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Chapter 124: Unartistic Negotiation
Compared to the eager inhabitants in the capital, Fan Xian wasn’t as excited. He was carefully writing on a strip of paper in his bookroom. He was writing in the tone of a young man with a privileged upbringing in the capital, rewriting the reports Council and adding a l a bit of bookishness to their them so that the officials at Honglu Temple wouldn’t be shocked upon hearing him and suspect another terrifying organization had stepped forward other than His Majesty’s Overwatch Council, an organization that worked for the functionary.

Fan Ruoruo was not in the mood either as she copied in small script and stuck the paper strips together. She asked, "Brother, this is really strange. Where did you get these reports? Why don’t you use them as they are; why make such absurd excuses?"
Fan Xian rarely hid things from his younger sister; not even Lin Wan’er had this privilege. He said with a troubled expression, "I was being lazy in the beginning, so I wanted to borrow their power. But who knew I’d dig up such a scary case. The origin of these reports cannot be exposed, so I can’t give them directly to Honglu Temple."
"Who’s the ambassador from Northern Qi this time?" Fan Ruoruo was glad that her elder brother could finally properly engage in government affairs. While Fan Xian had been educating her, she was merely a little girl growing up in the confinement of the yard. She always thought that, since Fan Xian was a man, making tofu could only be a hobby; he couldn’t keep on doing it.
"No one from the emperor’s faction or from the empress’s faction, and definitely not the prince’s faction; just some pushover faction," Fan Xian answered as he cleaned up the documents on the table. "He’s the younger brother of the Northern Qi empress. His name is Chang Dinghou, a supposed genius. But the most conspicuous one wasn’t him, but his teacher. A great scholar of Northern Qi, named Zhuang Mohan. All the scholars in the world worship him. Who knows what price Northern Qi had to pay to have him show up. Even His Majesty might take that into consideration. I’m afraid the usual demand for money and land would be taken back a bit this time."
"Zhang Mohan?" Fan Ruoruo perked up at hearing the name, her expression appearing to glow.
This was the first time Fan Xian saw something akin to fanaticism in his sister, who had always been a reserved girl. Other than her own brother, she didn’t hold much admiration for other scholars; seeing her this way made Fan Xian felt just a tad jealous. He said, "Good thing the report was clear. This Zhang Mohan is seventy, or else I better be careful."
Fan Ruoruo felt a bit ashamed and said, "You’re my brother; do try to be more proper."
Fan Xian laughed, "You liking that old geezer is what I’d call improper." Seeing Fan Ruoruo get slightly angry, he quickly waved his hand. "But seriously, the stuff at the farm estate the other day, do you have any ideas about that?"
Days passed, the siblings were here worrying about the marriage of that little girl. Despite worrying for a while, no potential suitors came to view, so they gave up. Incidentally, Fan Xian remembered something else. "The last time when we went to Liujing River, didn’t His Majesty say something?"
"What did he say?" Fan Ruoruo had a rare expression of confusion on her face . It looked like both of them were overly shocked back then and couldn’t remember everything.
Fan Xian closed his eyes and thought back. With a slap on the table, he said with all colors drained from his face, "His Majesty said he would arrange marriage for you!"
"What?!" Fan Ruoruo was very frightened by what she heard.
What were children from official households afraid of? Marriage. In fortunate cases, like Lin Wan’er being married to Fan Xian, everything was well. But it would be unfortunate for someone to marry a tigress. The most terrifying would be a marriage arrangement from the palace. Such an arrangeme

