The prince poked at the tip of her nose. "You sure you want to play innocent in front of me?" Yuan Meng smiled sweetly. "Regardless of what he does, he has nothing to hide from you. Si Lili, on the other hand, doesn’t know anything I’m afraid."
"Nothing to hide, that means he’s a smart one." Li Hongcheng smiled. "He’s merely using me as a shield. If I wanted, he couldn’t hide anything from me no matter what he did." He suddenly asked, "What does Fan Xian think of Si Lili?"
Apparently, Yuan Meng was very familiar with the prince. After some thinking, she answered, "Master Fan seemed to be really fond of Miss Li, but I don’t know if he can handle the spring night and go do other things." She hid her grin with her hand, giving her a different feel than that of an entertainer.
"Then you should interact with Lili more often. Perhaps Fan Xian will frequent Drunken Immortal Tavern in the future." Li Hongcheng knotted his brows.
"Yes," Yuan Meng replied like a servant, despite being slightly curious as to why the prince would be so interested in Fan Xian.
Li Hongcheng reached his hand down her top and gently squeezed her flesh. Yuan Meng moaned lightly as her body went limp. "Do you know who Fan Xian is?"
"An illegitimate son, the favorite son of Minister Fan Jian." Yuan Meng’s voice was like that of a kitten, but her eyes were still bright. "I understand now. Master wants to get a hold of Qing’s main source of revenue."
Li Hongcheng smiled while shaking his head. "I have no such ambition. I simply feel that Fan Xian is worthy of being a friend." While those were his true feelings, there were a few things he did not clarify. Li Hongcheng knew about Fan Lin’s secret marriage, and therefore he knew that the young man named Fan Xian could very likely control the entire business of the royal family in the future.
If the second prince were to compete with the crown prince, money would be the most important weapon.
Guo Baokun was embarrassed at the poetry gathering that day and was in a foul mood. He only felt slightly better after indulging himself for the night. But when he thought of his strict father, his mood worsened once again. As he planned on what to bring to the palace tomorrow to entertain the prince, his sedan chair stopped abruptly.
He was already drowsy for some reason, and unprepared for the sudden halt. He bumped his forehead, which brought him great pain. He yelled, "What are you bastards doing?"
No one answered him; everything was silent. Guo Baokun crawled out of the tilting sedan chair and discovered the streets were quiet. He was on Nulan Street on the way back to the manor.
Surrounding the sedan chair were three masked men dressed in all black. The sedan carriers and the guards of the Guo household had all collapsed; it was unknown whether they were dead or alive. Guo Baokun thought he had run into robbers and was scared senseless. When did the security in the capital become so bad? "Who are you?" he stuttered. "What do you want?"
Nulan street had always been quiet, especially at night when there were almost no people. Guo Baokun felt despair; he doubted anyone would come to his rescue even if he yelled, which was why he kept his voice low.
A clear yet gentle voice answered him. "I’m Fan Xian, and I’m here to beat you up."
Just as Guo Baokun was about to express his shock, a cloth sack came down from above and engulfed him completely. He wasn’t able to see Fan Xian’s despicable face.
The sack was faintly fragrant, which made Guo Baokun’s alert again. This was unfortunate, as he was now fully conscious to endure the merciless storm of kicks and punches that followed.
Seeing Teng Zijing and the other two servants at work, Fan Xian felt a small bit of satisfaction. Among other intentions, he also wanted to make it clear that he wouldn’t be made a fool of so easily. Raised a scholar, Guo Baokun had never experienced such humiliation and pain in his life. However, he knew he was dealing with Fan Xian. Fights between rich sons had never turned lethal, so Guo Baokun said maliciously:
"You little mongrel, Fan! If you have the balls, I dare you beat me to death!"
Hearing this, Fan Xian became enraged. With a wave of the hand, Teng Zijing and the two servants stopped their silent beating and let Fan Xian through. Walking over, Fan Xian got down and started beating Guo Baokun himself. Afterwards, looking at the sack writhing on the ground, he said softly, "Guo, do you know why I wrote that poem this afternoon?"
Fan Xian was strong. In the sack, Guo Baokun could no longer speak due to the pain. He just cried out.
"The ape cries out in the windy skies. Birds circle round the islet of clear white sand. Trees shed leaves endlessly, rustling down. The great river surges on ceaselessly. Ten thousand miles in sorrowful autumn, always someone’s guest. A hundred years of ailments, I climb the terrace alone. With much suffering, I regret my white temples. Frustratingly, I stop drinking my murky wine. You’ve taken advantage of me twice, so I will beat some sadness, grief, and ailments into you. That’s the only way I can feel happy."
As soon as he finished speaking, his fist had already slammed into Guo Baokun’s face. Somehow, in the dark of the night, separated by the cloth sack, Fan Xian’s fist accurately found Guo Baokun’s nose. Guo Baokun felt a wave of intense pain assaulting his mind as he bled profusely. Unable to take anymore, he finally cried out and begged for mercy.
Seeing the cloth sack writhing on the ground made Fan Xian discover his savage side; it was as if he was starting to come out of his sheltered lifestyle from all those years ago. He kicked the sack a few more times before giving the signal to stop and leave. They disappeared into the night; easy come, easy go. Guo was not looking forward to their next meeting.
After a long time, Guo Baokun crawled out of the sack. He was covered in bruises. His guards and porters were still on the ground. He couldn’t help but hurl countless curses at them and kick them awake. As it turned out out, they had all been knocked out by a sleeping drug. The sack was dosed in another drug which neutralized drowsiness, so he could feel the entire ordeal.
The guards, rubbing their half-asleep heads, saw their own master beaten to a pulp and were all frightened tremendously. They immediately went forward to assist Guo Baokun. They didn’t even think about the sedan chair. They carried their master home on their backs.
That night, Guo manor plunged into chaos. Early next morning, a servant was dispatched to the capital building with a written complaint delivered directly to the ministry detailing the beating from last night. They wanted the Fan family to be charged with a major crime, especially that illegitimate son who committed this act of violence in the capital streets and proved to be extremely audacious. If he couldn’t be kept in check, how would the officials handle the loss of face?