Si Tian Guan Chapter 116

Chapter 116: Recalling Old Times

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As soon as the iron door above their heads made a sound, it was too late for Rong Jiuan to ask anyone to leave. There was no place to hide in the small cell.

Ling He sat still and looked at Liu Zhongming with a cold gaze, who walked down the stone steps.

“Lord Ling is here too,” Liu Zhongming nodded to the two of them, “It seems I don’t need to say much?”

The cell door was not closed. Liu Zhongming lowered his head and saw a few layers of oiled paper on the ground with some simple porridge and dishes.

Rong Jiuan did not show the same hostility as Ling He. He invited Liu Zhongming to sit down and asked calmly, “Why did Shizi come so early? Isn’t it still autumn?”

As they expected, Ren Rui not only successfully overturned the case of Fengyu but also entered the ranks of the Left Valiant Guards. Regardless of who was behind Ren Rui’s manipulation, someone had to take the blame for the disaster in Jinnan Prefecture.

And the current magistrate of Jinnan Prefecture wore a black gauze hat, so it was clear who the scapegoat was.

“It is indeed autumn,” Liu Zhongming came with gifts and the servant brought in more dishes and a jug of wine. “I only came today to catch up with Rong Tanhua as an old friend.” 

“Shizi is too kind,” Rong Jiuan had only been in officialdom for a few years and had already experienced ups and downs, so he was already indifferent to such matters. “I didn’t expect Shizi to come to the Dali Temple to report for duty.”

Liu Zhongming smiled, “I’m just sitting in this position with thick skin and relying on my colleagues to let me get by.”

Rong Jiuan took the initiative to pour wine for the three, and in the corner of his eye, he saw Ling He drink in silence and finish his glass. He then spoke to Liu Zhongming, “Shizi is too modest. I feel that you are very different from before, more mature and steady. This is good wine.”

“This is top-grade White Pear Blossom. If Rong Tuanhua likes it, I can bring some more, more often,” Liu Zhongming only took a sip and asked, “Has Rong Tuanhua not had this kind of wine in Jinnan Prefecture?”

Rong Jiuan shook his head.

Liu Zhongming smiled and asked, “Then I’m curious, what kind of good wine does Rong Tuanhua drink with so much wealth?”

Ling He slammed his wine glass on the ground and said, “Liu Zhongming! Don’t speak nonsense!”

“I didn’t amass wealth,” Rong Jiuan said calmly. “It’s not me.”

There was no need to explain, all three of them knew it wa not him.

“Is that so?” reminded Liu Zhongming, “But now there is evidence from all sides, with written proof bearing your name.”

Rong Jiuan suppressed Ling He beside him and quickly asked, “What does the Shizi want to say?”

“They say that the elegant and upright Rong Tanhua has outstanding literary talent, so is it really worth it to cut off such a great head just for some silver?” 

Liu Zhongming tapped lightly on his wine glass. He saw that the two opposite him had quieted down and were waiting for more, and suddenly felt that he was teasing them, much like Qu Chenzhou when he was most irritating.

You are influenced by those around you.

He continued, “Last year, there were floods in Jinnan Prefecture and other places. After a snowstorm in the twelfth lunar month, it did not rain in the capital for several months. It was really a blessing to have such good weather.”

“I am young and haven’t experienced much, but I have read some miscellaneous books and heard that such things have happened several times before. There was a great flood outside the capital, and the following year the capital experienced a great drought.”

“I heard that the emperor praised Jiuan’s marvelous penmanship in the past. I wonder if Jiuan is willing to write a poem or essay to pray for rain?”

Ling He couldn’t help but blurt out, “Nonsense!”

Who doesn’t know that this was exactly what the Emperor likes? If he exchanges his freedom by writing a poem or an essay, the charge of embezzlement will stick to him, and it will be an indelible stain for the rest of his life.

What’s more important is that even if you write the most beautiful words, how could it move the Emperor if it doesn’t rain?”

“I know it sounds ridiculous, but once this charge falls on Rong Tanhua’s head, is it still ridiculous? If you have any other way, why would we be here drinking today?” Liu Zhongming looked at Rong Jiuan. “What? Is Rong Tanhua reluctant to give up his reputation?”

“Jiuan,” Ling He called out beside him, “don’t…”

If Rong Jiuan was rewarded and employed again, the most likely place for him to go was the Hanlin Academy. Who doesn’t know the pride and integrity of the Hanlin scholars? Just look at Liu Qingchi.

Rong Jiuan’s excellent writing skills had been admired and circulated in the Hanlin Academy, and although he has not been successful in officialdom, he has earned a good reputation. However, at this time, his reputation will turn into a criminal charge, and he will be subjected to ten or a hundred times more vilification.

