Xia Hongxi ran out in a panic.
Xia Xing, already shackled, saw him and screamed, begging for help.
“Father! Help me! Father! The Court of Judicial Review prison is not a place for a human being, you can’t let them take me away!!!”
Xia Hongxi rushed to the official and hurriedly said.
“My son has always been a decent and obedient man, a dedicated official, how could he have committed a crime? There must be some misunderstanding! Please look into it!”
The young official stood solemnly and said indifferently: “I am only doing my job in an impartial manner, so please do not interfere with it, Lord Xia. Moreover, the arrest of Xia Xing was ordered by His Majesty, does Lord Xia want to disobey it?”
Xia Hongxi hurriedly explained: “I dare not! It’s just that… What crime has my son committed? Please, Young Master Official, explain!”
With a cold snort, the young official read out the imperial decree to him.
“Xia Xing, while administrating water transportation, used his power for personal gain, making secret profits and enriching his own pocket.”
When Xia Hongxi heard it, his face turned pale and he could not speak for a long time.
The young official closed the imperial decree and asked him:
“Does Lord Xia have any objections?”
Xia Hongxi’s lips trembled: “This, this…”
The young official turned around sharply.
“Take Xia Xing to the Court of Judicial Review!”
The prison cell of the Court of Judicial Review was cold and gloomy; it did not even have any bedding, just a few clumps of straw scattered on the floor.
The straw was many years old and had long since dried up, making it painful to lie on it.
Occasionally, rats squeaked and scuttled in the straw. Who knows what those rats had eaten here, but they were all shiny and glowing, much fatter than the prisoners.
Before Xia Xing came in, he could not have imagined that there were still such dilapidated places in the capital.
It was also the first time he had seen such big rats, and at first, he took them for weasels.
The rats were not afraid of people, and when they saw a new prisoner, they came up to him and kept sniffing him.
Terrified to death, Xia Xing jumped up and cowered in the far corner of the cell.
When he stepped there, some bugs scattered and fled, a scene so horrible that Xia Xing felt his scalp go numb. For the first time in his life he burst into a scream, clutching his head and rushing to the bars, shouting:
“Help! Let me out! Help! There are rats in here! There are rats!”
No matter how loudly he cried out for help, no one outside the bars paid any attention.
Determined, he shouted again:
“Aren’t you going to interrogate me? Let’s do it now! No need to torture me, I’ll tell you anything! I’ll tell you all the bad things my father has done if you let me out!”
Still no one responded.
This was the Court of Judicial Review’s method of interrogating prisoners.
When a prisoner was first sent to jail, there was always a slight chance that if he refused to confess, or if his family on the outside made some moves, he would get out unscathed.
But after three days in prison, whatever thoughts of being released a prisoner had were gone, and when brought for an interrogation, he would often say everything he could at once.
No matter how much Xia Xing shouted, for the first three days, no one would pay any attention to him.
Xia Xing kept screaming and yelling until his throat was hoarse, but in the end, he could only sit back in the straw in frustration.
After one blow after another, he could not help but feel distraught, hugging his knees and shrinking into a ball as if he had been wronged.
When Qi Yan came in, this was the scene he saw.
When Xia Xing heard footsteps, he rose quickly and scrambled on his hands and knees to the bars, saying to Qi Yan:
“You’re from the Court of Judicial Review? Interrogate me! I’ll confess everything! I’ll tell you everything my father has done! I’ll tell you everything my father has done if only you move me to another cell! I don’t want anything else, just a cell without rats!”
Qi Yan looked at him indifferently, his eyes full of contempt.
“Xia Xing.” He spoke quietly, “After all these years, you are still as vile and despicable as ever.”
Xia Xing looked bewildered.
“Who are you? Do you know me?”
His face suddenly turned vicious.
“Vile? Who are you? How dare you call me despicable? It was my father who used water transportation for personal gain! What’s that got to do with me? I have never done a single bad thing in my life! If I am despicable, are there any good people left in the world?!”
Qi Hui frowned at him. “You! You’re so shameless!”
Xia Xing, feeling righteous, asked him in return:
“Why should I be ashamed? What bad things have I done? You tell me!”
Qi Hui was so angry that he stepped forward and Xia Xing deliberately shoved his face to him:
“What? You can’t argue with me, so you want to fight? Come on! Hit me! Beat me to death if you can! If you can’t kill me, when I get out, I’ll kill you!”
