Si Tian Guan Chapter 183

Chapter 183: Changing Weather

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Shortly after noon, the intense sun of the morning was enveloped in thick clouds, unable to break free. The air suddenly turned cooler.

Pedestrians on the street quickened their pace, seeking shelter before the rain fell.

The street gradually emptied, allowing a few people riding horses against the flow towards the city gate to stand out even more.

The leader wore a bamboo hat, its brim adorned with snow-white silk, concealing half their body, making their face indiscernible.

However, as they brushed past, some passersby couldn’t help but turn their heads to catch a glimpse of the elegant figure under the white silk.

After exiting the city through the southern gate, the person reined in their horse and turned back to look.

The distant city walls were gradually hidden by condensing moisture, and the gathering dark clouds in the sky seemed as heavy as a thousand pounds, pressing down upon the entire city. In the next moment, it seemed like it would crush everything below into mud.

“Qu Chenzhou, what are you looking at?” someone beside them asked. “Let’s go quickly. It’s going to rain soon.”

“Yes,” Qu Chenzhou adjusted his collar. “The weather is about to change.”

Indeed, the weather was changing. Right where they had just left, sparks had been thrown into long-dormant tinder, and in an instant, it would ignite.

The ailing Empress Dowager was prepared to go all in, igniting a fierce fire within the palace walls.

He had thought he was trapped in the heart of that fire, with no way to escape. However, unexpectedly, someone seemed to have sensed a looming crisis and pulled him out.

Another person by his side casually swayed a riding crop, urged, “The weather is about to change. Let’s go. If we don’t leave now, we’ll be left behind by the heavens.”

With their heavy responsibilities, they couldn’t afford to waste time. They spurred their horses on and headed south.

Although the Thousand Child Pagoda was located in Yunan County, the County Magistrate there had already begun the reconstruction of the pagoda. Moreover, multiple divinations had pointed towards Dingling Hill. Therefore, the small group naturally set their sights on Dingling Hill.

While they had managed to escape the heavy rain in the capital, the farther south they traveled, the more endless the continuous drizzle became. The journey was arduous, and they even had to spend two nights camping out in the wilderness. Finally, on the third day before sunset, they reached a town.

The town wasn’t very large, but due to its strategic location on a major trade route, it was livelier than expected. The townsfolk didn’t seem to pay much attention to them as outsiders.

Although they had brought a few attendants, most of them were arranged by Ding Lekang due to the Emperor’s concerns about Liu Zhongming’s behavior. Thus, the attendants were assigned by Ding Lekang.

After the three of them sat down at a wooden table in a corner, their attendants quickly got to work, arranging food, lodging, and stables for the horses.

Ding Lekang poured tea for the three of them and took a few sips himself before sighing, “It’s so hot and stuffy, and the rain just won’t stop. What kind of bizarre weather is this?”

“Big Brother Ding hasn’t traveled much to the south, has he?” another person chuckled. “This is still considered decent weather. Sometimes, you won’t see the sun for a very long time; it’s just rain.”

“You’re right,” Ding Lekang fanned himself with his collar, the fabric clinging to his skin even in this manner, making him uncomfortable. “No, I haven’t. Unlike Zhongming, I’m not familiar with these parts. Today, I’m truly gaining experience.”

Being away from the capital, it wasn’t proper to address each other by official titles, so they used their names based on age instead.

Liu Zhongming humbly replied, “I haven’t traveled much either. I’ve only heard about it.”

Having had little interaction with each other in the past, they could only engage in polite conversation. However, as both men were weary from the journey, they soon found themselves short of words.

Perhaps due to a sense of unease, Ding Lekang had a lingering feeling that the Shizi’s seemingly candid smile harbored ill intentions, as if he was planning to make a move ahead of him.

This unexpected journey was already beyond Ding Lekang’s expectations, and the Shizi’s confidential instructions added to his apprehension. He couldn’t help but sneak glances at Qu Chenzhou.

Even though Qu Chenzhou rarely spoke during the journey, his face hidden by the white veil, he seemed to be a figure of authority. Even the Shizi followed his lead, and Ding Lekang found it hard to say anything to him.

For some reason, the Shizi had been remarkably docile throughout the journey, never engaging in arguments or disputes with Qu Chenzhou. This was quite different from what Ding Lekang had heard about and observed of him at court. It seemed like the rumors had gotten it wrong.

As Ding Lekang was lost in thought, he saw Qu Chenzhou lift the white veil slightly, seemingly observing the movements of the people coming and going in the hall. He couldn’t help but ask, “Any news?”

Qu Chenzhou lowered the white veil again.

“Call over the innkeeper and ask if there are any rumors of strange trees eating people around here.”


“Strange trees?”

The innkeeper happily tucked a small silver ingot into his pocket and enthusiastically replied, “Guests, rest assured staying here. It’s absolutely safe!”

Ding Le Kang’s face darkened. “I asked you if you know, I didn’t ask you about the situation here!”

“Oh, oh,” the innkeeper quickly responded, “I don’t know! But people coming and going at the inn often talk about strange and extraordinary things. It’s a different story every few years, so it’s not that surprising anymore. In the past half year, I’ve indeed heard this rumor, well, it’s just for some amusement.”

