Inside the ship’s cabin was a vision of luxury, there were purple silk drapes, hand-carved wooden tables and chairs, thick red carpets lining the floors and scenic paintings and poems decorating the walls. But the most conspicuous of all was the figure by the window, seated on the soft couch, whose presence transformed the entirety of this overly extravagant place to one with a stylistic elegance and nicety.
Feng Xi was seated on the soft couch while Zhong Li stood waiting by his side. On the ground, a man was kneeling and with his head lowered, his face could not be clearly distinguished in the dark cabin. He was like a hazy shadow, one that could not be seen nor touched. Seemingly, he appeared to a man young in his years.
After having a cup of tea, Feng Xi leisurely asked, “What’s the matter?”
The kneeling man answered, “There is news regarding the matter that Young Master has instructed. Young Master Yun wishes to seek your opinion on whether to take action directly?”
Feng Xi covered the teacup with the lid and Zhong Li stepped forward to take the cup and place it down on the side table.
“What did you find?”
“At present, only their whereabouts have been tracked. As for their motive, we have yet to discern.”
“Is that so?” Feng Xi’s voice was slightly heavy. “Don’t take action, just tail them for the time being.”
“Also, tell him not to bother with the Xuan Zun seal. I have my own arrangements.”
“You may go.” Feng Xi ordered with a wave of his hand.
“Then this subordinate shall withdraw.”
With his departure, the room fell silent. Feng Xi’s eyes were somewhat far off as if he was pondering over something. After a long time, he turned and asked Zhong Li, “Have you made the proper arrangements for Miss Feng yet?”
“Answering Young Master, Zhong Yuan has placed Miss Feng in the side cabin,” Zhong Li replied.
“Hmm,” Feng Xi nodded and leaned back against the soft couch, his eyes gazing out the window. It was evening and the sunset had already fallen, the deep colors subdued in the fading lights.
The door was gently pushed open as Zhong Yuan entered carrying a black jade box in his hand. Placing it on the table, he opened the box and in the blink of an eye, the darkness within the room was dispelled by a glowing light. Inside the box was a night pearl the size of a baby’s fist.
Zhong Li retrieved the lamp hanging from the wall and placed the pearl inside. When he hung the lamp back up, the whole room was illuminated in light that was bright as day.
“It’s too bright,” Feng Xi stated as he turned towards the direction of the light. His hand was raised, covering his eyes along with the unfathomable overcast look in the depths of his gaze.
Zhong Li and Zhong Yuan couldn’t help but exchange glances. Ever since they have served by Young Master’s side, they were well aware that he despised the dimly lit glow of candles and oil lamps. No matter if he was at home or on the road, he would always use night pearls as lamps. Why then did he suddenly say that it was too bright today?
“Light a lamp, then you may withdraw, ” Feng Xi recovered his hand as he narrowed his eyes and calmly gave the order.
“Yes.” Zhong Li and Zhong Yuan replied in unison.
One went to take down the night pearl while the other went to light the oil lamp. Afterwards, they closed the door gently behind them as they left.
As the light footsteps faded away, inside the room, the oil lamp flickered with the accompanying sound of the river waves.
On the soft couch, Feng Xi silently laid down on his back and closed his eyes. His face was a picture of serenity as if he was lost in thought, falling into the darkness of slumber.
Time quietly passed. There was only the occasional breeze that swept through the window, causing the flame of the oil lamp to flicker as its light and shadow danced on the walls quietly as if afraid of stirring the person asleep on the soft couch.
After some time, Feng Xi opened his eyes and gazed out the window, into the darkness of the waters outside. The fractured lights on the river surface reflected in his dark eyes, making them gleam brightly as pearls, illuminating the frosty glint within its depths.
“Xuan Zun seal.” These three words escaped his lips in heaviness. His eyes gleamed coldly as he raised his right hand and gazed at his palm. He then balled his hand into a fist and softly sighed. “Bai(white) Feng Xi……”
In the morning, when Zhong Li and Zhong Yuan opened the door, they found that their Young Master was still lying on the soft couch in the same clothes he wore yesterday. They glanced at the bed and noticed that it had remained untouched.
“Young Master,” Zhong Yuan softly called.
“Hmm.” Feng Xi rose and slightly stretched his stiff limbs, his expression the same as always, not a hint of exhaustion lined his face.
Zhong Yuan stepped forward to help him wash his face, rinse his mouth, change his clothes, and brush his hair. Once he was done, Zhong Li had finished setting breakfast on the table. There was a cup of water, a bowl of porridge and a plate of dumplings. This meal naturally placed importance on quality over quantity.
The clear water in the cup was taken from the Qingtai Spring in Feng2 Kingdom which is widely acclaimed as the best spring in all the realm. The porridge was made from a special type of rice called Pearl Fragrance produced by Feng1 Kingdom and it was simmered with bird’s nest, tremella fuciformis along with white lotus. As for the dumplings, they were filled with young white cabbage known as White Jade Slice from Hua Kingdom as Feng Xi originally did not like to eat meat.
