Chapter 26 Guidance
That night, Qu Chenzhou kept his eyes open.
His pupils seemed to lose focus, and he listened in a daze to Liu Zhongming humming a familiar song, with tears running down from the corner of his eyes to his cheeks. It was only when it was almost dawn did he gradually fall asleep.
Qu Chenzhou, who woke up again, never said anything about this incident but seemed like an entirely different person. He no longer deliberately concealed himself in front of Liu Zhongming.
He would read the same books as Liu Zhongming, comment and interpret, and even mention the good traits of various members of the court from time to time.
A few of those things made Liu Zhongming’s jaw drop in shock. He almost thought a spirit had entered his body, for that’s how stimulated he was.
But after listening carefully, he realized that a lot of his words were not groundless
— Linghe, who is still in the Dali Office, was only promoted to the position of a deputy officer in the Ministry of Justice, a short time ago, if there were a noble who would help him out, with time, he would surely grow into a great talent.
Liu Zhongming had also noticed the said person, but he hadn’t given him much thought. From Qu Chenzhou’s words, he seemed to be implying that this person should be recruited.
——The system of granting posts secretly- it’s easy to be taken advantage of.
Although his father held an important position in court, he himself was silent and rarely spoke about others’ right and wrong. However, Liu Zhongming had heard him once mention this man when they were chatting in private.
——Rong Tanhua, who was appointed by the Emperor’s Golden Palace, but was now in exile. If he could catch hold of this person, Linghe wouldn’t be far out of reach.
With more and more of his words, it became more and more impossible for Liu Zhongming to not believe him.
He felt as if he was a person groping in the dark. And finally when he was desperate enough to give up, someone had taken his hands and showed him a narrow beam of light behind countless twists and turns.
He didn’t know who Qu Chenzhou was, but he knew that this person, really, was born to be his Achilles’ heel.
When he later returned to the Marquis Mansion to have dinner with his family, his father asked him about his homework as usual, and he also deliberately praised him, saying that his recent policy papers were less radical and more well-rounded than before. It was much more mature and worthy of praise.
Liu Zhongming’s heart leapt. If his father hadn’t mentioned it, he wouldn’t have noticed such a change in himself.
Liu Weizheng’s surprise was even more than Liu Zhongming’s.
Since the death of his eldest son, this son of his was like a kite that lost its anchor. He relied only on a little stubbornness to rise and fall, seemingly trying his best, but couldn’t find the right direction.
He couldn’t persuade his son, so he could only allow him to move to another residence. Although he had given him pointers many times in secret and in public, if his thoughts remained the same, the papers he wrote would not change.
He asked his son to move back several times, always resulting in nothing.
Now that he noticed that the barbs on his son’s body were inadvertently softening, he couldn’t help but be surprised and pleased.
At the dinner table, Madam Liu was still as nagging as before, constantly blaming others, and Liu Qingchi looked indifferent as always, but Liu Zhongming did not leave immediately like before.
This afternoon, when sending him out, that man had told him casually——Screams make clamor, love and hate intertwine, only then would the fireworks have its vital energy.
He was speaking about the way he was now.
In her long-winded talks, Madam Liu took a food box from the maid and handed it to him.
It contained everything he likes: posset, steamed chestnut cake with sweet-scented osmanthus, rose pastries, sweet snow noodles and four sweet candied fruits.
He hesitated, then pushed the food container back.
“Mother, do you have any salty snacks?”
When Bai Shiyan hurriedly entered the study, he didn’t see Liu Zhongming there. But he saw the back of a thin figure in front of the bookshelf, tiptoeing to reach two books at the very top.
Hearing the sound of footsteps, the man turned and looked over. When he saw him, he hurriedly fell onto his knees: “Greetings to General Bai.”
“Who let you in here?!” Bai Shiyan yelled, “Get out!”
Qu Chenzhou silently bowed his head, and was about to withdraw, but was stopped again: “Where is the Prince?”
“Replying to General Bai, the Prince said that he would take a nap and come back in a bit.”
Bai Shiyan frowned and looked at Qu Chenzhou, then looked at the study room, obviously feeling something wrong.
Based on his understanding of Zhongming, the study was an extremely important place. Even Shilei was not allowed to enter the study alone when he came over. How could he let a mere slave in here unsuspectingly?
Moreover, the current layout of the study seemed somewhat different from how it was when he visited before.
He looked around and quickly discovered that in addition to the frequently used bookcases and a few chairs set up for guests, a set of simple table and chairs was placed not far from the bookshelves. It goes without saying who prepared them for whom.
This couldn’t help but alarm him.
When he heard Fang Wuyang’s words, he had come to take a look too. That was originally just to play a joke on Zhongming, and it was not uncommon for a noble to raise a gigolo to play with.
As per Zhongming’s age, he shouldn’t have lived like an ascetic monk a long time ago.
