Yuan Hongdao frowned, "It’s just that the sudden turn of events is quite radical."
Lin Ruofu’s gaze softened all of a sudden. "As a father, we need not overly exert ourselves. Right now, the emperor is in his prime, so by the time the fight to be crown prince occurs, we will have been long dead. There’s nothing to be worried about."
He continued with a question. "Has it been confirmed that it was the doing of somebody using the Sigu sword style?"
Yuan Hongdao nodded. "Yes."
Lin Ruofu inhaled the cold air. "I have found that the authority and power I hold cannot be used in exchange for anything… However, if I bring in the old master, together with the fact that the Fan family and The Overwatch Council have been in close contact all these years, they are unlikely to refuse."
Yuan Hongdao smiled and said, "Vice minister Fan used his relationship with the emperor to make the marriage happen. It looks like he has high hopes for master."
Lin Ruofu laughed in reply, "One of these days, I will see the boy named Fan Xian and whether or not he deserves my daughter for myself."
Yuan Hongdao spoke hesitantly, "Then the Eldest Princess…"
He knew that the death of the prime minister’s second son was no accident, and that it no doubt had something to do with the Eldest Princess’ plan. He had to be careful when mentioning her name.
"Li Yunrui asked Wu Bo’an to come up with an assassination plan which could kill three birds with one stone. Murdering Fan Xian meant that she could regain her control over the Palace Treasury. If Hong’er was persuaded, she would have had the Prime Minister's Mansion under her thumb. Except she had no idea that Fan Xian could not be easily killed. Yet that bastard Wu Bo’an and my son… died." Lin Ruofu’s eyes shone with ferocity. "But she caught onto an important point by predicting the emperor's thoughts. She knew that if Cheng Jushu managed to escape the capital, she could still send out a false command under my name and have him killed in Cangzhou by Fan Xiu; an example of murder by just sitting."
Yuan Hongdao frowned as he spoke. "So the princess predicted that the emperor wanted to use his army."
Lin Ruofu shook his head in response, "In the battle with the north, the emperor regretted that he did not fight with all of his effort. The eldest princess had presented him with a perfect opportunity; one which he had to acknowledge, even though he disliked her making decisions behind his back. However, as the contract from the year of the battle was complicated, the most he could do was overtake some small cities in order to posture up with Northern Qi Kingdom."
Yuan Hongdao replied with a sigh, "It’s hard to go against the Eldest Princess’ plans."
Lin Ruofu closed his eyes slowly and said, "I’ve never thought of going against her… Let’s leave that to the future generation."
At that moment, a ruckus could be heard from outside the study. The expressions of Yuan Hongdao and the prime minister revealed that they knew exactly who it was that dared to make such a commotion. The door was pushed open and a chubby 12-year-old boy entered. The old ladies and maids standing behind him made no attempt to stop him; instead, they begged the prime minister for forgiveness. The rules of the prime minister’s mansion were strict; without the permission of the prime minister, anyone who entered the study would be heavily punished. Lin Ruofu waved his hand in acknowledgment before he turned to look warmly at the chubby child and spoke lightly, "Dabao, are you misbehaving again?"
The eyebrows of the chubby boy called Dabao were wide apart and his he looked confused. He appeared to have some sort of developmental problem. He immediately calmed down upon hearing Lin Ruofu speak and he replied shyly, "I’m being good, but my little brother hasn’t returned."
This was Lin Ruofu’s eldest son. A childhood illness had left him with the intelligence of a three- or four-year-old boy. As a result, he rarely left the mansion. The people of the capital were sympathetic and seldom brought him up in conversation. As Dabao was close to Lin Gong, he grew stressed when he had not seen his little brother for two days.
Lin Ruofu’s heart clenched painfully and he rubbed his chest for a while before he answered lightly, "Your brother has gone on a trip. He should be back in a couple of days. Go to sleep now, Dabao."
Dabao was finally quiet and he smiled dumbly as he was taken away by the maids for bedtime.
After a heavy silence, Lin Ruofu spoke coldly, "I have only one son and daughter. What am I supposed to do when Dabao is like this?"
Yuan Hongdao replied with a frown and said, "If it was for the sake of your eldest son, then it can be concluded that Miss Chen and Fan Xian’s marriage is a bad idea. This is because Mr. Fan cannot keep out of political conflicts. That will ultimately lead to a troubled life. We would not be able to ask Miss Chen to look after your son under such circumstances."