Seeing the innkeeper’s nonchalant demeanor, it was evident that there likely hadn’t been any similar cases of people disappearing nearby.

“What kind of stories are circulating?” Liu Zhongming asked.

“They’re quite haphazard. People say that travelers passing by suddenly vanish without a trace. It happens in the desolate mountains and wilds, and no bones are ever found. Rumors spread, and it morphs into tales of trees devouring people. I mean, can you imagine the injustice that this poor tree is facing?”

“Who are the guests that are talking about this?”

The innkeeper scratched his head for a while. “I can’t really remember where they came from, but I do recall that one of them was from Shimao County.”

When the words “Shimao County” were mentioned, Liu Zhongming’s gaze flickered, and he fell silent.

Ding Lekang was even more uncertain about what to ask next, so he turned his gaze to Qu Chenzhou.

After bowing and waiting for a moment, the innkeeper thought that the conversation was over and was about to leave when he suddenly heard Qu Chenzhou ask, “Brother, are there any handsome young male prostitutes in this town?”

Ding Lekang almost spat out his tea in surprise.

Indeed, looks could be deceiving. Qu Chenzhou, who had always appeared cool and reserved, like an unapproachable saint, was asking about such matters with such eagerness…

Considering how exhausted they all were, not even having the chance to enjoy a hot meal, they were now in such a hurry. Could it be that he had been holding back for too long in the palace?

Thinking about it this way, it seemed somewhat understandable. However, in such a small place, even if someone was handsome, would they be a match for Qu Chenzhou?

The innkeeper was momentarily stunned but quickly nodded and smiled in response, “Yes, yes! Do you need one? Just go out the door and turn right…”

A gold coin was dropped onto the table.

“I want one. Go fetch him and have him sent to my room,” Qu Chenzhou ordered.

Liu Zhongming chimed in, “I’ll have one too. We’ll share the expense.”

Ding Lekang’s jaw dropped onto the table. He remembered now. The Shizi wasn’t exactly a paragon of virtue either.

Moreover, the fact that a former servant who had once been under him calling for a “male prostitute” right in front of him was a blatant provocation. How could the Shizi swallow this humiliation?

Ding Lekang found himself in a dilemma. He was indeed tired, but if he didn’t join them, it would make him seem old and incapable in that regard.

He made up his mind on the spot, “I’ll have one as well.”

Both Qu Chenzhou and Liu Zhongming exchanged knowing glances and looked at him. He smiled and raised his hand in a gesture of surrender, “Let’s all enjoy ourselves.”

After all, this inn was frequented by travelers, and although the rooms were small, they were well-decorated and clean. Food boxes were neatly wrapped in towels on the table, keeping the warm meals inside, and a bathtub filled with water was placed behind a folding screen.

Qu Chenzhou changed his clothes, but before he could even untangle his hair, he heard a soft knocking on the door.

“Master, your servant has arrived.”

Suddenly, he felt a surge of annoyance. He regretted tonight’s arrangement, but before he could respond, the door was pushed open and then gently closed. The person rushed over to him with an air of urgency, ready to help him undress.

“Master, you must be tired from your journey. Allow your servant to help relieve your fatigue.”

Qu Chenzhou was pushed back a few steps and seated somewhat unsteadily. As the person moved to push him onto the bed, he felt a mix of embarrassment and frustration and couldn’t help but slap the hand away.

“Don’t be ridiculous!”

“Why do you keep getting better at this slapping thing?” Liu Zhongming, holding his face, looked sorrowful. “Do you dislike the way I’m serving you tonight, my lord?”

Qu Chenzhou bit his lip as he looked at him. “It’s just leaving the capital, why did Shizi suddenly become like this?”

“It’s not because of leaving the capital, and it’s not sudden,” Liu Zhongming’s happiness, bottled up for days, bloomed on his face like a flower. He courteously motioned for him to sit and was about to offer a shoulder massage.

“Chenzhou, ever since I knew I was coming out with you, I’ve been so excited that I haven’t slept for several nights. It’s all Ding Lekang’s fault; he’s so annoying, and he never knows when to avoid arousing suspicion.”

Qu Chenzhou pushed his hands away and took a step forward. “I actually thought Ding Lekang was fine. At least he won’t shamelessly pretend to be a ‘male prostitute’ in the middle of the night.”

Liu Zhongming looked wronged. “Before you went upstairs, didn’t you give me a flirtatious look, implying that I should arrange things properly and come over to find you now?”

“You…” Qu Chenzhou’s anger flared. “Who did I give a flirtatious look to? I just glanced at you!”

“You looked at me… so wasn’t I supposed to come over now?”

Qu Chenzhou was rendered speechless. After pausing for a while, he realized that he had slapped too hard earlier, and his palm was now slightly painful. He turned his face and adjusted his hair tie. “Why didn’t you dodge?”

As he was about to pull a few strands of tangled hair, his wrist was gripped from behind.

“Don’t move, I’ll help you.” Liu Zhongming sighed softly and patiently began to untangle the hair strand by strand. “Chenzhou, when are you going to learn to take care of yourself?”

