Barking Up the Wrong Tree – Poor Su Xiao
Secretary Leng was known for keeping his dialogues simple and concise. He didn’t hate talking; he was just the type who didn’t beat around the bush. When he spoke, he gave conclusions he needed his subordinates to act on, not discuss.
Su Xiao heard Secretary Leng say, “As a subordinate, it is your responsibility to make sense of my decisions if you didn’t already understand it. If you can’t comprehend it no matter what how you try, it means you aren’t qualified to know more information. “
“He’s… quite similar to Big Brother Ming,” thought Su Xiao.
Strictly speaking, Ming Feizhen and Leng Ming were polar opposites. Leng Ming’s indifference and minimal speech was more similar to Tang Ye. The common denominator between Ming Feizhen and Leng Ming was their refusal to let anyone question decisions they had settled on. By no means were their decisions perfect. They, however, would mercilessly oppress opposing opinions through demotions or brute force –dependent on the context. That was just how they were.
There can be no such thing as a perfect decision, only perfect decisions within specific contexts. In spite of how suitable a decision is within the given parameters, it would still be impossible to satisfy everyone. As leaders, though, they were burdened with different things others didn’t take on. They shouldered more than what the average man would imagine. Thus, their words carried a lot of weight.
Su Xiao was surprised he didn’t think of strict Vice-Captain Shen in his situation but Ming Feizhen, who never spent a second in serious mode. He saw Ming Feizhen’s calm and quiet smile unlike the Ming Feizhen he usually saw. He wondered if it was Ming Feizhen’s unthinkable burden similar to Secretary Leng’s that resulted in them developing the same trait.
“Secretary Leng enforces the nation’s laws and systems. It’s a big responsibility. What about Big Brother Ming? Why do I feel he’s in the same boat? Is he carrying boulders on his shoulders, as well?” pondered Su Xiao.
Before Su Xiao could come to a conclusion, Secretary Leng asked, “Think carefully about what it is you want to do.”
Su Xiao deliberated it thoroughly before answering, “I… want to help them. It is clear they have a case to file for a wrong accusation. I do not want to see their circumstances ignored.”
Expression stern, Secretary Leng responded, “Fine.”
“Here.” Secretary Leng handed Su Xiao one of the cases His Majesty assigned to Liu Shan Men’s trio. It was clearly indicated it was His Majesty’s assignment, therefore demanding everyone is to support them. With the ordinance, Su Xiao could demand Shuntian Prefecture release Niu Shuanzi. Secretary Leng added, “You can spend the remainder of your time as you please once you’ve finished your work for the day. I won’t interfere.”
Grateful, Su Xiao passed over his completed documents and said, “I have finished.”
Secretary Leng picked up one and read through it. Then, he read through several more before saying, “What are you still here for? You can leave.”
Su Xiao excitedly went to leave. Secretary Leng suddenly sighed: “I’ve already given the order to not interfere. If you don’t interfere, there’s still a chance of changing the situation based on the original judgement. You are outright defying your superior if you interfere. It’s not a crime; however, I will punish you. Have you thought it through yet?”
“I do not and will not regret it!”
Su Xiao believed in his judgement. He believed the villagers ignorantly stormed into the office. Waiting for him wasn’t the role of a hero upholding justice, unfortunately.
It was winter, yet it seemed as though heavy winds and rains were coming in the overcast capital. Nevertheless, Secretary Leng burnt the midnight oil at his office. Suddenly, he asked, “You’re back?”
Su Xiao, who just entered, hung his head: “Yes.”
“That’s it for work today?”
“Leave when you want, then.”
“Are you not going to ask any questions?” asked Su Xiao, teeth gritted.
“Ask?” asked Secretary Leng, demeanour calm. “Can you help them?”
Su Xiao could still vividly recall Sister Niu’s pale expression during the questioning, Mao Dali’s desperate attempts to stop her and the shocked villagers. Sister Niu explained, “Y-Yes, they said my husband killed someone. They signed a life and death agreement, though! He couldn’t have killed, either. How would he have killed someone when he’s so weak?”
Su Xiao didn’t blame them for hiding the truth; however, he felt helpless after hearing the story. He wondered, “Did Teacher Leng know this was the case, too?”
