# 28. Kill Me Then
“Not so quickly!” Master Zhou shouted at the jailors to stop, staring angrily at the blue-robed official, “This man assaulted me in the street, and wanted to kill me! I’m the victim.”
He half-closed his eyes, and with a tone of voice as if saying something significant, “This Sir, do not interfere in other people’s affairs”
Opposite him was a fifth rank official, nowhere near sufficient to be compared to his father, like mud to clouds. But after all he was an official of the Ministry of Law, and had no relation to the Ministry of Revenue.
Master Zhou also couldn’t be too stubborn; all he wanted to imply, was that to disrespect an assistant high minister’s son was a very unwise decision.
In Officialdom, making unnecessary enemies was something particularly avoided.
But he did not expect this official to show absolutely no sign of fear or hesitation. Rather, he sneered, “Master Zhou, these words are better heard by Minister Sun.”
Young master Zhou furrowed his brow, and looked at his old attendant, as this Uncle Chen said quietly “Minister Sun knows the master well…”
What was left unsaid, was that if all goes well, he would not ask too many questions. If the opposite happened, then there would be a problem.
Master Zhou, unwilling for this nearly cooked duck to just up and fly away in front of his eyes, closely followed. As long as there were no big problems, he would immediately capture Xu Qi'an again, and immediately torture him to death.
Walking out of the prison in the Ministry, and seeing the bright sun shining down, Xu Qi'an squinted, slowly getting used to the abrupt change in light.
He followed that blue-robed official into the great courtyard of the Ministry. In the yard, were many people. There were officials, wearing all sorts of colours; over a dozen white-wearing young people; two horse-drawn carts and their dead horses; and two thin and graceful old scholars, in Confucian dress.
Master Zhou, also seeing this sight, was lost for a moment, not sure what had been going on.
He heard the clanging of shackles stop, as that bastard Xu Qi'an stopped, turned his head, and enunciated one word at a time:
“You should be glad you did not use torture; let me introduce myself again: I am a new disciple of the Sitianjian.”
The old man’s face turned.
Master Zhou in an instant lost composure.
*This can’t be. He can’t be a disciple of the Sitianjian.*
But he saw the courtyard full of white-cloaks, and so Master Zhou and Uncle Chen remained silent.
Xu Qi'an paid them no mind, as he stepped forward, looking over the white-cloaks, being surprised to find Caiwei absent.
*Where was that beautiful girl with the oval egg-shaped face and that pair of As?*
*Constable Wang had indeed delivered the blue cover book, but Caiwei isn’t here… did the Sitianjian’s disciples look at the book’s contents, and so decided to come and save me?*
*Or Caiwei had important business that she couldn’t spare time from, and so asked her fellow disciples to come?*
Xu Qi'an breathed a deep breath, and in the clanging of chains, said “Xu Qi'an greets his fellow brothers.”
*Brothers?* Song Qing did a double-take, looking carefully at Xu Qi'an, “You wrote the book?”
*His expression doesn’t look kind…* Xu Qi'an nodded, “This isn’t a place to talk. After we leave the Ministry of Law, whatever my Brothers want to ask, Ningyan will answer all that he knows, and in as much detail as he can.”
Seeing Xu Qi'an talking to the white-cloaks, Master Zhou’s expression was wooden. He stiffly moved away his gaze, still with a last vestige of denial in his heart, quickly walked towards Minister Sun.
“Mr Sun, the people from the Sitianjian…”
Minister Sun gave him a look, “They came to ask for him.”
Master Zhou’s body swayed.
The thin old man’s breaths suddenly became sharp.
*He really is a disciple of the Sitianjian!? This can’t be the case, and if he really was a disciple of the Jianzheng, then the tax silver case would simply have never engulfed the Xu family.*
*The tax silver case!*
The old man thought of one possibility, that he was taken in as a disciple after the tax silver case.
Indeed, he did pry open the secrets behind the case, refine the fake silver. Seeing a prodigy in alchemy like him without a teacher, the Jiangzheng naturally would have taken interest. Him making an exception to take him as a disciple was not impossible, and was even rather probable.
Furthermore, if he wasn’t the Jianzheng’s discple, why would there be this group of white-cloaks gathered here.
At this time, the old man noticed the two silent great scholars, and their strange, dead horses. He looked at them closely, and suddenly shuddered, recognising them as two great scholars from the Cloud Deer Academy.
