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The Wei case had indeed hit a bottleneck.
The point the son had still lived to the point of the discovery of his death had only been a brief cup of tea’s worth of time. When it came to an infant, however, that amount was enough to do a lot.
The three that had attended to him — the nanny Lady Hu, and maids Xiao Lu and Xiao Shuang — had not been present at the time. The neighboring room housed his mother, Lady Li, but at the time, she had just gotten out of her one-month birth recovery period, and had been with Wei Ce’s other concubines outside, preoccupied with socializing with the female guests. She had brought anyone capable that was attending her with, too, leaving two young maids watching the door of her room. At the case’s outbreak, they had been sitting and chatting inside the room, and hadn’t seen anyone enter or exit the neighboring room.
Thus came the issue. The three that had served the Wei son had undergone questioning by Magistrate Weng, but they had not a bit of relation to Lady Chai. Amongst them was Lady Hu, who had been brought over from Lady Li’s natal family and was devoted to her, too. They had no reason to lie, nor to commit this act, and were further under no circumstances to ever obey Lady Chai.
Since this was the case, who had killed the son like this? Lady Chai? Or one of Wei Ce’s other concubines?
Groundless guesswork couldn’t be done.
No matter how Magistrate Weng interrogated him, Chai Ze only admitted to killing Wei Zhuniang, refusing to admit from start to finish that he had killed the son. Lady Chai flatly denied it even harder, saying that she had only utilized her status as the Wei Matriarch to supply a bit of leeway for Chai Ze, and had never harmed the son.
Still, Wei Ce hated the pair to the core, going to Magistrate Weng every couple of days to request that he convict the two as soon as possible. This was giving the Magistrate an incomparable headache; Chai Ze and Lady Chai had sufficient motive, sufficient prerequisites, and even fit into the timeframe. Had he not said himself in front of Tang Fan that there wasn’t just one killer, he would genuinely think to just conclude the case like so and be done with it. If even the victim’s family was set on who the murderer was, what was he still making a fuss for?
In regards to this matter, Tang Fan would love to help, but he couldn’t. No matter how intelligent he was, it was established on a foundation of careful observation; others only saw that he cracked cases like a god would, thus believing that he was immensely smart, but how could anyone in this world be born to sleuth? Everyone grew up reading the tomes of sages, with the imperial exams being how to create flowers out of eight-legged essays. Without taking them, how could cases be solved, rivers be controlled, disasters be relieved? Every single one of those officials that held accomplishments had acquired them after feeling things out for themselves, on the bases of their own interests, preferences, and desires to learn.
The Wei case, strictly speaking, should actually be two separate cases. One was Wei Zhuniang’s death, which, now that the murderer had been determined, was closed. The other was the Wei son’s death, where everyone felt that the Chai cousins had done it, yet they persistently denied it.
At present, the clues were too few, and there was no clear start, nor finish. Magistrate Weng had no ideas, and Tang Fan had no ideas, either.
Hence was why, after he had heard Qian San’r’s relayed information, he did not hastily meddle nor help, instead continuing to stay at the He’s, striving hard to allow his sister and nephew to have a peaceful life as soon as possible.
He Cheng couldn’t be happier upon learning that his uncle was going to bring them out around the market, his little face saturated with elation that he couldn’t conceal. It caused Tang Yu all the more heartache to see.
If it were said that Tang Yu at least had married into the He’s, and at least had had a few years of married affection, then little He Cheng had contrarily been thoughtful from the start, yet had rarely felt his own father’s affection. The reason for that was none other than that when He Lin had repeatedly failed the exams, his personality had already gradually undergone a change, becoming increasingly sullen and liable to anger, where even the birth of a son hadn’t given him that much joy.
Being a woman, Tang Yu couldn’t bring He Cheng out often, which forced him to be trapped in a tiny world, the most amount of people he normally saw being no one beyond those that came and went. Each time he was with his father, he would either be ignored, or scolded.
According to Tang Fan, that He Cheng’s personality hadn’t warped was already an infinite blessing.
