The Eighth Bureau would not accept anything that involved creative descriptions of the human body, the art of violence, or suggestions of revolution that were not permitted by the emperor. However, it didn’t matter what world you lived in; the subjects of sex, violence and politics were bound to be hot topics, so it was inevitable that underground booksellers would surface.
Normally, the booksellers wouldn’t dare sell books about politics, but romance novels like ‘"Of Joy and Passion" were mass-produced and passed through the hands of many before finding an owner.
There was no doubt that a middle-aged woman with a child in her arms w was the last in the chain of recipients of the book.
Nobody in the capital batted an eye at this familiar scene, and even government officials let it slide under their watch, say less of the civilians who benefited from it.
"What did you say sir?" The women selling prohibited books stared blankly, oblivious to the beautiful existence of AV.
Fan Xian laughed and asked, "What books do you have?"
The woman put the child in her other arm and retrieved a book from the layers of clothes. The book was roughly eight inches, square, and completely red. It looked to be of good quality. Fan Xian was quite impressed by how the woman managed to keep the edges pristine despite storing it in her clothes whilst carrying a child in her arms.
"These are the most popular short stories in the capital." The women spoke with an air of secrecy.
Unaffected by her facade, Fan Xian took the book. He smiled as he opened the first page… He could not contain the look of surprise on his face.
Although there was no author name printed on the front cover, the four words ‘Feng Yue Bao Jian' was written in large font on the title page.
On the following page were the words, "Who knew that this daughter-in-law possessed a natural charm. Her entire body becomes limp and soft whenever a man bumps into her, and the man would experience the sensation of lying on a bed as soft as clouds."
Fan Xian was speechless and his mouth opened wide. He recognized the book right away. It was called ‘Dream of the Red Chamber’ and he had sent a written copy to his sister before. The section he had just read was from chapter twenty one, when Qiao Ping saved Jia Lian by using softly spoken words, and it was a told about Miss Duo.
The middle-aged woman mistakenly thought that the pretty boy in front of her was enticed by it all, and continuing in a low voice, she said, "That’s just a small taste; there’s more exciting parts to come."
In his previous life, Fan Xian was stuck in his bed for years, incapable of doing a lot of things. He couldn’t bring himself to ask his nurse to help him turn the pages of lewd books, so he reread Dream of the Red Chamber countless times instead. He was able to relieve his fatigue all thanks to Miss Duo’s ‘lady-like manners’ in the book.
Now that this familiar scene was played out right in front of his eyes on the busy streets of the capital, he couldn't help but be surprised. He was grateful, but confused at the same time as he couldn’t understand how this story known by only him and his sister was being published and sold on the streets.
Without asking for the price Fan Xian paid her handsomely for the book. He had earned quite a sum of money from selling newspapers in Danzhou, money he would spend without hesitation.
After the overjoyed middle-aged woman had left, Fan Ruoruo led Fan Sizhe to the restaurant, his hands occupied by a sugar figurine he was holding.
"What were you up to?" Fan Ruoruo questioned her older brother with a smile.
Before Fan Xian could answer, Fan Sizhe cut in with a cold chuckle, "I saw everything. He bought a book from that woman and he wasn't even discreet when going about his dirty business."
Fan Ruoruo felt slightly panicked, as she had no idea what was going on. Fan Xian couldn't be bothered replying to his brother and instead wanted to speak to his sister in private. Just then, Teng Zijing conveniently announced that their tables were ready, Fan Xian gently tugged at Ruoruo’s cold hands as they walked up the stairs.
Fazed, Fan Sizhe licked his sugar figurine once more before following them up the stairs in a hurry.
Although there were many people in the restaurant, the third floor remained quiet. Even though the private rooms were all booked, Teng Zijing proved to be skillful, as he still managed to find a compartment. Fan Xian felt that his decision to ask his father to let Teng Zijing come was the right one.
As Fan Xian sat down, he noticed how Fan Size’s eyes were busy studying move. He smiled and openly handed his sister the red book..
Fan Ruoruo frowned as the book was given to her. Her eyes grew large in astonishment when she saw the title page, and she grew even more bewildered as she scanned through the pages. She explained to her brother hurriedly, "Brother, this is the first I’ve seen of this."
Fan Xian laughed and comforted her, "I’m not blaming you." He had already guessed that his sister would take her copy of Dream of the Red Chamber and make it into a book, and also knew that she could not resist sharing the story with her good friends.
The only question on his mind was how the story had managed to spread beyond her circle of noble friends.
It was when he saw the book ‘Dream of the Red Chamber’ being sold on the streets that he realized he had completely underestimated how tough the underground bookseller of this world was.
Fan Ruoruo thought back to an incident that happened the previous year when she had just bound the first 68 chapters of Dream of the Red Chamber and left them to sit under the pressure of some wood. Rou Jia princess from Lord Jing’s family had come to visit and she saw the book. Once she had read it she refused to let it go, as she was convinced she would be able to take it back home.
But to Fan Ruoruo, her brother put his blood and sweat into this book, and she would not risk losing it under her watch, so no matter how much Ruo Jia begged or threw tantrums, she stood her ground. In the end, it was Princess Jing who suggested that their made rewrite a copy.
Fan Ruoruo couldn’t find a reason to object, so she let her be. Who knew that the book had spread like wildfire and soon became a secret that everyone shared? It passed through the houses of the lords.
And then to the public market.
"Nobody knows I wrote it?" Fan Xian took the book, turning it in hands. He noticed that the author was named, Cao Zueqin and he felt instantly relieved.
Fan Ruoruo spoke with guilt, "I know that you don’t care about fame. Letting your story spread into the public was bad enough; there’s no way I would have revealed your identity as the author."
I don’t care about fame? Fan Xian laughed awkwardly and rubbed his sister’s head, apologizing quickly when he realized he was messing it up. "When I wrote it, I had already knew it was going to be read by the public." He thought of the deposit he had paid and felt a jab of pain in his heart. "I just didn’t expect the underground sellers to get the biggest benefits. It’s just a shame I spent my silver on nothing."
The siblings continued to talk until the waiter came with their food.
It was at this moment that they noticed Fan Sizhe looking at Fan Xian with shock, and he broke the silence, mumbling enviously, "You wrote...that book?"