“As long as the green mountains are preserved, there is no fear of no firewood to burn,” Liu Zhongming sneered, “Is reputation more important or life more important? Rong Tanhua needs to weigh it himself. But let me tell you the ugly truth, whether it will rain at the right time or not, depends on whether the heavens will give you a way out.”

“What’s the point of reputation?” Rong Jiuan stood up, saluting with his hands folded. “Thank you, Shizi, for your concern.”

His decision, Ling He never intervened in it before, but after Liu Zhongming left, Ling He silently drank a few cups.

“Jiuan, it’s me,” 

– it’s me who did you wrong.

“I’ve been working outside for a few years and have seen many chaotic situations. If we can use absurdity to deal with absurdity, nothing else matters,” Jiuan interrupted him and asked, “Brother, if we switched places today, what would you choose?”

Ling He looked down at his shadow and knew his answer.

Suddenly, he realized that what Liu Zhongming said to him before was right.

As mortals, they were incapable of being impartial. His past indifference was not due to any sense of justice, but out of disgust.

Except for his parents and Jiuan, he hated everyone.

“Brother, I want to live well,” Jiuan put his hand on Ling He’s shoulder. “You will too.”

Ling He suddenly squatted down and pressed his head hard against his knees.

Jiuan’s touch seemed to burn the skin on his shoulders. Although it had been more than twenty years, although it looked like just a burn, he knew in his heart that the slave mark was branded into his flesh and blood. 

“Jiuan, if you die…” 

A suppressed sob squeezed out from between his clenched teeth.

“If you die…I won’t have any attachments…” 

“I will live, and father and mother needs you too,” Jiuan knelt down and embraced him, “we both need to live well.” 

Liu Zhongming got into the carriage and unsurprisingly saw that the person inside was asleep, wrapped in his cloak, which covered him all the way to his ankles. 

This time, he didn’t wait for the person to ask groggily and instead volunteered, “It’s not time to eat yet, so lie down.” 

Qu Chenzhou sat up, wrapped in his cloak, wiped his face, and had two red marks on his left cheek, the same width as the slave collar on his wrist. 

It was unknown how long he had been sleeping, but his arms were numb. 

Liu Zhongming pulled out a cushion from a hidden compartment and squeezed onto the edge of the seat, and leaned forward to place it behind him.”

“Next time, use this pillow.”

Qu Chenzhou was lifted up and then placed back down as he was too tired to move. His voice was nasally as he asked, “Did Rong Jiuan agree?”

“He agreed, and it was smoother than expected.”

“Of course, after being outside for a few years, Rong Jiuan’s rough edges have been polished off,” he said, resting his foot on Liu Zhongming’s shoulder. “If we can get Ling He to follow Rong Jiuan, then Ling He won’t be too far behind.”

Liu Zhongming grabbed his ankle and leaned over to kiss him on the side of his face. “It’s up to you whether he lives or dies next.”

“His fate is in the hands of heaven. I’ll do my best.” Qu Chenzhou wasn’t being humble, but he also didn’t dare to make big promises. Inadvertently, if the heavy rain falls too early or late, Rong Jiuan can only obediently wait for his demise.


When he kicked out a few times, he was unable to get out, and instead, was pulled up by his ankle. Liu Zhongming grabbed his calf and he softened on the seat.

“You’re already out of energy?”

Liu Zhongming also laid down, the seat was not meant for two people, but he managed to lay Qu Chenzhou on his chest.

“Do your legs still feel sore? I’ll give you a massage tonight.”

With his head resting on the man’s chest, Qu Chenzhou could clearly hear the strong and steady heartbeat. Upon hearing his words, he suddenly reached down and viciously pinched him.

In pain, Liu Zhongming used his knees to hold him down and locked his hands in front of his chest, saying angrily, “Do you want to marry a eunuch?”

“You’re making a mess of things, it doesn’t matter if you become a eunuch,” Qu Chenzhou retorted.

“A mess?” Liu Zhongming’s hands that were wrapped around him rubbed his waist. “Don’t you like it? Who was splashing around in the bath and chasing after me?”

A wet tongue stopped him from saying more.

Qu Chenzhou pressed against him, biting and nibbling like a half-human and half-fox creature. He grinned slyly and said, “Do you want to consummate the marriage here? Hm?”

Suddenly, Liu Zhongming sat up and the two of them switched positions. His hands were on his belly, and the startled little fox retracted his claws and obediently exposed his belly.

“Shizi… Didn’t Shizi promise…” Qu Chenzhou stammered.

“What promise?” Liu Zhongming raised an eyebrow. “I forgot.”

