TOMAS Chapter 40

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Chapter 40 Rising Wind: Poison

The physician was solemn as he carefully explained his findings. “There has been a sudden increase in the number of patients at the hospital recently, all down with the symptoms of diarrhoea and vomiting. Their age varies from children to the elderly, and the severity of their symptoms depended on the original health of the patients.  However, nothing we’ve been prescribing have seemed to work so far.”

“That’s how we came to the conclusion that it wasn’t just a simple stomach flu, but that they were being poisoned. Unfortunately, we have yet to confirm the type of poison that they have been drugged with, and that has limited the herbs and medicine that we use in treating the symptoms. The only advice we can give to patients are for them to stay at home, and be careful with the food and water they consume. Strangely enough, just staying at home has alleviated the symptoms for some, yet it remains the same, or worse, for others. This uncertainty is what is causing the rising panic amongst the people.”

“I can see that Master Jiang was never truly healthy, for his pulse is weak and irregular. I believe that he has been taking medicine regularly throughout his life, and the over-reliance on external herbs have caused his physical state to be fragile and, in other words, sensitive. That was why I could detect a trace of poison in his system, poison that I believe to be the same as the substance that has afflicted the rest of Chang’an.”

“Then don’t you already know what poison it is? You can cure it, right?” Feng Luodi’s face brightened up a little.

The physician shook his head. “I’m not good enough to treat him. I can only confirm that he has been poisoned with the same drug as the rest of Chang’an, yet at the same time I can detect trace amounts of another poison in his system. I believe that he has been poisoned a long time ago, and the poison was never fully cured. Because of this, I am unable to prescribe him any medication, for fear of it triggering the other poison.”

“What?” Feng Luodi turned to face Jiang Moyin’s attendant. “Moyin has been poisoned before? When was this?” Feng Luodi looked calm, but one could hear the underlying anger in her voice.

“I’m afraid I don’t know anything about that, young miss.” The attendant bowed his head. “We haven’t spent that much time in the Jiang household. I only knew that Master Jiang has been sickly since young, but was never told the cause of it. It has always been a forbidden topic in the household.”

Feng Luodi furrowed her brows.

The physician continued. “Although I cannot confirm what poison it is, but Master Jiang should be fine. He has only vomited blood because of the damage the new poison has done to his Qi. All he needs is rest, and to continue taking his regular medication.”

“Fei, please show the physician out.” Feng Luodi rubbed her brow, and sat down beside Jiang Moyin, her eyes never leaving his face. For the first time in her life, she felt truly helpless. Having lived for 24 years, and spending two years in the workforce,  her experience had helped her to remain calm when she was told that she was to be transmigrated to another world on a quest. That was what ignited the protective feelings she had for Qi Jianqiu, and that was why she interacted and looked after Scarlet, Jet and Fei as if they were her younger siblings.

However, her calm and logical mind did not provide any help in this situation. Other than her expertise in business and economics, the only other skill she had was her mastery of the zither. I can’t use anything that I’ve learnt to help Moyin, despite me always having to rely on him!

She buried her face in her hands. Why am I so useless?

Fei returned to the room, and seeing Feng Luodi’s state, spoke softly to her. “Young miss, the palanquin from the Jiang household is here.”

“Okay.” Feng Luodi stood up, and looked at Jiang Moyin’s attendant. “Please be careful when you bring Moyin back later. Be discreet about his condition as well.” She pointed at Li Tengfei. “He’ll be sending messages to the Jiang household in the future, whenever it is needed. Please do not bar him outside the gates.”

The attendant nodded. “Of course, young miss. Thank you for helping to handle the situation today. I will tell the head steward of your assistance in this matter.”

Feng Luodi nodded, and watched as a few men quickly entered the room and carried Jiang Moyin out. The palanquin slowly disappeared from view.

“Young miss, are you not going to follow him?” Scarlet asked gingerly, seeing the desolate expression on Feng Luodi’s face.

Feng Ludi shook her head. She turned to Fei and Scarlet. “Close Autumnal Ombre for the day and head back to the household. Rest for the next few days, and open the shop again when this entire thing has blown over. Rotate in shifts with the people from the Qi household – I trust the people that Jianqiu has chosen.”

“Alright. Scarlet and I will pack up the place, and head back to the household. Young miss, will you wait here for us, or head on back first?”

“I have something else to take care of before going back.” Feng Luodi turned to leave the shop, but was quickly stopped by Scarlet’s hand on her arm. Both Fei and Scarlet spoke up at the same time.

“Young miss, let Fei go with you. I can pack up the place alone.”

“Young miss, let Scarlet go with you. I can handle this by myself.”

Feng Luodi laughed, seeing the concerned expression on their face. “What’s with this reaction of yours? All I’m going to do is head to the hospital nearby. What could possibly go wrong?”

Scarlet embarrassedly let go of Feng Luodi’s arm. “Oh, I see. Please return early to the household then, young miss.” She thought quietly to herself. The expression on young miss’s face had scared me, and I grabbed her by reflex.

Feng Luodi smiled, and headed out of the shop. She walked along the street, and shortly arrived at the hospital. In contrast to the rest of the empty shops along the street, the hospital was packed full of people filling their prescription or getting examined by a physician. All the patients are looking equally bad, and the same herbs are given to all of them at the counter. I’m sure they’re all poisoned by the same toxin.

Seeing a patient get up and leave from his seat in front of a physician, Feng Luodi quickly sat down in the chair.

“Miss, are you here for a consultation?” The physician was an old man with a wispy white beard and a warm, grandfatherly look about him.

