# 165. An Opportunity to Turn the Tides Xu Qi’an immediately stepped forward, pushing the guard over, kicking aside his blade, and lay into him with slap after slap: “Will you go or not? Will you go or not…” The other guard was frozen in shock, not knowing whether or not to stop him. “No… no more…” The first guard on the floor hugged his head, pleading desperately: “Please, I’m just a lowly guard, you’re putting me in a difficult situation here, do you want Wei Yuan to punish me?” Xu Qi’an was Wei Yuan’s favourite, and so he didn’t dare fight back. As long as the former did not try to barge into the Tower of Noble Spirit, the guards would not choose to attack. “I understand, we all have our troubles.” Seeing that he had successfully beaten the stubbornness out of the guard, Xu Qi’an drew back his hand, satisfied, and pulled out a tael of silver from his wallet: “I hope this chunk of silver will be sufficient for you to take the risk. Otherwise I’ll find someone else.” “Yes yes yes,” the guard took the silver, picked up his sabre, and slipped into the Tower of Noble Spirit. After ten or so minutes, Xu Qi’an saw candlelight flare up on the seventh floor, and a moment later, the guard came down: “Duke Wei invites you up. As for this madam…” “An Arcanist from the Sitianjian, she’s one of us.” Xu Qi’an led Chu Caiwei inside. In the day, there were clerks at their posts in the Tower of Noble Spirit, and it was still rather lively, but at night there was not a sound, and the building gave off an aura of loneliness. *Wei Yuan lives here all year round, does he not get lonely?* As he wondered to himself, he walked up to the seventh floor tea room. It wasn’t warm inside, no coals were in the fireplace, and not a single servant was in the room. Wei Yuan was sat by the table in his azure robe, with his black hair hanging loose, playing with an oil lamp in his hand. Seeing Xu Qi’an had arrived, he immediately ordered: “Make a fire, boil water, and light all the other candles.” *He seems a bit cold… heh, even though Wei Yuan is an old master schemer, he seems not to have the talent for martial arts… haha, heaven is fair after all…* Xu Qi’an obeyed his commands, lighting the candles one by one, putting the brazier by Wei Yuan’s side, and placing a kettle of water on it. “Today, I ordered Qianrou to tell you to hide, yet he searched the constabulary up and down, and could not find you. When he went to the Xu House, you had not returned. When he went to the Jiaofangsi, you weren’t there. “At this time of night, I gather it is not about the corruption case?” Wei Yuan laughed, turning his gaze to Chu Caiwei, and asking: “Is this small Bronze Gong Miss Caiwei’s sweetheart?” Chu Caiwei’s face went red: “No!” However she was not mature enough, and the blush came and went just like that. Her eyes fell on the tea table, and saw nothing edible present. This room suddenly became very boring. “Duke Wei, I’ve discovered a troubling case.” Xu Qi’an sat cross-legged by the table, facing Wei Yuan, “Today I applied for leave to go look at properties, and I found an abandoned haunted house. I went with Miss Caiwei to deal with it, and I ended up channelling with the spirit…” Xu Qi’an recounted what he saw during the channelling. At the start, Wei Yuan did not seem too interested, but when he heard that that house was a brothel for trafficked women, his face darkened slightly. When he heard about Minister of Industry meeting with someone seemingly from the Church of the Warlock God, to smuggle weapons, cannons, and furthermore with relations to Yunzhou, the great eunuch’s face became as dark as the depths of the ocean. “The Qi Clique really has ties to the bandits in Yunzhou. Very good, this information is very important.” Wei Yuan looked at Xu Qi’an, kindliness and appreciation in his eyes, “You are very able at providing pleasant surprises.” *Then adopt me as your son…* Xu Qi’an’s heart said. Freeloader Xu was someone who had pride, though, and so those words could not ever see the light of day. “Duke Wei, Zhu Yang’s betrayal is all because of me.” Xu Qi’an said in shame. “Without him, there would still be other incidents. This time, it is the Qi clique making enemies with me. Of course, there are other parties aiding and abetting behind the scenes.” Wei Yuan did not explain why the Qi clique would make enemies with him. *The ones behind this corruption case is the Qi clique?* From the earth book, he discovered from One that Zhu Yang had betrayed the constabulary. However, One did not mention that the ones behind the scenes was the Qi clique, Xu Qi’an was under the impression that the Wang clique were really behind it. *This is too coincidental… today the “corruption case” arose in the constabulary, pulling me into it, and immediately I discover something this big.* *…Is this due to a change in fortune, because I’m nearly in Refining Spirit? Otherwise it’d be unexplainable.