Xianghe County was not as bustling as the capital, but on the fifteenth of every first month, it would have temple gatherings. Because the incense smoke at Leaving Clouds Monastery in the county’s outskirts would overflow, that continuously bolstered a string of business surrounding it; there would be those that ate, drank, played, those that strolled the market and lit incense, and those that set up fortune-telling stalls, making it quite exciting.
On this day, young ladies of the county would go to the Monastery to light incense, some even lining up at midnight in order to scramble to be the first to light them. Large families brought hoards of maids and servants, looking grandiose. Commonfolk that didn’t have that luxury would, at most, be supporting their elders and children around, but even with that, the streets would be crowded with a throng of people.
Today was the first of July, and due to Seventh Night‘s approach, even more people were around burning incense. That was especially so for families with daughters awaiting marriage, or people with descendants of marriageable age; each one thought to go request a betrothal from a Bodhisattva. There were even a lot of folks that had the intent to straight-up use the monastery grounds as a meeting area, bringing their daughters and/or sons, then pretending to inadvertently run into each other in the name of incense-burning. Like so, children would be allowed to see each other, get familiarized, and also not violate any social etiquette, which was really two for the price of one.
For this reason, the authorities were forced to dispatch bailiffs to uphold order here, in order to avoid trampling incidents created by too many people being around.
From the instant he left the house until now, He Cheng’s little mouth had constantly been open slightly, never once shutting. His head swiveled every which way so much, Tang Fan couldn’t help but worry about his neck.
(If a fly flew into his mouth right about now, he probably wouldn’t even know, either.)
“Qilang, you were born and raised in Xianghe. Is it possible that you’ve never been here before?” Tang Fan couldn’t resist teasing him.
He Cheng was taking in all these novelties, his eyes unable to do enough. Towards his uncle’s question, he simply nodded, then shook his head absent-mindedly.
“He has, but never during the fifteenth of January,” Tang Yu answered for him from the side, “and it’s never been this lively, either. From what the teacher of familial studies says, many students typically cut class and run off to play, but Qilang alone has never done such a thing.”
This little nephew really was spending much more time being well-behaved in his childhood than Tang Fan had. While lamenting, he said to Tang Yu, “He’s still a boy. It’s not good for him to be too calm. Boys always play rough and aren’t delicate, as only then will they be able to live well. If he’s raised deep in the household with no stimulation, won’t he become like your husband?”
Tang Yu sighed. “Yes, you’re right. It’s not that I’m not aware of that, though, it’s that his father never brought him out before, and I can’t let him wander around outside by himself. If no elders watch him, I fear that he’ll learn wrong like his classmates!”
Tang Fan huffed unhappily. “He Lin really should be ashamed of his performance as a father.”
Noticing that He Cheng was staring entranced at tanghulu, Tang Fan asked everyone else around; Tang Yu and the rest said they didn’t want any, so he bought two sticks of the stuff, one for him and one for He Cheng.
Tang Yu found this amusing. “How old are you, to still be munching on tanghulu with your nephew?”
Tang Fan had not a care. “What do you mean? No one’s made a rule that you can only eat tanghulu at a certain age. What do you say, Qilang?”
He Cheng had the tanghulu in his mouth, his two cheeks stuffed until bulging. Upon hearing his uncle call his name, he nodded out of confusion.
Tang Yu smacked Tang Fan. “Don’t tell me you act like this in the capital, too! When others become officials, they have prestige even if their rank isn’t high, yet here you are, regressing the further you go in life!”
Even saying that, she felt a warmth in her heart. She had been apart from her little brother for years, yet he hadn’t changed a bit, still being the one from her memory that could bring her joy. It was unclear to her how many times she had woken up with a start at night from it, but remembering the scenes of when she had yet to be married, entertaining her parents, always made her soak her pillow with tears.
Thankfully, Tang Fan was still around.
The man laughed. “You don’t understand, sis. We live until old age, and eat until old age. Human lives are only a brief couple tens of years. If others don’t give you things, then you have to learn to find things for yourself! Only then can you live a life of goodness!”
Tang Yu’s heart leaped. She chewed on her brother’s words several times, feeling that they had a deep implication.
