# 62. Aptitude Test *An invitation to the Nightwatchers… for me?* Xu Qi’an was for a moment in disbelief. He maintained his silence, and did not speak too hastily. “You are a talent, I confirmed as much that time back in the back hall of the government hall. It’s only that the Nightwatchers have our rules, Refining Qi is our lowest standard.” Li Yuchun changed to a very casual sitting pose, much different from the intimidating aura he gave off earlier. “As the protectors of the Great Feng, the protectors of His Majesty the Emperor, having high standards is of course, very normal. “But you used your own abilities to prove yourself. Even if you are merely Refining Body, the Nightwatchers are still happy to employ you.” *Because my actions are dirty enough, my thoughts meticulous enough, so they made an exception to invite me?* *Yes, even during the Tax Silver Case, this half-southern barbarian silver gong showed that he was very appreciative of me.* The stern-faced silver gong added, “Of course, the most important reason is that the eldest princess recommended you.” *The Eldest Princess!?* Xu Qi’an had another shock. *Which one is the eldest princess? Why would she recommend me, I don’t even know her. Oh… I have heard of her at the Cloud Deer Academy.* *But, we’ve never even seen each other, why would she recommend me to the Nightwatchers.* Xu Qi’an had a stomach full of questions and confusion, and the two silver gongs seemed to not have any plans to explain further. It was possible that they themselves didn’t know the reason. “Apart from this, the reason that the two Sirs didn’t report me is…” Li Yuchun laughed, “You should already know the role of the Nightwatchers.” *To supervise the many officials… The Deputy Minister Zhou who embezzled silver and grain from the royal coffers was not in the same camp as the Nightwatchers. I could go as far as to say that the fall of Minister Zhou had the Nightwatchers in the background helping fan the flames…* Xu Qi’an had a great realisation. “Deputy Minister Zhou would be finished sooner or later. We had already started dealing with him, but your little conspiracy helped us quicken our plans.” that stern-faced silver gong said. Li Yuchun glanced over at him, “Mr Sun, according to our agreement earlier, I will take this person under my wing, could you give us some room to chat.” The silver gong surnamed Sun did not leave, rather squinting at Xu Qi’an, “You have the freedom of choice, to pick him or pick me. “Our standing here is not much different, but this person is a stickler for the rules, with zero flexibility. If you become a bronze gong under him, you’ll live a comfortable life. If you become a bronze gong under me, in at most three years you’ll be able to buy a decent courtyard house in the inner city.” *Three years of work, for a house in the capital… that really is an offer that’s hard to turn down…* Xu Qi’an, with a regretful tone, turned down silver gong Sun’s offer, saying, “During the tax silver case, Master Li gave me the opportunity to use my merit to atone for our crimes. This generosity I have always remembered in my heart, and I’d like to go under his wing.” This was only one of the reasons. The other was that he did not want to go against his own personality, and do too many “side deals”. Silver gong Sun nodded, and praised him, “Knowing how to pay back kindness is good.” He left, not showing any reluctance. As the door closed, Li Yuchun pointed to the chair opposite him, smiling in a kindly manner, “Sit, let me introduce myself. This official is Li Yuchun, and in the future I will be your boss. You can just call me that. If you’re not used to this, calling me Master Li works too.” *Can I call you Brother Chun…* Xu Qi’an sat, and with a few reservations, replied “Master Li.” “To work under my banner, you must live up to yourself, this you must remember.” Li Yuchun said, and then started introducing the Nightwatcher organisation: “In the Nightwatchers, the lowest rank are the ‘White servants’. They have no authority, and are responsible for doing odd jobs and administrative tasks. Above them are bronze gongs, are formal members of the Nightwatchers. They must be at least Refining Qi, and their monthly salary is five taels of silver, and two dan of rice. Above them are silver gongs, with the same treatment as a Baihu. “Above silver gongs are gold gongs, the highest ranking position. The capital of Feng only has ten gold gongs, and they take orders directly from Duke Wei.” Xu Qi’an nodded, this much was common knowledge. Wei Yuan was the absolute head of the Nightwatchers. “The responsibilities of the Nightwatchers are to supervise the officials and protect the capital. As for everyday tasks, you can get familiar with them as you go along.” Li Yuchun looked deeply at Xu Qi’an, “You’re currently at the peak of Refining Body. I have two suggestions: slowly accumulate merit, and wait for opportunity. Alternatively, pay four hundred taels of silver, and I will help you open heaven’s gate.” Xu Qi’an did not as much as hesitate, “I choose the latter.” Li Yuchun squinted, “You’re quite rich eh.” “Miss Caiwei of the Sitianjian lent it to me.” Xu Qi’an threw the pot onto that big-eyed beauty, with not so much as a red face or a skipped heartbeat. Li Yuchun nodded, “I’ll first arrange for your registration to be changed, and for all of the paperwork to be sorted.” As soon as he stopped talking, he left. After a while, that eyes squinted, smiling young man, and that other serious-faced one came in together. “Song Tingfeng[^1]” the smiling one introduced himself, and looked Xu Qi’an up and down, “You’re not bad. Soon enough, we’ll be colleagues.” “Zhu Guangxiao.