ented the curved knife that she kept around her waist to Fan Xian, saying that it was a talisman of good luck in tournaments.
Sitting in the carriage, Fan Xian smiled bitterly as he held the talisman in his hand. He worried that getting into a fight with a young lady for no good reason could have offended the Ye family. Fan Ruoruo seemed to have guessed what he was thinking. She smiled. "It doesn't matter. The children of the Ye family are fighters, everyone knows that. If they weren't, they would not have produced a grandmaster. Master Ye Zhong is an upstanding fellow; he will not be angered by this little incident."
Fan Xian sighed. "That's not the only reason why I'm worried, but I think it's silly."
Fan Ruoruo laughed. "I think people would be more surprised by the fact that you refused her duel at first."
"Surprised? Am I worried that the people of the capital will think I'm a weakling? You said before, she is only a seventh-level master, and I'm some weird scholar who even managed to kill an eighth-level master. Even if I didn't fight her, do you think the people of the capital really would have thought that I was afraid of her?" Fan Xian smiled. "Even though they say that swords are more powerful than words, if words are enough for me to belittle and attack my opponent, then why should I pick up a sword?"
Having said this, he clapped a hand to his head. "Whatever," he said, annoyed. "The fight is over, there's no use talking about it anymore."
Fan Ruoruo giggled.
"Why doesn't Miss Ye think much of me?" asked Fan Xian, curious.
"I don't know." Fan Ruoruo thought for a moment. "Perhaps first of all it's because you are betrothed to Lin Wan'er. It must be difficult for her. After that, although it's not an issue, we did trick her once, and it's thanks to her help that you were finally able to meet Wan'er, so she must feel rather angry about that."
Fan Xian smiled bitterly. "I know there are no secrets between girlfriends."
"The main thing is that you were a student of Master Fei," continued Fan Ruoruo. "That was the name you dropped last time. Now it seems that many people know of the relationship between our family and the Overwatch Council. That could be what let the cat out of the bag."
Fan Xian's heart skipped a beat. Could he have been the one who let people draw conclusions from such matters? He thought about it again. The business with the Ye family was years ago, and over the past few months, from what he had seen, it seemed that the people had already forgotten about the events of years before.
At that moment, Fan Ruoruo handed him a sheet of paper. He took it and looked over it carefully, then crumpled it up into a ball and threw it out of the carriage window. On the paper were words that Wan'er had written. Today, his main reason for visiting the pavilion was to discuss matters with his fiancée. He wanted to visit his father-in-law and pay his respects as soon as possible, and bring up some business. Although Lin Wan'er did not lived with her father, they were still father and daughter after all, and she would know much more than he did as an outsider.
As the next day dawned, black clouds approached the city, slightly dimming the blazing sun, and making the capital feel even more like a steamer basket.
Fan Xian wiped away his sweat and crouched by the side of the road on Jiazhu Way, picking carefully from a vendor's wares. Jiazhu Way was a center for selling antiques and curios in the capital. Anyone who had an interest in such things would flock there whenever the weather was good. Fan Xian had studied the mannerisms of connoisseurs, and crouched with one foot on the side of the road, and one foot on the leather floor covering of the vendor's stall. His fingers moved across the stall for a long time, but with no ultimate conclusion. The vendor began to feel nervous.
He saw how finely dressed this nobleman was, and so he said very little, eventually having no choice but to take the plunge with a smile. "Sir, what is it that you're really looking for?"
"A snuff bottle." Fan Xian couldn't help but start to talk. Wan'er had once told him that the Prime Minister had long been a lover of snuff bottles, so he hoped that he would be able to find a good one that day. He had not expected to be suddenly dazzled, nor had he seen anything that caught his eye. "I see. You have come to the right place." The vendor's eyes shone as he spoke. "I have blue and white porcelain, jadeite, amber; any kind you might like. The jadeite is especially fine. The best. Have a look." He picked up a small snuff bottle, which was a sleek green color with streaks of yellow. "Did you look? The yellow and green one. I dare not say how old it is, but it is of a truly fine quality."
"Do you have emerald?" Only the most expensive would do, thought Fan Xian. "Emerald is far too noble," said the vendor uneasily. "Only the palace would use it for snuff bottles. Although there is not great demand for it now, it would be very difficult to find an emerald snuff bottle on Jiazhu Way."
The vendor was a good man, and pointed the way of a large emporium out to Fan Xian . He said that if he was looking for an emerald snuff bottle, that would be the only place that would have it.
Fan Xian thanked him, and gave him some silver in exchange for some porcelain fragments that may or may not have been fake before standing up and leaving. Wang Qinian was standing to one side watching, and a slight smile floated across his face. It seemed that his master treated the common people with great tenderness, and more importantly, with caution.
As they entered the emporium, a cool breeze wafted directly into their faces. They stared at a fan that rocked back and forth incessantly, and Fan Xian exclaimed in delight. He was suddenly unconcerned about asking for a snuff bottle. He grabbed the owner and asked him who had sold them the fan. It was a new product that had come out last year, and the owner was friendly with the merchant, so he placed it in the vestibule as a sort of advertisement.
After asking what the merchant's address was, Fan Xian began to ask about his snuff bottle. The store owner looked Fan Xian up and down, ascertaining Fan Xian's wealth from the clothes he was wearing. Entering a back room, he cautiously produced a box, placed it on the table, and opened it. The box was lined with red brocade, the soft material holding snuff bottles of all kinds to prevent them from breaking. The store owner decided to get straight to the point. "Do you want a good one, or the best one?"
Fan Xian appreciated his directness, and smiled. "The best, of course."
Hearing this, the owner closed the box, and fumbling around his waist, took out a light green jadeite snuff bottle. It was a sleek green color, with not a single imperfection to be seen. It was truly made of high-class material. Inside was a depiction of a fisherman sitting on a cold river bank. Not only was it a high-quality object, but the brushwork was also extremely fine; it was clearly the work of an exceptional craftsman.
"Give me a price." Fan Xian took it and held it in his hand, feeling its wonderful smoothness in his palm. It tickled, and it was smooth and glossy.
"Two thousand taels of silver," said the store owner, his face betraying no expression. He seemed thoroughly bored of having people come buy things, and appeared somewhat standoffish. Fan Xian was interested. It was a fine item indeed, but the owner seemed to be acting otherwise.
He thought for a moment. The money he had saved in Danzhou, and that which his sister had given him, had all gone to their little brother to open the bookstore. Business at Danbo Bookstore was flourishing, but the money had not come back to him yet. So of the two thousand taels of silver he had had Teng Zijing transfer, minus the four hundred taels that he had used at the pleasure boat party, he had around thirteen hundred taels of silver left over after recent spending. He frowned. "Eight hundred taels."