# 173. Haunted House Deep in the night, Song Qing, who had successfully sent the death row prisoner into the wheel of reincarnation, came out of the laboratory with bags around his eyes, intending to go down and solve the rumbling in his stomach. He walked downstairs, still deep in thought: *No, grafting can be used on people. For example, damaged organs can be replaced.* *But, why can’t it be more precise? Such as regrowing an arm… mm, this ability solely belongs to third rank martial artists. If I can discover this secret with alchemy, then my invention will shake the world.* *Xu Ningyan said that the alchemy of living things concerns more minute elements… things so small that a human eye cannot see them… that’s it! I can make a contraption like a telescope.* Telescopes existed in the Great Feng, as after the discovery of glass, the discovery of lenses followed soon after. In the army telescopes were commonplace, and were often issued to normal soldiers. However, elite soldiers and scouts still had little use for them, as after one had reached the stage of Refining Qi, a martial artist’s sight would be greatly sharpened. The more powerful one got, the more powerful one’s senses got, to the point where a telescope would merely be a hindrance. “What’s that smell?” Song Qing’s nose twitched. Following the fragrance, he came downstairs towards the kitchen, and saw Chu Caiwei with a few other white cloaks together, seemingly boiling something. “Hey, chicken soup, Sister Caiwei you’re so considerate.” Seeing the chicken in the pot, Song Qing’s mood suddenly lightened. “Go go go,” Chu Caiwei snapped, “Xu Qi’an taught me this alchemy, if it’s successful, then I can spread delicious flavours across the whole world.” Listening to Chu Caiwei recount the principles of chicken bouillon and MSG, Song Qing thought for a moment, before sighing: “Xu Qi’an is most certainly one of a kind.” Indeed, this was also alchemy. Extracting pills from the essentia of medicinal herbs, forging weapons from the pure metals within rock, and what was in front of him now, extracting the essence of umami from shiitake mushrooms and chicken, this all fell under alchemy, this agreed with what Xu Qi’an had taught that day. Alchemy included many varied fields, and its true goal was to extract those which one could not see. “I still don’t really understand what he said about MSG, since he didn’t give any method, only going over its basic principles, and saying that it can be extracted from grains.” Chu Caiwei said. “Big brother will help you.” Song Qing patted Chu Caiwei’s head. … The refurbishment of the new property finished two days early. Xu Qi’an asked for time off from the constabulary, and helped Uncle and Auntie to move house. Auntie, in a dark blue silk dress, with matching gown, had one hand on her hip, one hand waving a handkerchief, ordering around the servants like a general orders his troops. If she were a very average looking older woman, this attitude would be seen as too base, and not well liked. However, with the thirty-six year old Auntie, whose appearance made her look barely a year over thirty, her features beautiful and her body shapely and graceful, it was a different kind of beauty. Xu Qi’an thought whether the young, delicate, well-featured sister beside him in about twenty years time would also be like her mother. Or perhaps, even better. *Sigh… Lingyue is at the age to marry, I wonder whose family’s man is lucky enough to marry such a beautiful girl…* Xu Qi’an sighed at the inevitability of marriage in this society, and continued helping uncle carrying things around. Since they had hired enough carts, they only needed to make two round trips to move everything out of the old manor. As to a few miscellaneous bits and bobs, Auntie planned to buy them in the inner city — it was prime time to get something new. Auntie and Uncle were the elders, and so even though the house was Xu Qi’an’s, the eastern master bedroom was still given to those two. When allocating bedrooms, the usually mellow-toned Xu Lingyue had a rare argument with her mother. A three-tier courtyard house was extremely large, but the core bedrooms in the inner courtyard were still limited in number, and moreover the side bedrooms were meant for guests or servants to stay in, and were not meant for the masters of the house. According to Auntie’s intentions, all bedrooms in the western wing would be Xu Qi’an’s, as after all, he would marry in the future. However, Xu Lingyue stubbornly wanted to live on the west side, and live neighbouring to big brother. And so as auntie said: such an old girl and still living so close to her brother, are you not embarrassed? Xu Lingyue suddenly became desperate, and even started fully arguing with her mother. Finally, she