Joy of Life Chapter 642: Graves
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The sky above Jingdou was periodically cloudy and clear. It could never quite fully demonstrate a smile or a worried expression, just like Fan Ruoruo's current face. The girl's face turned ashen. After hearing these words, her earlier slightly sweaty and flushed face became fearful, fully demonstrating the emotions a subject of the Qing Kingdom should be expressing.
It was a warm spring day, but it was as if Fan Ruoruo's body had been tortured in an ice house. It took a moment before she could answer in a low and trembling voice, "I don't know."
This was the most useless and natural answer. Fan Xian had fallen into a black pit and could not extricate himself. Taking his sister's hand could, at most, up the number of pitiful descendants torn to shreds by one. It would not be of any help to the matter.
Fan Xian's heart softened. He gently stroked the girl's head. Gently, he said, "Don't be so frightened. It's just that I have no one to reason with, so I can only talk to you."
After a long time, Fan Ruoruo looked at her brother with timid eyes and said in a mosquito-like voice, "Is it true?"
Fan Xan was silent for a long time. His gaze turned toward that quiet and secluded little courtyard across the river. He thought about the crisis of blood and blades th little courtyard suffered more than 20 years ago. Perhaps it had been a hell on earth. No one knew how many of the Ye family.
That astonishing woman just happened to at the weakest period of her life because she had given birth to him. Everyone by her side who she could rely on had all, for one reason or another, left her side. She was so alone and without help during this most intimate and sudden attack from behind. It was ferocious and decisive killing. Presumably, when she left this world, she must have felt unsatisfied and lonely.
Surrogate? Fan Xian would not believe this. He understood women too well. Even if this woman was his own mother, the one and only Ye Qingmei, Fan Xian still did not believe it. Why would a woman lure a man to her bed if she felt nothing for him? Perhaps other women would pretend to comply with a man they didn't like because of societal or familial reasons, but did Ye Qingmei need to?
Fan Xian gazed dazedly across the banks as a cold smile rose to his lips. That man was truly cold-blooded.
A trembling voice pulled Fan Xian back from cruel images of the past. Fan Ruoruo clung tightly to her brother's side with cold and fear. The wet handkerchief in her hands had long fallen to the grass. Her hands grasped Fan Xian's sleeve tightly. Raising her face, she said, "I… use to… have a brother."
A sudden chill went through Fan Xian's heart. He knew what his sister was talking about. He knew as a child that there should have been an elder young master in Count Sinan's manor. That elder young master's age would be around the same as his. He was the child of his father and his first wife. Because he was weak, he died when he was very young.
His sister had suddenly brought up this elder brother that had long disappeared from people's memories. Fan Xian faintly seemed to grasp something. His expression immediately changed.
Chen Pingping had reminded him more than once that he should be good to Fan Jian because the Fan family had paid a great price for his existence. What price had the Fan family paid? In Taiping Courtyard that year, had he been able to survive and endure until the moment Uncle Wu Zhu returned because someone had welcomed death in his place under the empress dowager, Qin family, and empress's clan's ferocious attack?
Fan Xian's face was white. He thought that if matters had progressed like that and it fooled the empress dowager in the beginning, why did the Palace not become suspicious after Count Sinan raised an illegitimate child in Danbo? Did the Emperor stabilize the situation after he returned to the capital and seal away the information?
His head slightly hurt. There were some details he had not thought through, but that possible and terrifying image became clearer in his mind. He numbly thought that before he opened his eyes in this world for the first time and saw his own infant, lily-white and blood-stained hands, a newly born infant had died for him. Not only were the blood of the people Uncle Wu Zhu killed smeared over his infant hands, there was also the blood of the true first young master of the Fan family.
Fan Xian's body began to tremble. Fan Ruoruo clearly sensed the oddness in her brother and said in a sorrowful and low voice, "I don't know how big brother died. I only vaguely heard the nannies in the manor mention something. I have some suspicions, but I don't know what went wrong."
Fan Xian gently held his sister's hand and was silent. He knew Ruoruo's birth mother fell ill not long after giving birth to Ruoruo and died. Only later did father welcome Lady Liu into the manor.
What matter had constantly troubled the wife of a vice-minister? Was it because her son died even though he shouldn't have?
Fan Ruoruo continued quietly with her head down. "Listening to what the nanny said, mother should also have known Aunt Ye."
Fan Xian was gradually coming to understand the meaning of what Chen Pingping said. He did not understand why Chen Pingping still refused to lower his guard toward his father during those years if he knew that Fan Jian had paid such a great price for him.
