Chapter 25 Filthy
That night, Qu Chenzhou stayed in the sarong covering outside. When he laid down, it was already past Chou Shi (1-3am), and the whole room had Zhongming’s lively energy. He had been very at ease, and he didn’t wake up until half-past noon.
The sunlight outside the house was bright, and it shone directly in front of the bed. He sat up and looked at it for a while, only to realize that something was different.
The iron chains on his hands and feet had been removed, leaving only the unremovable slave rings. On the table were tempting food boxes and medicine bottles.
The estrangement and suspicion between them were like the ice and snow before the arrival of early spring, melting into a thin layer by the night scene of last night.
Qu Chenzhou had mixed feelings in his heart.
In his previous life, he tore himself to pieces. He thought that he had paid off his sins and bloody hands in this way. In this life, it would be good if he could live adrift and live without purpose. He didn’t dare to have excessive expectations with Zhongming.
But the world was unpredictable. He had been trying to look for death many times, but before he knew it, he had become so close to Zhongming.
It seemed like he was within reach, but in fact, it was like the mountain and the sea.
Zhongming was still a seemingly mature but innocent young man, while he was already the living dead, wading in blood and fire. He was no longer ignorant like before.
But this kind of gentleness and tranquillity always made people unable to stop. Just treat it as him being greedy for a while. He couldn’t help but cling to this kind of warmth.
Even if it’s only a moment, even if it’s within the perimeters of this wall and even if it would be gone once he leaves, bursting like flying bubbles, leaving nothing behind.
After everything was cleaned up, the servants took him to the study.
Liu Zhongming was making up for the schoolwork he had left yesterday. He didn’t let him in to disturb him, but he didn’t lock him up as before. He only allowed him to move around in the yard in front of the study.
The sycamore trees in the yard were in the right place. Although the roots were planted in the yard on the study side, the huge canopy was half slanted towards the bedroom.
In this way, the yards on both sides would not be tightly covered and there would be shade.
Qu Chenzhou walked slowly around the yard twice, then finally sat down at the root of the wall. The sycamore trees above his head were blooming while withering, and the ground was covered with a shallow layer.
Sunlight fell on his body mottled through the swaying canopy, neither cold nor hot.
He hadn’t had such a leisurely day in a long time. At first, he just tried to collect the sycamore flowers around him, gathering them into a small pile in front of him.
Gradually, such repetitive and simple things became a joy. He hummed a familiar tune and began to pick up the fallen flowers from all around. The piles of flowers got higher and higher, and he walked further and further.
He chased a flower that was swept away by the wind from under the flower stand. When he turned around, he saw a hand stretched out in front of him with a sycamore flower lying on his palm.
Qu Chenzhou was about to kneel down when he was pulled up by someone.
“Don’t kneel.” Liu Zhongming motioned for him to follow. He came to the front of the flower pile, dropped the flower in his hand, and asked: “What tune were you singing?”
Qu Chenzhou was stunned for a moment, he was unaware of it. When it comes to humming something without thinking about it, there should be only one tune he can hum casually.
“Replying to the prince, it’s just a small folk tune, I don’t know the name.”
Liu Zhongming was ashamed to say that he had been looking at him through the window for a long time. Although he couldn’t hear what the other party was humming, he could feel the brisk pace and felt a kind of comfortable happiness.
“Can you sing it to me?”
This tone was not a command, but a request, not the attitude that a prince should have towards a slave.
At this moment, the person standing in front of Qu Chenzhou seemed to have become the shy young man who was strong and calm like before.
He pondered carefully for a moment, and then said softly: “One drum sound, the March flowers bloom. The cuckoo sings in disorder, the small swallows are calling the east wind every day. After changing the horizon, it slowly returns to the path.”
In an instant, Liu Zhongming’s face was pale, as if struck by lightning.
“Two drum sounds, painted screen open for exhibition, spring dreams and autumn clouds, leaving drunk from the West building, slowly trekking. The red candle with no good plan, the half-moon leaning out of the windows.”
“Three drum sounds, hundred generations of court in the evening, the stream flowers withers, the north to south road diverges, missing the light of spring. The bagpipe leaves the pavilion late, and the king is going to Xiangjiang river.”
“Prince…” Qu Chenzhou stopped and looked at Liu Zhongming’s strange expression. He was surprised and hurriedly stretched out his hand to help: “Are you uncomfortable somewhere?”
From a very young age, he only sang this piece to himself. He was confident that Zhongming had not heard it before. But in his previous life, when he sang to Zhongming, he also had this inexplicably surprised expression.
At that time, Zhongming hugged him very tightly and whispered in his ear over and over again: “Chenzhou Er, you are mine…”
He once asked him about his surprise at that moment, and Zhongming only mentioned that he would let him know at that year’s birthday. He would treat it as a surprise, but before that time could arrive, a sudden change occurred, and henceforth their relationship was separated forever.
“It’s okay,” Liu Zhongming suppressed the frantic heartbeat in his chest: “You…continue to sing.”
