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    When Rong Shu entered, Madam Mu had just finished a set of martial arts movements and was now enjoying some dessert and fruits.

    Spotting her granddaughter accompanied by a charming young lady, she laughed heartily. "Is that Zhaozhao?"

    Rong Shu approached with proper etiquette, bowing respectfully. "Rong Shu pays her respects to Elder Lady."

    Madam Mu had previously lived in Datong but returned to the capital after Mu Rong went to Datong Prefecture. Rong Shu and Mu Nijing had been friends for over three years, yet this was their first encounter with the legendary, indomitable elder lady.

    Madam Mu was full of energy, her brows and eyes kind, making her very approachable, quite different from Rong Shu's grandmother and the elderly Lady of the Marquis of England.

    She instructed her maidens to serve them tea, fruit, and pastries. After the two young ladies finished their tea, Madam Mu smiled and said, "Nijing mentioned your desire to establish a horse ranch in Datong. Tell me more about your thoughts on this matter."

    Rong Shu repeated what she had shared with the Shen family and Mu Nijing.

    "I would rather do something than regret not doing it later," she chuckled. "Compared to the brave men guarding our borders in Great Yin, I can contribute so little."

    Madam Mu, with her insightful eyes that saw through people's hearts, knew the young lady spoke sincerely, not just paying empty compliments. She genuinely wished to do something beneficial for the country and its people.

    Tenderly taking Rong Shu's hand, she praised, "Well done, child. Your intentions alone surpass many others. No wonder our Nijing holds you in high regard."

    Aside from her mother and uncle, Rong Shu had never received such kind affirmation from an elder before. She felt a bit embarrassed for a moment, pausing for half a while before she replied gracefully, "Thank you, Elder Lady Mu."

    Madam Mu, who had once been surrounded by grandchildren, now only had two left. Having finally found a girl she liked, she couldn't help but chatter endlessly with her.

    Mostly, it was Mu Nijing and Rong Shu doing the talking, while the elderly lady listened with a smile on her face.

    Rong Shu drank three cups of tea until Mu Rong came to pay his respects to his grandmother, at which point their conversation ceased.

    Madam Mu glanced at her grandson, somewhat puzzled as to why he had come to greet her while the girls were chatting over tea.

    Mu Rong chuckled. "I'm taking my two younger sisters out to see a play."

    Madam Mu understood. Today, the Hundred Acts Theater in the capital would be performing a Nuo opera, and Nijing's favorite thing was watching Nuo operas.

    "Go ahead, you're the older brother, so remember to take good care of your two younger sisters."

    At the Hundred Acts Theater.

    In a corner room on the second floor, Liu Yuan poured a cup of tea for Gu Changjin and said with a smile, "Yesterday, after the imperial court session, the Emperor specially kept His Excellency behind. I suppose it was regarding the old Minister of Rites and Scholar Pan's case?"

    Gu Changjin spoke calmly, "In recent days, it has been Eunuch Gu who has served His Majesty in the Nourishing Heart Palace. How could Eunuch Liu not know why I've entered the palace?"

    Liu Yuan smiled, his charming face showing no sign of displeasure at Gu Changjin's words.

    After Yang Xu was imprisoned, the former head of the Royal Horse Supervisor, Gui Zhong, took over Yang Xu's position, becoming the Grand Eunuch in charge of imperial writing and overseeing the Eastern Depot.

    Gui Zhong had originally been the least favored and least esteemed foster son under Pei Shunnian. Emperor Jiayou likely promoted him to undermine Pei Shunnian, deliberately giving prominence to the son he disliked the most.

    Now, the Supervisor of Ceremonies was no longer dominated by Pei Shunnian's faction. Gui Zhong, despite appearing amicable with Pei Shunnian, secretly plotted against him, gradually eroding Pei's influence and establishing an equal footing.

    Upon Gui Zhong's departure from the Royal Horse Supervisor, Liu Yuan became the new head.

    Knowing that Liu Yuan had safely ascended to a higher rank, Gu Changjin understood that Liu Yuan, who had been sent by Yang Xu to monitor Gui Zhong, had formed an alliance with him.

    With Yang Xu's downfall, Liu Yuan and Gui Zhong were the biggest beneficiaries among the eunuchs in the Supervisor of Ceremonies.

    Given Liu Yuan's capabilities, how could he be unaware of the reason behind the Emperor's decision to keep him? Let alone other matters, yesterday it was Gui Zhong who served Emperor Jiayou in the Nourishing Heart Palace, listening intently to every word exchanged between Gu and the Emperor.

    Perceiving the hidden meaning in Gu Changjin's words, Liu Yuan replied, "Eminence, you only mentioned to this humble servant that Lord Gu was to go to Yangzhou, but did not divulge the details. If Lord Gu is unwilling to speak, this servant would not insist. The real reason for inviting you here today is that I have a favor to ask."

    Gu Changjin raised an eyebrow. "Feel free to speak, Eunuch Liu."

    "For this journey to Yangzhou, I hope to accompany His Excellency," Liu Yuan said softly. "Assuming there are no unforeseen circumstances, the Emperor will likely assign me as the military supervisor to cooperate with you in investigating Governor Liao Rao's case."

    Indeed, Emperor Jiayou had mentioned yesterday in the Nourishing Heart Palace that he would send someone to assist Gu Changjin in looking into Liao Rao's matter.

    As for why they needed to investigate Liao Rao, it was naturally due to the letter concealed with the 'looped formation' cipher.

    When Gu Changjin presented the letter to Emperor Jiayou, the enigmatic ruler studied it intently for a while before commenting nonchalantly, "Investigate. Look into this matter thoroughly in Yangzhou."

    Before his audience with Emperor Jiayou, Gu Changjin had visited Pan Xueliang at the Ministry of Justice prison to inquire if he knew Governor Liao.

    Confused, Pan Xueliang replied, "Governor Liao is a renowned hero who fought against the enemies. Who in Jiangsu and Zhejiang wouldn't know him?"

    Gu Changjin could tell from Pan Xueliang's expression that he had only heard of Liao Rao but had never met him in person.

    If Pan Xueliang didn't recognize Liao Rao, how then did Liao Rao know Pan Xueliang? And why would he go through the trouble of writing a letter to the former Minister, aiding Pan Xueliang's reputation?

    Moreover, an ordinary person would likely read and then promptly burn a letter like Liao Rao's. The veteran Minister, having withstood the tempests of three dynasties, possessed extraordinary wisdom. If he intended to aid Liao Rao, why would he leave such a letter behind?

    Was he confident that no scandal would arise, or was there another scheme at play?

    Gu Changjin had a strong intuition that the old Minister was guiding him to Yangzhou.


    Both Pan Xueliang and Liu Yuan hailed from Yangzhou.

    Gu Changjin lifted his gaze to meet Liu Yuan's, pausing for a moment before he said, "Eunuch Liu is someone the Emperor has personally appointed. How could this official dare to interfere?"

    Indeed, Emperor Jiayou had entrusted the entire investigation of this case to him. It was plausible for him to find an excuse and request the emperor to appoint another individual for the task.

    Yet, Gu Changjin would not resort to such measures.

    Liu Yuan let out a soft smile, lifting his cup with a gentle hand, and lightly tapped it against Gu Changjin's tea cup. He said, "I am grateful for your generosity, sir. On this journey to Yangzhou, I will bring along the warriors from our camp, and we will do our utmost to protect you and Scholar Pan."


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