Translator: Nyoi-Bo Studio Editor: Nyoi-Bo Studio
The Fan siblings had chosen a restaurant named "Yi Shijiu", a well-known wealthy establishment in the capital. Every day at noon, the place would always receive some rich government officials, gifted scholars, or beautiful ladies. No one knew where the scholars got their money from, or how famous those ladies were—regardless, the third floor was vacant; without a great reputation, one cannot get there.
It was pretty common knowledge that only those with reputation could be seated on the third floor, and so there was rarely ever an issue over it. After all, the capital wasn’t as small as they said, though, its governmental circles were intertwined with many hidden connections and shady deals, so no one could really be sure what their exact relationship with someone was.
The one who refuted the "Fan Xian trash publication" was a proper scholar, named He Zongwei. He was well-known in the capital and praised by his peers, so his arrogance was understandable. A few days ago, he read the "Dream of the Red Chamber" at his friend’s place. Although he was very displeased with the contents of the book and unimpressed by its literary style, he was still impressed by the fact its author had put down several hundred thousand words.
Today, in this restaurant, gulping down three cups of yellow wine had made him a bit inebriated. Hearing a few youngsters making unrestrained outbursts about "Dream of the Red Chamber" from the next room made him angry. So he let loose that remark.
At that precise moment, the three Fans had finished eating and were chatting over some tea. Hearing what He Zongwei just said, Fan Sizhe thought about his boast, and then realized that the scholar was addressing Fan Xian. Because it made him lose face also, he was enraged. Born to the great Fan family, Fan Sizhe was too privileged to endure embarrassment from a mere scholar. He raised the curtain and went to the main hall on the third floor.
Fan Xian though that since it was his first time in the capital, it would be best if he kept a low profile, and he hinted this to this sister. Fan Ruoruo knew what he was thinking and smiled while shaking her head, signaling that Fan Sizhe shouldn’t go overboard.
In the past year or two, Fan Sizhe had grown up a bit. Thanks to Fan Ruoruo’s intense upbringing, he matured slightly, just enough that he no longer played rowdy games in the streets. Because of that, Fan Ruoruo wasn’t worried.
Fan Sizhe barged into the hall, picking out He Zongwei from the crowd. With great swagger, he walked up to the scholar and said: "Was it you who said that?"
"And what if it was?" He Zongwei’s skin was a tad tan and his face had a pronounced shape to it. Overall, he was on the ugly side. Seeing someone barge out of a private room, he knew his words had caused offense. However, the sight of an arrogant rich kid had made him very hot-blooded. So he tried to brush Fan Sizhe off: "watch it, child. Where are your manners? Who were you raised by?"
While this scholar was well-connected in the capital, he had never met the twelve-year-old Fan Sizhe and wasn’t afraid of the youth.
Fan Sizhe was only planning on scolding the guy, but now that he heard "where are your manners", he was reminded of his mother’s constant berating. He retorted angrily with a shout: "And you?! Which family’s scoundrel are you?"
At this moment, Fan Sizhe had already forgotten his sister’s discipline. He leapt forward trying to slap the scholar.
He Zhongwei wasn’t expecting to have to deal with uncivil behavior in a
place as high-class as Yi Shijiu. He took half a step back, avoiding a slap to the face, though the green cloth on his head was ripped away, leaving him embarrassed.
Other scholars and an honored guest were sitting at He Zhongwei’s table, and were infuriated by what they saw: "How dare you behave with such insolence?! Have you no sense of the law?"
"Law?" Fan Sizhe snorted: "I am the law." As soon as he said this, he swung his fists at He Zhongwei.
Suddenly, a hand came from the side and firmly grasped Fan Sizhe’s skinny wrist!
Fan Sizhe felt as if his wrist was caught in red-hot shackles. The pain pierced through to the bone, forcing him to shout out: "Can someone come help me, please?!"
His bodyguard went forward, but there was a flash of shadow as he received two palm strikes to his chest and abdomen, forcing him to back down.
The man holding Fan Sizhe’s wrist was none other than the bodyguard of the valued guest. While appearing ordinary, the bodyguard’s eyes hinted at how skilled he was.
"Toss the child aside; don’t ruin Mr. Zhongwei’s mood."
