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Even though he was talking about his ‘neighbors’, who exactly couldn’t tell who he was referring to?
His Majesty currently had five sons. Ever since the Crown Prince, Zhu Youcheng, had been established, Consort Wan had simply gone for broke, no longer preventing the harem women from giving birth. For that reason, following him, four other Princes had quickly sprouted up like bamboo shoots after a rain.
The Crown Prince was not even twelve this year. Consecutive to him was Second Prince Zhu Youyuan at five years old, and the youngest two were less than two. As could be seen, the Emperor had never been infertile — quite the opposite — but since Consort Wan had been around, the harem women had had repeated abortions. Were it not for Zhu Youcheng’s protection, today’s circumstances might be different.
Still, Consort Wan typically found the Crown Prince objectionable. Even though she had never had children herself, she never wanted to see him ascend to the position of Emperor, her candidate of choice being the Second Prince, born of Consort Shao. She had brought this up before the Emperor several times, hoping that the Crown Prince could be switched out; Li Zhisheng and Wan Tong’s prompting for this was indispensable therein.
Everyone knew that the Crown Prince wasn’t close to these people. When the Emperor passed in the future, what teeny spots would they ever have to stand on? They, of course, wanted to swap him out for an Emperor that would be easy to talk to and hold onto, so that they could continue to live grand lifestyles free of worries.
It had been precisely because of their instigation that a rift had come up between the Emperor and Crown Prince before, which had ended with Tang Fan’s idea of having the Crown Prince go to the Emperor himself and appeal to emotion, thereafter temporarily staving off the crisis.
Said event had passed through Wang Zhi and Huai En’s hands with extreme secrecy, meaning that Wan Tong had no idea that Tang Fan had intervened. His brooding over Tang Fan was merely owed to what happened to the Southside Gang, and since he had just seen him help his teacher out, he deliberately made things hard for him in public to see how he would answer.
He really didn’t believe that this Tang Fan, who was alone with his spear and horse, would still dare to offend him in front of a crowd.
Not a single person able to sit here was a moron, understanding him well at heart. They all set their cauterizing gazes upon Tang Fan; some had schadenfreude, some were worried for him, and some were watching a good show.
Sui Zhou appeared to be sitting in the same position he just had been, but no one noticed that his back was set extremely straight, nor that his expression had gotten a lot colder than before. He took his line of sight back from Wan Tong, then placed it upon Tang Fan.
At this moment, he could certainly stand up and speak for Tang Fan, just like how Tang Fan had done for his teacher, but that would be equivalent to not trusting Tang Fan’s abilities. The other was a man as well, and an extremely smart one.
Tang Fan could resolve this incident entirely by himself. He wouldn’t require anyone’s help.
Holding such a thought, Sui Zhou’s fists slowly relaxed, but he had already jotted down this debt of Wan Tong’s in his heart.
Not everyone was like him, a wholehearted believer that Tang Fan would find a way.
Qiu Jun was currently furious; furious at Wan Tong’s party being brazen enough to openly ask such a question that caused one’s imagination to run, and furious that they were making things hard for his student. He was well aware that if Tang Fan hadn’t spoken up for him just then, no such thing would be happening now.
Thinking as much, Mr. Qiu raised his grayed brows, wanting to stand up and speak for his student, but his sleeve was firmly tugged by someone. Upon turning his head, he saw that it was Chang Zhiyuan that was pressing him down. “Hear Runqing out first,” the other whispered, “he might not be helpless.”
His implication being that if he jumped out to help Tang Fan like this, he would instead do the opposite of help.
Qiu Jun scowled, having no choice but to force himself to suppress it and calmly watch the scene.
It wasn’t like there was no one else like him. Wang Ao also couldn’t help but want to stand up for Tang Fan’s injustice, but he, too, was held back by the slightly-calmer Xie Qian.
