# 60. The Nightwatchers come Knocking
“Pffftt…” after hearing this, Chen Tai immediately spat out all the tea in his mouth.
Both Li Mubai and Zhang Shen froze, and then turned their heads sharply to stare at Xu Qi’an.
“The writer wasn’t Yang Ling?”
*Is my younger brother’s skin itchy, he sold me out so casually…* Xu Qi’an braced himself, “It was my alias.”
The two of then still didn’t believe him, asking “What were you doing at the Jiaofangsi?”
Xu Qi’an sat up straight, “A young man yearns for beauty.”
The room suddenly fell silent, as the three great scholars felt that there was blood blocking their throats, and no matter how hard they wanted they couldn’t spit it out.
After a few seconds, Zhang Shen rose, and pointed at Xu Qi’an’s nose: “You… you…”
He paced around erratically in the room, extremely agitated, “A masterpiece of a thousand years, and you use it on a prostitute, does she deserve it? Does she deserve it?”
*Yes yes yes, if I used it on you then all would be good…* Xu Qi’an muttered in his heart, as he made a posture to listen to his teacher’s scolding.
Li Mubai was also agitated, “Praising plums is praising plums, but *Given to Fuxiang in the Reflective Plum Pavilion* might as well be vulgar, too vulgar to be fitting. It simply ruins such a good poem.”
*If it could be changed to* Given to Li Mubai in the Cloud Deer Academy, *you’d laugh out pig snorts, wouldn’t you?* Xu Qi’an thought.
*Two sentences of poetry that would be famed for millennia… it is indeed somewhat of a waste to use it on a prostitute. But you can’t judge a book by its cover, if I didn’t have this poem*
Two sentences of poetry that would be famous for generations… to use it on a prostitute was indeed somewhat of a waste, but a book can’t be judged by its cover. If he did not have that poem to win over Fuxiang, then how could he gather all that valuable information?
How could he frame Zhou Li?
If Zhou Li was not framed, then what if one day Minister Zhou brought the weight of his entire family down on them? What if they couldn’t be felled in party politics?
What fate lay in front of the Xu family was obvious.
The poem was plagiarised anyway, so it didn’t hurt at all. Furthermore, if it cannot be used to solve problems, what good did a stomach-full of world-shaking verses do?
However good a poem is, as long as it can be exchanged for tangible benefit, then it was a good poem.
Chen Tai sighed in his heart. He initially didn’t believe that Yang Ling was Xu Qi’an’s alias, but the more he thought about it, the more it made sense.
How could a poetic talent of this calibre just casually appear on a whim?
*Li Mubai and Zhang Shen could take him as a disciple, then why can’t I? He’s got two teachers already, why can’t he have a third…* Chen Tai silently decided that afterwards, he would find an opportunity to take this poetic prodigy under his wing as well.
After experiencing a wave of verbal explosions, Xu Qi’an very obediently admitted fault, and promised that if he had any good poems in the future, he would definitely ask his two teachers to look it over first.
Thus Li Mubai and Zhang Shen just about calmed their tempers.
Apart from just having the resentment of missing out on a world-spreading poem, they genuinely thought that Xu Qi’an using this poem on an oiran of the Jiaofangsi was far too much of a waste.
It was like he had just revealed his greatest treasure in the open.
Xu Xinnian still could be said to have some kind-heartedness left, and at the appropriate moment broke the tension, changing the topic, “My little sister has studied at the Academy for some days now, has she had any improvements?”
The three great scholars exchanged looks, as Chen Tai could not resist laughing out loud, “Your sister, she really is one of stubborn will, so stubborn that it cannot be moved.”
Zhang Shen said helplessly, “After ten days, she changed teachers four times.”
Li Mubai added, “They all vowed that for the rest of their lives they would never teach literacy to a child again.”
Xu Cijiu and Xu Ningyan: “…”
In a little courtyard house, the entire family reunited again.
Auntie gleefully welcomed her husband and two precious sons, uncle also happily hugged his wife and youngest daughter.
