# 178. One Must Be Discrete Tomorrow he would leave the capital, and journey far to Yunzhou. Xu Qi’an immediately left the constabulary, going home to pack. To not raise any suspicions, he only left his most valuable possessions in the small jade mirror, such as silver, gold, promissory notes… He then informed Auntie and Sister, telling them that ne needed to accompany the Inspector General to Yunzhou. Since he was born Xu Qi’an had never left the capital, even Auntie could not resist but to fuss over him, telling him to bring this and bring that, making sure that he packed his clothes… “I heard that there’s a lot of miasma in Yunzhou, and the weather is rainy year round, you need to bring some anti-toxin pills, some drying cream… Xu Ningyan, I’m talking to you.” Auntie slapped the table. “I know, I know,” Xu Qi’an was getting annoyed, and said back grumpily, “You don’t need to tell me this, I’m just informing you.” *In my last life I was a southerner, I can keep warm just by my vital energy, what is some cold damp southern country to me…* Xu Qi’an muttered. … Jiaofangsi, Reflecting Plum Pavilion. The creaking of the bed slowly stopped. Xu Qi’an propped himself up on his hands, looking at the flushed, red-faced beauty beneath him, “Tomorrow I need to leave the capital and go to Yunzhou, I probably won’t return for quite a long time.” Hearing this, Fuxiang’s two long pale legs clamped around his waist, as she said with a worried tone: “I heard that the banditry problem in Yunzhou is really serious, it’s really dangerous.” “However dangerous it is, it is still ruled by the crown.” Xu Qi’an pinched Fuxiang’s face lightly, expressing that he wasn’t worried. “You haven’t come round for so long, and the one time you come you’re talking about this.” Fuxiang pouted. “I was afraid of working you too hard, not turning a cold shoulder.” As the two of them talked, the rhythmic creaking of the bed started again. … Leaving the Jiaofangsi, Xu Qi’an went to Stargazing Tower, and told his coming trip to Yunzhou to Chu Caiwei. When the beauty in the yellow dress heard him, she was extremely moved, and expressed that she wanted to go too. However, the chicken bouillon still needed to be refined, produced and spread around, and then she needed to use this opportunity to advance to the sixth rank, she couldn’t leave the capital. No matter what this outing required an arcanist, and the reason why Xu Qi’an specially made the journey, was out of a selfish desire to bring Chu Caiwei along, so it was more like a holiday. Many couples whose relationship were ambiguous, would go out on holiday together, and as they travelled and travelled, their child would be conceived. He didn’t manage to bring Chu Caiwei, but Xu Qi’an took the chicken bouillon that she had spent so much effort making. The round-faced beauty angrily chased him all the way out of the Stargazing Tower, and shouted towards Xu Qi’an’s quickly retreating figure: “Xu Qi’an you bastard!” He then went to the palace, and requested to see Princess Huaiqing. As an ally of the eldest princess, he would naturally report on his coming trip, as well as discussing the situation of Yunzhou with the intelligent princess. The attendant returned with the Princess’s answer: “The Princess doesn’t want to see you.” *Mn? Doesn’t want to see me? Yesterday we had gotten along just fine, what I did yesterday should have made Huaiqing care more about me…* Xu Qi’an left with a head full of fog. Having been cruelly refused by big sister, Xu Qi’an immediately went to find the plum-faced, attractive and passionate younger sister. Lin’an wasn’t in the palace, rather in Lin’an Manor in the Imperial City. *Biaobiao is really efficient huh.* Xu Qi’an immediately turned around to go to Lin’an manor. Not long later, he arrived, and after the guards announced his presence, he was granted entry. Xu Qi’an walked and gazed around, at the gardens, pavilions, and all sorts, he even saw a stage where singers would perform, thinking that she’s worthy of being the Emperor’s most spoilt daughter. Hearing that Xu Qi’an was visiting, Biaobiao was very happy. Sitting in a pavilion, she said with a face full of smiles, “I feel so much freer out of the palace, but this manor is too boring, it’s not as interesting as living back there.” The meaning hidden behind her words were very clear: *What do you want to play?