Si Tian Guan Chapter 221

Chapter 221: Confession

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The sunlight from outside shone through the tall, narrow window, casting a warm orange glow as noon’s harsh sunlight had softened into the approaching evening.

Although the occupants of the prison couldn’t see it, that beam of light precisely caught the shadow of a copper bell hanging under the eaves.

That distinct shadow would gradually rise as the sun set, climbing to the position of the sixteenth brick from the top. Then, it would be swallowed by darkness.

Perhaps this was the only thing worth staring at in the cell.

As the shadow was about to vanish at the sixteenth brick, a hand couldn’t bear it any longer and reached upwards, as if trying to grasp onto a glimmer of hope.

But in the end, the hand grasped nothing. The shadow of the copper bell disappeared into the dimness.

The person suddenly curled up in the corner of the room, sobbing quietly like a child who had lost a beloved toy.

The sound of iron chains gently clinking emanated from the cell next door. The person beside him grew increasingly annoyed by his growing sorrow. Whenever he heard him crying in pain, he would turn over, covering his ears.

“Qu Chenzhou!” he lunged against the wooden railing, roaring like a man possessed, “You’ve ruined me! Why did you do this to me? Whatever Liu Zhongming can give you, I can give too! Why did you help him!”

The gentle smile that had once graced his face was gone, replaced by an expression that nobody would believe belonged to the former Huai Wang, Mu Jingyan.

“Why did you do this to me!”

Having been imprisoned for over half a month, each time he heard the voices nearby, he couldn’t suppress his own hysteria.

Everything was supposed to go according to his plan! Everything wasn’t supposed to be like this!

Not long after they rushed through the city gates on horseback, they encountered a patrol from the Northern City Guard. Despite his berating, the other party obediently moved aside, somewhat perplexed.

Approaching Guang’en Monastery, Bai Shiyan personally led a group of soldiers to pursue them. They were few in number, but it was exactly what he wanted.

—Huai Wang had been ordered to leave the capital to pay respects to his ancestors, but he encountered an ambush by the Dragon Cavalry on the way. Fortunately, he was rescued by 500 reinforcements from Ten Li Pavillion, who escorted him back to the capital.

—Unexpectedly, Bai Shiyan persisted in chasing them, even within the capital, audaciously attempting to attack him.

Amidst the tension on both sides, someone secretly made a move, causing both parties to become irreconcilable.

Everything was proceeding according to his plan, with only his timely entrance into the palace needed to report…

However, upon reaching Guang’en Monastery, the course of events deviated from what was supposed to happen.

At first, it was the Garrison Guards and the Wei Guards who successively arrived, followed by the reinforcements from the Norther City Guard, as if they had planned to converge there.

Even though he was protected by his guards within the battlefield, he still felt a tremendous pressure.

It wasn’t just pressure, but an overwhelming sense of suffocating fear. For the first time, he truly understood what a battlefield was like—no matter how noble or lowly one was, under the edge of a blade, they were nothing more than motionless corpses.

His body trembled with fear, unable to even utter the words “fall back,” yet even in this state, he quickly sensed that something was amiss.

Their opponents numbered in the thousands, while they only had a few hundred. They shouldn’t have been able to hold on for so long, but they did. Not only did they persist, but they were also being gradually pushed forward.

It wasn’t until the palace walls were almost within reach, until he saw Liu Zhongming and his men from the Jinxiu Ying rush forth, that he finally understood what their opponents were trying to achieve.


He roared, his voice tearing at his heart, tears streaming down his face. The palace gate was a monstrous beast waiting to tear him apart and consume him. It was just waiting for him to present himself.

“We can’t!”

They were still forced to advance until they reached Chengtian Gate. The people surrounding him fell like autumn-harvested straw, layer upon layer. Only he, standing in the middle, was left as the victorious fruit waiting to be plucked.

Even the cry of injustice couldn’t reach that person’s ears.

It wasn’t until he saw Qu Chenzhou in the dungeon of the Dali Temple that he finally understood who was orchestrating this grand scheme from behind. They were even willing to place themselves on the chessboard, using him as a deadly move.

