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    Gu Changjin had already changed into his attire.

    He understood that her present busyness was merely a means to avoid any conversation pertaining to their past.

    He didn't pressure her. Instead, he neatly folded the old garment in his hand and placed it on the bedside table. Gazing at her back, he said, "If the ones coming to fetch me today were from the palace, I probably wouldn't be able to accompany you to Wanning County."

    Rong Shu slid the bamboo basket beneath the bed, responding elegantly, "Do attend to your duties, sir; matters of the Marquis's residence, I shall handle on my own."

    Pausing for a moment, she eventually added, "With Sister Luoyan and Liu Ping by my side, there's no need to worry about anything happening to me."

    Gu Changjin hummed in response, "I've arranged for Chang Ji to secretly follow you. Those who ambushed us yesterday might set another trap in Shangjing. I have hidden connections there. Should anything happen to you, Chang Ji and they can protect you promptly and also send word to me."

    Rong Shu paused in her steps, turning to look at him.

    "You know that Xu Fu isn't my birth mother. It's likely that Nurse Zhang and your uncle are on her side. If Nurse Zhang truly serves her, keeping her by your side for so many years must have been part of her scheme. Thus, you're not safe in Shangjing."

    Xu Fu?

    His foster mother?

    Rong Shu stood frozen in place.

    She knew that Gu Changjin was not Xu Fu's son. Given that Xu Fu was merely the wife of a hunter in Jinan Prefecture, how could she possibly have such influence to enlist the help of her uncle and Mother Zhang?

    Unless...

    "Who exactly is Xu Fu?" Rong Shu inquired. "Could it be that... she has never been the real Xu Fu?"

    Gu Changjin nodded slightly and said, "Her surname is Xiao, and she is the cousin of the current emperor, Princess Yun Hua."

    "Princess Yun Hua?" Rong Shu furrowed her brow. She had never heard of this person before.

    "Due to her conflicting birth signs with the previous emperor, Princess Yun Hua was sent to Great Compassion Mountain since childhood. Few in the common folk are aware of her story," the man explained.

    Rong Shu's heart skipped a beat, and she instinctively glanced at the wooden door.

    Gu Changjin, sensing her concern, reassured her with a warm voice, "Don't worry, Chang Ji is guarding outside."

    Yet, Rong Shu's heart remained suspended in anxiety.

    If Xu Fu were not truly Xu Fu but Princess Yun Hua in disguise, her secret liaison with Gu Changjin must be part of a grand scheme. Rong Shu had no intention of being entangled in their plans; she only wished to uncover the identity of the person behind her uncle.

    After his trading trip to the capital, Uncle broke off his engagement with Mother, claiming he had fallen in love. The cherished painting he spoke of depicted the plum grove behind Great Mercy Temple.

    Princess Yun Hua had been raised in that very temple since childhood.

    Was this a mere coincidence?

    Rong Shu hurriedly said, "On the day I returned home, His Excellency sent a scroll painted by Master Spring Mountain as a gift. Uncle adores this master's works. Does His Excellency know if there is any connection between Master Spring Mountain and Princess Yun Hua?"

    Gu Changjin lifted his gaze to look at her. "As you suspect, Master Spring Mountain is none other than Princess Yun Hua."

    Rong Shu bit her lip. "So it seems that Uncle is indeed allied with Princess Yun Hua."

    Upon saying this, another memory from her past life resurfaced.

    When misfortune befell the Rong family in her previous existence, Lin Qingyue had rushed to Songsi Courtyard to mock Rong Shu. Unbeknownst to Lin Qingyue, she was slapped fiercely by Mother Zhang.

    Back then, Lin Qingyue's expression when looking at Mother Zhang was peculiar—filled with surprise, resentment, and a tinge of reluctance.

    Lin Qingyue once said that she had taken something that belonged to someone else. Rong Shu initially thought she was referring to Gu Changjin, but now, it was clear that Lin Qingyue was talking about Mama Zhang.

    "Mama Zhang might very well be Lin Qingyue's mother," Rong Shu said with a bittersweet smile. "When I left Songsi Courtyard, Lin Qingyue accused me of taking something from her."

    Gu Changjin comforted her, "Mama Zhang had ulterior motives for being near you. You didn't take anything from anyone."

    "I understand that, but I just can't comprehend why," Rong Shu said in confusion. "Why would a mother choose to abandon her own child and instead care for another?"

    She suddenly smiled and continued, "Do you know what Mama Zhang placed in the hidden box at Three Reflections Hall? It was a piece of paper with the words 'April 6th, the second year of Jiaoyou.' I suppose that's Lin Qingyue's birthday."

    Though Gu Changjin had known Lin Qingyue and Wen Xi since they were young, their interactions were scarce. He had never paid attention to their birthdays.

    He vaguely recalled that Lin Qingyue was indeed born in April.

    "In Lord Gu's dream, among those in the Rong family who colluded with Shen Zhi, besides Mama Zhang, your second uncle, and your aunt, were there others?"

    "All my dreams revolve around you. The last one ended on September 8th, the twenty-third year of Jiaoyou. In that dream, I only investigated your second uncle and aunt," Gu Changjin paused for a moment before carefully adding, "The first and second branches of the Rong family committed a grave mistake, but in the end, it was your father who took the blame. It seems to be connected to some old matters involving the Rong family."

    "Old matters?"

    Rong Shu savored the two words, her brows furrowing slightly as she instinctively replied, "Could it be that the old affairs of the first, second, and third branches are connected to Grandfather's and Eldest Uncle's deaths, or perhaps to the Rong family's title?"

    Gu Changjin gazed at her, his smile slow and gentle as he nodded. "I believe the same."

    His voice was weak, and his complexion was not good, but somehow, his smile toward her made Rong Shu feel an unexpected sense of mutual understanding between them.

    She averted her gaze gently and said, "Lord, I am deeply grateful for sending Liu Ping to my side and entrusting Chang Ji with my protection. In the future, I will surely repay your kindness with every means possible."

    By accepting his arrangement and allowing Chang Ji to stay close, she had given him her permission.

    But he didn't need her to repay him with tokens of gratitude; all he wanted was her safety.

    "Rong Shu, do you want to know who I am?" Gu Changjin asked.

    Rong Shu shook her head. "My Lord, I don't wish to know."

    Today, by sharing these things with her, he was likely preparing to reveal all his secrets to her.

    Like his true identity, why Xu Fu pretended to be his mother, and why he needed to be wary of Xu Fu at every turn.

    He longs to reveal every inch of himself to her, but she prefers to remain ignorant of it all.

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