The skilled bodyguard swung his arm. Fan Sizhe was thrown out like a hatchling chicken!
Fan Xian had thought there would simply be some bantering. He had no idea things would get this ugly so quick. He expected Fan Sizhe to throw temper tantrums in spite Ruoruo saying otherwise, and seeing his expectations play out; he wanted his little brother to learn a lesson.
However, he was not expecting the other party to have someone so skilled, not to mention someone with such merciless methods. That toss had hidden intents. If things went badly, Fan Sizhe would end up with broken bones—for all his insolence, Fan Sizhe was only a twelve-year-old child, and using such a move on him went way over the line.
Somehow, Fan Xian was already outside the private room. With a single flick of the wrist, he caught the collar of Fan Sizhe’s shirt. Following the body’s rotation, he twisted his right hand clockwise, making Fan Sizhe spin.
Once, twice, thrice… Fan Sizhe stopped spinning. Nauseous, he could only stare blankly, not knowing what had happened.
Fan Xian let go of his brother’s shirt and left him in Ruoruo’s care with an uneasy smile. Stepping forward, he looked at the refined bodyguard, and in a meek voice, said "While my brother may have offended you due to his youth, what you did went a bit too far.."
The people at the table could only "give a haughty snort in response. They couldn’t retort because they agreed with Fan Xian. The young man who had bodyguard only drank his wine in silence; he didn’t even look at Fan Xian.
He Zhongwei felt embarrassed after adjusting the cloth on his head. Seeing the beautiful looks of the youth in front of him, a sudden, unforeseen wave of anger overtook Zhongwei. To him, Fan Xian’s smile appeared malevolent and despicable. He spat out: "You have such an unruly brother; what’s wrong with giving him some punishment?"
Fan Xian ignored He Zhongwei. His smile was directed to the bodyguard. He took two steps forward. In response, the bodyguard who had just witnessed this young master cancel out the force of the toss felt a sense of unease. He couldn’t measure up this youth. The bodyguard frowned slightly and took two cautious steps back.
Fan Ruoruo’s figure came into view as their steps shifted.
Fan Ruoruo was known throughout the capital, and everyone in the restaurant had heard of her name. Some of them had even seen her from far away in government meetings. The crowd gasped and paid their respects from a distance.
It was only now those guests at the table realized which family that brat came from. Naturally, they became nervous. And when He Zhongwei saw Fan Ruoruo, his expression changed just so slightly, as if he was about to say something.
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Translator: Nyoi-Bo Studio Editor: Nyoi-Bo Studio
Teng Zijing rushed up the stairs. As he looked upon the scene, he frowned, and whispered something into Fan Xian's ear. Fan Xian finally realized that this was the somewhat-renowned palace scholar Guo Baokun - the only son of Guo You, Director of the Board of Rites.
After the gloomy-looking young man caught sight of Fan Ruoruo, the expression on his face filled Fan Xian with loathing. "I wondered which family could have such powerful children. So you are the offspring of Count Sinan."
Count Sinan was a favorite of the Emperor, but he was only an assistant minister - a fourth-rank title. And the average son of an official would be unaware of the power that the Fan family held in secret.
Fan Xian had no desire to inflame matters further. After all, Fan Sizhe had started it, and no matter what anyone said, it seemed that he was a fan of Dream of the Red Chamber - but he could not help but frown upon hearing this clear attempt at provocation.
Guo Baokun was a high-ranking official and a scholar within the palace. He was on good terms with the Crown Prince, and so he had grown up to be an arrogant, condescending type. As soon as he laid eyes upon the allegedly cold-hearted Fan Ruoruo, he was filled with wicked urges. "How amusing. All the insignificant inhabitants of Fan Manor see fit to throw their weight around. Truly a disgrace to the educated classes."
In keeping with his self-proclaimed scholarly air, he flipped open the folding fan in his hand with a confident and nimble energy.
The group of scholars sat beside him, worried that they had offended Count Sinan and were unsure what to do. When they heard Guo Baokun's words, they immediately agreed, and rushed to label them as bullies, not even considering for a moment that they might have been in the wrong.
Only He Zongwei, who had kicked off the incident, was silent.
