# 121. Spirit Beast
Xu Qi'an braced himself, before stepping out from the eldest princess's side, and cupping his fists, "This is a new work written by this lowly one."
Suddenly, everyone stared over. The second princess examined Xu Qi’an with her shining obsidian-black eyes.
The crown prince frowned.
Displeased, the third prince said, "You're a Bronze Gong. What kind of poem would you write?"
His meaning was euphemistic, meaning, *You're a martial Artist. Do you even know what poetry is?*
"Thud thud…" The eldest princess tapped on the table with her fingers, attracting the attention of the royals. She then said, "His name is Xu Qi'an, and his cousin is a student at the Cloud Deer Academy."
*So what?* For a time, nobody knew quite what she meant, and she herself seemed to like seeing her brothers and sisters filled with question marks, but deliberately trying to maintain their cool.
A smile appeared on her face, as she elaborated, "*Sending off Ziyang Jushi* is his work, and the poem Lin'an had read earlier is also his work."
The princes at the scene showed an expression of disbelief and turned their eyes to observe Xu Qi'an.
*The original author of the famous "Sending off Ziyang Junshi at Mianyang" is actually in front of me!*
*Yes, it is said that the poem was written by the cousin of a certain student from Cloud Deer Academy. Huaiqing had said that this Bronze Gong's cousin was a student of the Cloud Deer Academy...* Being the most aware of the rumours, the third prince immediately ascertained Huaiqing's words to be true.
*Huaiqing's loyal dog is the poet who wrote "Its subtle fragrance drifts with the rising moon at dusk"...* The second princess opened her charming peach-like eyes to look at Xu Qi'an. Her impression of the bronze gong had changed a little.
Xu Qi'an was taken aback, At first, he believed that his behaviour of sleeping with Fuxiang should have been monitored by the eldest princess.
But he soon figured out that Huaiqing, being the one who had the Nightwatchers check up on him back then, would know of his affairs.
The prince questioned, "But I had heard that the poet's name was Yang Ming, and he is a scholar from Changle County."
The eldest princess didn't answer.
Xu Qi'an had to explain himself, "It was a pseudonym used by this subordinate."
The prince didn't continue speaking.
The third prince said, "I found the previous poem to be excellent. *Drunk, he knows not if the sky floats in the water...* It sounds quite artistic, making me want to know the later verses."
The children and grandchildren of the royal family naturally received the best quality education. Even the Second Princess, who only liked to dress up and not study was forced to read the books of the sages for several years as a child.
As they had an extensive cultural background and could appreciate literature, Their attention shifted back to the poem after the third prince spoke. They were even looking forward to the poem, as they now knew Xu Qi'an's identity and talent.
Xu Qi'an slowly said, "*Drunk, he knows not if the sky floats in the water; his dream laden boat sailing atop the Milky way*."[^1]
*Drunk, he knows not if the sky floats in the water; his dream laden boat sailing atop the Milky way...* The second princess recited it a few times with a low voice. She felt as if these two lines outlined a beautiful scene that could only exist in fairy tales.
On a quiet night, her lying on the bow of a boat, wearing a beautiful dress, while a bright starry sky hung above her head, reflecting the Milky Way on the water.
As the boat floated on the lake, causing ripples, she also fell asleep peacefully.
Princess Lin'an's heart began to beat crazily.
The eldest princess's eyes also flickered, and she subconsciously tried to move her neck, as if she wanted to take a look at Xu Qi'an from the side, but she held back that urge.
She still stayed still, maintaining her posture as a frigid beauty.
Weird silence surrounded them, as the imperial children sampled and appreciated the two lines carefully.
Different from the second princess, the princes experienced a type of ethereal aura that seemed to be beyond the mortal world, a transcendental contentedness.
It was a relaxing ambience, close to all things natural, free of worry, free of the troubles and intrigue of courtly life, free from the disputes and arguments of the mortal world. At the same time, when one awoke from this dream, they would feel a pang of sadness in their heart.
"Good poem, good poem..." The third prince clapped the table, excited as he felt that he had witnessed the birth of a masterpiece. That was an honour no reader would resist.
