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From daybreak to twilight, County Deputy Zhao waited idly outside with the two bailiffs, not daring to walk away for a single moment out of fear that something would suddenly happen the next moment. Even their lunch had been made and delivered by the villagers.
As far as the eye could see, this place was filled with weeds, wildflowers, and ruins, yet nowhere with shade. The sun wasn’t too hot, but basking it in for a long time could cause dizziness. Deputy Zhao had long been used to a life of being trailed by attendants and served in his home, finding this day spent in the wilderness unbearable.
But, he had to bear with it. He wasn’t the same as Magistrate He; since hard-to-get imperial ambassadors had come from the capital, he wanted to work a little harder to leave good impressions on them, perhaps earning a smoother career path in the future.
In spite of his strong will to get fame and fortune, his competence at tasks was far better than Magistrate He’s, else Tang Fan wouldn’t have let him follow them and keep watch here.
Still, after a day had passed, the three waiting outside couldn’t help but feel some anxiety.
“Sir, you can see that it’s soon about to get dark. They didn’t bring many provisions when they went down there. Do you think…” Bailiff Teng had to say.
Deputy Zhao side-eyed him. “Keep on talking. Why won’t you say it? Wait until Mister Ambassador hears you, and then we’ll see how you act!”
Bailiff Teng immediately covered his mouth and went quiet.
Bailiff Di leaned in. “Sir, us waiting like this isn’t the way to go. Why don’t we sent people down to take a look? If a contingency has happened, we’ll be able to respond!”
Deputy Zhao nodded. “See that, Old Teng? Old Di is speaking at a higher level than you! How about you learn a little from him?!”
Before Bailiff Di could shoot a smug look at Bailiff Teng, Deputy Zhao went on, “Who’s brave enough to go down? How about you go see, Old Di?”
Bailiff Di’s face immediately crumbled. “Sir, you mustn’t pit people like this.”
What was below had become an area akin to an Asura’s battlefield. None of the imperial ambassadors’ convoy had been seen to come out so far, but who would dare to go down there? A basket of gold would probably have to be weighed out for them!
Deputy Zhao spat. “If you’re too scared, shut up and quit making noise for no reason! Old Teng, go back to the city now and report to the Magistrate. We can’t keep waiting like this. If they never come out, we’ll be getting the blame—“
Before he could finish, the ground suddenly shook some. It didn’t destabilize them, but they all felt the vibrations under their bums. Unending loud sounds came out of the thief’s cave.
The three went pale from fright, exchanging looks.
What one feared really would come true — at a single thought of Tang Fan’s group remaining down there, the three of them could not sit still.
“I-it couldn’t be that it caved in, right?” Bailiff Di stammered.
Bailiff Teng had a face of sorrow. “What do we do, Sir?!”
Deputy Zhao’s voice was also trembling a bit. “Don’t panic!…”
“Hand!” Bailiff Teng cried out in alarm. “There’s a hand!”
Bailiff Di rushed over, then tightly gripped the hand that had suddenly stuck out of the cave. The other two quickly reacted, as well, and the three’s combined efforts pulled the man out.
A dust-covered face appeared before them. It took Deputy Zhao a good minute to recognize him; this seemed to be a Brocade Guard named Yan Li. Not waiting for him to ask anything, the other started roaring anxiously. “Go get someone to come help, now! It’s all collapsed below!”
“How are the rest of you?” Deputy Zhao questioned.
“Below! They’re all below! I was ordered to watch the entry point, then escaped!”
As soon as he heard that, Deputy Zhao’s soul nearly flew out of him. If the ambassadors were below, then there was no need to even think of promotions or wealth — he probably wouldn’t even be guaranteed his black hat.
People separately hurried to the capital and the village to get rescue forces. The villagers came quickly, but when a few brave ones had just climbed down, they heard loud bangs from inside, then quickly crawled back out in fright.
Once Magistrate He, Cheng Wen, and Tian Xuan hurried over, they saw the villagers coming out of the cave, who told them that there couldn’t be any survivors below.
Yan Li was struck dumb on the spot. He did not believe that hex, grabbing the shovel from a villager’s hand and heading back himself. Deputy Zhao grit his teeth and brought people down with him as well. One shichen later, they all came back up with ashen faces.
Magistrate He scrambled up. “How is it? How is it?!”
