Si Tian Guan Chapter 169

Chapter 169: The Truth

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On the table, there was originally a set of tea prepared, but by the time the two entered the room, it had turned into a mess. Broken porcelain and tea leaves were scattered everywhere along with the spilled tea.

When Liu Zhongming returned with the tea tray, the person in the room had already calmed down. Qu Chenzhou was leaning against the bed, his face turned towards the bed.

His clothes were disheveled, and there were red marks on his slender and smooth neck, evidence of being bitten.

He had already taken off his official hat when leaving the palace, and the hairpin that used to hold his hair was shattered on the bed frame. Now, with his black hair scattered around his body, he displayed no trace of his former imposing aura. He seemed to be greatly wronged.

In reality, he was indeed wronged.

He suddenly embraced the person again, who sobbed and mumbled incoherently. Both of them seemed somewhat out of control and crazy, making a mess of the bed.

Liu Zhongming handed over the tea, and Qu Chenzhou drank it in silence. His dry throat found a bit of voice, but he still didn’t turn to look at him, his voice indifferent.

“Commander Liu, what do you want to ask?”

Liu Zhongming felt a bit stuck in his heart, glanced around the room, finding nowhere to sit, and pretended not to notice Qu Chenzhou’s indifference. He sat down on the bed with a thick-skinned face and asked, “What happened last night?”

Qu Chenzhou’s leg touched him. After a moment of silence, he shifted towards the inner side of the bed before answering.

“Last night, close to midnight, someone from the Emperor’s side came to summon me. At that time, it included the little Gonggong guarding the Pavillion. Both of their divination was unknown as it was the vacant spot for divining. I couldn’t see, so I felt very uneasy at that moment.”

This was also Liu Zhongming’s greatest concern.

When Qu Chenzhou was with him, he was protected and he controlled the intervals for meeting people outside. There was ample time for divination every five days.

However, the affairs within the palace were complex, and Qu Chenzhou himself was entangled in them. At any moment, due to some small incident, something unexpected could happen.

It could even be said that there were too many opportunities within those five days for divination, and most of the time, Qu Chenzhou was in a vulnerable period where he couldn’t rely on divination to protect himself.

“But the Emperor just said that Xiao Liangzi didn’t have any records of going out, and the little Gonggong from the Star Gazing Pavillion also said he didn’t see you go out. If both of them are lying, we can bring them to the Jinxiu Ying another day to interrogate them. I don’t believe their mouths can stay sealed.”

Liu Zhongming was puzzled.

“It’s strange. Who would want to harm you? These two people, whether they end up in the Jinxiu Ying or with Ling He, I’m afraid they won’t last long. What is the purpose of setting up this trap?”

“Because they didn’t expect that this case would eventually fall into your or Ling He’s hands,” Qu Chenzhou said calmly. “That Gonggong thought I hadn’t moved around in the harem, so he thought I wouldn’t know the direction he took me to, which was the Yuxiu Palace.”

Liu Zhongming suddenly realized.

Most of the concubines and court ladies who recently entered the palace were still staying in the Yuxiu Palace. If Qu Chenzhou had entered the Yuxiu Palace or was caught nearby, he would have no way to defend himself.

The matters related to the reputation of the palace concubines would ultimately fall into the hands of the Empress.

And given the Empress’s hostility towards Qu Chenzhou, she wouldn’t need those two Gonggongs to confess truthfully. She could easily condemn him based on their testimonies.

“I had just left for a short while, and then quietly slipped away. He was in front, and I was behind him. He wouldn’t notice at that moment.”

“Since I couldn’t see the Empress Dowager at ordinary times, and I couldn’t return to the Star Gazing Pavillion, I climbed over a few walls and broke into Cining Palace.”

Qu Chenzhou lowered his gaze and pondered for a moment.

“The time and location of Wen Lan’s murder did coincide with the route I took. I was in a hurry at that time, and I didn’t hear any loud cries for help. But I’m not sure if I missed any subtle movements.”

