Sunlight peaked through the gaps in the clouds, causing the land below to flicker between light and dark. The new branches of the old trees by the roadside danced gently in the breeze. It was the end of spring and young lotus flowers covered the lake by the foot of the mountain.
The Fan estate’s carriage rolled forward slowly, surrounded by guards. It was quite an impressive scene.
The carriage was silent inside. Fan Xian had his eyes half-closed while Ruoruo was carefully peeling the thin skin of some loquats before feeding the sweet and sour fruit to her brother.
Fan Xian opened his mouth and swallowed the fruit in one bite. It was so sour that he had to swallow repeatedly.
A look of disbelief was plastered on Fan Si’s face as he observed this scene in horror. His 15-year-old sister was an expert in the arts. She was famous amongst the aristocracy of the capital for her ice-cold attitude which caused countless noblemen to sigh in grief. And yet….. Here she was peeling loquats and feeding them to some fellow named Fan Xian!
Fan Rourou had no idea she was looking at her older brother with a face full of admiration, or that her younger brother had witnessed everything. She had only wanted to make her older brother more at home. She thought he must have had a hard time in Danzhou, and now that he had finally moved to the capital, he had been assigned to marry Miss Lin. In Ruoruo’s eyes, no one was fit to be with her brother, let alone a girl who was in such a sickly state.
Though the young Miss Fan was well known throughout the capital, she always saw herself as a little girl listening to ghost stories in the Danzhou estate. She was the only one who knew that her brother was full of p
oems and stories. Fan Ruoruo remembered the pen names he had used in his letters – Su Weng and Cao Gong – and smiled gently. She looked at her older brother and wondered why he hid his talent from others.
Fan Xian enjoyed the warm feeling he got from his sister. Half-closing his eyes, he knew that his sister had guessed long ago that "The Story of the Stone" and those other articles had been "written" by him. But he was thinking about something else.
The situation at the Fan estate differed from what he expected, but at least the Liu Clan seems to have learned their lesson four years ago and have not stepped out of line since. Meanwhile, the rumored rude and wild little brother was obedient to Ruoruo. There was nothing that Fan Xian found particularly intolerable.
They were quite the happy family.
Fan Sizhe looked at Fan Xian’s face curiously. He had to admit that his older step brother was much more handsome than he was. Despite this, he was certain that the only heir fit to inherit the Fan family fortune was himself, the rightful young master and not this outsider before him.
Fan Si thought of his sister, who was normally simple and straightforward, and of how much he admired her. He then thought of how much his sister seemed to admire Fan Xian. This puzzled him. Could it be that there was something impressive about Fan Xian?
"No one on this street dares mess with me," Fan Si proudly told the boy who was four years older than him. He continued arrogantly, "Since you have just arrived in the capital, I’ll show you around."
Fan Xian leaned lazily on the soft cushion and burst out laughing. He had planned to let his sister take him around the capital to sightsee. He never imagined that his "brother" Fan Sizhe would join – without having been invited – and tag along in the carriage.
"Why must you follow us around, little guy?" he asked Fan Sizhe.
Fan Sizhe shouted back, "Don’t call me ‘little guy’, I am the rightful young master of the Fan family."
"Don’t you think shouting makes you look low class?" Fan Xian questioned him curiously. "And if you were worried about me taking the family fortune, you should be more scheming…" He patted his brother's head and laughed. "You should take some lessons from your mother."
Fan Sizhe looked at the shy smile on Fan Xian’s pretty face and all of a sudden felt scared. He retreated behind Fan Ruoruo and wondered why this strange boy could speak without the slightest restraint.
As they were speaking, the carriage arrived in a busy part of the capital. It was noon, and there were many people out on the streets. Restaurants on both sides of the carriage were welcoming customers and the sound of merriment together with the delicious smell of food floated into the carriage. It was so enticing that Fan Si noisily announced it was time to eat.
While Teng Zijing entered the restaurant to claim a table, Fan Sizhe and Fan Rourou, under the protection of some guards, went to a noodle bar by the side of the street. Fan Xian, on the other hand, was half-kneeling as he admired the engravings on the pillars beneath the restaurant. These engravings were elegant and decorated with gold paint. They were so uniquely vibrant and unlike anything he had ever seen in the books of his previous life.
Two guards stood in the distance, their observant eyes scouring the surroundings.
Just then, a middle-aged women dressed simply and carrying a baby hurried towards Fan Xian as though she were a thief and whispered, "Would you like some books? Ones that haven’t been censored by the Eighth Bureau."
Fan Xian was touched by this warm, familiar scene. It reminded him of home. He lifted his head and asked her ever so gently, "Are they Japanese or Western?"