got her wish to live in the western wing, but Auntie also put Xu Xinnian there, and agreed with Xu Qi’an that once he had married, Lingyue and Xinnian would then move to the northern wing. Xu Qi’an was initially not too happy, as if they lived too close, and he stayed over at the Jiaofangsi, his sister would find out, and then complain. Xu Lingyin was put in Auntie and Uncle’s room; little children often didn’t do well alone in new places, and Auntie worried that her youngest daughter would have nightmares and not get sleep. The eastern wing was incredibly large anyway, having three large bedrooms. Xu Qi’an quickly laid out his own room. His old place didn’t have many decorations and furniture, and so he didn’t have much to do. Leaving his room to go get some sun, he saw Xu Lingyin alone crouched by the well, face white with fright, yet displaying incredible endurance in not running away. “What’re you doing?” Xu Qi’an asked. “Big brother…” seeing that her strong and powerful big brother come over, Xu Lingyin sighed with relief, and looked at the well with some fear: “This is haunted.” “So what are you doing crouched there?” Xu Qi’an struggled to understand her intention. *Given that it’s haunted, why are you not hiding far far away? Why are you crouched by the well?* “Big sister said that ghosts especially ate little children.” Xu Lingyin said with a frown. “So?” She suddenly became shifty, jogging over and whispering: “I’m trying to lure it out, shh, don’t let it hear.” “???” Xu Qi’an looked blankly at her for a long time, before finally raising a thumb: “Those who know their food stand above the rest.” Everyone had their ideals. Xu Lingyin, even though she was so young, had nonetheless found her own ideal: in this world there is nothing that cannot be eaten, only things which I want or don’t want to eat. To use oneself as bait, just for the promise of something delicious… to have this willpower, in some regards, would be gifted beyond measure. “Then keep on trying, when you’ve lured the ghost out, big brother will cook it up for you.” Xu Qi’an rubbed her head. “Mhm!” Xu Lingyin in both fear and excitement nodded vigorously. It was just getting to dusk, and in a booth in a restaurant not far from the new house, the whole family ate the most satisfying meal they had had in a long while. Even though the flavour was not as good as Guiyuelou, but it was cheaper, and close to the house, in the future they could come here often. Xu Qi’an lay in bed in the wide and spacious new house, staring at the wooden beams above him listlessly, before suddenly something came to mind. They didn’t forget to tell Xinnian, did they!? “Ah well, it’s not my business, I’m going to bed.” … The eastern wing. Auntie had just put Xu Lingyin to sleep, and came back to her own bed, Looking at her husband, sitting on the couch and practicing visualisation, she suddenly had a thought: “Husband dear, in the future when Ningyan gets a wife, will she compete with me for the matron of the house? Will she make us move to the western wing? “I heard that daughters in law are all very toxic, always thinking of ways to fight with their mother in law.” Auntie was lucky; when she married Second Uncle, the elder generation had long since passed away, and she had never suffered under an evil mother in law. But although she had never eaten pork, she had seen pigs run. Furthermore, this house was bought by the Xu family in particular, and so she wasn’t happy with being called “mother-in-law”. Xu Pingzhi opened his eyes, and thought for a moment, “With your temper and personality, you won’t stand a chance.” “Hmph!” Auntie was at a loss for words, and so could only snort. Xu Pingzhi comforted her: “Perhaps Ningyan will marry a dumb wife.” Hearing this, Auntie thought that he had a point, and secretly prayed for her nephew to one day marry a dumb wife. Then she could bully her, and not the other way around. “Oh right, we haven’t written to Erlang yet. He still doesn’t know of our move, he’ll go back to the outer city and no longer be able to find us.” “Don’t you worry about that, you don’t know that many characters anyway.” Similarly illiterate Xu Pingzhi said, “Ningyan will write it.” … Two days passed in a flurry. Xu Qi’an’s life was very normal, every day he would go out on patrol, cultivate, and would occasionally find time to go talk to Wei Yuan. Due to the fall of the Minster of Industry, the interparty conflict had cooled significantly, and there were none at the moment going after the Nightwatchers. That night, Xu Qi’an came home, to find Uncle missing. “He’s on night patrol today.” Auntie said. *Or perhaps he’s gone to the Jiaofangsi…* Xu Qi’an lampooned. Uncle was a Baihu of the Yudao city guard. He would occasionally be on