# 68. Mine The carriage quickly left the inner city, and a few good riding horses had been leashed at the city gate by a group of servants, especially for officials. The group of people switched to quick riding horse, and rode thorough the outer cities, passing markets and residential areas, leaving the outer city in only an hour. The six horses immediately increased their speed, and galloped with fury towards Dahuang Mountain. *Government horses are always the quick ones, these are nearly going at fifty km/h, could any of the horses in my past life even run this quick?* Xu Qi’an muttered internally. *Is this like in novels where different creatures have different amounts of natural spiritual energy, thus are different in quality?* This guess had a point; refining qi was already itself a way using reverse breathing to orbit one’s qi around one’s body. They reached the foothills of Dahuang Mountain by the morning, and stopped beside the main road, leashing their horses to branches beside the road, and having a cold lunch. Afterwards, they followed a small winding trail into the mountain. The six of them rushed up the path, and after fifteen minutes, came to the river that flowed around the foot of Dahuang Mountain. They searched along the river for a short while, before finding a few faint footprints, about three feet long, one and a half wide, and with four toes. Lyu Qing and her two colleagues took off the packs they were carrying, and drew out some gunpowder satchels, giving them to the three Nightwatchers: “Taking the claw print as the centre, we’ll drop gunpowder satchels downstream. You go upstream and see if you can force the monster out of the river.” This was a strategy that they had planned in advance. The Great Feng held a tight control over gunpowder: its recipe was secret, and all of its raw resource industry was monopolised by the state. Even the Nightwatchers, along with Lyu Qing and her prefecture constabulary bailiffs, only knew a bit about how gunpowder was made. And they had to smell it out. Both sides lit their gunpowder satchels, and threw them into the river. “Bang!” Muffled explosions sounded, and river water was sprayed several zhang into the sky. Very quickly, the gunpowder satchels ran out, and the group of people stood by the turbulent current, watching for a long while. However, there were no sign of any beasts coming to the surface. “It would be great if we had the help of the Sitianjian Arcanists,” Xu Qi’an sighed. A Qi-watcher could locate the position of a hidden monster by looking for its specific qi. Song Tingfeng snorted, and said in a low voice “The Sitianjian Arcanists are even more high and mighty than us Nightwatchers; they only listen to His Majesty. You don’t have any hope of getting them to act for such a small case.” *The Sitianjian Arcanists are high and mighty? I beg do differ; you haven’t seen them looking at me with a face full of admiration.* Xu Qi’an nodded, “Mm.” The two sides came back together, and Song Tingfeng shrugged, “It seems that it won’t come out. My suggestion is to go investigate further up the mountain. If Dahuang Mountain really has something, that is.” Xu Qi’an added, “First, let’s investigate the area where the huihu were harvesting lime.” Lyu Qing silently nodded. The two parties entered the mountain one after the other, several dozen metres between them. Song Tingfeng poked his lip towards Lyu Qing’s back, “This female constable has a smashing body. Look at that arse, tight and firm. Her thighs have power, they could squeeze the soul out of your body. Even if the women of the Jiaofangsi are juicy, they’re too soft and submissive.” *Agree from me, and especially these kind of female martial artists, they have firm abs, well defined curves and tight thighs, even a hint of a six pack… makes me think of my waifu Tifa…* Xu Qi’an hesitated for a moment, “But it seems she’s used to binding her chest. This isn’t good, it’ll make her breasts change shape, and hang down.” Song Tingfeng did a double take, and laughed uproariously, “Of course you noticed too, I’ve been lacking such an interesting companion like you. This Zhu Guangxiao is a stuffy gourd that you can’t beat a fart out of with three sticks.” For men, such crude talk was forever an interesting and also time consuming topic of enjoyment. Zhu Guangxiao gave him a look, and stuffily remained silent. The Huihu mostly harvested lime on the main peak of Dahuang Mountain. The line of people could see the mountain peak, with its bare stones, like spots growing on a person’s face. Year after year of harvesting, had put numerous scars upon this mountainside. They searched aimlessly across the mountainside for a long time, yet did not find anything of value. Whilst they were sat together drinking water, Lyu Qing said, “Not only does Dahuang Mountain have rich lime deposits, it also has extremely bountiful plant life, many of which can be cut down and turned into fuel. The huihu thought this was more convenient, and so wherever they went, they dug their pits and refined their lime there. “There is also the river at the bottom of the mountain, making