Chapter 36: The Spring of the 4th Year
This was the first time that the blind Wu Zhu laughed, or more accurately, it was the first time Fan Xian had seen Wu Zhu laugh. It happened when Fan Xian brought up his mother.
Although Wu Zhu didn’t look old when he removed the piece of black cloth, he was still as cold as ever. It was rare to see any hint of emotion on his face, and naturally harder to see anything such as fear, sadness or grief.
Never mind a smile.
As he remembered back to the year he came to Jingdu with The Lady, the ends of his lips curled into a strange and awkward smile. The occasional display of gentleness for someone who never smiled was like finding the most beautiful snow lotus flower in an ice mountain that had been frozen for millennia.
Its gentleness and beauty knew no parallel.
Wu Zhu snapped out of his absent-minded state and returned to his normal self, responding coldly, "There weren't many who knew that The Lady was called Ye Qingmei. The random people around her only knew her as The Lady. Thinking about it now, the name Ye Qingmei was well known in the capital...even now." he replied softly.
"Really?" Fan Xian’s eyes widened. He thought that Wu Zhu’s words contradicted themselves. If not many people knew that his mother’s name was Ye Qingmei then how was the name Ye Qingmei well known in the capital? The reason that Fan Xian thought this was because he was unaware of the golden words and inscriptions written on the stone plate hanging above the front door of the Ministry of Supervision.
"Tell me about my father." Fan Xian’s eyes sparkled.
"I only promised to talk about The Lady."
"Hmph. You’re real clever, Wu Zhu."
"I fell sick before you were born and forgot many things."
Fan Xian laughed, "You’re even more shameless than I am…Hmm...never mind; let's talk about something else...What did my mother look like?"
Wu Zhu thought for a bit before replying, "Very beautiful."
Wu Zhu’s voice was never too expressive, yet Fan Xian noticed that he said those words with unusual sincerity. He rubbed his hands together, sighing as he said, "She was indeed extraordinarily beautiful."
Although Wu Zhu’s storytelling skills were poor, Fan Xian could tell from his simple words how interesting the story of the girl from the capital must have been. He felt a strong impulse to go to the capital- In fact, he had to.
Wu Zhu motioned with his hands for Fan Xian to get up and follow him.
Curious, Fan Xian followed him to the back of the room. Soft sounds could be heard from inside the walls as Wu Zhu pressed on it lightly. All of a sudden, the walls separated to reveal a secret chamber.
Surprised, Fan Xian followed Wu Zhu into the chamber. The room was covered in a layer of dust, and a box sat in the corner.
The box stood out, as there was nothing else in the chamber. It was a black leather box that was about as long as an adult arm, and not being wide, it looked long and slender.
"Nobody knew that The Lady and I stayed in Danzhou awhile before going to the capital. This box was something The Lady had left. I’ve looked after it for you. It’s yours to keep now. "
Heart fluttering, Fan Xian stepped towards the box and brushed off the dust at the top. He found that the lid was made of bronze and that there was a lock.
He was curious to see what his mother had left him, so he spent some time trying to open the box before he realized that the lid had not moved a millimeter and that the box was impossible to open.
"There’s no key." Wu Zhu reminded him seeing his distress.
Dejected, Fan Xian hung his head low, "Why didn't you say so earlier? What’s the use of giving me a box that I can’t open?"
"I left the keys in order to convince some people that you were dead before I brought you to Danzhou."
Fan Xian thought ab
out how it sounded like that was the oldest trick in the book and raised his eyebrow. He retrieved a thin dagger he kept in the scabbard on his legs at all times and held it above the box as he looked for the easiest place to start with.
"There’s no need to try. This box is much sturdier than you think."
Hearing Wu Zhu’s disapproval at his violent method, Fan Xian smiled and put back his dagger. He patted the box and sighed while he shook his head, "It’s a shame. Who knows if there might have been millions in money in there."
He then lifted the box and his curiosity increased after finding out how heavy it was.
"Where’s the key?"
"In the capital."
Another extremely vague answer.
Wu Zhu turned to walk out of the chamber. Seeing that there was no more attention on him, Fan Xian decided to try again. Rolling his eyes, he lifted his right arm and slammed his palm directly on the top of the box. His palm carried all of his power.
"BANG." The sound reverberated around the chamber and dust rose into the air, causing the light in the room to drastically dim.
Wu Zhu turned around coldly and looked at Fan Xian.
At this moment, Fan Xian was staring at his palm, shocked. The box remained unmarked, save for some dust
It looked like the only way to get the box open was to go to the capital.
He began silently thinking of when he’d be able to leave Danzhou. Surely his father wouldn’t leave him to grow old next to the seaside. Little did he know that Count Sinan had already sent people to get him and that they were already on their way.
In the spring of the fourth year, Tengzi Jing sat in the only bar in Danzhou and stared at the wall while wiping the sweat off his forehead.
Framed beautifully on the wall was a piece of high-quality paper. It was densely covered in words, and judging from the handwriting, it was written by a master calligrapher who possessed a sense of elegance and purity.
If this was in the capital, Sir Panlin would have sold a piece of artwork of this size for at least 300 silver pieces, so it was no surprise that in faraway Danzhou Harbour it was framed so beautifully on the wall and treated like it was sacred.
However, its context was truly unsuitable to be hung up as decoration.
This was because it was full of useless and sloppy information.
This was the rumored newspaper. There were only two copies in Danzhou Harbour, one belonging to the local government kept in the local courtroom, and this meant that the bar owner must have bought it secretly from the servants of Count Sinan’s estate.
Naturally, the general public had never had the chance to see fresh stuff like this, so to them, it was something extraordinary that was also handwritten by Sir Panlin. The bar owner hung it on his wall and treated it like treasure.
Only, he had no idea that the newspaper was actually sold by Master Fan, who had in fact already made a sum of money from selling twenty copies of the newspaper to businessmen.
And Tengzi Jing was about to meet Master Fan.