Su Xiao headed to Shuntian Prefecture’s office calmly and asked to investigate the case. The information he found lined up with what he was told. Niu Shuanzi struck with excessive force and killed his opponent through blood loss from seven orifices. Judging from the information obtained, the martial arts club manipulated him into fighting, so it wasn’t unusual for him to kill someone in that situation. That being said, murder was murder. He would, at the very least, be banished to the border. All in all, Sister Niu’s family was bound to be separated.
Su Xiao exited the office by himself. Sister Niu pleaded him on her knees until she eventually began cursing at him. The twelve villagers harshly swore at him. He didn’t take it to heart, for he was preoccupied with the feeling of powerlessness.
Niu Shuanzi didn’t purposely kill his opponent. He was innocent, yes. The real culprit was the one who manipulated him. He still couldn’t absolve himself of the crime even if he claimed he was implicated and controlled, however. That was the reality of the situation.
“I cannot. He committed manslaughter, and there were dozens of witnesses. He killed, and there is no questioning that. Shuntian Prefecture did not incorrectly judge him.”
Su Xiao didn’t receive any help. He didn’t search for evidence or investigate the case beforehand. He didn’t even have his own list of observations or judgement or rationale. His impulsiveness gave Sister Niu false hope that he then destroyed.
“Sorry, it was my mistake,” apologised Su Xiao, head hanging down. “I have embarrassed you, Teacher.”
“You acted as yourself. You embarrassed yourself; it has nothing to do with me,” said Secretary Leng, speaking as though he was declaring the end of the case. He stretched his back and got to his feet. He calmly added, “But don’t ignore your own reputation, either.”
Secretary Leng strolled out of his office. Before vanishing, he reminded, “Remember to lock up.”
Su Xiao stood in place without knowing what to do.
“You said you’d help me! Miss, you promised you’d help me! Why? Is it because you’re also an official? That still doesn’t give you the right to push the people around!”
“Forget about it! Scumbag officials won’t side with us! Let’s go!”
“Go to hell, scumbag official!”
Every single thing the villagers said hurt, making Su Xiao regret his actions. He folded his arms and crouched down. He sobbed, “Big Brother Ming… what should I do?”
At the Ministry of Personnel.
Tang Ye finally resembled a scholar – somewhat – after copping one lengthy scolding. He didn’t say much, but he’d bring martial arts into the conversation every few sentences.
Tang Ye gave up his martial arts robe, covering his muscles and tattoo. Tang Ye never cared what he wore. Teacher Zhang just couldn’t stand the sight of his student dressed as a martial artist all day. He wore a scholar’s white robe; however, he was still striking as a martial artist. In no capacity did he look feeble. If anything, he gave the impression he was as skilled with the pen as he was with the sword.
Tang Ye was assigned with investigating the underground fighting circuit as Ming Feizhen and Su Xiao were. The components they were assigned were delegating according to their skills and personalities.
Su Xiao was given the most authority due to his lack of skill and soft nature as a preventive measure in case he was in a pinch.
Ming Feizhen was the enigma. His strong qualities were blank. At the same time, naming his shortcomings wasn’t so straightforward. General Manager Bai was a skilled martial artist but lacked experience in the pugilistic world, making her the most compatible partner for the “unskilful” pugilistic world veteran.
Tang Ye was in charge of a corruption case. Lu Xiazou from the Ministry of Revenue embezzled public funds and disappeared without a trace afterwards. All nine gates to the capital were alerted, but he was still on the run. By logic, he should’ve still been in the capital.
Tang Ye wasn’t given permission to recruit men; hence, he had to count on himself. He, therefore, went around the capital, relying on diligence and insight to find Lu Xiazou. He was a smart young man who picked up martial arts skills on his first attempt. Plus, he was sharp, so he was perfect constable material. Unfortunately, Handsome Tang wasn’t good at talking to people. If he could resolve the problem with his fists, he wouldn’t speak. His only hobbies were training and challenging others. With his straight face, he was hardly approachable. As a result, his detective skills were arguably inferior to Su Xiao’s.
Tang Ye didn’t find any clues after running around for half a day. When he went back to ask Teacher Zhang for advice, he was told to get out. Teacher Zhang said, “You can’t even do that much at your young age? Where could a living person possibly go? Use your brain. If your brain doesn’t work, use your mouth to ask. You’re from Liu Shan Men, so you should be an elite detective. Is this too much to ask of you?”
“How many people do I ask?”
“Hmph, can’t you think for yourself?” asked Teacher Zhang, huffing his beard. “Ask every household until you find some clues!”