Chapter 20 Death Contract
Even before entering the palace, Qu Chenzhou had known that one day he would die a gruesome death, but he had never once thought that he would rot in Liu Zhongming’s courtyard.
That day, listening to the sound of Liu Zhongming slamming the door, he had felt a little bit funny and bitter.
At first, he was able to have a bit of fun thinking about the past of them together, but gradually he couldn’t bear it anymore.
No part of the bedding he was lying on was dry; it was all wet from the water poured during the torture.
The ubiquitous dampness began to soak the scarred wounds little by little, and then gnawed and nibbled at it like a living being. Especially those burn marks on his lower back – it seemed as if a sharp blade was being repeatedly plunged into them, and being pulled out.
Once his consciousness slowly sank into the darkness, his limbs that were bolted down couldn’t be lifted. However, there was an anxious voice that kept urging in his heart: Run, run!
He hugged a baby in his arms, praying for the child to not cry in the dark and unclear night, while running desperately along the palace wall. He hurriedly rushed into the hidden shadow amidst chaotic footsteps.
The imperial army promptly detected his hiding place and shouted from afar.
He didn’t dare to come out immediately. He could only curl up into a ball as he choked in a very small voice: “Zhongming, where are you…Help me…”
But his name didn’t bring him luck. While escaping from the hiding place, someone suddenly roared behind him: “Here! Grab him!”
Qu Chenzhou screamed and all of a sudden, his whole body twitched. He felt weightless, and the next moment, there was pain.
The feeling of falling firmly on the ground pulled him back from his nightmare panting, and staring at the unfamiliar environment around him.
This was not the room he was tied up in.
The bed had a covering veil. It was the kind that was usually arranged outside the master’s bedroom, for the servants of the night watch or the attending servants.
If one lifted the veil, one could see the door of the bedroom.
When he suddenly fell from the bed, the gauze curtain was torn down and rolled up. He simply leaned on the edge of the bed, blankly staring at the sunshine that came peeping from the door to his fee, and then raised his hand.
The ropes that bound the hands and feet had been untied and replaced with iron chains.
Two one-foot-long iron chains were joined together and extended out, its one end locked to the corner of the bed, and the other, fastened to the slave ring on his wrist. He also found a two-foot-long fetter fastened on his foot. Although it did not hinder his movement, it made sure that he could not run away.
Qu Chenzhou raised his hand in front of him to see. The bruise caused by the rope did not disappear, but a thin layer of medicine was applied to it. His clothes were replaced with dry and refreshing Jinyun hemp, and the wounds on his body were cleaned and disposed of properly.
He sighed softly and crawled back to the bed to lie down.
Since coming back to life, he was still a bit unused to how things were. A lot of things had turned out differently from his previous life. Unable to respond like how he did in his past experience, he wasn’t adapting very well.
The most important thing right now was to take care of his body slowly. He was not afraid of death, but since he was still alive, he shouldn’t linger on like this.
Silently meditating the formula that he had already mastered in his heart, he breathed in slowly. This couldn’t be more familiar to him.
The long years in the palace, as well as the unbearable suffering, he had bored through all of that this way.
Every time he recited it in his mind, he had the feeling that someone was standing next to him.
He laid there for half an hour before he heard the sound of footsteps approaching and stopping outside the door. Someone shouted to the inside: “Are you awake? The Prince wants to see you.”
If it weren’t for his elder brother’s matter, Liu Zhongming wouldn’t be willing to spend so much time on these irritating things, like he was doing now.
He preferred to be in the sunshine, quietly calculating his income in the study, or to recline in a lounge chair under the Sycamore tree in the yard, enjoying the warm south wind of the four seasons.
He would not be like this, sitting in the reception pavilion and dealing with annoying guys.
Sitting next to him was a young man in his early twenties with a pair of pleasing eyes, that always made him look innocent and happy. At this moment, he was sipping his tea and looking at Liu Zhongming from the edge of his teacup with a smile.
Liu Zhongming looked at the piece of paper in his hand, noticed this gaze, and frowned slightly. He didn’t know when he started to resist the feeling of being looked directly at.
Maybe it was when the person in the corridor in the dream looked up.
“This is all you found?” He threw the paper over, unhappy. “If I wanted just these, why would I still make you run the errand?”
“Why? Is it not him that you wanted to look up?” That young man picked it up, and as if he was afraid that he did not understand the words, read it to him: “Qu Chenzhou from Qisheng building, isn’t that right?”
“Isn’t that good?” Fang Wuyang babbled: “I specifically went to his hometown to ask. His family is still living there, and everyone in the village remembers him. He was sold from Changshui Town. It can’t be wrong.”
Liu Zhongming knew in his heart that Fang Wuyang’s findings would not be wrong. However, he felt that there was something not quite right about these results, and was feeling a bit conflicted in his heart.
“He was sold out of the house when he was over three years old. When he was less than four years old, he was bought by Qisheng Building. They started listing him at the age of six. Also, Du Quan was someone who knew that strange goods were worth hoarding. Four times a month, three hundred silver each time. He could make up to 1,200 taels per month from him. Tsk tsk, how black-hearted.”
“What were the results of the divination?”
“The names of those who went for divination and their results are client’s secrets. The time you gave was too short.” Fang Wuyang said innocently, “I quietly entered Qisheng Building to look through it, but I didn’t know where Du Quan had hidden the record booklet. Or perhaps, he didn’t even dare to record it at all.”
Liu Zhongming himself did business. He knew that this kind of thing cannot be left without a record, but it was indeed something that won’t be easily shown to others.
“Anyways, I’ll go with you and help you search some other day.”
