# 66. A Sudden Assignment
“Since he is under your banner, you are indeed entitled to know his rating.” Wei Yuan’s tone was kindly, “But don’t think too much about it, don’t worry too much about it, treat it with a regular attitude. Of course, remember to not show off about it.”
The first sentence was normal, but the second one made Li Yuchun confused.
*What did Duke Wei mean? Treat it with a regular attitude, don’t worry too much about it… is it saying that Xu Qi’an’s rating was too low, and for me to not develop feelings of hate and derision?*
*But why did he tell me not to show off? With Duke Wei’s status, he shouldn’t be so protective of a little bronze gong…* Li Yuchun frowned slightly, not being able to guess what the great eunuch meant.
Wei Yuan opened the background check, and pushed it across the table, “See for yourself.”
Li Yuchun’s gaze fell on the document, seeing two bright red characters: “Upper Jia!”
… Brother Chun nearly lost the ability to control his emotions, replying in shock, “Duke Wei?”
*How could it be upper jia!*
*I’ve served in the Nightwatchers for over ten years, and I’ve never seen an Upper Jia rating. Even gold gongs only ever got a rating of Jia.*
*What sort of ranking would get Upper Jia?*
*No wonder he told me to not spread the word. If this were to get out, he would be torn apart.*
*Which Nightwatcher would admit defeat?*
At the same time, Li Yuchun discovered something not quite right. The aptitude test had three hurdles: intelligence, strength, and conscience.
Xu Qi’an was Refining Body, and so naturally did not meet the requirements for the strength test.
*Then, if I add on his prodigious talent in refining qi, will his rating go even higher? Wouldn’t he have already surpassed Duke Wei’s ranking system… would Duke Wei give a new ranking, or keep the current one?*
Reaching this point, Li Yuchun’s mood flared up slightly.
Wei Yuan closed the document, and said nonchalantly “Remember, keep your mouth shut like a bottle. What do you have to report to me?”
Li Yuchun slowly exhaled, and after searching around for the right words, said, “I have already opened heaven’s gate for Xu Qi’an. As per the rules, I received four hundred taels in payment.”
Wei Yuan replied, “Return it back.”
A talent of Upper Jia, he would of course be given preferential treatment and resources. What was the point of the ranking system if even he would have to pay for opening heaven’s gate?
Li Yuchun nodded.
Wei Yuan glanced at him, laughing, “A decent natural talent? How many orbits did it take him to grasp his own qi?”
Yang Yan and the effeminate man, both having taken three orbits, was rather interested in what he had to say, and stared at Li Yuchun.
“One…” as Li Yuchun spoke, he closely examined the three higher-ups’ faces.
Their expressions were all different; Yang Yan’s never-changing stern carved face, showed a rare state of shock.
The effeminate man walked from the balcony back into the tea room, his cold gaze scanning Li Yuchun up and down, as he laughed icily, “Impossible.”
His reaction was the most extreme.
As for the always gentle and refined Wei Yuan, he was momentarily dazed.
Li Yuchun silently lowered his head, incredibly satisfied at their three’s expressions.
“You are dismissed.” Wei Yuan looked as Li Yuchun left the room, then turned to look at his two adoptive sons, “How do you feel?”
Yang Yan thought deeply for a moment, “Do we need to pay special attention?”
Wei Yuan shook his head, “There’s no need to pull a sprout to help it grow. Let’s just see first.” He then turned to the effeminate young man, laughing “He and you are roughly similar ages. Today, he absolutely cannot be put on the same level as you, but later on, who’s to say? Good, it’ll give you some encouragement.”
The effeminate, beautiful young man nodded.
Li Yuchun exited the Tower of Noble Spirit, and on his way passing by a few silver gongs.
“Mr Li, why are you laughing so much?”
Li Yuchun instinctively touched his face, finding that the corners of his mouth were nearly at his ears.
“A small matter, a small matter…” he waved his hand, smiling and walking away.
Xu Qi’an got someone to take a letter for him back home, whilst he himself remained at the Nightwatchers constabulary, reverse-breathing[^1] and cycling qi around his body.
He clearly sensed the benefit cycling qi around his body did him, making his cells more lively, making his spirit more vigorous.
His body and strength all increased at a rate that made a person very pleased indeed.
This state carried on until dusk, before finally stopping, implying that the immediate benefit of his reaching Refining Qi had ended.
“At my current state, I could beat ten of past me. All this time when uncle and I were sparring, he wasn’t really paying any mind, and still he pretended to be fully concentrating. If he were to use his full power, I may have died then and there.”
Xu Qi’an absent-mindedly threw a few punches, a strong wind howling with them. His state was the best it had ever been.
He gathered qi energy in his fists, made a low stance, and punched through the air at the ground.
The ground gave off a muffled bang, and cracked into a spiderweb of thin lines. Dust swirled around the air.
The Xu Manor.
