# 163. The Traitor’s Hand Wei Yuan calmly picked up the document, unfolding it, and his pupils suddenly contracted. Without another word, he knelt to the floor, proclaiming: “Your servant has betrayed Your Majesty’s trust, and deserves a thousand deaths, your servant only wishes to die.” Seeing this attitude, those who were rearing to criticise and attack him were caught off guard. When Wei Yuan would refute the claim, they were prepared to jump out and ask Emperor Yuanjing to behead this mongrel, however now they didn’t know quite what to say. Emperor Yuanjing snorted coldly, “At least you’re homest, Wei Yuan, if you dared to make excuses today, we would have you thrown into the dungeons.” Head lowered, Wei Yuan did not respond. Emperor Yuanjing snorted again, “The person who reported you was the very Gold Gong Zhu Yang of your constabulary.” Wei Yuan still did not speak. In the report was detailed several years of evidence of corruption and abuse by the Nightwatchers, from Gold Gongs to Silver Gongs. Some of it was backed by iron-clad evidence, whilst others were merely just stander. Naturally, this report included a newly joined Bronze Gong, whose accusations were not trivial. In only a month he had exploited his position to embezzle over a thousand taels of silver, and went every day to the Jiaofangsi to sleep with the oirans there. Just then, a chief supervising secretary of the Ministry of Law stepped out, proclaiming: “Your Majesty, the Nightwatchers have used their position for personal gain, knowingly broke the law, your servant suggests to execute Wei Yuan, to assert authority over the Nightwatchers and correct their malicious ways.” Immediately, several other important officials concurred. Emperor Yuanjing looked towards the guilty Wei Yuan, and said solemnly: “This matter will be dealt with by the Ministry of Law, the High Court, and the Prefecture constabulary together. We want a result within three days.” And thus court ended. Nangong Qianrou followed behind Wei Yuan with a dark expression on his face. They only had time to take a few paces, before he heard someone behind shouting “Please wait, Duke Wei.” Father and son stopped in their tracks, turning around. Coming towards them was the Chief Justice. He wore a crimson robe sewn with wild geese and clouds, the mark of a fourth rank official. The Chief Justice was similar to the Capital Prefecture Magistrate, even though their formal rank was not particularly high, they held in their hands immense political power, and were amongst the most influential of officials. In the capital, an official’s power and status was never determined by his rank, but rather by how much influence he had at hand. After all, the aristocrats were above the official ranks, yet they had been squeezed to the margins of political power. The white-haired, thin-faced Chief Justice greeted Wei Yuan smilingly, “This official would like to learn of some details about the accused on the list.” Wei Yuan nodded, not showing any emotion, “I will arrange for a dossier to be sent to the Chief Justice shortly.” The Chief Justice nodded in satisfaction, and carried on with a face full of smiles: “On another matter, this official appreciates the talent of Gold Gong Zhu, he is upright and unwavering, and so I would like to reappoint him under the High Court. In a moment this official will report this to His Majesty, but I wanted to inform Duke Wei first.” Seeing Wei Yuan still not reacting, the Chief Justice stepped forwards slightly, “Duke Wei knows what this official wants.” Upon this Wei Yuan laughed, “A worthwhile trade.” The Chief Justice looked on at Wei Yuan’s back with a dark expression. Returning to his carriage, Nangong Qianrou drove it towards the Nightwatchers Constabulary. In the carriage, Wei Yuan rubbed his temples, and sighed deeply, “We’ve gotten their attention now…” Nangong Qianrou laughed coldly, “Father, you clearly know he would have disloyal thoughts, yet you still insisted on old affections. What good is this, it’s no longer such a simple case of losing some of your men.” In the Nightwatchers Constabulary, only the straight-as-iron Li Yuchun, and the stiff-as-a-plank Yang Yan had no interest in women and money. There was also the schizophrenic Nangong Qianrou, who loved to shut himself in the dungeons all day to torture death row prisoners, who didn’t care for money, and as for women … who was more beautiful than he? “Should we kill him.” Nangong Qianrou said with marked resentment. “Revenge must wait until after autumn.” Wei Yuan replied calmly. After a long period of silence, Nangong Qianrou steered the carriage through a