Lin Ruofu shook his head, and spoke with a chill, "If one has the surname ‘Fan’, then one is destined to never escape these webs. I’d rather that he was cruel and merciless, as then he would be able to provide security to Chen’er and her brother…"
With this, he returned to his calm self, made his way to a directory on the wall, and unveiled the cloth which covered it. He regarded a map silently with a frown. His gaze was focused mostly on the area north of Qing Kingdom where there was a complicated system of cities, though he averted his gaze occasionally in the direction of Dongyi city.
After a while, Lin Ruofu spoke with furrowed brows, "We have to come up with a tactic as soon as possible. Although it may not be a big battle, and the opposition may not make direct contact with us, we still have to ensure that the transport horses are ready beforehand."
Yuan Hongdao agreed with him, then he listened to the prime minister have a coughing fit. It was so intense that his eyes began to tear up. The prime minister stood in front of the map with his hands behind his back, frowning as he tried to come up with a plan. It was as if he had not lost his own son on the same day. Yuan Hongdao observed from the back and sighed on the inside. He felt a touch of pity for him as he thought about how, despite being so wealthy, Ruofu did not have an easy life. His whole life had been ruined the moment he met the princess.
Everything happened in a day's time and nobody knew what the hidden deals and fights would lead to. The number of people in the government who knew about Count Sinan Fan Jian and Chen Pingping’s encounter and the prime minister and eldest princess’ meet-up was less than the fingers on Fan Xian’s hands.
Fan Xian had no idea of the golden path he had been arranged to walk on.
His first couple of months in the capital could be described as dark as a moonless night, as if thick and sticky ink was smudged over his face. He felt so much pressure that he couldn’t relax. In comparison, his recent life was so refreshing. It was like god himself had cleansed his face. He had never felt more present.
In recent days, Fan Xian tried to convince himself that his second-brother-in-law’s death had absolutely nothing to do with him, as it was the only way he could face Lin Wan’er, who was going through a difficult time. Even though Lin Wan’er had only met her brother a couple of times, she was still upset when she heard of his death as, after all, they were related by blood. Fan Xian was aware of this and he felt bad, even though his brother-in-law was behind his assassination attempt. He thought about how he sometimes could be cold-blooded. If he had heard that Fan Sizhe had died whilst he was still living in Danzhou, he would most likely have not felt any sort of grief.
Naturally, the situation was different now and Lady Liu seems to have accepted the current circumstances. The Liu family of the capital was surrounded by strange rumors and Lady Liu was unusually restrained in response. She made no attempt to stop Fan Sizhe and Fan Xian wandering the streets of the capital together.
What made Fan Xian feel more at ease was the fact that nobody, including the prime minister, suspected that the death of the prime minister’s second son had anything to do with him. This was a matter which Fan Xian and Prince Jing were much concerned about. Wu Bo’an and Lin Gong were so well hidden that day that even the Overwatch Council could not find them. Besides the Four Great Grandmasters, who else could possibly find them? As long as no one knew of Fan Xian’s relationship with Wu Zhu, it was safe to say that no connection could be made between Fan Xian and Lin Gong’s death.
The most unexpected thing was that after some exchange of messages from the prime minister’s mansion, Fan Xian could vaguely tell that the prime minister was somewhat on board with the marriage. He could only guess that the reason behind this was because the old man was crestfallen over his son’s death. However, the crafty old scoundrel Count Sinan Fan Jian saw right through him before anyone else had. He knew that the prime minister was in dispute with either the Eastern Palace or the elder princess and was looking for someone new to invest in. Perhaps it was a hint that the prime minister was changing allegiance to the second prince.
The two assassination attempts struck the capital like spring thunder, and their impact eventually died away. The prime minister was desolate and disheartened. He used sickness as an excuse and rarely turned up at court. The cripple, Director Chen, also hardly turned up at court. Instead he stayed in his garden and sent out occasional commands. Fan Xian grew more suspicious the more he thought about it. He wondered why Chen Pingping had not requested to see him upon his return to the capital. However, Fan Xian was completely unaware that the old man had already spied on him whilst he was in prison. What was even more curious was the fact that Fie Jie had disappeared when Chen Pingping came back to the capital.
Anyhow, a weak and new balance of powers was established at the cost of human lives after a short yet destructive conflict occurred between different sides of the government. Some people had no choice but to accept changes such as the handover of the Palace treasury. Others began to look for a way to protect themselves and their family, such as the prime minister. These changes were no doubt beneficial towards Fan Xian as he no longer needed to worry too much about his own safety. It was only then that he wrote a letter to his grandmother informing her that everything was going well for him in the capital and that she need not worry about him too much.
Needless to say, summer came after spring. After a long road of hardships, Fan Xian could finally stand tall in the capital. There were less rainy days and more sunny days in his life and the promise of happiness seemed to wave softly at him.
Now that summer had arrived, how much longer would it be until the marriage in autumn?