Qi Hui pointed at his nose.
“Shame on you…!”
Qi Yan stopped him and whispered softly:
“Why do you need to talk to him? Trash like Xia Xing can’t speak human language.”
Xia Xing didn’t care when Qi Yan called him despicable, but when he called him trash, he was enraged and stood up violently, snarling at Qi Yan: “You’re trash! My family has more gold and jewellery than you have ever seen! Who are you?”
Qi Yan looked at him calmly: “Who am I? Take a good look, who am I?”
At first, Xia Xing thought he was just being mysterious and replied indifferently: “Why should I care who you are? If you want to interrogate me, do it, or get out! Don’t bother me!”
Qi Yan was not angry, nor did he say anything, but looked straight at him.
Xia Xing was so chilled by his gaze that he could not help but raise his head and meet his eyes.
After a moment, his originally cynical expression suddenly changed, becoming serious and grave, and slowly, revealing a look of panic.
“You, you are…?!” Xia Xing didn’t dare to believe: “You’re— Qi Yan!!!”
Qi Yan smiled faintly.
“So you still remember. I thought you had forgotten about us two brothers long ago.”
Xia Xing, creeped out and trembling, said, “Aren’t you… you dead…?”
Qi Yan shook his head gently.
“You remember wrong. It was not me who died, it was my brother who was only ten years old.”
Xia Xing sat down as if paralyzed.
“Didn’t you … His Majesty ordered you, ordered you to never enter the capital! How, how could you— how could you be here??”
Qi Yan said indifferently:
“You see, you remember wrongly again, the one who ordered me not to return to the court was clearly the previous emperor.”
Xia Xing shook his head desperately, his voice trembling:
“Impossible… this is not possible…”
Qi Yan slowly crouched down to look at him at the same level: “So afraid of me? You seem to have a guilty conscience? You know very well what you have done, don’t you? Too bad for you, you didn’t have to die so early but who told you to join your evil mother and come up with such a despicable trick.”
Thinking of Xia Xun, Qi Yan’s emotions finally surged, and he asked in a cold voice:
“Why? Why do you want to harm Xia Xun? Why do you always bully him? He is just an insignificant son of a concubine, so why do you hate him so much?”
Stunned, Xia Xing asked:
“You know Xia Xun? How do you know him? He never walks around—”
He suddenly thought of something and laughed, covering his face with his palms.
“Haha! I know! I know! Hahahaha—!”
Qi Hui cursed, “Shut up!”
Xia Xing’s crazy laughter continued for a long time.
He wiped away the tears from the corners of his eyes and said maliciously.
“So he’s your mole? Does he resent our Xia family so much that he is collaborating with you to bring us down? That heartless little beast! I knew he was just like his mother, a poorly bred wolf— ah! What are you doing?!!!”
Qi Yan pulled out a dagger he had hidden in his sleeve and stabbed Xia Xing in the arm. Without waiting for Xia Xing’s reaction, he pulled out the knife violently, leaving a bone deep, bloody wound.
Xia Xing covered the wound with his palm and rolled on the ground in pain, cursing.
“Bastard! You bastard! How dare you hurt me! When I get out of here, I’m going to skin you alive! I’m going to cut you to pieces!”
Qi Yan’s gaze was cold, like the gaze of the coldest snake in the darkness, as he grabbed the hem of Xia Xing’s robe and used it to wipe the blood on the dagger.
“Stop shouting. Before you die, I’ll ask again, why did you want to harm Xia Xun?”
Xia Xing gradually stopped cursing and rolling. He lay on the ground, gasping for air and saying:
“You want to kill me? I’m afraid… it’s not that easy! I am a prisoner of the Judicial Review Court, I have not yet been interrogated, and if I die in prison for no reason, they will not… fail to investigate! At that time, I myself will—!”
Seeing Qi Yan’s eyes, he abruptly shut his mouth.
Qi Yan’s eyes were full of disgust; an expression one could show only when looking at a dead man.
Then Xia Xing knew that Qi Yan was really going to kill him.
The fear for his life overwhelmed him, but after a brief moment of cowardice, he burst out.
