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Chapter 128: That Chilly Royal Palace
The eastern skies were already dyed red. From behind the still-sleeping clouds, the sun slowly crept up, casting its light upon the biggest building complex in the capital. The palace walls, which were even redder than the dusk, observed the crowd in the public square silently and terrifyingly. Fan Xian was among that crowd. He gazed up at the walls and gazed down at the gates, which reminded him of the mouth of a monster. He couldn't help but feel a bit nervous.

Like every other person in this world, Fan Xian viewed His Majesty with absolute awe. But awe did not equal complete obedience, neither did it represent a total lack of rebelliousness. On that, Fan Xian was different from others. The palace gatekeeper nodded a bit pridefully after checking everyone, and only then was Fan Xian allowed to walk in.
Today was full of formalities. The order came yesterday from the palace summoning the eighth-ranked functionary. Fan Xian was busy all night and was able to determine how many people would be present. Naturally, Fan Jian would not be there. There was a lack of women at Fan Manor, so the distant relatives in the capital from the great Fan clan all volunteered to accompany Fan Xian.
Fan Xian had never seen such a scene before, so Fan Jian denied the relatives their wishes. It was ultimately decided that the one to follow Fan Xian into the palace would be Lady Liu, Fan Ruoruo, and two old nannies. Those two nannies were from Fan Xian's grandmother’s time in Danzhou. They knew well all the palace rules. The fact that Lady Liu agreed to come seemed to have been unexpected for Fan Xian. However, she had been keeping in touch with a few esteemed ones from the palace since she was young, so she was more than just a guest. With her by his side, Fan Xian’s trip to the palace would likely be much smoother.
Light yet chaotic footsteps echoed through the tunnel. It was a long tunnel; even the sun at dusk could only illuminate half its length while the other half stayed exceptionally dark. A gust of cold wind blew in, forcing the people to close their eyes. It was merely September, but this wind gave them a taste of late autumn.
Fan Xian inconspicuously touched his belt and felt the few pills, which were smaller than soybeans. Feeling assured, he knew the security would be extremely tight, which was why before leaving the manor he hid his crossbow and dagger in his room. But what Wu Zhu told him had been carved into his memory. Even if the palace was the safest place in the world, Fan Xian still made sure he had some means to protect his own life.
Humans are strange animals. And when together, they form a strange herd. Walking beneath the quiet palace walls, their steps began to synchronize, rising at the same time, and falling at the same time. The young eunuch leading the way was no exception. The rhythm was like someone plucking a ukulele.
Fan Xian suddenly felt quite unpleasant and forced himself to break free from the synchronized footsteps. He pulled his sister’s sleeve and said quietly, "I’m a bit nervous."
Fan Ruoruo smiled, trying to offer some encouragement. But that young eunuch turned around, displeased, and frowned at them. Lady Liu said gently, "The palace isn’t like other places. Watch what you say."
The eunuch wasn’t all that good-looking, and his frown only made him look worse. Hearing Lady Liu, he momentarily became full of himself. Where is this place? This is the royal palace, of course. Fan Xian forced a smile. Unexpectedly, Lady Liu continued, "But you don’t need to be so nervous. I’ve been visiting this palace since I was little. Back then it was Eunuch Hong who led the way. Now that job is left to such youngsters. Oh, how time flies."
Hearing this, the young eunuch dared not act self-important anymore. He turned and quickened his pace. He thought he was only leading some commoners, not regular visitors.
The palace was massive. After exiting the tunnel,

