# 151. Two Secret Letters At dusk, Wei Yuan finally arrived back from the palace. The wide and opulent carriage entered the constabulary, and Wei Yuan exited with the small stepping stool. Xu Qi’an came over close, and said quietly “Duke Wei…” The azure cloak with whitening hair gave him a glance, replying whilst walking, “King Yu wrote a blood letter, accusing the Earl Pingyuan, the Chief Supervising Secretary of the Ministry of Revenues, and the Minister of War, accusing them of conspiracy in the murder of a royal.” Xu Qi’an had known of King Yu’s actions from Huaiqing, and nodding, “Has His Majesty sent this case to the three departments?” “No!” Wei Yuan shook his head, “His Majesty’s anger was no less than that of King Yu, and immediately wrote a royal command, asking the Jianzheng to enter the palace and stand face-to-face with the three of them. At that time there were also many of the court present.” “What was the result?” Xu Qi’an already knew the result, but he still needed to ask. Wei Yuan sighed, “Conspiracy in the murder of a royal, three familial exterminations. The letter confirming the verdict will arrive tomorrow morning by the latest. The Liang clique is finished.” *Three familial exterminations…* Xu Qi’an’s expression turned slightly. “Three” referred to the execution of the clan of the mother, the clan of the father, and the clan of the spouse. It could be considered one of the most extreme punishments possible, being second only to nine familial exterminations.[^1] “Aye, tomorrow it seems heads will roll.” Xu Qi’an sighed with him, not knowing whether to clap his hands in happiness, or to pity those innocent kin who were caught up in this. Even though the Earl Pingyuan’s mouse had been destroyed, but compared to three familial exterminations, at the very least over a hundred more people would be executed. Anyone within three degrees of kin to Earl Pingyuan would be condemned. The same applied for the other two. “The Liang Clique?” Xu Qi’an asked in confusion. Wei Yuan nodded, “When King Yu retreated from the battlefield of political power, the Liang Clique was the biggest benefactor of this. It is headed by the Minister of War Zhang Feng and the Ministry of Revenues Chief Supervising Secretary Sun Mingzhong. Earl Pingyuan joined the Liang Clique last year.” “Duke Wei, then- then my situation…” Xu Qi’an said quietly. The Liang Clique of court was far too removed from him, Xu Qi’an did not care too much. He was more worried about his own small life. “Don’t rush, His Majesty is still boiling over in anger. If you mention this at this time, it’ll probably have the opposite effect.” *That’s reasonable…* Xu Qi’an nodded, and bade farewell to Wei Yuan. In the last remaining light of dusk, he headed back towards home. … Dusk, in a room somewhere. A pale white hand held a brush, writing on the letter paper: --- *My Respected Master,* *The Sangpo Case has come to a close. The Minster of Rites once said that working with us is like trying to persuade a tiger for its skin. Heh, his eyes are sharp.* *A year ago I accidentally witnessed Princess Pingyang and the monk Henghui’s fate. Henghui had died, yet had not settled, as resentment thickened his soul. I made him into a puppet and kept him by my side.* *I told you about this, and you said that the opportunity had come. The year of Official Evaluation, would be the opening act of our great undertaking, that had been planned for five hundred years.* *Please forgive my insolence, but I am not optimistic. The Sitianjian’s Jianzheng, the Sect leader of the Human sect, all belong to the few powerful characters upon this earth.* *But when this matter started, for some reason the two tacitly did not act, choosing to watch from the sidelines… I want to praise you again, Master, your intellect is unparalleled.* *Emperor Yuanjing’s attitude to this case is not particularly vigorous, otherwise he would not have assigned a Bronze Gong as the lead investigator, this was all within your expectations.* *But that Bronze Gong is really powerful, his senses are sharp.* *In the process of investigation, your descent was found out by him. He came three times to the Jiaofangsi to watch for Yao qi. May I be so presumptuous as to ask, was that deliberate?* *Furthermore, the other Nightwatchers were also covertly investigating.