Chapter 62 Abysmal: Apprehension
The Autumnal Hunt started with a day of free hunting, where the princes were led by the enthusiastic Emperor into the woods to show-off their skills. Many of the younger nobles joined in the party, but most of the government officials had stayed behind in the camping grounds.
Situ and Feng Luodi sat on the opposite ends of a small wooden table, warm tea and desserts laid out in front of them. The way they chatted slowly with each other and the setting of the scene made them look like an old couple out sunbathing, instead of attending the annual royal Autumnal Hunt. Feng Luodi looked around the campsite, wanting to mock Situ for acting like the other officials twice his age, but her eyes landed on Jiang Moyin’s tent instead. Memories of the previous night flashed through her head.
After dinner, the two of them were invited to Jiang Moyin’s tent in the name of a small gathering but walked in to find the Heir and a few of his followers inside as well. Feng Luodi tried to minimise her presence throughout the entire “gathering”, but couldn’t help to listen to their entire plan.
“Now that we are aware of his intention to assassinate you, your Highness, I am of the believe that you should simple not agree to any of his suggestions during the Hunt. We will be able to guarantee your safety that way.” Situ started the meeting with a straightforward opinion. Coincidentally, that was Feng Luodi’s take on the matter as well. If someone wants to kill me, of course I’ll just hide from him! But that also means that we wouldn’t probably wouldn’t be able to find evidence of his involvement in the plot in that case…
The Heir shook his head, and smiled warmly. “7th Brother has always wanted to get rid of me. I’m sure that there will be another attempt on my life even if this was avoided. I am of the opinion to give him the chance to make his move on me, and for our side to strike when he does, catching him in the act. That will stop him once and for all.”
“But I see that your Highness’ has not yet increased your personal security. With your current attendants, they will not be able to face up against the 7th Prince’s sishi.” Situ’s face was calm. Feng Luodi looked at the Heir who continued smiling, and Jiang Moyin who did not say a word. Situ continued. “How would you want for me to act, then?”
The Heir laughed. “I will act naturally for the next few days, accepting all of his proposals. I will just have to trouble you to be ready with your men to intervene the fight between us when he strikes.”
“How many of your own Covert Guard have you brought to the Hunt?” Situ queried.
“Twenty.” The Heir smiled. “They will be suffice to last until your men arrive.”
“That is a little dangerous, your Highness.” Situ disagreed. “I’m sure the 7th Prince’s sishi are on par with your Guards, but his forces will greatly outnumber yours. Twenty is too little.”
The Heir continued to smile. “Twenty is just right; it wouldn’t make Father suspicious. He will be displeased if there was even one more.”
Feng Luodi looked at the Heir’s smile and shuddered. Whoever had said that the Heir is a gentle and slightly ordinary man is the biggest fool in the world. The rest discussed the plans in detailed, but she didn’t pay any attention to them.
Feng Luodi jostled herself from her memory and turn to Situ. “Situ, how long have you known Moyin for? Were you friends since young?”
Situ shot her a look, and turned back to the woods. “We were about ten. I had yet to enlist in the army back then, and he was not the Heir’s study companion.”
“How young!” Feng Luodi smiled unconsciously as she thought of the two of them as little toddlers. “No wonder! I was still wondering how a General and a Grand Tutor became the best of friends!”
“Perhaps it was because we were young. Despite choosing such different paths in the future, we clicked immediately when we first met. He was intelligent and scholarly from young, and always full of his ideals and wisdom.” Situ’s words flowed out of him. “I was a cheeky child back then. I could never sit still to study, but he can spend his entire day in front of books.”
“You spend your days in the battlefields of the North, while he struggles to guide the kingdom from the court. How fitting!” Feng Luodi exclaimed. “Was that why he became the Heir’s study companion, and then the Grand Tutor?”
“That is part of the reason, but it was mainly because Moyin had chosen the Heir to realise his ambitions and ideals of governing the country. He was 13 that year, and I was 14. He went into the palace, and I went into the army.”
“Why did he choose the Heir? He must have only been one of the princes back then.” Feng Luodi could never understand why Jiang Moyin had chosen to follow the Heir.
“Back then, the Heir was still the 2nd Prince, and he was not outstanding amongst the princes. However, he was an honest man, and respectful towards others. He had the best interests of the people in his heart, and never had any obvious flaws. He was not outstanding, but Jiang Moyin was, and he was the reason the Heir is in his position right now.”
