Si Tian Guan Chapter 226

Chapter 226: Extra 3

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Liu Zhongming held his breath, creeping closer to a folding screen, quickly glancing outside in slight impatience.

This morning, he had risen early without waking the sleeping figure beside him, quickly finished his meal, and hidden himself in this room.

This room was an annex created when the Marquis’s mansion underwent renovation. It was separated from the main hall by a folding screen. Due to the lighting conditions, one couldn’t see the inside from the outside, but one could vaguely perceive the situation outside from within.

When it had just been finished, he had brought Chenzhou here to watch the stewards and servants walking around outside. Chenzhou had pressed against the folding screen, brimming with tears, too nervous to use much force or speak.

Only he, steeped in ultimate bliss, had sensed Chenzhou’s tension and shyness.

But on the day he had bullied Chenzhou heavily, he had refused to come here again. He had to find a way; if he didn’t, he would run out of time.

Today was their departure day.

Although Lan Er was reluctant to change his title for him, he couldn’t keep him after all.

After weathering the storm, the Liu family should withdraw now.

His father had left the capital early, reportedly to visit an old friend. His second uncle had left even earlier, going to Jiangnan. He only sent letters back occasionally.

Once he left, only Liu Qingchi would remain as the main branch of the Liu family. But Liu Qingchi only wanted to focus on his studies in the Hanlin Academy and had no interest in taking on the title of Anding Marquis.

After he left, even though there were still many family members living separately, the former glory would no longer belong to the Liu family.

Since Chenzhou’s return, he had been in the capital for over half a year, and now it was time for them to leave. Everything had been prepared, and they could set off after finishing breakfast. They wouldn’t need this place anymore, and he felt a bit regretful about that.

Then he had a clever idea.

When Chenzhou realized that he wasn’t around, he wouldn’t be too worried initially. But as the departure time drew closer and he didn’t appear, he would definitely become anxious and might search for him. Left and right, he would eventually find this place, so he could pull him in and be affectionate before they left.

As expected, not long after, he saw a familiar figure through the folding screen entering the flower hall. The person asked where the Marquis had gone, and upon hearing that he was not present, proceeded to leisurely have his breakfast.

Liu Zhongming silently rubbed his hands, anticipating and speculating when the little fox would start worrying about finding him.

But before he could finish this meal, he heard a chair outside creak. Qu Chenzhou got up and called out, “Father, why are you here?”

He was somewhat surprised — given his uncle’s big, prideful personality, he wouldn’t give up his face and come to see his junior.

The voice outside indeed wasn’t Bai Shining, but Qu Chenzhou’s “Father” was called out correctly.

His father’s voice sounded a bit older than before, but still so gentle. It didn’t carry the same depression and melancholy as before. It seemed that these years had treated him well.

“Chenzhou, why is it only you here? Where’s Zhongming?”

“I woke up this morning, and he was already gone. Please don’t sit for long; I’ll have someone find him right away.” 

“No need to find him,” Liu Weizheng waved his hand. “I rushed back today mainly to talk to you about something. His absence is actually convenient.” 

“…” Liu Zhongming turned his head slightly and listened carefully by pressing his ear against the folding screen. 

“Chenzhou, is Zhongming treating you well?” 

“Father, don’t worry, he’s treating me very well.” 

“Good,” Liu Weizheng responded. “If he ever mistreats you, don’t keep it from me. Tell me, and I’ll stand up for you. I understand him; he may look like a decent person on the surface, but inside, he’s a scoundrel. I’m not worried that he’ll let you down; I’m worried that he’ll bully you.” 

“He… he hasn’t bullied me.”

He heard a soft cough from Qu Chenzhou, knowing that his little fox was still playing tricks on him in the bedroom. 

“What’s this?” 

When Liu Weizheng heard Qu Chenzhou asking, he became curious too. He dared not poke his head out, wishing he could somehow push his face through the folding screen. 

“Father still has some trusted people around, staying outside now, so there’s no need to bring so many here. Keep this token; in case he bullies you, listen to Father and break his hand for me.” 

“Th-thank you, Father.” 