Feng Luodi shook her head. “Doctor, I would like to ask: is it true that the patients in the hospital has contracted the same illness, or is it just a rumour?”

The physician was more experienced, and looked at her warily. “Why are you asking about that? That is confidential. We cannot disclose the private matters of the patients.”

Feng Luodi quickly shook her head. “You’ve misunderstood me, sir. Someone very important to me has fallen sick as well, and all I want to do is to find out the reason so that I can get the same prescription for him.”

“Really?” The physician looked at her doubtfully, but another patient came forward, and he quickly turned impatient. “It’s just the usual stomachache and diarrhoea. Don’t stay here and interrupt my business anymore.”

Feng Luodi got out of her chair reluctantly. “My apologies for intruding.”

That afternoon, Feng Luodi visited a few other hospitals, but had came home with the same result. She was unable to find out if the situation was bad enough that it had afflicted the whole city, of if it was just the result of someone’s malicious intents. She wanted to get to the bottom of it.

The sun was setting on the horizon as she slowly approached the Feng household, her face deep in thought. Li Tengfei had been waiting by the gate of the household, and quickly came to her when he saw her walking down the street.

“Young miss, someone from the Jiang household had sent word regarding Master Jiang’s illness a while ago.”

Feng Luodi’s head shot up. “What did they say?”

Li Tengfei continued as he led the way into the house. “The royal physician had just taken a look at him, and concluded that the poison had only hurt Master Jiang a little. The main reason for his vomiting of blood was because of his weak physique, coupled with the cold that he had never fully recovered from, added to the mental stress he had bore. As long as he stays at home resting for the next month, taking care not to overwork himself, he will recover just fine.”

“Phew, that’s good to hear.” Feng Luodi sighed in relief.

“Master Jiang has already woken up, and tells you not to worry for him. He’ll visit again when he feels better.”

Feng Luodi frowned. “I’ll go check on him tomorrow, I guess. He isn’t in any shape to go anywhere for the next few weeks.”

“I’ll go with you tomorrow then, young miss.”

“Alright, then.” Feng Luodi nodded. “Did you manage to find out anything else about this incident?” She looked around the household, and noticed that many handmaidens and attendants could not be seen.

Li Tengfei’s voice quietened. “I’d bumped into the Administrator’s carriage on the way back, and from what I’d overheard of the officers’ conversation, this has reached his Majesty’s ears. He had given the Administrator a month to solve the case of poisoning; the Administrator was just fretting over this.”

“The Administrator?” Feng Luodi recalled their interaction when she’d helped solve the case at Moonglade. What excuse can I come up with this time to join the investigation? I want to do what I can to help Moyin.

Before she could come up with a solution, Fu Bo walked past the two, a worried look on his face. Feng Luodi quickly called out to him. “Fu Bo. Is something the matter? Where are all the other handmaidens and attendants?”

“Young miss.” Fu Bo stopped and looked at her. “The mother of the Second Lady is sick with illness, and the Second Lady wants to return to take care of her. Master has assigned some of the attendants in the household to accompany her on the trip.”

“But…” Feng Luodi was worried. “With the current situation in Chang’an, are you sure it’s a  good idea to leave the city now?”

Fu Bo bowed. “That’s why the Master assigned me to put in place the necessary precautions to ensure the Second Lady’s safety. She will have to leave soon; please excuse my absence.”

“Go ahead, then.” Feng Luodi nodded.

Li Tengfei whispered quietly when Fu Bo had walked out of sight. “It seems as if Master has become much more protective and loving to the Second Lady after the news of her pregnancy. It’s as if the entire household exists only to serve her now! I’m sure the First Lady must be sad to see this change.”

Feng Luodi shot a look at him.

Li Tengfei quickly noticed his mistake, and bowed his head. “My apologies, I have spoken out of place.”

Feng Luodi looked at him for a while. “Where does the Second Lady’s mother live?”

“In Chang’an, young miss. Her father holds the position of Ordinary Grand Master, a 6th Rank Official.”

“It’s good that it’s still in Chang’an; it’ll be a quick trip, and everything should go well. The Second Lady is pregnant, and it’s normal for everyone to be focused on her.”

“Young miss,” Li Tengfei asked gingerly, “you look happy with the Second Lady’s pregnancy.”

Feng Luodi’s face darkened. “Father has no sons to his name, and he definitely treats this child seriously. Pass word around to the rest of the attendants, and warn them not to think of things they are not supposed to.”

“Yes, young miss.” Li Tengfei wiped his brow.

“Also, I’ve heard from the few teachers that you’re a fast learner. Pay them a visit these few days, and they’ll still be willing to teach you in the future. Don’t pick up the bad habits from the other attendants.”

“Yes, young miss. I wouldn’t listen to them anymore.”

After Li Tengfei returned to his quarters, Feng Luodi headed over to her mother’s courtyard. There weren’t many flowers planted in the yard, and the area was instead filled with evergreen trees and green shrubs. The greenery was a welcoming sight, and her mood quickly lifted a little. She walked towards her mother’s room, and heard some light conversation coming from inside. Standing outside the room, she could make out the Chamberlain’s voice.

Their conversation was too muffled to be make out, but she heard a trace of laughter in her mother’s voice. The Chamberlain’s voice was gentle and purposefully kept his volume low, to match the First Lady’s usual soft speech.

Feng Luodi stood for a while, and turned to head back to her own room. In the courtyard behind her, the clumps of shrubs and groups of trees painted an enchanting picture of vibrant green.

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