Feng Xi first took a sip of water from the cup and then began to use his meal. After eating a spoonful of porridge, he raised his chopsticks to pick up a dumpling but just as he brought it to his lips, he placed his chopsticks down. In the end, he only finished the bowl of porridge.
“If you steam it too long, the cabbage will lose its texture. Remember to be mindful of the heat next time,” he stated as he glanced at the plate of dumplings.
“Yes.” Zhong Li answered as he proceeded to clear the table.
Feng Xi stood and moved to the desk where he took out his brush and ink. He spread out a piece of white paper on the desk, lowered his brush and began to write. His movements were smooth and seamless. In a matter of moments, he had finished writing two letters.
“Zhong Yuan, send two people to deliver these two letters separately.” He sealed the letter and handed it to Zhong Yuan.
“Yes, Young Master.” Zhong Yuan took the letter and opened the door to leave as Zhong Li entered with a cup of tea.
Feng Xi took the cup and had a sip before placing it down. Raising his head, he said, “Zhong Li, get ready. The ship will dock tomorrow morning and we shall take the road from there, heading straight for Hua Kingdom.”
“Yes, Young Master.” Zhong Li answered with a bow. Suddenly, as if he thought of something, he lifted his head and asked, “Young Master, didn’t you plan to meet up with Miss Xi in Huang Kingdom?”
Hearing this, Feng Xi laughed. There was a hint of mockery in his voice as he sneered, “If that woman made a promise to other people, she would surely keep it. But me, she would be overjoyed to break her promise. What’s more, did you hear her promise that day?”
Zhong Li thought about it carefully and shook his head. He really didn’t hear Feng Xi promise.
“Thus, let’s head to Hua Kingdom.” Feng Xi picked up the teacup, lifted the lid and steam rose in swirls before his face, making his eyes somewhat misty. “That woman really let the Xuan Zun Seal fall into the hands of the prince of Huang Kingdom! That woman is really….. “
The remaining words were left unspoken and his tone was too elusive for others to guess his thoughts.
“Why do you want to go to Hua Kingdom, Young Master? We’ve been on the road for so long, why don’t we return home?” Zhong Li asked with a frown. He was only 15 years of age. Though he has followed his Young Master since the age of 7 and has gotten accustomed to wandering outside, having been away from home for so long, he really missed his mother.
“There are many reasons to go to Hua Kingdom.” Feng Xi’s face was slightly obscured by the rising steam. Occasionally, the light of the rising sun would shine through the window and illuminate his expression. He placed the cup down and stood up, patting Zhong Li’s head, he said, “Zhong Li, we will return home very soon.”
“Yes.” Zhong Li gave an assured nod. “Young Master, I’ll go down first.”
After Zhong Li withdrew, Feng Xi was left alone in the room. He walked over to the window and faced the rising sun. Squinting slightly, he gazed at the birds flying over the river, quietly murmuring, “Hua Kingdom……”
In the side cabin, Feng Qi Wu rose from her sleep. The moment she opened her eyes, she saw a young girl around 14 to 15 years of age standing at her side. Her hair was fixed in two buns and she had an honest face, big shining eyes and two small dimples as she sweetly smiled, making people feel at ease.
“Miss Feng, you are up. This maidservant’s name is Xiao’er. Young Master had instructed this servant to wait on Miss from now on,” Xiao’er said with a smile.
Feng Qi Wu nodded lightly in response and sat up.
“Do you want to get up Miss? Xiao’er will serve you,” Xiao’er said as she started to assist Feng Qi Wu with brushing her hair, putting on her clothes along with assisting with her make-up.
From beginning to end, Feng Qi Wu remained silent, indifferently allowing Xiao’er to do her job.
“Miss is really beautiful,” Xiao’er couldn’t help but praise as she looked at the beautiful face in the reflection of the bronze mirror.
Feng Qi Wu smiled lightly in response to her compliment.
“I’ll go get Miss’ breakfast,” Xiao’er said before leaving through the door.
Feng Qi Wu stood and went over to the window to open it up. The morning sun was bright and she couldn’t help but narrow her eyes. She turned around and looked around the room. It was furnished with items that were clearly expensive and valuable but it was not gaudy in the least as everything was arranged properly. Rather, it gave off a kind of noble and elegant ambience. She thought to herself, even when her family was well off, she had not witnessed such luxury before.
The ship was very large but seemingly there weren’t many people. Apart from the servants, she had not seen anyone else. She felt there should be more people but where were those other people? What about him? Where was he?
“Miss, here’s your breakfast.” Xiao’er had returned and set the table.
Feng Qi Wu went over to the table and took a seat. She began to eat in silence as Xiao’er stood on the side holding a warm handkerchief.
Towards Feng Qi Wu’s silence, Xiao’er did not pay much attention. She completed her tasks with a cheerful smile from beginning to end. After the meal was finished, she took the dishes back to the kitchen. When she returned to the room, she saw Feng Qi Wu playing her pipa.
Ding. Ding. Cong. Cong.
A few notes were played.
It was a tune that was by no means complete.
Feng Qi Wu’s eyes were fixed on her fingertips as she pulled on the string, the string curled….
“Miss Feng, are you awake?” Feng Xi’s light and elegant voice issued.
