Count Sinan smiled. Although this child was clever, he thought, he had little experience in political battles. It appeared that he would have to slowly teach him. "His Majesty has always reserved his judgement in matters. It is nothing to be concerned about. It is just that he does not wish to see himself quarrel with his son, so uses this matter to warn the Empress's followers."
The Empress's followers? There appeared to be the empress, the crown prince, the eldest princess... and perhaps the prime minister. "His Majesty should find a better way to settle this dispute. You said before, the property of the treasury is overseen by the Overwatch Council. Why has he chosen me?"
"The answer is simple." Count Sinan looked at Fan Xian as if he were looking from a far-off distance, and as if he were looking at someone else. "It’s because I suggested it to him."
Fan Xian raised his brow. He knew his father would not explain further, so he changed the subject. "So why is Chen Pingping opposed?"
"Because he advised the Emperor not to choose you," said Count Sinan. "Chen Pingping has always felt that you should choose a different path."
The grand Director of the Overwatch Council was so concerned about him! Fan Xian suddenly recalled the stone tablet by the entrace to the Council chambers. He couldn't hold back the powerful suspicions he felt. "Why... by the gate of the Overwatch Council..."
"Why is your mother's name there? That's also simple. When the Kingdom of Qing was founded, there was no Overwatch Council. Your mother suggested it..." Count Sinan smiled. He seemed very happy. "So that is why we have the Overwatch Council."
Fan Xian's heart pounded fiercely. He opened his mouth, seemingly dazed for a long time. He thought of the phrase he knew very well from his previous life - "And God said, let there be light."And there was light!
They continued their discussion. Fan Xian finally knew what formidable powers the Ye family had held. When the Kingdom of Qing's military expeditions to the west and east had brought the kingdom to the brink of bankruptcy, it was the Ye family who had stabilized the nation's collapsing political system. And the Overwatch Council that the Emperor had used to "unite" the kingdom – to the great shock of the bureaucracy – was his mother's idea, and she had used her vast finances to support its establishment. It had all been handled and provided by his mother, all by herself.
No wonder her name was inscribed by the entrance to the Council. No wonder he had been under the surveillance of the Council since he was a child. Fan Xian looked at his father for a long time before finally shaking his head. "Father, I must tell you something. Please don't be angry."
"Don't worry. When have I ever been angry with you?" Count Sinan seemed to have guessed that he had something to say. There was a slightly odd smile on his face.
Fan Xian tried to find the best wording. Finally he thought of the right way to phrase it. He smiled bitterly. "I'm not sure... how my mother fell for you."
"Haha, don't forget your mother's name..." Count Sinan seemed happier than he had been in years. He waved Fan Xian out of his study.
Fan Xian walked into the courtyard. What did it all mean? Suddenly, he understood. Ye Qingmei, Ye Qingmei... scorning the men of the land.
"Did father not rebuke you?" asked Fan Ruoruo concernedly. She and Fan Xian were different after all. What they held most in common were their long eyelashes and fair skin.
Fan Xian smiled bitterly. "Rebukes are not the worst part of education. The worst part is having a long exchange of ideas. Parents always think that they should discuss ideas with their children, but they don't know how hard that is to endure... When you're young, you're caught in this shroud of banality."
This was something that had just occurred to him as he went through the reception pavilion. He watched Fan Sizhe's face as he impatiently listened to Lady Liu's admonishings. When Lady Liu saw him, she went quiet. He cheekily brought Fan Sizhe over.
Fan Ruoruo sighed. "There's nothing to be done about that." She suddenly recalled the hubbub in the capital around the court case that day. "Xian," she asked curiously, "you once said if you were doing something you didn't want to do, there was definitely a clear and strong reason behind it. There must have been a reason behind you going to court today."
Fan Xian nodded.
Fan Ruoruo didn't ask what the reason had been. Instead, she asked something else. "Did you get the result you wanted?"
Fan Xian laughed. "I'm fairly satisfied. At least now I know which side father stands on in the imperial court. And I know that the Fan family has even more influence in the imperial court than I imagined. As for the reason; you can guess. I don't know what the result will be. After all, I can't turn into a mosquito and eavesdrop on the conversations of the big players at the palace."
"You didn't need to take such a gamble just for that," rebuked Fan Ruoruo.
Fan Xian smiled as he explained things to her. "Anyway, by getting the idea to beat up that Guo scoundrel, I've found out how deep the waters run in the capital."
