Translator: Nyoi-Bo Studio Editor: Nyoi-Bo Studio
Grandmother and grandson sat in silence in the quiet hall. In the courtyard, the scented tea purchased by the people from the capital was piled in the corner. Slowly, the aroma of the tea began to seep out, eventually overpowering the smell of the flowers growing in the garden. A few yellow butterflies danced between the blossoming trees; above them, among the branches, the crisp chirping of hatchling birds could be heard.
"Go. The young phoenix becomes an adult when it utters its first cry. You should go and see the world." The Countess smiled. "It’s just that, since you’re still a child, I fear you may experience lots of unjust treatment in the capital. Can you endure that?"
Fan Xian knew what his grandmother meant. He smiled sweetly. "The second aunt was kind to me for the past few years, often sending gifts. Grandma, you don’t need to worry."
The Countess shook her head. She was aware that, despite his quiet demeanor, Fan Xian was actually a strange boy with many unusual ideas. She gently caressed his head. After a brief moment of silence, she suddenly expressed her concern. "If… something comes up, bear with it, for your father and me."
"Okay." Fan Xian nodded.
"To be honest, I do not want you to go to the capital," the Countess said very carefully, "but… you have to go eventually, so I might as well ask you to do something."
"I’ll do whatever you need."
"Do you still remember that housekeeper Zhou from four years ago?" The Countess smiled at Fan Xian.
Fan Xian’s heart skipped a beat. He dared not make eye contact with his grandmother. After a long while, he forced a smile. "Of course I do."
After Fan Xian’s answer, the pair finally got to the bottom of everything. The Countess was serious. "There was originally nothing to worry about, since you’re a calm and smart child. But judging from that incident, I could see that you are still too innocent."
Fan Xian sighed inwardly. "Isn’t innocent supposed to be a compliment?"
As if guessing his thoughts, the Countess squinted. With a cold gaze, she said, "If you really do go to the capital, you have to do something for me."
"What?" Fan Xian had a faint idea.
"Be merciless." As if feeling a bit tired, the Countess reclined back and rested on her chair. "While this world may appear peaceful, if you don’t steel yourself, you will always be at a disadvantage."
Fan Xian did not say anything. In truth, he wasn’t a gentleman; he only appeared to be one because he never got the chance to show his darker side in Danzhou. And so, he listened to the Countess’s warning. He knew that her advice was priceless.
The Countess half-closed her eyes and said, "Your mother was so smart. But because she was also so kind, she ended up…" She suddenly opened her eyes and emphasized each of the following words: "Even if you have to kill others, you mustn’t let others harm you."
Fan Xian nodded vigorously.
"Go pack. You father is under lots of pressure. He is afraid there really is something happening in the capital." The Countess looked at the child, who had just turned sixteen, with an expression full of warmth. "I’m not going. I’m staying here in Danzhou. If… your life in the capital isn’t going well, or if there are people trying to take advantage of you, you can always come back whenever you want to."
ot; Fan Xian answered. He stood up and went straight to his bedroom without saying much else.
After he entered his room, he quietly sat on his bed and wiped his face using his blanket. After making a mess out of his hair, he quietly said to himself, "Drat. I almost cried. Grandma really knows how to stir up feelings."
Shortly after nightfall, a lamp was dimly lit. Fan Xian, expressionless, was writing a letter to his younger sister in the capital, informing her of his arrival. It wasn’t until after he had finished that he realized the letter might very well be pointless. The mail coach might not be any faster than the Count’s carriage, meaning he might have already arrived by the time she received the letter.
Fan Xian tended to save his energy. Since he already wrote the letter, he might as well send it. He was just about to beckon Sisi to remind her to send the mail tomorrow when he turned around and saw her looking at him blankly, deep in thought.
"Sisi, what’s on your mind?" He waved the letter in his hand to get her attention.
Sisi came back to her senses abruptly. She was quite embarrassed. "Oh, it’s nothing. Is that for your sister? I’ll take it for you."
Fan Xian retracted his hand and looked at her with curiosity. "What is it?"
Sisi thought for a bit. Finally, she gathered up her courage. "Young Master, you’re about to leave for the capital. Aren’t you happy?"
Fan Xian sat up straight and smiled at her. "Why this all of a sudden?"
"Young Master, I hear the capital is full of bad people." Sisi bit at her lip, unsure if she should continue. "Besides… you don’t have much status. Once you’re there, in front of the Count’s second wife, I’m afraid your life will be difficult."
Fan Xian laughed. "So you’re worried about me. Well, I can simply avoid the second wife. Even if I don’t make a name for myself in the capital, I can still make a living running a clinic. As long as I don’t stay at the Count’s place… and quite frankly, I only want to go there to take a look."
Sisi said, "You won’t be stuck doing menial tasks your whole life. After all, you’ve read so many books. You will certainly pass next year’s examinations and become a high-ranking official. You will bring honor to your family."
Seeing how she said it so seriously, Fan Xian smiled slightly and didn’t respond. He never thought of honoring his family, and deep inside he didn’t even hold much feeling for his cheap father in the capital. Life over there was much different from how it was here with his grandmother.
"Why don’t you take me with you to the capital?" This was what Sisi was actually worried about. She looked at Fan Xian with a pitiful expression. "The servants in the capital will certainly follow the second wife’s orders, so you don’t have anyone to rely on. What are you going to do?"
Fan Xian sighed. Sisi was two years older than him. If she were a maidservant of some other household, she would have been chased out a long time ago. The only reason she thought of herself as being dependable was because Fan Xian was secretly very mature as a result of having lived a previous life.
Fan Xian then told Sisi in a matter-of-fact manner, "I don’t have any idea what the capital is like, so I can’t possibly take you with me."
Sisi knew this was true. She was afraid she might never see her young master again after he left. She felt her heart sour a little and quickly turned around to organize the bookcase.
Fan Xian too felt gloomy as he watched her work, but there was nothing he could say.
Perhaps in the capital there would be some pleasant scenery, or interesting people, or curious things. But there would surely also be brandished blades and hidden darts. Fan Xian was willing to take such risks; he wanted to experience them. Because he had been gifted a second life, there was no sense in growing old and lonely without ever leaving the tiny city of Danzhou. However, he couldn’t say the same for those he cared about. He wasn’t confident he could protect them, so it wouldn’t be possible for him to take Sisi along.
At night, he took a secret trip to the shop.