* *I had no alternative but to push Huiji under the cart. I know she’s your clan, please forgive me for taking action without orders.* *Do not worry, the item has already been given to someone who ought to get it.* *I apologise greatly, all the leads of the tax silver case have broken… several times I’ve interacted with Zhou Li, and he really is a hedonistic rich playboy with a minor amount of intellect, and not at all familiar with his father’s plans.* *Hereto, I need to report four things to Master:* *One: As the tax silver was being escorted, Deputy Minister Zhou had multiple opportunities to act. That would have been much safer, yet he chose to steal the 150,000 taels of silver in the capital.* *This does make one puzzled; Deputy Minster Zhou is a clever man, yet he played a massive blunder, I feel there must be a reason behind this.* *And just conveniently, on the way to exile Deputy Minister Zhou “accidentally perished”, thus there’s no one left to give me answers.* *Two: from this information, in these twenty years the amount of silver Deputy Minister Zhou had embezzled would be over two million taels, yet when his house was raided, the court only found a few thousand.* *Where did all this silver go?* *Three: from my secret investigation of the Sitianjian, I found that the youngest disciple of the Jianzheng is called Chu Caiwei, a very beautiful and very interesting woman. Of course, she could never be comparable to Master’s beauty and stature.* *What I want to say is, the Sitianjian’s arcanists call her “youngest sister”, or “sixth sister”. However the Jianzheng only has five disciples.* *Four: The Warlocks killed Magistrate Zhao of Taikang County, the one who discovered that saltpetre mine.* *Yes, the Warlock Church’s warlocks have their hands in this. Furthermore, they could have used more delicate, and more subtle ways of silencing him, yet they chose to kill him in his dreams.* *It’s not hard to see that they are trying to mislead the court, to throw dirty water on the Zhenbei King, and chip away at the relationship between him and Emperor Yuanjing.* *Finally, there’s a small matter that embarrasses me to talk about. I’m in love with a man, a man I shouldn’t love. I plead for Master’s sympathy, to make me a new body.* *— Your forever loyal servant.* --- *Respected Sir,* *The tax silver case plans have failed. I will take the responsibility. The death of Deputy Minister Zhou is fully due to his own stupidity. His son, thinking himself as clever, caused the whole plan to come crumbling down.* … *As you expected, the Wanyao Kingdom’s plans have succeeded. They have released the item sealed under Sangpo Lake.* *In this letter I will describe in detail the intelligence I have received in the past year.* *Around a year ago, the conflict between the nobles and the civil servants became white-hot. King Yu represented the nobles’ power, and under tacit agreement by Emperor Yuanjing, became the Minister of War. He was only a step away from entering the cabinet.* *During this, his daughter Princess Pingyang fell in love with a monk of Qinglong Temple. The two of them decided to elope, and asked the Earl Pingyuan’s eldest son to help…* *Because they coveted Princess Pingyang’s beauty, the three rich boys planned to rape her, and then silence them both. However they met strong resistance, and Princess Pingyang committed suicide by swallowing her hairpin…* *The spy that the Wanyao Kingdom had placed in the capital accidentally witnessed this. She used a corpse Gu to make Henghui into an undead puppet, and with this secret, put him in hiding.* *A new round of official evaluation came to the capital, as the cliques and parties fought in the open and behind closed doors, getting more and more violent. I can’t help but admit, Emperor Yuanjing is a frightening emperor, his emperor’s heart is as strong as steel.* *But he’s not a good emperor. All he values is power and long life.* *With this secret in hand, the Wanyao Kingdom spy secretly started searching for partners to work with in the capital. Finally, she set her sights on the Minister of Rites, and the power he belongs to.* *Because conveniently a that time, a saltpetre mine was discovered in Great Yellow Mountain in Taikang County, this was exactly what the Wanyao Kingdom remnants wanted.