# 154. Three's Persona Crumbling?
Hengyuan’s gaze fell on the small jade mirror, the one that he dropped in the courtyard well. It had slipped from his robes in his altercation with Henghui.
Afterwards he had heard Henghui’s story, saw him pass away in meditation, and in his mournful state did not care much for the Earth Book fragment.
After that the Nightwatchers came, and he knew that he would enter their jail. To prevent the mirror from being taken away by the Nightwatchers, leaving it in the well was the best choice.
Hengyuan’s plan was that if he could escape, to return and retrieve his Earth Book fragment. Alternatively, Jinlian would retrieve it for him.
He didn’t think that in the end it would still fall into the Nightwatchers’ hands.
Xu Qi’an stared at Hengyuan, waiting for his reply.
The jade mirror was handed to him this morning by Wei Yuan. He didn’t give any other orders, but Xu Qi’an knew Wei Yuan’s intention was to through him give the mirror back to Six.
Seeing the big baldie be silent for a long time, Xu Qi’an sipped his tea, saying leisurely, “This mirror was found in the well bottom. If it’s not yours, then it’s Henghui’s. And its true name, is the Earth Book.”
Hengyuan suddenly raised his head, looking closely at him. Xu Qi’an laughed, saying with a voice full of confidence, “Many people in the world do not know of it, but that does not include the Nightwatchers.”
Hengyuan lowered his head again, saying in a low voice, “It does belong to this poor monk.”
Xu Qi’an said, “As far as I know, this is a magic item of the Daoist Earth Sect, how would it have appeared in the hands of a monk?”
Hengyuan replied, “Due to unforeseen opportunity, I received this magic item. Please may Sir return it to me.”
Xu Qi’an shook his head, taking back the jade mirror, playing with it in his hands, smiling, “Master, this official reckons that it’s not as simple as that, right? A magical artefact of the Daoist Earth Sect, how could ‘unforeseen opportunity’ explain away that?
“If you sincerely say some useful information, this official will let you leave. Otherwise, you might as well spend the rest of your life in the Nightwatchers’ cells.”
Hengyuan fell silent for a minute, before standing to leave.
Xu Qi’an frowned, “Where are you going?”
“This poor monk is returning to his cell.”
*… Six’s moral character isn’t bad, he won’t betray the Heaven and Earth Society. Of course, it may also be that he hasn’t gone through torture yet, but I don’t want something like that.* Xu Qi’an said solemnly, “It’s only a magic item, does the Master need to be like this? There are things in the world more valuable no?”
Hengyuan did not turn back, saying “Please may you shackle this poor monk again.”
Xu Qi’an looked to the clerk taking notes, “You go out for now.”
The clerk gathered up his paper, pen, and ink, and left the interrogation room.
Xu Qi’an cleared his throat, his voice becoming kindlier, “Master, please sit.”
He rose, pulling on Hengyuan’s arm, and making a respectful posture.
Hengyuan blankly returned to the tableside, looking at this Bronze Gong, whose attitude had just done a 180-degree turn, not knowing what he was scheming.
“Sir, I know nothing, the Earth Book was indeed received in an unforeseen opportunity.” Hengyuan said helplessly.
*You don’t need to speak so rigidly! A monk cannot lie, soon you’ll feel awkward for that!* Xu Qi’an said with half a smile, “You are the Heaven and Earth Society’s number Six right.”
Hengyuan’s eyes went wide, looking back with a shocked and stupefied expression. That tranquil aura on his face vanished without a trace, being filled with enmity and caution.
As if upon Xu Qi’an revealing anything that would be detrimental to the Heaven and Earth Society, he would strike this Bronze Gong down with one hand, to take a life for a life.
Xu Qi’an lowered his voice even more, using a tone as if he was making a backroom criminal deal: “My name is Xu Qi’an. I am a mole placed in the Nightwatchers by the Cloud Deer Academy.
“The constabulary did not find the Earth Book fragment, I pulled it up out of the well, I brought people to find you. All of this was under orders by Three, he is my superior.”
*Three!?* Henghui fell into a deep shock. He did not immediately deny the Bronze Gong’s words, because just now, he had remembered something.
