Si Tian Guan Chapter 128

Chapter 128: Unsolved Case

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Qu Chenzhou took a nap in the evening and when he arrived at the side room, Ling He had already been waiting outside for an unknown amount of time.

The two of them didn’t get along well, and Ling He didn’t even bother with small talk before getting straight to the point.

“Can you divine today?”

It hadn’t even been five days since the last time Ling He asked him.

“No, I can’t.”

“Then what are you here for?”

“To supervise.”

To be honest, Ling He had never been so annoyed with anyone in his life, except for Qu Chenzhou.

He had seen more arrogant people before, but Qu Chenzhou always seemed to hover on the edge between restraint and impulsiveness, making Ling He feel that it wasn’t necessary to get angry, but holding back made him feel uneasy.

Before he could protest, Qu Chenzhou had already entered the door on his own, and Ling He had no choice but to follow him down the stone steps.

Although the stone chamber had ventilation, it was overwhelmed by the strong stench and the smell in the air was not pleasant.

Pan He was tied up like a zongzi, lying on his side on the ground with iron shackles on his feet, still unconscious.

Months of torture in prison had made his originally plump body shrink, like a piece of dried meat.

The eyes were a bloody mess, with two terrifying deep holes sunk in them. Without looking elsewhere, one could imagine the torture this person had suffered in Jinxiu Ying.

“So ugly,” murmured Qu Chenzhou, frowning to himself.

“What?” asked Ling He.

Qu Chenzhou didn’t answer and instead poked Pan He’s face with his toe. There was no response, despite having been given nourishing soup. Pan He’s injuries were simply too severe.

Ling He couldn’t hold back the words he had been holding in for days. “Qu Chenzhou, Shizi told me about the ‘child born from sin.’ Is it true?”

“I’ve only heard of it for the first time,” said Qu Chenzhou, carefully examining Pan He’s injuries by the light of the candle. He didn’t even lift his head. “But I believe what the Marquis and Shizi said.”

Ling He didn’t immediately respond, feeling uneasy.

Although he was at the Dali Temple, where he had seen all sorts of people with their inscrutable minds, people were still different from each other. The person sitting on the throne, if hiding any unspeakable secrets, could upset the whole order with the slightest movement.

No one knew how many people would be implicated.

In fact, he believed it too, which made him even more anxious.

“The eyes were dug out recently, just to disgust us,” Qu Chenzhou turned his head to look at him, asking for his opinion. “What do you think, Lord Ling?”

“Call me Ling He,” Ling He didn’t mind the stench as he used an oiled cloth to manipulate the body. “He had many old wounds, most likely from when he first fell into Liao Guangming’s hands and was interrogated. The new wounds are few, Liao Guangming has used all means and can’t extract any information, so he’s given up.”

Liu Zhongming had told him everything they knew, they weren’t afraid of him revealing anything as they were now on the same string.

“I think, based on my past experience, there are two possibilities for not revealing information. First, if Pan He was doing something for the Emperor that he shouldn’t have been…”

“If that’s the case, he knows that if he confesses, he would be of no value and may as well keep his mouth shut and try to save his own life,” Ling He interrupted.

“Second, Pan He didn’t do his job well, or he simply can’t provide what Liao Guangming wants.”

Qu Chenzhou agreed, “Perhaps both.”

“What do you think, is it an object or an affair?” Ling He asked.

“Pan He was doing something,” Qu Chenzhou responded decisively. “Liao Guangming used the Bi Hongzi drug to torture him, if he only wanted to know what it was or where it was, the answer would be simple, and Pan He wouldn’t be able to withstand the torture.”

However, the Bi Hongzi drug was so potent that it made it impossible for the person undergoing torture to fully explain the ins and outs of a matter.

Both men fell silent – now it seemed that this matter was highly related to the “child born from sin”.

The problem has entered a difficult situation. Whatever it is that Pan He wants to do, whether or not it can really cure the emperor’s illness, the fact that the emperor believes in it means that it must exist.

Difficulties are inevitable; otherwise, how could Liao Guangming fail so miserably?

Although it is not urgent, the emperor is watching over Liu Zhongming from above. Perhaps a little progress could lead to a breakthrough.

As he watched Qu Chenzhou lost in thought, Ling He suddenly asked, “Who are you, really?”

Qu Chenzhou’s gaze shifted from Pan He to Ling He, and he replied simply, “My name is Qu Chenzhou.”

“No, you’re not!” Ling He denied it outright.

Qu Chenzhou laughed lightly. “Well, then, who am I?”

Not talking about Ling He, even if they were talking to Madam Bai, they only talked about his skill in divination. Whether it was resurrection or reincarnation, it was too horrifying to be shared with outsiders.

