The location of Tongchang teahouse was secluded, tucked away in a hollow on the shady side of Yun Mountain. The road was rough and the carriage ride was extremely bumpy.
Qi Yan looked different today. His whole body exuded an aura of gentleness; he did not even ask Xia Xun, who had obviously just arrived in Qingzhou, where he had learned that there was such a remote teahouse deep in the mountains.
It was getting late and the few customers in the teahouse were leaving one by one.
Once the waiter guided them to a private room, they became the only guests here.
The view from the room was excellent, with the windows opening to the bamboo forest and a lake behind the house.
The lake was quite large, and at first glance it did not seem artificial, but naturally formed.
Qi Yan couldn’t help but admire the scenery.
“Setting up a teahouse here, it really can be called taking advantage of the best view.”
Xia Xun was not in the mood to enjoy the view, and even if there was the most beautiful scenery in the world in front of him, he would not care to see it.
Without a word, he drank tea cup after cup.
He was too nervous.
Qi Yan was so perceptive that Xia Xun knew it was enough for him to say one wrong word and Qi Yan would notice.
He knew that he needed to act as he always did.
But he couldn’t.
He wasn’t sure just what kind of commotion Fumeng Tancha would have to cause to create chaos and take him away.
He chided himself that he should have known better and asked more questions in the first place, instead of waiting here anxiously like a headless fly.
Qi Yan circled around the private room and ordered both Qi Hui and Zhi Gui to retire.
Before she left, Zhi Gui gave Xia Xun a deep glance, and Xia Xun knew that she would take the opportunity to leave.
Qi Yan, unaware of this, sat down opposite Xia Xun.
He didn’t stop him when he saw that Xia Xun was drinking tea like a cow chewing peonies, but propped his chin on his hand and stared at him steadily.
Xia Xun drank all the tea in the pot and finally relented to put the cup on the table, his fingers rubbing the rim of the cup unconsciously. He couldn’t even say what kind of tea he had been drinking.
Naturally, Qi Yan’s eyes followed the movements of Xia Xun’s hand.
After looking for a while, Qi Yan suddenly said: “After all these years, your hand still hasn’t recovered.”
Xia Xun was startled and his fingers unconsciously curled.
Qi Yan reached his hand and gently flattened his palm, using his thumb to stroke Xia Xun’s fingers.
Xia Xun’s left hand was horribly scarred and his fingers were much thinner than those of his right hand.
These were the results left over from that burn back then.
Xia Xun tried to withdraw his hand, but Qi Yan clenched it tightly. Leaning down, he pressed his cheek against Xia Xun’s hand.
Xia Xun’s eyelashes flickered and he actually did not resist.
Qi Yan maintained his leaning position and asked in a low voice: “Didn’t you ask me before how Xia Xing died? Today, I can tell you the whole story.”
Xia Xun shook his head.
“There’s no need, I don’t want to know anymore.”
Qi Yan lifted his head and said firmly: “I have to tell you, otherwise, I’m afraid I won’t have the chance to— “
Xia Xun jolted: “What do you mean?”
Had Qi Yan noticed?
Impossible, if he had found out, how could he let Qi Hui leave?
Qi Yan laughed in a low voice: “Just think of it as me babbling… At that time, you were badly hurt…”
Xia Xun’s burns were severe.
Seven years ago, when Qi Yan carried him home, it was exactly what the doctor he hired said.
Xia Xun’s fingers were stripped of skin and flesh, and when the medicine was applied, its thick smell couldn’t hide the eerie smell of burnt meat.
Shaobo dared not look and fell down softly outside the door, crying.
Even Qi Hui frowned at this sight, unable to look at Xia Xun’s injuries.
Only Qi Yan, from beginning to end, held Xia Xun’s wrist firmly, helping the doctor to treat him.
His expression was unperturbed, as calm as a statue made of white clay.
Only for a moment this statue revealed tiny cracks.
That was the moment when Xia Xun woke from his coma.
The burns were excruciatingly painful, and the pain caused by treating the burns was many times worse.
In order to ease the pain, the doctor stuck silver needles into several of Xia Xun’s major acupuncture points, numbing the nerves in Xia Xun’s left hand. Even so, when the doctor poured the potion on Xia Xun’s hand, Xia Xun, who was unconscious, was still awakened by the pain.
