# 58. flag In the dark of night, Weiwu manor. The Marquis Weiwu, looking the stereotypical wealthy noble, sat on his chair with a nasty expression. In the hall were two beautiful middle-aged women. One was knelt, crying in grief, her tears forming a little stream on the floor. The other woman was beside her, comforting her in a low voice. When the second daughter disappeared today under strange circumstances, put together with the horse cart losing control and crashing into them, Marquis Weiwu had known that his daughter had been captured. His possible enemies flashed by in his mind — if they were political enemies, then they would not likely go as far as this, as after all as his noble title had been passed down to today, it had slowly been pushed to the edge of court politics. Of course, the nobles surrounding the political stage were still a group not to be underestimated. But a group and one person had their differences; Marquis Weiwu did not think he had any political enemies that would go as far as to capture his daughter, As for those who held a personal grudge, there were none of them in recent times. “Master has already reported this to the constabulary, and has notified the Jinwu guards guarding the gates. Don’t be anxious, Ying’er will be found.” “Sis, Ying’er is only a weak young girl, if- if she were to suffer something… even if she came back, how could she continue living?” Marquis Weiwu’s eye twitched, and his expression became even darker. Just then, a servant hurried into the room, shouting “Lord Marquis, Young Miss has been found!” The Marquis Weiwu and his two wives all rushed to the front hall, and saw their haggard-faced young daughter, with tear streaks not yet dried, as well as the city guard who escorted her back. After asking the butler to send the guard away with a monetary reward, Marquis Weiwu examined his daughter, and subtly let out a breath, “Ying’er, what happened?” Zhang Yuying, in her crying mother’s arms, sobbed “It’s that Deputy Minister Zhou’s son who kidnapped me, he- not only did he want to sully your daughter’s body, he also planned to kill me to silence me.” She immediately told them about what she heard and saw, and vividly described how she took advantage of her captors’ carelessness, and escaped the wolf’s den. “Master Marquis, you must support your concubine, support Ying’er.” Zhang Yuying’s birth mother shook with grief. “Master Marquis, that Zhou Li again and again bullied and humiliated Ying’er, as well as disgracing our Marquis.” The main wife said darkly. The Marquis Weiwu exploded in fury, smashing his hand into the table so hard that it cracked, so angry that he was shaking, “That Zhou has gone too far!” The next day. The eastern side gate, Meridian Gate. The civil and military officials that came to court today were shocked to find that the Marquis Weiwu had come today in full armour, only missing a sword on his waist. … That day, an interesting thing happened at court. The Marquis Weiwu came to the palace in full armour, bringing out his ancestors’ merits, and with choked voice made accusation against Deputy Minister Zhou. He exclaimed: *To become emperor, Gaozu had to break a trail through brambles and thorns, go through life and death. This one’s daughter suffered a person’s molestation, if Your Majesty does not protect her, would this not make cold all the hearts of the great generals and soldiers…* It caused a great commotion. The chief culprit Zhou Li had a face full of confusion, *When did I kidnap the Zhang’s second daughter? How did I not know?* The Yuanjing Emperor let out fire and fury, and commanded the High Court of Judicial Review, the Ministry of Law, and the Bureau of Investigations to resolve this case, and give back a conclusion within two days. As the main suspect in the case, Zhou Li’s first stop was the Bureau of Investigations. The ones responsible for interrogating him was a captain of the city guard. This sixth-rank official sat in front of the interrogation table, and without saying a second word immediately ordered that he be given a round of beatings. After beating Zhou Li to the point where he was crying for mum and dad, the official smacked the table, “Zhou Li. The house where the Marquis Weiwu’s daughter was held was your private residence?” “Yes!” Zhou Li could only admit. Nobles of power privately buying residences in the city was a very widespread occurrence. So when buying that house, Zhou Li did not get anyone to sign for him. On the deed was his name, and the constabulary had records of all property transactions. “As it’s your house, then you don’t need to say any more, sign the confession!” Two officers came forward, one holding a confession book, and one forcing Zhou Li to sign and stamp it. According to the proper three-bureau investigation procedures, after the Bureau of Investigation was done with him, their verdict would be sent to the Ministry of Law. If the Ministry of Law did not agree with the Bureau of Investigation’s verdict, they must re-investigate. Thus Master Zhou was sent to the Ministry of Law. Here, his treatment was worlds apart from before. He was fed with meat and wine, and the Assistant Minister responsible for interrogating him thoughtfully got a physician, to spread some expensive medicine on his blood-soaked buttocks. After a few hours of “interrogation”, the Ministry of Law overturned the Bureau of Investigation’s verdict, and concluded that Zhou Li was innocent, and that someone was trying to frame him. The case was handed over to the high court. The High Court, without saying anything further, gave Zhou Li another round of beatings, and then after a “secret” investigation, they objected to the Ministry of Law’s findings, and maintained that Zhou Li was guilty. At the second day, seeing that the High Court, the Ministry of Law, and the Bureau of Investigation all gave different results, and did not give a unified conclusion, the Yuanjing Emperor ordered the three departments to have a joint trial, and increased the importance of this case. The High Court sent one of their head prosecutors, as well as two assistant prosecutors; the Ministry of Law sent two Assistant Ministers, and four managerial officers; and the Bureau of Investigations sent two captains