# 130. Auntie, Shall I use Gold to Hurt Your Face, or Silk to Hurt Your Face? *Xu Qi’an?* But although last time the spirit dragon started suddenly being excited, Xu Qi’an was by Huaiqing’s side, this time Xu Qi’an wasn’t even present. There must be some other reason for the spirit dragon’s craze, yet after so many guards failed to stop it, only when it came to Xu Qi’an did it behave itself again. This doubt flashed in Wei Yuan’s mind, but was quickly discarded again. He had audited Xu Qi’an’s background; absolutely clean, completely ordinary. To rope him in with the spirit dragon would be going a bit too far. The spirit dragon suddenly calming down could be attributed to “having already vented his anger,” or “not wanting to hurt Princess Lin’an”. Perhaps His Majesty also thought as much. A servant and a ruler slowly walked towards the palace, not riding their palanquins. Emperor Yuanjing suddenly said “The Zhenbei King hasn’t returned to the capital in some years, hasn’t he.” Wei Yuan’s eyes flashed, as he said with a smile “It has been some years.” Emperor Yuanjing nodded, “After spring next year, we’ll summon him back. We have also missed him.” … Xu Qi’an drove the carriage down the wide streets of the inner city, two contingents of armoured soldiers guarding either side. In the carriage was sat Wei Yuan. “Duke Wei, what’s wrong with that spirit dragon? To raise such a dangerous beast inside the imperial city, are they not afraid it’ll hurt somebody?” Xu Qi’an tested him. Wei Yuan’s kindly voice came from within, “The spirit dragon at heart is docile. For non royals, as long as they do not touch it, they will not be attacked.” “Are there no exceptions?” Xu Qi’an asked, trying his best to make his voice calm and collected. After a while, Wei Yuan said faintly, “No.” … Xu Qi’an fell silent. The silence carried on for a long while, before Xu Qi’an broke it again: “Duke Wei, I’ve discovered a few things, making this case ever more of a conundrum. Your subordinate can’t quite grasp it all.” “Do speak.” “Today your subordinate went to Qinglong Temple, and learned of a secret. There was a monk in Qinglong Temple, dharma title Henghui. Over a year ago he fell in love with a frequent female pilgrim to the temple, and thus stole a qi-blocking magic item from the temple and eloped with her.” Xu Qi’an said, “That female pilgrim is the same Princess Pingyang that has been missing for over a year.” From the carriage came Wei Yuan’s low voice, “Why did you not tell me of this when you first made your report.” *Because I wanted to first show off to the eldest princess… ah, no, to improve relations…* Xu Qi’an went a bit red, and tried to search around for a suitable excuse: “Before I had hard provable leads, I didn’t dare mislead Duke Wei. Only after seeing the eldest princess, did I know that Princess Pingyang eloped, and that this matter could involve the conflict between the aristocrat bloc and the civil officials. “Your subordinate currently cannot be certain that Princess Pingyang and Henghui have anything to do with the Sangpo case. Even though the Jinwu Guard Baihu Zhou Chixiong had a qi-hiding magic item on his person, he’s already escaped the capital, and so who knows if it’s the same magic item as the one from Qinglong Temple.” Wei Yuan did not reply. The carriage arrived at the Nightwatchers Constabulary. Xu Qi’an brought out the small wooden step, and welcomed Wei Yuan down. Wei Yuan had both hands in his sleeves, and looked at him without much emotion, “Come with me to the Tower of Noble Spirit.” *Is he going to scold me?* Xu Qi’an followed helplessly, as the two of them entered the tower one after another. Wei Yuan ordered Xu Qi’an to make tea, and he himself stood on the balcony looking at the scenery. Time passed second by second in silence, until Xu Qi’an called out that the tea was ready. He really only had to boil water, and steep tea leaves. It was very simple. Wei Yuan came to the tableside, and glanced down, shaking his head, “The first cup must be discarded. It cannot be drank directly; it is too bitter, and would hide the fragrance of the tea.”[^1] *Are you teaching me how to do things?* “Your subordinate is merely a crass person without much experience…” in his mind Xu Qi’an pictured an arrogant and domineering expression, whereas in real life his face showed a sparkling lowly smile. *Pata…* Wei Yuan drew a brocade covered box from his robe, and smiling, said “Have a look inside.” Xu Qi’an opened the brocade box. Inside was a round pill, about the size of a lychee fruit, bright and limpid yellow. A rich medicinal scent wafted into his nostrils. “This is a golden pill that His Majesty bestowed. It can strengthen your body, increase your qi. The national teacher refined these for many months, and only came out with one pot. It might as well be priceless.” Wei Yuan closed the brocade box, and then tapped on its lid with his finger, “It’s yours now.” Xu Qi’an was in disbelief. “This thing has no use to me, nor does it have much use for high ranked martial artists. Thinking about it, currently the person that needs to improve the quickest is you.” Wei Yuan smiled, “Given that I said I’d nurture you, then naturally I’d follow through.” “Thank you, Duke Wei!” The delight and emotion on Xu Qi’an’s face came from the heart. In his mind, he sighed with emotion, as some words of wisdom flashed through his mind: *Simp to the end, and all you deserve shall be yours.