Xu Xinnian frowned, pacing back and forth in the back hall. Xu Pingzhi sat in a chair, face solemn, silent.
Auntie looked at her eldest daughter, her skirt hem in her hand, eyes red, silken brows furrowed into a big knot.
Feeling her mother’s gaze, Xu Lingyue pouted, and said with a sob, “Mum…”
“Don’t walk back and forth, you’re making my head hurt.” Auntie scolded her son frustratedly, before tentatively asking, “Husband dear?”
“Let’s wait for information. He was taken by the Nightwatchers, doing nothing is our best choice.” Uncle Xu said solemnly.
Auntie bit her vibrant lip, and suddenly stamped her foot, saying angrily, “Going around and asking your connections would be better than just sitting here.”
Xu Xinnian, frowning, said, “What connections? The end goal of the Nightwatchers is stil unknown, it’s not time yet for that.”
“You only know how to make a scene, only know how to make a scene!” Auntie shouted.
The fist hidden in her sleeve was clenched into a tight fist.
At this time, the gatekeeper Zhang ran in, and not even reaching the hall, his sound could be heard, “Master, Dalang has sent a messenger.”
Xu Xinnian got to him first, and the entire family stood up from their chairs.
Xu Lingyue rushed towards the door, her skirt flying, anxiously staring at the gatekeeper Old Zhang.
Old Zhang stood at the front step of the hall, and said, “Dalang said, that he has become a Nightwatcher, and wouldn’t be coming home tonight. Don’t worry about him.”
*Has become a Nightwatcher…* Xu Pingzhi and Xu Xinnian looked at each other, stupefied.
In the company of the squinting man and the solemn-faced man, Xu Qi’an managed to acquire from the office a not quite fitting uniform, a waist amulet token, a bronze gong, and a long dao sword.
“You still need to wait two days for a uniform that’s made to fit… this bronze gong is a magical item exclusively made for the Nightwatchers.” Song Tingfeng chewed on sweets, explaining, “It has two uses: first, tying it around your chest, it makes a very good shield, protecting your vital organs. It can protect against the full-strength strike of a Refining Qi master. Secondly, by hitting the gong, the sound waves given out can affect an enemy’s attentiveness, causing them to become dizzy and get a headache.”
*Sounds good, but the protective mirror that Song Qing gave to me can withstand three strikes from a Refining Spirit, and one strike from a Copper Skin and Iron Bones… eh, is this not a more powerful version of the bronze gong?* Xu Qi’an had a thought, “This is from the Sitianjian?”
“Naturally, only the Sitianjian’s fourth rank Master of Formations could make such magical items.
“Tomorrow, come at 6 AM sharp for the headcount. Boss said that you’ll stick with us in the future. A squad of Nightwatchers at its fewest is two people, and at its most four, being stationed around different parts of the capital. Normally, every three days, your station is changed. Me and Guangxiao have just finished our night shift, and these three days all have day patrols.”
“What area are you stationed?” Xu Qi’an was somewhat reluctant; a night shift was more taxing than even a 996.
“The area is decided on the day, every single shift change we could be stationed anywhere. This is to prevent any less morally inclined Nightwatchers to take advantage of the situation and oversee their own burglary.” Song Tingfeng laughed.
“Stealing silver, or picking flowers. Of course, cases of these are few and far between, but we must nonetheless prevent against it.”
Xu Qi’an nodded, “Every department has their bad apples.”
Just then, a clerk hurried over, saying “Master Song, Master Zhu, Silver Gong Li is summoning you.”
*Brother Chun wants us…* Xu Qi’an followed his two colleagues, and went to Li Yuchun’s office together.
Every silver gong had their own office, being called a “hall”. In this era, offices were called “seating halls”.
Silver gongs would usually not go out and patrol; this was the work of the lower rank bronze gongs.
Li Yuchun’s office was called Spring Breeze[^2] hall.
*The room is clean and without odour… all the documents are tidily organised… the flower pattern on the two porcelain cups face the same way… the arrangement of the pottery was similarly without fault… Brother Chun is really a delicate old guy huh.*
Xu Qi’an scanned Spring Breeze Hall.
In the wide and spacious room, Li Yuchun sat in front of his desk, pushing a dossier to the other side of the table.
“Yaoguai were spotted in Dahuang mountain, in Taikang county, there have been many people eaten. You three go over and have a look, and get to the bottom of this case. If the monster is not too powerful, then kill it on the spot. The government Yamen officials will assist with the case. They’re already waiting outside.
“Mm, Xu Qi’an you go too, get some experience. You haven’t had your strength test, then so will be a good replacement.”
*Monsters eating people… I just got hired and already this happens!?*
*Am I a European Emperor or an African Chief?*
[^1]: See [Reverse Breathing](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reverse_breathing)
[^2]: 春风 Chunfeng, same Chun as in Yuchun.