# 1. Imprisoned
Jail, Capital Region of the Great Feng.
Xu Qi'an[^1] slowly awoke, smelling the damp rotting odour in the air, enough to make a person’s stomach churn.
What is with this stink, has Erha[^2] defecated on the bed again… and by the stench, it might be right by my head…
Xu Qi’an had a pet dog, a husky, thus they gave it the nickname “Erha”.
Far away north for a decade, all alone, he’d been lonely for a long time. Thus it was no wonder that he wanted to raise a dog, to comfort himself … it doesn’t seem to be on his body.
Opening his eyes, looking around, Xu Qi’an was momentarily stunned.
A wall built of stone, three windows the size of rice bowls; he lay on an ice-cold tattered straw mat, the sun shining onto his chest from the windows, dust thick within its rays.
Where am I?
Lost, he pondered deeply, doubting his very existence. After a while though, he really started to question life.
The memories came back like a raging tide, not giving him a moment to react, forcefully embedding themselves in his mind, crashing around at great speed.
Xu Qi’an, courtesy name Ningyan[^3], a constable of Changle[^4] County, in the capital region of the great Feng Dynasty. His monthly salary was two taels of silver and one dan of rice.
His father was a vetaran, who died nineteen years ago in the “Mountains and Seas campaign”. Afterwards, his mother died of illness… at this point, Xu Qi’an was somewhat comforted.
As everyone knows, those whose parents have died are never simple.
“I never thoguht that even though I’d reincarnated, I still couldn’t escape the fate of being a police officer.” Xu Qi’an thought, somewhat bitterly.
In his previous life, he was a graduate of police academy, he passed the aptitude tests, and achieved the “golden rice bowl”[^5].
However, even though he walked the path that his parents set out for him, his heart was never on a job serving the people. He preferred to be boundless and free, to live a life of luxury and passion; he particularly liked a phrase that was written in Li Xianlin’s diary: –
Thus he brashly resigned, and set out in the world of business.
“But why am I in prison?”
Trying hard to digest his new memories, he quickly realised his current situation.
Since he was a child, Xu Qi’an was raised by his uncle[^6]. Since he practiced martial arts, every year he could eat over a hundred taels of silver worth of food, thus earning his aunt’s contempt. At eighteen, he had reached the height of the *Refining Body* stage, yet had since made no progress. Under pressure from his aunt, he moved away from the Xu manor, to live alone.
Through his uncle, he got a job at the constabulary, and was doing pretty well for himself, but who would’ve known…
Three days ago, his seventh-rank green-robed uncle in the imperial guard was escorting a caravan of taxes to the capital. On their journey happened an accident, and the silver was lost.
A full 150,000 taels of silver.
Both government and people were stunned, His Majesty was in uproar, and personally gave the command for Xu Pingzhi[^7] to be beheaded, and for three generations of his family to be arrested, the men sent off to the frontiers as hard labour, and the women thrown into the *Jiaofang Si[^8]*.
As Xu Pingzhi’s nephew, he was relieved of his duties, and thrown in Jail.
Only two days to go, before he would be sent to the barren frontier, to live out the rest of his life in hard labour.
“What hell for the opening act….” Xu Qi’an felt a chill down his spine, spreading down his back, and to his heart.
This world is ruled by a feudal dynasty, with no concept of human rights, what place would the borderlands be like?
Barren, with a hostile environment; most who are sent there don’t live past ten years. And even more people, due to any number of accidents, illness, die before even reaching their destination.
Xu Qi’an’s hair stood up on end, and he felt a cold dread.
After some silence, the quiet jail rang with Xu Qi’an’s tentative voice.
But “System” did not reply.
“System… System father, please, come out!” Xu Qi’an’s voice revealed anxiousness.
No system, there’s no system!
This meant that there was no real way to change his current predicament. Two days later, he would be shackled and chained, and sent to the borderlands. With his physique, he shouldn’t die on the way. But this was not exactly a good thing, spending the rest of his life being squeezed for every bit of labour he can do, only to finally die…
Too frighting, just too frightening!
Xu Qi’an’s dreams of an ancient fantasy land after his transmigration burst like a bubble, leaving only anxiety and fear.
“I must think of a way to save myself, I can’t bloody stay here!”
Xu Qi’an paced around in his small, narrow cell, like an ant in a hot pan, like a wild beast that had fallen down a well, desperately thinking of a way out.
I’m at the peak of Refining Body, my body is frighteningly strong… but this world is stiff like steel; I can hardly break out…
Could I rely on family and friends?
The Xu family isn’t particularly large, its people spread across the land. 150,000 taels of silver were stolen, under such circumstances who can plead to them for help?
