Joy of Life Chapter 641: Thinking Bitterly By The Courtyard
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The sky darkened quickly, but it did not rain. Fan Xian's expression was heavy. He half-leaned against the carriage window. He watched the mountain paths and well-preserved hills and wild forests on the outskirts of the capital. He was silent and did not speak for a long time.
The black carriage moved along the smooth but rising stone paths and shifted onto the official road, leaving behind the boundaries of Chen Garden. Fan Xian's expression did not relax. The Overwatch Council officials around him looked at the face by the window, which was still handsome but particularly cold. A mysterious chill rose in their hearts. They didn't know what happened in Chen Garden, what the old Director and Commissioner discussed, or why the Commissioner's expression was so stern.
The carriage drove silently toward Jingdou. Along the way, they occasionally ran into commoners entering the city or young men and women of gentry families returning from an outing. It was as if this carriage shone with a silent warning light. Everyone who saw them hurriedly moved to the side and made way for the black carriage.
The commoners acted out of their natural respect for officials. The young nobility, who usually feared nothing, knew the status and power represented by the black carriages. The nobles had many eyes and ears in Jingdou. They knew Sir Fan junior had returned to Jingdou from Dongyi.
No one in the world dared to offend Fan Xian, not even the young nobles who were incomparably arrogant because of their hormones. In front of these black carriages, they restrained their behaviors and did not make a sound. Sir Fan junior was famously ruthless and arrogant. He cared nothing for the mistresses and dukes who stood behind these young people. About five years ago, he had broken the legs of a dozen little brats outside Baoyue Brothel. The story had long struck fear into the hearts of the other brats.
Fan Xian did not notice the commotion on the street or look at the young people stopped by their horses at the side. He only silently looked at the scenery by the road with an unusually heaviness. In the past, he had guessed and thought about it, but the elders had never made anything clear to him. So, he temporarily pretended he didn't know of any of it. He could just prepare in secret and pretend it was an unconscious action—one that did not come from the heart or for the purpose of some clear goal.
Everything was laid out clearly in front of him. He had to face what happened in the past and make his own choice.
The black carriage reached a split in the path. In front, not far away, was Jingdou's grand city walls. On the left was a quiet and secluded path, shaded by a forest of green bamboos. Which way should he go?
Leaning by the window, Fan Xian narrowed his eyes and quietly gave the order. Mu Feng'er glanced at him and didn't say anything. Making a hand gesture, the three black carriages quickly turned left into the bamboo forest, disappearing from the people's eyes.
Not far along this road, the bamboo gradually thinned. The blue water of a river next to the road could be seen. The river water flowed slowly. If one didn't look carefully, it would probably be mistaken for a lake.
It was Liujing River, which passed through here, went around the city, and finally went west toward Cang Mountain. Upstream, beautiful women gathered along with large boats covered with colored lights. It brought together half of Jingdou's bustling romance. Even the abrupt rise of Fan Xian's Baoyue Brothel did not manage to completely steal the river's atmosphere.
Liujing River flowed toward the outskirts of Jingdou. By the time it arrived in this patch of forest, it was already much quieter and calmer, particularly the courtyard on the small peninsula across the river. In this beautiful spring and elegant atmosphere, it added a sense of remaining aloof from the world.
In the past, Taiping Courtyard was the home of the Ye family mistress of the. Later, it was owned by the royal family. During the Jingdou rebellion, the Eldest Princess had lived there for a couple of days. Then, the courtyard returned to its quiet seclusion like no one had ever lived there before.
Fan Xian climbed down from the carriage and looked quietly at the courtyard. He thought of the person who had once lived there. He was lost in his thoughts for a moment.
After the Jingdou rebellion was quelled, the Emperor had hinted twice that he was going to grant the courtyard to Fan Xian. Fan Xian knew that it was best for him to not ask about the matter, so he had waited calmly. For some reason, in the end, it never came to fruition.