He gulped, “Minister Sir, these two great scholars….”
“They also came for him.” Sun replied, expressionless.
Master Zhou’s face stiffened even more, turning his head slowly to look at old Uncle Chen.
“So you are Xu Qi'an?”
Xu Qi'an turned to look, and saw that the asker was an old man, wearing a grey robes, with a beard like a mountain goat. In his mind, he asked *grandpa, who are you?*
“I am Cijiu’s teacher.” The other blue-robed old man said, his smile warm as he looked Xu Qi’an up and down, “*On this road, surely will there be friends dear and true; Throughout the land is there anyone who knows not you;* was written by you?”
“This junior wrote randomly, and caused laughter for my elders,” he replied, “my courtesy name is Ningyan.”
Introducing one’s own courtesy name to strangers was one of the most basic pleasantries, since calling someone directly by their birth name was a taboo. If you do not introduce your courtesy name, you imply that you do not want to interact with that person.
The blue robed old man’s smile grew wider.
“We should probably be leaving the ministry now.” Song Qing could not resist hurrying them.
Immediately, a jailor came forward, and undid Xu Qi'an’s shackles.
“Sure!” Xu Qi'an nodded.
The faces of the Sitianjian disciples broke into smile, as their goal was accomplished, their person freed, and they were unimaginably excited for the coming discussions.
Neither Li Mubai nor Zhang Shen wanted to stay any longer, because what faced them was a fierce and intense battle between each other.
“Whew!” Seeing Xu Qi'an leaving with the group, Master Zhou let out a huge sigh of relief, a feeling of fear and apprehension welling up in his heart, that he did not want to admit to.
“Wait!” Xu Qi'an suddenly stopped.
The Sitianjian disciples and the two great scholars all looked at him.
“I still have a thing to do,” Xu Qi'an clasped his fists together, before turning and walking towards Master Zhou. Passing the jailor, he snatched the wooden plank shackles from him.
“What- what are you doing?” Master Zhou quickly retreated, startled. “Xu Qi'an, my father is Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Revenue, you dare to touch me? You dare to touch me in the Ministry of Law? Mr Sun, Minister Sun, arrest this person this once… Uncle Chen, save me—”
Xu Qi'an swung the wooden shackles, and brought them down heavily on Zhou Li’s head. Shards of wood flew.
Master Zhou’s eyes rolled up, and he toppled over backwards, crimson red blood trickling down from beneath his hair.
Emotionless, Xu Qi'an looked at old Uncle Chen, “Kill me then.”
The whole courtyard was silent!
“Kill me then. In front of my brothers, in front of the Sirs of the Ministry of Law, in front of the two great scholars, slap me to death like the ant I am.”
The anger that had rushed to his face like a surging tide faded as quickly as it came. The thin old man stood there, stiff, not daring to make a single move.
*I really danced around the gates of hell… it really is that only guanerdai can deal with guanerdai, the just hand of the law really only applies to conflicts between small people…* Xu Qi’an basked in the early winter sun, feeling as if he had just earned a new life.
Just leaving the Ministry, he saw at the end of the street two horses galloping over at great haste: Xu Erlang and Uncle Xu.
Father and son both saw Xu Qi'an, surrounded by Sitianjian white-cloaks, and their expressions showed noticeable relief.
*Why would the people from the Sitianjian be here…* Uncle Xu wondered in confusion. He himself was a master at the peak of Refining Qi, he had gone through the Campaign of Mountains and Seas, and so did not, like the common people did, treat the Sitianjian’s Arcanists like gods.
Xu Xinnian pulled on his reins, and immaculately examined his elder cousin, before subtly letting out a breath, and making a deep bow, “Thank you, teacher. Than you, Mr Mubai.”
Xu Qi’an merely clasped his hands together towards the Sitianjian's people, and then copied his younger cousin, and bowed to the two great scholars.
Li Mubai remarked with a sigh, “Such a great poetic talent, how could he just be a bailiff? Ningyan, do you have any interest in coming to the Cloud Deer Academy, and cultivating the Confucian path?”
*We’ve not known each other more than 30 minutes, and you’re already calling me Ningyan…* Zhang Shen added, “Just perfect, you can become this old man’s student.”
Xu Qi’an: “???”