Deputy Zhao shook his head. “The upper floor of the crypt is already mostly caved in, and the paths lower are completely blocked up. There’s no way to get there!”
The Magistrate turned white. What should he do, then? Was he really going to have to report to the Court that imperial ambassadors had died here?
Everyone was terrified, at a loss.
Bailiff Teng then came up with an idea. “Didn’t Sir Tang say that there’s another entrance from the river that’s connected to the tomb? Maybe we should go in that way to look?”
Bailiff Di shook his head, voice small. “Do you even know where that opening is? Luo’s water is chaotic. Whether it’ll rise after going down isn’t for granted.”
Yan Li knelt down with a plop, sobbing near the thief’s cave. “Sir! This subordinate failed you!”
Magistrate He was about to start crying with him, too. He stroked the official’s cap on his head, thinking, Black cap, ah, black cap, I don’t know if I’ll be able to keep wearing you in a few day’s time!
Deputy Zhao wanted to cry even more. What had he wasted a whole day here for? If something had happened to the ambassadors, wouldn’t he be in the same situation as the Magistrate?!
“What are you all doing? Is this a funeral?”
A powerless voice was heard. It meant nothing to Magistrate He and the rest of them, but it was the unbelievably familiar sound of nature to Yan Li. His crying stopped dead as he quickly turned his head to see Pang Qi walking over by himself, dragging a sabre on the ground — his uniform was filthy to the point that its original colors could hardly be seen, his face was caked with blood and dirt, and he was as exhausted as a dead dog.
“Old Pang!” Yan Li jumped up, threw himself right on over, and hugged the man. He pinched himself; it really wasn’t a dream! “You’re not dead?!”
Hearing that question, Pang Qi rolled his eyes, too lazy to explain things to him. “Hurry and bring people to that abandoned village bordering the Luo and Wuluo rivers,” he said directly to Magistrate He. “Sir Tang, the Bastion Envoy, and the rest of our brothers are all there!”
Everyone was ecstatic once they heard that. They had believed that they were going to be ousted from their posts and convicted, each one of them looking to be in mourning; they had never expected this twist to develop!
“Are they okay?” the Magistrate quickly asked.
“Why aren’t you hurrying up and going, but spouting shit to me instead?!” Pang Qi roared at him.
Pissing his pants from getting yelled at, Magistrate He led people away in a puff of smoke.
It was finally over!
Pang Qi couldn’t hold on anymore. He straight-up collapsed onto his butt on the ground, leaned against Yan Li, and passed out.
The Gong noble’s vault had been completely decimated, those two tomb guardians crushed to death inside it. Li Man had originally wanted to lure Tang Fan in, make them all fight with the guardians so that both sides lost, and then make his getaway with the treasure, but the crimes he had committed had cost him his life; he had escaped Tang Fan’s clutches in the capital, only to still end up dying directly because of him in Henan, thousands of li away.
Following the blood-spattering battle of the abandoned village, the Guards caught many White Lotus followers, but their biggest haul was Li Man’s mistress, Lady Chen. When she was being brought out of the village by Magistrate He’s people, her clothes were all untidy, as she was dressed the same from when she had been pulled off of the bed, lovely and pitiful as she shivered. It caused many men to look her over with burning gazes, even the Magistrate looking at her a few times.
But, without Tang Fan’s say-so, no one dared to converse with her. She was a wanted criminal of the Court that was going to be escorted right to the capital, and also one of the biggest harvests from this trip. Her status in the Society wasn’t low; more inside information would definitely be getting scooped out of her.
The treasures from the vault had been hidden in rice jars by her inside that house, all covered with thick layers of brown rice. The group had found them rather quickly. Before taking inventory and transferring the property up above, Tang Fan took out a tenth of the objects and secretly bestowed them to the Guards.
He had been immersed in the bureaucracy for a long time, and understood one principle: there was no issue with adhering to your own doctrine, but you couldn’t force others to do as you do. Water that was too clear would have no fish, and one that was too critical would have no friends. Were he to demand his own standards from others, he would be a lone official at best, with no competent subordinates.
For the sake of this task, the Brocade Guards had nearly given up all of their lives, to say nothing of the fact that they were injured, and four Guards had indeed been buried below. Those mingling with the rougher world would be hard pressed to never suffer blows; in an occupation like theirs, they had to be mentally prepared to give up their lives at any time, but those lives still had value, and the Court’s compensation was certain to not be too generous. These gifts were simply what they deserved.