Ling He could not possibly see through him, no matter how sharp his gaze was.

“Qu Chenzhou, I want to know, what do you really want to do?” Ling He seemed as if he wanted to see through him. “As someone as capable as you, why would you want to seize the throne? Why would you help Shizi?”

“I’m willing,” Qu Chenzhou raised his chin slightly and asked back, “What about you? Are you wading through these muddy waters for the sake of the burden on your shoulders, or for Rong Jiuan?”

Ling He couldn’t even explain it to himself.

All he knew was that he was powerless to help Rong Jiuan in his previous struggles. He didn’t want to see himself being left behind again this time. He wanted to spend his whole life protecting someone, even if that person had no intention of turning back to look at him.

He suddenly had a thought, as if he had figured something out.

“Qu Chenzhou, do you have feelings for Shizi…?”

Qu Chenzhou lowered his head and fiddled with Pan He, using his toes to pick him up as he found the blood and odor disgusting. When Ling He asked the question, he happened to step on Pan He’s abdomen.

With just a little force from his foot, water stains spread from between Pan He’s legs, making a splashing sound as they wet the ground, floating some blood clots.

The unique smell of the incomplete person mixed with the bloody odor in the air.

Qu Chenzhou: “…”

Ling He: “…”

Both of them turned pale and rushed towards the stone steps, but were caught in the narrow corridor at the same time.

Ling He pushed Qu Chenzhou up first in a face of despair, and the two of them crawled up from the ground and panted heavily on the balcony outside the house.

At midnight, Ling He couldn’t curse aloud, so he could only grind his teeth.

“Are you sick? Why did you step on him for no reason?”

Qu Chenzhou was not to be outdone. “I saw him move just now and thought he was going to wake up, who knew that he could produce such filth when stepped on?”

“You…” Ling He was furious. “Did you do it on purpose?”

Qu Chenzhou innocently shrugged.

Almost simultaneously, they looked in the same direction.

Liu Zhongming was originally in the study, and at this time, seeing the two of them bickering, he was not surprised at all.

“Don’t argue,” he rarely acted as a peacemaker, and had the servant behind him bring a tray of tea. “Have a drink and calm down.”

Ling He lifted the lid and saw the goji berries floating in the brownish drink with ginseng, then put down the teacup.

“You two are in cahoots,” he accused.

Liu Zhongming looked clueless and sought answers from Qu Chenzhou with his eyes. Qu Chenzhou remained noncommittal and calmly took a sip of tea.

Ling He retched.

There would be no gains tonight. He was about to leave but turned back.

“You mentioned twins earlier, and I remember a case like that. Originally, I just wanted to talk about it to pass the time, but I found something strange.”

“What?” Liu Zhongming was increasingly grateful that Qu Chenzhou had dragged him into this.

“I wasn’t precise earlier. It’s not actually about twins, but about pregnant women carrying twins.”

“Somebody reported to the magistrate that his wife, who was about to give birth, had disappeared, and that woman was carrying twins.”

“The temple has a detailed classification of the files, and I found similar cases nearby. In the past fifteen years, there have been a total of eight cases, where eight pregnant women carrying six-month-old fetuses disappeared. However, four of them did not mention whether they were carrying twins or not.”

“How were the cases solved?”

“Most of them were left unresolved. Although two cases had the perpetrators punished, from my perspective, there were many suspicions in between, and the investigations were rushed, it was clear that someone had intervened and found a scapegoat.”

Liu Zhongming and Qu Chenzhou exchanged a glance.

If there were no unexpected events, a woman’s disappearance was not something worth making a fuss about, especially with a time span of fifteen years.

But now they had previous clues, and all the missing women were pregnant, including four sets of twins. The probability was high enough to make them vigilant.

Furthermore, not a single case had been solved.

“Who are these people?”

Ling He took out a few sheets of paper from his sleeve, “It’s been too long since the last incident, and the most recent one was five years ago. These people may no longer be around. Shizi, you can send someone to investigate.”

Liu Zhongming sent Ling He back, and in the corridor, Qu Chenzhou was handed the paper.

“Can I be a little more optimistic?”

Seeing Qu Chenzhou raise his eyebrows and gesturing for him to continue, Liu Zhongming couldn’t help but smile. Nothing could be hidden from the little fox.

“What I said wasn’t just Ling He’s discovery. Fang Wuyang just sent a message saying that he found the Jinping Village that my sister mentioned.”

“It’s not far or close to Chengfeng hunting grounds, and there’s not even a sign on the village entrance. Fang Wuyang had a hard time finding it. He happened to overhear it while following a troop of soldiers from the hunting grounds.”