market street, then into a quiet alleyway, before continuing: “Even though this matter is not because of him, he was a catalyst to this. Father you could have suppressed this, does he really warrant such attention from you?” “I have plenty of Gold Gongs, but only one interesting young lad. I look forward to his growth.” Wei Yuan smiled lightly, turning the conversation: “Our Majesty would not be at ease seeing me sit arrogantly.” As he spoke, Wei Yuan finally let out a sliver of gloom. “The Chief Justice wanted to use that name list to exchange for Father’s secret information, why did you refuse?” Nangong Qianrou asked. He knew that his Father’s parting “a worthwhile trade” was not agreeing to the proposal of the Chief Justice, but rather was reluctantly deciding to give up his gold and silver gongs, and make a lose-lose situation. In reply to his question was silence. *This year really has an eventful autumn - no - every official evaluation comes with large upheaval. Father has spent much effort on raising this troupe, this time it won’t be easy to prevent any losses…* Nangong Qianrou sighed. Every official evaluation, there will be winners and losers, the Wang clique were the victors last time. But one thing was unavoidable, which is that all the cliques and parties would come out of it with heavy losses, a victory was still a pyrrhic one. “When we return to the constabulary, find Xu Qi’an, tell him to lay low a few days, I’ll find a way to extricate him.” “Yes.” Nangong Qianrou nodded sourly. … At dusk, Xu Qi’an, who had long since finished looking at houses, spent an hour at the market with Chu Caiwei. Whenever they saw something delicious, he would buy it. The big-eyed beauty was exhilarated, and had an amazing time, a sweet smile constantly on her face. *Going to the market is indeed more exhausting than fighting, this isn’t physical exhaustion, but mental exhaustion.* Xu Qi’an exhaled a long breath. As long as he could keep this woman happy, then all the exhaustion was worth it. In his previous life he had heard a wise phrase: There are 70 ways to please a woman, one is to go shopping, and the rest is 69. The latter Xu Qi’an was unable to put into action, and so naturally could not verify its authenticity, but going shopping was indeed quite effective. They entered Guiyuelou, and ordered a sumptuous five tael worth dinner. Xu Qi’an, not wanting to make another loss, loosened his belt for a showdown with Chu Caiwei. Just then, a lurch came from within his heart. Without a change in expression, he stopped eating, took out the small jade mirror, and looked at its contents. 【ONE: There’s been an incident in the Nightwatchers. The Gold Gong Zhu Yang reported Wei Yuan for embezzlement and corruption, this case involves four Gold Gongs, twelve Silver Gongs, and three Bronze Gongs, to be investigated by the prefecture, the Ministry of Law, and the High Court. Does this mean that Wei Yuan is about to lose favour, and will fall this year?】 *Zhu Yang has betrayed Wei Yuan… reported so many people…* Xu Qi’an looked intently at the words written on the mirror’s surface, as raging waves crashed around in his mind. Recently the interparty fighting has been like fire on kindling, with winners and losers abound. Because his status was not high enough, for Xu Qi’an this fighting became mostly a thing to be talked about after dinner, and not something to care about. He originally thought that the Nightwatchers had a special position at court, and could sail steady in rough waters without any internal strife, but clearly he did not sufficiently understand the intricacies of court politics. *As a Gold Gong, Zhu Yang must hold a lot of dirt on many Nightwatchers. Now that he has suddenly rebelled, the Nightwatchers may be in for serious injury.* *If I’m not wrong, this whole matter is because of me, hearing that Silver Gong Zhu took severe internal damage from my strike, developing a chronic issue and severing his future as a martial artist. And not only did I come out of it unharmed, but I am to be promoted.* *… Indeed, if I were Emperor Yuanjing, I would not want to see Wei Yuan sitting trouble free. From the tax silver case to the Sangpo case, and then to this conflict happening right now, the civil servants have pretty much had their brains smashed out. The aristocrats have kept themselves pretty well, but this is probably because the real political power that they hold is very little, and so have no confidence to go into the fray.* *Wei Yuan had said to me that in the current court the Wang clique sits supreme, and the current Wang clique is taking heavy losses. The Eunuch clique that Wei Yuan would be representing is also bound to be hurt.