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    Why would Mother Zhang object to her looking at this painting? Was she overthinking?

    Rong Shu suppressed her confusion and was about to hang the painting back in place. But as her gaze swept across the wall, her movement suddenly froze.

    "What's wrong, Miss?" Seeing her staring blankly at the wall, Luo Yan also looked over curiously. "Is there something wrong with this wall?"

    "Please hand me the lantern, Sister Luo Yan."

    Rong Shu put down the painting and picked up the candle lantern, directing the bright flame towards a particular spot on the wall.

    This was a wooden wall made of the finest agarwood, with intricate patterns hidden within the wood grain.

    Rong Shu's slender fingers traced along the illuminated section of the wall slowly, connecting several lines that formed a long box-like pattern. "The color of the wood here is different from the rest; it's slightly lighter."

    Following her finger, Luo Yan noticed that the lines did indeed appear slightly paler.

    Luo Yan's expression turned serious. She curled her finger and tapped the wall inch by inch. When she reached the area enclosed by the thin lines, the sound was notably emptier and more diffuse.

    "It's hollow. There must be a hidden compartment within this wooden wall," Luo Yan frowned, staring at the wall intently and saying in a low voice, "We just don't know how to activate the mechanism."

    Rong Shu first glanced at the painting on the table. An idea came to her mind, and she lifted her eyelashes, focusing once more on that central wooden plank.

    The scratches on the wood were not solely from removing the painting.

    Rong Shu's brow relaxed slightly as she placed her palm firmly against the plank, pressing down with force.

    After a series of faint rustling sounds, a compartment, camouflaged to match the color of the wall, emerged slowly from within. Inside it rested an antique wooden box intricately carved with a auspicious beast holding a pearl.

    Rong Shu and Luo Yan exchanged glances, swiftly retrieving the wooden box. Instinctively, they wanted to open it.

    However, despite searching high and low on the box, they couldn't find any locks or clasps.

    This object seemed to be constructed from four thick wooden pieces, precisely interlocked without any visible seams or openings.

    Rong Shu held the box to her ear and shook it gently. "There's something inside. It's a mechanical lock."

    As the sky grew darker, they knew they couldn't linger in the study any longer.

    Rong Shu made a swift decision and declared, "Take it away. If we can't solve this, we'll smash it!" As she spoke, she casually picked up a few books and hurried out of the Three Reflections Hall with Luo Yan.

    In Yi Lanzhu, Mama Zhang was busy preparing dinner when she saw Rong Shu returning with a lantern. She couldn't help frowning and asking, "Where have you been, Miss? Why don't you go rest in your room? You've been running around for over a month; don't wear yourself out."

    Rong Shu lifted her gaze to meet Mama Zhang's.

    This woman had always been the gentle nanny who put her first in everything, as Rong Shu remembered. Whenever she fell ill, it was Mama Zhang by her side, tending to her and singing lullabies while holding her in her arms. Though she was called a nanny, in Rong Shu's heart, Mama Zhang was no different from family.

    She still didn't know what was inside the wooden box.

    Even now, she wondered if she had been too suspicious.

    When Mama Zhang urged her to leave the study that day, it wasn't to stop her from seeing the painting or to prevent her from discovering the mechanism behind it. Was it simply because she was afraid Rong Shu might damage the painting and displease her uncle?

    After all, how could an ordinary nanny be privy to the secrets hidden in the master's study?

    Unless she was not an ordinary nanny.

    If it's not the case, what identity could Mother Zhang possibly have?

    Rong Shu curled her lips and said, "Isn't it just that I'm not used to having so much free time? So, I went to the Three Reflections Hall to fetch a few books."

    As she spoke, she showed the books she had carefully chosen to Mother Zhang as if presenting treasures.

    These books were all travel journals from various regions, which Old Master Shen had brought back for Madam Shen when he went on business trips.

    Like Madam Shen, Rong Shu had loved reading such miscellaneous books since she was young.

    Mother Zhang shook her head with a smile. "You can't read too long at night, or your eyes might get strained."

    While they were talking, the servant girls had already served the dinner. Rong Shu took a look and saw that they were the dishes she had requested earlier.

    Rong Shu washed her hands in the copper basin and took the handkerchief Mother Zhang offered. As she dried her hands, she asked, "Has Sister Luo Yan's meal been sent over?"

    Mother Zhang smiled and said that it had been delivered. "Miss Luo Yan mentioned that she's exhausted from recent events and plans to rest early today."

    "In that case, let's not disturb her. Otherwise, Nijing will scold me for being harsh when we return to the capital."

    Under the cover of night, Mama Zhang stayed in the room to keep watch. She waited until the even breathing from the bed indicated Rong Shu had fallen asleep before rising and silently perusing the books that Rong Shu had brought back from the study, positioned near the window.

    A crescent moon hung like a hook, while the sound of the night drum echoed through the air.

    Her silhouette was projected onto the paper window. After half a cup of tea, the shadow gradually vanished.

    The next morning, just as Rong Shu finished her breakfast, she was informed that Miss Luo Yan might have overindulged in crabs, causing her to suffer from an upset stomach that day.

    Rong Shu hurriedly arranged for someone to fetch medicine and then told Mama Zhang, "I need to go out for a while. Sister Luo Yan is under the County Princess's care; I can't let her fall ill. Mama, please stay here and take care of her. I can only feel at ease knowing you're here at Yi Lanzhu."

    The young lady's voice was filled with trust, and Mama Zhang hastily agreed. "Where are you going, Miss?"

    "Didn't I borrow grain from several wealthy families previously? The harvest season is almost upon us. A general from the Commander's Office came to me specifically a couple of days ago, saying that they will repay the borrowed grain. However, I still need to personally verify the exact amount. Mama, don't worry. Uncle Shi Yi will accompany me on this trip, so nothing untoward will happen."

    Mama Zhang was well aware of Rong Shu's grain borrowing, so she didn't suspect anything and promptly instructed someone to prepare the carriage.

    The carriage rolled over the stone-paved road. Upon arriving at Ciying Lane, Rong Shu knocked twice on the door, "Uncle Shi Yi."

    Lu Shiyi was in the midst of brewing tea for his guest when he heard the two knocks, uttering an intrigued "Ah": "Why is Zhaozhao here?"

    He hurriedly set down the copper teapot on the small red clay brazier and said to the person across from him, "Please wait a moment, Your Excellency, I'll go open the door for Zhaozhao."

    Gu Changjin replied, "Detective Lu, go ahead."


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