Fan Xian twisted Fan Sizhe’s ear hard and scolded him. "Like hell Miss Duo and Second Master Bao are getting married! You’ve never even read a book, and now you’re talking about selling them?"
Fan Sizhe complained. "The one you sold yesterday in the streets—I asked Ruoruo for it after we got back. It’s just that… after reading a few words, the book wasn’t very exciting, so I fell asleep." This little Master Fan, who only cared for money, really couldn’t figure out why all the women in the capital were captivated by something as boring as that book.
"Fine, I won’t argue over this anymore." Fan Xian said helplessly. "These kinds of things are complicated. You’re still a little kid. You still have to get in a school and get an education. You don’t have time for this. Better wait a few years."
"A few years? What about striking while the iron’s hot?" Fan Sizhe yelled out in surprise.
"What are you going to do about it? You’re still a son of the Fan household. If you really want to cast away your background to start a business, could you hide it from Lady Liu and father? They would skin you alive, so you’d better watch out."
Fan Sizhe expressed his pain. "I know; which is why I’ve decided to borrow a shopkeeper from Qingyu Hall to man the front while I hide behind the scenes."
Fan Xian was very surprised. Other than being unruly and arrogant, this young boy standing before him had such talent in doing business. He just thought up the role of a manager, and with the surge in mood, casually dropped the name of Qingyu Hall.
Seeing the child’s determination, Fan Xian sighed. He took out his savings from the past few years, along with the money his younger sister had offered out of respect, and handed it over to Fan Sizhe. Fan Xian instructed Fan Sizhe to go slow and discuss with those freeloaders first; after all, their continuing to leech off the Fan household was simply improper.
Fan Sizhe burst out grinning as he counted the money and discovered his brother had quite a lot. Adding to the amount he had saved up, the initial funding should be more or less covered.
Fan Xian didn’t say anything else, but he told Fan Sizhe to take caution. "Building a relationship with the higher-ups while pressing down on the commoners at the bottom will only work if you flaunt your dad’s name, so you’ll be better off being more generous to others."
"Where did that come from?" Fan Sizhe then said maliciously, "Bribes come naturally. If you ever get a high-ranking position, they’ll eventually pay it all back."
Fan Xian almost split his sides in laughter, so he hurriedly opened the door and left. He always thought silver coins had a distinct aroma, and today he learned how pungent the stench of copper coins could be.
At full noon, the sun burned intensely; the trees on both sides of the road hung their limp branches, unable to provide soothing shelter for the poor travelers.
Fan Xian was on the roadside with a bowl of plum juice, taking small sips. He knew drinking too fast would not quench his thirst; not to mention that it would give him an upset stomach. The chirping of the cicadas greatly annoyed him. "What month is this? Spring hasn’t passed yet, and summer is trying to squeeze in"
The Temple of Qing in the distance appeared extra dignified under the sunlight, which seemed to have dried off some of the temple’s original elegance. With its round tiles glistening, the temple painted a very holy scene.
The Temple of Qing was receiving more people than it was the day before. From time to time, people would go in to offer their prayers. Fan Xian was curious: why was the place so desolate when he went yesterday? Of course, there was no way he would know that when the valued guest was on a half-day break, both sides of the road were made off-limits. And the reason Fan Xian could still walk up to the gate and have a bout with that skilled opponent was all because of someone’s secret plan.
Wu Zhu truly indulged him, letting him drink and do whatever he wanted. Even a minor thing like visiting the temple resulted in Wu Zhu knocking out so many guards.
Fan Xian had no idea what a mess he had caused on the previous day as he sat on a bench sipping plum juice. He crossed his legs and waited for that girl.
There was a room close to the temple. Sunlight couldn’t get in, making the inside slightly cooler. Gong Dian sat on a chair while adjusting his breathing, enabling him to enter an optimal state.
He was on guard duty the night before, but this morning he did not return to the manor. Instead, he came to the temple, because the more he thought about Fan Xian’s appearance at the temple, the stranger it seemed. The lackeys of his subordinates were all knocked out at around the same time by someone with the skills of a grandmaster. Could that be connected to the youth entering the temple?
Somehow, Gong Dian knew that the youth would show up again that day. Perhaps that skilled grandmaster would also come.
That was the intuition of someone who had obtained significant skill. While not necessarily infallible, it was worth betting on. But that damned Eunuch Hong wouldn’t believe him and kept on single-mindedly investigating the guards. Because of that, Gong Dian had come alone.
He sat quietly in the room, staring through a narrow crack below, his cold eyes on the entrance of the temple.
Outside, Fan Xian finally had enough of getting roasted under the sun. He finished the rest of his drink in one go, undid two buttons on his shirt, and walked towards the temple.
Fan Xian’s footsteps were getting closer.
Gong Dian appeared to have heard something. He frowned slightly.
Under the sun, the stone slabs felt hot under Fan Xian’s feet. He seemed to despise this feeling, and took a step back.
He then buttoned up his shirt and turned around, smiling. He returned to the stand selling plum juice and asked for another bowl. As he drank slowly, he casually wandered away from the temple until he reached the waiting carriage. Letting out a sigh of relief, he yelled, "Back to the manor, quickly!"
Teng Zijing gave Fan Xian an intrigued look, having discovered that the young master was completely expressionless.
Gong Dian was still staring with an icy expression. As he heard the footsteps getting further and further away, his eyes flashed. He was about to stand up when he felt a chill wind behind him. His neck was cold.
It was late spring. The weather was sweltering, and yet Gong Dian had just broken out in a cold sweat.
His hands were flat over his knees. His fingernails were neatly trimmed. His blade, which had a simple design, but was sharp without equal, lay about ten meters away.
He dared not draw his blade, however.
Because he could feel the person behind him was stronger and faster than him.