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    Upon her death, the evidence they sought would forever be lost. "It shows that he still doesn't understand Lady Liao. It wasn't the old Minister who wanted to involve her, but Lady Liao herself who hoped he would see the error of his ways," Liu Yuan said with a smile. "Since it's for revenge, I assume Liao Rao's words were false."

    "No, Liao Rao's words were likely true," Gu Changjin looked at Liu Yuan and mused, "If Liao Rao remains unyielding after five days, I'll pay a visit to the Spring Moon Building."

    "The Spring Moon Building?" Liu Yuan raised an eyebrow, puzzled. "What business does Lord Gu have there?"

    "To borrow medicine, and a person."

    Liu Yuan understood. "Are you looking for Miss Lv Yi?"

    Pausing for a moment, his gaze softened as he continued, "The madam of the Spring Moon Building, Guo Jiuniang, guards her girls like the apples of her eyes. If you want to borrow someone, you might need Miss Rong's assistance."

    Gu Changjin paused, recalling the half of the fair jade-like face that greeted him upon waking up that morning.

    He had gently pinched the young girl's delicate chin in his dreams, and even now, he could still remember the warm and smooth sensation, akin to silk warmed by a heated incense holder.

    Gu Changjin's throat rolled slightly as he gave a nonchalant "hum."

    Chapter 60

    In the twenty-first year of Jiayou, on the fourteenth day of August, a full month had passed since the pirate raid on Four Square Island.

    As night fell that day, scores of naval vessels, their sails emblazoned with black sun banners, hastily altered course and fled toward Four Square Island.

    " Pursue them!"

    At Liang Xiao's command, the fleet of Great Yin set off in pursuit.

    Gu Changjin did not follow. Once the scores of sleek iron warships vanished from sight, he casually strolled back to his tent.

    Inside, Pan Xueliang was examining a collection of firearms that had been seized.

    Noticing his return, Pan promptly put down the musket in his hand and respectfully greeted him, "Lord Gu."

    Gu Changjin nodded slightly and said, "Madam Feng will undoubtedly earn another accolade for her mission to Four Square Island alongside General Liang. Upon our return to the capital, I shall recommend her for a reward to the Emperor."

    Pan Xueliang acknowledged respectfully, struggling for a moment before finally voicing his concern.

    "On that day, it was clear that Your Excellency and Mother secretly infiltrated Four Square Island to plant explosives. When those pirates hastily returned, as long as the bombs were detonated, even if not all pirates could be eradicated, at least Four Square Island would be utterly destroyed. The battle between Great Yin and the pirates could be considered a resounding victory."

    The pirates on Four Square Island had long been a malignant tumor in the waters of Great Yin. Since the founding of the dynasty, naval ships had been dispatched to eliminate them, but every attempt ended in failure.

    Yet this time, Pan Xueliang knew that even if the tumor could not be completely excised, it would still suffer a severe blow. The coastal regions of Jiangnan would enjoy many years of tranquility.

    This was an immense achievement.

    The commanders who went to Four Square Island that day would surely receive promotions, yet, unfortunately, Lord Gu was not among them.

    It was clearly Lord Gu's strategy; he had recruited Mother, convinced her to take him to Four Square Island, and led over a thousand soldiers to infiltrate the island, planting the explosives and setting up a decisive blow against the pirates.

    Now, however, all credit seemed to be attributed to General Liang's command.

    Though he had contributed, it was not recognized as a major accomplishment.

    Pan Xueliang felt it was unjust for Lord Gu.

    "This is all due to your efforts," the young scholar insisted. "Tonight, you should have boarded that warship and accompanied General Liang to Four Square Island!"

    Gu Changjin raised his eyebrows at Pan Xueliang. After a long moment, he said, "Victory in battle has never been the work of a single person. Let's not talk about others; just the soldiers who joined me on the island that day to plant explosives. They were all trained by the Commander-in-Chief, General Liang, over several years. Without them, how could I alone have buried all those bombs in a single night?"

    "Moreover, without General Liang's tireless efforts and strategic battles against Four Square Island over the years, how could we have achieved such a decisive victory within a month? It's always been these people who have been stationed here, day in and day out, who've protected Yangzhou. Most importantly—"

    Gu Changjin paused before continuing slowly, "If Governor Liao were no longer the Governor of Jiangsu and Zhejiang, who do you think would be suitable for the position?"

    "Of course, it would be General Liang," Pan Xueliang blurted out.

    "For you, Scholar Pan, and countless citizens of Jiangsu and Zhejiang, General Liang is the ideal candidate. But to those in the capital, he might not be the best choice. General Liang has won many battles over the years. So why has he never held the position of Governor?"

    Pan Xueliang frowned in thought. After a while, he suddenly said, "Because General Liang has never relied on anyone."

    Upon saying this, he was struck with realization, understanding why Lord Gu and Eunuch Liu wanted to give General Liang the lion's share of the credit.

    It was to propel him into the role of Governor of Jiangsu and Zhejiang, to silence all opposition in the imperial court.

    He had only been considering individual credit and immediate gains.

    Lord Gu and Eunuch Liu considered the broader picture, not just for Zhejiang and Jiangsu, but for the entire Great Yin empire.

    Unable to conceal his excitement, Pan Xueliang bowed respectfully to Gu Changjin and said, "I have much to learn from you."

    The following dawn, at two quarters past the cockcrow hour, an earth-shattering roar echoed from Four Square Island, piercing through the heavens.

    Flames shot up into the sky, illuminating the darkest hours before the break of day.

    In the evening, Liang Xiao led tens of thousands of soldiers to Four Square Island, spending several days to thoroughly cleanse the area.

    When the thunderous explosion echoed from Four Square Island, Liao Rao stirred from his slumber, taking a moment to comprehend that the commotion indicated the island had been devastated.

    Struggling to open his eyes, he addressed Liu Yuan beside him, "Why doesn't Eunuch Liu partake in the spoils?"

    "I'm afraid of missing Governor Liao's final words," Liu Yuan replied nonchalantly, adjusting the wick of the lamp to brighten the tent's interior.

    Liao Rao attempted a smile, but it never formed. His weak voice trembled slightly in his chest before fading into silence once more.

    Truly worthy of being disciples of the former Minister, you, Qi Xin, Fan Jinshu. And who else? Gu Changjin, Pan Xueliang? Ah, and that one now seated in the Throne Room. Liao Rao's voice echoed with a hint of sarcasm. "Did it not occur to you that pressuring the Emperor to act against the Qi family and Empress Qi might lead to His Imperial Majesty's disdain in the future?"

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