The relationship between Count Sinan Fan Jian and Ye Qingmei was not like the first love Fan Xian had imagined in his youth. Perhaps those two people had more of a mutual trust like that of siblings, like he and Fan Ruoruo.
Ye Qingmei had just given birth to a son in Taiping Courtyard. It was normal for the wife of Count Sinan to go and help out. As for what happened later, perhaps it was as Fan Xian had guessed.
It was like the plot of a novel. The truth was often stranger than fiction. More accurately speaking, reality was often stranger than fiction.
Fan Xian held his sister's hands tightly. Countless complicated emotions rose in his heart. In front of his eyes rose the face of his grandmother, who loved him dearly, and his father's honest and respectful face, which seemed like it would never be angry or joyful. It was a face that only walked silently through officialdom.
His heart suddenly ached. He felt he truly owed the Fan family too much. His heart chilled. Too many people had already died. Too much blood had flowed.
Fan Xian rose. Staring icily at the Taiping Courtyard across the river, he suddenly said, "What we said today, don't tell anyone."
Although he knew his sister would not share this shocking secret, Fan Xian still could not resist reminding her. He then he said in a low voice, "Concerning this matter, I have to ask father in person."
"You're going back to Danzhou?" Fan Ruoruo rose and looked at him with surprise.
Fan Xian shook his head and said, "Father isn't in Danzhou right now."
The retired Minister of Revenue Fan Jian was living out his days in Danzhou. Fan Xian knew his father was in the northeast, helping him with something important. He was going to talk to his father in person because he believed that, regarding this matter, his father had a right to speak for himself.
Fan Ruoruo resisted the urge to speak. She dazedly watched her brother's gloomy face with a pain in her heart. She knew the things Fan Xian said would cause great disturbances. Fan Xian was not just the second foremost person in the world, he also held great power in his hands. If he truly became hostile against the Emperor to obtain revenge for his mother, the massive battle between ruler and subject would probably drag the entire world in.
"Come with me to another place." Fan Xian walked toward a path in the depths of the bamboo forest. Fan Ruoruo made a sound of acknowledgment and caught up with small quick steps.
The three black carriages left the bamboo forest outside Taiping Courtyard and came to another remote and eerie place on the outskirts of Jingdou. The serene silence was not the same as at Taiping Courtyard. It emanated a fearful aura because it was a cemetery.
Many people had been buried in Taiping Courtyard. Many people had also been buried here. Fan Xian had left an old place and came to a dead place. The Overwatch Council officials following behind him all felt a trickle of fear, but they didn't know what had gone wrong.
Beneath the green mountain, where the fengshui was good, were the graves of the nameless soldiers from the Qing Kingdom's wars. The newest and largest burial site had been built three years ago. During the Jingdou rebellion, the Imperial Army suffered heavy casualties. The Overwatch Council had also paid a horrifying price, particularly the vanguard that had fought against Qin Heng at Zhengyang Gate. The Black Knight's brave killings in front of the square later added over a thousand graves to this new burial site.
The traditional April festival had recently happened. There were still many traces left by the worship in the burial site, such as incense and unburned paper money. With the mountain breeze, they quietly danced amidst the graves.
Fan Xian led his subordinates and sister to stand among the graves. He bowed deeply to them. The people buried there were all his subordinates. They were people who had died because of his decision and plan.
Mu Feng'er and the other subordinates only now understood what the Commissioner wanted to do. They felt touched and moved. The Commissioner was about to take over the position of Director of the Overwatch Council, but he wasn't thinking of returning to the Council to handle affairs. Instead, at the first opportunity, he had come to this burial site to honor his fallen brothers.
Looking at the Commissioner's sincere bow, the eyes of the dozens of Overwatch Council officials present involuntarily grew wet. They followed him in bowing. However, they had come hurried and were not able to lay out grave goods.
Fan Xian took a deep breath and said, "What matters is the sincerity. The other stuff doesn't matter."
To the side, Mu Feng'er made a sound of agreement.
Fan Xian was silent for a moment and then said, "After returning to the capital, have Mu Tie investigate the compensation payments and see how the families of the officials are doing. Write up a dossier for me."
Mu Feng'er accepted the order and was not concerned. The matter of compensation for the Overwatch Council was completely handled by the First Bureau. His paternal uncle, Mu Tie, was the head of the First Bureau. Hearing that Sir Fan junior wanted to check the accounts, he was not concerned. Of the entire court, the Overwatch Council offered the highest compensation. Plus, the Commissioner took great care of the family of his subordinates. It was partially because of the gold mountain that was the palace treasury hidden up Fan Xian's sleeves. Additionally, he knew his uncle would not make a mistake regarding such a matter.