"Educated?" Seeing that his opponent had no desire to let matters lie, Fan Xian could not help but adopt a tone of mockery. "If a scholar does not study, he will not gain knowledge; if he has no ambition, he cannot become a scholar. You call yourselves geniuses, but you don't even bother to attend school. You run to the first tavern you find to get drunk instead. What sort of ambition is that? You call yourselves 'educated'?"
Other than Guo Baokun, the others at the table were also all gifted scholars; when they heard Fan Xian's words they were bewildered.
One scholar chided him. "Don't think you can get away with such impudent language just because you're the Fan family!"
Fan Xian frowned slightly. He didn't think that he and his siblings were completely in the right, but when he looked at the faces of these scholars, he couldn't help but feel disgust. "You say we use our power to take advantage of people," he said, "I can't comment on that. You all sit at that table, drinking with the sons of high officials, not afraid of power and boasting of your own virtue. I'm truly in awe."
As they realized the meaning behind his calm words, some of the people in the building began to stop talking. The people who sat with Guo Baokun were angered, and were ready to get into a full-blown dispute. Guo Baokun waved his fan, preparing to teach these youngsters a lesson.
But Fan Xian was an odd type. On the surface, he was gentle, but if he was unhappy, he liked to make others unhappy. He did not like to give his opponent the chance to retort; he preferred to end things with one blow.
So he did not wait for the official's son to open his mouth, but pointed at the fan that Guo Baokun held in his hand and smiled. "When I first came to the capital," he said, "I saw how young people would amuse themselves all day, all skin and bones, fanning themselves. Is that really strength of character? If that's what you call strength, then I'd rather not study at all."
Guo Baokun came in and out of the imperial palace as he pleased. He was a friend of the Crown Prince. Who would dare to speak to him this way? He slammed his fan down on the table, speechless and shaking with rage.
The current ruling Kingdom of Qing prized affairs of culture as well as political and military achievements. Young scholars could be found throughout the capital, and in this tavern, a great many of the guests were scholars. Among those scholars... who didn't wield a fan?
Hearing Fan Xian speak so mockingly of strength of character, not only were the table of people sitting with He Zongwei suddenly angered - even the other people on the third floor stood up.
Fan Xian had never had much tolerance for these so-called gifted scholars. As he had lived in two worlds, he was generally unconstrained in his behavior, and so he let slip a remark. But seeing the unusual atmosphere in the restaurant, he finally realized that he had angered a number of people. But he wasn't afraid. He smiled, and bowed to them all, cupping his fist in his hand as a sign of respect.
They weren't sure why, but when they saw the brilliant smile on the young man's face, the angry scholars felt their anger recede.
But Guo Baokun remained enraged, and threw his fan upon the table with gritted teeth, signalling that he wished to fight.
Scholars tend to disparage each other with words, and they were surrounded by the sons of high officials and great families, so a dangerous atmosphere began to rise.
Teng Zijing fixed the Guo family's bodyguard with a cold stare, and prepared to defend his master.
With the sound of two blows, the two men collided with each other. Their fists flew, and the enfeebled scholars in the restaurant cried out in surprise.
Heroic struggles within the capital were always fought to the death by servants. Masters stood to the side as if watching some sort of game, rarely affected by the fight themselves.
But Fan Xian was completely different to the sons of the nobility. When Teng Zijing and the Guo family bodyguard came to blows, he quietly slipped behind them. Finding an opportune space and moment, he extended a clenched fist.
With an echoing smack, what the onlookers expected to be a bitter and drawn-out fight was brought to an abrupt end.
Fan Xian retracted his right hand, and stood in his original space, beaming, as if he had never moved.
The Guo family bodyguard was crouched on the floor. The bridge of his nose was broken by the blow, and blood gushed out along with tears.
Fan Xian was very satisfied with the results of the blow. Master Fei had taught him well. Breaking the bone in that place caused such pain that even a ninth-level master would be unable to bear it.
Guo Baokun looked at his strong family bodyguard, brought to the floor like a dog by a single punch. He turned pale with fear, and pointed at Fan Xian, his voice trembling. "You... you bullies!"
Fan Xian looked at him and shook his head. He felt somewhat confused. Fighting was something you should do by yourself, he thought. He wasn't some sort of hooligan. He took Ruoruo's hand and walked downstairs, confident that he was in the right. He never imagined that what he had done could be such a violation of the customs of this world.