Si Tian Guan Chapter 223

Chapter 223 – Epilogue

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The sun was about to rise above their heads. The cold of winter had been dispelled by the temperature, leaving only the icicles hanging from the eaves to gleam like pearls in the transparent light.

Palace attendants held long bamboo poles, carefully tapping the icicles hanging from the eaves. With a few gentle taps, the palm-sized icicles would fall and shatter with a crisp sound on the steps.

This sound seemed like an order. The door to the study burst open, and a figure flew out without touching the ground. The palace attendants were so frightened that they dropped their bamboo poles and rushed after the figure.

“Young Master Bai! The ground is slippery with snow! Be careful not to fall!”

A teacup was thrown out of the room with even greater speed than the attendants, but it missed its mark, shooting straight past the eaves and breaking an icicle before crashing to the ground.

The young boy who came running out looked to be around four or five years old. Delicate and fair like a carved piece of jade, he almost slipped as soon as he stepped out. He stood on the veranda, straightening his back and crossing his arms, yelling in a childish and indignant voice, “Bai Shiqing! You come back for Zhen!”

The palace attendants hurried back, holding a cloak and assisting him, persuading him to go back inside.

“Your Majesty, calm down. We’ll go find Young Master Bai and bring him back. Please go back inside and warm up; it’s quite cold out here.”

The person who had gone out to look for the young lord returned quickly, following the announcement that had traveled all the way from the palace gate.

“Your Majesty, Lord Marquis has brought Young Master Bai back.”

Seeing the figure appear at the entrance, the young Emperor pouted, straightening his back even more. He shouted, “Uncle.”

Liu Zhongming dropped the white pebble he held in his hand to the ground, scolded him to “stand properly,” and then took a step forward. “I greet Your Majesty. Why is Shiqing causing you anger again?”

Finally, someone listened to the young Emperor’s grievances, yet thinking about his uncle’s sternness, he couldn’t cry even though he wanted to. He could only stand on the steps with a dignified posture, raising his round chin slightly.

“Shiqing is still young and ignorant, and I won’t hold it against him.”

Lowering his head, Bai Shiqing stole a glance at Liu Zhongming, grumbling softly in protest. “I’m even a year older than His Majesty. His Majesty should speak resolutely, but he doesn’t keep his word.”

The corners of Mu Jinglan’s eyes turned red in an instant. He kept his posture erect on the steps, dignified and solemn, lips pressed together, gazing ahead with a hint of grievance in his eyes.

Liu Zhongming smiled, “Allow me to take a guess — did Shiqing come before Your Majesty to flaunt his newly learned martial arts and challenge you to a match? And if you were to lose, he would want you to call him ‘Uncle’?”

Bai Shiqing stretched his neck and added, “I even let His Majesty have several moves first!”

“Does that mean I guessed correctly?” Liu Zhongming’s expression turned cold. “Having a little skill in martial arts and showing off in front of the Emperor? Such arrogance! Go outside and do the horse stance!”

“I was originally His Majesty’s…”

Bai Shiqing grew anxious, trying to argue, but lowered his head again under his older brother’s gaze. He obediently took off his padded jacket and went to stand next to a stone lamp, pulling his chest back and assuming the horse stance.

Mu Jinglan’s gaze flickered. He kept looking back until he was pulled inside by Liu Zhongming.

“Uncle, Shiqing wasn’t wrong in what he said. I did promise him. It’s so cold, could he get sick from this?”

“The saying goes, practice in the cold of winter and practice during the hottest days of summer. We were all taught this by your uncle,” Liu Zhongming helped him sit on the desk. “Your Majesty need not worry; I will keep an eye on the time.”

The tension in the young Emperor’s shoulders relaxed slightly. Even before anyone could bring up the matter again, he earnestly spoke up.

“Uncle, don’t worry. I know how to handle this matter. Shiqing was disrespectful, and you have already punished him. I lost the bet, so naturally, I’ll follow through. I’ll call him ‘Uncle’ on another day.”

