wering zhenqi. But with his master behind him, he naturally wouldn’t back down even half a step. With a flash of his eyes, he let out a light shout. The vigorous zhenqi he had been accumulating for several decades flowed into his palms.
Their arms had already unlocked; now they touched palms.
There was a dull noise as powerful qi spread through the teahouse. The esteemed one who was drinking tea gave a frown; he didn’t seem to have close bodyguards. Fan Ruoruo, who was standing behind Fan Xian, felt her legs give out and almost collapsed to the ground.
Many rays of white light burst forth. The other guards all drew their blades and put them against Fan Xian’s neck. At that moment, Fan Xian’s arms were sore and weak, completely powerless—not that he was hoping to counterattack anyway. Gong Dian coughed twice and put his hands behind his back. He looked at Fan Xian with a strange expression and said in a light voice, "Young man, it’s been several months. You’ve improved."
A drop of blood flowed down the corner of Fan Xian’s lips, which reminded Gong Dian of that person in the secluded room across from the temple. Gong Dian could feel a chill in his heart; he did not know if his actions today were appropriate.
This clash was obviously Fan Xian’s loss, but it didn’t look to have been easy for Gong Dian. Other than the esteemed one, nobody else saw his hands shaking uncontrollably behind his back. The strange and overpowering zhenqi which Fan Xian had forced into Gong Dian’s body had remained in his meridians and was slicing away like tiny knives. It was only some moments later that Gong Dian regained stillness in his hands.
"Capable in both civil and martial virtues, such youths seem to be all over the place these days." With a faint smile of admiration, the esteemed one watched Fan Xian, whose expression remain unchanged despite being surrounded by several blades. Gong Dian knew his master valued such talents and was afraid the captive would be released, just like last time. He walked over and quietly explained why Fan Xian needed to be captured.
The brows of the esteemed one knotted together but quickly released. His deep pupils seemed to gradually lighten. Looking at Fan Xian, the esteemed one squinted, "So this is the young man from the other day." He then said quietly, "Gong Dian, you said the master you ran into could hunt you down with ease. Did you tell this to anyone else?" Gong Dian replied in embarrassment, "I only investigated in secret, but with no results. As to not reporting it, please… I beg your pardon."
The esteemed one said coldly, "Granted. But you must never speak of it ever again, or you and your family will all be executed." Gong Dian accepted the pardon with a shudder in his heart. The two had conversed so quietly that even Fan Xian, with his superhuman hearing, could only pick out a few words; not enough to get a sense of what was going on.
"Leave us; I have a few things to say to this young man." The esteemed one coldly ordered.
Gong Dian was shaken. While his master had all the power in the world, he was still powerless in combat. Gong Dian dared not let his master be alone with the youth. As if guessing what his bodyguard was thinking, the esteemed one reconsidered his order. "Gong Dian stays. The rest of you leave."
"Yes sir!" Although they didn’t understand, the other guards dared not question their master’s orders and quickly left the teahouse. With his neck liberated, Fan Xian comfortably adjusted his head a few times. At this time Ruoruo came running over, holding onto his hand. Thinking back on the clash, she was on the verge of tears.
"Officer Fan Xian, what do you have to say about your misconduct?"
"This civil servant knows not his crimes."
Those two lines which Fan Xian had imagined were not spoken. The esteemed one only sat by the table and looked at him with curiosity. The esteemed one’s gaze seemed to be gentler than before, casually yet carefully scanning Fan Xian’s face, making him slightly uncomfortable.
The esteemed one spoke in a soft voice, "Which family do you belong to, young one?"
"Your Highness, we are from the Fan household. Yesterday we went to our country estate to rest, and today we were simply enjoying the sights and came here. I don’t know why your esteemed servant has to give us a hard time." Fan Xian had thought about it and decided "Your Highness" was an appropriate title. Hearing Fan Xian’s answer, Gong Dian was bewildered as he realized the person he was trying to capture was Fan Xian, who had killed an eighth-ranked master. He then thought of Fan Xian’s father, Count Sinan, who was one of his master’s most trusted aides, who possessed authority that not even Gong Dian fully understood. For that reason, Gong Dian thought he knew why his master ordered him not to disclose the existence of that master. He also gave an awkward gaze towards Fan Xian in apology.
The esteemed one smiled, "You are the son of Fan Jian?"
Hearing his father’s name being addressed directly allowed Fan Xian to confirm the identity of the esteemed one. His answer became noticeably more respectful, "Precisely."
Fan Xian didn’t expect the esteemed one to be so easy to converse with. He blanked out for a moment before coming back to his senses. He apologized profusely.
The esteemed one then said, "You’ve been in the capital for some months already. How have things been?"
While he didn’t know why the esteemed one was asking about his well-being, Fan Xian would not let this chance slip by. Remembering the mess of these past few months, he said in a somewhat complaining tone, "Living in the capital has been difficult. It pales in comparison to home."
"You mean Danzhou."
"You like living in Danzhou?"
"While secluded, Danzhou’s people are simple folk. As long as you don’t harm others, nobody will harm you, unlike in the capital where things tend to come to you regardless of whether or not you want them."
The esteemed one wasn’t expecting the youth to be so direct. He was just so slightly taken aback. He then said with a smile, "The capital is prosperous without compare. Its hardships are naturally also peerless. But under Sir Fan’s protection, as well as taking into consideration your current achievements in civil and martial matters, I’d imagine you will have a secure life later on."
If it weren’t for the purpose of disguise, Fan Xian really wanted to kneel down and thank the esteemed one for his Imperial compliments. As wild as Fan Xian had been in the capital, His Majesty was said to have a mouth of gold and words of jade… However, Fan Xian’s expression remained unchanged. He answered softly, "I hope so."
It was getting late, and the esteemed one had many matters to attend to. Before he left, he squinted again at Fan Xian before giving him a satisfied smile, "Let us meet again, if fate will allow it." He then turned towards Fan Ruoruo and said lightly, "Young girl, I once held you when you were just a baby. To think you’ve grown up so much in the blink of an eye… There is a fine marriage waiting for you in the future."
Fan Ruoruo was slightly startled and didn’t know what to say. Upon saying this, the esteemed one let out a hearty laugh, as if very glad, before boarding a carriage and leaving the teahouse. After traveling some distance, the esteemed one sighed lightly, "Him climbing the walls every night reminds me ever so vaguely of myself back in the day."
Back in the teahouse, Fan Ruoruo asked, "Who was that man? He seemed to be familiar with father."
Fan Xian finally relaxed and sat down on a stool. Breaking out in sweat, he said, "That was His Majesty… Dammit, why do they all like coming out incognito? Don’t they know how scary it is?" With this, Fan Ruoruo covered her mouth in shock.
At that moment, a clap of thunder echoed through the blue, cloudless sky, as if wanting to pierce through the bamboo of the teahouse and blast a certain someone to death for speaking without a filter.