Qu Chenzhou furrowed his brows. “Why would the patrolling soldiers of hunting grounds know about a village without even a sign on its entrance?”

“Exactly. The problem lies here. Fang Wuyang stayed there for a few days and found out that the village looked like an ordinary village, just a little remote. But the patrolling route of the hunting grounds would encircle the village without getting too close.”

Liu Zhongming and Qu Chenzhou exchanged a glance.

Perhaps to avoid drawing attention, the patrol route of the Chengfeng hunting ground would pass by there once every two days. There are about thirty or forty people living there, besides the servants, and they don’t go out but live comfortably.”

“The servants, who don’t utter a single word all day long, are most likely mute, according to Fang Wuyang. Even the guard doesn’t say a word.”

“They have fixed people who deliver their daily necessities, and I’ll have someone keep an eye on where they come from. But… I don’t know what kind of people live there.”

“I’ll go take a look.” Qu Chenzhou was determined to do so, and he had nothing else to do lately.

Liu Zhongming’s only hope was on him.

Fang Wuyang’s men had been lurking in the village for a few days but hadn’t heard any valuable conversations. The people living there didn’t talk about anything significant and just chatted about daily matters and recited poems and songs, as if they were living in a paradise.

“Rest well tomorrow, and the day after, have Fang Wuyang take you there.” Liu Zhongming extended his hand. “It’s late. You should go to bed.”

Qu Chenzhou reached out to let him hold his hand but couldn’t stop himself from smirking, making Liu Zhongming feel a chill down his spine.

“What’s wrong?”

Qu Chenzhou only smiled without saying anything.

“Until they entered the bedroom, Liu Zhongming saw him preparing to sleep by spreading out the bedding. Yet, he still stood in front of the canopy and murmured in a low voice: “Chenzhou, there’s something I need to tell you.”

Liu Zhongming knew why the little fox just laughed, obviously he already knew something and was waiting for him to confess.

“My mother asked me to come over today.” He sighed and sat on the edge of the bed, holding out his hands. One hand was gradually losing its youthful roundness.

He gently rubbed this hand.

“Because of what happened before, as you know, my mother was really ill for a while, and her health has only slowly improved recently. When she sent someone to call me, I also thought that I hadn’t seen her in a long time, and as her son, I should go and see her.”

“Unexpectedly, when I got there, there were also people from the Tang family.”

He only saw his aunt, but he already knew what his mother was thinking.

His mother had always been proud of her Tang family background, and since he inherited the position of Shizi, she had often nagged in his ear, urging him to marry a Tang family girl.

He never wanted to stand on the side of the Empress, let alone let the Bai Liu families follow him and bow down to Ning Wang.

Most importantly, he already has someone he loves and can no longer tolerate anyone else by his side.

Qu Chenzhou just smiled, withdrew his hand, and untied the red string on his head.

“When it comes to the Empress, if Shizi can avoid offending her, he should. Diplomacy is still necessary, even if you have to be crazy, you can’t be crazy in front of the Empress.”

“I know that, don’t worry,” reassured Liu Zhongming. “I didn’t give them a chance to bring it up.”

“Zhongming, if the Empress were to…”

“There are no ‘ifs’,” interrupted Liu Zhongming, taking his hand down and helping him untie the red string from his head. He neatly folded it and placed it under the pillow. “If anyone dares to force me, I will just marry you right away and we’ll have our bridal chamber right here in this mansion. And anyone who wants to bring people to my house will have to serve as your maidservants.”

“But they are all high-born ladies,” said Qu Chenzhou.

“So what if they are high-born ladies? If they can lower their faces and enter my Liu family’s door, they will have to listen to me.”

“What about me?” asked Qu Chenzhou.

Liu Zhongming answered seriously and quickly, “Of course, I will listen to you.”

Qu Chenzhou snorted and laughed, then snuggled into the blanket, pulling it up to his nose.

“Is Shizi trying to hide from a marriage or is he eager to have our bridal chamber?” he asked.

“You little fox spirit,” Liu Zhongming angrily pulled the blanket off him. “You’re teasing me again. Do you believe I’ll take care of you right now?”

He slid his hand into his shirt and a jade bell rang out.

Qu Chenzhou instinctively pressed it down and hid it back in his shirt.

“The Emperor may not have much affection for the Empress, but he often supports her and even refuses to let any other imperial concubine assist in managing the harem. Sometimes, I even wonder if the Empress has something over the Emperor.” 

Staring at him, Liu Zhongming saw his smile waver, ans was unsure where to settle as the conversation took an unexpected turn.

Author’s note: Don’t worry if you don’t understand what plan Chenzhou has in mind. As the story unfolds, you’ll soon find out.

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