Chapter 37 Rising Wind: Crisis
Feng Luodi did not sleep well that night. She spent her time in bed tossing and turning, trying to recall what little she knew of Feng Luodi’s past 17 years of experience. The people she interacted with, the significant incidents that had happened, and the usual habits the body had had before she transmigrated into this world. Of course, the Chamberlain’s order preventing her from seeing Situ again added further distress. Father has always only concerned himself with his work in the Judicial Bureau, and I don’t see any reason for him to interact with Situ, who’s the General-in-chief of the North, at all. What does he have against Situ?
“Arghhhhh.” Feng Luodi sat up in bed, frustrated by her string of idle thoughts. She ruffled her long hair and sighed heavily. “Why should I even be bothered with what Father thinks of Situ anyway? I’ll have to return to my world sooner or later, and will never see any of these people again.” She comforted herself and smacked her forehead. Ignoring the worry in her stomach, she quickly got dressed.
I’d better head to the antechamber to have breakfast with the family today, seeing as how Father was so upset last night.
Feng Luodi had braced herself for the open displeasure of her father when she entered the antechamber, but was shocked when she saw him sitting by the dining table. Is that man with the wide grin on his face really Father? Feng Luodi rubbed her eyes hard, closed them, and opened them again. Is that really the father that was fuming at me just last night?
“Luodi, why are you sitting there? Come and sit here.”
Is it really a good thing that his mood has completely turned around in such a short time? Feng Luodi was a little hesitant as she walked over. She glanced around the room, quietly checking to see if there was another “Father” sitting around.
Fu Bo brought a bowl of porridge to her, and quietly whispered. “Young miss, you might not have heard the news yet, but the Second Lady is pregnant. She was feeling unwell today morning, and the physician had confirmed her pregnancy when he was called in for the diagnosis. You’ll be having a younger brother or sister soon!”
Fu Bo’s face was lit up in joy too. After all, it was indeed good news that the Second Lady is now pregnant. She had been married into the household for ten years, and it was definitely a surprising ‘present’ for the Chamberlain to receive another child.
Feng Luodi could feel the joy radiating from her father; while he barely ever smiled on a normal day, his eyes had almost disappeared beneath his ever-widening grin today. At least he’d already forgotten about my disobedience last night.
“Luodi, go and check on your Second Mam after breakfast.”
“Yes, Father.” Feng Luodi spoke into the bowl of porridge in front of her.
After breakfast ended in the antechamber, and the Chamberlain got ready for court, Feng Luodi slowly made her way to the Second Lady’s courtyard. She could hear the flurry of noises coming from the courtyard far away as the servants busied about, tending to the Second Lady’s needs and wants.
“Quick! Change this table into a rounded one. And remove that vase in the corner! Remember, nothing with a corner could be allowed in this room!” The wet nurse hired by the Second Lady gave out orders briskly.
“Yes, I’ll get to it now.”
“You! Go and get some soft furs from the store and lay them in the Lady’s room!”
When Feng Luodi reached the entrance of the courtyard, a handmaiden was helping the Second Lady to her chair that sat in the sun. The Second Lady was all smiles, glowing with all the pride and bliss of a soon-to-be mother.
Feng Luodi looked up at the skies, and took a deep breath before entering.
“Young miss?” The handmaiden was the first to see Feng Luodi.
The Second Lady raised her head, and waved Feng Luodi over quickly, surprise written all over her face. “Quickly come over and sit by me, Luodi!”
Feng Luodi smiled, and sat down by the Second Lady. “Second Mam.”
“It is your first time in my courtyard, isn’t it?” She turned to the handmaiden. “Turquoise, go and bring out some desserts and tea.”
“No need for them, Second Mam, I won’t be staying much longer here. In fact, I’ll be leaving the household again in a bit.” Feng Luodi looked concernedly at the Second Lady. “How are you feeling right now? What did the physician say?”
The Second Lady was a little surprised by her question, but hid it quickly with a gentle smile. “He said that the baby is in a stable condition, and that I should just continue resting as per normal.”
“That’s good to hear. I’d met Father in the antechamber just now and he was elated.”
The Second Lady suddenly looked shy. “I’ve been married to your father for ten years, and now we finally have a child to call our own.”