Qu Chenzhou’s eyes turned red again, and his gaze wandered around as if trying to avoid him, but it looked more like he was flirting.

Liu Zhongming chuckled to himself and regretted promising such a thing. The little fox had smooth, soft, and gentle skin, and he even suspected that if he waited too long, someone might end up dead on their wedding night.

“Where did you get those things, Shizi?” he asked.

“Are you afraid I’m fooling around outside?” It seemed like Liu Zhongming couldn’t get enough as his fingers trailed from his eyebrows to his earlobes, then circled around his neck. “What if I did? Would you come to catch me in the act?”

Qu Chenzhou actually took a moment to seriously consider it. “I’ll just leave to somewhere far away.”

“No! Don’t go!” Liu Zhongming panicked and hurriedly explained, “There’s no one else, no one at all. I got them from Zhiwei a long time ago. They’re all new…”

Qu Chenzhou finally grasped the meaning behind the words. “You’ve been preparing these for me for a long time?”

Liu Zhongming was caught off guard and pressed him against his neck, not allowing him to look. “You.. didn’t you already know… that I… think of you at night… Don’t laugh! Or I’ll kiss you!”

But the more he restrained him, the more the suppressed laughter seeped out from between their tightly pressed lips, making the situation even more awkward.

His little fox was just like this, annoying and lovable at the same time.

Seeing him blushing like a pig’s liver, Qu Chenzhou hooked his neck and repeatedly kissed the birthmark below his eye.

“Don’t be angry, don’t be angry. Cry and laugh, yellow dog peeing, rooster drumming, duck blowing a horn.”

Liu Zhongming was so angry that he didn’t know whether to cry or laugh. “What nonsense.”

“When I used to cry, Steward Lin used to recite this to me,” Qu Chenzhou pulled at his clothes with a smile. “Let’s stop fooling around and talk about something serious. I need to trouble you to deploy some people.”

“What’s the trouble, just say it.”

“I just thought of something when we mentioned Zhiwei. I always felt like he looked familiar, can you check where he’s from, what kind of disasters his family has gone through, and who he’s been in contact with before.”

Liu Zhongming’s heart skipped a beat. “Is there something wrong with Zhiwei?”

“Maybe, maybe not, but I can’t remember clearly. Maybe I’m just scaring myself and afraid of missing some tiny details.”

“Don’t worry too much, I’ll send someone to investigate,” Liu Zhongming reassured him.

Qu Chenzhou nodded and asked again, “How did it go on Madam’s side?”

“All done,” said Liu Zhongming, pinching his forehead and leaning against the window, watching the slow passing pedestrians outside. “Including what my mother ate, all done. Except for aconite, there were also star anise maple flowers and goose child flowers, none of which are highly toxic, and the amounts were small.”

Regardless of which kind of palace pastry Madam Liu brought to visit Lady Bai, the fetus in Lady Bai’s belly could not escape malformation or miscarriage.

But this was still an optimistic situation as expected, at least Madam Liu herself was unaware.

“I heard that Madam has been ill lately, is it true?”

Liu Zhongming knew that this kind of “pretending to be ill” behind closed doors was not a new thing for Qu Chenzhou, and he did not hide it: “At first it was fake, but then my father had the court physician investigate…it’s better to take better care of her for a while.”

He didn’t go into detail, and Qu Chenzhou probably understood.

If it really was the Empress using Madam Liu to manipulate things behind the scenes, Madam Liu might not be able to escape the consequences. Eating these things once was not a big deal, but if it went on for years, it would only take a moment to collapse.

“I thought Shizi couldn’t restrain them,” Qu Chenzhou didn’t know whether to be pleased or lament: “Shizi has matured a lot since I first met him.”

“The praise is too much.” Liu Zhongming smiled reluctantly. He had been praised twice today, but the taste of maturity was not pleasant.

He knew that among the three Wangye’s, Ning Wang was not the first choice. Moreover, the Emperor was already displeased with Liao Guangming, and had even used Yu Gonggong to reveal the “Bing Dilian” to him, which was a good opportunity for him to move forward.

Next, he needed to plan carefully. When his sister thought that Imperial Doctor Xia was “inappropriate,” he would first take down Qi Wang.

But now, he couldn’t do anything as a small little deputy in the Dali Temple. Being anxious was of no use.

“Shizi, let’s take this small path over there.” Qu Chenzhou seemed not to notice his distress, and dutifully jumped off the carriage first.

According to the information, Ren Rui was supposed to go to a nearby restaurant for a drink today.

Liu Zhongming lifted the carriage curtain and looked at the hand reaching out to him, smiling wryly.

What was there to fear?

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