TOMAS Chapter 8

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Chapter 8 Wind Crane: The Four Masters of Chang’an

“Why don’t you give it a name?” Qi Jianqiu beamed at her.

Feng Luodi thought for a moment, and said, “Hmmm, how does ‘Crispy Golden Chicken’ sound to you? The skin is crispy, the meat is flavourful, and the chicken has a dazzling gold colour from the paste smeared.”

“‘Crispy Golden Chicken’?” Qi Jianqiu repeated, as if savouring the name between her lips, “Sounds great! It’s a grand and fitting name for my dish.”

Satisfied with her suggestion, Feng Luodi proceeded to eagerly attack another dish. Between mouthfuls, she casually asked, “Are there any famous people or important gossip in Chang’an that are commonly known? I’ve been a shut in all my life, and know very little about the city.” She swallowed. “Of course, with the exception of the ‘Beauty of Chang’an’”

“Don’t poke fun at me.” Qi Jianqiu dismissed her with a casual wave, “As payment for your naming of my dish today, I shall educate you about the common gossip of the city.”

Feng Luodi perked her ears, while continued to fill her stomach with food.

“The most famous would be the “Four Masters of Chang’an.” Qi Jianqiu clasped her hands together, and her eyes gleamed in admiration. “The youngest of them is Xue Yiqi, the son of the General-in-chief of the South. At the young age of 23, he is already the Defender-in Chief of the kingdom, taking up post in the Imperial Army. Handsome, chivalrous and upright, he is extremely loyal to the Emperor.”

Feng Luodi nodded along. “So, an honest man.”

Qi Jianqiu approved that conclusion with a raised thumb, and continued, “Third in line would be Gan Qingjia, the son of the Left Minister, aged 24. He has no official post, and is a dashing but flirtatious man that is very close to many of the geishas of Chang’an’s zither parlours.” She paused suddenly, as if deep in thought.

Feng Luodi put down the cup she was holding, and asked quizzically, “That’s all you have to say about him?”

“Yep, that’s it.” Qi Jianqiu nodded. “The Second Master of Chang’an would be Jiang Moyin, the son of the Censor-in-chief, 25 years of age. Well versed in the arts, and possessing a great aptitude for poetry. He is currently the Grand Mentor, guiding the Heir Apparent in his ways. He is a gentle and handsome man, a huge contrast to the old men who make up the majority of the court.” She half-closed her eyelids, as if trying to picture Jiang Moyin.

Feng Luodi blinked. Jiang Moyin does sound very charismatic and impressive, pity that I won’t get to know someone like him. Interrupting Qi Jianqiu’s reverie, she asked, “Who’s the last one?”

“The first Master of Chang’an is Situ Muye, the famous General-in-chief of the North, 26 years old. Hailing from a lineage of famous generals, he is known most for quelling the Huns, the Xianbei nomads, the kingdoms of Fuyu and Sushen with his army of a million strong, a feat which earned him the title of the ‘Duke of Anping’. With the frontlines quietening down these few years, he has returned to Chang’an as a bachelor. However,” Qi Jianqiu smiled mischievously, “it has been rumoured that the reason he is still single is because he swings the other way. The other few Masters are relatively young, but the Duke is not only slightly older, but decorated and accomplished. I heard that his Majesty once tried to propose a wedding between him and a princess, but was rejected by the Duke!” She leaned closer. “Do you think he really swings the other way?”

Much to her disappointment, Feng Luodi was not the least bit interested in the Duke’s sexual orientation. “So what if he likes men?”

“What?” Qi Jianqiu was mildly surprised. “Didn’t you know? Even though our society is much more open as compared to when the kingdom was first founded, but this is still a taboo! It is something one wouldn’t say out loud, even if he really did swing that way. How can you say it so casually?”

Feng Luodi glanced at Qi Jianqiu who was getting more worked up. “You are right to say that, but love is love, regardless of the gender of both parties. We are all human, and love doesn’t discriminate.” Then she remembered how radical her words might have sounded in this conservative society. “Well, that’s just my personal opinion.”

Qi Jianqiu looked at her excitedly, and exclaimed, “That’s what I thought as well! But it’ll take some time before people can accept that idea.”

Feng Luodi nodded along. As usual, she did not make any progress with the 10 Guqin, but she had a satisfying meal and heard interesting stories about Chang’an instead. This isn’t a bad day after all, she thought quietly.

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