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    Gu Changjin descended the stone steps with a lantern in hand, softly saying, "This secret tunnel leads to the forbidden area of Daci'en Temple, the national temple with an exalted status. The forbidden area is filled with traps, inaccessible to ordinary people. After Master Fan Qing's eldest disciple, Xuan Ce, was expelled from Daci'en Temple, he took residence there. He is well-versed in the art of Ximen Dunjia, and with him around, few can bypass the traps in the forbidden area."

    His voice echoed in the dark tunnel as he turned to wait for her after reaching the bottom of the stairs. When she caught up to his side, he continued, "Xuan Ce owes me a favor. Originally, I intended for Chang Ji to escort you here, and then come to retrieve you once the struggle for the throne in the capital had settled."

    There was a hint of hoarseness in his voice.

    Rong Shu tilted her head to look at him. The dim light in the tunnel made it difficult to discern his expression.

    She lifted the lantern in her hand, and a faint glow illuminated his face. In the warm, yellowish lamplight, a slight sheen of sweat could be seen on the man's forehead, while his thin lips were pressed tightly together, suggesting a hidden pain.

    "Gu Changjin, let's return," Rong Shu said, her lantern casting a swaying arc of light as she paused in her steps. "If it causes you pain, why did you insist on coming?"

    Gu Changjin's enigmatic gaze slowly swept over her features.

    "Both the place and everything that happened here must be confronted. Both you and I have to move on from it."

    If they couldn't overcome this, their path together would be fraught with difficulties.

    Rong Shu understood his self-reproach and replied thoughtfully, "I understand. You brought me to the Sishi Garden to protect me. Gu Changjin, I have already moved on."

    The tranquility in the girl's voice revealed that she truly didn't care anymore and had moved on.

    Gu Changjin's breath softened, as if a large stone was pressing against his chest.

    He would rather she hate him, be angry with him, and feel heart-wrenching pain whenever she thought about what happened here, than have her forgive him so casually.

    "I wrote a letter the day Chang Ji brought you to Sishi Garden. I instructed him to deliver it to you. Did you receive that letter?"

    "Letter?" Rong Shu furrowed her brows lightly. "On the first day I moved into Sishi Garden, I fell ill, or rather, I was drugged by Mother Zhang. I was bedridden for over a month and never received any letters."

    Upon hearing this, both of them fell silent for a moment. The letter most likely ended up in Mother Zhang's hands.

    Mother Zhang had made her "fall ill" to block all information from the outside world, severing her connection with the outside entirely. Thus, Chang Ji couldn't take her to the restricted area.

    Gu Changjin had long guessed that she hadn't seen the letter. "Who gave you the poisoned wine that day?"

    When he arrived, there was only her in the room. A wine cup lay on the ground, still containing a few drops of wine.

    "It was the palace maid who sent you back to Songsi Courtyard that day. She was a lady-in-waiting by the name of Zhu, serving Empress Qi. There were also two palace maids and two eunuchs."

    "Nanny Zhu…" Gu Changjin narrowed his eyes. This was the palace nanny who had brought Li'er into the palace from Daci'en Temple back then.

    "Can you recall the appearance of those two palace maids and eunuchs?"

    Rong Shu frowned in thought before shaking her head. "I can't remember clearly. They kept their heads down the whole time. It was Nanny Zhu who spoke, saying she was delivering the poison wine on behalf of Empress Dowager Xi."

    Gu Changjin acknowledged with an "mm-hmm" and said, "It doesn't matter. I'll find out where that 'poison wine' came from."

    'Three O'clock at Night' was a secret drug from the Western Regions. Back then, Xiao Fu's mother had brought it to the capital to present it to the previous emperor.

    Emperor Jiande was cruel and enjoyed using this poison to execute officials and concubines who had angered him. After Emperor Jiaoyu ascended the throne, he personally ordered the destruction of all 'Three O'clock at Night,' eliminating its existence in the palace twenty years ago.

    Even if they were to grant someone poison in the palace, they wouldn't use 'Three O'clock at Night.'

    There must be someone from Xiao Fu's side in the palace. In her previous life, either someone had forged Empress Xi's imperial edict to send the poison wine or had secretly replaced the wine after Empress Xi had issued the order.

    Looking at Gu Changjin's increasingly grim expression, Rong Shu hesitated before saying, "Since we've already divorced, those things from our past lives won't happen again, and that poison wine probably won't appear either. There's no point in investigating further."

    He wasn't Empress Xi's son. Their alliance now was simply a mutual benefit. If he were to fall out with Empress Xi over investigating the events of their past lives, it would be too much of a loss.

    He didn't have to be trapped by the past, nor did he need to risk investigating these matters.

    "Rong Zhaozhao, I can't move on," Gu Changjin said in a grave tone, each word deliberate. "If I don't find out, I won't be able to let it go."

    In their previous lives, it shouldn't have ended that way. Neither should they have found themselves in such a predicament now.

    Silence reigned in the secret tunnel, only the contrasting sounds of their breathing filling the air.

    Rong Shu lowered her gaze, watching the faint light flickering on the ground. Just as she was about to speak, a faint creak echoed from the other side of the tunnel.

    Gu Changjin suddenly raised his hand, pressing the pad of his finger against her lips, signaling her to stay quiet. His gaze then turned sharp as he stared at the wooden door at the end of the tunnel.

    That noise had originated from beyond that door.

    Someone had trespassed into the forbidden area of Daci'en Temple.

    Chapter 81

    Creak—

    Another sound echoed, the crackling of dried wood being crushed underfoot.

    Rong Shu set down the lantern in her hand and took Gu Changjin's, writing in his palm, "Who? Leave?"

    Her ladyship's fingertips were soft and delicate, tickling his palm like the brush of a feather, causing a prickling sensation.

    Suppressing the odd flutter in his heart, Gu Changjin turned to grasp her hand firmly and nodded gently.

    He had brought only two men from the Warrior Camp with him this time. It was unknown whether those outside the secret tunnel were friend or foe; he couldn't risk her safety.

    Without hesitation, Gu Changjin turned to lead her out of the tunnel.

    They had barely taken two steps when, with a sudden "bang," the wooden door was pushed open from the outside. Moonlight flooded in like a tide, casting a long shadow on the ground.

    This door was secured by a mechanism lock, known only to him and Xuan Ce.

    The moment the door opened, Gu Changjin stepped forward to shield Rong Shu, his gaze fixed on the figure standing outside. His brows then lifted slightly.

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