“What the hell is Xia Xun? He is just a bastard born of a lowly whore! How can he deserve to be called Xia? Our Xia family raised him. Not to mention making him a scapegoat, if we wanted to kill him, we would have the right to do so! Who are you to interfere! Even if you kill me, he won’t survive! His hand was burned by me! Now that he’s been taken by the bandits, they will kill him because we won’t pay for him!”
Qi Yan nodded slowly as he stood up holding onto the bars and looking down at Xia Xing.
“You are still the same. The second young master of the Xia family who killed my brother for a petty revenge, worthy of being Xia Hongxi’s son. I wanted to finish you off with a single blow, but now I think that that kind of death was too easy for you.”
Qi Hui understood what he meant and cut the chain locking the door to the cell with his sword.
Xia Xing stepped back.
“What are you doing? Someone! Help! He is trying to kill me!!!”
The prison was silent, and the only sound that could be heard was the echo of Xia Xing’s screams.
Qi Yan walked into the cell and came up to him.
“Have you ever thought about who reported to His Majesty that your family was breaking the law and profiting secretly from your duties? Have you also thought that if His Majesty arrested you, you would ever be let out alive?”
Xia Xing pressed against the wall.
“You can’t kill me! You, you— how dare you! My father is Xia Hongxi! You—?”
He suddenly thought of something and his eyes grew even wider: “Wait! And… and my father? You still want to kill my father!”
Seeing Qi Yan approach step by step, Xia Xing was so scared that he desperately begged for mercy: “Don’t kill me! Don’t kill me! I can also be your mole! If you let me out, I will help you collect evidence on my father’s crimes! I promise, whether you kill him or whatever, I will never take revenge on you! I will do anything as long as you let me live!”
At this point, he didn’t care about his status and fell to his knees, kowtowing to Qi Yan with loud thuds.
Looking at his wretched appearance, Qi Yan sneered.
“Save these words for the underworld and tell them to my brother.”
He grabbed Xia Xing’s hair and lifted his head.
Qi Hui immediately handed over a small medicine vial, and Qi Yan, taking advantage of Xia Xing’s inability to resist, uncapped the vial and poured all the medicine into Xia Xing’s mouth, then threw him heavily to the ground.
Xia Xing kept coughing, trying to spit out the medicine.
Qi Hui gave Qi Yan a handkerchief, who took it and wiped his hand that had touched Xia Xing’s hair.
What Qi Yan had given him was a poison known as “Qian Ji”, a poison that caused a man’s whole body to twist in violent convulsions until death.
At first, the neck of a poisoned man would start to stiffen; then his whole body would start to spasm, and if he tried to move, or tried to speak, it caused the spasms to become even more fierce.
Eventually, the man’s body would twist into an arch, his head and feet brought together.
It was then that he would suffocate in agony.
Even after death, the body would remain in a state of spasm, creating a hideous picture.
The effects of Qian Ji soon kicked in and Xia Xing’s body began to twitch uncontrollably.
Qi Hui stepped between him and Qi Yan.
“My lord, the man who drank Qian Ji dies in a miserable state, so wait outside and I will report to you after I have personally confirmed Xia Xing’s death.”
Qi Yan didn’t move.
“I have waited so many years for this day. I must see him die before my eyes, otherwise how can I live up to my brother who died so tragically?”
Without blinking, he stared at Xia Xing until the man died in the cell, his pose extremely terrifying.
Qi Yan was motionless; even his breath did not speed up as he looked at Xia Xing’s corpse as if he were looking at a piece of dead meat.
“Let’s go,” he finally said
Qi Hui supported him, and the two of them walked out of the dungeon together.
Outside the prison, the moonlight was sparse, and the cool night breeze blew across Qi Yan’s face as he stood in the darkness.
Qi Hui said: “Don’t worry, my lord, everything is taken care of. Tomorrow the prison guards will report, saying that he committed suicide, fearing punishment for his crimes. There will be absolutely no connection between him and us.”
Qi Yan let out a tired breath; there was no joy in having his revenge.
“This is just the first step. Next, it’s Xia Hongxi.”
Qi Hui reassured: “We kicked the grass and scared the snake, let’s just make the best of it. It might work out even better than the previous plan.”
Qi Yan shook his head.
“I’m not worried about that, I’m thinking about Xia Xun’s injuries… let’s go back, it’s time for Xia Xun to change his medicine.”
In the pale night, the two mounted their horses and left without a trace.