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    Miss Two said, "When Lord Gu was but a humble man with a thatched roof and hemp door, it was you, Lady Owner, who had to bring medicine from your natal home to tend to his injuries. His meteoric rise to power could not have been smoother without your efforts. How can the blame for their divorce fall on you? Do they think the people of the Cheng'an Marquis Estate are easy to push around?"

    Shopkeeper Chen observed Rong Shu's expression and, seeing her smiling, he also smiled, "It's rare to see Miss Two speaking up for Lady Owner. Too bad these words won't reach the outside world."

    Rong Shu replied, "It's for the best they don't. Madam Jia isn't someone to trifle with."

    Now that Rong Wu was Madam Jia, the future matriarch of the Jiang family, continually referring to the Cheng'an Marquis Estate even after marriage, which mother-in-law would find that pleasing? Especially since Madam Jia was kind-faced yet cruel-hearted, Rong Shu didn't want Rong Wu to invite unnecessary troubles because of her.

    She no longer cared about how others perceived her; she had more significant matters at hand. She had no time to concern herself with the gossip of others.

    Chen the shopkeeper smiled but didn't respond directly.

    Rong Shu finished reconciling the accounts and, after savoring her fruit tea, rose to leave. "The dividends for County Princess Danzhu can proceed as usual, just remember to set aside a dozen bolts of high-quality cloth for her. It doesn't need to be overly fancy, durability is key. That's all for today; I still need to visit the Golden Pavilion."

    Chen the shopkeeper hurriedly agreed and accompanied Rong Shu to the door with deferential steps.

    However, within less than an hour, a breathless shop assistant rushed in and exclaimed, "Shopkeeper, there's trouble in Scholar Lane! A mob of scholars is causing a ruckus, armed and ready for a fight!"

    In the capital, merchants feared nothing more than the word "trouble."

    Chapter 39

    Rong Shu's golden brothel was located on Chang Tai Street, accessible by passing through the Straw Hat Alley behind the silk shop and then crossing the Scholar's Alley.

    This alleyway was familiar to her, having been traversed many times before. Usually, it was bustling with people, but never as lively as it was today.

    Halfway through, Rong Shu began to sense something amiss.

    It was too crowded, too boisterous.

    The chaotic noise from the front of the alley was like a wave of heat, layer upon layer, carrying with it a faint, indistinct scent of blood.

    Stopping in her tracks, something suddenly clicked in Rong Shu's mind.

    Ying Que, walking beside her, asked, "Why have you stopped, Miss?"

    Rong Shu furrowed her brow, promptly deciding, "Something's not right. We need to go back to the silk shop."

    Seizing Ying Que's hand, she hurriedly retraced their steps.

    After just a few strides, they were suddenly met with a flurry of hurried footsteps behind them, as if someone had breached the defenses and was rushing towards Willow Hat Lane.

    The sounds of footsteps and roaring resembled chaotic soldiers invading a city, or crows returning to their roost at dusk – a deafening uproar that sent shivers down their spines.

    It was then that Rong Shu finally recalled the upheaval that occurred among the scholars after the imperial examination results were announced in her past life.

    Although the unrest back then caused quite a stir, it was quelled with the force of a thunderbolt within half a day by the authorities.

    The scholars who instigated the chaos were released after being detained for a few days.

    The government was intent on downplaying the incident, so many commoners were unaware that a riot had even taken place in the Scholar's Alley.

    Rong Shu had only heard about it from Chang Ji in her previous life, thus she had a vague recollection of the event. Little did she expect that it occurred on this very day.

    Recalling those who lost their lives in the upheaval, Rong Shu involuntarily held her breath and urged, "Ying Que, hurry up!"

    Dressed in skirts and embroidered shoes, despite their all-out sprint, they couldn't escape the gradually approaching footsteps.

    In her haste, Rong Shu plucked a golden hairpin from her hair bun and held it tightly in her palm.

    Sweat beaded on her palm, making it slippery, when suddenly a slender, bony hand reached out from behind, firmly gripping her wrist.

    Without thinking, Rong Shu stabbed towards that hand with all her might.

    But before she could even pull out the hairpin, a familiar voice pierced her eardrums, "Heng Ping."

    Recognizing Gu Changjin, Rong Shu froze. Just as she was about to turn around, she heard a loud "bang" as Heng Ping vaulted past her, forcefully kicking open a wooden door.

    Gu Changjin hastily pushed Rong Shu and Ying Que into the room and said, "Protect them," before swiftly closing the door and rushing off towards Scholar's Lane.

    Everything happened so quickly that Rong Shu only caught a glimpse of a crimson sleeve.

    The room was somewhat dimly lit, with old wooden planks scattered haphazardly on the floor, suggesting it might be a storage room.

    Noticing her confusion, Heng Ping explained, "This is a woodcarving shop in Straw Hat Lane. Young Mistress—"

    With the words "Madam," Heng Ping paused, then quickly corrected himself, "Miss Rong, rest assured, this place is actually an undercover site for the Board of Censors."

    Rong Shu expressed her gratitude, "Was today's scholar uprising due to Pan Xueliang's case?"

    Heng Ping nodded, "Just now, my master went to rescue Pan Xueliang."

    As soon as he finished speaking, Ying Que suddenly exclaimed, "Miss, there's blood on your hairpin. Did you get hurt somewhere?"

    Rong Shu looked down at the golden hairpin in her hand, realizing belatedly that it had pierced Gu Changjin's arm earlier.

    Despite his injury, he hadn't loosened his grip on her wrist at all, holding it tightly like a vise. He didn't even make a sound, as if the one being pierced wasn't him.

    She had used all her strength just now; it must have been painful.

    Ying Que was still looking at her with concern, but Rong Shu shook her head, "This isn't my blood, it's from Lord Gu. Earlier, I... accidentally injured him."

    Finished speaking, she turned to Heng Ping again, "Since this shop is a secret site for the Board of Censors, it should be safe. If Lord Gu needs your assistance, feel free to attend to him."

    In her previous life, Gu Changjin had also been injured while trying to save Pan Xueliang.

    Though the injury wasn't severe, it had still drawn some blood.

    Normally, Heng Ping would have been by his side to protect him. Now that Heng Ping was absent, one couldn't help but wonder if any unforeseen incidents might occur.

    Heng Ping gave her a glance and said, "My lord has ordered me to stay here, so I cannot leave."

    That was his usual nature. If his master entrusted him with the task of protecting someone, he wouldn't step away until his own death.


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