# 10. The Constabulary's Homicide Case The night was like a wash, dotted with glittering stars. The Stargazing Tower, Capital of Feng, the headquarters of the Sitianjian. The yellow skirted Chu Caiwei lightly skipped up the steps. After passing seven floors, she heard loud clamouring from within the laboratory. A group of white-robed alchemists walked out, arguing with each other. “Why did it fail? It was clearly such an easy process.” “I’ve already said, it has to be that the amount of salt wasn’t enough.” “No, I think it’s water.” “It has to be the fire, right? Just then I saw that Brother Wan heated the salt to boiling point.” “It’s too hard, how can we turn salt into silver? I can’t do it.” The corner of Caiwei’s mouth twitched, as she grumbled “These people are *still* trying to refine fake silver.” Two days ago, she brought the story of silver from salt back to the Sitianjian. Initially, her fellow students didn’t believe her. Salt can turn into silver? Even a three year old wouldn’t believe that. But very quickly, the tax silver case was solved. His Majesty thought that the fake silver was powerful and mysterious, and so ordered the Sitianjian to refine it. Thus, the Sitianjian’s alchemists began their backbreaking labour, working the toils of 996 night in and night out.[^1] From two days ago until now, they tried and failed and tried again, and failed some more. “Caiwei, it’s Caiwei!” someone excitedly yelled. In an instant, a group of sallow and worn faces turned around, their eyes lighting up with a newfound energy. “Sister Caiwei, how did you refine this fake silver?” “Sister Caiwei, quick, have a look, is one of the steps wrong? You’re the only one who successfully did it.” Surrounding the yellow-skirted girl, leaving her no way out. Caiwei could not but enter the laboratory, and look over her senior students’ progress. “Failed again!” a white-cloak, who was just performing the experiment, sighed mournfully. “Sister Caiwei, where have we gone wrong?” the group of white-cloaks gave an earnest and eager-to-learn attitude. *I don’t see any problem, that’s how I did it back then…* Caiwei hesitated, “These are alchemical magicks from ancient times, extremely abstruse, learning it is far easier said than done. One must go deep into the profundities and understand them in simple terms, to be able to get a deep-rooted grasp. I will tell you, my senior fellows, a rhyme. You must remember it well.” All the senior students listened close. “Hydrogen helium lithium beryllium boron carbon nitrogen oxygen fluorine neon sodium magnesium aluminium silicon phosphorous!” “How do we understand this?” though they were sharp of mind, none of them understood a single word. The group fell into a dazed state. *I don’t know either…* Chu Caiwei deliberately made herself seem deep and mysterious, and grinned, but didn’t respond. “A prodigy, a prodigy! Whoever wrote this rhyme, must be an alchemical prodigy!” One white-cloak sighed. *What prodigy? Senior brother what nonsense are you thinking?* Chu Caiwei’s smile did not waver. “Sister Caiwei, who told you this rhyme? Did you meet some master alchemist, and received his teachings?” Caiwei thought, *good question!* She lightly tossed the pot aside. “That person’s called Xu Qi’an, the son of the Seventh Rank lieutenant of the imperial guard, Xu Pingzhi. Go find him.” As soon as they heard that he was a martial artist, the white-cloaks suddenly were no longer as excited. “Hah. Our grand and mighty Sitianjian, overflowing with talent, still has to find an outsider to refine us some fake silver?” “And a martial artist at that.” “If this gets out, we’ll be a laughing stock!” Due to the various cultivation paths being different, several interesting prejudices formed between the different systems. The Daoists look down upon the Buddhists, and vice-versa; The Arcanists scorn the Warlocks, the Warlocks scorn the Shamans, the Shamans scorn the Arcanists; And finally, the Daoists, Buddhists, Arcanists, Warlocks, and Shamans all look down on the Martial Artists. And as to the Confucianists? *Well, forgive my being blunt, but everyone else here is a pile of garbage.