“…,” Liu Zhongming worriedly covered his face, and he could even sense the mischievous smile that Qu Chenzhou was struggling to suppress. 

Before he could decide whether to protest and claim himself as the real son, he heard a servant announcing something from outside. Liu Weizheng stood up. 

“Shining… Shining is here?” 

He was somewhat surprised and understood why his father was so anxious. Both of these old men were proud of their status, and if they saw each other talking in an intimate manner with their respective sons, it would be awkward.

Qu Chenzhou also stood up, “If Father isn’t convenient to meet now, you can sit over there first.”

Before Liu Zhongming could react to where “over there” was, he was already locking eyes with his father

Both the old and the young generations of the Marquis were speechless, choked with emotions, unable to speak. They could only silently crouch on either side of the folding screen, straining their ears to listen to Bai Shining’s heavy footsteps and unyielding voice.

“Chenzhou, you’re leaving today, right? Why isn’t Zhongming here?”

“He went out. Please sit first, Father. I’ll have someone look for him.” Qu Chenzhou’s voice was light and soft, tinged with a smile. “If there’s something you need to tell us but forgot to mention yesterday, you can call us over. I hope Father won’t trouble himself to come all this way. And what about Mother?”

“I came on my own. Don’t tell your mother,” Bai Shining waved his hand. “No need to look for Zhongming. The brats not here, and I just wanted to have a private chat with you.”

“What does Father want to say?”

“What’s there to say?” Bai Shining scratched his head and got straight to the point. He placed a waist token on the table with a thud. 

“Since you won’t be frequently around us from now on, your mother is worried. These days, she’s been nagging me, saying that Zhongming is a scoundrel and worrying you might suffer.”

“Father can’t compare to the wealth and power of the Liu family, but there’s still some shops and staff here. Take this with you. If he dares to bully you in the future, break his legs. Don’t let him become arrogant, thinking that my son is easy to bully.”

“…” Liu Zhongming touched his leg and silently cast a glance at the other side where his own father was sitting.

“Thank… Thank you, Father.”

“We’re family. Why be so polite?” Bai Shining slapped his leg. “Alright, I won’t delay your time. It’s good that you’re leaving…”

He seemed to sigh with emotion, “If your father had been willing to leave back then, too… Forget it, forget it. Let’s not talk about this.”

Liu Zhongming sneakily looked at his father and received a calm, indifferent smile. His nervousness eased.

“Make sure you have everything packed. You can go, and remember to visit every once in a while. Don’t let your mother worry too much…”

Bai Shining seemed like he wanted to say something more, but suddenly, a shout echoed in the courtyard, “Chenzhou!”

This shout made Bai Shining panic, “Why did your mother come? She sent me over this morning, and I said I had official matters to attend to — I can’t let her see me. I need to find a place…”

Before the father-son duo behind the folding screen could internally curse out a certain word, they saw Bai Shining dart in with a swift step.

The three of them stared at each other and then found their own places to silently crouch.

Madam Bai’s voice had already entered the reception hall, as if fearing she would delay things. She was chattering on with inquiries and warm greetings, interspersed with complaints about Bai Shining, that old man who was only concerned with military matters and neglecting their son.

Bai Shining, under the gaze of the Liu father and son, scratched his head in embarrassment.

The space behind the folding screen wasn’t very large, and the three of them weren’t petite figures either. They found the atmosphere increasingly hard to bear, hoping that Madam Bai would quickly finish her instructions so they could leave.

Unexpectedly, Qu Chenzhou interrupted Madam Bai’s words, “Mother, I understand. I’ll take the things.”

Qu Chenzhou was usually polite and courteous, not just with anyone, let alone with Madam Bai.

Liu Zhongming felt puzzled and glanced at the other side behind the folding screen. He saw Qu Chenzhou’s hand placed on a box about half a foot in size, blocking Madam Bai’s hand from opening it.

“What’s the rush? Listen to me.”

Madam Bai lowered her voice, “This box hasn’t been used. It was given to me by my mother when I got married. She was worried that Shining wouldn’t manage. Back then, I thought she was fussing for nothing. But now that I’m a mother myself, I realize…”

“Mother… I understand…” Qu Chenzhou coughed heavily and interrupted her, “You should go back. We’ll visit you frequently.”

