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    Liu Ping stepped forward to take the letter and obediently left.

    Seeing Rong Shu's weary expression, Luo Yan said with concern, "My lady, please rest for a while. You haven't slept all night."

    Not only had she not slept, but she had also inhaled a lot of smoke in the study. Rong Shu's body had just recovered from an illness, and as an untrained maiden, Luo Yan was genuinely worried about her health.

    Rong Shu shook her head. "That incense can only make Uncle drowsy for two or three days. The discomfort during that time can be attributed to the exhaustion from traveling. If it goes on longer, he might become suspicious. Today, I must find out what is recorded in that ledger."

    Luo Yan couldn't comprehend the feeling of a sword hanging over one's head, nor could she understand Rong Shu's urgency.

    Many things in this life were different from her previous one.

    Xu Li'er and Pan Xueliang were still alive, and Yang Zhou City had emerged victorious. Would the calamity of their family being stripped of rank and possessions, which was originally due to happen over a year later, now occur sooner?

    The key to breaking through the situation lay with Shen Zhi. She couldn't afford to waste any time; discovering the truth as soon as possible was crucial.

    Estimating the time, Rong Shu took a few of her grandfather's notebooks and headed for the Three Reflections Hall.

    By setting fire yesterday, she was betting that in a crisis, Shen Zhi would prioritize rescuing those vital secret documents.

    Despite the fact that the fire was set ablaze on trees, Liu Ping had promptly called for help to extinguish it after setting it.

    It was indeed a risky gamble.

    One misstep, and everything in the study could have gone up in flames, not to mention the possibility of injury to herself.

    The saplings outside the study had been planted, and Manager Jiang was tamping down the soil around them. Upon seeing Rong Shu approach with a stack of books in her arms, he hurriedly said, "Miss, the workers just finished planting the trees. It's quite a mess here. Would you like to come back tomorrow after we've tidied up?"

    "I'll be fine, Manager Jiang. You don't need to worry about me. I'll just go in and select a few Buddhist scriptures before leaving. Please carry on with your work."

    Ordinarily, this study was off-limits to others. However, Manager Jiang was an old servant of Shen Yuan and had watched Rong Shu grow from a little ball into the young woman she was now. Seeing her pale face and frightened expression, he immediately unlocked the door without hesitation.

    Rong Shu entered the study to pick out her books, while Lao Yan waited outside.

    With no windows open, the study was pitch black. Rong Shu carried a lantern towards the wooden wall, effortlessly triggering the hidden mechanism to retrieve the secret ledger. By the faint light, she rapidly flipped through its pages.

    The ledger recorded the flow of tens of silver transactions, listing destinations such as Shandong, Fu Jian, Liaodong, and Shangjing.

    Again, these same locations.

    Rong Shu hesitated whether to take the two account books with her. She could rewrite the contents of the letter from memory, but it would be challenging to memorize the details in the ledger. Just as she was pondering, a soft triple knock sounded from outside.

    This was the secret signal between Rong Shu and Lao Yan, indicating that someone had arrived.

    The visitor turned out to be Shen Zhi.

    Lao Yan was genuinely surprised that Shen Zhi had returned for a second visit only an hour after his previous one.

    Yesterday, the incense called Dream Soul, which she had lit in Shen Zhi's room, was given to her by a servant named Shiiun from Lord Gu's residence. It was said to induce a dazed and confused state of mind.

    According to Shiiun, after inhaling the Dream Soul incense for half the night, Shen Zhi should have been groggy for at least two or three days.

    How could he come to the study twice in a row?

    Indeed, Shen Zhi was suffering, but after much deliberation, he couldn't bring himself to leave the account books and letters behind. Thus, he returned.

    Just as he stepped through the Moon Cave Gate, Lao Yan's voice boomed, "Uncle!"

    Lao Yan was loyal to Dan Zhu County Princess, and Shen Zhi had always treated her with respect. Upon hearing her, he glanced at her and asked uncertainly, "Miss Lao Yan, why are you here?"

    Luo Yan said, "Last night Miss was startled, and she's afraid of having nightmares today. So, she came to select a few Buddhist scriptures and plans to play two calming mantras."

    Shen Zhi slightly knitted his brows and briskly walked through the corridor, pushing the door into the study.

    In the study, two wall lanterns illuminated the room. Rong Shu was standing on a low stool, reaching for a Buddhist scripture.

    Spotting Shen Zhi entering, she called out in surprise, "Uncle," then continued, "Housekeeper Jiang mentioned that Uncle isn't feeling well and will be resting in the Xiangyun Pavilion for the next two days. I was even thinking of visiting you there tomorrow."

    She hopped off the stool, carrying the lantern as she approached Shen Zhi, her face filled with concern. "Does Uncle feel any better?"

    Shen Zhi cast a glance at the two Buddhist scriptures in Rong Shu's hands, then looked where she had just been standing. He casually strolled over, reached for the scripture on a higher shelf, and said, "It's better now. The Three Reflections Hall is undergoing renovations these days, so try to avoid coming here often, lest you be disturbed by the workers."

    Rong Shu readily agreed, "I'll just pick a few scriptures and leave. Tomorrow, I need to visit Doctor Mu for Mama Zhang. I should get a good night's sleep tonight."

    Her complexion wasn't much better than his. Recalling what Lanyan had said earlier, Shen Zhi sighed and said, "Last night, two lanterns were blown down from the corridor by the wind and landed on a tree, causing the fire. It wasn't a big fire; just a few phoenix trees were burned. Don't be afraid. I'll ask someone to prepare a calming medicine for you to take before resting. Your courage seems to be shrinking. When I came back, Manager Jiang told me that during the pirate attack, you were running around outside, almost becoming a female hero."

    At this, he suddenly remembered how she had almost been captured by the remnants of the pirates half a month ago, and a hint of sympathy arose. "When I went to Qingzhou over a decade ago, I was also robbed by pirates disguised as fishermen. Fortunately, I was rescued thanks to a few hundredmen from the garrison."

    Pirates were ruthless, and if not for the need to purchase firearms, he wouldn't have involved himself with the Water Dragon King. Thankfully, the Water Dragon King was dead, and all those matters were buried in the past.

    Rong Shu gently crumpled the Buddhist scripture in her hand and asked with a smile, "Uncle, were you on your way to Qingzhou to oversee the salt trade back then?"

    "No, it was just a detour to Qingzhou to meet an old friend while I was en route to handle the salt matter," Shen Zhi explained, waving his hand. "Once you've found the scripture, return early for some rest. With Mother Zhang's absence, I'll assign someone to assist you at Yi Lanzhu in a couple of days."

    At this point, a heavy feeling settled in Shen Zhi's chest again.

    Mother Zhang was still unconscious, while General Liang was unharmed. He didn't know how he would break the news to the County Princess.

    On her way back to Yi Lanzhu, Rong Shu pondered over Shen Zhi's words – Qingzhou, the military garrison, and an old friend.


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