dark and secret night, the Empress Dowager's father had trembled at the point of his blade, and he had beheaded him himself. The head had rolled across the floor. Seemingly recalling the sound that it had made, Count Sinan's mouth turned to a gentle smile.
Over the next few days, Fan Xian was at ease, enjoying his status as the eldest son in the manor. Occasionally he would slip away to Dongchuan Road to see how far the bookstore had come with its preparations. And the bookseller, also named Ye, had gradually warmed to him, doing everything that he said, and so Mr. Cui, the family advisor, had returned to Count Sinan's side. And every other evening, Fan Xian would slip away to the courtyard of the imperial palace, climbing over the wall on his familiar path. But now, the window was no longer closed, and the chicken-leg girl was always quietly waiting for him.
He did not go there because he was driven by romantic passion, but because Lin Wan'er's illness would not let her go any further. The palace men were blockheads, but thankfully, after the imperial physicians had received a number of bribes from Count Sinan's estate, they were eventually willing to admit that giving the princess a little bit of meat or fish would be beneficial to her health.
Fan Xian often went there to bring her food and the pills that he had made himself. He feared that the medicine he gave her might clash with what the imperial doctors prescribed her, so he made sure only to use the gentlest ingredients. He also bought her a lot of fine food to satisfy her day-long hunger. As the days passed, Lin Wan'er's health clearly got better. Her cheeks were much rosier, but not with the redness that her ill-health had caused her before. And her figure filled out, with her cheeks becoming much rounder.
Lin Wan'er was a bit concerned by this, but Fan Xian was happy. After they were married, he would prefer to be with a woman with fertile curves.
The guards in the courtyard were always slacking off, and with the help of the wall-climbing skills Fan Xian had learned from Wu Zhu in Danzhou, no one ever discovered his secret trips to deliver medicine. But there was no way to get rid of Lin Wan'er's illness completely, and Fan Xian felt that it was no good waiting for Fei Jie to return; after they were married, they would find a way to leave the capital and go to a mansion in the Cang Mountains owned by the Fan family, where it would be most suitable for her to recuperate.
After a number of nights of close contact, the feelings grew between the two of them. For some reason, after they had fallen in love at first sight at the Temple of Qing, each of them felt that the other was alike in a lot of ways. Perhaps it was their appearance, or the way they carried themselves, or the way that they looked at things. This rapport made both young lovers feel the wonders of their first love, and that they could grow old together hand-in-hand. It took little time for them to go from strangers to lovers who knew each other only by gazes and gentle touches of the hand.
Lin Wan'er gazed at his face, and suddenly developed a worried expression. "You always use that incense to help me sleep. It's been a long time, are you sure there’s nothing wrong with it?" Fan Xian comforted her. "The first time I came, I told you that this incense only had a positive effect on health.."
Lin Wan'er thought back to the first time that he had snuck through her window, and she couldn't help but giggle. "If I had really thought you were a rapist and killed you, then what would I have done?"
Fan Xian laughed bitterly and took her hand. "Yichen, maybe there's something you should know."
Lin Wan'er felt bashful at the sound of her pet name. "What is it?"
"Hm... if you want to kill me, I reckon it won't be easy." Fan Xian laughed. "I've trained under powerful people ever since I was a child. Deep down, I'm much more of a brute than I am a poet."
Lin Wan'er sighed. "I know. If you weren't a brute, then how could you have beaten up Minister Guo's son in the street and got into all that trouble, to the point where you still aren't allowed to leave the city?"
Fan Xian's assault case against Guo Baokun was still ongoing, with both sides matching wits. The city government had already flown the white flag and passed the case on to the Ministry of Justice on the grounds that it was a complicated and difficult-to-judge case. In fact, if one wanted to get to the bottom of the case, all one had to do was get hold of the guards who were strolling along the street following Fan Xian, and all would be clarified after a little light torture. But the problem was that the lawsuits that both sides had filed were not simple in the slightest, and so the case had become much more complicated.
This was not an honest practice, but it was the correct path through the bureaucracy - after the case was handed to the Ministry of Justice, that was when the Ministry's troubles had started. Now, they were planning to ask the palace for an official decree, putting the case in the hands of the Overwatch Council. Cases of public security were not within the purview of the Council, but both sides were comprised of officials, and the Council was tasked with overseeing the bureaucracy, so they agreed - all of the capital's bureaucrats knew that the Director of the Council did not care about the noble pedigree of any official.
So as that the Guo family waited for the day that the Council began their investigation, they were unaware that Fan Xian was also waiting for that day, when he could flash the token that Fei Jie had given him. He did not fear the Council's fearsome enforcers in the slightest.
In the calm night, Fan Xian found himself lost in thought. He continued to console Lin Wan'er. "You don't have to worry about this. It'll all be dealt with soon." He suddenly thought about her mother, who had tried to kill him four years ago, and his brow could not help but crease.
Lin Wan'er was an extremely clever young woman. "Has something been troubling you?" she asked when she saw his face.
Fan Xian looked at her picturesque face and sighed. "If in the future... if something were to happen between me and the Eldest Princess, I'm worried you'll get hurt."
Lin Wan'er smiled. "Why do you have to worry about things that still haven't happened? I have been sick since I was a child, and it always seemed like my days were numbered. I've never known if the next day might be my last, so I've never liked thinking about awful things that haven’t happened yet."
Fan Xian sighed. He drew her into an embrace, full of tenderness, smelling her hair. "I know how you feel, because I once had the same experience as you."
They kissed, their lips coming together in harmony.
"Mm... Wan'er, your body is so soft."
"You're... you're rubbing the pillow you brought the other day."
Fan Xian very much liked the feeling of sneaking off to her bedchamber. It was a secret love affair, but one with no guilt at all. If it were possible, he'd like to spend even longer like this. At least there wasn't anything to disturb them much before the wedding. Before he'd left Danzhou, he never imagined he could live so happily in the capital.
But things didn’t go the way he wanted them to; all good things had to come to an end. That evening, Crown Prince Jing's clearly visible carriage came to Fan Manor. Lady Liu hurried to greet him respectfully, and brought him into the reception pavilion for tea.