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    Each year, when Mu Nijing accompanied Mu Rong back to the capital for their annual report, the first thing she would do was ask for her share of profits.

    Who in the capital could have guessed that the valiant Danzhu County Princess would be such a money-grubber?

    "Alright, I'll pick out some bolts of cloth for her on the way," Rong Shu said. "I imagine she's run out of nice clothes from last year's allocation."

    The manager of the silk and satin shop was named Chen, an old acquaintance of Rong Shu's maternal grandfather from Yangzhou. He was surprised to see Rong Shu and set aside his current customer to greet her. "Why has the owner come by?"

    "I'm here to check the accounts and sort out the County Princess Danzhu's dividend."

    Manager Chen was sharp-witted. Although Danzhu County Princess hadn't invested much in the shop, her involvement lent it prestige, so her annual bonus was always prepared in advance and generous to boot.

    After they entered the inner room, Manager Chen handed over the ledger and produced a box made of red sandalwood. "Here is this year's dividend for County Princess Danzhu."

    Rong Shu opened the box and found two banknotes worth a thousand taels each. She raised an eyebrow. "Did the shop make that much profit this year?"

    Manager Chen hurriedly bowed. "It did indeed exceed last year's earnings."

    "But not by this much," Rong Shu mused with a quizzical smile. "Are you intentionally increasing the princess's dividend?"

    Ordinarily, the silk shop's dividends to Mu Nijing wouldn't exceed twelve hundred taels. She had just examined the ledger, and even with last year's improved business, a three percent cut wouldn't surpass fifteen hundred taels.

    This was Manager Chen's attempt to curry favor with Danzhu County Princess.

    Everyone in the capital knew that the county princess had shares in Rong Shu's two shops, but few were aware of their close personal relationship. Rong Shu never used Mu Nijing to boost her own reputation, so even Manager Chen was unaware of this.

    Rong Shu chuckled. "Uncle Chen, there's no need for this. Whatever is due is due. The county princess doesn't appreciate such gestures."

    Manager Chen bowed. "I've heard that General Mu won a great victory in Da Tong this spring and will soon return to the capital for an accounting. This time, the Mu family can likely regain the glory of the Mu Family Army."

    Back then, Mu Nijing's father, uncle, and several cousins had perished on the battlefield, leaving only Mu Rong as the male heir to carry on the family name.

    Mu Rong had been a sickly child, raised in the capital. When his father and brothers fell, he was still a student at the Imperial Academy.

    When he ventured alone to Da Tong, everyone doubted him, predicting that the Mu Family Army was about to disintegrate.

    But to everyone's surprise, this sickly youth revived the family's military prestige in less than five years. This year's victory over the Tatars was a crushing blow.

    Wasn't it only a matter of time before the Mu family regained its former glory?

    Rong Shu placed the silver note back into the wooden box and looked at Shopkeeper Chen with a smile. "Uncle Chen, you've put in a lot of effort. Tell me, is there another unfavorable rumor about the capital?"

    Shopkeeper Chen was one of the old servants from the Shen family who had watched Rong Shu grow up. Hearing her question, he didn't hide anything from her. "After Miss went to Minglu Yard, a rumor spread in the capital that Duke Cheng'an plans to divorce his wife to elevate the orphan of Minister Pei. And then there's also..."

    Shopkeeper Chen glanced at Rong Shu and sighed. "The news of your separation from Lord Gu also came out a few days ago."

    The old shopkeeper didn't continue.

    Rong Shu chuckled, not taking it too seriously. "Lord Gu and I separated a month ago. I thought this matter had already become old news in the capital. Why is it only being discussed now?"

    Upon reflection, she guessed that Gu Changjin must have suppressed the news. But how long could one keep a secret? Eventually, people would still talk about it during their leisure time.

    Shopkeeper Chen said, "Lord Gu's reputation is truly impeccable. Initially, the outsiders were spreading rumors that you, the owner, were too arrogant and domineering, forcing Lord Gu to seek a separation. Fortunately, Lord Gu personally debunked those rumors and even arrested a few gossips, clearing your name."

    Rong Shu had been enjoying her fruit tea leisurely, but upon hearing this, she quickly swallowed the tea in her mouth. "Gu Changjin arrested someone?"

    It wasn't a big deal that would require such an esteemed official to take action personally.

    "You don't know, those words were truly too harsh. Forget it, I'd better not tell you the details to spare you any distress."

    Even now, Shopkeeper Chen recalls the incident with a heavy heart. There are indeed people in this world who, without knowing the slightest truth of a matter, recklessly defame others without distinction.

    Mr. Chen indeed finds it truly lamentable on behalf of his master.

    When the lady of the East married into the Phoenix Lane, the people of Capital City hailed it as a match made in heaven. One was the legitimate daughter of an aristocratic household, her beauty so enchanting that it could make fish dive and birds fall. The other was a scholar from a humble background, a man of exceptional talent and the very pillar of the state, with an appearance as graceful as a jade tree in the wind.

    Who wouldn't adore such a tale of scholarly gentlemen and virtuous beauties?

    And yet, within less than a year, this golden and jade-like union was dissolved. To ordinary people, such a harmonious match ending in a separation must surely have had some hidden intrigue involved.

    Magistrate Gu had gained much favor from the people due to the Li'er and Yang Xu cases. The citizens were reluctant to criticize him, naturally placing the blame on the master instead.

    Fortunately, Magistrate Gu was still a man with a conscience.

    Shopkeeper Chen paused for a moment, seemingly lost in thought as he continued.

    "There's one more matter, sir, that I believe I should inform you about. A few days ago, at the Spring Banquet, Miss Rong Yue received an invitation from the Elder Lady of the Duke of Ying. I've heard that she had a disagreement with someone there."

    Rong Wei?

    Rong Shu paused slightly, "With whom did she argue?"

    Her younger sister indeed had a fiery temper, but having just married into the Jiang family, she should have more self-restraint. In the past, when attending banquets outside, she always presented herself as gentle, kind, modest, and thrifty. Otherwise, how could she have earned the accolade of "The Three Beauties of the Capital"?

    "The incident is related to you, Master. At the Spring Banquet, someone made some unkind remarks about you, which were rebutted by Miss Rong Er."

    Rong Shu immediately became intrigued, smiling brightly, "How did she refute them? Did she praise me?"

    Shopkeeper Chen felt a bit helpless. Previously, when Lord Gu had debunked the rumors on her behalf, the Master hadn't shown much interest. But now, upon hearing that her sister, with whom she had constantly competed since childhood, had spoken up for her, she was brimming with enthusiasm.


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