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    In fact, during her nine years in Yangzhou, although her uncle was often too busy to be seen, he would always make time for her whenever he returned to Shen Yuan. He would join her in building snowmen in winter and fishing in summer.

    All of Rong Shu's fantasies about her father originated from Shen Zhi.

    By asking Gu Changjin to investigate Shen Zhi, she might have seemed like an ungrateful creature to others.

    When she spoke those words just now, she couldn't help feeling a pang of sorrow.

    But she was well aware that her mistrust of her uncle stemmed from her need to uncover the truth about her past life. Only then could her suspicions be alleviated.

    Gu Changjin sensed her momentary distress. In a heartbeat, he guessed the reason behind it.

    "Miss Rong, do you believe I won't let an innocent person bear the burden of guilt?" he asked.

    Rong Shu was taken aback. "Of course, I do." She had never doubted Gu Changjin's integrity in this matter.

    A subtle smile tugged at the corners of Gu Changjin's lips. "Whether Shen Zhi is innocent or guilty doesn't depend on you or me, but on himself. If he has committed a crime, he will face justice sooner or later. If he's innocent, even if he's imprisoned, I will clear his name."

    Her guilt vanished instantly upon hearing his words.

    Her delicate brows lifted slightly as she recalled the fierce defensive battles of her past life. She then solemnly continued, "In previous years, the maritime bandits would harass the coastal counties of Great Yin come autumn. Yangzhou, the granary of Great Yin, is a particularly attractive golden prize to them. We must not be careless in our coastal defenses this year."

    Having said all that needed to be said, Rong Shu cast a glance at the sky and rose to take her leave.

    Gu Changjin escorted her out of Pingnan Street, and only turned back after Falling Smoke drove up to take her away.

    Shiiun, Chang Ji, and Heng Ping, clearly displeased after being awakened by Chang Ji, were all waiting in the courtyard.

    Gu Changjin cast them a glance and asked, "On your journey here, did anyone assist you?"

    "A group of pursuers chased us relentlessly, but we were aided by the hidden Valiant Camp," the translator rendered the passage into English.

    The Valiant Camp was under the jurisdiction of the Royal Horse Supervisor.

    "Those were Liu Yuan's men," Gu Changjin narrowed his eyes slightly, his voice devoid of surprise, as if he had expected it all along. "He must have anticipated that someone would attempt to assassinate me."

    "But why didn't he warn us beforehand or simply accompany us on our journey?" Chang Ji asked, perplexed. "Every member of the Valiant Camp is exceptionally skilled. If we had known, we should have traveled with them from the start."

    Indeed, why hadn't he issued a warning earlier, sparing him such torment?

    Gu Changjin lowered his head, sipping his tea, and only lifted his gaze to Shiiun when the cup was empty. "What's the situation with Liu Yuan and Pan Xueliang?"

    Shiiun replied, "Upon arriving in Yangzhou, Liu Yuan went straight to the Defense Commander's office. He was then invited by Liao Rao to the Governor's residence, where he stayed for a few days before returning to the Military Censorate's office just yesterday."

    "Did he pay respects to anyone?"

    "No," Shiiun scoffed. "After being away from Yangzhou for sixteen years, I doubt he even remembers what his foster father looked like."

    Gu Changjin continued, "Is Pan Xueliang hiding within the Military Censorate's office?"

    "It seems so. I haven't seen him leave."

    Gu Changjin put down his teacup and stood up. "Chang Ji and Heng Ping should take a day to rest and recover. Shiiun, come with me to the Military Censorate's office."

    Half an hour later, an unassuming carriage pulled up in front of the Military Censorate.

    Seven Xin opened the door, bowing respectfully to Gu Changjin upon seeing him. "Lord Gu, Eunuch Liu is awaiting your arrival inside. Would you like to meet Scholar Pan first or Eunuch Liu?"

    Gu Changjin asked, "How is Scholar Pan?"

    "Sir, rest assured that Scholar Pan is well-fed and well-rested; he's just been preoccupied with your welfare throughout the journey."

    Gu Changjin responded coolly, "Then I, Gu, shall pay a visit to Eunuch Liu first."

    At that moment, Liu Yuan was in the warm chamber of the military supervisor's residence. Upon hearing that Gu Changjin had arrived, he raised an eyebrow, tossed aside the chess piece in his hand, and addressed the tall figure, "I thought Lord Gu would meet with Scholar Pan first."

    "I trust Eunuch Liu will ensure Scholar Pan's safety," Gu said, bowing his hands in greeting to Liu Yuan. "Thank you for looking after Chang Ji and Heng Ping, Eunuch Liu."

    Liu Yuan smiled. "Why are you being so polite, Sir? We're all in the same boat."

    "On which ship is Eunuch Liu referring?" Gu sat down across from Liu Yuan, speaking calmly. "The old Minister? The noble commander? Or perhaps, the Emperor?"

    "It's the ship of Great Yin," Liu Yuan's striking face slowly revealed a smile as he poured tea leisurely. "Both you and I are on the ship of Great Yin, and we both wish for its prosperity, hoping it won't sink."

    He gently pushed a teacup filled eight parts full toward Gu and continued, "Lord Gu has been incognito in Yang State Prefecture these past few days. I assume you've uncovered some clues about corruption cases?

    Gu nodded and pulled out a letter from his sleeve, speaking nonchalantly, "This letter wasn't written by Liao Rao; it was fabricated by the old Minister. From the start, the old Minister aimed at Liao Rao with intentions for Jiangzhe. Eunuch Liu, do you agree or not?"

    Chapter 49

    A candle flickered, and Liu Yuan rose with a smile, calmly picking up a pair of scissors to trim the wick.

    The candlelight illuminated his face, enhancing the allure of his features.

    "The former Minister said that the letter wouldn't deceive you for long. Indeed, he was as wise as ever. I thought it would take Lord Gu another ten days or two weeks to uncover the truth," Liu Yuan put down the scissors, straightened the candlestick, then glanced sideways at Gu Changjin. "In retrospect, it was our negligence. We only learned about Liao Rao's injured hand later on. A person with severed tendons in their hand cannot possibly write the same way as before. It wasn't impossible to forge another convincing letter, but the former Minister deemed it unnecessary."

    "Why?"

    "At that time, when you went to the Golden Hall for Xu Li'er and her daughter, the former Minister said that the Pan Xueliang case had to be handed over to you," Liu Yuan looked down at Gu Changjin. "Lord Gu didn't disappoint the former Minister, as expected."

    "Did the former Minister also instruct you to have Xu Li'er killed?"

    Gu Changjin had always sensed someone standing behind Liu Yuan, assuming it to be Gui Zhong. To his surprise, it turned out to be the former Minister.

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