“I heard that he was the most popular in the first year of his listing. Du Quan hadn’t yet had the time to raise his price when he ran away. As a result, he was beaten so much that he couldn’t get out of bed for half a month.”
It turned out he was a habitual offender. Liu Zhongming was a bit frustrated and could understand Du Quan getting upset.
“Later when he tried to escape a few more times, the number of empty divinations increased. At the time, the streets were filled with fortune-tellers and even without him, it was not a big deal.”
Liu Zhongming was silent for a moment, then asked: “What does it mean for it to be empty?”
“Either no one makes an appointment, or one can’t divinate, or he can’t get up because of being beaten up.”
Although he had answered Bai Shilei’s similar question in the past, he still blurted out and asked: “How can they be so harsh to such a small child? How do they dare to lay their hands on him?”
“Think about it. He was sold as a death contract, and his parents did not intend to let him go back. Now his life or death – it all depended on his master? Moreover, because he was so little, besides beating him, what else can they do to scare him?”
“He beat him so many times, and it still didn’t work?”
“It worked. Reportedly, in recent years, he has not run away and everyone had relaxed their guard. It was unclear why a few months ago, he suddenly remembered to do it again.”
Liu Zhongming knew that even the first time he saw it on the street, he also asked this question——why did he hit Pan He? Why did he suddenly run away?
The answer he got was ridiculous——I thought I was dreaming.
Truth or lies, the confusing answers and his demeanour made him completely stuck in the horns, unable to find a way out.
“Where did he go during his time in Qisheng building, and who did he get in contact with?”
“He can’t even get out of the door, where else can he go? At most, it would be the three buildings under Du Quan’s name with someone having to take him to walk around. Most of the time he circled in the backyard and helped in the kitchen. Everyone said he was bored, didn’t like to talk, and didn’t talk to anyone.”
Liu Zhongming felt that this time he really had met his nemesis. The other party was suspicious and counterintuitive, but he didn’t know how to handle him. He was unmoved by force or persuasion, he simply won’t open his mouth.
At one point, he even wanted to let it go, and not have anything more to do with this matter.
Fang Wuyang looked at him with a smile as if he could see his thoughts: “Prince, you didn’t use your own people, but had me, a savage, run the errand for you. Why?”
“When I went to his hometown, I heard that someone else had come to ask about him.” In response to Liu Zhongming’s gaze, he did not keep the listener in suspense: “It’s Jiang Xingzhi’s people.”
Liu Zhongming’s heart moved. He knew Jiang Xingzhi wasn’t shooting blindly in the dark: “Jiang Xingzhi? What did he inquire about?”
“Who knows! They all asked about the same person, and didn’t ask anything strange. But…” Fang Wuyang smiled wickedly and crossed his arms. “There are still a few brief interludes. Would you really like to know?”
Liu Zhongming sneered when he saw a few thin sheets of paper between his fingertips. “Fang Wuyang, it seems that the next time you get stuck in the pit of the fairer sex, you don’t want people to fish you out.”
“Tsk-tsk my Prince, you are so old-fashioned at such a young age. Won’t you become a goblin once you get old?” Fang Wuyang helplessly took out the things in his arms: “Aren’t you curious about why Xiao Qu was sold when he was so small?”
“Was there an issue at home?” Such things were the most common.
“No. Their family was neither rich nor poor. There were five children in the family. Little Qu was the third.”
Liu Zhongming thought for a moment. Generally, if one can’t make a living, they would usually sell the eldest one or the youngest one. Selling the middle one is very unlikely.
“Was it because he looks weird?”
“That can partially be considered the truth. However, apparently, he had no issues when he was just born. But then he became seriously ill when he was about three years old. When he recovered, his eyes had already become the way they are now.”
Liu Zhongming listened to him while looking at the paper in his hand.
“There were no other obvious changes. And then one day, he suddenly said that their neighbour’s child was going to drown in the river, making the neighbour very angry. Unexpectedly, in two days, the child really fell into the river and drowned.”
“They said that the neighbours still came to the door at the time to cause a ruckus. What could they possibly do about this? He was doing nothing more than just being a child, saying words that carry no harm. So, their family was forced to pay some money.”
“Later, he said that his eldest brother would be killed by a rock. He wouldn’t let him go out matter what, but no one listened to him. In the end, his elder brother went up the mountain and there was a rockfall”
“Not only the people in the village, but even his own parents were also afraid of him. After the incident with the eldest brother, the village couldn’t tolerate him even more. Later on, they found an opportunity by chance, and sold him.”
“Because the broker boasted about him being the only unique thing in between the sky and the earth, Du Quan spent a couple of dollars on him. Otherwise, no one would have bought such a small child.
A few more pages recorded a child’s long, boring, arduous and difficult time of more than ten years. From beginning to end, he was stuck in a small place, without the freedom to walk on the street, even without knowing if he would live to see the next morning.
Liu Zhongming never understood how a slave lived, but when he thought of the calm and still demon pupils, he couldn’t help feeling a little bitter in his heart.
Fang Wuyang saw that he was silent, and suddenly realized: “By the way, Shiyan told me that you never believed in this supernatural stuff.”
“It’s not that I don’t believe,” he heard the sound of footsteps dragging with shackles and put the few pages back into the case: “I’ve heard many rumours that spread lies. His strange looks might inevitably cause his life to be surrounded by various rumours. So to get to the bottom of the matter, I will have to personally witness these things before agreeing to believe it.”
The footsteps stopped outside the door of the reception pavilion. Someone shouted loudly from outside: “Prince, the man has been brought here.”