# 56. The Crux of the Plan
The maids heated up the water, and Xu Qi’an braced himself, before allowing himself to be bathed under the support of their small hands. His clothing came off piece after piece, and what lay in front of their eyes was a tall, muscular figure, giving off waves of masculine energy.
His muscles bulged, hiding great strength within them, giving off the charm of a strong and sturdy man.
The two small maids weren’t new to this either, being veterans well-worn on the battlefield, having bathed many an important official. Large, round-bellied ones, thin scrawny ones, ones with twisted muscles… but with a body as beautiful and in as good a shape as this Master Yang… they had seen too little of that.
This was the gift given for reaching the peak of Refining Body, to have a body in the peak of physical fitness, always ready for battle, with no excess fat or meat to keep it down, but not overly muscled as to impair flexibility or agility.
When Xu Qi’an put on his trousers, and came to be bedside bare-chested, the oiran with her thin chiffon robe, sat lazily on the cushion, suddenly fell into a daze, enthralled in his muscular, well-toned form.
The maids knowingly left the master bedroom, as Xu Qi’an lifted the duvet, embroidered with a pair of mandarin ducks[^1], and scurried in. Fuxiang leaned over, both hands around his neck, her full, soft body hanging from his. Her breath by his ear was like orchid flowers, as she whispered, “Official.”
Gusts of fragrance drifted into his nostril, as the well-behaved, never gone to the Goulan Xu Qi’an kept a serious face, tensing his body.
Miss Fuxiang was surprised, as she laughed sweetly, “Has the Master never experienced a woman in bed before?”
Thinking of this possibility, her whole body softened.
*No, in my previous life I’ve experienced a woman… I’ve just never slept such a beauty like you…* Xu Qi’an hesitated for a long time, before saying “Miss Fuxiang, have you heard of a certain divine trick?”
“What divine trick?”
“To put your head on a pillow for three seconds, and bam, out like a light.”
“… hehe, I don’t believe you.”
“Then move away from me a bit, I’ll show you.”
The oiran moved away with a smile, thinking that he was just making a joke.
Three seconds later…
Fuxiang pushed him, “Master Yang…”
In the night, Xu Qi’an suddenly awoke with a start. After sighing silently, he heard the long relaxed breaths beside him, felt that soft, silky smooth body pressing against him. With an incredible amount of willpower, he forced himself to go to sleep again.
The next day, at 6 AM, Xu Qi’an naturally awoke with his body clock, and felt a heavy thing laying on his body. Opening his eyes, he saw Fuxiang pressed against him, deep in sleep, a pearl-white long leg hung over his waist, a snow-white arm draped across his chest.
Xu Qi’an carefully moved her arms and legs, and left the bed. He dressed himself, only to angrily find that all the silver banknotes in his wallet were gone.
The only thing left in the wallet was a palm-sized, exquisite jade mirror.
His first reaction was that one of the maids of the pavilion stole the money whilst he was sleeping — this was most certainly possible.
Yang Ling was just a Xiucai, and even though his social standing was not low (utterly fake), but what was the Jiaofangsi? It was a state-run brothel, backed by the Ministry of Rites.
Just an insignificant Xiucai, if they stole his money and refused to admit it, what could he do?
The Jiaofangsi couldn’t care less about reputation.
*The Jiaofangsi didn’t care for reputation, but Fuxiang does. If this were to spread out, then which customer would dare come here to spend their money…* Xu Qi’an deduced that Fuxiang would not have known, and it was the maid who did this of her own bidding, not being able to resist the temptation of so much money.
He berated himself for being careless, not looking after his money, and walked to the side of the bed, planning to wake Fuxiang.
But just at this time, his gaze swept over the mirror, and Xu Qi’an’s expression suddenly froze.
On the originally clean and pristine mirror surface, had appeared something, vaguely flashing in and out of view. Looking closely, he could just about see a few silver banknotes.
Its edges were very faint, appearing almost as if it was carved onto the mirror surface.
*What?* Xu Qi’an’s mind was suddenly filled with question marks.
*How did my banknotes run into the mirror? I earned this money with my own blood and sweat, you spit it back out right now, or I’ll fucking smash you to pieces…*
He held the jade mirror, and shook it violently, making a pouring motion.
In the ruffle of flying paper, the silver banknotes appeared, and floated in the air a while, before gently falling to the floor.
In the quiet room, Xu Qi’an held the mirror, and for a long time did not speak.
