He had arrived at the capital gates once again. However, this time was different from the last, for Fan Xian’s carriage was now unmistakably marked. The guards quickly let the carriages through after a brief inspection. Looking at the Fan emblem on the carriages, the soldiers on guard duty dared cause any unnecessary trouble. After all, Jiao Ziheng, their former boss, lost his job due to the assassination attempt on Fan Xian.
The carriages had arrived at Fan manor. Yawning, Fan Sizhe got out and ordered the servants who came to greet him, saying, "There are some salt-cured foods; unload them and put them away in the back—and don’t you even think about sneaking a bite or two. Big Brother had it prepared as a gift!" He then opened his eyes wide and roared, "If, when my big sister from the Lin household comes over tomorrow to eat the muntjac but finds it with only three legs, I’ll personally break one of yours as payback!" The servants had long been used to this young master’s temper and didn’t make a sound. They obediently began to unload the goods.
The bodyguards also came over. Wang Qiannian walked to Fan Xian’s carriage, waiting for him to get out. But the carriage was all quiet. To his dismay, Wang Qiannian discovered that the carriage was empty; Fan Xian and Fan Ruoruo were nowhere to be seen. He immediately ran to Fan Sizhe and asked, "Little Master, may I ask where Sir Fan is?" Fan Sizhe gave him a look and scolded him, "Look at you, all tense. My brother and sister got off in the middle of the trip. They don’t want you to always follow."
At this point Wang Qiannian was half-scared to death. This Sir Fan was the sole reason he could return to the Overwatch Council. When Director Chen Pingping personally greeted him, he was ordered specifically to ensure Sir Fan’s safety; he was supposed to never let Sir Fan leave his sight. Wang Qiannian never expected Sir Fan to secretly ditch him. Looking at his strained expression, Fan Sizhe said, "He said he’d be back this afternoon; don’t be so worried." Fan Sizhe didn’t know who Wang Qiannian was; in the beginning, he thought this Wang Qiannian was just someone skilled who got assigned to Fan Xian by their father. Later, though, he sensed something wasn’t quite right, but was too lazy to dig any deeper.
Wang Qiannian didn’t interact further with this second young master. He signaled a servant with his eyes, got on a carriage, and headed out.
The cicadas called lazily in the sweltering summer heat. Fan Xian led Ruoruo on a stroll on the bank of Liujing River (with Liujing meaning "flowing crystal"). It was good that they got here early, and there were plenty of shade around to make the heat somewhat tolerable. Fan Xian had already unbuttoned his shirt down to his chest, showing a large patch of skin. Ruoruo couldn’t do the same and had to rely on fanning herself with her handkerchief. With a smile, Fan Xian took the handkerchief and dipped it in the river before handing it back to her.
"Do you know why this river was called ‘Flowing Crystal’?"
"According to capital records, this name predates the current dynasty. Supposedly, as the river flowed around the capital towards the Cang Mountains in the west, the terrain caused the waters to flow extremely fast. But in some areas, the water is tranquil like the surface of a mirror, like crystals suspended in time. That is how this river got its name."
Fan Xian nodded as he thought of this tranquil part of the river. Occasionally flower boats floated past, reminding him of Si Lili, who was behind bars; he didn’t know what would ultimately happen to that woman. Walking a bit further, they could see a house hiding among the trees on the other side of the river. The house had a simple yet very elegant courtyard. A few bamboo branches poked past the walls towards the sky. In this summer heat, they managed to express a sense of coolness.
"So that’s Taiping Courtyard?" Fan Xian squinted. Fan Ruoruo answered him, "Yes, I heard back in the day, the owner of Ye household lived there. The courtyard later became Imperial property once the Ye household was dissolved. I just never heard Ruojia mention a lady having lived there before."
Fan Xian thought about it for a bit and suddenly smiled. So that’s where his mom once worked, fought, and lived. Seeing her brother’s smile made Ruoruo happy too. She asked, "You seem happy, what’s on your mind?" Fan Xian rubbed his slightly damp fingers and shook his head without saying anything. It was already bold of him to bring his sister here, even though Ye Household didn’t appear to be that much of a taboo. But remembering his father and Wu Zhu’s seriousness made him decide to be careful about it.