In the summer of the fifth year of the Qing calendar, after he had stayed a night in the Fan clan's estate outside the city, Fan Xian had once brought his sister here. He had kowtowed twice to the courtyard and talked about his sorrow, but he had not entered. He knew the Emperor had a special affection and fear toward the courtyard.
Eventually, Fan Xian went in. He and Uncle Wu Zhu had found the bullets for the assault rifle in a secret room in Taiping Courtyard and had wandered around for a long time. The guards of the royal family were nothing in their eyes.
Fan Xian's eyes narrowed. His gaze pierced through the faint water vapor above the lake. It was as if he wanted to pierce right through Taiping Courtyard's green-grey wall and see through everything inside. There was no grave inside.
This was a fact that Fan Xian had long confirmed. His father, Fan Jian, had once told him that Ye Qingmei's grave was in a hidden place. Later he explicitly said it was in Taiping Courtyard. However, it was not there. Fan Xian then thought it was in the Royal Palace, but it was also not there. There was only a painting with a yellow-robed woman.
Ye Qingmei was no longer in this world. It was not important where she was buried. Occasionally, Fan Xian would wonder if the Emperor was also a bit afraid of facing that spirit beneath the ground.
Fan Xian sat down by the river and placed the front of his robes tidily over the front of his knees. Solemnly, he said, "I am thinking about some things here. Don't let anyone disrupt me."
"Yes, sir." Mu Feng'er and the few members of the Qinian Unit who served close to his side acknowledged the order at the same time. The guards spread out into the depths of the bamboo forest until Fan Xian could not see them and they could not see the riverside.
Mu Feng'er and everyone else understood Fan Xian's intentions clearly but did not quite understand his mood. They retreated to a faraway place and warily watched for movement on the surrounding paths, sealing off the wind, and silently guessing.
The courtyard across from the river was where the mistress of the Ye family had lived, which was something every veteran of Jingdou knew. The mistress of the Ye family was Sir Fan junior's birth mother, which was something everyone under heaven knew. Now, Sir Fan junior had chosen this place to think quietly. Naturally, the matter he was considering was difficult and important.
After sitting there long enough to see the silent forests on both banks of the river, grey courtyard, calm water, mossy rocks, floating leaves, and all the scenery, Fan Xian finally felt tired from sitting. The square rock under his buttocks suddenly seemed unusually pointy and was slightly painful.
He rose and dusted off his backside. Furrowing his brows and shaking his head, he did not immediately leave. Instead, he walked closer to the edge of the river. He bent down and scooped up a handful of cold water. He then splashed it on his face like he was cooling down the burning heat on his face.
Suddenly, a handkerchief was extended out from beside him as if for him to wipe clean the water droplets on his face. Fan Xian was not surprised. He accepted the handkerchief and wiped it haphazardly across his face. Then, he extended it into the river and wrung it out a few times until it was icy cold. He handed it back with a smile and said, "You hate the heat the most. Ice your face a bit."
Fan Ruoruo, in plain white clothing, accepted the wet handkerchief from her brother with a smile and carefully wiped the roots of her ears and her cheeks. It looked like she had been in a hurry. Her usual icy expression was completely wiped away by the red flush on her cheeks.
"Why are you here?" Fan Xian turned around to head back up the river bank. He stretched out a hand to hold his sister's in case she fell.
Unexpectedly, Fan Ruoruo did not see the hand her brother extended and was already walking back up. Fan Xian said with a smile, "Looks like Ku He didn't keep anything back. You've only learned for a little while, but your body is much better than before."
Fan Ruoruo smiled and didn't comment. Instead, she replied to Fan Xian's earlier question, "You only got back last night, how come you went out again today? There is someone looking for you in Jingdou with urgent business. Sister-in-law just happened to have gone into the palace. Teng Zijing was harassed by that person until he had no choice but to come to the medical shop. I went to the First Bureau to inquire and learned that you had left the city, I was preparing to go to Chen Garden, but I saw Mu Feng'er at the intersection and knew that you had to be here. So, I came down to look for you."