*So this mirror really is a treasure? Is this my European Emperor’s heavenly luck, or was it that that Daoist deliberately gave it to me?*
*If it was the latter, what was his purpose, why would he give this treasure to me, did he see my mysterious good luck?*
After a long while, he drew a sharp breath of cold air.
*Mysterious gifts really do make one nervous… hss, pick up the money first.*
Xu Qi’an hid the jade mirror in his robe, and put the silver promissory notes back in his wallet, storing them separately. Then, he quietly left the room, and enjoyed his breakfast served by the maids.
“Will the Master not wait for Miss to wake up?” the maid asked.
Normally, when the guest awoke, the woman attending to him would awake with him, but this guest was strange; he sneakily came out here all alone.
*No, no, I’m afraid she’ll scold me for being worse than birds and beasts…* with a natural expression, Xu Qi’an replied “I have something urgent to do.”
A few hours later, in the Xu Manor.
Xu Xinnian and Xu Pingzhi sat in the study, cups of steaming hot tea beside them. Xu Pingzhi was lively, without any hint of tiredness.
Xu Erlang seemed somewhat drained.
Father and son did not speak to each other, wordlessly agreeing not to bring up what happened last night, as if no one had gone to the Jiaofangsi in the first place.
The quiet atmosphere was somewhat stiff, until Xu Qi’an’s arrival suddenly broke the awkward mood.
“You were there so long, why did you immediately have a bath when you came home? Does the Jiaofangsi not provide baths?” Uncle Xu raised his eyebrow, and complained.
Xu Xinnian coughed, not wanting to hear his dad talk about the Jiaofangsi, “Did you learn anything?”
Uncle Xu immediately stopped his complaining, and made a studious expression.
Xu Qi’an told them about what he had heard from Fuxiang, and also added on his own plans.
“The crux of this problem is, how can you kidnap that Weiwu Marquess’s daughter?” Xu Xinnian immediately pointed out the issue, striking the target on the first shot, “If we cannot solve this detail, then this plan will not succeed.”
Uncle Xu hesitated, “First, let’s send someone to watch her, and then find an opportunity to make our move. A outer daughter of the Weiwu Marquess, she must have bodyguards when she goes out, but not too many, as after all she’s not from his main wife. We can cause chaos, and then use that to kidnap her.”
The two brothers listened; about acting on a plan, Uncle Xu had the most experience, thus the most right to speak.
“If we were to take action in daytime, then it would be very difficult to kidnap her in front of all the passers by. In the event that we raise the attention of the patrolling guards, then we’d be in deep trouble. At night, with just us two, it would be imposible to break into the manor.”
Xu Qi’an laughed mysteriously, “What if I could solve this problem?”
In the front hall of the Xu Manor, as the gatekeeper Old Zhang crossed the flowerbeds, he found a servant unconscious. He went forwards to look in panic, only to find that he had just fainted.
Zhang shook him awake, asking “How did you faint here?”
The servant’s face was listless for a moment, as if trying to remember who he was, where he was, as he looked back at Zhang, scratching his head:
“I was just boiling water for Dalang. He was taking a bath, I only remember him suddenly asking me to enter… then I don’t remember.”
Old Zhang examined him a while, “How’re you feeling?”
“My head hurts a bit.”
“Does your arse hurt?”
Old Zhang and the servant looked at each other, and both let out a sigh of relief.
Sitianjian, Song Qing, with the black bags under his eyes getting more and more serious, sat slumped by the table. On the table were messily scattered numerous things, all sorts of bottles and jars.
Today, he did not perform any alchemical experiments, rather had sat in front of his desk, writing crazily.
“Why, after grafting, does the fruit get better? What mysteries, what rules of nature are contained within? If grafted specimens really are better than their counterparts, then if I grafted a person to a horse, the Great Feng will no longer have to worry about not having enough war horses.
“Every solder is his own horse. He could run long distance, and also bravely wage battle, this would greatly increase the effectiveness of Feng’s military…”
The more he wrote, the more excited he got, as if his whole body glowed with light.
At this time, a white cloak entered, excitedly shouting “Brother Song, the alchemical prodigy Xu Qi’an has come, and wants to see you.”
“The Alchemical Prodigy” was the nickname given by the Sitianjian white cloaks to Xu Qi’an.
[^1]: Mandarin Ducks (鸳鸯) are an auspicious sign for love, as they always come in pairs, and stay with a pair for life. Their Chinese name, *yuanyang*, has *yuan* for the male, and *yang* for the female. They are also very pretty ducks, which is why I thought I’d footnote them.