# 90. Master Xu Gives a Lecture Returning to his small courtyard, Xu Qi’an took off his uniform, bathed, and had just put on his day-to-day clothes when he saw the gatekeeper Zhang push open the door. “Dalang, there’s a guest, the master’s calling you over.” Old Zhang, with his long goat’s beard, called out loudly. “I know. Close the gate, come in.” Xu Qi’an replied. Old Zhang hesitated, before a cautious expression formed on his face. *Aren’t we going to the main yard? Yet you’re not leaving, and even asked me to close the door and go inside.* *What did you want to do?* Old Zhang did not pay any mind, calmly leaving the small courtyard. Last time, when a servant had been called into the bathroom, he had mysteriously been found unconscious. Old Zhang still remembered this. Xu Qi’an walked outside, seeing that Old Zhang had disappeared. He had wanted to carry old Zhang and vault the wall, saving him walking the scenic route. Gathering himself, he leapt over the high wall, and headed towards the front hall. If Uncle Xu called him, it meant that that guest most likely had some kind of relation to him. Coming to the front hall, a yellow skirt appeared in his vision, being Chu Caiwei, whom he had not seen in a long time. A light yellow dress, loose voluminous hair, and clear, limpid almond eyes. On her waist was hung a deerskin pouch, a bagua feng-shui plate. “What brings you to my home?” Xu Qi’an asked, somewhat surprised. Chu Caiwei sat in the main seat, Second Uncle by her side. She was in the middle of eating a large bag of the highest quality snacks from the Guiyuelou. Leisurely taking a sip of water, swallowing her food, she replied: “If you don’t go to the Sitianjian, next it will be Brother Song who visits.” Xu Qi’an had a revelation, remembering his as yet unfulfilled promise. The matter with Zhou Li had been solved, and that periodic table that he said he would provide had not yet been handed over. It was mostly because initially he had his mind on whether or not Deputy Minister Zhou would fall, to be swiftly followed by being dragged off by the Nightwatchers for accusations. He then became an honoured bronze gong, and started the grey and murky life of a wage slave. He had completely forgotten about the Sitianjian. Xu Qi’an swore to heaven, that it was definitely not because he had gotten used to freeloading. “Some other day, I’ll go some other day.” Xu Qi’an said. “You can’t have prepared nothing?” Chu Caiwei asked with suspicion. “Of course I’m prepared.” Chu Caiwei’s carslan-blue eyes flashed, “You’re lying.” “…” “Brother Song said, you’ve delayed for so long, you need to return what you promised with interest. The knowledge you wrote in that blue cover book is somewhat abstruse, the Sitianjian’s alchemists can’t make head nor tail.” Chu Caiwei ate another small cake, “It’s near the end of the year, and Brother Song hopes that you can go to the Sitianjian, and give a lecture.” “Sure!” Xu Qi’an nodded; repaying one’s debts is but natural order. “However, I need to prepare for an hour.” Chu Caiwei laughed like a blossom, “I’ll supervise you.” With a much improved mood, she looked over to her side, to Xu Lingyin, whose eyes were shining with longing, saying “Young sister, do you want to eat some of these treats?” Xu Lingyin bobbed her head. “Then I’ll give you some.” Hopping and skipping, Chu Caiwei followed Xu Qi’an with her dress rippling through the air. This small child had hungered after her treats for ages, like a wolf. Chu Caiwei initially didn’t want to give her any, but owing to Xu Qi’an’s such ready agreement, she cheered up significantly. After all, she was just a small child, how much could she eat really? The two of them came to Xu Qi’an’s small yard. Chu Caiwei leant on the door, putting one leg up, her head looking towards the kitchen. “That day you said that you’ll cook for me.” “… next time.” Xu Qi’an’s heart said, *How the fuck do you still remember?* Chu Caiwei was no longer happy. puffing out her cheeks. Her already sweet and cute round face became like a little bao bun, even cuter than before. *No matter if she is a disciple of the Sitianjian… this chick I can do with…* Xu Qi’an was somewhat stunned. Of all the beautiful women he had seen, each had their own special traits; the full and well-rounded auntie; the extraordinarily charming and graceful sister; like a daughter of an important family, but inside the still soft and romantic orian, and this cute, adorable Miss Chu Caiwei. “When I make a basic form of chicken bouillon[^1], I’ll make noodles for you.” Xu Qi’an said. An hour later, Xu Qi’an had written his draft, and returned side by side with the big-eyed beauty to the main hall. Xu Lingyin was sat where Chu Caiwei had sat a moment ago, her two little legs kicking the air with vigour, her little stomach round and bulging. “…” Chu Caiwei’s mouth opened slightly, as she looked at the empty table. *Where are my snacks? Where are my two taels silver of snacks?* *What happened to the huge bag of snacks!?* A hint of tears sparkled in Chu Caiwei’s eyes. “Thank you sister, the desserts were really nice.” Xu Lingyin let out a satisfied burp, and thanked Chu Caiwei with very good manners. It was as if a pumpkin had been stuffed into the big-eyed beauty mouth,[^2] as she could only hatefully stare at that small bulging stomach, before leaving with Xu Qi’an, face full of chagrin. “Have you no shame, my sister only ate a little bit of your snacks, and you’re as angry as this.” Xu Qi’an mocked. Chu Caiwei twisted her waist, “I wanted to leave them to eat when you’re giving your lecture.” Xu Qi’an thought for a moment, “They’re just snacks. I’ll buy you some, how many cash?” Chu Caiwei smiled, “Two taels.” “Let’s not keep Brother Song waiting, giddy-up, giddy-up…” *Horsey, why don’t you hurry up a tad?