# 94. Homicide Case Waking up early, Xu Qi’an had just reached the back hall, when he heard Xu Lingyi n’s racket. On her shiny tender face, was a bright red pimple, that hurt when she touched it. Auntie lied to her, saying that a bug grew on her face, and the bug was eating her flesh. Tomorrow, her whole appearance would be ruined, and she wouldn’t be able to be married. Xu Lingyin did not care if she was marriable or not, but she had always thought that she was a cute little girl, who in the future would be as beautiful as her mother and sister, being a talented troublemaker. So listening to her mother’s words, she was distraught to the verge of tears. And so they say that Auntie is a rotten person, who would even deceive her own young daughter, and feel very satisfied with it, mocking her from the sidelines. “Big Brother…” Xu Lingyin, her waist swaying as she ran towards her big brother, a face full of desperation. She tilted her face, using her stubby little finger to point to her own cheek, and said with a pouted mouth, “My appearance will be ruined.” “You won’t be ruined,” Xu Qi’an patted her head, “These are beauty spots.” “What are beauty spots?” “They mean that in the future you’ll definitely be more beautiful than your sister and mum.” Xu Lingyin believed him, and happily ate three bowls of porridge for breakfast. … Reaching the Nightwatchers Constabulary, Xu Qi’an, Song Tingfeng, and Zhu Guangxiao, who were responsible for day patrol, wandered through the streets together. “Your sabre ain’t bad.” Song Tingfeng noticed that the style of blade Xu Qi’an had hanging at his waist had changed. Xu Qi’an put one hand on his sabre, and flicked with his thumb, making the black-gold blade come out of this scabbard a few inches, before quickly falling back into place. He laughed proudly, “The Sitianjian gifted this to me.” He didn’t say it was the Jianzheng who gave it to him, as after all, no one would believe him. And in the off chance that they did, showing off such a thing would only bring jealous gazes. “A magic weapon?” Song Tingfeng and Zhu Guangxiao’s eyes suddenly glowed. Xu Lingyue shook his head; it wasn’t a magic item, it didn’t have any magical formation carved into it. The only advantage it had, was that it was hard. This was a good match for Xu Qi’an. The streets of the inner city were wide and expansive. Xu Qi’an bought a lot of snacks, and shared them out amongst his colleagues, eating and walking at the same time. A day patrol had the benefits of day patrol. Apart from the Nightwatchers, there were also the city guards, and the bailiffs from the local council. This significantly reduced the stress of the Nightwatchers’ jobs; they had time to “touch fish”[^1]. When they were tired, they could go to a tea house and drink some tea, listening to stories, or go to the Goulan and listen to music. As he walked and walked, Xu Qi’an suddenly felt something hard under his feet. He maintained a level gaze, and without as much as a hesitation picked the thing up. His action was far too fluid, his expression was far too normal, making Song Tingfeng and Zhu Guangxiao think he was just “pulling up his trousers”, “patting his boots”, or any other sort of very natural activity. They did not discover that this colleague of theirs just picked up three cash of silver. Xu Qi’an rolled the piece of silver round in his hand, and suggested “How about going to the Goulan?” Song Tingfeng and Zhu Guangxiao hesitated, “Alright.” The three of them made their way to the Goulan, tracing a path they had walked many times before, and came to a booth on the second floor. The table was put beside the railings, allowing the guests to both drink and look down on the performance on the stage. On the stage was currently a *zaju* opera.[^2] “The day after tomorrow is the day of ancestor worship. You guys should have had some experience with it by now, right?” Xu Qi’an opened up conversation, asking his two colleagues for their advice. “All we need to do is guard the boundaries of Sangpo.[^3] The ancestor celebration is happening at Sangpo, but you should know this already.” Song Tingfeng chewed on salted peanuts, and took a sip of alcohol. Xu Qi’an nodded; Sangpo was a small lake outside the royal quarters, located precisely where the barracks of the capital’s five guard brigades are. The job of the Nightwatchers was very simple; keep the peace, and protect the royal family. The proceedings of the ceremony were coordinated by the Court of Imperial Sacrifices, and the Ministry of Rites. The outer patrols were made up of the Yudao and Jinwu royal guards. After watching one opera, Song Tingfeng felt somewhat bored, and so called over the procuress[^4]. Not long after, a group of flowery dressed young women came into the booth. Laughing, they stood in a row, batting their eyes towards the three guests. The three of them were dressed in the Nightwatchers uniform, and so were very intimidating. Because just yesterday, Xu Qi’an’s treasury was just sucked dry by Fuxiang, he did not plan to touch any women. Even though martial artists in Refining Qi did not have to remain celibate, they still had to be conservative and not let themselves go. “Later when you’re doing your thing, you can get the girls to call you ‘daddy’.” Xu Qi’an said in a low voice. Song Tingfeng and Zhu Guangxiao stared at him in disbelief, as if saying: *Are you an animal?