Their group talked and laughed, unwittingly coming to walk down most of the street. Tang Yu hadn’t ridden a litter out, which made her a little3 lacking in strength now. “How about this; I’ll go to Sky of Bluegreen Clouds to rest for a bit, and you all can continue to walk around. You can just go there to find me later.”
The signboard for that very restaurant was right behind them. She also had maids at her side, so there was no risk of danger.
Right as Tang Fan was wanting to nod, he heard Tang Yu gasp. “That guy over there… why is he staring at us so much?”
The instant she said that, Yan Li and the other Guard called out in pleasant surprise. “Big brother!”
Looking over in shock, Tang Fan did indeed see a man standing beside a windmill that wasn’t too far away. The other was wearing everyday clothes, but anyone that knew him could recognize him from one look at his figure and bearing.
Since he was accompanying a woman and a child, it would be no good for Tang Fan to cast them to the side — he had Yan Li go and lead Sui Zhou over.
Even though there were a lot of people on the street, that was only a concern for regular people like Tang Fan and Tang Yu, while skilled people like Yan Li and Sui Zhou found no difficulty here. Yan Li quickly rushed over, saluted the other party, and was seen to talk with him a little, the joyous energy on his beaming face not needing to be described. Tang Yu was startled from seeing this. “Who is that, Runqing? Do you want me to avoid suspicion?”
“No need. That’s the Sui Zhou I told you about before, Sui Guangchuan.”
Tang Fan didn’t even notice that he unconsciously had a happy smile on his face. Mister Tang was gentle and amiable, but he didn’t smile like this towards just anyone he met. Tang Yu had never seen him smile like this towards any of the He’s, at the very least.
“So that’s who it is!” she exclaimed, seeing the light. “Didn’t you say that he’s the Bastion Envoy now? Why did he come here?”
“I have no idea. We haven’t seen each other ever since I left the capital.”
Tang Yu mentally calculated the days. “That hasn’t been that long. Going from when you left to today, that’s only a little over half a month. You two aren’t newlyweds, but is the phrase ‘like newlyweds after a short separation’ applying to you anyways?”
Getting ridiculed by his own sister, he touched his nose, too embarrassed to continue.
While they talked, Sui Zhou and Yan Li had since come over to them. “Why did you come here?” Tang Fan asked with a smile.
The instant that was said, one could tell how close they were. Even friends of any sort of familiarity would first cup their hands towards each other and exchange some pleasantries upon meeting, only after which would they get into the topic at hand. Rarely were they ever like how tang Fan was — straight-to-the-point.
At first listen, he seemed to have an interrogative undertone, but there was only happiness inside of his tone.
Tang Yu had heard him talk about how he was pretty close with the Bastion Envoy, and had worried that her baby brother was being careless, stupidly getting used as a tool by someone. She knew he wasn’t that ignorant, but as a big sister, she would inevitably worry about this and that for her brother like a parent would a child.
Upon seeing Sui Zhou in real life, she noticed that the man’s expression was stern, and he had a deep brightness in his eyes, not at all being like those vicious sorts. It was only after this that she calmed down slightly.
She also saw that despite the other party not being forthcoming with his words and smiles, he looked at her brother with a soft enough gaze, severely differing from the sharpness he used to look at anyone else. Tang Yu knew that Tang Fan hadn’t been exaggerating; the friendship between them was truly better than the average person’s.
“Something happened,” Sui Zhou answered. His eyes then landed upon Tang Yu and the even-smaller He Cheng. “These two are?”
Tang Yu was fine, but receiving such a frigid gaze immediately made He Cheng timid, and he hid behind his mother.
Yan Li smacked his own forehead. “Look at me, completely forgetting to introduce you! These two are Don Tang’s sister and nephew.”
Tang Yu gave a blessing-bow. “This commoner greets you, Sir Sui.”
Sui Zhou’s expression softened a little, and he returned the courtesy. “Runqing and I are like brothers. There’s no need to be so polite, big sister. Just treat me like your own.”
That utterance of ‘big sister’… really made Tang Fan want to laugh.
