Chapter 72 Remembrance: To the North
“Duke of Anping. There’ve been reports from the North these days, about a certain unrest amongst the Huns. Speaking of which, you’ve spent the past two years resting in Chang’an; perhaps our neighbours are in need of a little reminder again.” Situ stood in the hall, the Emperor looking down upon him from his throne.
Situ bowed. “Should I inspect the lands in the North, to quell such unrest? Perhaps we can do so to show our strength, lest they have forgotten. Perhaps we can exercise our troops in those lands to remind them of our might.”
“You know me well, Situ.” The Emperor laughed. “I approve of your request, then. You are to leave in two days. Show them what our troops are made of.”
“Yes, your Majesty.”
“Speaking of which, the Huns have long been a threat in the North, a problem that I haven’t been able to solve all these years. If it wasn’t for you, I probably wouldn’t be sitting on the throne right now.”
“It is only because of your wisdom, your Majesty. All the soldiers and officers of the armies will follow your every word to defend our kingdom.” Situ bowed again, his face obscured as he bent lower towards the floor.
“You’re too humble, Situ.” The Emperor smiled. “I just wonder when we can claim the lands of the North for our own, instead of giving them the power of sovereignty. Only then, will I finally be able to rest easy.”
“There’s no rush for that, your Majesty. Our troops are mighty, but our weakness is our lack of numbers. Many of our people are still living in poverty, and the men are too busy trying to maintain their livelihood to think of attacking other countries. Your ambitions will naturally come true, once the kingdom is more prosperous, and the people are more united. ”
“You are right, Duke of Anping.” The Emperor’s smile did not diminish, but a light flashed in his eyes. “You may leave to prepare now.”
“Yes, your Majesty. I shall take my leave.”
The cold winds blew into the capital from the North, and Feng Luodi experienced her first winter in Chang’an. I wonder what the city will look like, when the snow starts to fall and everything is blanketed in white.
The Second Lady was four months pregnant, and the entire household busied about every day, tending to her every need. Feng Luodi could not stand the hustle and bustle of the household, and left the house every day. The Chamberlain noticed her discomfort, and proposed an idea. “There’s a villa that belongs to your Mother on the outskirts of the city. Why not you have a short vacation there.”
Feng Luodi was more than happy to seize this opportunity to escape all the hubbub, and was about to inform Qi Jianqiu of her plans when she was approached by Situ.
“I’m heading to the North to inspect the troops at the borders – would you like to come with me? I remember you said that you’d always wanted to see the stars in the plains of the North.”
Feng Luodi froze on the spot, conflict written plainly on her face.
“Give it some thought. I’ll be leaving the day after tomorrow.” Situ hurried off quickly, busy preparing for the Journey North.
And so Feng Luodi sat in the teahouse across from Qi Jianqiu, her rational side fighting a losing battle with her emotional side. She desperately wanted to see the desert for herself – that was indeed a wish she’d had for a long time. But what about my other responsibilities in Chang’an? What about the rest of the Guqin? What about Autumnal Ombre? What about Mother? What about…
“Ow!” Feng Luodi was interrupted from her daydreaming with a flick on her forehead by Qi Jianqiu.
“If you want to go that badly, just go! It’s a rare chance indeed to head outside like that. Although I’d prefer if you don’t spend so much time with that man, I know you really want to go to the North.”
Feng Luodi smiled apologetically, but furrowed her brows quickly. “But what about the Guqin?”
“I’m sure Fei will take care of that for you. He’s looking for the Guqin everywhere in the Kingdom for you; that’ll definitely be more efficient than you staying here in Chang’an.” Qi Jianqiu liked Fei very much. “Who knows, Fei might have already picked up a couple more by the time you come back.”
“You’re right…but what about Autumnal Ombre?”
“I can take care of that.” Qi Jianqiu smiled confidently. “The shop will definitely flourish under my watch.”
Feng Luodi’s eyes lit up, and she quickly opened her mouth to ask Qi Jianqiu for help regarding the approval of her parents, but was quickly shut down.
“As for your parents, you’ll have to tell them yourself.” She sipped her tea calmly.
Feng Luodi sighed. That’s the biggest problem.
“But…do you really want to go with Situ?” Qi Jianqiu asked hesitantly. “Including the time it takes to travel, you’ll be spending two to three months with him.”
“I just want to go to the North; it doesn’t matter who I’m with. Do you get me?” Feng Luodi was expressionless.
When she finally returned to the Feng household, she’d already worked out her plan to convince her parents. Mustering her courage, she approached the First Lady in her room. As she thought, her mother quickly approved of her plan to head to the North.
“You’re still young; it’s good for you to see the world.”
Feng Luodi was delighted. “But…what about Father?”
