TOMAS Chapter 39

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Chapter 39 Rising Wind: Blood

Ever since their relationship as ‘sworn’ siblings have been confirmed, Feng Luodi and Jiang Moyin had been interacting much more frequently, but a little differently. If they could be said to have been interacting politely as friends, they now spend their time together much closer to each other, as siblings do. Feng Luodi was an only child back in the 21st century, and she only has a much younger sibling yet to be born in this world. It was a completely new experience for her to be taken care of by an elder brother like Jiang Moyin.

With the entire Feng household busy caring for the expectant Second Lady as of late, Feng Luodi had sent Jet to accompany her mother daily, while she herself continued to search for information on the remaining nine Guqin.

It’s already been half a year since I came to this world, and I’ve only just scratched the surface of what I came here to do. She sighed. The only good thing that has happened over the past 6 months is my compatibility with this body; I doubt I’ll be fainting again any time soon. However, I need guidance from Phantom, but I haven’t had the chance to talk to him ever since that time I passed out in Manchun Tang. It seems as if the only chance I have of seeing him is by entering the circle of light when my soul is separated from my body like before. Is there no one else I can turn to?

“My apologies, Miss Feng. We haven’t heard anything about the remaining nine Guqin.” The owner of a zither shop bowed as he apologised.

“It’s alright. Thank you for your assistance as always.” Feng Luodi kept her disappointment from showing on her face. “I’ll have to trouble you again to keep an eye out for it in the future. As for the zither that I’ve chosen just now, one of my attendants would be coming later to collect and pay for it.”

“Of course, of course.” The shopkeeper smiled widely as he walked Feng Luodi out of his zither shop.

Feng Luodi turned and walked into another zither shop, only to leave again in disappointment. Just like the past few days, she dragged herself towards Autumnal Ombre, weary after having visited all the zither shops in Chang’an.

As she walked along the street outside of Autumnal Ombre, she noticed something was amiss. “Isn’t this supposed to be the busiest street in the whole of Chang’an city? Why is there so little people about? The weather looks fine, and it isn’t time for people to be home for lunch yet!” Feng Luodi wondered aloud.

Indeed, Chang’an’s most prosperous street was now almost deserted, and it was a long while before someone brushed past Feng Luodi, briskly heading in the opposite direction. Most shops were closed as well. I’m used to seeing this street bustling and crowded, I wonder what happened for it to be deserted like this.

“Fei, did something happen in Chang’an recently? Where are all the people on the streets?” Feng Luodi fired a question at Fei as soon as she walked into Autumnal Ombre, the latter sitting comfortably in a chair as there were no customers at the shop as well. Beside him, Scarlet sat on a small stool, mending some clothes. Seeing Feng Luodi, Li Tengfei quickly put down the book he was holding and brought a chair for her to take a seat.

“It seems that many people have been poisoned. However, despite their best efforts, the physicians haven’t been able to find the source of the poison, and everyone is afraid that they’ll be afflicted if they left house. That’s why you barely see people on the streets anymore.”

“Poison?” Feng Luodi gasped. “Something like this can actually happen in the capital? Shouldn’t it be much safer?”

Scarlet leaned closer and answered for Fei. “I guess I wouldn’t call it poisoning. The people who are afflicted have exhibited symptoms of diarrhoea and vomiting, and do not seem to be better even after consuming medicine prescribed by the physicians. It was from there that the rumor came about that the people were being poisoned, as opposed to simply falling sick.”

Feng Luodi furrowed her eyebrows. “Sounds a little strange and creepy.” Her thoughts quickly flashed to two women in her family – her mother who was always weak and susceptible to illness, and the Second Lady who was currently pregnant. “Has no explanation been given yet?”

Li Tengfei nodded. “It is pretty creepy.” He gestured to the street. “Most of the businesses in the streets have decided to close for a while, at least until this incident is solved. After all, nobody wants to get into any trouble if they can avoid it.”

“Hey! What are you talking about!” Scarlet shoved him aside in disapproval and looked at Feng Luodi. “Young miss, don’t listen to him. I’m sure it’s only because of some minor food poisoning that everyone is not feeling well. Everything will be alright soon.”

