# 50. Pitch-pot The reason that this would cause social death, is because this relates to a law of the inner city, that the outer city lacked: the latter did not have a curfew. As for the former, because the people who lived there were all those of status, for the safety of the officials and nobles, after the drums beat for dusk there were to be no one on the streets. Everyone knew that the Jiaofangsi opened in the night. This meant that by going to the Jiaofangsi, you weren’t just gathering information, but you also had to stay there. This was why Xu Pingzhi opposed Xu Qi’an going to the Jiaofangsi. A young lad staying overnight there, fooling around with the women there, who could resist more happening? Thus, whoever went to the Jiaofangsi would have to go whoring. And all three of the men sat there all had their appearances to keep up. The model gentleman, Xu Xinnian. The one who doesn’t go to the Goulan, Xu Qi’an. The family man, Xu Pingzhi. In their hearts they were all clear about one thing: even if they were there for a cause, sleeping a prostitute was still sleeping a prostitute, this was an unchangeable truth. *Though I’ve never whored in my previous life, but I can still imagine the embarrassment of being caught by the police in the act, and having them call my parents… I’d rather die…* Xu Qi’an sat up straight, face serious. In his mind, information about the goings on inside brothels floated up. Once, when going to the Goulan, Constable Wang had broached the topic, talking about how one of the officials in court had gone to the Jiaofangsi to sleep, only to find his own son in the same drinking game. Father and son going for the same hole, the embarrassment was unimaginable. The second day news had spread across all officialdom in the Capital, causing much laughter. Even a lowly Constable like Constable Wang had heard it from County Magistrate Zhu. For this era where appearances and reputation were looked highly upon, something like this was not something that one’s face could bear. Xu Qi’an looked at Uncle Xu and Xu Xinnian, his mind unconsciously conjuring up a scene: *Xu Xinnian: “Yo, dad, you’ve come here too? Let me have the chick today, tomorrow she’s yours.”* *Xu Pingzhi: “Fuck off, who’s the elder here? I get to sleep with her first.”* *Xu Qi’an: “Back off all of you, I want first dibs.”* *God, that makes me shiver…* Xu Qi’an coughed, “Let’s put aside the Jiaofangsi for now. We’ll continue to listen for information. After all we don’t have to go to the Jiaofangsi. I’m not sure if we can even get anything useful out of the oiran Fuxiang. “The day after tomorrow, let’s meet back up and report our findings. If we don’t have any more progress, then let’s think about going there.” Hearing his words, Xu Erlang and Uncle Xu’s attitudes improved, and they both nodded. Xu Qi’an thought, *I guess I’ll take one for the team, tomorrow night I’ll go to the Jiaofangsi.* … Noon the next day, Xu Qi’an asked for leave, and returned to the Xu Manor. Not long ago the manor would be lively at this time of day, but now it had quietened significantly. They had left with half the maids, only leaving the gatekeeper Old Zhang, and a few servants to clean. Uncle Xu and Xu Xinnian were both still out, and hadn’t yet returned. Xu Qi’an walked to the inner courtyard with familiar ease, and opened Xu Xinnian’s room. He ruffled through the bookshelves and cupboards, and pulled out that moon-white Confucian robe, with its rich and precious fabric, and its cloud pattern embroidery. He took off his bailiff’s uniform, and put on his younger brother’s best looking clothes, tying an alright looking jade amulet to his waist. Xu Qi’an stood in front of the bronze mirror, looking at his appearance at this moment. *That’s alright… only that my skin and build are far too masculine, I can’t replicate that effeminate scholar look… If I had the looks I did in my last life, I could fully fit with these types of clothes no problem… with this build right now I still feel there’s a lack of immersion…* Xu Qi’an flattened the folds on his robe, and left, satisified. The layout of the capital of Feng could only be described as a Russian Doll, being separated into layers: the palace complex, the royal quarters, the inner city, and the outer city. Compared to the outer city, where people of all walks and personalities mixed, Xu Qi’an saw the inner city as more the equivalent of the central business district in his past life. The people who could afford to live there were all very wealthy. In this era, those who were able to live in the inner city all had status and wealth. It was worth pointing out that Auntie had always wanted to sell their house in the outer city, and move inwards. To walk from the Xu Manor to the inner city, at Xu Qi’an’s pace, would still require three to four hours. He hired a horse-drawn cab, and after just over an hour he reached the closest inner city gate. He drew out his already prepared entry pass, and easily passed this hurdle. The guards at the gate quickly finished searching the carriage, and seeing that Xu Qi’an did not carry any large luggage, a barely concealed disappointment swept over their faces. This implied that Xu Qi’an did not go into the inner city to do business, and so they couldn’t take an entry tax. … The streets of the inner city were wide and laid out in a tidy grid. The main roads had green trees planted, surrounding beautiful houses, and off the main streets were entrances to all sorts of buildings. No matter the buildings or the dress of the people, or the number of horse-drawn carriages on the streets, the inner city was better, richer, and more in every way than the outer. “If I have time, I must take Lingyue into the inner city to play. The outer city is entirely incomparable with the bustle here.” Xu Qi’an raised the curtain in the carriage window, and looked out towards the bustling and prosperous city streets, Xu Lingyue’s sharp graceful face floating up in his mind. He did not immediately go to the Jiaofangsi; it was early yet, and the seafood traders[^1] did not work during the day. After paying the taxi fare, Xu Qi’an wandered through the street, with no real goal in mind. Not long later, Xu Qi’an came to a market, and raised his head to look at the sign on the *Paifang* gate: Yongkang Street! This street’s width was something Xu Qi’an had never seen before. It was two hundred metres wide, paved with tidy limestone paving stones, stretching to the ends of one’s vision. There were rows upon rows of shops and buildings, and ten carriages could fit comfortably side by side in the street. It was crowded and lively. *This isn’t a street, it’s clearly a huge square.