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    The man's voice was calm, but his words cut through his past like a sharp blade.

    He had always had a good relationship with his adoptive family.

    Rong Shu looked up at him, only to realize that his complexion was terrible.

    Moonlight filtered down from the tree branches in delicate strands, half of his face veiled in a gauzy glow. His slender and refined features were almost translucently pale.

    Was this due to old wounds yet to heal, or had new injuries been inflicted?

    This thought crossed Rong Shu's mind subconsciously, but she didn't voice it out. Her gaze lingered on his face for a moment before shifting away.

    In her previous life, when she died, she had experienced an illusion.

    She saw Gu Changjin.

    That illusion had been fleeting, quickly swallowed by darkness as her vision faded, leaving her with nothing to see.

    In that hallucination, she faintly heard him say, "Rong Zhaozhao, swallow it."

    What exactly was he swallowing down there?

    Truly peculiar. If this was her dying obsession, she should have wanted to hear him say "I'm sorry."

    "Would Governor Liao's hallucination include his wife?" Rong Shu inquired curiously. "What would he say to her?"

    "The maid who has served Lady Liao since childhood was just with Miss Lu Yi," Gu Changjin explained patiently. "She'll teach Miss Lu Yi how to extract information. But whether this method works or not depends on fate. Lady Liao sustained brain injuries and hasn't regained consciousness yet. If she were awake, it would be more effective for her to ask the questions herself."

    Rong Shu mused, "Governor Liao cares deeply for his wife. If that's the case, why did he still indulge in debauchery at Wu Family's Brick Bridge? He even allowed rumors about him and Sister Lu Yi to spread. Doesn't he fear that Lady Liao would distance herself from him even further if she found out?"

    "Perhaps because he knows they can never return to their past," Gu Changjin said indifferently. "Ever since Liao Rao started collaborating with the Water Dragon King, they've been on separate paths."

    These words indeed stirred a sense of melancholy.

    Rong Shu lifted her gaze to the moon, resembling a jade plate above them.

    Today was the Moon Lady Festival, a day meant for reunion.

    "A moon so bright and high..."

    The young maiden's voice was soft, like a whisper.

    Gu Changjin was slightly taken aback. The next line of the poem was—

    Closest kin, yet most estranged, are husband and wife.

    Following her gaze, he also looked at the moon hanging in the sky, radiating a gentle light.

    Today was the 15th of August.

    It was on the 15th of August in Jiayou 19 that they met at the Star-Picking Pavilion.

    In Jiayou 20, on the same 15th of August, they became husband and wife.

    And now, on the 15th of August in Jiayou 21, they were in Yangzhou, thousands of miles away from the capital, under the shade of a camphor tree, reflecting on other people's stories.

    What about next year?

    On the 15th of August next year, what would their situation be? Would she leave the capital for Da Tong?

    Gu Changjin's dark eyelashes slowly descended, his gaze landing on her face, bathed in moonlight.

    "Rong Shu."

    "I'm in a situation where I can't afford to love someone, but I'm afraid that by the time I can, that person might no longer be waiting for me. I'm afraid I won't be able to find you, so that's why I hastily spoke those words to you that day."

    He looked at her, his brows and eyes holding a touch of determination and tenderness.

    "Those words, what I said to you in the wine cellar – if they displeased you, then forget them. But know that every one of those words came from my heart."

    Rong Shu was taken aback.

    She gazed into his eyes, feeling a strange sense of familiarity in his current expression.

    In her dreams, Gu Yunzhi had looked at her this way before.

    With an obstinate yet gentle gaze, he would tell her, "Very soon, very soon I'll be able to love you openly and without shame."

    The courtyard fell silent for a moment.

    A creaking sound interrupted the silence as Lv Yi emerged with reddened eyes, followed by Liao Rao's maid, whose face was etched with sorrow. Gu Changjin glanced at Rong Shu and said, "I'll go in and check on Governor Liao."

    Rong Shu, upon seeing the expression on Lv Yi's face, knew that Liao Rao's condition must be dire. She replied affirmatively and quickly walked forward, firmly supporting Lv Yi's arm.

    Lv Yi whispered softly, "I couldn't get any answers from him. He kept repeating the same question: Do you remember where we first met?"

    Did he really need to ask? Their first encounter was undeniably at the Spring Moon Building. She had been singing on stage when he, accompanied by a group of military officers, entered and stopped in their tracks, listening quietly to her song amidst the din of the room.

    Only Lv Yi understood that Liao Rao was actually asking about the place where he first met Fan Jinshu.

    "But no, just before he closed his eyes, he muttered, 'Fan Jinshu, do you truly believe it was the old Secretary who made me marry you?' " A bitter smile gradually formed on her charming face. "Do you know why I got so furious and slapped him? It was because while teaching me sword dancing, he called out another person's name. I thought he was calling out to a courtesan from a pleasure house. But I never imagined that 'Jinshu' was actually Liao Rao's maiden name."

    "I was still hoping, even as I went in, that he might recognize me, recognize me as Lv Yi, not Lady Liao."

    Lv Yi's tone was tinged with wistfulness.

    After that day, she pretended to be ill for two days. On the third day, she put on a smile again and resumed her role as the most renowned courtesan in Wuji Brick Bridge.

    On this very day, Governor Liao Rao of Jiangzhe, who had been in a coma for two days, finally breathed his last.

    On the 20th of August, Liang Xiao triumphantly returned from Four Square Island.

    On the 22nd of August, Lady Liao, who had been hidden by Liu Yuan in the military supervisor's residence, finally regained consciousness.

    Rong Shu wondered if Gu Changjin had obtained the information he sought through Liao Rao's final two messages.

    After escorting Lv Yi back to Spring Moon Building, she returned to Ciying Lane.

    Four Square Island was utterly devastated, and the remaining pirates, no longer a threat, fled to more distant islands, seeking refuge with other bands of pirates.

    On the 25th of August, Rong Shu delivered the remaining medicine from the City God Temple to the clinic and distributed the leftover food to nearby residents. Afterward, she returned to Shen Yuan from Ciying Lane.

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