shipping easier. Thus they save on wood, and get better lime, for half the effort to get double the profit.” Another bailiff of the capital added “So their taxes are also very high. If they can’t harvest lime, their livelihoods are gone.” *And so they reported it to the capital prefecture…* Xu Qi’an was silent for a moment, before sighing, “Strict contribution and random taxes contribute to refugees, the flesh and blood of the people are indeed the most delicious food.” Everyone instantly fell silent, no one daring to continue the conversation. Song Tingfeng coughed, changing the topic, “The monster isn’t coming out of the water, and we don’t have enough people to search the mountain. Constable Lyu, do you have any suggestions?” Even if he was just pining after her body, Song Tingfeng was not the type of person to look down upon a woman just because her arse was large and round. Lyu Qing said hesitatingly, “We can split our party three ways, two to a group. In turn, one group will go find the village elder of the nearby villages, another goes down the mountain to get more hands, and I will go to the Magistrate and ask for him to get the Sitianjian’s Arcanists to help.” “That’d waste too much time,” Xu Qi’an waved his hand, “Pick one person to find the nearby village’s elder, and the rest of us will stay guard here.” Lyu Qing frowned. Xu Qi’an gave her a glance, “If we have no more progress, then I will go to the Sitianjian to find their Arcanists.” *He seems to have a lot of confidence… the Sitianjian Arcanists would listen to him?* Lyu Qing examined Xu Qi’an briefly, and nodded her head slowly, ordering one of her bailiffs to go find the elder. Not an hour later, that bailiff, at the peak of Refining Body, came back with an old man. “This small man is surnamed Zhang, I am the village elder of Hegou village, just by the mountain.” The old man cupped his hands together in not quite the standard manner, his voice excited, “This small man has finally seen my sirs, if you had come any later, then the villagers wouldn’t have been able to handle it any longer.” This case had been delayed for half a year. Lyu Qing stared at him, her gaze sharp, her attitude stern and authoritative, “This official asks you, where did the last ten people who went up into the mountain die?” “In the south…” the village elder pointed towards the south of the mountain range, “Going upstream along the river.” Song Tingfeng suddenly had a thought, “There are lime furnaces there?” From their earlier investigation, they had discovered a place where lime furnaces were clustered, not far from the river. The Huihu had taken circuitous routes into the mountain, and would definitely not have dared to refine their lime there. Because as soon as the monster came ashore, none could escape. The elder nodded, “Only a few here or there, nowhere near as much as here.” “Take us there.” Lyu Qing said solemnly. “Yes Ma’am!” The elder seemed to be rather scared of this female constable. The group of people headed south, the mountain trail twisting and turning, the trek harsh and steep. Furthermore, thinking of this frail old village elder, they couldn’t make good pace. “It’s here.” The elder stopped on the winding path, pointing ahead. Where he pointed was a clearing that had been dug out. Rocks were pushed into piles, the vegetation was cut down, and there were a few cave-like kiln furnaces, for refining lime. They searched the scene for a while, not finding anything of interest; this place had been cleaned up long ago. Song Tingfeng and Lyu Qing exchanged looks, both shaking their heads. Xu Qi’an said, “Let’s go look in the kiln.” The group of people gathered up materials from around them, lighting torches. Reading their swords in their scabbards, they cautiously entered the great earthen kiln. They originally had thought that this was a furnace for refining lime, and would not have been too deep, but as they walked and walked, they noticed something was wrong. This wasn’t a kiln, this was clearly a human-carved tunnel. They had to walk a cup of tea’s time before they reached the end. Song Tingfeng squinted, “A kiln needn’t be dug this deep. This is clearly for digging out something. There’s also no sign of fire on the walls.” Lyu Qing summoned over the elder, asking sharply, “What is this?” The elder was dazed, as he stammered, “I- I don’t know…” Xu Qi’an raised his torch, looking around at the stone walls. Then, he inspected the ground thoroughly for a small while, before picking up a palm-sized grey stone. *They were mining this?* *This isn’t limestone, right?* Xu Qi’an put pressure into his fingers, his qi rushing forth, and in a crack, the white rock was crushed to fine powder. He raised his torch, scattering the powder onto the flames. Whoosh! A large tongue of flame shot up from the torch, a bright yellow with a tinge of dark purple. Saltpetre!? Xu Qi’an’s pupils shrank. The sudden whoosh of flame gave all of them a shock, as the sound of swords being pulled out sounded all around. Lyu Qing, seeing that it was Xu Qi’an playing tricks, asked with a hint of anger, “What are you doing?”