Feng Luodi couldn’t make heads or tails of the situation either, having never experienced anything like that in her own world. She nodded and patted Scarlet lightly on her shoulder. “Be more careful out here. Close it down and head back home if the situation escalates any further. We can always open it again another day.”

Scarlet nodded excitedly. “I’ve missed Jet a lot. She’s always sleeping by the time I go back. Hmph!”

Suddenly, Li Tengfei called out beside them. “Hello Master Jiang! It’s good to see you again!”

Feng Luodi got up from her seat and looked towards the entrance. Jiang Moyin wore a surcoat of vibrant colour today, a colour that reminded her of the blooming begonias of spring. It was a dark shade of pink, embellished with the patterns of insects1 and fauna, the ornamental threads of purple and gold that hung from the robe adding a hint of elegance to the luxurious robe. From his signature warm smile and the crown of white jade that sat on his head, it was not hard to see why he was the Second Gentleman of Chang’an. However, Feng Luodi’s eyes were drawn to the cape around his shoulders. The cape was thick, the furry collar right around his neck, adding a hint of frailty to his image.

Today is neither windy nor cold at all, so why is he wearing such a thick cape?  Feng Luodi quickly walked up to him. “Brother, are you not feeling well? Why are you out on the streets if you aren’t well!” She quickly motioned Scarlet and Fei to fetch the stove and some warm tea.

Jiang Moyin smiled. “Situ and Yiqi were hunting outside the city grounds today and had quite the success. I knew that you’d usually be at Autumnal Ombre around this time of the day, and quickly brought some over for you.” An attendant behind him quickly stepped forward and took out a couple of roe deers and wild rabbits, all freshly skinned and cleaned.

“You didn’t have to come yourself, brother.” Feng Luodi gently supported Jiang Moyin as he sat down, and quickly passed him a cup of warm tea. “You’re supposed to rest at home when you’re sick, Moyin. You’re not even supposed to bother yourself with the matters of the court, let alone something as trivial as this.”

Jiang Moyin cupped his hands around the warm tea and laughed. “I never thought that having a sister would be like having another steward to nag at me.” He turned to his attendants. “She practically copying Fu Bo at this point.”

The attendant laughed as well. “It’s in your good fortune to have her, Grand Tutor.”

“Hah! That’s a witty one.” Jiang Moyin praised his attendant.

“I’m sure he learnt that from you. Your way of words has been even been praised by his Majesty himself.” Feng Luodi rolled her eyes.

“No way! You always seem to have a better comeback up your sleeve!” Jiang Moyin quickly defended himself.

Both of them laughed. Feng Luodi looked at Jiang Moyin, and asked in a much more serious tone, “What did the Heir Apparent think of your teachings and ideals about the policies for the kingdom? Did he write to the Emperor about it?”

Jiang Moyin shook his head. “A few of the older officials in court stopped the Heir before he could write to the Emperor. They’d felt that the economy of the kingdom is currently in a slump, and the suppression of agriculture in favour of commerce might lead to unrest amongst the people. The Heir saw the logic behind their words, and agreed to think about the issue before he acted again.”

“Oh? Is that so?” Feng Luodi knew nothing about the matters of court, but she felt that it was definitely a bad sign if a country relies too heavily on agriculture at the expense of commerce. “Isn’t the Xuan kingdom affluent and powerful?”

Jiang Moyin shook his head. “That’s only what you see from the outside. Other than Chang’an, Jiangnan is the only region where the lands are slightly more prosperous. The majority of people in the kingdom are very poor. We’re still not at the level to let everyone have a good education, nor for them to have enough to fill their stomachs. I’m just glad that the current Heir has a thirst for knowledge and is a hardworking student. Thanks to him, many policies benefiting the people have been implemented.”

Feng Luodi stared at Jiang Moyin as he shared his beliefs and ideals for the kingdom, her lips curled into a smile. Father had said that although the position of a Grand Tutor was no trivial matter, Moyin could have went even further with his abilities. However, he was more inclined to teach the Heir Apparent the ways of ruling a kingdom, and the ways of being a good king. That was his ambition, an ambition that he is willing to give up everything to achieve. He’d pinned all his hopes and dreams onto this one person, the Heir, the future Emperor.