* *I’ve not come to play, I’ve come to say see you later…* Xu Qi’an said: “Tomorrow I must leave the capital and go to Yunzhou, and may not return for a long time. I know that we are meant to meet tomorrow, so I have come to say goodbye to Your Highness.” Hearing this, Lin’an’s face fell, looking at him with disappointment. If, if that’s the case, then her whole rigmarole of coming out here was all for naught. Her mother had allowed her to live outside for three days, and she was secretly very excited, thinking that this Bronze Gong would take her to play in the inner city. “Then your subordinate will leave now.” Xu Qi’an turned to leave, but after a few steps, he could not resist looking back. Lin’an sat in the pavilion, behind her a barren winter garden. Her dress was red like fire, and she shone with beauty, but at the same time looked ever so lonely. *Bloody hell…* He thought to himself, and came back again. “Does Your Highness like to play Go?” “No.” “Why not?” “It’s too much of a bother.” *Maybe because you’re not clever enough…* Xu Qi’an said: “Your subordinate has a new way to play, Your Highness can try it, if you’re bored, you can also play with your maids.” Lin’an pursed her lips, somewhat disappointed: “Just this?” *As long as you don’t sing its praises soon.* Xu Qi’an summoned a maid, ordering her to bring a Go set, laying it out on the stone table. “Second princess, what I’m going to teach you is called five-in-a-row. There aren’t many rules or techniques, it’s very easy to play. No matter horizontally, vertically, or diagonally, whoever links together five stones in a row is the winner.” “If it’s so easy, then there’s even less point.” Lin’an shook her head. “Don’t be hasty, let’s play a round first.” Xu Qi’an said with confidence. “Alright.” Lin’an picked up a stone, and with a clack put it on the board, nodding her pale forehead towards Xu Qi’an. Xu Qi’an followed suit. As they played and played, Biaobiao slowly started to get into it. The two of them lay down stone after stone, as in a quick succession of *clack, clack, clack*, Xu Qi’an won the first round. “Again, let’s go again!” Biaobiao kicked her legs, her red skirt fluttering. Round two, round three, round four… Biaobiao lost again and again, but she was more and more excited, concentration showing in her almond-shaped eyes. With a shock she discovered, that even though this type of Go was really easy to play, with no fancy tricks or stratagems, but for some reason it was far more fun than regular Go. One could not resisted but be pulled into it. Losing again and again, and playing again and again, a fighting spirit flared up inside her. At the same time, she slowly got the impression that she was a Go master, advancing her armies across the board and doing deadly battle. Finally, Xu Qi’an deliberately made a blunder, letting her make up five in a row. “I’ve won!” Biaobiao cheered happily. Xu Qi’an smiled, sitting as if everything was under his control. If Huaiqing were to play a thing like five-in-a-row, she would be bored of it within fifteen minutes, and would scoff at it’s base simplicity. However for a simple girl like Lin’an, five-in-a-row was an extremely interesting game; even simple games had great levels of replayability. Xu Qi’an once was also once addicted to these little games, such as Stack, Puzzle Match, 2048, so on and so forth. They played for several hours, as his mind kept telling him: *you can’t play any more, you can’t play any more…* His body, however, really wanted to continue. “Xu Ningyan, you’re really skilled.” Lin’an’s jade like finger tapped on the Go board, “you know how to write poems, and also know so many of these fun little things. “Oh right, did you manage to finish the first half of that poem?” Xu Qi’an shook his head. “*Drunk he knows not if the sky is in the water, his dream laden boat atop the milky way.