Seeing the earnestness and seriousness on the little Emperor’s round face, Liu Zhongming couldn’t help but pat his head.

The young Emperor seemed a bit nervous, his voice lowering, “Uncle, did I do the right thing?”

“The words spoken by the Emperor are trustworthy, and you did the right thing,” Liu Zhongming’s voice was gentle. “But the way of an Emperor lies not in comparing martial arts prowess with others, whether it’s in martial skills or even literary talent. Your Majesty need not aspire to be a top scholar.”

The young Emperor nodded solemnly, “I understand. I was impulsive. Grand Tutor Rong has also taught me these principles — the path of a ruler is to govern without meddling, to discern clumsiness from skill without personal involvement, to understand blessings and faults without personal calculations. My wisdom in understanding people, utilizing their abilities, and accommodating their capacities is the right way.”

“Lan Er has learned well, and Grand Tutor Rong often praises you to me.”

The mention of this title brightened the young Emperor’s eyes, and his voice softened, “Uncle, can I play with Shiqing for a while?”

Seemingly afraid of being rejected, he hurriedly added, “I’ve finished my studies for today, and I have meetings with some ministers in the afternoon, so it won’t delay anything. Uncle, join us, and then we can have a meal together. Royal Mother was talking about you this morning.”

“Of course, you can play…”

Young children were so understanding. Liu Zhongming looked at him with a touch of fondness, his words carrying a hint of reluctance.

Mu Jinglan was almost ready to slip away, and instead of being in a hurry to play with Bai Shiqing, it was more like he was avoiding Liu Zhongming. Thus, Liu Zhongming could only speak up, “Your Majesty, I have important matters to discuss with you today.”

Mu Jinglan stopped at the door, didn’t turn around, and stared at his own toes. He knew that he couldn’t keep postponing this matter for several more months.

Liu Zhongming squatted in front of him, looking at his evasive gaze, and spoke gently, “The report I submitted several months ago, has Your Majesty had a chance to review it?”

“I have…”

Mu Jinglan had no escape; he blinked, and tears finally flowed.

“Uncle, am I not doing well enough? Brother Jingchen hasn’t returned, Imperial Concubine Xian has left, Grandfather has left, Great Uncle has also left, and now Uncle is leaving…”

“I’m not leaving,” Liu Zhongming half squatted on the ground, hugging him onto his lap, wiping away his tears. “I’m just changing title, and besides, Qingchi is still in the Hanlin Academy, right?”

“But it’s not just about changing a title,” Mu Jinglan’s voice trembled. “You’re taking advantage of my youth and inexperience. Changing Anding Marquis to Anyi Marquis, I understand what that means.”

“Both the Liu and Bai families assisted me in ascending the throne. Royal Mother and I jointly ruled, and even though you aren’t called a Regent, you have exercised that power.”

“Now that I’m gradually growing up, the Bai family cannot act rashly. Uncle is afraid that people will say the country is unstable with too much power in the hands of a relative, so you’re preparing to step away!”

“Moreover, I also know that you’ve been waiting for someone…”

Liu Zhongming earnestly looked at him, patiently waiting for him to finish.

Mu Jinglan realized his own lack of composure, sniffing.

“Royal Mother told me that when slavery was abolished, there was an uproar in the court and throughout the country. Third Uncle wrote petitions, went on an imperial tour, and quelled disturbances everywhere.”

“You made a four-year agreement with him, and now the deadline is approaching. You’re waiting for him to return… to leave together, right?”

“Four years…” Liu Zhongming also murmured softly, “He’s worked hard traveling all around. Now the opposition has almost disappeared, and the petitions and disputes have all but vanished. It’s time for him to come back…”

Seeing the gentle and soothing side of Liu Zhongming that contrasted with his usual decisive and stern demeanor, Mu Jinglan found his tears stopping unconsciously.

“Uncle… What kind of person is this Third Uncle? I heard that the Emperor arranged your marriage with him. Shortly after your grand wedding, he left. Does he not like you?”

