# 3. A Xianxia World Still Has Reason No one could reply. Li Yuchun said “Why would the monsters steal the silver?” Thinking for a moment, Governor Chen responded “When monsters act, they never think first, and do whatever they want to do. To try find the reason would just be to cause headache for oneself.” The yellow-skirted girl, however, had a different opinion, “Isn’t human meat more delicious… mm, wait a bit, let me finish my bun.” With a few chomps, she stuffed the rest of the two large meat buns into her mouth, her own cheeks in the process looking like *xiaolongbao*s, before swallowing it down with great vigour, and washing that down with some tea. Then, did she continue with the topic at hand, happily talking about human meat: “Monsters have no apprehensions, silver to them isn’t going to have the same attractiveness than a living human. Even if they did want silver, stealing or robbing anywhere else would be much safer than trying to steal tax silver.” To steal tax silver, in the capital of Feng, would be too risky a task. Governor Chen nodded, “You have a point; we cannot exclude the possibility that they were ordered to.” Li Yuchun narrowed his eyes, “Then who would have ordered these monsters to steal the silver? For what reason? Why *this* specific shipment, why 150,000 taels?” “We can think of it like this, the person behind all this needs a large sum of cash, but can’t cause too much notice… in essense, they can’t scam and extort with abandon.” Governor Chen carried on, an idea forming in his mind. “…So they set their eyes on this tax silver?” the yellow-skirted girl replied, pursing her bright red lips. “The route that tax shipments take are all random, decided last minute by the imperial guard Xu Pingzhi, yet the monsters set out an ambush by the river… in the guard, we may likely have a mole.” Li Yuchun said, shooting a glance at governor Chen, “Shall we go to the Cloud Deer Academy, get the confucianists to perform an interrogation?” The yellow skirted girl rolled her eyes, “You don’t have faith in our Sitian Jian’s qi-watching magic, do you? I’ve already said, none of the guards that were escorting that shipment knew anything.” And thus the train of thought was stuck, and the three fell into silence. The air was all of a sudden quiet. Li Yuchun lowered his head, carefully reading the case dossier. Governor Chen constantly sighed. The yellow-skirted girl fiddled around with the feng-shui plate tied to her waist, thinking that she should leave the governorate building before sundown, and go to the palace and get some dinner with the eldest princess. The palace’s cooks were unparalleled in the world! Compared to the other two, Caiwei[^1], the yellow-skirted girl, held much more of a visiting assistant position, assisting the case, but not directly involved. She didn’t have any official positions, and so even if she was technically one of the main people responsible for the case, the responsibility placed on her was comparatively small. Governor Chen’s gaze trembled slightly, and he carefully said, “Currently, the case is progressing slowly, and the time we have left permits not slowness. This really makes one annoyed and frustrated. Master Li, why not… ask for Sir Wei?[^2]” He received a slanted look back from Li Yuchun, who replied with a cold snort, “You civil officials have your audit, we Nightwatchers also have ours. To tell the truth, this is Sir Wei’s test for me.” Governor Chen could only laugh bitterly, “If this case doesn’t get solved, the seat I sit on likely won’t be mine much further. Both the higher ups and the commoners are looking at us.” The two looked back and forth at each other, the atmosphere sombre. … “If it really is monsters behind this, then I have no chance!” Xu Qi’an’s face paled, as he felt heaven’s deep malice. *Yaoguai*[^3] exist in this world, and have done since ancient times. They and the humans have long hunted each other, eaten each other. In the Hundred-thousand Mountains of the southern marches, there was a Kingdom of the Monsters, the largest gathering of *yaoguai* race in all the Nine Provinces. Five hundred years ago, the many countries of the west, under the Buddhist house, waged war against the Monster Kingdom of the south, and fought for a full sixty years, before wiping them off the map. In the history books, this war was named “the sixty year war of the monsters”. From that point onwards, the fortune of the Monsters waned, slowly declining over the years, and from that point the Buddhist sect’s favour rose into the sky, Buddhism was ascendant. From the knowledge of the latter Xu Qi’an, one could summarise that in this great war, humanity won out. If the tax silver case was the doing of the monsters, then the only way he could protect himself, protect the Xu family, was to find where the silver had gone. As a hardy and unyielding martial artist at the peak of Refining Body, Xu Qi’an still thought he had no way to turn the situation around. In the early autumn, in the cold and humid weather, Xu Qi’an’s whole body soaked with cold sweat. He was scared! After fully digesting the original Xu Qi’an’s memories, he knew that he had zero chance of breaking out, and he knew even more that in this age where the divine right of kings ruled supreme, “human rights” were far too weak. The power of life and death was completely held in other people’s hands. Before, he would fantasise about transmigrating to an ancient world, plagiarising famous poems and acting cool, but now it was like he had a bucket of ice-cold water poured over his head. After transmigrating, he still had to face the venomous hand society delt him. “No, this is just a theory, this is just a theory of the Capital Police Constabulary. I can’t be affected by their ways of thinking. I’ll do it myself, analyse myself… there’s still a chance, still a chance…” An intense will to keep on living calmed him down, and his trail of thought became once again clear and rigorous. “Why would monsters steal the tax silver, is not human meat better tasting… even if they lacked silver, they didn’t have to steal tax silver… they say in records that the women of the *yaoguai* were all extreme beauties, with delicate, exquisite bodies… perhaps there are cat-girls and dog-girls…” Smack! Xu Qi’an smacked himself, “Don’t get distracted!” The most essential part of inference and deduction was to isolate, to sort out all possible leads one by one, and organise them accordingly. Otherwise, it would just become a ball of yarn; only become more messy. The case of the tax silver had two main points of suspicion: One: Magical gale! Two: After falling into the river, the silver exploded! Apart from martial artists, all