Xu Lingyin looked at her father, utter grief coming from her, as she clung onto his leg, wailing to high heaven.
Uncle Xu felt a wave of pity, feeling that his youngest daughter has faced hardship trying to gain literacy at the Academy; the teachers of the Academy must have been very strict.
Xu Lingyue, wearing a dark blue dress, stood to one side, her young melon-seed shaped face wearing a light smile, looking at this scene.
She was older, and could not throw herself into her father’s arms with abandon like Xu Lingyin. She also wasn’t the eldest son, and so did not get the preferential treatment like her big brother.
The child in the middle always occupied the most awkward position.
“Ten days apart, you’ve gotten thinner, sis.” Xu Qi’an walked over, and pulled his sister’s hand, intently examining her.
Her waist in her girdle was thinner, and her breasts were beginning to grow. A young woman’s body, like a flower bud waiting to blossom, was extraordinarily attractive.
Her melon-seed face, and large eyes, not a flaw was to be seen in them from afar or from nearby. She lacked some of a woman’s soft charm, but in tis place was a young woman’s innocence, grace, and liveliness.
Xu Lingyue instinctively wanted to pull her hand away, but resisted. The warmth of her big brother’s hand made a red flush spread over her face, as her gaze fluttered. She softly said: “Big brother…”
On the way back home, Xu Lingyue in an unprecedented move asked to ride a horse, but because she did not know how to, she eventually ended up riding on the same horse as Xu Qi’an.
The sun was warm and pleasant, the wind on one’s face was somewhat cold. Riding a horse in the middle of winter was certainly better than riding a motorbike - and you didn’t need to wear a helmet.
Xu Lingyue was after all a woman, she pulled her body in against Xu Qi’an, her bright sparkling eyes looking at the scenery all around, feeling a sense of safety that she had never felt before.
In Xu Xinnian’s lap was also a little sister.
“Second brother, the horse bumping is making me sick…”
“Then go back into the cart”
“I don’t want to, I want to ride on your neck.”
Xu Xinnian’s brow was knit in a tight furrow, so annoyed was he by Little Pea.
Auntie in the carriage opened the window curtain, and poked out her stunningly beautiful face.
“Husband dear, when I wasn’t in the manor, did you go out and fool around?”
Xu Xinnian and Xu Qi’an simultaneously replied “No”.
Auntie gave the two men looks, *It’s not as if I asked you.*
Three days later, rest day.
It was the early morning, and Xu Qi’an was playing around with the jade mirror. On the mirror’s surface floated the shadows of a crossbow, a bronze mirror, and a dao sword, like a picture painted with blurry brush.
This mirror currently was being used by him as an item storage bag. All sorts of items went through its surface.
Going to the main manor, he had his breakfast. On the table, Xu Lingyue with a hopeful expression, said, “Big brother, you have your day off today, could you take me out to the market?”
Uncle Xu thought back to the incident with Zhou Li and his horse, and said with a frown: “I’m also off today. Lingyue, dad can go with you.”
Xu Lingyue hesitated for a moment, “Whatever, I suddenly feel a little dizzy.”
Uncle Xu: “???”
*To the Goulan in the morning, then come back at noon to have a nap, and then to the black market at night. I must enter Refining Qi as quick as possible…* Xu Qi’an was not paying attention.
This moment, the gatekeeper Old Zhang came in in a rush, standing at the front of the hall, “Master, there are two officials outside.”
“Officials?” Xu Pingzhi drank a mouthful of porridge, and asked without paying much mind, “Officials from Where?”
Xu Erlang asked “Big brother, are they your colleagues?”
Xu Qi’an did not pay too much mind either, “Shouldn’t be.”
The gatekeeper Zhang said: “This small person does not know, but they are wearing all black, and on their chests are tied strange bronze gongs.”
The three masters of the Xu family all shook, and looked at each other silently, seeing the seriousness in each others’ eyes.
“Quickly, invite them in.” Xu Pingzhi hurriedly rose, and headed towards the front hall.