“What’s the rush? I haven’t finished yet…”

Madam Bai wanted to say more, but then a servant outside announced, “Young Master, the two Generals Bais are here to see you off.”

She glanced at the things on the table with some panic. Since the reception hall was full of tables, chairs, and antiques, there wasn’t even a place to stuff something. Without waiting for the three men behind her to wail in anguish, she was already standing between the three men.

Madam Bai: “…”

“Ying… Ying Er…” Bai Shining mustered up his courage to block her to the innermost part, pretending not to know anything. “You’re here too… Perfect timing… Let’s go home together.”

Madam Bai’s face turned crimson, and she could only turn away from him. She didn’t know whether to vent her anger at the two sons meddling outside or the three scoundrels hiding inside.

“Chenzhou, what’s wrong with you?” Bai Shiyan’s voice came from outside.

Bai Shilei also hurriedly asked, “Chenzhou, why is your face so red? Are you feeling unwell somewhere? Since you’ve set the date yourselves, why not delay the departure for a few days?”

“I’m fine,” Qu Chenzhou seemed to be struggling to endure something. “Aren’t Big Brother and Second Brother supposed to be in the yamen at this time? Why do you have time to come over?”

“We’ll be back soon,” Bai Shilei raised his voice. “We’ll only stay for a while. Just now, the Dali Temple sent a message asking us to help fetch someone at the Justice Court. We slipped away halfway to come here.”

Qu Chenzhou smiled lightly, “Then you should go quickly. If Ling He knows about this, he’ll be unhappy.”

“His temper…”

“Enough.” Bai Shiyan stopped his brother’s grumbling before turning to Qu Chenzhou.

“Chenzhou, since you’ll be coming back, we won’t bother with sentimental farewells. Don’t let Zhongming bully you outside. Take this. We trust you with your decisions and command. We can handle whatever military matters come our way.”

Bai Shilei quickly added, “Just don’t let Dad find out!”

Qu Chenzhou covered his forehead and pushed them out, “I understand. Don’t worry about it. Just go…”

The two brothers hadn’t even crossed the threshold when someone outside the door came to greet, “Young Master, Chief of the Dali Temple Ling He requests an audience.”

The Bai siblings, like two startled rabbits, swiftly and hurriedly slipped inside from both sides behind the folding screen.

In the confined space, twelve eyes exchanged wordless glances.

Qu Chenzhou was already finding it both funny and exasperating as he chatted with Ling He outside, “Taking a break today, Ling He? Why do you have time to come over?”

“Just checking if you’ve left.”

Ling He, as always, remained aloof. He had a cup of tea before speaking.

“Qu Chenzhou, there’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while but never said. Since you’re leaving the capital today, I might as well tell you.”

Five pairs of eyes behind the folding screen were all fixed on Liu Zhongming, enjoying the situation.

Liu Zhongming responded with silence.

“What is it?” Qu Chenzhou asked.

“Although I’ve chosen to stand with you in the past, I’ve always felt that you’re the most uncontrollable person in the court. Your power goes far beyond ordinary people’s, and if you even have a slight rebellious intention, even Liu Zhongming wouldn’t be able to stop you.”

“I once thought that if one day I had you in my hands, I should exert all my efforts to control you completely to prevent future troubles.”

“But when that moment really arrived, I found that I couldn’t do it.”

“Not only couldn’t I do it, but I also considered that even if Liu Zhongming didn’t act, I would use other prisoners in the prison to help you escape.”

Ling He stood up and looked directly at Qu Chenzhou with his calm gaze.

“I rarely speak in such a manner to others, but aside from Lin Xiang, you are the second person I respect.”

He paused for a moment. “You should hear this for yourself. Don’t mention it to a second person.”

“You’re overpraising…” Qu Chenzhou cleared his throat awkwardly, his gaze shifting to the side. He had to be rude and usher him out, “Is the Dali Temple busy with official duties? Would you like to go back now…”

Ling He pondered for a moment, “Leaving my post without permission is indeed improper. Later, I will make amends to the Emperor…”

The next moment, he felt like he might have jinxed himself—a clamor sounded in the distance beyond the second gate, and someone shouted, “The Emperor is arriving!”