Tang Fan was seen to not be panicked, his expression as usual, as if he hadn’t heard any dark undertones to Wan Tong’s words. “I dare to ask, Envoy Wan; you claim that the eldest is not filial nor virtuous, so how is he not filial, and how is he not virtuous? The youngest is sharp, so how sharp is he?”
“The eldest’s mother died young, while no relatives that have been in contact with him have met good ends. Even his father is weak in health, nowadays. As he has negatively affected the fates of his guardians, he is naturally unfilial, and all of his neighbors say that he has no virtue. As for the youngest, he is five this year, his studies are no lesser than the eldest’s, he incurs more of his father’s fondness than the eldest, and he has superior talent in trade. The teachers instructing him all state that he will be more promising than the eldest in the future.”
Once everyone heard that, they thought: This is a bare allusion to the current Crown Prince and Second Prince!
Only Consort Wan’s brother would actually dare to say something like that so openly.
Tang Fan raised his brows. “There are Ten Abominations of criminality in the country’s law, and a lack of filial piety is one. If the eldest son is truly unfilial, then he shouldn’t inherit the family assets.”
And yet, before Wan Tong could show a gleeful grin, he heard the other continue, “Throwing curses and insults towards grandparents, parents, and other such elders, not giving them proper care in old age, or being in a mourning period yet still marrying and having fun while not mourning at all, or claiming that one’s parents are dead when they are not; those are all unfilial. ‘Negatively affecting the fates of one’s parents’, however, is actually just a myth spread throughout ignorant commoners, which has never been seen as punishable by law. If you say that his father being ailed and mother being dead means that he affected their fates, then what would you say to the fact that the Great Ancestor was mourning both of his parents when he started out on his career, Envoy Wan?”
“Impetuous! You dare to say that the Great Ancestor brought death onto his parents by existing?!” someone unknown suddenly threw out.
Wan Tong followed the sound to glare viciously at that imbecile. Even if the other party had intended to aid him, he knew that the second that came out, things had instead fallen right into Tang Fan’s arms.
Sure enough, Tang Fan smiled. “I never said that the Great Ancestor did that. He was brilliant in military tactics, his genius having been gifted from the Heavens, and the experiences of his childhood had been nothing more than polishing a divine general before he descended to his post. How could he be described with the words of unlearned folks? Since this is so, Envoy Wan, your neighbors’ eldest son, while incomparable to the Great Ancestor, certainly cannot be inferred to be unfilial on the basis of his parent’s ill fates.
“As for the youngest, as he is still young at five years of age, saying that he is capable of inheriting the family capital now is much too early. Have you not heard the story of the pitiful Zhongyong, once told by Wang Anshi of Song? Good things when young might not be so beautiful when older. That is a saying from ancient times.”
Wan Tong’s expression was not simply ugly; it could practically be described as hideous.
Presumably, he had grown cocky ever since his older sister had become the Noble Consort. The Empress’s entire natal family was beneath him, and even the Cabinet Viziers had to treat him with extra courtesy. When had he ever encountered a situation like today’s, where he was getting shamed in front of everyone?
He recalled what Peng Hua had just said into his ear, thinking to himself, That bastard must have long known about Tang Fan’s exceptional talent in speech! That was why he shrank his neck back into his shell and deliberately made me come forward! Great! He’s cost me a lot of face!
“Speaking of that,” Tang Fan veered the topic away with a slight smile, not giving Wan Tong the opportunity to think of a response, “how the family property should be divvied up is not for outsiders to have the final say on, nor is it even for the sons’ father to have the final say on. The Great Ming’s law has long had rules in regards to the division of assets. If a decision can’t be made, then the authorities can be asked for a ruling. We as outsiders generally don’t need to worry about things we don’t need to.”
Wan Tong had obviously been hinting at the Crown Prince position, yet Tang Fan had chosen to interpret it literally, speaking like Wan Tong’s neighbors actually were thinking of splitting up property. It left Wan Tong speechless, only able to stare wide-eyed.