other major cultivation paths had the ability to conjure magical gales, thus the first lead could only lead to “Cultivators” being involved, and not anything more detailed than that. His second uncle, being a martial artist, thus had less and less suspicion, though one couldn’t exclude the fact that he did not conspire with anyone. The explosion was another suspicious point. In a battle between high-leveled cultivators, explosions were very common, but in this tax-silver case, there was no account of any altercation. Thus, an explosion happening did not make sense. “Unless there was no choice but an explosion!” Xu Qi’an muttered, “In all the major cultivation paths, what particular cultivation uses explosions to achieve their motives?” He thought a moment, and after not getting anywhere, in a start realised that he may have just made the same mistake as the capital governement investigators. Their theories were flawed from the start, having taken the most obvious point of suspicion from the case, and theorised that it was the Monsters, and carried on sprinting down this road, without ever considering going back. There was nothing inherently wrong with this, but the problem lay in that that first conclusion was too hasty. Though Xu Qi’an absorbed the old owner’s memories, his thoughts and reasoning were still that of a modern man, he still had the experience from his past life. He preferred finding the smallest details and picking at intricacies within a case, and considering those details that were hard to detect. Only then, would he make a conclusion. “This path at the moment is leading nowhere, so let’s pick a different possibility, to attack the case from somewhere else. I’ll first rule out the possibility that it was monsters causing trouble, and assume that this was a meticulously planned human-orchestrated situation. “Then, they must have left some sort of telling tale within the case. “Locard’s exchange principle tells us, in all cases the perpetrator of a crime will bring something into the crime scene and leave with something from it. “The many types of things can be split into two main groups, though I can’t quite remember, but it should be something like fingerprints, footprints, cart traces, tool marks, et cetera. “The flaw in the case cannot have come from the two most obvious signs, and must be in the small details in the background somewhere…” From the description of the events that day, a visualisation of the events of his uncle escorting the shipment of silver began to replay in his mind. Adrenaline rushed, his brain began to work at top speed. If the signal transfer in his mind could be pictured, it would be like the many carp in a pond, fighting over food, the surface of the water breaking and bubbling. Replay over replay, deliberation over deliberation. All the various details of the case began to converge, and his mind was like a high-speed CPU. As the details began to fall together, the case became clearer and clearer. Unconsciously, Xu Qi’an felt himself enter some sort of out-of-body state, his soul lightly floating up, out of his body, through the building, out into the sky above the capital. Time seemed to rewind. A hint of glow was seen in the east, as the sun was just about to rise. Xu Pingzhi led a group of heavily armoured guards, escorting a shipment of tax silver to the Ministry of Revenue. This was 6:30 AM, they had reached Guangnan street, when suddenly a gust of magical wind rushed past, the horses took fright, and rushed into the river. Whumph! The river exploded, droplets scattering all around. The explosion blast almost seemed to sound within Xu Qi’an’s mind, as reflexively he backed off, and exited this state. He had a gaze that betrayed tiredness, yet his face was full of excitement. “I’ve solved it, I’ve solved it, hahaha, I’ve solved the case!” Xu Qi’an laughed crazily, and hit the bars with vigour, “Oi, anyone? Come, someone come!” The guard on duty was startled, as he came by holding a torch, cursing “Making such a racket, you think your life is too long?” He forcefully beat the bars, trying to scare Xu Qi’an. Xu Qi’an backed off a step, and released the cell bars, avoiding having his fingers hit, and said solemnly, “I want to see the governor.” “A lowly prisoner, wanting to see the governor… why don’t you have a piss and look at yourself in the reflection?” the guard, through anger, was brought to laughter, as he stuck the torch through the bars, to stab at Xu Qi’an. Xu Qi’an stepped back, dodging the torch. “You dare to dodge?” the guard grabbed the key on his waist, jeering, “I’ll fucking break your legs!” “I have an important lead for the tax silver case, I want to see the Governor, if the case is delayed, then you’re responsible.” Xu Qi’an stared at him. The guard’s expression stiffened. … In the back hall, after eating her meat buns, she continued muching on her sugarcane, occasionally reaching into her deerskin pouch for a honeyed sweet to eat alongside it. One side was dismal and bleak, the other not a care in the world. “His Majesty has ordered that we solve the case within five days, since if we put it off much longer, that silver may never be able to be recovered.” Governor Chen paced back and forth within the hall; he couldn’t sit down any longer. “But with this short amount of time, we don’t have any way out!” Solving cases take time. The Governor hit the table again, before saying “I will personally go and ask after Sir Wei, to give the case to me.” Li Yuchun hesitated, “I’ll come with you.” Caiwei gave him a side-eye, before sweetly adding “That might do, if we have our Great Feng’s most skilled people lend a hand, you two may not suffer His Majesty’s displeasure. “However, in Sir Wei’s mind, you’ll lose standing, which is much more serious than His Majesty asking accountability.” she laughed, showing two shiny small canines. Li Yuchun’s face darkened. A black-robed constabulary runner, head lowered, half-jogged in. Bowing, he said “Governor Sir, the jail guard has reported, Xu Pingzhi’s nephew Xu Qi’an has just said that he has an important lead for the tax silver case, and wishes to see you Governor Sir.” All three of their gazes suddenly became serious. Xu Qi’an, if I remember correctly, he’s just a person caught up in this, and didn’t really have anything directly to do with the case. After the initial interrogation, we decided that he had nothing to do with the thing. Governor Chen thought for a moment, “Bring him in.” Soon after, Xu Qi’an was brought in, wearing prisoner’s clothes, with traces of dried blood on his body. As he walked, the manacles on his hands and feet clanged together. --- [^1]: 采薇 [^2]: 魏公 [^3]: The so-called “monsters”