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    He was burning with a high fever.

    Such an embrace was indeed too intimate.

    In both her previous and current lives, Gu Changjin had never held her like this.

    Rong Shu instinctively tried to push him away, but as her slender fingers just grazed his chest, she froze again.

    His shirt was completely drenched, and the sticky sensation on her fingertips, along with the hint of blood in the air around his nose, quickly alerted her to something amiss.

    This man was injured again.

    She couldn't tell if it was a new or old wound, but it was certainly severe.

    Wanting to push him away, she hesitated when she remembered that he was severely injured and running a fever. Her hand resting against his chest found it difficult to exert any force.

    "Lord Gu," she pursed her lips and whispered softly, "I'm fine. You should let go of me now."

    Gu Changjin seemed to come back to his senses, his dark eyes narrowing slightly before abruptly releasing his grip.

    His Adam's apple bobbed several times, unsure of what to say.

    How could he explain that moment of loss of control? And how could he tell her that his anxiety along the way only vanished when he held her securely in his arms?

    Gu Changjin lowered his gaze and said, "I apologize for being too forward."

    Rong Shu took a step back, distancing herself from his aura. Only then did she lift her eyes and say coolly, "It's alright, Sir is merely concerned about the people. Since you're here, have all the pirates outside the city been eliminated?"

    Her detachment in tone and her instinctive retreat told him that she didn't wish for any overly intimate physical contact with him.

    In his dream, when he held her, her body stiffened momentarily but soon softened, leaning her pointed chin against his shoulder actively.

    The her in his dream enjoyed his embrace.

    But now, when he pulled her into his arms, she was filled with resistance.

    Resisting him, resisting his embrace. If not for his injury, she would likely push him away fiercely, he thought.

    Gu Changjin slowly clenched his fists and said, "About seven or eight out of ten are dead. The remaining two hundred plus have been arrested and taken away. Don't worry, Yang Zhou City is safe now."

    This man was known for his cautious speech. If he said that Yangzhou was peaceful, then it truly was. Rong Shu believed him.

    With a subtle relief, she picked up the short dagger that had fallen to the ground and spoke softly, "You've worked hard, Your Excellency. There must still be many matters to attend to outside. Please take care of your duties. I'm going to join Sister Luo Yan at the City God Temple."

    She nodded slightly and attempted to pass him, but after only two steps, her wrist was gently held by him.

    He didn't exert any force; he simply encircled her wrist through the thin veil of her sleeve, preventing her from leaving.

    "Rong Shu," he whispered, "I have something to tell you." He added, "Just a couple of words."

    Rong Shu's delicate fingers, resembling slender green onions, couldn't resist curling around the short dagger in her hand.

    A flurry of images swirled in her mind.

    He stood in Pingnan Street, amid the chirping of insects, asking if she had feelings for Mu Rong.

    He stood beneath Wu's Brick Bridge, gently awakening her, saying, "Rong Shu, I've come to find you."

    And there was that moment when, against the fragmented light of dusk, he reluctantly parted from her as he sent her off in the carriage.

    On the night of the Mid-Autumn Festival, Shiiun told her, "My lord has sent me to protect you."

    Qi Xin also said to her, "I am here on behalf of Lord Gu."

    He called her Rong Shu, no longer just Miss Rong.

    He asked how she intended to celebrate her birthday.

    And now, despite his high fever, wounds, and bleeding, he held her tightly in his arms.

    His fingers alternately loosened and clenched, tightened and released.

    Rong Shu looked up at Luo Yan and asked, "Sister Luo Yan, could you take these ladies back to the City God Temple first? I need to speak with Lord Gu for a moment. I'll find you soon."

    Luo Yan nodded, pursed her lips, gave Gu Changjin a fleeting glance, and then led the curious girls away from the wine cellar.

    As soon as they left, Rong Shu faced Gu Changjin and asked, "What does Lord Gu wish to discuss with me?"

    In the midst of their conversation, she gently tugged her hand, and this time, she managed to break free, as Gu Changjin willingly let go.

    Gu Changjin's eyes, as cold as a deep pool, gazed at her silently.

    Her gaze was as clear and tranquil as ever, just like before.

    "I never liked Wen Xi, nor did I ever want to marry her. Regardless of whether you were here or not, it would never have happened between us," the man's voice lowered gradually as he spoke firmly. "Rong Shu, you know this – the one I like is you."

    She had always been perceptive. From the moment he abandoned everything to come find her, to when he held her in his arms without any hesitation, she likely had guessed his true feelings.

    Perhaps it was the high fever that had burned away his rationality, or the fear of losing her that had eaten away at his composure.

    At that very moment, all he wanted was to tear through that thin veil and lay his heart bare before her.

    He didn't want her to tell him, with tears in her eyes as in her dream, that affection for someone had an expiration date, and that one day, she would no longer like him.

    As he spoke these words, his eyes remained fixed on hers.

    In this dimly lit room, with the scent of wine permeating the air, his words seemed imbued with the intensity of the alcohol – direct, concise, and carrying a rare urgency that didn't belong to his usual demeanor.

    Rong Shu had seen many sides of Gu Changjin.

    Calm, composed, and strategic.

    This was the first time she had seen him with such an expression, looking at her with those eyes.

    If in her previous life, before she was sent to the Sishi Garden, he had said these words to her, she would probably have asked him without hesitation to hold her tighter, never letting go.

    But now, whether Wen Xi was dear to him, whether he would marry her, or even if he liked her, none of it mattered anymore.

    From the moment they signed their names on that divorce letter, their relationship had come to an end.

    For she no longer liked him.

    She had always been this kind of person – when she liked someone, she did so fervently, but when she didn't, she severed ties like cutting water with a blade, not lingering in the past.

    "My lord, these matters are no longer significant. When I liked you, you didn't feel the same. By the time you came to like me, I had already lost those feelings. With us being just one step apart, it seems we were simply lacking in fate. If that's the case, why force it?"


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