* “How interesting, the Wang clique cosying up with the Yao, the Qi clique making buddies with the Warlocks, what kind of people are running the country?” Chu Caiwei lampooned, “Has His Majesty’s daoist cultivation turned his brain a bit funny?” Xu Qi’an quickly elbowed the filterless young woman. “His Majesty does not care for the affairs of court. Even though he still has ultimate authority, it is difficult to prevent some demons and evildoers from appearing. However his control of power is still very strong, and the many dukes of court are not idiots.” Wei Yuan did not care much for Chu Caiwei’s *Lèse-majesté*; after all the Sitianjian’s Arcanists were all like this. That Yang Qianhuan, in his rather comical style still turns his back even to His Majesty. And His Majesty would not be angered, as to those who were able and useful, yet devoid of political power, he was always kind and generous. “Is not the Confucianists’ dragon-killing technique specifically for killing this dragon.” Xu Qi’an smirked. As soon as he finished, he felt Chu Caiwei’s vengeance-filled elbow stick into his side. Emperor Yuanjing controlled the court, and the officials all acted for him. When an emperor only cared about his own power, and not about the nation and its people, then the reasoning behind appointments will change, from those of talent to those obedient, and unlikely to rebel. As to their abilities and moral conduct, that was priority number two, except for unparalleled savants like Wei Yuan. *Rotten to the core… Wei Yuan, is this why you want to clear the court of its rot…* Xu Qi’an remembered something Wei Yuan had said to him once, about how he wanted to purge the court of its miasma, and rein back the decline of the country. But before this, he must be like the dust, and permit those under him to make error. After all, he was a lone official, if he didn’t have people under him who were able, then how could he hope to fight against the weight of the entire court? Wei Yuan took out paper and brush, planning to write a letter. Xu Qi’an obediently poured some water, and began to grind ink[^1]. He watched as daddy Wei drafted his letter, and pressed on his seal. “Take this letter to Zhang Kaitai, the current Gold Gong on duty. He will take people to root out this trafficking ring.” Wei Yuan said. *I know a scholar called Chen Tai, I wonder what this Zhang Kaitai means…* Xu Qi’an nodded, “Yes sir.” He lead Chu Caiwei out of the Tower of Noble Spirit, and asked after the whereabouts of Zhang Kaitai’s office. He was directed to the “Divine Sword Hall”, and when he arrived he realised that he had met this sword-wielding Gold Gong a few times before. The Gold Gong that was wrapped in bandages was exactly him. Zhang Kaitai was like a proud and lonely knight; when he felt silent, it was as if he was a thousand li from everyone. *If he were to be alive in the modern day, then he would be a* Simon the Snow Blower[^2] *type professional…* Xu Qi’an thought. “What is it.” Zhang Kaitai’s eyes fell on the letter in Xu Qi’an’s hand. Xu Qi’an handed it over, as well as recounting his conversation with Wei Yuan. After he was finished, Zhang Kaitai’s usually calm and cool face broke into laughter and delight like ice melting in spring, “Good, good! This will make the Qi Clique face the consequences! “If our brothers can overcome this hardship, then you’ll have been the most help.” Zhang Kaitai’s opinion of Xu Qi’an was alright, but he did not understand why Yang Yan and Jiang Lyuzhong would move spear and sword because of him, and even less so why Wei Yuan would look so favourably upon him. Yes, he was quite brave, and was an excellent detective, talent was talent sure, but with Wei Yuan’s status? Why would he nonetheless be so partial to a Bronze Gong? After the Sangpo Case though, he admitted that Xu Qi’an was a talent worth nurturing. And at this very moment, the delighted Zhang Kaitai started to appreciate this very ordinary Bronze Gong. He could always deliver pleasant suprises. Fifteen minutes later, after gathering men and horses, he assembled forty bailiffs, over twenty Bronze Gongs, six Silver Gongs, and equipped them with muskets, crossbows, ropes and so on, a full military platoon. Torches in hand, the whole squad ran after Xu Qi’an, their pace scarily quick. Under the flickering of torchlight, they arrived at their target in only half an hour. There was no sign on the door of the manor, and the red lacquered door was shut tight. Zhang Kaitai waved his hand, his face cold, and tersely gave his command: “Surround it.” The bailiffs with their torches in hand, scattered around. A Silver Gong stepped forwards, pulling out his sabre, and with a big shout slashed at the door, and under a flash of white light the red door exploded. The Nightwatchers rushed in, and a group of armed mercenaries came to meet them with angry shouts, yet as soon as they got there they were flattened by the Nightwatchers, pushed underfoot alive or dead. Within came faintly the sound of a flute, yet that quickly stopped, as if its player had heard the commotion in the front courtyard. A moment later, the entire mansion arose in uproar. Xu Qi’an, blade in hand, lead the vanguard, cutting down any mercenary guard he saw in his way. As he cut, the memories of the deceased woman flashed through his mind. Images of those humiliated, abused, and mutilated women. In one breath they came to the central courtyard, and saw ten or so guests and women gathered in the the warm and cosy main hall. Their clothes were askew, and their faces frightened. “Nightwatchers?” the