Liu Zhongming shuddered slightly and quickly clasped his hands together, devoutly reciting, “Bodhisattva above, innocent words from a child’s mouth cannot be taken seriously, cannot be taken seriously.”

Seeing his reaction, Mu Jinglan pressed on, “What kind of extraordinary person is this Third Uncle? Is he worthy of you, Uncle? You’ve been thinking about him incessantly, and for four years, you haven’t even taken any concubines.”

“He…,” Liu Zhongming’s smile grew even warmer at the corner of his lips. “As His Majesty said, he’s my deity.”

The young Emperor grew even more curious, “Then why did you let him go for so long?”

“Because of his unique experiences and identity, the only person who can bear this responsibility is him. For the sake of the country, the family, and his own desires, even if it pains me endlessly, I can only let him go.”

“Someone once told me that a person like him shouldn’t settle for mere romance.”

“They said that if I truly understand him, I should consider what he desires most.”

“After much contemplation, I believe it’s freedom and trust.”

“I have limited capabilities; I can only let him explore the myriad landscapes outside and wait for his return behind closed doors.”

“No, that’s not true!”

Mu Jinglan couldn’t stand seeing someone he admired belittle themselves like this, so he spoke up for him, “I know that Uncle has also worked hard! Royal Mother said that during the initial period, there was turmoil outside and uproar within the court. It was all Uncle who shouldered the pressures. Third Uncle could move freely outside thanks to you!”

“I can only do so much for him; it’s nothing worth mentioning. I hope he doesn’t mind my shortcomings. When he returns, no matter where he goes, I’ll follow him.”

Liu Zhongming smiled and playfully pulled his escaping nephew back, “Your Majesty has asked so many questions. You seem to understand the situation better than I do. Shall we approve my report?”

“Further discussion! Further discussion! I’m still young and need Uncle’s support for some time.”

Mu Jinglan straightened his small chest, “Uncle is the pillar of the country; your requests are important. Let’s consider this for the long term. After Third Uncle returns to the court, I’ll carefully assess the situation. If he truly deserves you and is worthy of your lifelong commitment, only then can I feel rest assured!”

“You’re shrewd, Lan Er,” Liu Zhongming chuckled and gently pinched his cheek, “He’s beyond amazing, as if a banished immortal has descended to the mortal realm. I can’t help but wish to keep him hidden away from the world. Yet, I’m more concerned that when Your Majesty meets him, you’ll be glued to his side and won’t even remember what to call your uncle.”

“No way, Uncle is the most important person in my heart! The most amazing! No one can compare! I’m going to find Shiqing now!”

Mu Jinglan ran a few steps, then turned back to ask him, “Uncle, will you set off fireworks for the Lantern Festival this year?”

“Of course.”

Fireworks every year remained as beautiful as ever. Even though no one could see them, someone shared the same night sky, decorated with scattered stars.

It was another Lantern Festival.

Liu Zhongming watched as another burst of fireworks shot straight into the sky, exploding into dazzling brilliance, becoming lost in its mesmerizing sight.

That year’s Lantern Festival felt like it had happened a long, long time ago, as if it were a matter from a previous lifetime. They were still so young, so naive.

He stood under the tree, catching the tear-filled gaze of a small wild cat. Amid the alternation of darkness and the brilliance of fireworks in the night, he tasted the flavor of honey for the first time.

So much time had passed.

What kept replaying in his mind was the figure seen off at the city gate.

Four years had gone by, each day layered with deep longing, as if to make him truly experience the years Chenzhou had once waited for.

Every letter was kept close to his heart, read over and over again, hoping for someone to tell him — “I’m coming back.”

“Lord Marquis,” a servant beside him whispered, “there’s just one more left.”

The last firework of every year was always set off by him. It could reach the highest heights in the sky, illuminating the vast world, and it was named “Yearning.”

Liu Zhongming stood up and took the torch. He had just ignited the fuse when, for some unknown reason, he looked towards the distance in the dark night.

He felt like there was someone over there, amidst the flickering flames, someone was there.