However, of the two people in front of him, one was complete serious in returning the courtesy, while the other didn’t think anything was wrong. He quickly blanked his face.
Tang Yu had heard that the Brocade Guard were domineering and aggressive, but when it came to Yan Li and Gongsun Yan, they were a bit arrogant to outsiders, yet always polite to Tang Fan and her. Now, the Bastion Envoy was here, but he was even more approachable, putting on no airs. She knew that Sui Zhou coming to Xianghe County meant that he had some business here, and that business was definitely related to Tang Fan, so she smiled lightly. “I’m a bit tired from shopping, so I’m going to sit in the restaurant for a bit. I won’t be able to accompany you.”
She also wanted to take He Cheng away to give them space, but Tang Fan hurriedly said, “You can let Qilang stay with us! It’s fine!”
Seeing Sui Zhou nod his agreement, Tang Yu left He Cheng behind, then took her maids into Sky of Bluegreen Clouds. Sui Zhou told Yan Li and Gongsun Yan to follow and protect her, in order to prevent people from knocking into her, while he and Tang Fan walked along the street with their smaller group.
After noticing that He Cheng looked tired, Tang Fan picked him up, only to see Sui Zhou reach out and take him instead. “I’ll do it.”
Since this was the first time he had ever met Sui Zhou, He Cheng still had some caution, and dared not move a bit, held in his arms like a wooden babydoll.
Amused at that, Tang Fan bought him a sugar dragon. He Cheng loved it too much to set it down, staring with wide eyes, unsure of whether to start biting down from the whiskers or the tail.
“You came alone?” Tang Fan asked.
“Yes,” was Sui Zhou’s answer, in his eternally-concise manner. After a bit of thought, he continued, “Your house is bought. It’s that Zhang family one.”
The other was elated. “That’s great! My sister and Qilang will have a place to stay in, then.”
Sui Zhou was puzzled. “They’re going to the capital?”
Tang Fan sighed, and relayed all that had happened. He saw He Cheng listening calmly the whole time through, then pet his head. “Do you want to live with your mom and uncle in the capital, Qilang?”
He Cheng nodded, whispering, “Yes.”
Tang Fan smiled at him, then said to Sui Zhou, “Patriarch He is quite reasonable. If He Lin is willing to let go, everything will be a lot easier. If he otherwise makes a big scene, my sister’s reputation definitely won’t be nice to hear in the outside world.”
“That’s not hard.”
“You have a solution?” Tang Fan wondered.
Sui Zhou’s lips hooked up. “Just leave it to me.”
Tang Fan couldn’t help but peer at him further. Sui Zhou looked back at him with a frozen face decorated with innocent eyes.
As a Brocade Guard, having thick skin and a black heart was an elementary quality. He just knew that Sui Zhou’s so-called ‘solution’ was definitely not any sort of above-board.
Still, extraordinary people used extraordinary methods, and the other would definitely stay within propriety. Tang Fan didn’t ask further on it. “You coming here from the capital surely wasn’t just to make a special trip looking for me, right?”
“How do you know that it wasn’t?” Sui Zhou retorted.
Tang Fan touched his nose, grinning. “I’m not that self-absorbed yet. The Bastion Office is so busy, and a man like you has clear distinctions between what’s public and what’s private. You definitely wouldn’t rashly throw your work down to run off here, eh?”
The wisp of a smile appeared in Sui Zhou’s eyes. “I did come with a message, but it’s related to you, too.”
The amount of times the other showed such an expression were not many, and it drew Tang Fan’s curiosity. “What is it?”
“Can you guess?” the Bastion Envoy asked, with rare humor.
Tang Fan gave it a thought. “There’s no way it could be that because I offended Liang Wenhua last time, Head Vizier Wan’s kept that in mind, so he found some crime to charge me with and asked you to arrest me, right?”
“Then does Ah-Dong have someone she likes and wants to marry off?”
“Maybe it’s you that’s getting married?”
Seeing his face go taut, Tang Fan poked fun at him. “Don’t keep me in suspense! Let me guess some more… I think that you went to a brothel to experience a spring breeze, and ended up having a famous courtesan come to your door with an illegitimate child!”
