Si Tian Guan Chapter 213

Chapter 213: Physical Examination

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The trickle of daylight from the window gradually dimmed, leaving only the candles embedded in the wall outside.

The lamps didn’t burn good-quality oil; the scent mixed with the dry straw on the floor, caused an unsettling urge to churn in one’s stomach.

Someone couldn’t resist standing up and pacing around, gripping the bars of the cell, trying to push half of their face out to look.

“Is anyone there! Is anyone there! We want to see the Lord Shizi!”

No sound answered him. If not for the regular three meals a day, they would genuinely fear being forgotten in this dark corner, decaying into unrecognizable bones.

“Brother, stop shouting,” a young man in the corner whispered, “Don’t you see the situation? Third Brother doesn’t recognize us. Even if someone comes, we won’t have a good outcome.”

“Why still call him Third Brother! You don’t have a Third Brother! You’re Old Three!”

The man in the corner suddenly roared, “Your mother was right. He’s a backstabbing wolf! He’s definitely been manipulating us the whole time! He’s become powerful enough to control our fate! He’s even caused us embarrassment in the streets!”

The young man by the bars hesitated for a moment before responding.

“Dad, you shouldn’t say that. Third Brother has been struggling outside too, and given his current status, if he truly wanted to harm us, he wouldn’t have gone through such complicated means…”

“Why isn’t it him? Who else could it be?” Qu Zhiye shouted loudly, “He’s a liar! He promised us we could become recognized by him if we went along, but the result was just a scene of chaos in the streets. My face was stomped on the ground!”

“Then he turned around and told us to change our stance for a way out, and now, look at this mess! If I had known it would come to this, we might as well have been kept captive. At least then we wouldn’t have to worry about food and shelter!”

“I can see that they’re all in cahoots, protecting each other! They’re all on the same side! He’s playing both sides of the field, acting like a saint while also portraying himself as a pitiful victim. Yes, it’s all for people like you to see! Look at you now, rushing to defend him!”

“Can’t you open your eyes and see where you are now! You’re about to lose your head, and you’re still treating him as your Third Brother! What kind of nonsense has he filled your head with?”

“But Dad… back then, didn’t you sell him…”

Seeing his second son about to say something, he abruptly stood up.

“When he was sent away, you were so young, what did you understand! It’s all a load of nonsense that he’s been through hardships. If he truly had hardships, could he have developed such a cocky attitude? If he truly had hardships, could he have such delicate skin and flesh? While you’re here eating dirt and mud day by day, do you have any energy left to worry about others…”

The sound of chains being locked at the top of the door indicated that someone was approaching. They couldn’t discern if it was mealtime or not. Every time they heard this sound, they reacted like startled birds, afraid it might be the executioner’s axe.

The torchlight flickered along the corridor with the sound of footsteps, accompanied by the low sobbing of a woman.

“Mother!” Both young men rushed to the bars, peering out. “Mother, it’s really you! How are you? Have they starved you and hurt you? How have they treated you?”

Qu Ningshi’s ornaments were gone, her hair was disheveled, and tear streaks marred her beautiful face. Originally just softly crying, when she saw her sons, it was as if all the strength had left her body. She collapsed against the bars, reaching out to touch her sons, choked with emotion and unable to speak.

“How have they treated her?” Behind her, someone coldly sneered. “What value do you several hold? Are you worth the Lord Shizi’s consideration?”

This was the territory of Jinxiu Ying. Regardless of their resentment and dissatisfaction, they dared not say much. They could only exchange tearful glances through the bars.

Qu Zhiye was becoming agitated by the crying but lacked the courage he had when scolding his son earlier. After a long while, he moved to the bars, hesitatingly asking, “I beseech the Lord Shizi to forgive my son’s momentary lack of sense. I hope the Lord Shizi can look upon this matter leniently and not hold it against them.”

Seeing Zhongming calmly sitting in front of the cell door, it seemed he was ready to say something this time. He looked at his wife and children beside him, only able to muster up the courage to ask, “Lord Shizi… You previously mentioned that if I changed my testimony and claimed that I was a Linyuan County person surnamed Xu, you would release us. Lord Shizi, please consider…”

“Want to go back?” Liu Zhongming sneered and asked in return, “Go back to where?”

“Back to Changshui…” Qu Zhiye began to answer but remembered that the Lord Shizi seemed to dislike that answer. He retracted it and tried to offer another reply, “I haven’t decided yet. I just hope to find a place to settle down.”

Liu Zhongming gave a perfunctory acknowledgment, not saying much, just beckoning with his fingers.