Thus when Zhongming hadn’t seen him for almost two months, he didn’t take it very seriously. People who are just starting out in such things will inevitably be addicted to it for a while, so he thought he should wait until he gets bored of it.
What’s more, Zhongming himself was a very disciplined person.
So, the current situation was completely unexpected. He was able to lay so much trust on the slave that he gave him the freedom to go in and out of his study as he pleased? Or was the slave lying? Did something go wrong on Zhongming’s side?
Having fun is one thing, being addicted is another.
He was calm and silent and Qu Chenzhou was also kneeling, unable to get up until Liu Zhongming heard the news from his servants and rushed over.
“Chenzhou, you go out first.”
Qu Chenzhou retreated, but this remark made Bai Shiyan’s expression heavy: “Zhongming, what did you call him?”
“That’s his name, what else do you want me to call him?” Liu Zhongming asked, “Little monster?”
“When you went to rest, you allowed him to be here by himself?”
Liu Zhongming understood his suspicion and answered frankly: “Yes, I allowed him to find some books here by himself.”
“Are you crazy?” Bai Shiyan couldn’t believe it: “You don’t even allow Shilei and Qingchi in this place. What qualifications does he have to be allowed to stay here alone?”
“I have already put away the important things, so he won’t find it.”
“Zhongming!” Bai Shiyan was irritated by this careless answer: “I understand you haven’t touched anyone before, so now that you have just tasted a piece of meat, it must have felt delicious. And you must want to pamper him, but you should know your propriety.”
Liu Zhongming sat down calmly at the bookcase, “I didn’t touch him.”
“Didn’t touch him?” Bai Shiyan’s eyes widened: “Isn’t he living in your house?”
“Yes, but I didn’t touch him.”
Bai Shiyan’s expression was solemn: “Zhongming, it’s been almost two months and you haven’t touched him? Yet, he has you head over heels and muddle-headed?”
“I’m not muddle-headed,” Liu Zhongming retorted, but he knew better than anyone in his heart that a lot of Chenzhou’s matters now seemed to come to him involuntarily: “Shi Yan, you should know. When I took him, I didn’t intend to take him to bed.”
Bai Shiyan’s eyes widened. For the first time, he heard Liu Zhongming say the word “take him to bed” so naturally. This was something he never thought he would see, but at the moment, this change was no longer an event worth mentioning.
“Then since you trust him so much, do you know everything about him?”
Liu Zhongming shook his head. Not only did he not know, but he had become more and more confused, and more and more suspicious. But he also increasingly felt that this person must be inextricably linked to him, and would not harm him.
“Shi Yan, I would’ve naturally given you an account of his matter later. Did you come here today to quarrel with me?”
Although he knew that the other party was accomplishing great tasks with little effort with his clever maneuvers, Liu Zhongming’s promise always counted and Bai Shiyan wasn’t good at arguing with him. What’s more, he did have other important things today, and it was also related to that kid.
“Fang Wuyang got hold of some other things from Qisheng Building. He was afraid that others would flip through these records, so he brought you the booklet directly,” he handed over the contents in his hand: “Take a look at it yourself.”
Liu Zhongming turned over the pages and looked at it carefully. There was only one thing he had asked Fang Wuyang to investigate recently.
“From the age of six to nine, there were a total of 119 divinations, and seventy-one times without results,” he said softly: “Thirty evil divinations, 18 lucky divinations, 48 results.”
His chest seemed as if it was rammed into something, a result that he did not want to guess: “It was all fulfilled?”
“Not everyone came back to report. But of the lucky divinations, five did, while for the four evil divinations found, all clients came back. Every single one of them were fulfilled.”
“It doesn’t account for even half of the sum. Any random blind person could be more accurate than this.”
“Then what if I say that in addition to these nine people, Fang Wuyang tracked down seven more, and all their divinations were also fulfilled.”
Bai Shiyan looked at him, speaking out loud the guess that he didn’t dare to make: “It was 16 out of the forty-eight times, and it was not a vague gesture like nodding, shaking your head and speaking nonsense. Who can do that? Zhongming, you never believed in these things and you never talk about it. What do you have to say now?”
“What do you mean?”
“Zhongming, ” Bai Shiyan brows twitched: “are you asking me or are you protecting him?”
Liu Zhongming flipped through the booklet again and threw it on the table.
“Shi Yan, there are some things that I have to see with my own eyes before I believe them. These days, he has been living right under my nose. I have not seen what kind of unknown prophet he is, and tell me, if he really had such an ability, how could he still fall into trouble? Into his current situation? Who would be willing to be a slave?”
“Zhongming, are you really confused or are you testing me?” Bai Shiyan almost laughed at him.
“You had asked me some questions before. If he really knew the next actions of others, it means that your every move may be in his calculations. He knew that you would save him from Panhe, and he also knew how to get close to you! Was he really willing to be a slave or was it to get close to you?”