nt would be too mighty to decline. Even if you were to get married to a rich playboy, you would have no way to refuse.
Years ago, many officials had hoped to bring their daughters into the palace in the hope of receiving His Majesty’s favor. But the emperor did not indulge himself in women, so the method became a dead end. Even the crown and second princes dared not have too many concubines, despite the second prince being notoriously lecherous in the capital, and even in the East Palace, there were only three concubines.
Fan Ruoruo seemed to have remembered it also. With tears in her eyes and a shaky voice, she asked, "What should I do?"
Fan Xian, with his sharp mind, quickly determined the possible households. He squinted and said, "Eldest prince, second prince, Crown Prince Jing. With the status of the Fan household, His Majesty would only choose from those three. If it’s the household of one of the high-ranking officials, then there is nothing to be afraid of. If you don’t agree, I have ways to annul the marriage."
Of course Fan Xian had ways. After all, he had the support of father, Cheng Pingping, and the prime minister. Because of those three, even the prince in the East Palace was trying to test to influence him. If the other two princes and Crown Prince Jing don’t get involved, Fan Xian was confident that he could ruin any marriage his sister didn’t agree with.
But the most likely candidates were the three most esteemed ones. Fan Xian calmed himself, but suddenly cried out, "So that’s why Li Hongcheng goes to brothels every day and doesn’t marry; he was waiting for this moment!"
Seeing his sister lose her nerve, Fan Xian consoled her with a smile. "The eldest prince spends his years fighting in the western front, and his martial abilities are exceptional. While we’ve never met the second prince, I heard he too was an impressive character. As for Crown Prince Jing, we know him well. He may be a bit of a playboy, but he’s overall a good person. If it really is Li Hongcheng, with me by your side, he wouldn’t take in a single concubine, let alone visit a brothel."
It would have been better if he didn’t console her. Now that he did, Fan Ruoruo found it more and more likely, as if it were to happen at any time. She said with great sadness, "Brother, I don’t want to marry any of them."
Fan Xian sighed; he didn’t want to continue this growing pain. He tried to lift the mood. "What’s so bad about this? When I see you in the future, I’ll have to call you ‘Princess’. If the second prince becomes emperor, with your mother-in-law controlling the world… wouldn’t she be my mom?"
His joke was extremely unfunny, so Ruoruo did not break out from her sadness. The bookroom sank into awkward silence. Within it, the siblings were thinking. While Ruoruo was filled with despair, Fan Xian steeled himself. If something were to happen in the future, he must be prepared in some way.

The location for negotiations wasn’t so spacious; it was set in the biggest room in Honglu Temple. There weren’t any long tables between the officials of Northern Qi and Qing. Rather, they seemed to be chatting over tea, sitting in their own chairs. Fan Xian sat in a most inconspicuous spot and eyed the scene. He remembered a word from his previous life: tea party.
Because the investigations hadn’t reached the final stages, and because he himself insisted on being there, the officials in Honglu Temple couldn’t do anything to Fan Xian.
Between the exchange of seemingly gentle words, knives were hidden. It wasn’t too long before the officials of the two nations began to get worked up; some of the more impatient ones were about to leave their chairs.
"Huh! Who won this war? You Northern Qi, or us?" One sixth-ranked official from Honglu Temple finally had enough of the other side’s insolence and stood up.
"There are many dangers in war. Our ruler, out of care for our people, intentionally called for a truce. Who knows which side is the winner." The ambassador from Northern Qi didn’t exactly have a thick skin, but he was certainly not here to initiate the first wave of provocation. Seeing the guy stroking his small beard in a matter-of-fact manner, even the normally calm Fan Xian wanted to walk up and beat him.
The shaoqing from Honglu Temple only smiled, but Fan Xian noticed it was an insidious one, based off Qing’s twenty years of victories. The Qing official said, "In that case, my esteemed guests, please return. Between our two nations, let us fight one more time to determine the winner. Negotiations can wait."
What’s this? This was a bare-naked threat; a bare-naked state of terrorism and bared-naked method of a ruffian.
Fan Xian didn’t show any surprise, but deep down, he was greatly impressed, "Good on him for having the guts to say it."
As expected, this caused Northern Qi to start hurling various offensive things at Qing, irreparably damaging the relation between the two nations. Unexpectedly, the shaoqing said coldly, "When has this thing called ‘friendship’ ever existed between our two nations?"
"This is pretty much how Wei Xiaobao would have negotiated." Fan Xian thought. A proper shaoqing of Honglu Temple was acting shamelessly in such an exchange between two nations. Had it not been for Qing’s might, such a scene would never occur.
Negotiations in Honglu Temple had always been properly matched. Various characters took their turns, and one thick-skinned official registrar stood up. "Your Highnesses, please don’t forget your position. Please don’t wound the relationship between our two nations out of impulse."
Both sides withdrew, and the tea party was over. The various officials had already showed what they were made of. As for the actual negotiation, that was left to the underlings and lower-ranked officials to work on.
With the negotiation at a stalemate, no progress could be made. And as for that great Zhuang Mohan, he had rarely been seen since he went to the palace and had a talk with the empress. This baffled Fan Xian, was that old man here on vacation?

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