# 159. The Straight-as-Iron Li Yuchun *Now I only wish my son be dull and clumsy, and reach the high ranks with no misery and strife… hss, what a poisonous tongue!* The meaning hidden within this poem was, that the author was lamenting that he was too clever, and thus delayed for his whole life. If he were to be an idiot, then he would be able to become a duke without any worry nor strife. This was satirising the entire court of civil and martial officials, all the princes and dukes of the land, mocking them for being addle-brained idiots. The surrounding officials all exchanged looks, their expressions hardly just describable as “strange”. They had come to see Minister Sun being mocked, yet they were just coldly stabbed in the back. A little uncomfortable hardly describes it! *The Sangpo Case, given to Minister Sun… he’s calling me an idiot, mocking me for shooting myself in the foot… he wants to pin my name to the post of disgrace…* the name of the poem echoed in Minister Sun’s mind, as anger welled in his heart. The most majestic pursuit of a learned man was to leave a glorious name in the annals of history, this attracted them more than teaching or anything else. Similarly, however much they wished to leave a glorious name, was however much they feared having their name dragged through the pigsty. How could this be tolerated? This could not be tolerated. “Come, arrest this brat, take him!” Minister Sun was shaking with fury, his whole face red and swollen. Because he had taken matters into his own hands, and tried to finish off the Nightwatchers lead investigator Xu Qi’an, the Sangpo case had an ending like it did. Already he was feeling frustration enough to flip tables, and just then the thing he could suffer the least was to be kicked whilst he was down. The Ministry of Law’s people came up in unison, to arrest Xu Qi’an outside of the imperial city gates. “Sir Sun, please do not be angry.” Wei Yuan’s calm and kindly voice stopped the Ministry of Law’s people. This great azure cloak walked over unhurriedly, stepping between the Ministry of Law and Xu Qi’an. “Wei Yuan, this person is slandering this official, insulting a ministry’s high minister, by the law he shall be exiled!” The Minister of Law resisted his anger, and enunciated word by word: “Today. Even. You. Will. Not. Protect. Him.” “To slander a minister is indeed a great offence.” Wei Yuan looked sternly at Xu Qi’an, and just when everyone thought he was about to scold the foul mouthed little Bronze Gong, he turned back to the minister with deadly earnest, “To be honest, it is not slander.” “You…” Minister Sun swayed, pointing a trembling finger at Wei Yuan. Wei Yuan smiled, turned and left. Xu Qi’an happily followed dad away, escaping the Ministry of Law’s henchmen. After waling a few steps, he stopped again, turning his head and calling: “Congratulations, Minister Sun, your name will be spoken of through the ages, and will be famous amongst scholars worldwide.” Minister Sun froze. A few seconds later, forgetting how to breathe, he fainted right on the spot. “Minister Sir, Minister Sir…” the Ministry of Law’s people fell into a panic. … Returning back to the constabulary, Xu Qi’an followed Wei Yuan into the Tower of Noble Spirit, and diligently poured Wei Yuan and the two Gold Gongs tea. “Duke Wei, there’s a few things I still don’t understand.” Xu Qi’an asked. Wei Yuan was a man of strategy as well as wisdom. Some questions were better asked than figured out oneself, just like when at school, asking the teacher a question was usually both convenient and quicker. “Why did His Majesty order the Ministry of Law to take this case?” Wei Yuan picked up the teacup, smiling lightly. “Under heaven there is a stone of talent, Wei Yuan alone takes eight tenths of it, the Cloud Deer Academy and I share one.” Xu Qi’an flattered him. Pff… Jiang Lyuzhong spat out his tea. The corner of Yang Yan’s mouth twitched. Wei Yuan’s light smile quickly broadened, clearly very appreciative of Xu Qi’an’s flattery. A Scholar was like so, if you praise him: “fucking based, 666[^1] absolute chad” he wouldn’t bother with you. But that didn’t mean scholars did not like to be flattered, but