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    Princess Phoenix, Pan Xueliang.

    Gu Changjin abruptly opened his eyes.

    The sound of water lapped gently around his ears, and a faint briny scent of the sea lingered at the tip of his nose.

    It was scorching hot.

    There was no snow, no ice sculpture of a kitten.

    Memories flooded back to him like a rushing stream. He recalled that Shishi Mountain had been rigged with explosives, and he had shielded Chang Ji from a massive boulder before losing consciousness completely.

    Was he now on a ship bound for Yangzhou?

    Gu Changjin slightly turned his head, seeing solid screens surrounding him. The pain kept him acutely aware of his surroundings.

    After a moment, a soft tread of footsteps approached from beyond the screens.

    Fixing his gaze on the screens, Gu Changjin stealthily reached for the short dagger at his waist.

    Upon recognizing the visitor, his pupils constricted, and his heart thumped heavily.

    "Lord Gu is awake?" Rong Shu placed the medicine, delivered by Mother Zhang, on the side table and explained softly, "Chang Ji brought you here to me. He plans to use the Shen family's ship to send Lord Gu to Yangzhou."

    The moment he saw Rong Shu, Gu Changjin had pieced together the entire sequence of events.

    "Chang Ji and Heng Ping have switched to traveling by land?"

    Rong Shu nodded. "Chang Ji said that this would lure those people away. Don't worry, Lord Gu; Chang Ji and Heng Ping are both skilled in martial arts. They'll surely arrive safely in Yangzhou. Would you like me to help you sit up?"

    She pointed at the bowl of medicine on the small table. "The physician said your injuries require three doses of medicine a day, no less."

    For some reason, Gu Changjin suddenly recalled the dream he'd just had.

    If he didn't take the medicine, she would be upset.

    Thus, he struggled to sit up, an action that pulled at his wounds, causing cold sweat to bead on his forehead.

    Without a word, he took the medicine and drank it all in one go.

    The medicine was bitter with a hint of spiciness. When he first regained consciousness, his tongue and lips were tinged with that bitter and pungent taste.

    She was the one who fed him the medicine while he was unconscious.

    Suddenly, he recalled the words he'd spoken to her in his dream:

    "I'll drink any medicine you give me from now on."

    His thoughts became tangled.

    That dream, or rather, those dreams involving her, didn't feel like mere illusions.

    This wasn't the first time he'd had such a sensation.

    Three years ago, he had met Prince An at a palace banquet.

    Back then, Prince An was only eight years old, but in his dreams, the prince was eleven. How could a child he had only met once have such a vivid image of what he would look like three years later?

    And the ice kitten he carved for her – the feeling was too familiar. So much so that if given a stone and a block of ice, he could instantly carve out an identical kitten.

    Even the "Phoenix Lady" mentioned by Chang Ji somehow instinctively connected her with Pan Xueliang in his mind, though he had no idea why.

    But he had never heard of this "Phoenix Lady" from either Pan Xueliang or the former governor.

    If there truly existed such a person, then perhaps his dreams weren't just mere illusions?

    "Miss Rong lived in Yang State Prefecture for nine years. Have you ever heard of someone called 'Phoenix Lady'?"

    Rong Shu didn't recall the name, but she still pondered for a moment before shaking her head. "No, I haven't."

    She looked at Gu Changjin. "Is this person related to the case you're investigating?"

    Gu Changjin hummed in response. "If she does exist, she would likely be connected to Pan Xueliang's case."

    After some thought, Rong Shu suggested, "I've been away from Yang State Prefecture for many years. When I return, I can inquire for you. Perhaps my old acquaintances there might have heard of her."

    Anyway, she was going to inquire about the Shen family and her uncle's affairs when she went to Yang State Prefecture, so adding one more name wouldn't be much trouble. If it could help shed light on Pan Xueliang's case, her trip to Yang State Prefecture would prove worthwhile.

    "Mother Zhang has prepared some porridge. I'll have it brought in right away. After your meal, Governor Gu, please rest well and recover quickly. You'll undoubtedly be swamped with work once you reach Yang State Prefecture."

    Indeed, Gu Changjin was feeling quite hungry by now.

    However, he couldn't bear to let her leave. He wanted to hear more of her voice, so he allowed Rong Shu to exit the cabin without turning his head.

    Mother Zhang soon brought in the freshly cooked porridge.

    After finishing his meal, the effects of the medicinal soup began to take hold. As he drifted off to sleep, he mused hazily: Would he still dream? Would that dream just now continue?

    That cat figurine he carved for her... would she like it?

    Chapter 45

    The winter dream did not continue but was instead replaced by fragmented and chaotic scenes.

    It was a gloomy day.

    Shiiun suddenly pushed open the door, rushing in and exclaiming, "Master, Chang Ji and Heng Ping haven't sent any letters for three days!"

    Gu Changjin was somewhat puzzled. Why would he expect letters from Heng Ping and Chang Ji every three days?

    Why would he be so flustered if they didn't send any letters?

    Before he could ponder further, the scene shifted, and he found himself back in Qiu Mountain Lodge, drenched by the pouring rain.

    He knew he was searching for someone.

    The courtyard was eerily quiet, devoid of people. Chang Ji was nowhere to be seen, nor was Heng Ping.

    So, who was he looking for?

    "Lord Gu,"

    The red lanterns swayed violently in the wind beneath the veranda. Gu Changjin stared intently at the wooden door of the main house, his heart pounding wildly.

    The person he sought was inside.

    "Lord Gu, wake up."

    He must not awaken, Gu Changjin, hurry and push open that door!

    "Lord Gu, you're trapped in a nightmare! Awaken at once!"

    Gu Changjin gritted his teeth, stepping forward to reach out and press against the damp door, exerting all his strength to push it open.

    "Ahh—"

    Following a sharp intake of breath, the man on the bed finally stirred awake, his grip tightly clenched around a fair wrist.

    Rong Shu winced from his grasp but, seeing that he had awoken, hurriedly said, "My lord, please release your hold, you're hurting me."

    Gu Changjin was drenched in cold sweat, his face a pale and ashen mix, suggesting he might still be caught in the remnants of his nightmare.

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