Chapter 66 Abysmal: Exposed
The next morning, Feng Luodi stepped out of her tent to see Chamberlain Feng waiting outside expressionlessly.
“Father?” Feng Luodi gasped.
“Come with me.” Chamberlain Feng turned and walked in another direction. Feng Luodi followed hesitatingly, her skirt lifted in her hands. She glanced around, unable to spot Situ. Finally, Chamberlain Feng stopped in a quiet area of the campsite, and Feng Luodi quickly spoke up.
“I’m sorry, Father. I came to the Autumnal Hunt on my own accord, and did not tell you about it.”
The Chamberlain turned around, and looked straight into Feng Luodi’s eyes. “We’re already passed that point which you should be apologising to me for that. have you forgotten what you have promised me?”
“I haven’t, Father.” Feng Luodi sighed a little. “I promised you that I’d cut off interaction with the Duke of Anping. But Father, why are you interfering with my friendships?”
Chamberlain Feng shook his head. “Luodi, do you really see him solely as a friend, and not as a potential husband? What do you think I’m worried about, with you two going out in the middle of the night?”
Feng Luodi avoided the question. “Father, I never understood why you opposed of my friendship with Situ; we are just friends!” She could not count the number of times the Chamberlain had requested this of her, and it was getting on her nerves.
“If it’s platonic, then there’s no problem at all.” Finally, the Chamberlain explained his motive. “But even if you don’t intend to marry him, his attitude towards you troubles me. You have been the only woman he has ever shown an interest in – and you expect me to not be worried? Don’t tell me that you’re that dense.”
The Chamberlain continued. “The Duke entered the Army at the young age of 14, leading his armies to conquer the Northern plains when he was 18, returning to Chang’an to be anointed as a Duke at the age of 26. The entire kingdom has two million soldiers, and Situ has absolute command over half of them. Do you know what that entails?”
“I know that the Duke is loyal to the Emperor, but that is not what everyone thinks.” The Chamberlain reasoned. “Let’s disregard the danger that will befall you if you get together with him for a moment. I remember you saying that you will not share a husband with any other woman – that will not be possible in his case. He is a man of great importance, and it will be natural for him to have concubines. If you marry lowly, we might be able to restrain your future husband from having a concubine seeing as how you are the daughter of the Chamberlain. But not Situ. He is not suitable for you, and will never be.
Feng Luodi giggled after hearing his words. “Father, you’ve really misunderstood me. I will never marry the Duke; you don’t need to worry about that.” I will not marry Situ, but I don’t intend on marrying anyone in this world anyway.
The Chamberlain was still not convinced. “Move over to my tent tonight, and stay here for the rest of the Hunt.”
Feng Luodi shook her head. “I will head home first, Father. After all, both Mother and the Second Lady are back in the household. I will have to trouble you to arrange a carriage for me, Father.”
“Alright, that’ll do as well. I will get to it soon. I’m just glad you see where I’m coming from.” The Chamberlain turned to leave.
Feng Luodi slowly walked back towards her tent. I guess it’s best for me to head back now anyway; I could use the space to clear my head. I wonder if Fei has good news for me.
Feng Luodi decided to have a chat with Jiang Moyin before she left the Hunt. After all, he’s my elder brother, and I don’t want anything bad happening to him. However, she was told by the guards outside his tent that he had left to prepare for the bonfire that night.
“Oh? Why is it the Grand Tutor in charge of this?” Feng Luodi was perplexed, certain that the Heir had not brought back the most prey during that afternoon hunt.
“The Emperor gave the chance to the Heir because of his assassination, but the responsibility was passed on to the Grand Tutor seeing as how the Heir had not recovered.”
“But what about the Grand Tutor’s health? How is he?” Feng Luodi frowned. Moyin had just recovered from his sickness before he’d came to the Hunt, but now he has to take charge for so many other things!
“No need to worry about that, young miss. The Grand Tutor is fine.” The guard reassured her. “Princess Shangrong had volunteered to help, and is helping the Grand Tutor with some of his work. She’ll even be performing for the night!”
“I see.” Feng Luodi nodded. “That is for the best, then. Please let the Grand Tutor know that I will be returning to the capital today.”
“Of course, young miss, we will deliver your message.”
Feng Luodi returned to her tent and quickly started to pack her things. When she was almost done, the deer jumped out from her temporary enclosure, landing in front of Feng Luodi. Feng Luodi scooped her up in her arms and rubbed her head. “Well, at least I have accomplished what Jianqiu had entrusted to me. Thank god for Situ’s help.”
“My help in what?” Situ walked in at the exact moment.
“For catching the deer and the rabbits.” Feng Luodi carefully placed the deer back in her enclosure. “I’ll be heading back tonight. Thanks for taking care of me the past few days.”
