Chapter 16: A Letter from the Capital
The skies above the city of Danzhou darkened suddenly. The thick heavy clouds that hung over the heads of the people looked like patches of wet, dirty wool, or maybe burned cotton candy.
The shore-dwelling inhabitants there were so accustomed to the weather that they knew it would still be a while before rainfall, so no one panicked. It was unlike previous years when the weather looked like it was about to take a turn for the worse and the handsome illegitimate son of Count Sinan’s house could be found shouting from the neighboring rooftops at the entire city, "It’s about to rain; bring in your laundry."
The only main street in Danzhou Harobor was filled with food and trinkets. Seeing a pretty boy in the crowd, one of the merchants tried to make conversation. "Master Fan, why don’t you tell us to bring in the laundry anymore?"
Fan Xian smiled shyly and said nothing. He grasped his maid's hand with one hand and held some tofu with the other.
Nobody was surprised that he helped the servants. Everyone knew that the illegitimate son of Count Sinan’s house was unlike any other noble child in that he loved helping those beneath his station.
In the six years since Fei Jie left Danzhou Harbor, Fan Xian had grown to be a fetching young boy who emitted a sense of reliability.
Back at the house, he handed the tofu to the servants before greeting the Countess and picking up a piece of paper next to her. Returning to his study, he placed a letter from his little sister next to the piece of paper on his desk and the expression on his face immediately lit up.
This year, the emperor of Qing Kingdom made some changes to his reign title and year to reflect the name of the country; a peculiar move that nobody anticipated. Although it might have seemed that the civil servants were fine with the change, they complained when nobody was around. During those days, it didn’t matter if you were a scholar at the Ministry of Education or a congee-drinking novel writer, if you were with the new language party or the old one; you still had to pay the Eighth Bureau of the Overwatch Council to review a report. This topic was heavily covered by sour old scholars.
After the emperor’s reign title was changed, next on the list was pushing new laws. These new laws were nothing new and only served to reorganize pre-existing ones. The only thing the public found refreshing was the introduction of newspapers at the start of the new year.
Newspapers? No one had any idea what they were until the first issue, after which a collective "Oh" marked the end of the public's interest.
The newspapers were produced by the imperial palace and every issue had to be approved by the emperor himself before publication. This prevented the possibility of any problematic articles that could incite backlash.
The following issues cost the expensive price of a silver coin and were bought by those attracted to their novelty. Some of the higher status people began to suspect it was a ploy set by the emperor and wondered if he was planning on building a new garden.
Included within the thin paper were pieces of useless information. These ranged from landmarks to historical figures, but the main feature of the paper was articles covering the private life of government officials, like how the general was beaten by his wife or why the Commander of Defense in the capital was missing a tooth.
There were even peripheral articles related to their neighbors, the Northern Qi Kingdom and the Dongyi City. However, the government officials only paid attention to their own close circle. In the beginning, they laughed at the articles, but soon became embarrassed when it was their turn to be featured in the newspaper. Knowing that the emperor was behind the newspaper, nobody dared to complain.
The newspapers were printed in scarce numbers and the entire city
of Danzhou had only two copies, one of which could be found in Count Sinan’s house, as they were subscribers.
The piece of paper Fan Xian had stolen from his grandmother’s room was the much-discussed newspaper. After a quick scan of the paper, Fan Xian could not control his facial expressions; he wanted to stick his entire fist in his mouth... What kind of era was this? Tabloid newspapers? And ordered by the emperor, no less!
The new "mail order" law enacted by the royal family meant that the brother-sister pair could secretly send letters to each other with secrecy.
Fan Xian frowned as he looked at the newspaper. For a while now he had heard people discussing the new laws, which in his opinion were a product of nonsense by the emperor. However, everyone knew that the emperor was not one to rub the wrong way.
Fan Xian was not in the mood to change the world. He wasn’t even interested in the first place, but when this world began to grow similar to his own, he was naturally interested to see how things worked behind the scenes.
After much meditating, Fan Xian still hadn’t gotten to the bottom of the matter. Smiling wryly, he pushed the paper aside and self-deprecatingly thought to himself that perhaps another person with larger ambitions had also travelled to this world.
Anyhow, these matters were of little relevance to him. It was the letter next to the paper that carried greater importance.
In Fan Xian’s memories, Fan Ruoruo was someone related to him by blood that had stayed in Danzhou for a while during their childhood. His poor little sister was lanky and dark compared to his graceful and pretty appearance.
They had not seen each other for many years. Fan Xian wondered what she looked like now. Had her sparse blonde hair darkened? Had she become prettier? Fan Xian was even struggling to remember if she was called Fan Ruo or Fan Ruoruo.
"I am such an incompetent brother." Fan Xian thought he didn’t care for his sister enough. Even his soul had experienced two different lives, he was still related to her by blood through this body. Two years ago when Fan Ruo began school, she often sent letters to Danzhou. Fan Xian, on the other hand, hardly replied, as he was too busy going through Wu Zhu’s relentless training, his daily Badao zhenqi practice, and also reviewing the poisons book Fei Jie had left.
For some unknown reason, Fan Ruoruo, who turned ten that year, was extremely reliant on her far-away brother and frequently sent him letters. Perhaps it was because the horror stories that they had shared in their childhood were deeply ingrained in her mind. At first, she mostly wrote about how she missed her grandmother dearly and her memories of Danzhou Harbor. For the past six months, though, she wrote mainly about her boring days at the estate in the capital and hardly talked about their home in Danzhou Harbor.
Fan Xian brushed the letter lightly with his fingertips, his pretty face tinged with concern.
On the paper was his sister's delicate handwriting. She had written about her life in the capital recently and how she had been accepted into a school for aristocrat ladies. It was as if this was the natural pathway in life for someone like her.