“Qu Chenzhou!” His fingernails dug into the wooden railing, causing the chains on his body to jingle.

If there wasn’t a wall separating them, he wished he could burst out and devour the person in the adjacent cell alive.

“What did you say to the Emperor! Why did you do this! Aren’t you afraid of death!”

The neighboring cell finally responded, but in a calm manner as if unaware of being imprisoned.

“Afraid of death?” Qu Chenzhou leaned against the wall and sat up, softly chuckling. “Mu Jingyan, being able to drag you to h*ll with me, you can’t imagine how content that makes me.”

Finally receiving a response these days, Mu Jingyan squeezed near the railing, trying to calm himself.

“What do you want? I, Mu Jingyan, always keep my word. As long as you tell me, I can give it to you!”

“Mu?” Qu Chenzhou sneered. “Aren’t you surnamed Zhou?”

Now that he could talk to someone, Mu Jingyan also calmed down. “The surname doesn’t matter. As long as you help me escape from here, once I ascend to the throne, even if you ask for half the empire, I won’t hesitate.”

“I become the king, and you become the empress?” Qu Chenzhou also moved to the railing, unexpectedly in the mood to banter. “Unfortunately, I’m not interested in you. If I become king, marrying the Shizi would be a better option.”

Mu Jingyan wasn’t in the mood for jokes. “I don’t believe you don’t want anything! I don’t believe you’re truly not afraid of death!”

The cell next door fell silent for a moment before sighing.

“I’m afraid of death, but I want to rectify the court, bring clarity and integrity to the world. I want a world of peace and harmony. Can you provide that?”

“I want you to relinquish power, appoint people based on their talents, eradicate vile individuals like Ren Rui and Dong Chengyu, are you willing?”

“I want you to abolish slavery, exert all efforts to suppress the heavy pressure from within and outside the court, do you dare?”

“I…” Mu Jingyan was about to speak but was interrupted.

“Your agreement means nothing, because you can’t provide it, you’re not willing, and you don’t have the courage. You’re nothing more than a lump of rotting flesh, attracting only foul flies.”

“So, I can only choose another worthy lord. Give up that hope.”

Hearing the sobbing breath from behind the wall, Qu Chenzhou suddenly chuckled softly.

“Wangye, you’re quite intelligent. Seeing me here, you should have understood your current situation. In these past ten days, the Emperor hasn’t even seen you or sent a letter to you, let alone see you face to face. Did you really expect to escape death?”

Mu Jingyan turned pale.

Of course, he understood. Leading the troops through Chengtian Gate was sufficient to be labeled a rebel, but he believed that those people would work on his behalf. As long as he could meet the Emperor even once, he would have a chance to turn things around.

But then there was Qu Chenzhou…

In the Emperor’s eyes, he had won over this close confidant who was greatly trusted and favored by the Emperor, and they had conspired together in this rebellion. If it wasn’t for the bloody battle of the Beiyu and Nanyu City Guards and the Jinxiu Ying, he would be on the brink of victory at Chengtian Gate.

He had once mocked Mu Jingzhao as a fool, yet he had inadvertently followed in the footsteps of Ning Wang.

Mu Jingyan slid down to his knees along the railing, burying his face in his hands, sobbing silently.

Until a chill gradually seeped into his bones, he slowly awakened. The surroundings were so dark that he couldn’t see his own shadow, and yet he had fallen asleep like this.

What woke him up wasn’t just the cold, but also the footsteps moving above.

The footsteps of several people, and at this hour, it couldn’t possibly be a prison guard delivering food.

Mu Jingyan scrambled up to his feet, shouting loudly before the iron door on the steps swung open: “Who’s there? Are you here to take me out? I want to see the Emperor! Let me see the Emperor!”

The slow footsteps descended the steps, the person carrying a lantern walked behind. The shadow of the leader extended all the way past the railing, as if it was devouring Mu Jingyan whole.

“Liu—” Mu Jingyan’s breath hastened. “Liu Zhongming…”

The candle on the wall was lit, casting a clearer light on the person standing with a sword. He had practically watched Liu Zhongming grow up, yet had never found this face to be so chilling.