They engaged in a little more idle chatter, before Feng Luodi took her leave.
“Luodi.” The Second Lady called out, just as Feng Luodi was about to leave the courtyard.
“Yes, Second Mam?”
The Second Lady hesitated, then shook her head. “It’s nothing, go on now.”
“Rest well, Second mam.” Feng Luodi turned and left the courtyard. With a heavy heart, she made her way towards her mother’s rooms.
The First Lady now spent most of her time in her room, her body too weak to go outdoors ever since her last spell. Signalling to the few handmaidens in the courtyard to not alert her mother, Feng Luodi quietly made her way into the house. Through the window, Feng Luodi could see her mother half-leaning against the bed. She had a set of bamboo slats held in her left hand, and was reading it intensely. A small bench had been sat by her bed, and on it were writing instruments of brushes and ink. An elegant smile graced the face of her mother, who often picked up the brush to make notes on the scriptures she read.
Feng Luodi rubbed her eyes. Mother must not know about the Second Lady’s pregnancy yet.
She watched from afar, and could feel tears gathering at the corners of her eyes. The Second Lady will have children playing around her knees in the future, and will have pieous sons and daughters always by her side. But Mother…Mother only has me now. What will become of Mother, once I leave this world?
Feng Luodi did not dare to continue with this train of thought. She stumbled backwards out of the room and dashed out of the courtyard, her hands covering her face. The entire household was busy tending to the needs of the Second Lady, and no one noticed her leaving the household alone. She brushed past the various servants, and made her way out of the gate. Slowly, and with a heavy heart, Feng Luodi made her way to Autumnal Ombre.
It was a new day, but there was still a crowd around the shop. However, they formed a neat queue in the middle of the street today – a sight that attracted and stopped many passer-bys. The business was bustling, but it did not lift Feng Luodi’s spirits one bit.
Li Tengfei looked up just as he finished a transaction, and saw Feng Luodi peering into the shop from the side of the queue.
“Young miss!” Li Tengfei quickly stepped out and invited Feng Luodi into the shop.
The recipes and technology for the brewing of Autumnal Ombre’s wines were all supplied by Feng Luodi, but Qi Jianqiu was the one who came up with the idea and design of a liquor store. Qi Jianqiu had wanted the shop to be opened in the busiest part of Chang’an, where it would be noticed by passer-bys without the need for any advertising. Instead, they would attract customers with the classy furnishing, and the well brewed wine.
The shop was split into two sections. The inner room was for personal use for the employees and the owners, namely Feng Luodi and Qi Jianqiu. It was equipped with everything from zithers to paintings, and even had an attached kitchen. While they were discussing the layout of the shop, Feng Luodi had to keep herself from rolling her eyes, especially with the attached kitchen. Just think about it! A kitchen, in a liquor store! Meanwhile, the outer room was a lounge for the clients who have placed large orders at the counter, so that they could rest while their wine was being prepared. Using Qi Jianqiu’s words, it was an “investment”. Not only that, there was a shack set up outside the shop, where those who were exhausted from the long queue could rest in the shade and enjoy some tea.
“Young miss, Scarlet was really worried about you yesterday, when you didn’t show up at the time you promised to come.” Li Tengfei poured Feng Luodi a cup of tea.
“I’m sorry, Fei. That was a mistake on my part. I should have sent word to you guys before I left the house.” Feng Luodi quietly berated herself for forgetting that. She had gone straight to her room last night after her talk with her father, and Scarlet had left for Autumnal Ombre before she had woken up today morning.
“No need to apologise, young miss.” Fei smiled warmly. “We know that you can take care of yourself. You know how Scarlet is, always worrying about you. No need to fret about the running of Autumnal Ombre either – we can handle everything here, young miss.”
“Mmm.” Feng Luodi emptied the worrisome thoughts from her head and turned to Fei. “Go about your duties then, Scarlet might not be able to handle the crowd on her own. The workload should be much more manageable when Jianqiu sends over some of her attendants to help.”
“Alright then! Please rest here, young miss. I’ll be returning to the counter.” Fei bowed, and briskly headed off to help at the counter.