* Standing under the Paifang, Xu Qi’an watched this scene, and was truly stunned. “Yongkang Street is one of the main arterial roads of the capital. Uncle said it was large, but I never thought it was this large.” Xu Qi’an muttered internally. There was a reason for this main street to be so wide; if the emperor or high nobility would travel through, they would have their guards first clear the path. Two hundred metres caused most of the crossbows, hand cannons of time to lose their effectiveness. Even if there was an assassin hiding in the buildings, from this distance, they could only helplessly leave take both hands off their keyboards, and send a 666. Xu Qi’an ran around the street like a wild dog off its leash, but considering that the money in his pocket was limited, he resisted the urge to spend. Suddenly, a luxurious carriage drew Xu Qi’an’s attention. It was so rich and shining bright that it nearly blinded him. That carriage was one drawn by four strong horses, with a domed silver-covered gold-painted roof. Yellow silk hung down over the windows, below that were the protectors used to stop dust from rising, covered in white jade. on the side of the wheel were gold nails, attached tidily in a circle. The hub and wheels were also covered in jade. What was most telling though was what the carriage body was made of: Zhennan wood, used specifically by the royal family. “Even if I struggle for a lifetime, I probably won’t be able to buy one of the wheels on that carriage.” Xu Qi’an thought, disheartened, feeling as if he had suddenly returned to the rat race conditions of his previous life. This luxurious carriage stopped by the roadside, and a group black-armoured spear wielding soldiers guarded the car. What was interesting, was that another group were playing a pitch-pot game. The owner of the stall was an old Daoist priest, wearing tattered Daoist robes. His speckled white hair was held up by a wooden hairpin, and disorderly strands of hair lay hanging. On the stall was displayed copper cash, silver and gold ingots, Daoist texts, a prayer bracelet, a jade mirror… all manner of random items. *All other things aside, just the silver and gold had not yet been stolen by someone, this old priest is not a simple man…* Xu Qi’an stopped to watch. He looked for a while, and figured out how the game was played. The pitcher would have to stand thirty paces from the porcelain pot, blindfold themselves, turn their backs, and then throw three arrows. If one of the arrows landed, then the pitcher could pick any of the items on the third step, being some gold and jade. If all three went in, then they could pick anything that was on the top step. On the top step were only two items, the prayer bracelet, and the jade mirror. “Missed again, damn it!” “Alright, it’s my turn now.” The solders took turns to throw, but all of them returned empty handed. The small pile of loose silver in front of the old Daoist got higher and higher. As the fifteen soldiers all experienced another unsuccessful round, Xu Qi’an noticed that the window blinds of the carriage moved slightly. One of the soldiers standing beside the window listened, and then walked towards the stall owner. “Old Daoist, my mater has said, sixty taels of gold, to buy everything on your stall.” the soldier announced in a loud voice. *You can’t beat the game, so you’re going to pay to win?* Xu Qi’an stood not far away, looking at this scene. Facing the temptation of sixty taels of gold, the old Daoist shook his head, “Rules are rules.” The soldier’s body stiffened, as he looked angrily at the priest for a moment, before suddenly turning away, and reporting back to the carriage. After a few seconds, the owner of the carriage called back their soldiers, and prepared to leave. Xu Qi’an took this opportunity to come up to the priest, asking “Old Daoist, how much money to have one go?” The priest, sitting cross legged, raised his head, glancing up, and handed over three arrows. “One cash of silver.” Xu Qi’an took the arrows, laughing, confident in his imminent success. To pitch a perfect pot from thirty paces was not a difficult task for a Refining Body martial artist. However, being turned around and blindfolded, the chances were almost impossible. The eyes were the most important of the five senses. Losing one’s vision, would reduce the control a martial artist had, and would make the task much harder. Whether one was able to strike or not was all down to face. Xu Qi’an’s face was not particularly good, but he had an overwhelming self-confidence, because he hadn’t picked up any silver for several days. *Maybe it’s because I would come to the inner city, and meet this pitch-pot game, that my luck was saving up itself?* *If I can score three shots, then all the gold and silver would be mine… yo, the life of a European Emperor is really this colourless and stale…* Xu Qi’an walked thirty paces away, turning away, and tying a black cloth around his eyes. He casually flung the arrows backwards. *Thunk thunk thunk…* The three arrows almost simultaneously landed in the pot. Passers-by on the street exclaimed, and the noise drew the attention of the just-departing carriage. From within, a soft, comfortable female voice sounded: “Stop!” --- [^1]: You will see many allegories to the sea, fish, and seafood for these topics.