# 124. Qinglong Temple
Finishing his bun, Xu Qi’an sent Zhu Guangxiao and Song Tingfeng to notify everyone else in the group to gather in the front ocurtyard.
Currently, Xu Qi’an’s group composed: Gold Jade Hall, Suppressing Evil Hall, Spring Breeze Hall, Chu Caiwei from the Sitianjian, and six bailiffs from the prefecture office.
In total, 24 people.
The two silver gongs Min Shan and Yang Feng were responsible for auditing the Ministry of Industry’s gunpowder production and past records. This task was both complex and time-consuming.
Xu Qi’an internally had already come to the conclusion that the gunpowder did not come from the Ministry of Law, but just out of caution, he did not stop the investigation there.
Today, he was to leave the capital. Knowing how many powers were involved in the Sangpo Case, Xu Qi’an followed his heart and brought on as many people as he could.
He first went to the imperial city, and whilst the others were stopped outside, only the foodie Chu Caiwei was able to follow him in.
This miss was a regular of the imperial city; she could come and go as she pleased, and had extraordinary status.
“Didn’t the eldest princess give you a jade pendant?” Xu Qi’an asked.
Chu Caiwei nodded.
“I also have one.” Xu Qi’an pulled from his pocket a jade pendant, and proudly showed it off.
“That seems familiar… ah, from princess Lin’an?” Chu Caiwei exclaimed tenderly.
“I’m now princess Lin’an’s, she recognises my merits. Seeing that the eldest princess didn’t give me a jade pendant, she quickly gave me one, expressing that she looked on me more highly than the eldest princess, and could be relied on.” Xu Qi’an told the big-eyed Chu Caiwei about yesterday’s events.
“She’s really dumb.” Chu Caiwei giggled, mocking Lin’an.
*Big brother, don’t mock second brother. Where do you have the right to mock Biaobiao…* Xu Qi’an agreed, “Yeah, not every woman has the same cool intellect as Miss Caiwei.”
On Chu Caiwei’s round face, her smile became ever sweeter.
Not long later, they came to the Huaiqin King’s Manor. The Zhenbei King’s royal title was King Huai[^1], and he was Emperor Yuanjing’s blood brother, thus his manor name had the character “qin” added to it.
In front of the door were two white marble lions. The door was two *zhang* tall, with golden rivets laid out in neat rows. The door knocker was larger than on the manors of any ordinary nobility.
Apart from being high-class and magnificent, Xu Qi’an could not think of any other words to describe it.
In front of the door were stood a row of armed and armoured soldiers, their expressions solemn.
“This official is Xu Qi’an, the lead investigator of the Sangpo Lake case, personally appointed by His Majesty. I would like to visit the King’s Consort, please pass on the message to her.” Xu Qi’an showed his golden token.
One of the solders gave Xu Qi’an a side-eye, and replied “The Consort is not seeing any guests. Please leave.”
Xu Qi’an’s eyebrow jumped, and was just about to scold him, when he heard the solider laugh coldly, and add “This is also His Majesty’s order. Even if the eldest princess wanted to see our consort, she must also do so on our consort’s terms.
“Piss off, don’t use chicken feathers to call the shots.[^2]”
With great realisation, Xu Qi’an let out an “ohh,” and laughed: “So the gold token His Majesty personally bestowed amounts to chicken feathers… this person is slandering His Majesty, and has committed lese-majesté[^3].”
With one hand on his sabre hilt, he laughed fiercely, “This official will now arrest the criminal, anyone who tries to interfere will be killed under the law!”
The black-gold long sabre came out of its scabbard half an inch, as the flowing qi vibrated the air.
The guard who had mocked Xu Qi’an knew that he had spoke wrongly, and his face slowly turned white.
The captain of the guard stared heavily at his subordinate unable to hold his tongue, and came over to Xu Qi’an. As he walked, his armour clinked like a stream.
“Sir, the Zhenbei Consort is not in the manor.”
“Where did she go?” Xu Qi’an sat astride his horse, looking down on him.
“This subordinate is only a door guard, how would I know where the consort has gone. But she is indeed not in the manor; this morning she had just left the city, about an hour before your arrival.” The guard captain spoke with a very respectful manner.
Xu Qi’an nodded slightly, his attitude unyielding, “This official is now arresting a criminal, if you lot do not want to be accused of harbouring a criminal, then help me arrest this person.”
He pointed to the solider who had mocked him.
“Sir!” the captain became desperate. Internally he was bursting with anger, but he didn’t dare show it, saying earnestly, “The King’s consort is really not here.”
As the guards of the king’s manor, they didn’t need to give face to any ordinary official or noble.
But the one facing him was holding a golden token, and had also taken advantage of his underling’s crime as leverage, so the captain could only try to make peace.
Only then did Xu Qi’an believe him, and turning his horse around, lead Chu Caiwei away.
“This consort of ours is certainly something, even the eldest princess can’t see her at will.”