“That girl, I had warned her before not to go out after the midnight hour within five days, but she still came out.”

“I’ve noted it down!” Liu Zhongming nodded.

Despite Qu Sitian’s warning, Wen Lan still ran out in the middle of the night, indicating that she desperately wanted to meet someone.

There were some customary matters within the palace that he could ask his sister about later, and he also had some natural speculations in his mind—among the men walking in the palace, besides Chenzhou, there were the guards from the Southern Bureau.

“After that, I didn’t encounter anyone on the way and arrived at Cining Palace.”

“Why did you go to Cining Palace?” Liu Zhongming followed up with a question and quickly realized the answer, causing him to inhale sharply.

A long time ago, they mentioned the Empress Dowager’s deceased biological child and how the Emperor was subsequently adopted under her name. The timing of this event was too coincidental, or rather, one could say it greatly benefited the Emperor. It’s hard not to think of something when considering these circumstances.

Moreover, Qu Chenzhou had been in the palace for several months, and he had seen almost everyone of importance with his own eyes, except for the Empress Dowager.

The Emperor probably didn’t dare let him see the Empress Dowager.

“Did you tell the Empress Dowager your previous speculations?” 

After unraveling the clues involving the Emperor and the Empress, he and Qu Chenzhou had meticulously discussed before, piecing together fragments related to the Empress Dowager’s legitimate son’s untimely death and whether it had any connection with the Empress.

At that time, he hadn’t anticipated that these speculations would eventually reach the Empress Dowager.

“What speculations? Qu Sitian never lies, and what I said was the truth,” Qu Chenzhou said, his expression indifferent. Although he said it jokingly, there was no trace of amusement in his eyes. “No one believes me when I tell the truth. Finally, when I can lie and deceive, of course, I will savor it.”

Liu Zhongming felt a sting in his heart. Each word seemed to be spoken directly to him, but he had no way to refute it.

“If Commander Liu has no further questions, please leave. I’m tired.” 

Even if Liu Zhongming had no more questions, he would come up with something to say.

“Chenzhou, have you… ever cast a divination for the Empress Dowager before?” Liu Zhongming asked.

Qu Chenzhou raised two fingers.

“The first divination, I forgot the details, but it should have been something insignificant. When the Emperor found out that the Empress Dowager had seen me, the second divination I cast for her was a death divination.”

He opened his mouth as if he wanted to say more but then closed it.

Even if they didn’t spell it out, they both knew. This time, when he broke into Cining Palace and met the Empress Dowager, some events from their past life would happen again.

But what could he argue about? After entering the palace, he became the unfeeling Qu Sitian, treating human lives as insignificant. Anyone who stood in his way was his enemy.

The Empress Dowager had already harbored suspicions and speculations. Otherwise, she wouldn’t have been receptive to his words.

To him, the Empress Dowager was a double-edged sword, and to the Empress Dowager, he was the only path to revenge.

Since the outcome was predetermined and unchangeable, they might as well make the most of it.

That was all.

Liu Zhongming’s fingers curled up on his knee, and after a long pause, he said with difficulty, “Go and do what you want to do. I will definitely clear your name and safely send you back. Take care of yourself… If there’s anything I can do for you…”

“Yes,” Qu Chenzhou replied without any politeness. “There’s something I want the Shizi to do.”

“What is it?” Liu Zhongming asked.

“The Thousand Child Pagoda, the one we mentioned before. There are four pagodas in the cardinal directions, and I want the Shizi to topple the one in the south.”

Liu Zhongming was stunned. “How can that be done?”

Qu Chenzhou turned around, facing the wall. “I don’t know.”

“You…” Liu Zhongming pressed his hand against Qu Chenzhou’s shoulder and turned him around. But when their eyes met, he couldn’t help but soften his voice. “Were you just divining for me? What did you see? What do you want to do?”