Standing slightly behind was Ling He.

Mu Jingyan seemed to catch a glimpse of hope and shouted fiercely, “Ling He! I know you’re upright, impartial, and just! I’m innocent! I didn’t rebel! It was Bai Shiyan who sent men to kill me! I had no choice but to escape back to the capital! Let me see the Emperor! Let me petition to the Emperor for justice!”

Ling He nodded as if following a routine, and then motioned for the guards to go to the neighboring cell and assist Qu Chenzhou out.

The three of them stood before the tightly closed prison door, with only Mu Jingyan remaining as the one on trial.

“Ling He! How dare you take sides with Liu Zhongming…”

His mind was a mess, compounded by panic, unsure how many people were standing behind Liu Zhongming.

“By the Emperor’s decree,” Liu Zhongming finally spoke, interrupting his accusations, “I will send Wangye off”

Someone approached holding a tray and half-knelt outside the prison door, a wooden plate with a cup of wine on it.

As Mu Jingyan’s gaze landed on the cup of wine, it was as if he had been bitten by a venomous snake. He hastily retreated.

“It’s impossible! The Emperor can’t refuse to see me at all! It’s you! It’s all of you falsely delivering imperial edicts! It’s a capital offense! I will accuse you of deceiving the Emperor with false imperial edicts!”

Several prison guards seemed as if they had no ears, paying no heed to his screams. They simply opened the prison door and restrained his limbs.

“Liu Zhongming!” Mu Jingyan, like a caged beast, struggled to the extreme and burst into loud laughter. “If I die, Qu Chenzhou won’t survive either!”

The cup of wine was poured down his throat, burning like a fire that wouldn’t stop, and though he wanted to scream in agony, he could only futilely open his mouth, unable to produce a sound.

The prison room suddenly fell silent, filled only with the sight of his struggling silence, eerie enough to send shivers down one’s spine.

“Want to die?” Liu Zhongming’s voice was slow. “You think I’ll let you die so easily? Not that simple.”

“Ling Shaoqing can testify; I didn’t falsely deliver an imperial edict. Wangye was leading troops back to the capital with the intent of rebelling during his ancestral rite. The Emperor was so enraged that he even spat blood. How could he possibly grant Wangye an audience?”

“Wangye, give up hope.”

“The Emperor ordered us to come and offer you a cup of poisoned wine. I merely replaced the poison with a mute drug from my Jinxiu Ying.”

“I’ve saved your life, so should you be grateful to me?”

“By tomorrow night, there will no longer be a Mu Jingyan in this world.”

“Conveniently, my Huanyi Building often receives some eccentric guests. In the past, I was always reluctant to take anyone out to entertain them. Now I’ve found someone who pleases me.”

Mu Jingyan paused for a moment before realizing the meaning behind these words. He suddenly bit down, but before he could do anything, a prison guard quickly stuffed a piece of cloth into his mouth, and a forceful blow hit the back of his neck. He collapsed to the ground.

Since this fainting spell, there would never be another Mu Jingyan in the world.

No one would know that in the future, the mute person who often entertained guests at Huanyi Building would be the former Huai Wangye.

Until the prison guard dragged him away, Liu Zhongming’s gaze remained fixed on the empty prison cell. He dared not look elsewhere, fearing he couldn’t maintain his fragile façade of composure.

Breaking the silence was Ling He, calling the name he most wanted yet most feared to hear.

“Qu Chenzhou.”

Qu Chenzhou’s gaze passed over Liu Zhongming and landed on Ling He. He saw Ling He take a step back and solemnly kneel on one knee, paying him a bow.

“Ling He…”

On the way to Qingxin Residence, he could remain calm and serene in his heart, but now he couldn’t stand to see Ling He bow to him in front of Liu Zhongming.

Even though he could endure it.

Originally, he could have saved himself.

Before entering the palace gates, Bai Shiyan and Liu Zhongming alone were enough to annihilate a few hundred people and the crown prince position would fall to Lan Er.

