Chapter 61 Abysmal: Autumnal Hunt
“Luodi!” Qi Jianqiu clung onto Feng Luodi, ignoring Situ’s judgemental looks.
Feng Luodi patted her head and laughed lightly. “Is your father afraid that the young masters at the hunt would be too enchanted by your beauty to focus on their horse-riding?”
Situ added from the side. “From what I’ve heard and observed over the past few years, you’re spot on about that.”
Feng Luodi’s eyes widened, not expecting her casual jibe to be true. More than that, she was surprised that Situ had joined in such ‘meaningless’ banter.
Feng Luodi was pleasantly surprised, but Qi Jianqiu was deeply hurt. She pouted and looked at Feng Luodi with her puppy eyes. “Luodi! How could you laugh at me along with him?”
“Hey, I was complimenting your beauty!” Feng Luodi dragged Qi Jianqiu and the two of them sat down on a bench. She couldn’t hold her curiosity in and turned to Qi Jianqiu again. “Is that really the reason?”
“Mmmmmmm.” Qi Jianqiu nodded, crestfallen.
Feng Luodi shrugged helplessly. “I can’t help you if it’s that reason, then. Anyway, it’s the loss of the young masters’ if they can’t focus on the Autumnal Hunt. All the important people would be there!”
Situ raised his teacup. She can really look past appearances and into the heart of every matter! I’m sure the Emperor would appreciate such qualities.
Qi Jianqiu turned back and glared at Situ. “You were the one who told me that Luodi would have a plan to help me if I came to your residence! You liar!”
Situ shrugged coolly. “You can’t blame me for that. Luodi is the one who can’t come up with a plan to help you!”
Qi Jianqiu was fuming, but there was nothing she could do save to return to the Qi household. Just before she’d left the courtyard, Feng Luodi smiled.
“What do you like from the Guan Mountains; I’ll give you all of my spoils. That’ll be as good as you going yourself, wouldn’t it?”
Qi Jianqiu beamed. “I want foxes, hares, roe deers and…just get me everything that is small and cute!”
“Alright, alright. Be careful on your way back!”
When Qi Jianqiu was out of earshot, Situ spoke up lazily. “You don’t even know how to ride a horse, do you?”
Is this man saying that I can’t hung? Feng Luodi glared at him. “You and Moyin would surely help me, wouldn’t you? I’m sure Xue Yiqi can hunt as well.”
Situ eye twitched. How can she just push the responsibility to us so easily? “Well, you might be disappointed to hear that there are no roe deers nor cute foxes in the Guan Mountains.” He took a sip of tea.
“What? Are you saying that there are only rabbits in the mountains?”
“That is, if you don’t count the tigers.”
“TIGERS?!” Feng Luodi was excited. The only tigers she’d seen before were on television and in zoos. Wild tigers! That is the highlight of the Hunt, then! Well, that, and seeing the 7th Prince fail miserably.
Situ stood up, and pointed at the room she had slept in for the past few stays. “You’ll be sleeping in there again tonight.” He turned and returned to his own room.
Feng Luodi paused for a few moments outside her room, and she stared at Situ’s bedroom. She shook her head as if to clear it of thoughts, before turning in for the night.
The next morning, long, snaking trains of carriages and footmen slowly wound its way out of the streets of Chang’an, made up by the vast number of officials and their entourage attending the Autumnal Hunt.
Feng Luodi sat in one of the carriages in the entourage following Situ. She lifted the veil and looked around. This is a sight to behold! Not counting the personal entourage of each official attending the Hunt, there are 5000 soldiers of the Imperial Army protecting the Emperor, and an additional 5000 soldiers from the Central Army to maintain security! Her eyes landed on the figure at the front of their troupe. The man was dressed in a robe of navy blue, and the light pauldrons and armour of a warrior. His hair was tied up high and tight in a jade crown, his posture sharp and straight. I don’t even have to see him to know that he’s putting on his stern face again; it’s as if he’s always displeased at the world!
Feng Luodi held in her laughter, but the man on the horse suddenly turned around, and their eyes met in the air. Memories of that night lit with the glow of fireflies flashed through her mind, and her face grow hot. Feng Luodi quickly let go of the veil and hid her face into the cushions.
Feng Luodi slowly dozed off in the carriage, and was suddenly awakened when the carriage stopped. Are we here yet? Feng Luodi lifted her veil again, and saw people disembarking from the carriages. Situ was nowhere to be seen.
An attendant approached her and bowed respectfully. “Miss Feng, his Grace has appointed me to show you to your tent, where you can rest.”
“Okay. Please lead the way.” Feng Luodi followed the attendant. The Guan Mountains were by no means a small area, and besides the woods where the Hunt was to take place, the clearings had been pitched full of tents. The attendant led her towards a huge and ornately decorated tent, where two guards she recognised from Situ’s residence stood guard by the entrance.
The attendant led her to a smaller tent beside the bigger tent, and showed her in. “This is your tent, young miss, and the tent beside yours belongs to the Duke. If you need anything, you can approach us or the Duke directly.”