* Although in recent times the Confucian tradition has weakened. “Sister Caiwei, how about you teach us?” Caiwei let out a “heh”, “Maybe next time!” She squeezed herself out from the crowd of white-cloaked fellow students, and carried on up the stairs. To tell the truth, she didn’t know either. Last time at the constabulary, in the first go she managed to refine out the fake silver. Later, she tried again privately, but failed. She imitated completely the earlier process, but nonetheless failed, and she hadn’t the foggiest why. At the top of the stargazing tower was not a regular sloped roof, rather an octagonal platform, inlaid with a *bagua*. Thus, it was called the Bagua Platform. On the edge of the Bagua Platform, a white cloaked, elderly man sat in front of a small table, a small cup of liquor in one hand, the other holding his head, like he was drunk, but almost not, as he looked over the capital. Caiwei knowingly did not disturb him. Normally, when her teacher is not doing work, he liked to sit on the Bagua platform, drinking liquor, watching the scenery. And he didn’t like to be interrupted. As he twirled the cup, with half-closed eyes, as if closely watching all under heaven. “Has Caiwei come?” the white-robed old man laughed. “Master.” Caiwei’s face burst into a wide smile, as she jogged over, standing at the edge of the platform, her clothes fluttering in the wind. “What reward did the old Emperor give?” “A few hundred taels of silver, a few rolls of silk,” she said, “Master, what on earth is this ‘fake silver?’” “Your teacher doesn’t know.” “There’s things in the world that master doesn’t know about?” “Oh, too much,” the old man laughed, “Your teacher still doesn’t know where that thief went, nineteen years ago.” “You keep saying how much you hated that thief nineteen years ago, but you didn’t tell me who he was, or what did he steal.” The old man stood up, standing at the edge of the platform, sighing, “A very, very precious thing.” “Then, do you know who made the fake silver?” The Sitianjian was the place where the Arcanist cultivation was born. All the alchemy masters under heaven, even if they were not born into the Sitianjian, they at least have some relation to it. Behind the tax silver case, there must have been an alchemist involved, who refined that strange material; clearly no ordinary character. “Naturally, I know.” … The small courtyard, the master bedroom. Xu Qi’an lay on his bed, staring dazedly at the beams that held up the roof, which were dim under the faint moonlight through the window. He worried for his future, he was lost and scared, but also his blood was rushing, and he was excited. *With my being an exquisite product of the nine years of compulsory education, all of the knowledge is still fresh.* He could easily stand out amongst his peers in this monarchic society, becoming a blooming flower. However, in this society where the right of kings remains absolute, the rights of the common people were never a guarantee. Today a tender flower, tomorrow conscripted by the army and sent far way. This would make any modern person have a great sense of worry. Thinking and thinking, Xu Qi’an drifted off to sleep, and slept until the sun rose. He dressed in his dark coloured uniform, tied up his belt, brushed his long hair, and attached his dao to his waist. A straight upright body, handsome and masculine. He could not but admit, that the clothing of ancient times had great style — only that going to the toilet was far too much of a hassle. Climbing the wall over to his uncle’s house to get a free breakfast, the two of them left for work together. Xu Pingzhi was back in his official role, and all was like it was before. Changle county was a capital region county that immediately bordered the city walls. Its constabulary was in the city itself, only six to seven li away from the Xu residence. Xu Qi’an didn’t have a horse, nor a cart, and so could only take the no. 11 horse drawn bus, taking the half hour journey to the constabulary. The Changle County Constabulary building faced south, and beside its front door sat two stone lions, which were as tall as an average person. Either side of the red-brown painted door, were two large drums, with their paint peeling slightly. The constabulary hierarchy is worth talking about: the most powerful person was of course the District Magistrate, called the High Officer. He had two assistants, the assistant magistrate and the bookkeeper. These three were ranked officials of the court. In Xu Qi’an’s era, that would have been equivalent to having governmental authority. Below the three court officials, was the clerk, and the commanding officer. They, however, did not have formal ranks. Then there are the “three jobs and six houses”. The three jobs are called dark, quick, and strong respectively, and can be referred to as runners, or minor officers. They serve