"A fine tune, and fine words too." Fan Ruoruo smiled and sighed. "Miss Sang is truly an extraordinary songstress."
Having received praise from the well-regarded young lady of the Fan family, Sang Wen was truly pleased. She blushed and bowed.
"A winter scene and a chilly spring make a mild summer seem that much fresher," said Lin Wan'er, also nodding her head in praise.
Fan Xian had spent all 16 years of his new life in the Kingdom of Qing, but he still did not care much for music. Often, he found himself remembering the songs of Aska Yang, a famous singer from his previous life. He thought of Aska Yang, and then he thought of He Zongwei, who often came calling to Fan Manor to pay his respects. He frowned. For some reason, he couldn't stand him.
But the line in Sang Wen's song - "I suddenly come across robes and silk shirts" - suddenly evoked some unexpected feelings from inside him. Robes and light silk sleeves, with white silk underclothes as simple and neat as white plum blossoms. And in front of the incense burner of the Temple of Qing, the first time that he had met Wan'er, wasn't she wearing white clothes, clothes like white plum blossoms?
But those white plum blossoms had carried the scent of chicken legs. Fan Xian unthinkingly gazed at Lin Wan'er, and found that she was also looking at him. Their eyes met. Fan Xian smiled, and Lin Wan'er blushed.
Ye Ling'er now recognized Fan Xian's skills, but when she looked at the scene in front of her, she still felt some uneasiness in her hear about it. She cleared her throat. "I don't care much for music."
Fan Xian laughed. "It seems you're as unrefined as I am, Miss Ye." It was a throwaway remark, but it brought Ye Ling'er closer to him, and the two other girls couldn't help but laugh. Even Sang Wen, who had been in something of a daze, had to cover her beautiful mouth.
At that moment, there was only one young man in the villa, with his sister and Wan'er sitting by his side and Ye Ling'er sitting by Wan'er's. There was a delicate feminine aroma that made Fan Xian feel good. He sighed. Life was not in vain. This trip was not in vain. As long as Princess Roujia wasn't here, it was fine. Fan Xian had a worrisome thought - young women were the most beautiful things in this world, but if young women were looking at you like they wanted to marry you in ten years’ time, it wasn't right.
At that moment, Sang Wen suddenly summoned the courage to curtsy, and spoke quietly to Fan Xian. "If I may be so bold, it would please me greatly if Master Fan would say a few words." The performers of the capital were extravagant types, and had a fanatical hierarchy. At the top were those who were heard by princes and dukes, the finest singers with the best skills in singing and poetry.
Sang Wen was paid attention to by nobles and the young lady of the Fan family. Naturally, she was a first-class singer and had fine songs and poems on her mind day and night. Today, she had coincidentally met with the famous poet Master Fan, and she could not help but be aloof, and regardless of the great difference in their status, she bravely made her bold demand. Fan Xian was taken aback.
Lin Wan'er and Fan Ruoruo giggled and urged him to write. Even Ye Ling'er gazed at him with curiosity, wanting to see what sort of verse he would write.
Fan Xian was thoroughly vexed and had no choice but to go into the house. Spreading out paper and grinding an ink stick, Fan Ruoruo had sat quietly down at the writing desk, picked up a writing brush and waited. It turned out that Fan Xian was taking the role of an assistant, and the three girls who followed them in and beheld the scene could not help but laugh.
"My sister writes very well," explained Fan Xian awkwardly. Although he had diligently practiced writing characters when he was in Danzhou, his handwriting was nowhere near as elegant as his sister's, so he thought it best to let her do it.
A little while later, Fan Ruoruo wrote out the words that Fan Xian dictated in small, graceful handwriting. When Sang Wen heard it, her eyes lit up, and was overjoyed when she nervously took the paper and read it carefully. She bowed deeply to Fan Xian. "Master Fan, you have my deepest thanks for composing this poem. Words cannot express my gratitude enough."
Lin Wan'er and Fan Ruoruo both nodded, agreeing that the poem was worthy of gratitude. Sang Wen seemed to be arranging the poem to music so that she could sing it all across the capital. Perhaps it would be sung for many years. Fan Xian had copied out a fine verse written by Tang Xianzu: "Already, bright purple and passion pink bloom in profusion. Yet on crumbling walls, such splendor is abandoned. But in this glorious season, where are sounds of joy in the garden? Mornings take wing, evenings unfold, and beyond the green arbor, rosy clouds soar. In windy strands of rain, gilded pleasure boats nod in misty waves. Maidens shielded by brocaded screens are blinded to such glorious scenes."
He saw the girls' infatuated expressions, sighed, and shook his head. The Peony Pavilion was such a beautiful work, and taking this section from it without context, even though it was beautiful, made it lose some of its soul. But now he was busy with roll call at the temple, business, courting, and even a vacation all packed into two days. He had no time to do anything properly. It seemed that issuing labor in this advanced culture was very difficult indeed.
"How sad." Ye Ling'er, who had kept silent, was somewhat sluggish in her reaction, only now passing a judgement full of feeling, grief and sorrow.