“I understand. Thank you for your help.” Feng Luodi looked around the tent. The tent was decorated very much like a normal room, but with the bed much closer to the ground. A brazier was burning in the middle of the tent, and a pot of warm tea sat beside it. Feng Luodi had just took off her cloak when she heard a fanfare complete with cymbals and dashed out of the tent to take a look…running headfirst into a person walking in.
“Argh! That hurts!” Feng Luodi cupped her nose and looked up to see Situ. She was about to complain, but caught herself just in time as she noticed figures behind him and quickly put aside her hand quietly.
Situ looked at Feng Luodi’s nose that was starting to turned red, and turned to the two behind him. “You guys go on ahead. We’ll come over later.”
Gan Qingjia snickered. “Alright, alright. We wouldn’t intrude on you and your clandestine date then. What a pity that the other beauty isn’t here! Yiqi, let’s go.”
Xue Yiqi scratched his head and smiled. “Alright then. Let’s go and get Second Brother then.”
“What a silly kid.” Gan Qingjia strung an arm across Xue Yiqi’s neck and started dragging him out. “Your Second Brother is probably busy right now. You’re stuck with me and me alone!”
When the two of them had left, Situ turned to Feng Luodi. “Take a look at yourself in the mirror; your nose is red!”
Feng Luodi rubbed it casually. “What’s up with the fanfare outside?”
“It’s the ritual before the beginning of the Hunt. The rain had delayed the preparations just now, and the Emperor is leading the members of the royal family in the ritual.”
“Ah! No wonder it’s only starting now. What about the Hunt? When will the hunt begin?” That was what Feng Luodi was interested in.
“The first day is for the ritual, and the second day is the day the hunt begins.” Situ went forward and made a gesture for Feng Luodi to follow him out.
Feng Luodi quickly shook her head, losing all interest. “If that’s the case, I’ll just go out tomorrow, then.”
Situ rubbed his temple. This woman is so complicated and fickle! “Fine then. Just stay in the tent. If you need anything, let the guards now. Don’t walk about too much in the area – the tents all belong to men in this section.”
“I know, I know.” Feng Luodi waved him away, obviously bored.
Situ stood there for a while more, before confirming that Feng Luodi was indeed ignoring him. He sighed and left the tent in pursuit of the rest. As soon as Situ left, Feng Luodi dashed to the mirror frantically and carefully examined her nose. “How is his chest so hard even after he’s taken off his armour!” Feng Luodi pouted.
By the time night has fallen, Feng Luodi could not sit still anymore. There was no zither for her to play nor was there anyone for her to talk to. I’m sure I’ve been here for so long, mushrooms are already growing on my head! She lifted the flap of the tent, and the guard standing outside quickly bowed to her.
“Young miss, is there anything you’ll want for us to do?”
“Not at all. I’ll just be taking a walk around – is that okay?”
“Of course. Just be careful to stay in this area, or in the area outside of the woods. Please avoid the sensitive areas.”
“I understand. No worries about that, I know what to avoid.” Feng Luodi smiled, and headed off in a random direction.
She casually strolled amongst the maze of tents, taking in the different designs of each tent and guessing at their owners’ position. She saw a huge and heavily guarded tent in the middle of the clearing that she took to be the Emperor’s and quickly turned to go in another direction, not wanting to get into trouble. She slowly walked towards the woods when she saw Jiang Moyin walking with a man not far away from her.
The man looked to be in his thirties. He sported a casual smile on his ordinary face, and a robe of bright yellow embroidered with portrayals of the Qilin1 was worn over his lean frame. That is a robe only fit to be worn by the Heir apparent – is that him? Feng Luodi was a little disappointed. He looks so normal and gentle! Perhaps, that is why he is a peace-loving man as said by elder brother. Feng Luodi shrugged nonchalantly. I doubt I’ll have any interaction with the Heir at all anyway.
She quickly turned and headed in another direction again, not wanting to disturb Jiang Moyin. The skies were dark, and the woods started to feel a little creepy, engulfed by a stifling darkness and deafening silence. Meanwhile, the group of tents behind her were bright and lit with bonfires, sounds of merrymaking filling the air. Feng Luodi had half a mind to turn back, but she couldn’t wave off the feeling of how she didn’t belong there. Unconsciously, she started walking towards the woods.
“I’ve never seen anyone as daring as you; the woods are very dangerous at night.” There was something underlying in the words.
Feng Luodi stopped, and turned to look at Situ. Behind him was the brightly lit campsite. “I didn’t hear you approach.“
“You were way too deep in your own thoughts.” Situ walked nearer, and motioned her forward. “It’s time for dinner – a dinner specific to the Guan Mountains.”
Feng Luodi turned her face away to avoid looking at him. “Alright, let’s go. I was just starting to get hungry.” She walked up to Situ, and the two of them slowly headed back to his tent.
Not too far away, Chamberlain Feng stepped out from behind a tent. He looked at the retreating figures, and sighed.