*Three is a student of the Cloud Deer Academy, he’d revealed multiple times that he has eyes in the various constabularies and offices of Court… as the orthodox Confucian school that once controlled the court, this kind of behaviour is to be expected…*
*After the Sangpo case happened, Three had mentioned a few details of the case in the Heaven and Earth Society… there is indeed a mole from the Cloud Deer Academy inside the Nightwatchers…*
*But how did Three know where I was? Right, Jinlian Daozhang knows all of our identities. At that time Henghui and I were together, and Jinlian Daozhang definitely wanted to avoid conflict between himself and Henghui, thus he could only ask someone else for help. And the Nightwatchers were responsible for the Sangpo Case, so Three, who had spies inside the Nightwatchers, was the best choice…*
*I owe Three another life. Three is worthy of being a scholar, he has a heart of heroism and justice, and is a worthy friend. This karma may be hard to return…* Hengyuan drew a deep breath, as his gaze towards Xu Qi’an no longer had any enmity and caution, as he asked kindly “What did Three say?”
“He said the Spring Examinations are near, and cannot leave the Cloud Deer Academy. If in the future you get into any trouble, he likely will not be able to help. Thus, he asked this official to keep in contact with the Master, if the Master needs any help in the future, you may ask after me.”
In his mind Xu Qi’an added: *If I have anything, I can also find you, without revealing the identity of Three, at least in the short term.*
At the moment he did not want to reveal his identity.
Firstly, the pretentious style that he had set up earlier was rather too grandiose, and now the Heaven and Earth Society all thought that he was a top student of the Cloud Deer Academy, a highly gifted, erudite scholar.
If they found out he was a mere Bronze Gong, everything would come crashing down.
Secondly, whenever one keeps a hand, keeps something hidden, it is equivalent to giving oneself a huge amount of territory to maneuver.
*After all to Number Six Hengyuan, whether I’m a Nightwatcher or a Cloud Deer Academy student, doesn’t make much of a difference.*
Hengyuan nodded, taking over the Earth Book fragment that the handsome Bronze Gong handed to him, “In the future if there’s anything this poor monk can help with, Sir only needs to speak.”
Xu Qi’an smiled and waved his hand, “Master, I’ll escort you out.”
After escorting away Hengyuan, Xu Qi’an came back to Spring Breeze Hall. The prefecture office’s Lyu Qing and her bailiffs have stopped coming to the constabulary, because they knew that Xu Qi’an likely would be able to be pardoned for his contribution in the Princess Pingyang case.
Song Tingfeng and Zhu Guangxiao were meditating in the side hall. Li Yuchun was tidying, arranging everything nice and neatly.
“Boss, let me help you…”
“No, no don’t touch a thing!” Li Yuchun hurriedly shouted, “I’ll do it myself, I’m good.”
Xu Qi’an gladly idled, sitting by the tableside, saying “After the case is over, let’s all go to the Jiaofangsi for a drink. On me.”
“The Jiaofangsi…” Li Yuchun hesitated.
“Boss, you can’t have never gone to the Jiaofangsi?” Xu Qi’an immediately picked up this point, his tone and expression mysterious.
In this era, no man with status or wealth would not have gone to the Jiaofangsi at least once…. the rarity of this, would be like in Xu Qi’an’s past life, when a female PhD was still a virgin, to not have any thirty year old male PhDs come and use hand gestures to show off.
“A place full of smoke and miasma, why would I have gone?” Li Yuchun shook his head, “Those three will be beheaded today, do you want to go watch?”
Xu Qi’an hurriedly shook his head, “No, I can’t stand those scenes.”
Li Yuchun gave him a confused gaze.
Events like beheadings were far too ordinary in the Great Feng. Not considering the Official evaluation there was often a bunch of officials who were brought to the vegetable market to be beheaded, or those death row prisoners after autumn. As for the commoners they would be uncomfortable at first, accustomed at second, and sat eating their lunch and watching the fun at third.
There was absolutely no psychological pressure.
“I’m not going anyway.” Xu Qi’an said.
The impact of several hundred people watching someone be beheaded would be too big for Xu Qi’an, he wouldn’t be able to sleep. And he had spent several years as a detective, and had seen many bloody homicide cases. Given any other person, that would probably leave permanent trauma.