Thankfully, the others weren’t going to just sit and watch him fall on hard times. “Censor Tang, this is no more than a post-meal pastime,” Li Zhisheng said. “Why be so serious?”
Tang Fan laughed. “It did get serious, without me realizing it. Do excuse me.”
Wan Tong laughed as well, taking the out. “Censor Tang has truly given me sudden enlightenment. I’ll go tell my neighbor later on, lest he end up making a fool out of himself for knowing nothing about Great Ming law! Alright, everyone keep drinking! Come! For our Great Ming’s song to play forever through the ages, for the Emperor’s health — a toast!”
As soon as he said that, everyone naturally picked up their cups and stood up in succession, the slightly frigid atmosphere livening up again at once.
Those at Tang Fan’s table all expressed their admiration for his courage to refute Wan Tong’s prestige in public, Wang Ao especially whispering a word of praise to him.
“Wan Tong relying on his sister is the origin of his arrogance,” Xie Qian chimed in. “He doesn’t even place importance upon the Crown Prince, always conspiring with others to urge His Majesty to depose him. What he said today was clearly a set-up for the Crown Prince and Second Prince, thereby making things hard for you. It’s good that you adapted to the situation and didn’t fall into his trap — on the contrary, your name will be making the rounds again!”
Tang Fan smiled a bit bitterly. “Humans fear getting fame the same way pigs fear getting fattened up for the slaughter. That sort of fame, I’d prefer not to have.”
Xie Qian pat him on the shoulder. “Misfortunes can lead to fortunes. Think about it; this could be a good thing. You became famous for that Xianghe County case, and lots of people said that it was just a stroke of luck. Now that you’ve been so bold as to publicly express your own attitude, not cowering back out of timidity, that’s enough to show your bravery! There will come a lot less criticism of your voice from now on!”
“That’s right, Runqing. Later on, a fine reputation of you having the guts of a fighter and the heart of a poet might spread around in officialdom,” Wang Ao teased right after.
Heckled to the point that he couldn’t help but side-eye them, Tang Fan simply picked up his chopsticks and ate without saying a thing more.
He had offended Wan Tong regardless, so if he didn’t scramble to have a big meal, how could he make up for the physical and mental strain of this expedition?
Wan Tong had portrayed himself as being broad-minded on-scene, but once the party was disbanded, all the guests were gone, and he’d had people shut the doors, he automatically became furious. “Who does that punk think he is?! A mere Metropolitan Censor! How dare he not take me seriously! Does he think that because he handled one insignificant case that got him known, no one can touch him?!”
The people still present were all Wan Tong’s diehard pals, so they were certain to not point fingers at him in the wake of his nostril-flaring rage.
“Lord Wan doesn’t need to get angry over someone like that,” Li Zhisheng said with a smile. “As I see it, this Tang Fan is just like the other censors of trifling fame. That scene just now gave him margin to show off, but all he has is a sharp mouth. I’ll get someone to find dirt on him later and drive him out of the capital, so as to vent your anger for you!”
“Tang Fan is not a typical minor official,” Shang Ming spoke up. “He has Sui Zhou to help speak for him, and his relationship with Wang Zhi is pretty good. He himself is a censor, while the acting Right Capital Censor is his teacher — and what do censors do? Bite whoever it is they want to bite, right? His rank is low, but to scorn him would not be easy. It’s hard to tell when exactly a bite back would happen, and even though it wouldn’t be fatal, it would certainly smart.”
That slew of words was basically adding oil to the fire, causing Wan Tong to get even angrier. The instant he thought about how his originally-happy birthday banquet had been trashed by the teacher-student pair of Qiu Jun and Tang Fan, he felt unbelievably fed up.
He didn’t even need to think — clearly, he had to make things hard for them, first.
Peng Hua twirled his beard. “What Chief Eunuch Shang said is correct. With how minor Tang Fan is, even if his teeth are a little sharp, it’s not enough to menace. If something could be found off of him that would take down the Western Depot by the by, that would be a great merit.”
