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Chapter 98: Torturing a Frail Woman in the Celestial Prison
Due to the Overwatch Council operating directly from the emperor’s orders, the Celestial Prison was no longer located in the Ministry of Justice building, nor was it in the Supreme Court. It was located near the Council itself, right around the corner, to keep serious offenders behind bars. The security was exceptionally tight; due to its close proximity to the Council, if something happened, help would arrive immediately. Although Wang Qinian was no longer a part of the Council—on the surface, at least—he and Fan Xian were trusted by the guard thanks to Fan Xian’s badge. Together the two of them entered the Celestial Prison.

The two iron doors opened silently; not the rusty creaking sound Fan Xian had been expecting. The guard on duty inspected the badge carefully before respectfully inviting the two inside. The guard then closed the doors from the outside.
Behind the iron doors was a long corridor. Dim oil lamps were lit on the walls on either side lit. The stone steps felt slightly damp and slippery, but there was not a single bit of moss, a sign that the place was carefully taken care of every day. As they proceeded, for every set distance they walked, they saw a warden. While those wardens didn’t look to be too fearsome, Fan Xian eyed them carefully and discovered each one was a fourth-ranked official.
After walking for a while, the air became stale and musty, blending in with the dim lights. The environment was enough to make anyone feel sluggish, as if this place was no longer part of the world of living, but the underworld.
"Please show your official documents or permit." A head jailer with murky eyes looked at Wang Qinian.
Wang Qinian was very respectful towards this head jailer and gave him Fan Xian’s badge. The head jailer had a very weathered look; the wrinkles on his face looked like ridges of dirt that had been washed over by water. Receiving the badge, he looked at Wang Qinian suspiciously. "Did you get a promotion, Wang?"
Wang Qinian politely moved aside, showing Fan Xian who had been hidden behind Wang Qinian’s frame. "I’m accompanying His Highness today to investigate a case." The head jailer couldn’t make out Fan Xian’s face, but he nevertheless knew the significance of the badge in his hand. Nodding to show his permission, the head jailer took out his keys and opened the door next to him. With a gesture of his hand, he invited the two to proceed inside.
Fan Xian had a troubled expression. Would they be questioning Si Lili from behind a barrier? He didn’t want to let too many people hear his voice, so he turned and winked at Wang Qinian.
Wang Qinian shook his head with a smile.
After the door behind them closed, Fan Xian expressed his curiosity. "Why are you afraid of him?" Wang Qinian replied with a bitter frown, "He was the former boss of the Seventh Bureau; spent his whole life watching over the prison. Even after he passed the age limit, he willingly came back to be the head jailer. He says he likes the smell of blood and gore here. Your Highness, how could I not be afraid of someone like that?"
Fan Xian shuddered. It seemed like this Overwatch Council was a nest full of freaks like that. What was his mother thinking, spending money to create this monster of an organization?
As they had asked for the directions previously, they easily found the cell holding Si Lili. Seeing the beauty inside the cage made Fan Xian frown. Despite being locked up in such a terrifying place, the frail woman was sitting calmly. At first, Fan Xian thought Northern Qi must have disciplined her well. But then he thought she wouldn’t be that impressive, or else she wouldn’t have attempted to escape the capital. Anyone more capable would have willingly submitted and dragged down some higher-ups with them in order to cause as much unrest in the Imperial court as possible.
Unbeknownst to Fan Xian, his theory was largely i