[^2]” The unsmiling young man said, not adding anything else. Xu Qi’an followed the two of them to the administrative office, to finalise official procedures. On the way, Song Tingfeng chatted with a carefree tone, “To work for the boss Li, is all in all not super demanding, there’s no intrigue or petty office politics or any crap like that. The bad thing though is that when hauling money, you must be careful. A small amount of corruption is alright, but nothing too serious.” “Then will you return that thirty taels of silver back to me?” Xu Qi’an earnestly stared at him. Song Tingfeng replied with an even more sincere look, “When did I take your money?” *…piece of shit!* Xu Qi’an smiled, “Oh, I must’ve remembered wrong.” “Oh right, we’re planning to go to the Jiaofangsi tonight. You want to come with?” Song Tingfeng invited. *I hate this rotten officials’ gossip…* Xu Qi’an replied with a smile, “Sure!” After formalising all the paperwork, Song Tingfeng lead him all through the constabulary, walking and explaining: “After joining the Nightwatchers, there is still a process, an aptitude test.” “Aptitude test?” Xu Qi’an’s mind instantly filled the blanks with a picture of his hand on a crystal ball, testing how fortunate he was that day.[^3] “It’s Duke Wei’s rules, he set up this process.” Song Tingfeng explained, “It is split into ‘wisdom’, ‘strength’, and ‘conscience’.” As he said, they had come to the front of a building, crossed the tall threshold, and entered the ground floor main hall. On the pillars were written two lines: *With sincere heart serve the world,
and not for self nor profit nor greed.* “This was written by Duke Wei, to warn and teach us.” Song Tingfeng said. “It’s clear to see that it doesn’t have much use.” Xu Qi’an gave him the side-eye, saying pointedly. Song Tingfeng pretended not to understand him, and continued leading him inside, “You’re currently Refining Body, so you won’t be tested on fighting strength for now. First, testing your knowledge.” He summoned the clerk in the hall, and gave out the orders. After a short while, two clerks entered, a brocade-covered box in each of their hands. Song Tingfeng laughed, “Both of them have a box in their hand. One of them is empty, one has an item. You can pick any one of them and ask, but you can only ask one question. “Of the two of them, one can only lie, one can only tell the truth.” Song Tingfeng laughed, “You have a stick of incense’s time to think. I cannot give you any hints.” Zhu Guangxiao very tersely reminded, “This question is very hard, think carefully.” Song Tingfeng nodded, “Even though Duke Wei said this was only a little game, but those who can guess correctly are very few. Even though later I realised, but this was after that stick of incense’s time. “It’s said that only the gold gongs could realise the answer within twenty breaths.” A clerk lit a stick of incense, and put it to one side. *These simple logic problems, I don’t know how many I’ve come across in my previous life.* Xu Qi’an turned to ask the one on the left: “If you were the other person, what would you tell me about your box?” That clerk blanked for a moment, as if he didn’t think that Xu Qi’an would ask this type of question. He thought for a long while, and then said sullenly, “The box is empty.” Xu Qi’an nodded, and put his hand on the box on the right side, “The item is in this box.”[^4] Song Tingfeng opened his mouth, as his face stiffened, and he looked to his companion, “How long?” Zhu Guangxiao’s tone was a bit gloomy, “Not counting the time the clerk took, twelve breaths,” The air fell silent for a second, before Song Tingfeng clapsed his hands together, and shook his head helplessly, “You can solve the tax silver case, of course these small children’s games wouldn’t cause you any issue at all.” He knew about Xu Qi’an; Li Yuchun was one of the main investigators on the tax silver case. At that time, Song Tingfeng and Zhu Guangxiao were outside doing the tiring grunt work of chasing down non-existent yaoguai. After the tax silver case was solved, as a participant in the case, he naturally would have heard about this Xu Qi’an. --- [^1]: 宋廷风 [^2]: 朱广孝 [^3]: “Aptitude” refers to innate aptitude / innate ability. [^4]: If you're thinking "Hey... that doesn't sound right... right?", well, I also thought the same thing. And I'm pretty sure the original author got it wrong. But I spent ages thinking in circles and so I'm going to leave it as is. If you can prove it's wrong, then that's an L for the author Xiaolangjun.