But even if Mu Jingyan died, those vermin behind him wouldn’t be eradicated. They would certainly continue to cause trouble in secret.

Even if Liu Zhongming used brutal methods to eliminate them one by one, in the mouths of others, it would be the imperial relatives, the Liu family, eliminating dissidents and killing innocents, not to mention the recent bloodshed from Huai Wng’s involvement.

Even if Lan Er ascended the throne, it would be fraught with difficulties and criticisms. The court would inevitably be in turmoil.

On the Emperor’s side, whether he died by Liu Zhongming’s hand or was forced to abdicate for Lan Er, it would be like pouring oil on the flames.

Lan Er’s reign would be accompanied not just by eternal condemnation but also a deadly blow to the fragile peace imposed by an external force.

This upheaval would likely last for decades, and there wouldn’t be a single person who could emerge unscathed.

For him, Qu Chenzhou, to sacrifice himself, to uphold this era of peace and prosperity, was a death worth it.

Ling He rose and glanced at Liu Zhongming, leaving him with a sentence before turning to leave.

“The Emperor is waiting for your confession while he’s still sick. According to what Jiuan has heard, you’ll likely be executed in these next few days. If you have anything to say, say it quickly.”

The prison cell was left in an unusual silence.

Qu Chenzhou watched the familiar muscles of the man’s back tense, his shoulders trembling uncontrollably. He considered speaking several times but didn’t know what to say.

If Liu Zhongming had hated and resented him as before, perhaps it would have made him feel a little better.

“Liu Zhongming, after I’m gone…”

The courage he had gathered was interrupted by the sound of rustling paper. Charcoal, white paper, and the book filled with names were all placed on the nearby wooden table.

“Write.” Liu Zhongming’s voice was much calmer than he had imagined. “Finish the important matter first.”

To distinguish himself from Liu Zhongming, Qu Chenzhou had intentionally altered his handwriting slightly over these past two years. It was something Liu Zhongming couldn’t imitate.

Qu Chenzhou pulled on the iron chain around his wrist, the charcoal marking the paper—Criminal Qu Chenzhou is guilty but not deserving of death. He pleads for leniency and mercy from heaven…

As if in the study like before, Liu Zhongming stood patiently beside him, watching him write, flipping through the book for him until the last name.

Liu Zhongming watched as he pricked his finger, pressed his bloodied fingermark on the paper, and then carefully folded the paper a few times and placed it in his pocket.

“Liu Zhongming…” Qu Chenzhou didn’t know whether to raise his gaze or not. He could only call gently.

There was no answer, and he bit his lip lightly, almost as if he were speaking to himself.

“Without Huai Wang, sooner or later, many people will be watching to impeach the power of the Liu family. But this matter cannot be rushed. Lan Er and sister need to firmly establish their positions and rely heavily on the Liu and Bai families.”

“Afterwards, Zhongming should guide Lan Er properly…”

The strong and warm embrace welcomed him as always, with warm breath and kisses landing on his neck.

“I’m well aware of these matters; you don’t need to worry, Chenzhou,” Liu Zhongming’s soothing voice was gentle and soft, as if this wasn’t a dungeon but their bridal chamber and they were about to merge into one: “Do you remember something you once said?”

Qu Chenzhou held back the lump in his throat and asked softly, “What did I say?”

“You said that even if you were to die on the way, it would be nothing more than firewood consumed in the flames, having fulfilled its purpose.”

Of course, he remembered. At that time, they were like two hedgehogs, wishing they could wound each other all over.

But now, looking back, those days seemed rather sweet.

“I also said that no matter what you do in the future, I won’t stop you, but I’ll…”

A scorching breath engulfed him, causing the tears he had been holding back to roll down uncontrollably.

“I’ll catch you.”

Liu Zhongming held him close against the railing, his lips tracing his breath.

“You’ve done what you should do. Leave the rest to me…”

“Wait for me to come back.”

Author’s Note: Chenzhou’s goal is for Lan Er to ascend the throne safely and without dispute. His aim is not just at Huai Wang, but also at the accomplices behind Huai Wang. Through the confession, he intends to expose everyone.

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