one needed to use a different method. Xu Qi’an’s flattery was thus very precise, and used a method that scholars liked, making Wei Yuan feel comfortable with taking it. Wei Yuan was a very proud scholar. “The Minister of Rites is a member of the Wang clique, if given to the Nightwatchers to hear, then it’ll involve a large number of Wang clique members.” Wei Yuan said. *And when that happens, the balance of power in court will be gone… Emperor Yuanjing does not want to see one or two parties dominating, since it would hamper his control over court, especially as he’s constantly in cultivation… even if the Wang clique conspired with the Yao, blowing up Sangpo lake, blowing up his ancestors’ statues, that would hardly matter compared to his power…* from Wei Yuan’s words, Xu Qi’an deduced and extracted the core reason behind it. His impression of Emperor Yuanjing thus fell again by a few more points. Emperor Yuanjing may be a very skilled emperor, but he was not a good emperor. Armchair historian Xu Qi’an had separated emperors into three categories: bright rulers, ordinary rulers, and dark rulers. Bright rulers were good emperors that could bring a golden age to the common people. Ordinary rulers did not have many achievements, nor many transgressions. Most of the emperors in history belonged to this category. In reality to the common people an ordinary ruler that did not bother them might as well be a bright one. Dark rulers listened to lowly men and kept far from virtue, and often made the court into a mess, and the country into a mess. The reason why he did not include a category for tyrant, was because tyrant rulers could come from all three. In Xu Qi’an’s eyes, Emperor Yuanjing was a dark ruler, because as emperor, he only had care for his own power and status. The chaotic situation in court with party politics was in reality created by him. He cultivated Dao, and did not care for politics, thus needed a chaotic and discordant court to keep his grip on power. Otherwise, he would easily be figureheaded. “Another matter, I can’t figure out why the Minister of Rites did not silence Zhou Chixiong.” Xu Qi’an said. Originally he had presumed that the Nightwatchers would definitely be allowed to interrogate the Minister of Rites, and so he would’ve asked then. Little did he expect Emperor Yuanjing to have that skilled control. Wei Yuan shook his head, “These small matters do not need to be worried about. This phase of the Sangpo Case has come to an end. The fact that His Majesty did not mention you, meant that this matter has been overcome.” Xu Qi’an laughed with heartfelt emotion, immediately saying “I want to invite my colleagues in the case to the Jiaofangsi for drinks, but I’ve no silver, please may Duke Wei allocate some budget.” Just like how when a company finished a large project, everyone going to a restaurant. The costs were naturally paid by the company. Wei Yuan gave him a look, “Piss off.” After Xu Qi’an had pissed off, Wei Yuan fell into thought for a while, before saying: “Yang Yan, you allocate him two hundred taels of silver, make it a reward from the constabulary.” He then looked over at Jiang Lyuzhong too, “You two can go along as well.” Jiang Lyuzhong shook his head vigorously, “Duke Wei, I don’t go to places like the Jiaofangsi.” Yang Yan also shook his head. Wei Yuan did not press the issue, leisurely sipping tea, “With him present, I reckon many oirans will want to accompany him.” … Night fell, as the lanterns in the Jiaofangsi shone brightly, the sound of string and woodwind instruments resonated all around. In the Reflecting Plum Pavilion, Fuxiang played the qin, Mingyan danced, and Xiaoya led the drinking games. It was a lively sight. Beside Yang Yan and Jiang Lyuzhong was a lovable and charming orian, serving them wine. Xu Qi’an raised his cup, laughing, “Everyone, don’t be so uptight, let’s eat, let’s drink!” At the start the Bronze Gongs and Silver Gongs were still a bit uncomfortable, as after all there were two Gold Gongs present, giving them some amount of stress. But Jiang Lyuzhong was a veteran of these places, and knew how to make the atmosphere lively. He constantly raised his cup and toasted, and