“Four drum sounds, the bottle in front with cold wine, the railings beaten everywhere, singing and waiting, passionate and ruthless. Tomorrow, they will be separated, things of the world vast and obscure.”
“Five drum sounds, “Qu Chenzhou’s heart was uneasy, but he still continued to sing: “Five drum sounds, bead curtains wet, snow-filled mountain sky, clouds for thousands of miles, mountain customers in succession. Drink one’s fill like one has another intestine, no need to talk about leaving or death.”
Liu Zhongming staggered away without saying a word.
This night, he was destined to be unable to sleep.
He didn’t know if there was really someone behind Qu Chenzhou, so bold and crazy to push Qu Chenzhou, who was completely unsuitable for spy work, to his side.
If there was actually, it would be terrifying that this person knew himself better than everyone else.
Not only were they aware of all his weaknesses and soft spots, but they also knew the secrets in his heart so clearly, including this song.
Except for his elder brother, he didn’t tell a second person about this tune. Each turn of the tune, each word, was not wrong.
No one had taught him and this song seemed to be brought out from his mother’s womb. As he got older, it became clearer and clearer, making him feel like a monster.
He was afraid that others would look at him with strange eyes, so he only asked his brother for help.
After listening to him sing it once, his older brother touched the top of his head to comfort him
—everything has its own arrangement, don’t be afraid, try to accept yourself.
——Very good song, but it’s too sad, you still can’t understand it at your age.
After his brother’s explanation, he realized that this was a parting song, and the person who sang the song was singing it to another person.
The man hesitated outside the door for a long time, standing still from the first night shift to the fifth night shift before leaving reluctantly.
Sometimes, he felt like he was the one who was singing farewell, but he couldn’t remember who he was saying goodbye to.
After his older brother was gone, he never mentioned his thoughts to others, not even to Bai Shiyan.
Although Shi Yan had the closest relationship with him, their thoughts were often different. After a few quarrels, he didn’t say much about many things.
Sometimes, Shi Yan was more like a spur to him, urging him to move forward for the future of the Liu family and the Bai family.
But this Qu Chenzhou was like a bewitching devil, caressing his softest place with compassion and tenderness, causing him to lose his helmet and remove his armour without knowing it and become defeated.
Reasonable vigilance succumbed to fatigue. He listened to the sound of even breathing from the outside, and slowly fell asleep without knowing it. There were pink flowers in his dreams.
Holding a box full of sycamore flowers, he looked at the person opposite anxiously. The arcs of those demon pupils’ were beautiful: “I like flowers, and… I like you.”
He didn’t know if it was because he had been with Qu Chenzhou morning and night these days, but this kind of dream was no longer so scary. He was addicted to the smile in the dream and did not want to wake up.
In the following days, the two of them lived in a plain, ordinary way, as if they had been together for many years, with no one to pierce the window of doubt.
During the day, when Liu Zhongming was studying in the study room or meeting guests, Qu Chenzhou sat in the courtyard or read in the bedroom.
Besides not answering questions that could not be spoken about, he gradually stopped maintaining a deliberate disguise.
The elegant sitting posture in the palace, the etiquette before a meal, and the leisurely conversation were like spikes on him so that Liu Zhongming will not get too close to him.
Now that he couldn’t escape, he was afraid that he would drag Liu Zhongming into a place where he will never recover.
But every time he saw Liu Zhongming being pushed back by this spike, he would inevitably feel bitter in his mouth.
These days, if he mixed Coptis in honey and swallowed it, he wouldn’t be able to tell whether it was bitter or sweet.
After night fell, the two of them had dinner and went back to the bedroom together. Sometimes they would have some tea and chat for the night. Sometimes they would stay in the sarong covering and the inner bed respectively, doing their own things, and would say something from time to time.
Time went by like this as if it had become gentle because of the arrival of summer.
Liu Zhongming had always thought that he was a cautious person, but he did not expect that the other party was more reticent than him. When the two were together, he would actually talk more.
It wasn’t until at some point that he suddenly realized that he called out “Chenzhou” so naturally, and the other party responded to him so naturally, that he felt that something was different from before.
The other party seemed to be a swamp exuding fragrance, and he was sinking in, bit by bit, unable to extricate himself.
The sycamore blossoms were gone, and the lush leaves were rustling in the air every day. Qu Chenzhou had nothing to do, so he asked for some books.
He could see Liu Zhongming’s surprise, and he also knew what the other party was surprised about——he was Zhongming’s student before, so the things they liked were very similar.
After flipping through the books for two days under the eaves, he was called into the study. Liu Zhongming didn’t explain anything, but he knew the reason.
Because reading in the sun makes it easy to damage the eyes. This is where he was always criticized in the past.
“It’s a pity that such beautiful eyes would be damaged.”
Thus Zhongming didn’t want him to cry all the time. He was very obedient, and he didn’t cry again for many years.
Qu Chenzhou turned another page of the book, unconsciously raised his head and glanced at the bookcase, but unexpectedly met the gaze of the person who was looking at him. The two turned their faces at the same time, and both became embarrassed.