“Shizi, just tell me, will you help me or not?”

Liu Zhongming gritted his teeth and nodded. “I’ll send someone to check it out tomorrow.”

It was just toppling a pagoda, even if Qu Chenzhou wanted him to pluck the stars and the moon, he would still give it a try.

“Thank you,” Qu Chenzhou said indifferently, brushing off Liu Zhongming’s hand, and then turned to the side. “I’m tired.”

Liu Zhongming took a few steps back, seeing Qu Chenzhou’s shoulders rise and fall slightly with each breath. It didn’t look like he was sleeping at all. He had reached the door several times but couldn’t help turning back.

“I… I remember everything now.” He took a deep breath and spoke softly. “Chenzhou, do you have anything you want to say to me?”

“Yes,” Qu Chenzhou didn’t turn to look at him. “But I’m afraid you won’t believe me.”

“I believe you!” he hurriedly responded. “I believe everything you say.”

Qu Chenzhou remained silent for a long time before speaking slowly.

“Liu Zhongming, listen carefully.”

“In the past… and even now, I have never liked you. It was just your own wishful thinking.”

“From now on, I, Qu Chenzhou, and you are completely clear, with no debts between us. We have no further connection.”

“Who you marry in the future has nothing to do with me.”

“Whether I live or die, you don’t need to meddle in my affairs, Shizi. There’s no need for false concern.”

Liu Zhongming listened dumbfoundedly, taking a long time to digest each word.

All avenues were blocked.

He thought that having a rare opportunity to be together again and a faint chance for repentance would allow Qu Chenzhou to scold and berate him, to rebuke him for being fickle and suspicious, and perhaps make him feel slightly better.

But now he realized that was also his selfishness.

The pain and harm he had inflicted on Qu Chenzhou, how could it be repaid with a few scoldings?

“I… I understand,” he said slowly, stepping back, suppressing the sob in his throat. “I won’t disturb you anymore. I’ll leave now. Take care.”

Liu Zhongming fled in a sorry state, but there was no place for him inside the door, and everyone outside was watching him. He didn’t even have a place to cry.

“Commander,” someone approached, sensing that the commander was in a bad mood, and quickly lowered their head under his gaze. “Commander, what should we do next?”

“Go and capture people!” Liu Zhongming walked out briskly. “Find whoever I don’t like and bring them all in!”


“How could he escape to the Empress Dowager’s place! You couldn’t even handle such a simple matter?!” 

Constrained by fear, Consort Yu sat stiffly in her chair, unable to offer more than a mumbled response to her son’s fury.

“I didn’t expect it to turn out like this. I followed your instructions, and everything was in order, including the maid from the Imperial Palace. No one expected him to escape midway and seek refuge with the Empress Dowager.”

“Did the person leading him reveal any flaws?!”

Mu Jingyan rarely lost his composure like this. He despised any unexpected turn of events that slipped out of his control, but it seemed that nothing was going according to plan lately, especially in the past few years.

Consort Yu dared not say, “The person leading him is also your man.” She could only answer softly, “No… they can’t.”

She watched her son’s fingers restlessly tap the teacup, and couldn’t help feeling anxious herself.

“Jingyan, despite the unexpected turn of events, didn’t that stranger, Wen Lan, die? The blame for the defilement of the palace would mostly fall on him, be it Wei’s court lady or Wen Lan. What’s the difference? The Emperor is also holding Qu Chenzhou responsible, isn’t that satisfactory?”

“You still don’t understand?” Mu Jingyan couldn’t shout loudly in anger and could only suppress his irritation.

“The Empress won’t care about the truth. Once it reaches her hands, Qu Chenzhou will be skinned alive.”

Finally, Consort Yu understood. Using the same method, they had done it not once but twice—her son was waiting for Qu Chenzhou to be trapped before extending his hand to save him.

