Si Tian Guan Chapter 182

Chapter 182: A Troubled Heart

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With the collapse of the Thousand Child Pagoda in Yunnan County, for almost a month, a gloomy atmosphere pervaded the entire imperial court.

The emperor’s once unwavering determination in building the pagoda had now suffered a major blow.

On the day they received the urgent report, the emperor immediately took to his bed, causing the doctors at the Imperial Medical Bureau to panic and frantically administer various medicines. However, when they emerged, they were shaking their heads and sighing.

—The emperor’s ailment was of the heart. To heal an ailment of the heart, one needed medicine for the heart.

Some of the imperial physicians privately commented that even though they didn’t understand why the collapse of a mere pagoda could lead to the emperor’s recurring nightmares, even causing him to scream “take a life” in his sleep, one thing was clear: the emperor was afraid of something.

The only salvation they could hope for was Qu Sitian.

On the third day after the pagoda collapsed, Qu Sitian cast divination for the emperor and provided a straightforward oracle: “Originate from Yunnan, restore the hidden Liu on Dingling Hill.”

Now, all eyes were on Liu Shizi. Everyone understood that those three characters, “Dingling Hill,” were enough to make the Shizi disregard everything else.

Without any surprises, Liu Zhongming immediately implored the emperor to send him to Dingling Hill to investigate the matter. He promised not to disappoint the trust placed in him.

But just as the emperor was hesitating, he suddenly turned to Qu Chenzhou, who stood beside the bed, and made another request: The matter is of great importance and involves the emperor’s well-being. The oracle did not specify how to proceed. He asked for Qu Sitian to accompany him and provide guidance, as otherwise, it was feared that no one could handle it.

The emperor glanced at Qu Chenzhou, pondered for a long while, but ultimately did not grant the request, nor did he consider Liu Zhongming. The very next day, he dispatched messengers on fast horses to first oversee the reconstruction of the Thousand Child Pagoda in Yunnan County, and then head to Dingling Hill to search for that elusive “turning point.”

People were sent out swiftly, and news returned just as quickly.

The report stated that the local officials had not been properly overseeing the pagoda. The Thousand Child Pagoda had already been in a dilapidated state, and this year, with the sudden surge in the price of cedar wood, the local villagers, driven by greed, had swarmed the mountains, felling the cedar trees. Even the area around the Thousand Child Pagoda had not been spared.

This had led to the pagoda being struck by lightning again during a thunderstorm.

But while the news came back, the people did not. Two days later, the trembling local magistrate of Yunnan County sent a letter explaining the situation.

The people sent, seven or eight of them, were all gone. The nearby villagers had only found the official’s clothing and insignia on the ground, as if the official had vanished into thin air.

Some claimed they had seen the official walking along the official road from a distance, but they had heard a crying baby in the distance. Afterwards, the official had disappeared.

Before Emperor Yu could finish reading the report, he knocked over the medicine bowl held by the empress and fell onto the bed, fainting.

The room’s doors closed behind him, shutting out the worries and hushed whispers from the outside world.

Just as Qu Chenzhou had started to step down the stairs, Yu Dexi hurried out, his voice lowered as he pulled aside the beaded curtain for him.

“Qu Sitian, please go in quickly. The emperor is waiting for you.”

It had only been a few days, yet Emperor Yu’s eye sockets seemed to have sunk, rendering his aged face somewhat terrifying. He appeared like a set of bones covered in skin, his eyes void of any luster.

“Your Majesty!” Qu Chenzhou hastened his steps, kneeling by the bedside and gently calling out, “Your Majesty, there is always room for maneuver in all matters. Please take care of your health.”

Emperor Yu laid askew on the bed, his eyes half-closed. Upon hearing Qu Chenzhou’s voice, he finally stirred slightly and let out a long sigh. The breath in his chest sounded like the dry and raspy wheezing of a bellows.

“Chenzhou, don’t rush to cast a divination. Listen to what I have to say.”

Qu Chenzhou extended his withered hands, palms together. “I’m listening, Your Majesty.”

Perhaps the warmth of Qu Chenzhou’s hands brought a glimmer of vitality, as Emperor Yu caught his breath for a moment, finally smoothing his breathing.

“The people sent to Yunnan County… you’ve heard about it, right?”

“I’ve heard about it.”

“What’s your view?”

Qu Chenzhou lowered his head slightly. “In the eyes of others, I’m a monster myself, so I wouldn’t dare to speak of extraordinary abilities. The person sent to Yunnan County has not returned alive. It’s unclear what strange event occurred there. We need to send more people to investigate to find out the truth.”

“Yes,” Emperor Yu sighed.

