# 155. A Dam of a Thousand Li Falls from Holes Made by Ants
Xu Qi’an was greatly shocked, thinking *When have I lied? If you had to call anything a lie it would be my persona at the Cloud Deer Academy.*
*Could it be that my persona had unknowingly fallen already? But that’s unreasonable, and also it shouldn’t be Five who says this, if One or Six were to come out and accuse me that would make more sense. The young lass from the Southern Marches would be the last person who would say anything.*
He clutched the Earth Book fragment, hesitating for a long time, not responding. No one else in the Heaven and Earth Society spoke either, watching quietly this development.
*Three is a liar? What’s he lied about? How does Five know Three is a liar? They haven’t communicated much in the Earth Book messages. This is to say, that from some detail in Three’s words, Five managed to find a flaw in him…* Number Four thought.
*Why did Five say Three is a liar…* Hengyuan frowned in displeasure.
One smiled, saying nothing, lurking in the chat.
Jinlian Daozhang at this time was lazily sunbathing on a roof, his cat eyes closed in comfort.
Five did not make everyone wait too long, she sternly scolded Three for not being truthful: 【FIVE: That friend that you said who often picks up silver, is you isn’t it? I’ve asked… my source is very correct.】
Xu Qi’an: “…”
【FIVE: Ah, ah, nothing to say now huh?】
Xu Qi’an’s mouth twitched, as he let out a breath. Yes, he had lied. But lying or not lying about this kind of thing was hardly a matter of importance.
Such as Song Tingfeng saying: “I have a friend who’s fortitude is lacking…”
Everyone knew that the “friend” represented he himself, but did anyone accuse him of lying?
As expected, everyone apart from Number Five in the Earth Book Group Chat were having similar thoughts.
*I’m jealous of Three, being able to pick up money every day… this old woman can barely pay her soldiers…* Two thought with sincerity.
*So it is Three that can pick up money every day. Mm, originally I’d suspected him… if I could pick up money every day, then I can save so many more orphans and destitute…* Six was overcome with admiration.
*The one who picks up silver is Number Three himself… what kind of person could pick up silver with such abnormal frequency? I don’t remember the Cloud Deer Academy’s Confucians have this kind of power…* Four felt a shock, then thinking of a possibility, quickly wrote: 【FOUR: THREE, when did this start?】
Xu Qi’an felt some hesitation, but answered: 【THREE: Just over a month ago.】
He deliberately made this time period shorter, to prevent someone from using this to discover that this abnormality started after the end of the tax silver case.
Four’s heart pounded, because he had a hypothesis. But that hypothesis was so preposterous and audacious, that it made their whole body shake, as if electricity was winding its way through it.
Just over a month ago, if he remembered correctly, in the Cloud Deer Academy azure qi rushed to the sky, which happened to be the same time as Three had mentioned. At that time Three hadn’t yet joined the Heaven and Earth Society, and Jinlian Daozhang had solemnly ordered the Heaven and Earth Society to investigate this matter.
Everyone knew that Three was a student of the Cloud Deer Academy. There was one unusual thing, however, which was that Three’s real strength was not that strong, yet he had far too much information to provide, and knew far too many secrets that only the seniors of the Cloud Deer Academy would know. This was very unreasonable.
As a former scholar, Four had for a long time felt something was off — not that he doubted Three’s identity at the Cloud Deer Academy, but rather that his treatment was rather excessive.
But if Three had something to do with the azure qi? Then receiving attention from the higher ups of the Cloud Deer Academy would be much more reasonable.
*But what link does picking up silver have with the azure qi rushing to the sky?* Four could not work it out.
*I guess I need to find some time to go back to the Capital, and visit Dean Zhao.* Four secretly decided, to rush back to the capital before the year was up.
Thinking this, and feeling that he had figured out some part of Three’s secret, Four smiled slightly, and messaged: 【FOUR: Interesting. I’ve underestimated THREE. I guess I need to re-evaluate your value and potential.】
*Four knows the reason why Three often picks up silver? And this reason involves some large secret… otherwise Four would not have said what he did…* Apart from Number Five, everyone else felt something wrong was in Four’s words.
Seeing that everyone had generally finished conversation, Xu Qi’an squinted his eyes, and using his finger as a pen, messaged: 【THREE: Heh, I have a question, FIVE, how did you know that the one who picks up silver is me?】
With Five’s intelligence, she could not be bluffing him, thus she really knew the reason why he had been picking up so much silver, or at least part of the reason.
