. "This is the daughter of Count Sinan. She's quite well known in the capital." She glanced at Fan Ruoruo. "You mean to tell me that the little sister of ten-thousand-miles-in-sorrowful-autumn-always-the-guest cannot enter?"
"Who's 'ten-thousand-miles-in-sorrowful-autumn-always-the-guest'?" The guard was not a literate man, and he looked at them dumbstruck. Ten-thousand-miles-in-sorrowful-autumn-always-the-guest was hidden behind Ye Ling'er, forcing a smile.
Ye Ling'er giggled. "I've invited a doctor to see Miss Lin today. Are you going to let us through?" she said, explaining kindly to the guard.
The guard turned to look at the doctor. He was rather ugly-looking, and his posture was somewhat stooped. He looked like he was in poor health himself, the guard thought – and he wanted to examine the princess? But the guard said nothing, as he wished to protect Miss Ye's honor. How many of the guards did not have some sort of relationship with the Ye family? He forced a smile. "Miss Ye, if you had told the master you were coming earlier, I would not dare to stop you. Nor would I stop this doctor. But I cannot let you through today. The doctor you have invited has not been approved by the palace. What if something bad were to happen while he was treating her?"
Fan Xian lowered his head. He felt nervous. He had gone to all this trouble, and yet he still couldn't even see Miss Lin's face. Was it best to just give up? He wasn't sure whether this was his own fault or not. Last time, he had inadvertantly barged into the Temple of Qing and matched blows with the temple guard, and the whole palace guard had been subjected to a torrent of abuse by Eunuch Hong and the head commander, so today they were extremely strict.
"What are you talking about? This man is a student of Fei Jie of the Overwatch Council." Ye Ling'er fixed the guard with a glare.
When the guard heard mention of Master Fei, he looked at Fan Xian with a sudden deference, silently stepping backward, but then he thought of something and frowned. "A student of Master Fei’s? I've never heard of such a thing."
Ye Ling'er also thought about it. Any student of Master Fei would no doubt also be well known. How come she had never heard of him? Suspicious, she turned and looked at Fan Xian. But Fan Xian had prepared for this. He shook his head gloomily, and fished out a token from his chest pocket.
It was a token from the Overwatch Council. No one could have counterfeited it – or more precisely, there was not a craftsman in the land who would dare to counterfeit it. It was given to Fan Xian by Fei Jie in Danzhou when he was six years old.
The guard took the token and looked at it. It proved his identity beyond a shadow of a doubt. He looked again at the young man's pallid complexion and yellowing skin, and he realized that this most definitely was a student of Master Fei, someone who had experimented with poisons for many years – that ghostly appearance was unmistakeable.
Having received a sufficient guarantee, the guard let them pass. The three walked into the quiet courtyard, glancing at clusters of flowers as they walked along a stone-tiled path through them, leading to a small building deeper within the courtyard.
A servant girl ushered them into the building and served them tea. Fan Xian observed her movements and noticed that her every move seemed extremely proper. Clearly she had received long years of training at the palace. A while later, an old woman with a slightly arrogant air walked out. "Miss Ye, it's you."
Ye Ling'er clearly did not like this woman, and she made a grunt of acknowledgement in response. "Where is Miss Lin?"
"Miss Lin is sleeping. May I ask why you have come today, Miss Ye?" The old lady seemed to be standing respectfully, but her tone of speech was clearly meant to keep people away. Fan Xian couldn't help but wonder what would get in his way next.
Ye Ling'er was not in the mood for arguing with the old lady today. "I have brought a doctor to see Miss Lin," she said reproachfully. "Go and tell her. When she is ready, this doctor will come and examine her."
The old lady looked at Fan Xian. She knew this was the doctor. "You are aware of the young lady's status," she said coldly. "Other than the palace physicians, who could treat her?"
Ye Ling'er brought up Fan Xian's identity as a student of Fei Jie. Surprisingly, the old lady did not concede. She was much more troublesome than the guard outside. Fan Xian did not know what the palace regulations were, but young unmarried ladies always had plenty of ladies-in-waiting by their side. Although they did not restrict them and they were not like the frightful spinsters of the court of the Qing dynasty in his previous world, these women were always loyal to a fault. She absolutely would not allow her mistress to get in any sort of danger.
Fan Xian felt rather annoyed. He cast a glance at Fan Ruoruo. Fan Ruoruo understood what he meant. She stood up, smiling. "Since it is not in keeping with regulations," she said to Ye Ling'er, "I suppose we had best leave. This is not like any other place in the capital, after all."
Sure enough, Ye Ling'er was enraged. She shot up and unleashed a torrent of abuse at the old woman. Fan Xian watched and frowned. She was a rather angry girl, he thought. Who was going to teach her to control her temper in the future? At that moment, Fan Ruoruo attempted to intercede insincerely, asking the aggrieved old woman to sit at the table, handing her a cup of tea.
After a moment, the old woman's face changed, and she hurried off. Having heard all the commotion, one of Miss Lin's serving girls came out. She saw that the old lady was not there, and ushered the three upstairs.
Although Ye Ling'er had a temper, she was not stupid. She cast a suspicious glance at Fan Xian. Fan Xian lowered his head a little, said nothing, and followed them up.
He always carried things on him that people had no idea about – laxatives, knockout drops, aphrodisiacs, and not just medicine, but a dagger and a hidden crossbow too; all little tools to defend himself. With these things on his person, he could get himself out of any jam.
As they entered Miss Lin's bedchamber, Fan Xian lowered his head. He did not dare show that anything was off. A delicate fragrance reached his nostrils. He could tell that they were burning a specific type of incense that helped sick people convalesce, but it was concentrated too strongly, overpowering the delicate aroma of her boudoir.
Ye Ling'er went behind a curtain and said something, and then was followed by Fan Ruoruo. Fan Xian strained his ears, and heard that his sister was greeting the young woman. The young woman only coughed. It seemed that she was short of breath. In his mind, Fan Xian sketched out the scene. He didn't know how he should act when he saw his bride-to-be.
As he thought about it, Fan Xian realized that he was somewhat unfaithful. He felt deep love for that girl in white who nibbled at the chicken leg. Entering Miss Lin's bedchamber and smelling her rare perfume, he began to wonder what her blushing face might look like.
"Please enter, sir." Ye Ling'er conveyed Miss Lin's request.
Fan Xian straightened his appearance slightly, lifted the curtain, and entered.