# 116. Fright but no Danger The total number of constabularies and government offices in the capital numbered 134. Excluding those without any real authority, and those that belonged to the military, the total number of officials that ate officials’ meals numbered over ten thousand. And of these, people who could attend morning court only made up a tenth of their number. As for officials, lords, royal family who could enter Jinluan Hall[^1] and speak directly with the emperor himself, at most numbered around a hundred. At 4 AM[^2], the many martial and civil officials gathered outside Meridian Gate, in groups of two and three, exchanging idle chatter, occasionally hiding sharp jibes in soft words. “His Majesty has been much more diligent in attending court.” “Well the official evaluation is here after all.” “Last official evaluation, His Majesty wasn’t this industrious.” “Naturally it’s because of the Sangpo Case. Aye, this has been an eventful autumn. Today His Majesty will probably let off some temper, you make sure you’re not the one he’s targeting.” “This official is just a civil servant, the Sangpo case has nothing to do with this official, or with any of us.” “Oh, then who does it have to do with?” Everyone exchanged glances, smiling. Who did it have to do with? Naturally it had to do with the Jinwu Guard’s leading general; it had to do with the protectors of the capital and the royal family, the Nightwatchers. Naturally, it had to do with the leader of the Nightwatchers, the azure-cloak Wei Yuan. In front of the Meridian Gate, Wei Yuan, a body clad in azure, stood solitary, seeming apart from the many officials around him. Wei Yuan was a very special person. At court, there was no eunuch who controlled greater power than him. Even the great eunuch by the emperor’s side, did not have much political power of his own. Only Wei Yuan was different. He was the Nightwatchers’ leader, as well as a Censor, a chief inspector of the Imperial Censorate. These two offices all had the authority to supervise the many officials in government. Emperor Yuanjing’s intent was very clear; Wei Yuan is my blade, if any of you misbehave, then that blade will fall on your neck. Not only was Wei Yuan Emperor Yuanjing’s weapon that he used to balance power at court, but he also had the use in bearing all the hate. The civil and military officials did not dare hate the Emperor, but they could vent off steam at Wei Yuan. As of this moment, Yongzhen Shanhe Temple had been destroyed. So the fact that Emperor Yuanjing, who was always lazy in matters of governance, would be attending court, clearly implied that he had some anger to let off. Wei Yuan would be in the vanguard facing his anger. The other officials were very happy to sit and eat popcorn. At 6 AM, a resonant bell’s ring broke the quiet of the night, seeming faint and lonely. The many officials slowly started filing their way through the gradually opening eastern gate; the members of the royal family made their way in from the western gate. Emperor Yuanjing sat high on his dragon throne, expressionlessly looking down at the several hundred officials, who were making their way through the Meridian Gate in an orderly fashion, military and civil splitting apart. There were another hundred or so officials, nobles, and royal family who entered Jinluan Hall. As the procession finished, a deputy of the Ministry of Law stepped forward, announcing loudly, “Last night, a criminal broke into Sangpo Lake, and destroyed Yongzhen Shanhe Temple, this is a disgrace to our Great Feng! Wei Yuan, as the head of the Nightwatchers, failed in his duty to protect the royal family. Your servant asks Your Majesty to have this official beheaded, to appease the masses.” “This servant agrees!” “This servant agrees!” Immediately several deputies immediately jumped out, asking Emperor Yuanjing to chop off Wei Yuan’s damned head. The arguments and attacks at court fundamentally had no difference from buying vegetables at the vegetable market. Normally they’d exaggerate, and will ask for beheading, confiscation of property at the drop of a hat. No matter if the situation was serious or not, cutting off their damned head is always the right thing to do. If the emperor would not agree, then they would haggle down, from beheading to exile, from exile to removal from office. One couldn’t start at removal from office anyway; you must give His Majesty room to haggle down. Otherwise, he’ll look at you, *you lads don’t even give me an opportunity to haggle down?* *Then clearly he’s done nothing wrong.