* “Once you digest the golden pill, your qi mechanism should rush to your central dantian. When that time comes, you should start learning visualisation early, strengthening your soul. This way, your cultivation progress will be at least a third quicker than other martial artists your rank.” Wei Yuan said. *This is the benefit of having your back to a large organisation, hugging big legs! If not for this, then I might very well end up like uncle, stopped dead at Refining Qi…* Xu Qi’an felt glad that he made the best choice back then. When he found out that Nine and Six were playing Mafia, that he didn’t risk meeting Nine and rather going to find Wei Yuan, telling him the truth. If this had not been the case, he could not have gotten Wei Yuan’s appreciation and trust. If he did not gain Wei Yuan’s trust, and only his appreciation, then he may have had to slowly accumulate merit, rather than just getting a golden pill dropped on him for nothing. “Duke Wei, the rank after Refining Spirit is Bronze Skin and Iron Bones, how does one practice this?” Xu Qi’an asked attentively. “When you reach the peak of Refining Spirit, when your qi, blood, and spirit start to merge, at this time, your body will undergo a remoulding and transformation. During the transformation, one would use sticks to strike one’s body everywhere, like a blacksmith striking his metal, removing all impurities, and refining his steel.” *Strike one’s body everywhere? Then what would happen to my little brother? This isn’t stress that I should be under at my age… what if eventually the chicken’s flown and the eggs are broken?* Xu Qi’an was full of confusion and worry. In front of Wei Yuan, he did not have the courage to say such coarse language. “That was the ancient method.” Wei Yuan chucked, adding on, “Times have changed, and now the way martial artists refine themselves is through medicinal baths.” Xu Qi’an let out a sigh of relief, and continued asking “When your subordinate was reading through records, I found that the description of the fifth rank Transforming Force went like this: Endow life to every part of one’s body, to wield like one’s own arm, but also in detached independence.” This description was very esoteric; the body is one whole, and already had life. How come then it would talk about “Endowing life to every part of one’s body”? Except making them have their own independent thoughts, but this was impossible. Even though men have two heads, they only have one brain. The other head currently was not qualified to have a brain, let alone anywhere else. If other body parts had their own thoughts, then the fingers will say: “I’ve climbed on top of high peaks, and delved into deep valleys.” The mouth would say, “I’m clearly here to eat food, and yet *some* people would rather use me to lick.” The little brother would say “I’ve once ventured deep into the tiger’s lair, in and out seven times, fighting dauntlessly, yet eventually I was caught in the tiger’s mouth, and could only spit blood and flee.” As he thought, Xu Qi’an thought this was more and more absurd, yet more and more comical. Wei Yuan examined him, and noticed his subtle emotional changes. Shaking his head, he said “When you reach that level, I’ll tell you more specifics. If you know now, then you’ll think too much, and worry too much for nothing. “Alright, take the medicine here, let me see if the golden pill can help your middle dantian fill or not. Not everyone is guaranteed to have such a strong effect, I’m only judging based on your aptitude. Whether you succeed or not can only be known when you take it.” Wei Yuan held some anticipation. Xu Qi’an hummed in assent, and opening the box, took the pill. He vigorously chewed on the pill, and swallowed it down. A few seconds later, his stomach started to become hot, as if a fire was lit under it. The fire roasted his stomach, just barely peeking over his tolerance threshold. Not daring to dally, Xu Qi’an sat down cross-legged and began to meditate, reverse breathing and moving his qi through microcosmic orbits, leading the heat cycling around his body. Whoosh, whoosh… The expansive tea room resonated with strong and energetic breathing, as if from some huge beast. Wei Yuan narrowed his eyes, quietly observing Xu Qi’an. An hour later, Xu Qi’an felt the heat in his stomach start to dissipate, as qi filled his body. He felt better than ever. *With me now, even if the enemy had a silver gong to protect them, I can still strike and kill a refining spirit silver gong…* Xu Qi’an was delighted at the change in his body. “Not bad, you are indeed a rare prodigy in martial arts.” Wei Yuan praised. He rose, and took out a thin book from the bookcase that he had prepared earlier, along with a painting scroll, and handed them both to Xu Qi’an. “In the book is recorded a visualisation technique, learn from it. This painting is the thing you will be visualising.” Xu Qi’an opened the scroll. Upon it was drawn a giant, his head butting against the heavens, his feet spread across the earth. His bearing, every single vein in his muscles, all were rendered with immense detail. But what shocked one the most was that posture, one that dared attack the nine heavens, that dared walk over the nine hells, as if nothing in the world could frighten him. “The idol used in visualisation affects a martial artist’s state of mind. These emotions were embedded into the