“I even said that it was related to you… what do any of those guesses have to do with you?” Sui Zhou asked, helpless.
Tang Fan laughed aloud. “I’ll be acting as the kid’s uncle, you know?”
In spite of the Envoy’s cold face, he had no way to handle the off-kilter Mister Tang. “You were originally supposed to receive the edict after your return, but I asked to take the message from His Majesty to bring it straight to you.”
That was completely outside of Tang Fan’s expectations, stunning him for a short moment before he could take in reality. “Judging by your tone… am I being promoted as an official?”
Sui Zhou showed a smile. “And not a minor one.”
“You pled for leniency on my behalf before the Emperor, and he reinstated my original post?”
“It wasn’t me. Someone else was a step quicker.”
His implication being that he had been wanting to plead for leniency from the get-go.
Nearly no suspense was built up, as Tang Fan guessed it immediately. “Wang Zhi?”
Out of the only two people that he knew that could directly face imperial countenance, and also be capable of pleading on his behalf, one was Sui Zhou, and the other was Wang Zhi. However, the latter had been at the Emperor and Noble Consort’s sides since childhood, and Sui Zhou was inferior to him in terms of being able to dowse the Emperor’s mind.
As expected, Sui Zhou nodded. “Correct.”
“How did he manage that?” Tang Fan asked, still finding it a bit incomprehensible.
“We can discuss in detail when home.”
Sui Zhou had rushed over here from the capital, using nothing more than the name of being a messenger, just to see this man. Despite being coated in the dust of travel, the second he had caught sight of him, he quickly felt that being travel-weary wasn’t so difficult to deal with.
However, all those emotions that flowed through the heart were only flowing through the heart, never appealing to the mouth, because, at times, there were many things that did not need to be said aloud.
“Do you have a place to rest now?” Tang Fan asked.
“Yes, an inn not too far ahead.”
“Now that my sister wants to live apart from He Lin, it wouldn’t be appropriate for me to keep staying at the He’s. Since you’re here, how about I move over to stay with you?”
At some unknown point in time, He Cheng had dozed off as he laid in Sui Zhou’s hold. Chuckling, Tang Fan pet his head.
The two headed back to find Tang Yu, had lunch at Sky of Bluegreen Clouds, then returned home.
Patriarch He had just gotten back from a leisurely stroll in the garden, thinking to nap for a minute, when he heard a servant come to report that Tang Fan had brought a friend over to visit him. He only believed that the other was doing so for the separation topic, and sighed. “What friend? He just wants to talk about separation again. He’s making it hard for one to live a peaceful life.”
He Xuan had coincidentally come to find his father for something on this day, and upon hearing this, he said, “Why not just follow their wishes? Second brother is a man and not a woman, you know. He won’t have to worry about getting a good candidate for remarriage. Wouldn’t sister-in-law be the one at a disadvantage? If you keep blocking them, father, they won’t recognize your good intent, and instead blame you.”
The Patriarch glared at him. “That’s easier said than done. With your brother’s ‘virtues’, what fitting family would be willing to marry their daughter to him? Your sister-in-law comes from a scholarly family, and isn’t similar to women from smaller households. In my own opinion, your wife’s own attitude falls short of hers, yet your brother doesn’t seem to appreciate that. Qilang is young, while your brother is out-of-tune; he needs his mother’s guidance all the more.”
He Xuan smiled slyly. “Father, it’s the Second that’s disappointing. Why direct your anger at me? It’s not like you don’t have other grandsons. The Eldest has two, and I have one. Why be focused on Qilang? If the other boys heard this, they’d definitely think you to be biased.”
Ignoring him, the Patriarch turned to the servant that had reported. “Go invite them over.”