guests where aghast. Xu Qi’an swished his black-gold sabre, leaving a line of blood on the floor. Pointing his blade at them, he said “Arrest them all, those who resist, kill without mercy.” He then left the main hall, taking a few Bronze Gong’s to barge down door after door, and pull off the bed the sleeping guests who had just satiated their cravings. They were also brought to the main courtyard. “You’re not getting clothes, place your hands on your head and kneel down!” He was well used to the process of raiding hotels. What was different though was that in the previous life, he would make fun of the guests caught with their pants down, asking: “You married?” Now though, he was filled with anger, and a desire to kill. Compared to the *qinglou* brothels, these type of private establishments were far more secretive, and so one could relax and talk proper business. Further more, the fucking was good, the women were plenty, and you can abuse them however you wanted. Even if you killed one there were people to deal with the problem for you. Moreover, these were women of good upbringing; you certainly couldn’t abuse the Jiaofangsi’s women like this. The sudden raid ended as quick as it started. Gold Gong Zhang took Xu Qi’an’s suggestion, and stripped the guests of their clothes, forcing them to kneel in the yard with their hands on their heads, suffering in the cold January breeze. At first, some yelled out “Scholars can be killed but never humiliated!”, yet when Zhang Kaitai lopped off his head, the others quietened down. In their actions, the Nightwatchers had the authority to cut first and ask questions later. “Mister Cao, it’s you… yo, Mister Wang is here too… Mister Tang is certainly short and plucky…” a Silver Gong laughed coldly as he talked to familiar officials. In the warm main hall was gathered over twenty beautiful women, all very young of age. Amongst them were also a few eleven to twelve year old boys. The Great Feng cracked down heavily on privately keeping young boys, but the number of businessmen and officials with that perversion were not insignificant, and so many places would have some around to serve these particular guests. “It makes one want to vomit.” A Silver Gong spat. Zhang Kaitai was in the middle of interrogating the owner of the manor. He was a wealthily dressed middle-aged man, and he was vigorously kowtowing to the Gold Gong, saying: “This lowly man is guilty, this lowly man deserves death.” Zhang Kaitai asked darkly: “Who do you have behind this?” “No one, sir, this lowly man only wanted to make friends with some important people in court.” Zhang Kaitai did not ask further, merely reminding his Silver Gongs to watch him closely, and not let him commit suicide. Inside the Nightwatchers’ dungeon, even a stone statue would talk. Xu Qi’an said: “There is a well in the back courtyard, especially used to dispose of bodies.” Zhang Kaitai looked deeply at the middle-aged man. Xu Qi’an, Chu Caiwei, and Zhang Kaitai went together to the back courtyard, and found the well. Holding their torches over the opening, they saw murky black water, as a light stench of rot floated up from it. *When flesh rots away, the bones will sink down… we might have to go in and fetch them…* the corner of Xu Qi’an’s mouth twitched. Suddenly, Chu Caiwei let out an “eh?”. She looked left and right, before jumping onto the rooftop, surveying the whole courtyard. “What is it?” “There’s a sealing formation in the back yard, the resentful energy of the well was sealed up.” Chu Caiwei said. *Sealing formation? So this is why the Nightwatchers never discovered this place…* Xu Qi’an nodded in realisation, as his expression suddenly became strange: “Are formations not the work of you Arcanists?” At the same time, a doubt welled up in his mind: given that they had the ability to set a formation and seal the resentful energy, then why didn’t they get rid of it outright? It must be said, even a seventh-rank Chu Caiwei could do as much. Put a yang-aura formation in the yard, and your troubles would be gone. “Then… well there must be wandering arcanists.” Chu Caiwei pursed her lips, “Didn’t the tax silver case have signs of an arcanist behind it?” *I don’t have any rebuttal!* Xu Qi’an moved his gaze back to the well entrance, and saw Zhang Kaitai looking at the well wall, deep in thought. Following his gaze, Xu Qi’an finally saw that within the well was carved many complicated and strange runes. “This is the work of the Warlock Church, it should be some sort of curse. As to what exactly, I don’t know. Get someone to make an ink rubbing, we’ll look at it later.” Zhang Kaitai explained. “Mn, from what I saw of the resentful spirit’s memories, this place indeed has something to do with the Church of the Warlock God.” Xu Qi’an said, as internally he lampooned: *I can’t remember how many times I’ve been fucked by that Tamraha, if I can find him, I’ll make him know what a large one really is.* Just then, commotion came from the front hall, along with the screams of women and boys. --- [^1]: Traditionally Chinese inks came in dry sticks, which can be ground in water against an ink stone to release the pigment. [^2]: 西门吹雪, the Saint of Sword, a character in Gu Long’s wuxia novel *Legend of Lu Xiaofeng*