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    The Supreme Censor had entrusted this young man into his care. If anything were to happen to him while in his hands, how could he face the Supreme Censor and account for it?

    Fortunately, the youth was unharmed. Gu Changjin came under his scrutiny.

    "Hurry up and get in the carriage. The scholars from the Scholar's Alley have dispersed. I'll escort you back to the Board of Censors," Hu He gestured for them to enter the carriage.

    Being inside the carriage, he was unaware that there were two young ladies still in the house.

    With the corner of his eye, Gu Changjin caught a glimpse of a hidden corner. He then bowed to Hu He and said, "Sir Hu, I still have some matters to attend to. I hope that Your Excellency can grant me half an hour. In half an hour's time, I will personally report to the Board of Censors and accept my punishment."

    Speaking, he turned to Heng Ping and said, "Help Scholar Pan into the carriage, and you accompany Lord Hu back to the Board of Censors."

    Hu He's gaze lingered on Gu Changjin's face for a moment before he smiled halfheartedly. "Very well, but you must return to the Board of Censors unscathed. Otherwise, the Chief Censor will hold me accountable."

    Gu Changjin acknowledged with a deep bow.

    After the group had left, he turned to Rong Shu and said, "I'll escort you both back home."

    In reality, since the scholars' disturbance had been quelled, it was highly unlikely that they would encounter any trouble on their way back to the silk shop.

    Rong Shu glanced at Gu Changjin's right hand and noticed a few dark blood spots on the crimson hem of his robe, evidence of the golden hairpin piercing his arm.

    After a moment of thought, she nodded and said, "Thank you for your trouble, Sir."

    The three of them left the house and headed for the silk shop.

    Ying Que didn't dare to speak along the way, deliberately lagging behind while her gaze flickered between Gu Changjin and Rong Shu.

    Gu Changjin stopped after escorting them to the silk shop and lifted his eyes to look at Rong Shu. "It hasn't been peaceful in the capital these past few days. Miss Rong, if you plan on returning, it would be best to wait another half a month."

    Rong Shu smiled and nodded. "Thank you for your reminder, Sir."

    Gu Changjin's gaze lingered on the curve of her smiling lips for a moment before he looked away. Just as he was about to take his leave, he heard the girl across from him say, "Would it be possible for you to spare some time to have a cup of tea with me? I have something I'd like to discuss with you."

    His heart had been pounding rapidly.

    As soon as she spoke, the sound of his heartbeat echoed loudly in his ears, like fireworks exploding.

    The man raised his gaze again, his fingers curling slightly. Without hesitation, he followed Rong Shu into the silk shop with long strides.

    When Shopkeeper Chen saw Rong Shu return, the anxiousness he had been feeling finally settled back into his stomach.

    "The master has returned at last! Just now, I sent someone to Scholar's Lane to look for you—" He abruptly stopped mid-sentence, staring in surprise at the person following Rong Shu. "Mister, Mister Gu?"

    He had just been gossiping with the master about this official a moment ago, and yet here he was, unexpectedly standing right inside their door. It seemed one really couldn't speak of people during the day or mention ghosts at night!

    "Uncle Chen, I'm fine. Please fetch a medicine chest and brew two cups of tea."

    Shopkeeper Chen promptly agreed.

    After the medicine chest and tea arrived, Rong Shu rummaged through it and took out a bottle of external wound ointment. "I accidentally hurt you in my haste just now. I hope you can forgive me, Your Excellency."

    Gu Changjin knew that applying the medicine in front of her would make her feel more at ease, so he didn't decline. He rolled up his sleeve, unscrewed the cap of the medicine bottle, and sprinkled the powder onto his wound.

    Only then did Rong Shu notice that in addition to the injury from the hairpin, there were also two shallow cuts on his wrist.

    This was only one spot on his wrist; he likely had many other injuries elsewhere.

    It had been the same in her previous life. Every time he saved someone, he would get hurt.

    Rong Shu genuinely admired him for this; it seemed there was never a moment when this man would back down, not even when he was covered in wounds and bleeding profusely.

    After applying the medicine, Gu Changjin lifted his gaze to find her staring intently at his wrist. Assuming she felt guilty, he reassured her, "They're just minor injuries; they should heal within two days."

    Rong Shu nodded with a smile before getting back to the matter at hand. "Thank you very much, Lord Gu. Earlier, while in the dark room, hearing your conversation with Scholar Pan, something suddenly came back to me."

    Gu Changjin's gaze sharpened, recalling her habit of mentioning Liu Yuan and Xu Li'er earlier. Unconsciously, he looked at her fingers.

    Sure enough, the girl had started fiddling with the cloth wrapped around the medicine box.

    "What is it? Miss Rong, please feel free to speak."

    Rong Shu gathered her thoughts and carefully said, "My elder brother, Rong Ze, is a student at the Imperial Academy. When my younger sister was getting married, he mentioned that most of the students who passed the previous exams from the academy didn't participate in this year's provincial examination. Originally, he wanted to give it a try, but our teacher advised him to wait another two years, so he put that idea aside."

    Gu Changjin narrowed his eyes.

    He had progressed from the county examination all the way to the palace examination, so he knew that for scholars who had already passed the preliminary exams, the sooner they participated, the better. Even if they didn't make it onto the list of successful candidates, they could gain valuable experience from the exam.

    As Rong Shu described, it was indeed peculiar that most of the academy students chose not to take part.

    Gu Changjin lifted his gaze to meet Rong Shu's, sensing the underlying peculiarity in the situation.

    "How does Miss Rong view the fact that the candidates did not participate in the provincial examinations?" he inquired.

    This was a question Rong Shu found difficult to answer.

    In her previous life, Pan Xueliang had taken his own life shortly after being imprisoned in the Dali Temple.

    He hadn't even lived long enough to await the chance for a joint trial by the three supreme offices, which Gu Changjin had fought hard to secure for him.

    Rong Shu recalled a distant day when Gu Changjin had sat in his study for a long while.

    The room was unlit at the time, and with his eyes lowered, he held his black hat in his hands, lost in thought.

    When she entered the study with a lamp, his gaze met hers. The light from the lamp illuminated his dark eyes, making them shine brightly.

    "Do you know? In this world, some people don't die because of what they do, but because of who they are," he murmured softly. Realizing what he had said, he quickly closed his lips, remaining silent afterwards.

    Rong Shu had never fully grasped the meaning behind his words before, but after overhearing his conversation with Pan Xueliang in the dimly lit room, and recalling her brother's remarks, it was as if something was gradually connecting the dots between her past life and the present.

    It was as if pieces of a puzzle were slowly fitting together, linking events from her previous existence with those unfolding now.


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