"Is this a Qijue or a Qilu?"[^2] The seventh prince, who seemed to be the same age as Xu Qi'an, asked.
"No, I only have these two sentences…"
The princes were taken aback and stared at him wielding complicated expressions.
"Don't joke like this." The third prince said, angrily, anxious and irritated, "What comes after?"
He was like a reader tormented by an incomplete novel, that finally got the chance to meet the author, suppressing his emotions that could explode at any time and saying, "I will give you one last chance, start typing!"
"This poem was made on a whim, there’s really nothing more..." XU Qi'an also felt ashamed. But, unfortunately, this poem wasn't included in the nine-year compulsory education textbooks.
Of course, He was a cultured person, and he couldn't have only studied the poems in the textbooks. He had the habit of collecting some excellent poems and articles, but he didn't remember them completely. He just remembered their essential lines.
It was the same this time.
"You, you..." The third prince pointed his fingers at Xu Qi'an, his anger making him mute.
The other princes coldly watched this happen, secretly supporting the third prince to deal with this castrated dog.[^3]
The eldest princess appeared in time to rescue Xu Qi'an, saying, "Xu Ningyan, Could you go on a walk with me?"
"Ridiculous..." Looking at the two's departing backs, the third prince slapped the table, expressing his anger.
"It's truly a pity." The crown prince shook his head.
"Ah, I remember now." The second princess suddenly spoke out, "I still haven't asked him how the Sangpo case has been progressing."
*So it was him!* The crown prince squinted. *No wonder I found the name Xu Qi'an familiar.* He remembered this commoner after being reminded by the second princess.
After leaving behind her guards and maids, the eldest princess walked side by side with Xu Qi'an by the lake.
Instinctively, Xu Qi'an moved a step behind her.
"Why were you looking for me?" The eldest princess stared at the calm lake, her voice with the frigidity of colliding ice cubes, and the charm inherent to females.
"Your subordinate has encountered some trouble, currently all the leads I have are broken." Xu Qi'an glanced at the eldest princess, and upon finding she didn't seem to care much, began to elaborate on the saltpetre mine case and the case of the lieutenant's death to the eldest princess.
"We had already known all this." The eldest princess didn't show any expression on her face, as she admired the scenery of the lake.
*She already knew? Um, With her ability, It's not too difficult for her to not know of the information I found out.*
Xu Qi'an gritted his teeth, intending to reveal the internal details, "Why did the Yao bomb Yongzhen Shanhe Temple? That is a suspicious point, and also the breakthrough point of this case."
*First I should verify if it is the first Jianzheng. If it is the first Jianzheng, I could form a rough list of the suspects who colluded with the Yao.*
After withdrawing her gaze, the eldest princess said in a calm tone, looking at Xu Qi'an, "There is indeed a strong expert or something similar sealed under Yongzhen Shanhe Temple. But, only father the Emperor knows of this secret."
"..." Xu Qi'an nearly couldn't control himself.
*"The eldest princess knows even this?"*
*She realised that something is sealed under Yongzhen Shanhe Temple. Yeah, it's not surprising that she could deduce this, considering her intelligence.*
Xu Qi'an hadn't expected the eldest princess to talk about this matter with him frankly. It should be considered that only Emperor Yuanjing knew the secret of Yongzhen Shanhe Temple.
Observing Xu Qi'an's slight change of expression, the eldest princess realized his shock hidden inside. So, she chuckled lightly and threw out an olive branch "You are quite talented. Are you willing to work with this princess?"
That was exactly what Xu Qi'an wished. He wished for this but he didn't dare to say it. But, since the eldest princess directly asked him, Xu Qi'an immediately said,
"This one vows to give his all for your highness."
Xu Qi'an was very familiar with this, as he had spoken similar words to the chief in the same way when he worked at the police station in his previous life.
*Of course, I mean giving in my all for work, for mutual benefit. I don't intend to become a dog for imperial power...* He silently said.
*With the eldest princess’s EQ and IQ, I’m sure it won’t be hard to maintain a presentable relationship.*
The eldest princess put on a bright smile, bright enough to make the lake lose its lustre.