* *No one in this world can sneak into Sangpo Lake and blow up the Temple Eternally Suppressing Mountains and Rivers under the eyes of the Jianzheng and Human Sect Leader, but gunpowder would help them achieve their goal.* *And the force behind the Minister of Rites has long wanted to solely rule court, and overcome all other cliques and parties. The Liang clique, as a stumbling stone in their path, naturally was on their list of people to clear out.* *Both sides came together immediately, reached an agreement. The Minister of Rites would help the Wanyao Kingdom remnants to blow up the Temple Eternally Suppressing Mountains and Rivers, and release the item sealed within.* *Before the Wanyao Kingdom pushed Henghui onto the stage, they lead the Nightwatchers to investigate the disappearance of Princess Pingyang.* *To remove suspicion on himself, the Minister of Rites used his insider, the Jinwu Guard Baihu Zhou Chixiong, to smuggle gunpowder into the Imperial city, and to bury it under the temple. At the same time he killed nine civil servants of the High Court, the Ministry of Rites, and the Palace, to obscure the truth, and mislead the lead investigator of the three offices.* *He even wanted to use the gunpowder to implicate the Qi clique’s Minister of Industry. Shame then that he underestimated the Bronze Gong Xu Qi’an.* *The Jinwu guard Baihu Zhou Chixiong deliberately killed lieutenant Liu Han, to raise the notice of the Nightwatchers and Prefecture constabularies. In the ensuing investigation, he used a qi-blocking magic item to deceive them, to draw their attention to Qinglong temple, so that they could find the case of Henghui’s elopement, and thus follow the vine to the party conflict a year ago.* *This piece was played incredibly well, your servant reckons it’s not something a mere Baihu could have done. Without a doubt, it was that Yao Queen’s daughter personally putting down the pieces.* *The events generally unfolded as mentioned. Your servant only has two points which he has not figured out:* *One: Your servant has spent blood and tears, yet he has not found out what kind of artefact is the thing sealed under Sangpo Lake. But one thing can be sure, it is intimately linked to the Buddhist Sect. The reason why the Wanyao Kingdom wanted to release it is unclear.* *Two: The Jianzheng’s attitude is impenetrable. If he were to talk about the reason why Emperor Yuanjing lifted the city curfew, your servant would still be able to say one or two things, but as to the Jianzheng’s thoughts your servant cannot see thorough them at all.* *Clearly he has done nothing, yet your servant feels that everything is still under his control, within his grasp.* *— End.* --- Xu Qi’an came home, ate dinner, and told Second Uncle about the progress in the Sangpo Case, as well as the true story behind the disappearance of Princess Pingyang. Uncle Xu listened in a daze, forgetting even to eat, as he muttered, “These scholars are really evil after evil, even though this old man’s chopped a few heads, but compared to them, I might as well be the most honest man. “Ningyan, remember in the future to hold your mouth around a scholar, if you can move your sabre then don’t hesitate, otherwise you’ll never know when you’ll fall into their trap.” Xu Qi’an nodded, umming and ahhing, thinking *have you forgotten you have a scholar for a son?* He finished eating, and played with Xu Lingyin for a while, talked with Xu Lingyue a while, before planning to return to his own little courtyard. “Ahem,” Auntie artificially cleared her throat, looking away, saying “I’ve arranged for your clothes to be made. Afterwards Lingyue will bring them to you. If they don’t fit… well I don’t care. If you want to wear them wear them.” “Huh? Did the sun rise in the west this morning?” Xu Qi’an stared outside in shock. Auntie gritted her teeth, only squeezing one word out between her red lips: “GO!” Xu Qi’an immediately left for his own place. The moment he opened the door, he suddenly felt a lurch in his heart, not the palpitation that the Earth Book fragment’s notification gave, but rather the type where his hair stood on end, and his back erupted in cold sweat. As Xu Qi’an stiffly turned his head, seeing a red severed arm lying quietly on his bed. His scalp tingled, adrenaline surged, as the cold sweat started dropping in beads.