Even though Shang Ming dreamed of taking down his archnemesis, he shook his head at that. “Unfortunately, His Majesty still holds some fatherly affections for Wang Zhi. Despite us speaking poorly of the latter several times in front of him, he’s still doing fine to this day.”
“There are so many people attending by His Majesty’s side, while Wang Zhi hasn’t been in his presence for nearly two years. Why does he still not overlook him?” Li Zhisheng asked, puzzled.
Upon hearing those words, Wan Tong and Peng Hua both gave him a wordless look, cursing him on the inside for being stupid.
Li Zhisheng used the luck of Daoist practices to get ahead, thought of as a flattering opportunist not only by major officials like Qiu Jun, but even believed to be so by Wan Tong’s group. In reality, they looked down upon Li Zhisheng and Ji Xiao’s sorts that feigned being the supernatural, but since the Emperor had added trust in those two, Wan Tong and them felt this could be of use.
Such was the difference between a villein and a noble.
Even if they knew the position Li Zhisheng had in the Emperor’s heart, people like Qiu Jun and Huai En would disdain to strengthen the Crown Prince’s status using someone like him. Wan Tong’s lot was different; as long as their aim could be reached, the methods used were not at all important.
Shang Ming was a eunuch and did not have any bias against Li Zhisheng, explaining things to him with a smile. “You haven’t spent much time in the capital, Sir Li, so you not understanding is normal. Wang Zhi was in the palace since his childhood, having served His Majesty and the Consort for a longer time than I have; the two of them could be said to have watched him grow up. This is why His Majesty has some more favor towards him.”
Wan Tong huffed at that. “And what good has that done?! He’s a freeloading bastard! My sister gave him a mountain of favor, yet he helped outsiders do me in! The sooner he’s eliminated, the better, lest something happens the longer this goes on!”
The instant he ever gave a thought to the Southside Gang’s destruction, his heart would itch with hate.
Shang Ming had always been sour about how Wang Zhi was more favored than him, and snatched the chance to blacken his foe. “Even so, he’s brought upon his own downfall, asking to go be stationed at the border for no good reason. Leaving is easy, returning is difficult; I can tell that His Majesty has already gradually come to not be fond of him. As long as the Head Vizier is willing to present a memorial requesting that the Western Depot be suspended, the monkeys will scatter along with the fall of the tree. The time of his death would merely be a matter of when.”
Wan Tong shook his head. “Don’t count on that old fox. There’s nothing good about him, other than that he can run faster than anybody. Right after the banquet concluded, I wanted to have him stay behind to discuss important things with us, but he just used the excuse of something happening at home to slip away ahead of time. If you can be sure of His Majesty’s intentions, he’ll certainly be happy to embellish brocade with flowers, but if His Majesty still has trust in Wang Zhi, he certainly won’t wade into turbid waters.”
“Eunuch Shang, I heard that Wang Zhi and Huai En have been making eye contact as of late. Is that true?” Peng Hua asked.
“I haven’t seen so myself, but I heard from the children in the palace that they indeed saw them bump into each other several times. The two always spoke in brief durations, but the others were far away and couldn’t tell what they were discussing.”
“Did I not hear before that those two were at odds? When did they get onto the same boat?” Peng Hua wondered.
Wan Tong’s face was overcast. “When they got onto the same boat isn’t important. That old guy, Huai En, is devoted to the Crown Prince. If Wang Zhi converts to their side, the Prince will be like a tiger that’s sprouted wings! How is the situation in Datong? We need to think of a solution. Once he returns with established military merits and the Western Depot still in hand, I’m afraid he’ll be even harder to contend with!”
Saying so, he looked at everyone seated. “Do any of you gents have an idea?”
Peng Hua pondered. “I heard that the war in Datong hasn’t been going too smoothly these days. He likely won’t be able to come back for a time. It would be best to find a few censors to send memorials up detailing the Western Depot’s crimes and get it closed, thus breaking off his arm.”
