Fan Xian's main concern was that his knees and lower back couldn't take all the kneeling required every time someone from the palace came to present them with a gift. It made him think of Wu Zhu's quarterstaff.
In a burst of joyous sounds of rituals and music, the marriage between Fan and Lin families was finally complete. The bride and groom were sent into their bridal chamber, and the guests began to leave. Strangely that day, save for Prince Jing, all alone, no one drank to excess.
Count Sinan, Fan Jian, watched as the newly married couple were escorted into their bridal chamber, and a gentle smile formed on his face. The thing that he had worried about the most today had not occurred. It seemed that the Crown Prince and the Second Prince also knew that on the day of his son's wedding, coming to attend the ritual without careful consideration of status could cause alarm in the palace and conflict with Fan Xian.
But the Crown Prince and the Second Prince had still sent people to deliver heavy gifts.
Evening came, and the newlyweds, assisted by serving-girls, arrived at their new home. The place was illuminated by red lanterns, with auspicious symbols plastered everywhere, all in a festive brilliant red color.
When he arrived, Fan Xian was finally able to relax. Some of the serving-girls were his own, some hand been sent by the estate of Prince Jing, and some were the older ones who had followed Lin Wan'er from the palace, still somewhat fearful of this young master.
He entered the room, stretched out his entire body, and with a beaming smile, asked the gathered servants to leave. The servants, gathered outside the door, bowed to the newlywed couple. Wan'er quickly handed her lady-in-waiting Si Qi a small sum of money in appreciation of the work she had done in the wedding.
"Si Qi, you must be tired too. Please, go to bed," said Fan Xian, smiling, his brows forming a Y shape.
Si Qi looked somewhat awkwardly at her mistress, thinking about the traditional exchange of cups of wine between bride and groom that was yet to occur. At that moment, she caught sight of the hand on Lin Wan'er's knee, and waved imperceptibly, seemingly in a hurry to depart.
The servant girls hid their laughter and quickly left the bridal chamber, closing the wooden door.
Only Fan Xian and Wan'er were left.
"Come out. You don't want me to beat you." To Lin Wan'er's surprise, Fan Xian spoke coldly. Sure enough, Fan Sizhe's fat figure wriggled out from underneath the bed and fled the room, his head lowered.
Fan Xian frowned. "I wouldn't mind if the chamber pot by the bed had choked him to death."
Lin Wan'er giggled, her head covered in a red veil. "The chamber pot has never been used." Fan Xian thought she was right: the top of the chamber pot was still lined with gold lacquer, the inside filled with aromatic herbs.
Looking around, he saw no one else, just the silent flickering of the red candles. He chuckled and walked towards her, taking hold of her slightly cold hands from inside her sleeves.
He suddenly thought of Wu Zhu. If that grandmaster had hidden in the corner as he always liked to, and once the newlyweds were doing the things that newlyweds do on the bed, and he had seen that shadow in the corner, it would probably scare him out of his wits. He cleared his throat quickly. "Uncle, are you there?" he said quietly.
Uncle was not there.
Lin Wan'er, her hand in his, was imagining with some shame the things that were about to happen. Hearing him suddenly call out "uncle", she couldn't help but be perplexed. "Huh?"
"It's nothing." Fan Xian smiled. "When things have settled down, I'll show you."
"Oh." Lin Wan'er was confused and had no idea what he was talking about.
"My bride." Fan Xian had not used the traditional rod to lift the red veil over Wan'er's head, but had instead softly lifted it with it grasped between his fingers. He watched the red cloth slowly lift to expose the young woman's head, lowered and bashful, with a soft chin like white jade, and above that a pair of soft lips, a tiny, pointed nose, and a nervously closed pair of eyes with a set of gently trembling eyelashes.
The red lanterns gradually darkened, and Fan Xian sat slightly nervously on the bed, the thumb of his right hand gently caressing his bride's smooth cheek.
From outside the room came the ill-timed sound of coughing, then the sound of a sword being unsheathed by one of Fan Xian's bodyguards. There was a groan, and finally, an alarmed cry from Wang Qinian!
Fan Xian frowned, bursting out of the door. His long red gown floated behind him like a beautiful red cloud in the night.
He could not see who this visitor was. His wrist trembled and he took a staggering step, avoiding the persons hands clapping his shoulders. Spontaneously, he took out his needles, jabbing them into his opponent's shoulders. The needle-tip was coated with a powerful poison, and it was unlikely that the opponent would be able to move a single step.
At that moment, his vision was finally clear. The handful of bodyguards standing before the stone steps had already collapsed, unconscious, and Wang Qinian stared in fear behind him.