All sound disappeared from his ears; he couldn’t hear the servants calling him, the joyous laughter from the streets, or the sounds of fireworks bursting in the air.

There was only the whooshing sound of the wind pushing him forward, causing him to tremble with fear. Even the tips of his hair were quivering.

The rushing wind only stopped when he stepped onto the rooftop, and he heard his own racing heart and heavy breaths.

About ten paces away, someone slowly turned towards him. The wind played with their sleeves, the pale face was framed by black hair like porcelain, and the glassy heterochromatic eyes seemed to be adorned with flickering stars, exuding a gentle smile.


He cautiously took a step forward, his voice soft as if afraid to wake from this beautiful illusion.

“Chenzhou… have you returned?”

The person he had yearned for day and night in his fantasies came closer, even closer, pressing their cheek against his stiff chest, wrapping their arms around his waist. The illusion turned into a tender reality.

“Just returned to the capital,” that hand gently patted his back, as if comforting a child on the brink of bursting into tears, “I wanted to surprise you, perhaps even stage a scene of catching an adulterer in bed.”

A pool of warm tears and a well of affection welled up in Liu Zhongming’s eyes, only to be restrained by the person before him.

“You little fox!” His hand wanted to carefully measure every inch of the skin in his embrace, tears mixed with laughter, “You’ve had your adventures outside, and now you know to come home. I thought that after seeing the world’s landscapes, you wouldn’t want me anymore.”

“Well, those landscapes were indeed what I once longed for.”

The warm breath grazed his throat, sliding up to his cheek, then to the corner of his lips.

“Zhongming, I’ve seen the misty rain in Jiangnan, witnessed the harsh winters of the northern lands, the solitary smoke in the desert, the small bridges over flowing streams, I’ve finally seen them all.”

“Which is why I long for you even more.”

“In this vast world, my heart finds solace only here.”

Liu Zhongming buried his head in the cool strands of hair, biting his lower lip, not wanting himself to cry too ungracefully.

The once imposing and composed young Marquis Anding had completely lost his composure, murmuring repeatedly, “I’ve waited for you for so long, I’ve waited for you for so long.”

“Zhongming, I’ve saved some money over the past few years, not too much.” Qu Chenzhou lifted his head from Liu Zhongming’s embrace, his smile both mischievous and bright.

Liu Zhongming paused for a moment, remembering that uneasy night, when the little fox might have wanted to abandon him and fly away at any time.

But things were different now.

He could even anticipate Qu Chenzhou’s words, but he simply waited quietly and patiently. Whatever the little fox said, no matter how many times he heard it, it wouldn’t be enough.

“Do you want to live a free life with me?”

Liu Zhongming smiled.

“It’s alright if it’s not too much. I’ll try to eat a little less.”

“I do.”

[End of the Main Text]

The author has a message: The main story is finished! Please bookmark this for the upcoming side stories. Whether the story is set in ancient times, modern times, or the future doesn’t matter much; it’s the same storyteller, so the story’s essence remains. In the next installment, I plan to add a bit more sweetness, but… maybe not as much torment【maybe】. If you haven’t had enough, you can check out my completed story “天命风流,” which is in a similar genre. 

After I finish the side stories, I might organize the timeline for all the stories, making it clearer why things happened the way they did. And now I’ll start rambling:

Wow, it’s finished! I’m really happy, I’ve completed another book!

When I was writing “天命风流,” I thought I couldn’t write a longer or better story, but I’m quite satisfied with these two characters. Because it’s been cold for so long, this story was originally a self-indulgent one. Yes, I love to torment during the process, but I also like to have a happy ending (HE). Writing is not easy, so if you find something you like, please support it a bit. I’m thinking of changing the title back to ‘Sī Tian Guan, but I’m worried it might not do well on the completed story rankings. Please allow me to ponder on it a bit more.

The next few chapters will lack logic and substance, it’s just extras, and I can finally take a breath and rest. Hahaha, thank you all for your unwavering support these past few months. I’ll come back early tomorrow.

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