# 63. Xu Qi’an: I Can Still Be Saved "The Conscience Test is located on the upper floors. Just keep climbing the stairs until you reach the top", Song Tingfeng guided him towards the staircase and gestured towards the upper floors. "There is no requirement to pass this level. But you have to remember to follow your heart. If you're too artificial, Your score will be lowered." "Why am I being scored?" Xu Qi'an asked back. "Why's your aptitude tested? Among the four ranks of Jia, Yi, Bing, and Ding, the higher your aptitude, the easier it is to cultivate you." Song Tingfeng raised his chin, "I am a Yi."[^1] Zhu Guangxiao said, muffled, "I'm a Bing." *I'm a big strong ding...* Xu Qi'an internally memed, and climbed the stairs alone.[^2] When he reached the second floor, he saw a simple bronze mirror hanging on the red lacquered pillar. The mirror was facing the stairs. His figure was reflected in the mirror. Xu Qi'an's heart palpitated for no reason, and his muscles tensed without control, Then he relaxed slowly. His inner thoughts were settled and his mind became peaceful while he put all fame, wealth, and selfish desires aside. *There's something wrong with this mirror...* As soon as this thought came up, it settled back down inside his tranquil mind and he didn't care about it anymore. *I've forcibly entered sage mode[^3]...* This idea also settled down in his mind. He turned the corner with ease and came to the hall of the second floor, where a Buddha was enshrined, plump and luxurious. There were tributes alongside the incense holder, and the incense smoke was rising in spirals. An official stood in front of the Buddha, looking at him. Xu Qi'an looked at the Buddha statue calmly a few times, then stopped looking to walk towards the stairs to the third floor. The official watched him leaving and lowered his head to write on paper as if he was evaluating him. ... The third floor was consecrating the *Daozun*, the Daoist Immortal, who was wearing Daoist robes, holding a wooden sword, and stepping on auspicious clouds. There was also an official in front of the statue, observing Xu Qi'an's arrival quietly. After Xu Qi'an took a few random glances and turned to leave, the official also picked up a pen and wrote comments on the paper spread out on the table. ... The fourth floor enshrined the Confucian Sage, who was wearing a Confucian shirt and a Confucian crown while looking into the distance. An official still stood in front of the sage's statue, looking at Xu Qi'an quietly. *This statue of the saint is the same as the one in Cloud Deer Academy...* Xu Qi'an thought and left without any hesitation. He then came to the highest level- the fifth floor. The fifth floor enshrined a man in a yellow robe. He stood majestically, holding a sword with both hands, and had sword-like eyebrows and star eyes while giving off a lofty aura. Xu Qi'an didn't know this person but the bright yellow dragon robe said everything about him. A certain emperor of the Great Feng, even, the Founding Emperor. When he came here, he suddenly realized the true meaning of the "Conscience Test". Testing one's qualifications is merely a part of it. The real meaning is to test a person's moral quality. *...Fuck, I didn't pay homage to the Buddha. I didn't pay homage to the Daozun and I didn't worship the sage.* *...It doesn't matter, But I have to worship the one on the fifth floor... If I don't worship him, I'll be finished... A person who doesn't have a lord or father and disrespects gods and buddhas isn't allowed in this era...* What kind of organization were the Nightwatchers? It was an Espionage Agency directly affiliated with the Emperor. They could be disrespectful to the three religions but not disloyal to the emperor. So, the "Conscience Test" was a screening of one's moral quality. Xu Qi'an was undoubtedly unqualified. He went up to the fifth floor in one go, without worshipping anyone. *I'm such a human scum. I'll be kicked out of the Nightwatchers... That's not all, The crux is that the Nightwatchers know my crime of framing Zhou Li. Who knows if they will turn over this old case?* These thoughts flashed in his mind one by one, then they settled down and were automatically ignored by him. Xu Qi'an anxiously resisted the "Sage Mode" and forced himself to bow down to the king. His consciousness and subconsciousness battled each other as his body stiffened and his muscles spasmed and trembled. The official standing in front of the king observed Xu Qi'an for a while, then went downstairs. A few minutes later, When the official had returned, Xu Qi'an was still standing there with a stiff and trembling body, as if his hands and feet were cramping. The official looked at Xu Qi'an as if he was looking at a rare animal, and said in a low voice, "I've already exchanged appraisals with my colleagues downstairs." The official continued, "When Duke Wei set up the Conscience Test, There were some instructions, If someone doesn't stop and worship for five floors in a row, he must be a heinous person." *...Elder brother, Please give me another chance!* Xu Qi'an became antsy. "So, Duke Wei gave another chance and set up a sixth pass by himself. But no one had ever gone to that pass." The official looked at Xu Qi'an as if he was a wonder of the world, "You are a scorpion shit, the only one." "Relax, don't cramp yourself." He said. Xu Qi'an no longer fought against the Sage Mode in his mind and adjusted his mind and stopped his muscles from twitching. Only then did he realize that his back was soaked. He follow the officials around the statue of the emperor and went to a deeper area. Mottled sunlight sprinkled from the hollowed-out windows, finely illuminating the wooden desk in the room. A line of poetry was engraved on the wooden desk. *Killing the chief of millions of soldiers,
the sword at the waist is still bloody.
