# 158. Gifting Poems After a short pause, the various court attendants could not resist but to discuss amongst themselves. The Sangpo case having been investigated for so long by now, everyone knew the dips and peaks of the story by now. The escaped Jinwu guard Baihu Zhou was precisely the ringleader in conspiring with the Yao to smuggle gunpowder into the imperial city. As to whether in reality he was or not, everyone had their own opinions, but there was rarely a slow head in the elders of the royal court. Thus, Wei Yuan’s words were like a boulder being chucked into a temple, raising a storm. Although this sterile old eunuch drew the ire of many, no one could deny that Wei Yuan was a respected opponent. HIs words were very valuable, and had little fluff. *Someone’s over…* was the thought that went though all of the bigwigs present. The Minister of Rites suddenly changed colour, as his white beard shook slightly. His gaze suddenly stiffened, as he gazed directly at Wei Yuan. This old man’s qigong practices were commendable, he rarely if ever lost control like this. Emperor Yuanjing said deeply: “Send him in!” … Xu Qi’an sat at the driver’s seat. Opening the curtain, he glanced at Zhou Chixiong, who was still unconscious. To prevent the man from killing himself, Xu Qi’an had acquired large amounts of incapacitating medication. The reasons why he chose to go to the Cloud Deer Academy to pick him up himself, and not to stuff him in his earth book fragment, were twofold: One, this person is a Refining Spirit rank, much higher than him, thus the didn’t want to take risks. Two, the existence of the Earth Book fragment was a secret, and he couldn’t just show everyone in the open. He could hardly just walk into the imperial throne room, and pull out the Earth Book fragment in front of the Emperor and his servants. Of course, if there was no other way, he would have used the Earth Book. However he had enough relationships to get things done otherwise, thus he could avoid resorting to such an option. “Brother Song, what order is Brother Yang Qianhuan in Sir Jianzheng’s disciples?” As he waited for a message from within the court, Xu Qi’an chitchatted with Song Qing. The black bags around Brother Song’s eyes were a sight to be behold. In Xu Qi’an’s previous life, he would definitely be labelled as a lover of “multi-person activities”, however Song Qing was a tech nerd who didn’t go near women. In his eyes were only man-beast hybrids, not women. “He’s mine and Caiwei’s senior brother, the third disciple of our teacher.” Song Qing drew closer to him, and muttered, “There’s something wrong with that senior brother’s head.” *Is there a disciple of the Jianzheng who doesn’t have something wrong with them?* Xu Qi’an was still sceptical, as he put his hands behind his back, and imitated Yang Qianhuan’s posture. “Yes yes!” Song Qing nodded his head over and over, “He loves to stand with his back to people, and not speak properly. The other brothers all find him annoying, only he finds it shameless, rather finding it extremely satisfying.” “Why is this?” Xu Qi’an thought back to that night at the Jiaofangsi, back to his brief interaction with Yang Qianhuan. “He says he needs to have his back to all others, to present a master’s aura.” Song Qing replied. *Is he trying to cosplay the Wushi Emperor[^1]…* Xu Qi’an forced a mouthful of lampooning back down his throat, feeling distinctly uncomfortable. *This is not eighth grader syndrome, eighth grader syndrome would only make one somewhat fanciful, this is a problem with his fundamental personality. He is a king of posturers, because he deliberately postures like a pretentious prick, and not just because there’s a problem with his world view.* Xu Qi’an thought for a while, before saying: “Brother Song, could you pass on a message for me.” “Go ahead.” Xu Qi’an said in a low voice: “*Picking the stars with the moon in hand, there are none like me upon this land.*”[^2] The arrogance! The ears of the two Gold Gongs Yang Yan and Jiang Lyuzhong twitched as they heard it, instinctively turning their heads over to look. To a martial artist, hearing these words would be like a vagabond seeing another vagabond showing off left and right, it would instantly ignite their aggressive and competitive tendencies. The same principle applied last time at the Stargazing Tower, when Xu Qi’an’s singing of “*A sword in hand, ask who is the hero under heaven?