"Hey! I don't get it!" Fan Sizhe, who had been listening the whole time, could not keep to himself any longer.
Fan Ruoruo smiled and brandished her ruler. "I get hit just because I don't understand?" blurted Fan Sizhe. Fan Ruoruo's smile became tighter. "I have told you many times, you are to address him as 'older brother'."
"I'm sorry for my mistake, older brother." Fan Sizhe was only young, but his dishonest way of thinking meant he was never at a disadvantage.
Fan Xian looked at him and laughed. "I saw the proposal that you altered. I think you have some talent. How can you say you don't understand what I and your sister are talking about?"
"Shrouds and education rounds," he blurted out angrily, "who knew you'd use such weird phrases? ...But I understood the last part. Hey... sorry, I mean older brother, that rat Guo picked on me at that restaurant. You should have hit him. How come you waited until last night? ...It doesn't matter. Next time you go and have fun making trouble, you should bring me along."
Fan Xian looked at him and smiled bitterly. Maybe he'd get into less trouble if he didn't act like a little tyrant in the streets all the time.
As sister and brother talked, they did not ignore Fan Sizhe rolling his eyes next to them. This was Fan Xian's decision. On one hand, he was using this as a pretext to let Lady Liu know what he was thinking, so that the two sides did not accidentally spark a conflict over a lack of information. It was much like how China and the USA had exchanged military information in his previous life - both sides would dispatch an attaché to observe all military maneuvers. Fan Sizhe naturally was that attaché. On the other hand, he wanted to gradually change this stubborn little brother... Fan Xian believed the atmosphere between the three children of the Fan family could secretly influence the habits they acquired in their upbringing, and make them consider things more clearly before they made decisions.
After Fan Sizhe had gone to sleep, Fan Xian turned to his sister. "Is everything ready?"
Fan Ruoruo nodded, smiling sweetly. "What if someone recognizes you? If the people of the capital find out that you're so concerned about getting to see your new wife, they'll laugh themselves to death... and it might make a lot of people unhappy."
"It doesn't matter." Fan Xian waved his sister's suggestion away, somewhat annoyed. "I have to figure this out first."
Early in the morning, a carriage from the Ye family, the head of the city guard, stopped at the entrance to Count Sinan's estate. Inside the carriage sat Ye Ling'er, waiting anxiously. After a little while, Fan Ruoruo led a pale and slightly hunchbacked youngster out of the manor. Ye Ling'er's eyes shone, and she greeted the young man.
Ye Ling'er curtsied. "Thank you for your trouble, Miss Fan." Then she turned to the hunchbacked youngster and smiled. "Sir, are you a student of Master Fei’s?"
The young man laughed. His yellow and sallow skin matched the wrinkles around his eyes. It looked as if there were something wrong with him. He cupped his hands in salute. "That is correct," he replied.
"My apologies for this imposition, sir," said Ye Ling'er.
The young doctor laughed. "If it's a serious illness," he responded politely, "we had best get going right away."
Ye Ling'er and Fan Ruoruo got into the front carriage, and the young physician got into the rear carriage. He discovered that the carriage was quite spacious. It was rather different from the kind usually seen in the capital, and the inside was outfitted with many kinds of ornaments. It looks like the Ye estate, though born from the battlefield, had always had some class. The young phyisican was, of course, Fan Xian. That morning he had arisen early, and with the help of Ruoruo's eyebrow pencil and foundation, transformed himself. These were just some tricks he had learned from Fei Jie as a child, but the results were effective.
The main reason for his confidence was that he believed he had already garnered a reputation within the capital, but few people had actually seen him. At the very least, neither Ye Ling'er nor Miss Lin had laid eyes on him. As soon as he thought about Miss Lin, who he was soon to meet, his heart beat faster. No matter what he planned to do afterwards, she was his fiancee. And the girl in the white dress who had lingered in his memory was also clearly from a noble family. He wished he could keep one as a wife and the other as a concubine, but that was out of the question. It looked like he was going to have to make a choice.
As the carriage rolled on, Fan Xian became increasingly nervous, because the carriage was also heading toward the imperial palace, where Miss Lin – his fiancée –resided. Today, he was pretending to be a doctor. It was an absurd situation. But he thought of the chicken leg, and he thought of the Ye family. And a wife was someone with whom you shared a pillow for the rest of your life. Fan Xian couldn't help but feel cautious and timid, but also brazen beyond belief. He felt as he had before he came to the capital. He had to see for himself. Was she cute? Was she pretty? Was she a lolita?