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    Rong Shu nodded, her eyes lowered in a graceful gesture.

    She couldn't have cared less where her father spent the night; after all, when her mother awoke, she wouldn't wish to see him either.

    Let him never set foot in the Qingheng Courtyard for the rest of his life.

    "Ying Que, please deliver a message to Chang Ji in the outer court. Inform him that I'll be staying at the Marquis residence to tend to my mother. Tell him to return to Phoenix Lane first."

    Ying Que promptly agreed and, as soon as she left, Rong Shu gently leaned her head against Madam Shen.

    After a long while, she finally stood up and spoke to Ama Zhou with a calm expression, "Ama, during Mother's illness, Qingheng Courtyard will be under my supervision. From today onwards, Qiuyun Hall and Ho'an Hall's expenses will no longer be managed by us. If anyone comes from there, tell them to speak with me."

    Chapter 27

    When Sun Daoping had treated Shen for her ailment, Ama Zhou had divulged the entire backstory of Shen's "illness" to Rong Shu.

    More than two months ago, Father had spent a night in Qingheng Courtyard after getting drunk.

    On the day Rong Shu returned from her visit to her natal home, Shen's monthly cycle was delayed by a few days. Shen suspected that she was pregnant and wanted Ama Zhou to fetch medicine to terminate the child.

    But she was dissuaded by Madam Zhou, who suggested that, given she had consumed contraceptive medicine, the exhaustion from organizing Rong Shu's wedding might have delayed her monthly cycle.

    Madam Zhou spoke with an ulterior motive, having long hoped that Lady Shen would bear a son. Such an event would enable her to stand tall within the Marquisate.

    In Nurse Zhou's estimation, the reason why the lady of Qiuyun Hall had won the favor of the matriarch and the marquis was most likely due to the fact that she had given birth to the only son in the third branch of the family.

    Determined not to bear Rong Xun a second child, Madam Shen, upon noticing her delayed monthly cycle, left the estate to seek a doctor's consultation. After confirming her pregnancy, she promptly requested an abortion-inducing medication.

    It so happened that on the day Rong Shu returned to the marquis manor, she had no choice but to discard the medicine. It was only when she revisited the Gu family ten days later that she instructed someone to brew the medicine anew.

    After consuming the medicine, Madam Shen endured excruciating pain for several days, believing she had lost her child.

    "Noble Lady, that child yearned to enter this world. Despite swallowing such a potent and toxic brew, it still refused to leave," Aunty Zhou wiped away tears from the corners of her eyes. "But Madam was determined to part with the child, compelling this old servant to prepare an even more potent medicine. Upon taking that, Madam suffered through a day and night of agony. The bleeding hasn't ceased since this morning."

    When Madam Shen drank the second dose, she couldn't hold back her tears. Touching her small belly, she apologized silently.

    Upon realizing the blood wouldn't stop, she told Aunty Zhou, "Let's just say the child couldn't bear to part from its mother and wants me to join it. Thankfully, Zhaozhao is already married, so I have no major regrets."

    Recalling those moments now, Aunty Zhou felt immense regret.

    She should never have tried to persuade her back then. If that child had been dealt with sooner, Lady likely wouldn't be in this predicament now.

    She was prepared. If Lady didn't make it, she would not live either.

    But before she died, she would definitely create a scene at Ho'an Hall and Qiuyun Hall. After all, the eldest miss had already married; she no longer needed to care about her reputation.

    Upon hearing the entire story, Rong Shu's hatred for her father reached its peak.

    When she left the marquis residence at four years old, her grandmother had broken her leg, blaming it on Rong Shu. Mother went to Qiuyun Hall to confront Father, only for the two of them to end up in a fierce argument.

    Father was a filial son, but he was never a good husband or father.

    After returning from Yangzhou, she realized how difficult Mother's days were in the marquis residence. Everyone in the household believed that Father's heart belonged solely to Concubine Pei, and that he had married Mother only due to Grandfather's command.

    But if he didn't like her, why did he still touch Mother?

    If he had been a good husband, Mother wouldn't have had to take two bowls of toxic medicine to terminate the pregnancy. If he could control himself when drunk, Mother wouldn't be facing this calamity today.

    Gu Changjin disliked her, at least he didn't elevate a concubine to humiliate her, nor did he disdain her while also desiring her body.

    Rong Shu thought to herself that should her mother truly befall some misfortune, she would ensure not a single day of peace for the inhabitants of this Marquisate Residence.

    In the past, her mother had always yielded for her sake.

    For the sake of her mother, she endured patiently in every situation.

    Is this ultimately the fate that awaits me?

    Lost in thought, she was abruptly interrupted by the gentle tapping of knuckles on her door.

    Rong Shu pushed the door open and saw a woman draped in an autumn-scented cloak standing in the corridor, slightly out of breath as she urgently asked, "Zhaozhao, how is your mother? Your aunt paid a visit to the temple for a ceremony today, and upon her return, she heard that something had happened here. I hurried over to inquire."

    This woman was Rong Shu's maternal aunt, Lady Zhu.

    Since her father's elder brother passed away, her aunt had been living as a widow at home, solely tending to her eldest nephew's life. She rarely ventured outside, limiting her outings mostly to visits to temples for religious rites.

    Although her aunt did not have frequent interactions with Rong Shu's mother, Rong Shu had a genuinely good relationship with her aunt and her eldest cousin.

    When Rong Shu was three years old, she once got lost in the estate and unintentionally wandered into her aunt's residence, the Silent Moss Courtyard.

    Back then, due to the influence of the old madam, everyone in the household considered her an ominous person. Despite her young age, she could sense others' affection or dislike towards her.

    She accidentally wandered into her eldest aunt's courtyard, feeling anxious and afraid of being scolded by the elders.

    But her eldest aunt took no offense at all. After a moment of surprise, she picked Rong Shu up gently and said, "Where did this lovely jade snowball come from?"

    Then, she instructed a servant to bring snacks and fruits for Rong Shu and fetched a pair of sheep knuckles for her to play with.

    When her eldest cousin Rong Ze returned from school, he was asked to accompany her in making snowballs outside in the snow.

    "First Brother, this is your little sister Zhaozhao. It's rare for her to visit; please accompany her well for a while and don't spend all day buried in your study."

    Eldest Cousin Rong Ze was an extremely gentle and filial person. Upon hearing this, he agreed and devoted his attention to playing with Rong Shu for the entire afternoon.

    Despite the freezing cold, Rong Shu played until she was drenched in sweat. When Madam Shen came to pick her up, she clung tightly to an old apricot tree in Chen Yin Courtyard, refusing to let go, much to Madam Shen's amusement and exasperation.

    On the day Rong Shu returned from Yangzhou, Ho'an Hall was packed with people.

    Among that group of siblings, it was her eldest cousin who first approached her, smiling as he said, "Zhaozhao has finally come home."

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