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Were he a normal adult, chatting with someone with the mental capacities of a young child, perhaps he would become easily bored, but Fan Xian was not that sort of person. Fan Xian had spent the last years of his previous life confined to his sickbed, unable to move, and in this life, when he was practicing strange and powerful arts, he would often find himself slipping into a vegetative state, and so he had great patience. Even more than that, he felt pity for his brother-in-law, Dabao, and his learning difficulties, so he could control his temper with a smile and chatted happily with Dabao.

As Fan Xian saw it, the plump fellow who moved around slowly was more loveable than the other people of the capital, and more trustworthy.

"Big brother, why am I so fat while you are so thin?" Dabao frowned, seemingly perplexed by this problem.

Fan Xian forced a smile. "First of all, you are my big brother. I'm going to be your little sister's husband. Second, I'm not thin at all, it's just that you're a little bit chubby."

Dabao shook his head and yawned, took a cake from a nearby table, and stuffed it in his mouth, chewing it thoroughly as he spoke. "I'm not fat; I just like to eat."



Seeing that the Prime Minister was not yet onboard with his idea, Fan Xian turned his gaze and whispered into his brother-in-law's ear. "Dabao, when shall I take you out to play?"

"What... what are we going to play?" Dabao spoke happily. "I want to play polo."

"Huh?" Fan Xian had something of a headache. He realized he'd really created work for himself. He'd thought he'd take his brother-in-law on a summer vacation, and he'd used this as a pretext to allow Wan'er to come out of her strictly-guarded pavilion. How was he to know that his tubby brother-in-law would want to play polo? He quickly changed tack. "Dabao, do you want to hear a story?"

Dabao's nostrils flared as he breathed in. "Yay! I love stories," he said excitedly.

And so, in the garden of the Prime Minister, Fan Xian began to tell a story in a calm and relaxed voice. The story was about a beautiful girl named Snow White, seven dwarves, and their happy life in the forest. One day, Snow White picked up a mushroom...

"It's somewhat surprising." Prime Minister Lin Ruofu gazed out of a far window and smiled. "Do you think he's faking it?"

Yuan Hongdao shook his head. "It doesn't look like it. Master Fan has a sincere smile on his face. That can only come from his heart."

"Hm." Lin Ruofu sighed. "Ask him to come inside."

Fan Xian entered the Prime Minister's residence and immediately felt somewhat nervous. When he entered the Prime Minister's private study, it would be the first time that he saw his future father-in-law's face. He could not stop the little finger of his right hand from trembling. After all, he was inextricably linked to the death of the Prime Minister’s only legitimate son. But his face remained respectful and unusually calm. "I have come to pay my respects to you, Uncle Lin."

He had given a lot of thought to how to address him. Calling him "Mister Prime Minister" was inappropriate, and calling him "Old Master" was inelegant. Calling him "uncle" could help to bring the Fan and Lin families closer together. It also subtly hinted at the closeness that the wedding could bring.

Lin Ruofu looked at Fan Xian's calm face and felt quite satisfied with his behavior. After a moment of consideration, he spoke. "I presume you understand why I have invited you here today, Master Fan."

Fan Xian quickly responded with a smile. "I am happy to simply have been invited, Uncle."

Lin Ruofu nodded. "Fan Xian... do you have any thoughts on this marriage?"

Fan Xian did indeed have thoughts about the marriage. He was extremely happy about it, and he could not prevent a blush from forming on his cheeks. Seeing his face, Lin Ruofu felt much more at ease. He smiled. "You are no doubt aware that after Gong'er's passing, I have but one son and one daughter. Chen'er is to be married to you, and you must treat her well."

Fan Xian lowered his head and quietly responded yes, without mumbling in the slightest.

"All those of an older generation must one day pass away." Lin Ruofu suddenly spoke clearly. "If I may be so bold, when that day comes, I ask that you take care of my son. Are you able to take on that responsibility?"

After a moment of thought, Fan Xian stood up, clasped his hands, and bowed. "Of course."

"Someday, we shall be considered one family, and so there are some things you must understand." Lin Ruofu looked into the young man's eyes. It seemed that he wanted to look deep into his heart. He spoke slowly and carefully. "Although I have had little contact with Wan'er, she is still my daughter. Her surname is Lin, and so you must take the House of Lin into consideration. Once the marriage is concluded, then I believe that Count Sinan also understands that our two families will be linked in common prosperity. I hope that in the future, whether or not you are in a position of power, you will remember your status, and that you will henceforth protect the interests of not only the Fan family, but the Lin family as well."

His words were frank, but only in this way could the Prime Minister at last show his approval of the marriage. Happiness welled up in Fan Xian's heart. Although his marriage to Wan'er was by order of the palace, receiving his father-in-law's approval naturally felt much more appropriate.

