inian found himself sitting in a secluded room. Facing him was a handsome young master. No matter what had happened, Wang Qinian would always recognize the face of the one who got him kicked out of the Overwatch Council. Upon seeing the badge, he knew he was right to make that gamble. This young man was not only Sir Fei’s student; he also commanded a terrifying status.
Fan Xian genuinely did not expect this badge to have such terrific commanding power. He squinted and began to reflect upon the time he spent with Fei Jie. That cripple from the Overwatch Council was the one who saved him after he was reincarnated. It was very obvious that the Council took care of him for his mother’s sake. Fan Xian decided that he must put this advantage to good use.
"What I just said, did you understand?" Fan Xian smiled at Wang Qinian. The official was getting a little old, with a child and wife back home, which happened to be just what Fan Xian was looking for. He didn’t have any experience ordering subordinates around, so he had to learn how. That was why he wanted his first aide to be someone he met by coincidence; someone without too much ambition.
"I understand, Master Fan." Wang Qinian chuckled, his fingers on his belt. In his belt pocket, other than the few bits of silver, there were many bills which weren’t in there before. "Excuse me, it should be Sir Fan."
"I’m still new to the capital, so I don’t have many subordinates to count on, and my teacher isn’t around." Fan Xian thought for a little bit, and then said, "I have another aide named Teng Zijing. But he’s injured and probably won’t recover for a few months. Once he does, I’ll introduce you two."
"Yes sir." Wang Qinian didn’t say too much. Compared to when Fan Xian first came to the Council, he got a lot better at it.
"Then go and gather some people." Fan Xian was trying out such things for the first time and felt he was out of his comfort zone; he had no choice but to learn step by step. "Can people like you and I really reassign people from the Council?"
Suddenly, Wang Qinian said unsettlingly, "Your Highness, actually I… had to resign."
Fan Xian was shocked; how could things have gone so wrong? He asked, "Why?"
Working up his courage, Wang Qinian told Fan Xian about the investigation and the temple incident, taking care to emphasize the fact he didn’t expose Fan Xian’s identity, so as to demonstrate his foresight and his "predetermined loyalty".
Fan Xian asked with a frown, "My current position is that of a department head, would that have the authority to help you?"
Certainly." Wang Qinian was overjoyed, realizing he had followed a person fated for greatness in the future. "There are just some procedures to follow. Your Highness could send out an order first and reappoint me. I would return to my post after a few days."
"Very well, I’m going to have that taken care of as soon as possible." Looking at this slightly elderly man, Fan Xian couldn’t help but have doubts; how useful would this person be as an aide? He asked gently, "Sir Wang, may I ask your area of expertise?"
"Tracking, while keeping myself hidden." Upon hearing "expertise", Wang Qinian’s spirits elevated immediately. After listening for a long time, Fan Xian discovered that he had stumbled upon an amazing person. During his younger years, this Wang Qinian was a thief who operated alone in the northern parts of Qing. He thoroughly enjoyed sneaking from one vassal state to another, between Northern Wei and Qing. Then he would bring the goods he stole from one vassal state to another and sell them. Because he never exposed the origins of the stolen goods, and due to his natural skill at hiding his traces, over the years he operated without incident. Eventually the officials in those vassal states couldn’t take it anymore and conducted a manhunt. Left with no other choice, he was forced to stay in Qing. Unexpectedly, he ran into Director Cheng Pingping, who was ordered by the emperor on the northern expedition. Wang Qinian submitted on the spot and gave up his ways as a thief, whereupon he became a government official.
Looking into his eyes, Fan Xian said lightly, "Si Lili is being taken back to the capital. There might be people trying to rob her or kill her. Whatever happens, do not interfere. You only need to observe the traveling party and find out who their last contact was." Fan Xian paused a little before continuing, a bit embarrassed, "I came up with such a dumb plan because you said you are good at tracking, but not martial arts."
Wang Qinian laughed, "When I was young, the Council wasn’t this big. Zong Zhui and I were the best trackers in the Council. But he later followed the Director, while I got lazy and switched to a civil position… But Your Highness can rest assured, despite my old bones, tagging a few people shouldn’t be a problem."