In his youth, he had been unrestrained, but now that he was getting old, without the zeal and impulsiveness of the past, he was cautious at every turn, finding crises and mysteries everywhere.

If he had just ascended the throne, he would certainly have held the Yunnan County magistrate accountable for spreading false rumors. But now, that was no longer an option.

The Thousand Child Pagoda collapsed, followed by strange occurrences. He was afraid.

“Yesterday, Ling He told me something. He said that last month, a case from Yunnan County was sent to the Grand Court. The plaintiff insists that the culprit murdered someone and stole their wealth, then destroyed the evidence.”

“But the suspect claims that he didn’t kill anyone. He said he personally saw the tree roots rising from the ground, wrapping around the person, and pulling them into the earth.”

Qu Chenzhou exclaimed in shock, “He’s saying that the trees are eating people? How is that possible?”

“It sounds unbelievable, but Ling He said he sent people to inquire about it there, and apparently, there’s been more than one case like this.” Emperor Yu withdrew his hand and patted Qu Chenzhou’s head. “I’ve decided to send reliable people there for further investigation.”

Qu Chenzhou paused for a moment, then immediately grasped the situation. “Does Your Majesty intend to send me?”

“Zhongming is right. Only you can handle this matter. So, can you do it?”

“I can!” Qu Chenzhou responded decisively, “Even through danger and hardship, I will undertake this mission and not disappoint Your Majesty’s trust!”

Emperor Yu smiled and nodded. “Good child. I haven’t doted on you for nothing. Prepare yourself for a long journey and cast a divination for me again.”

Qu Chenzhou then dared to lift his head and meet his gaze. However, after a moment, he lowered his head, silent and only casting sidelong glances.

Emperor Yu understood, waving his hand to dismiss the attendants around them.

“What kind of divination? Why so cautious?”

“Your Majesty’s health is safe, but there’s one thing…” Qu Chenzhou hesitated briefly, lowering his voice, “Before I return to the capital, I strongly advise against being alone with the Empress Dowager.”

Emperor Yu’s pupils contracted slightly. He remained still for a while before speaking again, his composure restored. “I understand.”

He beckoned.

“You mentioned a ‘turning point’ earlier, and now you’re casting another divination. Is there anything you see?”

“I am powerless,” Qu Chenzhou looked somewhat dejected but was certain about a few things. “I have done my best. I have met the envoy from Yunnan County and consulted the experts at the Historical Records Bureau. We all believe that the collapse of the Thousand Child Pagoda is an ill omen, likely due to some demonic influence.”

Emperor Yu was struck by his words, and he struggled to sit up straight. He asked, “How can we break it? How can we resolve it?”

“Your Majesty wants to rid yourself of inner demons and return to your original state. The turning point lies only at Dingling Hill.”

Emperor Yu suddenly coughed, and Yu Dexi rushed in from outside, only to be ordered out again.

He accepted the water offered by Qu Chenzhou and took several large gulps before gradually calming his labored breathing. Each exhale seemed to carry a burst of fire.

“Chenzhou! Divinate again for me! Calculate it once more! Can this trip… be successful?”

He hadn’t been this frantic since taking the throne. Now, his life and everything he owned seemed to hinge on a single sentence.

But ultimately, he gradually regained his composure amidst Qu Chenzhou’s troubled silence.

Qu Chenzhou could only cast a divination once every five days and wasn’t allowed to do so for himself. He was well aware of this.

He motioned for Qu Chenzhou to come closer, placing his hand on his chest and taking a deep breath before speaking slowly, “Going alone might be worrisome for me, and I’m not at ease even with you alone. So, let Zhongming accompany you.”

“Your Majesty…”

Qu Chenzhou suddenly raised his head, but Emperor Yu waved his hand to interrupt the rest of his words.

“You’re still young, and you might not know about his family situation. If Zhongming doesn’t go on this trip, he’ll be causing disturbances in the capital. Zhongming is brave, meticulous, and skilled. He’s reliable wherever he goes. With him by your side, I can feel more at ease.”

“But… I’m not willing…”

“I know you two have your differences, but on this trip, you both must set aside any petty grievances.”

Emperor Yu’s words became increasingly scarce, his eyes closing with fatigue.

“I understand. Even if you’re obedient and patient, that mischievous Zhongming won’t be able to resist stirring up trouble. Therefore, I’ll allow you to choose another familiar person to accompany you and keep an eye on Zhongming.”

“I am not acquainted with anyone…” Qu Chenzhou stammered, seeing that Emperor Yu was ignoring him, he could only respond, “I oversee the Valiant Camp, and I have some acquaintance with Commander Bo.”

“He won’t do.” Emperor Yu refused.

