# 100. I Want to Book Out the Pavilion
He had just sent that phrase, and was just about to continue, as a whole stream of text flashed across the jade mirror:
【ONE: What insider information?】
【TWO: What secret do you know?】
【FOUR: THREE, does Sangpo Lake really have a secret?】
【FIVE: Can you tell us?】
【NINE: Little friend, please continue.】
“…” Xu Qi’an squatted in the stinking latrine room, in a daze.
*Everyone seems to care a lot about this situation. Fair enough, considering that it involves the National Guardian Sword of the Great Feng. This type of secret, no one would not be curious.*
*Especially, no one in the Heaven and Earth Society are ordinary characters; they all have great powers behind their backs, or have enough power themselves.*
*These type of people would care for such a high level secret even more. Even if it had nothing to do with them personally, who knows, maybe at some time in the future it will actually have a use.*
【THREE: It wasn’t a first rank’s attack, I can pretty much be sure of this.】
Xu Qi’an did not block the conversation.
After a pause, he continued writing: 【THREE: However, why should I tell you.】
No one spoke for an age.
*Heh, not bad, no one’s naive enough to stand up and say: “aren’t we meant to share information and help each other?”*
This was good; if in the group chat there was a killjoy, or a freeloader party member, then his plan would not be feasible.
Xu Qi’an continued, 【Jinlian Daozhang, I think that there is a corrupt practice in the Heaven and Earth Society. If this is not resolved, then the Heaven and Earth Society will forever be a loose scattered group, only in harmony on the surface, thus not being of much help to anyone.】
【NINE: Please continue.】
【THREE: Indeed, to help each other, to share information are the founding principles of the Heaven and Earth Society, but they’re too idealistic. I can tell everyone about this secret, but what do I get? Absolutely nothing.
【I share this secret, yet ONE is someone who likes to lurk silently, they could enjoy their free handout with contentment.
【After once or twice, I’d become unwilling to share anything more.】
【ONE: Who’re you saying is taking handouts?】
One seemed to be somewhat angry.
*You, ONE, you. Because* you *are the one that likes lurking…* Xu Qi’an ignored One, and continued to write: 【Daozhang, everyone in the Heaven and Earth Society is scattered all across the world, and we don’t necessarily know each other. Fundamentally, we are all strangers. Lacking any trust or basis, it may be asked, that who would be willing to give up all their personal information to strangers?】
*What this Xu hates the most is freeloading, and I will resolutely put an end to such behaviour.*
All that long rambling really all could be distilled down into one sentence: Why should I tell you?
【NINE: My little friend’s words are very reasonable.】
Seeing this, Xu Qi’an laughed, 【It’s good that Daozhang agrees. I hope everyone else can see the merit in this.】
All the other members of the Heaven and Earth Society kept their silence.
【THREE: Daozhang: I have a thought. When you gave the Number Three fragment to me, the fragment had been sealed, and was unable to connect with other fragments. Could we not take advantage of this?】
【NINE: What does my little friend have in mind?】
【THREE: Let me make an example: I sell the secret behind Sangpo Lake for five hundred taels of gold in the Heaven and Earth Society. If anyone wants to receive the information, then they could contact me through the earth book, and Daozhang you could help seal up any other member who is not willing to trade.
【Of course, I’m not the type of person who cares for worldly possessions like gold and silver, but if no one has information of an equivalent calibre, then I can accept using gold and silver to trade.】
*Quick, use silver to buy my information, I need to buy a big house in the inner city…* Xu Qi’an shifted his squatting position, staring at the mirror surface with some anticipation.
At this time, even the stink of the latrine became fragrant.
【NINE: To tell the truth, even though this poor Daoist knows the method to seal the earth book, this poor Daoist’s injuries are not fully healed. When I infiltrated the Earth Sect that day, I awoke a fragment of the Sect Leader’s soul, and so the earth book was sealed, and I suffered great injury. If not for this, this poor Daoist would not be so worse for wear.】
… the smile on Xu Qi’an’s face slowly vanished.
His guess wasn’t wrong; the fact that Jinlian Daozhang was willing to give the Earth Book fragments to everyone, meant that he definitely had a way to suppress them, and take them back.
Yet he only guessed at the head, and not the tail.
This is saying, there was no way to private message in the near future.
Seeing that no one was sending anything, One started writing with some anxiety.
He (she) didn’t want to see this trade fall flat.
【ONE: How about this, you can publicly tell us this secret, and I will give you a promise, to exchange for information of equal value, or using silver or gold.】
【FOUR: But this still has some issues. For example, if I used a secret of equivalent value to exchange with THREE, then THREE is not losing out, but my secret would be known by everyone else for free.】
【TWO: Furthermore, we’re spread all around the country, so even if we wanted to buy this secret, how would we get the silver over to you?】
Everyone started chatting livelily, expressing their own thoughts and doubts.