But under the laws of Feng, I can use merit to atone for crime, and get out of this death sentence!
But I’d have to find back that silver…
Xu Qi’an’s eyes suddely lit up, like a dying man seeing a thread of hope. He was a graduate of police academy, his knowledge and expertise plentiful, deduction and reasoning skills excellent, and he had read countless cases.
Perhaps he could try solve this case, track back the silver, and use merit to atone for crime.
But soon after, the light in his eyes dimmed.
If he wanted to solve the case, he would have to first see the dossier, understanding a blow-by-blow account of its happenings. Only afterwards could he begin to investigate and solve.
But this current moment he was in Jail, with neither heaven or earth responding to him, and due to be sent to the frontier in two days!
No way out!
Xu Qi’an sat down heavily, his eyes listless.
Yesterday, he was at the bar, getting drunk as can be, and today when he woke up, he was in jail. Thinking about it now, he probably transmigrated after dying of alcohol poisoning.
So when God gave him the opportunity to transmigrate, it was not because he wanted him to live again, but rather because he thought Xu Qi’an died too easily?
In ancient times, being sent to the frontier was the sentence just below a death sentence.
Even though he was mercilessly beaten by society in his previous life, at least he lived in a time of peace. You say rebirth is so good; without a thought, he’d steal his parents’ savings and buy property. And then return that to his old mother, and break the arms of his speculative-trading loving father, so that he couldn’t even hold a leek.
Suddenly, the sound of chains sliding came from the dark corridor - it should be the door opening.
Then, came the sound of footsteps.
A prison guard came, escorting a handsome scholar, the latter a face full of worry. They stopped in front of Xu Qi’an’s door.
The guard gave a look to the scholar, “You have until half a stick of incense burns.”
The scholar bowed, and after watching the guard leave, he turned to face Xu Qi’an. He wore a pearl-white robe, his black hair tied back with a jade hairpin. His appearance was extremely handsome, with straight, thin eyebrows, eyes like stars, and thin lips.
In Xu Qi’an’s mind, a memory of him surfaced.
The second eldest son of the Xu family, Xu Xinnian[^9]. The son of his uncle, and his younger cousin, who would be taking the imperial examination this autumn.
Xu Xinnian looked at his cousin calmly, “I gave the guards that will escort you to the frontier 300 taels of silver, our entire family savings. You can go safely, there won’t be any accidents on the road.”
“How about you?” Xu Qi’an automatically replied. He remembered, his relationship with his brother was never particularly great.
Because his aunt hated him, no one in his family - save his uncle - particularly cared for Xu Qi’an. At least, his brother and sister[^10] never expressed much closeness towards him.
Apart from this, in his original body’s memories, this younger brother was extremely adept at the art of scolding and criticising people.
Impatiently, Xu Xinnan replied “My honours have been abolished, but under the protection of the academy, I won’t be sent to the frontier. Look after yourself is all. When you get there, keep a hold of your temper, if you can live one year, live one year.”
Xu Xinnian was a student at the widely known White Deer Academy, and was somewhat of a teacher’s favourite, and had recently passed his examinations. Thus, after his uncle got into trouble, he was never imprisoned, but simply forbidden from leaving the capital, where he’d been running back and forth for many days.
Xu Qi’an fell silent. He didn’t think Xu Xinnian had it any better than him; perhaps in addition to removing his honour, he would be blacklisted, and all his future generations would never be able to take the examination, to never make their place in the world.
Furthermore, two days later, all the women of the Xu family would be sent to the Jiaofang Si, and suffer its mistreatment.
Xu Xinnian was an intellectual, how could he have enough face to continue living in the capital? Perhaps being sent to the frontier was a better option.
Xu Qi’an suddenly had a realisation. He lept forward, hands grabbing the bars: “You want to commit suicide!?”
Uncontrollably, his heart welled up with grief … I’m not even meant to know him.
Expressionless, Xu Xinnian shook his sleeves, “What does that have to do with you?”
After a pause, his gaze slowly moved down a few inches, not looking directly at his elder brother, and spoke with a soft tone: “Keep on living.”
All said and done, he turned to leave.
“Wait!” Xu Qi’an stretched his arm out from between the bars, grabbing his brother’s sleeve. Xu Xinnian paused, looking back silently.
“Can you get the dossier? The dossier for the lost tax silver case?”
[^5]: An “Iron Rice Bowl” refers to a stable job that will always guarantee you rice on the table. A gold rice bowl is naturally better than that
[^6]: “second uncle” in original translation
[^8]: A series of brothels, ran by the imperial Ministry of Rites
[^10]: Cousins, but for reading reasons “Brother” and “Sister” are better used