Several trusted subordinates opened the cell door, and amid Qu Ningshi’s screams, they dragged the two young men out and muffled their cries, forcing them to kneel on the ground.

Qu Zhiye was in a complete panic. He tried to rush out together, but his hands were twisted back by someone else. He watched as Qu Ningshi was also dragged to the side, and he quickly begged for mercy. 

“Whatever the Lord Shizi tells me to do, I did it all! The Lord Shizi promised to let me and my family go and return the two children! The Lord Shizi promised before! What did I do wrong?”

“Qu Zhiye, do you think that this capital city is your backyard, that you can come and go as you please?”

“No… no, I don’t,” Qu Zhiye hurriedly defended himself, “I haven’t done anything wrong. I am innocent!”


Lifting himself from his seat, Liu Zhongming heard some noise outside the iron door. He suppressed his impulse and refrained from giving orders to his men. He personally stood up, walked over, and dragged a teenage boy over, who seemed to be around ten years old. He pinned the boy beneath his foot and wrapped a whip around the boy’s neck.

“Wenxin!” Qu Zhiye suddenly stood up, but was pushed back down. His eyes were bloodshot, and he shouted hoarsely, “Your Lord Shizi, please spare Wenxin! I’ll do anything you ask!”

“Anything I ask? You’re quite protective of this little chick. Then why did you…”

Liu Zhongming stopped himself halfway through his sentence, realizing that some questions weren’t meant for him to ask. He clenched the whip handle tightly, steadying his slightly trembling hand.

“I’ll ask you a few questions.”

“You… You ask.”

“Wenxin?” He suddenly pulled up on the whip, causing the boy to struggle to raise his head, “The word Wen? Why is he different from Qu Chenzhou?”

Qu Zhiye’s heart dropped into his throat, and he cried out in despair, “Lord Shizi, have mercy! A monk said he’s hard to take care of, that’s why he changed his name!”

“Because he’s hard to take care of, so you just sold him?”

He was sweating profusely, and he vaguely felt that His Lord Shizi’s attitude and questions seemed somewhat different from before, but he didn’t dare to think too much about it.

“Lord Shizi… Chenzhou is a monster, truly. My Qu family can’t bear his presence. With him around, no one in the whole town can sleep soundly. We had no choice…”

“That’s truly an innovative solution,” Liu Zhongming had gathered strength in his foot, but ultimately refrained from stomping down, “So when he sent messages begging for help, you were also afraid, and that’s why you let his master dispose of him as he pleased, right?”

Qu Zhiye stammered, “Yes, yes… if he were to return, there’d be no place for us in the town. How could we…”

“Back then, you didn’t dare. But now that he’s risen, not only do you dare to see him, but you also dare to come forward on your own, is that so?”

Suddenly kicking the boy on the ground, Liu Zhongming raised his hand and lashed out, striking Qu Zhiye’s shoulders solidly.

“Do you now acknowledge that he came from your loins? Do you now acknowledge that he bears the Qu surname? Do you now no longer call him a monster?”

Qu Zhiye was released, but he couldn’t escape the whip that followed him like a shadow. He endured a dozen or so lashes, curling up on the ground, feeling as if his whole body was being roasted by fire. The only sounds in his ears were the cries of women and his own screams.

“Lord Shizi, spare my life, I won’t dare anymore…”

“Won’t dare?” Liu Zhongming sneered through clenched teeth, “This Shizi doesn’t have time to waste on you. Let me make it crystal clear: do as you’re told and don’t ask questions. If you even think about escaping, I’ll slice those two little ones into pieces before your eyes.”

“From now on, Qu Chenzhou has no connection to you anymore.”

“If you still want to be related to him, you’re welcome to. First, endure five hundred lashes under my command. If there’s anything left intact, I, Liu Zhongming, will share your surname.”

Qu Zhiye laid prostrate on the ground, in too much pain even to bow his head. With a sobbing voice, he repeated, “I won’t dare, I won’t dare anymore!”

The people surrounding the Qu family were released, and they huddled together, burying their heads in tears.

Several prison guards who followed last brought food containers and placed them on a wooden table—six dishes and a soup, with white rice steaming and emitting warmth. It was the same treatment they had received before, no different from usual.

However, this time, Liu Zhongming kept an eye on them, and Qu Zhiye didn’t dare to sit down brazenly.

Before he could speak, Liu Zhongming suddenly lifted his foot and kicked the entire table over, spilling the food onto the ground where it mixed with dirt and straw.

“Eat,” Liu Zhongming chuckled lightly, gesturing towards the ground, “Eat it all.”

