Song Ci’s mind was in a whirl because of this matter. So he did not get what Rong Bai was saying at first.
After a moment’s pause, understanding dawned on him. He smiled and said, “Master Rong, you are right. Anyway, I don’t have to know all those twists and turns.”
“You will eventually know.” Rong Bai’s words sounded more like a promise to him.
Song Ci nodded and said nothing. Silence descended once again in the carriage.
When both of them returned to the Feng Residence, Feng Changyue had been waiting anxiously in the main hall for a long time. On seeing the two men, he hurried over. “How did your investigation go? Why did Qiu-er turn out this way?”
Song Ci recalled the illusory scene that he had seen earlier when he saw Feng Changyue. He furrowed his eyebrows and scowled. Even his tone was harsh. “Why? It’s very likely that this incident has to do with your sin a few years back.”
Feng Changyue did not expect Song Ci’s tone to be this sharp. It stunned him for a moment before he asked in embarrassment, “May I know what Daozhang is referring to?”
Song Ci snorted and said, “What else could there be? Do you still remember Jiang Niangzi from San Chi Tai Theater a few decades back?”
On hearing the name Jiang Niangzi, Feng Changyue immediately turned pale with fear. “It’s him? Isn’t he dead?”
Song Ci thought of the person who had struck a delicate orchid pose1 with his fingers and whose singing was ladened with lingering sorrow. He could not help but ask, “How did he die?”
“There was a fire in the theater a few years back and he was trapped inside. He never came out…” Feng Changyue trembled and answered. “Why did he pester Qiu-er? What is his intention?”
“Of course he wants the lives of everyone in the Feng Residence.” Rong Bai piped up. His voice was light, and his expression was neutral. Only his eyes were cold. “You didn’t keep your promise back then. This is retribution.”
The color drained from Feng Changyue’s face. He looked blankly at Rong Bai. His lips trembled from the crushing fear. “How, how did you know…”
Even Song Ci was momentarily struck dumb. He could tell from Rong Bai’s words that there were secrets he did not know of. Perhaps Rong Bai had already known the ins and outs of this matter, except that he did not tell him.
Song Ci briefly speculated over what Rong Bai had meant by the word “promise”. Maybe Feng Changyue had made an unspecified promise to Jiang Liang when he was still Feng Zhuojun. But from the way things turned out, it was never fulfilled.
Feng Changyue lost his composure for only a moment before he quickly recovered. He said, “No… I fulfilled my promise. I had indeed spent silver to redeem2 Jiang Liang from the theater. He was the one who returned to the theater later out of his own choice. How could you blame me for this?”
“I fulfilled all my promises to him. Every single one of it!” Feng Changyue raised his voice. He was losing control of his emotions. “How else have I let him down? This has nothing to do with me!”
Rong Bai just looked at him coldly without any reaction. Feng Changyue could not withstand his gaze and started to spout incoherent nonsense. He spoke in such circles that even Song Ci was confused.
Song Ci pondered over it. They could not stay here. Rather than let Feng Changyue shoo them away, they might as well leave first. Thus, he said, “Clan Head Feng, please calm down first. There is a reason why Jiang Niangzi is coming for the Feng Residence.”
But when Feng Changyue saw that they were leaving, he dropped to his knees. “Daozhang, I’ve realized my mistake. Please have mercy and save Qiu-er and the Feng household!”
When Song Ci saw him kneel, he hurriedly turned sideways to dodge him. He said, “Clan Head Feng, why go to this extent?”
No matter what, Feng Changyue was the head of a clan. And yet he had kneeled down to them in his own residence before so many servants. He either did not care about saving face, or he was truly scared stiff.
Song Ci was soft-hearted by nature. Although Feng Changyue was in the wrong, Feng Yingqiu was innocent, as was everyone else in the Feng Residence. Looking at Feng Changyue’s pleading look, he could not harden his heart to speak harshly. Thus, he said, “Get up first. If there is still room to save the situation, we will surely help.”
He did not dare to speak for Rong Bai, so he did not say it all out.