Fortunately, the footsteps of people broke the embarrassment.
Liu Zhongming turned over the invitation card that was handed over, and signalled to the person on the side: “Take him to the wing.”
Qu Chenzhou stood up and followed the servant out.
Every time there were guests, he needed to avoid them, but this time, he just had time to walk around the corner, when he heard a clean and refreshing voice at the reception pavilion. The voice was laughing lightly: “Zhongming, it’s such a great day right now, why don’t you go for a walk?”
Qu Chenzhou’s ten fingers curled up like chicken feet, pressing tightly on the wall. He was shaking all over from the voice.
On the other side of the corner, Liu Zhongming had already walked down the steps, and he greeted the person: “Wangye came so fast, I was just planning to go outside to receive you.”
“Zhongming, if you are this polite, you must regard me as an outsider.”
The two joked while entering the door, leaving only Qu Chenzhou who was working hard to support himself against the wall. Only then did he not lose control.
This was a voice he would never forget for the rest of his life.
When he heard this voice for the last time, Zhongming’s army had surrounded the capital for more than half a month. The palace gate was crumbling, and the palace was full of panic and anxiety.
Except in the Stargazing Pavilion.
He leaned on the wall with difficulty. Unable to support himself any longer, he slowly slipped down to his knees, holding his head desperately.
As if to protect himself. After he was reborn, many memories were deliberately locked, as if as long as he didn’t look and think about it, that unbearable past had never happened.
But now the shrunken door was knocked open again by this terrible sound.
It was impossible for him not to remember.
The pain made him so convulsive that he couldn’t even hear the muddy gasp in his ear.
He opened his eyes in humiliation, half of his face was soaked in the mattress, wet with tears and sweat. He bit on the linen cloth stuck in his mouth and silently looked at the cabinet in the distance.
On the cupboard was an exquisite eight-treasure box, supporting his last thread of consciousness.
It seems that the body being violated was just a pile of dead skin.
The voice behind him was like a poisoned bee sting, with hatred in his laugh.
“Qu Sitian, the Zhongming in your thoughts and mind is far away, do you want him to see what you are like now?”
“Does he know you are such an unrestrained and immoral person? Does he know your body better than Zhen?”
“Zhen and Liu Zhongming, which do you prefer?”
“Right, you can not talk now.”
The man without pity, again and again, knocked him into the headboard: “I do not dare let you speak, but you know so many secrets. Would anyone even listen to you?”
“You are scheming to hurt me, do you think Liu Zhongming will thank you? Will let you go?”
“Let me tell you, he made an oath before the battle to use your Qu Sitian’s blood as a sacrifice to the dead souls, now guess what he will do to you?”
“I will watch for you. I will see how he will treat you, his benefactor.”
The voice gasped in extreme joy, laughing out loud like crazy.
“You should pray for him, pray that he does not dare to treat me poorly, otherwise I will make him feel worst than dying!”
Qu Chenzhou squatted at the wall, trembling all over. The presumptuous laughter was like poison eroding his bones repeatedly.
How filthy he used to be, trapped in a quagmire that he couldn’t escape. But in that dark pool, there was another voice hissing—he couldn’t die, the evil spirits were still wandering around Zhongming, how can he die like this!
He stuffed a hand in his mouth and bit down firmly. The pain and the smell of blood restrained him from screaming, but the nightmare brought by this sound entangled him like vines. Everything around him seemed distant.
In the infinite etherealness, someone seemed to be calling him from the clouds. At first, they just called his name, then they quickly grabbed his hands that were in his hair.
After Liu Zhongming sent away the guest, he heard that something was wrong here, but he didn’t expect to see such a flustered Qu Chenzhou.
In his impression, as long as the child was awake, he would always be calm and he would never lose control of himself like this.
Even the gaze that he forced to look upwards had lost its spirit as if it was the despair before death.
Just like himself who had faced the corpse of his brother, he was filled with hysterics, unable to make a sound of grief.
He looked at these lost demon pupils as if he could hear the voice behind the despair—help me…help me…
Maybe it was because there was too much begging in these clean eyes, Liu Zhongming seemed to be caught by a sharp blade. It suddenly penetrated his heart and his eyes became red. He stretched out his hand carefully.
He leaned down, wrapped the shrouded little body in his arms, and carried him up in the astonishment of his subordinates’ eyes.
The homework in the study was still waiting for him to do, but at this time, he did nothing, didn’t ask anything, and just sat on the bed holding a little boy like a frightened little beast that was shaking slowly. He hummed softly.
“One drum sound, the March flowers bloom. The cuckoo sings in disorder, the small swallows are calling the east wind every day. After changing the horizon, it slowly returns to the path.”
He couldn’t think of the reason.
Maybe it’s just because the child needed a hug, and he happened to be willing to give it too.
The author has something to say: This tune was from long, long ago. Liu Zhongming sang it to Chenzhou when he met his death to say goodbye to Chenzhou.