Out of everyone here, there was one person — aside from Wan Tong — that hated Wang Zhi the most, and wished him dead.
Shang Ming was seen to grin sinisterly. “I have an even better solution that will kill three eagles with one arrow, getting rid of all those Lord Wan finds displeasing.”
Meanwhile, Tang Fan had no idea that someone was currently brewing up a conspiracy that would very likely drag him in.
For the few consecutive days he went to work at the Inspectorate after the banquet disbanded, he always heard his colleagues talking about said party, and about how Tang Fan had been there, first helping his teacher out of a bind, then wittily answering Wan Tong’s question that had been purposefully trying to make things difficult for him. Just as Xie Qian had said, his name made another round, where even the gazes his colleagues used towards him were different.
Despite no one saying anything, the majority of people disapproved of Wan Tong’s sort. Tang Fan had done what they all wanted to do, yet were too afraid to, inevitably making them admire him a little more.
In addition to that, Tang Fan’s teacher was sitting atop the Inspectorate, so his treatment here was practically the difference between the sky and the mud from when he had been in the Ministry of Justice. This unexpected occurrence caused him to not really know how to react.
Setting aside these messes from the Court, his life was not only a lot more rhythmic than it had been before, but relaxed and leisurely.
After Tang Yu and her son settled in, the issue of He Cheng’s studies were put up on the schedule. Tang Fan himself had gotten a golden spot of honors, which would be more than sufficient for teaching his nephew, but the problem with that was that he didn’t have time due to his post. He had to hire a teacher from elsewhere.
The other party was a low-ranking Provincial Honorate; his scholarly merits were higher than He Lin’s, but he lacked He Lin’s aloofness. He was planning on staying in the capital until the next metropolitan exam, which he definitely needed money for. To be able to tutor the children of a large family was fairly honest work.
After discussing with Tang Yu, Tang Fan let Mr. Ke stay, and bestowed him with ample remuneration so that he would tutor He Cheng alongside Ah-Dong.
He Cheng was a child gentle and meek in personality that liked to study to begin with, but in Ah-Dong’s opinion, reading was bitter drudgery. Before He Cheng had come, there had been no one to compare to, so she had been able to muddle through it, considered passing given that she was able to read. Now that He Cheng was here, as was a tutor, and her eldest sister was supervising, her escaping again naturally wouldn’t be tolerated.
Thankfully, Tang Fan and Tang Yu were not highly demanding of her. As long as she could write coherent and logical essays, that was fine. She wasn’t like He Cheng, who was going to test for scholarly merits in the future — they were ten times harsher in demanding things from him than they were her.
However, for the sake of getting rid of the temperament that He Cheng had developed at the He household so that he wouldn’t turn into a pushover when he grew up, Tang Fan spoke with Sui Zhou to have him sent to the Northern Bastion Office’s training grounds every ten days, where he would follow the Brocade Guards in doing squats and push-ups.
How could He Cheng bear this? From the very start, he would get teary-eyed when exercising, his pitifulness not needing to be stated. Tang Yu was endlessly distressed, and quietly asked Tang Fan in private to exempt him from such torment.
Tang Fan understood his sister’s motherly feelings, but still insisted upon his own idea. He explained the logic to her, comparing this to what had happened with He Lin; that man’s life since childhood had been too smooth-sailing and lacking in whetting, resulting in him suddenly suffering a single setback that he was unable to recover from.
Hearing this, Tang Yu thought it over for a long while, then steeled herself to not ask anymore.
For a little lady like Ah-Dong that loved to practice martial arts, the training grounds couldn’t be more suitable a place. She was ultimately too young to exercise together with the adults, yet the intensity of her practice was already much higher than He Cheng’s. Having his young aunt as an example to compare to, his competitive heart was aroused, and sometimes, when he wasn’t at the grounds, he would punch out a set of moves in the courtyard at dawn, day after day. Not only was his body gradually growing due to the work, but even his complexion and spirits were an unknown amount of times better than they had been at the He’s.