Startled, Feng Qi Wu looked around the room but there was no sight of him.
“Young Master is in the main cabin.” Xiao’er said.
“Would you like to come and have a chat with me?” Feng Xi’s voice sounded once again, clearly as if he was right in front of her.
Holding the pipa, Feng Qi Wu got up. Xiao’er opened the door and led her to the main cabin.
The moment the door was pushed open, what came into view was the sight of his tall back figure standing by the window, basked in a layer of golden lights of the morning sun.
Hearing the sound of the door opening, he turned slightly, the golden lights on his body motioning collectively around him. He lifted his hand, his sleeve stirring, shielding the streaming sunlight. In that brief moment, the room fell dark just as someone’s heavy heart lightened with joy. Along with the dancing rays of light, her heart stirred in unison and then…. Those jade-like eyes, so ink dark, moved ever slightly and she could sight the warmth from within those dark depths, a warmth so deeply hidden, secluded, appearing as if by accident….but just for whom exactly?
“Has Miss Feng settled in?” Feng Xi asked lightly, a gentle smile on his lips as he waved his hand, motioning her to take a seat.
“Qi Wu has long been used to taking things as they come,” Feng Qi Wu lightly responded in return as she walked over and took a seat on the soft couch.
“Feng Qi Wu…. Qi Wu…. That’s indeed a good name,” Feng Xi said as he also took a seat on the soft couch. This woman always had on a cold exterior, he thought as he gently gazed at Feng Qi Wu.
“Is there anyone else in Qi Wu’s family?” he asked.
Listening to him call her name, her eyes gleamed with a soft glow, setting off her jade-like countenance. With skin as fair as snow, her beauty fell into the eyes of the four people in the room and they couldn’t help but admire.
“No family, no relatives, wherever I am, I shall call it home.” Her voice was indistinct, as if coming and going with the wind but when she looked into Feng Xi’s eyes, there was a hint of tenacity within her gaze.
Feng Xi held her gaze. The look in her eyes made him reach out his hand, his slender fingers brushing aside the strands of hair on her forehead, tracing gently across her face…. Her feather-like brows, starry eyes, snow-white skin, petal-like lips…. This face was a natural beauty, cold with a noble bearing, a rare sighting indeed. For someone who had spent 10 years in the jianghu, it had been a long time since he’s come across such a refreshing character like this.
“Why?” Feng Xi asked in a low whisper, without context yet Feng Qi Wu understood.
As his fingertips gently brushed across her face, a face that no one had dared to touch, Feng Qi Wu could feel the warmth and catch scent of that light fragrant that was as exquisite as orchids.
Gently closing her eyes, Feng Qi Wu murmured, “Because I’m willing!”
Yes, because she was willing! Because her heart was willing!
Feng Xi’s fingertips stopped in its tracks, resting on her jaw, elevating it slightly. Sighing he said, “Qi Wu.”
Feng Xi Wu opened her eyes, eyes that were as clear as water, void of any impurity, void of any reluctance, they reflected the figure of the person in front of her, a clear image.
It was as if it was the first time he had seen himself clearly. In those pure eyes that gazed back at him, he saw the look in his own eyes, mild and indifferent. He hesitated momentarily, took back what he was about to say and withdrew his hand which fell to his side. Smiling gently, he said, “Qi Wu, I shall help you find the best parasol tree1.”
(t/n wutong is a Chinese parasol tree, so i guess he chose this wording because of the Wu in her name, and he’s basically saying he’ll find her a good man she can depend on.)
Her heart suddenly sank, momentarily warping with pain. Why wasn’t it, I’ll be your best parasol tree?
“If Qi Wu doesn’t like to talk, why don’t you sing a song,” Feng Xi said as he leaned back against the soft couch. He was still Young Master Feng, noble as a prince, with that same smile, unchanging despite the passing of thousands of years. “Qi Wu’s voice is like the sound of nature, people never grow tired of listening to it. I like it very much.”
You like it, do you? Very well. Shall I let you listen to it for a hundred years?
“Have you ever heard of Si De Township1?” Feng Qiwu asked softly.
(t/n an actual chinese poem by Wei Zhuang)
“Why don’t you sing it for me Qi Wu,” Feng Xi said as he closed his eyes, appearing completely relaxed and at ease.
The pipa rang, breaking out in a whisper, soft as fine rain, streaming slowly.
“On this spring excursion, the apricot blossoms danced over head
A charming young fellow in yonder path
I yearn to be with him
For a lifetime together”
The song rang distinctly within the room, the sound floating out through the window, skimming across the water surface.
The vast river, dazzling sunshine, clustering reeds, the several fishing boats along with the fishermen humming to their songs, accompanied by the chirping of the kingfisher birds, it all blended into a picturesque scene, a scene amidst the swirling of smokes, seemingly appearing to take off, as if it was merely an illusion.
“… Should he mercilessly forsakens me,
I will live with no regrets.”
(t/n poem is about a young girl’s bold pursuit and expression of love at first sight)
The words “forsaken” and “no regrets” were intertwined, just like her big heart, void of resentment, void of remorse, even if the wind were to blow over, her intentions would not be dispelled.