"Tell me of your findings." The tone of the lotus-like eldest princess changed greatly as if the barrier between the two had disappeared.
Xu Qi'an thought about it before he decided to tell the truth. The reason was also quite simple. He had just formed an "ally" relationship with the eldest princess, and he needed to express his value next.
He needed to let the eldest princess realize his excellence.
Additionally, He wanted to know about the thing sealed under Sangpo, which he couldn't do without the help of the eldest princess. Moreover, The eldest princess was the one who had opened up about the topic and told him that the secret was one only Emperor Yuanjing was privy to.
"According to this one's investigation, there must be a behind-the-scenes person behind Zhou Chixiong, who manipulated all this, and also colluded with the Yao." Xu Qi'an said.
A strange look flashed in the eldest princess's eyes, "How could you be sure?"
Xu Qi'an said, "Magistrate Zhao of Taikang County died in the Constabulary Prison this morning. I suspect he was silenced."
The eldest princess lowered her eyes and nodded after thinking.
Xu Qi'an continued, "I have always been wondering why the Yao would want to blow up Sangpo, and, why the behind-the-scenes person colluded with the Yao. So, I sent people to check the documents related to Sangpo, where I found a very strange thing. The time: Five Hundred Years ago!"
Saying that he paused, leaving some time for the eldest princess to be shocked.
But he was disappointed, as the eldest princess just digested the message while frowning.
*Cijiu was right... This woman hides a gully in her chest, one of unfathomable depth.*
"Five hundred years ago, the crown prince of that time fell into the water by accident and later went mad. And soon after, drowned in Sangpo Lake."
The eldest princess showed a dazed look, "I remember this event."
Xu Qi'an nodded, as he continued, "Five Hundred years ago, Emperor Wuzong revitalized the imperial court and eliminated evil. In this, there was an obstacle he couldn't avoid - the first generation Jianzheng!"
Hearing that, the eldest princess finally changed her expression.
Staring at the immaculate beautiful face of the eldest princess, Xu Qi'an asked a series of questions, "Why is the Jianzheng pretending to be sick? Why is his majesty keeping the item under Sangpo secret? Why didn't the sealed item not die in 500 years? Why don't the Sitianjian arcanists know about the first Jianzheng?"
*Is this the distortion of human values or a loss of morality...* Xu Qi'an lampooned, "Of course, this is just your subordinate’s guess. But, considering the experts from five hundred years ago, it has to be the first Jianzheng."
The eldest princess was shocked and remained silent for a long time when a gust of wind blew to make waves in the lake. She sighed, "So, You are looking for this princess to..."
"Your subordinate wants to check some documents that can't be found outside." Xu Qi'an said, "I found the sealing formation in Sangpo Lake, and the pillars of the formation are engraved with Buddhist Script."
"Buddhist Script?" The eldest princess stretched her hands inside her sleeves subconsciously, then she stared at Xu Qi'an for a few moments before she looked away, and said calmly, "Alright, I'll take you to the Wenyuan[^4] Pavilion after the banquet is over."
Xu Qi'an breathed a sigh of relief, and after thanking the eldest princess, he suddenly heard laughter like silver bells and the sound of splashing water behind him.
Turning his head to take a look, he saw the second princess, wearing a fiery red dress, standing on the back of a monster. She was holding the horns on top of the monster's with her hands, and twisting to stabilize herself, showing off her graceful back.
The monster was fully white, and had fine scales and flat armoured plate on its back, leaving just enough space for a person to stand upon. It was three meters long and had sharp claws on its abdomen, making it look like a dragon.
The eldest princess turned around and introduced, "This beast is called a Spirit Dragon, the only one of its kind in the central plains. It has a docile personality. It is said that it was the water mount of the emperor in ancient times."
"It thrives on purple qi. So, it was kept in the palace by the royal families of all the past empires to indicate their possession of purple qi and their orthodoxy as human emperors."[^5]
The eldest princess continued, "This beast has its unique Qi Watching Technique."