a large square greeted them. The morning sun was directly above Taijin Palace. Its yellow roof tiles glistened, and the roof was supported by great pillars. Its long stone steps resembled a white path leading to the Milky Way. The whole scene invoked extreme solemnness.
Fan Xian squinted at the buildings in front of him. Suddenly, he started to wonder if he had arrived in the Forbidden City. Perhaps because of that absurd thought, his nervousness died down ever so slightly. Afterwards, Fan Xian finally returned to his normal demeanor; the same he assumed when he first entered Fan Manor. With a bright smile, he looked around at the various palace girls and eunuchs. He occasionally looked up at the roof of some unknown building, wondering who lived there.
The young eunuch leading the way saw it all and shook his head. Lady Liu smiled faintly, as if it couldn't be helped. This young master was the fearless type after all.
The reason for today’s visit was simple: a talented young man of such reputation was about to marry Chen’er. The ladies of the palace wanted to see what he looked like.
While the reason was simple, the process was beyond complex. The party from Fan Manor got up early to clean and dress themselves. Then they got to the palace just as the palace gates opened. After that, they waited in a room in the corner, waiting to be summoned by one of the ladies. They could wait, but those ladies from the palace weren’t the type of people who would do the same.
And so, Fan Xian sat in the room by the corner, drinking high-class tea from the palace. Because he woke up so early, he felt drowsy. Lady Liu looked at him, and then stood up with a smile on her face. She said to the eunuch who had been leading the way, "Eunuch Hou, it’s been some time." As she said it, she handed him a silver tael.
Watching this secretly, Fan Xian smiled. Such a method was sure to be the result of his father’s influence; paving one's way with money.
That Eunuch Hou, however, made an uneasy expression. He said politely, "Madam Fan, you might as well slap me in the face. You grew up together with those masters in the palace. How can someone like me receive charity from you?" Lady Liu couldn’t help but laugh, "It’s merely a gift. What are you afraid of?"
Eunuch Hou chuckled, showing his wrinkles. He said quietly, "Those masters knew you are coming today, so they never had the intention to make you wait. Rest assured. It’s only still too early. They're most likely getting washed up now. Please, have a seat."
Fan Xian’s ears twitched as he heard the words "Madam Fan". It looked like the palace found out about the matter Lady Liu becoming Count Sinan's proper wife. Upon hearing that those in the palace were still getting ready for the morning, he smiled bitterly. He thought they were much too early.
It was wise of Count Sinan to let Lady Liu accompany Fan Xian. Long before the morning court began, the three members of the Fan family already entered the back palace. The two nannies waited outside. At least they had fine tea and water. They were used to these kinds of palace customs, so they knew how to stay occupied.

They first visited Yi Guipin. She was the birth mother of the current third prince, and she was a talented woman, which was how she came to receive the title of Guipin. Fan Xian was very well-behaved. He saluted her. He heard a gentle voice: "You may rise."
This Yi Guipin possessed a plain demeanor, but there was something more, something different from Fan Xian’s expectations of her being graceful beyond words. Even more unexpectedly, Lady Liu began to tear up as she looked at Yi Guipin. After exchanging greetings, they both cast away formalities and held hands together without saying anything. Fan Xian looked at his sister confusedly, but Ruoruo’s expression was calm and unsurprised.
Only after listening to them talk for a bit did Fan Xian learn that this Yi Guipin was Lady Liu’s younger cousin!
Fan Xian was greatly shaken as he now realized how deep the Liu bloodline flowed. It was fortunate that he decided to try to appease her after coming to the capital, and that she had been rather kind to him. Had there been any serious conflict, who knows which side would end up dead!
"You never visit me." Yi Guipin wiped away her tears. "It’s been four years; how could you leave me alone in the palace? Last time I went through all that trouble to get permission for you to come in, and you refused. I was so depressed."
A look of sadness flashed across Lady Liu’s face. She stayed silent for a while before saying quietly, "It's my fault. It’s all my fault."
She wasn’t looking at Fan Xian at all, but Fan Xian noticed her slightly thin shoulders. Upon hearing "four years", he quickly thought back to the assassination attempt in Danzhou. According to what his father said, Lady Liu was only a scapegoat. The real culprits were the two women considered to be the "noblest" in the palace. Lady Liu hadn't been to the palace for four years. Could it be because of them?
"I’ll visit often from now on." Lady Liu smiled warmly as she held Yi Guipin's hand. "I came today, didn’t I?"
Yi Guipin laughed and said lightly, "If it weren’t for your household’s young master marrying the dearest girl in the palace, how could I possibly hope to see you?" She then turned towards Fan Xian and asked gently, "So, you are Fan Xian?"
Fan Xian quickly stood up and gave his friendliest smile. He greeted her, saying, "Aunt Liu, I have come to pay my respects."
That sentence was very inappropriate! The eunuchs and palace girls were all stunned. Even Lady Liu was taken aback, thinking "I’m not your mother." But Fan Xian continued to shamelessly build up this relationship, which happened to suit the tastes of Yi Guipin, who was tired of the formalities in the palace. Yi Guipin looked at Fan Xian with a bright smile. "I knew you were such a good child."

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