He then turned to He Xuan again. “Tang Fan has no post, yet the Brocade Guards accompanying him demonstrate that he has people in Court. His reinstatement is only a matter of when. Even though you’re not taking this seriously, your eldest brother is a fourth-rank official, but an abroad one, not a capital one. Abroad officials get a lot of greasy bribes, but their importance and speed of promotion is far inferior to capital ones. Back in the day, I wasn’t selected to be a Hanlin entrant, so I could only go my whole life stopped at the step of being an abroad official. If our family can have more in-laws like Tang Fan, it would be beneficial for both you and your eldest brother in the future. Your second brother is a moron — his life couldn’t be easier, and yet he’s quarreled so much with his wife!”
While he chided his youngest son, Tang Fan and Sui Zhou arrived. Patriarch He beamed. “Have you eaten yet, Runqing?”
His tone was warm, as if the disagreement from yesterday had never happened. He then looked at the one beside Tang Fan. “Who is this?”
Tang Fan smiled. “This is my friend, the one that was just promoted to Bastion Envoy of the Northern Bastion Office; Sui Zhou, Guangchuan.”
He Ying was taken aback. He hadn’t expected that as soon as he had described Tang Fan’s importance to his son on his end, Tang Fan would actually come to ‘prove’ his own importance on the other end. “So, it’s Envoy Sui! You truly are a young and promising one!”
In Sui Zhou’s presence, He Ying narrowly couldn’t put his prestige as a retired third-rank official on display. Although his position was higher than his counterpart’s, this was a Brocade Guard.
Ever since the Great Ancestor had established the Guard, the job had existed to intimidate all officials. Even with the two Depots around to split up power, that idea had never changed.
Sui Zhou cupped his hands. “You’ve over-praised me, Lord He.”
“Sui Zhou is bearing the responsibility of a messenger, so he came to visit me by-the-by,” Tang Fan said with a smile. “Once I brought you up, he said he would come visit you.”
“This old man has been neglectful,” He Ying answered cheerfully. “Please, come into the hall to sit for tea.”
Tang Fan smiled. “That’s not necessary. It’s time for an afternoon rest for you, isn’t it, Uncle? We will take our leave. The view of the garden is attractive regardless, so it would be our blessing to look at it more.”
How could the Patriarch ever be willing to let them free? If he could get in good with Sui Zhou, that would practically be netting an additional important connection. “The older one gets, the less they nap. There’s no such thing as an afternoon rest, it’s just me leaning against pillows and staring at nothing. As you two have come, I, as an elder, will instead not be bored anymore! Come, come, I have top-tier cloud & mist, which I never easily bring out!”
Tang Fan glanced at Sui Zhou. Seeing the latter nod, he thus said to the Patriarch, “Then we’ll trouble you.”
He Ying told his youngest son to go steep tea, and smiled. “We’ll walk a few loops around here, and he’ll call when the tea is ready. Ah, Runqing, didn’t I tell you? You’re no outsider, so don’t always be so polite. Since you like the scenery, you can just move over here, which will save you from being in that lonely bamboo courtyard. I had been wanting to prepare a guest bedroom for you here from the start, yet your Aunt said that you young people might not like to be confined. It was then that I had you set up alone in the bamboo courtyard.”
Tang Fan had taken He Xuan’s place in supporting him on the walk. After hearing him talk on and on, he laughed. “The bamboo courtyard has a nice ambience, I rather like Aunt’s arrangement. I’m not taking myself as an outsider at all, Uncle. Even if my sister and brother-in-law have no affinity, we ultimately still have the friendship from my father’s generation around, and I highly respect you as always.”
As he was winding the topic back around to this again, He Ying was more or less feeling helpless. “My good nephew, since ancient times, harmony has been encouraged, not separation. This matter relates to your sister’s lifelong happiness, and must be handled cautiously. I had set a betrothal agreement with your father back in the day, but it was no more than a verbal one; if I had wanted to go back on my word at the time, it would have only been a matter of one sentence. As I kept my promise, your father under the Nine Springs presumably doesn’t wish to see this marriage destroyed.”
Tang Fan’s voice was neither hurried, nor slow, as gentle as babbling water. “Your good faith of that day, I will never dare to forget, but as the saying goes, melons forcefully harvested are not sweet. At present, it isn’t that my sister disdains her husband, but that her husband doesn’t want a normal life. Even to my face, he still treated Qilang and her like that, so if I’m not here, who knows how far he’ll go? Uncle, since things have come to this, let them split. It’s the best option.”