Fan Xian was greatly shocked. Who in this world could still move after being affected by his own poison? He felt a movement in the air behind him, and turning his palms to weapons, he slashed at the air.
As he tried to slash at the person's face, Fan Xian let out a pained moan and crouched to the floor clutching his stomach.
The first reason for this was because he had failed to slash the person; the other reason was because he had been hit by poison.
He saw the person's disheveled hair and weathered face. They were very old, but he could not make out who it was. A pair of dark, cold eyes, mottled with a dark brown color. They looked terrifying.
"Teacher?" cried Fan Xian in surprise. There was a sharp pain in his stomach that he could not dare to ignore. He hurriedly fetched an antidote tablet from his belt and put it in his mouth, unsure as to whether it would work.
Then he hurriedly moved forward to salute, embrace, and curse Fei Jie, who had appeared suddenly today after ten years' absence.
"You haven't changed much." Fei Jie sat in the study, drinking tea, appreciating the servant girls massaging his legs, and looking at Fan Xian who stood next to him. "I thought that after ten years I'd hardly recognize you. I didn't expect you to grow to be so handsome."
Fan Xian sighed, but did not dare sit. "Teacher," he said, "could you not... even if it's just one time, please don't sneak into my room in the middle of the night. It's easy to make a mistake. Even though there is a soft pillow in my room, if I'd just taken out a knife, then what would you do? You're clearly the weakest one of the eight bureaus when it comes to martial arts, but you're fond of playing some kind of hero who sneaks around at night. It's very dangerous."
In truth, Fan Xian had imagined his reunion with his teacher countless times. Perhaps they would cry on each other’s' shoulders; perhaps they would pour each other poisoned tea to test each other's skills. But he had not imagined him showing up to disrupt his wedding night.
All the thoughts he had had of him since they had parted quickly turned to unsatisfied anger. Today had played havoc on him. Fan Xian had always comforted himself - he had lived for thirty years, so what did he had to worry about? But he was soon to be successfully accomplished, and had been disturbed by this old poisoner. He could not help worrying, wondering - he could have come at any time; did it have to be tonight?
Fei Jie took no notice of him. "I have just returned from Dongyi," he said. "I heard that you were getting married, so I travelled for days. I've finally made it back here."
Fan Xian was filled with emotions. He quickly bent over to bow in respect. It was this man's efforts that were to thank for the fact that he had managed to live so long in this world.
Fei Jie handed him a small box. A faint fragrance wafted from inside it. Fan Xian was curious. "What is it?"
"A wedding gift for my student. Take a look."
Fan Xian knew that his teacher's gifts were unlike any other. He opened the box and looked. Inside were a number of pills about the size of a fingertip. He was moved, and scraping some of it off with a fingernail, he transferred it to his lips to test it.
Watching his movements, Fei Jie smiled. That pretty young boy had become a handsome young man, and he felt relieved, especially upon seeing that he had maintained the professional habits that he had once taught him.
"Tortoiseshell, made with vinegar." Fan Xian knitted his brow as he analyzed the pills. "Foxglove, donkey hide glue, beeswax... but there's another ingredient I can't figure out."
"Iced smoke." The corners of Fei Jie's lips raised. He seemed pleased.
"Iced smoke?" Fan Xian had already guessed at the uses of this pill. When he thought of his teacher's startling methods, he could not help but feel confidence in him, and he asked with pleasant surprise.
"Correct. It is an ingredient from overseas. I tasked the merchants of Dongyi with finding it for me four years ago, and this year they finally found it, so I spent a number of days there waiting for a boat." Fei Jie waved his hand, signaling to the servant girl attending him that she should leave.
Four years ago was when the marriage between the Fan and Lin families had first been discussed in the palace. So from that moment, Fei Jie had started his search for a cure for Lin Wan'er's tuberculosis, so that his student could marry a healthy bride. When he realized this, Fan Xian could not help but feel greatly moved.
"There was something else in Dongyi."
Fan Xian understood.
"I sold cures to Sigu Sword. In return, they promised not to make a move against you."
Fan Xian sat down next to his teacher, with no complaints at all about the fact that he had cut short his wedding night. "Master," he said, greatly moved, "for your medicines, you have my deepest gratitude. Thank you so much."
"This is the first time I have made such a medicine, but it has been tested, and it is effective." Fei Jie smiled. There was a flash in his mottled brown eyes. "But it has some side effects that you must be fully aware of."
"Teacher, please, tell me." Seeing Fei Jie's caution, Fan Xian's face also turned prudent.