“I’m sure he only looked honest.” Feng luodi mumbled. “Wait, but why is the Heir the 2nd Prince, and not the First? I’m sure it’s the Xuan Dynasty’s custom to make the First Prince the Heir. Where did he go?”
Situ’s head snapped around to stare at her. “Don’t ask about this anymore. It will implicate even your family.”
Feng Luodi nodded carefully, but the question stayed at the back of the head. I feel as if I’m starting to get closer to the core of the power of the kingdom. There are so many secrets I can never understand about elder brother, or this man beside me. Is it bad that I am attracted to such secrets? Feng Luodi yawned lazily and changed the topic. “Elder brother had promised to teach me how to ride a horse, but now he’s spending his days with the Heir!”
Situ stood up. “I’m free now; I can teach you!”
“You?” Feng Luodi looked at him suspiciously. “Are you trying to mock me again? I’ve had enough of being the the center of your jokes already!”
“Hmmmm?” Situ laughed lightly. “Now I finally know how you think of me.”
“No, no. You’ve misunderstood me. I’m still young, and I need experts like you to show me the way!”
“You? Still young?” Situ rubbed his chin and looked her over. “You, who dare to splash wine on the 7th Prince’s face in public, who dare to investigate a murder on your own, and who dare to open your own liquor store – still young?”
“Hey! I’m still young age-wise, alright?” Feng Luodi pouted.
“You’re 17 this year already – old enough to marry.” Situ pushed the topic, ignoring Feng Luodi’s expression.
Feng Luodi glared at him. “You are twenty six, and should have married a long time ago!” She regretted her words immediately. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it! You should stand by your own decision.” Feng Luodi clamped her hand over her mouth and turned away from Situ, fleeing towards the stables.
I hope I didn’t rub a sore spot for him. Feng Luodi wanted to smack herself. I can still remember his glare that day outside the yamen. I never want to see it again. However, what she’d avoided seeing wasn’t his glare, but a gentle smile.
When Situ reached the stables, Feng Luodi was enthusiastically looking at the horses, choosing one for herself. She stayed a few feet away from the horses, not daring enough to go near. She turned to Situ helplessly. “Why do I feel that they’re all glaring at me?”
“Why do you say that? They are all so innocent!” Situ laughed and leaned against a pillar, folding his arms across his chest.
Feng Luodi continued to circle around the horses, their eyes tracking her every movement. White steam billowed out of their noses as they snorted. Are they going to get mad at me? Finally, Situ could not take it anymore and headed to a nearby stall, leading out a black stallion.
“Take this horse. He wouldn’t harm you.”
“Hey Blacky!” Feng Luodi walked over excitedly. “There you are! I was just wondering why I hadn’t found you in the stable after so long!”
So she was thinking of riding my horse all the way! Situ rolled his eyes inwardly. Wait a minute. “What did you call him? Blacky?”
“Yeah!” Feng Luodi looked at him earnestly. “What do you call him, then?”
Situ shook his head. “I didn’t name him.”
“Then Blacky it is!” Feng Luodi nodded excitedly, slapping the stallion’s back, grinning widely. Situ rubbed his forehead. That doesn’t mean agreement! Where did all of her poetic sense go when it comes to naming horses?
“Hey, don’t look so upset. I was joking!” Feng Luodi waved at him. “Let’s call him Whirlwind! Black Whirlwind…such a cool name!”
Situ heaved a sigh of relief. “Now that’s a name I’ll take.” He led Whirlwind out of the stables, and Feng Luodi followed quickly.
“If it’s Whirlwind I’m riding, I’m sure I won’t fall! I wouldn’t even need you to teach me then! I’m sure Whirlwind is a good boy.” Feng Luodi laughed.
“Oh I’m sure you’ll retract your statement when he throws a tantrum next time.” Situ smiled.
Whirlwind snorted, and glanced at Situ.
“Hah! Whirlwind just glared at you, didn’t he! I’m definitely right! You were glared at by a horse as well!”
“It wasn’t a glare.” Situ rolled his eyes.
“It was! He glared at you!” Feng Luodi emphasized.
Whirlwind rolled his eyes inwardly. Humans are so silly!