# 103. Waist Chop[^1] Nobody understood Xu Qi’an’s military salute, but Song Tingfeng understood the murderous intent coming from some of the bronze gongs, all subordinates of silver gong Zhu. "Capture him! Don't let him escape." Song Tingfeng yelled loudly, and rushed forward to push Xu Qi'an down and twist his hands behind his back, after which he took a look at everyone present. "Bronze Gong Xu Qi'an attacked his superiors. He broke the law and should be sent to the constabulary for trial." Zhu Guangxiao came over and wordlessly took off the rope around his waist, using it to restrain his colleague by himself. After seeing the two restrain Xu Qi'an, the other Bronze Gongs nearby were slightly relieved. Song Tingfeng's face changed colour, and he whispered in Zhu Guangxiao's ear, "You take him to the office. I'll move first and report this matter to be boss. Remember, don't let Silver Gong Zhu's subordinates escort him, and don't let them harm him." After saying that, Song Tingfeng clasped his fists together and said, "This person had come with us on Silver Gong Li's orders, so we are also responsible for his crime. We will escort him back to the office, and everyone else can continue on the House Raid. "Alright!" "Thanks." The bronze gongs present nodded. Since Song Tingfeng had promised to do the work, Even if the criminal escaped, it would not be their business, anyway. Additionally, The task of raiding the house hadn't yet been completed, and everyone present wanted to make some money, given the opportunity. Song Tingfeng found a few colleagues who they had played Russian Roulette together with last night in the Jiaofang Si to escort Xu Qi'an together. Old Song was probably angry, and ignored Xu Qi’an the whole way, even kicking him once or twice. After leaving the mansion, he galloped away at top speed. Xu Qi'an, tied up with ropes, and on horseback was escorted by four bronze gongs to the Nightwatcher's Office. At that time, his adrenalin consumed, Xu Qi'an finally began to worry about himself. He surely feared death, but he didn't regret his actions. The criminal official's family members were innocent, and should have able to leave without having anything done to them. Xu Qi'an had been adapting to the rules and regulations of this era, and was trying his best to integrate to the world. This is what he had said to Xu Xinnian. He had also been persuading himself. *At least for now. As an eighth rank martial artist, I could only adapt to the environment.* But, when he saw the fate of the girl, Xu Qi'an faith in justice, which had been cooling down, suddenly became hot and boiling. He had regained his original heart. ... Li Yuchun was working in the hall, when his ears moved suddenly. He raised his head and waited for a few seconds, when Song Tingfeng rushed to the Spring Breeze Hall. "What's the matter?" Li Yuchun asked. His hasty footsteps indicated that he had something important to report. "Xu Qi'an almost killed Silver Gong Zhu. Boss, you have to save him quickly." Song Tingfeng spoke very fast. Not waiting for Li Yuchun to respond, he continued, “Zhu Guangxiao and others are currently escorting him back to the constabulary. Gold gong Zhu will find out very quickly, I fear that Xu Qi’an wouldn’t even have the opportunity to enter the constabulary.” Li Yuchun did not ask any further, suddenly rising, and with Song Tingfeng at his heels, sprinted out of Spring Breeze Hall. His target was very clear; Yang Yan’s Divine Spear Hall. The only people who could deal with gold gongs were other gold gongs. As the two of them walked at top speed, Li Yuchun said, “What happened?” Song Tingfeng, panting slightly, replied in a rush: “That Zhu wanted to assault a girl of the criminal’s family, Xu Ningyan made to stop him, the two of them had an altercation, and with one strike Xu Qi’an seriously wounded silver gong Zhu, his life is in danger…” After Song Tingfeng had finished, he continued to add details, including before they had set out, silver gong Zhu’s singling out of Xu Qi’an and deliberate bullying. *Assault a girl?