of the city guard. In total, eleven officials, working together on this case. In the joint trial, the Ministry of Law took the side that Zhou Li was not guilty, and was framed by the real perpetrator, whereas the High Court and the Bureau of Investigations came to the same conclusion, that Zhou Li was guilty. The two sides fought for an entire day, neither side winning out, and so naturally they came to no conclusion. This carried on until dusk, when a Sitianjian white cloak was invited to the constabulary. “Upon His Majesty’s orders, I have come to assist with the case.” The Sitianjian white cloak stated his intentions, and then looked towards Zhou Li, who was kneeling in the middle of the hall. The white cloak said sharply “Zhou Li, did you or did you not kidnap the Marquis Weiwu’s daughter, Zhang Yuying?” Zhou Li shook his head over and over, “I didn’t, it wasn’t me, I’ve been wronged.” All the officials looked intently at the Sitianjian white-cloak. The white-cloak stated solemly, “He lies!” Zhou Li’s face was devoid of blood. … Three days later, Deputy Minister Zhou, due to embezzlement of the state’s funds and food, and a failure to bring up his son, was stripped of his official titles, and sentenced to military conscription. His son Zhou Li was exiled to the southern frontier. … Fifty people on horseback slowly rode down a main road. Uncle Xu lead the contingent, spring’s radiance seeming to shine around him. After hearing about Deputy Minister Zhou’s downfall, Xu Pingzhi gathered Xu Qi’an and Xu Xinnian together, and drank all night. They simultaneously had the joy of successful revenge, and the relief of no longer having to bear that hidden danger. The two brothers rode behind Xu Pingzhi. Xu Xinnian said “There’s something I’d like to ask big brother.” Xu Qi’an looked over, “Are you curious why Zhou Li would admit to the crime, or should I say, why the Marquis Weiwu and the veterans of court wouldn’t immediately see through this rather blunt attempt to frame him?” Xu Xinnian hesitated, “I’ve only figured out some of it. In the eyes of Minister Zhou’s political enemies, it didn’t matter if Zhou Li was innocent or not, this was never important. They would seize this opportunity to topple Zhou anyway. “And as for the Marquis Weiwu, this was an opportunity for revenge. In the past, he could not beat Minister Zhou, because he had no support. And then this brilliant opportunity fell down from heaven, so he took it and came to court in full regalia, causing a ruckus through the entire court. “As to if his daughter was really captured by Zhou Li or not, he may have had some doubts, but without sufficient evidence, it seems that this Master Zhou who had time and time again bullied his daughter was a more hateful target. “What I don’t understand is, this wasn’t done by Zhou Li. Minister Zhou and his fellow party members know this very clearly, and must have made suitable arrangements.” “What do you think I went to the Sitianjian for that day then?” Xu Qi’an laughed out loud, “Do you still remember what the Sitianjian eighth rank were called?” “Eighth rank Qi-watcher…” a strange brilliance shone in Xu Xinnian’s eyes, as all was finally revealed. “During the tax silver case, the Sitianjian’s Arcanists had joined in on the searching, interrogation, and other aspects of the case. This meant that the current Emperor relies on the Sitianjian a lot.” Xu Qi’an looked towards the road ahead, extremely proud of himself. “Even if the case looked on the surface to be unreasonable, if it were to be investigated thoroughly, then one would find that there were not any tell-tale giveaways… mm, your big brother is a professional in this field. Adding on top the party politics of court, this case was destined to be difficult and annoying to investigate, and so the simplest way to sort it out would of course be to find a Sitianjian Arcanist.” Xu Xinnian was wholeheartedly convinced, “So, big brother you bribed the Sitianjian’s Arcanists.” “Vulgar!” Xu Qi’an retorted, saying in an honest, frank and overboard manner: “How could you call the agreement with their Arcanists bribery? It was equivalent exchange!” He paused for a moment, then said: “Cijiu, remember, under this sky, apart from blood relatives, any friends or enemies that you may have are all because of ‘profit’, especially in officialdom. “No one will treat you well for no reason, and no one will resent you for no reason. Even if it’s your best and closest of friends, their interactions with you are because your existence helps them further their own goals. “In the future when you enter court and become an official, big brother hopes that you will become an able civil servant, and not a good one.” Xu Qi’an continued to fill his younger brother with his illegal goods, continuing slowly, “Remember, soften your light, be like dust.[^1]” To raise his younger brother to become the Great Feng’s prime minister, he must first guide him onto Xu Qi’an’s own path. Otherwise, if he were to raise someone who would not have the same ideas and schemes, what use would that be? Xu Xinnian’s gaze stretched far into the distance, as he said loudly, “Soften your light, and be like dust… what if I eventually get lost in the allure of power and influence?” “Then that’s your own fortunes. Of course, if Cijiu were to one day become a traitorous servant at the head of chaos and unrest, then your big brother will clean out our clan.” Xu Qi’an said, half jokingly, half seriously. “Good!” Xu Xinnian met blade to blade, “But if big brother were to become a martial artist causing strife for the people, then I will do also.” *Why do I feel like I’ve raised for myself a flag[^2]…* Xu Qi’an coughed, and looked towards Xu Pingzhi, “Uncle, you bear witness to us.” “Piss off!” Xu Pingzhi turned his head, cursing, “You jabber this and that about internal strife, do you take me to not exist?” --- The author originally wrote over 6000 characters for Zhou Li’s trial, but eventually whittled it down to around his usual number. [^1]: A quote from the *Dao De Jing*. [^2]: In the original, the English word “flag” is used. This is a slang from online gaming communities, and means something along the lines of “raising a flag (warning) of things that may happen in the future.”