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    House Manager Jiang let out an "Oh," then asked, "Did you find her?"

    Mother Zhang nodded with a smile. "I did."

    House Manager Jiang didn't inquire further. Mother Zhang held a status in the Shen family that was no less than his as a house manager. The Master had always treated her with respect, so House Manager Jiang never made things difficult for her; he even went out of his way to please her.

    Unaware of the incident at the Three Reflections Hall, Rong Shu was led by Guo Jiuniang to the second floor of the Spring Moon Building.

    It was noon, and the courtesans were just waking up. Some were asking for water to wash up, while others were applying perfumed cream on their faces. Servants were rushing about, heads spinning from all the tasks at hand.

    It was Lan Yan's first time in a brothel, and despite her composed nature, she couldn't help but take in her surroundings with more than a few curious glances.

    When they arrived at Guo Jiuniang's chambers, Lan Yan was about to follow her in when Guo Jiuniang gently placed a hand on her shoulder and said with a smile, "Zhaozhao mentioned that Miss Lan Yan is skilled in martial arts. Could you possibly teach some self-defense techniques to the young ones here?"

    Lan Yan understood that the madam of this brothel wanted to speak privately with Miss Rong. Thus, she agreed and allowed the servant to lead her to another room.

    Guo Jiuniang closed the door behind her and poured herself a cup of wine. She then pushed a decanter of fragrant drink toward Rong Shu and said,

    "I knew you would come looking for me. You've always been one to wear your heart on your sleeve. If Lord Gu hadn't been there that day, I'm sure you would have had many more questions. I've heard that Lu Shiyi has been running around ever since you returned. He must be doing errands for you. In this world, there are only two people who could make him do that – yourself and Miss. So, tell me, why have you come back to Yangzhou?"

    Isn't it said that Mama Guo from the Wu family's Brick Bridge has a pair of golden, insightful eyes?

    Rong Shu smiled and said, "No wonder Mother often says that Aunt Guo is a heroine among women."

    Madam Guo chuckled. "Stop being so cheeky. Tell me what's going on."

    Rong Shu then recounted her suspicions about Shen Zhi. "Aunt Guo, do you know which merchants Liao Rao associates with?"

    Putting down her wine cup, Madam Guo pondered for a moment before responding, "I've never heard Liao Rao or his men mention your uncle. Liao Rao is tight-lipped and cunning. Even if he were involved in some underhanded dealings, it would be difficult to find any evidence. Green Lean will be back in two days. I'll have her inquire for me then."

    Rong Shu hesitated. "Will this cause trouble for Miss Green Lean?"

    "No, Governor Liao genuinely likes Green Lean," Madam Guo glanced at her. "It's strange, actually. He's never touched her. It's not because he's particularly virtuous; he's intimate with other courtesans, but usually only once. Yet, despite not touching Green Lean, he frequently seeks her out. When she teases him, he seems particularly delighted."

    Madam Guo shook her head, sighing. "There are myriad charming women in this world, yet men are as diverse as they come."

    Rong Shu had been puzzled, but hearing this, she couldn't help but laugh. Realizing her concern must have amused Aunt Guo, she laughed even more.

    Madam Guo laughed along, but after, she turned serious and said,

    "Zhaozhao, if you truly suspect that your uncle has harmed the Shen family or acted against Great Yin, you shouldn't hide it from your mother. In her heart, the Shen family and you are more important than your uncle. If one day he dares to harm the Shen family or you, your mother would never forgive him."

    Rong Shu was taken aback by Guo Jiuniang's words.

    She couldn't bear to see her mother suffer and always worried about her health, thus avoiding discussing many matters with her, hoping for her to recover peacefully without any worries.

    But wasn't Aunt Guo right?

    Considering Mother's character, if her uncle had indeed harmed the Shen family, she would rather take action herself to report him to the authorities than entrust the task to others.

    Looking at Guo Jiuniang, Rong Shu asked, "Was there anything suspicious about Grandfather's death?"

    Chapter 51

    Guo Jiuniang looked at her in surprise. "Why do you have such thoughts? Your grandfather died of diabetes, a condition he had suffered from for a decade. Otherwise, he wouldn't have agreed to adopt your uncle as the Shen family's legitimate son back then."

    Had she really been overthinking things?

    Rong Shu raised her gaze to meet Guo Jiuniang's. "Then, did Mother used to have feelings for Uncle?"

    Lady Guo Jiuniang leisurely refilled her cup of wine and said, "Of course she did. Your mother knew from a young age that Shen Zhi was meant to marry her, so she never cast her gaze elsewhere. She waited patiently for her coming-of-age ceremony. But don't worry, your mother isn't one to cling to past affections. When Shen Zhi returned from the capital, confessing his love for another and desiring only a lifelong sibling relationship with her, she was indeed heartbroken. Nevertheless, she terminated the engagement. In this, you resemble her. No, my dear, you were even more decisive than your mother – when you decided on a divorce, it was done."

    Rong Shu gently touched his nose.

    Guo Jiuniang tilted her head sideways, regarding her with a sideways glance. "From what I see, Censor Gu seems a better match than Shen Zhi. Do you still harbor feelings for him?"

    "How could that be?" Rong Shu smiled. "Right now, I only wish to thoroughly investigate Uncle's matter. In the future, I plan to take Mother to Da Tong to raise horses."

    "Doesn't that settle it? You don't have to worry about your mother still having feelings for Shen Zhi. Both you and your mother are capable of severing ties with a single stroke." Guo Jiuniang said, "Originally, the Shen family was like a fat sheep. Your mother married into the Marquis's residence to save the Shen family. If someone were to attempt to tarnish the Shen family's century-old reputation, your mother would certainly not let that person go. Furthermore, even if you were to find evidence of Shen Zhi's wrongdoing, you would need to persuade the elders of the Shen family to open the ancestral hall and expel Shen Zhi from the family. In such matters, your mother, as the wife of a Marquis, would be far more effective than you, as the legitimate daughter of the Marquis's residence."

    Rong Shu pondered over Guo Jiuniang's words, and her resolve began to waver.

    Seeing her frown in deep thought, Guo Jiuniang couldn't resist tapping Rong Shu's forehead and said, "For a young maiden like you, there's no need to worry so much. You'll get wrinkles if you keep this up."

    Rong Shu touched her forehead and laughed. "Aunt Guo is right!"

    After all, Guo Jiuniang had watched Rong Shu grow up, and she couldn't bear to see her burdened with too many worries. "Even if the sky were to fall, your Uncle Shi and I would be here to hold it up for you. You're still so young, don't let yourself become an old lady from stress. Your birthday is approaching, and your mother sent word to me a couple of days ago. She wants me to prepare a beautiful paddleboat to celebrate your special day in style!"


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