Qu Chenzhou understood naturally. Bo Yan carried the burden of maintaining internal stability in the palace. At this time, it was impossible for him to leave the Emperor to escort him.

After furrowing his brows for a moment, Qu Chenzhou spoke again, “I’ve had some interactions with Ding Lekang, a General of the Jinwu Guards.”

“Then it’s Ding Lekang.” Emperor Yu nodded decisively, “Before the day after tomorrow’s sunset, both of you will depart for Dingling Hill. I’ll give you a gold token, and they will both follow your lead. Make sure to return as soon as possible.”

Qu Chenzhou deeply kowtowed, a faint smile gracing the corners of his mouth, “I will follow your orders meticulously.”


“Ding Lekang! Are you sure?”

The teacup fell to the ground, the broken porcelain scattering in the spilled tea.

However, the person standing beside the desk didn’t dare to meet the person’s gaze. He answered with lowered head, “Your Highness, it’s Ding Lekang.”

Mu Jingyan had been trapped at home for over a month. The door that couldn’t be opened had frozen and cracked his once calm and composed demeanor.

Since his Royal Mother was accused and demoted, he had spent much time alone, pondering many thoughts. Regardless of which lead was followed, it always turned into an inexplicable deadlock once it reached Qu Chenzhou.

His Intoxicated Bone Fragrance plan was, in his own eyes, seamless. He hadn’t even informed his mother in advance, afraid that Qu Chenzhou might see through something.

If Qu Chenzhou had discovered something when divining for Liu Qingru, and the situation had developed to this point, it meant either the Emperor had privately told Zhongming, or Qu Chenzhou had truthfully confessed to Liu Qingru.

The former was already troublesome enough; it indicated that the Emperor was genuinely concerned about this child. Could it be because of the vacancy left by Qi Wang?

As for the latter, he didn’t even dare to think about it. He still couldn’t fathom the key to this.

Shouldn’t Qu Chenzhou hold deep hatred for the Liu family? 

However, the consecutive string of news wasn’t optimistic, and there was no time for slow and careful thought.

He was anxious, but couldn’t get past that closed door. He could no longer be as unrestricted as before, especially since the most thorny issue had already completely escaped his control.

He had initially thought that with Ning Wang taking over Ten Miles Pavilion, those cunning old foxes would play around with him for a bit and gradually stop causing trouble.

But unexpectedly, Ning Wang, the waste, had taken decisive action.

Now, the soldiers he had stationed in Ten Miles Pavilion had suddenly decreased by half.

By the time he received the news, Song Nie’s head had been hanging outside the camp gate for several days.

Although Ning Wang was considered a wastrel, Tang Shizhong wasn’t just an idle bystander. He silently replaced Song Nie and his people with new recruits.

The places he had worked so hard to secure were supposed to be his strongest backing. However, he didn’t anticipate that someone would undermine him like this, leaving him in a state of crisis in the blink of an eye.

He had thought that this was enough to make him collapse, but today he heard unexpected bad news.

“Why is it Ding Lekang… Why did the Emperor send Ding Lekang away?”

Ding Lekang was someone he had invested a lot of effort into recruiting. If something happened to him…

Mu Jingyan’s mouth tasted bitter, and even his voice sounded hoarse. “There was Ten Miles Pavilion in the past, and now Ding Lekang. Could it be that the Emperor has long since ceased to regard me as important?”

Perhaps it should be said that the Emperor placed too much importance on him. They were of the same kind, and no matter how humble his demeanor, he couldn’t hide from the Emperor’s perceptive gaze.

The confidant standing by the desk stole a glance at him and carefully answered, “I’m not sure. When the Emperor was speaking with Qu Chenzhou, he didn’t let anyone in. I only know that the Emperor dispatched Qu Chenzhou with Liu Zhongming and Ding Lekang, and they are set to leave for Dingling Hill tomorrow.”

“So soon?”

“Yes, General Ding said that the Emperor’s decision is final and won’t change. I seek Wangye’s guidance.”

Seeing Mu Jingyan deep in thought, the person reminded him again, “Wangye… With Liu Zhongming going to Dingling Hill, what if he discovers…”

“Don’t speak nonsense!”

Mu Jingyan rebuked sharply, then muttered to himself, “He can’t possibly discover anything. Those people from back then are all dead and gone; it’s impossible.”

As he spoke, he realized that he was just deceiving himself. After a while, he ordered, “Have Ding Lekang be cautious and send some people over to support him. This is a rare opportunity. Regardless of whether Liu Zhongming discovers anything or not, strike first!”

The person replied, and then asked, “And what about Qu Sitian?”

“Try to bring him over. If he’s uncooperative, kill him too.”

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