During the feast, the guests from Jing Palace finally arrived, and all of the officials stood to greet them.
King Jing had always liked the brat Fan Xian. Seeing his flamboyant outfit today, he said, "What kind of outfit is that?"
Fan Xian knew King Jing’s temperament. He smiled and said, "May I ask how Your Highness dressed on the day of your wedding?"
Crown Prince Jing lowered his voice and said, "Probably worse than you."
King Jing cursed out, "When I married, you didn’t even exist. What the hell do you know?"
Seeing King Jing and the crown prince quarreling, the other officials dared not interfere. Instead, they all stood to the side trying to hide their laughter. But the host, Count Sinan, couldn't afford such leisure. He went to council them. "Your Highness, that really was unnecessary." Despite being a count, the two households had had good relations for over ten years, which was why he was able to converse so casually with King Jing.
King Jing waved his hand and stopped minding everyone else as he followed Fan Jian inside. Halfway there, he stopped and turned around. He said to Fan Xian, seriously this time, "Not bad."
Fan Xian was surprised and hurriedly thanked him for the compliment. King Jing continued to speak with a frown, "I was originally planning to wait two years or so and have Rou Jia married to you. Who would have thought that older sister of mine would make the first move?" He seemed to feel truly regretful as he shook his head and walked inside.
Who was this older sister? Of course, it was Fan Xian’s new mother-in-law, the eldest princess. Fortunately, King Jing lowered his voice when he said it, so no one else heard this. Fan Xian thought how scary it would be if he married Rou Jia before changing the subject—his mother-in-law looked so much younger than King Jing, which was very intriguing.
As he became lost in thought, Li Hongcheng patted him on the shoulder, "Between the two of us, my household is supposed to arrive earlier. But you should know, with occasions like this, it’s not convenient for us to do so."
Fan Xian understood. Despite the two of them being on friendly terms, Li Hongcheng was still King Jing’s crown prince. It would be against the norms for him to come help out the son of a civil servant. As Fan Xian smiled and was about to say something, Li Hongcheng continued in a light voice, "Rou Jia couldn't be here today. She asked me to let you know."
Fan Xian raised an eyebrow. Rou Jia was his and Ruoruo’s friend. Why didn’t she come on his wedding day?
Seeing his expression, Li Hongcheng explained with an uneasy smile, "My younger sister is currently wiping away her tears back at the manor. What Lord Father said was true; if it wasn’t for your fiancée’s background, he really would have asked the empress dowager to wed Rou Jia to you."
Fan Xian was shocked at first, but then he felt a bit bitter. He realized that he really didn’t know what to say, so he decided to stay silent for the moment.
The time had finally arrived for the couple to exchange vows to Heaven and Earth. Fan Xian and Lin Wan’er each held onto one end of the red silk sash, staring at each other affectionately. Delicately, they said their vows. This made Fan Ruoruo cry and Fan Sizhe cringe.
When saluting the parents, Count Sinan Fan Jian sat while gently stroking his beard. Lady Liu sat somewhat awkwardly in the seat of the mother. The people watching were all wondering: since when did Lady Liu establish herself as the head wife?
The spectators didn’t know it was the result of Fan Xian’s plans for the past month. Fan Xian was not the type to love his enemies, but he was also not the type to hold a grudge. He was still cautious of Lady Liu. But seeing how she was truly loyal and dedicated to his father, establishing her position as the head wife would stabilize her influence as well as calm her down a bit.
Of course, should Lady Liu act against him in anyway, Fan Xian now could protect himself and hurt the enemy. It’s just that Fan Xian didn’t want that to happen; if he was correct, Lady Liu had suffered much in her life, not to mention that Fan Sizhe was between them too. Up until last night – until empress dowager herself gave permission – Count Sinan had always been silent about changing Lady Liu’s place in the household.
After having endured for ten years, Lady Liu was finally sitting as the head wife of the household. Not used to the position, she touched the hand rests of her seat. A bit unsettled, she received the tea that was offered to her and took a noncommittal sip. She began to stare uneasily at Fan Xian.
Fan Xian didn’t look back at her, however. He was offering tea to his father with a smile.
With great difficulty, a faint smile appeared on the corner of Lady Liu’s lips.
The outsiders who were watching couldn’t help but feel confused. After all, they didn’t know what happened, so who could blame them? But those from Lady Liu’s mother’s side couldn’t help but sigh over the scene.
At this moment, some ruckus sounded outside the manor. Fan Xian rose while Wan’er was helped up by a nanny. The family looked outside in unison.