painting as the artist drew it. I picked for a long time, and thought that this one suited you best.” Wei Yuan did not forget to impart more knowledge. Xu Qi’an felt as if he had received a legendary treasure, carefully stowing away the painting and book, before asking tentatively, “Duke Wei, can I perform visualisation with someone else? Mn, I’m talking about my second uncle.” He felt that it was best to be truthful in front of Wei Yuan, and not try to play any small tricks. That would never make it past the devilish intellect of this great eunuch. “As long as you return the painting within three months. Whatever you do in that time, even gifting it away, I don’t mind.” Wei Yuan said, before reminding him: “Any idol images, are all expensive as cities. If you damage this, then half your life’s salary will be gone.” Immediately, Xu Qi’an felt that this painting was much more of a headache. Thud thud thud… footsteps came from the stairwell, as Nangong Qianrou entered with a dark face. His gaze fell upon the visualisation image in Xu Qi’an’s hand and paused, before he went over next to Wei Yuan and whispered something into his ear. “I know,” Wei Yuan let out a breath, face expressionless, “When we were playing Go, he had already hinted towards me. Our emperor here can tolerate corrupt officials, but he cannot tolerate any challenge to his authority.” Three of his spies in the Imperial Palace had been rooted out. Xu Qi’an lowered his head, pretending that he didn’t hear. Wei Yuan laughed, “Wait a bit more. The gold and silk that His Majesty rewarded you is almost here.” At dusk, the palace servants delivered the gold and silk that Emperor Yuanjing had rewarded him: one thousand taels of gold was just about sixty *jin*, and was placed in a large suitcase. Five hundred bolts of silk, four *zhang*, filled two entire carts.[^2] It was nearing the end of work, and the Nightwatchers in the constabulary hadn’t left yet. They looked in surprise as the palace servants led the horse drawn carts into the constabulary. Xu Qi’an, having received notice, came gleefully out to welcome them. After handing everything over, the palace servants drove the empty carts away. Xu Qi’an called Song Tingfeng and the rest to come help pack, putting the gold and silk on carts they had borrowed from the constabulary. “Ningyan, you’re rich!” Song Tingfeng was both happy and jealous, vigorously clapping Xu Qi’an on the shoulder: “I don’t care, but next month’s Jiaofangsi fees are on you.” Xu Qi’an glanced at Lyu Qing, and angrily replied “Bullshit! I don’t even go to the Goulan.” Saying this, he turned to open the box, and took out four ingots of gold, giving one to Li Yuchun, Min Shan, and Yang Feng, “You share these around with our other brothers.” Then, he threw one to Lyu Qing, smiling “Constable Lyu, don’t turn it down.” Lyu Qing nodded. *A martial artist should have alacrity!* Xu Qi’an laughed. “Thank you, Sir Xu.” The twelve Bronze Gongs, the six prefecture bailiffs, all shouted in joy. The spectators watching felt a wave of admiration and jealousy, wishing that they could join Xu Qi’an’s group. One ingot of gold was five taels in weight, and when exchanged equalled forty taels of silver. Which superior was so generous as to give out 160 taels of silver with a wave of his sleeve? “This money is…” Li Yuchun asked. “When I was in the imperial city I saved princess Lin’an, and so His Majesty rewarded me. Mm, I can’t really elaborate further.” Xu Qi’an replied. *Not because of progress in the Sangpo case?* Everyone was stunned for a moment, and suddenly felt the silver was somewhat hot to the touch. They felt bad talking it. Originally, they thought that His Majesty was so pleased at the progress in the case that he rewarded Xu Qi’an. Xu Qi’an waved his hand, “It’s been hard on everyone these days. This official does not mistreat his colleagues.” Lyu Qing smiled, and glanced at the bailiffs behind her, along with the Bronze Gongs, finding that their expressions had subtly changed. She laughed happily. Xu Qi’an looked left and right, “Where is Miss Caiwei?” “Probably in the Sitianjian.” *No, she’s definitely in some restaurant eating her heart out…* Xu Qi’an’s heart said. After leaving work, the Bronze Gongs guarded this caravan towards the Xu manor. Xu Qi’an sat on his horse, thinking that with this gold, even if he had to leave the capital in the future, his family would have more than enough silver, completely making up for the loss during the tax silver case. *Auntie can also joyfully buy jewellery, wear new clothes, Lingyin can go regularly to Guiyuelou to eat, and Lingyue’s dowry… mn, Lingyue’s still little, not in any rush to marry.* *In the future when Erlang enters officialdom, he’ll have some money to build some relations. Uncle the poor man wouldn’t have to put his whole salary towards family costs, and can go a bit more often to the Jiaofangsi.* *Auntie probably hasn’t ever seen this much silk in her whole life… aye, my hand’s getting a bit itchy, when I get home should I use silk to hurt her face, or gold to hurt her face…* Xu Qi’an felt amazing. --- [^1]: This is true for many darker Chinese teas, like Pu’er. [^2]: 1000 taels is mentioned as 60 *jin*. One old imperial *jin* is 600g / 1 ⅓ lb, so in total 36kg or 80lb. A *zhang* is 10 Chinese feet, using imperial *zhang* 3.2 metres / 3.5yd, in total 12.8m or 14yd per bolt. Significantly shorter than standard bolts.