Chapter 31 Collapse
For Liu Zhongming, celebrating New Year’s holidays was not a time to look forward to.
He had to go back to the Marquis Mansion, and apart from visiting his family whom he usually saw only a few times a month, because his father was not a lively character- many functions required him to take care of it.
His father only met with esteemed elders in the clan and veterans in the court, while the other clansmen were kept separated. There were many visitors who handed invitation cards, thus many other trivial matters required Liu Zhongming to come forward.
Therefore, even though he did not hold a position in court, many from the aristocratic families were familiar with Liu Zhongming.
He was still young now, and his move was undecided. His father had also told him that he respected his choice in getting to know these people; to advance and retreat as appropriate, he couldn’t not come into contact with them all.
On the other hand, many more didn’t want the An Ding Marquis’s Prince to be separated from these affairs. Of course, no one would believe that they would do so.
Only after the fifteenth day of the first lunar month was Liu Weizheng supposed to take over these matters and let his son go out to breathe.
There were many peers and juniors in the main branch of Bai Liu’s two families, not to mention distant relatives.
Liu Zhongming would greet them, have fun and relax together. They would drive a few boats and float aimlessly on the inland river along Xijing Avenue.
The older people liked to stay in the cabin, and the younger ones squeezed on the deck, vying for the river lights.
This was a rare time of the year to play leisurely.
After Liu Zhongming and Bai Shiyan drank a round with the people inside, they went to the deck to get some air. Darkness fell, and there were many lights floating on the river, reflecting a little red on the dark water.
Many people on both sides of the strait were calling out to friends and buying lanterns to guess riddles.
Liu Zhongming leaned against the ship’s side with his hand stove, looked at the shore quietly, and watched intently as the person selling the candied fruit pushed their wheelbarrow, shouting all the way.
At this time last year, the juniors were clamoring for sweets. He wouldn’t buy these things sold in the market usually, but because he was also in high spirits, he asked the sellers to board the boat and bought a lot for everyone on the boat.
But now that he saw it, he couldn’t even bring up any interest. Thinking about it, it seems that he hadn’t taken the initiative to taste these things for a long time.
Maybe it’s because there were too many troubles.
“What are you thinking about?” Bai Shiyan leaned to the side. As if he was not afraid of the cold, he wore only a layer of fine fleece in such weather, without even a cloak.
“Don’t show off.” Liu Zhongming motioned to a person to bring a large cloak: “Wear more. If you get sick, my aunt will stay up late to take care of you.”
“There is wine.” Bai Shiyan did not refuse his kindness, and put on his clothes. He shook the jug in front of him, saw the other party shake his head, and then followed up the previous question: “We’ve just started this year. Is it possible that you’ve already started to think about this year’s earnings?”
Liu Zhongming smiled and looked at him: “What’s wrong with that? Who would ever want less money?”
“How much money can Qishenglou bring in?” Bai Shiyan didn’t go around in circles with him, and asked directly: “I remember that you didn’t like that place before.”
When this question was asked, Liu Zhongming was not surprised. He knew that sooner or later the other party could not help but ask.
“It won’t bring in any money as of now. In spring next year, the structure will be changed again. I plan to have people drink tea downstairs, while upstairs people can appreciate treasures, jewels and gems. We could even have the female entertainers from the West dance the Swirling dance, or tell folklore and whatnot.”
Bai Shiyan was very dissatisfied with his answer which was obviously evasive.
“Zhongming, you know what I’m asking.”
“I didn’t buy Qisheng Building, you know this, don’t you? So what if you don’t think it’s good? Someone gave it away for free, so why shouldn’t I take it?”
“Why did Panhe give you the Qisheng building?”
“Last year, he made a shipment to someone somewhere. If it weren’t for me, he would have lost his money. He owed me a favor from then. This year he plans to run another shipment and he is afraid that it is too risky to run it himself, so he wants to follow me in the spring. Without expressing some good will first, how could he dare to beg me?”
Liu Zhongming answered simply, but didn’t talk to his friend in any more depth——Pan He had taken the initiative to buy Qisheng Building because during their chat, he had hinted at it, so he would naturally buy it to please him.
The ins and outs sounded very straightforward, and Bai Shiyan felt that he was making a bit of a fuss after considering it.
But thinking about this Qi Sheng building going around and then falling into Zhongming’s hands, he couldn’t feel at ease in his heart.
“Are you worried about me being schemed?” Liu Zhongming asked him.