A wise king, and a loyal subordinate.

Feng Luodi was touched. That was what she had felt as well, when she’d listened to the stories of the war Situ had share. Their ambitions and dreams were what she respected the most about them.

“Cough! Cough!” Jiang Moyin’s body was wrecked with shudders as he doubled over in pain.

“What’s wrong?” Feng Luodi quickly leaned over.

The hand that Jiang Moyin had used to cover his mouth was bloodied. His robe was splattered in red, and the furs on his cape were flecked with blood. It was a painful sight.

“Moyin, what’s wrong! Are you alright?” Feng Luodi held him tightly. The attendants that came with him were panicking as well.

“I’m…I’m alright.” Jiang Moyin’s wave stopped in mid-air before his hand dropped to the chair, fainting. His face was pale and sticky.

“Moyin…Moyin!” Feng Luodi did not dare to move Jiang Moyin. She quickly gathered her wits and turned to the others crowding around.

“Fei, go get the physician. Now! Scarlet, prepare some hot water.”

“Yes, young miss.”

“You.” Feng Luodi pointed at one of the attendants that came with Jiang Moyin. “Carry Moyin into the inner room and let him rest on the bed. Be gentle!”

Feng Luodi looked at the other attendant, who was visibly panicking. “Return to the Jiang household immediately, and instruct someone to return with a soft palanquin. If you can, get them to summon the Royal Physician just in case.”

“Yes, young miss.” The attendant turned and quickly ran towards the Jiang household.

Feng Luodi quickly headed into the inner room, and saw Scarlet already dabbing at Jiang Moyin’s face with a warm towel.

“Let me.” Feng Luodi took the towel from Scarlet and continued to dab at Jiang Moyin’s forehead, while she asked the attendant. “Has Moyin fallen sick recently? Why would he suddenly vomit blood?”

The attendant was confused as well. “The Grand Tutor was always sickly, but it had never been much of an issue. He had caught a cold this autumn, and had never fully recovered. But he was never so sick that he would vomit blood.”

“Did Moyin eat or do anything out of the ordinary today?”

The attendant thought about it for a second. “He was invited to the hunt by General Situ and the rest today, but he excused himself because of his health. Master Xue had delivered some of the game after the hunt, and the Grand Tutor brought these here immediately, taking his usual route. If we’re talking about food, the Grand Tutor hasn’t even eaten anything. He’d skipped breakfast in the morning as well.”

There is nothing out of the ordinary indeed. Feng Luodi felt her heart clench as she looked at Jiang Moyin’s pale face. She knew that Jiang Moyin was not physically strong, but was never aware that he had been sickly from young.

“Why isn’t the physician here yet!” Feng Luodi muttered under her breath.

Just as she finished her sentence, Fei called out from the entrance of the shop. “Young miss, the physician is here! Come on now.”

The curtain was lifted, and Fei led an old man into the room. Feng Luodi quickly vacated her seat for the physician and looked at him, panic in her eyes. “Please sir, take a look at him. He vomited blood a few minutes ago, what’s wrong with him?”

“Calm down, young miss. I can only make a diagnosis after reading his pulse.”

Feng Luodi nodded, keeping her gaze on Jiang Moyin. His features are so gentle, just like how his personality is. He is always as warm as jade, and always easy to be around. He is incredibly talented and knowledgeable, yet always humble and kind. How lucky I am to have such a person as my elder brother.

The physician lifted his fingers from Jiang Moyin’s wrist, and tucked his hand back under the blankets. He stood up, and looked at them with a frown.

“Miss, are you aware of the recent cases of diarrhoea and vomiting in the city?”

“I am.” Feng Luodi nodded. “What does Moyin vomiting blood have to do with this? Was he poisoned as well? What poison is it? Is there an antidote?”

“Calm down, young miss.” The physician comforted her. “It’s just my suspicion. Please hear me out.”

Feng Luodi took a deep breath and steadied herself. “Okay, please explain.”

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  1. Patterns of insects, like the kind we know of today (yes, bugs), were often embroidered/carved/printed on objects in Ancient China.