TOMAS Chapter 74

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Chapter 74 Remembrance: A Kiss

“What is the reason for the discrepancies in reports submitted to the Emperor and me? Tell me what is going on.” Situ sat in the meeting tent in the camp, waiting for the updates from his subordinates. Zhang Xin’s laughed awkwardly, knowing that he has been caught red-handed.

“The reports sent straight to the Emperor just mentioned that there have been large movements of troops in our neighbouring lands, while the reports to you made it known to you that it was the Huns that were restless. The truth is, the lands of the Huns are strife with civil war this year, the old Wolf King sickly on his deathbed. Members of the royal family are now tussling for the throne.”

“Did you guys mention this in the report submitted to the Emperor?”

Zhang Xin laughed a little. “Of course we did, or we could have been charged for misleading the Emperor. However, we’d only touched on the subject lightly, or he would have commanded you to sweep the Huns using this opportunity. If it comes to that, many more lives will be lost again. Our soldiers have barely recovered from the last war.”

Situ nodded, agreeing with him. “Amongst the contenders, who has the biggest chance of succeeding the Wolf King?”

“That will be Li Hengba, the one that you had crossed swords with four years ago. He’s the third son of the current Wolf King.”

“Oh, him.” Situ sneered. “We will have another war on our hands if he succeeds the throne.”

“Should we join the fray? Treat it as a gift for the dying Wolf King.” Zhang Xin laughed, a glint in his eyes.

Situ shook his head. “Leave it for now. The news of my return will spread throughout the borders soon enough, and we will deal with whatever pops up then.”

“Yes, General. I know what to do.” Zhang Xin smiled wickedly, but remembered another thing. “You have a good eye, General.”

Situ raised an eyebrow, but before he could say anything, Zhang Xin quickly turned and fled from the tent. Situ shook his head, and returned to the pile of reports in front of him. Before long, night had fallen and he was about to look for Feng Luodi when he saw a figure outside his tent. He smiled, knowing immediately who it was.

As expected, the tent flap lifted gingerly, and Feng Luodi’s head poked in. Seeing Situ in the tent, she asked softly. “Can I come in?” Seeing Situ’s nod of approval, Feng Luodi slowly walked into the tent, glancing about carefully.

“I hope women are allowed in here.”

Situ did not answer her question, but smiled. “Too eager to go stargazing?”

“That’s part of the reason.” Feng Luodi’s agreed nonchalantly. “I’d also wanted to see for myself how the meeting room of an army camp would look like.”

Situ smiled and walked closer to her, pointing to the main seat in the middle of the table. “Do you want to try seating there?”

Feng Luodi looked up at him, her eyes widening. “Can I?”

The feeling that washes over me when I know I am the only thing in her eyes…it makes me want to hug her and…

“General, there is something that I’d forgotten to mention to you.” Zhang Xin burst into the tent at that exact moment. Two heads whipped around to stare at him.

Feng Luodi quickly bowed to him. “General Zhang.” She quickly scooted to the side of the tent, her expression as if she’d been caught doing something unlawful.

Zhang Xin turned back to Situ, and saw his foreboding expression. “Uhm,” Zhang Xin stammered, “do you remember the small town on the outskirts of the Pass called Quicksand?”

“I do.” Situ was expressionless.

Zhang Xin swallowed audibly, and perspiration beaded his forehead. “The Town is known for being an area that is out of the reach of the law, its residents being a mix of various races. However, many villagers from the surrounding areas that visited the town have disappeared, and my investigations show that they indeed vanished. General, what do you think of the situation?”

Situ nodded. “I understand. I’ll check out the town tomorrow.”

“I shall take my leave then.” Zhang Xin saluted, and quickly bolted for the door.

 

“Hmph.” Situ snorted. That punk…

“Alright alright. Can we go and watch the stars now?” Feng Luodi approached Situ with a hopeful expression as soon as Zhang Xin left the tent.

“Let’s go.” Situ took his cloak from the chair, and took a look at Feng Luodi. Good, she has her cape and scarf with her this time.

The two of them walked out of the camp and found Whirlwind waiting for them at her post, a flask of wine slung on it’s saddle. They mounted and quickly left the Pass, heading out a little into the desert. They dug a small fire pit on the top of a sand dune, lighting a small campfire with the dried twigs that they’d found nearby. Sitting close to the fire, they looked up at the night sky. Completely different from the day, the desert was cool in the night. However, thanks to her warm cloak and the warmth from the fire, Feng Luodi was able to enjoy the starlit sky without fear of the cold.

Words could not describe the beautiful sight they saw. The stars glimmered with a cold light, filled with pride and a uniqueness in each of them. But it was a beauty that they could not reach into and take for themselves. The silver belts of stars arced across the night sky like rivers and streams, sometimes joining together to form a larger lake.