* If Li Yuchun initially thought Xu Qi’an was somewhat in the wrong for attacking silver gong Zhu, he was now unequivocally on Xu Qi’an’s side. “In a moment when we see gold gong Yang, you repeat what you just said. But remember this: don’t mention silver gong Zhu deliberately singling out and bullying Xu Qi’an.” Li Yuchun instructed him. Song Tingfeng was dazed for a few seconds, before suddenly realising what he meant, and vigorously grunted agreement. If he were to tell about the altercation in the constabulary, gold gong Yang perhaps would have thought that Xu Qi’an and silver gong Zhu’s altercation had some personal disagreements within. This would then be equivalent to fighting because of personal enmity. But if he were not to mention this, then Xu Qi’an would purely have been upholding justice, yes, only upholding justice. The squad makeup of house raids was designed to allow people to supervise each other, to prevent corruption and secret smuggling of confiscated goods. But whatever side Xu Qi’an stood on, he had still made a mistake, a very serious mistake. His correct course of action would be to report it back to the constabulary, and not privately deal with the matter himself, causing grave injury in the process. In any constabulary, any violation when an subordinate attacks or kills a superior, would be a crime sentenced to chopping at the waist. “He, can he be saved?” Song Tingfeng asked hoarsely. “…” Li Yuchun looked at him, “I don’t know.” The two of them came to divine spear hall. Yang Yan did not go to the Tower of Noble Spirit to accompany Wei Yuan, rather was sitting in his own building meditating. He seemed to not even want to open his eyes, continuing to reverse breathe, running his qi through microcosmic orbits. Given any other time, Li Yuchun would have waited patiently, until the orbit had finished before reporting his matter. But today, he couldn’t wait. Li Yuchun said solemnly, “Gold gong Yang, there’s been a serious matter.” Yang Yan opened his eyes, expressionless, replying without annoyance or anger: “What matter?” Li Yuchun glanced at Song Tingfeng, and the latter immediately recounted everything that had happened earlier, about the altercation with silver gong Zhu during the house raid, hiding any hint of personal grudges. Li Yuchun then added, “With gold gong Zhu’s temperament, I’m afraid Xu Qi’an won’t be able to come back.” Yang Yan showed a serious expression, “I know.” He rose, and with one step disappeared from the room. … Zhu Yang[^2] was one of the Capital’s ten gold gongs, a fourth rank martial artist. In his early years he was in the military, from a squad leader working his way all the way up to being a Baihu captain. He was later picked by Wei Yuan and invited into the Nightwatchers organisation. He was one of Wei Yuan’s direct gold gongs, his status only slightly less than that of the two adoptive sons. Zhu Yang had three sons: the eldest was a useless student and an inept martial artist, the second was a passable scholar, currently working as a clerk in the government. Only his third son had brilliant natural aptitude, being the youngest silver gong in the entire Nightwatcher organisation, and was doted upon by Zhu Yang. At this time, one of the silver gongs under his command barged into his office in panic, with a nasty expression on his face, “Sir, sir, things are bad, Master Zhu is in a serious matter…” Zhu Yang, who was intently reading a dossier, suddenly looked up, hearing the silver gong say, “Master Zhu was gravely injured by a bronze gong, currently on the verge of death. He’s already been brought back to the constabulary and is getting emergency medical treatment. Your subordinate has sent people to ask for the Sitianjian’s arcanists.” Lead by the silver gong, gold gong Zhu rushed to his son’s Falcon Hall, and saw his unconscious young son, saw the huge gash on his chest. His subordinate bronze gongs took turns to give him qi, maintaining his body’s function, whilst two physicians in the constabulary were attending to him. Gold gong Zhu’s face became dark, “How is the situation?” The two physicians seemed not to hear him, not stopping in their movements, stopping blood, applying medicine, acupuncture, and sewing up the wound. “If the sword wound would have been half an inch deeper, his heart would have been cut open. If that were the case, even the Sitianjian’s arcanists would not have been able to do anything.” A physician looked up at gold gong Zhu, explaining. “It was the silver gong magic item that blocked the otherwise life-threatening attack, luckily saving his life, but the blade qi has entered his internal organs. If they are not pulled out with qi, then Master Zhu would only be able to live another hour.” “When are the Sitianjian’s arcanists coming?” Gold Gong Zhu’s voice sharply rose. “We’ve already sent people, they’ll arrive very quickly.” The silver gong who led him replied. Gold gong Zhu nodded, “Who did it?” The silver gong replied, “Bronze Gong Xu Qi’an, under Li Yuchun…” *Xu Qi’an?