The youngest son, who was held back by Qu Ningshi, couldn’t hold back any longer, “It’s all dirty on the ground, how can we eat this?”

“You can’t eat it? You should consider yourselves lucky,” Liu Zhongming smiled through clenched teeth, “I know very well that there have been times when people had to fill their stomachs with this, and sometimes, they couldn’t even manage a bite…”

A bitter taste welled up from his chest to his nose, choking his words.

“Watch them closely! If they haven’t finished eating within half an hour, bring me that girl’s ear!”

He swept away, leaving the cries of agony behind as he ascended from the dungeon. Just a few steps away, someone stood with their back to him, leaning against the wall as if unsteady.

“Chenzhou,” he whispered softly, as if afraid of startling a child chasing butterflies, holding his breath, “It’s all over now…”

Qu Chenzhou turned around as if awaking from a dream, walking towards the direction of the light until he was stopped by Liu Zhongming’s chest, until he was enveloped in his embrace.

Liu Zhongming used his chin to caress the top of Qu Chenzhou’s head, wiping away the moisture on his face with his fingers.

“Don’t worry, I won’t harm them. Once everything is settled, I’ll find a place for them to go, far away from here, where they won’t see you again.”

“You still have aunt and uncle, you still have Shiyan and Shilei, and… me.”

Qu Chenzhou buried his face in Liu Zhongming’s warm embrace.

“Everyone gets what they deserve,” his voice was incredibly soft, like a wisp of silk floating in the air, “Only when he receives his due punishment will it truly be over…”

Liu Zhongming held him even tighter—they were all waiting for that day, the day when everything settled and Huai Wang’s rebellion was crushed.

“Don’t worry, when that time comes, I’ll arrange for them… the best place to go.”

That place…

Liu Zhongming held a teacup, watching the people passing by in teams. The faint mist rising from the cup moistened his cheeks, as if the teardrops of a little fox brushed against him.

That place… was most suited for malevolent spirits.

“Lord Shizi,” someone at the side noticed his indifferent expression and asked in a flattering tone, “Would you like to go to the garden and take a seat? The flowers are in full bloom, and I can find a few who can keep you company and lighten your mood.”

“What’s going on here?” Liu Zhongming glanced at him sideways, “If Liao Guangming can sit here, why can’t I?”

“It’s not that, it’s not that,” the person hurriedly explained, “It’s just that there are some dirty things here, I’m afraid it might stain Lord Shizi’s eyes.”

As he was speaking, another group of eunuchs was led into the room. These were the routine body checks in the inner palace. Liu Zhongming was sitting in a position facing the entrance, observing everyone coming and going.

In the past, Liao Guangming would occasionally sit in this courtyard as well, but that was after he had accepted money from the eunuchs, hoping to lessen the humiliation during the body checks.

Liu Zhongming couldn’t care less about that bit of money, and no one dared to offer him any bribes. So he was sitting here with dignity, making everyone above and below him feel uneasy.

“You speak as if…” Liu Zhongming sneered, “This task was appointed with the Emperor’s trust. If I’m not here and I’m out in the garden instead, wouldn’t it be disappointing His Grace? If the Emperor blames me…”

His words grew more intense, and he accidentally bumped his elbow against the armrest, causing the teacup to spill all over him.

“Lord Shizi!” the person hurriedly wiped the water off his clothes, “I’ll go find someone to assist you with changing…”

“No need for all that trouble,” Liu Zhongming stood up, shaking off the tea leaves from his robe. He pointed nonchalantly ahead, “Aren’t they all here to serve? Call him over.”

Each department in the inner palace had its own designated tasks, and there indeed wasn’t a specific servant assigned to assist Liu Zhongming.

Hearing this, the person dared not oppose, and followed his finger, seeing that the eunuch’s attire was old and plain, not belonging to a privileged person. He was someone who wouldn’t offend anyone even with a couple of commands. He hurriedly called out, “You there, come over.”

It was an elderly eunuch, around fifty years of age, with a slightly hunched figure. When he heard the call, he paused his steps momentarily but continued forward with the group. He was soon pulled back.

“I’m talking to you! Didn’t you hear me?”

He hesitated for a moment, as if just realizing what was happening, and walked over with lowered head, bowing to the ground, “Greetings to Lord Shizi.”

“Which palace are you from? What’s your name?” Liu Zhongming asked.

“Replying to Lord Shizi,” the voice was old and muddled as it responded, “Chaoyang Palace. This old servant’s name is Three Blessings.”

Liu Zhongming bent down to look, and saw a face—a face he was more familiar with than anything else, a face he knew even in his dreams.

Author’s note: There are probably less than ten chapters left.

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