As the leader, Tang Fan wanted to give them thorough thoughtfulness, but also repeatedly warned them to just take the things and not speak of them, otherwise those benefits would not be kept, switched out for a crime.
Everyone understood the principle of not flaunting wealth, so the Guards, of course, swore up and down that they wouldn’t, becoming all the more grateful towards him. As was common knowledge, there were very few superiors that sincerely thought about their subordinates. Many civil officials put on airs and refused to walk too close to the Brocade Guards, fearing that their own value would drop, making people like Tang Fan as infrequently seen as fenghuang feathers and qilin horns.
As for where Qian San’r was going to belong, Tang Fan helped him with mulling that over. The kid had performed well in the vault, wasn’t bad in character, and, most importantly, was quick-witted enough, so Tang Fan sought Sui Zhou’s approval in bringing Qian San’r back to the capital. If he passed its examination, he would then be allowed to become a member of the Northern Bastion Office. If he didn’t, he would be tossed to Shuntian Prefecture. Tang Fan himself had already left that place, but his bit of reputation was still quite useful.
Qian San’r was struck dizzy by this good news that had fallen from the sky, thanking him profusely and following him everywhere, like he was itching to stick on his back like a tail.
The crypt had collapsed, the Song tomb destroyed. This was a matter to sigh aplenty about to the locals, but even so, they were very happy with this, as the two tomb guardians had also died. They would never be hearing that bizarre wailing again, nor would anyone else be getting dragged down whenever they passed the shores, which naturally caused everyone to be joyous and celebratory. They were moved to tears out of gratitude towards Tang Fan’s group, as well, praising them as saviors of life and wanting to establish memorial tablets of eternal life for them.
For the Liu’s, however, this was yet more grievous news. Not only was the old chief dead, but the eldest, Liu Daniu, had been proven to have also died long ago, his corpse’s whereabouts unknown. The Chief Liu that had appeared before everyone had been an impersonation done by the White Lotus demon, Li Man.
After hearing this news, a fog of grief immediately came over them.
Regardless of anything else, the old chief’s death had been related to the Gong vault. Had he never personally gone down to investigate for the sake of the village’s security, none of the following events would have happened. Thus, Tang Fan told Magistrate He to compensate the Liu’s, as well as any villagers that were similarly affected by familial deaths.
This expedition had not only eliminated the beasts that had caused the disaster, but also pulled the Henan branch temple of the White Lotus Society out by the roots. Those of important positions like Li Man were all dead, there was that group of Clerics they had killed, Lady Chen was captured, and they had seized the Gong vault treasures that the White Lotus followers had painstakingly smuggled out. No matter how one looked at it, this was a major merit.
Still, while that may be so for the others, for Tang Fan, there was a shadow covering his head.
And that was Yin Yuanhua’s death.
In the vault, he had saved Yin the guy’s life, only to get pushed out to act as a shield by him in the blink of an eye. Had Sui Zhou not made it over in time, Tang Fan would have died, then.
After that, Yin Yuanhua had seen the tomb guardian depart from the hall’s entrance, then believed that he had found a road to survival, escaping without regard to anything else. He couldn’t have known that there would be another guardian outside, essentially throwing himself into the net and killing himself.
His death had not been any sort of pity, it could be said.
Bystanders wouldn’t see it like that, however. Leaving aside anyone else, once the news of his death got back to the capital, that teacher of his would be the first to seek out Tang Fan to settle this debt.
‘You said that Yin Yuanhua was killed by the tomb guardian — who would believe that? Where’s the evidence for it? How do I know that you didn’t deliberately leave him in there to get rid of your dissident? With the Brocade Guards being so close to you, they would listen to your orders of killing someone to silence them, too! It’s just that simple!’
No need to wait for Assistant Minister Liang to say anything; Tang Fan had already helped him figure out how to force a crime onto him. He could even predict that when he returned to the capital, the others would likely be reaping rewards for this event, while he alone would not be. Not only that, but he would likely have accusations waiting to denounce him.
In regards to this, he thoughtfully called Cheng Wen and Tian Xuan over to him. “After we return, the Court may look into Yin Yuanhua’s death. Since you two didn’t go down into the vault, say as much plainly when the time comes. I will take on all of the responsibility. You don’t need to worry about being implicated.”