even chatted some vulgar words, seeming a completely new person compared to when he was on duty. Slowly, the Silver Gongs and Bronze Gongs all relaxed. Present were only two people who were still prim and proper, and looking completely unlike having just come to freeload. They were Yang Yan and Li Yuchun. “You two, you’re worthy of being superior and subordinate, you’re like two peas in a pod,” Jiang Lyuzhong teased them, laughing. “Not quite, Gold Gong Jiang,” Xu Qi’an had already drank a lot of liquor, and was rather woozy, boldly making fun of his two superiors: “Gold Gong Yang does not like women, Boss is just too prudish, there’s still a difference.” Just like that, the whole room burst into laughter, as the atmosphere became even more relaxed, full of lively aura. They drank all the way until 10:30, when the banquet finally ended. Jiang Lyuzhong left with that well-rounded oiran, whilst Yang Yan returned back to the constabulary. Li Yuchun also wanted to go back, but he was pulled back by Xu Qi’an, as well as Song Tingfeng and Zhu Guangxiao, and had a charming young woman pushed into his arms, and shut into a room together. As the “official host”, Xu Qi’an arranged everyone properly before entering Fuxiang’s bedroom. “Why have so many come today?” Fuxiang, having just finished bathing, sat cross-legged by the table, drying her glistening black silken hair. “To get all the misses in the courtyard nice and orderly, of course,” Xu Qi’an took off his jacket and sabre, and turned to leave: “I’ll come back in a minute.” He quietened his footsteps, and crept towards Li Yuchun’s room, rubbing his hands. In the corner he saw two people also furtively sneaking around, none other than Song Tingfeng and Zhu Guangxiao. Xu Qi’an used his gaze to communicate: “Are you two also here to listen to the corner of the wall.” The two of them nodded, using their expression to reply “Boss is refining qi, be careful, control your breathing…” Finally, they slowly crept under Li Yuchun’s window, and discovered no sounds of creaking beds, but rather conversation: “Master, your servant has already finished bathing, you can go bathe now.” “Mn.” Li Yuchun replied rather deeply. A long time later, he finished bathing, as the woman’s voice came again: “Master, the bed is warmed, what are you doing strolling around?” “The furniture is disorganised, everything is too messy, it’s a mess, a whole mess. Staying in this room is like sitting on a pincushion.” Li Yuchun replied painfully. “Huh?” The woman was stunned for a moment, “It’s already very clean, your servant tidies the room every day.” “No…” Li Yuchun said earnestly, “The teacups on the table should surround the teapot, keeping a specific distance… the plant pots by the window need to be moved left two inches… the chairs are placed too haphazardly, they should surround the tea table in the same way the tea cups surround the pot… the picture on this wall, why is it not in the centre… the screen is askew, I just aligned it properly… mn, your silk shoes are also not placed tidily…” “… this, how could this be fully tidy, who could do such a thing?” The woman said softly, “Master, your servant has been waiting for so long.” Li Yuchun was not very happy hearing that, and replied deeply, “Who says this cannot be done, you watch, and learn. This official will teach you how to tidy a room properly.” The woman: “???” Under the window, Xu Qi’an and the others were speechless. After creeping away, Xu Qi’an lamented: “Has boss not married?” “He’s married.” “Why does he feel like a newbie?” Xu Qi’an said. “This can’t be his first time at the Jiaofangsi, can it?” Song Tingfeng was in disbelief. Even though he had been Li Yuchun’s subordinate for many years, he still didn’t know much about the man’s private life. Xu Qi’an thought for a moment, saying “When we get back to our rooms, we can make a bit more of a ruckus.” “Good idea” Song Tingfeng and Zhu Guangxiao thought this was a good plan. Thus, the sound of shaking beds inside the Reflecting Plum Pavilion was extra vigorous that night. --- [^1]: Culture lesson: 6 (liu) in Chinese is homonymic with 溜 (liu) “smooth” used in the same sense. 666 is then extra smooth.