Seeing this, Tang Fan was happy at heart, feeling all the more that bringing his sister away with him had absolutely been the correct decision.
While in the capital, aside from being busy with her business, Tang Yu was actually not lonely. Soon after their return here, Yan Li had quickly gotten his three letters and six rites prepared, and the Eighth Miss had married over and crossed the threshold, both of them living a life of harmony.
The Eighth Miss of the He’s had no other relatives in the capital sans Tang Yu; the two ladies of formerly mediocre relationship became close thereafter. Tang Yu discovered that the Eighth He was actually an entertaining young woman. In the presence of the He’s Patriarch and first wife, she had seemed docile and meek, but in private, she was bold, outspoken, and had a good rein on her husband. The instant she married into the Yan household, she had trained him into obedience, and he listened to her every word.
Having a woman to take care of things in the home ultimately made life different; this went for the Eighth He to Yan Li, and Tang Yu to Tang Fan.
Although she did not live with Sui Zhou and Tang Fan, the two homes were close to the point that they couldn’t get any closer. Tang Yu had hired two maids to help with some miscellaneous chores as well as go to the neighboring home to clean every day, and made clothes and socks for Tang Fan herself — she didn’t neglect Sui Zhou and Ah-Dong, of course. Sister Tang’s needlework was excellent, and from there on out, the three had new clothes that contained the fervent kindness of their elder sister, with Ah Dong’s own craftsmanship getting better under her tutelage.
Personally, Tang Fan much preferred to live this peaceful life over being out in the limelight or winning over whoever. It was simple, but warm and blessed enough; when facing his family, he didn’t need to deliberate over his wording, think about how to respond, or calculate the changes in others’ hearts at all. Only by staying at their side would he be completely relaxed.
It was a feeling that only these few people could give him in all the world.
Today was a day of rest. He went out to visit friends during the day, had dinner at a pal’s home while he was at it, and returned home once the bright moon was hung up high.
As he had overstuffed himself, he wasn’t going to be tired just yet. Seeing the brilliant moonlight, he put his hands behind his back and strolled around the courtyard to aid digestion.
Owing to the store being quite bustling these days, Qian San’r was rising early every day, then simply spending the night in the back of the shop. There were beds and blankets there, and it wasn’t cramped, in any case.
Lacking the gabber coming out of his mouth in the ears, and not having Sui Zhou back yet, Tang Fan felt a little bored, thinking that he might as well go to bed.
Right as he turned around with the intent to head in, he heard a burst of footsteps and talking coming in from outside. The courtyard gate was pushed open quickly following that, three people walking inside.
To be more precise, it was two people helping one walk on either of his sides. The man in the middle’s head was listing, his feet staggering… was that not Count Sui?
Because the other hadn’t yet come home, the courtyard’s gate hadn’t been locked. Tang Fan turned his head, then suffered a fright upon seeing him, hurriedly stepping forward to help support him. Upon noticing that the two that had brought him had unfamiliar faces, he couldn’t help but ask, “Many thanks for bringing Guangchuan back, you two. How did he get like this?”
The two exchanged a look, clearly having not expected that someone like this would be in Sui Zhou’s house. As Tang Fan didn’t appear to be a servant, he might be his brother or something, so they answered, “He drank too much at the party. The Commanding Envoy told us to send him home.”
While they spoke, Sui Zhou appeared to want to keep going forward, but his knees went soft, pitching him straight forward. Tang Fan quickly held his figure up by the shoulders, but the two’s strength had never been on the same level; he ended up stumbling to the side while carrying him.
Nevertheless, Sui Zhou was seen to wrap his arms around Tang Fan, the full-body scent of alcohol attacking the face. All on his own, he used his nose and mouth to nuzzle against and sniff the other man, calling out the name ‘Miss Qing, Miss Qing’ as he did so. This harried look of having alcohol get to his head was wildly different from his typical cold and self-restrained conduct.