The two had indeed been a bit on-edge after learning of Yin Yuanhua’s death. As the lead envoy, it wouldn’t be undoable for him to shift responsibility onto them and re-allocate his own blame, were he to want to. He would only need to proclaim in a memorial that the two had goaded Yin Yuanhua into going into the vault or some such, and there would be nothing they could do to get away. They were just average clerks of the Ministry of Justice, after all, and didn’t even have ranks, making them the best candidates to be cannon fodder.
Neither of them had expected for him to not only not intend to do that, but instead tell them that he was going to bear all of the responsibility himself.
Once in officialdom for a long time, many would inevitably bundle themselves up tightly out of fear of misstepping, and even further dared not randomly bring attention to themselves. Still, people’s hearts were all grown from flesh; what was invested would have recompense. Not everyone thought solely of political intrigue and eliminating opponents.
Cheng Wen was touched. “Sir, although this subordinate’s words don’t carry much weight, since I went on this trip together with you, I still have credibility, if a testimony is needed. Please put my name alongside yours in the memorial to verify that Deputy Chief Yin’s death was his own fault, so that they don’t blame you!”
“I’m the same, Sir,” Tian Xuan said. “Assistant Minister Liang has long seen you as an eyesore. He’s definitely going to make trouble for you after we return. Deputy Yin was always extremely disrespectful towards you, so an ending like that for him was foreordained by the Heavens, with no one else to blame for it! I’m also willing to testify on the memorial!”
Tang Fan hadn’t expected that these two that looked after their own skin would be willing to stand up and testify on his behalf, making him a little moved. Still, he shook his head in rejection of their good intentions.
Seeing that he had made up his mind, they had no choice but to press it all down and not insist, thinking to themselves that no matter what, Sir Tang still had Minister Zhang’s backing, so it shouldn’t be that bad.
What they didn’t know was that not long after they had left the capital, Minister Zhang Ying had been transferred from Beijing’s Ministry of Justice to work as the Minister of Nanjing’s Ministry of Justice.
Everyone that had mingled in the official’s scene knew what sort of place Nanjing was. To say it in a way that was nice to hear, it was a secondary capital, one’s rank would not drop after transferring there, it was really a nice retirement set-up, and one got their salary without needing to do anything.
That was truly nice to hear, but the reality was that one would have not a bit of real authority there, especially in a department like the Ministry of Justice.
Solely because Zhang Ying had received Tang Fan’s commendation last time, a small bit of conscience had been evoked inside him. By coincidence, Li Zisheng had presented bedchamber arts to the Emperor, drawing everyone’s curses in society, and Minister Zhang had submitted his own admonishment in a memorial.
All knew the venerated names of the papier-mâché Solons, but in truth, Wan An, Liu Xu, and Liu Ji did not work together. Each one stood on the summit, fighting both out in the open and in secret, as separate as a tripod cauldron’s legs with no way to deal with each other.
Even though Zhang Ying had relied on Head Vizier Wan An, he was a bit more compatible with Liu Xu. Wan An had long felt that the man was wishy-washy and not obedient enough, so he had been wanting to get a new Minister of Justice. He had happened to seize this opportunity to write a memorial to the Emperor that said that Zhang Ying was getting on in years and could no longer manage his Ministry, so it would be better to let him retire in Nanjing to replace him with a younger and stronger person.
Wan An had deep knowledge of the Emperor’s thoughts, and had known that the man needed to knock down someone prominent to prevent everyone from criticizing and nagging him. That was why, unfortunately, Zhang Ying had become that ‘someone prominent’, and had been tossed to Nanjing to eat grass.
The instant Zhang Ying left, Liang Wenhua inevitably became the number one figure in the Ministry. Despite not yet being officially promoted to the post of Minister, he was already in full control, his word law. The Right Assistant Minister, Peng Yichun, had been a yes-man to begin with, so he naturally wasn’t any more against him for this.
So, Cheng Wen and Tian Xuan had no idea in the least that what was awaiting Tang Fan ahead was a fate without fathom.
It wasn’t like he couldn’t go back because there was a probability that he would be getting pared down, though. Above all else, Sui Zhou was heavily wounded, and there were similar wounds suffered amongst the Brocade Guards. Getting good enough treatment in Gong county would be difficult; for that reason, they needed to return the capital, the quicker, the better.