But when he thought of the second meaning behind those words, Fan Xian could not help but feel a headache coming on. His father-in-law had clearly abandoned the Crown Prince, but he didn't know whether he was preparing to support the Second Prince. Everyone knew that the Fan family and King Jing had assisted the Second Prince, but Fan Xian also knew that his father's feelings on the matter were complicated.

Meanwhile, after the successful conclusion of the visit to the Prime Minister's manor, Lin Wan'er finally spied an opening to approach the palace, paying filial respects to the Empress Dowager for most of the day. She wasn't sure how she had persuaded him, but her usually stony-faced uncle, the Emperor, issued a decree, allowing her to leave the palace grounds and walk freely.

Under Fan Xian's careful medical attention, Lin Wan'er's health had improved greatly. She was able to leave the house and walk around. Although her illness had not disappeared completely, she no longer had to hide herself away indoors, and so when Fan Xian heard that the palace had lifted their prohibition, he was filled with happiness at the unexpected good news. Early the next morning, he travelled by carriage to the pavilion in the palace to make sure everything was prepared.

After waiting for some time, there was a bustling from inside the pavilion. First, a number of bodyguards came out, followed by ladies-in-waiting, and a couple of pretty-looking servant girls clearing a path. Finally, Lin Wan'er leisurely strolled out, assisted by four servant girls.

Lin Wan'er wore a beautiful white skirt and a conical hat made from Longxi bamboo. The hat was very light, and underneath it hung a thin layer of gauze which kept out the sunlight and hid her beautiful face. All one could see was a faint smile on her lips.

Fan Xian came forward to greet her, but the old ladies-in-waiting were nervous at the sight of this future groom, and blocked his path, fixing him with glares as fierce as lightning.

Fan Xian was angry. He didn't understand why they had to meddle in his love life. He thought about slipping them laxatives again and letting them spend a good long while on the commode.

Lin Wan'er looked at him apologetically, her hand tightly gripping the servant girl next to her. The girl almost cried out in pain, wondering what she had done to offend, but she understood her mistress's meaning, and quickly hurried forward to speak with Fan Xian. "Master Fan, you must travel separately. We will see you again in the summer estate west of the city."

The summer estate was a royal summer garden, about twenty miles west of the capital. Were it not for Lin Wan'er's outing today, Fan Xian would not have been allowed to enter and enjoy it.

Fan Xian scoffed, but he knew that before they were married, it would have brought her great shame for them to travel in the same carriage, as well as drive the old ladies-in-waiting absolutely mad. He said nothing more, but shot a glance at Ruoruo who stood by his side. Ruoruo understood his meaning, and smiled. She walked up to her future sister-in-law's side and gently took her hand. She said a few words, then followed the procession leaving the pavilion, climbing into the palace carriage.

"Brother, being the Emperor's son-in-law... it must be so annoying." Fan Sizhe stood by Fan Xian's side and looked at him with great sympathy.

"Autumn is coming," sighed Fan Xian. "It's fine letting our sister go with Wan'er. Those damned ladies-in-waiting can't really think that lilies [1] will bloom in that carriage."

"What are lilies?"

"A holy plant."

The two sides set off early, just as day was dawning, but by the time they had reached the summer estate, the sun had fully risen, its warmth shining down on the earth in a warm embrace.

Fortunately, such things had been taken into consideration in the construction of the estate, which was built in such a way to keep out the heat of the sun. The villa was built by the side of the woods, next to the mountains, overlooking a lake and shielded from the sun and facing the wind. The surface of the lake was tranquil, but the cool wind blew gently through, bringing dry air from between the trees and fanning everyone with a cool breeze.

Fan Xian stood on the grass by the lake, looking over the scene in front of him as he was filled with awe. The Emperor's rural retreat was truly unique, and life here was grander than that of any of his subjects.

When he entered the estate, he wondered whether Ruoruo had managed to pull some strings. The bodyguards had been persuaded to corral all of the old ladies-in-waiting into a pavilion to spend the time drinking tea and playing card games. Only a young man was left by the side of the lake, with the bodyguards sitting or standing far away, with servant girls only occasionally coming out to wander and chatter incessantly. The quietness of the lake had subsided somewhat, but with no onlookers to disturb his happiness, Fan Xian felt very comfortable.

Moving further away from the others, he gritted his teeth and made a face to drive away a servant girl; Fan Xian could finally be alone with Wan'er.

"It wasn't easy," sighed Fan Xian, his right hand moving through the grass like a snake, before pouncing on Wan'er's soft hand as quick as lightning. His face remained calm as he looked out over the lake. "It really wasn't easy to meet with milady."

Her hand in his, Lin Wan'er suddenly blushed and lowered her head shyly. She did not move her hand away, but scolded him in a low voice. "I don't know why you're calling me 'milady' so formally, when you were happy to climb that wall so shamelessly."

[1] ‘Lilies’ is Chinese netizen slang for lesbian sex.

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