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    As soon as Rong Shu finished speaking, she paused, her voice barely better than his, raspy like she had caught a fever.

    Gu Changjin turned to pour her a cup of warm water from the table. "Drink some water first."

    Rong Shu was indeed thirsty and sipped the tea slowly, drinking three cups before stopping. The scorching sensation in her throat finally subsided.

    Staring at his dry lips, she asked without thinking, "Aren't you going to drink any?"

    After he drank two cups of water, she continued, "Where is Sister Luo Yan... and Mother Zhang now?"

    "Miss Luo Yan is in the neighboring chamber; she was more severely poisoned, so it might take another three or five days for her to wake up. As for Mother Zhang—" Gu Changjin's voice turned slightly cold, "Shiiun sent her elsewhere."

    Rong Shu gripped the cup tightly in her hand. "Did Mother Zhang not wake up?"

    "Mm. There was poison under her nails. When she scratched Miss Luo Yan, her nails broke, and she was poisoned as well. She's unconscious because of the poison, not because of you." Gu Changjin spoke each word clearly.

    Mother Zhang hadn't succumbed to even the potent Yang Jin Hua or Chun Feng San. How could she fall into a coma from a poison she had created herself?

    She probably remained unconscious due to her stab wound.

    Gu Changjin said this merely to reassure her.

    Rong Shu gently caressed the rim of the cup with her fingertip and smiled. "Sir, don't worry. I'm fine. If I hadn't stopped Mother Zhang back then, it would've been Sister Luo Yan and me who ended up dead."

    She was not incapable of understanding this logic.

    It was just that the person she had hurt was her wet nurse, who had been by her side for nearly two decades. She couldn't help but feel sad.

    But these feelings of sadness shouldn't be the cause of her guilt and self-reproach.

    The young lady's eyes were open and sincere, and her smile was not forced—she truly saw through the situation clearly.

    Ordinary people usually needed some time to recover from the fear and guilt after hurting or killing someone for the first time. She had handled it well in this aspect.

    Gu Changjin's lips curved into a smile. "Mm."

    "How did you come up with an excuse to take me away from Shen Yuan?"

    "I told your estate's steward that the three of you were injured because someone wanted to take revenge on me, so they infiltrated Shen Yuan to seize an opportunity to commit violence."

    The elderly steward, seeing the three women bleeding profusely with two nearly poisoned to death, was terrified to the point of breaking out in a cold sweat. How could he doubt Gu Changjin's words? Besides, Gu Changjin's reputation was indeed impeccable; thus, he naturally believed whatever he said.

    Upon hearing this, Rong Shu genuinely heaved a sigh of relief.

    Whatever had transpired at Yi Lanzhu must not be divulged to outsiders, especially not to Shen Zhi.

    Shen Zhi would soon return from Fu Jian, and Rong Shu still needed to go back to Shen Yuan to search for evidence. Gu Changjin's excuse was perfectly timed.

    Seemingly guessing her thoughts, Gu Changjin added, "If you plan to return to Shen Yuan, you must rid yourself of the remaining poison first. Don't worry about delaying; I'll assist you in investigating Shen Zhi's matter."

    "Sir isn't returning to the capital?"

    "I've had a relapse of my old injury and need to convalesce in Yangzhou for some time before I can report back to the capital. Moreover, if Shen Zhi has truly committed acts that violate etiquette and harm the interests of Great Yin, as a government official, I cannot stand idly by."

    Indeed, his complexion didn't look well.

    Rong Shu gazed into his eyes for a moment before finally nodding. "Thank you, Sir."

    Gu Changjin had previously overturned many cases for helpless citizens trapped in desperate situations. Rong Shu never doubted his capabilities and wouldn't refuse his assistance just to avoid suspicion.

    The words extracted from Mother Zhang were enough to suggest that Shen Zhi was not as innocent as he claimed. In her previous life, the probability that the Shen family had collaborated with the enemy was most likely true.

    As for the role the Cheng'an Marquis Estate played in this case, the only way to find out was to investigate through Shen Zhi himself.

    Shen Zhi was a cautious man. If he had indeed conspired with someone from the marquis estate to betray the country, he would surely have kept some evidence of their guilt to protect himself from being abandoned by them later.

    Seeing the young lady lower her eyes in deep thought, her delicate brows drawing closer together, Gu Changjin said, "After he became a salt merchant, Shen Zhi frequently went to Shandong Prefecture to collect salt, always taking a detour through Qingzhou. In the last decade, he stopped going to Shandong and instead traveled to Fu Jian, occasionally visiting Liaodong."

    Qingzhou, Fu Jian, Liaodong, and the capital city.

    Rong Shu felt that these place names hinted at a hidden connection, but she couldn't quite grasp it. It was like she was one step away from solving the puzzle.

    The more she pondered, the more her head ached, beads of cold sweat trickling down her forehead. Instinctively, she propped her head up with a pained expression.

    "Rong Shu, don't force yourself to think. Sometimes, the more you dwell on a clue, the more you can get stuck in a corner," Gu Changjin softly pressed his hands against her cheeks, lifting her face as he spoke deliberately, "Put it aside for a few days. Come back to it later, and perhaps you'll find clarity."

    There was always an irresistible trustworthiness about him.

    Especially when he speaks to you with solemnity, the calmness in his voice has an inexplicable soothing effect. It's as if no matter how great or difficult the problem, everything will turn around for the better with him by your side.

    Rong Shu gazed into his dark, profound eyes, and the fiery anxiety in her heart seemed to have been doused by spring rain, leaving it utterly extinguished.

    After a long while, she smiled.

    "Alright, I'll focus on restoring my health first. After all, even if I do find a clue, I won't have the energy to deal with it if I'm not well."

    The young lady's voice returned to its usual gentle elegance, but her pale complexion was too glaring to ignore. Gu Changjin couldn't help but feel remorseful for bringing up the matter of Shen Zhi earlier.

    "Rest a while longer, it's not yet dawn. I'll stay in this room and watch over you, sleep peacefully," Gu Changjin said, about to rise and unhook the curtain from its brass ring. Unexpectedly, his sleeve was gently grasped by someone.

    "The lord has one favor to ask," the maiden said.

    Glancing at her delicate fingers, as white as fine jade, Gu Changjin replied, "What is it? Miss Rong, please speak freely."

    "I wish to bathe."

    Rong Shu tugged at her clothes, still wearing the same outfit from earlier, now stained with bloodstains.

    All this blood belonged to Mother Zhang.


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