In Tang Fan’s opinion, his own future prospects were far less important than his companion’s health. He ordered Cheng Wen and Tian Xuan to quickly take inventory of the valuables and write up a register, then declined Magistrate He’s urge to remain there, leading everyone in stepping upon the road back to the capital.
They couldn’t hurry as they had when arriving. Because care needed to be had for those injured, they could not go too quickly on their journey, and often stopped at posthouses for rest.
Magistrate He had ordered several carriages prepared for them, which were padded thickly with a couple layers of mattresses for use in carrying the wounded. There was also a doctor accompanying them, ready to tend to injuries and decoct medicine.
Sui Zhou frequently had to rest on account of his internal damage. With the supplement of medicine that aided sleep, he had spent eight out of his ten days on this trip asleep.
The injured required someone to take care of them. The only woman here was Lady Chen, but her status was one of an imperially-wanted criminal. Even though she received the special treatment of getting a carriage to herself, her limbs were heavily manacled, and she was under strict watch. Tang Fan would also never, ever let her take care of Sui Zhou, so he volunteered himself for the task of nursing the patient.
Pang Qi and the Guards were overwhelmingly touched by Sir Tang’s noble moral character.
Sui Zhou was in the middle of sleeping right then, but if he hadn’t been, he would have been the first to jump up and object to this…
Yet, reality had already been cast in iron. It was too late to fight it.
After Sui Zhou woke up, he discovered that the one bringing him medicine had been swapped out from the accompanying doctor… to Tang Fan.
“What’s wrong?” Tang Fan asked.
“Where’s the doctor?”
“He’s changing dressings for someone else. I’ll be helping you drink today.”
Sui Zhou forced out a smile. “No need. I’ll do it myself.”
Tang Fan took this as him being polite, and pushed him down without room for debate. “The doctor said that us forcing travel right now hasn’t been good for the recovery of your injury, and you need to lay down as much as you can so you can heal quicker. Aren’t we friends? Don’t be so courteous with me!”
Sui Zhou went silent, thinking to himself, I really wasn’t being courteous to you.
Mister Tang scooped up a spoonful of medicinal broth. Right when he was about to send it to Sui Zhou’s mouth, he remembered what it was like when he himself had been looked after by Sui Zhou, so he imitated him in first bringing the spoon to his own lips to test the temperature, then bringing it to him.
When it arrived at its destination, his hand accidentally jolted.
Sui Zhou: “…”
Tang Fan: “…”
“…I can drink it myself.
Tang Fan gave a laugh. “Sorry, sorry, I’m not good at this! How about we change positions?”
He wiped Sui Zhou’s collar off with his sleeve, then set the bowl to a side. He helped Sui Zhou up, half-leaned him against him, then lifted the bowl again and carefully brought it to Sui Zhou’s lips. Tilting it slightly, he thought about how his hand definitely wouldn’t shake like last time.
A woman’s scream unexpectedly came from outside.
…After which came even more sounds of chaos.
A good minute later, Qian San’r’s voice sounded outside the room. “Sorry to bother you in your rest, Sir Sui. It was that Chen woman who was just yelling for no reason and insisting that someone was peeping at her while she was changing. She didn’t bother you, right? Sir Sui?”
Tang Fan: “…”
Sui Zhou: “…”
Things had gone real great this time. The entire bowl had even been upended onto Sui Zhou’s face.
Thankfully, the temperature of the medicine had been just right, else another injury would’ve been added to his list.
Sui Zhou had to reach up and remove the bowl from his face. “I’ll do it myself,” he said, with difficulty.
“Guangchuan, I really didn’t mean to…”
Even though Sui Zhou was the victim here, he wanted to laugh. “I know, you’re not attending material. Have him decoct another bowl and just keep me company for a chat.”
Any requests a patient made had to be met, no exceptions. Mister Tang perked up. “Okay. What do you want to talk about?”
“…Get me a set of clothes to change into, first.”
Witnessing the scene of him getting up to go find him clothes, Sui Zhou felt both really helpless, and an emerging, slight sweetness.
He was helpless about Tang Fan — who couldn’t even take care of himself well — wanting to take care of someone else. Anyone getting looked after by him would definitely be miserable.
The slight sweetness was… well, him alone knowing was fine. There was no need to describe it.
A short time after, Sir Tang ran back with a stack of clothes.