* Chu Caiwei rolled her eyes, and urged her horse to catch up. … The Sitianjian. Xu Qi’an had just crossed the threshold of the Stargazing Tower, when he received the exuberant welcome of the white cloaks. In one breath he came to the seventh floor, and met with Song Qing and his Masters of Alchemy. “Finally, you’ve come. If you still hadn’t come I’d’ve visited you personally.” Song Qing, with his two dark baggy eyes, stared at Xu Qi’an with an expression like he had resisted temptation for too long. He was not satisfied at all at Xu Qi’an’s delaying. He had gone against his own “open and aboveboard” philosophy, and helped him to do bad things, yet he had waited and waited and waited and still Xu Qi’an had not come. “I’ve had a lot on recently.” Xu Qi’an pulled out the draft from his robes, “But hey, I’ve come now, how’s Brother Song’s grafting experiments going?” “The plant grafting needs to wait until spring next year. The main direction of research I’m going down are animals. Wait here…” Song Qing was instantly full of energy, as he hurriedly ran off. After a moment, he came back with a stack of notes. “These are some of my recent hypotheses for grafting. I’ve heard you’ve joined the Nightwatchers, could you get a death row prisoner to me sometime.” Xu Qi’an glanced at it; a half-man half-horse, drawn fairly competently. He cupped his hands towards Song Qing, “We’ll talk about this later. Today, I’ve come to fulfil my side of the promise.” Xu Qi’an did not want to be smacked to death by the Jianzheng. *Brother Song Qing’s alchemy has clearly gone awry… I need to use my extensive chemistry knowledge to set him straight.* The location of the class was the main hall of the seventh floor. The white cloaked arcanists set out tables, and sat up straight like students. From ninth to sixth rank, there were forty-six of them in total, not including the white-cloaks who were elsewhere. Xu Qi’an knew that what they really salivated after was his theoretical chemistry knowledge. In terms of practical ability, any sixth rank could beat him with both hands tied behind their back. *I have a feeling, that after this lecture, my status in the Sitianjian will grow again. When I’ve copied more poems to make the great scholars content, and adding on being able to hug Daddy Wei’s leg, will I be unbeatable within the capital?* Xu Qi’an’s mind flared up. With the support of these three great powers, as long as he did not try reverse the tide too much, he would be as steady as an old dog. *Oh Erlang, big brother loves you, I’ve already started laying the path for your premiership as prime minister.* *Yet you are so stingy as to not give big brother a small promise* Xu Qi’an’s gaze swept over the white cloaked arcanists, “Everyone, what are your understandings of alchemy? Before the lesson starts, let’s first discuss some alchemical principles.” … Two opulent carriages drove over, stopping beside the Stargazing Tower. Yang Yan hopped down from the driver’s seat, pulling out a small wooden stool, welcoming out Wei Yuan, who was in the carriage. The effeminate Nangong Qianrou followed, stepping out of the carriage. The other carriage was made of Nanmu wood, with gold leaf, and from it stepped a woman with a spectacular dress. She was tall and slender, with an appearance matched by few. Her eyes were cold and clear, her thin face was pale, like a beauty from another long-gone world. A gentle zephyr swirled by, and when she walked her posture could only be seen to appreciate it to its fullest. “Princess,” Wei Yuan respectfully made a greeting. His two adoptive sons also greeted her. “Has Wei Yuan also come to find the Jianzheng?” The eldest princess smiled lightly, that refined and noble aura difficult to suppress. “Indeed,” Wei Yuan sighed, “In Taikang County, we discovered a saltpetre mine, however it has already been depleted. We suspect that it was the doing of the remnants of the Wanyao country. Your servant suspects that there are still Yao hidden within and around the city, and so I wanted to ask for the Jianzheng’s great eyes to unearth any beasts and demons.” As for the Earth Sect and the Earth Book Fragment, Wei Yuan did not plan to tell the eldest princess. Those skilled in the art of strategy know discreteness, and would not proclaim publicly any foreshadowings ahead of time. But merely the information about the Wanyao kingdom, made the eldest princess’s expression serious. In her cold beauty rose a hint of stateliness. “And your Highness?” Wei Yuan asked. “I’ve come to find Caiwei.” the eldest princess replied. She continued, as if asking off the cuff, “Does Duke Wei think, that the Pingyuan Earl case has something to do with the Yao?” Wei Yuan shook his head, “The Yao have no relation to the Earl Pingyuan. The latter isn’t worth that much.” The two sides entered the Stargazing Tower together, and were shocked to find that the floor was empty. No one even came to receive them. The second and third floor were the same. The eldest princess frowned, “What happened in the Sitianjian.” Wei Yuan, deep in thought, did not reply. They continued to climb, and when they reached the fifth floor, they finally saw a white-cloak busy in his work. Seeing Wei Yuan and the eldest princess, that white cloak came over and greeted them. The eldest princess asked, “From when I entered this tower, until now, we have only seen one of you. What has happened in the Sitianjian?” The white cloak replied angrily, “I don’t want to see your Highness either… ah, no, I also want to go to the seventh floor, but I still have an assignment yet to finish, and so my brothers wouldn’t let me go. I’m honestly so pissed, this is inhuman.” After venting all his steam, he explained, “Master Xu has opened a class on the seventh floor, and is lecturing on alchemy. My brothers have all gone to listen.” --- [^1]: Lit. Chicken Extract: which basically is chicken bouillon, except the opposite of MSG free. [^2]: Ok, I admit, the original idiom is nothing like this, but the meaning is the same and this is funny. Why a pumpkin you may ask? Well, don’t ask :)