“This reminds me of a poem.” Feng Luodi opened her mouth and recited it from memory.

 

The clouds and the mists meet in the sky

Galaxies dancing in all their splendour

As if all dreams return to their origin

And they ask

Where do I belong?

 

“That’s a good poem, Luodi.” Situ leaned in. Feng Luodi turned to look at him as well, his usual dark eyes seem to reflect the stars.

“But where do you belong?” Situ asked.

“I don’t know. But I’ll like to find out.” Feng Luodi looked straight into his eyes. His eyes are beautiful.

Situ leaned in even closer. A hand reached out and gently caressed her face. “You have so many secrets. Will you tell me some of them?”

Feng Luodi did not move away but continued looking into his eyes. “If you know that they’re secrets, why do you bother asking?”

“But I want to know.” Situ leaned in closer. Closer. Closer. His lips pressed onto the red lips of hers, and left his mark with all the sincerity he could muster. Feng Luodi closed her eyes, and allowed him to deepen the kiss. Just this once. Just let me have it this one time. After this, I will go back to my search for the Guqin. I will return to the 21st Century to find my parents.

Just. This. Once.

Feng Luodi pushed away Situ, and grabbed the flask of wine. She chugged herself with the fiery alcohol of the Shaodaozi of the North, every mouthful burning her throat. But however fiery it was, it could not mask the pain and conflict in her heart. However, Situ did not understand the thoughts and feelings of the woman that sat opposite him. He looked at her lips for a second, and laughed heartily into the night sky. Falling back onto the soft sand, he stared at the stars with a smile on his face.

So she does feel the same way as I do, huh? But I guess it’ll be better if I tell her how I feel as well; that way, we can confirm our relationship.

Situ sat up and reached out to hug Feng Luodi, but found that Feng Luodi had already retreated into a ball, hugging the flask of wine. Her eyes were half closed, her cheeks ruddy from the alcohol. Shaking his head, he reached over and scooped her up into his arms, mounting Whirlwind in a swift motion. He quickly made his way back to camp, a smile etched on his face. The days ahead are long indeed. With only the two of us in the plains of the North, nothing will be able to stop us.

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When she woke up from her drunken stupor the next morning, Feng Luodi had her first hangover, complete with a splitting headache and lips burning for water. She struggled to get into her clothes, and shuffled to the table by her bed. Just as she was about to gulp down a cup of tea, an old woman lifted the veil of her tent and walked in.

“Miss Feng, have some hot tea especially good for hangovers instead. General Situ had me bring this to you.”

“Oh.” Feng Luodi nodded and took the cup of tea from her. The cup was at her lips before she remembered her manners, but realised that she did not know the identity of the old woman.

“You are?”

“I’m the Mama of the General’s residence. General Situ sent me here to serve you, Miss Feng.” The old lady smiled. “I watched General Situ grow from a little boy to the man he is today.”

Feng Luodi nodded and smiled. “Hello, Mama. No worries about that, I can take care of myself well enough. You can return to his residence in the Pass; the camp is very noisy and perhaps bad for your health.”

“Why thank you for your concern, Miss Feng.” Mama smiled genially. “But it has always been unsuitable for a woman to be in an army camp since the olden days. If you reside here alone, bad rumours may begin to spread about you. It’s best if I can serve you here as well, to prevent any mishaps from happening.”

Feng Luodi blinked. Why does that sound so fishy? Ohwells, I guess it’s fine, as long as she doesn’t get in my way. She shrugged. “Do as you please, Mama.” She drank the tea in a swift gulp, but was surprised to see the Mama still in her tent.

“Do you have other business with me, Mama?” Feng Luodi was confused.

Mama smiled. “I wish to have a few words with you, Miss Feng.” Before she could continue, Situ’s voice sounded from the other side of the veil.

“Luodi, are you awake?”

“I am. Come on in.”

Situ lifted the veil and walked in. Seeing Mama, he nodded.

“General, I will take my leave now.” Surprisingly, Mama quickly took her leave and left the tent. As soon as she’d left, an awkward silence ensued in the tent. Feng Luodi berated herself silently. What was I doing yesterday? I should have pushed him away from the start! Now things have gotten awkward; I’m sure he believes that I have feelings for him! Argh!

Situ broke the silence. “Mama watched me grow up. I thought that it was best for her to serve you in the camp.”

Feng Luodi smiled, and ignored the topic. “You were looking for me?”

Is she trying to avoid talking about what happened yesterday? Situ was perplexed. “I’d planned to check out the nearby Quicksand Town with Zhang Xin today. Will you like to tag along?”

“Sounds great.” Feng Luodi tried to look as natural as possible. “But let me have some breakfast before we leave.”

“Already prepared for you.”


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