The people in the Council should not have known Fan Xian was going to Chen Garden, but he couldn't be bothered to worry about these small things. "What's the matter that you had to look for me so urgently?"
As the siblings talked, they sat down, just like five years ago, distantly facing the other end of the river.
"It's nothing urgent. I just haven't seen you in a long time and missed you," Fan Ruoruo said. Since the person had gotten to the young lady of the Fan family, it had to be important. However, this clever young lady saw that her brother had come to the Taiping Courtyard to think quietly. She knew he must have an even bigger concern. She didn't want to bother him with officialdom issues.
Fan Xian thought that there couldn't be anything major in the Qing officialdom. He couldn't help but smile and shake his head. "Since it's not anything major, sit with me for a bit. I was just feeling that it was a bit dull to sit alone."
Their sit lasted another hour. Fan Xian had things to think about, so he didn't want to talk. He just felt that having his sister, who trusted him completely, sit by his side made his emotions more stable. Fan Ruoruo didn't have any other intentions either. She just thought that it was good to be able to sit quietly like this by her brother's side.
After a long time, the moon had long passed the tallest branches of the bamboo forest and was slowly moving toward the west. The faint sunlight became countless spotted shadows against the siblings' faces. Fan Xian's eyes were blinded by a patch of sunlight. He couldn't resist rubbing his eyes and giving a sigh.
Fan Ruoruo's heart tightened. She heard the overwhelming distress, resentment, helplessness, unwillingness, and heaviness in the sigh. She lowered her head slightly and thought for a long time. She then said, "What it's in your heart? It might be better to speak it out."
After a long silence, Fan Xian suddenly said, "My birth mother's surname was Ye. Her name was Qingmei."
Fan Ruoruo raised her eyes to look at him. She had been one of the first people in the world to know of this secret. Why was he repeating it now? She knew Fan Xian must have had more to say, so she only made a sound of acknowledgment and didn't express her confusion.
"When I brought you here before and kowtowed distantly toward the river, I was thanking her for giving me this body and allowing me to live for a time in this world," Fan Xian said quietly. "Now, I came here to thank her for her actions. To thank her for leaving me, her son, so many advantages, and for giving the people of this world some different possibilities and more choices."
Fan Ruoruo listened quietly to the side.
"In my life, I have never seen her appearance or heard her voice, but I have seen many of the marks she left behind." Fan Xian lowered his head to think for a moment. "I also saw a great deal on my trip to Dongyi. The image of her in my heart is becoming clearer and clearer. I am getting more and more use to viewing her as my mother."
"If someone harmed her in the past, as her son, what do you think I should do?" Fan Xian's brows were pulled tight. His expression was dark.
Fan Ruoruo suddenly felt nervous. She grasped the wet handkerchief in her hands tightly and said in a trembling voice, "Haven't those people… all died? Even the empress dowager has long passed away."
"The empress dowager had to die." Fan Xian did not tell his sister that the empress dowager had actually died by his hands. He smiled with light mockery and said, "But, there are still some people who should die but have not."
Fan Ruoruo did not ask. She had a powerful sense of foreshadowing. She knew she would certainly hear a name that would make her tremble in fear.
"I guessed that the Emperor was my father a long time ago," Fan Xian said. "In the first two years, I could not see him as my father. Not only him, but also seeing Ye Qingmei as my mother was difficult. It had nothing to do with what happened in the past. It was not me developing a sense of defeat at being abandoned. It is something that can't be explained."
When he came to this world, he already carried his spirit.
"The relationship between people is formed through time. It has nothing to do with blood or with closeness and distance of relations," Fan Xian said tiredly with his head down. "Just like how I've treated you as a sister since childhood. I'll always consider you the closest to me. Time can change many things. After interacting with the Emperor for so long, I can sense that he treats me differently to how he treats his other sons. Particularly these few years, the Emperor has changed a great deal."
He suddenly smiled cutely. "Tell me, if it was the Emperor who killed my mother, what should I do?"
Fan Ruoruo's heart shook as her hands unconsciously tightened, wringing out the last few drops of water from the handkerchief.
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