Xu Qi’an and Xu Xinnian followed behind him, their minds whirring, considering why the Nightwatchers have come knocking.
In the Dynasty of Feng, the word “Nightwatchers” never had any good connotations; their coming almost always had the blood-soaked words of interrogations, arrests, and house raids.
But to speak from the heart, with the position of Second Uncle Xu, the Nightwatchers should hardly have paid him any mind.
Very quickly, the three men saw the visiting Nightwatchers in the front hall.
They wore black uniforms, a short cloak hanging on their backs. On their chests were bound a bronze gong, carved with numerous complex glyphs.
The two Nightwatchers were both relatively young. The one on the left had a serious expression, not carrying any hint of a smile. The one on the right just so happened to be the exact opposite, a wide smile on his face, his eyes narrowing to slits.
The smiling young man looked over the three men of the Xu family, and laughed, “Which one is Xu Qi’an?”
Xu Qi’an stepped forward, “I am.”
“Have a walk with us.”
Xu Pingzhi’s eyebrow raised, as he stepped forward, blocking Xu Qi’an’s path, clasping his fists, and asking solemnly, “Two Sirs, what sin has my nephew committed?”
The serious-faced young man frowned.
The other smiling one merely said: “If in the day you do no evil, then in the night fear not the Nightwatchers.”
*With the style of the Nightwatchers, if we resisted arrest, would they immediately draw their swords and start hacking?* Xu Qi’an put a hand on his uncle’s shoulder, looking at the two Nightwatchers. “Alright, I’ll walk with you.”
He followed the Nightwatchers out of the Xu manor. Outside the door was parked a horse-drawn cart. The serious-faced Nightwatcher pointed to the carriage, indicating that Xu Qi’an should enter.
That always smiling young man pulled off the gong on his chest, and hit it with great strength, and in the sound that reverberated from it, shouted, “The sky is dry and arid, beware the candle flames!”
The Nightwatchers’ constabulary was inside the city, and was very far from the Xu manor. To walk there, would take several hours, so arranging a cart for Xu Qi’an was not because he had some special treatment, but rather just to save on time.
The unsmiling Nightwatcher drove the cart, as within, Xu Qi’an and that warmly smiling young man sat inside, facing each other.
*What do the Nightwatchers want me for? For Zhou Li’s case? No, that’s impossible, even if I couldn’t guarantee a perfect crime, I can at least guarantee that the Great Feng, with no concept of surveillance technology, could not have figured out it was me who captured the Zhang’s young daughter. Even with some tell-tale signs, they still couldn’t have caught onto me this quickly…*
Xu Qi’an stuffed his hand into his robes, and knocked on the back of the jade mirror, pouring out a silver banknote. Pulling it out and looking, seeing that it was worth ten taels, he let out a breath.
He earnestly handed it over, saying “This small man is a law-abiding good citizen, and admires Sir’s service to our country and people, doing hard and good work. I want to give Sir ten taels of silver, and invite Sir to drink tea.”
This Nightwatcher’s gaze slid onto the silver banknote, a face full of kindness, laughing “The rules of the Nightwatchers are strict; to take a bribe over ten taels, 50 strokes of the cane. Over fifty taels, exile. Over a hundred taels, execution.
“I obviously have no need to risk facing the cane for ten taels of silver.”
Xu Qi’an displayed an embarrassed smile, and was just about to take back his silver, when he heard the smiling man say slowly, “If you want use this trick to get information from me… you need to give more!”
Xu Qi’an, without any hint of anger, handed over thirty taels.
The young man laughed, his eyes squinting to slits, as he stuffed two banknotes into his robes, handing the other one through the window: “I’ve taken thirty taels. You and I both get ten taels, and as for the rest, that’s for the table fee tonight at the Jiaofangsi. Perfectly five taels each.”
The unsmiling man took the banknote, and grunted assent.
The squinting young man leant back, putting one leg over another, and saying in a laughing tone to Xu Qi’an, “Even though rules are very important, but when everyone has tacitly agreed to look the other way, you’re too earnest, and this may get you squeezed out.”