It was as if Feng Changyue had received a pardon. He stood up with tears of joy, wiped both of his eyes, and murmured to Song Ci, “I’ve realized my mistake. I can make amends for it. As long as you can protect the Feng Residence and my daughter… Daozhang, why not stay in the Feng Residence? I’ll get someone to clean up empty rooms for both of you. It’s mealtime. Daozhang, please have your meals first.”
He was earnest in acknowledging his mistake, so Song Ci found it awkward to say anything more on the matter. He turned his head to look at Rong Bai as if seeking his opinion.
Rong Bai naturally agreed to stay in the Feng Residence. All along, he had remained in a quiet state. Even when taking his meals, he only took two mouthfuls before he propped his chin to watch Song Ci.
Rong Bai stared at Song Ci until the latter felt flustered. He cast a few looks at Rong Bai until he could no longer bear it. “Master Rong, are the dishes not to your liking?”
Rong Bai smiled. The tips of his eyebrows were laced with laziness. “You…”
Song Ci raised his eyebrows and waited for him to continue.
“Are you that fond of eating these vegetarian dishes?” Rong Bai asked.
“Meat and vegetables are all the same to me。” Song Ci replied. “Meat is something that can be eaten occasionally, but not at every meal.”
“But I hardly see you eat meat. You are a fox, not a rabbit.” He added.
Perhaps because he had heard it so many times that Song Ci did not mind others calling him a demon now. If this had happened in the past, he would definitely refute and correct the person. But now, he simply smiled. “A fox can have vegetarian dishes once in a while.”
Rong Bai’s eyes were smiling. “You’re right.”
When Song Ci saw his smile, he could not help but stuff a large mouthful of rice into his mouth. From a certain point onwards, he had started to be on friendlier terms with Rong Bai. From being terrified upon seeing him in the beginning, to being able to stay by Rong Bai’s side to restrain him. The change had not been small.
He still remembered Lu Shaoqing telling him that Master Rong’s sore points were being stopped from killing and having his sleep disturbed. It seemed that Song Ci had done both. But Rong Bai had never flown into a rage because of these. Obviously, Lu Shaoqing was exaggerating.
Or maybe Rong Bai was originally a good-natured person who had been misunderstood by others.
Song Ci decided that he would clear up the misunderstandings Lu Shaoqing had of Rong Bai the next time he saw Lu Shaoqing.
Before this idea could take hold in his mind, he was interrupted by a harried Mirror Old Man dashing over to Song Ci’s side. Just as Mirror Old Man was about to open his mouth, he caught a glimpse of Rong Bai. He swallowed his words and took a deep breath before saying slowly, “Little Song, you told Clan Head Feng that Jiang Liang was the cause of this incident?”
Song Ci nodded in confusion. “Yeah.”
“How do you know?” Mirror Old Man probed.
“We went to the storytelling house today and heard that Feng Changyue had a history with Jiang Liang in his early years. But then Feng Changyue forsook him and sent someone to teach him a lesson. Jiang Liang harbored resentment towards Feng Changyue, and Miss Feng was possessed in the storytelling house, so I speculated that Jiang Liang is the cause of this incident.”
After hearing this, Mirror Old Man reflected on it for a moment before asking, “Then, can Feng Yingqiu still be saved?”
“That, I don’t know. I’m not that familiar when it comes to this stuff.” Song Ci said, “Earlier, Feng Changyue said that Jiang Liang had died in a big fire a few years ago. Do you think he had become a demon after his death like Sun Yunniang…”
“Sun Yunniang?” Mirror Old Man had no idea who he was talking about, so he continued, “if he became a demon after death, then it means that it’s a soul possessing Feng Yingqiu now. So all we need to do is to force the soul out of her body.”
Song Ci truly did not understand how these things work. He stuffed a mouthful of food into his mouth and said coolly, “We’ll see how Master Rong handles this.”
Rong Bai raised his eyebrows in response to his words. Mirror Old Man cast a glance at him and said, “Then, let’s split up and act as we see fit. You can do anything as long as it doesn’t hurt Feng Yingqiu.”
With that, he left. Song Ci bit the food, chewed it a few times, and asked, “Could there possibly be a relation between Mirror Old Man and the Feng’s youngest daughter?”