Feng Luodi raised the cup of tea, and looked closely at the teacup that was very different from the rest used in the kingdom. It was modelled after the song she had played previously in Moonglade, “Blue-Flower Porcelain”1. Jiang Moyin had been curious about this type of porcelain that wasn’t produced in the kingdom, and had asked for a few drawings of the porcelain. On the day of Autumnal Ombre’s opening, Jiang Moyin had a set of teacups made in the likeness of the porcelain, and sent it to the shop as a gift.
“I miss it so much.” Feng Luodi sighed and closed her eyes. A tear silently rolled down her cheek, and she quickly wiped it away. “What’s wrong with me today? I was never this emotional in the past, when I was still Luo Di.”
“Am I not Luo Di?”
Feng Luodi drank several cups of tea in quick succession, trying to drown away the heavy thoughts in her mind. Suddenly, sounds of confrontation came from the front of the shop. The sound of a shattering flask could be heard clearly above the commotion, which was quickly followed by the raised voices of Scarlet and Fei.
Jumping to her feet, Feng Luodi quickly headed to the front of the shop to assess the situation.
A burly man sporting a thick beard stood in front of the shop, smashing the sealed jugs of wine onto the pavement as the crowd watched on in horror.
“I cannot seem to stop drinking your wine anymore, ever since I’d gotten a taste. Even the doctor has said that my body is failing. Tell me! What did you add in the wine!”
Scarlet was livid. “It’s your own fault for being an alcoholic! How is this our fault!? This doesn’t even make sense! Everybody is drinking wine from our shop; why are you the only one that has fallen sick?”
Someone in queue spoke up. “Hey drunkard! Go smash things up somewhere else! You’re obstructing us from buying our wines!”
The man ignored the words thrown at him. “I’m sure there is a problem with this wine! How can you guys still drink this? I’ve had to see the physician after just a few sips! Go back and check with a doctor now, before everything is too late!”
His tone was rude, but his words managed to sway some. Coupled with his continued smashing of wine jugs, some who were in the queue turned to leave, and the rest were quietly discussing amongst themselves.
Li Tengfei spoke up calmly, unfazed despite his young age. “Your claims are unfounded. We will call the officers to remove you if you continue to destroy our property and tarnish our name. Our wines have been certified safe by the authorities; we wouldn’t have dared to sell them otherwise. If you have an issue with us, feel free to sue us, and we’ll see how well your case holds up in court.”
The man hesitated when he heard the words “officers” and “court”. Noticing his hesitation, Feng Luodi stepped forward towards him. “Who are you? State your name here, and we can go straight to the yamen to sort this out.”
Fei quickly stopped her. “Be careful, young miss. Don’t get any closer to him.”
“Young miss?” The burly man sized Feng Luodi up. “So you’re the boss of this shop? Never knew that the shop was managed by a woman.”
Feng Luodi narrowed her eyes. “Where did you hear that from?”
The man shifted from foot to foot, and avoided eye contact with her. He glanced towards a corner of the crowd, finding someone to give him the strength to respond. “It doesn’t matter where I’d heard it from. There’s something wrong with your wines! I demand compensation for my personal damages, and that you shut down this shop right away! This whole thing is a sham!”
Feng Luodi laughed, a harsh sound. “Great! Since you’re so insistent that there’s something wrong with our wines but is unable to prove it, let’s go straight to the yamen. If you refuse to go with us because you’re afraid of the truth being found out, then please leave right now. Stop trying to slander our name.”
“You think I’m scared of you?!” The man walked closer, a flask of wine still in his hand. “I know that you officials love to cover for each other in court, and you are the daughter of someone important! You expect me to accept the verdict so easily, after all of this?”
The man got more and more worked up as he advanced on Feng Luodi, the flask of wine still in his hand. Fei quickly pulled Feng Luodi behind him, looking warily at the man.
Feng Luodi furrowed her brows. This man is dead set on slandering our name, by saying that there is something wrong with our wines, but he refuses to go to the yamen to settle this case. The longer this drags out, the worse it is for us.
Tensions continued to rise in the area in front of the shop. Suddenly, a clear voice sounded out from the circle formed by the crowd.
“But what if you just here to slander Autumnal Ombre, acting on someone else’s orders?”
- See example of said teacup here. ↩