Chu Caiwei, meeting everyone’s expectations, completely missed the fact that Xu Qi’an' was testing her, and replied promptly “The consort’s standing is very special.”
“This is a secret.” Chu Caiwei smiled, showing her teeth, “Don’t pry too much into this, it won’t do you any good.”
She then proceeded to make a stern face, and warned, “Don’t you dare use food to bribe me.”
“Because I’m afraid I can’t resist…” she said aggrievedly.
In the western outskirts of the capital lies a White Phoenix Mountain. From the western city gate, it took only an hour to get there.
The White Phoenix Mountain’s name came from a species of white wild bird that roosted on the mountain. Their feathers were very long, almost like phoenixes, hence its name.
But these White Phoenixes that lived on the peak have nearly gone extinct, and really it was all the Sitianjian’s fault.
Some years ago, a physician from the Sitianjian went to White Phoenix Mountain to pick medicinal herbs, and on the way captured a few white phoenixes. He took them back to investigate, only to find that the white phoenix meat could improve a man’s vitality…
Coming to the foot of White Phoenix Mountain, the experienced and knowledgeable Lyu Qing told this tale, laughing.
Song Tingfeng had a thought, and hesitantly said, “Boss, I have a friend whose health isn’t the greatest, I want to hunt a few white phoenixes for him.”
Silver Gong Min Shan stared at him, “What time is it, that you’re still thinking of wild game? This is an urgent matter, if you delay the case, who takes responsibility?”
Li Yuchun frowned, and didn’t respond.
Xu Qi’an laughed, “This visit to White Phoenix Mountain mainly is to understand a few events from the long past; we’re not in that much of a hurry. Tingfeng, remember to come back quickly.”
Hearing this, Min Shan said shyly, “Sir Xu, how about I accompany Bronze Gong Song? I can look after him.”
*You need to look after each other to hunt some birds?* Xu Qi’an glanced at him, “You also have a friend?”
Min Shan felt all the men stare at him with strange gazes.
Silver Gong Min felt somewhat desperate, and after an age only managed to squeeze out one sentence, “Whether it restores vitality isn’t important, I mostly want to know what a nearly extinct bird tastes like.”
Everyone roared with laughed. Once Xu Qi’an had stopped laughing, he made a serious face, saying “I was just joking. The background of the Sangpo case is complicated; in the capital I don’t care where you go, but outside of it, do not leave the group.”
The twisted mountain trail pierced deep into the forest. At the foot of the mountain was a large *paifang* gate, upon which was written “Qinglong Temple”.
Qinglong Temple wasn’t full to bursting with guests, but nor was it lonely and stagnant. On the way, they would occasionally see groups of commoners who had come up the mountain to offer incense.
By the paifang gate was parked a resplendent horse-drawn cart, with about a dozen armoured soldiers guarding it.
This carriage felt very familiar to Xu Qi’an. It was made with nanmu wood covered in gold leaf, and every detail was carved out and decorated with jade and gold. It was the same carriage that he saw that time when he went to the Jiaofangsi.
The person in the cart had asked Xu Qi’an to play pitch pot for her, using two hundred taels of gold to exchange for the bodhi prayer bracelet.
*Right, Jinlian Daozhang said that the woman in the carriage will have some kind of destiny with me… who could she be? Golden Nanmu was used exclusively by the royal family, but the eldest princess and the second princess’s carriages all don’t look like this. Some regional lord of the royal family? Or, a consort of the Emperor?*
*No no, definitely a consort, don’t scare yourself.*
*Even if she was a consort, she had to be on the same level as Auntie to pass…* he thought.
Tying his horse to the wooden post, and leaving the bailiffs from the constabulary and a Bronze Gong to guard it, Xu Qi’an lead the other Nightwatchers up the mountain.
Barely taking several steps, Xu Qi’an felt something soft under his foot. He had trodden on a scented sachet.
*I’ve changed to picking up perfumed sachets instead of silver today?*
He naturally bent his waist an picked it up, examining it closely. The scented sachet was exquisitely made, embroidered with intricate cloud patterns. Its material was extremely expensive, definitely not something an average rich family’s daughter could get.
On one side of the sachet was embroidered a gold “Nan” character, on the other a “Zhi” character. The golden threads were sewn into intricate and beautiful knots.[^4]
Xu Qi’an caught a whiff of a wonderful scent, like perfume, like sandalwood incense, but also more like the fragrance of a woman’s body.
“Wait a moment…” from behind them came a crisp voice.
A young girl wearing a light blue gown caught up to them, not being scared in the slightest at the sight of the Nightwatcher uniforms. She pointed to the sachet in Xu Qi’an’s hand, and let out a breath, saying “Our Madam dropped this.”
She wore a maid’s bun, yet the material used on her clothes was more luxurious than many a rich man’s daughter.
Xu Qi’an instinctively looked towards the luxurious carriage at the foot of the mountain, “Your madam?”
