Chapter 5: The Nocturnal Visitor
Translator: Nyoi_Bo_Studio Editor: Nyoi_Bo_Studio
“What are you thinking about?”
As the two servant girls were serving food, the young girl sitting next to Fan Xian asked, pouting. Her skin was slightly ashy and she was somewhat skinny, so she looked rather pitiful sitting next to the fair and genteel Fan Xian.
Fan Xian stretched out his hand and stroked her downy hair, chuckling. “I was wondering what you usually eat when you’re in the capital.”
This little girl, even younger than Fan Xian, was Ruoruo, Count Sinan’s daughter and Fan Xian’s half-sister.
She was such a sickly child, and the Countess felt sorry for her granddaughter, so the girl had been brought to Danzhou the previous year to recuperate. Though she had been coalescing for nearly a year, it had no noticeable effect; her hair remained wispy and thin. In a noble family such as the Count’s, there was no shortage of food, so it couldn’t have been malnutrition – it was likely a natural debility.
Fan Xian and the young girl got along very well. Although he saw himself as being something of an uncle to her, he was really there to provide company. He often took her out to play and told her stories. In the eyes of onlookers, however, this was evidence of their deep sibling bond.
It was Fan Xian’s status as a bastard that caused some awkwardness – it wasn’t proper to compare him to the Count’s legitimate daughter, so the servant girls took pains not to bring up the Count’s business in the capital.
She answered her brother’s question earnestly, twiddling her fingers, telling him of all the things she ate when she was in the capital. But as she began to list them, it seemed that all she could think of were candied hawthorn fruits and little dough figurines.
By the time they had finished eating, it was late. The sun had sunk halfway beneath the horizon and dense crepuscule enveloped the courtyard.
“Ruoruo, you’re such a weakling.”
“Stop being mean.”
“Ok, what story do you want to hear today?”
Fan Xian smiled. He was lucky nobody else was around, because it would be most unsettling to happen upon this four-year-old boy smiling that wicked smile that only adults are capable of.
“How about I tell you a ghost story?”
“No!” Horrified, Ruoruo shook her head vehemently, her ashen cheeks suddenly damp with tears. It was clear that over the past year she’d already suffered enough ghost stories.
Tormenting young girls was one of Fan Xian’s vices. He was an expert at menacing the servant girls, and often told them ghost stories which would incite incessant shrieking and leave them huddled together in bed, trembling.
Though he couldn’t tease them verbally, lest he arouse suspicion, he still enjoyed their soft, perfumed embraces.
He reassured himself that he was still a child and needed physical contact. There was nothing shameful about it; it was a natural desire.
And whenever the servant girls got curious – the young master is still so little, how does he know so many scary stories? – Fan Xian placed the blame squarely on his tutor.
And so the servant girls came to look on the tutor with mistrust: Count Sinan spent so much money bringing him here to teach the young master, and he spends all his time telling ghost stories, scaring the life out of the poor little lad and scaring us girls half to death – what an awful man!
After wrapping up the last ghost story, two of the servant girls were frightened senseless. They washed the young master and tucked him into bed.
It seemed like a normal night.
Fan Xian rested his head upon the hard porcelain pillow, then went to his wardrobe and brought out a winter robe. He folded it up into a rectangle and used it as a pillow.
He rested against the pillow, but his eyes stayed wide open. The dark night shimmered. He couldn’t get to sleep.
Even though he had come to accept many things about his reincarnation into this world, there was still one thing he couldn’t get used to: that he had to be asleep by 9 o’clock in the evening.
He’d spent enough time sleeping on his sickbed in his past life.
He felt along the surface of the bed and discovered a nook where he would not be seen. He relaxed and, naturally, his zhenqi began to slowly flow. He soon entered a meditative state.
A moment before he entered this state of emptiness, Fan Xian wondered – how should I live in this world? Just how should he spend the decades ahead of him?
He was just about to drift off into the harem reveries that he had conjured up so many times in his former vegetative state when he was woken by an unexpected guest.
“Are you Fan Xian?”
There was someone at the foot of his bed with icy-cold eyes and unusually brown pupils. With just one look, Fan Xian knew that this was not a benevolent visitor.
It was a polite enough question, but when asked in the middle of the night by someone who had snuck into one’s room, face concealed, dagger in hand, and with small bags tied about the waist, it was a somewhat disconcerting one.
Fortunately, Fan Xian was not a normal four-year-old boy; if he were, he would have cried out upon seeing this strange man.
He was also acutely aware that a visitor who could so stealthily infiltrate the Count’s estate was a man of great means and little mercy. If he were to cry out, he would certainly be killed.
Thinking this over, Fan Xian couldn’t help but feel some pride in the fact that, even in the face of death, his cognitive skills remained sharp. He coughed twice, trying to keep the fear in his heart from bursting forth. Disguised as this adorable young boy, he pounced!
“Papa, you’re finally back!”
Eyes brimming with tears, the four-year-old boy threw himself into the embrace of this would-be murderer, his arms clutching his waist. Yet the child’s arms were too short, so he could only grasp onto his clothing as if he feared the man would run away.
Perhaps he had grasped too firmly. With a rip, the boy tore a strip from the man’s clothing.
The night visitor furrowed his brow. He couldn’t figure out how to react, so he tore himself away from Fan Xian’s embrace and stood there dumbfounded. He seemed to be trying to figure out why Count Sinan’s bastard child would call him “papa”.
He was perplexed. His clothing was made from the finest materials; even a blade should have trouble tearing it. How did this young child rip it with his bare hands?
Yet Fan Xian was even more puzzled than the man. When he was all alone, he had used his time in the rock garden to test the power of his zhenqi on the stones. When he discovered that his slender little fingers could just barely crush softer stones, such as turquoise, he developed confidence in his capability for self-defence.
Fan Xian had managed to use the distraction of his childish tears to get his opponent to let down his guard. He focused all his strength into his fingers, fully expecting to be able to stop his assailant in his tracks. He hadn’t expected that he’d only tear away some clothing.
It seemed like something serious was about to happen.