*” was snorted at by Nangong Qianrou. *Such arrogant words, brother Yang is bound to love them, but saying them everywhere… he’ll probably be beaten up… no that’s good for him, I’m fed up of that attitude of his…* Song Qing nodded happily, “I will ensure it is done.” As they chatted, a eunuch came out with a contingent of armoured soldiers. He looked around at the palace city entrance, before saying loudly, “Where are the Nightwatchers!” Jiang Lyuzhong saluted, “Here!” The group took out their plaques and golden tokens to identify themselves. The eunuch nodded, “Follow us to the palace, His Majesty has summons.” Yang Yan immediately drew the carriage curtains, and put Zhou Chixiong over his shoulder. “Who is this?” On the way to the palace, the eunuch asked curiously. “A wanted criminal, Zhou Chixiong.” Xu Qi’an replied. “Why is there still a bag over his head? Let us see.” The eunuch seemed to take much interest, and came over. Jiang Lyuzhong blocked him, shaking his head, “Before His Majesty sees him, no one can come into contact with the criminal.” The eunuch frowned, looking around at everyone’s faces, saying solemnly, “Before seeing His Majesty, one must verify his identity. How shall one know that this one is not someone holding unsavoury intentions, pretending to be Zhou Chixiong to get into the palace and assassinate His Majesty. “Naturally, we are not saying that you are accomplices, but a wise man’s thoughts eventually will have fault, and we cannot rule out that we have been deceived.” Jiang Lyuzhong shook his head again. “What intentions do you have?” The eunuch stopped, squinting, examining them, “One now suspects this person’s identity, and requires proof.” That contingent of armoured soldiers also stopped, staring sternly at Jiang Lyuzhong and the others. These words were reasonable and well-based, without any flaw, but to say such a thing now touched a sensitive spot. Xu Qi’an knew numerous methods of making a person silently die, and was confident that the two Gold Gongs knew even more than him. And as martial artists, they most likely couldn’t stop it. Martial artists were best only at outputting a lot of strength very quickly. And if Zhou Chixiong died, died silently whilst unconscious, who has to bear the burden? Clearly it wouldn’t be this eunuch. Because inspecting the identity of criminals was an ordinary procedure. *This eunuch belongs to a faction… most likely it’s the same clique as the Minister of Rites… as expected. If I came in all on my own, without the two Gold Gongs, the great scholar Zhang Shen, and brothers and sisters from the Sitianjian… I might have failed at the last step.* Thinking this, Xu Qi’an said smilingly, “Milord, when we go see His Majesty, I will say milord has attempted to murder Zhou Chixiong to silence him.” “Preposterous!” The eunuch flew into a rage, “You dare to slander us! Come, arrest him!” “Milord…” Xu Qi’an said loudly, “Have you really decided to have an altercation here? His Majesty is not an idiot, nor are the great servants of court, have you considered the consequences?” This eunuch laughed coldly, “Fledgling brat, have you considered the consequences?” Xu Qi’an put a hand on his sabre, and walked over, whispering in the eunuch’s ear: “Don’t try to play lives with me, it’s not worth it. Milord is helping someone else here, all you need to do is to try your best. After all you’re not a core member of the Wang clique, make the best decision.” This early thirties eunuch’s expression changed for a good minute, before he said sharply, “We will not lower ourselves to your level.” … Coming to the throne room palace, the eunuch went to report. Soon after, Emperor Yuanjing summoned Xu Qi’an and the others into the palace. After stepping over the ridiculously high threshold, that stretched past the knees, Xu Qi’an entered this main hall of the palace complex, and saw again the group of people that stood at the height of political power. Especially that one, the middle aged man wearing the Daoist robe, sat on the dragon throne. The many dukes and officials of court turned their bodies, looking at the great door of the throne room, look at Xu Qi’an’s group. *Still a bit nervous… the core of the political power battlegrounds of the Great Feng…* Xu Qi’an exhaled a long breath, pressing down the unease in his heart. Wei Yuan’s kindly gaze fell on Xu Qi’an’s face, as he lightly nodded. Xu Qi’an was even less afraid now, taking Baihu Zhou from Gold Gong Jiang. Taking off the hemp sack, he pulled on the nape of his neck, making the unconscious Zhou Chixiong raise his head. “Your Majesty, this is the criminal wanted by court, the former Jinwu Guard Baihu Zhou Chixiong.” The hubbub of conversation exploded. The face of the Minister of Rites slowly lost all colour. Xu Qi’an pressed his finger into a few of Zhou Chixiong’s major pressure points. “Ughh…” in a pained groan, Baihu Zhou slowly opened his eyes. And promptly fell into a daze. In front of him was the towering Emperor Yuanjing, to his sides were the dukes and officials of court, above him was the ornate throne room sign, and below him was the mirror-like sheen of the crystal floor. *Maybe I opened my eyes wrong…* Baihu Zhou closed his eyes again. Smack! Xu Qi’an immediately smacked him, laughing coldly, “Ey, traitor, you’ve come back in glory.” Zhou Chixiong, numb all over, was struck to the ground. He didn’t get back up, rather prostrated himself, crying shakily: “Your servant’s sin deserves a thousand deaths! Your servant’s sin deserves a thousand deaths!” After the stronghold in Yunzhou was taken, Zhou Chixiong was knocked unconscious, and was delivered back to the capital on a firefeather beast. He was unconscious all the way. He was only ever fed some water, and not any food. With great trouble he reached the capital, and Xu Qi’an thought that his situation was still decent, so the former gave him incapacitating