case too. Just stay here and wait for the results.”

Phantom’s words suddenly flashed through her head. “Have you ever thought about why they might be treating you so well?” She shook her head to clear her thoughts.

“Have you ever met the merchants before? Can you recognise them?” Situ interrupted Feng Luodi’s train of thoughts.

“Uhm…” Feng Luodi looked away. “No.”

Situ sighed. “Then they can just assign any one to be the witness against you in the court. You wouldn’t even be able to put up a fight.” Situ shrugged. How can she be so smart yet so dim-witted at times?

“We had been communicating through the owner of Mingxuan Zither Emporium. Now that I think of it, the owner seems highly suspicious.” Feng Luodi quickly added.

“Well, the situation is very clear now.” Situ was clear and concise. “The owner had set you up, roping in the merchants to implicate you. They have some pretty solid evidence on their side, including the source of the money from you which you’d provided to purchase the Guqin. If this case wasn’t suppressed and delayed, you would have been formally indicted already. The only way I can see out of this is to get a confession from the merchants of their involvement in the scheme.”

“But like you said, they were roped in to be part of it. It’s nigh impossible to get them to confess.” Feng Luodi knew that it was the crux of the case, but it was a critical obstacle that was hard to overcome even if she had found it.

“Why don’t we see it from another angle?” Situ idly rapped his knuckles on the table. “Who will benefit from your indictment?”

“That depends on who’s the real target of this scheme. Either myself, Father or Mother.”

“Although your mother is the Yushan Commandery Princess, she is not involved in the courtly affairs of Chang’an, and it’s unlikely that she is the target. As for you,” Situ glanced at her, “the only people that you interact with on a daily basis are limited to the few of us. It’s unlikely that you would have offended someone who would take such a drastic action against you.”

“I’m sure that I’ve offended many people.” Feng Luodi pouted. “I’m sure all the distinguished ladies are jealous and envious of me, seeing as how I’ve been hanging out with you guys all the time.”

“But they wouldn’t have the wits and resources to set you up; not everyone is as smart as you.” Situ raised an eyebrow.

“What about the 7th Prince? Have you forgotten about him?” Feng Luodi rolled her eyes.

Situ dipped his head, deep in thought.

Feng Luodi continued. “What about my Father? Who will benefit if he’s dismissed from his position because of me?”

Situ looked at her. “There are many, many people who could stand to gain from that. Too many to even count.”

“So many?” Feng Luodi pursed her lips. Despite her predicament, she felt calm, as if completely unafraid that she would be indicted. Just him sitting opposite me makes me feel safe, as if nothing can harm me as long as he is near me. Phantom’s words flashed through her head again. “You’re acquainted with many outstanding young men in this world; you can simply marry one of them!”

Feng Luodi snapped out of her reverie, and felt her face flush hot. Why did I suddenly think of that?

Situ looked at her, surprised by her sudden action. “What’s wrong?”

“I’m tired, and I want to sleep. Go and do your own things!” Feng Luodi started shooing Situ towards the door.

Situ was confused, but slowly walked out of the room. “You’re sleepy again? You just woke up! You remind me of a certain…animal.”

Feng Luodi ignored his jibe, and was about to shut the door in his face.

“Luodi.” Low, firm, and warm.

Is this the first time he had called me by my name?

“Hmmm?” Feng Luodi did not lift her head.

“You will be alright, I promise.”

“Okay.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

By noon, Feng Luodi was still too embarrassed to join Situ for lunch, and had her lunch in her room. Situ stood in his study, reading the never ending piles of reports from the Northern plains.

“Report.”

There are seven merchants on the ship, led by a man called Wei. The other few work for him.” One of the Covert Guard knelt on the floor in front of him. “All of them have settled in Chang’an, making a living by selling Jiangnan silks in the capital. They have a good reputation, without any records of attempted smuggling before. They do know the owner of the zither emporium, but only as a faint acquaintance.”

“And?”

“I did a background check on the ship merchants, and all of their families seem to be out of town. According to the neighbours, they are away on a trip. Coincidentally, they had all left on the same day. I suspect the merchants are being blackmailed into doing this because their families have been abducted.”

“You can only say that after you find their families.” Situ spoke flatly.

“I understand, General. The Guard is searching the city as we speak.  We just need a little more time.”

“Alright.” Situ picked up another report. “What about the owner of the Mingxuan Zither Emporium? Have you done a check on him?”

“The owner is Zhao, born and raised in Chang’an. He had inherited the emporium from his father, and rarely leaves his house. I’ve observed him for a full day, but he only spoke to his aide. The aide is just another normal teenager  born and raised in the capital, with nothing suspicious about him.”


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