"An Imperial decree has arrived for the Fan clan."
Eunuch Hou, who was familiar with the Fan household, came in with a bright smile to deliver the Imperial decree. Despite today being a day of celebration, both Fan Jian and Fan Xian guessed there had been some arrangements in the palace, and thus weren’t surprised.
But the civil officials in the courtyard were. As Eunuch Hou announced the decree, the officials found the award being bestowed to be atypical. The amount of golden silk far surpassed what was normal; there were also some tribute items. Regardless of how they looked at it, this was not the gift to bestow upon a marriage between the children of civil servants. Rather, it was more suited to be given to a ruler or a royal relative.
Even considering that this involved the prime minister and Count Sinan, the royal family shouldn’t be giving this much attention.
As he listened to the Imperial decree, Fan Xian said quietly to his wife, whose face was hidden under the red veil, "Hear that? That's all thanks to you."
Under her veil, Lin Wan’er was greatly embarrassed.
After Eunuch Hou left, and as the various officials were just about to take a breath of relief, another voice outside announced, "Fan and Lin, a match made in Heaven, Imperial Consort Shu brings gifts."
Surprised, Fan Xian and Wan’er saluted again. Imperial Consort Shu had given them the original copies of that rare set of books. Lady Shu was the mother of the second prince. As it turned out, she too had connections with Fan manor. The officials were awed.
A short while after that, a voice rang out once again, "Fan and Lin, a match made in Heaven, Ning the Talented also brings gifts." While the status of this talented woman wasn’t all that high, her only son was the eldest prince. She always had a retinue of troops with her, as the emperor valued her highly.
Ning’s gift was a sword, which suited her Dongyi background. The newly-wed couple had no choice but to receive it with a salute. Fan Xian said quietly to his wife, "See? Now it’s the Ladies’ turn to award us. This sword must be for you. If something ever goes against your wishes, you can use it to slay me."
Again, Lin Wan’er became extremely embarrassed. In front of this crowd, it was impossible for her to give her husband a smack.
Since both Imperial Consort Shu and Ning the Talented had given gifts, the other Ladies were no exception, only the less prominent ones sent their gifts together. Only Lady Ning was different, as she was part of Liu family. Furthermore, last night, she received word that Lady Liu had finally been promoted to head wife. She was overjoyed, so she decided to go all out; the gift list alone was about two feet thick, to the shock of the watching officials.
After the Ladies, it was time for the empress dowager’s gift. As the mother figure to the nation, her gift was bound to be extraordinary: it was a delicate and translucent jade ruyi scepter of indescribable value.
The wedding was an eye-opening event for those civil officials. Since Qing’s founding day, they had never seen so many esteemed ones from the palace be so involved in the marriage between the children of officials.
It goes without saying that the high-ranking officials who knew Wan’er’s background realized what was happening. Lin Wan’er was not only Eldest Princess’s illegitimate daughter. Most importantly, she was beloved by both the emperor and empress dowager. Growing up in the palace, it was no wonder that her relationship with those esteemed ones was so atypical.
Gradually everything began to calm down as the officials slowly learned what was happening. As they became more collected, their views toward the bride changed.
Finally, the biggest bombshell dropped. His Majesty’s own calligraphy was carried into Fan Manor by a group of eunuchs, as though it were some invaluable treasure. Everyone in the courtyard knelt.
"By this Heavenly edict, His Majesty hereby decrees: the unison between Fan and Lin, a match made in Heaven, His Majesty has written words of blessing."
Carefully, Fan Jian and Fan Xian received it and displayed it to the crowd. On the white paper were the words "May you share a hundred years in happiness together".
On the surface, the meaning was simple, but His Majesty had never been known for interfering with the private affairs of his subjects. There must be some complex, deeper meaning behind this. The crowd in the courtyard started guessing. It looked like Fan Xian had stumbled upon great fortune by marrying Lin Wan’er.
In a room deep in the palace, the emperor of Qing was looking at a painting with a smile. The painting was a portrait of a woman in a yellow shirt.
The emperor had given his dearest Wan’er to Fan Xian. His Majesty thought the woman in the painting would like the girl too. So much had happened in Fan manor today. The onlookers all believed it was due to His Majesty pampering Wan’er. Even the Ladies didn’t stray too far from that belief. But the truth was that His Majesty felt regretful that Fan Xian could not get married as a prince.
Gazing at the woman in the painting, the emperor smiled. "You used to enjoy such lively events. I hope he does too."