Noon, the Vegetable Market.
On the execution platform, were knelt over a hundred people. At their head were the Minister of War Zhang Feng, and his son Zhang Yi.
They wore white prisoners’ gowns, and black blindfolds around their eyes. Surrounding them were gathered over a thousand commoners.
Not that all of them liked watching such a brutal and bloody scene, even if in their eyes all those being beheaded were serious criminals. Most importantly, the Court placed great emphasis on the “audience”, using both carrot and stick strategies. Some people couldn’t not come; they were forced over to watch.
The reason was very simple: to brandish the authority of Court, to subdue the common people.
“Begin!” The lead official eyed the position of the sun, and gave the command.
With death drawing year, the blindfolded family members started ranting and cursing, cursing the Minister of War Zhang Feng for condemning himself and others, swearing to not let him go even if they became ghosts.
The executioner raised his blade high, as head after head rolled, blood spurted in all direction in ridiculous proportions, as the heavy stench of blood was smelled by even the furthest audience members.
Afterwards two more batches of death row prisoners were executed, being the families of Earl Pingyuan and Sun Zhongming.
Hengyuan, standing outside the crowd, silently turned to leave. He had two reasons to come and watch the execution:
Firstly, to resolve this karma for his brother Henghui, to see those personal enemies be beheaded. Secondly, to calm his own obsession, and avoid forming a heart-demon in the future.
Henghui was a junior brother that he had raised from young, he was like a brother and a son. To return the favour, this matter was stettled.
“Master Shenshu… are you awake?”
In the side hall, whilst practicing breathing, he tried to wake up Shenshu, but Xu Qi’an still did not receive any reply from this high-ranked monk.
*He seems to be able to sense my thoughts, is this the Buddhist heart-reading art? But heart-reading should not be able to read memories… no matter what, for most of the time he’s in deep sleep, this is good.*
As Xu Qi’an was thinking, he suddenly felt a lurch in his heart. Opening his eyes, he saw that his two colleagues’ eyes were still closed. Thus he took out the small jade mirror, and started reading.
【SIX: Everyone: I’m save. Thanks for your thoughts.】
【FIVE: Is SIX the real SIX? Is there a Nightwatcher pretending to be him?】
Five immediately threw out her suspicion. At first glance it seemed to be cautious and careful, but in reality it was rather foolish.
【FOUR: Heh, if he’s fake, Jinlian Daozhang would have warned us ages ago. FIVE, what you need to consider is, has SIX been compromised by the Nightwatchers?】
*I’d expect nothing less from a scholar and a once great official, his thoughts are sharp…* Xu Qi’an tutted in admiration.
【FIVE: Then SIX, have you been compromised?】
【SIX: This poor monk is very well, this poor monk wants to thank THREE and Jinlian Daozhang’s kindness.】
【NINE: No need to thank me, your junior brother never had the heart to kill you.】
【FOUR: What’s the progress with the Sangpo Case?】
Seeing this, Xu Qi’an waited for a moment, and not seeing One respond, entered 【THREE: The Sangpo Case is over, but it’s also not over.】
【FOUR: As expected.】
【FIVE: What do you mean, what do you mean “as expected”? How has the Sangpo case just ended, and how do you say it’s also not ended?】
【FOUR: Heh, it’s best to let THREE explain. I reckon that he can explain better than I can.】
Xu Qi’an hesitated a while, and decided to take Four’s burden, writing: 【THREE: It’s very simple, the real goal of the Sangpo Case is to bring forward the Case of the disappearance of Princess Pingyang. The best example of this is Henghui taking the sealed item and causing chaos in the inner city by exterminating the Earl Pingyuan’s family.
【This noon, the three officials that were involved in this case had three familial relations be executed at the vegetable market. Since the Princess Pingyang case came to a close, the perpetrator behind the scenes had achieved their goal. They most likely will take the sealed item out of the capital, and this storm will have passed.
【But the Sangpo Case itself hasn’t ended.】
*So that’s how it is.* Five had a great realisation, and then coldly stabbed three in the back: 【FIVE: THREE you great liar, that person that picks up silver every day clearly is you.】