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    Upon learning that Mama Zhang had poisoned her, Ying Que flew into a rage, cursing vociferously. After her outburst, she and Yingyue wept together, their hearts aching for their young miss.

    Their young miss had such a deep bond with Mama Zhang. How much pain must she have felt when she had to personally wound the woman? Ying Que truly hated that they were not in Yangzhou; she would have rather been the one to harm Mama Zhang than to see her young miss bear the guilt for a lifetime.

    After much persuasion and repeated assurances that she was now safe, Rong Shu managed to calm the two down and stop their tears.

    The pair spent a day in low spirits before finally returning to their usual selves today. After finishing their grooming, Yingyue applied perfume cream on Rong Shu. As her hand brushed past Rong Shu's neck, she accidentally caught a red string around it, pulling out a small jade Buddha bead the size of a little finger.

    "Miss, this rope has faded. Shall I weave a new one for you?"

    This jade pendant is pure white and translucent, exquisitely carved with six tiny Buddha faces on its compact surface - truly a masterpiece that outdoes nature itself.

    Rong Shu gazed down at the jade pendant with a gentle expression.

    This jade pendant has been with her since she could remember, hung on a red string that Mama Zhang herself had carefully woven for her. It has been worn for over a decade, almost imperceptibly.

    In her previous life, she exhaustively investigated the affairs of the Marquis's Manor, running about and pulling strings, draining her entire dowry in the process.

    On her last visit to the Tai Li Detention Center to see her mother, the jailer had refused her small pouch, deeming it insufficient. Reluctantly, Rong Shu removed this jade pendant and slipped it into the hands of the guard on duty, only then gaining entry to see her mother.

    With her delicate fingers caressing the smooth, translucent jade bead, Rong Shu, who was usually sentimental, said nonchalantly this time, "Weave me a new red string. This one is worn out."

    In this life, she would not let her mother end up in the Tai Li Detention Center again, and this jade pendant would remain safely with her. As for the old string, it no longer needed to stay.

    Chapter 79

    The following morning, Chang Ji led a dozen covert agents disguised as a group of merchants traveling slowly along the official road. Rong Shu, wearing a head covering and a sky-blue tunic, blended inconspicuously into their ranks.

    The headman of Zhu's manor was a man named Qiu Shiyang, tall and robust, with a commanding presence. He was meticulous and cautious, guiding a cart along the road, turning left and right, ultimately leading them to a secluded nunnery.

    This nunnery was situated on the way from Wanping County to the capital. It was remote, with sparse visitors, and not a single devotee could be seen that day.

    Qiu Shiyang parked the ox cart at the temple entrance and glanced up at the gilded signboard bearing the characters "Lianfu Temple." After scanning his surroundings, he shouldered two large baskets of seasonal produce and entered the temple briskly, not emerging for quite some time.

    Near Lianfu Temple, there was a teahouse where travelers could rest. The proprietor, under Chang Ji's command, had arranged a spacious chamber with a panoramic view for Rong Shu early that morning.

    Standing by the window, Rong Shu lifted the bamboo blind, her eyes fixed intently on the opposite official road. Anyone heading to Lianfu Temple would inevitably pass through that road.

    For almost two hours, they waited, but apart from Qiu Zhuangtou's ox cart, no other vehicles passed by.

    After a long while with no sign of anyone, Luan Yan couldn't help but say, "Miss, do you think Qiuzhuangtou might have just gone to Lianfu Temple to deliver something?"

    "Let's wait a bit longer," Rong Shu gently lowered the bamboo shade, recalling the faint sandalwood scent that clung to her aunt every time she returned from an outing. "She left at dawn from the Cheng'an Marquis Estate. With an unobstructed journey, it would take at least two hours to get here. Someone should be arriving within half an hour."

    As Rong Shu predicted, about half an hour later, a semi-new green-covered carriage came clattering from the direction of the capital city. After passing the teahouse, the horse turned its head and headed for Lianfu Temple.

    Rong Shu watched the familiar carriage, slowly straightening her lips.

    Inside the green-covered carriage, Zhu was leaning against the wall with her eyes closed, conserving her energy. Beside her sat a wooden basket filled with handwritten scriptures.

    When the carriage stopped in front of Lianfu Temple, Zhu opened her eyes and lifted the curtain to look outside. Spotting an ox cart parked under a tree, she picked up the basket and stepped out.

    Upon seeing her, the abbot of Lianfu Temple said, "Amitabha. Madam, please follow me."

    The two of them walked through the temple hall and down a winding path before stopping at a small, detached meditation room.

    "Madam, go inside. The person is waiting inside."

    "Thank you for your trouble, Abbot."

    The Lianfu Temple was unlike ordinary nunneries; it was specifically established to provide shelter for women with nowhere else to turn. These women, from all walks of life, were all victims of fate – some were cast out of their noble homes, while others, disillusioned with the world, sought refuge in Buddhism.

    During the rebellion when the vassal kings laid siege to the capital, the Lianfu Temple, located on the outskirts, suffered greatly. The nuns, former victims of misfortune, fled, only to be rescued by Rong Jun, who was scouting for military intelligence at the time. Later, when Emperor Jiayou entered the city, Lady Zhu personally sent these women back to the temple. The current abbess was one of those saved.

    In this small meditation chamber, an altar was dedicated to Rong Jun's spirit tablet.

    Lady Zhu pushed open the door, placing her newly handwritten scripture before the tablet. She purified her hands, lit incense, and paid her respects. Afterward, she drew aside a curtain and stepped inside.

    Behind the partition was a cramped side room used for storage.

    Qiu Shiyang stood up, bowed, and respectfully said, "Madam."

    Lady Zhu acknowledged him with a faint "hum," her delicate features darkening in the dimly lit room.

    "Has there been any news from Second Master or Shen Zhi? With the Qi family's defeat, Prince Xiao Yu's confinement, and the Emperor stripping the Xing family of their official hats, forcing Chief Minister Xing to claim illness at home – will our plans still come to fruition?"

    As Lady Zhu spoke, her patience, honed over years of worship, was nearly exhausted.

    Qiu Shiyang was aligned with the second prince, having forged an alliance with Shen Zhi during the latter's tenure in Qingzhou many years ago. Over the years, the silver sent by Shen Zhi from Yangzhou had always passed through Qiu Shiyang's hands before ultimately reaching the Qi family.


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