"I’ve got a lawsuit on my hands and can’t leave the capital, or else I would definitely go watch your skill with my own eyes." Fan Xian then began to chuckle. "Mr. Wang, above all else, you must preserve your own life. That is of utmost importance."
After assigning Wang his mission, Fan Xian went directly back to Fan Manor. Grimacing, he asked his younger sister to re-bandage his injured shoulder. He had mixed some medicinal powder out of motherwort himself. It was amazingly effective at stopping bleeding and promoting muscle growth. He didn’t want doctors to operate on him, on one hand because he did not trust their abilities in treating poison, and on another hand because Ruoruo’s slender yet soft fingers were far cuter than the callous-riddled bear paws of those clumsy old men.
Fan Xian then went to the study where Count Sinan was. Seeing his father’s greying hair, he saluted with some difficulty. He then asked his father directly, "Father, I need some men."
Fan Jian looked at his son and couldn’t keep back his smile. "What have you got your eyes on?"
"The eldest princess’s mansion; the living quarters of the prime minister’s servants; the brothels frequented by the prince; the second prince’s favorite polo court… King Jing’s winery?" Fan Xian shrugged. "You know I’m not very familiar with this type of thing, so I was hoping you would lend me some experts. Once I have their advice, I could come up with a plan to investigate."
Fan Jian shook his index finger. "We don’t need experts. But you were right in that we need to make some arrangements. A bunch of experts, as long as they’re being directed by someone inexperienced, still wouldn’t do a good job."
"Father, please give me your advice." Fan Xan was exceptionally humble.
Fan Jian looked down and went back to reading his book. "Actually, people are already keeping an eye on the places you just mentioned. I just find it strange that you know about these places even though you haven’t been in the capital for that long."
Fan Xian grinned, knowing that his father was only telling him to bear with it on the surface; he had already begun investigating in secret. "Such things are easy to find out when you chat a bit with the servants."
Fan Jian raised his head slightly, although his gaze was still fixated on his book. "But you must be prepared; the investigation in the capital most likely won’t get you any results."
Fan Xian frowned after hearing that.
Fan Jian continued, "You still have to pay attention to things over on Si Lili’s end." He paused briefly. "The two female assassins you killed… It seems that they were disciples of the Sigu Sword Sect from Dongyi City, and from what I heard, the the Sigu sword style hasn’t been seen in Dongyi City for a long time. You must be more careful." Fan Xian replied with worry, "If a great grandmaster were willing to risk it all to kill someone, who would be able to escape?" Fan Jian nodded in agreement. "True. However, there shouldn’t be any reason for him to go after you. Relax. This is only some useful information."
Over ten days later, about two hundred and fifty kilometers to the north of the capital, a traveling party was progressing southward against the cold morning wind. The party consisted of people from the Fourth Bureau of the Overwatch Council. After being in pursuit for several-thousand kilometers, they finally apprehended Si Lili before she could escape the country. Presently they were taking her back to the capital. They had been walking south for a long time. They would reach the capital in a few days. The leading official handed a steamed bun to Si Lili in the jail cart. "Eat."
Si Lili’s face was thin and pallid. Her long hair was a mess, blowing in the wind. There was also some dust on her cheeks. Had Fan Xian seen her now, he definitely wouldn’t believe that she was the most popular entertainer with whom he had "slept" with. Chewing the tough, dried-out bun, Si Lili suddenly raised her head and said ferociously, "Even after going back to the capital, I will tell you nothing."
That official gave her a look, his eyes full of mockery. "You think we’re sending you back to get to you to confess something? I don’t understand, are the officials over at Northern Qi bored out of their minds? Putting an idiot like you in the capital."
Indeed, Si Lili was a spy of Northern Qi. But every day she had presented herself as a courtesan who was showered by compliments and praises. Never before had a man so coldly called her an idiot. Her voice trembling, she said, "Of course I know you aren’t after a confession, since that would plunge the Qing Imperial court into chaos for a long time."
The official replied cynically, "Actually, your best choice of action was towards the beginning, on the day when the assassination attempt occurred. You should have turned yourself in immediately. This way, you could have exposed who was conspiring with Northern Qi, which would be enough to accomplish Northern Qi’s goal. Your escape only showed that you value your life more than your mission."
Si Lili lowered her head in admittance of this fact. She gripped the tough bun in her hand tightly, leaving behind deep marks.