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    "Very well, if you don't mind the trouble, would you be kind enough to take Zhaozhao with you back to the capital?"

    Rong Shu was taken aback. "Mother?"

    Shen Yizhen looked at Gu Changjin, seeking his confirmation.

    Gu Changjin replied solemnly, "If Rong Shu is willing, I will escort her back to the capital."

    Of course, Rong Shu was not willing. Just as she was about to speak, Shen Yizhen asked, "May I ask, has there been a precedent in our dynasty where, after a divorce, children follow their mother back to their maternal clan?"

    Rong Shu's face froze, and she immediately closed her mouth. Her gaze shifted to Gu Changjin.

    "There is such a precedent," Gu Changjin said. "According to the Great Yin's laws, when parents separate, the children's removal from the family register requires a clan court hearing. As long as a majority of the clan members agree, the child can leave with their mother. If that path is blocked, if the father has committed wrongs and the children are willing to leave the clan with their mother, they can also go to Obeying Heaven Mansion, beat the drum, and request the Prefect of Obeying Heaven to decide the children's affiliation. Lord Zhu of Obeying Heaven Mansion is an impartial man. He has been aware of Duke Cheng'an's favoritism towards his concubine over his wife for years, so he will surely handle the case fairly."

    In other words, even if the Rong family refused, they could still appeal to Obeying Heaven Mansion and force the Rong family to consent under pressure.

    Upon hearing this, Shen Yizhen felt somewhat reassured.

    She smiled at Rong Shu and said, "I've always known about the matter you entrusted to Lady Danzhu to investigate. This time, I'll fulfill your wish. You can give your father the divorce papers on my behalf. After he signs them, let Lord Gu accompany you to Obeying Heaven Mansion to remove your name from the Rong family registry and add it to the Shen family registry. Zhaozhao, I'll protect the Shen family. In the future, if you want to raise horses in Da Tong, you can do so without anyone interfering."

    Rong Shu understood that her mother's words about preserving the Shen family were not only to reassure her, but also to declare her stance to Gu Changjin. She wouldn't tolerate her uncle's actions and would reclaim the Shen family from his grasp.

    However, before they could do that, both she and her mother needed to sever ties with the Cheng'an Marquis Estate. Otherwise, even if they managed to save the Shen family, they would still be implicated if the Cheng'an Marquis Estate encountered trouble.

    Her mother believed every word she said.

    She trusted Rong Shu's claim that Shen Zhi was not innocent, as well as her assertion that the Cheng'an Marquis Estate was not without fault.

    Thus, her mother was preparing for the future, paving a way for them in advance.

    Rong Shu felt a pang of emotion in her nose.

    She had already planned to remove her name from the Rong family genealogy after her mother separated from her father. Previously, she had asked Mu Nijing to investigate this matter. Once her mother and father divorced, she would have no interest in her status as the legitimate daughter of the Cheng'an Marquis; whoever wanted it could have it.

    "I'll follow Lord Gu back to the capital," she said, forcing back her tears and adopting a serious expression. "Don't worry, Mother. I have a way to remove my name from the Rong family records honorably."

    Chapter 72

    The phoenix trees in the Three Reflections Hall were replanted. At this time of year, the leaves were transitioning between green and yellow, with their originally emerald-green surfaces now bordered in gold. Though visually appealing, there was an undeniable sense of desolation.

    Manager Jiang couldn't help but sigh.

    In the past, the Three Reflections Hall was filled with various fruit trees: loquat, pomegranate, persimmon, white pear, and two jujube trees. All of them were planted by Lord for Lady Concubine, who enjoyed eating fruits from her own garden.

    Sadly, after Master moved into the hall, he replaced all those long-standing trees with phoenix trees. As people grow old, they tend to reminisce about the past. Manager Jiang couldn't help but miss the days when the Three Reflections Hall was bountiful with fruits in autumn.

    While he was lost in thought, the elderly gatekeeper at the entrance had already eagerly led Shen Yizhen and Rong Shu inside.

    The veteran servants of the Shen family in the garden remained loyal to Shen Huai, even though it was now Shen Zhi's turn to manage the household. They still treated Shen Yizhen as the eldest daughter of the Shen family.

    In the Xiangyun Pavilion, Shen Zhi had just finished his medicine when a servant informed him that Lady Concubine had returned.

    Startled, he hurried outside. "Zhen Niang?" he asked, looking at Shen Yizhen in surprise. "Why didn't you send word to your brother beforehand?"

    Shen Yizhen replied coolly, "Shen Yuan is my home. Would I forget how to find my way back?"

    She had always been headstrong. When she had brought Zhaozhao back from the capital to Yangzhou, she had done so without a word, arriving at the ferry without prior notice.

    Shen Zhi smiled warmly and said, "Although Yangzhou has won a battle, there are still bandits and displaced citizens causing unrest within the city. Wasn't your brother worried about your safety on the journey?"

    He then mentioned his intention to welcome Shen Yizhen with a dust-removing ceremony, instructing Manager Jiang to inform the main kitchen to prepare her favorite dishes from her childhood.

    After Manager Jiang left, he accompanied Shen Yizhen to Yi Lanzhu, asking softly, "Were you exhausted during your journey?"

    Shen Yizhen glanced at Shen Zhi.

    His face was haggard, hinting at an underlying illness, but his concern for her was as usual, just like when they were young, always putting her needs first.

    Shen Yizhen had once harbored feelings for Shen Zhi. When she heard that he had a beloved, she was deeply saddened.

    But all those past feelings had long died when she verbally dissolved their engagement.

    When the Shen family faced adversity, her father had intended to give him a fortune to return to the Tan family. However, he refused, insisting that he would remain a Shen until death, his name inscribed in the family genealogy.

    That sincere and heartfelt expression had deceived her father and herself alike.

    Of course, perhaps Shen Zhi was telling the truth back then; he truly did wish to share the same fate with the Shen family.

    But people change, and staying true to one's heart has never been an easy task.

    That night, they dined at a pavilion by the lake.

    Shen Zhi mentioned Mother Zhang.

    "I've invited a skilled physician from Sichuan, who should arrive in Yangzhou soon. Tomorrow, I'll send someone to bring Mother Zhang to Shen Yuan. She and Zhaozhao have a deep bond, and she's taken great care of Zhaozhao for over a decade. It would be a fitting tribute to their relationship if she were to be looked after in Shen Yuan."

    Mother Zhang was currently staying at Doctor Mu's clinic.

    Shen Yizhen concealed the coldness in her eyes and said with a smile, "Doctor Mu is the most renowned physician in Yangzhou. His consultations are highly sought after, and even a fortune can't guarantee his services. Now that we've finally managed to get him to treat Mother Zhang, why bother inviting another doctor?"

    Shen Zhi sensed the chill in her tone and quickly explained, "Doctor Mu is quite old and no longer takes on patients. I'm worried that he might not have the energy to attend to Mother Zhang."


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