day patrol, and occasionally be on night watch, similar to the Nightwatchers. If Xu Qi’an were to be involved in a lot of cases suddenly, then what faced him was both night and day shifts at the same time. In the past Xu Qi’an had, just like Auntie, trusted Uncle, all the way up to their “unexpected meeting” at the Jiaofangsi, as well as the method of using oranges to remove the smell of perfume. Now though, he understood. A man’s mouth is a lyin’ one! *Although that said I don’t really have any standing to criticise uncle…* Xu Qi’an focused on eating. In the night, Xu Qi’an was suddenly awoken by a shrill scream. He opened his eyes and rolled out of bed, at the same time grabbing the black-gold sabre at his bedside. Coming to the courtyard, he saw Lingyue’s maid sat there, candle and candle holder on the ground. Her face was deathly pale, as she pointed to the well mouth, quivering so much that she couldn’t speak. “What did you see?” Xu Qi’an asked. Behind him, the door opened, and Xu Lingyue, wrapped up in a coat, came out to see the commotion. In the east wing, candlelight lit up in Auntie’s room, as she came out with Lü’e. “What’s the matter?” auntie frowned. After more people had come out, the maid’s fright dissipated somewhat, and she finally pointed at the well mouth, stammering: “The- there’s a head- in- in the well.” Several shrill screams sounded in unison. Xu Lingyue’s face lost its colour, and she shrank behind Xu Qi’an, tightly clutching his sleeve. Auntie also crowded behind him in fear. “You- didn’t you say…” Fright danced in auntie’s beautiful eyes. She didn’t say the “that you had dispelled the ghost” part out loud, the manor’s servants were not to know about that. *A head in the well?* Xu Qi’an clutched his long sabre tightly, and made a shushing motion, telling his sister and auntie to not be frightened. Slowly, he came towards the well mouth. The resentful spirit in the well had indeed been dealt with, and in that prostitution den the well used for raising ghosts was also purified. It wouldn’t make sense for there to be another ghost or anything similar. *It couldn’t be… could it?* Xu Qi’an walked over with great strides, and went behind the well. Just as expected, little pea was sat by it, drowsy eyed and sleepy. She was spanked awake by Xu Qi’an, and as she stood there rubbing her eyes, she muttered: “Big bwother…” “What are you doing here.” Xu Qi’an thought of course it was her. “I’m hungwy, I came out to find something to eat.” Little pea looked at the well, a conceding expression on her face: “It really can hide, won’t even come out for a little kid at your front door.” Xu Qi’an reckoned that the head the maid saw was actually Xu Lingyin’s, and for a moment he had the rare stifling feeling where he really wanted to lampoon, yet could not find the words. “Big brother will ask the kitchen to make you some cakes.” Xu Qi’an picked her up, and walked back. “Lingyin?” Auntie was shocked, and immediately after her willow-thin brows became nearly vertical: “You damned child, sneaking out in the middle of the night to scare people…” Only then did she realise that Lingyin was not in the room. Xu Qi’an grumpily interrupted Auntie’s tirade: “She’s just hungry.” Even though that night she ate three bowls of rice, but hungry was hungry, no two ways about it. Auntie no longer had the confidence to argue back as much, and with a snort, she put her hands on her hips, and with her carslan-blue eyes slashed a look at Xu Lingyin. Xu Qi’an consoled Auntie and his sister, as well as the maids, seeing them off to bed. He then went to the kitchen to get some cakes, giving then to Xu Lingyin. Little pea didn’t need comforting, she ate and ate and just fell asleep. Xu Qi’an gave her back to Lü’e, and returned to his own room to continue sleeping. In his half-asleep state, he heard a knock at the door. “Bog brother…” from outside came Xu Lingyue’s crisp and delicate voice. “What’s up?” Xu Qi’an didn’t open the door; it was past midnight, as a big brother he couldn’t open the door for his sister, that would be against social tradition. “I- I can’t sleep, I’m scared…” Xu Lingyue paused, and added: “Mum also can’t sleep, just then Lü’e asked, and mum told her about how the house used to be haunted. As they talked, they both became scared. “Dad’s not come, and they’re too afraid to sleep.” *What does that have to do with me, should we all sit down and play Mahjong through the night?* Xu Qi’an remembered back to when he was using Maidong[^1], and could deeply sympathise. Thus, he replied patiently: “Don’t be scared, there’s no ghost here.” Xu Lingyue didn’t respond. She hesitated for a moment, before saying: “Can big brother come accompany us.” --- [^1]: I don’t actually know what this is trying to say.