# 57. Kidnapping Xu Qi’an was received enthusiastically by Song Qing, as the two sat by the table, holding cups of fragrant tea, having friendly chatter. “To be honest, I had some suspicions about you,” Song Qing took a sip, “These few days, I’ve checked through all your ancestors for eighteen generations.” *Is it really appropriate to talk about searching up someone’s ancestors for eighteen generations…* Xu Qi’an was not surprised, rather laughing “How did it go?” “You’re too clean.” Song Qing shook his head, not continuing on with the topic. He pulled out a stack of paper, and handed it over, “Here, have a look at my most recent experiments.” Xu Qi’an thought, *I’ve already set up the “high skilled player” meme, and you didn’t take the bait… your paltry skills don’t even care for this huh.*[^1] He took the papers, and scanning through them, nearly spit out the tea in his mouth. Apart from the plant grafting theory he had told Song Qing, this guy had also drawn many more inferences from this one case, and had listed out many more possibilities, such as: Grafting a person to a horse. The advantages listed were numerous, such as the fact that the Great Feng would no longer have to worry about sourcing horses; soldiers didn’t have to worry about having an outstanding warhorse, because we are veteran soldiers, we can be our own horses… Another example: capturing avian monsters, and selectively breed them with humans, breeding out an air force of half-monsters. *Go read up on Monster Musume… pah, go read up on speciation…* Xu Qi’an put aside the calligraphy paper, and calmed his swirling emotions, saying “I’ve come to the Sitianjian today to ask Brother Song for help.” “Speak away.” “You should already know that I’ve offended Deputy Minister Zhou.” “Caiwei told me,” Song Qing put down his teacup, speaking with a serious tone, “I’m very sorry, but I can’t help you. The Sitianjian does not interfere in politics at court, His Majesty does not allow it. Furthermore, a Deputy Minister with lots of political power is beyond my ability to affect.” “Don’t speak so quickly, Brother Song. What I require is very simple…” Xu Qi’an told him about his plan. “Not going to happen.” Song Qing immediately refused, “I’m a well-principled and respectable person, I would never do something like that.” Xu Qi’an thought for a moment, then said in shame, “I’m sorry, I did not think this through… Brother Song, let’s continue talking about your grafting. Forgive my being blunt, but this cannot succeed.” Song Qing frowned, and sat up straight, making a studious and attentive expression. “I’m sure you know already, that cat that must be kept in a water tank is a good example. But you must be confused as to why your experiments will fail, what the reason is behind that.” Song Qing leant forwards, his breaths becoming sharp, his eyes staring wide at Xu Qi’an, “You know?” Xu Qi’an said, “I have not participated in experimenting, and thus wouldn’t know where the true reason lay, but I can give you a theoretical basis.” A theoretical basis!? What Song Qing lacked most was a theoretical basis. After all, masters who can start sects are rare to find. Alchemy is a vast and all-encompassing subject, and if he wanted to advance further, he could not lack any support in matters of theory. Xu Qi’an, under Song Qing’s suddenly bright and searing gaze, slowly said: “Have you heard of the periodic table?” *The what table? What does this have to do with my experiments?* A thousand question marks flashed in Song Qing’s mind. His breaths became even more excited, feeling that he was just about to touch the doorway to the most fundamental principles of alchemy. As an alchemy fanatic, he was so excited that all his hairs stood on end. He didn’t have time to ask, when Xu Qi’an continued unhurriedly, “The fundamental law of alchemy is equivalent exchange…” … Marquis Weiwu’s manor was on Quefu street, in the inner city. This street was one for nobility of merit, the entirety of it was filled with Marquesses, Earls, and even Dukes. The Marquis Weiwu was a hereditary title, emerging three hundred years ago in the war of succession. Being passed down year by year, in reality their political power was little if anything today. The side door opened, and a slender, round-faced young girl came out, under the accompaniment of her maids and bodyguards. She wore an resplendent dress, its hems reaching her feet, and when she walked her flower-patterned shoes were flashing in and out of sight. She was