While Tang Fan was confused over what mystical person this ‘Miss Qing’ was, he held him back to avoid him making a fool out of himself in front of his two subordinates.
“Miss Qing, c’mon… let’s go back to the bedroom. You said you would during the day, I want…”
Burning hot, ambiguous breath puffed onto Tang Fan’s ear. He wasn’t sure if it was the wine smell or hot breath, but his ear was made to warm slightly; he couldn’t resist taking a step back, yet he also couldn’t push away the other’s iron-ring-like strength, still firmly hooked.
Seeing this, the other two thought of how the Bastion Envoy usually affected being incomparably aloof before others, yet was unexpectedly a lustful one in private, his true form coming to light after a short bout of drinking. This ‘Miss Qing’ had to be his pretty concubine… though, he had now taken hold his brother to randomly call him that. How utterly ridiculous.
The two exchanged vague glances of unspoken meaning, then said to Tang Fan, “The hour is late. We won’t disturb his rest, Sir. We will take our leave.”
Unable to break free of Sui Zhou’s embrace, Tang Fan smiled bitterly, gave them a few niceties, saw them off with his eyes, then dragged his oversized baggage over to the door so he could bolt it, only helping him into the bedroom afterwards.
In Sui Zhou’s room, right when he tried to help him onto the bed, the other suddenly used his arm strength to flip him right over, pressing him down on his back.
Mister Tang sighed. “How long are you going to pretend for?”
The one on top of him paused in his actions. “How could you tell?”
“Because I get you, of course,” Tang Fan replied with a laugh. “But what was all that about?”
“After Wan Tong’s return, he’s always been trying to re-consolidate his forces. The Southern Bastion Envoy has already been swapped out for one of his, but on the Northern Office’s side, his former influence was beaten to pieces by Sir Yuan. He can’t touch me for right now, so he has to lower himself in the hopes that he can find a gentler tactic to slowly get a feel for things with. Today, he threw a party for the people of the Northern and Southern Offices, hoping to get my feelings towards deposing the Crown Prince out of me. I didn’t want to deal with him, so I pretended to be drunk and went home early.”
Tang Fan knew of this. Sui Zhou inherently wasn’t affiliated with the Court official bunch, relied on no one, and maintained neutrality, which was why Chenghua had a lot of trust in him. Wan Tong had noticed as much, too. If Sui Zhou could support him enough, then Wan Tong would not only be able to take back his influence that he had lost in the Brocade Guard, but win over a strong backer.
“He must have promised to get you a lot of benefits?” Tang Fan asked with a grin.
“I don’t care at all about those alleged ‘benefits’,” Sui Zhou answered, nonchalant.
The other coughed fakely, then pushed him. “Alright, Count, everyone’s gone. There’s no need to pretend, go on and find your Miss Qing.”
Sui Zhou chuckled lightly. “Who would you say Miss Qing is?”
Even though he had just been faking intoxication, he genuinely had drunk a lot tonight, his present smile having a tipsy hint to it.
“How should I know?”
“Runqing is a name, just take the last character… is that not Miss Qing?”
Honestly speaking, that conclusion could be drawn with only a tiny bit of thought put into it, and yet, for some reason, Tang Fan’s mind had never gone there. With how brilliant he was, that was quite odd.
Mister Tang’s mind couldn’t help but wander for a second. Once he felt the weight on him increase slightly, he snapped out of it, only to see that the distance between the two of them was getting closer, and they were nearly nose-to-nose, even their breaths intermingling.
Beneath the other man’s silent and intent gaze, Mister Tang successfully blushed.
He only got one word out before Sui Zhou’s head slowly drooped, then nuzzled right into the crook of his neck as he fell asleep.
The translator says: I’m taking bets on how hard Shang Ming’s ‘idea’ is going to backfire. Not whether it will or won’t, just how hard.