Bai Shiyan nodded unwillingly, but felt that there was some truth to what he said before.
Panhe’s ship was involved in a lot of things even before and after the accident, it was a mess. If that person (Qu Chenzhou) can even calculate this, why bother to suffer so much and almost be killed several times.
If Zhongming couldn’t understand the many contradictions, he couldn’t either, even more so.
“If it is indeed a fraud, what good is in it for him? Even his deed is in the palm of my hands and if I want to use him, I can use him. If I want to sell him, I can do that too, and even if I want his life, he has no room for resistance. So really, what stunt can he possibly pull off?”
It would’ve been fine had Liu Zhongming nott bothered to explain it, but once he did, Bai Shiyan felt uneasy: “Zhongming, who is the guy you are speaking of?”
“Shi Yan, don’t play dumb puzzles with me- we grew up together. I know you are worried about me.”
Liu Zhongming fell silent for a moment: “I admit that he is really interesting, but see, it is not too difficult for people to let go… And as for matters regarding the Qisheng building, I have people watching over it. They will inform me if anything happens.”
Bai Shiyan kicked the railing and sighed for a while.
“It would be good if you know it in your heart. You were busy in the mansion a few days ago and Fang Wuyang didn’t feel like bothering you, so he came to me asking to tell you the news. He said that except for six people on the booklet he can’t find, the rest…”
Even without Bai Shiyan saying the rest, Liu Zhongming knew what he was going to say. Forty-eight cases of divination, of which 42 cases have been fulfilled. Although Du Quan did not have the courage to clearly record what the divinations were, the accuracy alone was shocking enough.
“When you see him next, thank him for me, and tell him not to talk about it elsewhere.” In fact, the last order was unnecessary. Liu Zhongming knew that Fang Wuyang was not a big mouthed person.
He tapped his fingers on the shipboard, looking at the river.
“Shi Yan, I actually didn’t really think about Qisheng building just now. Have you heard about the two Wangye years ago?”
“What?” Bai Shiyan was very happy to hear Liu Zhongming talk about the affairs of the court. Although he knew that Zhongming was not really desperate for an official career, it was something he wanted to see.
If Zhongming really had no intention of pursuing an official career, even if Liu Qingchi rose up step by step, he was afraid that the state of the Liu family would start to go downhill. By then, the Bai family will probably try to split and act independently, and he was unwilling to see this happen.
“Last year, Ning Wang’s subordinates were not successful in suppressing the bandits, and they instead provoked the rebels. The emperor had already dealt with it, but he also reminded Ning Wang to restrain his subordinates, which is considered to have given him face, but there were still people on Qi Wang’s side who refused to overlook these accounts and had been continuously making trouble.”
Bai Shiyan sneered: “The emperor was praying for blessings at the time, so how could he beat the fallen dogs (beat the bad guys)? And now that the dog can’t be beaten, the emperor is unhappy, and anyone who’s blind would be dragged along Qi Wang’s leg.”
“They all know in their hearts if they are making the right decision or not. I’m just curious about one thing, with Jiang Xingzhi by Qi Wang’s side, why couldn’t he suppress the person?”
“Maybe he thinks it’s a good time to get rid of Ning Wang? After all, the case on Ning Wang’s concealment hasn’t been turned over yet. If he’s convicted of multiple crimes at the same time, do you think he will be suppressed?”
“What a joke, Ning Wang is the Di Prince (son of the first wife), you think this little matter can affect him? What are they thinking? Jiang Xingzhi is not thatstupid. But with Ning Wang’s Si Tian Guan being taken down, it was a good thing for Qi Wang. I just don’t know where this one came from this time.”
Bai Shiyan looked at the river, and suddenly said, “Jiang Xingzhi moved the banquet to Qisheng Building last time, and sent someone to Little Brother Qu’s hometown to inquire, do you think… he plans to put Little Brother Qu up there?”
“I thought about it before. What you said isn’t impossible.” Liu Zhongming let out a long breath: “But he might have miscalculated.”
“It’s not like you haven’t seen Qu Chenzhou acting mute. He’s not someone Jiang Xingzhi can play with. Not to mention that it remains to be seen whether he has the ability to fool the emperor.”
Thinking about it had made Liu Zhongming angry multiple times. He was anxious, and smiled helplessly: “Qu Chenzhou, three rods and you still can’t beat out a fart (can’t beat out anything from him; information wise). He is stubborn and difficult- do you think the emperor can endure him? He is also suspicious. If he enters the palace in the morning, someone would probably end up picking up his corpse at noon. Does Jiang Xingzhi not want to keep his head or what?”