* After they picked two rather good looking girls, the two of them did not leave the booth, rather entering a private room. In places like the Goulan, naturally “listening to music” was not the only activity. More often than not, along with listening to music, guests would also perform one of the most fundamental acts of nature. Thus, normally any booth would also have a private room. The procuress left along with the women who weren’t picked. Xu Qi’an both watched the performance, and listened to the quiet sounds coming from behind the door. Not long after, Song Tingfeng said in a small voice, “Call me daddy.” As he heard this, Xu Qi’an smiled in gratification. He knew that he had just opened a whole new world for his colleagues. *There’s no conversating coming from the opposite room, Guangxiao really is the type to silently get his job done huh…* … Nearing noon, the three of them left the Goulan. Because their stomachs were full of deserts, snacks and wine, they did not plan to eat lunch. “Today was fun.” Song Tingfeng squinted his eyes, heart content. “This is nothing, next time I’ll teach you to play Russian Roulette.[^5]” Xu Qi’an said dismissively. “Russian Roulette?” Song Tingfeng had a face full of question marks, but that didn’t stop his curiosity, “Is it fun?” “I’ve also never tried.” Xu Qi’an shrugged. After all, this game was only played by people with money. “You’re messing with me” was written on Song Tingfeng’s face, “Then what are you telling me for?” As they walked and talked, they suddenly saw a group of council bailiffs, rushing over on horseback. At their head was a woman, with a tall stature, graceful features, thick eyebrows, and an aura of bravery. Lyu Qing immediately saw the three of them, as after all the Nightwatchers’ uniforms were both smart and eye-catching. She immediately reined in her horse, and spoke over the horse’s whinny, “Master Xu, we meet again… and I hope you two have been well also.” *You give him a “Master Xu”, but for us it’s “you two”, as if you’re saying me and Guangxiao are just nameless background cast…* Song Tingfeng put a smile on his face, his eyes squinting into slits, and waved, “Long time no see, Constable Lyu looks even more valiant and heroic.” Lyu Qing smiled back, before remembering the actual task at hand, immediately jumping into the main topic, “In Sanshui street there has been a homicide case. It’s in your area of patrol, so as we’ve met, you might as well come along.” *A homicide…* Song Tingfeng face became stern. “Naturally. Constable Lyu, you go ahead, we’ll follow.” … Xu Qi’an and his colleagues rushed to Sanshui street, and saw the bailiffs’ horses tied in front of one house. Entering the front door, crossing the courtyard, they saw a few bailiffs asking questions, as the women of the family, with red eyes, were replying with choked sobs. Lyu Qing was in the room, not outside. Xu Qi’an examined the relatively good looking matron, asking, “Is the victim your husband?” The matron glanced at the Nightwatcher’s uniform, and nodded gently, using a handkerchief to dab at her tears. Xu Qi’an looking down her graceful and curvy body, and said solemnly, “Call your son out.” The matron did not know what this bronze gong was thinking, and sent a servant. After a few minutes, the servant brought out a young boy, roughly ten years old. “Any one else?” Xu Qi’an asked. “… he’s an only son.” the matriarch clutched the boy close. *I’ve thought too much then!* Xu Qi’an nodded back, relieved, and skirted past everyone to enter the room with his two colleagues. This was a study, the victim was slumped over the table, the congealed, dried blood covering half the table surface. He had lost a lot. After only a glance, Xu Qi’an could ascertain that his throat had been slashed. Lyu Qing brought in two of her bailiffs, and searched every corner of the study. Xu Qi’an asked, “Have you found anything?” Lyu Qing shook her head, “Everything is where it should be, no sign of anything being displaced, no footprints beside windows, nor anything on the rafters.” Xu Qi’an said, “The perpetrator knew the victim.” *A conclusion that fast?* Knowing that Xu Qi’an was an expert, no one objected, looking at him, waiting for an explanation. “The doors and windows are intact, and there are no footprints on the rafters. We can basically rule out breaking and entering.” Xu Qi’an walked around the victim’s body, “The victim was sat in an upright position. From the angle he is slumped, he was dead in an instant; there was no struggle. This suggests that the perpetrator and victim knew each other — not only did they know each other, but the victim was very respectful and fearful of the perpetrator.” “How do you get this?” Lyu Qing asked with open mind. “The victim isn’t a scholar, right?” Xu Qi’an asked. Lyu Qing did not understand what he meant by asking that question, “A small lieutenant in the Jinwu royal guard.” Xu Qi’an nodded, “Any normal person, sitting in their study, would be relaxed and content. He should not be sitting so upright and stiff. Unless, the person he was facing was someone that he had to treat with utmost respect. “Furthermore, on the surface it looks like the victim died due to a slashed throat, but I make the hypothesis that the real cause of death is here…” Xu Qi’an pulled up the victim’s hair, and raised that deathly-white face for all to see. Everyone in the room saw that on the victim’s forehead was a light depression. --- [^1]: Read: slack off work [^2]: 杂剧: Chinese opera through dance, singing, poetry, and mime, often emphasising comedy or happy endings. Think: Shakespearean comedy. [^3]: 桑泊 [^4]: Female of “procurer”, a person who obtains a prostitute for another person. [^5]: The Drinking Game