* Gold gong Zhu had heard of this small character. Jiang Lyuzhong and Yang Yan fought just because of him. He was only a small bronze gong, how could he have hurt his son? “When gathering, that small bronze gong was late. Silver gong Zhu punished him for it, who would’ve thought that he had taken a grudge. When raiding the house, silver gong Zhu did nothing more than tease a few of the criminal family’s women, and he immediately attacked him.” This silver gong had only heard from the bronze gong that had reported to him. The events were indeed like that, however he himself made the recounting softer, mixing up the reasons and putting implication on different events. He placed the blame for the altercation on Xu Qi’an. After all, he couldn’t say in front of the man’s father: “Your son raped a woman, and was struck down for it.” Looking at gold gong Zhu’s iron-grey face, the silver gong continued, “That Xu Qi’an is already being escorted back, he’s probably nearly at the constabulary now.” After confirming that the Sitianjian White Cloaks had enough time to get here, Zhu Yang looked deeply at his unconscious son, before turning into a gust of wind and disappearing form the room. Rushing out of the constabulary, gold gong Zhu looked down the street, seeing six riders slowly approaching. On one of the horses sat Xu Qi’an, hands tied with ropes behind his back. Five others surrounded him, escorting him back to the constabulary. The other Nightwatchers were still performing the house raid, making an inventory of the goods. Gold Gong Zhu stared at the small bronze gong on the horse, without any anger or murderous intent, channelling some qi into his fingers. “Sching!” Zhu Yang’s blade flew out of the scabbard by itself, and under control of his qi struct towards Xu Qi’an. Everyone was caught by surprise, including the bound Xu Qi’an. “Ding!” Another bronze gong’s sabre suddenly flew out of its scabbard, blocking the knife edge that was flying towards Xu Qi’an. The two blades clashed in mid-air, making a clanging sound. Xu Qi’an had long expected this, but his back nonetheless erupted in cold sweat. The expressionless Zhu Yang faced him, as if he was merely stepping on an ant. His face finally darkened, and he turned to look at the stiff-faced man behind him, trying to keep his anger down, “Attempted murder on a superior, according to the law must be executed. You cannot protect him.” “If he’s to be executed then I’ll do it.” Stiff-faced Yang Yan faced that burning gaze, saying calmly, “When did you get to act on my people?” “Sure. Then this matter will be decided by Wei Yuan.” The two of them immediately headed towards the Tower of Noble Spirit, to find Wei Yuan to arbitrate. After being permitted in, the expressionless Yang Yan, and the bursting-with-anger Zhu Yang climbed the building, meeting Wei Yuan on the seventh floor. Wei Yuan stood at the balcony, back facing the tea room. Nangong Qianrou stood at the threshold between the balcony and the tea room, his back to a wall, his face cold with a hint of amusement. “Duke Wei!” Zhu Yang clasped his fists, “My Son Zhu Chengzhu[^3] was severely wounded by Xu Qi’an, and is still in critical condition. “Please take responsibility for your subordinate, and severely punish Bronze Gong Xu Qi’an.” He raised his head, to look at Wei Yuan’s figure, and seeing that he did not turn, continued, “Duke Wei, this matter…” Zhu Yang recounted everything he was told. Wei Yuan turned, pacing back to the tea room, and sat by the talbe. Yang Yan said: “Father, I have a different recounting of events here. Zhu Chengzhu took advantage of the house raid to attempt to assault the women, and was stopped by bronze gong Xu Qi’an. Not only did Zhu Chengzhu not stop what he was doing, but rather pulled the girl into the courtyard, and made to assault her in front of everybody. Xu Qi’an’s persuasion did not work, and in anger acted.” It must have been hard for gold gong Yang, his entire daily allotment of words was pretty much spent. “Piss!” Zhu Yang erupted in anger, “Clearly it was bronze gong Xu Qi’an harbouring thoughts of revenge.” As if no one was present, Wei Yuan arranged the porcelain, and started making tea, waiting for the two gold gongs to finish arguing — mostly Zhu Yang shouting and cursing; Yang Yan did not give him any attention. “Given that there are differences, then we must compare accounts.” Wei Yuan said. Very quickly, Song Tingfeng and Zhu Guangxiao, along with the other bronze gongs that had returned already, were summoned to the hall, including Xu Qi’an himself. He was surrounded by everyone else, his hands tied. “Say clearly!” Wei Yuan looked around at everyone, saying warmly. The bronze gongs all lowered their heads, not daring to look back at him, even if this great eunuch always bore a warm and kindly demeanour. Zhu Yang’s eyes stared sharply at the silver gong that had reported back to him, “Tell everything exactly as you heard it to Duke Wei.” That silver gong repeated his report, its contents identical to what Zhu Yang said. The bronze gongs frowned. Zhu Guangxiao pushed Song Tingfeng; he himself was the silent type, not one for words, and thus could only rely on his more extroverted