This was something Xu Qi’an was desperate to know about; he cared a lot about his own strange luck.
【FIVE: I can’t say, I promised … someone else to not reveal this to anyone, not even you.】
Five’s refusal was very candid.
【THREE: Equivalent exchange.】
【FIVE: No exchange, to behave with integrity is to keep promises.】
*This dumb sister, do you believe that I won’t drag you into the blacklist. I’ll drain you once, then pick up my trousers and pretend not to know you…* Xu Qi’an lampooned.
Thinking again though, the moderator Jinlian Daozhang still hadn’t fully recovered, and couldn’t open private messaging functions, thus it was indeed not the right time to ask.
In the future when he could private message, he can then message this dumb Southern March sister all day about life and ideals. There was a lot of room for maneuver.
The Imperial Study, a minor court gathering.
The daoist-robe wearing Emperor Yuanjing sat at the high chair behind the table, listening to the report given by Prefecture Magistrate Chen Hanguang. As to the heads rolling at the vegetable market, he was not pleased nor upset, listening calmly.
“As for the positions of Minister of War, and Supervising Secretary of the Minister of Revenues, what does our valued officials think?” Emperor Yuanjing casually mentioned.
Immediately there were great civil servants stepping forward, recommending their own people. Emperor Yuanjing looked expressionlessly upon the intense speeches and argument of his officials. For the two now empty positions, they could barely resist descending into a brawl.
Even the two great hegemons Wei Yuan and Prime Minister Wang Zhenwen could not but enter the fray.
Seeing the arguments become more and more excited, as the most bad-tempered civil servants started to roll up their sleeves, Emperor Yuanjing knocked on his table, interrupting at the correct time.
“Esteemed official Shang, you are the Minister of Appointments, what suggestions do you have.”
Shang Xian stepped out from the crowd, and during his bow and salute, he took a peek at Wang Zhenwen. He saw him very subtly shake his head, and only then said:
“Your insignificant servant is afraid, that he has no candidates. Please may Your Majesty direct us.”
Emperor Yuanjing nodded in satisfaction, “We will discuss this matter later.”
*As expected…* All the great servants slowly let out a breath, exchanging poisonous looks.
At that time, Wei Yuan stepped forward, saying loudly “Your Majesty, your insignificant servant has a matter.”
After Emperor Yuanjing had nodded, Wei Yuan said: “The Bronze Gong Xu Qi’an made outstanding contribution to the Case of Princess Pingyang, please may Your Majesty reward him.”
The corresponding written statement was given to the crown yesterday.
Emperor Yuanjing evidently knew about the events of the case, and knew of the merits of Bronze Gong Xu Qi’an. Whether in opening again the case of Princess Pingyang, or in finding where Henghui was, or in finding the remains of Princess Pingyang, this Bronze Gong gave vital contribution.
But Emperor Yuanjing still had some hesitation. He didn’t like this Bronze Gong, not for any reason, but just that this Bronze Gong gave him disharmonious, uncomfortable vibes.
A contempt from the bottom of his heart.
That day when he saw him in the Royal City, seeing his blade strike the floor, scaring the Spirit Dragon into not coming any closer, it was then that Emperor Yuanjing’s heart could not resist not hating him.
Wei Yuan was just about to speak, when the Minister of Law Minister Sun suddenly said loudly, “Your Majesty, your insignificant servant has a report.”
With great steps he came forward, bowing, and saying righteously “Your insignificant servant was tasked with investigating the Sangpo Case, he has spent blood and sweat and tears, not daring to slack off for one moment. From your servant’s verification, the Chief Justice Chang Yan had conspired with the Yao, coordinating from inside and out to destroy Sangpo. Please may your majesty strip this person of his titles, and give him to your servant for a more thorough investigation.”
The Chief Justice Chang Yan squinted, looking at Minister Sun.
He was one of the core members of the Qi clique. Because of the matter with the gunpowder, the other core member of the Qi clique, the Minister of Industry, had already been made to walk the wire.
The Minister of Industry snorted coldly, walking out, “Your Majesty, the Ministry of Law is trying to blatantly frame and slander Sir Chang. Your servant reckons that the Minister of Rites also has suspicion.”
The Minister of Rites immediately stepped out, saying loudly, “Your Servant is being falsely accused.”