He had planned to go there to pay his respects. Now that he knew it was Imperial property, he gave up on the idea. The fact he still didn’t know where his mother’s grave was made him very uncomfortable.
Since coming to this world, he had never seen the woman who gave him his body, but he still acknowledged her as his mother. Perhaps it was due to him losing his parents early on in his previous life. No matter when, be it his exile after being reincarnated, or his time in Danzhou, or his days in the capital, everything seemed to point to the power, authority, power, and determination that woman once held. Everything seemed to remind him his mother was that woman, that woman named Ye Qingmei.
Ye Qingmei, whose eyes saw through this world.
Fan Xian once even wondered if his mother was not dead, but hiding in some desolate place, observing his life with a caring yet cold smile.
Count Sinan mercilessly terminated this delusion and told him his mother’s grave was in a very secluded place in the capital. Once the time was right, Fan Xian would naturally go pay his respects.
Letting out a sigh, Fan Xian knelt down and kowtowed towards the courtyard across the river. Fan Ruoruo was stunned for a moment, not knowing what her brother meant. But the smart Ruoruo quickly guessed something and turned pale with fright. Nevertheless, she braced herself and knelt down besides Fan Xian.
Because of the trees, there was bound to be people on the other side, hidden from view. To them, seeing the two kneeling on the ground must have been an amusing sight.
Fan Xian was a bit surprised and pulled her up. He asked gently, "Why kneel with me?" Ruoruo forced a smile, "What should I call her? ‘Auntie’?" Fan Xian chuckled, "Ah, I knew you’d guess it. I didn’t plan on hiding anything from you, but there are things I cannot say to anyone. It’s extremely frustrating keeping them to myself." Letting out another sigh, he said, "No wonder I spent my early years in Danzhou."
"I only know my mother was from that Ye household. Did you, by any chance, hear father or Aunt Liu mention anything?" Fan Ruoruo tried to remember, but shook her head. Fan Xian guessed it was probably due to some inner working of the Royal Family who disliked any remnants of the Ye household, resulting in his father always hiding the truth. However… with the power of the Imperial court, if Count Sinan had a relationship with the owner of the Ye household, how did he escape attention? Unless the Overwatch Council hid everything. But regardless of how much Chen Pingping respected Fan Xian’s mother, not even he could keep everything a perfect secret.
As various questions formed in his head, Fan Xian became very agitated. Being motherless aside, he started to question the "other parts".
The siblings dared not to get too close to that courtyard. Going through the woods, they went back to an open road and began walking towards the capital. They were planning on walking a bit further and hiring two small carriages. But they quickly discovered a small path to their left. There were some moss-covered rocks hidden among the grass, quite cryptic. The path seemed to be rarely used.
Fan Xian, with his excellent eyesight, saw a small wooden bridge that the end of this path which he believed to lead to Taiping Courtyard. Sighing to himself on the inside, he forcefully removed his gaze and said to Fan Ruoruo with a smile, "Your handkerchief has dried. Do you feel hot?"
An air of coldness seemed to be always hanging between Fan Ruoruo’s brows, but she did not feel it in front of Fan Xian. Sweat rolled down the side of her temples before spreading out on her slightly flushed cheeks, adding even more color to them. Fan Xian stared slightly. She told him in a soft voice that she was okay and continued walking with her elder brother.
A short while later, they came upon a teahouse. The entire structure was made of bamboo, which let the breeze through while blocking out sunlight, making it extremely cool on the inside. Fan Xian was overjoyed by the sight of it. Taking his sister’s hand, they talked inside. He shouted, "Two cups of tea."
A dense silence answered back. There were only a few people in the teahouse. A middle-aged man stood furthest back. He slowly made eye contact with Fan Xian after hearing Fan Xian’s voice. That man had a pair of deep-set eyes and a nose hooked like a raptor’s beak. While a dark aura surrounded him, he seemed to be forcibly containing it. The middle-aged man looked towards Fan Xian with malice like a hawk locking its sight on a rabbit.
Fan Xian was greatly shocked as he recognized the man. That man was none other than Sir Gongdian, the leader of the guards, the one with whom he had traded a palm strike with, resulting in Fan Xian throwing up blood. Wang Qiannian was kicked out of the Council because he was trying to capture Fan Xian!