# 32. Xu Pingzhi was deeply touched; he hadn’t taken the role of mediator in the family for twenty years for nothing! Even if the old wife did not like his nephew, the relationship between the children were still very close. He took the his young child from her daughter’s arms, and comforted, “Ningyan has already got out, all this is over.” Xu Lingyue didn’t believe him. No matter what Uncle Xu said, his daughter still only ever half-believed him, and she looked over at her second brother. Xu Xinnian lightly replied “A small matter.” Xu Lingyue thus believed him. A proud and arrogant man like her second brother wouldn’t lie about such important matters. County Magistrate Zhu followed this case with great interest, and hearing the news from a deputy, immediately rushed over. “How did you deal with Master Zhou?” Magistrate Zhu was shocked and doubtful; unless Zhou himself gave up on the matter, but he thought that this couldn’t be the case. “I asked my teacher” Xu Xinnian said. *So it’s like this…* Magistrate Zhu felt as if he had just had a revelation, but then thought that this didn’t sound right; all the important people in court came from the Imperial Academy, and everyone knew that the Imperial Academy and Yunlu Academy never saw eye to eye. Even if Xu Xinnian’s teacher was a great scholar, the Ministry of Law’s Minister Sun wouldn’t so easily let a person go, he would at least fight with them a bit, pull down the face of the Yunlu Academy’s scholars a bit more. He would never so easily capitulate. “And Mr Mubai.” Xu Xinnian continued, and then added “And the Sitianjian’s white-cloaks.” “What!?” Magistrate Zhu did a double take, as his expression became cautious, his posture became upright, “A tiger father cannot have a dog son! “My Congratulations, Mr Xu, your dear son’s intelligence is extraordinary, not only did he manage to get the attention of the great scholars of Yunlu Academy, but he also has relations with the Sitianjian’s white-cloaks, his future is boundless. To have a son like that, you make old Zhu green with envy.” *Xinnian knows the Sitianjian’s white-cloaks?* Xu Lingyue immediately looked towards Xu Xinnian, a strong feeling of safety welling up in her heart. She could rely on her father, and also her brothers too. Xu Xinnian shook his head, “I did not ask Mr Mubai to come, that was my brother’s own personal connection. I also don’t know any white cloaks from the Sitianjian, again big brother found them himself.” *Since when did Xu Ningyan know the great scholar Li Mubai from Yunlu academy? Maybe it was through Xu Xinnian that he did. But how did the Sitianjian’s white cloaks get to know a mere petty official?* County Magistrate Zhu was stunned, the word “impossible” the only thing remaining in his mind. Xu Ningyan had been under his employment for several years at this point, and he was always quiet and unnoticeable. Though his relations with his colleagues wasn’t bad, but they weren’t good friends either. He had no real skills, and only knew how to hit. But in this span of time he suddenly became clever and slippery, became good brothers with Constable Wang, and have suddenly become the best of friends with his colleagues. But no matter what, it wouldn’t amount to getting the attention of the great scholars, getting the friendship of the Sitianjian white-cloaks. *If this is the case, then Xu Ningyan’s status cannot be compared equally to any common person. Even I would have to be a bit more polite in the future… At tomorrow’s head count, I’ll try and start some conversation, and see what really is going on.* Magistrate Zhu thought. Xu Lingyue opened her Carlsan-blue eyes wide, somewhat not daring to believe. But being as clever as she was, she immediately connected the dots - *it was that poem? the poem that big brother wrote for second brother, that received the praise of the great scholars, thus causing them to want to come and mediate.* *But, how could big brother know the deities in the Sitianjian… big brother he- he’s really getting more and more mysterious.