“Your brother-in-law is obsessed and lacking in enlightenment. I’ll certainly teach him a good lesson. Your sister is a daughter-in-law of the He’s, and your father’s daughter; now that your father is gone, she is like my own daughter. The He’s will not mistreat her. I plan to have them move into the bamboo courtyard, then raise their monthly allowed to a hundred taels. I’ll also have someone go buy back the dowry that your sister pawned. What do you say?”
“I understand your intent, but you can’t keep an eye on brother-in-law at all hours. With how old he’s gotten, if he’s still made no progress in life, then it won’t matter what lessons his parents teach him. Instead of passing life awkwardly with the whole family, it would be better to make things easy for everyone by having the couple be no more. We would never be foes.”
He simply refused to let up. He Ying was a little vexed, feeling that Tang Fan was practically being tactless; he had done all he could to persuade him, yet the other was set in his path. He heard Tang Fan continue, “I will be going back to the capital to report to the Ministry of Appointments in a few days. It would be best to settle this as soon as possible. In truth, if you insist with refusing separation, I still have the solution of having my sister and her husband reside in split households.”
Upon hearing that prior set of words, He Ying totally forgot to ask after the ‘split households’ that had come later. “You’re going to report back to the capital?”
This time, it was the never-speaking Sui Zhou that answered. “His Majesty has ordered that Runqing be appointed as the Left Metropolitan Censor.”
Patriarch He was stunned.
The Left Metropolitan Censor was an occupation in the Inspectorate. That, he knew.
The question was, that position… wasn’t it truefourth-rank? He clearly recalled that prior to Tang Fan’s dismissal, he had only been a truefifth-rank Chief of the Ministry of Justice.
After being dismissed, posts could be reinstated within half a month. In officialdom, that was nothing new — the Patriarch had also seen quite a few get promoted after getting reinstated. He had been an official for most of his life and was no country hick, but the issue here was that he hadn’t expected for Tang Fan to end up being such a lucky person.
Many more people, after their dismissal, would basically have the fate of returning home to till fields. Tang Fan had been a minor, truefifth-rank official; if not for the aid of some high official, how could the Emperor have ever remembered the random scallion that he was?
Patriarch He knew that the cause of this had to be someone intentionally speaking for Tang Fan, and that someone was not light in weight. Could it be this Bastion Envoy?
In the blink of an eye, He Ying had his thoughts clearly sorted out, not at all like an elder approaching seventy. “That’s truly a happy event! Runqing, Sir Sui and you must eat at the home tonight! I’ll have the chef cook some dishes to celebrate for you! Your sister and brother-in-law should know, too, so that they can be happy with you!”
Brother-in-law would probably be even more unhappy hearing the news, Tang Fan thought. Maybe he’d even think that somebody was deliberately showing off to him.
“Uncle, don’t busy yourself with that. Firstly, brother-in-law’s emotions are in turmoil, and this news will only worsen his mental ailment. Secondly, this is not a major event, so there shouldn’t be a big display for it. Thirdly, I wanted to tell you that since Guangchuan and I are so close, I want to move over to where he’s staying.”
He Ying was experienced with age, having made an association with Tang Fan’s recent proposal of split households, yet hadn’t known that the other was taking this opportunity to sever their relationship with the He’s. Mentally, he had to sigh; if the Second wasn’t a disappointment, how would things have gotten to today’s mess?
Truthfully, he could stand at Tang Fan’s point of view and understand why his reaction was so intense. The Tang parents were passed, there was no other family to rely on, and the siblings were all that was left. Tang Fan was someone that cherished sisters, so he would definitely unflinchingly stand up for his.
However, regardless of his understanding, as the Patriarch of the He’s, it didn’t matter whether it was separation or a household split; neither were suggestions he liked. As was obvious, if they came to pass, the Tang’s and He’s would have a clear boundary drawn, and Tang Fan would certainly not step up if anything happened to the He’s.