friend to speak for him. *In front of Duke Wei, I’ll also tremble when I speak…* Song Tingfeng drew a deep breath, “Duke Wei, your subordinate has a report.” After receiving Wei Yuan’s nod, Song Tingfeng said in a low voice, “When we gathered, we didn’t arrive late, but silver gong Zhu specifically singled us out, striking me and Xu Qi’an. “During the house raid, he forced us three to stay in the front hall, and not enter the inner courtyards. A higher ranked official cannot be talked around, so we did as told. “Only when we heard women’s cries from the back yard, was Xu Qi’an not able to resist any longer, rushing over. He shouted down the other bronze gongs, but couldn’t do anything against silver gong Zhu. “Silver gong Zhu knew the law, yet still broke it, and not only did he not stop, rather he pulled the girl into the yard, and made to assault her in front of everyone, thus forcing Xu Qi’an to take action.” Song Tingfeng clenched his teeth, saying loudly, “Duke Wei, you may ask any other bronze gong present. We all witnessed this.” The same situation, two similar ways of retelling it, yet two completely different notions. In that silver gong’s report, he emphasised that Xu Qi’an took advantage of silver gong Zhu’s lapse in attention to attack, to repay a personal grievance. But in Song Tingfeng’s report, the core point was that silver gong maliciously provoked him, and constantly singled him out. Xu Qi’an resisted for a long time, and finally could not see past the silver gong’s sin, and thus attacked in anger, to uphold justice. Wei Yuan looked at the other bronze gongs. The other bronze gongs all had heads lowered, not daring to speak. In a fight between deities, they couldn’t afford to offend either side. Wei Yuan said warmly, “Say the truth, and you will not be in any trouble.” Their minds were put at ease, the bronze gongs exchanged glances, before one of them muttered, “Xu Qi’an and the other two didn’t come late…” The other resisted, but couldn’t resist any longer, saying “Song Tingfeng’s words are true. Silver gong Zhu carried the woman into the courtyard, and was about to assault her in front of all of us. His words were provocative towards Xu Qi’an.” This was the benefit of a group comprising the people of many squads. If all the bronze gongs were under silver gong Zhu’s command, their words would have perfectly lined up with Zhu’s side, pointing the spearhead at Xu Qi’an. Zhu Yang snorted coldly, “Even so, the constabulary must sort this matter.” He delicately shifted the conflict. No matter what the reason for this matter was, Xu Qi’an had nearly killed a superior, this was something that was without doubt. Even if his son made a mistake, but when did it come to a small bronze gong to mete out punishment? Furthermore, the violation of assaulting a criminal family’s women was not a serious one; a light punishment would be docking pay, a middling would be imprisonment and demotion, and most heavy would only be being terminated from their job. To cause so much commotion, how many Nightwatchers were now watching? He didn’t believe that Wei Yuan would be biased towards a bronze gong, even if that bronze gong was regarded highly by two gold gongs. Wei Yuan said: “Zhu Chengzhu knew the law and broke it. To ignore the law, he will immediately be terminated, and never employed again.” Zhu Yang’s face turned. Wei Yuan continued, “Bronze gong Xu Qi’an attacked a silver gong, and caused grave injury. This is a most serious violation. He will be imprisoned, and sentenced to be chopped at the waist in the market street, in seven days time.” Zhu Yang closed his eyes, saying nothing more. “You are dismissed, don’t disturb my reading.” Wei Yuan waved his hand. Everyone bowed, and was about to leave, when they suddenly heard Xu Qi’an say in a low voice, “Duke Wei…” Under everyone’s gaze, he walked forward two steps, and asked, “*With sincere heart serve the world, and not for self nor profit nor greed,* are these words from the heart?” When asking this, Xu Qi’an’s gaze never moved from Wei Yuan’s eyes. Wei Yuan laughed, “Of course they are.” Xu Qi’an nodded. He looked around at everyone else, and stopped when he got to Song Tingfeng and Zhu Guangxiao’s faces, almost as if giving the colleagues that cared about him an explanation: “*Your food and your money, the flesh and blood of the people. The people are easy to abuse, the heavens are hard to cheat.*” He straightened his back, “These are also words from my heart.” --- [^1]: Waist Chop, chopping at the waist: A form of execution in ancient china, involving cutting the waist, sometimes slowly. See: [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waist_chop](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waist_chop) [^2]: 朱阳 [^3]: 朱成铸