Returning with a gold mace in hand,
The officials at the cabinet dare not speak.* *This small poem is quite domineering... Why are you showing me poetry?* Xu Qi'an cast a glance at the silent official and wanted to stuff some cash to get some information from him. He thought about it for a moment, How could a mere official understand the mind of that powerful eunuch? Impossible. *Don’t lead yourself down the wrong path, else only death will follow* *A Poem Battle? Impossible. The topic is clearly not a competition for poetic talent. The conscience Test is related to ideology and morality, So I have to begin from this aspect.* *Since this is a test of ideology and morality, What is Wei Yuan trying to do with this poem?* Xu Qi'an got rid of his distracting thoughts and actively urged his brain. *The sixth pass is arranged for a materialist like me who has no lord nor teacher in his heart and doesn't respect gods or buddhas.* *Naturally, He wants to dig out some precious ideology and morality from me. If I can't do it, I'll be dead.* Precious ideology and morality... Suddenly, Xu Qi'an thought of the couplet in the hall on the first floor. *With sincere heart serve the world,
and not for self nor profit nor greed.* *The Nightwatchers have to supervise all officials... Wei Yuan's poem also has the meaning of serving the country loyally and coercing all officials.* After thinking all this, He suddenly understood what the great eunuch meant. This poem was here not for battling poems but for empathy. If the heinous person with no lord nor teacher was evil, he'll not be able to fight against his own heart and forcefully write empathic poems in the Conscience Test. On the contrary, if he showed that he still has some good personal character, Wei Yuan was still willing to give him a chance. Xu Qi'an let out a sigh, and stretched out his hand, "Can I be given a brush and ink?" The official handed over a brush and spread rice paper on the wooden desk. Xu Qi'an put the brush on the paper and closed his eyes. *Although I have no king in my heart, I disdain worshipping gods and buddhas, and an a true materialist;* *But I'm not a heinous person. I have justice in my heart and principles on my feet. I've never preyed on the common people or relied on my status as a petty official to extort money, Even if that is the norm in society.* *Even if I was desperate for money.* *If you want some empathy, I'll compose a poem as you want me to.* Xu Qi'an wrote without any psychological barriers, in his bad handwriting: *Your food and your money,
the flesh and blood of the people.
The people are easy to abuse,
the heavens are hard to cheat.*[^4] The official looked at the four sentences on the paper in a daze. He collected the rice paper, stared at Xu Qi'an seriously for a while, and said, "The Conscience test is over, sir. Please do as you wish, but don't leave the office until the results come out." "The potential of every Nightwatcher needs to be checked by Duke Wei himself, and this small man will send these documents to Duke Wei." He left the floor in a rush, and the sounds of thumping footsteps came from the stairs as he quickly moved. Xu Qi'an felt as if he was exhausted and held on to the wooden desk to catch his breath for a while before following him downstairs. Song Tingfeng and Zhu Guangxiao were waiting for him on the first floor. When they saw Xu Qi'an coming downstairs, they smiled and waved, "How many times did you kneel?" He smiled like a fox. The officials who came downstairs didn't tell them of the process and results. The eyebrows on Zhu Guangxiao's calm face frowned slightly, "Your complexion doesn't look so good." *It's not just a little bad. I felt as if I’ve been on the verge of life and death twice. This is more thrilling than a roller coaster...* Xu Qi'an shook his head tiredly, and said, "I want to find a place to sit and drink tea while resting." Song Tingfeng raised his eyebrows smilingly, "Should I invite a brothel girl to tap your shoulders and rub your legs?" *You are like those engaged in cross-talk under the bridge...* Xu Qi'an nodded with a smile, "Go to Jiaofang Si and invite Famous Oiran Fuxiang." Song Tingfeng was taken aback, and laughed out loudly, "I also had these dreams when I was young." --- [^1]: 甲已丙丁 Jia Yi Bing Ding: the first four of the *heavenly stems.* In Chinese, heavenly stems are used for ranking or numbering, how we would use A B C D or 1st 2nd 3rd 4th. 甲 jia is naturally the highest. [^2]: 大壮丁 “Big strong ding”, an able-bodied adult, a conscriptable person. [^3]: Also slang for “post-nut clarity” [^4]: From the 戒石碑 Jieshibei