The pain was so intense that Xia Xun’s face was distorted. He was curled like a shrimp, his intact right hand clutching the sheet tightly, his body dripping with cold sweat.
He clenched his teeth desperately, suppressing his cries of pain.
Qi Yan’s seemingly calm demeanour finally cracked a little.
He still pressed down hard on Xia Xun’s wrist to prevent Xia Xun from retracting his hand in pain.
At the same time, he gently held Xia Xun against his chest, his cheek resting against his forehead, his other hand gently patting his back, as he softly coaxed:
“Good boy, it doesn’t hurt anymore, it won’t hurt in a minute… hold on a little longer.”
Xia Xun’s eyes were open but empty; he couldn’t hear what Qi Yan was saying at all, his mind and body in agony.
He could not feel anything other than pain.
Qi Yan’s comforting and coaxing was basically useless.
In his fight with the pain, Xia Xun had only himself.
However, gradually, whether the doctor’s medicine had taken effect or whether the most intense pain had passed, Xia Xun slowly started hearing Qi Yan’s voice and feeling Qi Yan’s hand patting his back.
Something wet touched his forehead where Qi Yan’s cheek rested against it.
Xia Xun gasped and wondered in a daze if Qi Yan was crying.
It was so rare, a man like Qi Yan could cry too?
Xia Xun lifted his eyelids and tried to see his face.
A sudden surge of pain washed over him and Xia Xun’s vision went black as he fainted again.
Qi Yan embraced him and did not move for a long time.
With Qi Yan’s help, the doctor finished treating Xia Xun’s wounds, applying a thick layer of light green ointment to his hand and wrapping it in a thin bandage.
After the doctor had left, Qi Yan carefully laid Xia Xun down on his back and made him lie flat on the bed.
The rain-soaked clothes on Qi Yan’s body had long since been dried by his body heat and only the rainwater remaining on his hair dripped down intermittently.
He propped himself up on the bed and stood up, walking out in a trance, and as he stepped over the threshold, his body went limp and he suddenly fell to his knees.
He fell right next to Shaobo.
Shaobo stared at him blankly with tears on her face.
Qi Hui rushed over to help him, but Qi Yan shook his head stiffly, holding the threshold with his hand, and just knelt on the floor.
His eyelids were tightly closed, keeping back the tears; once he opened his eyes, his tears would flow down and keep flowing.
He kept his head down, resisting his heartache. His throat was bulging as if there was a knot there, his chest rising and falling as he breathed deeply.
After a while, in front of Shaobo, he gritted his teeth and said: “…I’m going to kill Xia Xing.”
Qi Hui immediately spoke out to stop him.
“My lord! Are you confused?! You must not speak rashly!”
He said it, staring straight at Shaobo, fearing that she would notice the hints.
Shaobo was dumbfounded, still lost in her heartache for Xia Xun, weeping quietly.
Qi Yan slowly opened his eyes, looked ahead and said, word for word: “I’m going to kill Xia Xing.”
This was not Qi Yan’s original plan.
In his original arrangement, Xia Hongxi was the first one he would kill.
He was the man responsible for the destruction of Qi Yan’s family, and once he was dead, the Xia family would be scattered and it would be easy for Qi Yan to get rid of anyone he wanted.
On the other hand, if he killed Xia Xing first, it would definitely cause Xia Hongxi to become wary and retaliate. If he knew that it was Qi Yan who killed Xia Xing, there was no guarantee that he would not guess Qi Yan’s true identity.
By then, Qi Yan would no longer be able to hide in the shadows and wait for an opportunity to collect evidence of Xia Hongxi’s crimes and avenge his parents’ death.
This was a risky move, and it was more than worth it for Qi Hui to beg him to think it over.
He hurriedly helped Shaobo up and took her to Xia Xun’s bedside, telling her to stop crying and concentrate on taking care of Xia Xun.
Shaobo wiped her tears and sat down on the footrest in front of the bed, staring at Xia Xun without blinking, as if she would not move a muscle even if the sky were to fall.