Qu Chenzhou was both amused and exasperated. At least this time he had someone who wouldn’t just ignore him and hide away.

The two of them went out to welcome the Emperor together.

Mu Jinglan ran with his clothes in his hands from a distance, and when he was a few steps away, he pounced, shouting crisply, “Uncle!”

Qu Chenzhou quickly bent down to catch him, wiping the sweat from his forehead, and softly chuckled, “Why did the Emperor leave the palace?”

“Uncle, can you not go?” The young emperor used both his hands and feet to crawl onto Qu Chenzhou, allowing himself to be carried into the reception hall.

“I will return, Your Majesty,” Qu Chenzhou put Mu Jinglan down at the table and smiled, “Didn’t the Emperor also entrust me with an important task? Ordering me to head south for inspection? Why don’t you want me to leave now?”

Mu Jinglan didn’t maintain his solemnity in front of him, tugging at Qu Chenzhou’s sleeve. “Let Anding Marquis go by himself.”

Bai Shiyan looked at Liu Zhongming’s dark expression and pinched himself hard to avoid laughing out loud.

Since Qu Chenzhou’s return to the capital, Mu Jinglan’s attitude had changed daily.

At first, he formally addressed Qu Sitian, then within two days, he turned affectionate and called him “uncle.” He completely forgot about the remaining three of the Bai family. Later, he even implicated Liu Zhongming.

Now, he only referred to Qu Chenzhou as “uncle,” making Liu Zhongming nearly disappear from his world. Every time Liu Zhongming was brought up, he clenched his teeth in anger, but neither side was his punching bag, so he could only swallow his grievances.

“I and the Marquis had already agreed that once the court is stable, we would go together to explore the outside world, ride horses on the grasslands…”

Liu Zhongming was silently engaging in an eye battle with Bai Shiyan but he suddenly stumbled upon this sentence.

“Golden bow, silver arrows, fiery horses in red attire…” All of these were promises Qu Chenzhou had once made to Liu Zhongming. Memories he had never dared to uncover were now being released within Qu Chenzhou’s composure.

“Then… Uncle, take this token from me. Issue orders as if I were personally present. If you encounter any trouble, you must inform me. I need to return, I haven’t finished studying Rong Xiang’s lessons.”

Mu Jinglan’s voice suddenly turned more fierce despite his childlike tone, “Ling He, you’re not allowed to tattle to Rong Xiang!”

“I comply…”

Ling He’s words were cut off as a flustered young eunuch rushed in, “Your Majesty, Rong Xiang has arrived!”

Mu Jinglan let out a small scream, dragging Ling He and heading straight for behind the folding screen. He was taken aback by the densely packed crowd and was about to shout in alarm when he heard Qu Chenzhou’s suppressed laughter from outside, “Jiuan.”

“Chenzhou, I’ve come to see you off. Where’s Zhongming? Has the Emperor come over? I didn’t find him in the study.”

“No one’s allowed to speak!” Mu Jinglan silently ordered with his lips, forcefully trying to create a small gap to breathe in.

“Your Majesty, don’t push!”

“Nobody move, squat down, squatting down is enough.”

“Ying Er, don’t panic, press against the wall, I’m protecting you.”

“Father, don’t cause trouble! You’re pushing against Mother! We’re all about to collapse!”

“You can’t squat down! Don’t squat! The screen is tilting! It’s tilting!”

The push and shove didn’t last more than a few breaths before the fragile folding screen crashed down. Amidst Rong Jiuan’s dumbfounded gaze, the old and the young came tumbling out.

Qu Chenzhou’s gaze met Liu Zhongming’s for a moment, and he finally couldn’t hold it in anymore. He held onto the edge of the table and burst into uncontrollable laughter.

Liu Zhongming stood up in one smooth motion, grabbed his hand, and ran out amidst hearty laughter.

“Rest assured, everyone, I’m taking Chenzhou with me!”

“Through mountains and rivers, until we meet again!”

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