“I told you I don’t have a good brain for these things, yet you always keep talking about them with me.” Bai Shiyan laughed and said, “We can probably expect another big drama at the end of the year. My bets are on Ning Wang winning.”
“Then we can’t bet, since I’m betting on Ning Wang too. My father said that Shi Zhong Tang has made small moves recently, and his hand is coming from under the door to my father’s side. From that attitude, it seems like he not only wants to hold the Province door, but also wants to swallow the Provincial Shang Shu position.”
“I don’t know if the palace is peaceful or not, but I guess it passed through to the Empress side. There will be a lot of noise on both sides at the start of the year and the emperor had gotten sick from anger. The Empress is afraid the position of the crown Prince hasn’t been decided yet, and the emperor will give up on him.”
“I really don’t understand what the emperor is thinking.” Bai Shiyan interrupted after seeing no one around him.
“What’s not clear? The three Princes have their own shortcomings and advantges, and it is normal to be uncertain. If the emperor really gives up on him suddenly, I think Qi Wang will have a greater chance.”
Bai Shiyan also agreed: “This is natural. Qi Wang holds the sixteen guards of Nanya in his hand and has the fastest access to news in the palace. However, it’s not easy to say. The empress, concubine Ming and concubine Yu are also in the palace. It’s not necessarily clear who the final winner would be.”
“So, we are the farthest away,” Liu Zhongming glanced at him and smiled: “General Bai, work harder.”
“What should I do?” Bai Shiyan angrily laughed: “I have the Sixth Army of the BeiYa. Do you still expect the emperor to give me Nanya?”
“What’s impossible? I heard that Beiya and Nanya and Jinxiuying were all in the same hands before.”
“You mean Pei Doutong?” Bai Shiyan thought about it carefully: “Forget about it, my father used to have a good friendship with Pei Doutong, but even he does not know what happened to Pei Doutong in the end. The frightening thing is that he may not have even been left with an intact corpse. Don’t even think about it.”
He looked at Liu Zhongming, and asked, “Don’t just think about cheering me on, how about you?”
With Zhongming taking such interest in the matters of the court like this, is he sure that he really doesn’t want to become an official?
After all, the crown ceremony will be up in another year. Given the status of the Liu family and the emperor’s attitude towards Zhongming, going anywhere was a possibility and it only depended on Zhongming speaking up.
“I haven’t figured it out yet,” Liu Zhongming thought about it for a long time, then slowly replied: “It doesn’t matter to me whether I enter an official position, I just want to know what my brother encountered back then. Shi Yan, where do you think I should go? Where can I find the truth?”
Bai Shiyan covered his ears: “Don’t tell me this, you can discuss it with others. I’m just a soldier.”
Liu Zhongming also smiled bitterly. Besides Bai Shiyan, who else can he speak to about this?
Only if someone could help him…
As soon as this thought came out, another shadow suddenly appeared in his heart, and the calm clangs from the hand (chain reference) made him stop breathing for a moment.
If Shi Yan knew that he would still think of that person from time to time, who knows what he would nag him about.
“Did you talk to Uncle about these things?” Bai Shiyan asked.
Liu Zhongming shook his head. His father was completely different from him.
Although his father succeeded as An Ding Marquis, he also held an important position in the court, but he seemed to have entered a secular position. Apart from taking care of his duties, he didn’t say much about other matters, so he was always regarded as the central figure in the neutral position.
Although he seemed unfettered from the imperial court, he took care of more matters than most people in official positions. It was as if he was born to be worried in life.
“What about your second uncle?”
The second uncle Bai Shiyan was mentioning was Liu Weizheng’s younger brother Liu Weixian, and Liu Zhongming’s second uncle, who is the official Minister of Revenue. Similar to the Bai family, they had frequent dealings and were a branch family.
Liu Zhongming shook his head.
It’s not difficult to ask his second uncle to do things, but it’s impossible to talk about anything serious with his second uncle.
Liu Weixian’s reputation as a casanova was known everywhere in the capital. Until now, there was no nominal madam in his residence; only a few maidservants. Although there are two concubines, it was inevitable for them to cower in front of Liu Zhongming, and they were not very close.
He had seen his second uncle several times recently, and his second uncle would smile and want to talk to him about “things that only men can understand,” and planned to give him a “few”, which made him very annoyed.