If they could win over Qu Chenzhou, not only would she no longer need to live in constant fear, but she would also become the closest advisor and confidante to the Emperor, irreplaceable.

“Are you saying… you can’t interfere with Jinxiu Ying anymore?”

Facing such a foolish question, Mu Jingyan had no energy to answer. The die had been cast, and there was no remorse to be had.

He leaned against his forehead for a while, calming his emotions, and then spoke in a gentle tone, “It’s fine to go to Jinxiu Ying. I want to see what attitude Liu Zhongming will take. If he leads his men there and relentlessly pursues, then we’ll have to find a way to deal with these two.”

Consort Yu pondered for a long time before understanding that if this matter fell into the hands of the Empress, there would be no need to give up these two individuals.

“But Liu Zhongming… shouldn’t he hate Qu Chenzhou even more?” she asked.

“I don’t know. That’s why I want to see what Liu Zhongming will do,” Mu Jingyan raised his hand to stop her from further questioning. “If Liu Zhongming manages to extract the truth, it could be troublesome for us.”

“How could it be troublesome? They won’t reveal our involvement. They don’t know who instructed them to do this!”

“They may not know, but I’m afraid the Emperor will figure it out.”

Since last year’s lip rouge case, he had no choice but to expose his people in the palace. Although the Emperor didn’t say anything, his subsequent attitude was clear.

After the Qi Wang delegated power, even that rascal Mujing Zhao gained control over the Ten Li Pavilion’s troops, but he received nothing.

Now, if Liu Zhongming were to discover their involvement, the Emperor would see it too, but he wouldn’t say anything, leaving Mu Jingyan without a chance to defend himself.

“The most important thing is that Qu Chenzhou audaciously ran off to the Empress Dowager.”

Understanding her son’s concern, Consort Yu replied, “I heard that Qu Sitian has never been allowed to meet the Empress Dowager during his months in the palace.”

Just as her son had said, no one in the palace was free of hidden secrets, including the Emperor. Considering the Emperor’s background, no one dared to dig deeper.

Allowing Qu Chenzhou to meet the Empress Dowager was likely a grave taboo for the Emperor, which is why he didn’t want the Empress to intervene and disrupt his overall plan.

“But I heard from someone that Qu Sitian didn’t say anything to the Empress Dowager. He… he couldn’t be lying, could he?”

“Lying?” Mu Jingyan gently shook his head.

“I’ve had people inquire about everyone who has had contact with Qu Chenzhou in the past. They all say he has never told a lie, even when people were mocking or hitting him.”

“Even if someone deliberately raised him, I don’t believe a three-year-old child would have such perseverance. I trust that he wouldn’t lie.”

“However… regarding his meeting with the Empress Dowager, the timing was too perfect. I wonder if someone was secretly guiding him from behind?”

The impact of Qu Chenzhou’s meeting with the Empress Dowager might not be significant to others, but if Liu Zhongming manages to extract something from Xiao Lian and Qu Chenzhou, leading the Emperor to believe that he was the one who sent them, it would be a big problem.

He hadn’t even had a chance to investigate who was behind Qu Chenzhou, and he had already stirred up trouble.

“When did it start…” he murmured to himself. “It seems like I’ve provoked a troublesome figure…”

Author’s note: I’m not sure if I explained it clearly, but if the Empress Dowager didn’t get involved, the matters of the harem would have been handled by the Empress. However, due to the unexpected events of Little Qu meeting the Empress Dowager and Wen Lan’s death, the Emperor assigned the investigation of Wen Lan’s case to Liu Zhongming. The purpose was to find out “who instructed Qu to meet the Empress Dowager.” Additionally, there is still doubt about the relationship between Liu Zhongming and Qu Chenzhou. At this point, the Emperor is not entirely convinced, and Qu has been in Liu’s hands for so long without any confession. Huai Wang has not suffered enough yet, and suspicion has not reached the highest level.

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