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    With Empress Dowager's attendants by Xu Li'er's side, few would dare to act against her. However, accidents can always happen, and the inn might not be peaceful tonight. You should still visit the inn. If she encounters danger, rescue her discreetly, but make sure not to leave any traces."

    The rescue of Xu Li'er had to be kept secret, especially from the Sixth Faraway Hall. However, with such commotion tonight, it was likely they wouldn't even enter the city gates before news reached the Sixth Faraway Hall.

    In the Sixth Faraway Hall.

    Nanny An stirred the soothing incense in the censer with a spoon, sighing to Xu Fu, "If Young Master hadn't gone to the inn, Xu Li'er wouldn't have survived the night. Her death would have opened up a whole new chapter of schemes. Young Master's decision to go to the inn was somewhat reckless and soft-hearted."

    In Nanny An's opinion, Third Miss shouldn't have left the matter of Xu Li'er to Young Master. His methods were still not ruthless enough, as he had once defied Third Miss because of a vile creature.

    Xu Fu lowered her gaze at the travelogue in her hands, her expression indifferent.

    At this time, she would usually be resting. But knowing that Gu Changjin would visit, she picked up a book and sat on a canopied daybed, waiting.

    Soon, voices echoed in the corridor, Lin Qingyue conversing with Gu Changjin.

    Xu Fu lifted her eyes slightly. Nanny An understood and hurriedly drew back the inner chamber curtains, smiling warmly, "Young Master, come in quickly. This old servant will take Qingyue to chase away the cicadas from the trees, so they don't disturb Madam."

    As Nanny An dragged Lin Qingyue away, the girl grumbled, "Aunt, Second Master injured his arm, and I'm not sure if Heng Ping and Chang Ji are hurt either!"

    Nanny An seemed oblivious to the comment, holding Lin Qingyue's hand as tightly as a vice.

    In truth, Xu Fu had also noticed Gu Changjin's wound, but she didn't inquire. Instead, she asked, "Why save Xu Li'er?"

    Standing by the side of the rostrum bed, Gu Changjin lowered his gaze and replied, "I wish to send her to the Kunning Palace, to be by Empress Qi's side."

    Xu Fu was slightly taken aback. Setting down her book, she pondered carefully.

    After a moment, she smiled and said, "Xu Li'er sees you as her savior. Placing her as a pawn in the palace isn't a bad move. However, the palace is filled with intrigue and uncertainty. With her timid and naive nature, how can you be sure she'll survive? And how can you ensure she'll serve your purposes?"

    "Exactly as Aunt taught me, a pawn only needs to be useful at a crucial moment. By sending Xu Li'er to the Kunning Palace, I am preparing for the future. If some in the palace wish her dead, there will surely be others who want her alive. I suspect Empress Qi is one of those who wish to see her live."

    "Huh, Empress Qi." Xu Fu gave a faint smile, a hint of reminiscence in her eyes. "Qi Zhen..."

    Her soft laugh was followed by a long silence.

    Gu Changjin remained quiet as well.

    After a while, Xu Fu spoke up, "Should I arrange for Xu Li'er's entry into the palace?" This was her consent to Gu Changjin's plan.

    Gu Changjin dismissed the concern, "There's no need. Concubine Xu Li'er was assaulted tonight. The palace maid originally assigned to accompany her during the mourning has returned to the palace to report the incident. Empress Qi won't ignore this."

    "Indeed, Qi Zhen loves to make such grand gestures," Xu Fu nodded, a hint of exhaustion visible on her face. She waved her hand and continued, "In that case, I'll leave it be. You should rest now, and remember to tend to your arm injury."

    After Gu Changjin left, the lights in Liuhao Hall were promptly extinguished.

    However, the lamps in Songsi Courtyard remained lit for most of the night. Rong Shu finished her grooming and put on a bright red cloak before heading to the eastern chamber.

    Ying Que was serving Xu Li'er there. Xu Li'er still wore her mourning clothes, and after her narrow escape from death earlier, she remained terrified.

    Ying Que engaged her in various conversations, finally easing some of her anxiety.

    "Don't be afraid. Miss said no one will force you to die again," Ying Que reassured.

    Xu Li'er was startled. "How did Lady Gu know?"

    Ying Que shrugged. "This servant is not aware, but Miss is very clever. Whatever she says is bound to be true."

    Ying Que's face radiated admiration for her mistress, causing Xu Li'er to smile faintly, involuntarily recalling Rong Shu.

    Tonight at the inn, Rong Shu was cloaked, half of her face concealed beneath the hood, making it difficult to discern her features.

    Although she was eager to know what kind of wife that nobleman would... take for himself, an indescribable feeling prevented her from raising her gaze to meet Rong Shu's.

    It wasn't until they entered the room and Rong Shu removed her cloak, mentioning she wanted to light an incense for her mother, that Li'er dared to sneak a glance.

    For a fleeting moment, Li'er felt as if the bright lights around them dimmed slightly.

    She was, in her own right, a lovely person. If not for her appearance, she wouldn't have attracted the unwanted attention of Yang Rong, that brute.

    But the moment she laid eyes on Rong Shu, she couldn't help but feel a sense of inferiority.

    Later, inside the carriage, Rong Shu repeated to her, word by word, that there was nothing wrong with her living, that she wasn't supposed to die in the first place.

    Suddenly, Xu Li'er understood.

    No wonder Lord Gu favored her; Lady Gu was indeed an exceptional person.

    Gu Changjin had always been a godlike figure in Xu Li'er's heart.

    Today, as he approached her step by step in the rear courtyard of the Ministry of Punishments, she genuinely felt a reverence towards him, as if she were about to prostrate herself before him.

    His captivating appearance, his noble demeanor, even his voice was the most melodious she had ever heard, Li'er thought.

    He had rescued her and her mother from a living hell. How could she not be grateful to him? How could she not be smitten with him?

    Falling for someone truly happened in an instant.

    She had feelings for Mister Gu, but that was all it was. She was a withered flower, a ruined willow; how dare she entertain improper thoughts? At most... at most, she was curious about what kind of woman could captivate him.

    After meeting Rong Shu, that curiosity was satisfied.

    In the carriage just now, she had observed Mister Gu's anxious and restless expression as Madam Gu tended to his wounds.

    Her celestial being, who seemed out of reach, suddenly displayed the mortal emotions of joy, anger, sorrow, and pleasure, and became a person of this world.


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