To be honest, if it hadn’t been for uncle Bai Shining and his aunt having a deep affection, just looking at the situation of his home and his second uncle’s house, Liu Zhongming would really have no interest in starting a family.
“If you can’t think about it, don’t think about it. The year isn’t over, so don’t trouble yourself.” Bai Shiyan called some people over and poured a glass of wine for Liu Zhongming, and handed it over: “Another year has passed, and you are one year older. Don’t you want to say something?”
Liu Zhongming did not refuse his wine this time, but looked at the dim lantern reflected in the wine, and sighed softly: “Congratulations, it’s another year…”
The weather during Chinese New Year this year was cold, and it took nearly two months to warm up for work to begin.
Qisheng Building had not had any renovation in more than ten years. This time, only when it was going to undergo major changes did they find that a lot of structures had decayed. It was fortunate that there had been no accidents in these years. Therefore, it took more time than previously expected.
Bai Shiyan once laughed at him and said that Pan He had thrown him a mess, and before he made a few taels, he would have spent a lot of money.
Of course Liu Zhongming knew that he would not make a loss-making business, but to make money, he always had to put more effort into the process. During the process of working, he could not be a boss who asked others to work but did nothing himself, so he would come look from time to time.
Every time, he would stay not far nor too close, watching the figure busy in the crowd.
Maybe it was because he was not treated harshly anymore, and it was still the age for growth, after not having seen him for more than half a year, the man seemed to have grown a lot taller. He used to have the immature appearance of a child, but now he looked like an elegant youngster.
Even with the hideous scars shining on his face, he stood out among the crowd and was very eye-catching.
Only the pair of calm demon pupils remained the same as before.
The first time he passed by, the man saw him. After taking a brief look at each other, he looked away, and bowed his head intently to do his own task.
It was like this every time since then.
Liu Zhongming suspected that the other party hadn’t seen him, and when he went again, he called everyone to come over to speak, and stood in front of Qu Chenzhou.
Unexpectedly, the other party just stared at him for a moment, then just like everyone else, kneeled down and kowtowed.
This made him feel a sense of frustration, and even somehow felt wronged as if someone told him to visit a prostitute for nothing.
His dignified arrogant self had been pure for more than ten years. Before encountering this scourge, he had never touched anyone. Now he has been rumored everywhere in the city to have countless erotic adventures, and his reputation of many years has been ruined. He hadn’t even gotten a chance to defend himself.
After all, the initiator was himself and this was the most d*mned thing.
Even Bai Shiyan would sometimes wink at him and ask him if he would like to go to Huanyi Tower again to visit some gigolos, and kindly suggest that he should try a few more stores. That, this sort of thing, can be learned from Fang Wuyang.
If it weren’t for his self control, he really wanted to strangle and bury Bai Shiyan and Qu Chenzhou.
Since then, he had never been sentimental enough to look for that person’s figure. Even if he occasionally took a glance at him, he would endlessly tell himself that it was not on purpose.
Every time he went home, he would realize that this approach was really.. naive, but after a while, he would pretend to be calm and believe that the restoration of Qisheng Building was inevitably linked to him.
Then later, he would not learn and come over to take a look, expecting the other person to look at him more, and then go home after asking for trouble with a stomach full of fire.
He even wondered if he had spent the past two months with a ghost. And is it that now that the ghost was reborn as a human being, it couldn’t remember anything at all?
People standing by him watched him stare at the half-built Qi Sheng Building in a daze. His expression gradually became gloomy, and they didn’t know what he was thinking, so they hurriedly stepped forward and asked: “Prince, are you not satisfied? Do you want to ask the stewards to come over to speak to you?”
“No, go back.” He took the reins and turned the horse’s head: “It’s hot, get them more water.”
The horseshoes here hadn’t even been jolted, when there was some noise in the crowd at a distance. Everyone reined in and rushed in one direction.
“Sir, something seems to have happened over there.”
The watching crowd was pushed aside by the attendant. Before Liu Zhongming could see what happened in the center, the steward rushed to his horse while profusely bowing in panic: “I have disturbed the Prince!”
The steward wiped his sweat awkwardly: “Responding to the Prince, there is some… fighting going on.
Looking over his shoulders, Liu Zhongming saw the person in the crowd who had been pushed to the ground at a glance. Although the person was curled up on the ground, his figure was familiar.
His words halted, and just when he was deciding the not so good words to swear,, a huge roar and choking dust rushed from behind him.
The Qisheng Building, which was already in its embryonic form, collapsed suddenly, at the place where he was standing not long ago.