Sui Zhou’s injuries were internal, not on his limbs. The doctor had explained that he needed to rest, and never said that he couldn’t move at all, meaning that him changing his clothes a non-issue. However, Tang Fan insisted upon expressing his guilt over his poor performance, wanting to apologize for his previous actions; in the face of his sincerity, Sui Zhou couldn’t bear to reject him, so he had to tacitly agree to him helping with the change.
Under his inner robe, Sui Zhou’s skin was bronzed. From the arc of the swell of his arms and chest, it could be seen that he had certainly done a lot of hard training. Due to him often needing to wander the brink of danger and endure countless battles, there were also many old scars on him. Some were aged, their color since turned very light, while some had just been earned in the Gong vault a few days ago, only just scabbing over.
However, such a body full of scars could only show off his manliness better. Missing the cover of clothing, his grandeur contrarily became a bit more imposing than normal. In spite of him being seated on the bed with injuries, what others would associate with this was a sleeping lion, not an injured cat.
Just changing his outer and upper robes would have been enough, but Tang Fan said to switch out the whole set, insisting upon him removing even his pants. Sui Zhou had no choice but to comply.
In result, when he took off those pants, he saw Mister Tang staring at a ‘certain place’, grinning with ill intent. “So that’s all your size is.”
He could really hold a grudge… how many days had passed since then? He’d kept what wasn’t anything more than a casual ridicule in mind all this time?
Tang Fan put on his clothes for him. “This trip to Gong county gave me new material for a story,” he started in passing. “There’s a man that has a natural proclivity for playing in flower bunches. One day, a monster takes a fancy to the artifact the man’s ancestor passed down to him, but was effected by the artifact recognizing its master and disallowing others from getting close. So, it drinks the blood of women every day until it, too, turns into a beautiful woman. It seduces the man until the seduction infatuates him, and he gifts the monster the artifact on his own initiative. Having gotten it, the monster immediately displays its original form, and the man — upon seeing that the everyday target of his affections was actually a blood-red-eyed terrible monster covered in scales — gets frightened to death. What do you think?”
Sui Zhou went silent for a second. “Neat.”
He seemed to have an ominous feeling, though…
Sure enough, the very next moment, he heard Tang Fan say, “Naming the man ‘Sui Zhou’ would do, eh?”
“Okay. The monster will be called Sui Zhou, then,” Mister Tang answered, happy to take the advice.
As the ancients once said: It would be better to offend a noble than to offend Sir Tang.
Sui Zhou was usually cold towards his subordinates and outsiders, his face alienating. Everyone else believed that his coldness had gotten him no friends; even when getting along with his buddy Tang Fan, the latter was always yielding to him.
The perception of the very-unknowing masses was frequently wrong. Whenever faced with Mister Tang, Sui Zhou eternally went by the idea of: ‘as long as he’s happy, I can do anything, anyways.’ Once compromising turned into a type of habit, one would unwittingly keep retreating, and keep retreating…
Until they had retreated to the end, all territory lost.
Thus, the name of the monster in Mister Tang’s new story was decided.
When the members of the Northern Bastion Office would later see this book in stores, they would automatically gasp. Mister Envoy’s name was not common; how could it show up here? The author had to be a torturee that had been caught and tormented in the Bastille before, right?
But, that was the future. At this moment, during Sui Zhou’s elusive weakness, Mister Tang had taken the opportunity changing clothes had given him to very rudely bully him, and was now looking like he was in a great mood, humming a little tune from time to time.
Sui Zhou wasn’t sure if he was putting on this display purposefully for him to see, or if he genuinely didn’t care. Not holding back the concern in his heart, he asked, “Have you thought about what will happen after you return to the capital, yet?”
The translator says: Yin Yuanhua about to be annoying from beyond the grave.
‘Bailiff Teng’ is actually ‘Tang’. It’s not the same character as Tang Fan’s, but I changed it because he’s an insignificant character and I don’t want confusion.
 Sui Zhou’s name is distinct because the Zhou character (州) is used exclusively for territories (Suzhou, Fuzhou, Guangzhou, etc.), meaning his name reads more like one for a place than it does a human. ‘Sui’ is not the most common surname, but also not the rarest, and is the name of a past Dynasty. (Actually, so is Tang Fan’s surname. That was certainly done on purpose, knowing the author.)