“Weren’t you excited for the bonfire tonight? If you miss this round, you’d have to wait another year before you’ll get another chance again.” Situ spoke as if to ask her to stay, but started to help her move her bags.
“Some things are better left to imagination.” Feng Luodi’s face was straight.
“Something came up at home?” Situ handed the bags to an attendant to be brought to the Chamberlain’s tent, while he slowly walked by Feng Luodi’s side.
“Mmhmmm.” Feng Luodi nodded, lying straight through her teeth. “Father wanted me to spend more time with the Second Lady, to improve our relationship.”
“Now that’s the consequence of having more than one wife at home.” Situ raised an eyebrow.
Feng Luodi smiled, but did not say anything more.
When the time came for her to bid goodbye to Situ, Situ looked at her straight in the eye and said calmly. “There’s no need for you to lie to me.” Needless to see, Feng Luodi was embarrassed at being caught in the act, and quickly turned to flee.
The Autumnal Hunt continued, but Feng Luodi had already spent one whole day cooped up at home. Fei was still with the caravan in the Jiangnan province, and there were no news from him as of yet. The two wives of the Chamberlain had been accompanying each other, and Feng Luodi was left to her own devices in her courtyard. It was nearing the end of autumn, and winter was quickly approaching. It was the period of time where the flowers in the yard have fallen again, but the plum blossoms have yet to bloom. Only the few evergreens stood tall and proud.
Feng Luodi sat by the stone table in the yard, sighing to herself. How did the girls in Ancient China pass their time? This is so boring! I’m half-certain that mushrooms are growing out of my head now, because of my inactivity. Just as she thought that, Scarlet led Qi Jianqiu into the courtyard. Before Scarlet could announce her arrival, Qi Jianqiu did so herself.
Qi Jianqiu pounced upon Feng Luodi, and cheered at the top of her lungs. “Luodi! The rabbits were so cute, and the deer was so pretty!” Qi Jianqiu was apparently very satisfied with her gifts.
Feng Luodi turned to Scarlet. “Fetch some warm tea.” With great effort, she peeled Qi Jianqiu off herself and placed her on the bench.
“Didn’t you say that you weren’t allowed to leave the house? How did you manage to sneak here?” Feng Luodi glanced at the hamper in the arms of Qi Jianqiu’s attendant. “You can cook food for me, even when you’ve been grounded?”
“Hey! I wasn’t grounded!” Qi Jianqiu argued, always thinking that being ‘grounded’ was extremely embarrassing. “I was only kept at home to study. Of course I’d be allowed to come out after I was done!”
Feng Luodi nodded along patronisingly. I’m sure she’d mentioned before that her Father does not force her to study.
“Let’s not talk about that. To show my appreciation of your gifts, I’ve prepared extra dishes for you today!” She opened the hamper excitedly to show a huge array of food.
Feng Luodi swallowed her saliva at the sight of the delicious food, but rolled her eyes at Qi Jianqiu. “Are you fattening me up like a pig?”
Qi Jianqiu jumped up and mock-strangled Feng Luodi. “Luodi! Are you just going to sit here and poke fun at me the whole day?”
Feng Luodi laughed and plucked her hands away. “I’ve just been so bored, Jianqiu. Come on now, let’s eat together.” She poured Qi Jianqiu a cup of wine.
Qi Jianqiu took a gulp of wine, and almost spat it out. “This is so strong! It must be from Autumnal Ombre, isn’t it.” She huffed and turned to Feng Luodi. “Speaking of which, all the responsibilities for our shop has been pushed to me the past few days, while you were spending quality couple time with that Situ of yours during the Hunt.”
Feng Luodi choked on her sip of wine. “What are you talking about?”
“Hmph! I see you as my best friend, yet you keep this from me.” Qi Jianqiu was upset. “I can’t believe that you and Situ Muye have yet to be engaged!”
“Young Miss Qi, come and have some food.” Feng Luodi shoved a spoonful of tofu into her mouth. “Now keep these rumours in your stomach, alright?”
“Mmmm! This tastes really good!” Qi Jianqiu praised her own cooking, but quickly turned her attention back to the topic at hand. “Comeon, Luodi. Just tell me! In exchange, I’ll cook for you delicious food everyday!”
Feng Luodi shook a finger at her. “There is really nothing going on between the two of us. It’s the truth!”
Qi Jianqiu’s face fell. “Argh, I lost the bet!”
“What did you say?”
“Nothing, nothing!” Qi Jianqiu quickly changed the topic. “Tell me about what happened during the Hunt!”
Feng Luodi’s attention was diverted, and she quickly thought through her experience of the Autumnal Hunt. Ahhhh! Why is it I can’t anything of importance, besides eating Situ’s hand-cooked meat and stargazing with him?
She rubbed her forehead. What am I doing!