*” Princess Lin’an didn’t continue asking, muttering the poem quietly. “It’s really beautiful, one day I too want to lay on a bed, looking at the stars overhead, with stars all around, I hope then I’ll be free.” At that moment, she wasn’t Biaobiao, but rather a naive, innocent little girl. “Second princess, did you tell the eldest princess that I gave you chicken bouillon.” Xu Qi’an suddenly asked. “No!” Lin’an fluttered her charming eyes, turning in an instant from the innocent little girl Lin’an, to queen-of-the-dance floor Biaobiao. “Oh.” Xu Qi’an did not press the issue, glancing at the sky, only then realising that it was dusk, the imperial city had shut its gates, and he had no way out. Since the patrols around the Imperial City were conducted by Silver Gongs, his token had no use here, and nor did Princess Lin’an’s. The curfew in the Imperial city was strict, it was hard enough already to gain permission for entry from the court, and permission usually had to be sought several days in advance, not given on the spot. Furthermore, the constabulary in the imperial city had already ended their day. … Xu Qi’an could only stay the night at Lin’an manor. At dusk, he walked around with the princess, and discovered that in the back garden was a great big pond. Beside the pond was moored a boat with a cover. *Heh, she keeps on talking about laying in a boat, looking at the stars… clearly heaven and earth are aligned for this, yet she only talks… youths now, they’re always full of talk, and unable to do anything.* Xu Qi’an left wordlessly, and when Biaobiao summoned him for the evening meal, he said: “Your Highness, how about we have dinner somewhere else.” The princess’s eyes lit up, as she didn’t even ask further, ordering her maids to bring the table and dishes to the back garden, under his direction. Finally, they got on the boat. After laying out the table, and lighting a brazier, there wasn’t much more room in the boat. Therefore, the maids could only watch from the shore, exchanging looks with some worry. Their princess had gotten rather close to this man; there wasn’t much of an issue during the day, but to eat together like this on the middle of the lake, was inappropriate in all social etiquette. Lin’an had drank several cups of wine, and her face was red: “We have never tried to have a meal in a boat before.” In the candlelight, her round face was like a piece of flawless jade, her gaze soft and beautiful like silk. She was the very image of an ancient beauty, yet in Xu Qi’an’s mind he couldn’t resist but swap her palace dress with a red t-shirt, a little bear embroidered on it, and on her legs a pair of blue jeans, then a pair of white socks and tennis shoes. Her two legs were long and straight, making waves as she danced across the club’s floor. Darkness fell, and a curved moon hung in the sky. Xu Qi’an said suddenly: “Lie down.” Biaobiao paused a moment, trying to process his words, but then without another thought lay backwards… “Ow!” Her head collided with the wooden deck, and she shouted in pain, but quickly became entranced. Upon the night sky was hung a sickle moon, decorated around by a field of stars, twinkling upon the vast emptiness. “Drunk, she knows not if the sky is in the water, a dream laden boat atop the milky way.” Xu Qi’an said in a low voice. She looked at the stars above, lost in thought, her gaze indistinct. Xu Qi’an looked at her, at her refined jaw, her raised nose, her small, slightly open mouth. A girl like her was gifted with beauty, and tipsy, her appearance was irresistible. “The stars are too small, I want to see the milky way, the milky way!” She lay on the deck, twisting her hips, unconsciously acting coquettish. There were quite a few stars tonight, but compared to a whole river of the milky way it could not compare, but that had to wait until summer. “How pretty…” she sighed. … Stargazing Tower, the Bagua platform. The Jianzheng stood by the edge of the platform, observing the heavens. His ears suddenly twitched. A few seconds later, a magical formation lit up, as a white cloaked arcanist appeared within, slowly intoning: “Picking the stars with…” He had barely gotten halfway, when his voice suddenly cut off, as if his throat was just seized by an invisible hand, unable to force out the rest of his verse. The Jianzheng, his back also turned, his white beard fluttering in the wind, said: “Go to Yunzhou, watch over…” The latter half of the sentence was communicated silently. Teacher and disciple stood with their backs to each other. Yang Qianhuan tentatively asked: “Secretly?” “Mhm.” “I understand. What other instructions does Teacher have?” “Be discrete. If you go saying that all over the place, you’ll get beaten up.” “Yes, Teacher.”