* Beyond the officials’ expectations, Emperor Yuanjing immediately swatted back the request to have Wei Yuan impeached, and furthermore praised Wei Yuan for the progress made in his work. This made the other officials confused, as they started muttering amongst themselves. “Quiet!” Emperor Yuanjing’s personal eunuch smacked his whip on the floor, his sharp voice warning the many officials. This matter came to a conclusion, yet the requests for Wei Yuan’s impeachment did not stop, rather changing tack. Another official from the Ministry of Law stepped out, saying “The Nightwatcher Xu Qi’an, killed a guard outside the front door of the Ministry of Law, and violated imperial authority. Your servant pleads with you to severely punish this criminal, and execute his entire family.” Wei Yuan, who during calls for his own impeachment could not care less, at this squinted his eyes, and stepped up, “Your Majesty, the Ministry of Law’s guard captain prevented the Nightwatchers from doing our jobs, for unknown reason. Your servant suspects that the Ministry of Law’s Minster Sun had conspiracy with the perpetrators to destroy Sangpo Lake. Please may Your Majesty strip him of office, and throw him in prison, for your servant to interrogate.” The Censorate’s officials stepped up in turn to back him. “Nonsense!” “Your Majesty, Wei Yuan is speaking slander, he should be punished.” “Your Majesty, there’s a big problem with the Ministry of Law. Your servants back stripping the Ministry of Law’s officials of their roles and arresting them for interrogation.” The two sides immediately started a war of words, as other factions occasionally got a word in here or there, fanning the fire. Within the court, the many parties and factions entered fierce fighting. The Prime Minister, the Ministers of the six ministries, and Wei Yuan, along with a few other important people, instead closed their eyes and breathed mediatatively. Emperor Yuanjing was not in the least angry. Only when seeing that the officials had just about finished their arguments, did he indicate to the great eunuch to shout at them for order, bringing quiet back to Jinluan Hall. “The bronze gong Xu Qi’an, has a crime on his shoulders, and so his actions are bound to tend to the extreme. You are to co-operate in solving this case, and not to interfere with each other. If this happens again, we will severely punish those involved.” Emperor Yuanjing said solemnly. Wei Yuan opened his eyes, as a surprised expression flashed across his face. He knew that Xu Qi’an would not come to any trouble, but he didn’t think that Emperor Yuanjing would personally speak on behalf of that small Bronze Gong. Emperor Yuanjing scanned over his officials with sharp eyes, and continued, “From today, the curfew on the city gates is to be lifted. Any sixth rank or higher officials in court, are still forbidden from leaving the capital. “The royal court is adjourned!” … Xu Qi’an awoke perfectly at 6 AM. After washing and getting dressed, he went to uncle’s house to get breakfast. When he was still a small bailiff at the Changle County Constabulary, he needed to get to the office by 6 o’clock, for the morning headcount, equivalent to clocking in for work. After becoming a Nightwatcher, upon consideration that Xu Qi’an was still dirt poor and couldn’t buy a house in the inner city, so his arrival time was delayed from 6:15 to 6:45. This gave him an extra half hour to make his way there. On this matter, the Nightwatchers Constabulary was rather progressive. It was getting to winter, and the morning temperature was very low. People couldn’t help but be sealed into their warm covers for an extra few hours. The full-bodied and beautiful auntie was one of these people, being still in bed. The melon-seed faced graceful younger sister was also stuck to her bed. “Go call Lingyin up. If she gets into a bad habit from young, it’ll be hard to fix it later.” Uncle Xu said. Xu Qi’an suspected that he felt that the dinner table was not lively enough, since Xu Xinnian had left for the Cloud Deer Academy well before 6. He said that this morning the Cloud Deer Academy were holding lectures, and he needed to leave the city by quarter past to be able to catch it. Thus by the table were left only Uncle Xu and Xu Qi’an. Xu Qi’an thus went to the inner courtyard, and knocked open Xu Lingyin’s bedroom door. The person who opened it was Xu Lingyin’s maid. The small maid half-expectantly half-cautiously half-shyly said “Da- Dalang, what are you doing?” It was still dark, and he’d come knocking. Could it be that Xu Dalang wanted to take advantage of the darkness to do something to her? Xu Qi’an said he was coming to wake up Lingyin. He entered the room, and saw Xu Lingyin was