Chapter 4 Dark Fire
The youngster on a horse in brocade dress had a smile on his eyes and an extravagant, noble air, which made people dare not look at him.
Unfortunately, he had a birthmark under his right eye. The faint brown from the corner of his eye wound towards his sideburns and had no real shape, but it erased a lot of his majesty and added a hint of a romantic flavour.
It made people feel that even if this person did a bad thing, it was just a wayward joke, and it would be hard to dislike him.
Although the people in the Qisheng building didn’t recognize him, seeing his style, they didn’t dare to make trouble. The steward hurriedly stepped forward and responded, “Replying to Gongzi, Qisheng building is catching the escaped domestic slave.”
The servant next to the boy listened to him, then whispered a few words to him, as if he was explaining what was happening.
The young man casually clamped his horse’s belly and watched the servant tie the man’s hands against his back.
Someone tore off the covering that was covering the face of the little domestic slave and put the knockout drug-stained towel over his mouth and nose.
“Dare to escape? You really are bold.” The youngster snapped his riding-whip to the crowd. “You can arrest people, but why are you being so noisy on the street?”
“Yes,” the steward nodded: “Gongzi is correct.”
He didn’t know if he saw it wrong, but when the skinny domestic slave was carried away, he seemed to have been watching him, then he slowly stopped struggling and closed his eyes.
He watched for a while, then stopped being nosy: “Let’s go.”
The steward clasped his hands and was just about to leave when he heard someone ask: “What’s the matter with the eyes of the kid just now?”
“Gongzi has good eyesight,” The steward replied politely: “His eyes were born like that, very rare. If Gongzi wants to see this little monster, maybe Gongzi can come another day to sit at Qisheng building and enjoy some good tea or wine. What are Gongzi’s thoughts?”
“Shiyan, listen to this man’s shrewdness.” The young man smiled and spoke to a white-clothed Gongzi on the side: “I just asked a few words, and he intends to make money off me.”
Bai Shiyan couldn’t help laughing: “Okay, we know that you are a cheapskate.”
“Nonsense,” The young man raised his whip lightly and continued forward: “If I am a cheapskate, how can I be cheated by you for so many years?”
Bai Shiyan also whipped his horse and walked slowly with him: “Zhongming, is this your first time seeing the kid just now?”
Liu Zhongming raised his eyebrows: “Do you know him?”
“Not so much as to really know him, it can only be considered the first time when I visited the capital before. Didn’t you go to the Qisheng building…”
Bai Shiyan paused in time, regretting in his heart——The time Zhongming went to Qisheng building, he took them there and that was the day something happened to the Liu family.
He glanced at Liu Zhongming. Seeing that there was no response, he continued.
“I heard that this child runs out every few days, and makes a disturbance each time. I haven’t seen him for a while. I thought he had been killed a long time ago, who knew he was still alive.”
Liu Zhongming nodded in agreement: “Running away so many times, but still being kept alive, it doesn’t seem like Du Quan’s temperament. It seems that he might be worth a little bit.”
“Well, he is a businessman, he has a bright mind in that respect.” Bai Shiyan didn’t know whether to praise him or diss him. “The strange in Qishenglou (qi = strange) was changed for him. It is said that he has no divination that doesn’t come true.”
Liu Zhongming sneered, noncommittal.
Bai Shiyan knew his attitude towards this kind of thing, and smiled: “It’s just for fun, who would take it seriously? Someone asked my father to go for a drink a few years ago, that’s when Shilei and I happened to follow along and saw him.”
Liu Zhongming was silent for a moment, and his attention shifted: “Uncle has the patience to listen to these things?”
“It’s just for entertainment. What if he doesn’t have the patience? It was Yu Gonggong’s invitation, so he couldn’t reject it.”
“Yu Gonggong? “Liu Zhongming slowly took back his smile: “What then? What was the divination? How was the result?”
What that man knows best is to win favour by fawning over others, so how could he invite his uncle for no reason to drink?
“How can there be any results? Who doesn’t know what things are the most pleasing to hear and most profitable? In this capital alone, I don’t know how many people are known as half immortals or fortune-tellers, not to mention that child looks a little strange. “
Liu Zhongming breathed a sigh of relief: “I heard that Du Quan of Qisheng Building was greedy, so it’s not surprising that he would do this kind of thing. But if there is no result, isn’t it smashing his own signboard?”
“That’s why people say Du Quan is a person with a good eye and never loses to people. He always speaks in advance, saying that if there is nothing wrong, no big ups and downs, there will be no results.”
“What a bunch of pig lard, does he think everyone is stupid?”
“Isn’t that right? Even if you are cheating someone, you should find the right opportunity. Du Quan should really learn from you.” Bai Shiyan laughed: “That kid is like a little mute. Ask one question, you’ll receive three I don’t knows. He only shakes his head. My dad could see that he was so frightened he was shivering. It was very pitiful. My dad even had us take him out to play.”
“Shilei should like it very much, he loves to play with the little guys.”
“But where could we take him?” Bai Shiyan and Liu Zhongming let go of the reins and let the horse slowly trot forward. The horse created a rhythmic click on the stone-paved streets.
“He was very afraid, so much that he didn’t dare to raise his head. He didn’t cry or laugh, he kept kneeling on the ground and refused to get up. He would just kowtow when he was asked anything. It was quite boring, and we never saw him again.”
“En.” Liu Zhongming answered absent-mindedly.
“Something on your mind?” Bai Shiyan teased him: “Did your thoughts catch on to something and now you want to do some divination business?”
Liu Zhongming glanced at him: “Supernatural things are not credible.”
Bai Shiyan laughed: “If you don’t believe in the supernatural, then why did you ask me to go to the South Road Buddhist Temple with you today ?”