Qi Hui went out again and helped Qi Yan to get up and took him to the next room.
As soon as the door closed, Qi Hui said anxiously:
“My lord! How can you be so hasty? We are only one step away from our goal, and if you act arbitrarily, everything we have worked so hard for will go down the drain!”
Qi Yan’s mind was made up.
“If I don’t get rid of Xia Xing, I won’t be able to sleep at night, and I don’t know what face I’ll have to face Xia Xun.”
It was a rare occasion for Qi Hui not to follow his orders and advise him quickly: “My lord! Sooner or later, the Xia family will fall and Xia Xing will die! Why are you in such a hurry? Qi Hui has known you since you were born and you have never been like this. Why have you suddenly become someone Qi Hui doesn’t know?!”
Qi Yan got up and went to the cabinet to rummage in the drawers, looking for something.
Without looking back, he said to Qi Hui coldly: “That’s because you’re wrong, this is the way I am.”
After a few moments of searching, he pulled out a small vial from the depths of the cabinet.
Startled, Qi Hui asked: “My lord! You—? Could it be that you are doing this for the sake of Xia Xun—?!”
Qi Yan did not even look at him and put the vial of medicine into his sleeve: “So what? So what if I am? If I don’t kill Xia Xing now, should I wait until he burns Xia Xun’s right hand before doing something? Qi Hui, if you still recognize me as your master, don’t try to persuade me.”
It was rare for Qi Hui to see such a serious expression on Qi Yan’s face, and he understood at first glance that Qi Yan had already made up his mind.
He bowed his head in chagrin and held his breath, shuffling in place, forcing himself to make the decision
“Qi Hui understands… Qi Hui is going to follow the lord!”
Xia Xing died of poison.
Xia Hongxi took his entire family to a mountain temple, but only three days later, the news came from the capital that Xia Mansion had been robbed and that Xia Xun had also been taken away.
His plans were now in complete disarray.
He didn’t care about chanting sutras and rituals, so he took Xia Xing and rode all the way back home.
The steward stood outside the gate, greeting them in tears.
“My lord … ooooooooooooooo … Please forgive me, my lord! I didn’t protect the house! Not only did I lose a lot of valuable things but I also let the robbers take the little master away!”
Xia Hongxi lifted him by the collar asking fiercely: “Xia Xun was taken away? Does anyone else know about this?”
At this juncture, he was still thinking of his plan to make Xia Xun the scapegoat.
If no one else knew that Xia Xun had been taken away by the bandits, then he could still claim that Xia Xun had fled from the capital in fear of punishment for his crimes and no one knew where he was.
This way, he could still take the blame for the Xia family.
Who knew that the steward would cry and say: “Everyone in the capital knows! The capital authorities sent officials to search for the little master with all their might! My lord, you… don’t have to worry, I— “
Xia Hongxi was so angry that he threw him to the ground, kicking him twice: “Useless thing! You only know how to cause harm!”
With that, he left the steward behind and stormed into the house in a fury.
Xia Xing followed him with a pained look on his face after spitting at the steward several times.
“Good-for-nothing! What do you do to earn your food?”
The steward looked aggrieved. “Why… Do you blame me? Shouldn’t I have reported it to the authorities?”
Xia Xing did not even look at him, stepped over his body and went after Xia Hongxi.
In the study, Xia Hongxi was in a frenzy.
“What can we do? Not only is Xia Xun not dead, but he’s been taken away?!”
Xia Xing said sorrowfully: “They probably want to use his life to demand money from us. So we will not give it to them! Let them kill him!”
Xia Hongxi slapped the table.
“What’s the use of them killing him? If he is killed by the bandits, who will take the blame for me?”
Xia Xing clenched his jaws, trying to think of a way out for his father.
As he racked his brains, he couldn’t come up with any ideas. While he was struggling, a loud noise could be heard outside the study.
He rushed out and was about to curse, but when he saw who was coming, he was instantly dumbstruck.
In the courtyard, there was a large group of soldiers, and a young official of the Imperial Court of Judicial Review was standing at the head of the group, holding an imperial decree.
“By order of His Majesty, we are here to arrest the second son of the Xia family, Xia Xing! Where is the culprit? Where is he?”