medicine to keep him knocked out. Emperor Yuanjing’s face was stern, as he gazed down from above: “Zhou Chixiong, who ordered you to conspire with the Yao to smuggle gunpowder?” Zhou Chixiong was still prostrate on the floor, saying with all his breath: “Your servant should die…” Emperor Yuanjing turned his gaze from this ant, looking towards Zhang Shen beside Xu Qi’an, saying kindly “Mister Zhang, sorry to bother you.” Zhang Shen grunted coldly, not directly responding to the emperor, as he stepped forwards, his hands behind his back, heavenly laws on his tongue: “A gentleman must be truthful, an ordinary man must also.” An invisible zephyr swept through the throne room, as in an instant, everyone’s minds were filled with the word “truthfulness”. “Who ordered you to conspire with the Yao to smuggle gunpowder?” “It’s… it’s the Minister of Rites Li Yulang.” Zhou Chixiong began to sob. In an instant, the throne room exploded. All the great officials lost their abilities to control their emotions, and an uproar rose. A supervising secretary stepped out, “Your Majesty, this is preposterous, Zhou Chixiong is slandering…” Song Qing interrupted icily, “Baihu Zhou is not lying.” Chu Caiwei concurred, “He’s not lying.” The qi-watching technique could not be used on officials greater than fourth rank, but it could be used on Zhou Chixiong. The Minister of Rites’ face was ashen grey. There was no point in arguing any more; as soon as Zhou Chixiong had been caught, he had lost, unless he knew of this matter beforehand, and can kill him halfway. “Li Yulang, what have you to say?” Emperor Yuanjing said. The Minister of Rites took a deep breath, stowing away the defeat on his face, “Your servant is being wronged.” As if they were the last struggles in his death throes, there were no excuses nor arguments, only those few pitiful words. Wei Yuan immediately said, “Your Majesty, please lend that man to this servant for interrogation, to find his accomplices.” The Minister of Law also stepped forwards, butting heads with Wei Yuan, “Your Majesty, please give this case to the Ministry of Law.” Emperor Yuanjing did not reply, looking silently at the room full of red and purple cloaks. The room slowly quietened, as people instinctively stopped their discussions, lowering their heads. After a long time, Emperor Yuanjing said loudly, “This case will be handed to the Ministry of Law.” … After the court had adjourned, Minister Sun was escorted out, his official robes and cap long being confiscated. “Wait!” The ashen-hearted Minister of Rites turned to look, and the people from the Ministry of Law did similarly. They saw that small Bronze Gong from the Nightwatchers Constabulary catch up to them, The Ministry of Law people immediately went to block his way. Xu Qi’an did not argue, stopping in his steps, looking at the Minister of Law and the Minister of Rites. He said lightly, “A few days ago, I heard about what happened in court. If your Wang clique could quiet everything earlier, then today may never have happened.” This scene was seen by many officials. They involuntarily stopped, looking over. Further away, Wei Yuan stopped by his carriage, gazing over. Yang Yan whispered: “Father, do I call him over?” Wei Yuan shook his head, “The anguish in his heart is hard to suppress. If he does not vent it now, what time does he have. You watch, make sure things do not escalate.” He smiled warmly, “I also want to see what he says.” The The Minister of Law Minister Sun squinted, saying contemptuously, “Young brat, prattling on so self-importantly here.” Xu Qi’an was not the least bit angered, replying “Do the two ministers know that I have some little poetic talent? I do not dare to prattle self-importantly, I only wanted to gift Minister Sun and Minister Li a poem. “This poem is called: *The Case of Sangpo Lake, Given to Minister Sun*” Gifting a poem!? The surrounding civil servants first were dazed, then became excited, not caring about this matter being blown out of bounds, or about Minister Sun’s dignity, they all rushed over. “Come on, let us listen in.” Wei Yuan’s eyes lit up slightly, as he strode over with great steps. Minister Sun’s face turned, as he remembered Xu Qi’an’s fame, remembered his poetry. A torrent of unease welled up inside him. Xu Qi’an loudly proclaimed: “*All men raise their children and hope them clever,
While my cleverness has strayed me all my life,
Now I only wish my son be dull and clumsy,
And reach the high ranks with no misery and strife.*”[^3] --- [^1]: 无始大帝 (lit. the emperor of no beginning) Important character in the famous Xianxia novel *Shrouding the Heavens / Zhetian* 遮天 by Chen Dong. [^2]: This line is from Tang Jia San Shao's *Shen Yin Wang Zuo* (Throne of Seal), The titular line of Calamity Necromancer Electrolux/Elux, who goes on to become a mentor of Unrivaled Tang Sect's Huo Yuhao later in life. He was a Scion of Light, fated to destroy the darkness, but he spread calamity throughout the world after being disspirited with the true nature of humanity. Alternate translation because the original did not rhyme. [^3]: Adapted translation of the poem 《洗儿诗》*On Bathing my Son* by Su Shi 苏轼.