“It’s too convoluted, and I don’t believe it. The situation right now is still very uncertain. If my sister has no results on her side, I’d just have to continue being a bystander, and in that case, it is not worthwhile to make this much effort.” Liu Zhongming repeated calmly.
“Shi Yan, even ghosts and gods, they all have their own laws and restrictions. If he really knows everything, there are plenty of other ways to approach me. He didn’t need to take trouble like this.”
Bai Shi Yan never could win over him when speaking and also could really not answer those questions. After staring at him for a long while, he stretched out his hand to feel his pulse: “Zhongming, are you uncomfortable anywhere? Did he do something to you?”
Zhongming had asked around about the Gu technique of witches before. This time he came over and found that Zhongming’s whole person was not quite right. Zhongming had clearly said that he suspected the other party before, but now he was actually defending the other party?
The pulse under his hands was steady and strong.
“There’s nothing unusual.”
Liu Zhongming was not indifferent to these things. But as far as he knew, the art of witchcraft would invariably require some kind of psychic medium.
But when Qu Chenzhou was brought in, he didn’t even have a piece of clothing to cover his body. Everything he ate, wore, and had for shelter was provided by him, so there was no extra prop that could be used as a psychic medium.
If he were forced to admit that there indeed was something uncanny, it would be only that magical song.
He patted his friend on the shoulder: “If you aren’t reassured, I will go to the South Road Buddhist Temple with you another day and listen to what the abbott says.”
With this promise, Bai Shiyan finally relaxed and stopped asking.
“Well, you should be clear about the other matter in your own heart. Also, I heard that you haven’t gone out much in these two months?”
“Yeah.” Only when Liu Zhongming saw Bai Shiyan today, did he realize that he had been living in seclusion for a long time. Like a scholar who got lost in the mountains, reluctant to think about anything else in his carefree illusion, forgetting the way he should go.
“You said you weren’t fascinated by him…”
“Okay, I have been just a bit too busy recently,” Liu Zhongming said before Bai Shiyan’s reproach, “Let’s go, I haven’t hung out with you in a long time, so let’s go out and drink some wine.”
Of course, Bai Shiyan was happy that he returned to the way he was before.
Outside the study, Qu Chenzhou had already consciously swept all the fallen leaves on the ground. Seeing the two of them coming out of the study, he knelt on the side of the bluestone path.
Liu Zhongming passed by him, pulled him up habitually, and couldn’t help but blurt out the instructions he had swallowed.
“Don’t wait for me to eat at night and go to bed early.”
Under Bai Shiyan’s surprised and worried gaze, Liu Zhongming let go of his hand and left quickly.
Qu Chenzhou watched them leave in silence.
In the past two months, Liu Zhongming was not the only one who was addicted to this gentle and peaceful time.
When he first arrived, he was constantly longing and begging for death. But this wish had long been consumed and now, he even had a very small desire in his heart to live in this small yard forever, no matter what Zhongming wanted him to do.
Although he couldn’t hear the contents of the argument in the study, he could also guess.
In his last life, when he left Jinxi Academy after completing his studies, Liu Zhongming had become an official for him. And because of his status as the heir of a Marquis and his relationship to Concubine Liu, he would often visit the palace to see him.
Even back then, Bai Shiyan had reminded the two of them that they shouldn’t stick too close, for the man of aspirations above them would grow suspicious.
But it was hard to control themselves.
This time again, Bai Shiyan must be reminding Liu Zhongming to not take care of someone like him with unknown origins.
When Liu Zhongming was away, time seemed to pass by much slower than before. He sat down in the corridor and read a few pages from a book. Later, someone came and told him to change his clothes and to prepare to eat dinner.
He leaned forward, and raised his eyes inadvertently, feeling a sudden thud in his heart.
Bared on that servant’s body were divinations that seemed auspicious but fearful—Madam Liu’s reward.
This was a servant of Zhongming’s residence, why would he be rewarded by Madam Liu? His heart beat wildly, and all the answers he could think of were disturbing.
Even if Zhongming had cleaned up the servants in the courtyard, Madam Liu was the mistress of the Liu family after all. It was inevitable that there will be servants…
So Madam Liu is visiting this residence? Or is she already here?
In the past, he and Young Master Zhongming hadn’t experienced a lot of things and thought that they had concealed their secret well enough and were undercover, but they didn’t realize that they were living under the watchful eyes of many.
He had only met Madam Liu once, in court, and from her eyes filled with disgust, he probably read the other party’s attitude right.
If that’s how it was when he was the Si Tian Guan, with his current status, he would evidently not be allowed to appear in Zhongming’s residence, let alone live in the same room as Zhongming.
He almost didn’t spare any time to think about it. He jumped up, turned around and was about to flee, but in the next moment, the servant swooped over and hugged his legs.
The two rolled from the corridor to the ground together.
Before he broke free from the shackles of the man, in his sorry state, the sound of footsteps around him poured in, and there were loud voices.
“Madam, that’s him!”