Qu Chenzhou’s shoulder twitched. He turned his head away, not looking at him. “Where are they?”

“Those two? I’ve settled them, so don’t worry. Ding Lekang won’t find out; he’s still busy. Also, I’ll need you to focus now. Before our meeting today, there’s something more important I need to discuss with you.”

Qu Chenzhou stood up to leave, but Liu Zhongming held him down. He couldn’t speak too loudly, so he could only express his annoyance. “Just say what you need to. I haven’t bathed yet!”

As soon as the words came out, he regretted them, but it was already too late.

Liu Zhongming held him horizontally from behind and walked toward the folding screen.

“Liu Zhongming!” Qu Chenzhou was both anxious and embarrassed, struggling several times but unable to break free. “How dare you! I’m not yours…”

“Your what?” Liu Zhongming didn’t make any inappropriate moves. He gently set Qu Chenzhou into the bathtub and then fetched a ladle of water. “You’re not mine, but I’m yours. Is that alright? Don’t be so loud.”

Qu Chenzhou leaned against the side of the tub, and the steaming heat turned his eyes red. He didn’t want anyone to see, so he washed his face and asked, “What did you want to say?”

Liu Zhongming leaned over the edge of the tub, peering at him. “Chenzhou, from the day I saw you when your sister was giving birth until now, I’ve thought about a lot of things. I always believed that I remembered everything, that I had memories that were equivalent to yours. But I realized I overlooked one thing—why did you experience rebirth?”

Qu Chenzhou couldn’t help but tremble.

“Because of the past life me, right?” Liu Zhongming crouched down, holding the hand Qu Chenzhou was clutching tightly on the tub’s edge. He wrapped his fingers gently around it and brought it to his lips.

“Chenzhou, I regret this, whether it’s the past or the present. I’ve taught you many things, but I forgot to teach you how to take care of yourself.”

Qu Chenzhou’s body convulsed as if he wanted to pull his hand away, but Liu Zhongming held it firmly.

“Chenzhou, after you left, I was trapped in those old memories for a long time. I wanted to protect you, but I couldn’t bring myself to get close. I was afraid that if you saw me, you would remember the harm I caused you.”

“It’s my fault. I once thought that as long as you were well, I should stay far away. If you were willing, I’d disappear.”

These words seemed to touch a sore spot in Qu Chenzhou, and he blurted out, “No!”

“I guessed right. Why are you so foolish?” Liu Zhongming sighed softly.

That night, holding the sobbing little fox, hearing the words “Why would you choose a path of self-destruction,” he had been moved to respond: I’m willing to do anything for you, even die.

But later, as he calmed down, he realized he had made a monumental mistake.

Avoiding Qu Chenzhou now wasn’t what the other needed.

For a long time, he had immersed himself in his own guilt, forgetting that Shiyan had clearly relayed the words “ashamed towards you.”

The Qu Chenzhou who was willing to wait ten years for him, who was willing to die for him without regrets, who would live countless lives and still not regret it for him, remained unchanged.

He continued to shoulder all the burdens, to blame himself for all the wrongs.

And he still hadn’t learned to cherish himself.

During these past few months of indifference and alienation, Liu Zhongming had always thought it was due to debt and resentment. However, because of that night’s “self-destructive path,” he had found a faint exit.

He understood the little fox’s determination. This decision filled him with a chilling sensation, seeping into his bones.

“Chenzhou, whatever I did for you in the past, I did willingly.”

“I might be him, or maybe not, but regardless, neither of us would want to see you haunted by this.”

“Don’t stubbornly choose a path of self-destruction. You’re not alone anymore. We have many options, can you lean on me for once?”

“Since you won’t cherish yourself, let me protect you, alright?”

Liu Zhongming sensed the slight tremor in the fingers he held in his palm and gripped them even tighter.

“I promise you three things you mentioned. First, I won’t doubt you from now on. Second, I’ll follow your lead…”

Qu Chenzhou naturally remembered. These were the words he had spoken outside Ten Li Pavilion. He suddenly let out a cold laugh and pulled his hand away.

“Follow your lead? Has Shizi forgotten how I climbed to this position? Do you dare to listen to me? Aren’t you afraid that I’ll plot against you again?”

“Chenzhou, I am indeed afraid that you’ll scheme against me.”

For a moment, Qu Chenzhou’s eyes darkened, and before he could lower his head, a warm kiss landed on his forehead.

“You said you plotted against all of us, yet we’re all unharmed, only you are covered in scars.”

“In this world, other than you, there won’t be a second fool willing to scheme like this.”

“I’m truly scared.”

“I…” Qu Chenzhou tried to calm himself down, but he could hear a choke in his throat. “I just treated the Shizi as a pawn.”

That kiss moved gently to his lips.

“Being your pawn is an honor.”

“Third, after everything settles, whether to go or stay, I’ll give you freedom…”

Author’s note: Persimmon: You might not believe it, but this is a tactic I learned recently, called ‘enticing through feigned ignorance’—my dear wife, if you’re willing to part with me, then just go ahead【cries】Chenzhou: Alright, I’m leaving.

Persimmon: ?

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