Fan Xian no longer paid any attention to him. Putting his hands behind his back, he led Fan Ruoruo out of the graves from the foot of the mountain. Putting some distance between his loyal subordinates, he climbed until almost the middle of the mountain before turning back to look at the densely packed graves behind him. Sighing, he said, "One meritorious deed, tens of thousands of bones."
Fan Ruoruo didn't understand why her brother had come here after thinking for a long time at Taiping Courtyard.
Fan Xian seemed to guess what she was thinking and explained in a low voice, "I am using these people who have died to remind myself that I am no longer just me. I need to be responsible for many living and dead people. I need to use these graves to remind me to be clearer headed and calmer."
The brother and sister climbed over the middle of the mountain and rounded to the other side. It was said that the fengshui on that side was not as good as the other side, but it was still densely packed with graves. This was where the ancestors of the Jingdou people were buried. The smell of smoke still seemed to float through the air.
There were a few large graves in a depression separating the two sides of the mountain. The style of the graves was common, but they were very large. There was a garden outside the graves and guards standing watch. A few of the soldiers saw that someone was approaching. Just as they were about to go forward and berate them, they were immediately chased out by a few swordsmen of the Overwatch Council.
Buried in these graves were the Eldest Princess, Crown Prince, and Second Prince. Fan Xian walked passed the Eldest Princess's and Crown Prince's grave. The expression on his face did not change. Out of Fan Ruoruo's expectations, he stopped in front of the Second Prince's grave.
The empress dowager's tomb was to the south of Cang Mountain, 80 li from Jingdou. It was said to occupy a great space. Its decorations were magnificent. It perfectly demonstrated the Emperor's filial piety, but Fan Xian had never been.
The officials of the Overwatch Council scattered in all directions while Fan Xian and his sister stood quietly in front of the Second Prince's grave. After a while, Fan Xian suddenly said, "I actually don't like you very much because I know we are the same kind of person. Just as you said the night before you died, neither of us can tolerate the other."
"From the first time I saw you, I saw through that shy smile on your face and knew of your falseness." Fan Xian looked at the grave with a slight smile. "Of course, when you saw the slightly shy smile on my face, you also knew of my falseness. However, you couldn't prove it. It was just your unconscious guess."
"Because I hid deeper than you, my smile was more real than yours." Fan Xian's voice was not high but seemed particularly firm. "When it comes to acting, no one in this world can compare to me because from the day I was born, I was acting."
"A slight shy smile? To disguise as an infant, of course, one must learn how an infant smiles." Fan Xian lowered his head slightly. "This has already become my nature. I can only smile with slight shyness… Shy to the death."
He raised his head and said, "Chengze, I'll come see you again when I don't need to smile shyly anymore."
Fan Ruoruo looked at her brother in shock. She didn't know why he had to say such nonsense in front of the Second Prince's grave. Why did he have to pretend to be an infant?
Fan Xian stretched in front of the grave. He had stood up long ago, but when would the slightly shy smile on his face become an impatient anger with this world?
Fan Ruoruo finally couldn't resist stretching out a hand to touch his forehead to see if he had been shocked into a fever, but her hand touched an icy coldness. Fan Xian was caught up surprise. He immediately understood what she was thinking and laughed loudly.
Hearing Fan Xian give a rare open laugh, Fan Ruoruo relaxed and laughed with him. There was still a haze in her heart. Looking at her brother, she didn't know what bitterness and struggles were in this peal of laughter.
Fan Xian calmed and said gently, "I have done what I needed to do and let out the craziness I need to today. You said earlier that is a matter in the capital. What exactly is the matter?"
Fan Ruoruo hesitated for a moment then quietly said, "It is the young lady of the Sun family. She came to the manor. Fortunately, sister-in-law was not there, but she drove to Teng Zijing."
"Sun… Sun? Sun Jingxiu's daughter?" Fan Xian paused for a while. "How could the daughter of a large family raise such a ruckus?"
The young lady of the Sun family was the fan who had been of enormous help to Fan Xian during the Jingdou rebellion. Fan Xian understood her temperament very well. No matter how much she loved the "Story of the Stone," she would never do something that damaged her family principles so much.
"She came for her father's sake?" Fan Ruoruo glanced at him probingly. "Something seemed to have happened with Sir Sun and is at a loss. I think young mistress Sun was forced by her father to come."
A gust of mountain breeze blew past, rustling Fan Xian's clothes. He furrowed his brows. He couldn't resist cursing something. However, his voice was very low. Even Fan Ruoruo standing at his side didn't hear it clearly.
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