The corner of Xu Qi’an’s mouth twitched; not only did the members of the Heaven and Earth Society place great importance on his secret, but they also saw a way to make profit.
If his thoughts were to come to fruition, then they could also use their own knowledge to exchange.
*Nice, nice, with profit comes motivation, this is what a business gathering is all about.*
【THREE: Before Jinlian Daozhang has recovered completely, how about this: I can tell you all the secret, and you can use something of equal value, or money, to exchange for it. But I can put it on credit; you don’t have to immediately exchange now. Thus FOUR’s worry wouldn’t exist. As for TWO’s point, I haven’t thought of a good solution yet. Mm, you can also pay it off with some equivalent information later.】
*Then there shouldn’t be any problem…* everyone thought.
【ONE: I have no issues.】
【TWO: Nor I.】
【FOUR: Mn, let’s do as THREE says.】
【FIVE: No problems here.】
【SIX: Me too.】
【THREE: Why have SEVEN and EIGHT still not spoken? If you don’t express your view, then we can’t finish this deal.】
Jinlian stepped in to explain: 【From last year, SEVEN disappeared. EIGHT is facing a life or death challenge. Let’s exclude them for now.】
【FOUR: But SEVEN is still alive, right?】
【TWO: SEVEN’s earth book fragment is with me… mn, because of some incident, he had to fake his death to escape, and is hiding from danger.】
【THREE: Then I have no issues.】
Xu Qi’an paused for a few seconds, before writing: 【I heard a cry for help from Sangpo Lake!】
*There was a cry for help from Sangpo!?*
Such a casual sentence from Three, was like a thunderclap ringing through all the Heaven and Earth Society members’ heads.
*The place where the founding emperor found his Dao, the lake where the National Guardian sword was housed and revered, had a call for help…*
*Who was calling for help?*
The earth book group chat fell into an uncanny silence. After a long time, ONE, who was always few for words, wrote: 【Impossible!】
Everyone quickly turned their attention back to their earth book fragments, waiting silently for a long time, but not receiving Three’s reply.
*Yes, Three was a student of the Cloud Deer Academy. He was proud and arrogant, and didn’t deign to respond.*
This also roundaboutly implied that what Three said was true; a proud and arrogant student like him would not stoop as low as lying.
One seemed to also know this principle, and apart from their immediate reaction, did not continue to question.
【FOUR: A piece of information that is hard to swallow.】
【NINE: The status of this secret is extremely high.】
【TWO: Is there something imprisoned at the bottom of Sangpo lake? What do you guys think?】
Two gave their guess.
Xu Qi’an started, *it wasn’t just me that thought of that possibility.*
【FIVE: Woah, an unrivalled demon is imprisoned within Sangpo Lake in Feng? Hey, ONE, THREE, FOUR, you’re all subjects of Feng, have you thought of anything?】
【SIX: Don’t bother asking. ONE clearly doesn’t know, and everyone knows that ONE is someone important in court. This implies, that perhaps only the royal family, or even the Yuanjing Emperor alone knows of the answer.】
【ONE: I will try to investigate this matter. THREE, if I make any progress, can I use it to pay off your information?】
【THREE: Heh, depends on what you discover.】
After five minutes, no one had sent anything, Xu Qi’an finally determined that these lacklustre netizens had gone offline.
Stowing away his jade mirror, leaving the latrine, he inhaled a deep breath of fresh air, feeling like he had gained new life.
*If toilets were like this in my past life, then it would definitely fix procrastinating on the toilet overnight… because no one wants to play on their phone in this kind of environment.* Xu Qi’an thought, adding to himself, *A stinky latrine pit is the best doctor for haemorrhoids.*
Returning to the side hall, Zhu Guangxiao was in the middle of meditation, Song Tingfeng was reading an erotic romance that could not see the light of day. Of course, it was not about Emperor Yuanjing and the unparalleled beauty of a National Teacher.
“Did you go to give birth?” Song Tingfeng squinted, poking fun at him.
“Yep,” Xu Qi’an nodded, sitting comfortably on the chair, saying seriously, “Piece of shit, it’s your brat.”
Zhu Guangxiao, sitting beside them, suddenly breathed in too hard, and opened his eyes with a face full of being caught unawares, looking towards Xu Qi’an.
Song Tingfeng shuddered, cupping his hands, before returning to his book.
He thought of himself as the cynical type; his outward appearance was always smiling into a squint, a type of person that could perform proficiently in front of anyone.
But faced against Xu Qi’an, Song Tingfeng thought that he would be better of being more of a gentleman.
Oftentimes, he knew that the other was merely joking around, yet he did not have any good response to give, losing in tatters.
“Let’s go to the Jiaofangsi tonight.” Song Tingfeng suggested, “I’ve invited a few colleagues, you can teach everyone how Russian Roulette is played.”