Smiling, He Ying played dumb. “That’s not an urgent matter. Since Sir Sui and you are friends, he isn’t an outsider. He can move into the bamboo courtyard with you.”
“He brought other people with him, so the courtyard won’t be enough for them. Furthermore, Brocade Guards have responsibilities and secret orders, which you know makes that not too convenient.”
Sui Zhou had come here to give Tang Fan a decree, and that was it. There were no ‘secret orders’. And yet, Tang Fan bullied the Patriarch, who had no inside information, wielding chicken feathers like arrows and shooting off nonsense.
The second he was done, he glimpsed Sui Zhou’s fake smile, but thick-skinnedly acted like nothing was wrong.
Receiving his warning, He Ying remembered his dread of the Brocade Guard, and automatically jolted, his smile awkward. “That’s fine, then, do as you like. But you simply must come over for dinner! Don’t treat this old man like an outsider!”
Tang Fan couldn’t refuse, and thus agreed. At the same moment, He Xuan sent someone to inform them that the tea was ready.
He Ying brought the two to the middle hall for tea, then only chatted about trite things, never bringing the recent discussion up.
The instant they left, He Xuan noticed that his father’s expression was poor. “What’s wrong, father? Weren’t things fine just now?”
“Tang Fan is going to move out,” He Ying said dejectedly.
He Xuan sighed in relief. “Oi, I thought something happened. If he wants to move out, let him. Our He family serves good food and drink, yet he isn’t satisfied. He’s nothing more than someone that feels he’s associated with the Brocade Guard and is just putting on airs.”
He Ying shook his head. “What do you know? He isn’t intending to mock the He’s, he’s wanting to sever his connection with us to prevent word getting out that he owes us anything. He’s just like his father — friendly-seeming, yet actually somewhat haughty in his bones, someone that can’t be interacted with for long. It’s impossible to tell.”
He Xuan was unconcerned. “Father, you shouldn’t force the thing with the second branch. Really, looking at them makes me feel upset for them. If they want separation, let them go! Our family won’t cease to exist without Tang Fan, so why do you have to be concerned about him?”
“He’s been ordered back, and will be promoted to Left Metropolitan Censor.”
“Huh?” He Xuan was similarly dumbstruck. “Did he specifically find someone to come lie to you just so he’d be able to bring his sister away from us?”
“Lie, your mouth! Could that be so casually lied about?!” He Ying ruthlessly smacked him on the back of his head. “He said that if we don’t separate, he wants split households!”
He Xuan rubbed the back of his head. “You agreed, then?”
“No.” He Ying sighed. “I don’t think dragging things out will work, I just hope that I can drag it out enough until his return to the capital. At that time, I’ll have your second brother admit his mistake, and then this matter will be considered unlidded.”
He Xuan disapproved. “Would he be willing?”
That short remark caused the Patriarch to wordlessly look up at the sky, shortly after which he viciously stated, “If he isn’t, I’ll have to make him be!”
That same night, Tang Fan and Sui Zhou remained in the He home for dinner. They indeed received hospitality and entertainment. Because He Lin was also there, and they all wanted to avoid him losing it, they tacitly didn’t mention the subject of separation, nor of Tang Fan’s promotion, chattering to the end about some amusing stories of no importance. One meal finally ended happily for the host and guests.
Afterwards, Tang Fan let his sister know of the circumstances, packed his things, and brought Qian San’r and the rest with him in moving out of the bamboo courtyard overnight, then checking into the inn Sui Zhou was staying at.
The translator says: Hey, maybe I can finally stop calling Mr. Tang a ‘minor, whatever-rank official’.
Once Sui Zhou saw Tang Fan with an unfamiliar woman, he seemed to hear the sound of his own glass heart breaking.
“These two are?” he asked, expression blank as he looked at Tang Yu and He Cheng.
Yan Li smacked himself on the forehead. “Look at me, completely forgetting to introduce you! These two are Don Tang’s sister and nephew.”
Tang Yu gave a blessing-bow. “This commoner greets you, Sir Sui.”
Sui Zhou: “Big sister! Don’t be so polite! (*^__^*)”