to keep the peace, make arrests, and enforce the law. The six houses correspond to the six ministries of the court. Xu Qi’an was classed as a “quick” runner, also called a bailiff. Entering the main gate, he was lucky enough to just be in time for the clerk’s morning count. The clerk, surnamed Li, caught sight of Xu Qi’an, and was stunned momentarily. That expression on his face, as if he’d seen a ghost in daylight. The other constabulary runners saw that their leader’s expression was off, and all turned their heads. Then, they also made the same expression, as if they’d seen a ghost. “Xu- Xu Qi’an, are you a man or a ghost!?” someone asked, voice shaking. Clerk Li noticed that Xu Qi’an still cast a shadow, and he relaxed somewhat, saying with a steady voice “What nonsense have they been saying in the courts, do ghosts cast shadows now?” Hearing this, everyone let out a sigh of relief. Xu Qi’an thought for a moment, joking “Who’s to say I’m not a zombie?” Li was shocked, and all the runners felt their hearts tighten. Xu Qi’an quickly clasped his fists, “Was just a joke. My greetings, Master Li, my fellow brothers, I got out of jail.” Li asked, “How?” Everyone had heard about how the Xu family were thrown in jail, due to the tax silver case. “Of course it was by using merit to atone for crime. His Majesty was generous, and pardoned the Xu family.” he immediately retold the events that had unfolded, but pushing all the merit onto his uncle, as well as taking out proof given by the Capital Constabulary. At the same time, he had a plan in his mind. Even though the tax silver was said to be found, but the judgement hadn’t come. Basically, the whole case was not wholly completed, as after all it had to progress through the bureaucracy, and couldn’t be that quick. It was because of this that his coworkers at the Changle constabulary did not know of this. After the headcount was finished, a few bailiffs that knew Xu Qi’an quickly came up to him, giving him their congratulations. “Ningyan, you must invite us to drink.” In this era, friends are called by their courtesy names, and not their birth names. When introducing themselves, they use their birth name, and not their courtesy name. “Indeed, to go through great disaster and not die, what follows must be fortune. On me.” “I heard that the theatre[^2] at the waterside street have bought a new group of attendants. Ningyan, how about we go tonight?” *Having drinks on me is all alright, but to sleep with women on my dime? That’s a bit much…* Xu Qi’an was just thinking of a way to respectfully say that he had no money, when he felt a hard lump under his foot. Looking down, he found a nugget of loose silver. Is this really “After surviving a disaster, there must be good fortune”? He immediately stepped onto it, without any reaction, as if looking round at the scenery. When everyone had left him a few steps behind, Xu Qi’an quickly bent down and picked it up, stuffing it into his purse wordlessly. Walking through the corridor, and after sitting down in the western hall a few minutes, Li the clerk walked in, expression dark. He turned towards Constable Wang: “Old Wang, the district magistrate wants us to go to the inner hall.” Constable Wang let out a bitter look, wordlessly leaving the room. Xu Qi’an watched Wang’s shadow disappear into the distance, and asked “What’s the issue? Boss’s expression seemed none too good.” “Whilst you were sat in prison those few days, a homicide happened in Kangping Street. The victim was a somewhat wealthy merchant. Mr district magistrate is in a thunderous rage, and every day he wants Constable Wang to go shout at him.” “It’s only a merchant, there’s no real reason why Mr District Magistrate would be so angry.” Xu Qi’an remarked. From ancient times, homicides were always major cases, but as the district magistrate of a county directly next to the capital, a sub-fifth rank official, he shouldn’t have been acting like this. “Heh, that merchant was a very intimate friend of a higher up, most likely they’re applying the pressure on him” someone said, “plus, its the *geng-zi*[^3] year,” “The geng-zi Year?” “The official evaluation!” --- [^1]: 996, used to be common especially amongst Chinese tech companies, a Jack Ma favourite: 9 AM to 9 PM, 6 days a week. [^2]: The “theatre” talked about here is a *goulan*, not a particularly upper class establishment, with plays, food, wine, female attendants who of course are also prostitutes. [^3]: A year of the Chinese sexagenary (60 year) cycle.