*It should be the thing I saw on the lake...* Xu Qi'an “mhm”ed. *Purple Qi is the Qi unique to the royals and noble people. This beast lives off purple qi, which indicates it to be a type of auspicious beast.*
The auspicious beast raised its head, sometimes rising, sometimes moving along the water’s surface, causing the water lilies to bob up and down. The second princess smiled like a flower in bloom, giggling like a little hen as she happily played.
The princes watched the scene while smiling, while the other two princesses ran to the shore, shouting for Lin'an to come ashore so they could take turns playing.
"Although the spirit dragon is quite docile, it is very proud. It will attack any ordinary person who approaches it. Lin'an can play with it, being a princess." The eldest princess said while curling her mouth and performing an action Xu Qi'an didn't expect her to do.
She brought her index finger to her mouth and whistled vigorously.
Hearing the Whistle, the spirit dragon raised its head high like a snake and turned to the side.
Everyone could see it stiffen for a moment before it suddenly became agitated, and let off a clear loud cry. It shook its head and tried to throw the second princess off as if it felt it shameful to be ridden by her.
"Plop!" The second princess screamed as she splashed into the lake.
The spirit dragon violently twisted its body and swam toward the eldest princess. While moving through the water, It kept crying, although it couldn't be seen whether it was due to excitement or irritability.
When it approached the shore, it soared into the sky and then fell heavily, hitting its head on the edge of the lave, splashing mud all over.
A few drops of mud splashed into the eldest princess's plain white dress.
The eldest princess was surprised; the spirit beast seemed to be very close to her today. She originally whistled not to summon the spirit beast, but to attract its attention and make it turn its head so Lin'an, who was standing unstably, would fall into the water.
Who would have thought that the spirit dragon would show such a violent reaction, and shake its head to send Lin'an off flying?
*Why is the eldest princess like a scholar from Cloud Deer Academy?... So Black-bellied... My little brother is also similarly sinister and vicious... Yeah, The eldest princess had also studied at Cloud Deer Academy...* Xu Dalang understood the meaning behind Xu Erlang's warning.
*Sure enough, only Black-bellied people understood black-bellied people well.*
The movements in the water's surface startled all the princes, and the Crown Prince rushed to the shore first to call the guards for rescue.
"So the spirit dragon does like Huaiqing more."
"Does this mean that Huaiqing has a stronger Purple Qi than Lin'an?"
"It isn't right... the spirit dragon doesn't show much enthusiasm toward us. Look at its attitude right now. I have only seen a similar attitude once when I was a child. At that time, it was facing Father."
Holding the hem of her skirt, the eldest princess walked towards the Spiritual Dragon with a smile on her face, intending to ride on it.
All the princes and princesses, including the crown prince, were watching the scene.
This was a 4000 character long chapter. Xiaolangjun asks for monthly tickets, but since we don’t have any monthly tickets, *ahem*, perhaps something else?
[^1]: 《题龙阳县青草湖》Of Qingcao Lake in Longyang County, 唐珙〔元末〕by Tang Gong, late Yuan Dynasty.
*The west wind blew ripples in Dongting’s lake;
Overnight the Xiang god’s hair turned grey;
Drunk, he knows not if the sky floats in the water;
His dream laden boat sailing atop the Milky way.*
(Translated by Yan, with inspiration from another translation from some Zhihu post somewhere).
Dongting Lake in Hunan is one of the most famous lakes in China, being the namesake of the two provinces Hunan (south of the lake) and Hubei (north of the lake). The Xiang river, the largest river in Hunan, flows into this lake. The poem is talking about the river god of the Xiang River, and a windy clear night on Dongting lake.
[^2]: Ancient Chinese poem meters. 七绝 Qijue = 4 lines of 7 characters. 七律 Qilü = 8 lines of 7 characters.
[^3]: If you don't know Authors who post incomplete works are called eunuchs, as there's nothing below. That means that Gu Zhen Ren is also technically a eunuch author :kekw:
[^4]: 文渊, “Document Pool”
[^5]: Purple was one of the colours for royalty in China. Especially, purple qi is something exclusive to important people. One famous example is "Laozi went out of Hangu Pass, making 3000 miles of purple qi appear in the sky."