sixteen or seventeen years of age, with a graceful, delicate face, bright, captivating eyes, and a proud aura around her. The radiance of her appearance made her aura bright, and attracted attention towards her. Zhang Yuying entered the palanquin outside the door. The palanquin bearers picked it up, and slowly started waking towards Chenghuang Temple. She came out today to go burn incense at the temple, and eat a Buddhist meal, before going heading over to the Earl Wenyuan’s manor, to have tea and chat with her friends. She wanted to secretly read some books that had spread around her circles, that were not allowed, and gossip about which family’s young men have reached marriage age, to comment on any particularly outstanding students in this autumn’s Imperial Examination, and guessing if they would do well in the spring examinations next year. They may even gossip about who may become the husband they dreamed about. After walking down two streets, the maids who followed the palanquin suddenly heard some commotion. Two horse carts behind them had lost control, their driver clutching tightly onto the reins, and waving his whip with a frightened expression. “Move aside, everyone move aside!” Pedestrians on all sides rushed to get out of the way. “Quick, stop the horse!” The maid nearly jumped out of her skin, as with one hand she ordered the retainers to stop the carts, and on the other commanded the palanquin bearers to dodge away. There were not enough bodyguards, and they could only stop one cart. The other one knocked two bearers flying, and the palanquin fell to the floor in an instant. The remaining maids and bearers instinctively saved themselves, throwing themselves to the side of the road, away from the out of control cart, and the scene became chaotic. After the brief spell of chaos, the two horse-drawn carts continued on running into the distance. The maids then picked themselves up, and rushing with anxiety, ran over to the palanquin to inspect the damage: “Miss? How is young Miss?” No one replied. The maid’s heart sank, as she flung open the door curtain. She froze, and after a few seconds, let out a sharp scream: “She’s missing!” The palanquin was empty. … A small house, Inner City. Zhang Yuying knew that she had been kidnapped, even if she did not know by whom. She had already been conscious for a while, and after getting over the initial bout of headaches, her heart had stayed in a state of fright and panic. Being a Shu daughter of the Marquis Weiwu, normally her treatment was only slightly worse than that of the direct Di daughters, and far better than any of her sisters. Both mother and father loved her dearly so, and even her sister got along with her very well. Born with a silver spoon, wearing brocade robes and eating jade, when has she ever suffered such a thing? Around her was silence, her arms and legs were tied, and a cloth was stuffed into her mouth. She was scared to death. “Crash!” From outside the courtyard came the sound of the door opening, followed by footsteps approaching. The fear that had built up in Zhang Yuying’s heart exploded in an instant. She did not know what she was about to face, but what was for certain was that it would be nothing good. “Heh,” the footsteps stopped. Someone laughed perversely, and said “This girl is really pretty, earlier I already inspected the goods, her breasts are both big and soft, incredibly nice to play with.” “You despicable person…” the other person paused for a moment, and added “You didn’t even call me.” Zhang Yuying was both embarrassed and angry, teardrops swirling around in her eyes. The two shadows continued talking, “She’s still a virgin.” “No shit, this second daughter of Marquis Weiwu hasn’t even married.” Zhang Yuying was shocked; *they know who I am, they know my dad is Marquis Weiwu, and they still dare to kidnap me?* The people behind the curtain orchestrating this, was no ordinary nobody. “How do you think Master Zhou will deal with this chick? Even though she’s an extremely beautiful woman, but to keep her here would be rather risky.” “Heh, you think too much. Master Zhou will at most play with her a while, and then get bored, and probably strangle her to death, bury her in the yard. Who knows really.” “When Master Zhou gets bored, then we can partake in some soup. This girl’s skin is soft and supple, much better than any whore from the Goulan.” “True that. If Master Zhou didn’t want a fresh one, we could do her right here and now.” “Well who made him the Deputy Minister of Revenue’s son? C’mon, lets go get some drink.” “We can’t do that?” “It’s nearly dusk. We’ll buy some drinks and come back.” The footsteps retreated into the distance, and then came the sound of the main door closing. The two people seemed to have left to drink. *Master Zhou? The deputy minister of revenue’s son?