still curled up under her thick blankets, like a pillow hidden under them, only a little thing. Xu Qi’an immediately smacked her on the arse, smacking her awake. Xu Lingyin opened her eyes blearily, wiping away the spittle on her face, and said indistinctly “iss bigh bwother…” “Get up, breakfast.” “Oh…” “Then get up!” “zzzZZZzzzz……” “Today’s breakfast is steamed lamb, steamed bear paw[^3], steamed deer tail, roast duck, roast chicken, roast goose, salted pork, salted duck, braised chicken…” Thud thud… Xu Lingyin suddenly stretched and contorted on the bed, her four limbs kicking. Her brain was still sleeping, yet her body couldn’t wait to go and have breakfast. The maid looked after Little Pea as she brushed her teeth and washed her face. Xu Qi’an carried her towards the front hall, her chin resting over his shoulder, her bum in the air, wanting to sleep but also not daring to sleep, afraid that she’d miss out on all the delicious food. “Don’t sleep, big brother’ll sing you a song.” “Oh…” “*Good little bunny, open the door for me, quickly, quickly, I want to come in.
No no no no no no no, hubbie isn’t home, no one can come in.*”[^4] … Coming to the main hall, Xu Lingyin was shocked and speechless to find bao buns, bean porridge, and youtiao, and was so upset that she began crying. “This isn’t the breakfast I want, my steamed lamb, steamed bear paw, steamed deer’s tail, roast duck, roast chicken, roast goose, salted pork, salted duck, braised chicken… where is it?” *You remembered all of this!?* Xu Qi’an rolled his eyes, “Big brother was lying to you.” Xu Lingyin cried “Wah!”, and putting both hands behind her back, her head tilted forward, started attacking Xu Qi’an with sound. … After breakfast. “If I’d have known not to call her, this racket is making my head hurt,” Uncle Xu with his hand on his head, walked away cursing. “Indeed, I’ve finally understood Auntie’s difficulty, Auntie’s worked hard.” Xu Qi’an walked away cursing. Leaving Xu Lingyin in the care of the maids, simultaneously crying and eating. Even though there was no steamed lamb, steamed bear paw, steamed deer tail, roast duck, roast chicken, roast goose, salted pork, salted duck, braised chicken, which made her really upset, but she could eat at the same time as being upset. … Wei Yuan left Jinluan Hall, and was just thinking over the state of play in court today, when he suddenly heard someone shout “Duke Wei, please wait for us!” Turning his head, he saw it was Eunuch Liu. Before Wei Yuan was where he was now, he had worked in the palace, and had a good relationship with Eunuch Liu. Smiling, he said “Lord Liu, what is it?” Eunuch Liu looked left and right, before pulling out a piece of paper from his sleeve, and stuffed it into Wei Yuan’s hand, “We copied it. Duke Wei can have a look.” Wei Yuan smiled a knowing smile, “Some other day, I must come to the palace and have some wine with my Lord.” Exiting the Meridian Gate, and entering his carriage, Yang Yan in the drivers seat silently started driving the cart towards the constabulary. Wei Yuan pulled out the paper, and started reading it, a smile forming on his face. “Father, what are you reading?” Nangong Qianrou asked curiously, lazily leaning back in the carriage, acting as Wei Yuan’s bodyguard. “I originally thought His Majesty will make things hard for me, who would have thought that I very easily got by.” Wei Yuan smiled. “Easily got by?” Outside the carriage, Yang Yan asked in disbelief. On the road towards court, Wei Yuan had modelled how the state of play in court may develop in his head. He had this habit; model before, review after. In his original prediction, when he attended court there would definitely be calls for impeachment, Emperor Yuanjing would use this to scold him, and then give him some level of punishment. Wei Yuan guessed right; the Sangpo Case became his political enemies’ main line of attack. But he did not expect that things were bypassed so easily. Nangong Qianrou frowned, “No one used the opportunity to attack father?” Smiling, Wei Yuan handed over the crinkled up paper. --- [^1]: 金銮殿, The throne room, also the name of the throne room hall in the Tang dynasty (in Chang’an/Xi’an) [^2]: It sounds really early, but 4 AM, or 寅时, is what is written in the book, and it isn’t a mistake. [^3]: Bear Paw is a delicacy in ancient China. Mencius particularly enjoys it, as it is mentioned in his classic. [^4]: 《Good Little Bunny》 is a very classic Chinese children’s song on par with legends like “the wheels on the bus go round and round” in the west. It is also bloody hard to translate into English. Listen to it [here](https://youtu.be/o5s5V1O19AQ).