“Perhaps a distant relative?” Rong Bai replied offhandedly.
Song Ci paid it no mind and simply ate his fill.
For the rest of the time, Song Ci strolled around the streets. Although the blockaded city of Qinchuan was a scene of bustle and excitement, it still lacked some flavor. People wearing glum expressions could be seen everywhere on the street. Song Ci found a roadside tea stall where he took a seat and began his inquiry into the past decades ago.
As it happened, he encountered an aged old man who was fond of talking. He said to Song Ci, “Everyone in this city has something to say. They speak as if it was a fact, but who really knows the truth behind this? I’m telling you, when Feng Zhuojun and Jiang Niangzi first met, they loathed each other. Feng Zhuojun almost razed the theater to the ground. All those talks about love at first sight are all false.”
Curious, Song Ci asked, “Then, what they said about the love between Feng Zhuojun and Jiang Niangzi are also false?”
“That part is true. Although the two hated each other when they first met, they gradually developed feelings for each other. However, no one knows how Feng Zhuojun fell in love with Jiang Niangzi. For Jiang Niangzi, he once hung lanterns all over the entire street. It was truly the envy of many people.”
“Since they loved each other, how did they end up in this state?” Song Ci asked. “Was Feng Zhuojun’s love just a pretense? To cheat Jiang Niangzi of his feelings?”
After watching Jiang Liang suffered a beating just to protect the fan, Song Ci no longer doubted his sincerity. If he was not in love, why would he lower and cheapen himself?
However, the old man shook his head and said resolutely. “Feng Zhuojun’s love for Jiang Niangzi is genuine. Others may not know it, but I saw it.”
“Back then, there was a plague in the city. By coincidence, Jiang Niangzi caught a cold and had a high fever for several days. Everyone in the theater was terrified and locked him up in the room. Even the person delivering food to him did not dare to approach him. Feng Zhuojun was the only one who stayed by him and took care of him. No one could persuade him out of it.” The old man continued. “I saw all this with my own eyes. It can’t be fake.”
After hearing this, Song Ci asked doubtfully, “Were you someone from the theater back then?”
The old man took a sip of tea and grinned, revealing a mouthful of yellow teeth. “I used to be Feng Zhuojun’s hired thug.”
◈ ◈ ◈
When Song Ci left the tea stall, it was already dark. He stroked his belly that was pumped full of tea, thinking that he had not downed all those teas for nothing.
When he returned to the Feng Residence, the people in the house had all retreated for an early rest. Only the guards were still keeping watch. He went back to his room. At first, he wanted to call on Rong Bai, but on seeing that the light in his room was out, he decided not to bother him.
Song Ci asked the servant in the residence for some hot water and washed himself in comfort. Then he lied down on the bed, hung his damp hair over the bed to dry, and thought back to what he had heard and saw today.
If Feng Zhuojun and Jiang Liang once had a relationship like what the old man said, then the story between them might turn out to be more complicated than he had initially expected. At first, he had thought that Feng Zhuojun was doing it for fun and that he had simply seen Jiang Liang as a form of amusement. He had never expected to hear of his true feelings from the mouth of others.
If that was the case, Song Ci was even more puzzled.
He mulled it over until he eventually fell asleep with his mind in a muddle. He decided that he would continue his investigation tomorrow.
As expected, Rong Bai was right. The truth would only be intriguing if he sought it out a step at a time. If someone had simply told him the entire story instead, he would have let his curiosity down.
Just as Song Ci was sleeping in a daze, there was a sudden commotion outside. He heard a lady shrieking, “I’m going to kill you—!!”
In an instant, Song Ci was jolted awake. With his hair still damp, he swiftly threw off his quilt, got off the bed, and draped his robe around him. He pulled his door open, and saw a mob of people crowding around outside.
◈ ◈ ◈
Readers who feel as if you don’t understand the plot, don’t worry! At this point of time, Song Ci still doesn’t get it, so it’s only natural that you don’t either~
Credits: Many thanks to saed (@saedee_) for the grammar correction! ♥