He paused, before saying with a serious face, “After the matter with gold gong Yang and gold gong Jiang, the number of people who are jealous of you is not little, privately they can’t see eye-to-eye with you.
“You need to socialise more, and not just hang out with me and Zhu Guangxiao all day.”
Zhu Guangxiao opened his eyes, nodding in agreement, “Yes. I’ve often heard people talking shit about you behind your back.”
He was not a young simpleton, he knew deeply the principle of “the nail that sticks out must be hammered in”.
After joining the Nightwatchers, Xu Qi’an had indeed overlooked socialising with his colleagues. Mainly it was because all day he was meeting with Wei Yuan, or hanging around the Sitianjian. His standards had risen rather high.
Thus with Song Tingfeng leading he found a few familiar bronze gongs, also under Li Yuchun, and arranged with them to go to the Sitianjian to play.
Of course, there was no case of “inviting” another to dinner; everyone knew of the prices of the Jiaofangsi, no regular bronze gong could afford to invite everyone.[^1]
However, Xu Qi’an very lightly said, let’s go book out the Reflecting Plum Pavillion, I’ll arrange it.
The bronze gongs instantly were pumped.
Song Tingfeng pulled Xu Qi’an to a corner, rubbing his hands, “Ningyan, you really are a good brother… then, will Fuxiang join?”
Xu Qi’an gave him a side-eye, “Call me dad, and I’ll tell you.”
Song Tingfeng was a good lad who knew when to bow his head, and immediately recognised his father.
Xu Qi’an thus replied, “Of course not.”
“…” Song Tingfeng said angrily, “You bloody call dad back, else I’ll have no end with you!”
Xu Qi’an ignored him, and quietly escaped.
What kind of woman was Fuxiang? An oiran famed far and wide, the ultimate social flower, the fact that she was willing to sleep with Xu Qi’an was purely due to their good relationship.
In this era, having good relationships with prostitutes was very common.
Especially for scholars.
But Fuxiang wasn’t Xu Qi’an’s servant, nor was she a concubine that could be passed around like an object.
For someone of Fuxiang’s value and stature, how could she agree? You’d be dreaming.
Xu Qi’an did not want to cause cracks in their relationship because of this, or even break it entirely.
The Archives, floor Jia.
Sandalwood incense burnt, its light grey smoke straight as a ruler. Sunlight filtered through the latticed windows, shining onto the floor in regular patterns
Wei Yuan closed the thick, hefty *Thirteen Books of Great Feng*, and hesitated for a moment, before rising and pulling out another book: *Records of Jiuzhou: the Western Regions.*
The incense had burnt through, its ash falling into the burner.
Wei Yuan closed all the books, and tiredly rubbed his temples. Unwittingly, the books that were stacked by him had risen to shoulder height.
“Father, what have you found?” Nangong Qianrou finally got his opportunity.
“I think I know what’s going on.” Wei Yuan sighed.
“What’s the secret inside Sangpo Lake?” Nangong Qianrou asked.
“That is not something that you should know.” Wei Yuan shook his head, warning with a stern face, “Forget what happened today. You are not permitted to investigate further, nor to discuss this privately.”
Yang Yan and Nangong Qianrou simultaneously lowered their heads, “Yes.”
Ten Nightwatchers, including Xu Qi’an, walked into the alleys of the Jiaofangsi, chests raised.
In this time of the Official Evaluation, where the many officials were as timid as mice, the Nightwatchers dominated the Jiaofangsi.
“Hey Ningyan, will the oiran Fuxiang see us?”
“I’ve heard that the oiran hasn’t taken a customer in a long while.”
“Will the Reflecting Plum Pavillion really let us book it out?”
Some of the bronze gongs did not believe him, because a place like the Jiaofangsi welcomed scholars the most; all their entertainment and services were biased towards the educated.
This was just the attitude of society.
The Nightwatchers were responsible for supervising the many officials, but they and the officials had a delicate balance of power.
If the Jiaofangsi were to become chaotic, then the Ministry of Rites would be very happy to immediately send a cannonball the Nightwatchers’ way.
Thus, if Fuxiang did not want to meet them, then the bronze gongs could not but leave and lose the face.
However Xu Qi’an’s Russian Roulette game was too tempting; when the other Nightwatchers had heard, they first all scolded Xu Qi’an’s lack of culture, but when asked whether they would go, agreed very quickly indeed.
Coming to the Reflecting Plum Pavillion, the bronze gongs unconsciously slowed their footsteps, squeezing out from their party the very average looking Xu Qi’an.
Xu Qi’an took off his sabre, and with the scabbard spanked the small servant on the arse, laughing, “Tell the madam, I want to book out the pavilion.”
Translator note: over 2700 words, what a way to achieve 100 chapters!
[^1]: In Chinese culture, the default for “inviting someone out” implies that you pay for them, whereas splitting the bill/each paying his own is an exception.