Wei Yuan sighed, feeling somewhat disappointed. As expected, he heard Emperor Yuanjing said, “The Sangpo Case has not finished, we order Bronze Gong Xu Qi’an to continue to investigate this case. Half of the time allotted has already passed. If he cannot investigate such that all truths come to light, we will still execute him.”
“Your Majesty!” Wei Yuan’s eyebrow twitched, bowing, “Even if Xu Qi’an fails to complete the case, he still has made vital contributions to the Case of Princess Pingyang, how could he still be under the death penalty?”
The other officials could not help but look at Wei Yuan, each with different expressions. Some had schadenfreude, some had surprise, some had happiness.
Minister Sun of the Prime Minister’s clique on the surface level was attacking the Chief Justice, but underneath he was sending an arrow Wei Yuan’s way. As long as the dispute around the Sangpo case continued, as the Nightwatchers’ lead investigator, that Bronze Gong could not pull out of it, and was pulled again underwater.
Similarly, the Chief Justice would continue to wear the suspect hat, and until the case was done, he couldn’t take it off. Normally this would not amount to much, but in the Official Evaluation, this large stain could be amplified at any time.
When the time comes to draw the Chief Justice into the eight methods, he could call for his resignation and expulsion, and at the worst push him off his ministerial position.
However, the Minister of Rites of the same Wang clique as him had also been pulled underwater. In the most extreme case, they’d exchange one for two, and so would still profit.
*Is Wei Yuan’s attitude far too concerned for this small Bronze Gong?* The other officials quickly sniffed out this point.
Thus, they became more approving of Minister Sun’s maneuvers. Even though the conflict between the civil servants was serious, but Wei Yuan was the common enemy number one of all the civil servants, and so anything that could make Wei Yuan flustered and exasperated would be good for them.
“We are tired, you are dismissed.” Emperor Yuanjing waved his hand.
All the servants bowed and clasped their hands, and left the imperial study in an orderly manner. The great officials all left with an aura like fire and water, but as soon as they stepped through the meridian gate, the atmosphere turned on its head.
The atmosphere of drawn swords and cocked crossbows disappeared, as if it was all a great theatre play finally coming to a conclusion.
Political enemies were still political enemies, but they were not as extreme as their behaviour in the Imperial Study.
Prime Minister Wang, with his salt-and-pepper grey hair, austere brows, and a whole body clad in crimson came up to Wei Yuan with a light smile, “Duke Wei seems to care rather much for that small Bronze Gong. To size the opportunity for great merit, he is certainly a prodigy.”
Wei Yuan smiled warmly, “It’s a shame he could not conduct himself, and offended those he can’t afford to offend.”
Prime Minister Wang was shocked, “Why does Duke Wei say such words? We take in prodigies for the state ought to protect them, how could we let them come to a premature end? If Duke Wei cannot protect him, then this official can help you.”
Wei Yuan looked at him deeply, his expression still warm, not betraying happiness nor anger, “I don’t want to inconvenience the Prime Minister Sir.”
Wei Yuan came back to the constabulary, and ordered the clerks: “Send Xu Qi’an to see me.”
Xu Qi’an was currently at the drill grounds, sparring with Zhu Guangxiao and Song Tingfeng, practicing his swordsmanship.
“Old Song, you haven’t gone to the Jiaofangsi recently? Your qi has been much more expansive than before.” Xu Qi’an bantered around whilst simultaneously exchanging blows.
“His salary has all been given to the Jiaofangsi’s women, he doesn’t know frugality.” Song Tingfeng said solemnly, “Ningyan, today’s him will be the future’s you, you need to take this as caution.”
Of the three young men, the hard-working Zhu Guangxiao was the most frugal and sensible — not that he did not sleep around, rather he wanted to save money to marry.
Xu Qi’an and Song Tingfeng most liked Shen Gongbao[^1]. The former was a committed freeloader, whilst the latter had no restraint about him.
After Refining Vitality, martial artists no longer needed to practice abstinence, but they ought to still be conservative. A dam of a thousand li falls from holes made by ants, a body of a hundred battles wastes from holes belonging to women.
At that time, a black-clothed clerk rushed over, stopping at the edge of the practice grounds, shouting: “Sir Xu, Duke Wei summons you.”
[^1]: Shen Gongbao, a mythological feature. Also homonymic with “deeply pierce abalone” of which abalone is a metaphor which you should know by now.