* … Xu Qi'an walked with Song Qing through the corridor, the air-holes on the right-hand wall letting thin rays of sunlight stream through, bringing light to the interior. The Stargazing Tower did not have any windows, and Xu Qi'an thought it was a shame that they could not see the city sprawled out below them. Not much time later, they reached a secret room. Song Qing took out a key, and unlocked the door, lighting the candle inside. Inside the secret room there were all sorts of toys and contraptions. Some were weapons, like crossbows and such, others were completely unrecognisable. Xu Qi'an looked round at these things one by one, like he was browsing a clothing store, and suddenly saw something which gave him a fright. “What’s this?” It was a huge glass bottle, which was filled with clear water. In the water, floated a strange creature. It’s form was like a cat, but its body was covered in winding patterns, its stomach even had tree burls. What was more strange, it was alive, that that tree knot like thing sticking out was like a heart, slightly rising and falling. “This is a grand experiment,” Song Qing said solemnly, “Its original body was that of a cat, but I tried to combine it with a tree, giving it the ability to regrow lost limbs. In reality, I’ve almost succeeded - even if you chopped off its head, it would still regrow within three days. Its only weak spot was its heart. “But I also failed, because it turned entirely into tree; it cannot move, cannot think, and can only be kept alive floating in water.” *…what sort of demon are you?* Xu Qi'an’s gaze turned. “What do you think of my idea?” Song Qing asked with a probing tone. Seeing that Xu Qi’an’s expression was off, he furrowed his brow, somewhat disappointed, “You also think there’s a problem?” Xu Qi’an made sure that his expression did not change, shaking his head “I just think that your approach was wrong, because I also have thought about this form of alchemy, though I have given it the name cross-breeding, or hybridisation.” *Hybridisation…* Song Qing chewed on this word, his eyes getting brighter and brighter. “We can start small, cross breeding things of the same type, such as two different breeds of cat, letting them give birth to a new breed.” Xu Qi’an said. “Giving birth to a different breed? What breed would it give birth to?” Song Qing asked eagerly. “I don’t know, maybe it could make something new, something better, maybe it could have the opposite effect.” Xu Qi’an said, “But this is the attractiveness of alchemy, don’t you say?” “You just said alchemy, you just said alchemy!” Song Qing immediately became incredibly excited. “What?” Xu Qi’an’s heart sank, wondering if he had just said something wrong. “I’ve always thought that alchemy was not limited to non-living things, rather I think that living creatures are also within the boundaries of alchemy. Thus I tried to change this cat, but teacher disagreed, saying that living things were not within the realm of alchemy. Because of this, he shut me away for ages.” *Mr Jianzheng did brilliantly…* Xu Qi’an’s forced his face to not change, saying “Within or without, we must leave time to prove it.” Thinking, he continued, “If you want to oppose Mr Jianzheng, and you don’t want to be shut away, then I have a suggestion.” “Please say,” Song Qing had already saw Xu Qi’an as someone on the same path. “You can start off by using plants.” Xu Qi’an said, “Plants are living things, but their nature is much more simple. In that alchemical tome, I saw a method that had the same effects as your thoughts…” He did not continue. “Oh, but you’ve got to say it.” Song Qing felt that heart-itching desperation, his eyes behind those swollen bags staring wide. “Brother Song has a really fascinating collection of toys here,” Xu Qi’an reminded, “Alchemy is about equivalent exchange…” “I get it, I can give you three presents. With your current Refining Body stage, I think these items suit you best.” Song Qing immediately understood what Xu Qi’an wanted. He did not mind the principle of making a trade of equal value. He even rather appreciated it. “This crossbow was made by me randomly one day, it’s stronger than regular ironware, its springiness is also very strong, but because making it is difficult, we cant mass-produce it. The bowstring is made from a combination of silk of the six-eyed poisonous spider, from the Southern Marches; and silk from the rainbow silkworm. In an ambush, its penetrating power is such that it can even pierce a Refining Qi martial artist’s body, though not one at the peak of that stage. “Its most valuable part though, is that this crossbow has a magic formation inscribed into it. The formation will increase the strength of its bolts, threatening even skilled masters at Refining Spirit. But this can only be used thrice, and after the formation will dissipate.” Xu Qi’an piqued up interest, “This is a magic item?”