n agreement with the theory of the official who was in charge of bringing Si Lili back to the capital. He took off the grey robes from his head and looked at Si Lili while gently calling out, "Miss Lili."
Si Lili knew someone was there. She had just arrived back in the capital today; for her to be questioned so soon, she thought for a moment that she was quite important, so she intentionally showed a haughty expression. But to her surprise… it was the esteemed son from Fan Manor!
"Sir Fan?" Si Lili was beyond bewildered, but managed to keep herself from shouting out.
"Miss Si, it’s been a few months since we bid farewell at the Drunken Immortal. I didn’t think we would meet again, especially not under such circumstances." Back on the day when they shared a bed, they had been so intertwined. Back then, nothing would have made Fan Xian believe she was a spy from Northern Qi.
Si Lili thought of something as her expression darkened. She said, "I never imagined you would be so secretive."
Fan Xian sighed slightly. "Thin bamboo is reflected on the banks of the Yi River, just like the cold, crisp autumn night. If a crane were standing proudly by the side, it would be an incomparable scene. I suppose it was fate that brought us together, although I don’t understand, how could you plot against my life?"
Fan Xian had quoted that Qian Weiyan poem in order to show his refinement. As Si Lili was a prolific courtesan in the capital, she had been adored by the public all her life as a woman of civil virtues. Due to that, Fan Xian believed she would have at least some virtue to her. His sigh was also intentional. It was his attempt to weaken the spy’s mental defenses. Unexpectedly, Si Lili only lowered her head, seemingly unmoved.
Fan Xian sighed again. "Such a pretty woman; why choose to be a criminal?"
Si Lili gave him a charming smile. She was a pretty woman indeed, "Since you were able to come here to see me, you must command some status. We each serve our masters with our lives. What else is there to say?"
Fan Xian’s display of civility had been all for naught. Smiling bitterly, he realized that not every woman would fall for that kind of show; he was being absurd by expecting results. Calming his nerves, he took out a small bottle.
Throwing the bottle through the bars, he said coldly, "It’s poison. Eventually someone will come to force you to confess. If you don’t want to suffer, take it." The bottle rolled on the straw on the ground before stopping next to Si Lili, who picked it up and gripped it tightly. She never imagined this gentle and endearing young man would turn into a demon in the blink of an eye, enticing her to kill herself.
If she was willing to die, she wouldn’t have tried to escape the capital in the first place.
Fan Xian predicted this. Looking into her eyes, he said softly, "What? You tried to kill me, am I supposed to pamper you? Don’t be ridiculous. Since I just provided you with an easy way out, why not be grateful? You’re not worthy of being a spy if you’re this afraid to die."
Si Lili gritted her teeth in anger and stood up. Her dark gaze pierced through the messy hair, focused on Fan Xian’s face.
Fan Xian’s face was at ease. "No need to talk more about life and death. You are no idiot; you knew even if you exposed whoever it was that conspired with Northern Qi, you would still die. That’s why you’d rather say nothing."
Suddenly, Si Lili felt the young man’s voice was getting more and more distant, more and more weightless, and more and more terrifying.
"I don’t belong to the Imperial court, I purely wanted to find that person to exact my revenge."
"I want to make a deal with you."
"Other than trusting me, you have no other choice."
Fan Xian spoke without emotion, but his words were beyond chilling and got lower and lower. Eventually he sounded like he was talking to himself. "I’m reluctant to torture women. But you did try to kill me. Because I’m a proponent of women’s rights, I believe men and women are equal, especially in this struggle of life and death."
He had been digging graves since he was a child; his refinement on the surface couldn’t completely hide the chilling horror underneath which would occasionally burst out. Wang Qinian left to find the head jailer to prepare some torture tools without saying a word.
A woman’s countless screams resounded throughout the Celestial Prison!
A long time later, Fan Xian looked at Si Lili, who was passed out on the pile of straw. Looking at the bloody pulp which used to be her fingers, Fan Xian showed no emotion. The one who did show emotion, however, was Wang Qinian, who had been standing nearby in silence. He didn’t think such a refined young gentleman would be so unshaken at the sight of torture; he didn’t know exactly how merciless Fan Xian could get under his gentle mask.
"In order for torture to be effective, you need to cycle at least once every five days," Wang Qinian swallowed nervously. He then explained in a low voice, "As we just saw, this Si Lili is new to this, which was how we managed to force some information out of her. But in the end, she is still disciplined. Once it involves information she must keep hidden—plus the unbearable pain— it’s no wonder that she fainted."
By the time the frightening head jailer came, Fan Xian had already put on his grey robe and hid his face. As he started gathering up the torture tools, he said while shaking his head, "Your Young Highness, torture is also a trade. If you made her confess in such a short period of time, you would shame every one of us professionals."
In frustration, Fan Xian made may for the head jailer to leave. Once the head jailer was far away, he turned to Wang Qinian with a bitter smile. "I guess it’s better to leave it to the professionals. Let’s come by again after a few days to get an update. Judging by the guards, I don’t think anyone will be able to sneak in to eliminate her." As they were about to leave, Si Lili woke up. Feeling the wounds on her hand, she let out a chilling scream. Back during her days on the entertainment boats, she had entertained countless men with her hands and lips. Today, those hands had been ruined, and those lips could only scream out.
Fan Xian stopped for a bit. He turned to look at Si Lili behind the bars.
Si Lili bit her bottom lip, all color drained from her face. Cold sweat drenched her hair, and her two eyes were like those of a wounded lioness. She stared at Fan Xian’s face maliciously, as if wanting to imprint his appearance into her mind.
Fan Xian continued to stare at her, standing silently still. Taking the hint, Wang Qinian distanced himself.
"Take care of that bottle. Next time, if you really can’t endure the torture, take it." Fan Xian tested her with death for the second time, his tone full of indifference.
This time, Si Lili cried out. She hatefully stared at Fan Xian with a gaze that was venomous without equal.

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