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"Zhiwei." Madam Feng put down her chopsticks. "I've told you many times, as women, we shouldn't speculate about politics."
"Your words are curious." Feng Zhiwei put down her bun and examined Madam Feng with a smile. "If others heard your words, they would think that our Madam Feng is a kind, gentle, and virtuous woman who never cares about politics and only focuses on bringing up her children."
"And is that not the case?" Madam Feng answered, ignoring her. She used her chopsticks to carefully pick up some Chinese Rice Vermicelli and frowned to herself, thinking how there were so many similar things in the world with a difference of heaven and earth between them. Like this Rice Vermicelli—it looked a lot like a dish she used to eat frequently called Cui Gai Shark Fin, the top quality small fin simmered in chicken soup and then covered with a large purple abalone and Yunnan Ham and wrapped in a lotus leaf. After it finished simmering, the smell was so pure and smooth, and the vibrant smell of the lotus filled the room… Like Zhiwei and Shaoning's appearances, extremely similar, but their status and condition were so different with one floating among the clouds and another in the mud… Forget it, thinking too much for what? It was all fate.
Madam Feng focused on her food and ate earnestly, not even raising her head. Feng Zhiwei examined her with half closed eyes and spoke slowly, "That is the case. Madam Feng has always been like this, and as for that tiger-like general's daughter, the natural born leader who followed her father onto the battlefield when she was ten and killed her first man at twelve, and at the ripe age of fourteen accepted a military order to face death and turned the tides, leading thirty thousand armor-less soldiers into battle, killing until heads covered the ground and blood danced on the yellow sand. Fame from one battle soared to the heavens and all people honored her, giving her the name Fire Phoenix…"
"Enough," Madam Feng said calmly, cutting her off as she focused on the task at hand, carefully measuring and considering the Cabbage Rice Vermicelli Soup before pouring out a little more.
Feng Zhiwei continued regardless.
"… The name Fire Phoenix General, Qiu Mingying." Zhiwei stood up abruptly, her palm flat on the table, like a flower covered in snow. She looked straight into Madam Feng's face and peered into the bottom of her eyes. "… Dead, already dead."
The bowls and chopsticks shook, tinkling, and Madam Feng flattened her hand against the table while arching her eyebrows and focusing her gaze. Her eyes were suddenly like lightning, baleful and threatening. One could almost see that female general who used to call the wind and the rain.
Feng Zhiwei smiled lightly and didn't move.
The shaking continued, and the bowl with the broken lid tilted and some soup flew toward Feng Zhiwei. She looked down and smiled, but she kept still and even her eyelashes didn't move.
Madam Feng glared, but her eyes dazed and she let out a sudden sigh. She pressed down with a finger, and the spinning and shaking bowls stilled. Some soup fell onto her finger and she thought to lick it up, but when she lifted her head and met Feng Zhiwei's eyes, she wiped her hand on her apron.
"Alright… that's in the past." The gallant general disappeared, and in her place was a poor woman drinking carefully out of a broken bowl. "Eat, and then you have to help old lady Zhao in the front."
Feng Zhiwei examined Madam Feng before slowly taking her hands off the table. The Madam's face still looked good, but it had already shown some small signs of age. Just as Zhiwei was about to sit back and sigh, the door behind her was bumped open. A small figure rushed in with the freezing wind and plopped down next to her before grabbing and biting into the cold steamed bun that Madam Feng had not touched. That small figure even complained, "Steamed bun again!"
"Hao'er, don't rush. Don't bite your tongue." Madam Feng reached out and stroked his hair affectionately. "Is it too cold? Do you want me to heat it for you?"
Feng Zhiwei looked down at her cold, hard steamed bun—heat it up? It was easier said than done; the kitchen was too busy, and no one has time to heat your bun.
And the steamed bun in my hand is also hard as steel; why don't you offer to heat mine up?
"Why is it so cold?" Feng Hao took a bite and frowned before tossing the bun away. The hard bun hit the ground like a rock. "I won't eat!"
Feng Zhiwei looked at the steamed bun. That was today's breakfast; two buns for three people. Their mother hadn't even touched it and just drank the leftover soup, and now this precious steamed bun was thrown away and covered in dirt.
She turned her head slowly and stared at Feng Hao.
"Pick it up."
Feng Zhiwei's tone was always gentle and soft, and her eyes always seemed to have a smile in them. Her naturally misty eyes never stared sharply, and not a hint of that astonishing austerity Madam Feng had shown a glimpse of could be found on her.
Feng Hao, however, shivered. He didn't know why, but whenever his sister spoke to him with a smile, he could only feel a coldness from the bottom of his heart. It was as if behind that pair of bright, watery eyes, there was something hidden that ordinary people could never see, something that terrified him.
But because of his mother's love, he was fearless. He took a step back to distance himself from Feng Zhiwei before raising his head and snorting.
Feng Zhiwei looked at him, her eyes still smiling. She sat down and continued eating her steamed bun, saying calmly, "You don't want to pick it up? Alright, you are a big boy now and have your own ideas. Tomorrow, I'll go beg the Madam to let you accompany the Third Young Master to study. You're so smart, we are depending on you to bring honor back to our Feng Family.
"Don't!" Feng Hao's expression changed and he glared angrily. "Are you still my sister? Sending me to that fiery pit? You evil woman, you can't live long and you want to drag me…"
Feng Hao was startled by the shout and closed his mouth resentfully. Madam Feng looked at him and then looked at Feng Zhiwei. Zhiwei's smile had thinned a little, but the corner of her lip curled upward.
"Isn't it just a steamed bun?" Madam Feng smiled as she walked hurriedly to the corner and picked the bun up. She carefully blew on it and carried it with both hands. "I'll ask the kitchen to heat it up."
Feng Zhiwei's eyes drooped, looking at the steamed bun in her mother's hands. She looked at her course and cracked hands that used to be so smooth and the hair on her temple. She didn't know when, but that crow black hair was already interspersed with white. That graying white color was painful to look at.
Stars and frost come and go and when one looked back—that rosy face was no longer the same. An amazing female hero of yesteryear, a legendary fiery general buried in oblivion. Only colorful tales remained, and she could do nothing but look back at the dying legends in loneliness.
Feng Zhiwei couldn't even imagine what experiences could chip down those vibrant and fierce edges, and put in its place a woman who would silently swallow all the bitterness of life.
"I'll go." Feng Zhiwei sighed and took the steamed bun. The kitchen was filled with snobbish people with biting tongues; she didn't want her mother to have to beg them and be hurt by their words.