“You can not believe it, but you can’t be disrespectful.” Liu Zhongming smiled: “Shiyan, do you remember the dream I told you before?”
“Something went wrong?” Bai Shiyan was stunned for a moment: “The amulet doesn’t work anymore?”
His cousin was seriously ill when he was a child. If it hadn’t been for the abbot of the South Road Buddhist Temple chanting sutras for him, he would have almost failed to make it through. Since then, his cousin would repeatedly have the same dream.
“Yeah.” Liu Zhongming closed his eyes and slowly recalled it. He remembered every detail in this dream, as if he had experienced it personally.
“The dream looked like it was in early April. I was in Jinxi Academy. I came out from the library door and then passed through the pavilion. There was a bronze bell on the pavilion that was broken. Everywhere, the magnolias were in full bloom. After I walked past the tree, I went to the corridor to the south.”
Bai Shiyan has heard of this dream more than once. They have all studied at Jinxi Academy, and they would even go back occasionally to help the teachers control their junior brothers and sisters.
But in this dream, the corridor seemed to have no end, and his cousin would keep walking. He would keep walking and walking until dawn when he woke up from the dream.
“But the situation in my dream was different this time. I kept walking forward until I saw the corner of the corridor.”
Under the big sun, Bai Shiyan felt a little chill on his body: “You walked to the end?”
“Yes, not just that. When I reached the end, I turned the corner and saw Yao Shilang’s second child and his accomplices bullying people.”
“Why did you dream of him?” Bai Shiyan was puzzled, but this dream seemed real enough. Yao Shilang’s second son loved to bully the honest children in the academy the most.
“Who were they bullying?”
Liu Zhongming thought for a moment: “They ran away after seeing me. They did leave behind a person kneeling on the ground. I seemed to have called him.”
“Is it someone you know?”
“No…” Liu Zhongming shook his head, not quite sure: “I don’t know what name was called in the dream, I woke up before he looked up.”
Even if he always had this kind of dream, he didn’t believe in the supernatural, but the figure he saw in his dream made him feel very contradictory. It made him feel extremely fearful with a strange longing.
It was as if God was making a joke with him, to make him, a stubborn person, yield. He was just like the emperor, he would not seek the common people but seek the supernatural.
Seeing that he was not talking anymore, Bai Shiyan used his horsewhip to tap his horse lightly: “Go, go to the abbot and ask.”
The South Road Buddhist Temple was not far from the capital, so the horse galloped over and arrived before noon. Unfortunately, the abbot was in retreat and they did not see anyone.
When he came out of the mountain temple, Liu Zhongming looked at the distant mountain for a long time.
It was the early spring when the buds on the branches have not yet appeared, only the bare trunks can be seen.
The bark of the old peach trees in the mountains glowed with a dark red lustre in the sun. From a distance, they looked like a dark fire buried in the soil, just waiting for a little spark to turn into a skyrocketing fire.
Once again, the fire swept from a distance and burned to the foot of the Star Gazing Pavilion.
Chaotic footsteps sounded from the steps again, as if many people were rushing up.
This familiar situation was staggering.
Was Jing Chen and Bai Shilei there? Was he going to be dragged to be paraded again? Was he going to have to endure endless torture again… But can he see him again…
What’s next? Will he return to Pan He?
Which scene was a dream? Which one was real?
In his semi-drowsy state, Qu Chenzhou hadn’t figured out these things yet when a scoop of cold water was poured on his face. He gasped a few times, then spat out the water in his mouth and completely awoke.
In the dark prison, he was awakened by the water splashing like this more than once. He thought he saw dim lights and bloody instruments of torture when he opened his eyes, but this time he was looking at another place he was familiar with.
This was the Qisheng building.
Hearing it from the old man, this place was originally a wood shed, but when the dynasty was turned over, it was abandoned. Thus, when there were lowly slaves who were disobedient, they would be dragged here to be dealt with.
Since childhood, he had been a frequent visitor here.
Although he knew that he was sold by his father, he had nowhere else to go except for his home. That was the only place he could go back to, so he tried everything he could to escape.
It’s a pity that he was too young to know where his home was and his appearance was too obvious. Everyone knew that this child belonged to Qisheng building.
Every time he escaped, he was caught back, and would be dragged here to stay for a while. There were so many scars and painful memories that he hadn’t dared to run for several years.
Qu Chenzhou lowered his head and saw his feet off the ground.
The shirt had been stripped off, and he didn’t need to look up to see the hands tied with the hemp rope. He knew what would happen to him.
“Little beast!” A violent halt rang out in front of him, and someone lifted their foot and kicked his stomach.
The people on the side hurriedly stepped forward and stopped the man: “Boss, don’t be angry! Little Brother Qu is young and ignorant, please be magnanimous and spare him this time.”
With no strength left, Qu Chenzhou shook a few times. He felt his stomach turn upside down and he almost vomited out. Panting, he raised his head.
Since he had been handed over to Qisheng building, he was always in the hands of Steward Lin and sometimes the punishment was done by Steward Lin himself.
The person he relied on the most was Steward Lin, but besides Du Quan, the person he feared the most was also Steward Lin.
After entering the palace, he had seen a lot of things, and he slowly remembered that if it hadn’t been for Steward Lin who had been protecting himself, he might have been beaten to death a long time ago.
When he was dragged into the street, he saw Steward Lin, who was already gray-haired, following him in the crowd, secretly wiping his tears.
Now seeing him again, Qu Chenzhou was pleased and excited, but also confused and terrified——whether it was the physical pain or the person in front of him, it was all so real.
Could this not be a dream? Did he not die?