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    "Since you've made your decision."

    Chu Yuening jotted down a calculated direction on a piece of paper and handed it to Cong Ling.

    "Based on the birth dates, your mother has separated from your biological father, coinciding with the time you left. Now, she's in Sichuan, has a new family, and seems to be living a content life."

    Taking the address, Cong Ling's heart was finally at ease. "Since she's doing well, I'll ask someone to check on her. From now on, I won't contact her again."

    Cong Ling took out two hundred yuan from her wallet to pay for the consultation fee and was about to leave.

    Chu Yuening called out, "We're not done yet. Do you have any other questions?"

    Cong Ling was taken aback, assuming it was related to work. She shrugged indifferently. "Forget it. In this line of work, it's all about mutual consent. Life is short; one should live happily however they choose. Knowing the future might only hinder decisions and choices."

    She always believed in the power of human determination over fate.

    Foreknowledge of destiny could potentially obstruct her choices or decisions.

    Some people couldn't help but scoff when hearing such grandiose statements from fortune tellers.

    "Indeed, Master, it's her choice to degrade herself."

    "Why bother rescuing someone who doesn't need your help?"

    "Never mind, let her go. Move on to the next one."

    "A streetwalker, so filthy and untidy."

    Chu Yuening silently noted down the hecklers, deciding not to take any future jobs from them.

    "She doesn't need anyone's rescue. She's nobler than all of you. You'd be better off managing your men at home or learning from Mrs. Ding how to cut ties with yours."

    Mrs. Ding, who happened to be in the crowd, heard her name and promptly smiled as she instructed the group, "It's very simple. Just make sure the knife is clean, slice swiftly, and they won't dare to wander anymore."

    The hecklers grumbled, some even mentioning that their husbands would learn their lesson and stay loyal if young women didn't seduce them.

    But Chu Yuening's next remark debunked their claims.

    "Mlle. From an esteemed family, your support for underprivileged students is admirable. Unlike certain individuals who are preoccupied with which bed to find their men in each day."

    Astonishment replaced the usual coldness on Concubine Ling's face.

    "Scholarly patronage is generally a noble act, but there's a worm in it that deserves your attention," Chu Yuening observed, noticing a faint tinge of crimson in Concubine Ling's forehead. "In two days, you'll uncover the truth, but by then, it will be too late. You'll have been stabbed by the father of the person you've been helping, and spend a long time in the hospital."

    Her words sparked a commotion in the crowd.

    None had expected that a young lady would earn her money to support impoverished students.

    If one had compassion and integrity, what did their profession matter?

    The applause that followed was overwhelming.

    Concubine Ling was taken aback. Nobody knew about her sponsorship, nor had she ever intended to use it as a topic of conversation or a means to rehabilitate her image. After all, her life was hers, and other people's opinions couldn't harm her.

    She had never heard applause meant solely for her. Extinguishing her cigarette, she wiped away a tear from the corner of her eye with her wine-red manicured hand, then smiled. "Rest assured, I'll look into this thoroughly."

    When Ling left.

    It was soon the turn of the next person.

    The middle-aged man had half his head gray, wearing a cement-gray jacket. He gave a bitter smile as he sat down.

    "Master Chu, after waiting for so long, it's finally my turn."

    He had a broad jaw and a square face, with prominent cheekbones. Normally, such a physiognomy would indicate a life of abundance, with a noble wife and children.

    Yet, at the age of forty, shadows of gloom hovered over his parents', siblings', and spouse's sectors on his face.

    Chu Yuening observed him thoughtfully.

    This meant that within a short period, his parents, siblings, and wife had passed away in succession.

    Even his own life sector was tinged with this melancholic aura.

    His life was hanging by a thread.

    Chapter 24

    After the middle-aged man was fully seated, Chu Yuening did not rush to ask questions. Instead, she placed her hands together and said, "My condolences."

    Chen Yichun's eyes widened in surprise, and then he lowered his head with a bitter smile. "As expected, nothing escapes Master's notice."

    He rubbed the callus on his right index finger, recalling what had happened a month ago, and his expression gradually turned pained.

    "I'm Chen Yichun. Originally, I ran a goose farm, and my supplies were exclusively for Baolin Grand Restaurant."

    The mention of Baolin Grand Restaurant was well-known to everyone present. Their signature dish was roasted goose, and many had tasted it before.

    Sure enough, someone from the neighborhood commented, "Baolin Grand Restaurant is famous for its roasted goose. It's always in high demand, so you must have made a lot of money."

    "Truth be told, I did make a good profit in the early years," Chen Yichun replied with a wry smile. "But later on, things took a turn for the worse. About half a year ago, all the white geese I was raising in the countryside suddenly died overnight. I couldn't fulfill the restaurant's order, so I had no choice but to buy from other farmers at a premium to keep up appearances."

    "Afterward, the land couldn't sustain geese anymore. I tried raising other poultry, but everything I raised died," Chen Yichun said. The neighbors leaned in to whisper, and one, barely visible in the crowd, asked, "Was it a plague?"

    "A proper disinfection wasn't done, so the virus still lingered. It wouldn't have mattered what you raised!"

    Chen Yichun shook his head, bitterly. "If it were that simple, none of what followed would have happened."

    "At first, I thought it was the land. So, I rented land on a mountain in another village, but it didn't help. Things took a more bizarre turn. Not only could I not raise poultry, but even our three dogs started showing problems, dying one after another."

    "I didn't realize the issue then, until—"

    Chen Yichun's face contorted with pain.

    "A month ago, my parents, my only younger brother, and my wife all died in accidents. It seemed more and more inexplicable. The only two children left also ended up in the hospital. I couldn't sleep at night, staying awake all through the night watching over them, terrified of losing them too."


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