Suddenly Fan Ruoruo's face changed. She recalled the line about the glorious season; it had already appeared in Story of the Stone, in a drinking game played by Lin Daiyu. If Sang Wen were to sing this poem, would people not immediately realize that Story of the Stone had been written by her brother? But it seemed to her that Fan Xian had forgotten about it. She thought about her brother gaining even more fame, and couldn't help but smile, deciding not to bring it up.
The outing ended well, and everyone had gotten what they wanted. Ye Ling'er had learned a few "little tricks", Sang Wen had received a poem from Fan Xian, Fan Sizhe had gotten a bellyful of roasted fish, Dabao had finally brought a horse to the Prime Minister's manor, Fan Ruoruo had gotten two days of beautiful scenery and peaceful surroundings, Lin Wan'er had gotten a chance to get closer to her brother, and Fan Xian had gotten the most, but he could not say what.
If it had ended this way, everyone would have been happy. But after Fan Xian heard Wang Qinian's report, he frowned. He had not expected things to be quite so fortuitous.
The Crown Prince was coming!
Hearing that the Crown Prince was coming to the villa that day, Fan Xian said nothing. He ordered Wang Qinian to get a team of his people ready to go back to the capital.
He was joking, surely - if the illustrious heir-apparent wanted to spend the summer here, how could he dare struggle for control with him? What was more, the Fan family had been taken into the Second Prince's faction, and the Prime Minister had broken ties with the prince's palace. The Overwatch Council clung to the Emperor, and although Fan Xian had some power behind him, he was the biggest target of the Crown Prince's hatred. If the two sides were to meet face to face, even given that Fan Xian was with the "false princess" as well as the two young women of the Ye and Fan families, the Crown Prince would truly wish to humiliate him, and he would have no way to find someone to come up with judgments about things.
The Emperor had said in the Green Bamboo Tearoom on Liujing River that Fan Xian should have been able to live comfortably in the capital. But the Crown Prince was not happy with Fan Xian living comfortably. If father and son had a difference of opinion, Fan Xian could not be held responsible, and believed that the Emperor would intervene on his son's behalf against the insignificant son of a minister.
It was for that reason that he wanted to make a clean getaway and not give the Crown Prince an opportunity to meet and humiliate him. At the same time, he also wanted to avoid giving himself the opportunity to beat up the Crown Prince after being unable to bear being humiliated by him and committing a crime that went against the will of Heaven.
He had come confident and at ease, but he was fleeing alarmed and anxious; Fan Xian felt rather upset. Lin Wan'er also frowned and felt uneasy; her brother Chengqian was no tiger; how could her future husband be so afraid? Ye Ling'er once more felt a measure of contempt for Fan Xian for being afraid of the powerful - what was so bad about the Crown Prince? When she was small, the Emperor had sent him to the Ye family to train in combat - and she'd gone through the same training.
Fan Xian after all was only an eighth-level functionary, the insignificant illegitimate son of Count Sinan. How could he be as used to the sight of the most important person in the world with these two girls who had known him since their childhoods? And his thoughts were more mature than those of girls with him, so he knew that this matter was somewhat sensitive.
Because he had gotten things arranged quickly, Fan Xian’s retinue was already on the road when the Crown Prince's retinue arrived at the summer estate, and the two sides just brushed past each other.
At that moment, there was a sound of gongs and drums, like someone was about to start singing on a stage. The Crown Prince's retinue stopped, and the palace bodyguards also stopped Fan Xian. Fan Xian parted the curtain and looked out, his face expressionless. He saw the only heir to the throne upon the bright yellow carriage - soon to be the most powerful 18-year-old in all the land, and he dispiritedly said something to the carriages behind him.
Crown Prince Li Chengqian had a face that looked eminently handsome, but there was something off about his complexion - it was somewhat pale, and the corners of his mouth were slightly darkened. When he came that day to spend summer at the summer estate, he had not imaged that he would suddenly meet his sister Wan'er and the young lady of the Ye family on the road. He had grown up with them both, so he stopped to exchange pleasantries.
He knew that Wan'er had spent the previous night in the summer estate. Li Chengqian seemed pained as he spoke. "Do you not care for your health? The imperial physicians say you are too ill to endure the cold weather."
Ye Ling'er, by her side, laughed. "Miss Lin is not worried. We have an imperial physician with us." Lin Wan'er frowned at Ye Ling'er, though smiling as she explained, "It’s been summer for awhile now; where is the cold weather?"
But he did not change the subject. The Crown Prince was rather curious about what Ye Ling'er's was saying, and he asked careful questions, finally realizing that sitting inside the carriage was Wan'er's future husband. He was shocked. "Is that the Beast of Fan Manor? He has garnered quite a name for himself recently. Let me take a look at him."
"Let it pass. Your Majesty must not intimidate him," said Lin Wan'er, a little uneasily.
The Crown Prince frowned. "The Emperor's family has some poor relatives. After you are married, he will be my brother-in-law. What’s the harm in me meeting him? Besides, the Emperor will summon him to the palace so he can pay his respects to the Empress and Empress Dowager." He paused. "And the royal court has a duty they wish to give him as soon as possible. Don't tell me he is hiding away from people?"
The words were very serious, and there was a silence across both retinues.
"I pay my respects to Your Highness." A voice broke the silence. No one knew when Fan Xian had come up to the Crown Prince's carriage. He was beaming as he bowed.