“I’ll talk to him about it.” The First Lady volunteered herself, and headed to the Chamberlain’s study with Feng Luodi in tow. However, she was not as lucky this time. Unsurprisingly, the Chamberlain’s face darkened upon the mention of Situ.
“Don’t forget what you’d promised me.”
Feng Luodi tried to fight for it. “I never forgot, Father. I only see him as a friend, and this is just an opportunity for me to see more of the world.”
The Chamberlain glared, and was about to berate her when the First Lady spoke up gently. “Let her go. It’s normal for her to want to see the outside world after 17 years of being stuck in the city. We can talk about the rest in the future.”
Hearing the First Lady speak up for her, the Chamberlain relaxed a little, but shook his head again.
The First Lady continued. “Luodi has nothing much to do in the household anyway. I’m sure it’s uncomfortable for her to stay in the house right now anyway. Just let her go.”
“My lady, you’re missing the point here. I’m not concerned about the fact that she’s going to the North.” The Chamberlain protested.
“So what is the point then, my dear husband?” The First Lady grinned at him, and changed her usual formal way of addressing him.
“Alright then. We’ll just do as you say.” The Chamberlain softened immediately.
Feng Luodi was surprised to see this side of her parents. Since when were they this close? She returned to her courtyard to pack her belongings for the upcoming journey with a light heart, immediately swarmed by Jet and Scarlet.
“Young miss, can we go to the North with you?” The two girls looked at her anxiously. “You’ll need someone to serve you, wouldn’t you?”
Feng Luodi thought for a moment. I don’t really need them to serve me, but it will be good if they could come along to see it for themselves too.
“I’ll ask Situ for you guys! Pack my belongings for me then”
Feng Luodi walked briskly towards Situ’s household, her steps light with the anticipation of the upcoming trip. She reached Situ’s study just in time to see officials clad in armour leaving the courtyard. Situ saw her from inside, and quickly waved her in.
He laughed when he saw the expression on her face. “I see that you’ve already made up your mind, huh? Are you here to find out more about the trip?”
“Of course!” The words slipped out of her mouth before she knew it. She quickly changed the topic, trying to cover up her enthusiasm. “Can I bring Scarlet and Jet with me to the North?”
“I have duties when I’m there, and we can only stay in the army camp.” Situ’s expression was static. “No women are allowed inside the army camps.”
“Oh, I guess they can’t tag along then.” Feng Luodi was a little disappointed, but a question quickly popped up in her head. “Wait, where am I going to stay?”
“Didn’t you just say that no women are allowed in the camps?” Feng Luodi narrowed her eyes. Is he lying to me?
“You’re an exception.” His face was straight, his voice steady.
Why do I feel like something’s amiss? But he seems so serious about it! Feng Luodi wondered quietly. Argh, forget it. “I’ll head back first, then. I’ll see you the day after tomorrow!”
“Let me send you out.” Situ followed after her.
“No need for that.” Feng Luodi shook her hand. “I know that you’re probably busy enough with all your duties. I can head back myself.”
When Feng Luodi finally returned home, she was surprised to see a familiar carriage outside of the gates. A familiar face alighted from the carriage when she approached.
“Elder brother! What brings you here?”
Jiang Moyin looked at her, his emotions a toiling mess beneath his calm façade. “I heard that you were going to the North?” He tried to put on his usual smile.
Not expecting the question, Feng Luodi scratched her head unconsciously. “You’ve heard about it already?”
A wave of emotions flashed through Jiang Moyin’s eyes, but it was missed by the distracted Feng Luodi. Jiang Moyin clenched his fist together tightly, and relaxed again. “Remember to bring enough clothing with you, the weather is unpredictable in the North. The winds are strong as well, so wrap yourself properly with a shawl whenever you head out.” He paused for a moment, and smiled a little. “The lands are dangerous and chaotic over there, and always let Situ know whenever you’re heading out.”
Feng Luodi smiled as well, warmed by Jiang Moyin’s concern for her. “I know I know, I’ll do as you say. I”ll be sure to take care of myself well!”
“That’s good.” Jiang Moyin gestured towards the gate. “Go back in then! Prepare well, and have a good time there!”
“Yes yes.” Feng Luodi turned to head into the gate. “Return home quickly, elder brother! The winds are cold today.”
“Of course.” Jiang Moyin looked at her retreating figure, and the smile on his face slowly faded away.
“Luodi!” Jiang Moyin called out. He knew he would regret it for life if he didn’t.
“Yes? Is there anything else?” Feng Luodi turned to look at him, excitement for the upcoming trip written plainly on her face.
“Don’t forget to bring some of the local specialities back for me.” But all of his emotions could only culminate in such a simple sentence.
“I will!” Feng Luodi nodded, and vanished from view.
Jiang Moyin lowered his head, and slowly boarded the carriage, suddenly looking frail and tired.