* In Zhang Yuying’s mind flashed an image of a brocade-wearing young man, and thought of what she had gone through that lantern festival last year. *He still hasn’t let me go…* *Get bored… partake in some soup… to kill me, and bury me in the yard and hide the evidence…* The young woman raised in a safe, comfortable, luxurious life, shook with fear. Tears rolled down her face. “Mfff….” She tried her best to make a sound, and stretched with her limbs, trying to escape her ropes. Suddenly, she felt the rope tied around her wrists loosened. Zhang Yuying suddenly froze, and then quietened down, no longer making a sound, focusing her energy on twisting her two hands. After who knows how long, the tender skin on her wrists had been scraped open, and under that fiery stinging pain, she finally freed herself. She immediately rose, and undid the ropes around her feet, stamping them, shaking her hands, before walking towards the door. She listened carefully for a moment, confirming that there was no one in the courtyard before carefully walking out. Looking left and right, she clenched her silver teeth, and with a speed that she had never showed her whole life, ran towards the main door, and undid the bolt. The door didn’t open; it was locked from the outside. “Wah…” Miss Zhang sobbed a hopeless, heart-wrenching sob. … On the side of the street opposite the house, Xu Qi’an held a bowl of noodles, and standing beside him was Xu Xinnian. “You did well with the nasty talk,” Xu Qi’an teased his brother out of habit. Xu Xinnian paid him no mind, looking towards the door, “Will she come out? Why did we lock the main entrance?” “A strong yearning for life will activate a person’s hidden potential. Believe me, she will escape. She could climb the wall and be out.” Xu Qi’an shovelled a chopstick-full of noodles into his mouth, and explained quietly, “If we didn’t lock the door, the traces would be too large.” This courtyard was a personal house bought privately by Zhou Li. In the house was housed a fairly good looking woman. At this current moment, that woman, and her maids, matrons, and gatekeeper were all locked inside Xu Qi’an’s mirror. That jade mirror could absorb objects and even living things; Xu Qi’an had already tried it on the servants at home. Without that jade mirror, then the difficulty of capturing Miss Zhang would have increased drastically, and one could even end up trying to steal chicken, only to lose one’s rice. At this time, the two brothers saw a head appear over the wall of the house, as a messy-haired Zhang Yuying peeked over the wall. After carefully looking around for a while, she climbed over the wall, and jumped down. She seemed to have sprained her ankle, as she lay on the ground, not moving for a while. After a long time, she finally picked herself up, crying. Leaning against the wall, one hop at a time she escaped onto the street. As a noble daughter born with a silver spoon in her mouth, the fact that she could achieve this step, proved that she had suffered an immense emotional trauma. *They’ve gone out to buy alcohol, they’ll come back at dusk…* she looked at the setting sun, and knew that she was not quite safe just yet. Maybe she wouldn’t be able to run far before being pursued and caught, or maybe she would only take a few steps before chancing upon her captors. Just at this time, a patrol of armed and armoured city guards passed by them. Zhang Yuying, scared only of meeting her captors on the road or being pursued down by them, looked as if she had seen an angel, and rushed over to them in tears. Before the city guards drew their swords, she screamed “I am the daughter of the Marquis Weiwu, I was kidnapped, save me!” The guards exchanged looks, and immediately surrounded her. Passers-by all stopped to watch the scene, as the leading city guard asked: “Who captured you?” “Zhou Li, the son of the deputy minster of rites Zhou Li!” Zhang Yuying finally broke down in tears. *Dum dum dum…* the sound of the curfew drums sounded. Xu Qi’an put down his bowl, and said “Let’s go. We’ll find an inn to sleep, and go home tomorrow.” --- The author commented on the length of this chapter. [^1]: Again, I don’t know.