* *I’m just a small Bronze Gong, I should… damn it, why would Zhu Yang just let me go?* In the brief moment of time that Xu Qi’an was thinking, the once court official number Four had already replied: ((FOUR: Embezzlement and corruption is merely an excuse, if we really talk about embezzlement and corruption, the Nightwatchers are controlled by Wei Yuan, how could their table manners be any worse than the bird-and-beast clothed officials? 【Emperor Yuanjing is merely taking this as an opportunity to knock Wei Yuan down a peg.】 *Four is indeed an old experienced court official, although physically thousands of miles distant, his analysis is profound and forceful… this agrees with what I was thinking- eh? With One’s abilities could he have really not seen through such as simple ruse? And ask such a stupid question…* Xu Qi’an wrote: 【THREE: If this is Emperor Yuanjing’s intention, then Wei Yuan can’t do anything, right? No matter what he would have to give up these subordinates.】 【FOUR: Hehe, this depends on the attitude between Emperor Yuanjing and Wei Yuan. If it is merely some corruption, then the punishment will not be significant, but there will definitely be a group of people expelled from the constabulary.】 *Oh shuanggui[^1], is it…* Xu Qi’an suddenly became worried for his own future. “What are you doing drawing on the mirror?” Chu Caiwei was in the middle of eating a pork trotter. *So they say that all women are pig trotters…[^2]* Xu Qi’an put away his mirror, saying: “Nothing. When you finish, let’s go see that haunted house.” No matter what, first he must buy the house. Owning a stable asset was more important than anything else. *I have a decent relationship with Prefecture Magistrate Chen… if I’m really in the list of names, going to the prefecture constabulary won’t be an issue, what is an issue is being thrown in the Ministry of Law’s dungeons… I definitely have not committed any corruption, but the truth is not what’s important… if it really comes to it I’ll disappear for a few days. Tomorrow I’ll ask Wei Yuan how to arrange this.* Leaving Guiyuelou, Xu Qi’an handed the jade mirror over to Chu Caiwei: “Keep hold of this for me for a few days.” “Ok.” Chu Caiwei took it from him, and stuffed it into her little deerskin pouch. After dark, they came to the haunted house, and the two of them vaulted the wall. “Now can you tell me? Why are we coming back at night.” The two’s footsteps echoed in the desolate courtyard house. The wind was still, and there were no bugs in the rafters. The silence was frightening. Chu Caiwei, clutching a toffee hawthorn in her hand, spoke crisply: “In the day, yang energy is abundant, and the ghost woman in the well won’t appear. To get rid of her, we need to wait until she comes out. “Furthermore, I suspect that there’s something off about the well, I plan to go down and look at it in a bit.” *Go down and look at it…* Xu Qi’an, long afflicted with thalassophobia, immediately became timid, especially knowing that there was something strange down the well. They waited and waited, and the night became darker and darker. After a while Chu Caiwei said puzzled: “Let’s just go down, are you going or not?” “I don’t… feel safe letting you go down alone.” Chu Caiwei nodded, put her hand on the well side, and lightly hopped down. *This chick was scared when listening to the ghost story…* Xu Qi’an grasped his dark gold sabre, and followed Chu Caiwei down the well. The well water was icy cold, he saw ahead of him a mote of light, that reflected a yellow-skirted girl’s graceful figure. She swam through the water, looking almost like a mermaid. That mote of light was coming from the bagua hung around her waist. Swimming down for over ten minutes, Xu Qi’an suddenly saw Chu Caiwei stop. She took off the bagua plate from her waist, as if she was sizing up some creature. Xu Qi’an swam over, and using the light given off by the bagua plate, saw that lying at the bottom of the well was a white-clothed woman. She seemed to notice them, and slowly raised her head to look up. Her face was badly mangled, her eyeballs hanging by her cheeks, maggots wriggling in her black eye sockets. --- [^1]: Shuanggui, lit. double-order, the internal process the Communist Party uses in investigating and sanctioning its own party members which fall from grace. Those involved must at an arranged time (time order) and arranged location (location order) give statement on everything to do with a case, and may not leave until such is sorted, which is different from the standard judicial process. [^2]: I don’t get the reference.