“Don’t ask too many questions, hand the sachet back.” The young girl’s tone of voice was strong.
“What sachet?” Xu Qi’an stowed the sachet into his robe.
“You…” the young girl stared at him with anger, “You wait right here.”
Picking up her skirt, she rushed down the stone stairs. Xu Qi’an didn’t continue walking, waiting right where he was, watching her go up to the carriage, and say something to the window.
“Ningyan, don’t cause trouble. That carriage is used specifically by a royal family member.” Li Yuchun said with a frown.
Xu Qi’an was only under decree to investigate the case. In Brother Chun’s mind, he was still his subordinate. Brother Chun didn’t want to see Xu Qi’an step on too many toes as he investigated. Even if he managed to use the merit of this to atone for his crime, if he had disrespected people he shouldn’t have disrespected, then that would all be for naught.
*…You don’t understand, that woman and I have joint destiny!*
Xu Qi’an shook his head, not explaining, still watching everything going on by the carriage.
However the result made Xu Qi’an disappointed. He indistinctly saw the window open a sliver, as the person inside seemed to be examining him.
Being so far away, he couldn’t see anything in the darkness of the carriage.
The window quickly closed again, being shut tight. A few seconds later, the carriage started moving, slowly travelling away.
*I guess the time hasn’t come…* Xu Qi’an sighed, “Let’s go. Let’s see the head monk in Qinglong Temple.”
A group of uniform-wearing Nightwatchers swarmed into the temple, and immediately received a deacon’s reception.
This deacon was a round-faced chubby monk, with kindly looking features, and looked to be in his forties. Placing his hands together, he said “This monk is the supervisor at Qinglong Temple, my dharma name is Hengqing[^5]. Sirs, please follow me inside.”
He lead the party into the temple, and enthusiastically told them about the Qinglong Temple’s history, calling themselves the orthodox descendants of the west, and practicing Buddhism, worshipping the Buddha.”
Xu Qi’an’s eyes scanned over towering pagoda after towering pagoda, and waved, “Call your abbot over, this official has a few questions.”
Qinglong temple was the only Buddhist temple in the capital region, and as the deacon said, is the inheritor of the west’s Buddhism.
Before coming here, Xu Qi’an had done his homework. Qinglong Temple’s abbot was a fifth-rank Silacarya[^6], and easily outranked them all.
But Xu Qi’an was not in the least afraid, because the early stages of the Buddhist cultivation path were not skilled in physical melee, eighth rank Warrior Monks aside.
The Buddhist ninth rank was called Sramanera, or Acolyte. This rank was very interesting, as its core principle was to follow commandments; if one does not break their vows for three years, they would rank up. On the surface this seems easy, but it was not so.
The commandments of the Buddhist sect were strict and numerous, one could very much accidentally break one.
The eighth rank were Warrior Monks, who were not too different from martial artists. They also could fight.
The later seventh rank Dharmacarya, sixth rank Dyanacarya all weren’t very able to fight.[^7] Only when they got to the fifth rank did this change.
It was worth mentioning, that when Xu Qi’an was in the Constabulary archives looking up resources, he found a very interesting titbit: The rank after ninth-rank Sramanera was immediately a seventh-rank Dharmacarya.
It skipped the eighth-rank warrior monk.
His resources did not say why this was the case, and time was urgent, so Xu Qi’an didn’t bother spending the time to investigate the Buddhist cultivation path. He could only guess that within the Buddhist sect there were probably two separate cultivation paths.
“The abbot is meditating, and so is not available. If you have any questions you can ask me.” Hengqing lead everyone into the tea room, and ordered an acolyte to serve tea.
“The temple has magic items that can block the Sitianjian’s qi-watching?” Xu Qi’an sat cross-legged on a prayer mat, and immediately got to the point.
“What does Sir mean?” Hengqing put his hands together, shaking his head, “The temple does not have these kinds of magic items.”
“Master, monks shall not lie.” Xu Qi’an’s gaze was sharp.
Hengqing lowered his head, not meeting Xu Qi’an’s gaze, saying “Everything this monk says is the truth.”
“Is it that after the ninth rank Sramanera, one can lie with abandon?” Xu Qi’an smiled, his eyes remaining cold.
Hengqing’s head did not move, as he ignored Xu Qi’an, not caring in the least for the cold gazes of the Nightwatchers surrounding him.
*You really won’t cooperate without force?* Xu Qi’an felt somewhat angry.
[^2]: Use chicken feathers: use some superior’s irrelevant words / actions to order people around.
[^3]: An offence against the dignity of the crown — one notable country which enforces this law is Thailand.
[^4]: Nan 南 “south”; Zhi 栀 “cape jasmine”
[^6]: One who is learned in Buddhist rules, who enforces principles and trains junior monks.
[^7]: Dharmacarya: one who is learned in the dharma, a teacher of scripture. Dhyanacarya: a master of dhyana, or zen.